Dinner For Two

“You’re buying,” Jeph said after the waitress seated us at a table.

“What! But you picked this place—and it looks expensive.”

He shrugged. “You’re the one that wants to wine and dine me. I said I was fine, but you insisted.”

I scowled, pulling my wallet from my pocket and leafing through the tips I’d made last night. It wasn’t much, but it would cover a meal. “Fine. But you get one thing. That’s it.”

Jeph flipped through the menu, his grin making my stomach curdle. It was his is that a challenge, precious? grin. “Hmm. I’m not sure which one I want.” He slid the menu toward me, tapping the milkshakes section. “Pick one for me.”

“You pick,” I snapped, getting sick of his shit. “You’re the one eating it.”

“Pick one. I’m indecisive. We’ll be here all day if I have to choose.”

I eyed him, knowing he was full of shit, but I was too exasperated to keep arguing. With a sigh, I read through the different shakes. They all sounded really good, but I was a sucker for cookie dough and dark chocolate myself. “This one,” I said, pointing to the menu.

“Mmm, that one does sound good,” he agreed, nodding and flipping through the menu again, looking at the burgers.

“Don’t. You. Dare,” I gritted out.

He didn’t look up from the menu, but his eyes glittered with mischief.

“Hello, folks,” the waitress said. “What drinks can I get you started with?”

“Water,” I said, still trying to glare holes in the top of Jeph’s head.

“I’ll also take a water,” he said, smiling broadly at the waitress. “But I’m ready to order now, if that’s okay?”

“O-Oh,” she stammered, aura turning pink with infatuation. I wanted to stab her. “Certainly,” she said, smiling shyly. “Whenever you’re ready.”

“I’d like this one,” Jeph pointed to something on the menu. “And this one as well. Also, can I get a bacon burger?”

I was going to kill him.

“Sure!”

“And bring two plates, please,” he said.

She jotted that down before running off to put in the order.

“Do you want to die?” I asked coolly. “Because that’s how you die.”

Jeph smirked. “Are you threatening me, precious?”

“You bet your ass, I am.”

“Keep talking dirty,” he whispered. “I like it when you’re feisty.”

I didn’t dignify that with a response, tapping my foot impatiently. The food was going to take a while, and we had places to be. A shake alone might’ve been quick, but a meal would make this take longer.

The waitress dropped off our waters, asking, “Do you want the shakes now or after your meal?”

“Now, please. Thank you.”

She beamed at him, and my scowl deepened.

Now, please. Thank you,” I mimicked when she left.

Jeph arched a brow. “You doing okay over there, precious? You look like you’re about to blow a gasket.”

“I’m just peachy.”

“You don’t look it.”

“Keep flirting with the waitress and she just might try to crawl into your lap. My eyes don’t want to be burned with the disgusting sight of you creeping her.”

His eyebrows shot up. “I’m not flirting with her.”

“Yeah? Then what’s all the smiling and the manners? You wouldn’t know how to be nice if your life depended on it.”

A slow smile spread across his face. “Are you…jealous?” Jeph asked slyly. “Because if you are, I think I like this side of you.”

I scoffed. “I am not jealous.”

“Hmm,” he hummed, eyes still twinkling with amusement.

“Here you are,” the waitress said, setting the milkshakes in the middle of the table. “Do you need anything else?”

“No, thanks,” Jeph said, eyes boring into mine. “We’re good for now.”

“Okay, just flag me down if you need me.” She looked from him to me, aura flaring puke green with jealousy.

“We won’t, but thanks,” I said sickly-sweet. “Your other tables look like they might be low on water, though.”

She glared at me before turning on her heel and stalking away. Perhaps I was being petty—I’d never been rude to a server before, considering my own job—but she really was neglecting her other customers just because she had goo-goo eyes for Jeph. Her unprofessionalism pissed me off.

Yeah, because that’s why you’re irritated.

Jeph whistled under his breath. “And I’m the one who doesn’t know how to be nice?” He tsked, swapping around the shakes and putting the cookie dough one in front of me. “Eat up.”

