Of Love and Monsters

Chapter 40, Part 2: The Best Laid Plans


Obviously, I’m back on my bullshit. Enjoy the NSFW!

Selvadorada, The Library of Magic


Personal Letter No. 3 by Sonia Sanchez

I gather up each sound you left behind and stretch them on our bed.

each nite I breathe you and become high.

Von Haunt Estate

the fates

“Call up the Rushlight,” Rory commanded, “And both of you, pay attention. We need to run through this because some folks have been making mistakes.”

“Mistakes?” Liberty scoffed, “This better be about Summer letting the God of Death screw around and get—”

“This is about you!” Rory cried, pointing a finger.

“Me?” Liberty leaned over the cauldron, her eyes burning. “Miko and Somnus are here. I’ve drained the last of my reserves to shut down the rest of the timelines, and I delivered that damn book!”   

“But is it safe?” Rory countered, “Last I checked, a whole bunch of powerful creatures were hanging around that place!”

“Last you checked? You keeping tabs on the King of the Centaurs. That’s what keeps you up at night?”

Summer waved a hand over the cauldron and frowned, “Guys…”

“Don’t insult me,” Rory shouted, “I’m not worried about the centaurs or a bunch of witches. The gods, Liberty, what’s keeping Sol or, universe help us, Omar, from poking around there?”

“My genius, that’s what. Do you know how much of a headache it was to make the Library of Magic so unappealing, no god would set foot in there? Titania Kibo on the board for godsdamned centuries! That sociopath wanted to install spiral staircases everywhere.” 

There was a long stretch of silence while they both glared at each other.

“Fair point,” Rory finally allowed. “So, by now Titania will have discovered Oberon’s love child. Kudos to Liberty on that part—”

An ominous bubble shot up into the air and popped.

“Um, y’all,” Summer chewed on a fingernail, “I think we have a problem…” 

“Summer, please stop trying to interrupt me,” Rory complained. “As I was saying, while she is in the midst of one of her famous rages, Akira and Oberon will steal away to the Library of Magic. They’ll take a peek at the book, and then Oberon will head off to Sulani and Akira, lovesick puppy dog that he is, will run off and snatch our Miko from the hands of the dastardly Somnus.”

“If that’s the line you wrote in the book, I will riot,” Liberty threatened.

“Guys—” Summer repeated.

And then,” Rory emphasized, ignoring both of them, “William and the Sage of Untamed Magic will retrieve the book at their meeting with the curator and return it to the God of Death who will have everything she needs to—”

“Guys!” Summer shouted, finally getting their attention. “We have a problem. Titania ain’t in the midst of one of her famous rages. She’s with Akira and Oberon, at the Library.”

“What?” Rory cried, looking slightly ill.

“Well, shit,” Liberty cursed.

“Maybe we do need a review of the plan,” Summer sighed, “Did Morgyn agree to split their magic with Marjorie? Can somebody call her? And have we accounted for the return of the Titans?”

Selvadorada, The Library of Magic


“I feel like shit,” Akira croaked. 

His sister looked at him without sympathy, “You look like shit too. Good thing I packed you something appropriate to wear.”

He groaned inwardly, taking in Titania’s expensive suit and diamond earrings. Whatever she put together was sure to be too much.

“Did it feel good?” she demanded, “Throwing away all that work to get sober? Waking up with some stranger in your bed?” 

“Yes!” Akira growled, “No! I don’t know,” he threw up his hands, “Why are you so bent out of shape about it? Your bed games involve knives, now you’re all up in arms about a little drink and a little sex?”

“I wouldn’t have to be if you enjoyed it! If it wasn’t just another way of you punishing yourself!”

“How am I punishing myself? I got divorced. Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“I want you to be happy,” she seethed.

“Well, I’m not!” he shot back, “It’s impossible.” 

They stared at each other angrily for a few minutes.

“If you don’t want to chase after Miko, what are we even doing here?” Titania demanded, “Why am I wasting my time and energy helping you?”

