The Legend of the Sibyl

What even are mages? Seriously. I’m so over this—over them hunting me. What did I ever do to them? I swear, if one more Hunter chokes me, I’m gonna develop a complex.

And I already have so many of those.

~Samantha Anders

For once, just once, I’d like to be able to go out into public without watching my back. It’s already bad enough going into public with my bow and quiver of arrows slung over my shoulder. The looks Seattlites on the bus and light rail give me are priceless. I’m so far past caring, I should be given a gold star.

Whatever. It’s fine. Well, it’s not. But there’s nothing I can do about it now. I screwed myself over long before I’d known what I was doing. And that’s the catch, isn’t it?

When I was thirteen, I screwed up royally. It wasn’t my fault—at least, I don’t think it was. But that’s not the point. The point is, I’m a witch. But not just any witch; I’m so powerful, I’ve got enemies in high places.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

On my thirteenth birthday, I discovered I had powers. Powers that allowed me to time travel and see auras. The auras weren’t the issue. The issue was my powers flaring and dragging me over two-millennia into the past.

That’s right. Two. Millennia.

Wrong place, wrong time—and I guess I wasn’t welcome in the heart of an underground guild. I became the tenant of a musty prison cell. That’s where I met Chibale. Real cool dude—not that I was able to understand a word he said, but he was nice. He was also enslaved to guild mages. And that’s where my entire legacy begins: I dared to rescue him—to free him—and the mages didn’t take too kindly to that.

Since I used magic—and gave off a terrifyingly large and threatening magical energy—to liberate us from the guild dungeon, I gained a bit of a reputation. By “a bit,” I mean they titled me the Sibyl, a fierce, evil woman with wicked powers. That title didn’t die with the end of the era, with the death of the century. Oh, no. The damn title carried through the ages, picking up steam and blowing out of proportion, bit-by-bit, with each retelling of the story. Before long, the Sibyl was myth and legend.

A myth and legend that the guilds of today still consider a threat.

But back to my story.

After I rescued Chibale, we trekked across the desert of Ancient Egypt, heading toward his home. I collapsed long before we got there, dehydration and the journey more than my frail body could endure. He carried me the rest of the way. That’s where I met Bennu, Chibale’s son. Bennu was kind enough to see me back to good health while his mother, Tauret, did the same for Chibale. His father had been in better condition than me, used to the harsh climate of the desert, and had recovered quickly.

Now, flash-forward to the twenty-first century—to right now, literally right this second. There’s a mage on the bus with me, and I can feel his eyes on me the way I can feel his magical energy grating along my skin. His aura is lethal. His presence is menacing. But I pretend not to see him.

I’ve dealt with stronger Hunters than him. I can take him. That is—I can take him as soon as we aren’t both crammed inside a city bus with dozens of bystanders sitting between us. But that’s the thing; as soon as I get off the bus, so will he.

Then the chase will be on.

Which will be faster…my arrow or his knife?


I’m off the bus the moment the door opens—hell no, I’m not waiting a second longer than I have to. I push out, fellow Seattlites glaring at me but used to much stranger behavior from city-dwellers. The length of the bus, the handful of people getting off, and whatever distance I manage to run before the Hunter’s foot touches pavement is all I have for time.

My feet pound the street, lungs screaming with pain already. The Hunter is fast, but luckily, not one of the faster mages I’ve encountered. As I run, I pull my bow off of the clip on my back. His knife is within grabbing range, but as opposed to using it, he picks up speed, slowly closes the gap between us. Thank the goddess he hasn’t decided to turn me into target practice by throwing his knife. That he hasn’t tells me a few things: he only has the one knife, he sucks at throwing, or he’s not confident in his magical abilities if he were to lose the knife. If the goddess favors me today, all three will prove true. Or, I’m being ridiculously optimistic—dude probably doesn’t want to turn civilians into pincushions.

Hoping for the best, I turn down an alley and stop at the end, bow raised, arrow nocked, string taut, as I stare down the sight. As soon as he comes around the corner, I release. Thunk! The string vibrates, making my arm tremble under the recoil. The Hunter bellows when the arrow buries to the fletching in his right shoulder. I just hope it’s his dominant one because I’ve been wrong before.

His left hand reaches toward his right hip to grab the knife sheathed there, and I try not to scream in frustration. Either he’s left-handed, ambidextrous, or he doesn’t care if his coordination is crap. It appears to be the latter when he comes at me, his aim not terrible, but not great either. I can’t imagine the pain helps, but he’s going to kill me if I don’t get my head out of my ass and move.

The blade grazes my arm, drawing blood as I jump out of the way, diving into a pile of garbage bags stacked next to a large dumpster. I’m a little too enthusiastic with my jump, because my forehead knocks the metal, the sound reverberating through my skull. I’m stunned for a moment, unsure if skinning my arms on the pavement would’ve been better than seeing stars.


Get up! the working part of my brain screams.

I nod.

Good idea.

Still dazed, I roll onto the ground, air wheezing from my lungs when I land on the quiver strapped to my back. It was a farther drop than I thought, but I don’t mind the pain shooting up my spine—especially when the Hunter’s knife sinks deep into one of the bags I’d just been getting acquainted with. Whatever his blade hits, it reeks. Worse than that, it’s wet, and since I’m sprawled on the pavement, still trying to get to my feet, it sprays me. I barely close my mouth in time to not have the pleasure of tasting it, but it still douses my neck and shirt. Now, I smell like rot.

Great, just great.

I’m so caught up in my misery, it takes me a moment to realize it sprayed the Hunter in the eyes. He’s busy trying to wipe his good arm across his face.

Great, indeed.

I stumble to my feet, blinking when stars cross my vision again. There’s a good chance I gave myself a concussion, but at this range, I won’t miss. I load another arrow, aim for the mage’s calf, and wince at his shrill scream. The sound rips through my throbbing skull like glass shattering in my eardrums. I cover my ears, regretting shooting him. Thinking, The hell with it, I grab my bow in both hands and bring it down over the back of his head. The noise his skull makes is enough to make me gag—or maybe that’s just the stench of the garbage finally getting to me. Both, I decide, watching the now-silent man hit the ground.

He won’t be coming after me anytime soon, but most Hunters are extremely resilient. It won’t take long for him to get back up, but it will be long enough for me to get far, far away from here. Speaking of, I should haul ass before other Hunters find us. Besides, I could really, really use a shower right about now.

I turn toward the mouth of the alley and search for the closest bus stop.


Dad and I make our way to the cemetery for our monthly ritual of visiting Mom’s grave. I often go there alone, but he doesn’t know that. It’s comforting being there, nothing but the silence and my thoughts to ground me.

Sometimes, I worry about Dad. He’s still grieving all these years later, refusing to love again. In a way, it’s admirable, his dedication to the one and only woman he’s ever loved, but that has to get lonely. He says he’s content with me and his work, and while I know it’s true, I still can’t help but worry.

“He’s a big boy,” Phoenix says directly into my mind, where the ghost currently resides, which allows us to carry a conversation without freaking out Dad or the other riders on the bus. “If he was unhappy, he’d let you know.

Phoenix is right, of course. Dad has no problem telling me exactly how it is. As a longstanding businessman, he’s constantly working with difficult clients who try to twist his words around. He’s adopted a no-nonsense attitude and a direct communication style. If he’s unhappy, he’ll tell me…

Kinda like how he freaks out at me every time a guild Hunter finds me. It’s why I haven’t told him about the other day’s run-in. I’m safe and alive—a little bruised, but breathing—and that’s all that matters. Why needlessly worry him when he’s already got so much on his plate?

“Sam, you should at least tell him something happened,” Phoenix chides in my mind. “I’m still worried about how hard you said you hit your head.”

“No,” I think back at him. “Then hell freak out and go on a tirade about my safety for at least an hour and a half.”

“Thats what parents do! They worry!”

I scowl, choosing to ignore him in favor of staring out the window.

“Sorry I’ve been so busy, Sammy Girl,” Dad says, and I look over at him. “Ricky’s been counting on me to help while he’s away on business…I didn’t realize how many accounts he manages.”

“It’s cool. You’ve got your own thing going. I’ve got mine.”

“Working weekends at your aunt’s club isn’t a thing, Pumpkin. I’m worried that I leave you alone too much since you graduated high school.”

“Nah. I just catch up on reading and stuff.” I shrug. “I go to the range, too.”

“Your mother would be so proud of your progress. You’re getting really good.”

I beam at him, remembering the last time we had a father-daughter day, he came to the archery range with me and I showed him my badass skills. It’s a tradition in my mother’s family for the women to learn how to shoot with a bow. Mom and I used to practice together before the diagnosis…then cancer took her.

When we reach our stop, Dad and I get off the bus and walk, arm-in-arm, his foot and hip pressed up against the side of mine. Like a three-footed goober-monster, we amble, steps in-sync, into the graveyard. Entering the grounds used to be the hardest part of coming here, but now that I’ve come to accept the reality of Mom’s passing, it’s not so bad. Being here is soothing for Dad and me. We spend our visits remembering her life, not dwelling on her death. I miss her with a fierceness that could break my heart to pieces, but I let it hold me together instead.

I think Dad does, too.

When we get there, I lay on her grave like I normally do, and Dad settles down beside me. We lay with her, staring up at the clouds passing overhead. It’s a nice day out, which is rare in Seattle. Normally, it’s gray skies and even darker clouds, but today, they are fluffy and white, the sky a soft baby blue. A gentle breeze blows the grass, and it tickles my skin.

“So,” I drawl, arms folded behind my head, “what story are we going to tell today?”

Dad purses his lips, linking his fingers over his stomach as he thinks. “Well, we could tell her you tripped on stage at graduation—we haven’t shared that one yet.”

“You can tell them you hit your head on a dumpster,” Phoenix offers offhandedly, still merged with my mind.

“You’re not funny!” I snap at them both. In my mind, I think the middle finger at Phoenix, and his chill amps up, letting me know he’s displeased. He’s nearly giving me a brain freeze.

Dad laughs. “Too late now. She’s already heard me say it.”

“You’re so mean to me,” I whine. “Why am I cursed with such a bratty father?”

Phoenix snorts. “Says the biggest brat I know.”

“Me? A brat? No, no, no.” Dad grins. “I like to consider myself educated in the fine art of Fatherhood.”

“Mhm,” I hum, but I’m fighting a smile.

“So, shall we give her the details?”

“Might as well.”

As Dad launches into the story about how I stepped on my too-long robe when crossing the stage, how my heels slipped on the slick surface and brought me crashing to my knees in front of my entire graduating class, I close my eyes and let his voice lull me into a false sense of security.


Dad and I are still at the graveyard, but he started lightly snoring a handful of minutes ago. That he can sleep on the hard ground in a graveyard is a testament to just how overworked he is while his boss is abroad, settling their newest partnership for their firm. I really do worry about him. He already has a habit of getting sucked into his work, but now that he’s managing twice the number of accounts, I’m worried he’ll get sick or drop from exhaustion.

“You’re one to talk,” Phoenix says as he emerges from my mind.

“Can it,” I whisper-hiss, getting up and walking a little way away from where Dad’s resting. The sun is still high in the sky, and no one else appears to be here with us, so I can talk freely and let Dad sleep.

“Just saying.”

“Well, go say it somewhere else.” I walk deeper into the graveyard, admiring the headstones as I go. “I’m so not in the mood for a lecture today.”

“Fine, fine. I can tell when I’m not wanted,” he mutters before disappearing into the ether.

I frown; I didn’t mean for him to actually leave. I just didn’t want to have one of our explosive arguments today, not with Dad within hearing range.

Heaving a sigh, I continue walking until I reach the farthest tombstone, a weatherworn, beat-up thing. It’s so old, I can’t even read the inscription.