“I—what?”

“Food. You eat it.” He pulled the long spoon from my shake, scooping it up and holding it out to me. “Nom-nom.”

“I’m not eating something I didn’t even—”

My words cut off on a moan when the shake touched my tongue. Jeph, asshole that he was, had fed it to me mid-sentence. His self-satisfied grin annoyed me.

“Now, are you going to eat it by yourself, or am I going to have to feed it to you?” he asked.

“You’re such an ass.” I snatched the spoon from him, taking the next bite by myself.

“If you say so.” He grabbed his own spoon, eating his shake.

“I do say so—and why is this so good?

“Aren’t they? This place is my favorite—first time dining-in, though.”

I eyed his shake. “Which one did you get?”

“Fudge something or other,” he mumbled around a spoonful.

“Is it any good?”

He pushed the shake toward me, and I dipped my spoon in, stealing a bite.

“Mmm,” I moaned. “That one’s good too.”

“It’s not bad,” he agreed.

“Here’s your bacon burger,” the waitress said, interrupting us, her back to me. “Is there anything else you need?”

“Just that other plate.” Jeph said.

She put it down, smile forced. “Here you are.”

“And can we get the check?”

“Sure thing,” she said, walking away.

Jeph cut his burger in half, transferring half of it and the fries to the other plate before sliding it toward me. “Here.”

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“You need to eat.”

“I don’t!”

“Sam, please.”

“Fine,” I grumbled, pulling the plate to me and dunking a fry in my shake. Of course, it was delicious.

“Thank you,” he said before biting into his burger.

The waitress dropped off our check, not even bothering to say anything this time. I reached for it, and Jeph slapped my hand away, putting it in front of himself.

“You didn’t actually think I’d make you pay for it, did you?” He pulled his wallet out and slid a credit card into the little slot at the top. “I’m not a complete douchebag.”

“I didn’t say—”

“Oh, don’t give me that. You think I’m a dick, and I am.”

“You said it, not me,” I mumbled, taking another bite.

***

Excerpt originally from “Hunter’s Mark,” book two in the Light of Chaos series, by Alexandra Gardner. Full novel available March 20, 2020. Book 1, “King’s Chaos,” available now.

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 link 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.

That’s where I met Chibale. Real cool dude—not that I’d been able to understand a word he’d said, but he was nice. He’d also been enslaved to guild mages. And that’s where my entire legacy begins. I’d dared to rescue him—to free him—and the mages hadn’t taken too kindly to that.

Since I used magic—I didn’t know then that I gave off a terrifyingly large and threatening magical energy, which was how I’d been found and captured in the first place—to liberate us from the guild dungeon, I’d gained a bit of a reputation. And by “a bit,” I mean they titled me the Sibyl, a fierce, evil woman with wicked powers.

That title hadn’t died 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 the desert of Ancient Egypt back to 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 when 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 could take him. That is, I’d be able to take him as soon as we aren’t both crammed into a city bus with dozens of bystanders sitting between him and me. 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 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 left-handed, 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, air wheezing from my lungs when I land on my quiver. 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.

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 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 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, 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 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, 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 thing.

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 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, 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.

***

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 when he emerges from my mind.

“Can it,” I whisper-hiss, getting up and walking a little ways away from where Dad is resting. The sun is still high in the sky, and no one else appears to be here with us.

“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, disappearing into the ether.

I frown, feeling like an ass. I didn’t mean for him to 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, the hair on the back of my neck rising.

Feeling 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 at my feet, 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.

It’s 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 back to 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.

And 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. Then he attempts to wipe away my tears, his incorporeal hands unable to help me. I hadn’t even known I’d been crying.

“Thank you,” I finally manage to say, wiping my face.

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

When I turn my head back to the ghost…he’s gone. Him, and the malevolent spirit…and I realize that that was what the creature had been because, if it had been 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 don’t want to be anywhere near this place any longer.

“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.