Akira opened his mouth, but he didn’t have an answer. She wasn’t wrong. He was dragging Titania along just like Miko dragged him. Gods, it hurt. How had he gotten so fucked up? It was like he was waking up from a spell and just now beginning to see the world as it existed. He stared at his sister, noticing the tension in her shoulders and her stiff posture.

“What?” she narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“I’m sorry,” Akira said softly as he hugged her. “You do every fuckin’ thing to help me, and I ain’t done shit but resent it. You’re the best sister.”

Titania pushed him away and frowned. “I am a good sister, but I already have one idiot, and I…I don’t want to take care of another.”

It was a kick in the stomach, knowing that his younger sister thought of him as a burden. He was supposed to be the one taking care of her! Instead, he was too busy chasing after some pink-haired Thread of Fate who cared nothing for him.

“Fuck Miko and fuck Oberon. You and me are family. Remember when you first became queen? I was right there beside you, and it was godsdamned glorious.”

Titania tried to hide her smile, but he could see her replaying everything in her mind.

“It used to be just the two of us,” he said, nudging her, “Let’s get this fucking book and do what we should have done all along: Go to war.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“Come on,” he begged, “You love this. Before you were She Who Is Most Wiley, they called you Warrior; they sang songs of your bloodshed.”

“I always dreamed that we’d take back our seat, that we could…” Titania’s usual bravado faltered. “No,” she insisted, “I’m being reckless. Oberon said we’d be cut down. He remembers the old wars. I’d be risking everything.”

She didn’t say it, but he knew the next line. They’d heard it from their parents often enough: Better to have a god’s cast-offs than to keep warring and be left with nothing at all. But she needed this. They needed this—to feel in control and powerful again.

“And since when do you care what Oberon thinks? So he’s 1400. I’m tired of him treating you like you’re a fuckin’ kid. You think I don’t see the way he stands back giving you commands? You’ve learned more in your 670 years than he’ll ever know. We get this book, and you and I will have something valuable. Those Elder Realm bastards? They’ll negotiate with us.” 

Titania pressed her lips together and looked away.

He hated seeing her like this—unsure, stammering, shoulders slumped. “Think about it,” Akira said gently, “I’ll get dressed.”

He rushed through his shower, cringing at the suit she’d picked out but forcing himself to keep quiet about it. If wearing this outfit made Titania happy, he would do it. And if it convinced her to to get on board? Even better.

“Hey, sis, this is not so bad. And you act like you don’t cater to my vanity,” he laughed as he stepped out of the bathroom.

Titania was waiting, eyes glowing, a murderous expression on her face. Even though the threat wasn’t directed at him, Akira stilled his movements. “I guess you thought about it.”

“I did. They said we fell, that our line became lesser things, forgotten things. But those days are over. We will have a war, and the Goddess of the Hunt will remember why she feared my name.”

They used to fear Akira’s name too. Rushlight—it was his father’s moniker. The tales said he was fast enough to steal fire, that he ran between the worlds on a current of air. When he died, it became Akira’s name, and the currents called to the new Rushlight like he had been born to ride them.

He’d forgotten that part of himself, forgot everything except for Miko. He was consumed by her…

…But now he was free.

“We ain’t lesser things,” he declared, voice low, “And when we get done, those motherfuckers will remember that once upon a time, the Titans were gods.” 

The Elder Realms, Home of Somnus


“They abandoned you,” Somnus said, tossing a pile of clothing at her. “They did not even have the decency to pack you a bag, and yet you weep for them.”

Miko glanced up, her gaze snagging on his scarred face and pointed ears. He must use magic to hide them, but why? What happened to his face to leave such a mark? And on a god, no less…

His lip curled. “So, in addition to being a crybaby, you’re also an idiot.”

She had been staring too long. It was rude. Still, “idiot” was a strong word. And she hadn’t cried that much.

