The knights didn't see her.
How lax they are, chuckling, she let herself out of the gate. Her quick pace led her into the darkness of the woods. It tickled her to have slipped in and out unnoticed.
Her waiting had paid off. The night of the engagement party had been just the beginning. It may have taken her twenty years of lying low and planning, but she was ready. It may be unfair to give the King an advantage by warning him of her vengeance, but she couldn't stop herself from making sure he knew exactly who was behind the upcoming attack.
All her hard work was about to come to fruition. Her suffering would be justified.
She paused and turned to look back. Having come far enough and deep enough into the forest, she couldn't see any light from the entrance she had just walked through.
However, it was satisfying enough to know she'd left the note behind.
“You will remember, Tritium, that I warned you. So many years ago, I warned you. You would not listen. If only you had listened. For now, it is too late. Too late!”
Walking forward, she continued, “I warned you. Yes, I did. Warned you then, but you wouldn't listen. I will have my revenge.”
Then her mutters turned into a soft whisper and she sang,
“The darkness rises, on wings of hate.
Discontent is well-fed of late.
You hear the whisper.
You hear the call.
He rises to destroy us all.
The blackness comes on wings of fire.
All will burn under his ire.
No one can escape,
this awful dread and wait.
Do you see? Do you see?
The darkness rises on wings of hate.”
Her laughter echoed throughout the woods. Animals paused and cocked their ears. Birds hushed their songs and tilted their heads. Eyes darted back and forth everywhere.
Evil drew near. Evil was upon them. They ran and hid and tucked themselves back into their holes. They recognized the voice. The voice of hate.
A witch was calling upon the darkness, and they wanted no part of it.
Amazon and Goodreads 5-Star Reviews:
“I love the twisted fairy tale genre and this book is a very good read.” ~Suzy Kenski
“I loved this book! It was fun and quirky. Couldn’t wait to pick it up each night and see what would happen next.” ~Amazon Customer
“Five Stars…Great weekend read!” ~Kristen Bombgardner
“I have read a lot of fairy tale spinoffs. This one kept me interested. It had the classic Cinderella story line but with different characters and a nice, surprising twist at the end. I enjoyed reading this book!” ~Sarah Kirn
"Five Stars. Good story." ~Laura
Other books in this genre:
Roger is stuck in detention forever and the only way to escape is by uncovering a deep dark secret about himself and the people around him. From drawing his teacher naked on the blackboard to sabotaging the school’s science fair, Roger finds himself spending more time in the school’s detention closet than he does at home. Before he knows it, his once “Ivy League” world becomes relegated to a small dark space, where the only human interaction he has is with the voice of a mysterious woman who talks to him from behind the wall. Steeped in humor and suspense, this psychological thriller takes the reader on a journey through the mind of a disturbed teen genius who struggles to fit in at school and at home. Can Roger escape the shackles of his mind or will the lady behind the wall remain a mystery? This is Detention Land.
“C’mon Allison…don’t be afraid, I promise I’ll catch you!”
Seventeen-year-old Allison Roberts sat by the pool wearing a new red one- piece bathing suit. She was huddled in a corner on the floor of the huge patio where Jamie Marsden, one of the kids from school threw the biggest pool party she had ever seen. Jamie’s family had money and loved to flaunt it every chance they got and this night was no exception. She shook her head “No” as her boyfriend Joshua Patterson held out his arms to coax her into joining him and their friends in the large pool.
“Allison c’mon! You’re not going to drown, I promise! He shouted to her but as she looked at him…she saw her father standing in the river with his arms stretched out to catch a six-year-old Allison who was learning how to swim for the first time and was terrified of getting into the water.
“C’mon babe!” her father shouted as he motioned for her to jump into his arms. He promised her he would catch her and she trusted him more than anyone in the world, after all, he was indeed her father.
“Don’t let me drown daddy,” Little Allison said as she stood on a rock, prepared to jump.
“I won’t let you drown I promise. On a count of three ok?”
“Ok,” she replied reluctantly.
“One…two. Three!” he said.
Allison then raised her arms like a bird taking flight and jumped, no longer feeling the hard surface beneath her feet anymore but deep, shallow water as it quickly began to cover her face. As the cold water entered her nose she gasped. Her arms and legs moved wildly as she tried to stay afloat.
“Daddy help!” she cried out.
Russ Roberts watched her for two minutes with these dark cold eyes that made Allison’s blood turn colder than the river that began to consume her senses. He didn’t move, he didn’t blink, he didn’t flinch. He just watched his little girl scream and struggle to keep from going under; waving her arms wildly. It was her first time being in open water and she was terrified.
“Daddy!” she cried out.
After five minutes Allison grew tired and couldn’t fight it anymore as she slowly began to feel the weight of her body plummet down to the bottom of the river, salty water filled her mouth and breathing was no longer possible. Soon came darkness as she lost consciousness. Her long, curly blonde hair waved in the water as the fish began to swim around her small form lying still on the river’s surface.