King’s Chaos – Chapter 1

I lounged on top of my mother’s grave, staring up at the graying sky. The dew from the grass clung to my hoodie and jeans, one hand resting on my bow. Its metal length felt like the comfort of a blanket, draped across my stomach and ribs. I twirled an arrow between my fingers, contemplating my pending demise, and crossed my legs at the ankles, one foot shaking lazily. My toe tap-tap-tapped against her headstone.

“Winter’s almost over,” I told her, watching the clouds pass by overhead. “My birthday’s next month…the big one-eight.”

Well, I’m already eighteen, but time travel just has that effect on a girl. I heaved a sigh. It’s amazing I’ve lasted this long.

I stopped tapping my foot to stare at the headstone.

Sarah Samantha Anders
U-we-tsi-a-ge-yv
u-ni-tsi
u-s-da-yv-hv-s-gi

“I know, I know,” I murmured, settling back onto the grass. “Your little girl grew up so fast these last ten years. You probably wouldn’t recognize me now. Although, dad says I’m the spitting image of you.” I smiled, moving my hand from my bow to finger the feathers braided into my hair. “You know him—always with the flattery.”

“Getta loada this,” a man drawled from atop the tall angel tombstone nearby. “She at it again.”

“Even in death, we can’t git no peace,” the other ghost, a woman this time, muttered. “Goin’ t’ talk t’ herself ’til my ears’re bleedin’.”

“Yer ears can’t bleed, Doreen. Yer dead!”

“Hush-up, Earl! Nobody ask ya.”

Ignoring the magnificently whiny duo, I forged on. “Dad’s fine. Still working hard and all that. I know he worries about me, but I’m okay. I haven’t told him how easily they’ve been tracking me down lately. I don’t want him to worry, y’know? I can handle myself.”

“I pity the poor chil’,” Earl said. “Her mom ain’t listenin’.”

I’m listenin’—not that I damn want ta. Dronin’ on an’ on ’bout nonsense again an’ again—ridiculous!

My jaw clenched. I was careful to stare vacantly through the two unwanted onlookers when their heads appeared above mine, obscuring my view of the late afternoon sky. It would be more of a hassle if they knew I could see and hear them; I’d learned that one the hard way. Not all ghosts were friendly. Even if they were, a lot of them were drama queens. I should know—I live with one.

I wasn’t sure how long ago Doreen and Earl died, but their southern drawls and old-era clothing told me they weren’t native to contemporary Seattle. Why ghosts traveled the globe, I’d never know. I knew why my resident ghost had, but I’d avoided speaking to others after that one time…I shuddered at the memory.

“She chatty as ever,” the dead man said. “At least she not ramblin’ about magic ’n mages.”

Yet, ya mean,” Doreen scoffed. “As if such thins exist!”

Norms, I thought cynically. Only a non-magical being wouldn’t believe magic existed, even as she was a damn ghost floating on the astral plane.

I heaved a sigh, sitting up and getting to my feet. Daylight was burning. If I didn’t want to miss the bus back into the city, I needed to get moving.

Or, something devilish inside of me piped up, you could use your magic.

I frowned at myself.

No, I told it. The mages will find me if I do that.

Ignoring the two squabbling ghosts, I slung my quiver over my shoulder and touched my fingers to my lips before placing them against the top of my mom’s tombstone.

“Daughter, mother, wife,” I read aloud in the familiar Cherokee. Mom excelled at all three roles and so much more. “I love you,” I murmured, smiling sadly.

I weaved through the headstones, moving toward the gate that would lead to the road. Few people bothered to visit the graveyard this time of day; they were either at work or bustling home for dinner. City life was busy and the dead easily forgotten. Just not for me.

When I was halfway through the graveyard, my step faltered. Every hair on the back of my neck rose and every nerve prickled. A menacing tingle slithered up my arms, feeling the presence of five—no, six—mages nearby.

Really? Do we have to do this today?

