Chapter 40, Part 1: The Best Laid Plans

Windenburg Woods, Dryad Territory


“It’s not enough for Miss Hell to steal The Owl,” Cyrus continued, “She needs to be seen stealing The Owl.”

“Simple,” Amisiyia scoffed, “Event planning is a key part of my business. We will offer our services to the production company for free. It is clear they are cheapskates.”

Valeria lifted an eyebrow, “And that business is…”

“Imports/Exports,” Caleb answered brightly. No need to make it even harder for Alice’s family to accept them. His ears were still ringing from Mayra’s scream when she discovered Vlad and Gwendolyn trying to stuff a mortal heart into the ice cream maker.

“It has to be a location with good sight-lines, preferably close to the woods. It’ll make our exit more efficient,” Cyrus explained.

So far, Alice’s father was the most reasonable out of all of them. Caleb quite liked him.

“I have just the location in mind,” Amisyia purred, “And I solved our other problem too. We will not lose track of our mark.”

“Mark?” Valeria raised an eyebrow, “That’s an interesting choice of words.”

“Imports/Exports,” Caleb repeated with a tight smile.

Downtown Windenburg

He glanced around the dock again, ensuring that they weren’t being watched. Caleb was still dubious about this part of their errand. He was pretty sure Amisyia was doing it just to have an excuse to change into her siren form.

Before his talk with Vlad, he would have denied caring about it—caring about her. But what had that gotten him? Three hundred years and barely a close relationship to speak of.  

Though the solution was anything but straightforward. Caleb did not like being lonely, but if he wasn’t lonely, he was overinvolved. There was no in-between. Even now, he couldn’t think of a single relationship where he wasn’t either holding back or engaged to an extreme.

How did he even begin to form relationships that weren’t co-dependent? 

Amisyia finally popped up from the water, waving her hand, “Right where I left it,” she preened. A surge of carnal hunger hit him as he took in her sharp-toothed smile.

“Your clothes are on the dock,” he said, turning around. Not that it helped. The image of her half-naked body standing in his bathroom was burned into his memory. “We should finish setting up,” he called over his shoulder, cringing at how hoarse he sounded.

Crumplebottom Barn, Windenburg Countryside

Caleb tried to focus on his phone call, but Amisyia was making it incredibly difficult. He was sure her dress had been created for the express purpose of trying to kill him. He put a hand over the receiver, “There are not enough things bolted down. Are you trying to encourage the gnomes to rob everyone blind?”

Amisyia put a hand on her hip. “They are witnesses, Caleb; what do I care if they are robbed? So long as they see us being robbed.” 

“Robbed?” On the phone, the postal service worker made a disapproving sound. “Sir, we cannot in good conscience allow for the shipping of illegal—”

“Nothing has been stolen. We only deal in the finest antiques,” Caleb assured him. “Now, we need this to go to the StrangerVille Military Base, care of…” he trailed off.

Why had she chosen those flowers? “Hold on a moment.”

He lowered the phone from his ear and marched over to her. “You want to put out these flowers? Are you insane? If someone tries to make a grab for The Owl before Miss Hell, the poison is too slow-moving.”

Amisyia smiled innocently and flashed him a peace sign. 

“What are you doing?” Caleb sounded unsure.

“Counting down.”

“Counting down to—” he broke off, choking as his throat began to close up. The phone slipped from his fingers as he dropped to the ground. 

“Is…there…an…antidote?” he croaked. 

“That depends on your answer,” she said calmly, “Nod your head if you’re finished offering your unsolicited opinions.”

  • Dolly Llama
    Feb 21, 2021

    Oh man. This chapter is so tight and sets up so much suspense that I don’t have anything major to speculate on because I have no clue what’s going to happen next. Every single one of these vignettes was brilliant. So please accept this disjointed, not-at-all insightful comment that pretty much recaps most of the chapter.

    Starting with the observation that I don’t think Cyrus is allowed to touch that chalkboard.

    Penny. Penny! I feel you, girl. Sometimes one person makes all the difference. And I do appreciate the message in some fictional works that we need to recognize those people when they come along and honor them for the good they do, but we certainly need more stories where a person’s true friends/found family don’t come along until they’ve suffered years of emotional damage. So, so hard to internalize it’s not your fault. True to form, the problem’s not being solved clearly or immediately either. And Penny of course does what one does when there’s no clear path forward. (guess who’s been dropping the ball on making a BBD TV Tropes page for months)

    “She was practically vibrating with hostility, which meant Vlad had to remain calm”: Interesting—Valeria and Cyrus also explicitly have this same whose-turn-is-it-for-the-emotions dynamic, and it’s a favorite of mine. (It’s like leashing a chihuahua to a tree.) But for prose snippets that reveal way more than the character intended, it’s hard to beat “how to be a par—“. Man, you’re really driving it home that she does not need this right now.