A cloud passes under the sun, bathing me in shade and sudden darkness. I shiver when the hair on the back of my neck rises. Uneasy, I turn to head back toward Dad…and freeze. Soft whispers come from behind me, so many at once, I can’t tell what they’re saying. I hear a man’s and a woman’s voice, a boy’s and a girl’s. They all seem to speak at once, a static noise that makes my skin prickle and a bead of sweat drip down my spine despite the sudden chill.

Gulping, I force myself to face the forest’s edge again and stare in. I don’t see anyone, ghosts or otherwise. It’s just the blackness under the canopy of the trees, their leaves howling in the sudden wind. Lightning cracks across the sky and rain pours down, but I can’t seem to tear my gaze from the abyss just beyond the trees.

As if in a trance, I take one step forward, followed by another and another. I reach the first tree, my wet hair slapping my face as the wind continues to rage. Soon, all I hear is the cry of the wind…and the whispers, the insistent voices, getting louder and louder as I get closer. Twigs snap under my feet, and I stumble, shivering as I go deeper into the darkness. I know it’s midday, but it looks like night has fallen.

“Closer, closer, come closer,” the whispers seem to hiss.

I obey.

“Samantha!” Dad calls, but I can scarcely hear him over the pouring rain, the wailing wind, and the loud, frantic whispering.

The whispering…that suddenly stops.

I stop too, blinking as if coming out of a dream. Confused, I look around the small clearing. It’s dark as pitch, the shapes of the trees barely discernible in the faint lighting. There’s nothing but dirt and weeds on the ground, but it’s—

I stumble back, tripping over my own feet and falling on my ass. It’s not dark here, the ground itself is giving off a grim miasma…an aura. And as I stare at the blackest point, something rises up from the ground.

My lip trembles and I whimper.

Its head snaps around, it’s milky eye and cavernous socket staring at me, the rotten flesh peeling and oozing down its sunken and grotesque face. Faster than I can blink, it’s directly in front of me, the smell of musk and rot filling my nose. I can scarcely breathe, a scream lodged in my throat. It pulls its ragged lips into grin, and my heart leaps in my chest when its hand reaches for me. Right as it’s about to touch my face, it goes hurtling backward, the brightest light I’ve ever seen ramming through it. It’s so intense, I have to turn my head away and shield my eyes.

A wail pierces the air, and I clamp my hands over my ears, a sob tearing its way from my lips. Whatever that thing is, I can sense its pain, can feel its fear…its anger, rage, and anguish. It’s ravenous for revenge.

When I stop sensing it, I finally turn my head back and open my eyes. I have to blink to adjust to the blinding light directly in front of me. No, not a light…a man. No again—not a man, a ghost. I’ve never seen one shine before.

He smiles at me, his amber eyes twinkling, and for a minute, I can’t breathe from the sheer beauty of him. His incorporeal hands reach out—and, impossibly, warmth envelops my face as his thumbs trace under my eyes, drying my tears. I didn’t even known I was crying. Maybe it’s from the lingering fear, maybe it’s from his brightness—whatever it is, I’m ensnared by his gaze, by his tender caress, by his face moving toward mine, head tilting as his hands angle mine…

My heart pounds as my eyes close, lips waiting for his—waiting an eternity for his kiss.

A breath away—he’s only a breath away. I can practically taste him on my tongue.

“Samantha!” Dad calls again, and my head whips around. “Samantha, where are you?”

When I turn my head back to the—ghost…? spirit…? god…?—he’s gone. That’s supposing he was ever here…maybe Phoenix is right. I have a concussion and am hallucinating things…hallucinating beautiful apparitions and terrifying wraiths.

A wraith…that’s what that creature was—because I know I didn’t imagine that terror or the heat lingering on my cheeks. If that dark miasma was anything else, my mystery savior wouldn’t have been able to touch it, let alone hurt it. But the fact that it had anything akin to an aura when it was dead—that I could sense its feelings and smell its flesh—is beyond concerning. Whatever it was, I’m not sticking around if it somehow comes back.

“Coming, Dad,” I shout, getting to my feet and running back the way I’d come.

I force myself not to look over my shoulder as I leave the forest behind.


Sam first appears in King’s Chaos (Light of Chaos #1), free on KindleUnlimited.
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Magic With the Magician

Life is a play, and the earth is my stage. Air is my voice, fire my passion, water my flow, and spirit my persona, guiding me as I play my role.

~Owen Merlin

I’m looking for something.

That’s a lie.

I’m looking for someone, and he’s the reason I’m alive.

I can’t get into the details right now, but just know, he’s more precious to me than the air I breathe. I don’t know what he looks like, but he probably has green eyes like me. Perhaps he’s blond, too. But maybe not. I wonder if his skin is as pale as mine or if he’s my opposite in every way. It’s never happened before, of course, but sometimes, when I close my eyes, I see him.

Green eyes like emeralds, brunet hair with the slightest wave to it, and skin a light shade of brown. He even kind of looks like me, but there are two things missing when I see him in my mind’s eye. He’s missing the birthmark that wraps around my bicep, a thin line that looks oddly reminiscent of a snake with its forked tongue sticking out and a mole dotting the eye. He’s also missing the small discoloration of a brown spot in his eye, as if, for a moment, my eye tried to be something other than green, as if a stronger power tried to take over a magic as ancient as his bloodline.

But it doesn’t matter; I’ll know him the moment my eyes land on him. I’m destined to be at his side—he, my sovereign, and me, his sword and shield, if he chooses to make me his sworn knight.

I’m sure the young man in my mind is who I’m looking for; I just haven’t found him yet. But I think I know someone who can help.

Have you ever heard the myths of the Legendary Sibyl? I have, but I thought she was just that: a myth, a legend, a time witch belonging to stories of old. I should’ve known better. All stories are true, at least partially. Perception is easily clouded when magic is involved.

Fae? Dragons, mermaids, unicorns, and more? Myths perpetuated by Norms who misconstrued the magic they saw performed before their very eyes. A strong glamour can go a long way in making people see something that isn’t there. Stronger ones can even fool the most powerful of Casters into believing what they’re seeing is real.

Vampires, zombies, ghouls, and ghosts? Oh, yeah, necromancers had their fun with Norms on those ones. Assholes.

The list of magical non-truths goes on and on, but one truth remains: a Norm saw it. It just wasn’t real.

It took a few hundred years for the guilds to decide, “Hey, screwing with Norms probably isn’t a very good idea.” They finally banned the use of magic in front of the non-magical humans of society.

But you want to know a secret?

The gods used to walk among us.

It’s true. They did. It’s where the mages and witches of today originate from.

The gods bred demigods, Casters with incredible magic. But that was eons ago. Mortal pairings have long since diluted those bloodlines, resulting in the weaker Spellcasters of today. They have magic, but they are far from gods. They aren’t even demigods, despite their lineage. They are magical mortals; nothing more, nothing less.

Sometimes, that magic dies out, and a child is born a Norm.

But the gods haven’t abandoned us. They still watch over mortals from afar. They gift the strong, favor the tenacious, and whisper to the curious. Those blessed by the gods are called “elementals,” people who can wield one of the elements.

You want to know another secret?

I wasn’t gifted with my affinities, nor my tremendous power. I’m also not a Caster. I’m a Magician, the only one of my line still alive.

I was born with the power to wield all five of the elements, using them together to control more than just air, fire, water, earth, and spirit. I can overlap them and turn earth to stone, stone to steel or gemstones. I can turn air to steaming mist, steaming mist to a cloud, a cloud to a thunderstorm. But one must always be careful when they toy with the elements; they’re as sentient as you or me, and they don’t like to be played with.

Sometimes, they like to toy with you.

Not me, though. Never me. Never my bloodline, and to keep my line alive, I need to find that man.

But I don’t know his name. I don’t even know where he is. But he’s out there.

I can feel him in my blood. It’s like a compass, pointing me in every direction at once. Until I find him, I won’t know which way to look. All I know is he’s not here.

But I know where the Sibyl is, if the rumors in the Magical Community are to be believed. And she may be good at staying hidden from the guilds hunting her, but I’m fairly certain I can find her if she’s real. Why hide from someone who isn’t a threat to her? Why hide from someone who can give her exactly what she needs? I can give her a place to hide that no one will ever find her, and in exchange, all I need is for her to use her prophetic powers to find the man I’m looking for.

She’ll never be safer, and I’ll have fulfilled my destiny.

Now all that’s left to do is pack and head for Seattle.


Seattle, Washington is nothing like home.

I’m used to trees and rolling hills as far as the eye can see. I’m used to fresh air, the scent of hay and livestock carrying on the wind. Barn animals, chickens, cows, horses, pigs, making their clucks and moos, neighs and squeals. Sights, smells, and the sounds of the country. Even the air has a taste, something between dirt and fresh cut grass.

Here, there’s none of that. Here, there are buildings as far as the eye can see—gray on gray on gray. Buildings that touch the sky, buildings that reflect the muted sun, buildings that are impossible shapes—round or otherwise. They have signs and billboards. They have lights and more windows than one can possibly count.

There are cars at every intersection, the red signal light more of a suggestion than the requirement that a driver stop. And those white lines on the ground telling the driver not to pass? Well, those are apparently just as optional. There are actually so many tail lights glaring red, one would think the interstate that runs through the city is a parking lot.

With so much smog in the air, it’s a wonder these people aren’t dead, a wonder that they can breathe at all.

Then there’s the noise. Sirens blaring, people yelling, machinery running, cars honking, and those damn pedestrian crosswalks always chirping. There’s no such thing as silence in the city. That’s the thing that I’ve come to miss the most.

I walk down the gray river sidewalk, following the blacktop road of yet another busy street. The rain is falling hard today, whispering sweetly as I let enough of it fall onto my blond hair that I look as drenched as anyone else walking the street. I repel it from my clothes, however, not fond of the idea of my clothing chafing me. As discreetly as I can, I channel air from the heavens to clear away the taste of oily exhaust, thick in the air. My fingers twitch to touch greenery, but the most there is around here are the trees planted into the sidewalk—the sidewalk! Whatever heathen thought that was a “good idea” deserves to be left in the wilderness to learn to appreciate the life of trees, nature, and the elements.

Every tree I pass, I brush my fingers over the bark, a piece of my power channeling into and revitalizing the strong roots. Those, at least, are fighting back, tearing up the prison of their concrete encasings. I give them a push toward reclaiming the earth as theirs.

Everyone here is in a sweatshirt or something like a t-shirt and jeans, and if I wasn’t warming myself with fire, I would be shivering and bundled up in more than just my college sweatshirt and blue jeans. It has to be less than fifty degrees for Gaia’s sake! How these people aren’t shivering from the cold and the wet is beyond me.

Seattlites are insane.

After waiting a moment, I cross the street with a hoard of pedestrians…and am nearly bumped by an impatient car making a left turn. I’m tempted to kick his car, but I realize no one else is fazed by him creeping and inching toward us. They look resolutely ahead, ever on their journey to their destinations. Except for one sane man; he flips the driver the bird as he strides past me, shoulder brushing against mine.

For a moment, I recognize the call of fire in him—he’s a Caster, blessed by the gods—but he’s gone before I’m able to catch a glimpse of anything more than his dark hair.

It’s probably for the best; I don’t want to draw attention to myself anyway.

When I cross the street, I stare up and up and up at the enormous glass building before me. It’s one of those buildings that is an impossible shape. It’s also entirely made up of steel beams and glass windows as far as I can tell. I’m certain there’s more to its craftsmanship than just those, but I’m not curious enough to look into it.

Seattle Public Library looms before me, and I take one more moment to appreciate the sheer size of it before I go in.

