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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War: Chapter 29

Lykos groaned, then felt whoever he was laying on shift and groan as well.  He rolled off Khait, and started to stand, only to note with some irritation that his left fibula appeared to be sticking out of his leg.  He growled as he shoved it back into place.  Walking was not going to be fun for the next couple hours.  The backlash from the orb’s destruction had taken out a good section of a wall, and he was concerned part of the building was going to follow it down.  “Christophe?”  Lykos looked around.

“Here.”  Christophe shoved the remains of a painting off himself.  He was bleeding from a cut on his forehead, but his injuries didn’t look bad.  Khait looked in much worse shape.  His wings were little more than char, but he was getting back to his feet.  He offered Lykos a hand up.

He started to look for the others, then made a frustrated sound.  “Naughty girl had defenses.”  Over on the other side of the small crater he’d made, Wren was getting back to her feet.

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War: Chapter 23

Laura smiled at Adam’s sister.  Coraline’s power appeared to be the ability to make plants grow, and she was walking around the house sprucing up the houseplants.  And telling stories about what Adam was like as a kid.  “…gigantic doofus.  Instead of just telling me where it was, he climbed back over to the other side of the roof and tried to jump to the oak tree.”  Coraline gave the spider plant a critical look before gesturing wildly.  “Lost his grip and boom…”  She slammed one hand into the other.  “Went right through Mom’s brand-new picnic table.  Dad comes tearing out of the house, totally panicked because he’s convinced Adam just broke every bone in his body.  And then Adam just sort of stands up, dusts himself off, and you know what he went and did then?”

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War: Chapter 15

Gabriel stepped back as Lidia nearly pushed Matthias down in her rush to get to her son.  Adam looked shell-shocked as she threw her arms around him.  “Adam.  Adam.”  Her voice broke into sobs.  “Oh, Adam.”

It took a moment for Adam to put his arms around her.  “Mom…”  His voice was thick.  “Mom, you shouldn’t be here.”  He took a deep breath.  “You have to get out of here.”

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Archaeology 101 – Chapter 1

Khait yanked at the ropes binding him to the stone table.  To his surprise, they failed to give even the slightest amount.  He frowned, then began struggling in earnest.  The last thing he remembered was a woman pouring him wine.  There were a half-dozen black-robed figures moving around the room.  One of them came toward him with a knife.  Khait blinked as the figure began cutting off his clothing.  Then he smirked.  “Ah, it’s going to be like that, is it?”  He licked his lips.  “You know, if you wanted to pl…”  He cut off as a woman came through the door.  “Oh.”

“Tighten the restraints.  He needs to be still.”  She waved a hand at one of the robed figures.

He grunted as the figure obeyed.  “Isis, look, I’m certain this is…”  His eyes widened as she drew a knife of her own, and cut open his arm.  “Isis, you and I go back a long way, and…”  She touched her finger to the blood, then began using it to draw a glyph on his chest.  “Isis.  Isis.”  He started shaking his head.  “This isn’t…”

“You…”  Her eyes gleamed with an unnatural light.  “Were warned.”

What he hoped was a charming smile came to his face.  “Look, I get that you are angry, but why don’t we just —”

“Your antics have jeopardized us all.”  She shook her head.

“I…”  He winced as she worked the blade again to draw more blood.  Though he knew it would do him little good, he tried to summon up his magic anyway.  He felt as though he were trying to get purchase on ice.  “Isis, you don’t want to do this.  You want to just eat me and go one with —”

“Eating you…”  Isis rolled her eyes.  “Would do me little good.”

“Little good?  You’d get a good meal, I’d be out of your hair, you win.”  He tried struggling again, but the restraints prevented him from moving.  They pulled at his joints, straining them until just breathing was painful.  “Isis —”

“I’m well aware killing you is not an option.”  She leaned down until her lips were near his ear.  “Usariel.”

Not good.  Painful or not, he started thrashing.  He even managed to nearly pull his arm free before it was yanked down and secured again.  He opened his mouth.  “Isi—”  Metal was forced between his teeth, both gagging him and holding his head in place.

Isis stood.  Her eyes had left the masquerade of humanity behind, and glowed with green fire.  She set a gemstone on his forehead.  Power seemed to wrap around him, and then it started to tear.

Behind the gag, he screamed.

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Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 19 – The End

Yalathanil lay back on the bed, Greg half atop him.  The dark brown locks of Greg’s hair tickled Yalathanil’s chest, and he smiled at the sensation.  “Are you asleep?”

“Yes.”  Greg’s voice answered him.