I gripped my bow, fingers hovering over and brushing the feathers of my arrows. Their soft tickle helped ground me, even as my heart raced in my chest. I lengthened my strides toward the exit, hoping to get some distance from the latest batch of executioners sent to find me. Eyes darting left and right, I scanned the grounds for threats. My eyes landed on the black-cloaked man staring at me from across the cemetery. The overlapping sun and moon insignia on his chest told me he was a mage of the Bronze Eclipse guild.

I began to jog, picking up speed, but before I could slow my momentum, I collided into a large, hulking man when he stepped out from behind one of the tall crypts. His magical energy stung my arms on impact.

“Watch where you’re walking!” I snapped.

The hulk wasn’t amused. Faster than my eye could track, he grabbed me by the throat and slammed me against the tomb. I wheezed.

Ugh! Why do they always go for the throat?

He was too close to shoot, so I settled for a lovely knee to the groin. Once the mage doubled over, cupping himself, I put an elbow into the back of his neck. He slumped to the ground, and I nocked an arrow, pulled back, and let it fly. As my bow string thunked and vibrated, I winced at the carnage I’d wrought. Blood sprayed as the arrow unwound his calf muscle, mangling it with its power.

Running again, I sensed the other pursuers.

Dammit! I didn’t even use magic today! So much for that tactic.

I accessed the power coiling in my core, the vast center of magical energy raging inside of me like a volcanic inferno. It shivered through me, and I reached for the metaphysical plane between this world and the void, ready to get the hell out of here. Before I could flee, someone crashed into me, disrupting my concentration and my connection to my magic. My back hit the ground, knocking the air from my lungs. The weight of my bow smacked my hand painfully against the earth, but I squeezed it tighter, unwilling to lose my only means of defense.

A fireball shot past my head, the heat enough to make my skin tighten uncomfortably as the moisture was sucked from the air. I wheezed under the mage’s crushing weight as he pushed himself up. Intentional or not, this new assailant had managed to land on top of me right as his friend had tried to go for the crispy-Samantha approach.

That would’ve been a horrible way to die.

I muttered, “Thanks, buddy,” to the man now straddling me.

With him hovering above me, it was all too easy to bring up my knee, fast and hard. When the air hissed from his lungs, I shoved him off me, rolled over, and drew another arrow while he writhed in agony, holding himself. Adding insult to injury, I pulled the string back, and thwack! I popped an arrow into yet another victim’s leg.

“Catch ya later!” I waved cheerily, smiling as I sprinted away. “Sucker.

Two down, four to go.

Panting, I wove in and out of gravestones, dodging fireballs until I had no choice but to duck behind someone’s headstone. I winced, knowing there would be scorch marks marring the stone. The second I could leave the safety it provided, I leapt into a sprint, weaving through the graveyard. My lungs burned, my throat throbbed, and my legs protested as I dodged more fire, blinking sweat out of my eyes.

I clamped my jaw shut until it hurt and tightened my fist around my bow. He’s going to destroy my sanctuary!

Even from a distance, I felt the heat on my back, almost roasting my neck and drying the feathers in my hair. The coolness of the wet, winter air stung my face but couldn’t chase the heat away. I yelped when one of the fire elemental’s flames flew a little too close for comfort.

The smell of singed hair had me glaring over my shoulder. Mother. Trucker. My hair was frizzy enough in the humidity as it was; I didn’t need Flame-On making it worse. I whirled, only stopping long enough to return fire. He incinerated my arrow with a well-aimed fireball before it could reach him, the smell of burning plastic permeating the air between us.

If it wasn’t such bad news for me, I would’ve been impressed.

I pivoted toward the tree line, hoping Flame-On would be wary of causing a large city fire. There were waist-high shrubs just a few feet from me. I jumped the hedge—more like dove—ducking into a crouch and rolling. I grunted, my spine grinding into my quiver, tree roots, and fallen branches.

I sprang to my feet and sprinted deeper into the brush. Crisp leaves crunched under my heavy footsteps, and twigs snapped as my feet pounded the uneven ground. A root hidden underneath the foliage tripped me up, and I barely managed to stay on my feet as the pull of gravity gave me momentary vertigo. Rocks, dew-slick leaves, and other nuisances hindered my escape.