He turned to leave the room but hovered by the doorway. “Get dressed. If I’m going to be forced to feed this pathetic form you inhabit, you could at least wear something that doesn’t smell.”

Miko glared behind his back. She was itching to put on fresh clothes and shower but being commanded to do so was insulting. With caution, she examined what he threw at her. It was an evening gown. Impractical, ridiculous and—

She dropped the dress like it scalded her.

In another timeline, she wore that gown dancing with Akira at the gnome’s stronghold in Granite Falls. She choked back a cry. Of course, Somnus knew. He was close enough to feed on her dreams and nightmares. 

All these timelines and Akira still didn’t understand. She gave him everything, made herself vulnerable, allowed him to love her without interference.

And he betrayed it.

Kicking the dress as far away as possible, Miko looked around the room and started searching through the drawers for clothing. It was full of long draping gowns, which she hated, but not more than dirty pajamas.

After her shower, she procrastinated going upstairs. Her stomach was growling, but she wasn’t ready to face Somnus yet. As a child, she thought of the Elder Realms as a magical place. In the old days, the Fates would choose a family and the goddess, Marshala, would bless the children to be born as threads. They would host great birthday celebrations and Miko had fond memories of weaving contests with her cousins and ballrooms full of desserts.

But now, it felt like danger waited around every corner. There are no do-overs, Rory told her. Somnus held in his hands a time travel power that was useless. And when he figured it out, Miko would be useless too. 

Useless and completely defenseless. Threads weren’t immortal. They looped time and if the Fates were putting an end to that, then Miko and the rest of her family were very nearly mortal. They wouldn’t die of old age, but they could be killed.

Millenia upon millennia of service and this was how the Fates repaid them?

Miko pulled back from the glass and began to pace. She couldn’t lose hope, but she felt trapped. Panicked. What was she going to do? How long before Somnus just outright killed her? Did the rest of her family know?

She paused, rubbing the back of her neck. No…no, maybe this was meant to be.

Tell me, Rabbit, did it take a thousand times because you were truly focused on trying to save the world?

The Fates, they…they wanted her to go through this to learn her lesson! She wasn’t stuck here. Akira would find her—he always did—and this time, she would forgive him. It would be romantic, him sweeping in to pull her out of Somnus’s grasp, an apology on his lips, and acceptance on hers. She didn’t need to worry about The Owl or the war. Let the Fates deal with that while Miko finally took the time to live her life.

Feeling confident, she crept upstairs. Somnus was stretched out on a chair watching a swirling crystal ball.

“What’s that?” she asked. Could she use it to get a message out to Akira?

“Dreams. Nightmares. Observations,” he replied cryptically. 

Miko resisted rolling her eyes. She needed to find out how long to stall for. It might take Akira weeks to figure out where she was in the Elder Realms. “You never told me what you want with me. What are you planning?”

Somnus studied his nails. 

“Why are we here in the Elder Realms instead of Windenburg? I have a right to know what you’re usin’ me for!”

He looked up at her and smirked, “So you only wish to wear that gown when you dream of Akira?”

Hurt flashed through her, which she tried to cover with indignance. “Why are you so cruel? I thought you were supposed to be charming and woo people to your side by fulfilling their dreams. Isn’t that how you got Anastasia?”

The expression on Somnus’s face was pitiless. “Why would I need to charm you? I already own you.”

Magic HQ


Magic HQ was abandoned. She expected as much, but it was still jarring to see. This was a place of reverence and learning, of community. Witches were supposed to feel safe here when they were invited to study or host events.

Now all those witches were dead.

It would not be long before someone who was due home didn’t show up or a witch tried to put in a request with the Council and got no answer. Then the covens would descend on Magic HQ and whatever clues Penny hoped to find would be gone because the covenless were not welcome here.

They were an affront to the Sages and the natural order.

In school, Penny had been taught that the Sages were powerful witches, chosen from the best families to ascend and watch over supernatural affairs. Once, in sixth grade, she made the mistake of questioning that story. She was sent to the basements to sit in the darkness for days. She learned the necessity of quieting her mind, shoving down her fear, and keeping her questions to herself.