“I want to defy the rules.  To stay.”  Yalathanil took a deep breath.

“That would leave your people ruled by Saelethil, and uh…”  Greg rolled to lay next to him, wrapping an arm around his shoulders.  “Pretty sure that won’t work out well for humans in general.”

“I know.”  Yalathanil sighed.  “I wish I could show you my kingdom.  The world beneath the waves, shielded from…”  He rested his cheek on Greg’s head.  “To show you the beauty of my world as you showed me the beauty of yours.”

“Twix bars and farmer’s markets.”  Greg ran a hand over his chest.  “I hadn’t even begun showing you the marvels of the surface.”  He gave a small laugh.  “I haven’t even gotten you drunk yet.”  The laughter died on his lips.  “I won’t forget you, Yala.”

“Perhaps…”  Yalathanil closed his eyes.  “There will come a time when my people can reach up to yours.  When that happens…”  He held Greg close.  “I will remember you.”

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Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 18

Greg smiled when he saw Adele standing behind her father.  “They are alright.”

“She told you they were.”  Yala sat down next to him, and put a hand on his shoulder.

“Seeing is a bit different.”  Greg exhaled, then shifted to put an arm around Yala.  He glanced at the door to the other room.  “I mean, I believed her, I just…”  He took a deep breath.  “It’s been a long day.”

“Tell me again what Jim said.”  Yala brushed Greg’s hair off his shoulder.

“That you have to claim your throne no matter the cost.”  He couldn’t quite look at Yala when he said the words.  Yala claiming a throne would mean an end to something that had started to become very precious to him.  “That if you don’t…”

“If I do not…”  Yala lifted his head.  “Saelethil will.”  His fists clenched.  “Jim just left you there.”  He stood.  “Just…”  He growled.  “Left you in Xue’s hands.  With men willing to torture you and watch you die.”

“He said he didn’t have a choice.”  Greg started to stand.

Yala grabbed him, pulled him into an embrace, and kissed him.  Greg moved his hand to the back of Yala’s neck as he returned the kiss, savoring it.  He doubted they were going to have much more time together, and from the tension in Yala’s grip he knew it too.  Yala’s fingers went through his hair, and he made another soft growling sound.  “I won’t abandon you.”

“You have to go back, Yala.”  He touched his forehead to Yala’s.

“Not until I know you are safe.”  Yala caressed his cheek.  “And it will not be forever.  You have a boat, you said.”  He swallowed.  “We can visit.”

“That would break the laws of your people.”  They turned to see Mbaba standing there, holding a tray of food.  Her voice was gentle, and her eyes sympathetic.  She gave a small shake of her head.  “I know what you feel for him, Yalathanil.  I have felt it before.  It is how your father came to exist.”  She glanced at Greg, and gave him the smallest of nods before looking back at Yalathanil.  “He is human.  You are not.”

“It doesn’t…”  Yalathanil started shaking his head.

“Greg…”  Her eyes went to him again.  “Ask him how old he is.”

“Why is that…”  He trailed off as he stared at her, then he turned toward Yala.  “I —”

“I don’t know.”  Yala exhaled, his eyes half-closed.  “I do not understand how you mark the passing of time.”

“Yalathanil was born over four hundred years ago.”  Mbaba set the tray down.  “It will be nearly two thousand more before he needs to fear the passage of time.”  She took a deep breath.  “Despite such longevity, his people are few.  They withdrew from the surface because the alternative was their utter destruction, as befell the other shepherds.”  She leaned on the table, then give a small shake of her head.  Her eyes closed for a moment, then reopened.  “Treasure the next few days.”  She smiled, then reached up to brush a little of Greg’s hair back from his face.  “And then say your farewells.”

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Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 17

He could hear the groan of the metal through the water as the cage was ripped nearly in half.  Silt swirled up around them, making it impossible to see what was at the cage.  Greg felt Yala’s arms around him tighten, then he felt the other man shift into his fully aquatic form.  A kick of the powerful tail, and they were rocketing through the water away from the cage.  He wrapped his arms around Yala and hung on for dear life.

They came up together some distance from shore, with Yala shifting into the amphibious form as he surfaced.  “What…”  Greg glanced at him, and saw Yala giving a huge smile.  Xue’s ship was being dragged out in the other direction at a rapid speed.  “Yala?”

“She came.”  Yala laughed.  “She came.”

“She…”

“Are you alright, Greg?”  Yala touched his cheek.

“I’m freezing, but yeah.”  Greg nodded.

