War: Chapter 44 – The End

Magda smiled as she looked over at the table by the pool.  Coraline was showing off pictures of her horse to an envious Anna and Felipa.  Daniel and Laura were doing slightly better jobs of hiding their jealousy as the girl waxed rhapsodic about the palomino.  Not far away, Lidia was showing little Jehanne how to hold a paintbrush.  She glanced at the man sitting next to her.  “Stop looking nervous.  You have permission to be here.”

Matthias rolled his eyes.  “That’s not why I’m nervous.”  He shook his head.  “You do realize Anna’s going to want one of her own now?”  He sighed.  “Erilon, you’ll keep her from mind controlling me into getting her a dozen, right?”

No promises.”

She smiled, and then her eyes went back to Jehanne.  The Cabal had created the child.  They’d given up on her after Gabriel had come to her defense, but after recent events…  She sighed.

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War: Chapter 43

“Sorry to be fussing, it’s just…”  Magda sat down.  “I thought I’d be used to benevolent possession with Erilon around.”

Ash smiled at her.  He might have been a little annoyed by it, if he hadn’t seen her fussing just over everyone else as well, even Jormun and Gabriel included.  He hesitated a moment before reaching out to take her hand.  “Jormun…”  He took a deep breath.  “And Gabriel…”  He shifted where he sat, feeling a bit awkward.  “He said there is a chance this might have had some side effects on me and Michaels, but nothing bad.”  He said the last three words quickly, before she could react to the rest.  “I think it might even be good.”

She smiled at him.  “What’s that?”

“They think we might have slowed, a bit like werewolves do after they change for the first time.  Me more than Michaels, cause of…”  He tilted his head.  “Jormun was pretty surprised about Michaels, but Gabriel wasn’t.”

“You’ve got the bloodline, and you…”  She looked out at where several of the others were on the porch.  Michaels was playfully poking Gabriel in the arm.  “Gabriel often knows a lot more than he lets on.”

“He knows the parts that make people good and strong.”  Ash squeezed her hand.  “Michaels is brave.  Doesn’t matter how dangerous it is, if innocent people or the people he loves are in trouble, he’s going in and he’s going to fight for them with everything he has.  That’s why Gabriel picked him as a partner.”

Magda nodded, then put her arm around him and held him to her.  “I like the thought of having more time with you, Ash.”

“I can be your good boy for a long time.”  He hugged her, then bent his head to kiss her.

“You’ll always be my good boy, Ash.”  She stroked her fingers through his hair as she returned the kiss.  “Ash?”

“Yes, Magda?”  He began unbuttoning her blouse.

“Would you like to get married?”  She touched his cheek.

“Only if it’s to you.”  He grinned before pushing her back onto the bed.

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War: Chapter 42

Adele glanced down at the timer on her phone.  She’d seen Jormun go off into the woods, but he hadn’t —  All clear, my love.  Cancel protocol.  Her knees turned to liquid, and she sagged into the robot that stood next to her.  Christophe caught her arm, and then sat her on the couch.  “Jormun says we are clear.”

“Yeah…”  Stephan shook his head.  “No disrespect to Jormun, but I’m a going to wait on the glowing folks for the all clear.”

She turned her head to see the four figures by the lake.  “No, no I absolutely under…”  She turned to look up at where Father Williams was staring at the water.  “Father, any chance —”

“My nephew…”  Father Williams exhaled.  “Has a lot of explaining to do.”

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War: Chapter 41

Laura’s eyes went wide when she saw Khait’s eyes shine with golden light.  She grinned.  “Okay, may…”

“Uh…”  Stephan touched her shoulder, and she turned to see him pointing.

“Bozhe moi.”  Stasya stared at where Ash was heading toward Merlin and Khait, his eyes also glowing.  There was a firey sword in his hand, and she saw a glimmer of fire start to rotate in a circle on his other arm, forming what looked to be a shield.  Ash leaped into the air and there was a brief flash of shimmering wings behind him just before he landed in a flanking position on the porch behind Merlin.