Shaking off the horrible memory, Penny made a quick survey of the building’s exterior. During their fight, the only Sage onsite had been Simeon. What happened to L. Faba or Morgyn, she didn’t know. Indoors would come last in her investigation, she decided. Instead, she headed back towards the gardens. 

Back by the greenhouse, a garter snake slithered over her boot. Penny barely suppressed a shriek before she looked around in embarrassment. Nature was reclaiming the area. The building and the surrounding garden were in shambles. She knew from old pictures in her mother’s photo albums that this space used to be pristine. In fact, it would have hosted the gala her parents attended.

And then they were gone.

Ignoring the shiver of unease that crept down her spine, she continued to the Dueling Grounds. She hadn’t been here since she was a child. Dueling was not for the covenless. 

Wicked creatures and abominations sully the purity of a magical duel. 

The thought was so automatic, Penny was instantly filled with bitterness. How could she be jealous of Gwendolyn, knowing what fate awaited her if left in the hands of witches like Bjorn? They would have seen to it that Gwendolyn grew up with the same fucked up sense of self-worth as Penny. They had already begun their work.

“She is perfect,” Vlad snarled at her one night when she tried to confront Alice about Gwendolyn’s behavior. “Even think the word monster again, witch, and I will end you.”

Penny felt sick to her stomach, but she didn’t know how to stop herself. She screamed it. Only Alice’s command kept Vlad from killing her. Penny left the house that night.

Would she ever be able to untangle the knot of loneliness and shame the witches knitted inside her? Before she could even consider the thought, a spell whistled through the air.

The magic struck her in the chest and Penny gasped for air as she crumpled to the ground.

“Interloper!” a voice called. 

It took all of Penny’s energy to crack open an eye. Don’t just lay there, she scolded herself, move!

L. Faba, the Sage of Mischief Magic, stood over her looking dirty and furious.

“You’ll find this difficult without your little friends,” she hissed. “Is that the best you can do little witch? Pathetic.”

With a whispered descurify spell, Penny removed the effects of L. Faba’s magic attack. Stumbling to her feet, she gave the Sage a determined look. “I may not be allowed to duel, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how.” 

Von Haunt Estate


Alice told herself it wasn’t breaking and entering because, technically speaking, she had been invited to participate in the contest.

Part of their plan required keeping up appearances, but after baking with Dylan, who was boring as hell…

And enduring the sleazy set photographer who kept trying to get her to bend over, Alice felt she had “appeared” enough.

Though at some point, she’d have to tell the tree to release the photographer. It wouldn’t be a good look to have another mysterious death on the show.

The lock gave way, and she slipped into the room, shutting the door quietly behind her. Usually, she had a partner in crime in the form of Ben, which made everything more exciting. He irritated her, but he also pushed her out of her comfort zone. Part of the appeal of going to the Underworld was him.

Grabbing a seat at the desk, Alice tried opening a few drawers and shuffled some papers around. It was mostly production notes and contracts for the show. Nothing exciting, though she took photos with her phone just in case. She had been hoping to find something important that would put her back in the driver’s seat so she could feel more like a God and less like an errant child. Her family definitely didn’t subscribe to Vlad’s point of view. God of Death or no, to the Martins, she was still just Alice.

“I want you to be willing to have your decisions questioned, blah, blah, blah!” Alice whispered, doing a mocking imitation of Vlad.

She couldn’t tell if he was actually being annoying or if she was just irritable again.

Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a red light blinking on the answering machine. Let the snooping continue! After checking to make sure the volume was turned down low, she slid the machine towards her and pressed play.

Windenburg Woods, Dryad Territory

“We have a problem,” Alice announced when she walked through the door. The trunks and suitcases in the living room caught her attention. “What’s going on? Why are there suitcases?”

