Elect II—22 Temptation, part 3 of 3

Emily was seriously trying to study when Jessica slammed her book on the coffee table and plopped down in the chair next to her.  Maria looked up from the couch and Melissa looked over from the kitchenette where she was pouring a cup of orange soda.

ac-jessica-a2“It isn’t fair,” Jessica complained.  “Lady Alice says we can’t go to Avalon this summer.  I had plans, but she says since the door is closed and we are orc and ghoul free, even the elf maidens have been recalled.  I was going to take Fiona shopping.”

“It’s for the best,” Maria said.

“I never understood,” Melissa said as she came over to sit on the couch beside Maria.  “Why do they call them elf maidens.  That seems an archaic term.”

“Linnea explained it,” Maria said.  “Being a virgin is one of the requirements.”

Jessica put her feet up on her book, on the table.  “That lets me out.”

“No.”  Amina and Mindy came out of their room.  Amina had her eyes closed, her back turned and was waving a hand back at Mindy.  “I don’t want to see any Kahili death goddesses.”

“But look at all those arms,” Mindy argued.

ac-jessica-a3“Give it a rest.” Jessica shouted and got up to get some orange soda for herself.  Emily looked up from her book when Jessica shouted and moved.  She was thinking about her studies but staring at Jessica, so Jessica spoke to her.  “I’m going to sign up for a time of service.  ROTC.  I’m going to do time in the army.”

Emily continued to be focused elsewhere, but everyone else said congratulations and best of luck.  Emily said, “Huh?”

“ROTC.  I’m signing up for the army, and they better not think about keeping me from combat.”

“Good,” Emily seemed to hear that time but her eyes went back to her book.  “I signed up a week ago.  I had special forces interested, but I’m going to be a nurse if I can pass these exams.”

“I heard Major Driver said if you chose the navy he would throw himself off the bridge into the Delaware River.”  Emily was back to not listening.

“Major Driver?”  Mindy had scooted everyone down to take the end seat on the couch.  Amina was in the seat Jessica had abandoned, so Jessica sat on the rug at the end of the coffee table, by the door.

“He got promoted,” Jessica said.

ac-riverbend-8Emily’s phone rang.  She touched it, paused to read another sentence while it rang again, then pulled it out to see who it was.  She hoped it wasn’t Lisa or Latasha and trouble.  The number was unfamiliar, so curiosity caused her to say, “Hello?”

“Emily?”

“Yes.”

“Detective Lisa gave me your number.  I hope I’m not interrupting something.  I just called to see how you were doing.”

“Fine.  Who is this?”

“Sebastian Scott.”

Emily opened her eyes.  “I should ask how you are doing.”

“Fine.”

“How’s Maggie?”

“Fine.  Changed with all that happened and all.”  Sebastian’s voice trailed off into a moment of silence before he started again.

“Emily.”

ab-nj-state-police“Yes?”

“I was wondering if you would like to go out, like on a date, like without monsters.”

Emily was not sure how she felt about that, but her mouth said, “Yes.  I’d like that.”

“Great.  I was thinking there is a restaurant right by the campus there.  It’s called the Hive.  Do you know it?”

“Yes, I’ve been there.”

“Great.  I know you have finals.  How about you pick a day and time.”

“Thursday at six?”  That came out without thought.

“Great.”

“You should know, I had to kill my last boyfriend.”  That also came out without a thought, but she knew she should not have said it the moment it was aired.  “The one before that, he turned vampire so I had to kill him too.”  Emily shut up.  The girls were waving at her and she realized she wasn’t making anything better.  There was a long moment of drawn out silence before Sebastian spoke again.

“Great.  It will give us something to talk about.”

“Great,” Emily mirrored his word.

ac-emily-a5“Meet you at the Hive, Thursday at six.”

“Great.”

“Great.”

They hung up.  Emily looked up.  “I have a date.  Sebastian Scott, State Trooper.”

“Great.”  Everyone said the word except Jessica.  Jessica waited for the prime moment.

“Try not to kill this one.”

“Hey!” Amina interrupted and looked at the faces around her.  “I want to go out on another date.”

Jessica sipped her orange soda before she quipped.  “Got anyone in mind?”

END

************************

Starting on Monday, March 13, 2017

The story of two lost souls who find each other in the midst of trillions of other earths.

Guardian Angel  is science fiction, alternate history, and the struggle to build a civilization where life is worth living… In fact, there are some dangerous and horrifying ideas presented here, so maybe you should consider this your “trigger warning.”

Guardian Angel will follow the same pattern of posts this blog has been following:

Each chapter is divided into three part and will be posted on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of each week at 8 AM.  That is one whole chapter per week, for those who might be slow at math.  You are welcome to read them as daily posts, or wait until Thursday or the weekend to read all three posts in one sitting by clicking on the listings under “Recent Posts” on the right side of the blog (one at a time, of course).

Beginning on Monday, Guardian Angel will post 23 chapters, so you can follow through August and enjoy a nice summer read.  It will eventually be put up for sale at your favorite e-retailer, so I say enjoy it now while it is free… unless it upsets you or terrifies you.  The author will not be held responsible for bad thoughts and dreams.  I suggest several deep breaths and wait to see how it turns out…

That’s beginning Monday, March 13, 2017

Don’t miss it, and Happy Reading.

a-a-happy-read-7

 

Elect II—22 Temptation, part 2 of 3

Emily watched as Ferdinand Franco stepped up to President Batiste’s door.    “Batiste, we got your package,” he said.  He waved one of his people to open the big double doors while he hid.  That suggested to Emily that Franco was certainly not stupid.

The man opened both of the doors wide thinking his group had the upper hand, and he took a bullet in his chest and collapsed.  Heinrich immediately knocked over a table with his feet, to act as a shield.  He made them scoot behind a well cushioned chair for added protection, even as the ac-emily-b1bullets started flying.   But Emily first saw Batiste’s head was on his desk and there was plenty of blood flowing from the hole in his head.  The man was already dead and Emily guessed it was Captain Gouldos.

While men were killing each other, Emily sat on her hands.  She hurt her wrists terribly, but inch by inch her hands came forward.  She figured when she got them all the way down around her feet she could at least have her hands in front and might be able to grab something to fight.

Heinrich was fascinated by the battle.  His eyes poked up, dangerous as it was, and he counted the dead.  Secretary Nancy hid behind her desk.  The man with the limp and the hot pads hid around the back of the desk and trembled with his hands over his ears and his eyes shut tight.

The battle ended when Franco killed Captain Gouldos.   It was touch and go at the end as to which one would kill the other, but they were the last two combatants, so Franco ended up with the prize.  He ran into the President’s office and frisked Batiste’s body before he dumped it on the floor.  He began to tear the desk apart.

“Where is it?” Franco said before he had a second thought.  He frisked the Captain’s body and then frisked the two security lieutenants who were there and also corpses.  “Where is it?”  He roared and came to the door to accuse Nancy.