Frozen with fear, she continued to sit on the patio and watch her boyfriend and her friends have fun without her.
“Allison?” Brooklyn repeated as she sat down next to her. They grew up together and had been best friends since kindergarten. She knew Allison better than anyone and knew it was a bad idea for her to come to this party. Brooklyn was a lovely African American girl from Chicago’s northwest side, whose parents moved her to Milwaukee Wisconsin when she was four -years-old. She came from a good family with a doctor for a father and a Singer for a mother who had sung backup for many famous artists throughout her career. It kept her mother away from home a lot and often times put a strain on her parent’s marriage. Brooklyn never noticed just how much of a toll her mother being away so much took on their family. She was too busy trying to battle the daily misery machine called School.
Being one of the few black people in the entire school made Brooklyn feel isolated and alone. If it weren’t for Allison, she probably would’ve killed herself by now. She was a very pretty girl but rarely ever thought so herself. She was a perfect size ten but thought she was too fat. Allison talked her into wearing the yellow bikini they bought during one of their many shopping excursions but she chose the blue one- piece instead. The two girls sat together trying to look like they were having fun, but soon their cover would be blown.
“Where were you just now?” Brooklyn asked.
“The River,” Allison responded.
“You flashbacking again?”
“Was it that obvious? Allison knew she would have been better off staying home and watching a movie on Netflix or something. But it wasn’t every day that you get invited to a party at Jamie Marsden’s house. That was something you just didn’t turn down if you were lucky enough to be invited.
“This party blows…” Brooklyn said as she watched everyone drink and act like complete idiots. Parties were never her thing.
“Josh should’ve known not to ask you to get in the pool, after what your father did to you?” Brooklyn said as she watched him guzzle down a can of beer while talking to one of the guys at the party. Every now and then stealing a glance at Allison, his longtime girlfriend of two years.
“He doesn’t know about that Brook, and don’t you tell him either.”
“Why not, he loves you.”
“He won’t love me so much if he knew about my past.”
“But He’s going to find out eventually.”
“Not until I’m ready for him to know,” she said looking at her.
“Ok, fine. He won’t hear about it from me,” Brook promised.
Jamie and her boyfriend Jake approached the girls, both with a beer in their hands and appearing to be very drunk as they couldn’t keep their hands off of each other; looking like they just had a quickie in one of the bedrooms.
“You girls are killing my party, what’s wrong with you two?” she scolded.
“Hey Jamie,” Allison said as she tried to fake a smile.
“You girls are two of the finest looking bitches at this party,” Jake rattled off while trying to stand up straight.
“Hey!” Jamie shouted as she smacked him upside his head, “What about me dick head?”
“Oh sorry I meant you are the finest looking bitch at this party, is that better?” he corrected.
“Much,” she replied with sarcasm as she dragged him away from the girls and disappeared with him into the house.
Allison and Brooklyn laughed at all of the fakeries at the party. Every guy there was trying to get laid and weren’t even being discreet about it and whatever bullshit they were laying on these girls, seemed to be working. The party raged on until 1:00 am and then people started clearing out leaving Allison and Josh alone to talk as they prepared to go home. Josh was visibly concerned as he watched Allison not having any fun that night. He was hoping she would and felt like bringing her there was a bad idea. He didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable. He helped her put on her jacket and lifted her long curly blonde locks to let it cascade down her back. He could smell just a hint of strawberries.
“You should’ve told me you didn’t want to come to this thing Allison. I can’t read your mind.”
“I did want to come until I had to watch you drinking with your friends all night. I guess I have to drive us home now…your too drunk,” Allison couldn’t help but smell the liquor on his breath, but she was kind of used to it now. Josh always
partied hard when he was around his friends, and it was ok with her as long as he didn’t forget she was in the room; like he did that night.
“I’m sorry Ally, I didn’t mean to ignore you. I just thought you wanted to hang out with Brook since she was here to,” he said as he looked into her pale green eyes. Allison then turned away and headed for the parking lot until he stopped her and took her in his arms. His penetrating ocean blue eyes always seemed to stop her in her tracks when he gave her that look, you know the one that says you’re his and no one else’s? And the way he caressed her soft oval face in the most loving way. He really was sorry.
“Hey…will you forgive me, baby?”
Damn, he always knew how to destroy whatever resentment she had for him and his many issues. Even making his issues her issues, but when you are in love with someone you really don’t care. You just deal. He slowly leaned in and allowed his lips to capture hers for a long lingering kiss. When they broke away he smiled and that was it, her anger had melted away.
“I hate you so much,” she said smiling as she put her arms around his waist.
“I know, and I am helplessly in love with you,” he said as they walked to his car.
An unremarkable young man watched as a young woman did an odd sort of floating ballet in front of him. Her steps were unschooled but there was a raw talent in her performance that was hard to explain under the circumstances. Some might call it a gift of some sort, others a curse maybe but either way her love for what she was doing was plain to see. Her arms did a freeform, flapping version of a bras croisé that was cleverly reminiscent of a large bird in flight. There was nothing obviously remarkable about her at this point either - other than the fact she was dancing.