I pumped my arms and ran harder, my shallow pants puffing in the cold air. My nose and fingers were going numb, and snot dribbled down my lip. I wiped my sleeve across my face, licking my lips and tasting salt from the sweat permeating my skin.

One thought filled my mind like a driving force. Run, run, run, run!

I’d lost sight of my assailants, but they’d also lost sight of me. I weaved around greenery, being sure to stay hidden as I left the mages in the dust. Climbing a sturdy tree near me, I perched, bow at the ready.

Flame-On sauntered into the woods, his remaining three friends flanking him. He wasn’t close enough for me to line up my shot, so I waited, breath lodged in my throat as he got closer. I noticed—now that I was looking—just how young he was. He and his companions couldn’t have been any older than me. In fact, Flame-On looked like the youngest of the group, and it made my disgust with the guilds that much greater.

At the same time, it was their young age and inexperience that had kept me alive so far. Maybe they were a new squad. Maybe they didn’t work well together. Whatever the case, it had worked in my favor. If they’d been a squad from the Crimson Sun guild, I would’ve been dead ten times over by now.

They came into range, so I took aim and let loose, catching Flame-On in the thigh. I tried to feel bad about hitting my mark, but I didn’t. He’d destroyed something precious to me, had taken away the last thing I held dear. After this, I’d never be able to come back here again. Rumors of this battle would reach the ears of those in the Magical Community, and the graveyard would be yet another haunt I couldn’t visit.

I’d never be able to speak to my mother’s grave ever again.

These guys should be glad I wasn’t taking kill shots. Unlike the Hunters chasing me, I wasn’t a murderer. I planned to keep it that way, but it didn’t mean I would let them return to their guild, boasting like I was some sort of coward. If they were stupid enough to take on the “dangerous”—who decided that nonsense, anyway?—Sibyl, then they would just have to return to their guild, tails between their legs. A little street cred never hurt a girl anyway.

I snorted because street cred actually was my problem.

I hopped from tree branch to tree branch, numb fingers slipping and catching pitch with each grab of my free hand. My boots thudded against the branches, the sound of the bark cracking under my feet making my heart lurch in my chest. I was making too much noise but staying put after my last shot was too dangerous. They’d locate me soon.

I bit back a curse, teeth grinding when I slipped on a branch that had had the bark peeled back by some forest critter. My boot glided over the surface, and my torso crashed into the trunk, the metal of my bow clanking against it. I wheezed, fingers digging painfully into the bark while my heart raced. Squeezing my eyes shut, I slowly uncurled my death-grip from the Evergreen.

Trying to get a different angle, I squatted on the branch before the other three Hunters could find me. I could sense that two of the remaining mages were fairly weak, but I wouldn’t count myself victorious yet. The third was packing some serious magical energy. They clustered just close enough together that I couldn’t tell if the strongest energy was coming from the guy in the middle of the two flanking him.

Come on, show me your power, I silently pleaded.

If I knew who the threat was, then I could take him down, shoot the other two without much struggle, and be home before “curfew.” Considering I worked later tonight, it was less of a curfew and more like, “If you’re not home before dark, so help me, Samantha Anders, I’ll haunt you in your afterlife!” I pursed my lips, knowing Phoenix was going to rip me a new one because the sun was setting already.

Russian roulette it is, I decided and took aim.

Something curled and snaked around my ankle, magic tingling along my skin on contact.

Take the shot!

My arrow hit just as I was pulled airborne. Crap! It was an earth elemental, and whichever mage he was, it wasn’t the guy I’d just knocked on his ass. I dangled upside-down from my ankle, feeling the branch twining up my calf.

You got this, Sam; only two left, I told myself.

Psh! With your luck, you’ll manage to get yourself killed.

If Phoenix could hear my mind-babble right now, he’d kill me.

At least we’d be dead together.

I briefly wondered if I would chill on this plane like Phoenix or move to the next—if there even was a next plane. I couldn’t be sure; he sure as hell hadn’t moved on or whatever.