Nancy stood calmly behind the desk, one hand behind her back and the other hand held up a key.  She jingled it.  “Looking for this?” she said.

ac-nancy-1“Give it here.  Quick.”  Franco lifted his gun and put out his free hand to grab the key, but Nancy raised her hidden hand which also held a gun and she killed Franco with a perfect shot to the heart.

The man with the limp and hot pads tried to run to the stairs, but Nancy killed him also with one shot.  She was clearly an expert marksman.

Nancy turned her gun on the two behind the table.  Heinrich was obviously still cuffed, and Emily appeared to be also, from what Nancy could see.  In fact, Emily had just taken off her shoes to get her cuffed hand around her feet, but that was hidden from Nancy’s sight.

Nancy smiled.  “I can be gracious, I think.”  She set down her gun and unlocked the metal box.  “Yes.  It is important to start things on a positive foot.”  She took the lid off the box and the room filled with the aroma of apples and cinnamon.  “Goddess Nancy,” she said.  “It has a nice ring to it.” And she stuffed the apples into her mouth.

Emily moved out of desperation.  She got her hands in front and broke off a leg from the table to use as a club, but then she did not know what do to.  Forty-year-old Nancy now looked closer to thirty, going on twenty, and she was still smiling when she began to gag.

ac-nancy-3“What?”  Nancy got that word out as her body began to convulse in uncontrollable motions.  She fell to her knees and threw up, a mixture of apples and blood.  Her fifteen-year-old mouth tried to yell, “No,” but it was too late.  She convulsed even when her eyes closed and she became unconscious.  By the time she was five, she was dead, and while she stopped getting younger, she began to both decay and her skin began to harden and mummify at a rapid pace.

Heinrich stood up next to Emily.  “I would guess they did not get the recipe right.”

“It smelled good,” Emily said as she touched Nancy’s child hand with her club and watched it crumble to dust.  They stopped when there was commotion behind them on the stairs.  Emily raised her club.  Heinrich went for Nancy’s gun, but it was Riverbend and one of her elves who burst in, decked out in armor and arrows ready.  Sebastian Scott followed.  Maggie Holmes came last with a little huffing and puffing.  They all had to stop for a moment to take in the bloody battle scene.

Emily had a strange thought, but followed her inkling while Heinrich went to the man who had the key to the cuffs.  “Zoe.”  Emily had not said that word in some time and she never called to the goddess.  “Zoe.”  She called.

“I hear you.”  Zoe appeared out of nowhere.  She lifted her hand to examine things with her mind or her spirit.  “They got the recipe almost right, but only used part of one golden apple.  The rest was ordinary apple and not exactly baked to the temperature of the surface of the sun.  I’m glad they included the cinnamon sugar.  I told Hera it had to be in there.  It makes it edible, but…”  Zoe stepped up to the box which still had crumbs in it.  She licked her finger, touched an apple crumb and touched that to her tongue to taste it, to identify some substance.  When she got it, her face lit up.

“Arsenic.  A couple of other virulent and quick acting poisons, but the whole thing must have been saturated in arsenic.”

“That shipment to the science department,” Emily said.  Zoe turned to stare at her while Emily continued to think out loud.  “But that means the apples are still out there.”

zoe-1Zoe smiled that Emily understood.  “Yes, but it should be a while to figure out how to cook it properly, if ever.”

Heinrich stood with the keys in his teeth.  “She got younger because the apple was not cooked properly?”  It was hard to understand his words, but not impossible.

Zoe repeated the thought and nodded. “She got younger because the apple was not properly cooked.  She might have gotten younger than her birth, but the poison took over.  No goddess, I’m afraid.  Just a shriveled child, and too bad about the rug.”  She stepped around the vomit, took the keys from Heinrichs mouth and unlocked the handcuffs.  “It is good to do things in a natural way, sometimes.”  Heinrich rubbed his raw wrists and Zoe spoke again when she unlocked Emily.  “My queen.  When you return in September you still have apples to find and work to do, but that can wait.  Right now, don’t you have finals?”  Zoe grinned and vanished.

“Thanks for reminding me,” Emily groused.

Everyone heard the answer, “You’re welcome.”

Emily had one final thought.  She tore the sleeve on Nancy’s dress and before that arm turned to dust she saw the tattoo.  It was a circle with three squiggly lines up top.

Elect II—22 Temptation, part 1 of 3

Riverbend made her warriors dress for battle and hid them around the entrance.  Maggie Holmes quipped to Trooper Scott.  “I don’t know why she said I was in charge.”  They were just inside the main door of the administration building which Riverbend cracked open to speak to them.

“Now a little elf magic,” she said, and gave the signal.  The security people were coming to the door down one side of the building.  The other men were coming from the other direction.  There were trees and bushes that lined the walk on both sides and Riverbend could not help a giggle thinking about it.

ab-war-elf-aThe State Troopers heard one of the elves shout with what Riverbend called directed sounds.  It sounded male and only went where it was intended.  “Quick, there are men trying to block off the entrance.”  This was followed by the sound of gunfire.

The words in the other direction were, “Quick.  Security people are trying to block off the entrance.”  More gunfire sounds, and the elves made sure they stayed hidden, but with their bows ready.

Exactly on schedule, both groups of men reached the walkway at the same time.  Guns blared and men fell while most backed up to the trees and bushes. There was a veritable rain of bullets across the brick walk at first

Maggie looked at her phone and shook it.  “Come on, Carmine,” she said.

“Better to call Ms Nicholas,” Sebastian said.  He had his gun ready but was content to watch the fight and not inclined to get into it.

“I called Nicholas, but Troopers are harder to get in off the highways.  Carmine is the local.”

“But you called before the fight started,” Riverbend pointed out.

“Just as soon as I knew what was up,” Maggie admitted.

The fire rate slackened after a short while.  One of the drug dealers tried to sneak up along the side of the steps.  He took an arrow and fell, but that was just before a ton of local police came roaring up the back street, lights and sirens blasting.

a-trenton-police-a1“Idiots,” Maggie called them as the fight abruptly ended and men scattered to escape.  Sebastian called on his radio.  There were a couple of State Troopers on the street.  “Make for the library parking lot.  The drug dealers have a car and a van parked there.  And hide if you plan to catch them, you light and siren freaks.”  He saw Maggie smiling at him.

“I believe my rookie is learning.”

“Given the company I figure I better learn fast.”  He pointed at Riverbend.

All they could see were the eyes beneath the helmet, but they were expressive.  “What?” Riverbend asked, suggesting she had no idea what they were talking about.

###

Maria and Linnea were very busy with the wounded and Melissa and her and Amina’s elf friends helped as much as they could.  Amina herself was kept back in case they needed her particular skills later on.  She tried not to see what was going on, but she couldn’t help anticipate the casualties as they came in.

ac-amina-3“A broken leg on the elevator.  Missing fingers coming down the stairwell from the top floor,” she said, and every time she said something, she closed her eyes and shook her head.

