Saturday, November 10, 2007

Episode 17: Spiders and Webs

There was enough cocaine in the warehouse to supply the city of Las Vegas for two months, bundled into bales and stacked into thick white walls of blow.

Lex had hidden behind one of the larger walls in a little alcove formed by the rounded corners of the bales. The hundreds of kilos of powder was packed so tightly that it felt like stone against his skin.

There were no witches in the room. If there had been when he broke in, he would had to let Sora's voice fight for it and they'd been coming up with new tricks to use against him.

The men moving the stacks of cocaine with fork lifts were just heavies for the mob. The witches wouldn't come all the way out here at night unless something was wrong.

So they should be almost here.

Ready? he thought.

Sora's voice didn't bother to make a response, but on the edge of his consciousness he could feel the presence waken.

Outside there was the noise of an jet taking off from the Las Vegas Executive airport, and then in the background there was a car engine roaring closer. Lex wiped his sweaty hands on his shirt.

There was a squeal of tires in the front and all three of the men in the room suddenly ran for the back door, pulling guns from their holsters as they ran. There hadn't been a warning and, as far as they knew, it was the cops.

*Bang* went the door, and a woman in a black dress with a red shawl was standing there.

The men raised their weapons, but only for a split second before dropping them back down to their sides. They knew what the shawl meant, probably better than Lex did.

The witch stalked into the room, peering from side to side, but there was nothing to see now. Lex wasn't using the least bit of magic, and hadn't since Sora's voice tipped off their intrusion system. Two men, both easily six feet tall, black and covered in muscles followed her.

"Mistress Bybreak?" said one of the men. "Is there a problem?"

She waved him to silence. "Out!"

All three of the mob heavies started toward the door, and the witch and her men spread out among the cocaine boxes.

Time to go, thought Alex, and mentally stepped back, letting the voice take over his body.

The witch was the most dangerous of the three left in the room, but she was also the target. The voice didn't think they'd get a second chance at this, and he didn't want to risk messing up this opportunity.

"Well?" demanded the woman once the door had closed.

"I don't see anything," the first black muscle man said as he peered down one of the aisles.

"Me neither," said the other.

"He can't have left. I would have felt him pass back through the perimeter." She lifted her thin face and closed her eyes. Lex recognized her now, she'd been one of the witches that had gone down the hole after Soraperion when he'd died in pursuit of his box.

Alex gestured with one hand, tracing out a rune. At the same time, the part of him that was him reached out and grabbed a metal bar leaning against one of the stacks of cocaine with invisible hands.

The bar twitched, but didn't fly up like it was supposed to.

The completed rune blazed and took hold. The voice said something to release the spell and it blazed toward the man standing closest to the witch and slammed into him. He collapsed, cracking his head against the concrete floor.

Are you going to . . . started the voice, but Lex reached out with his mind again, suddenly terrified by the absolute uselessness of his telekinesis. As hard as he could he thought, SLEEP, at the other man. There was a pause and then that man dropped to the ground as well.

The witch's eyes snapped open. She raised her arm and a ball of crimson fire flew toward Lex. He was still in his hideyhole of cocaine bags, and the bloody fireball burnt through the plastic wrap. The sudden acid smell of burning cocaine seized him. Desperate to avoid the toxic cloud, he pushed forward, through the wall of coke and out into one of the open spaces.

The voice was still sketching runes into the air, but now Lex was gasping for air. He flicked them at her anyway, but they didn't do much without the words to support them. I could use some backup here, kid, the voice thought at him.

The first thing that popped into Lex's head was the bar that he'd been supposed to hit the man over the head with. He grabbed it with his telekinesis and threw it at her, and this time it worked. It was the danger, the adrenaline, that was powering him.

He expected her to try to catch it with her own abilities, like Sue had done in the alley way with the knife, but she didn't. She just stepped to one side, and the bar flew past her harmlessly. She gestured at him, almost negligently, and suddenly the world skewed and Lex's body went completely limp and fell to the floor.

Crap! said Sora's voice in his head.

The witch seemed to think that she'd neutralized him, but she'd been in the hole when Lex had been fighting the other witches in the mansion. She didn't even pay attention to Lex, she went over to the black man and felt his neck for a pulse.

No hands, no mouth, no magic, the voice said.

Except my other stuff, Lex thought back.

His body lifted up, buoyed by his abilities. His arms held out like a scarecrow, his head hanging to one side. His clothes rustled as he moved, and the witch suddenly turned back around, her eyes wide.

Lex's telekinesis propelled him forward, his feet hanging inches above the floor. Bybreak raised her own arm, and he bounced off something that appeared between them.

But the metal bar was behind her and, before she could do anything else, he picked it up and hit her over the shoulders with it. She screamed with pain, looked back, and the metal bar just fell apart into dust.

I hope she can't do that to me, Lex thought to himself.

She looked shocked that he'd obviously been affected by her spell but hadn't been reduced to helplessness.

"They told me," she said aloud. "They told me, but I didn't believe them. I just thought they were making excuses for their failure. After all, we defeated the Mage himself. How three of my sisters failed against one untrained mageling puppet was unbelievable, but I'm beginning to understand."

He said nothing, but then he couldn't say anything: the muscles of his voicebox were paralyzed with the rest of him.

"I am impressed, though," she said. "You're more resourceful that I imagined."

She was doing something, gathering herself for another spell, and this time it was going to be a big one.

He couldn't think of anything to do except throw up his telekinesis like a blanket in front of him. She gestured, and there was an invisible pressure against this blanket. For a moment his abilities seemed to stop it but then Lex felt an itching at the bottom of his feet.

I need the spell you were going to use, he thought at the voice. I need it now!

Without your hands or your voice . . . Sora's voice began.

Now! Lex yelled internally. I have to try it!

Four runes appeared in his head along with two spoken words, just as the itching turned into a burning sensation along the soles of his feet.

He lifted a hand, but with his muscles paralyzed, he couldn't seem to created the glowing runes. But they were magic and so was the telekinesis. There had to be a solution there.

The burning was moving up his legs now, and out of the corner of his eye he couldn't see anything happening, but the pain was intense, as though he was being burned at the stake. Bybreak was watching him carefully now, but not doing anything else. She was waiting for him to try something.

Lex's eyes darted around the room, at the walls of cocaine, looking for another metal bar. None were visible, but as the pain reached his chest an idea popped into his head.

One of the bales of cocaine exploded with a muted *bamf*, showering the room with a cloud of powdered cocaine.

Bybreak's eyes darted to it immediately, and then back to Lex. He hadn't moved a muscle to attack her, not that he could while hanging limp in the air.

Powder rained down, and then another exploded, and another, filling the air with a mist of finely powdered drugs.

Bybreak gestured, and a bubble of clear air formed around her. More cocaine bags exploded, but her eyes remained locked on Lex, and the longer they did so, the more painful the burning sensation became, sneaking up his back like a slow moving fire.

In the powdered cocaine surrounding Bybreak, runes were etching themselves. She was so focused on him, waiting for his attack, that she didn't even see it coming.

Internally, Sora's voice and Lex shouted the words in the silence between Lex's mind.

There was a flash of blue light, and Bybreak looked down to see that she was surrounded by runes nine feet long. She had a moment to blink, and then she stiffened and fell backward. Lex was dismayed to see that the inch of cocaine on the floor cushioned her fall. He would have rather she hurt herself.

The pain and the paralysis vanished, and so did his telekinetic ability. He dropped to the floor, and he overcompensated trying to keep himself up and toppled over. The cocaine wasn't nearly as thick around him, and didn't provide nearly the same protection for him.

Still, he rolled to his feet, kicking up little swirls of coke dust and limped over to her, careful not to disturb the patterns of cocaine on the floor.

One of Bybreak's arms had twisted behind her back as she fell, and he basically sat on the other one, using his right hand to lean on her lower throat. If he was as careless as she had been, he was screwed.

Wake her up, he ordered the voice, and a few seconds later she sputtered awake. She was confused at first, but with Lex holding her down, she got the picture real quick.

"I have some questions," Lex said.

She frowned, gritted her teeth, but nothing happened. Whatever Sora's voice had done to her, it had worked just fine, despite the unorthodox activation. She said nothing though.

Lex leaned forward, putting his weight on his hand and slowly cutting off Bybreak's air. She struggled, but she was weak from whatever the voice in Lex's head had done. She started to keen, and Lex realized that she was trying to scream.