I plucked an arrow from my bow. Thank the goddess for clip-on quivers. I was down to back up arrows now that my large quiver’s contents lay scattered on the ground. Three arrows. Two Hunters.

More than enough.

I scanned the brush, looking for Mr. Mother-Nature and Mr. Unknown-Entity. Leaves rustled to my left and I whipped my bow into position, took aim, and fired.

Direct hit!

Feeling particularly cocky, I smirked, taunting, “Come out, come out, wherever you are, Mr. Mother-Nature. It’s just you and me now.”

“Wow,” a man’s voice came from my right, his tone dry. “So original.”

I shrugged, feeling the twining branches crawl along my hip and up my waist. “What am I supposed to call you when you haven’t introduced yourself?”

“Right, like I’m going to stop to greet my enemy? ‘Hi, my name’s Lucas; what’s yours?’” He mocked in falsetto.

“Captain Shoot-Your-Ass, at your service.” I gave a firm, two-finger salute, paired with a wink and a click of my tongue.

“Clearly.” Flat. Deadpan. Mr. Mother-Nature wasn’t impressed.

“Well, this has been fun, Mr. Mother-Nature”—I got a sick thrill out of watching his aura flare with irritation—“but I think I’m about overdue for my curfew. I’m gonna have hell to pay when I get home. Thanks for that.”

I let loose an arrow, but the jerk had the audacity to dodge it. I mean, how rude! Grabbing my last arrow, I sent a prayer to Hecate. My arrow sailed toward my target, burying deep into his shoulder. I immediately regretted my decision. After knocking out newly dubbed Mr. Fainty-McFainterson, his control over the earth magic dissipated.

Frickin’ figures, I thought to myself, careening toward the Earth. At the last moment, I wrapped my magic around me and shifted into Chaos, the void swallowing me whole.

***

Excerpt originally from “King’s Chaos,” book 1 in the Light of Chaos series, free on KindleUnlimited. Preorder “Hunter’s Mark,” book 2, available March 20, 2020.

The Legend of the Sibyl – Pt 4

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 when he emerges from my mind.

“Can it,” I whisper-hiss, getting up and walking a little ways away from where Dad is resting. The sun is still high in the sky, and no one else appears to be here with us.

“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, disappearing into the ether.

I frown, feeling like an ass. I didn’t mean for him to 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, the hair on the back of my neck rising.

Feeling 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 at my feet, 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.

It’s 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 back to 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.

And 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. Then he attempts to wipe away my tears, his incorporeal hands unable to help me. I hadn’t even known I’d been crying.

“Thank you,” I finally manage to say, wiping my face.

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

When I turn my head back to the ghost…he’s gone. Him, and the malevolent spirit…and I realize that that was what the creature had been because, if it had been 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 don’t want to be anywhere near this place any longer.

“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.

Go to: Archives

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, 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 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, 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 thing.

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 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, 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

The Legend of the Sibyl – Pt 2

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 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 left-handed, 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, air wheezing from my lungs when I land on my quiver. 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.

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 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.

Next: The Legend of the Sibyl – Pt 3

The Legend of the Sibyl – Pt 1

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 link 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.

That’s where I met Chibale. Real cool dude—not that I’d been able to understand a word he’d said, but he was nice. He’d also been enslaved to guild mages. And that’s where my entire legacy begins. I’d dared to rescue him—to free him—and the mages hadn’t taken too kindly to that.

Since I used magic—I didn’t know then that I gave off a terrifyingly large and threatening magical energy, which was how I’d been found and captured in the first place—to liberate us from the guild dungeon, I’d gained a bit of a reputation. And by “a bit,” I mean they titled me the Sibyl, a fierce, evil woman with wicked powers.

That title hadn’t died 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 the desert of Ancient Egypt back to 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 when 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 could take him. That is, I’d be able to take him as soon as we aren’t both crammed into a city bus with dozens of bystanders sitting between him and me. 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?

Next: The Legend of the Sibyl – Pt 2