The glimmer of light in Merlin’s eyes was also far brighter, and yet the dragon looked dumbstruck by what had just happened.  “Guys…”

“I am not certain…”  Father Williams started shaking his head.  “That this is a good thing.”

“Maybe we should get inside.”  Stephan raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah.”  Laura mentally called for Erilon and heard nothing in response.  “Yeah, let’s see if Adele knows what’s going on.”

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War: Chapter 40

His first feeling was relief that Gabriel was alive.  His second was a terror that drove all pain of the knife away.  The wings spreading out from Gabriel’s back weren’t the soft white feathers they’d been before.  Ted stared as the silver wings unfurled.  The edges of the feathers looked razor sharp.  Horror filled him when he realized it wasn’t a sword in Gabriel’s hand.

It was a scythe.

Around them, time had gone completely still.  He could see a bird paused in flight, a leaf half fallen.  In the building, the crackling sound of fire had gone silent.  The only things moving were the men in front of him.  Michaels, Jormun, Daniel…  and Pachua.  The dragon tilted his head, staring at Gabriel.  “No.  You can’t be here.”  Pachua started shaking his head.  “You haven’t been summoned.  You can’t be here.”

He saw Jormun try to struggle to his feet, yanking Daniel out of the way.  Daniel took the hint and got a shoulder under Jormun to get them both out of there.  Michaels stayed where he was, his face uncertain as he glanced at Ted and then back over his shoulder.  Gabriel started forward, toward Pachua.

The dragon lowered his head and let out a snarl.  It was hard to feel any pity for the thing that had torn out Monica’s throat and…  God, please don’t let Matthias be dead.  Gabriel’s forward motion paused, and he turned back to look at Ted.  His eyes looked like molten gold as he tilted his head.  Then he turned back toward Pachua.  Pachua snarled again.  “After I destroy you, I’m going to kill them slowly.”

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War: Chapter 39

There was a time in her life when facing vampires would have had her wetting herself in terror.  Abigail tilted her head to the side, then smiled.  The three vampires coming toward them had all stopped short when Khait had unfurled his wings.  As soon as the sword had ignited in his hand, two of them had turned to run.

It hadn’t done them much good.  He smiled as he walked back to her, his wings vanishing along with the flames of the blade.  She raised a hand to touch his cheek, and he turned his head slightly to kiss her palm.  “It worked.”  She glanced at the sword.  “Just like it did for Ash.”

“We…”  They both turned at the sound of a crashing noise, followed by a loud splash.  A pale green dragon was locked in combat with a copper dragon, and both beasts vanished into the depths of the lake.  Khait blinked.  “Uh…”

“Which dragon are we rooting for?”  Abigail looked up at him.

“Well, Merlin is the green one, so…”  Khait shrugged.

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War: Chapter 38

Bridget stood a few feet away from the preacher.  Lykos had assured her the ammunition she had would take down a werewolf, which just served to remind her there was a decent chance they’d be facing werewolves.  Part of her wished the priest still had his collar on.  He, at least, looked calm.  “You know, it seems like it wasn’t all that long ago…”  She looked up at the sky.  “The most I had to worry about was remembering when my assignments were due.”

“To all things there is a season.”  Father Williams smiled at her.  “And a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

“I used to love that song.”  She smiled.  “My mother played it…”  She trailed off when she caught sight of movement.  She swallowed.  “Here they come.”

“Well now…”  A man seemed to emerge from the very shadows.  He smiled, showing fangs.  “You look like a tasty morsel.”

Okay.  Her ammo was for werewolves.  She fired a shot anyway.  The vampire glanced down at where she’d shot him in the chest, then back up at her.  She could see two others starting to come in behind him.  “Really?”

“Uh…”  She shrugged.  Across the house she heard other shots being fired.  Ted was going to be so pissed if they wrecked his house.  “Yeah, might want to break out the holy water, Father.”

