Guild Mages 101 – Pt 3

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. Anyway. 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 mage or witch 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 mages and witches 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, everyone emits a distinct magical energy signature that is able to be sensed by others in the Magical Community.

Magic

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 sage, 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 aloud. 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

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, which has made the Cardinal Sun the leading guild in Washington State.

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…

Next: Guild Mages 101 – Pt 4

A Ghost of a Tale – Pt 3

Hey, Phoenix?” Sam says, staring into the far distance. She’s sitting on the kitchen counter, legs crossed, her altar of candles lit. She must be done with her daily prayer.

“Hmm?” I hum, floating lazily on my back, watching 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 then, 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, nodding.

I take a deep breath I don’t need, floating over to sit across from her on the other side of the candles. The silly girl had fussed over their alignment when she’d first placed them after she’d moved in, agonizing over the compass app on her phone and the cardinal directions, making sure they were “Perfect, Phoenix! They have to align perfectly!” 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 home as I stared into the willowy candle flames. “It was on the outskirts of the desert where they met, hidden beneath the palms trees of Falcon’s private oasis. He was a warrior of his god, honing his skill 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’ 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 thought I’d seen in the candles 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 in his life, 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. I enjoy telling tall tales, so that must be why.

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

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

“Falcon felt a pang in his heart at her formal words, accepting his 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, and 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, dousing her sleeve. If I had a beating heart, it would’ve just given out at the fear assaulting my mind. The girl is clumsier than a rhino in a china shop, and one of these days, she’s going to get herself killed.

Next: A Ghost of a Tale – Pt 4

The Legend of the Sibyl – Pt 3

Dad and I make our way to the cemetery for our monthly ritual of visiting Mom’s grave. I often come here 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. It’s admirable, in a way, his dedication to the one and only woman he’s ever loved. 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 he’s currently residing, allowing 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 was was upset or unhappy, he’d 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,” Phoenix chides in my mind. “You should at least tell him something happened. I’m still worried about how hard you said you hit your head.”

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

“That’s 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 just didn’t realize how many accounts he manages.”

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

“Working weekends at my sister’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’m at the range often, 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, moving in-sync and wobbling like a three-footed goober monster 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 both, spending 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 the same way.

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 about how 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 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 mutter, but I’m fighting a smile.

“So, shall we give her the details?” he asks.

“Might as well.”

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

Next: The Legend of the Sibyl – Pt 4

Mischief with Jeph – Pt 2

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 in 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 entertaining 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 honestly. “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,” he says, lip curling in disgust.

I grin. “How kind of you to notice.”

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

“Knock-knock.”

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

“Knock-knock,” I repeat.

He glares.

“I’m not going to go away,” I say.

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

“Jeph.”

“Jeph who?”

“No one knows.”

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

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

Evander heaves a sigh. “Who’s there?”

“Banana.”

“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.

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

“None of your business,” he snaps, closing the notebook.

“Knock-knock.”

“Are you serious?” he asks, 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 Evander’s glare on my back as I exit the classroom.

Next: Mischief With Jeph – Pt 3

Guild Mages 101 – Pt 2

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

Last time we talked about a brief intro to guilds and 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.

Their ranking titles in order are:

  1. Guild Master (heads the Council and is the highest rank a guild mage can attain).
  2. Second Seat
  3. Third Seat
  4. Fourth Seat
  5. Fifth Seat

Elite Hunters

After the Council, there are the Elite Hunters. I hate to say it, but this is where I’m ranked. Yup. I’m the top tier short of being on 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.

Hunters

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, though not all Elites get a squad—I didn’t—and 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.

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 home 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 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 battle-ax 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 guild mages.

Next: Guild Mages 101 – Pt 3

A Ghost of a Tale – Pt 2

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

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Sam says, rolling her eyes at me.

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.

“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 say, grinning 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 hot and cold—but that’s what happens when one dies.

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

“Bor-ing,” Sam says, yawning.

I glare at her, crossing my arms over my chest. “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’s shakes the house. Inside, there’s a little girl—and she’s all alone.”

“Where are her parents?”

“They went out into the storm when the power went out—but that was hours ago, and she hasn’t seen or heard from them since.” I pause, watching Sam shiver. “The girl is huddled on the couch, waiting for her parents to come inside. 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, she 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. “The girl reaches for the doorknob, hand trembling. 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 pulls her blanket tighter around her.

“—nobody’s there. She walks out onto the porch, and,” I drawl, before shouting, “somebody grabs her!

Boom! Thunder claps outside, and Sam screams, jumping into the air.

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

“It’s not funny!” she yells, 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. “What happens next?” she whispers.

“Nothing. It was her dad.”

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

I shrug. “Scared you, didn’t it?”

“No,” she lies.

The lights flicker before illuminating the small space, and the refrigerator starts humming, the heater clicks on, and 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 light before turning, running, and diving back under the covers. “Tell me another story,” she says.

I smile.

Next: A Ghost of a Tale – Pt 3

The Legend of the Sibyl – Pt 2

I’m off the bus the moment the door opens—hell no, I’m not waiting for a second longer than I have to. I push out, fellow Seattlites glaring 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 prefers to pump his fists harder as he 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.

Hoping for the best, I turn down an alley and stop at the end, bow raised, arrow nocked, string taut, staring 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 screams, the arrow burying 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 across his hip to grab the knife sheathed there, and I try not to scream in frustration. Either he’s ambidextrous or 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 the 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. Probably.

Get up, the working part of my brain screams.

I nod.

Good idea.

Still dazed, I roll to the ground, the air wheezing from my lungs when I land on my quiver. It was a farther drop than I’d 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. More 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.

Great, indeed.

He’s busy fumbling, trying to wipe his good arm across his face. 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. It rips through my throbbing skull like glass shattering in my eardrums. I cover my ears, regretting shooting him.

Then, 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 decided, 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 for the mouth of the alley and search for the closest bus stop.

Next: The Legend of the Sibyl – Pt 3