“Yes.”  Yala frowned.  “Humans should be warmer than you are now.”  He shifted his grip on Greg and then began pulling him back toward the shore.

“How about you?”  Greg adjusted his position so he could kick with his own legs, as much to get his blood flowing again as to help Yala propel them.  “Are you alright?”

“I am tired.”  Yala nodded.  “I need to sleep, but then…”  He glanced at Greg.  “I will be fine.”

“Right.”  Greg exhaled.  “Let’s find a safe place to hole up and contact the girls.”

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The Signal: Chapter 5

Lidia stepped back, took a look, fussed with the drape again, then stepped back and took another look.  Then she exhaled and made herself stop messing with it.  Like it or not, it was finished.  She took a deep breath, and stepped further back to get a look at the whole.  “My dear girl…”  The voice behind her made her turn.  Mr. Ishi was looking around with a smile on his face.  “You’ve done marvelous work.”

She smiled.  “Really?”  She shifted from foot to foot.  “You don’t think it’s a little cheesy?”

“Darling, this is Las Vegas.”  Mr. Ishi laughed.

“Good point.”  She turned to look at the chair.  It was fashioned to look like a tree stump, with part of the tree remaining and spreading out into branches over the walls and along the book shelves, with fake leaves interspersed with actual plants.  “I’m just worried it’s creeping into Limburger territory.”

“I don’t think it goes beyond a nice cheddar.”  He turned to the gentleman standing next to him.  “What do you think?”

“Could use more nymphs.”  The other man’s voice was surprisingly rich and deep, with an accent that sounded Welsh.  “Are these original Beatrix Potters’?”  He gestured at the artwork.

The grove was the transition point from the small children’s art museum into a play area, and once she’d learned Mr. Ishi was willing to let her have her way on the design, she’d gone with a full on fairy-tale theme.  “Four of them.”  She indicated the work.  “There are more in the museum itself, but I thought the rabbits suited better here.”

“I saw the museum.  Excellent taste for most of it.”  He made a grumbling sound.  “Could have done without that garish St. George one by the window.”

“Oh, get over it already.”  Mr. Ishi rolled his eyes at his companion.  “Mrs. Wu, this is Mr. Emrys, an old friend of mine.  With your permission, I would like to introduce him and a few other friends to Coraline.  There is a small matter she may be able to assist with.”

When Mr. Ishi gave her a slight reassuring nod, she smiled.  “She should be here in the next half hour or so.  She’s been helping.”  Coraline’s control of her powers had improved over the past year, and the braided climbing roses around the museum’s entrance had been her work.  Twenty years of growth in a few minutes.  Lidia gave a small frown.  “I’m sorry, Mr. Emrys.  I think I’ve heard your name before but at the moment I can’t recall where.”

“Quite alright.  Many get the name wrong anyway.”  He extended his hand, but when she offered her own instead of shaking it he kissed the back.  “Myrddin Emrys.  It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Likewise.  I…”  She stopped.  Then she stared at him as realization dawned, and she glanced at Mr. Ishi.  He nodded, a bit of mischief in his eyes.  She looked back at the man in front of her.  He was tall, with brilliant blue eyes and black hair threaded with silver.  Like Mr. Ishi, he wore an elegant tailored suit that was just a little old-fashioned.  “Old friend…”

“Yes.”

“You’re Merlin.”  She stared, her mouth falling open.  “You’re Merlin.”

He turned, and gave Mr. Ishi a look that was more than a little bit smug.  Mr. Ishi rolled his eyes.  “We are in the West.  Come to Japan, and see which of us is recognized.”

“I told you, you should have kept the name Jin.  It suited you far better.”  Mr. Emrys turned back to Lidia.  “Thank you for allowing us to speak with your daughter.”

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The Signal: Chapter 4

Mr. Ishi had definitely made an impression on her mother.  For the first time since James had been murdered, Coraline was allowed to be off by herself.  For a short time, with a cell phone, and in a strictly limited range.  While her mother discussed taking a job in the casino’s small art museum, she was allowed to be in its arcade.  That the arcade itself was dragon-themed amused her just a little.

With freedom so new, it took her a bit of time to work up her nerve.  She took a few deep breaths before slipping out of the gaming area and toward the operations area of the hotel casino.  She got past the first level by stating she was there to see her mother, but the second level simply told her to take a seat and asked her for her mother’s name.  “Actually, I need to speak with Mr. Ishi.”

The receptionist gave her a look of amusement and skepticism.  “Right.”

“Look, just let him know Coraline Wu would like to speak to him and it might be important.”