I instantly close my connection to fire, then use water to pull the rain off me. It was one thing to appear wet to other pedestrians—not that anyone pays attention to anything here—but it’s another to look damp when I can be dry inside. Not that anything in Washington is ever dry. Even the air is thick with humidity, making water more than happy to bash against my senses because it’s so dense.

But I don’t mind; the elements are the only thing familiar in this concrete forest.

I pull them close to me, feeling the push and pull of magic inside the glass library. Casters are here, but that’s nothing new. There are Casters all over this damn city—so many, I’m surprised no one has noticed my presence yet. But I don’t want to be found, so I suppress my energy further.

I’m here for a reason, and that reason is school.

I skim the layout and lightly jog toward the information desk, waiting for my turn to speak with a clerk. She smiles up at me, asking, “How can I help you today?”

“Um, yeah,” I look around and up before meeting her gaze again, “I’m looking for your Shakespeare section. I’ve gotta do a report for class, and wouldn’t you know it, I left my copy back home.”

“Not a problem, which play are you looking for?”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

She nods as she types into her computer. “You’re in luck, it looks like we have a copy in the 800’s. It’s between the seventh and ninth floors as you spiral up the landings. Would you like me to have someone show you?”

“Nah,” I say. “I’ll figure it out.”

After she writes down the call number for me, I head off to find the stairs that lead up into the large building. It doesn’t take long to discover the spiral she was referring to. The floor is literally on a slant, the shelving units and aisles held level by a gradual-step design. It’s interesting, so I take my time. I follow the slanting floor around and around, going through doorways as I round a corner on either end of the building, until I come to the level where the concrete floor is marked in giant white text reading “800.”

I walk into that aisle, idly muttering, “Eight-twenty-two, eight-twenty-two,” to myself as I run my finger over the spines of each book.

When I reach that call number, I look back down to the paper, reminding myself of the numbers after the decimal. I find the section I’m looking for and am blown away to realize there are a shit-ton of books with the call number 822.33. I’m forced to glance from the paper to the spines again and again as I weave yet another shelving unit before finding the book I’m looking for.

“Fucking finally,” I whisper under my breath, and someone on the other side of the shelving unit snorts. I startle, grimacing at being heard. “Pardon my language, I didn’t realize anyone else was here.”

“Don’t get a stick up your ass now that you’ve been caught,” a man’s voice replies. It’s young but masculine, full of mirth and mischief. “Own that shit. It’s one of the few freedoms any of us have in this hell-hole world we live in.”

My brows rise. “That’s…grim.”

Another snort comes my way. “That’s reality.”

I open and close my mouth, not sure how to reply. Instead, I stare at the shelf where the play I need still sits. I place my index finger on top of the spine and ease it off the shelf.

“That’s not how you take books off the shelf, dumbass,” the voice says, and my head whips up in shock. I didn’t even realize he could see me. “If you pull it like that, you’ll damage the binding at the top of the book.”

“I-I didn’t know.” I look over top and below the shelves, trying to get a glimpse of my verbal assailant. I have no idea how he can see me; I can’t find him. Well, not his face anyway. I can only see the dark black of his clothing through the gaps in the shelves.

“Well, now you do. The library weeds out perfectly good books when people do that shit. What a waste.” Before I can say anything, he completely derails me with, “That play’s good, but I still think Romeo and Juliet takes the cake. There’s just something about tragic, star-crossed lovers that deserves its place in the light.”

“And what about Hamlet?” I counter, wondering if he’s going to come to my side of the shelving unit like a normal person. Then again, I’ve made no move to go find him. “That’s supposed to be the most tragic of all his plays.”

“Ahhh,” he says, approval in his tone. “Hamlet is a fine, fine prince of ignorant madness, and there’s enough tragic death to appreciate, sure, but Romeo and Juliet? What’s more tragic than dying for your true love…who isn’t dead? Seconds—they miss each other by mere moments, and then they both end up taking their lives. It’s beautiful in the poetry of their deaths. It’s tragic in the truth that they were mere minutes away from their happily ever after. Some say love is worth dying for.”

The more the stranger talks, the more I find myself frowning. “You do know it was written as a warning against the folly of falling into blind love, right? A tragedy to show mankind’s stupidity in how blindly we let ourselves be led by our hearts instead of logic?”

“Is it? Or is it a tale of two young people falling in love despite their family’s feuding? Despite love not factoring into marriage in the Middle Ages? Maybe it was one poet’s plea to see love realized.”

“Or to show it leads to complete stupidity. Look at how many people are hurt or die as a result of their misguided insta-love! They didn’t even know each other!”

“He’s a cynic,” the man says, approval in his tone. “You’re right, though. They were stark-raving mad, but for a moment, they achieved what so many of us crave like a drug.”

“And what’s that?”


I’m stunned silent at the longing in his voice, the bitterness in the one word.

Before I can reply, a different man shouts, “Jeph, you disgusting asshole! You said five minutes—that was half an hour ago! You and your perverse habits, I swear!”

“Drama queen,” the dude—Jeph—mutters. To me, he says, “I better go before the missus has a conniption fit. Nice not meeting you. Let’s not do this again.”

Fast as a wraith, he’s gone, leaving me standing there, baffled and confused.


Classes are in full swing, and I still haven’t found the Sibyl. It’s not for a lack of trying, that’s for damn sure. It’s little wonder the guilds around here haven’t found her, despite her power radiating all over the state. And that’s the goddamn problem—it’s all over the state! One second, I’m sure she’s right next to me, and the next, I feel her magic flare from hundreds of miles away.

It makes no damn sense!

At this point, I’m on a wild goose chase, no closer to discovering the whereabouts of the man I’m looking for, nor the Sibyl, who may be able to help me find him. But that’s okay, I suppose, because classes at the University of Washington are going well. I’m top of my class in the theater program, and I even got selected to play one of the lead roles in our upcoming performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Last time I did that play, I was Puck, so I’m excited to try my hand at a new character.

As winter slowly, slowly, so goddamn slowly, gives way to spring, the chill in the air is turning to rain. More. Rain. How do these people live like this?

They’re batshit crazy, that’s how. I was reminded about that the other day when someone tried to mug me on campus—in daylight! Well, what counts for it in this gray, gray state. To say he didn’t appreciate the broken nose and wrist I gave him would be an understatement. Reflexes are a bitch and so hard to break. Campus police didn’t even bat an eye while collecting the man, so I get the feeling they’re desensitized to crazy people…maybe?

Seattle is wild—wild people, wild clubs, wild parties, and I find myself quite charmed by all of it.

But not the traffic. Never the traffic.

Don’t get me started on public transportation.

Currently, I’m on the wrong bus, heading north, deeper into Seattle, when I need to head south back to campus. I caught the right number bus…just going the wrong way. Who makes the difference between north- and south-bound buses which side of the street you’re on? I don’t care that the damn thing is crowded, or that some smelly dude is asleep on my arm—he looks like he needs a few Z’s. What’s pissing me off is that I can’t ever seem to tell where the buses are going before boarding them. At least the light rail makes some semblance of sense—ya know, with, like, signs saying where the thing is going before you board it.

I pull the wire to let the driver know I’m getting off, then wake the man with an apologetic smile. “It’s my stop.”

He nods and lets me up, then promptly falls back asleep. Before I go, I grab a fifty dollar bill out of my wallet and slip it into his hand. I hope he can put it to use, whether for food or a new pair of shoes is up to him.

“Thanks, man,” he murmurs, and I startle, not realizing he’s still awake.

“Yeah,” I say softly. “Take care of yourself.”

I get off when the bus stops and look up and down the street. I’m lost, and I don’t know when the next bus heading south will come by. Soon, I’m sure, considering it’s rush hour. This is what I get for trying to chase after phantom surges of magical energy. The Sibyl is nowhere to be found.

Suddenly, a huge spike of power splits the aether not far from me. I turn toward it and run.

I get to an alley right as there’s a clatter of metal trash bins.

“Ra, that girl is going to be the death of me,” a man’s deep, accented voice mutters, followed by a snort. “Already was.”

I see a pair of dark, sandaled feet sticking out on the other side of a dumpster, and my brow furrows as I look at how costume-y and worn they look. Like a homemade job done well, but not like anything you would expect to see in modern day society. But this just proves my point about how crazy these people are—sandals! In winter, no less—and they’re cosplay!

As I get closer, I’m greeted by the sight of bare calves and knees. I stop short, not entirely sure this man isn’t naked behind the dumpster he’s sitting next to. It wouldn’t be the first case of nudity I’ve seen on the streets here.

“Are—are you okay?” I call, certain he was the source of magic just a minute ago…but now, it’s gone. This man is a Norm…or…something. He doesn’t quite feel right to my own probing magic.

What I can see of his body stiffens, and very coolly, he grumbles, “I’m fine. Now, go away.”

My mouth opens and closes in shock. Are all people here rude? “I heard you fall—”

“And I said I’m fine.”

“If…if you’re sure?”

“I swear to Ra,” he mutters, “I hate this crap.”

My brows rise at his preferred curse, not the swear word, but the god. Only Casters typically swear on the gods, and very few at that. “Are you…are you a Caster?” I hedge. He’s either a Caster, crazy, or possibly drunk. If he’s a Norm, it’s not like he’ll know what I’m talking about.

There’s a long pause where he doesn’t move or respond, and the lack of movement of air tells me he’s not breathing, which is impossible. He would have to be breathing. Even if he’s holding his breath, that’s…quite a long time to go without breathing.

Then, he heaves a sigh. “You’re not going away are you?”

“I just want to help.”

“If you won’t go, I will.”

And before I can make it around the dumpster to try to stop him, he’s…gone. As in, poof! He vanished before my very eyes, and it wasn’t magic. At least, I don’t think it was.

No, I’m certain it wasn’t.

“What the actual mother of all fucks?” I hiss, staring at the vacant spot where a man had just been sitting. Or had there been a man at all? “You’re losing your ever-loving mind, Owen. Crazy—you’re going crazy, just like the rest of the people here.”

Perhaps there’s something in the water.


Any day now. Any day, I’m going to find the Sibyl. She’s going to magically appear right next me, and I’m going to say something clever like, “Hey there, I’m Owen, and boy, do I have deal for you!” And she’s going to look at me with large, shining eyes and thank me for being her hero, her savior—because I know a hiding spot where she’ll never be found. She’ll tell me where to find the man I’m looking for, and then I’ll tell her the ultimate hiding place.

I snort at my own stupidity. Yeah, right. She’ll do thatright after pigs fly and dogs learn to dance!

I smile about dancing dogs, redacting that claim. Dogs are pretty clever.

I roll my eyes at myself.

Focus, Owen! Stop being a moron.

In my defense, I had seen a funny dog video this morning that could’ve passed for a dog dancing. It was a tan poodle wearing a tutu, walking on its two hind legs as it spun a few circles, chasing a treat in someone’s hand.

And yeah, I’m getting distracted again.

I heave a sigh, looking out over the Square. I’m seated on the steps of Suzzallo Library, watching the masses of students as they hustle between classes. I could be inside, getting a coffee from the cafe. I could be in the HUB, grabbing a bite to eat. I could be a million other places on campus, but I’m sitting here, soaking in the fresh air. It’s the first day of blue skies we’ve had since I got here, and for once, the threat of rain isn’t hanging in the heavy gray clouds. Today, the clouds are fluffy and white, and the sun is even shining down.

For an elemental like me, it’s hard to be inside, especially with the gentle breeze playing with my hair, air giving me just a bit more attention than the Norms milling around. I’m okay with that. It’s refreshing, especially because the stench of smog from busses, cars, and transit doesn’t reach this far onto campus.