    Of the screenshots this chapter, it’s hard to beat the orgy pose with Ben chilling there holding a foot. Like I was about to say something about the hitherto-unseen giddy smile Vlad gets at the prospect of teaching Gwendolyn how to torture, but this brain of mine is like naw, mention again how Ben’s fallen asleep with some dude’s sneaker on him.

    Okay, so, the bonding. LMAO. The interrogation reveal got the biggest laugh out of me this chapter. Dear Goodman, Vlad just has infinite patience when it comes to this kid. Enough for Voidcritter Go even. But Boomers, note that even Vlad understands that talking on the phone is the worst.

    From what we’ve seen so far, Gwendolyn needs to get used to people being dumber than her, and fast. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s Gwendolyn who finally tells Alice “oh my god, just take a pregnancy test already.”

    Is Gwendolyn’s and Vlad’s ice cream flavor called…

    Candy Heart?

    (For real, are you just saving all the premades with food names for these stealth jokes???)

  • feroshgirl
    Feb 25, 2021

    Didn’t you hear? NO ONE is allowed to touch that chalkboard.

    Thank you! I’ve said it once but I’ll say it again, I LOVE A HEIST. So much so that I needed to shoehorn one into here. In fact, this is my favorite part of the heist movie when a plan is starting to take shape and they are gathering resources but for what? And what will they do with them? And you know the twist is coming but how?

    But Penny was the star of this chapter in my heart. Yeah, you are not wrong about Penny and for reasons that have not yet been revealed, this really is like she is waking up for the first time and the grief and desperation is hitting her all at once. Penny is finally getting to feel her feelings, and the result is one of my favorite tv tropes of all time (I purposely made Penny’s hair long because I wanted this scene so badly lol).

    YES! Hahaha thank you for spotting those matching relationship dynamics. Another reason why Vlad and Alice work. Vlad has had centuries of other people carrying his emotions for him while he has the outbursts. Alice/Gwendolyn is the first time he’s doing that for someone else in a long (600 years) time. He’s willing to do that work because he loves her, but I wanted that to be a big part of his evolution. Meanwhile, I wanted the women in the story to be allowed to have freak-outs and breakdowns and be pissed off without having to reign themselves in and do a bunch of emotional labor because this is a fantasy and I get to reform patriarchy however I want! Yay!

    I told you there’d be more sneakers.

    Every scene with Vlad and Gwendolyn is just me having the best time. I mean it had to be Vlad, right? The reasons why he can be so long-suffering are traumatic, but its really a lovely thing in the end. CANDY HEART IS A DEEP CUT! YOU GET A MILLION POINTS.

    But seriously, who is going to tell Alice to take a pregnancy test? Grim?

  • ThePlumbob
    Mar 5, 2021

    Ah yeah, I can see why this would make Alice feel ungodlike; her parents are trying to help and being supportive, but definitely cramping her style. She’s only just stated to feel in control of all of her powers too, so this is a tocuhy territory. Does Gwendolyn need to be dead to enter the underworld in her vampy form? I suppose it’s more their godhood than their undeadness that lets them go in 🙂 Still not sure what the deal with Alice’s brother is. Is he rebelling by being a knob? In a family of misfits?

    Aww, I like that you brought focus to how Gwen is adjusting to this whole thing. She’s had a lot to process in a very short time, her life changing so drastically and now she’s on the run ith an adoptive family and all the grown ups talking tensely about her being the owl which she probbly doesn’t even know what means (not that we do, exactly, haha). Oh, and casual murder that somehow feel like daddy and daughter going out for ice cream, lol.

    Oh that romantic barn so clashes with Amisya and Caleb’s actual scene, which I’m sure was deliberate. Dang.