Mindy and Arwen were guarding the front hall, but it seemed more like they were arguing about Alexander the Great.  There were others, including Sara’s friend who was berating herself for not being up there with Aurora.  “I should have stayed with the priestess,” she kept saying.

Officer Dickenson pulled in front of City Hall and turned off his lights and siren.  He was surprised that Ms Riley, who drove her own car, somehow got there first.  In fact, Roland was already in a conversation with the two police officers outside the main door.  They kept repeating that City Hall was temporarily closed.  They said it was electrical problems until the lights came on.  Then they said it was a gas leak.

Jessica, Fiona and Harmony got to the argument first as Latasha waited for Officer Dickenson to get a shotgun out of his trunk.  Jessica interrupted the argument with a finger pointed at the police officers.  “If you two shoot the ogre you are going to be in big trouble.”

Harmony paused to call her troop in battle ready armor, and now that the front lights were on, the police officers saw everything.  Harmony changed her fairy weave clothes to armor, picked up her helmet, grabbed the spear and shield the others brought for her and marched her troop inside.

“Now?” Fiona asked.  She had opted to remain in hunter’s garb.

“Now,” Jessica agreed, and they each grabbed one of Roland’s hands and dragged him through the opening to Avalon before it closed.

Boston put her hands to her hips.  “Hey!  That’s my husband.”  Officer Dickenson headed for the front door, dragged by an impatient Latasha.  Latasha was not about to miss a chance to get a ghoul, but Boston used the opening to follow.  “My student,” she said, pointed and hustled.

ab-war-eelfOut front, the two police officers stood quietly until one asked, “What did she mean, ogre?”.

Once on Avalon, Jessica felt the queasiness in her stomach so it was up to Fiona to act when Roland protested being dragged off against his will.  They were in a big room with enough tables and chairs to double for a high school lunch room.  Roland slammed his hand down on a table.

“But Commander Falcon will listen to you,” Fiona said, and Jessica moaned either because her stomach was churning or Fiona said the wrong thing.

“Commander Falcon?”

“Over here, Roland.”  The Commander was sitting at one of the back tables.  “I was beginning to wonder if the women were ever going to ask for my help.”  He whistled and the wall of the building vanished to reveal some three hundred spirits of all shapes and sizes fitted out for war.  They were spaced out across a great lawn, and they were looking impatient.

###

Back in City Hall, Latasha was not content to wait for the elevator.  She was moving up the stairwell with abandon when Officer Dickenson stopped suddenly and raised his pistol.  He looked ready to kill Latasha, but the ghoul that reached for his mind made a big mistake going after the big man rather than the women.

Boston’s orange magic snaked out rapidly into the stairwell.  It froze Officer Dickenson in place so he couldn’t shoot anyone or anything, and it showed two ghoul feet and the nappy hair on top of the ghoul head.  That was all Latasha needed.  One great leap and one swing of her ax and they heard the clunk, clunk, clunk of a ghoul head rolling down the stairs.

“I got one,” Latasha said when she landed on her feet and watched the ghoul shrink down to a purple spot.  She had been afraid she was going to miss all the fun, but then some twenty dwarfs, elves and other assorted people pushed up past them, some tipping their hats as they went, and Roland caught up to them.

“They filled the basement first so the ghouls couldn’t go to ground.  Now they are clearing out floor by floor to the roof.”

boston-a2“What do you mean go to ground?” Latasha asked as she nudged Officer Dickenson to help him clear his head.

Boston explained.  “Most creatures that have low or no tolerance for the sun can dematerialize at dawn and sink into the earth.  Many can then move through the earth until they get to a cavern or cave or place they can wait safely until sunset.”

“Like a basement?” Officer Dickenson asked.

“Yes, I suppose,” Roland answered.

“So every little kid who is afraid to go down into the basement may have a good reason.  Maybe there is a ghoul or ogre hiding in the corner.”

“Troll,” Boston corrected him.  “Ogres don’t entirely mind the sun.  It would be a troll in the corner, or a goblin.”

Elect II—21 City Hall, part 3 of 3

Lisa sent Aurora and two of her elves to Sara.  It was a gamble, but Aurora assured her it was not such a risk at elf speed.  As soon as they entered the building, Aurora took off up the emergency stairs while Lisa assigned floors and sections of the building to her groups of three.  The downstairs reception area was empty, until most of the groups moved out.

A spear came from nowhere and struck one of the elf maidens in the middle.  It did not penetrate the armor deeply, but the elf fell, and moaned from the pain, and the others stared at her.  Lisa ac-lisa-a1looked in another direction.  She quickly calculated the angle and estimated the distance while she clicked the rifle she was carrying from semi-automatic to automatic.  She sprayed that distance with half a clip.  They all heard the sound of pain and the surprise.

The ghoul materialized, unable to remain invisible.  It was already leaking purple from several places when it became a pin cushion for elf arrows.  As it collapsed, it deflated like a bogy beast until there was only a slight green and purple smudge on the floor.

“According to Mindy, one down, nine to go,” Ashish said.  “I do hope they are not here in the hundred.”

###

Back in the accounting office, Rob Parker looked up at the sound of gunfire, but then he assumed the guns were with the good guys.  He hoped they got one.  He spoke to Ellain, the elf assigned to his group.  “How do we find them if they are invisible?”

ab-elf-p-1“They must become visible to interact with this world.  They can be shot when invisible, but cannot fight back unless they can be seen,” Ellain explained.

“So invisibility is a mixed bag,” State Trooper Canelli commented.

“That is why they like the dark.  They can see perfectly in the dark and it often gives them an advantage when they become visible to fight.”

“I was wondering why we are looking for invisible creatures,” Rob Parker said.

“They are clumsy and without grace.  We look for the trail of things knocked over and listen for things bumped, if we are quiet.”  Ellain put a finger to her helmet where her lips were hidden and she expressed her seriousness in her eyes, what could be seen in the light of the exit sign.

Rob Parker merely nodded, but Canelli said, “Makes sense,” just before he threw a hand to his head.  “What is happening?  Ghouls!”  He shouted and began to fire at Ellain and Rob Parker.  He looked frightened beyond reason.  He looked possessed.  Ellain’s shield and armor deflected two bullets as she moved toward the dark, but the third hit her in the hip and she went down.  Rob Parker took a bullet in his shoulder before he got behind a desk.

The State Trooper continued to fire in new directions like he was suddenly seeing ghouls everywhere.  But there was one corner he avoided and it was in Rob Parker’s line of sight.  When he saw the filing cabinet wiggle in the dim emergency lighting, he opened fire.  He hit something that moaned.  An arrow from Ellain followed from where she had pulled herself into a dark corner while Canelli was firing in every mad direction.

ab-elf-fireRob Parker saw a visible claw clutch at an arrow which appeared to be hovering in thin air.  It was a direction, and he emptied his gun while Canelli put both hands to his head and screamed.  The man spun around twice before he collapsed.  The outline of the ghoul against the emergency lights did the same thing.