They were in a courtyard high up on a strange, windswept rooftop. She stopped dancing mid-step to look up into the sky when they heard a single, coarse screech from somewhere above. Sea Hawks were known as shriekers to those outside the walls while the people from inside had no idea they even existed. These were the only raptors ever seen in the land, they were the only birds of prey that could make a living hunting for hagfish in the turbulent waters of the Uncrossable Sea or nest safely on the wind torn cliffs of the Unscalable Mountains.
Trinity saw him first and pointed into the leaden sky too spellbound to say a word. The Osprey didn’t flap its enormous wings, it didn’t waste any of its hard won energy but instead swooped effortlessly from one up-draught to the next searching the grey, foamy water below for a meal. “You’re right,” the young man said with a big grin, “the way you were moving was just like a shrieker when it flies. All you need now are feathers - and maybe an egg or two.”
She grinned happily but the breeziness soon evaporated when she caught sight of the angle of the sun through a gap in the heavy clouds. “We’ve got to be going,” she said, “I’ll be late again.”
Morden didn’t want this moment to be over but would never say so. He only shrugged as he watched her hurry away. “I’ll find you later,” she threw over her shoulder.
Then she hiked up her once fine but now threadbare traditional gown and started to run. “I’ll race you - if you don’t mind being beaten by a girl.”
Despite his disappointment he grinned and started to run too - in the opposite direction. He was no natural athlete by any stretch of the imagination but his scurrying, nimble gait made best use of his wiry build. His height was about average, maybe a bit taller, and his sandy brown hair along with hazel eyes made him prettyish for a boy. He didn’t like that. In an effort to look more grown up and masculine he didn’t shave completely. Instead he carefully sculpted what facial hair he had along his jawline to give him, what he hoped, was a more mature look. But it wasn’t a beard, not really and his father called it babies’ bum fluff -which did nothing to help. The truth was Morden was a geek.
Trinity wasn’t beautiful in any classic sense either but her limbs were long and supple. She moved easily over the bizarre, intricate skyline where adjacent courtyards led from one to the next then up through elevated passageways. She bounced lightly around a maze of lofty terraces passing flinty spires and rocky towers going forever upward. But she didn’t slow down - she never slowed down.
His helter-skelter route took him downwards however. He bounced down nearly vertical, stone stairways and slid around the hairpin corners of steeply inclined pathways and ramps until he finally scampered onto the flat main street of the city. Once here he was able to sprint into the plaza to join all the other, almost silent Outwallers who were standing packed together looking upwards. These were the people who weren’t born of the noble line so they lived outside the original city in a dense, grey township that cowered in the shadows of the towering city walls.
High on the ceremonial balcony overlooking the crowd below the Noble Family of the city state of Heritage waited in grumpy silence for something to happen. And what a motley looking crew they were. This group of strange souls made up the House of Paynes and at its heart lay three wildly dysfunctional sisters. At its crumbling head sat High Lord Auric Payne beside his wife High Lady Amasta. She was the eldest of the sisters and the tallest by a hair - but a full head taller than her husband. This height added nothing to her charm however and her skinniness only made her more skitterish and spiderlike. Despite being such an unlikely couple they had somehow managed to come up with a son called Malcolm. His function in life was to wait stupidly in the wings as heir to the whole, shaky shebang.
Amasta’s younger sister Clodagh looked a lot like Amasta but she was even skinnier to the point of emaciation. She was married to even more stunted Egan and they had a daughter, at least at this point they thought they had a daughter, called Trinity.
Feena was the youngest of the three girls. She was the healthiest looking by far, not that she was any beauty either, and she was married to somewhat more normal looking Hendon. Much to her chagrin they were yet to come up with a child of their own despite trying way too hard to make it happen.
All three sisters were mousey haired, gaunt faced and light eyed. Like the rest of the dwindling noble family they were fragile looking and appeared older than they really were. But it was ill health and not the years that stole their youth and denied them a lifespan of normal length or vigor. The Elders had never worked out that the miserable and ongoing lack of wellbeing and viable births among the highborn family was due to the indisputable belief that members of the nobility could only have ‘intimate physical contact’ with other members of the same, small ruling class. Nobody knew who’d penned that particularly insidious page in the Books of Tradition but as a result all three women of the current noble household were married to their first or second cousins.
The genetics of that sort of stunted family tree has never worked out well no matter where it cropped up - either here in Heritage, among the pharos of ancient Egypt or in the Blue Ridge mountains of West Virginia. But the fact still remained that Trinity’s fate had been sealed long before her birth. As the only girl child in the genetically dysfunctional Payne family she had been betrothed to her cousin Malcolm while she was still in the womb. A cozy arrangement to be sure but one that pointedly left Feena out in the heart-numbing cold.