"Talk," he ordered her. "And tell the truth." He relaxed the pressure, and she stopped whining. "Do I have to do it again?"

Bybreak shuddered. "No. What are your questions?"

"Do you work with the vampires?"


"Then . . . you don't?" He hadn't expected that answer.

"No. Not usually. Whatever alliances exist between the witches and the vampires are temporary and arranged from region to region."

"But the witches control the drug trade here in Las Vegas?"

"Yes. The Vampires control the prostitution, and the Werewolves control the paid violence." His surprise must have been evident on his face because she laughed shallowly. "You didn't know about them, did you?"

"The Wolves," he said. "Yeah, I knew about them."

"Liar," she said.

"Who controls the gambling?"

"This is Las Vegas, all of the factions have a hand in the gambling."

He shook off the answer to the question. "What was Soraperion looking for?"

Her face went hard suddenly. He pressed lightly, but she didn't say anything so he leaned in harder. She was almost blue when he let up, but she still didn't say anything.

"I will kill you."

She smiled again, and she didn't have to say what she was thinking again.

Last question. "Where's Lia?"

She frowned. "Who?"

"The girl! Where's the girl?!"

"What girl?"

"There was a girl," he said, and he started to press down again, although not enough to choke her completely. "But after . . ." he said, thinking about the night on the Strip with Martin the vampire, but stopped. "She disappeared. I've scoured every bloody inch of the city, and I can't find her. You're the only ones that could be protecting her."

Bybreak's eyes narrowed. "Lia, you said?" she whispered through pale lips.

Lex grabbed her by the collar of her dress and pounded on her upper chest. "Damn you!"

"The raven. Your girl is the raven," Bybreak said in a grotesquely happy tone. "No wonder you can't find your little friend."

She laughed shallowly again. "I would give her up now. The wolves have her, and they don't let go of prey easily."

There was a noise by the door, and Lex looked up to find another woman standing in the door. It was Bliss, the witch with the yellow shawl. The one that he suspected had actually killed Soraperion.

Sora's voice slipped nearly instantaneously into control of Lex's body, but even then it was nearly too late. A protection spell caught most of the fire that Bliss threw at him, but not enough to keep the cocaine from breaking out into poison smoke again.

Lex roared something and spun a whirlwind between his hands, sending a tornado of smoke and stinging powder at the older witch.

She ignored it: the air parted around her harmlessly. She geared up for another spell, but Sora's voice and Lex's hands were too quick. He flung himself up and out and her spell sizzled through the space that he'd occupied.

He landed on top of a twenty foot high tower of stacked blow, kicked the bales forward, and then exploded them all as he jumped backward toward the metal wall of the warehouse. Huge clouds of white filled the air, and Bybreak's scream was cut off by the falling metric ton of cocaine.

I wasn't lying when I said I'd kill you, he thought to himself, fiercely proud of having proved her wrong.

Another spell blew open the back wall as he filled the air inside of the warehouse with bolts of ricocheting lightning, and then made for the chain link fence.

He found the gap in the fence that he'd used earlier in the evening, and tried to launch himself through. His pants caught on the edges, and caught off balance, he slammed to the ground.

He twisted onto his back, struggled with the loop of cloth that was tangled in the fence, and looked up.

Meredith Bliss was standing on the roof of the warehouse, her eyes showing up above her yellow scarf were looking down on him.

He froze, waiting for her attack, but she didn't. She raised no hand, no unnatural wind stirred.

His numb hands struggled with his jeans, separated the wire from the fabric, and then slowly pushed his way through the fence.

They looked at each other for a moment as the last of the noise from inside the warehouse died away. Then Bliss turned away, disappearing behind the edge of the roof.

Lex scrambled to his feet and ran, trying and failing to comprehend what had just happened.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Episode 16: The Hunt

Michael stood in the desert in front of her with four of his men. Three of them carried weapons, rifles with long scopes, but one of them had stripped down to nothing but black shorts.

It late evening, and it was cold, but Michael had told her that she would be warm enough once she'd changed. Annabelle had still refused to come out of the car.

Lia was wearing black shorts and a black top as well, but she was wrapped in a blanket to protect her from the chilly wind. It was late February, but Michael didn't even seem to notice the cold. He stood in his usual black leather jacket hanging open.

"Do you understand?" he asked her again, and she nodded again for the fifth time.

The man in black shorts was Simon. Mr. Mohan had been waiting for him for nearly a month, but there had been a problem with his paperwork as he crossed the border. He had a funny accent, and he had an odd sense of humor that seemed to drive Mr. Mohan crazy.

"Almost ready, lass?" he asked her, and she looked at him. He wanted to change, Lia could tell because of the way he smelled and the way his bare feet scratched at the soil.

He was important, but not as important as Mr. Mohan. Annabelle had said that he was rare and special, and that was why Mr. Mohan had flown him all the way from Ireland to participate in Lia's Hunt.

She'd been allowed to watch one of Mr. Mohan's hunt. Afterward, in the car on the way home covered with blood Mr. Mohan had explained that sometimes they had animals brought in for the Hunt, but that if he preferred to find an animal that on his own. He said it was harder that way, especially to find something that would feed a tiger.

There was a tingle in her neck and she turned to look over the car toward the last clouds. There was silvery light there, and suddenly she could see the sliver of the moon.

Automatically she resisted the change, fighting against it, crying out as the pain hit her. Last night she'd managed to stop herself from changing all night, but tonight was different.

Simon reached out. "Let 'it come, dearie," he said, in that strange accent of his.

She took a deep breath and then stepped out of the blanket, forcing herself to relax into the change as she did so.

One moment she'd been Lia, but now she was two things. She was Lia the girl still, but that was all clinging on to Lia the raven.

Lia the raven spread her wings and flew off into the night. Behind her she could smell fur and knew that Michael had changed, and something else that she couldn't place.

There were some bushed not that far away, and she easily found her footing among them. Lia the girl had read about ravens. They weren't supposed to be good night fliers, but Lia the crow didn't seem to have any trouble.

Something moved, and she looked. There was an owl next to her on the branch with huge brown feathers and massive yellow eyes. It turned to look at her, and blinked.

"Okay there, lass?" said the Simon part of the Owl. It didn't make a sound, but the part of her that was Lia the girl could still hear him clearly. She tried to respond, but when she did Lia the bird struggled against her.

"Wait, wait," the other bird seemed to indicate and it looked around and then took flight. Raven Lia followed after it, trying to stay quiet in the darkness but not doing nearly as good of a job as Owl Simon did.

Lia the raven didn't seem to have a sense of time, and quickly Lia the girl lost track of how long they'd been flying. Owl Simon flew in odd patterns that Lia the raven didn't like. They weren't natural and Raven Lia was hungry but Lia the girl poked at the mind of Lia the owl until they followed along after him.


There was more information packed into that word than just the human connotation. It described something that couldn't be put into human language.

The Raven lanced down out of the darkness toward an unremarkable patch of gray. Her talons went *tha-thicke* into the fur, and her head came down on the struggling mouse's neck. "Cgrrrr . . ." she croaked. The mouse was still alive, still moving, and she shifted her weight, flapped, and struggled. Under her, something small went *pop*.

The mouse stopped struggling.

A beat of her wings and she hopped to one side. The Owl was looking at her from a nearby bush, and she watched him warily. It was her kill, her kill.

She poked at it, tearing it open, and began to eat from the warm little fuzzy body.

Something shivered down Raven Lia's back, under the glossy black feathers. As bits and pieces of the animal were gorged down, something odd was spreading out into her feathery limbs.

"Lia," the Owl said, but the Raven didn't respond. She was still eating, and eating well.

A few more moments passed, and he tried again, "Lia? Lia?"

She croaked menacingly, but didn't look up at him.


She tilted her head up and sideways, staring at him with her left eye. "Simon?" she finally asked back.

"Yes, it's Simon."

"I'm eating a dead mouse."


"Huh. Why am I doing that?" she asked.

"Because of the Hunt. Do you remember?"

"I am Lia. Lia is a human, and a bird. The Hunt. . . ."

"It is a ceremony to bring your two halves together. You are of one mind now. You can send your thoughts out, just as I can. You can control your changes now, and resist changing with the full moon."

"I am Lia."

"You are. Can I approach?"

"It is my kill."

"I will respect it."

