Sunday, November 30, 2008

Episode 23: Capture and Control

Bliss showed up with four sisters in two SUVs. At six fourteen they were alone in front of the adobe building. At six fifteen there was a sixth person.

Bliss was the first one to approach the body on the blanket. It was Lex. He was naked and unconscious.

There was the raised bump of a spider bite on the side of his neck. In a few days that would be gone like it had never been, even though it had been red and raised for a long time.

Bliss rolled him over. Along the skin over his spine was a red tattoo. To Bliss it meant nothing, but she knew what to do with it.

They rolled him up in the blanket and lay him in the back of the SUV on a foam mattress that they’d just bought at Target.

Justina Bybreak sat by the boy’s side in the SUV. She’d been Maiden in her coven near San Francisco, but had given up that position after her mother died and moved home to Las Vegas. Her father had been outraged, first to find out that Bybreak’s will excluded him and that his daughter was dropping out of medical school to join his mother’s business.

Bliss smiled at the girl as the car started to move. She was in her early twenties and everything that a good witch usually wasn’t: tall, blond and stunningly beautiful.

Bliss had told her how her mother had died. And then forbid her from hurting the boy.

Justina was already stroking the side of his face with a sharp fingernail.


As soon as Lia penciled in the last answer to her homework she stood up and changed into some comfortable clothes.

At first it had been very nice to wear beautiful dresses all the time. They were such beautiful clothes that wearing them made her feel like a movie star and they’d only gotten nicer in the last few years. Annabelle’s selections had been nice for a girl that looked eight but it turned out that Miss Chi-Wong had a surprisingly sophisticated sense of fashion and one of the few ways that she was willing to spend time with Lia was to buy her clothes.

But the dresses were limiting. They were made to stand out and she realized after a while that they were not much more than prison uniforms.

Even the “regular” clothes that Miss Chi-Wong bought her though were very nice. The jeans that she was wearing were from a private label and up each side were embroidered flowers. Her white fuzzy blouse was one of the softest fabrics that she’d ever felt and over that she’d pulled a sweatshirt with a brilliant flower on it.

There were werewolf guards at the doors to her rooms, not to mention throughout the building. Ever since she’d been escaping Mohan had been putting a guard on the roof too although that was the easiest guard to evade.

She went to the door and put her hand up on it and concentrated.

Most of the wolves were just normal humans when they hadn’t shifted. A few had improved senses, or could shift part way between wolf and human, but most of them were just ordinary people.

Mohan wasn’t. Michael wasn’t. Lia suspected that Chi-Wong wasn’t. Neither was Lia.

She thought of bubbles and fuzz and fog and anything else that came into her head and pushed them through the door and into the guards on the other side. They wouldn’t see the images, or understand exactly what was happening, but it worked.

After thirty seconds of concentration she opened the door and slipped through the oblivious guards. She still had to move slowly and quietly while the guards daydreamed.

The elevator had a camera and so did the stairs. Mohan was serious about his security.

She had a couple of routes out of the building but the easiest by far was the kitchen window.

There was a much larger and more impressive kitchen down on the main floor of the building that could cater to large groups and meetings that Mr. Mohan sometimes held in the conference rooms on the first floor but the little kitchen up on this floor was what normally fed Lia and provided snacks and lunches for the guards.

Usually the evening guy was a jerk and Lia would have had to fuzz him out as well but today was a Sunday and the weekend guy was a thin Hispanic werewolf named Jaime. He was wearing a white apron and looked up in surprise as she came in.

She nodded to him. “Hola Jaime. ¿Como esta ustedes?” she said. Spanish wasn’t one of her lessons, but even among the servants of the werewolves Spanish seemed to dominate. She’d learned a few words out of self defense.

“Bien, Senorita,” he replied and then said something quickly and sighed.

“Yeah, afraid I need to use the window again,” she said.

She moved toward it, and he moved between her.

“No, Senorita. Senor Mohan no quiere que te vayas.” He doesn’t want you to go, he was telling her.

“Yo quiero.” I want to go.

Jaime looked at her, as though he couldn’t believe that she had desires other than what Mohan wanted. Yeah, Mr. Mohan was scary, but he wasn’t that scary.

“I’m sorry, Jaime,” she murmured and then remembered how to say it in Spanish. “Lo siento, Jaime.”

He bared his teeth for a moment, but she didn’t flinch. She tensed her muscles and things slowed down a bit, and she reached out her hand and touched his face, along his jawline. There was a spark and he was hers.

He was trying to change, and she told him not to. There was a growl in his throat but it was just a human growl.

She relaxed and time went back to the way that it was supposed to be. Jaime flinched at her hand on his face. He looked confused for a moment, then surprised and then scared.

“Lo siento, Jaime,” she said. Go over and stand by the wall for a moment, she said in her animal voice. It was easy to command something like that, it wasn’t even words or language she just had to picture it. Jaime moved back, suddenly aghast and she continued. If they ask you, I never came into the kitchen. She frowned. That was a more complicated image and she couldn’t say that in Spanish.