    I have a tough time thinking of that painting as anything but the Carys painting, heh. Aww, Penny. Poor Penny. She really did not get a good deal here, taken for a ride because she’s attached to Gwen/feels for Gwen as a fellow orphan, and helping destroy everything that meant something to her. And what does she have to show for it? Nothing. I’m not surprised she’s pissed. Alice should have come herself. I know she has a lot going on, but I feel like Alice and Vlad do owe Penny that much,a t least, not send errand boys, err, gals. Poor Penny. I do feel for her. What does she have left, really? And here go Alice and Vlad being like “you better play ball or else” … because why, exactly? Why are their agendas and egos more important than hers? I’d not be impressed if I were her either. #TeamPenny

    • feroshgirl
      Mar 6, 2021

      I am obsessed with calling Maverick a knob hahahaha. Yes, Alice is going through quite the adjustment. I was hoping her family would bring a new sort of dynamic into the mix. Yes, Gwendolyn should be fine getting into the Underworld. Interesting that you referred to her as a god…hehe.

      Yes! I wanted to find a moment to deal with the fact that Gwendolyn is struggling. It’s hard with so many characters as I come down the home stretch, but I wanted to foreshadow some of the stuff I’ve got planned for “book two.” Also, just wanted her and Vlad to have some quality time together, you know, with ice cream and murders hahahaha.

      I mean, are Amisyia and Caleb fighting or flirting?

      LOL that painting. You know, as I was writing this I was getting mad at my own characters. I mean, I did this to them, but you’re right. Alice is a bit self-absorbed and even if there are good reasons, it still affects other people. She isn’t use to thinking about her actions as having far-reaching consequences in that way. And frankly, Vlad is no help, he only cares about the small number of creatures in his orbit. Basically, Alice needs a better advisor.

      You picked up on the fact that Alice wasn’t the one to go see Penny!! Yes!

      But really, I just love Penny so much. I can’t wait to write more of her. She’s struggling and trying to find her place in the world. And she’s really been thrown for a loop. I think she’s gonna get back on her feet, but…eh…it might get worse before it gets better.


  • Yimiki
    Mar 30, 2021

    “Then we’ll help our enemy steal it from us in a very public way”
    But… the owl has to be earned or freely given, doesn’t it? I guess this depends on your definition of “earned”, but if they can get away with Marjorie that easily, won’t some alarm bells start ringing with the enemy, too?

    Her parents do seem to be a little quick at jumping down her throat, especially her mother and sister – but to be fair, Alice is also incredibly stubborn at accepting help when she needs it, recognizing that she needs help, and analyzing herself in general. She’s essentially a baby god. She’s a natural at it, but still. Accept all the help you can get, and if it’s a bad plan they serve you, then work with them to come up with a better one. They’re trying very hard to help. 😅

    Haha, Gwen and Vlad tricking people together will never not be entertaining to watch. Aw, their bonding moment was so precious. She’s really having a rough time and that’s without the added problem of not having anyone her age to bond with. Poor kid. At least Vlad is there to help her. Aaaaand then you remind me that Vlad is a stone cold killer and eats people’s hearts because it’s a delicacy and they’re gleefully murdering innocent bystanders as a father-daughter activity. How can it be so disturbing and so funny at the same time? 😂

    “It’s not enough for Miss Hell to steal The Owl,” Cyrus continued, “She needs to be seen stealing The Owl.”
    But… but.. it has to be.. earned or freely given… 🤔

    Poor Penny. Everyone keeps using her and then casting her aside when she’s no longer useful to them. First the witches, then Miko, and now Alice and Vlad. All she wants is to find out what happened to her family. I still wonder why Miko was so dead-set on keeping that information from her – what link is there between Penny’s family and Miko not getting what she wants?
    Oh gods, Penny is not doing well. I hope she’s not close to snapping but it sounds like she is. And everyone just keeps pushing her instead of helping. This can’t end well.

    Did… did Gwendolyn put the sims version of Pokémon Go on Vlad’s cell phone? xDDDD

    • feroshgirl
      Mar 31, 2021

      Lololol you need to be on Alice’s shoulder giving her the business!

      Umm yes Gwendolyn totally installed Pokémon Go and Vlad is both annoyed by it and unsure if it’s actually a game or a hunt for creatures in real time.

      Oh yeah, I’m really giving Penny a rough time. But you are definitely asking the right questions about Miko.

      I wish I could say it gets better for Penny but ::looks off in the distance:: I guess we’ll see…

      Vlad and Gwen quality time! There’s an arcade! There’s a comforting chat! There’s the indiscriminate murder as a means to make ice cream out of people’s organs!

      Wait, what?

      Lol glad you enjoyed it!

      Oh The Owl, yes, I mean, why are you so worried about it? I’m sure it’s *fine* and the plan is perfect and no one is missing vital pieces of information at all 😉

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