Finally the crowd’s wait was over and something did happen - Trinity showed up. Breathing happily and heavily she ran onto the balcony and slipped into the space left for her beside her cold and grey faced parents. She searched the healthy faces looking up at them from the plaza and grinned when she saw Morden slipping carefully through the crowd to join his parents too - dead heat. Bryony moved aside to make room for her son while she gave him a scornful frown that came over as being less than serious. He grinned at her. Then Bryony looked up to shoot the same sort of disapproving look in Trinity’s direction. Trinity grinned at her too.
The most striking thing about Trinity, now she was standing among them, was that she looked nothing like the rest of the Payne family. Thick, coal black hair framed the unmarred, alabaster skin of her happily flushed face and her bright, intelligent eyes shone with a blue even paler than the ocean that lay on two sides of the city.
Once she was in her place Anwalt Tome, the archaic Keeper of Tradition, glared at her briefly before he started droning and finally another unending, meaningless ceremony got under way. Anwalt was rumored to be as old as the city itself but there was a strangely intense, surprising vigor about him. His still-powerful voice was being further amplified by the cleverly sculpted stone walls around the balcony. “Let us behold the young Lord so that all might bear witness to the powerful but benevolent presence of the next High Lord of Heritage, the future Head of the House of Payne.”
Center stage of this day’s event was eighteen year old Lord Malcolm himself. He was just a bit healthier looking than most of the highborns, his congenital weaknesses were less obvious most of the time because they were all buried between his ears. Somewhat ironically the Traditions dictated that this Coming of Age ceremony should be held, just like they dictated almost everything else that happened around Heritage, so the Outwallers could see the heir to the throne in all his grownup majesty, power - and wisdom.
It was virtually unheard of at these events but things took a lighter turn when Anwalt’s apprentice opened the massive, archaic tome being used for the day’s proceedings. An unexpected gust of wind tore angrily at the pages ripping several of them free. While they tried to escape Eric and Anwalt chased them around the balcony clownishly and the Outwallers below couldn’t miss the rare opportunity to laugh at those above them. Malcolm was delighted with the show but Lady Trinity was the only other person on the balcony who allowed herself to smile at the keepers’ antics. Bryony shot her another look of disapproval but this time the breeziness was all but completely gone from her face.
Anwalt wasn’t used to being laughed at. In fact he didn’t like the sound of laughter no matter in what context it occurred. It wasn’t actually banned by the traditions the way so many other lighthearted things were but he frowned on the ‘ridiculous, coarse practice’. Foolishly thinking he was punishing the crowd for its boorish rowdiness he cut the ceremony short to spite them. Just perfect as far as they were concerned. Following the same ending to the ritual the Keepers had used for untold time Anwalt and Eric interlocked fingers, raised their hands above their heads and recited together. “And thus the joining of hands of the Keepers makes this so in the Name of Tradition for all time.”
As soon as she could do it without attracting any more unwanted attention to herself Trinity was heading for the heavy balcony doors. These led into a weird ceremonial chamber. The walls and floor were dull grey, strikingly plain and boringly efficient to the point of screaming sterility but the room had been oddly stuffed with ridiculously ornate furnishings and garish accessories. Deep crimson tapestries the color of old blood hung everywhere and the loud, gilded wood of tables, chairs and so on filled every possible space. On the other side of this bizarre room lay another door that opened onto the ramparts. Mercifully, these wide bulwarks led in turn to the rest of the city - and freedom from all that mindless jabbering.
Her aunt Feena watched Trinity making her escape and glared. She scowled at her niece with something so dark behind her eyes it must have been festering in her heart for a very long time. And so it had been. Feena’s obsessive hatred for the youngest female member of the Payne family had started before Trinity was even born.
If Mark Wilkerson had to listen to any more of that morbid organ music, he was going to throw up. A migraine beat against his temples and tears rolled down his cheeks as he stood propped against his crutches, his dislocated shoulder aching. Through bleary eyes, he viewed the three closed coffins at the front of the viewing parlor. Gold glitter on white satin ribbons across the caskets read, “Devoted Father,” “Loving Mother,” and “Baby Sister – Sabrina.” She was only six.
Ornate floral arrangements surrounded the closed caskets, their florist shop fragrance adding to Mark’s migraine. He ran his hand across the smooth surface of his mother’s coffin; fingered the satin ribbon. She was in there, at least what was left of her, but he would never see her again. Never again would he feel the warm touch of her lips on his cheek when she kissed him good night.
His weepy eyes abruptly gushed with tears. What happened? He still wondered, shaking his head. Even though he’d somehow survived the accident, he still didn’t know anything about it. All he knew was what the County Sheriff’s deputy and the doctor at the hospital had told him; that he and his family had been in a tragic, fiery accident on the Carquinez Bridge on Christmas Eve.
The doctor also told him his memory would probably return, but it could take some time. He’d called it “dissociative amnesia," whatever that was. He said it was often caused by severe emotional trauma.