But the thing I’m realizing about a nice day in Seattle is that I’m not the only one who wants to enjoy the blue skies. Nope. I’m sitting on a stair because the metal tables on the entrance floor are already claimed by students. The wall that creates a short balcony is a seat to many swinging legs. The stairs are even crowded with clusters of students, who lean out of the way as library-bound students pass by.

In other words, the entire square is crowded with bodies, more than usual. I can barely see faces, let alone get a head count as the students walk by like fish caught in a stream. I can barely hear my own thoughts it’s so loud. Perhaps that’s why I’m having unproductive ones.

I’m tempted to put in my earbuds and drown out the chatter, the talk about classes and assignments, midterms and professors, papers due and projects still incomplete, but I don’t. This is the human element I crave. It’s part of why I love theater. It’s real, it’s emotional, and it’s alive.

With Helios’ heat shining down on me and Uranus’ breeze lifting my hair, I close my eyes and connect to spirit, letting the energy surrounding me fill me. As soon as I open to the element, it’s at once too much and not enough. I can feel those around me like a living thing—because they are alive. I can sense the cluster of girls to my right, their energy filling me with their excitement and trepidation, their irritation and their joy. I’m not sure what’s upsetting them—probably classes or midterms—but I’m suddenly on edge, too. I also feel the couple a few steps up, drinking coffee and flirting. Their happiness flushes my cheeks, making my heart rate double. I feel the sea of students before me, their worries pelting me with anxious energy as they race to their next classes. I feel the students in the library, in the other buildings to my left and right, in the ones in front of and behind me, spirit sending out my senses to touch every living soul within a mile.

The wind kicks up around me as I lose control. I can’t do anything to calm it, to sooth it, to bring it back to myself. I can feel clouds rapidly approaching right before rain begins to pour from the sky. Even the ground gives a little shake. At this rate, I’m just thankful I haven’t set anything on fire yet.

Sweat slicks my skin, and the students start shrieking or gasping in alarm as the weather continues to spiral out of control. Their panic consumes me, spirit dragging their surging emotions back to me in spades. I’m panting now, barely able to keep fire from unleashing itself on the Square.

Then I feel it. I feel him. He’s why my power’s raging. The sheer number of people around me aren’t helping, but I’ve never lost touch like this before. Never been consumed by the elements. But now that I know what’s causing it, I’m able to sever my connection to his affinity—the one bleeding into me and making me lose control. Another spirit elemental, and his power is incredible, damn incredible.


The air stops whipping, the rain stops pouring, the ground stops shaking, and my eyes snap open.

I’m on my feet and running before I’m conscious of the decision. I’m nearly shoving people out of the way—people still trying to climb back to their feet or move from the shock of the receding earthquake—as I bolt across the Square. I’m not moving fast enough, and now that my connection to spirit is cut—to him—I’m not sure where his overwhelming energy went, where he went.

All I can think is, Find him, find him, find him! as I continue ducking and weaving students—students who are back into the flow of walking between buildings now that the strange weather has passed, now that the ground has stopped shaking, now that they have places to be. Not even freak weather storms rattle these people. I’m starting to think nothing will.

But I felt him. For a moment, I felt him.

It’s him, my blood screams at me. He’s here!

I’ve gotten turned around in the mass of bodies, and I’m not sure which direction the feeling had come from anymore. Had it been in front of me? Behind me?

My blood is pointing, pointing, pointing. Every. Single. Direction. I’ll never be able to find him like this.

“Where are you?” I whisper to myself, standing at the edge of the crowd on the other side of the Square. I can see Suzzallo mocking me, towering over me, the stone structure aware of my failure. “Please, Gaia, tell me where he is.”

I wait.

One heartbeat.


I let out my breath and press my back against the building I’ve stopped next to. “Figures.”

The door next to me opens, but I don’t bother moving. If it hits me, maybe it’ll smack some damn sense into me—maybe some luck for good measure, too.

“That was freaky,” a man in his early forties says, holding the door open. He’s too old to be who I’m looking for, and I feel myself deflate further. “It’s been a while since the last earthquake.”

A young woman snorts, her back to me as they walk toward the Square. “Puhlease, Dad. We’ve seen crazier ish than that.”

“You’re right, pumpkin, but don’t think an earthquake is going to distract me from the topic at hand.”

Daaad,” she drones in defeat. “You know this is a bad idea.”

“Everything’s a bad idea to you!”

“Yes, but school? C’mon. That’s just asking for trouble.”

“Damn it, Samantha, indulge your father for…”

My lips twitch up as I watch them disappear into the crowd. There’s a drama that could be interesting to see unfold.

I look skyward, smiling up at the blue sky.

“Maybe next time,” I whisper to myself. He’s closer than I ever imagined.


Owen first appears in Hunter’s Mark (Light of Chaos #2), free on KindleUnlimited.
Click below to learn more.

Mischief With Jeph

What’s a bit of harmless fun?

~Jeph Michealson

Hey there! I’m Jeph, and I’m a guild mage. Not just a guild mage, I’m actually on the Council. I’m also kind of a dick.

What? Evander already told you about that? Figures.

He’s not wrong. I just can’t help but be…creative with the fun I have at the guild. I get so bored listening to the Guildmaster drone on and on about things that need to be done, rules that need to be enforced, so on and so forth. Even the paperwork is hell on earth.

I also like stirring the shitpot.

I have the most fun when I’m undermining Phantom, but he’s away on a mission today. Oh well.

I grab the water gun I purchased last night in preparation for today’s shenanigans. Someone has to teach Evander it’s rude to slander his superior’s good name.

I wrap my shadows around myself, hiding within them as I leave my office and stalk the halls. Then I lock onto Evander’s energy signature and find him with ease. I glance in the window of the classroom and find him seated at a desk, head bent over the page of whatever he’s working on. He’s writing pretty quickly, so it must be something good. I’m curious, but I’m more interested in seeing him riled up. He’s just too entertaining—so quick to anger.

It’s time to strike.

I pump the pressure on the squirt gun. I only have one shot at this. As soon as I open the door, Evander will know I’m here, and I don’t want him running away before I can have my fun. He’s scarily fast, and while I could probably keep pace if it came down to a chase, it won’t be nearly as fun if he’s fending off my attacks. Well, maybe—I do get a thrill out of a good chase.

The pressure on the squirt gun is the strongest it’s going to get. I wrap my magic around the door handle and use magery to push it open as silently as possible—just a crack, one large enough to put the barrel of the gun through and…

I douse the front of his shirt, grinning from ear-to-ear as he jumps up in alarm, confusion on his face. The confusion is quickly replaced by irritation, settling into anger when he hears me laughing.

“Jeph! You asshat!”

I turn on my heel and run.


I’m bored—again. Nothing exciting ever happens at the guild anymore. Evander is still upset that I sprayed him down last month. I haven’t bothered to apologize, so it’s little wonder why. That’s okay; I don’t plan to say sorry.

It’s probably wrong of me, but I really feel like causing more trouble—and he presents the perfect target. I’ve already got an idea forming in my mind, and it’s going to drive him up a wall. Is it bad that I enjoy annoying him? His reactions are just so entertaining…

I hide within my shadows, stalking the halls of the guild. I pass Hunters and Elite Hunters, but they don’t know I’m here—the perks of having shadows at my beck and call. I may like mischief, but I hate talking to people. I’d sooner hunt rogues than make small talk with a colleague.

When I reach the classroom Evander is hiding in, I cast a glamour on the door so he doesn’t see it open. As far as he knows, it’s still closed. Grinning to myself, I stay hidden as I cross the room. Then, being the unholy terror that I am, I lay across the table he’s working on, only unraveling my shadows when my head lays on his notebook.

“Jesus!” he shouts, looking like he might stab me with his pen. It would be amusing if he did.

I yawn, long and loud, putting my arms behind my head. “Whatcha doing?”

He’s forced to sit back in his chair now that my elbow is invading his space. “Working—unlike you.”

“I never work,” I tell him seriously. “Well, I hunt on occasion, but I seldom get assignments these days…not that I wouldn’t mind a good game of cat and mouse.” The thought of tracking down a powerful rogue gives me a thrill. They’re always so much more fun when they’re feisty.

“You’re demented.” His lip curls in disgust.

I grin. “How kind of you to notice.”

“Can I help you?” he snaps, pulling the notebook out from under my head.


He stares at me, jaw clenching. “I’m not playing this game again.”


He glares.

“I’m not going to go away,” I say.

“Who’s there?” he finally asks through gritted teeth.


“Jeph who?”

“No one knows.”

I smirk at my own bad sense of humor. When I was thirteen, I suffered some traumatic event—at least, that’s what we all assume, because I don’t remember it—that gave me amnesia. As in, nearly nine years later, I still don’t remember the first thirteen years of my life.

Evander blinks. “Is that supposed to be funny?”

“I thought it was.” I shrug. “Knock-knock.”

He heaves a sigh. “Who’s there?”


No,” he growls. “I’m not listening to that one again.”

“But you let me get away with it for two minutes last time,” I pout.

“You tricked me!”

“It’s not my fault you didn’t know that one.” My grin is slow. “It was entertaining, though.”

“You’re sick,” he says, putting his notebook on his knee and writing something down.

I prop myself up on my elbow, trying to spy his notes. “What’re you writing?” 

“None of your business!” He snaps the notebook closed.


“Are you serious?” His tone is exasperated.

“As the grave.”

“Fine!” he shouts, hands balling into fists. “Who’s there?”

“Boo,” I say, adrenaline pumping in anticipation.

“Boo, who?”

“Don’t cry, Evander, it’s just a joke.” Laughing, I’m up and across the room before his pen penetrates the desk—right where my arm had been. “Harsh,” I say, tutting. “Now, stop dallying and get to work.”

I feel his glare on my back as I exit the classroom.


I’m in the arena-sized gym at the guild, bored to tears. I’ve spent all afternoon working with various equipment, trying to kill time and burn energy, but neither seems to be happening. I hate when I don’t have an active assignment because I’m stuck at the guild, but there’s nothing to do. My mind is so restless, I had to leave the archives a while ago. I couldn’t focus on anything I read. Now, I’m sitting on this damn bench press, contemplating hanging myself from the ceiling by my toes, just to scare the piss out of the next poor sap unfortunate enough to come in here.

It would be funny for all of ten seconds…hardly worth the effort.

Heaving a sigh, I get up and grab my towel, dabbing at my sweat-slick forehead on my way to the door. I smell like a gym bag and need a shower. After that, I think I might be able to focus if I try the archives again. There’s a dark-magic spellbook calling my name…not that I would ever use any of those spells or rituals…I just like knowing how to counteract things since, in my line of work, it could mean the difference between life or death.

Rogue Casters don’t fight fair—but that’s okay; neither do I.

Before I can make it out the door, Evander nearly collides with me on his way in. He stops to apologize before he realizes he’s talking to me. Then his apology dies on his lips, his whole face falling.

I press my lips together to hide my smile. It pleases my dark little heart that I bother him so much. I should be ashamed.

He turns on his heel to walk away, but I grab the back of his shirt before he can speed away—and I mean that literally. Evander is crazy-fast…

“Where are you running off to?” I ask, his shirt straining against my grip. If he doesn’t stop, it’s going to rip. I’m almost curious to see if he’s really that desperate to not talk to me.

He stops, taking a deep breath before letting it out and turning to me. “Errands,” he mumbles, looking everywhere but at me.

Instead of calling him on the lie, I grin. “Well, while you’re here…” I glance at the vacant sparring mat in the far corner of the room. “It’s been a while since we’ve worked on your form.”

“No, thanks,” he says, looking ready to bolt.

“You mean…you don’t want a chance to slug me in the face?”