“I have…”  Father William’s eyes suddenly glazed over, as though they were covered with frost, leaving them a solid white.  “A better idea.”  The vampire started to move, and Father Williams merely stepped aside as it charged.  It hit the side of the house.  And shattered into a thousand frozen pieces.  He spread his hands as the other two started forward.  “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.”

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War: Chapter 37

“Hey Viktor —” Adele started to smile at the phone.

“Adele, shut up and listen.”  Viktor’s voice sounded sick.  “Mbala was just here.  She was talking to someone on the phone and it was pretty clear she wanted us to hear the conversation.  She asked whoever she was talking to if it was true Quetzal is traveling north.”

“Oh no…”  Adele felt her blood turn to ice.  “I’m calling him now.”  She hung up the phone and immediately dialed Jormun’s line.  He didn’t even get a syllable of greeting out before she started talking.  “Pachua is here.”

“Are you —”

“Information comes from Mbaba.”

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War: Chapter 36

He headed in to start making coffee, walking past the room that was serving as a library.  Then he stopped, walked backward a few paces, and then paused at the door.  Adam smiled.  Stephan and Stasya had apparently decided to have a couple drinks and watch television, but both had fallen asleep.  Stasya lay with her head on Stephan’s shoulder, and Stephan had an arm draped casually around her.  It was, quite possibly, the most adorable thing he’d seen in months.

Stasya must have sensed she was being observed, because she started to stir.  Stephan shifted a little in response, opening his eyes a moment after Stasya opened hers.  Stasya moved away from him awkwardly, then jumped a little when she noticed him in the doorway.  “Baby Bear.”

“Hey, Mama Bear.”  Adam grinned.  “Sleep well?”

“I, uh…”  Stephan rubbed at his eyes.  “We were just…”

“Wipe smug off face.”  Stasya glared at Adam.  “And go make coffee.”

Adam doffed an imaginary hat and bowed.  “Yes, ma’am.”

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War: Chapter 35

“You can’t…”  Father Williams ran a hand down his face.  “Seriously talking about declaring war on the Vatican?”

I really don’t see that ending well.”  Laura’s eyes were glowing faintly.

“I’m not.”  Jormun sighed before giving a shake of his head.  “There is absolutely no way that would avoid the notice of humanity at large and I’d rather not set off another go of inquisitions.”

“Or find out if missile fire could take you down?”  Christophe glanced at him.

“That too.”  Jormun exhaled.  “We are going to need a better plan.”

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War: Chapter 34

“You’re Giovanni?”  Adam looked the priest over.  Despite the man’s white hair, he didn’t look that old.  If the stories were accurate, he had to be at least seventy-five.  The idea that this priest could be the same man in those stories, however, seemed absurd.  A thought wormed its way into his head.  The men sent after Daniel had all been hospitalized with hypothermia.

“I take it you’ve heard of me?”  Father Williams raised an eyebrow.  Then he sighed.  “I was.”  He gave a small shake of his head.  “Once.”  His eyes went to where the nun was examining the wings of a bemused Khait.  “And you are Adam.”

“I…”  Adam swallowed.  “Yeah, I guess I’m the last person with a right to question you.”

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War: Chapter 33

She ran a hand over the black feathers, then smiled.  A moment later her eyes widened.  “Does this mean you are going to start molting?”  Khait glared at her.  Bridget shrugged.  “Hey, I don’t know how this stuff works.”  She grinned.  “But if you do, dibs on the feathers.”

“Abigail already called dibs.”  Khait shook his head.

“Of course she did.”  Bridget sighed.  Then she withdrew her hand, and his wings folded back and vanished.  “Are you alright, Khait?”

“I…”  Khait slowly nodded.  “I think I am.”

“Good.”  She exhaled.  “It’s kind of nice not having the ring on, anymore.  Guess you don’t need me to —”  She gasped when he grabbed her and pulled her into a tight hug.  “Khait?”