"Then approach."

Simon the Owl lifted off his bush silently and drifted down to the ground like a feathery brown snowflake. He tilted his head, and hooted softly, and then hopped closer.

Lia looked up at him. He was looking at her, and his mind was . . . creeping toward her, like a spider, and she could feel it coming. Lia the human would have waited to see what he was doing, but the Lia/Raven flicked her mind out at him before he could reach out for her.

The Owl stiffened and fell over, struggling against her. "No no no no no no no . . ." the human consciousness howled. "NO!"

The Raven kept one eye on him, watching seriously as the Owl flapped and twitched along the dry ground. She pecked again at the dead mouse.

Wereism had originally been a curse hundreds of years ago, Annabelle had taught her during her classes. Witches wanted servants, and binding a human body with an animal gave them control over stronger and more powerful servants than normal humans.

Then came the wereborn, those born into their powers. They were free of the magical compulsions of the witches, and they had authority and power over others of their kind. They took control of the wereturned, and broke away from the witches.


The Owl gave a final spasm and then finally came to a rest in a heap, his perfectly groomed feathers ruffled and dirty from the ground.

Lia hopped over to him.

"Mistress," he said. "Mercy." For the first time she realized that the voice she heard in her head didn't have the accent. Her human mind was just turning it into words because she was used to speaking.

That will change, she thought to herself and then sent back "There is still some of the mouse left."

Slowly, as if exhausted, the Owl rolled to his talons, and painfully hopped over to her kill. He stared at her with one eye for a moment, confirming that it was alright with her, and then pecked at the meat.

"The other humans will ask about this when we return," the Simon Owl said.

"What is the answer?"

"You are strong. I could not dominate you."

"I dominated you."

"That is a dangerous thing to say."


"Because of the games that werehumans play. They fight for power, if not in their animal skins, than in their human skins. They will see you as a threat to their power. You should not have been able to dominate a wereborn on your first Hunt."

"Then I will dominate them."

"All of them? Even Michael? Mohan?"

Lia fluttered her feathers. She thought of her sense of Michael, Miss Chi-Wong, and Mr. Mohan. They were powerful, especially Mr. Mohan, and dominating even Simon alone had been difficult. She could hope to dominate them with their extensive experience. Not yet.

"Then we will not tell them that you are . . ." she sent a concept that her human mind did not know the word for.



"I will have to go back to my home." Rolling green fields and strange lights and smells accompanied the last word.


"But, if you need me . . . you have only to call on me. You are my mistress. When you call I will come."


"We should go. They will be looking for us soon."

Lia paused. She'd come together now, and her raven senses were now connected to her human mind. In the distance, very far away, she could feel things looking for her, hunting for her. On most she could smell the stick of disgust and hatred toward her.

But her feathers would protect her. Nothing that was searching for her could see through the sheen and the reflection of her feathers. She wouldn't have to worry about that . . . yet.

Lia hopped closer, pecked at the mouse a final time, and then flapped off into the night toward a waiting Michael and his men, followed by a dusty owl.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Episode 15: Unfinished Business

Lex relaxed back into the couch. It was so cushy that it almost swallowed him.

There was a television on in the background but Lex couldn't get invested in the story so he'd come over to the window. Why should he care what the morons on television would do to impress some stuck up bitch? It wasn't like they were going to suddenly fall in love as soon as the cameras went away.

The whole hotel room--no, the hotel suite--was loud. There was another television in the bedroom, and even one in the bathroom. Despite the soundproofing he could hear people moving around in the rooms around him.

It hadn't occurred to him that Soraperion's dumpy little apartment was so quiet, but compared with the hotel rooms that he'd been staying in recently it had been a silent paradise.

There was a knock on the door, and when Lex answered it he found a pizza guy standing there.

The guy's eyes automatically flickered past Lex and into the room, and his eyes widened. From the door he could see through the living room with the big fluffy couches and out through the floor to ceiling windows that looked out over the strip. A week ago, Lex would have been even more impressed than the pizza guy was.

Lex flicked out a wad of cash and handed the guy a fifty. He could have just stolen the pizza, or Sora could have taken over for a few moments and made the pizza guy forget he'd ever delivered it but Lex wanted to use some of the money he'd picked up. Why have it if you didn't use it?

The pizza guy handed him the pizza, and when he looked down at the money he started to object, but Lex just said, "Keep the change" and shut the door in the guy's face.

It had been surprisingly easy to get money with the suggestions that Sora's voice provided. With magic, he could make people see what they wanted to see, or sometimes what he wanted them to see. He could go around a casino and skim coins or even chips away from people without being noticed. He could walk through the walls into a bank vault, or just make people give him money. In only a few days he'd built up a few thousand dollars worth of spending money, and that was beyond the money that he'd paid for the hotel suite.

There was a stirring at the back of his head, and Sora's voice spoke up. Still awake? he asked.


Something bothering you?

"I don't know. Yeah, I guess."

Tell me about it.

"There was this girl, back before I met Soraperion."

Reeeeeally, Sora said, and Lex blushed.

"Nothing like that. She was only fourteen. I . . . uh, well, I was taking care of her because she didn't have anyone else left. She disappeared from our apartment a few weeks after we arrived in Las Vegas."

Did she run away?

"She didn't seem like the kind of person that would just run away. I thought something bad had happened to her, but I searched around the neighborhood and I couldn't find her."

Soraperion was looking for his box, you are looking for your friend. What's her name anyway?

"Lia. Celia, actually."

We'll find her then. I'll show you a few simple locating spells first, and there are always non-magical options. Money talks.

Lex got up and got the book out of his suitcase. He'd originally bought it for clothes, but he hadn't bothered to really buy anything other than a a black shirt and a black pair of jeans in one of the stores on the main level of the hotel. He'd never really had money to fool around with before, and he'd spent more on the shirt and pants than he had per month for the apartment where he and Lia had lived in.

He laid the book out, and flipped it open. Like usual, the book opened to a set of blank pages in the middle. If you didn't ask it for anything specific, it always seemed to fall open to a blank page.

We're going to be doing a finding, Sora said.

"Findings," Lex said, and the pages of the book blurred until it had reached the right pages.

Most of this is specific stuff for whatever Soraperion was looking for, but we should be able to use it to find your friend as well. The voice seemed to be looking over the pages with him, and it nudged him.

That symbol is the basis for a finding spell. It looks like a web because that's what it does. It creates a web, and each strand goes off and looks in a different direction. If any of them touch your friend, or come near her, then it will send a message back to the middle of the web, where we'll be waiting for it.

A symbol appeared in his mind, and Lex dutifully copied the symbol out into the air in front of him, until a web formed in the air.

De ja vu, Sora said as the search spell begun to take form. Lex paused, remembering how single minded Soraperion had been as he pursued the box, and then shook off the feeling, and continued to follow Sora's directions.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Episode 14: Partial Survival

Lex shivered in the cold apartment.

The electricity seemed to died with Soraperion, and now that he was gone so was everything in the apartment. Even the heat and phone had ceased to work.

As tired as he was it had taken him an hour to get through the front door. Soraperion had never seemed to lock it, but apparently there had been some fairly heavy-duty magical seals on the door and more protecting the apartment. The ones that were still functioning would prevent people from finding Lex, but he didn't know how long they would last.

Everything magical connected to Soraperion was disintegrating. The more complex it was, the faster it dissolved. The car wasn't working any more, and the voice in his head was hanging on by a thread.

That was really odd. He'd thought it was Soraperion controlling him. The voice sounded like Soraperion. It had his knowledge, but it wasn't Soraperion. Soraperion didn't seem to be afraid of dying but the voice was terrified of slipping away.

Lex had been carrying around the shell pendant for two days, since the night that Soraperion raided the witches mansion. If he even thought about setting it down, the voice would freak out. There were deep marks on his palm now from the rough pattern on the outside.

We should get moving again, the voice said.

"Fuck that," Lex murmured.

You'll get your second wind and be fine.

"I'm already on my fourth or fifth wind. Can't I just go to sleep already?"

If you go to sleep, I might not be here when you wake up.

"'s fine with me."

You don't mean that.

Lex sat silently, thinking curse words at the voice.

You don't mean that either. I can see your underlying emotional patterns as well as your thoughts.

Lex groaned, and slowly pulled himself to his feet. His head was blurry and his muscles ached. He hadn't slept in more than forty hours now and he was feeling bad, despite all that the voice had tried to do for him.