He purses his lips, looking from me to the mat, from the mat to the door, and then back to me again.

Caught your attention, did I? I muse to myself. We both know he wants to hit me.

“I’ve got a few minutes,” he says casually.

Truth be told, Evander’s a skilled fighter. I taught him everything he knows, after all. He’s never actually taken me in a fight, but he’s gotten close. It’s been a while since we’ve sparred…I wonder if he’ll win.


“That’s a good little Hunter,” I say, patting him on the back hard enough that he stumbles.

Evander catches his footing as I wrap an arm around his shoulders, giving him a noogie and messing up his perfect sandy-blond hair. He grits his teeth so loudly, I can hear them grinding together.

Before we step on the mat, we take off our shoes. Sparring is all fun and games…until someone takes the hard sole of a combat boot to the face. In a battle, that’s an asset; at the guild, it’s just cruelty. While I may enjoy terrorizing the poor kid, I don’t actually enjoy hurting him.

Once we reach the center of the mat, Evander asks, “What rules are we using today?”

“Three-second pin, no tap-outs.”

“Obviously.” He rolls his eyes. “Three seconds, though? You’re making this too easy.”

I like his attitude, but three seconds is a lot more time than he’s pretending it is. When magery allows us the ability to move two to three times our normal speed, three seconds is a lifetime to keep someone on the mat. Especially when they’re as fast as Evander. Especially when they’re as strong and as cunning as I am.

I lock eyes with his hazel ones. “Cocky today, are we?”

For the first time in a while, he grins at me. It’s feral, but it’s something. “Even if I don’t win, I still win. You did invite me to punch you in the face.”

I return his smile. “I’m so nice, I’ll even let you have the first hit.”

“You? Nice?” He snorts. “Hardly. But I won’t turn down the offer.”

“No crotch-shots.”


“No crotch-shots.” I shrug. “I figure I might as well set limits.”

He nods and, without any warning, comes at me so fast, he’s practically a blur, his fist cracking against my jaw.

I fly backward, barely catching myself with my magic before my head smacks the mat. Damn, that boy’s right hook has only gotten better. Impressed, I get to my feet, rubbing my throbbing jaw, the taste of blood filling my mouth.

“Good one,” I say, cracking my knuckles. “Let the games begin.”


Panting, Evander and I lay sprawled on the sparring mat, drenched in sweat and covered in bruises and blood. Neither of us held back during our match, and it dragged on for what had to have been an hour or more. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to push myself this hard, and quite frankly, I’m exhausted. Not that I would ever tell him that.

I sit up, barely withholding a grunt. Evander hasn’t opened his eyes yet and laying there must be suffocating with the blood draining down his throat. I might have broken his nose. That’s fine; he broke one of my ribs.

I nudge his calf with the side of my foot. “Sit up before you drown.”

Shakily, he lifts his hand, flipping me the bird.

The corner of my lips twitch up, and I reach for him, hissing because I forget about my damn rib. That makes his eyes snap open, my right arm hovering in the air between us, my left hand wrapped around my rib cage, cradling my injury. His eyes look from mine to my outstretched hand, then to the arm wrapped around my torso. He blinks dazedly, looking pretty out of it, and I finish reaching for him, grabbing his wrist and pulling him to a sitting position.

“What’s wrong with your ribs?” he asks, the words garbled from his busted face.

“Broken,” I admit, grinning.

His eyes go wide before his expression settles into a smirk. “Good.”

I’d roll my eyes at his obvious contempt, but it’s not as if I haven’t earned it. Besides, this is the side of him that I like best—the side that has a backbone; I still remember the tiny-tot he used to be. Ah, such naivety. Now, he’s just as bitter as the rest of us.

“Take care of that”—I jut out my chin, indicating his nose—“before you permanently mar your face. Wouldn’t want to disappoint all your fangirls.”

Evander blushes bright red. “I don’t have fangirls.”

“That’s not what I heard.” I grin. “You forget, your buddies liked to run their mouths.”

We fall silent.

I’ve scratched old wounds. Working for the guild is dangerous, to say the least.

Shakily, I get to my feet and go to the counter where I’d deposited my mages’ belt. I flip open the pocket holding my healing potions and grab three—two for him, one for me. Then I carry them back over to the mat where he’s staring into space, looking like I kicked his puppy. That would’ve been preferable to me idiotically mentioning his fallen teammates.

Blowing out a breath, I squat down in front of him and shake the vials in front of his face.

He blinks, his watery gaze adjusting to take in the sight of the sloshing, green liquid. His lips curl down as his gaze meets mine.

“Peace offering,” I say, wiggling them again.

He continues glowering as he reaches to take them. Once he does, I sit on the mat across from him, knee propped up, pressing my arm against it and balancing my weight. My rib is throbbing now, and it’s getting difficult to breathe. I uncork the potion and throw it back, the awful flavor like rotting meat sliding over my tongue.

I cough, pounding my fist against my sternum to encourage my lungs to overcome the shock of the taste. “You would think these geniuses could figure out how to make it taste better,” I mutter, flicking the glass vial across the mat. It clinks onto the cement floor.

“Don’t be a dick,” he wheezes, but I know he agrees.

“Can’t help it,” I retort, laying down on the mat and closing my eyes. “Just who I am.”

When the healing magic kicks in, I grit my teeth against the burn. My rib begins repairing itself, the jarring sensation of bone fusing together enough to make me see white for a minute. That sensation is so powerful I hardly feel the sting of my bruised skin healing itself.

Evander gasps, loud and harsh, and I grimace. My ribs hurt like a bitch, but at least it isn’t my face. I really shouldn’t have broken his nose…but it was an accident. I didn’t expect him to duck when I turned, and…well…he took the full impact of my knee to the face. I would apologize, but he wouldn’t believe me. My fault he wouldn’t, though.

“Wuss,” I mutter.

“Screw you.”

“Awe, Evander. I’m flattered,” I joke, opening an eye to peek at him. “I didn’t know you felt that way.”

His ears turn red and he gets to his feet, kicking me in my freshly healed rib on his way out.

I can’t help but wheeze out a laugh.


Jeph first appears in King’s Chaos (Light of Chaos #1), free on KindleUnlimited.
Click below to learn more.

Guild Hunters 101

I hate my job.

~Evander Hunter

Hi, my name is Evander, and I’ll be your guide to learning everything there is to know about guild mages and the Magical Community as a whole. First things first, they’re all certified nut jobs. That’s right. Nut. Jobs. If you don’t believe me, try to have a conversation with Jeph and see how long it takes you to want to bash your brains in. No, no. I insist. I’ll wait.

How did it go? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

So back to guild mages. Let me break it down for you. In Washington State, we have three major guilds competing for dominance.

Why? I dunno. I don’t make the rules; I just follow them.

I kinda like being alive.

So first up, we’ve got my guild, the Cardinal Sun. We’re considered the cream of the crop or whatever. I think we’re a bunch of power-hungry asshats, but that’s just me. No, I’m not power-hungry. I actually got into this mess by some seriously messed up circumstances.

What? You want me to tell you about that?

Fine, but I’m giving you the short version; we’ve got a lot of ground to cover if I’m going to get you caught up on the ins and outs of magic.

Once upon a time, there was a little prince. He had the perfect mother and the most amazing father. Then he got an evil step-brother courtesy of adoption. Well, long story short, the step-brother pretended to be a saint and the whole family fell for it. But that’s beside the point. One day, the mother fell at the hands of an evil witch. A year later, the father died at the hands of rival guild mages. The evil step-brother, six years the prince’s elder, took him in and raised him like his very own—then tricked him into joining the guild.

Membership is for life.

The End.

So, back to guild mages.

In addition to the Cardinal Sun, there are the Sterling Moon and the Bronze Eclipse. All three are responsible for their own region of Washington, but it doesn’t stop them from stepping in on each other’s turfs—especially when it involves the Sibyl. She’s caused a lot of trouble for everyone over the last five years—but more on her later. She may incite trouble at the guilds, but she has nothing to do with the ins and outs of policy.

In general, the concept of guild mages is to have a police force within the Magical Community. What’s the Magical Community? It’s the name for the society of magical people at large. It’s kinda like saying, “the human race,” but only referring to the magical people of the human race. Magical humans—aka Spellcasters, or Casters, for short—are everywhere. No matter where you go, you will find someone who has magic, whether that be your average witch or mage (magical civilians, more or less), your guild mages or coven witches (your police force and practitioners of magic), or those who would do others harm (Casters deemed “rogues”).

It’s rogues whom the guilds are meant to police.

Because it was deemed that Norms—the non-magical humans of the world—absolutely cannot know about magic for fear of them starting a war with us (or starting up witch hunts again), we guild mages are meant to hunt and detain—and in some cases, execute—the rogue Casters who break guild laws.

Guild laws are fairly simple and straightforward:

  1. Don’t use your magic to harm anyone—mage, witch, or otherwise.
  2. Don’t expose your magic to Norms.
  3. No illegal magic (anything that harms others or is sinister in nature; i.e. hex and curse magic).

That’s basically it. So long as you’re not hurting someone or imposing on other’s rights you’re fine. The issue is, so many people don’t follow the rules. I dunno why not, but some people just think they are above the law. Or they are trying to make a profit. Or some other reason. But they always believe their misdeeds will go unnoticed. But they don’t. We always find out.


Not all Casters are made the same, so let’s start with an overview of magical classifications.

What’s A Mage?

A mage is typically male in gender, but it’s not unheard of to meet female mages—just like it’s not unheard of to meet male witches. The difference is the power they wield. For example, mages use their magic externally. They can lob magical energy blasts and often use their magic to learn offensive and defensive spells.

We’re essentially one-trick ponies, specializing in one type of magic and occasionally learning a secondary type of magic. This doesn’t happen too often, considering if one doesn’t have the magical ability or the aptitude for the magic, it can’t be learned. There are sometimes mages who specialize and have elemental magic, however.

What’s An Elemental?

Elemental magic is both common and rare. No one is born with elemental magic; it’s gifted to them by the gods—or so people say. I believe it though, but there’s a reason for that.

I, myself, have elemental air magic.

The memory is distant and hazy, but when I was a boy, a voice spoke to me. I don’t know who or what it was, but it spouted some nonsense to me and then I suddenly had the ability to feel the air. And I’m not talking like feeling a breeze on my skin. I mean I could sense it. I could tell when it was happy or sad, when it was ready to rage and storm or be calm and docile. When I finally came into my magic at age thirteen, I could control the air.

Anyways, since we mages suck at life—I mean, lack diversity in magic—we supplement our shortcomings with spells, charms, and incantations.

What’s A Witch?

A witch is someone who uses magic internally. Often, witches use prayer magic to conduct spells and rituals. Any magic they give out, they cycle back into themselves by the end of their prayer or ritual. They use conduits to channel their magic, such as prayer candles or specific crystals and stones. They use moon and sun magic and even the equinox and solstice to strengthen their spellwork and magic. Their magic is typically used for peace, luck, protection, healing, and other calm and friendly things.

Witches are amazing people in general, but I’ve met a few hex and curse witches in my time. They take that same beautiful magic and distort it, summoning negligent and malignant spirits and dark magic to harm others. It’s a shame to see such spiritual magic used in such cruel ways.


“Jeph! You asshat!”

Excuse me guys, I’ve got a mage to go throttle.

“Get back here!”


Welcome back to Guild Mages for Dummies—I mean 101.

Last time we had a brief intro to guilds and talked about the differences between mages and witches. Today, we’ll look at guild structure. There’s a hierarchy within the guilds. I’d like to say I’m at the bottom—because in no way did I wish to move up the ladder—but I didn’t get a say in any of that.

