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.”
Penny felt uncomfortable following L. Faba back to headquarters. The damage was apparent. Plasma still stained the floors; tiles and walls were cracked, glass from the ceiling littered the floor, and a large tree rested against the banister.
When Alice broke the protective shield, she nearly broke the building.
The electricity was out, so Penny lit a few lamps and candles by magic. She and Faba picked their way through the debris to get to the kitchen.
“Have you eaten?” Penny asked, cringing as soon as she said it. Mikel did that all time. Always trying to take care of everyone and feed them, like it would solve all of their problems. “I mean—”
“No,” the Sage replied, “I am weak. It won’t do me any good to pretend I’m not. I haven’t felt safe coming back here. I wasn’t sure if or when The God of Death and her ilk would return.”
Penny nodded and began searching the cabinets. She found a can of soup. Luckily, the stove was gas, and she could use a small inferiniate spell to light the burner.
“What makes you think Alice is a harbinger? She’s more like a sim than anything else.”
L. Faba was firm. “You think you can conceive of what she is, but you cannot. She may seem like you sometimes, which will make you think that you and she are one and the same. But I am here to remind you, witchling, that you are not. Gods are capricious; they care only for themselves. Spend enough time with them, and they’ll have betraying not only yourself, but everyone you love.”
Penny kept stirring the soup and was grateful that her back was turned so the Sage couldn’t see the tear that slipped out. “You don’t need to convince me not to follow her.”
“No, I don’t expect I do anymore,” she replied wryly. “We Sages are tasked with protecting this world, did you know that? My domain may be Mischief Magic, but I took the calling seriously.”
Penny set a bowl down and joined her at the table. “And what about Simeon and Morgyn?”
“Morgyn’s actions were frivolous when they weren’t cruel,” she paused to savor a spoonful, “This is good.”
“It’s just canned soup, but thank you.”
“Do you know that once, they spent a ream of magic conjuring a portal to an expensive restaurant in Willow Creek?”
Penny’s eyebrows rose.
“They wouldn’t hesitate to kill an acolyte that displeased them, but Simeon…Simeon was into something far darker,” she said, lowering her voice as if he still might be around to overhear, “I don’t condone what the Good Order Monks had planned, but you have to understand, Gods are chaos. You and I would be lucky if they would simply take their leave of this world and return to their wretched realm.”
“Lucky?” Penny could not help the bitterness that seeped into her tone. “I am covenless. I’m familiar with what a wretched realm feels like.”
“Covenless, that was Simeon’s term. He was wicked—recruiting witches, sending them out on special missions to investigate other worlds.” Faba looked bereft, “I tried to save all I could. But I fear many of them may still be adrift in other worlds.”
Adrift! Could that mean her family still alive? Had her parents ended up stranded in another world? “How do we find out where they were sent?”
“Simeon kept a book. A ledger of all the missions, he was fastidious like that.”
Penny nodded; her experience with the Sage of Practical Magic bore that out.
“He kept it in the basement. We should go there next, but first…” L. Faba dipped her head, “I’m a powerful witch, but I am no match for a god. Could I…could I trouble you for help with a healing spell?”
“Of course,” Penny said quickly, her shame at having helped Alice churning in her gut. “I thought there were innocent witches here,” she admitted as she added a cleansing spell to the mix.
“There were. I tried my best to protect them but against a god? It was a slaughter,” Faba looked away, her voice pained, “So the God of Death is keeping The Owl?”
Penny hesitated, something tightening in her chest. Her feelings about Gwendolyn were complicated—the kid didn’t ask to be made into a monster.
“It may seem to you that I’m asking a lot,” the Sage said gently, inching closer, “But Alice will add The Owl to her other collection of monstrous beings: Grief, Anxiety, Hunger, Agony, Discord, Disease. You already know Fear. They are volatile creatures who will ride through this world and wipe it clean.”
She put her hand on Penny’s shoulder. It was…Penny hadn’t been comforted like that, not in what felt like years.