Mark’s grandmother, Emily Wilkerson, told him he’d performed with the family at a rest home earlier that night, but he couldn’t remember that either. He felt, more than remembered his father had been angry about something. Then there was Amanda Bonfili. What happened on their date? Or did they have a date? He just couldn’t remember.
Mark moved to his father’s casket. How could he live without him? His dad had been his greatest inspiration, his best friend. He looked down at the casket as his tears rolled. How could he live with the guilt of knowing their last words may have been spoken in anger? He’d never even had a chance to say I’m sorry, if he’d done something wrong or even good-bye. Somehow, he felt he might have been at least partly responsible for the accident. “Forgive me, dad.” His cries escaped his lips in a whisper, “for whatever I did. I’m sorry.” Tears stung his eyes and he wiped them on his sports jacket sleeve.
He wished he could see his family just one last time, but the undertaker had told him their bodies were too charred. The thought horrified him and Mark agreed it would be better to remember them as he’d last seen them alive.
At least his sister, Amy, was being spared the funeral ordeal. But she was still in a coma and her condition was serious. The doctors said she could have brain damage if she survived. That sounded worse than his amnesia.
The accident had only been three days ago and tomorrow, after the funeral, the coffins would be lowered into the cold ground. Is that all there is to life? Mark wondered, To live your life then be discarded like some trash. Hanging his head, he wished he could have died in their place, or at least with them. How Amy and he had survived was a mystery.
Moving to Sabrina’s casket, he laid his forehead against her tiny coffin. “Dear God! Please make this go away. Make them come back.” But even as he prayed, he knew God couldn’t make that happen, assuming He was even real. After all, why would an all-powerful, loving God take away the people he loved most; his parents and his six-year-old sister who had so much to live for, the family Amy and he needed?
Why? The question kept repeating over in his mind, as he wiped his eyes again. Why did his parents have to die and of all people little Sabrina?
SABRINA! Mark wanted to shout, as if it would bring her back.
He missed his baby sister every bit as much as he missed his mother and father.
“Sabrina,” he whispered.
He would never see her again. Tears rolled down his cheeks as Mark thought of her charred little body inside the tiny coffin and the pain she must have endured in the fire. She didn’t deserve to die.
Mark felt a warm hand on his shoulder. Straightening with his crutches, he leaned into his grandmother’s arms. “Go ahead and cry,” she said. “It’s good to let it out.”
Mark leaned down and laid his cheek in the hollow of her neck. He could smell her sweet, old ladies perfume. “Why?” he asked. “Why didn’t God protect them? Why did He let Sabrina die and not me? She didn’t even get a chance to live her life.” He turned away and tightened his fists on the crutch’s handgrip.
He felt his grandmother’s warm fingers turn his chin. “Mark, I know this is hard for you. It’s hard for me too and it will be hard on Amy when she comes home.” His grandmother choked on her words then blotted her eyes with her hankie, “if she does. Son, we don’t always understand why He allows things like this to happen, but my mother always told me, ‘what we see today as a tragedy, we may look back at tomorrow as a blessing.’” Emily hugged him tighter and stroked his hair.
“A blessing? How can losing almost my entire family ever be a blessing?” Mark huffed and pulled away. His head throbbed even more. Then looking back at his grandmother, he said, “If I ever find out who caused the accident, I swear… I’ll… I’ll kill him…. I promise that.”
“No, Mark. Don’t think like that. It was just that, an accident. You need to forgive them.”
“I can’t, Grandma. I just can’t.”
A feud, which has been unsettled for centuries…
A vampire leader, determined to sacrifice his army…
A werewolf clan, ready to invade its greatest enemy…
A town on the verge of destruction, its secrets buried in a Native American legend…
This is Apollo’s story
In a hurry to leave the forest of Stockwood, Washington, and the feud between his vampire family and his werewolf bloodline, Apollo and Sophie flee to a neighboring town in order to seek a “normal” life together.
Protecting Sophie is the only thing on Apollo’s mind—until he finds himself in the middle of a town with a deadly secret—a secret which includes everyone he loves.
Now caught between his duties to protect the vampire family that raised him, share his life with the woman he loves and unravel the town’s secrets, which could destroy everyone, Apollo makes a choice. Determined to do the right thing, Apollo’s world is torn apart, causing him to unleash his rage on everything in his path.
His sister is in the hands of the enemy.
The town where he lives claims that the woman he loves is dead.
The Sanguis clan leader has disappeared.
And Apollo is running out of time.
In a harrowing attempt to find the woman he loves, Apollo confronts his adversaries and the dark secrets of his birthplace. One clue leads to another until he runs into a dead end. As the clock to rescue his sister runs out of time, Apollo leads the remaining Sanguis clan to the werewolf compound in Spain. Once inside and behind enemy lines, he will come face to face with his most dangerous enemies, unravel family secrets and discover an heirloom with powers far stronger than he knew existed. As he leaves one life behind, he will discover another, where he will be forced to choose between good and evil, family and solitude.