The Council

The Council is made up of five top-ranked mages within the guild. These are the best of the best and usually the most ruthless in battle. They are usually chosen for their skills as a Hunter, for their magic, or for what they bring to the table. They operate under a voting system in order to make decisions.

In order, their ranking titles are:

  1. Guildmaster
  2. Second Seat Councilmember
  3. Third Seat Councilmember
  4. Fourth Seat Councilmember
  5. Fifth Seat Councilmember

Elite Hunters

Below the Council, there are the Elite Hunters. I hate to say it, but this is where I’m ranked. Yup. I’m a tier short of the Council. But you’re probably wondering why being an Elite bothers me.

Well, I’ll tell you why: Elites are assassins. That’s right, assassins.

Elites do what regular Hunters don’t: They are assigned a dangerous target and are sent to kill them—with or without proof of the crimes they are being accused of. Nine times out of ten, they’re guilty. It makes you wonder about the tenth.


Underneath Elites, there are the regular Hunters. While Elites work individually on assignments, Hunters work in squads of four. Sometimes, they’re assigned to an Elite Hunter, although not all Elites are responsible for a squad—I’m not. When assigned to an Elite, they work as a team of five on middle-rank missions. They are tasked with general policing of the Magical Community and patrol certain parts of the city to look for anything suspicious. Sometimes, all it takes to deter rogues is the presence of guild mages.

Hunters are also employed in Norm government agencies and other such places—like actual police stations and fire departments. This is to stop information leaks as quickly as possible. Such as, say a Norm calls the police about a magical disturbance. The call would be handled by a Hunter, and they would be sure to discredit it as quickly as possible by contacting the guild, allowing us to tamper with the scene and catch the rogue as quickly as possible.

You wouldn’t believe how many Casters don’t have the guild’s hotline saved on their phones. 9-1-1 is a lot easier to remember than a nine-digit number, I suppose—and a hell of a lot faster than scrolling through your contacts to find it. Isn’t there an emergency contact function on these things? You would think people would be more prepared than—

*clears throat*

I digress…

Hunter Instructors

Next down the chain are the Hunter Instructors. They are the teachers at the guild. Think of the guild as a sort of boarding school for young mages, barracks and everything. Boys ages thirteen to fifteen are given lodging if they choose to become guild mages. They train until they are fifteen before they are allowed to become Hunters.

When I was a boy, I used to live in the barracks myself. Most Hunters are required to live in the guild until they are eighteen. While I didn’t stick around, there are actually several Hunters who are much older than me who choose to live in the barracks as opposed to paying rent. I don’t blame them; Seattle is expensive. But those who have families often opt to live on their own terms.

Training Hunters

And that leaves the Training Hunters, the boys ages thirteen to fifteen who take classes about magical energy, potions, spells, charms, hexes, curses, and train in combat and weaponry. No, we don’t use guns—are you nuts? Magical energy and gunpowder don’t mix. Swords, daggers, axes, lances, on and on—that’s what we use.

Some Hunters choose to only classify in one weapon. Some choose to become proficient in many. Either way, we’re trained with each weapon and how to best deflect blows from various fighting styles and weapons types. I, myself, prefer my battleax to other weapons, but I’m trained to proficiency in all classes.

Anyway. That’s the guild hierarchy. Join me next time for more information about the Magical Community and the guild.


It’s that time again—time to sit down, shut up, and listen. Or don’t. Whatever. It’s not like I care. I’m just here.


Last time, we covered the guild structure. Today, we’ll look at magic, spells, and rituals. As a bonus, I might even tell you about curses, hexes, potions, and wards—if I feel like it.

So the basic of all basics is that, in order to use any of the above, one must have magical energy. That’s right, genius, you would need to be a Caster to use magic. What’s magical energy? Come on guys, were you raised in a back alley in Seattle?

Let me break it down:

Magical Energy

Magical energy is the magical essence that Casters possess. Some believe magical ability depends on age, gender, and/or affinities held. Since no two humans are alike and elementals are created at random, we really haven’t been able to verify the legitimacy of those theories. Regardless, every Caster emits a distinct magical energy signature that is able to be sensed by other Casters.


Magic isn’t magical energy itself. The energy is the stored basis of magic. Magic happens when someone calls on that energy to either perform a spell or ritual—or any disbursement of magical energy outside the body. So gathering magical energy into one’s palm is one use of magic, even if it’s not used for anything. On a side note, mages will oftentimes do this and throw it at an assailant to blast or stun them—it really, really doesn’t feel good, in case you’re wondering.

Spells & Rituals

The key difference between spells and rituals is that a spell may or may not require an incantation but a ritual absolutely does. In addition to requiring an incantation, a ritual requires invocation tools, such as charms, crystals, candles, moonlight, sunlight, athame, or herbs, to name a few.

Spellwork is willing your magical energy to do a task, such as picking a lock or changing the size of an item to be larger or smaller. At first, you’ll need to speak an incantation to tell your magic what to do, but with practice, you’ll be able to speak the words in your mind instead of out loud. Silence and efficiency are important in a Hunter’s line of work.

For rituals, you serve as the magical energy source to power the tools, herbs, and materials gathered. Because rituals rely on your intention to carry out your spellwork, the incantation is important. The simplest thought, “I want to beat my opponent,” is so ambiguous, there’s no telling what mischief the magic might cause while completing the task. The less focused your intentions and directions, the more magical energy the ritual could steal from you—if it takes too much, you’ll die.

If you couldn’t tell, rituals are much bigger than daily spellwork and require more attention to detail on the Spellcaster’s part. Regardless, all magic should be taken seriously—it’s all dangerous if not used properly. Not just dangerous—a lack in focus or an inability to direct your intention could take an innocent spell or ritual and turn it into a dark, insidious disaster.

Curse vs. Hex

Speaking of insidious, that brings us to rogue magical practices. Curses are jinx magic that requires either a spell or ritual but no dark magic. A hex is dark magic itself and requires the Caster to acquire dark objects and/or wield dark magic. Jinxes are wishing physical pain or emotional distress to ail someone. They’re considered torture magic and are forbidden by the guilds. There are other minor jinxes, such as wishing general misfortune on others, but they are still considered illegal and will be punished. Hexes are anything and everything that interferes either with a person’s free will or leads to chronic illness…or death. Oftentimes, hexes require blood rituals or sacrifices.

There are no trials for those practicing dark magic. Elite Hunters, like myself, are sent in to capture or kill on sight. In cases of capture, it’s in order to gain intel on their illegal practices—especially those working in cults. Because dark rogues are dangerous, we’re allowed to defend ourselves to the full extent of guild law. It’s rare that an Elite Hunter is able to retrieve a captive alive, although it does happen from time to time…


Potions are crafted out of everything from herbs to crystal dust and are imbued with magical essence, making them effective with or without a spell. Depending on what type of potion you’re using, they are effective without magical energy. In other words, a Norm could use something as mundane as a healing potion or as dangerous as an explosion potion. Even without magic, these potions are effective, but adding an incantation—or even just having magical energy—will make them even more powerful.

What’s a Ward?

While we’re on the subject of what magic can do, let’s review wards. Wards are magically created objects that serve a single purpose. We have everything from shielding wards to protection wards. They are, in essence, a charm-piece but on a grander scale. They can be as small as a pebble or as big as a mountain depending on their purpose. For example, my home is covered with protection wards to keep unregistered people from entering without my permission.

Wards are created using alchemy, a subset of magical ability that allows someone to build wards using chemistry, magic, and other components. I can’t say I fully understand it since I don’t have an aptitude for alchemy. We have several incredible alchemists at the guild, though, which has made the Cardinal Sun one of the the leading guilds in Washington State. (Which really pisses off the Guildmaster, who’s renown for his wards. But, yeah, the Sterling Moon actually has an entire lab dedicated to experimental wardsmithing. I’d hate to be in that building when something blows up).

But you know what they say about power…it comes with a giant ego and a need to subjugate the opposition.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for you today.

See ya next time…


Today, we were going to go over some of the equipment in the guild’s training room, but I made the mistake of failing to sense Jeph’s presence. When I rounded the corner, I bumped into him. And now, here we are, standing on this mat, my fist throbbing from clocking him in the jaw. I don’t think I’ve felt something this satisfying in a long, long time.

The dick had it coming.

As always, he used his magic to keep himself on his feet, standing in front of me, his dark brown eyes twinkling with joy. One thing I can say about him: this dude is one cracked nut. He didn’t let me hit him because he was giving me a cheap shot, he did it because the sick SOB likes pain.

“Good one,” he says, cracking his knuckles. “Let the games begin.”

My heart drops into my ass.

Why did I agree to this?

It’s too late now; I should’ve hit him and run. It’s what he would’ve done if he was me, but he isn’t me. I’m me…and I’m about to hate that I am.

Jeph never holds back in a fight.

His fist lands in my gut and I fall forward with the impact, wheezing. It hurts like a bitch, but I throw my head up, the back of my skull cracking against his jaw. His teeth click together, and my vision momentarily goes black from impact. We stumble away from each other, but it takes mere seconds before we’re flying at each other again, magery making our muscles move faster than humanly possible.

My fist sails past his head, but I spin out of the way when he tries the same. He grabs my shirt, pulling me forward. I duck at the last second, his fist flying over my head as he goes off balance. I ram my shoulder into his ribs and I think I hear something crack. I don’t have time to think about it. His foot crashes against my knee and I fall to the floor.

We stare at each other, chests heaving.

“Nice counter,” he breathes.

“Didn’t do…much good,” I return.

He grins, blood coating his teeth and a crazy gleam in his dark eyes.

I jump to my feet, barely getting my footing and my arms crossed in front of me before his fist makes contact. He pulls back and, thinking he’s gonna strike again, I duck, intending to sweep his feet out from under him. Instead, his knee comes up. Not only do I not knock him down, I hear my nose crunch long before I feel it.

My vision goes white, my body responding faster than my nerves. Then the agony sets in, and my eyes feel like they are about to pop. Blood drains down my throat, choking me.

“Jesus!” Jeph hisses, squatting down in front of me and grabbing my face. He tilts it from side to side as he examines the damage. It must be bad if he’s stopping. This is far from the worst injury he’s ever given me.

“Iam figne,” I attempt to say, pulling his hands away. He’s probably worried about the paperwork he’ll have to do to report my injury.

He raises an imperious brow. “Not sure I caught that. Did you say, ‘I’m fine’ or ‘I’m nine’?”

I glare, but it’s wasted on him. Irritated, I call on my element and try to blast him away with air. All I seem to do is startle him. Besides magery, we’re not supposed to use other types of magic in battle.

Tsk, tsk.” He wags his finger at me. “Evander’s being naughty, breaking the rules.”

Scowling, I pull more magic to me, feeling it tingle along my arm and hand. It’s like pins and needles, like sparks dancing over my flesh. It’s like reaching into a raging storm and wrapping my hand around a bolt of lightning. I grin when air caresses my palm, eagerly begging to be guided, directed, unleashed. I have no qualms giving air what it wants.

I blast Jeph again, and this time, he stumbles backward, but he’d been expecting it, having felt me gathering magical energy. Now he’s gathering his energy. It’s going to be a real fight. No pins to win. This is a battle. I just hope we don’t bring the guild down on our heads.

With a twinkle in his eyes, Jeph lobs a dense, black ball of magic at me. I dive for the ground, smacking my battered nose against the mat. Moron! my mind hisses as I choke on blood, pain, and air. I struggle to rise to my feet, white-hot agony blinding me. While I’m rising, Jeph’s foot catches me in the gut, and I flip, end over end, along the mat. I’d been short of breath before, but now I am actively channeling my element into my lungs. I’d be dying right now if I wasn’t an elemental.