Lights, the voice said.

Lex sketched the symbol, and murmured the word. Light filled the room, and spread across the bookshelf.

The shelves were perfectly visible. It was plain wood, and thicker than it needed to be. It was a normal piece of furniture except for the rows of still shadowy books that were untouched by Lex's weak light. The shadows not only prevented Lex from touching the books, they'd knocked him over onto his broken arm, giving him shooting pains for hours.

The voice was trying to get a book off the shelf. It seemed to think that as soon as it got the book everything would be okay. Lex could feel how desperate it was getting.

We're going to try Leomachand's Unbinding, the voice told him, and provided the symbols.

Lex began to carefully sketch with his left hand, but he wasn't nearly as dexterous as he was with his right.

Ach, the voice said suddenly, and the symbols suddenly tattered and faded away into nothingness. You let your hand drop and it skewed the horizontal line there. Let's try it again.

"You haven't explained how a book is going to help us here."

It will help, it said again for the sixth time. It didn't sound conceded or bitter, just worried.

He started sketching again, but screwed up again almost immediately. The voice said nothing, but Lex could feel how upset it was.

Do you want me to take over for a moment?

Lex paused. They'd had to do that to get into the apartment, eventually. The voice had surrendered control as soon as they were through the door too. It wanted to be helpful, because it needed Lex's help if it was going to last much longer.

"Let me try again."

He tried, but with only one symbol to go the entire thing flared and vanished.

Uh-oh, said the voice, and suddenly the darkness spread out from the books and into the room. It grew tentacles of mist like substance and started waving them around.

"Uh-oh?" Lex echoed, but the tentacles were reaching out for them.

Quick, you need to cast . . .

It was already too late to sketch something though, so Lex just reached out with his other abilities and grabbed all of the writhing tentacles and held them together in a bunch.

Oh, the voice said. That works too, I suppose.

After a few moments, the tentacles evaporated.

"What was that?" Lex asked.

Security, I suppose.

"Shouldn't you know?"

Why would I know?

"Aren't you Soraperion?"

Not really.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

I'm just a fragment of himself that he split off and left behind. I don't have most of his memories, just a bit regarding magic. I'm more you than him at this point anyway.

Lex shuddered. "You mean you're feeding on my soul, don't you."

I don't know. . . . Are you still going to help me?

"Yeah, why wouldn't I?"

It's just that I don't think that most people would be comfortable with something else feeding on their soul.

Lex shrugged. "I'm not using it."

Can we try again?

"Sure," Lex said, but he didn't raise his hands. "Do you know which book you need?"

The voice paused, and Lex could feel him considering the shelf. The black one on the third shelf, fourth from the left.

Lex couldn't see the color of the cover in the shadows of the magical bookshelf, but he could see which book the voice was indicating. He frowned.

"The spell keeps me from taking books off the shelf, right?"


Lex frowned, concentrated, and gestured. The book rocked back and forth and tipped slowly off the shelf, falling outside of the shadows. It was indeed a black book. To Lex, it looked like a big version of one of those Bibles that people leave in hotel rooms.

Well, the voice said with a surprised tone, I wish you'd mentioned that you could do that before.

"What do I need to do?" Lex asked as another wave of exhaustion crashed over him.

Open it
, the voice pleaded.

Lex took an unsteady step forward but the room swam. He got down and crawled over to the book, and flicked the cover open.

Can I speak? the voice asked.

Lex relaxed a little bit and let the voice come forward.

"Transference," his voice said, although he wasn't the one talking.

The books pages seemed to move of their own accord, flipping quickly through the pages until they'd reached the correct section.

The pages were full of complex runes and symbols. Lex thought he recognized some of them, but most of them were phenomenally complex. He felt something tug on his arm and realized that the voice was silently asking for his permission to take more control. Lex let him . . . it further in until it had the control it wanted.

His hand flickered up and began to sketch complicated magic runes that corresponded to some of the symbols in the books. They would glow for a moment, and then some of the shrank down and some of them expanded. It took Lex a moment before he realized where he'd seen something similar. The shell device had looked like that, with multiple layers of magics all working together.

He was so tired though, that he couldn't bring himself to be concerned about what the voice was doing, and he didn't want to distract it by asking.

The voice was working so quickly, not bothering to explain itself to Alex as it went. Alex tried to listen to the voices thoughts, but the voice seemed to be holding three or four things in its mind at once.

. . . where the source is isolated from the origin by a dimensional differential . . .

. . . paralinear translations are possible, although difficult, but require the influx of additional focii as well as a stable destination matrix . . .

. . . into a recursive collapse loop, which is avoidable through the addition of a superintendent actuality . . .

. . . structured to utilize the helicoid pattern, as well as the radial ties . . .

The forming shape looked like a flower, with petals of delicate blue glowing veins.

Alright, it's done, the voice told Lex. Just stick your hand in the middle of it.

"Should I say something?"

I'll do all of that for you.

Lex took his hand and placed it in the middle of the pattern. It fluttered like tissue paper in a faint breeze.

The voice took his mouth again and began to speak. Only a few words into it he felt a huge rush of power, just like the one when the spell had hit him the first time. Pain seared through ever inch of his body, running along his nerves into the tips of his fingers, his toes, and even down through his optic nerve into the edges of his eyes.

The voice was trying to tell him something, but he slipped again into a blissfully dark sleep.

He woke up slowly. There was light coming through the slats of one of the window blinds. There was a memory of pain, and the voice shouting something at him.

Lex sat up. "Hello?"

Hello yourself.

"You're still there," Lex said, relieved.


Lex paused, and then realized something was different.

"I can't hear your thoughts anymore."

Nor I yours, I'm happy to report. I thought that this might make it easier on the both of us, so I made it so that we weren't so closely tied together. I'm still here, and you can still talk to me, but we aren't quite as mixed together as we were.

"What was it that you did? I remember something about transfering something . . ."

I was Soraperion's spell, which meant that I started to unravel when he died. All I did was move myself so that I'm your spell now.

"Oh. OK. Does that change anything else?"

Not really.

Lex pulled himself up and looked around. He tried to look at the wards that surrounded the apartment, but he couldn't see anything there.

"I can't see magic like I could last night."

You can see it just fine. The wards have completely unraveled now, so there's nothing there to see. Oh, and I think it was two nights ago. You were exhausted.

Lex sketched a blue circle in the air, and it hung there gleaming in the faint sunlight. "Wait, if the wards are gone . . ."

We aren't protected anymore. If you have anything you want to take, get it and let's get out of here.

The voice only wanted Lex to take a couple of books. He took his dirty change of clothes, stuffed them into an old backpack that he'd found in the hall closet, and then they went out the door. He didn't look back at the apartment once on the way out.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Episode 13: Finders Keepers

Lex lounged on the couch. He'd finally found it a few days ago, and it was more comfortable than his cot. It had been buried under a metric ton of books, but it was real leather and exceedingly soft. Soraperion hadn't even noticed when Lex had shifted the books around so he figured the old mage wouldn't mind.

Soraperion was searching again. Lex could see him through the doorway to the workshop, sitting at the round table in the center of the room with his books spread around him, still tracing runes in the air. The patterns were more complex now than they'd been before, and they were still getting more and more complicated as he worked longer.

Lex had finally begun to wonder if he should run away again. Soraperion provided him with some protection, but he'd learned a trick or two since he'd been attacked by Sue. If he could make it out of Las Vegas, he might be able to escape them entirely.

It was early in the morning, and Soraperion didn't own a television. Still, he might as well wait for sunrise . . .

From the workshop came a yell. Soraperion was standing, and there was something glowing in the air above the books. The runes had contracted into a spherical crystal, and inside was a wooden box.

Soraperion laughed, his grin so broad that tears streamed down his face. "There it is, there it is."

Lex stood, coming into the workshop and looking down at the box. "What is it?"

Soraperion sighed deeply, still smiling like a clown. "It's immortality, of a kind."

"Like a vampire?"

"No. Not at all. Have I told you anything about Vampires?"

"They won't attack you if they're afraid of you."

Soraperion smiled as though Lex had made a joke. "I meant, about where their powers come from."


"Vampires are consumed with the hunger for blood. The older and more powerful the vampire, the better he or she will have controlled their hunger and turned it into something that they can use to fuel their abilities and powers. This, though, is something that doesn't require that same damning hunger or impose the same half-life limitations." Soraperion reached out and touched the bubble, which flickered and then vanished.