The Turning - Bound to Darkness
Apollo and Amaya Shelly are twins, living deep in the forest of Stockwood Washington and away from civilization. Raised by their father and under the protection of their leader, Maximiliano, Apollo and Amaya live what they consider a normal life with the Sanguis clan.
Three days before their 18th birthday, the twins discover that their “normal” existence is anything but normal: their father and the Sanguis clan are vampires. Worse yet, they learn that an agreement was made that would predestine them to become vampires on their special day.
In a chilling race against time, the twins uncover a secret that could destroy their lineage and alter their existence. Whether past or present, family or clan, the line between good and evil can easily blur. . .
. . . Especially when they are bound to darkness
His arm came off, and along with it, the sword. Maezy spun on her heel and jammed her blade into the next attacker. She wasn’t in the mood to dance around as they tried to grab her and instead, resorted to ending the conflict as soon as possible.
He crashed to the ground as Maezy yanked out the sword. “There's too many! We have to fall back!”
The world was a frenzy of armor and swords. Metal flashed in the bright sunlight. Elves preferred their swords, bows, and arrows to guns. Keeping to the rules of war etiquette, Maezy used the sword to deflect another attacker. This one, like the last, made a concentrated effort to pull her along with him. Refusing to be kidnapped, which she could only guess was his intention as he deflected her blows and tried to grab her, Maezy took the first opportunity to smash him over the head.
“FALL BACK!” The trumpet sounded as the Captain gave the order.
“Maezy!” The voice calling blended with the sound of another sword thwack!
“Hold on!” Maezy returned, as she parried, thrust, spun, and blocked again.
Sweat drip, drip, dripped into her eyes. The salty sting had her blinking double-time as she predicted her attacker's next move. His other hand reached out to grab her wrist and yank her off balance. With another parry, arm straining above her head, she reached for her belt, grabbed, and shoved her dagger into the heart of the warrior in front of her.
He collapsed without a sound.
Turning and leaping over fallen bodies, Maezy charged into another opponent who was about to strike one of her own down. Stabbing him through the heart, she leapt over his body and runs forward.
“MOTHER!” Screaming and pointing, she rushed to her mother's defense. Striking the new threat over the head with her sword handle, Maezy shoved him out of the way. His sword missed her mother by a breath.
Exhaling her own breath in a long wisp, Maezy helped block a sword thrust from the warrior attempting to behead her mother. “Why isn't your spell working?” Maezy cried.
“I don't know! There must be a counter spell blocking my own. They keep trickling in!”
“We need to fall back to the castle! You’re too exposed out here!” Maezy slashed and skewered several who charged at her and tried to surround her.
More men met their maker.
“Whose men are they?” she called.
“Your father's,” her mother returned.
That explained it. The king wanted her. They should have known he would resort to all out war. Her mother had told her this day might come. Tucked in their own realm, several dimensions away, Maezy hadn’t thought it would be possible for him to find out about her.
“RETREAT! FALL BACK!” The Captain's cries surrounded them and were repeated.
“FALL BACK TO THE CASTLE!” Maezy added her own cry.
Maezy's sword blocked, sliced, and rang out as the troops fell back and surrounded her and her mother. Soon, they were encased in a shield of men and armor. Their men continued to fight and block the Elf King’s men as they retreated.
At the bridge, they crossed as quickly as possible. Shields covered their heads as the enemy realized they were losing ground and resorted to arrows to take them out. Maezy noticed none of the arrows came too close to her.
They want me alive, she thought. Wouldn't father be angry if I was accidentally killed?
“WHAT DO WE DO?” Maezy shouted.
“I'M UNSURE! I NEED TO GET TO A QUIET PLACE TO ASSESS THE SITUATION!” Her mother tossed another fighter away with the flick of her wrist.
“TO THE CASTLE, MEN!” Maezy shouted to the nearest warrior.
They were inside the gates, doors closing even as the last few of their men streamed through. The doors stood open as long as they could before each steel-enforced structure slammed shut in the face of the intruders.
“Inside!” Maezy and her mother scrambled to the front doors, and launched them open. Servants scuttled back, and guards followed. “Keep them out as long as you can. We're going to find out how they came through.”
The Captain nodded and hurried back out the open doors as others took up their posts inside and out.
“Mother, what happened to the protection spell? How was he able to break through?”
“I don't know. I don't know! It's one of my most powerful spells. It should have worked against anything he threw at it. There must be someone else.”
Closing the doors to the library, Maezy returned her sword to her belt and began pacing. “I wonder how he even found us? We're within a whole other dimension! We need to reinforce the spell.”
Her mother sat on the edge of a chair and closed her eyes. Hands out at her sides, she took deep breaths in and out. Maezy watched her, eyes darted back to the door, and tried not to scream.
What can I do?
Spells were her mother's domain. Hers was fighting. She had grown up learning to defend herself for a day like this. The Elf King was a collector. Anyone with a special power he could possess was captured and added to his collection. Maezy didn’t want to be the one he caught next.