“Ellain,” Rob Parker called.

“Make sure it is dead,” Ellain responded, but the words sounded weak.

Rob Parker reloaded and became very aware of the bullet in his shoulder.  He hated to abandon the State Trooper and a possibly still living ghoul, but in his mind the elf maiden came first.  He holstered his weapon, roared at the pain in his shoulder and scooped up the maiden.  He crashed out the doors and headed straight for the front reception area.

###

Upstairs, Sara and Paul heard a knock on the door.  “Don’t answer it,” Paul whispered sharply.  Sara responded in her normal voice.

ac-riverbend-9“Ghouls don’t knock.”  She opened the door and saw three helmeted heads dip in her direction.

“Priestess,” one of the women spoke.  “Lady Lisa asked us to come and defend you.  I am Lieutenant Aurora and my companions are Moria and Sunshine.”

Paul got up and looked over Sara’s shoulder.  Sara smiled up at him.  “We got elves,” she said.

Paul did not return her look.  His eyes looked glazed and suddenly he pushed her aside and pushed toward the door, but the elves blocked his way.  He shouted.  “I’ve got to get out of here.  I have to get out of here.”

Sara grabbed him and turned him enough to kiss him.  It only took a moment for him to return her embrace and kiss her back.  The elf maidens grinned in only the way elves can grin, until Aurora shouted, “Guard duty,” and shut the door.  Sunshine and Moria grumpily turned to face the big room.

###

Lisa was in the basement.  She took it upon herself to try and get the lights back on, but the basement was very dark and the emergency lights were few.  Somehow, in the dark, she got separated from Ashish and Mirowen.  Now she felt fingers crawling around her mind and she did not know how to fight back.

ac-lisa-2“Lisa.”  Ashish came running up.  “I thought I lost you.”

“Oh!  I’m glad to see you, you have no idea.”  The fingers seemed to leave her mind.

“You know it is dangerous to be alone here.”

Lisa nodded and asked, “Where’s Mirowen?”

Ashish looked back.  “Coming,” he said before he changed his mind.  “I lost her too.”

That did not sound right.  Lisa had a question.  “How did you see me in the dark?”  She certainly did not see him until he was right on top of her.

Ashish put a hand on her shoulder, and he had a strong grip.  “That does not matter now.”

Lisa knew that Ashish was not a touchy-feely type and not nearly that strong.  She pealed the hand off her shoulder and watched Ashish’s eyes go wide with surprise.  She hit Ashish in the face as hard as she could, thinking if it really was Ashish he would feel it in the morning.  Suddenly Ashish ab-elf-3arched his back.  He had an arrow sticking out of his spine.  Lisa needed no further evidence.  She turned Ashish, grabbed his chin and broke his neck even as she feared she was killing her partner.

“Lady,” Mirowen shouted to her.

“Lisa,” Lisa heard Ashish’s voice and began to cry.  By the time they arrived, the ghoul on the floor was gone to a purple spot.  “I think I found the circuit breakers,” Ashish said, but Lisa could not stop crying.  It was a little walk and a little work to get the lights back on in the building.  That was when Latasha and Jessica arrived, and Jessica had been thinking that whole time.

Elect II—21 City Hall, part 2 of 3

“Where do we start?” Riverbend asked honestly, not exactly sure what they were looking for.

Emily was up, dressed, and pacing.  “Get your friends,” she said, and she waited while Riverbend called for the four elf maidens she had left in her direct command.  Emily sent the first to fetch Heinrich.  He was to meet them at the administration building.  Then she instructed the others and sent one to the Library, one to the science building where she could also keep an eye on the engineering and technology building, and the third to security.  “I know it isn’t recommended, but I ab-war-elf-bneed you to be willing to use elf speed and let me know if anything unusual is happening.

“That is spreading us rather thin,” Riverbend said.

“I know, but right now I don’t see as we have much choice,” and with that they set off for the administration building.  Heinrich showed up after a half-hour with his elf in tow and they took turns watching the campus side of the building and the street side.

Emily looked up at the widows of the President’s office.  The lights were on like the man was working late.  She pulled her phone and found Nancy’s number.  It was picked up on the first ring.

“Hello Nancy?  This is Emily.  I see the lights on.  Are you working late?

“Yes,” she said.  “President Batiste is waiting for a package.”

“What kind of package?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  I was just told to wait.”

“Listen, Nancy.  If a package arrives, don’t bring it into the President’s office.  It’s a matter of life and death.”

“Oh, I don’t know if I can do that,” she said.

a-admin-6“Seriously.  Please.  At least wait until I get there.”

Nancy paused before she said, “All right.  I have to go now.”

“Thank you.  Thank you.  It really is that important.”

“Goodbye. I have to go now.”  Nancy hung up, and Emily shook her head and put her phone away.

It was slow waiting until the elf from the science building came back to report a strange little man came out of the science building wearing hot pads and carrying a metal box.  That was how she described it.  She said she would not have thought twice about it but he headed straight for the administration building.

“Riverbend, you and your friend need to check on the others—the library and the security office.  I suspect things are happening and you need to bring them back here to report.”  Emily paced before she sat on the building steps and tapped her foot like Latasha.  It was only a moment before the other two elves came back.  The one from security said there were a half-dozen security people headed toward the administration building but she did not think anything of it because she thought security people were supposed to come from the security building.

“Same here, sort of,” the one from the library spoke.  “A car and a van parked in the library lot and a bunch of men got out but I did not say anything because they were not going to the library.  They were headed here.”

a-n-campus-2“There he is.”  The elf from the science building pointed gleefully, thinking she got something right.  But the man with the metal box and hot pads was going into the administration building and Emily could not help the words.

“Damn it.”  She was going to run for Heinrich who was on the street side of the building, but she found him coming to her.

“There are security people coming,” he reported.  “And look who I found.”  It was Sergeant Margaret Holmes and Trooper Sebastian Scott, state police.

“Shut-up.” Emily yelled and everyone did that.  “Sergeant, you are in charge.  Sebastian, you stay outside, too.  Riverbend, I need some elf magic from your troop.  We got security people about to arrive and unless I am severely mistaken, there are drug people coming up the library walk.  I want you to get them fighting each other because they should both be going after the same prize.  And I think that prize just went inside.  Keep the men with guns out of the building.  Heinrich, we have to stop the madness.”  Emily grabbed Heinrich’s hand and dragged him up the front steps.

a-univ-stairsOnce inside, Emily went up the stairs two at a time.  She burst into the foyer outside the President’s office area, but no one was there.  Heinrich, was only a couple of steps behind.

“I am not activated,” he whispered.  “I don’t understand.  I should be activated.”

Emily understood.  Whatever was blocking Amina and Zoe was blocking Heinrich as well.  She took his hand again and they walked into the office where Nancy was standing behind her desk.  Only the desk light was on.  The rest of the room was in shadows.  They heard a voice.