"Where'd it go?"

Soraperion laughed. "That was just an image. A guide to the real thing. So we follow where it points."


"Yes," Soraperion looked around the room, and then down at himself. He was wearing one of his brown work robes and as far as Lex knew he was still working off a few moments sleeping at his bench from the day before. "Get dressed," he ordered Lex, and then swept toward his bedroom.

Lex was already wearing his only clean set of clothes. Since he'd moved in with Soraperion he'd only scrapped together one change, and when it was dirty he still wore his old jeans and jacket.

Soraperion returned a few moments later wearing a heavy black robe and carrying a tall silver staff.

Downstairs, the gray car was pulling around. It didn't have a driver and Lex suspected that Soraperion didn't know how to drive at all. How it guided itself was a mystery to him.

They both got in the back seat of the car, Soraperion laying the staff across their laps. Soraperion gestured, and the car set off in the night, and Soraperion made a set of gestures. A circle of pulsing blue runes appeared in the air, and as they drove Soraperion gave instructions to the car, which drove through the darkened streets of Las Vegas.

Soraperion growled at every red light, and finally, out of the outskirts of the city they reached a gate and the car stopped.

"Come along," Soraperion said, and got out of the car.

The gates were iron and heavy, supported by two huge stone posts and walls extended into the grayish twilight on either side.

Soraperion looked up at the gate, and spoke a word. The bars glowed blue white for a moment. He shook his head.

"They have no imagination," murmured Soraperion.


He gestured at the gate vaguely. "The bars are enchanted."

"So what do we do?"

Soraperion walked over to one of the stone pillars that bordered the gate. He turned to Lex and gestured for him to follow.

As Lex approached, Soraperion cast a spell. Something hit Lex from behind and he stumbled, but Soraperion caught him and pushed him forward at the same time. They stepped forward through the stone.

There was a roar and something pitch black spun around him, like a swarm of minute bees. He could feel them glance off of his skin and then spin around him. Soraperion pulled him forward and through the darkness, his feet slipping and sliding on what felt like marbles until he fell out in the silent night on the other side of the wall.

"Enchanted the gate, but they didn't do anything to the walls," Soraperion said smugly.

Lex looked wide eyed at the stone. There was a gaping hole in the stonework, but as he watched tiny pebbles of gray stone gathered back together and resolidified with a murmur.

Soraperion shook one last bit of stone off his cloak. It flew back to the wall and clicked into place, leaving the pillar completely whole again. Then Soraperion turned and started walking up the driveway, and Lex followed along behind.

"Do vampires live here?"

"No. Witches."

The house came into view around the curve of the driveway. The building was huge, four stories high and it had parapets like a castle.

There was a circular road in front of the house, and Soraperion walked right into the middle and stood there, looking at the building as though he wasn't worried about anyone seeing him. He gestured, and the circle that he'd conjured in the car reappeared, but now he enlarged it, adding symbols on both sides at once, and speaking forcefully. The noise seemed to be trapped in whatever he was building in front of him.

The pattern of lights grew larger, until it was a plate of moving runes three feet across, when suddenly it collapsed together and flared brightly. The box had reappeared, and it was pulsing. As he looked, Lex realized that a trail of blue fire, part of the nimbus that surrounded the box, was slowly flowing off toward part of the building. It was pointing to the third floor, to the left of the door.

"Aaaaaaahhhh," Soraperion sighed, and then turned to Lex. "When we go in, I'll be very busy. I want to give you this. If you're in trouble, open it, and it will protect you." He fished something out of his pocket with his free hand, and handed it to Lex. It appeared to be a small shell clasp, like a locket.

"I think I'm prepared then." Soraperion said. "Nothing more to do now except retrieve the box."

He turned back to the house, and they walked toward the door. As Soraperion approached it, he gestured with his staff and something white flashed, and the door disintegrated into dust, blowing backward in a boom. Somewhere in the house a keening wail rose, almost like a baby crying. It wasn't natural though: it never stopped for breath.

Just inside was a darkened room. Soraperion spoke a few words, and lights sprang up, dancing through the hallways until the entire place was filled with brilliant grayish yellow light.

The entryway was huge. It was two stories high, and at the back of the room was a marble grand staircase covered with a red carpet. There was even a crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

Someone bounded out of one of the hallways but encountered a ball of fire from Soraperion's staff and crumpled screaming to the floor. Another bolt of white light collapsed the arch of the hallway through which the man had come.

Lex stared at the burning figure, suddenly wishing that he hadn't come along, or at least that there was something he could consciously do to protect himself. The scream from the burning body trailed away and the the form twitched a few times before going still. The scent of burned blood washed over him and he gagged and almost threw up.

Soraperion gestured at another hallway and a latticework of iron grew into place through the stonework entrance like a metal creeping ivy. There were voices from that direction but no one appeared through the gaps in the metal.

"Don't want to make the same mistake they did though," Soraperion said to himself and swept his staff out. There was another burst of light and this time red and a crimson haze spread out and painted the formerly white surfaces with dark ochre slick. There was a smell almost like burned oil from a car.

"Third floor I think," Soraperion said to Lex. "Come Along."

They went up the stairs, and at the top of the stairs they headed left through an opulent hallway. Lex could hardly stop himself from looking around at the fancy surroundings even though he knew that he should be looking out for more people. I wish I was rich enough to live like this, he thought to himself, trying to imagine it but failing.

Soraperion's conjured lights were floating in concentrations around one of the doors in the hallway, which turned out to be another stairwell. They climbed one floor, and went through into a darkened hallway. Soraperion summoned more lights, and they continued.

At the end of the hall was a plain door made of wood. Compared to the others that lined the halls it looked rather ordinary. It didn't even have simple paneling and wouldn't have looked out of place in a warehouse to Lex. Soraperion gestured with his staff again, and there was a boom, but the door didn't budge.

"Better," he said and began to cast runes in front of him, spinning them together like thread until he had a knot of them in his fist. He gestured, almost like the glowing ball was a yo-yo, and it jumped forward at the door.

For just a split second Lex could see the heavy yellow and purple spells glowing spells protecting the door. Soraperion's knot spell splattered against them and the blue runes began to eat through the protection spells and through the door itself like acid. Within a few moments the door was a melting pile of sludge, and Soraperion stepped through.

There were in a large room, and it was filled with shelves that contained gold, jewels and pieces of artwork. Soraperion gestured, and the heavy shelves pushed out to the edges of the room. At the far end was a tapestry. The mage gestured again, and the tapestry was flung aside, revealing a safe door.

Soraperion examined the door, and frowned. "Very good actually. This is a passageway. Very clever." He looked at Lex. "Stay here. If someone comes in, use the device. Do you understand?"

Lex nodded, swallowing.

"Good then." Soraperion reached out and took the handle of the vault. There was a noise so loud that it flung Lex backward, and a five foot circle around the safe jerked down, pulling Soraperion and the safe out of sight into a black hole that opened up in the floor.

And then there were a few moments of silence.

Lex went over and looked down through the hole. Despite the magic lights that Soraperion had conjured, the sides of the hole were so deep that it vanished into darkness. "Soraperion?" he called and when there was no response, he tried louder.


Lex backed away from the hole, and looked around at the treasures that surrounded him. A few weeks ago he could have sold anything in this to pay for Lia and himself to live comfortably for a year. Now the idea of taking something was pointless. Soraperion would care for him, and even if Lex left, he wasn't sure that Soraperion couldn't simply kill him from a distance.

As he thought about it, he couldn't quite understand why he'd followed Soraperion. True, the mage had taken him in and protected him from the vampires, but breaking into this house, killing those people in the hall seemed extreme. It was wrong. They could sit in jail for years although Lex wondered if the authorities had any prison that could hold Soraperion. Or himself, for that matter.

There was a commotion at the door that Soraperion had melted, and Lex turned to see a group of people stumble through the door.

Most of them were women wearing night gowns, but one of the women, the one in front, wore black robes that reminded Alex of Soraperion's robes only she wore a yellow scarf around her neck.

She was short, and a little bit overweight, and she was smiling kindly. She reminded Lex of an aunt that had always been nice to him as a child.

"Who are you, dear?" she asked.

Lex didn't know what to say.