“The witches were awful to you, I know. I tried to change things here, but I was weak. With Simeon and Morgyn gone, perhaps we can start something new—our own coven. The Owl would be safer with us.”
Penny sucked in a breath, the relief at hearing that word making her almost dizzy. And L. Faba was right. What more evidence did she need that Alice would turn Gwendolyn into another weapon?
“Alice called forth the magic,” Penny’s voice shook, “She turned a young witch named Gwendolyn into a vessel and made her The Owl.”
Vlad watched as Alice leaned over the old fountain.
“I promise I am not going to throw up, and if I do, I’m sorry,” she croaked.
“You cannot imagine how little I care for that object. Everything in here belonged to my father. If you wanted to turn it into an open-air barn and raise pigs in every room, I wouldn’t bat an eye.”
“If this is how you feel about the castle, then I don’t think we should ever visit his grave.”
“Oh, there is no grave,” Vlad replied darkly, strolling over to examine a few cracks in the stone wall. “I ground his bones to dust with my bare hands and scattered them to the wind.”
“Well, your dad was a giant trash heap, so that doesn’t bother me.” She leaned back a little, “Okay, I think it passed. I’m ready to talk now.”
Vlad made a noncommittal sound. In theory, talking was good, but he was surprised to find himself conflicted about the news too.
“I know I freaked out earlier, which is my way but…my body doesn’t feel like my own. I don’t know what it’s doing. And immortality is weird as hell.”
“It is initially disconcerting,” he allowed. “But you do adapt. Over the years, I have learned that freedom from death is not freedom from pain. It can be incredibly grounding to know that agony is still possible given that change becomes something that only goes on around you.”
Alice stared at him. “You should not be a salesperson for immortality. That is depressing.”
He chuckled, “There’s the immortal part. That’s good.”
“Kind of,” she agreed, “But what about like five centuries from now? Will I be balls crazy like…er…”
“Me?” Vlad supplied helpfully.
She blushed. “You know what I mean. All supernaturals seem whacked. I mean, I think William is the sanest out of all of us, and I’m fairly sure he is not really ok. I just…I want to have a handle on myself. And I don’t know how to do that with” —she gestured at her stomach— “This.”
“So you do not wish to be pregnant?”
“I’m not saying that either!” she crossed over to him, “Babies are weird but eventually, they get bigger and a lot more interesting. It is a little bit exciting…and also scary. I mean, I don’t know if this thing will bust out of me alien style—”
“What?” Vlad looked at her in alarm.
“We should watch that movie. I think you’d like it. A big monster kills everyone. Anyways, I’m just saying I’m not completely opposed to it. What about you?”
Vlad ran his fingers through his hair and sighed. “It’s been a long time since I was in charge of anything so small.”
“Is that your real concern?”
He avoided her eyes. “I don’t know what you mean.”
Alice’s voice was gentle, soothing even. “I think you would love having a baby. I think you would be crazy happy and very good at it because, even though you always think cutting somebody’s throat is a good idea, you are abundantly more domestic than I am.”
Sometimes he was surprised by how clearly she saw him. “I would be exceedingly happy,” he admitted. “I don’t fear fatherhood; I fear fatherhood in a world and at a time when the thing you need me to be is the King of War.”
“What are you—”
“Alice, this won’t end when we get to the Underworld. I am too old, and I’ve seen too many winters to think that the other gods will simply leave us be—not without a real threat. You have not ever asked what I am capable of, but a part of you knows, right?”
She bit her lip.
“How can I be that monster and yet love and care for a thing so precious? Already I worry about how I will manage it with Gwendolyn. At what point will I have done something so terrible that she looks at me with fear in her eyes when I come to tuck her in?”
“You wouldn’t. You’d stop before—”
“No,” Vlad said honestly, “I would not. I do not feel as you do, Alice. Why do you think William cursed me?”
“Because you needed a push!” she argued, “You’ve come such a far way and—”
“If you don’t think that left to my own devices, I wouldn’t raze this world to the ground, then you do not understand what I am or the thing that feeds me.” His eyes flashed. Vlad meant to end the conversation. Everything about their cobbled family felt vulnerable to him and he had no idea if it could withstand another complication.