Jeph helps me to my feet, my shirt firmly gripped in one first, the other aimed at my face. If he wants my nose to stay broken that bad, he’s going to have to work for it. Before he can land the blow, I use magery and my element to push my speed past the point of possibility, ducking and dodging around him, putting a roundhouse kick in the back of his head, catching his jaw ’cause the dumbass had been turning his head to track me. He flies forward, and it’s satisfying to watch his palms touch down on the mat.

He pushes himself to his feet and turns to face me, spitting and wiping his thumb along the blood dribbling down his lip. “That’s twice you’ve made me bleed.”

I don’t like the gleam in his eye; it’s menacing.

I’m about to regret my whole life.


Evander first appears in King’s Chaos (Light of Chaos #1), free on KindleUnlimited.
Click below to learn more.

A Ghost of a Tale

Testing? Testing? Is this thing working? What even is modern technology? Whatever.

Hey, Sam, can you help me with this? Sam? Sam? Sam! That damn girl.

Where did she get off to this time?

~Bennu (Phoenix) of Zau

So here’s the thing: I’m a ghost. Dead. Have been for…Ra, how long has it been? If I was born before Alexander the Great by four-hundred years…


It’s really not that important. As Sam would say, I’m older than dirt.

Speaking of Sam…That girl could make a ghost want to bash his brains out. And she does—every day. The only thing about that? I have no brains to bash out!

Anyway, let me tell you a little bit about my life as Sam’s babysitter. Basically, I serve as the reverse function of a battery. In a way, you could say Sam is my battery. Every other morning, depending on how much magical energy she regains during the day, I steal her energy. Not in a malicious way. It’s to keep her hidden from the Hunters. You see, the Hunters track her by her energy signature. If I take her energy, then they can’t find her. Even better, once I have her energy, I pop in and out of the ether, releasing the energy all around the Pacific Northwest, keeping them running all over the place.

So long as she’s safe, that’s all that matters.

What? You want to know why I help her? How a ghost from ancient times came to be in the twenty-first century instead of moving on? That’s a long story. But the gist of it? Sam saved my father from slavery. Naturally, since I couldn’t pay her a life-debt—since she was a girl out of time—I took matters into my spectral hands after I was put to death.

Because Sam and I had a language barrier, I was left to interpret everything she ever said when I was alive. Her wild hand gestures as she pointed to herself, then to me, helped us learn each other’s names, but that wasn’t enough to find her. I didn’t know where she lived or where she came from.

Over the centuries, I scoured the earth and learned new languages, but none of them matched hers. I learned them, hoping to hear the syllables she’d spoken, hoping I was getting closer to finding her. I had no idea just how far in the future she’d come from.

As time went on, I heard the tales and lore told about her. The myths gained momentum, becoming more and more outlandish, and I soon realized she was in danger. My search became more and more frantic. I needed to warn her. But she was nowhere to be found.

During the Middle Ages, I discovered an archaic language similar to hers—Old English. I was getting closer to finding her, and that gave me hope. I stayed with the Anglo-Saxon people on a continent that would become Great Britain, far north of my own home in Egypt. It was several hundred more years before their language evolved into Middle English. It was the closest dialect I’d heard to Sam’s language, but the clothing was still wrong, the accent still wrong, the people wrong.

When they started voyaging across the ocean, my non-existent heart nearly pounded in my incorporeal chest. The ocean—Sam had pointed to the west, pantomiming boats and water. When I hadn’t understood, she’d drawn it in the sand—home, her home. I dared to follow a group of guild mages as they journeyed the turbulent seas, questing for new land upon which to enforce their rule. Long before that pilgrimage, I’d learned that I could remain in the corporeal world longer if I borrowed the energy of living things—and mages were prime targets. I could leech their magic and not fade into the ether as often as I used to. More than that, I was able to learn about them and their beliefs.

The Sibyl was now seen as nothing more than a myth, a bogeyman in a nighttime story told to young Casters. Over a thousand years had passed, but the Magical Community still feared her like a phantom in the mirror, like a monster in the closet. They wondered if her wraith would someday come back for them. They prophesied that she would.

My quest spanned more than two millennia before I found her, but she was just a child. She couldn’t see or hear me. And as creepy as it may sound, I watched her grow up. (Please don’t tell her I told you that. So far as she knows, I found her on her thirteenth birthday, when she finally came into her powers).

It’s a miracle I found her at all, and even that was a fluke.

I saw Sarah—Sam’s mother—first, and mistook the woman for Sam. Albeit, an older, more mature version of Sam, but she really had been an astonishing match for the girl I remembered. When I heard someone say the woman’s name, my hopes were crushed…until Sarah called to her daughter.

The second I saw Sam, I knew it was her. She was a bubbly little eight-year-old, and she held the same light I’d seen in her eyes and smile over two thousand years before. But shortly thereafter…her mom died, stealing a great deal of that light. I couldn’t do anything for her, and I felt useless. I finally found her, to try to repay the life-debt I owed her, and I was useless to her.

It was another five years before she could see and speak to me. Since then, it’s almost been another five years. She’s no little girl anymore. She’s an adult…one that acts like an obnoxious child, but I don’t mind—not that I’d ever tell her that. If that’s what makes her happy, then I’ll keep protecting her light. Her light, and her.

I’ll do anything to keep her safe.


“Gather one, gather all—I’ve got a tale to tell,” I say, spreading my arms wide.

Sam rolls her eyes. “Don’t be so dramatic.”

There’s a storm outside, and we’re holed up in her apartment. It’s a rinky-dink studio on the eighth floor in the middle of the city. We’re having a seasonal storm, and while Sam loves thunder and lightning, she’s bored since the electricity went out an hour ago. Her cell phone apparently died, too, so now she’s being an annoying brat and demanding that I tell her a story.

Her prayer candles, normally circled around her collection of precious stones and gems, are placed throughout the room, providing the only lighting in the apartment. They cast eerie shadows on the walls as the flames flicker and sway.

“I’m not being dramatic,” I tell her, pursuing my lips. “I’m setting the mood.”

“Yeah, and what’s the ‘mood’? Snide and sarcastic?”

“Just because you don’t know how to be serious, it doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t be.” I grin when she scoffs. “Now, pay attention.”

Sam straightens up, wrapping her comforter tighter around her as she sits on her bed. I’m not sure how cool the room is, but it can’t be too warm if she’s all bundled up. I’ve long since stopped feeling heat and coolness—but that’s what happens when one dies.

“It’s night time; lightning flashes and thunder shakes the skies,” I start, hands moving as I try to paint a picture with my gestures. “The rain pounds against the rooftop and the floorboards creak and groan.”

With a yawn, Sam sing-songs, “Bor-ing.”

Crossing my arms over my chest, I glare at her. “Pay attention or I’ll go find something else to do. Then you can figure out how to keep yourself entertained.”

She presses her lips together.

“That’s what I thought,” I mutter. “Now, where was I? Oh, yeah. The storm is raging outside, the wind howling through the trees. The thunder is so close, it shakes the house. Inside, there’s a little girl—and she’s all alone.”

“Where are her parents?”

“They went outside when the power went out—but that was hours ago, and she hasn’t seen them since.” I pause, watching Sam shiver. “The girl is huddled on the couch, waiting for her parents to come inside, when, suddenly, there’s a loud knock on the door. THUD! THUD! THUD!” I shout, making her jump. “The little girl stares at the door, then gets to her feet, walking slowly, so slowly. ‘Mom?’ she calls. ‘Dad?’ Nobody responds.”

“Who’s at the door?” Sam asks meekly.

I stare her down, letting the seconds tick by.

“Well?” she prods, fidgeting with her blanket. “Who is it?”

I grin slyly, going back to my story. “Hand trembling, the girl reaches for the doorknob. She grips it, heart pounding in her chest.” I draw out the moment, watching Sam shrink into her pillows and blankets. “She pulls the door open and—”

Lightning flashes across the window, and Sam jolts.

“—nobody’s there. She walks out onto the porch and,” I say in an undertone before shouting, “SOMEBODY GRABS HER!”

BOOM! Thunder claps outside, and Sam yelps.

I laugh as she burrows into the blanket, hiding her face.

“It’s not funny!” she grumbles, pulling her pillows around her under the blanket. She curls into a ball until I’m not sure which round shape is her and which ones are the pillows. From under the comforter, she whispers, “What happens next?”

“Nothing. It was her dad.”

Sam’s head pops out from under the blanket, a scowl on her face. “That’s the dumbest story I’ve ever heard!”

I shrug. “Scared you, didn’t it?”

“No,” she says petulantly.

The electric lights flicker before illuminating the small space. The refrigerator starts humming, the heater clicks on, and the microwave beeps in protest.

“Look at that,” I say. “Now you can keep yourself entertained.”

Sam gets up, dashes to the wall, and turns off the lights before turning, running, and diving back under the covers. “Tell me another story.”

I smile.


“Hey, Phoenix?” Sam says, staring into the distance. She’s sitting on the kitchen counter, legs crossed, her altar of candles lit. She must be done with her daily prayer, because the prickling sensation it gives me has stopped. I’m not sure if I feel it because her power thrums within me, or if it’s because she sends her prayers to the goddess Hecate. Of all the gods in the Greek pantheon, she would worship the goddess of ghosts and necromancy.

I’m partial to Ra myself.

“Hmm?” I hum, floating lazily on my back as I watch her out of the corner of my eye.

She picks up one of her crystals—amber, I notice—twirling it between her fingers. “Remember when we met?”

How could I forget?

“What about it?” I ask.

“You told me a story that one time—when you drew in the sand. What was it about?” She looks at me, her lips pursed to the side.

“It was The Tale of the Snake and the Falcon.”

She cocks her head to the side. “Is that what those squiggles were?”

I scowl. “I’m sorry my drawing skills weren’t up to your standards.”

She waves a hand airily. “Tell me the story again.”

“Why? You’ve never asked before.”

“I dunno.” She shrugs, still playing with the piece of amber. “I just…I wanna hear it now that I’ll understand.”

“Okay,” I say, staring at the gemstone. It catches the light of the candle flames, sparking and glinting with each turn, reminding me of the sun. “But no interruptions this time.”

Sam’s gaze locks on mine, the start of a retort on her lips, but she catches herself and nods.

I take a deep breath I don’t need and float over to sit across from her on the other side of the candles. The silly girl fussed over their alignment when she first placed them after moving into the apartment. She agonized over the compass app on her phone and the cardinal directions, making sure they were “Perfect, Phoenix! Their alignment has to be perfect!” Her yellow air candle is positioned to the east, red fire to the south, blue water to the west, green earth to the north, and silver spirit in the center. She uses them to invoke a spiritual connection to the goddess, but I’m not sure if Hecate ever hears Sam’s prayers.

I mirror her position, hovering just above the counter, my ghostly ass trying to sink through the laminate, and meet her eyes through the light plumes of smoke wafting off the candles. Like the dancing smog, I weave my tale.

“In the days of old,” I begin, recalling my father’s first telling of the story, “the days before we forgot the gods, forgot magic and wonders, in the days when the very gods roamed the earth, there were two kingdoms, long at odds with each other.” I smile, seeing my homeland as I stare into the willowy candle flames. “They met on the outskirts of the desert, hidden beneath the palm trees of Falcon’s private oasis. He was a warrior of his god, honing his skills with his weapon in order to defend his mighty sovereign from his enemies.

“Snake was an adventurer but no less a warrior for her goddess. On that fateful day, she came upon Falcon while he practiced with his spear. Snake couldn’t help but watch, enthralled by his grace. And when he paused to drink from the oasis’s waterhole, she revealed herself.