“Bring me the book, Maezy, and stop wearing a hole in the carpet.”
Doing as asked, she found the Book of Ancient Sorcery and ran it to her mother. “Should I call the others in?” Maezy wanted to know.
“No, we need them fighting with everything they have while I search for a solution. There’s only one-- No! It can’t be.”
“Mother, what’s going on? What do we do?”
“I have an idea. I don't know if it will work. I may need your assistance.”
Looking up, her mother's blood red lips smiled. “I'm glad you said that.”
The world outside sounds menacing as loud thunderous cracks rained down on the home. In the middle of this fierce raging storm with no electricity, siblings Zack and Daniel turn to their father, John Malone. Feeling the boys are now old enough to learn the truth about his childhood, John decides to share a family secret that he’s kept locked away, a secret that changed John’s life forever.
In a small Pennsylvania town called Lizardville, a young boy named Johnny and his friends set out on a weekend camping trip along the banks of Big Fishing Creek. On the first night, as the boys gather around the campfire, Parker shares a story that happened nearly eighty years ago, the legend of the Ax Factory murders.
Soon after, strange, mysterious things begin to happen. Little do the boys realize they have awakened the spirit world! Jimmy, unable to sleep, comes face to face with a ghost named Annabelle. She is searching for something and knows the boys are hiding what she seeks. Could the secret lie in an old puzzle box?
Lightning ripped across the northern California sky, then splintered down through the rain and disappeared behind our neighbor’s house. Letting the door slam shut behind me, I ran away from the warmth of our porch light into the darkness of our backyard. My mom would’ve killed me if she’d caught me outside that late at night. Especially in a thunderstorm, and on the night before my fifteenth birthday, with the big party she had planned for tomorrow. But I had to get out of the house before I fell asleep and they came for me. And they were coming!
A gust of wind blew my hair against my face. I swiped it out of my eyes just in time to see a plastic lawn chair tumbling through the air. I covered my head with both arms, but a leg of the chair smashed against my elbow. Ouch!
I dropped onto the wet grass, pulled my knees into my chest, and rocked nervously back and forth. Water soaked up through my nightgown and my underwear, making me shiver.
None of these things mattered, though. Because something far worse was happening inside my head. A memory of me as a little girl, on the night my grandpa Dahlen disappeared from his cottage, was trying to claw its way into my consciousness. And I didn’t want to think about that night. Ever.
Still, I couldn’t stop it, which didn’t make sense. I was awake, and outside, where I was supposed to be safe, yet the aliens from my dreams were somehow messing with my thoughts, rearranging things, trying to make me think about that night! But how?
And why? It happened eight years ago, and my grandpa was dead now.
Although, before he disappeared, he’d—
No! Stop, Courtney! I yelled at myself.
I bit my fingernail and took a deep breath, hoping to calm down.
No luck. I was remembering the musty old-books smell from my grandpa’s bookcase. Butterflies rushed into my stomach and I sprang to my feet.
“All right. Is that what you want me to do?” I shouted into the rainy darkness. “Remember my grandpa? What happened that night? If I do that, then will you leave me alone?”
I wiped the rain from my eyes, and suddenly it was like I was right there, in the cottage. His notebook sat on the plaid couch, opened to a map he’d drawn of the ancient wormholes linking the alien world to our own.
I stumbled backward over a tree root and my butt hit the ground; my head clunked against an even bigger root. Oww! I started to sit up. But suddenly the memory I’d been running from took over the screen in my mind. I fell back into the wet grass and watched the scene unfold as if I were seven years old again, right there in the cottage.
It was raining outside, and the air smelled like old, musty books and burnt hamburgers. I glanced over at my grandpa Dahlen. He was busy in the kitchen, forking ears of corn out of a pot of boiling water. Standing tiptoe on the comfy reading chair, I reached up to the bookcase and ran my fingers along the dials of what he called his ham-radio/alien-transport machine.
“Courtney!” Grandpa stared at me over his steamed-up glasses.
“Fine.” I plopped down on the reading chair and crossed my arms over my chest. Then I lowered my eyes. Blood was seeping through my shirt again from earlier in the day, when my grandpa’s nun friend had stopped by with a guy with a tattoo gun. They’d come to give me a tattoo. I hadn’t wanted a tattoo! But my grandpa had told me it was important, and the way he’d said it, I’d believed him. So now I had a blue mark on my rib cage that looked like four dead bugs arranged in a square.
“So tell me this, Grandpa,” I said. “If these aliens who visit you are really your friends, then why do they make you keep everything secret?”
He turned away from the steaming pot and eyed me with suspicion. “Because people are frightened of what they don’t understand. And frightened people can be dangerous, Courtney,” he said. “Now come sit down for dinner.”
I slipped into a wobbly kitchen chair, rested my elbows on the wooden table, and stared down at my burnt ham- burger. “Mom doesn’t believe in aliens, so does that make her dangerous?” I asked.