“Nope. No,” she shook her head, “I don’t accept that because you aren’t left to your own devices. You are tied to Gwendolyn and me, Caleb and William, and even though you don’t want to admit it—Grim too. I’m sorry that being both things is hard, and maybe you’re scared, but you are just going to have to deal. Go be a boogeyman to all our enemies, Phobos, but when you come back home, you’re just Vladislaus. And you won’t scare her, and you don’t scare me.”
She sat down in the chair with a frustrated huff. Kaylynn had been skilled at freezing him in place with a queenly look of disdain. But Alice was not so reserved. Her emotions were always written plainly across her face, and right now, they said: You are being an imbecile, and it’s annoying me.
But she could not possibly understand the sheer amount of effort it took to be this version of himself—how hard he clung to this newfound empathy and how quickly it might evaporate. Even with the curse, most emotions he simply didn’t—
“I know it takes a lot to go against your instincts, and yes, I will tell you that you’re being a dick, but I don’t expect you to feel the things that come naturally to me. And I won’t ever think you’re a monster, even if you do something monstrous.”
Yes, she did see him. “For a god, you have much faith in a creature who you think is being a dick.”
“What can I say? I’m generous of spirit,” she smiled, beckoning him over.
He leaned down, every nerve ending in his body jolting when he heard the sound of her breath hitch. “You forgot to add Jimmy to that list,” he admonished.
“Yeah, I really don’t understand your commitment to him, but if it makes you happy…” she trailed off, brushing her fingers over his chest. “I don’t know what the Underworld is like, but I do know we aren’t facing it alone, and that makes a lot more things possible.”
He gripped her chin and tilted her head up, kissing her hard. “So that means you’ve decided…?”
“Absolutely nothing,” she laughed. “In my defense, this is usually the point in the tv show where the character has some kind of revelation and everything they need to do is clear to them. But the only thing I’m 100% sure of is that I want you to take off my pants.”
“Who am I to ignore the order of a god?” He clamped down on her neck, drawing out a little plasma, while his hand worked on unbuttoning her jeans. The sound of tiny feet pattering towards the door stopped him. “We have company,” he whispered.
They had mostly righted themselves when Gwendolyn marched into the room, her small face full of suspicion. Vlad hoped she never lost that sharp eye, the world was full of terrors, and his hellion should hold everyone at arm’s length until they proved their worthiness.
“What were you doing?”
“Nothing interesting,” Vlad assured her.
Alice managed to cover her laugh with a cough, “What’s up, kiddo? What do you need?”
She stared at them for a long moment before she finally spoke. “Valeria says ‘Phase One’ is underway.”
“And?” Alice prompted. At Vlad’s confused look, she elaborated, “I know my mother. That’s not the whole sentence.”
To his surprise, Gwendolyn pulled a piece of paper out of her back pocket, “And Alice needs to get her hormones under control because we need to make sure this portal idea really works. Vlad needs to fly or fade or whatever the hell he does and find out how that little witch is doing with the homunculus. Both of you need to act like you have some sense and make sure I’m emotionally prepared for taking such a big trip and while you’re at it, tell Mayra to stop getting carried away with the explosives because this is not Simdependence Day. And does anyone else seem even remotely concerned that we are T-minus 20 hours and the alien is still making ship repairs?”
Alice cackled, “Yep. That’s the rest of the sentence.”
Shrieking Llama Pub
Guilt was becoming William’s new companion. Confessing to cursing Vladislaus had been nothing; centuries of friendship had softened the blow. As a result, William had been lured into a false sense of security. He thought secrets could be small things.
But this was no small thing.
You don’t know Omar like I do, the things he’s capable of… The look on Morgyn’s face would haunt him for the rest of his days. The Sage had kept some secrets, yes, but they revealed them. They revealed a lot of themselves. It was William who was holding back, and it twisted him up inside.