"Hold him," the woman said pleasantly, and two men started out from behind her toward him.

Lex's fingered fumbled with the catch on the shell device, and for a second he thought he wouldn't get it open before they reached him. Suddenly, his fingers worked the clasp and the two pieces opened.

There was a spell inside.

The runes were tiny, much too small to be written by Soraperion's fingertips. The glittering thing expanded, and Lex realized that this was by far the most complicated thing that he'd ever seen constructed out of runes and light. There were libraries of letters, and for a moment he could almost make out that each individual rune was composed of thousands of smaller runes.

The spell floated for a moment. Time for Lex slowed to a crawl. It was like the two men were fighting through molasses, but he couldn't look away from the little glowing thing in his hands. He wondered for a moment if it would throw fire at the witches and their men, or if it would act like the spell that had broken through the door.

The spell shivered, flickered, and then poured into Lex.

He screamed immediately from the pain. He was pretty sure that he was unconscious and he could no longer sense the room around him. There wasn't even a satisfactory noise to reassure him that his lungs were fine and working and that despite the pain he was still alive and screaming.

When things faded back into view, there was a slight blue tint and blur to everything that he could see, almost like he was underwater. A hand flickered up, and the two men coming toward him were thrown back into the far wall.

"Meredith Bliss," said Soraperion's voice. "You haven't changed a bit."

"And neither have you, Soraperion," the woman with the yellow scarf said happily. "Still using interesting people, I see."

"Do you like him?" Soraperion said, and Lex's hand lifted in front of his face. Lex suddenly realized that Soraperion's voice was coming through his mouth. He tried to move, but as he struggled he realized that he was no longer in control of his own body.

"An untrained mage," she said. "Also an untrained warlock, and perhaps a hint of something else as well. There are not many people that are so many things. It's much too bad he fell in with you."

Lex's body shrugged. "I knew that he'd come in useful sooner or later."

Meredith looked back at the people gathered behind her. She gestured five of them forward, two pretty younger women, one older woman, and two men. "Kill him," she ordered them, smiling. "Bybreak, you and Bear are with me."

The people that she'd ordered stepped forward, the women raising their arms and beginning to chant and the men pulling knives out of their coats.

Lex felt himself smirk, and he began to struggle again, but whatever had hold of him was not letting go. He sketched out a combination of wind and fire runes, and as they formed under his fingers he spoke a word of power and the simple spell expanded out into a sheets of fire, filling the room. The older witch finished her counterspell in the nick of time, and the flames stopped just short of the women.

One of the younger women, a pretty brunette, finished with her spell and launched it. It wasn't much of a spell. It would have stopped Lex's heart and he couldn't let her do that. He flicked it back at her and concentrated on the next woman, a blonde, as the brunette stumbled, gasping.

She was trying something slightly more ambitious. A seething ball of fiery plasma erupted in front of her, and streaked out at him. Lex sketched a barrier rune against fire, and let the ball harmlessly burn against it. He sketched a similar barrier rune but this time added a complex set of energy specifications onto it, and flung it at the opening to the hole. Bliss had been making her way toward it, but now she slowed and was forced to examine the impediment.

The old witch had finally finished her first offensive spell. She didn't want to attack Lex directly, so she dissolved the floor below him instead. Lex could have prevented it, but instead he sketched a set of air runes and flew up as the floor turned to sand below him.

Now that he was airborne, there were certain things that he had to guard against. He launched a series of protective spells, and then sent a series of force runes at the women. The older women and the recovering brunette managed to block, but the blonde was caught in the middle of her second spell, a real doozy, and she was slammed back into the wall. Her unfinished spell sputtered and exploded, surprising the brunette, who flinched back and stumbled again but still managed to keep her feet.

The old witch launched a wave of ice at him, but he just swung the fire protection rune around, and her ball of cold was eaten by the blonde's fire spell. Yellow light flared for a moment, and a ribbon of golden light raced out and caught his arms. It was a smart trick by the brunette but not enough to catch him.

A few carefully chosen words dissolved the bonds but by then one of the men was in attack range. He jumped up, stabbing with his knife at Lex's floating legs, but one of Lex's protection spells guarded him. Before the man could jump again, he gestured, and the man dropped his knife, sitting down in the middle of the battle with a blank look on his face.

Bliss was almost through Lex's barrier but from below came a brilliant blue light which filtered through the glowing mesh of the spell and resolved into a creature that resembled a spider, if only spiders had eight scorpion stingers instead of legs and were six feet high. A large man with long dark hair and tattoos, a Native American perhaps, stepped in front of her, and started to defend her with a staff or spear of some kind.

The Brunette had conjured a nifty looking knife from her position still sitting on the ground. She balanced it for a moment while she spoke to it, and then launched it at him.

"You don't want to do that," Lex said to the knife, which paused mid flight. "Aren't you more comfortable back with her?"

The knife seemed to realize its mistake and shot back toward the dark haired witch. Whatever spells she'd enchanted it with were effective. It cut through her own protections like butter and thunked into her shoulder with a happy splortch.

The second man was almost on him. Lex floated higher, momentarily out of reach and then flicked a fireball at him. The man's protections stopped it just above his skin, but the fire quickly heated the knife to a dull red. He screamed and dropped it, which he seemed to realize was a mistake about the same time his protections shattered and the remaining fragments of the fire burned deep into his skin.

The old woman had been working for a few moments, and she raised her hands. A wave of something black passed over him. It was like all of Lex's hairs were on fire, and on the inside he screamed again. On the outside though, he just smiled. "Not very effective," said Soraperion's voice, and he summoned a slew of firey arrow heads and fired them in her direction.

He glanced over at the barrier. The spider creature was dead, and Bliss, Bybreak, and the Native American were gone. Oh well, nothing for him to do about it now.

The arrow heads had paused inches away from the old woman's outstretched hand, but she was sweating, and the arrowheads hadn't dropped yet. The brunette, even with the knife in her shoulder, managed to gesture and shout something, and the arrowheads all dissolved into smoke.

As they vanished he sketched out a series of things. Water and air swirled together and were modified with a set of brilliant electricity runes. Lightning flickered out toward all of the women, but it only struck the already unconscious blond woman. He was hoping to surprise them, but another woman, middle-aged and with her red hair tied back with a white scarf stepped forward with just enough time to put up a defense. The bolts of lightning bounced off of her magics and into the shelves lining the walls, vaporizing several expensive looking works of art.

Two against one wasn't nearly a fair fight for the witches, but with the brunette still helping out with defense they were just managing to keep themselves alive against Soraperion's Lex puppet.

Down below there were noises, bangs and booms, and the occasional gust of colored smoke. Inside Lex struggled and struggled, but the spell had complete control of him. With Soraperion's spell inhabiting him he understood the runes though. The magery made perfect sense to him.

He also realized that the runes were all Soraperion knew. Everything was done with runes and modifiers and spoken words to add subtle variation and power. Lex had never needed any of that before. The part of Lex's mind that was still Lex looked around the room as Soraperion's Lex looked at the hole after a particularly loud bang.

Behind him on one of the shelves was a golden statue. As Lex's head turned away, he couldn't see it any more, but that didn't matter to what he had planned. He still struggled with the Soraperion Lex so that it wouldn't get suspicious, but he also reached out with his simpler telekinetic powers, grabbed the cow statue and jerked it forward.

For a second, he was worried that nothing would happen, but suddenly there was a shock and he fell out of the air, sprawling out on the sandy floor and seeing stars floating before his eyes.

With Soraperion Lex distracted, Lex suddenly found himself winning. One of his arms grabbed his other arm. For a moment, Lex wasn't sure which one he controlled, but neither was Soraperion Lex.

There was mostly silence in the room though. The witches were looking at each other and at Lex, lying on the floor, his arms clasped together.

"Did you do that?" the middle-aged witch asked the older witch.

"I don't think so," the older witch said, looking at him. "Stay back, it might be a trick."

Inside his head, Soraperion's Lex was still struggling with the real Lex. If you don't allow me to take over, they're going to kill you, Soraperion's voice whispered.

They can try, Lex replied.

I can protect you, the voice said almost desperately.

So can I, Lex bitterly replied.

A lick of probing fire glanced off of Soraperion Lex's remaining protections, most of which had vanished when Lex had knocked himself on the head.