“Thank you, Bridget.”  He spoke into her ear.  “For…”  He laughed a little.  “Being you and putting up with me.”  He kissed her ear.  “You’re my best friend, and I still need you.  I still need you to boss me around, tell me when I’m being an idiot, remind me of the scale of bad, and to…”  He chuckled.  “Be you.”

“Well…”  She laughed as she returned the hug.  “If you put it that…”  She took a deep breath as she gave a small shake of her head, then glared up at him.  “Khait, get your hands off my ass.”

“Sorry.”  His smile was anything but apologetic.

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Story Prompt 2

Captain Tarva looked across his desk at the young officer. “We located one of Xiroc’s smugglers, and we’ve got an opportunity.”

“An opportunity?”

“We’ve got you a cover story and some equipment.” He smiled. “You’re going to be hiring the smuggler to smuggle you. Once you are on the other end of the line, you can get names and faces. In the meantime, we’ll be tracking the financial end and tracing the payment.” He took a deep breath. As much as he didn’t like sending an agent in solo, their options were limited. The agent in front of him was well trained and highly skilled; if anyone could handle himself, he could. “I know you can handle this.”

“Thank you, sir.” The young officer saluted. “I won’t let you down.”

#
Rane grinned as he hooked an arm around his brother’s neck. “Just got the transponder changed over. The ship is officially yours.”

“And you only charged me an arm and half a leg for it.” His brother grinned.

“Hey, anybody else would have taken the full leg.” He pulled his brother over experimentally. “Got a nice bonus for you.” He nodded at where a young man sat at a table, looking around nervously. The young man was well-dressed, and his hair was colored with streaks of blue in the current fashion of the upper crust. He was a handsome young man, good looking enough to be turning the heads of several of those nearby. “See him?”

“He’s kind of hard not to notice.” His brother nodded.

“Well, General Nidek’s daughter also happened to notice, and that kid is a little eager to get the hell off this planet before the general figures out just which one of the young bucks got his precious baby girl in the family way.” He snickered. “Kid paid fifty large…” He handed the packet over to his brother. “To get smuggled out in the hidden compartments.” He squeezed his brother’s shoulder. “Nobody knows he’s leaving, nobody knows where he’s going, and nobody is waiting for him when he gets there.” He grinned. “Happy birthday, little brother.”

Story Prompt 1

He heard the commotion at the gate, and smiled. Swords and soldiers had their uses, but so did gold. The combination of a reward offer and a few small time criminals eager to save their own skins had provided him with some very useful information. Oreat, the king’s bastard brother, had set himself up as a leader of the bandits, and robbed and killed across the land.

The bandit king’s forces had caught his brother and family on their way home from the capital, and had brutally slaughtered them all. Now, there was an opportunity for justice. He couldn’t get his hands on the bandit king even if he had the forces. That justice would belong to the king. But he could get something nearly as good.

At first he thought the amount of rope they’d use to bind the young man they were dragging before him was excessive. A closer look had him reconsidering. The handsome young blacksmith was a strapping young man with broad, muscular shoulders. The man struggled against his bonds, then glared as he was shoved to his knees. “So…” He smiled, folding his arms. “The bastard’s bastard.” Oreat’s only living son. His gaze turned toward his guard captain. “A cell has been prepared. Take him to it.”

“Yes, my lord.” The man saluted, then directed the soldiers to begin dragging their captive toward the tower.

War: Chapter 32

“It took almost two days…”  Coraline let herself fall back onto the couch and put her feet up on an ottoman.  “But I have ridden one of every type of animal that can support human weight.”

Lykos tilted his head.  “Just land based, or include water ones?”

“I…”  Coraline frowned.  Then she stood back up.  “Excuse me, I need to go find my brother.”  She vanished back out the door.

Magda rolled her eyes, then glanced at Stephan.  “No ill effects or anything from wearing the ring?”

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