“What are we doing here?” Morgyn croaked. “We need to be spying on Omar. The wraiths will have reported back, and we have to know what he knows.” They reached out a trembling hand, “Here, I’ll draw a portal and—”
“You’ll do no such thing,” William chastised. “I think I’ve seen quite enough magic for one day, thank you. You can wait here. And if you just so happen to rest your bones on the bed, well, I promise not to speak of it.”
Morgyn blanched, “You call that a bed?”
“You are extremely fussy for someone who’s been hanging around for millennia. Besides, you’re lucky there’s a bed at all. Vampires don’t have to sleep. If we aren’t expecting company, a coffin takes up far less space.
“I see,” Morgyn glared at the mattress, “And you were expecting some sort of company?”
Were they jealous? William cracked a smile. “Don’t be daft. This is Caleb’s place, and it’s somewhat of a sore topic, so if you do meet him, don’t mention it.”
They looked embarrassed and William took pity on them. “Well, I’ve excellent hearing, Sage. I’m off to play spy.”
“M-make sure you remember his exact words and phrasing. Omar is tricky.”
Willam turned so they wouldn’t see his facial expression. “Oh, I am aware.”
Penny was surprised that the lower floors of Magic HQ weren’t destroyed. It was dark, but no damage had been done. The hum of magic felt almost unsettling. She didn’t expect they would have separate wards, but it made sense.
After all, Alice’s attack proved that even HQ was vulnerable.
“What kind of work were the witches doing for Simeon?” Penny asked, examining the names of the potions packed into an antique bookcase.
“Work?” L. Faba sounded distracted, “Oh, retrieving lost things, searching for magics, things like that.”
Magics? Penny turned, “What do you mean, magics? There are only three kinds of magic. You wield mischief, Morgyn wields untamed, and Simeon wielded practical magic. There are more, or…?”
Faba shook her head, “I misspoke.” She had the same look on her face that Miko wore whenever Penny talked about making progress on her investigations. Was it worry? Pity? Penny couldn’t tell.
“What were my parents working on?”
“I told you, we need to go down to the basement and find the—”
“But you don’t have any idea? No hint?” Penny insisted. Something felt wrong. “You worked side by side with him. How could you know so little about what was going on? Do you even remember my parents?”
“I can’t know everything!” Faba shouted.
Penny took a step back, glancing towards the staircase. Maybe she should leave and try to investigate more later.
“I’m sorry,” Faba fretted, “I-I just feel guilty. I do remember your mother. Camilla was a force. I think we see a witch that powerful and talented maybe once in a generation.”
Penny held her breath. Was she misjudging the situation? Ever since Miko left, she’d found it difficult to read people’s intentions. When the pixie was around, Penny was sure that they were the best of friends. Miko gave her a sense of purpose, and whenever doubt reared its head, something would always wash over her and tell her that it was okay. It made Penny feel sure of herself and her decisions.
“You remind me of her,” the Sage said gently.
Penny struggled not to let another tear slip out as she followed L. Faba to the stairs, her heart beating in her chest so hard it almost hurt. Why was she feeling like this?
“Something’s wrong,” Penny croaked, feeling almost dizzy as adrenaline flooded her system.
“It’s alright,” L. Faba soothed, pulling her into a hug.
“Shhh. You asked about magic, witchling and I will tell you. Few things are born of magic anymore. Vampires are turned, werewolves are bitten, even witches with the purest bloodlines have, at some point, captured their magic from the Universe. Supernaturals are made, tainted with mortality, susceptible to myth-making. They forget which stories are pretend, which ones are real, and which ones they should actually be afraid of.”
Penny didn’t have a chance to absorb the Sage’s words before L. Faba spun her around and pushed.
Landgraab Chateau, Windenburg
William surveyed the yard surrounding the chateau. Normally, it was Caleb who went skulking about—slipping in and out of places undetected. But desperate times called for new roles. The light on the porch would not provide much cover, but if he pressed himself against the wall and stayed still, he could listen with ease.