He sat up, and looked at the women. There were lots of objects around. Behind the women, coins, boxes, statues and vases jumped off the shelves and started pummeling them viciously. The middle-aged witch let a bolt of something fly, but Lex lifted a hand and it glanced off like it had bounced off a mirror.

I need to get out of here, Lex thought to the voice in his head.

You have to wait for Soraperion.

Aren't you Soraperion?

The voice didn't respond.

Suddenly, the lights in the room flickered and went out and the floor shook. The Soraperion voice in his head suddenly began to buckle and fragment, even though Lex had ceased to struggle with it moments earlier in surprise.

He also felt his understanding of the runes fading away.

Internally, he grabbed the edges of the voice, which seemed to cling back.

Help? It suddenly seemed to think at him.

I need a way out, Lex reminded it.

This symbol, this symbol, and then say "Yona calla 'hrippe."

Alex started to sketch. Even with the voice showing him how to move, the symbols didn't come effortlessly, like it had under Soraperion's control. He had to take the time to carefully sketch them so that they wouldn't be ruined.

As he started the second rune, something rose out of the hole. It was the woman with the yellow shawl and the Native American, and neither of them looked hurt, or even as though they had a hair out of place. Bliss was carrying the box Soraperion wanted in one hand, and a bloody red staff in the other hand. She looked over at the women, and then over to Lex as though surprised to find them both alive. Before she could raise her hands, Lex's fingers finished the final line.

"Yona calla 'hrippe!" He shouted, and suddenly the runes flared. Something jerked him straight out of the building through the wall, sending stone and plaster exploding outward. He flew down the driveway, over the gate, and landed heavily in the gravel next to the car.

Can you move? inquired the voice.

Lex groaned. He tried to move his arm, but he couldn't. For a moment he thought that Soraperion's voice had taken over again, but it was just hanging at an odd angle. He'd hurt it when he landed.

Instead of his arms he used his head. His powers dragged him to his feet, opened the gray car's door, and propelled him inside.

The voice said, It will only take instructions from Soraperion. Let me use your voice.

Alex complied.

"Home," Soraperion's voice ordered, and the car started and began to drive away from the gate and the house of witches beyond it.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Episode 12: On Display

Lia knew that Annabelle was approaching before she knocked on the door. She could smell the lavender perfume and the faint scent of her conditioner from down the hallway now.

Annabelle would come in the morning, make sure that she was dressed and cleaned up, and then they would do lessons, like a private school just for Lia. In the evenings, Mr. Mohan would often come by her room. He would sit down across the table from Lia and ask her how she was. They would talk for a few moments, and then Mr. Mohan would look into her eyes, say a few words, and leave.

What the words were depended on the day. "Remember," was common, but so were "Learn" and "See." Often, when he would speak, she felt a rush of something indescribable, and afterward she would feel extremely powerful, like she didn't have to be afraid of anything.

Her ability to smell other people had developed a few weeks back. She's mentioned it to Annabelle, and she suspected that Annabelle had told Mr. Mohan, although he'd never mentioned it directly.

It was nearly time for Mr. Mohan to come home, but some of the smells were wrong. The cooks hadn't come in, and they weren't preparing dinner yet, which they always did for Mr. Mohan.

Annabelle entered. Lia was sitting at the desk with a paper and a box of crayons. She'd never had one with all of the colors before, and it was her favorite thing in the room, even more than the dresses, even though she knew that was probably sort of childish. Today she was drawing a thin figure in a black and red jacket. He was smiling, but not big like Annabelle or Mr. Mohan smiled. It was a thin smile, and even though she'd only seen it once or twice she could clearly remember it.

"Who are you drawing?" Annabelle asked, politely. She looked. "Your friend again?"

Lia nodded.

"Well, we still haven't found him, but don't worry, I talked with Michael and his people are out still looking. I'm sure we'll find him." Her voice was soothing, but they hadn't found him yet.

Lia put the crayon back in the box, careful to make sure that it went in the right spot. Annabelle had showed her how to open all of the drawers, and Lia opened the top one and put the drawing of Lex with all of the others featuring him.

"Mr. Mohan would like you to accompany him to dinner tonight. Would you like to do that?"


"You're going to be going to a very nice restaurant, so you'll want to be on your best behavior. Mr. Mohan asked that you wear something blue, and I thought of that new light blue dress that we bought the other day."

Annabelle went to the closet and Lia followed her.

About twenty minutes later, Lia was read to go. This light blue dress wasn't as fancy as the dress she'd worn the first day, but it was softer and there was beautiful dark blue stitching around the edges. Annabelle had tied up Lia's hair and put some dark red chopsticks with blue birds to hold it together. When she looked in the mirror, Lia thought she looked like a movie star.

Annabelle brought her downstairs, and then helped her into Mr. Mohan's limo, but didn't get in herself.

"Aren't you coming?" Lia asked, surprised. Annabelle seemed to be with her all the time.

"No, not tonight. But Miss Chi-Wong will be there tonight. She'll take care of you."

Annabelle closed the door and the limo set off.

Inside the limo, there were all sorts of cool things. There was a sunroof that opened, although Lia was barely tall enough to see the tops of buildings as they went passed. There was a television, and there was also a phone, and a box of cold bottles of water.

Lia flipped through television channels until they reached one of Mr. Mohan's offices, not one that Lia had seen before. As soon as they pulled up, the door opened, and Miss Chi-Wong slid inside, followed shortly by Michael and several of his men, and then finally Mr. Mohan. As they entered, Lia scooted toward the front of the vehicle, until she was pressed up against the glass window to the driver.

All of them were dressed very nicely. Michael and his men wore tuxedos, Mr. Mohan wore a heavy black coat that looked very expensive and Miss Chi-Wong was wearing a blue-green dress that looked beautiful on her, but looked strange with the briefcase that she was carrying.

Miss Chi-Wong looked at the dress and pressed her lips together, but she didn't say anything at first.

"What did Annabelle say about tonight?"

"She said that Mr. Mohan wanted me to come to dinner."

"This is an important dinner. There will be a lot of very important people there. You're quiet, which is good, but if you talk, always say sir or ma'am."


Miss Chi-Wong frowned.

"Yes, ma'am," Lia tried again.

Mr. Mohan's assistant nodded grudgingly.

Instead of pulling up on a street to let them out, the limo turned into a garage. The driver rolled down his window and talked to a man at a booth, and then they drove through a darkened set of corridors until they reached a place where the room widened and there were pale yellow lights.

When they stopped, all of them got out of the car.

Two of Michael's men went ahead, followed by Mr. Mohan and Michael, then Miss Chi-Wong, and Lia, and finally Michael's last two men. They swept through the glass doors so quickly that Lia was just on the verge of having to run to keep up.

Inside the building, it was like a palace. The floors glittered like black glass, and the walls were marble and gold. There were huge paintings on the walls. Some of the paintings were just shapes and colors, but others had people, some wearing costumes that made them look very old and some that were naked.

Lia's nose got a hint of several strange smells, like oil and eggshells, coming from the paintings. She wondered if they were worth a lot of money. They certainly looked like they were.

Through the grand hall they arrived at a stairway. Michael's men started right up, as though they knew the way, and again all of them followed.

There were men in tuxedos standing at the top of the stairs who hauled open two large metal doors. Beyond, there were lots of tables, filled with people wearing tuxedos and fancy dresses. As the eight people in Lia's group marched by, the people in the restaurant stared at them and some of them whispered to each other.

Only a few of the people looked at Lia, frowning and looking generally unfriendly. Most of them watched Mr. Mohan. Lia felt like she wanted to melt into the floor but Miss Chi-Wong reached out and took her hand and Lia felt a little better, as though she didn't have to worry about the people looking at her. Miss Chi-Wong could handle them.

They came to the far side of the restaurant, and this time there was a golden door that glowed in the yellowish lights. Mr. Mohan gestured, and two of his men opened the door. The two men behind Lia also fell away, and only four of them entered the room; Mr. Mohan, Michael, Miss Chi-Wong and Lia.

There was a huge table in the room, much to large to have fit through the doors. Lia wondered how they'd gotten it in, but she realized that it might have been built for this room. It wasn't quite round, it had three sides, each of which looked like it could fit ten or twelve people. There were only three people sitting on each side though, both with a larger figure standing behind them.