“Stay where you are or the secretary is the first to die.”

Four men stepped from the shadows.  The speaker, Ferdinand Franco had a gun trained on Nancy’s head.  The other three had handcuffs which they put on Heinrich and Emily and then they made them sit on the floor, out of the way.  They heard the ding of the elevator.  Emily began to tug on her cuffs, but they were too well made to snap easily. Heinrich could only sit and watch as the man with the pot holders, holding the metal box, limped toward the President’s office.

Elect II—21 City Hall, part 1 of 3

Lisa interrupted her call from Sara and yelled to Mitzy at the front desk.  “Call in the troops and then call Captain Rogers at the State House and tell him to do the same.  The ghouls have taken over City Hall.”  Lisa went back to her phone conversation while the lone police officer working quietly at his desk in the back corner of the room cracked up laughing at the thought of ghouls in ac-lisa-a2city hall.  “Stay by the phone,” Lisa said, hung up and gave the officer a strange look while her fingers zipped to the right contact.

She had to leave a message on Emily’s phone.  She tried Jessica, but again had to leave a message even as she remembered that Jessica was with Latasha tracking down spiders.  She tried Maria, and got an answer at last.

“Yes,” Maria said.  Mindy, Melissa and I are trying to get Amina to look at pictures.”  When Lisa explained what was happening, Maria added, “Melissa has access to a car this semester.  Should we get Emily?”

“No,” Lisa said.  “I left a message on her phone.  Amina might be needed to find strays in hiding and Mindy for identification and Melissa, and I’m afraid we might need your talents too.”

“I understand,” Maria said.  They were expecting the confrontation to be bloody.  Maria had to take a calming breath at that thought.

“One more thing,” Lisa said.  “Tell Melissa to do the speed limit.  You’re no good if you don’t arrive in one piece.”  Lisa hung up and called, “Aurora!”  The elf, looking like a shy young girl appeared in the corner, but it was where the police officer could see.  He swallowed his laugh and the chair he was leaning back in fell flat to the floor.  Once in the car, Lisa let Ashish have his fun.  He was allowed to turn on the siren, the blue lights, and run the stop lights as long as he was careful.

a-trent-city-hall-1There were already two state troopers and Millsaps was there when Lisa arrived.  Lisa hung up the phone from talking to Mindy and set the rules for the others.  “Groups of three.  Stick together.  Ghouls can cause hallucinations, but usually can’t fool more than one person at a time.  I hesitate to say this because it could get you killed, if you try to take them alive they will eat you, but please be careful who you shoot.”  Then they waited.

Lisa got out her phone and tried Emily again.  She could not imagine where the girl might be.  She hesitated, but then called Sara even as another state trooper came roaring up.

“Yes, we are fine for the moment.  They seem to be leaving us alone.”

“They’re scared of Sara,” a man spoke.

“But Lisa.  I’m thinking about what we all said not that long ago.  The ghouls are the distraction.  The real thing, the ambrosia may be happening on the campus even as we speak.”

“Damn!” Lisa let out that same human expression Paul seemed to like and she hung up.  Lisa went straight to the state trooper who pulled up and was just getting out of the car.  “Get back in,” she said, and when she saw who it was she added, “Perfect.”  She explained the situation and sent ac-emily-a5them off to the University.  Then she tried Emily one more time.  This time she got an answer.  It was Riverbend.

“She is napping,” Riverbend said.

“Well, wake her,” Lisa yelled.  “Emily.  There are ghouls in City Hall.”

“What?”  Emily sat up at that.  “I’ll be right there.”

“No, wait.  Sara reminded me that the ghouls are just a distraction.  Everyone is coming to City Hall.  We can handle things here.  It’s just you and Riverbend there.  We are depending on you.”

“I understand.”

“Get Heinrich.  I forgot to call him.”

“I will, luck.”

ac-lisa-a3“Luck,” Lisa repeated and she hung up as Rob Parker and two more state troopers arrived.  The girls came moments later, and Mindy herself stood up on the trunk of her car and repeated the instructions about groups of three against ghoul trickery.  Then Lisa made Aurora call her troop.  They appeared armored, with shields and spears, sword and bows and helmets that only showed the eyes.  Lisa yelled, especially at the state troopers, that they were not to kill the elves under any circumstances, and they entered the building.

Elect II—20 Underground, part 3 of 3

Roland rubbed his hands together and something like fire appeared in his hands.  He dropped the flame and it illuminated the shaft all the way down, about twenty feet,

“Here’s a rope,” Jessica said and brought one end to Latasha.  She went back and tied the other end to a steel column that held up the ceiling.

“Me first,” Roland said and grabbed the rope from Latasha.

Officer Dickenson spoke while Roland went down, slowly and quietly.  “Science teacher?”

“Biology,” Boston said.  “I’m thinking of letting Latasha do her project on arachnids.”

ac-jessica-2Officer Dickenson nodded.  Jessica had a comment.

“I never had cool teachers like you.  My science teachers in high school were all dorks.”

Roland directed his speech up as he got some kind of lights in place that stayed on.  “Come down quietly.”

Fiona came next, but she looked first at Jessica and spoke to Harmony.  “You did say these were not spiritual creatures.”   Boston made Harmony call her troop so they could guard the opening while they went exploring.

Boston was the last to reach the bottom of the hole.  She saw a cavern made of natural limestone and granite.  There was an old cot along a wall with a couple of moldy woolen blankets folded on top.  Several boxes held World War II ration packs and there was a rifle and a rusty revolver in one corner.

“Fallout shelter,” Harmony named the place.

“Nineteen-fifties, I would guess,” Boston agreed.

“Wow,” Latasha was curious about it all.  “People used to think they were going to get bombs dropped on their heads?”  She did not understand the thinking behind bomb shelters in America.  Boston at least understood the history.

ac-roland“Over here,” Roland called, and he showed them an opening at the back of the cavern.  It was a perfect archway, like a door, framed in metal.  “Looks like someone uncovered this more recently.”  He pointed to the rocks and rubble pushed aside.

“Or some slight earthquake revealed it, and someone recently dug it out,” Jessica, the California girl suggested.

“Possible,” Boston agreed.  She stood in the opening, tried to pierce the darkness of the long hallway and made a decision.  “Roland and I.  The rest of you wait here.  Latasha, you have to guard our escape hatch.”

“But I—.”  Latasha saw the look in her teacher’s eye and amended her words.  “Yes Ma’am.”

Roland had another globe in a hidden pocket which glowed with a silver light that he could increase or dim with a word.  It was like the three globes he left floating around the cavern with no visual means of support.  Roland went first and Boston followed with a hand on his back.  She immediately spoke.

“I have to call Lockhart.”  They had entered a hallway of some kind of ship—no doubt an alien ship.  There were small chambers on either side of the hall that glowed ever so slightly with a sickly green light.  Each one held a spider, unmoving, and the hall looked like it led to a huge central room that gave off a green glow from hundreds if not thousands of such chambers.