“…What do you mean you sent wraiths? Won’t she—”
“She won’t anything,” an irritated voice replied—Omar’s. “She is an almost-god. A child playing amongst giants. So she can call forth a few plants or a little fire? I am not impressed. She didn’t even sense the wraiths.”
“And yet, she evaded them.”
Thank Sages for that, William thought. The voice sounded familiar. Perhaps it was Bailey—er—Sol?
“Have they returned anything useful besides noting the squalor she lived in?” Sol asked. “How many followers does she have? Who are they?”
“Does it matter?” Omar snapped, “She is not yet ascended. Do you question my piety, Sol?”
“Of course not.”
But William could hear the false note in her voice—recognized the tone one takes when placating a madman. Meanwhile, Omar had avoided answering her question, and judging from the disdain in his tone, he likely didn’t have an answer.
“I will remind B’Ollithiranon of what happens when you reach above your station. The Owl should have been made for me.”
“But it wasn’t,” Sol pointed out. “She helped make it for—”
“It shouldn’t exist!” Omar exclaimed. He took a breath to calm himself, “B’Ollithiranon should not have made the weapon if he didn’t want the war. He may think he has a back-up plan with his little conduit, but we are not going to tolerate the creation of another wayward god. We are the only gods and if there are to be others, well, we will decide them.”
“The Fates mean for her to win The Owl, Omar,” a new voice sighed—Nyx? “It’s obvious this contest was rigged.”
“Could you sound any more disinterested?” Omar sneered.
“Yes,” she replied, “It’s Friday. Sol and I were occupied.”
William wished he could see the expression on her face. It was clear Omar hated being undermined and the other gods, while pretending deference, found this insufferable. Was that a weak spot they could exploit?
“She can’t win The Owl and ascend if she’s dead,” Omar vowed, “Which she will be before she can claim her prize.”
William could almost hear the smile in his voice.
“But what if that fails?” Sol asked, “What if she ascends and uses The Owl to—”
Suddenly, the door swung open, and Omar stepped out onto the porch. “William?”
“I…I lost my cell phone,” he said lamely, borrowing Vlad’s excuse.
“So you’re standing outside my window?”
William buried the uncomfortable feeling unwinding in his stomach and dropped his voice a notch, “I’m just doing a perimeter check. You are not as familiar with Windenburg’s charms as I am.”
Omar looked flattered. “You were concerned about my safety? That’s so sweet. I wasn’t sure you’d reach out again after you kissed me, and we…well…you know.”
Only years of practice keeping a straight face while Josef Straud doled out the most violent of punishments allowed William to keep a relaxed expression.
“Did you ever find that book you were looking for? The mythical one?”
“No,” William answered, for the first time relieved at having failed.
Omar must have seen the truth of it on his face, the god made an apologetic sound. “Well, I hope it wasn’t important. Who did you say you were getting it for?”
Every sweet note in Omar’s voice sounded a lie. Why hadn’t he noticed it before? “I didn’t,” William said, turning to leave.
It had been a long time since he and Vladislaus had gone to war. And never had they gone for a virtuous reason. But hearing Omar tonight, knowing of his crimes, it was good The Book of Longings wasn’t in their possession. The Last Great Knight of Windenburg looked forward to facing the “pious” god on the battlefield.
“Lock your doors, Dylan,” he called over his shoulder, “These woods are full of things that go bump in the night.”
Back at the Shrieking Llama Pub
Morgyn settled themselves on the bed as the sun sank down in the sky. It was dark, probably early evening, and the magic felt like it was going to pour out of their skin.
Exhaustion hit them hard, even as they delayed resting to do a search of Caleb’s house. Aurelius was not an enemy, but that didn’t mean he did not keep company with creatures Morgyn trusted.
Finally, the call of rest hit too hard, and they rolled over, tucking a pillow under their arm. They dreamed, as always, of the secrets they had long kept buried:
The truth about how things with The Owl had come to this.
The reasons they were loathe to even think about The Goddess of Reason.
About how it all started at B’Ollithiranon’s ascension party…
A Preview of The Battle To Come
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