Here are some truths:
- The final chapters are taking me forever.
- I could not find the right cc spoon for this baking scene, so please ignore how it floats just out of Alice’s hand.
- As a reward for your patience, I’m including a short preview of the final battle that I’m currently shooting/editing.
- Now that I’ve finished this chapter, I’ve earned a binge session of my fave simlits! Will the next chapter be late as a result? PROBABLY.
Seriously though, thanks for coming on this crazy, incredible journey with me! I’ve got so many ideas for Book Two, but I am relieved to be wrapping up this first part. You lovely readers have made me feel like I’m part of a community, and you’ve brought me so much light and joy with your comments.
ALSO, CHECK MY OTHER CAMEO YO. I AM IN THE YUAN-VERSE (I will not apologize for calling it this), AND ITS EVERYTHING. Dollyllama’s writing is excellent, and I cannot stress enough that you should absolutely be reading Catastrophe Theory.
And last but not least: Pandemic/quarantine can make it seem like time has no meaning, but the violence done against the Asian community was not that long ago and is also ongoing. If you’re feeling a bit paralyzed, a place to start is donating to people doing vital civil rights work: https://www.advancingjustice-aajc.org/
Penny stared, her mouth hanging open. She had bested the Sage of Mischief Magic in a duel and wasn’t even sure how she did it.
The Sage struggled to her feet, waving off help. “You’ve soundly defeated me; let’s not add insult to injury, witch.”
Penny bit down on her sharp response and nodded. For the first time, she noticed how messy Faba looked—the dirt streaking her face, her torn stockings, bags under her eyes. The attack on Magic HQ was so chaotic; Penny didn’t see the full extent of what Alice had done.
“I’m not here with them. The God of Death and her…” she struggled to find a proper word for describing the constellation of creatures following Alice.
“Ah yes, the God of Death. She’s certainly come into her own, and her ascension has only just begun. What fresh horror will await the worlds when she is fully in control of herself?”
Penny jolted. She didn’t expect the Sage of Mischief Magic to articulate the exact thoughts she’d been struggling with. “You think she’s dangerous?”
“More than dangerous. She’s the harbinger of the end of a world. Tell me, witch, do you still follow that god’s tenets? Or you are here on your own?”
“Follow? Tenets? Alice doesn’t have those; she’s… she’s a store clerk from a nowhere military town,” Penny sputtered.
“She was a store clerk from a nowhere military town,” L. Faba corrected. “Now she’s a god. Of course, she has followers and tenets. Soon she’ll have doctrines and magic help us if she’s already started receiving prayers. That doesn’t change my original question, why are you here, witch?”
“Penny, the name is Penny, and I’m not here for the God of Death’s business. I’m here for mine. Witches have been going missing, including my parents. I’m here to find out what happened.”
L. Faba tensed, and the silence stretched between them, a taut and terrible thing. Finally, the Sage turned to walk away. “Go home, child. You are not prepared for answers.”
Penny clenched her fists. She could not come this far and have it be for nothing. What would be left of her if she didn’t get these answers? “I know about Simeon and Bjorn being involved with the Good Order Monks. I know a lot about the God of Death.”
L. Faba kept walking. Penny jogged after her, desperate to make the Sage stop.
“And The Owl,” she cried, “I know all about that, too.”
L. Faba froze, “You know where The Owl is?”
“Yes,” Penny croaked. Practical magic forgive her. “I can give you information, but I need something in return. I killed witches last time I was here…it…it can’t have been for nothing.”
Alice cracked another egg over the bowl. When she started this journey, baking seemed like something that required strict adherence to a bunch of rules on a sheet of paper. And technically speaking, it did. But being on reality tv required flexibility and thinking on your feet, which was definitely her strength.
More than anything else, Alice liked reacting. Then, if she fell short, there were a whole host of legitimate reasons that had nothing to do with whether she was good enough. It probably wasn’t the best long-term strategy. In fact, she was hoping Vlad might be a good counterbalance to her, but he was right: good planning was not the domain of slaughter-obsessed madmen.
Still, he backed her up when she said she didn’t want to talk about the pregnancy. Apparently, he and Valeria had words because her mother had been mum all afternoon. It remained to be seen how long that would last.
Stirring the batter, she paused and took a quick taste. Not bad. It was one of her better improvisations, award-winning even.
“Hey! What are you doing?” Gwendolyn demanded as she padded into the room. Her tone was suspicious, but then again, her tone was always suspicious. It made sense; Gwendolyn had plenty of reason to trust no one and nothing. Nevertheless, it was something Alice hoped would change over time.
“I’m baking. What are you doing?”
“Observing,” she shrugged, “You could probably use my help.”
Alice slid the ingredients over and patted a space on the counter. “Alright, hop on up.”
“Can I taste it?”
She gave Gwendolyn a skeptical look. “What did Vlad say about you eating mortal food?”
“It would taste like ash in my mouth, and I’d probably barf it up.”
“Then no.” Alice was already cleaning up enough of her own puke.
“But how will I know it’s good?” she whined.
“Use your sense of smell.”
The tiny terror acquiesced, and they worked together. After adding a few more ingredients and some vigorous stirring, they got to a point in the recipe where they needed to let the batter rest.
“So what do you want to be when you grow up?” Alice asked, wiping her hands on her jeans. She rarely got a chance to talk with Gwendolyn about anything beyond their immediate situation.
“Why?” she frowned, suspicion back in her voice.
“Because you are my kid, and I want to help.”
She folded her arms.
“One day, everything won’t be on fire,” Alice sighed, “I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but I promise it will be very soon.”
“Queen of hell,” she said finally, “And I know you’re gonna say there’s no such thing as hell, but you’re a god, and Vlad’s everyone’s nightmare, and I wanna be queen of something,” she finished primly.
Alice wanted to laugh, but she didn’t. “That’s pretty ambitious.”
“Valeria says aim high.”
At that, Alice did laugh. “She told me the same thing.”
Something in the tiny terror softened. Her eyes grew wide. “You always wanted to be the God of Death?”
“No, I wanted…” Alice hesitated. She hadn’t thought about her dreams in a very long time. They seemed now like they were made by another sim in another time entirely. Which was sort of true, she wasn’t a sim anymore, and she certainly wasn’t hanging around the StrangeVille library trying to build up the courage to apply to art school. “I wanted to be an artist. Open my own gallery.”
Her voice came out more solemn than she intended, but Gwendolyn didn’t seem to mind. “You can paint! I want to paint!” she squealed, “Why are you holding out on me? I could be a great painter, and you’re not even teaching me?”
“Whoa, whoa, my bad!” Alice held up her hands in mock surrender, “I’ll teach you to paint. It’ll be the first thing we do when we get to the Underworld.”
“And what about hell?”
“Would you settle for God of Death’s intern?”
“Depends,” she placed a hand on her chin, “What’s my salary?”
Alice reminded herself that Gwendolyn was not the kind of kid you could make empty promises. She ushered them over to the bowl. “Um, we’ll talk about it later, okay?”
Before she could gear up to negotiate, Alice quickly cut in, “How do you think our recipe is going?”
Gwendolyn leaned over and took a whiff. “It smells like death.”