“They appear to be in suspension, some kind of cryogenics,” Roland said, touching the outside of one of the chambers.

“I wonder how long,” Boston thought out loud.

boston-4b“No telling.  I don’t recognize the writing.”  Roland pointed at the scribbles over each chamber which appeared to be a numbering system

“So wait.”  Boston tapped her head and paced in the hallway while she talked.  “Latasha’s enemy, Carlos the drug dealer finds this place to hide out from the police.  He finds a partially uncovered door and manages to open it.  After a time, he manages to revive a spider.  A stupid thing to do, but it turns out to be a not so smart male with whom he can make a deal to kill off his rival drug dealers.  All is well but he does not know that secretly the male has revived a female which he keeps hidden while she is busy laying eggs.  When the babies are born, Carlos finds through the male he can have some control over the babies.  He thinks this is even better, but when he meets Mama, he has to make a new deal, especially after Jessica and Latasha slice up the male.  Mama goes along with it while she gets the lay of the land, but terminates Carlos as soon as she realizes she will do better without him.”

“That is correct.”  Roland and Boston heard the voice.  The big spider was clinging to the ceiling of the hallway looking down at them with multi-faceted eyes and snapping jaws.  Roland and Boston wore a glamour that made them appear human, but they were not human.  The spider shot her web to trap them, but they vanished at elf speed and were already in the cavern yelling by the time the webbing struck the empty hallway floor.

“Get out!  Get out!”

ab-spider-web-5A strand of webbing shot from the darkened hole before the Mama appeared.  It wrapped around Latasha’s leg and yanked her feet from beneath her.  A whip of the spider’s head and Latasha shot across the room to crash into the cavern wall.  That hurt, but mostly it made Latasha angry, and she still had her ax gripped tightly in her hand.

Harmony rushed up the rope first to prepare her troop for what she expected might be an invasion of spiders.  Officer Dickenson was right behind her, but not elf fast.  He stopped at the hole.  He swore mightily, turned, pulled his revolver and fired on the giant spider.  Jessica and Fiona both fired their arrows as well.  Officer Dickenson did not have the best aim, but both arrows struck the spider.  The spider did not seem bothered by two arrows.  Jessica and Fiona escaped up the rope without a word.

Mama spider tried to fire her webbing several times, but Boston had her wand up and the webbing went astray.  Officer Dickenson ran out of bullets as Roland had his bow out and fired a flaming arrow.  It struck the back end of the spider and exploded even as Latasha arrived.  The spider was already leaking guts from the back when Latasha brought her ax down on the head and ended it.  And there was silence for a moment before they heard the clickity-clack sound of spider feet in the hallway.

“Babies!” Officer Dickenson shouted.  He about had his revolver reloaded.

“Get out!” Roland said again and Boston repeated it as she held her hands and her wand up.

ac-ash-dickersonDickenson grabbed Latasha by the arm and also repeated the words, but softly, “Get out.”  Latasha looked like she wanted to argue, but she did not.  She went ahead of the police officer and jumped almost the entire way to the top.  Dickenson followed more slowly.

Roland grabbed Boston around the middle and brought her to the base of the hole, even as the babies came pouring into the room and stopped at the magical barrier Boston put up.  Roland tied the bottom of the rope in a harness around Boston so she could be pulled up, then he raced to the top.

Boston was straining against the pressure of the spiders trying to break through when the rope tightened and she began to move.  Immediately, she pulled her barrier back to cover only the bottom of the hole, and then she tried to do something she did not know if she could do.  As she went up, she sucked the air out of the hole to create a vacuum.  The rocks around the hole collapsed into the vacuum to seal the exit.  No doubt some babies were crushed at the bottom when the rocks settled, but it was more magic than Boston could handle and she arrived at the top of the sealed hole, dizzy and incoherent.

Roland kissed her quickly and stole her phone.  “I have to call Lockhart,” he said without explaining for the uninformed.  But even as he started through Boston’s interminable contact list, Jessica interrupted.

ac-jessica-2“Wait,” Jessica turned off her phone.  “The ghouls have taken over city hall.  Sara is trapped.  We have to go.”

“Ghouls?” Officer Dickenson asked in a shaky voice.  Latasha could only nod

Jessica stared for a second at her phone before she asked.  “Ghouls in city hall?  Why is that unusual?”

Elect II—20 Underground, part 2 of 3

Sara got to city hall a little after five.  Paul was working on a brief for the Mayor.  The Mayor, of course, was home relaxing along with most of the people in the city administration.  It was only people like new, young lawyers in the prosecutor’s office that usually worked late.

Sara came with her shepherd’s crook in her hand.  She was uncertain about the weapon at first, and Heinrich made it clear it was a weapon even if it was only used to protect the sheep from beasts in the wilderness, but lately she had come to think of it as something like a security blanket.  a-trent-policeman-1She was dressed in her fairy weave gift from Avalon—her long white dress over boots and her white cloak with the hood over all.  She was determined to tell Paul everything and thought the fairy weave would serve for evidence when she turned it pink and then green with a mere word.

Ben, the security guard at the front door did not recognize her at first.  When he realized who she was he said, “Wow, er, Reverend Michaels.”

“I’m just here to totally interrupt Paul from whatever work he is doing,” she said.  He buzzed her in with a whisper that it should not be hard, and he watched her all the way to the elevator.

When she reached the third floor, she had to walk carefully around the wet floor sign as she smiled at the cleaning crew.  They didn’t smile back, but she did not expect them to.  When she reached the corner office where Paul often hid while the cleaners worked, she paused.  She steadied her heart and mind while her lips said a small prayer for serenity, and she went in without knocking.

Paul looked up.  “Sara?”  He took a second look.  “Sara.”

“We have to talk.”

“I—.”  He looked very tempted, but swallowed.  “I have to finish this for the Mayor.  Give me about an hour.”

ac-sarah-b1“No Paul.  I have a confession and it must be now.”  Sara was still standing in the doorway and it occurred to her if he could not stop long enough to listen she would probably leave and not see him again.

Paul still hesitated, but at last he pushed back his computer keyboard, sat back in his chair and folded his hands.  “I’m listening.”  Sara closed the door, sat across the desk from him and took a moment to fold her hands in her lap before she began.

“It has to do with the young women at the University I told you about, the ones who style themselves as an Amazon tribe.”  Paul looked skeptical and Sara worried her hands.  “It is an anomaly in this age, I know, but the truth is they are a real Amazon tribe sanctioned by the goddess Zoe herself, and they can all do things that no ordinary human being can do.”

“Sara—.”