Grandpa chuckled. “Your mother is only interested in facts and evidence. Even when she was a child, she had no tolerance for intangibles. Or even comic books, for that matter. Can you imagine?” He set a plate of corn on the cob in the center of the table, then sat down across from me. “But dangerous? No. I think we’re safe from her.” He flashed me a wink.
I winked back. People always told me that I shared his silvery-blue eyes. Hearing someone say it would make my mom cringe, though, because she thought Grandpa was crazy. And the last thing she wanted was for me to turn out like him. But she and my dad were spending the weekend with their old law school friends on Lake Tahoe, so they’d dropped me off with Grandpa on their way.
“Well, if these alien things are real living creatures, then did God make them?” I asked. “Or are they just imaginary?”
I smiled proudly. I was about to finally get the truth from him.
“How’s your burger?” he asked.
“But you didn’t answer—”I started to protest, when a bang on the front door made me jump.
My grandpa ran over and covered his ham-radio/alien-transport machine with an afghan.
More quick pounding! Grandpa shoved his notebook under the couch.
I tried to read his expression, to see if he was frightened or just cleaning up, but he wouldn’t look at me. He rushed to the door and glanced through the peephole, and I held my breath.
When he unlocked the door, three men barged into the cottage.
I immediately recognized them as professor friends of my grandpa’s from when he’d taught at Berkeley. But what were they doing out here at night? I mean, hadn’t they heard of cellphones?
They stared over at me. “Hello, Courtney,” said one, a tall man with a thick beard and black suitcoat.
I shot my grandpa a pleading look, like Make them go away. But he quickly shook his head. I stomped into the guest bedroom and slammed the door.
“They’re coming,” one of the men whispered, loud enough for me to hear. He sounded worried. Which made me worry. About what, though, I wasn’t quite sure.
I bit my thumbnail, and it tasted like wormy dirt from the woodpile. Gross! I wiped my mouth with the bottom of my shirt.
“She’s not safe,” another man said.
Not safe? I froze. “She”? As in me? My heart started racing, and suddenly I couldn’t get enough air into my lungs.
I grabbed the black metal latch of the window next to me and opened it. The chirr-chirr of crickets filled the bedroom, and I breathed in the smell of wet leaves. Pressing my face against the screen, I glanced up at my grandpa’s ham radio tower, standing tall along the side of the house. The siren on top of it glistened with rain under the silvery moon. It would sound off if any bad guys snuck into the backyard and tried to mess with my grandpa’s things. Or that’s what he’d told me, anyway.
Suddenly a familiar shiver trickled down my neck. Oh wow!
I turned away from the window and locked eyes with Astra. “Nice of you to show up,” I said.
She was a few years older than me. Like eleven, maybe. She was sitting cross-legged on the floor next to the closet; her eyes shone bright green against her pale skin and black hair. She bit into her plump bottom lip, which meant she was worried about me. “You think I’m going to climb out the window and run away?” I asked her.
She didn’t answer. For an imaginary friend, she wasn’t very talkative. But she seemed to show up whenever I was in trouble. And there was no getting rid of her; our minds were connected. My grandpa said she was probably a real person somewhere, and that we shared consciousness because we came from the same bloodline. As crazy as the idea seemed, I liked to think that there might be someone real out there who would understand me if we ever crossed paths. Most people just thought I was weird like my grandpa.
“I’m glad you’re here,” I told Astra.
Outside my door, I could hear the men pacing around on the creaky wooden floor boards.
“When?” my grandpa asked.
“We don’t know,” another man said.
I didn’t like the sound of that. My stomach tightened with nerves. I sat down on my bed and rocked back and forth, staring at Astra.
“You’re crying,” she said. Or I could hear her voice in my head, anyway.
“No I’m not.” I swiped my cheek. Then I looked down at the spot of blood on my shirt. “I got a tattoo,” I said, trying to change the subject.
A siren wailed outside. The alarm! I jumped up, turned toward the window. But the bedroom door burst open behind me. I spun back around, and my grandpa stood in the doorway.
“Grandpa! What’s happening?” I started toward him. He quickly shook his head and then pressed his finger to his lips: Stay quiet.
Grandpa looked scared. And he was never scared. My heart pounded against my rib cage. Astra was gone. This was bad.
Bright light lit up my grandpa’s face. It was coming through the window behind me. Oh no! I whipped around to see who was there, and someone grabbed me from inside the room.
I started to scream, but a hand covered my mouth. My feet lifted off the floor. Frantically I twisted my head around to see who it was, but I was being dragged backward, down the hall, into the bathroom. Kicking at the bathroom wall, I bit into the hand covering my mouth, and for a second my head was free. I whirled around to see my grandpa, his finger gushing blood from where my teeth had cut into his skin.
“Grandpa? What are you doing?”
He whispered something in my ear. Then he lifted me up, ignoring my flailing legs.
The next thing I knew, I was underwater. Screaming!
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