“Because we have a problem,” Vlad replied, “Penny is untrustworthy. The witch knows about Gwendolyn and has our location. I doubt you’ll agree to me killing her, so the next alternative is to vacate this location and hope she keeps her mouth shut for the next few days.”

No, no, no! Alice was going to smooth that over just as soon as they could catch their breath. “We can’t pick up and move! What are you talking about?”

Mikel stepped into the room, “She left the Inn and won’t answer her phone. She’s my friend, but…” he shared a look with Mayra and sighed, “I agree that she is unpredictable.”

“On the plus side,” Mayra noted, “I’m relatively sure we can safely blow up his ship.”

Alice’s eyes bulged, “Okay, I’m not really good with you using the word ‘relatively’ but we do have—”

“A problem,” Caleb finished, stomping into the room and flopping onto the couch, “Amisyia poisoned me.”

“We don’t have time to hear about your courtship,” Vlad growled, “I told you to pack.”

“I am not courting Amis—”

“Why are there suitcases?” Amisyia asked, strolling into the room and giving Caleb a flirtatious smile.

“I’ve found a new location,” Vlad said.

“You?” Caleb laughed, “How? No supernatural creature would make a deal with you. You don’t use the internet. Where could…oh,” his face fell, “Oh.

“It’s fine,” Vlad replied tightly.

“What’s fine?” Alice asked, and then shook her head, “No, everyone shut up. Marjorie Barr is dead. One of the producers was screaming about it on the answering machine. Our plan is going to need some major—”

A high-pitched whistling sound cut her off. Suddenly, a portal opened in the ceiling, dropping her mother and the Grim Reaper.

“I did those calculations perfectly!” Valeria insisted, climbing angrily to her feet.

“I told you, it’s not calculations, its magic,” Grim argued, “And you’re lucky your body is still in one piece. We need to try it again with Alice. I ain’t a god and she’s got enough power to pull us through.”

“Alice should not be risking herself to test out anything!” her mother shot back.

“She immortal!” Grim cried.

“She’s pre—”

“Where the hell did you two come from?” Caleb interrupted.

25 degrees North, 71 degrees West,” her mother said.

“And we have a problem,” Grim added.

“Motherfucker,” Alice sighed.

Her mother started to take a seat on the couch, but Vlad flashed his fangs. “Every creature in this house has exactly five minutes to collect their belongings. This is not a suggestion or a negotiation. We are leaving,” he bit out. 

Vlad could not be convinced that Kaylynn and Atorn’s imprisonment was not his fault. “I stayed too long,” he told her one night in bed, his eyes haunted. Maybe it was a little ridiculous and a giant inconvenience to relocate, but he always had her back; she would have his.

“You heard the man,” she confirmed, grabbing his hand, “We are leaving. Caleb, quit being such an asshole and pack your shit.”

Selvadorada, The Library of Magic


There was no sunrise in the Library of Magic, only lights that powered on when you instructed them. William tried to hop out of bed and get dressed without any fanfare. Learn to play dead, his mother told him. He had learned the lesson well. Too well. He didn’t regret lying with Morgyn, he regretted doing it to quiet the worries swirling around in his head.

But now, those worries were back and no amount of staring at the ceiling would quiet them.

You were always in danger.

Slipping quietly into the bathroom, William planned to keep the conversation to a minimum. Did Alice and Vlad even know they were baking alongside gods? What if—?


William focused on shaving. This was just like any other day. Everything was fine.

Morgyn stepped into the bathroom and made a horrified sound. “What are you doing?”

“A lack of reflection is something you get used to after a few centuries,” William said, already trying to move away.

“Yes, but shaving without a reflection is a recipe for disaster. Let me,” they purred, leaning in close, “And then perhaps a shower? Or maybe a bath…I would not be opposed to round six.”

“Are you mad?” William snapped, pulling away. You were always in danger! his mind screamed. “This is not a vacation! I can’t spend all my time rolling around in the bed with you.”