“And so can I.  They call me priestess.”  Sara said pink and her dress and cloak changed to that color.  She said blue, and with the change Paul’s mouth opened wider but no words came out.  She changed her clothes back to white and spoke to him again.  “Right now you just need to listen.”  She talked for an hour and told him many things but found herself still holding back on many details, and some things like Avalon she hardly mentioned.  When she took a breath, she felt she had conveyed all that was most important.  Paul remained silent and thoughtful.  At least he was not freaking out.

Sara looked out the window.  The sun was just down and she honestly could see nothing but darkness, but Paul joined her in looking at the glass and her reflection in the glass.  She felt sure he would say something in a minute, but a minute was all it took for the lights to sputter and go out.  Paul’s first concern was his computer which dimmed and went off.

ac-sar-paul-1“Damn it!” he said.  “I didn’t get that saved.”  Sara did not mind the swearing.  It was very human.  Then they heard a scream out in the main room and both jumped to the door.  Paul looked at her.  “I’ll just check it out.  Stay here.”

“No.”  Sara grabbed his arm.  She was feeling what she could only describe as the presence of evil.  “Wait.”  She opened the door carefully.  There was a person not far from the door, just visible in the emergency lighting.  They recognized that the person was not a human person when they realized he was eating someone’s arm. The person noticed them and started toward them.  Then they saw it for the creature it was, full of caws and fangs.

Sara yanked Paul behind her and yelled.  “You shall not come in here.”  She slammed the butt of her shepherd’s crook on to the rug and while it made no sound, a brilliant light emanated from the Priestess.  The creature backed up and threw its arms up to cover its eyes while Sara quickly shut the door.  She pulled out her phone and once again Paul appeared speechless.

“Lisa,” Sara spoke and leaned against Paul’s desk.  “The ghouls have taken over city hall.”  She covered the phone for a second.  “Detective Schromer.  You met her.”  Paul nodded.  “Nice husband.  Maybe we could double sometime.  Give you someone to talk to.”  Paul shook his head before he thought and shrugged but then Sara was talking again.  “No, I don’t know how many and I am not leaving this corner office to go out and count them.  Fine.  I’ll keep the phone handy.”  She hung up, put the phone on the desk and took hold of her shepherd’s crook again.

ac-sar-paul-3Paul shrieked like a little girl.  There was a claw sticking up through the floor and it had grabbed hold of his ankle.  Sara smashed the claw with her crook and something like electricity traveled down the wood.  They heard a horrifying scream from below as the claw began to shrivel and it was rapidly pulled back beneath the floorboards.

“You might want to get your feet off the floor,” Sara said as she shoved things out of her way to sit on the desk.  Paul went for his desk chair and pulled up his knees.  He spoke after a 360 degree inspection of the floor area, only possible because Sara was glowing.

“This kind of thing happen often?”

Sara smiled at the feeling of liberation.  Right then she could tell Paul anything and he would have to believe her.  “No.  I wouldn’t say often.”

Elect II—20 Underground, part 1 of 3

Emily was still in bed three days later when Jessica and Fiona the hunter joined forces and found Carlos in an unused warehouse meat locker.  He was completely drained of blood and stank.  Fiona guessed he had been hanging for two or three days.  They all kept quiet as they looked around the main room for Mama spider.  Officer Dickenson spoke first.

“I imagine the big spider is long gone,” he said.  He knew it was wishful thinking when the others contradicted him.

aa-warehouse-dock-1“She is near,” Jessica said.

“I can sense something, not far,” Latasha agreed.

Harmony called her troop for backup with a word.  “There may be more babies as well.”

“Not what I want to hear,” Dickenson said.  “But if there are more, we get out, call Schromer and get extra back-up.”  It took some convincing, but eventually the women agreed.

###

At that same time, Sara was in the city hall, waiting outside the courthouse for Paul.  She had come to realize if she did not go see him at work, she might never see him at all.

Lisa came out from testifying against one of the drug dealers Latasha got her mixed up with.  “Off with time served,” she said as she sat beside Sara on the bench outside the courtroom.  She expected Sara to say something about the lack of justice and how the streets will never be safe if the bad guys keep getting off so easy, but that was not what she heard.

“How do you do it?”  Sara looked at Lisa with questions written all over her face.  “With Josh and the kids, I mean.  The only place I see Paul these days is here or over in City Hall where he is working in the Mayor’s office.”

Sara got quiet and Lisa paused for a moment to think.

“I got lucky.  Josh knew what he was getting, police and all.  He knew about my election, not all the details, but that my life would never be normal.  He sent me flowers anyway.  He said his programming job was the kind he could work from home most of the time, and he did not mind being a house husband and doing child care if we should have children.  He said he would always a-trenton-court-hallbe there for me.  How could I say no?”  Lisa smiled and then added a serious note.  “Honestly, I don’t do it very well.  I struggle with guilt the way most women do these days, I suppose.  The days of wife and mother staying home with the kids are pretty much over.  Women work these days because they have to, and the idea that a woman can have it all is a croc.  Either work or Josh and the children are always getting gypped.”

“Not so,” Ashish said.  He had come out of the courtroom in the middle of the conversation, but heard enough of it.  “I think Lisa does a remarkable job of balancing things.”

Lisa gave her partner a brief smile but turned straight back to Sara who looked so serious. Lisa’s intuition was acting up.  “You haven’t told Paul about you and the girls, have you?”

“I have, but not in detail, and I haven’t taken him to meet them yet.  I’m afraid.”

Lisa reached for her hand.  “Complete honesty.  That is the only way to know if he is right.  You don’t have the luxury of picking just any old husband.”

Sara opened her mouth and shut it just as quick.  “When I met the girls I thought I stumbled into a band of superheroes, like the X-Men.  I discovered it isn’t just Emily, you and Latasha.  Each of the girls, in her own way, can do things no human being ought to be able to do.”  Sara stopped and Lisa encouraged her.

“And then?”

Sara took a deep breath.  “And then I found out I could do things that defied nature.  Not big things, but subtle things.”  She looked up at Lisa and let out the smallest grin.  “I can glow in the dark.”

ac-riverbend-3Lisa patted Sara’s hand and stood.  “My pastor says we all have our crosses to bear.”  She returned the slight grin and added the word, “Priestess.”  Then she raised her voice.  “Aurora.”

A young girl stepped around the corner, or more likely appeared from somewhere else.  Sara was not fooled.  She knew this was an elf in disguise.  It was confirmed when Aurora stopped at the bench, looked at Sara, gave a little bow and said, “Priestess,” in echo of Lisa’s word.  She turned to Lisa, nodded her head again and said, “Lady.”

“Anything?” Lisa asked.

“There have been ghouls here, but not here now.”

“Ha,” Ashish interrupted.  “She hasn’t seen the lawyers.”

###

It was on a Saturday, around sundown, two weeks’ shy of finals, when Jessica and Fiona found their way back to that same warehouse.  Latasha, Harmony and Officer Dickenson followed, and all said they knew the trails would return to this place.

“I about have this old warehouse memorized,” Officer Dickenson said while his eyes continued to search every corner for signs of spiders.