“Falcon, startled by the newcomer, attacked with all the deadly prowess he possessed. Before he could land a blow, Snake ducked beneath his arm, twirling in time with his movement, her hands easily transferring his weapon from his grasp to hers. She held the point to his throat, an excited grin on her face.

‘You have bested me,’ Falcon admitted in defeat. ‘Take my life, for it is rightfully yours.’

“Ohmigoddess!” Sam shouts, snapping me back into reality.

I blink, the images I’d seen in the candle flames vanishing as I’m brought to awareness. “What did I say about interrupting me?”

“Sorry…” She chews her lip. “What did Snake say?”

I glower at her before continuing. “Snake replied, ‘It is not your life I seek, young warrior, but your name.’

Sam’s lips part in excited-wonder, and I can’t help but smile and shake my head.

‘My name?’ Falcon asked, his gaze narrowing on Snake,” I continue. “‘Your name,’ Snake agreed, pulling the blade from his neck. She curtsied deep, looking up at Falcon from under lashes that he would remember as the longest and prettiest he’d ever seen, her dusty-rose irises holding his own amber gaze.”

“What odd colors,” Sam says.

“What did I just say?”

She mimes zipping her lips, but even I don’t know why I’ve picked those colors. The story I’m telling now is nothing like the one my father told me before. In his story, Snake and Falcon were the animals their names stood for, but in my mind, I always envisioned a heart-stoppingly beautiful woman and an incredibly muscular man, his looks equally as impressive as hers.

“Snake smiled up at him,” I pick up where I left off, “and Falcon relented, telling the young woman his name.

‘Falcon?’ she demanded, rising to her feet in front of the warrior. ‘Son of he who rules these lands?’

‘Y-yes,’ Falcon stammered, surprised. There were few who knew his parentage. ‘I am he.’

‘Then I fear you are my bitterest enemy,’ she said, sorrow in her eyes. ‘For I am the daughter of she who poses a threat to your rule and reign, Highness.’

“No way!” Sam exclaims, leaning a little too close to the dancing flames. The window isn’t open, so I’m disturbed by their rampant flickering. “Keep going!”

I look from the candles to her shining, green eyes, and her excitement makes me forget all about the candles. “‘Are you Snake of the Land Beyond?’ Falcon asked, heart pounding with adrenaline.

‘I am she,’ Snake responded, holding out Falcon’s weapon in peaceful offering. ‘I have spared your life this day; will you spare mine as I leave your kingdom, Highness?’

“Falcon felt a pang in his heart at her formal words as he accepted the weapon from her. He clenched it in both his fists, staring at it like it was the true threat. When he looked up again, Snake was already outside the safety of the oasis.

‘Wait!’ he called, and she stopped, keeping her back turned to him. Falcon walked to the edge of the trees that shielded him from the all-seeing sun. ‘Will I…will I see you again, Princess of the Land Beyond?’

“Snake didn’t turn to face him, but her words were sad when she spoke. ‘It is on fields of death that you and I shall meet again. War is coming, Highness.’

“Before Falcon could protest, Snake vanished into the swirling sands.”

“Do they meet again?” Sam asks.

It takes me a minute to pull myself from the vision of Snake’s back, her long, dark tresses swinging with her steps, the sands devouring her in a ferocious gale. My eyes sting in a way they haven’t since I was alive. I blink rapidly, the feeling fading into a distant memory, like the smell of hot sand and the sound of trickling pond water filling my senses.

“Well?” Sam prompts. “Do they?”

“They…” My chest aches and I smile sadly. “They do.”

“And?” She leans closer to the wild flames. “Do they fight or what?”

As I stare into Sam’s eyes, the flames dancing in the depths of her jade irises, they almost shine a dusty color, like rose petals in spring. But it’s a trick of the candlelight, which finally catches on her shirt when she leans too close. She screams, I shout, and we both start panicking as she rushes to the sink to douse her sleeve. If I had a beating heart, it would’ve given out from the fear assaulting me. The girl is clumsier than a rhino in a china shop, and one of these days, she’s going to get herself killed.


After the excitement of Sam lighting her shirt on fire, she hops up onto the counter, sitting, yet again, in front of the candles. “Okay. Don’t think you’re done telling me what happens.”

I purse my lips, taking my spot across from her. “Not until you put out the candles.”

“I’ll be careful this time.”

“Why do they have to be lit at all?”

“’Cause, Phoenix, they’re magical,” she says whimsically.

“What are you, twelve?”

She glares. “You’re such a jerk.”

“The candles…?”


“Then I’m not finishing the story.”

“Phoenix!” Sam shrieks, miming strangulation.

I raise a brow, looking at her curled fingers. “What are you gonna do? Kill me again?”

“Now who’s twelve?”

I roll my eyes. We could be here all day if she doesn’t get her way. While I could simply disappear into the ether and leave her here by herself, her uncanny ability to find trouble keeps me from going. If I did, she’d likely take off in a huff, and with her luck, she’d run into Hunters.

“Sit there, shut your yap, and listen this time,” I tell her. “First peep you make, story time is over.”

Sam presses her lips together, but I know she won’t be able to resist. The first thing that excites her will have her asking me questions. I try to scowl to show I’m serious, but it’s difficult with her looking like the perfect picture of youth and innocence.

Yeah, right.

“Let’s see,” I mumble. “Where was I?”

“Snake just left the oasis!” Sam answers, and I put my hand over my eyes, slowly dragging it down my face. “Sorry…”

Shaking my head, I pick up the story where I left off. “Days passed where Falcon would train at his oasis, always quick to startle at the slightest breeze or rustle of the palm trees. Each time there was no one there, his heart would sink. His desire to see Snake’s grinning face again was more distracting than he cared to admit. His sisters noticed his aloofness and confronted him several times, trying to pry the truth out of him. Even his father summoned him to his chambers a time or two to ask if Falcon was ill.

‘No, Father. I am worried about the possibility of war,’ he lied, although it was also true.

‘It is wise to fear, my son, but do not let it cloud your mind so.’

‘Yes, Father,’ Falcon replied, doing his best to appear more alert when he walked the palace.”

“What about Snake?” Sam asked, finally unable to keep her questions to herself. “Was she thinking about Falcon, too?”

I glare, but I can’t help but smile. “She was.”

“Tell me!”

“Shh. Don’t rush me.”

She chews her lip and nods. She’s rolling the amber stone between her fingers again. Every time she turns it, the rose quartz on the counter in front of me seems to pulse. If I could get goosebumps, I’d be shivering. I wonder if Sam is aware of the effect she’s having on the gems.

I continue the tale. “Weeks passed, and Falcon finally stopped jumping at every small disturbance while at the oasis. In an attempt to alleviate Falcon’s worries, his father gifted him with a terrifying and deadly weapon, a spear with a blade like a scorpion’s claw. He cherished it, and his sisters helped train him to wield it. The gift was enough to distract him from his wandering thoughts, and he sank back into his normal routine.

“On a day hotter than any other, Falcon visited his oasis for a swim. It was while he was swimming that Snake finally caved to her own traitorous whims and sought him out. She imagined watching him spar and seeing his beautiful grace and skill again. She was curious about him, too, not that she would admit to herself why. Neither of them did.”

“But…but if Falcon is swimming…” Sam’s cheeks turn prink. “Did he have swim trunks?”

I can’t help but grin at her. “Swim clothing is a modern invention, Sam.”

Her cheeks turn a bright shade of red.

“No,” I tell her, chuckling now. “He did not.”

“Ohmigoddess.” She puts her face in her hands. “So…?”

“So, when Snake arrived at the oasis, she was disappointed to find Falcon’s training spot abandoned. Heart sinking, she was just about to return home, lecturing her own foolishness, when the shine of something golden caught her eye. Whatever it was, it was concealed behind a boulder, obscuring her view. Mischievous woman that she was, Snake wove through the palm trees, not leaving the protection of their shade until she was next to the boulder that the golden object leaned against. Her lips parted in wonder as she admired the beauty of Falcon’s incredible weapon. Unable to help herself, she slowly reached a hand toward it, wanting to see if it soared through the air like she believed it would. Fingers just shy of grazing its surface, she was startled by a shout.

‘Stop!’ Falcon called out, his head surfacing from the oasis, eyes wide in alarm. He reached toward her, as if he could ward her off. ‘Do not touch that, fair princess. It will harm you.’

“Believing his words were patronizing, Snake snatched it in her hand and grinned at him…until unimaginable pain assaulted her palm. It was like fire searing her flesh. She tried to drop the spear, but the weapon held fast, and she wailed as the heat of it threatened to consume her.”

“Oh no!” Sam gasps.

“Falcon reached the shore, leaping from the water and tearing the enchanted weapon from Snake’s hand, but his aid came too late. She’d collapsed to the ground, the agony shredding her nerves from her fingertips to her shoulder. Kneeling over her, Falcon tried to catch her attention. She could do little more than writhe, the pain was so unendurable.

“Terrified the shock might stop her heart, Falcon carried her into the oasis’ healing waters that were blessed by his sister’s healing touch, just as the lush palm trees surrounding them were a gift from his nephew. He pulled her deep into the spring, submerging them both beneath its surface and holding them there, his mouth pressed against hers to breathe air into her.”

“But they’re enemies!” Sam shouts, even though she looks pleased.

“They are,” I say, my gaze a million miles away. “But he owed her his life because she’d chosen to spare his.”

“But she invaded his land!”

“Boundaries were more…flexible back in those days.”


“So,” I continued, “because she spared his life, he saved hers. But if Falcon was being honest with himself, just as Snake hadn’t been honest with herself, his desire to save her was selfish. The truth was, the two had fallen into a reckless kind of love in those brief moments they had stared each other down on their first meeting.”

“But they barely know each other!” Sam protests, interrupting me yet again.

I meet her gaze, unsure how to explain the magnetism that comes with meeting someone your heart deems you can’t be without. The skepticism in her wide jade eyes tells me she hasn’t met someone who draws her in that way.

“Someday…” I hesitate, not sure this is a conversation I want to have. “Someday, you’ll…understand.”

“I’m not just gonna, BAM, fall in love with a complete stranger.” She purses her lips. “Wait. You said I would understand. Does that mean you’ve been in love?”

I grimace. How did the conversation steer into this death trap? My ancient love life is the last thing I want to talk about.

“We’re not talking about me right now,” I say sternly. “And if you don’t stop interrupting, I’ll never tell you what happens to Snake and Falcon.”

“Okay, okay!” she concedes. “What happens?”

“It took a minute for the water to have an effect on Snake, but when it did, she came into awareness, sputtering, flailing, and choking on the water she inhaled. Falcon took the abuse from her rampaging arms and dragged her up to the surface, where she spat water in his face as she gasped for air and clung to him.”

“So romantic,” Sam mutters sarcastically.

“ANYWAY,” I say, overtop her commentary, “when Snake calmed down enough to realize what happened, she locked gazes with Falcon and…”


And-they-consummated-their-love-under-the-watchful-eye-of-the-sun—THE END!”

“They what?”

“Okay, gotta go!” I shout, disappearing into the ether, Sam’s shriek of horror chasing me when she finally realizes what I said.


Phoenix first appears in King’s Chaos (Light of Chaos #1), free on KindleUnlimited.
Click below to learn more.

Introductions Are Key

Sam: Hi, everyone. My name is Samantha Anders, and I’m the Sibyl.

Jeph: And I’m Jeph. Whatever.

Evander: That’s not nice, Jeph!

Jeph: *Shrug*

Phoenix: He’s too much of a moron to understand the concept of nice.

Sam: Phoenix!

Evander: Did he say something?

Jeph: Be glad you can’t hear ghosts—they’re annoying.

Phoenix: I’ll show you—

Sam: Well, that’s all for today, guys. Nice to meet you…Phoenix, no!