The three seated on the left were all women, wearing robes and covered with colored shawls. The closest woman was wearing a bright yellow over her squat frame, and she seemed lost in thought. The middle woman wearing red was extraordinarily average looking. She would have been right at home in a school or a library except for the fancy clothes. The furthest woman from her was thin and wearing a bluish shawl, much darker than Lia's dress. She seemed very familiar but Lia couldn't remember where she'd seen her before. Behind them there was a huge man. He looked like an Indian guide from old western movies but there were patterns tattooed all over his skin. As Lia looked at the tattoos they seemed to shift and change and Lia could almost smell a fifth person under the musk of the man's scent.

On the other side, to the right of the seats that looked like they were for Mr. Mohan and Miss Chi-Wong, two men and a woman were sitting. The man in the center was middle aged and Asian and very good looking and the woman that hung onto his arm was beautiful and blonde. The other man sitting at their side of the table was younger and white, and there was a slim computer in front of him, and he was typing away. Behind them was a large white guy wearing sunglasses. Lia barely had looked at them when the smell of rotting flesh filled her nostrils. She almost gagged, but managed to restrain herself.

Mr. Mohan seemed to have smelled it as well. He turned back, and ushered Lia forward. She came forward, her eyes watering, but when she touched Mr. Mohan's hand the smell suddenly reduced to a manageable level, as though his presence had pushed it away.

He gestured for her to come up and sit at his right had side, even holding the chair for her. Miss Chi-Wong sat on Mr. Mohan's other side and like the man sitting with the pale people she pulled out a computer and set it on the table in front of her and set to typing.

"Mr. Mohan," said the woman sitting in the middle to the left as she looked at Lia, "who is this?"

"This is Lia," Mr. Mohan said. "She is under my protection."

The Asian man chuckled. "Have you got yourself a toy, William?"

Mr. Mohan smiled. "I'm not nearly as twisted as your associates, Lo. Lia is an heir, actually."

The woman in red exchanged looks with the woman in blue, and looked back at Lia. "An heir? May I inquire as to what her totem animal is?"

"Lia is a were-raven."

There was a creaking scrape as the woman wearing the blue shawl stood up. She was looking intently at Lia, and there was a buzz. Lia looked into her eyes and found herself starring into two fiery yellow orbs.

The fire stretched out between them for a moment, washing over Lia and reminding her of where she'd seen the woman before, in the empty parking lot. She remembered flying and the blood on the woman's face as her claws tore into her.

This time though, there was no love to save her. Instead, something inside Lia struggled to burst out through her skin. She felt feathers everywhere.

I can eat you, Lia thought to herself desperately. I can claw your eyes out.

Then she was back in herself. Nearly everyone was standing, except for Miss Chi-Wong and the dead boy with the other computer. The woman in blue rocked back as though she'd been struck, nearly collapsing into her seat. Behind her, Lia could smell fur. Michael had probably changed partway.

"ENOUGH," Mr. Mohan said before anyone else could move. He looked at the woman in red. "Control your sister, Mistress Bybreak."

The woman in red looked at the woman in blue, who's eyes were still narrowed and looking at Lia. "Belle, stop," she said softly, and the blue woman tore her gaze away from Lia and nodded momentarily. She sat down, and kept her eyes down on the black wood of the table.

Lia realized that she was standing too. She sat back down in her big wooden chair, and Michael stepped forward to push it back in. Mr. Mohan sat down next, followed by the dead people and then the women in red and yellow.

"I'd heard rumors that you were looking for an heir," said the woman in red. "A bird, barely a predator at that, is an odd choice. Not one of your spawn, Mr. Mohan?" She sounded polite, but there was something about the way that she said 'spawn' that Lia didn't like.

He shook his head. "Lia is wereborn."

The Asian man chuckled again, but didn't say anything.

"She's young though. How old are you, Lia?"

Lia looked up at the woman in red, who was trying to conceal her interest. "I'm thirteen, ma'am," she said, trying to sound the same as the woman in red.

The woman in yellow smiled. "She looks younger," she said to no one in particular, but she said it in such a pleasant fashion that Lia smiled momentarily. "And so polite for a young one."

"I think that's enough introductions for today," Mr. Mohan said. "It's time we got down to business."

The woman in red and the Asian man nodded.

Miss Chi-Wong stood. "This meeting is called to order. The Vampires have called this meeting, and control the agenda, but is there any other pressing matter first?"

"No," said the woman in red.

Miss Chi-Wong nodded, made a note, and then said, "Mr. Lo."

As she sat, the Asian man stood. "I'm sure that you're aware through your own channels that the plague has reached North America." Mr. Lo nearly spat the word. "As such, there will be major movements of our people in and out of this area for the next month."

"If I recall correctly," the woman in red said, "the last time we sat here you assured us that the Europeans would be the last group of vampires to arrive in the city for some time. I'm beginning to feel nervous about having so many of your people here, Mr. Lo."

"We have followed the proper--," the blond woman started to say, but Mr. Lo gestured for her to be silent, cutting her off.

"I understand your concern," Mr. Lo said. "By way of apology I've arranged for the western District's contract to be offered to the Capriesi family at fifty on the dollar."

The woman in red paused as though she was thinking, and then nodded.

"And for us?" Mr. Mohan asked.

"I have a slightly more . . . long term contract that I wish to negotiate with you. I'd like to send Chris to your office, and let him work out the details with Ming some time this week."

The woman wearing yellow spoke up suddenly. "Uh, uh, uh," she said happily, wagging her finger. "That's within the scope of this meeting. Fess up."

Mr. Lo frowned, but nodded. "I need to hire a team of your boys to patrol a section of my area."

"Which area?"

"Between the airport and 515."

Mr. Mohan looked at Miss Chi-Wong. "We have two teams available," she whispered, although not softly enough to keep the other two groups from hearing her.

Mr. Mohan nodded at Mr. Lo. "Double standard rate."

Mr. Lo frowned, and then nodded. The blonde woman didn't look happy, either, but the other boy didn't say anything, he just typed away at his computer.

Miss Chi-Wong stood up again. "Any further business?"

"I have one thing," said the woman in red.

Miss Chi-Wong made another note, and then said, "Mistress Bybreak?"

The woman in red stood and looked around. "Prices are increasing on all markets by five percent."

Mr. Lo looked extremely annoyed and even Mr. Mohan looked upset.

"Why?" Mr. Mohan asked.

"The price of oil is going up."

"And that results in a five percent increase?"

"It does when your entire product is being flown in private jets."

"All of it?" Miss Chi-Wong said. "How is that even feasible?"

"The road blocks by the police on I-40 are causing this, aren't they" said Mr. Lo.

The woman in red nodded at Lo, and then turned to Miss Chi-Wong. "Bribing people at the Executive Airport is more expensive than at LSV, but it's safer for the families at the moment."

Mr. Lo sat back, but Mr. Mohan leaned forward. "Fuel has increased by three percent this quarter. I think that we would all find that a fair compromise."

The woman in red shook her head. "I think you should check your numbers again, Will."

"Three and five."

"For both of you?"

Mr. Mohan looked at Mr. Lo, and then nodded.

"Three and seven, then."

Mr. Mohan leaned back. "Done."

Mr. Lo winced. "We could make arrangements for I-40--."

Mr. Mohan looked at him, and shook his head, and Mr. Lo stopped talking.

The woman in red sat, and Miss Chi-Wong stood. "Are we finished?"

Both Mr. Lo and the woman in red said yes.

"Then this meeting is closed," Miss Chi-Wong said.

"Quick as usual," Mr. Lo said as he raised his glass, and suddenly the doors opened. There were people with food all around them. "You're all welcome to stay for dinner, of course." Except Lia noticed that nothing was offered to the dead people except a bottle of something dark that was set in front of the Asian man. Whatever was in the bottle smelled wrong, not like wine at all. It took her a moment to recognize it: Blood.

The three women stood. "Thank you, Lo, but I'm afraid we have other business."

The woman in blue, deprived of the table, kept looking quickly at Lia and then looking away, making Lia uncomfortable, but the woman in yellow smiled at her. "We'll meet again later, dear," she said and they swept out the door.

"Can you stand the smell?" Mr. Mohan whispered to her.

She nodded.

"Then we shall stay for dinner. I'll have someone find you a menu, and if there's anything at all that you want, just tell the waiters."

She nodded, and looked at Mr. Lo. He was sipping his glass of blood, but his eyes were fixed on her. This night had been about her, she was sure of it, but she still couldn't understand why.