“We have been over this place,” Harmony admitted.

“And we found nothing,” Fiona agreed.

“But all the signs point here,” Jessica looked frustrated.

“Maybe we missed something.”  Fiona began to second guess.

boston-5“At least the place is not full of webbing this time,” Officer Dickenson remarked.

“In here.”  Latasha was by the door and everyone looked in her direction.  A young man and a young woman came in.  “That is why I asked for a second set of eyes.  This is my science teacher, Ms. Riley.”

Jessica opened her mouth but said nothing.  The absurdity of Latasha asking her high school science teacher for help was beyond even Jessica’s ability for quick remarks.  Harmony and Fiona were not fooled by the glamours.  Both heads dipped and Harmony spoke.

“Lord Roland.  Lady Boston.”

Boston responded while Roland took a long look around the big room.  “From the way Latasha described things, I am guessing a secret door.”  Boston sat down in the middle of the floor and opened her purse.  She took out a Jar of dust and a stick, which was her wand.

“Your wife is sitting down to find a secret door?”  Officer Dickenson thought they should be tapping the walls and looking for signs on the floor, but in part he wanted to know who these strangers were.  It was police curiosity.

“Yes,” Roland spoke openly to the police officer.  “My wife was a witch before she became an elf.”  Officer Dickerson just shut his mouth like it served him right for asking.  “Like your Melissa,” Roland added for Jessica who nodded that she understood and stepped back to let the woman work.

Boston chanted very softly and waved her wand several times in between her chants.  Jessica could see the orange colored swirl of the magic that surrounded Boston like a fine mist of fire.  Every time she swirled the wand, the mist expanded to cover more of the warehouse floor.  Officer Dickenson asked his question before it reached the walls.

“What is happening?” he whispered.  “I don’t see anything.”

“Hush,” Latasha quieted him.  “It is like a red-orange mist, and it looks like she found something.”

boston-1The mist began to pull together over one round spot on the floor.  Boston got up slowly and brought her jar of dust to the spot.  She sprinkled the dust and spoke, and the round spot glowed with a sparkling golden tint that everyone could see.  Then she spoke.

“This is not a magical door.  It seems mechanical in some way and that may be why our elves did not find it, because they were not looking with the right set of eyes.”

“You did say at first they were not spiritual creatures,” Fiona reminded Latasha who simply nodded and unwrapped her ax.

“Here, give me a hand with this,” Roland said to Officer Dickenson.  Latasha also got down to apply her strength to what for all practical purposes was like a manhole cover cut smoothly out of the concrete floor.  When it was open, all they could see was down into the dark.

Elect II—19 Leftovers, part 3 of 3

It was dark when Emily left her study group in the library.  She normally did not think twice about walking home in the dark, but there was an early spring chill in the air which made her turn up her collar, and she shivered.  It was a straight path to the dorm, beside the science building with the main classroom building, Gorgon Hall on her right.  She had to go down a small hill and through a couple of dark patches where the trees obscured the walkway lights, but then she was in dorm land and only needed to cross the street to get to her suite.

Emily paused in front of the science building.  She pushed her collar up again against the feeling that someone was following her.  She tried to look back as she reached in her purse like she maybe left something in the library, but she did not see anyone behind her so she took a deep breath and passed it off as imagination.

a-n-campus-2A young couple burst through the science building doors and headed toward the library.  Emily watched for a moment and felt like she wanted someone to laugh with and hold their hand.  She sighed and looked and saw no one back there, so she started walking again.  Someone was following her.  She could run, and outrun any normal person, but as she came to the slight hill that went down to the street and moved into a dark area, she had another thought.  She slipped behind a tree and held her breath.

She was sure whoever it was, or whatever, it was definitely following her.  She imagined it paused at the top of the hill where it could not see her.  She wondered who it might be.  Riverbend was likely resting or for once doing as she was told—helping Lisa track ghouls.  She could not imagine it, but she supposed Riverbend might have assigned another one of the elf maidens to temporarily take her place.  But no, Emily thought, no elf maiden would be that obvious.

Emily heard a sight growl beside her and felt a rock-hard fist in her shoulder before she could turn her head.  She flew across the walkway and slammed hard into a tree.  She was hurt from one punch and when she looked up she was not surprised to see a monster of an orc step out into the dim light.

There was someone on the path, running.  The person leapt and he had a knife in his hand which got shoved deep into the orc’s neck.  The orc grabbed the young man with one hand around the waist and squeezed.  The man arched his back and moaned as Emily heard bones break.  Then the young man was tossed away like a rag doll.

 

The orc reached for the knife in his neck and pulled it out with a great roar.  But by then, Emily had out her knife and came up from beneath to shove her knife in the orc’s belly and up toward the heart.  The orc backhanded her, and mostly missed, but even at that Emily felt it hard enough to be seriously hurt, and she was shoved again across the walkway to crash and slide across the bricks on her back.

ac-j-j-orc

As the orc tossed away the knife from his neck, somehow the young man grabbed it.  Emily was astounded.  She thought she gutted the thing, and it was bleeding terribly from its neck and belly, but it seemed her cut through the abdomen only hit muscle.  The knife fell out as the beast turned on her.  She staggered to her feet.  But then the young man managed a miraculous leap on to the orc’s back, though his ribs had to be broken.

The orc got the knife again in the neck, on the other side of its head.  It roared again and jumped backward to crush the young man into the tree.  Emily heard the big old tree crack from the weight and force exerted, and she moved in again, retrieving her own knife as the orc turned to tear the young man apart.  It roared again and Emily shoved her knife into the orc’s mouth, reaching from behind.  The backhand came again, but this time Emily ducked and rolled away.  She moaned.  The roll made it clear that she was hurt everywhere.

The orc turned on Emily once again, but it stood to spit and try to disgorge the knife from its mouth.  It made great hacking sounds before an arrow struck it in the chest.  Two more arrows struck the heart area and the beast fell to the ground to roll and grasp at the shafts.

Emily crawled over to the young man by the tree.  She was sure he could not possibly be alive.  She gasped when she saw him.  It was Pierce’s younger brother.  There was a flicker of movement and recognition in his eyes

“I’m glad you loved him.  I’ve got a baby sister.  Save her,” the young man said before the last of his breath went out of him.

Emily turned, though it hurt to turn.  She saw a male elf making sure the monster orc was dead.  boston-a1She saw the female elf at her side, and the elf yelled at her.  “I ordered Riverbend to stay with you.  You have no business sending her off to help Detective Lisa.”

There was something in the way the elf said Detective Lisa that sounded familiar, but Emily could not think about that just then.  She was busy passing out.

Emily woke a short while later, in her dorm and in her bed.  Maria was there having tea with the elf healer, Linnea.

“Must have been a monster,” Linnea said.  Emily could only nod.

“Nothing broken,” Maria reported.  “But you have to be banged up bad.”

Emily nodded again as Riverbend came to the door and came into the room, crying.