After a moment, the receptionist rolled his eyes and got on the phone to pass the word back.  She sat there for a few minutes with him occasionally looking up from his work to smirk in her direction.  A tall, elegant looking black woman came out of the door behind the receptionist’s desk.  “Miss Wu?”

Something about the woman unnerved her just a little.  She had to take a deep breath before replying.  “Yes.”

“Mr. Ishi will see you now.”

It was all she could do not to poke her tongue out at the receptionist as she followed the woman back.  The look on his face was comical.  When the door closed behind her, however, she felt trepidation.  Rather than give in to the desire to turn and walk back the way she’d come, she looked at the hallway.  The walls were painted with Japanese style artwork, featuring elegantly rendered natural disasters of various sorts.  She’d expected to see more works depicting dragons.

His office was large and elegant, but oddly asymmetrical.  “Miss Wu.”  Mr. Ishi gave her a concerned look.  “Is everything alright?”

“I…”  She had to take a couple deep breaths.  When she glanced at the woman nervously, Mr. Ishi gestured and the woman inclined her head before turning to leave.  “I don’t know.”

“Please, sit.”  He indicated the chair across from him.  “Would you like something to drink?”

“No, I…”  She went to the chair.  “I think there is something you need to know.  I’m not sure if…”

“Miss Wu, I assure you whatever it is you tell me will go no further than this room without your permission.”  The smile he gave her was warm, and rather grandfatherly.

“That’s not…”  She reached into her purse and grabbed the item she’d brought with her, setting it on his desk.  He raised an eyebrow at the small pot and seedling.  “I’m just not sure if it’s going to work.  It doesn’t, not all the time, but…”  She put her hand around the pot, and concentrated.  Most of the time, it seemed to only work by accident, and with him watching she was sure it wouldn’t…  The seedling suddenly started growing, spurting up in height and spreading as though weeks were passing in seconds.  She took her hand away, then looked up at him as he stared down at the lavender plant on his desk.

“You’ve a gift, Miss Wu.”  He slowly nodded.  Then he rose and walked over to a small cupboard.  She blinked as he set a slice of cheesecake in front of her.  When she gave him a surprised look, he smiled again, gently.  “Magic uses your own energy.  I’ve never known any witch who would turn down food.”

“That Cabal wanted me because they thought I could do magic.”  She took a bite of the cheesecake, chewing and swallowing before continuing to speak.  “What happens if they find out I really can?”

“The woman who escorted you to my office…”  He sat back in his chair.  “Her name is Ahit.  And she is no more human than I am.  There are others here.  Some like you.  I even have a few werewolves and a vampire on staff.  They are all under my protection.  That does come with a few restrictions.  I expect you to be discrete with your usage of magic.  It is in the vested interest of all that our world remain less than visible to the world at large.  I also will expect you to refrain from using your powers to harm innocents.  As long as you meet those expectations…”  His eyes caught hold of hers.  “You will be safe.”

“I used to have this t-shirt.  Adam got it for me.  It showed a knight with smoke coming out of his armor, and said ‘do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you —’”

“Are crunchy, and go well with ketchup.”  He smiled.  “There are several variations on that theme for sale in my gift shops.”

A small laugh escaped her.  “I just, uh…”  She finished the cheesecake, then set the fork down.  “I thought it was something you needed to know.”

“You indicated your control remains a work in progress?”

Coraline modded.  “Sometimes nothing happens.  Sometimes parts of the plant grow at different rates, like the roots sort of explode but the leaves don’t come in, and uh…”  She winced.  “I’ve had some mishaps with fruit.”

“Mishaps?”

“Applesauce.”

“Ah.”  He nodded.  “I can arrange a teacher, if you would like.”

“Mr. Ishi…”

“You may call me Ryuu.”

“Then you can call me Coraline.”  She nodded.  “I, uh…”  She took a deep breath.  “Can I help?”

“Help?”

“I mean, if I could shoot fireballs or something I could go help Stasya kick all the asses.  But it seems like…”  She shook her head.  “I mean, Spiderman said it best.  With great power comes great responsibility.  I’m just not sure how great this power is.”

For a moment, he was silent.  Then he opened the laptop on his desk, and typed for a moment.  He turned the screen toward her.  “This plant here is known as dwarf wheat.  It is the creation of a man called Norman Borlaug.  And it is a creation on par with the invention of penicillin.  Without it, billions would have starved.  Entire cultures would have died out.  This single, humble plant, my dear girl, saved the world.”

“I…”  She stared at the image on the screen, then looked up at him.  “I want to help.”

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