He regretted the words as soon as they were out of his mouth, but Morgyn pulled away and slammed the door behind them before he could apologize.

You were always in danger, his mind whispered, even before you knew what the danger was.

They walked the long winding hallways to the Rare Books room. Morgyn barely looked at him, and William found he could not stand the tension. “I was wrong earlier, I did not mean to be so harsh,” he explained. “Everyone else is doing their part to secure The Owl and deal with our immediate threats. Finding this book, learning about the war, that’s my part, and I mean to deliver.”

“Is that what you rush for?” Morgyn glowered, “Caleb, Alice, your precious Vladislaus. These creatures?”

William drew back. “Of course, these creatures! These creatures I would do anything for. They may be nothing to you, Sage, but they are my family. The only one I’ve got and I mean to protect them.”

“You?” Morgyn sneered, “A singular creature, a vampire whose life and power is but a drop in the bucket compared to the gods? Clearly, you weren’t listening to me last night.”

William tried to let the insult slide off of him. Learn to play dead. “Of course, I was listening!” he snapped, “Why do you think I’m so eager to return?”

Morgyn gave them a pained look. “You are always like this. Every time a puzzle.”

William furrowed his brow in confusion, but the Sage did not elaborate. Instead, they turned to open the door.

Windenburg Woods, Dryad Territory


“Where are we going?” Gwendolyn complained, “It doesn’t make any sense.”

Vlad sighed. It was understandable that she was wary of changing locations again, but if he had to explain this one more time, so help him—

“Why are we leaving? All my toys are here. We’re not going to take my toys?”

“We are leaving because—”

“I want another dessert,” she growled, “I’m starving, and I’m not supposed to be awake now. Does this mean I don’t need to sleep? Is bedtime over?”

“Of course you need to sleep, hellion. And we will—”

“Where is Alice?” she demanded, “She’s my first favorite!”

First favorite? When did that even happen? “And what am I?” Vlad cried.

Gwendolyn crossed her arms and stared him down, “Not first.”

His eye twitched. “Regardless of my ranking, you need to—”

“I don’t want to do this!” she shouted, “I want to go with Alice!”

“Well, going with Alice is not one of your options!” Vlad shouted back.

He took a steadying breath, trying to summon his patience. “Alice is traveling by portal with Grim. Remember when we talked about the plan?”

Gwendolyn was silent for a moment, but Vlad knew it wouldn’t last.

“You said I was safe.”

“You are safe.”

“Then why do I have to learn this?” 

“Because,” he replied tightly, “You must be able to extract yourself from a situation in case things go poorly.”

“But I don’t want things to go poorly!”

She started to scream. Vlad grabbed her and pulled her into a hug to muffle the sound. He was soft-hearted as Kaylynn said, but Gwendolyn had to learn control. “None of us do, but we do not scream about it,” he said firmly.

He waited until she calmed down before releasing her. The sun was sinking lower in the sky, it was long past time to leave. “Hellion, look at me,” he commanded tiredly. 

Gwendolyn frowned, her expression petulant. “Did you change your mind? We’re staying?”

“No. The faster you learn, the faster this can be over. Now, this yard, this space, it cannot hold you. You are a vampire, but you are something else too. Do you feel it?”

Slowly, she nodded, her eyes fixed on a spot behind him.

“Good, let yourself feel lighter until this form slips away…”

She screwed her eyes shut, clearly concentrating. It took a vampire centuries to learn to mist, and even then, most never achieved it. But Vlad was hoping that, like him, Gwendolyn’s additional power would help her bypass all the required time and training.  

She began to transform.

“Good,” Vlad encouraged, keeping his voice soothing, “Keep going, hellion. You are going to become mist, and I am going to follow.”

She hesitated, her transition halting, “It feels funny, I don’t feel like mist, I feel like…like…light.”

Vlad didn’t know what to make of that, but there would be time to explore why later. “Follow the feeling of becoming light, then. And take my hand.”

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