Well, if she had to hope that he’d understood. She shifted into the raven and fluttered the counter before she realized that she’d forgotten to open the window.

Well, there was Jaime now. She sent and image and he came over, unlatched the window and she flew out into the daylight.

Continued next week . . .

Monday, November 17, 2008

Episode 22: Deals and Politics

Bliss left the dessicated collection of animals and insects in front of the door of the small adobe house. They weren't required, and they weren't part of her current bargain, but they couldn't hurt either. There didn't appear to be anyone home but that was deceiving; it never looked like anyone was home.

"Grandmother?" she called out. It would have been rude to try the door and Bliss didn't particually want to touch the house if she didn't have to, so she just stood there in the cool evening.

There was no response and no movement in the little home except for the swaying of the grasses that grew right up to the walls. Sometimes Spider Woman was in the mood to talk to Bliss and some days she was not.

The old spirits, the ones that were written about in legend, were always a fickle bunch. Some were touchy about the fact that they'd mostly been supplanted in the modern world but some had learned to get along.

Some were dead. In fact, most were dead.

Ideas had power, swirling around in people's brains, and when enough people all had the same ideas, they could give birth to things that were not human but alive and powerful. If the people stopped believing though, the spirits would die. Humans were the special case: they would keep living if whether you believed in them or not.

Spider Woman was amazingly resilient. She'd not only lived long enough to set her foot in with the new agers, she'd managed to keep some of her powers. In this area of the world there weren't many spirits that could say that truthfully.

So Bliss used her when she could. There were some things the spirits could do that the "mortals" could not, and vice versa. What Bliss could arrange through a few telephone calls or an internet search was often enough for surprisingly complicated bits of knowledge or powerful magics. The price for this particular assistance had been unusually difficult.

After five minutes, Bliss pulled an envelope out of her purse, went over, and stuck it in the door frame. It wouldn't get lost, she was sure of that. Spider Woman would get the envelope even if she had to chase it across a hundred miles of Nevada desert. Bliss smiled at the image.

But this resolved her debt, finally.

She turned to walk back to the car where Iron Dog was waiting but before she took more than four steps she heard the door open and turned.

Spider Woman stood there, holding the envelope. Considering the trouble that Bliss had gone through to get what was inside Spider Woman looked unmoved.

"This is it?" The spirit woman asked.

Bliss nodded.

Spider Woman slowly and carefully opened the top of the unsealed envelope and pulled out the paper inside. There was just one and she unfolded it carefully.

"You've fulfilled your end of the bargain, Bliss," she said at last, putting the paper away and holding the envelope gingerly. "And my lawyer?"

"I sent him a copy as well," Bliss said. "And the developers won't bother you again. My sisters and I have made absolutely sure of that."

"When do you want delivery? Now?"

Bliss shook her head. "We can arrange for tomorrow. No mistakes this time."


"Lia's run away again," said Annabelle to Miss. Chi-Wong.

Chi-Wong sighed. "Have you notified Michael?"

Annabelle nodded. "Mohan's not going to be happy."

"No, of course not. But he won't be surprised. What happened this time?"

"She'd been good all morning, I swear I'd been watching her like a hawk nearly since she'd woken up, but she seemed to be enjoying her lessons and she doesn't usually try to run when it's the middle of the day, you know that, so I went to the bathroom and left one of Michael's pack to watch her--."

"Is the guard hurt?"

"Just unconscious."

"Moon be damned . . ."

"She didn't hit him. I don't know how she managed it this time."

"She's getting to be completely uncontrollable. True, the fact that were have her is an important continuing bargaining chip with the Ladies but we can't keep. . . ." Chi-Wong paused. "I will tell Mohan. You know some of the places that she goes, join the hunt. If we can find her before the markets close, he may be willing to overlook your negligence."

Annabelle nodded and excused herself. Chi-Wong arched her fingers and rubbed the bridge of her nose.

All the different shapeshifters were linked through their shared human side. Werewolf, Weretiger, Werellama, they all eventually fit into the hierarchy. You dominated them once, they stayed dominated. If you were at the top of a pack, those under you were nearly completely loyal.

Mohan seemed oddly reluctant to break the girl though, and Chi-Wong had absolutely no idea why. That was what you did with new wolves. You put them in their place and they became quietessent.

Wereravens were rare, and the gift used to create them was rarer. In Chi-Wong's opinion whatever insane shapeshifter had thought it was a good idea to infect a child with lycanthropy, especially wereravenism, should be slowly boiled to death over the course of years by the witches. The problem was that the only person that she knew that could offer the "pure gift" of species undifferentiated lycanthropy was William Mohan.

She'd seen him use it to create Weresnakes out of rattlers. It wasn't a particuarly pleasant experience, and Chi-Wong had only been an observer. For the participants it was extremely painful and sickening, even for the giver.

Considering that the girl had shown up at Mohan's doorstep, it was hard to believe that he hadn't had something to do with her creation, but he still maintained that he hadn't. He pointed out that of all things, why would he have created a wereraven? Even two months before they'd found her their relationship with the Ladies hadn't required the sudden addition of a threat. They'd even considered killing her in her sleep since then to try to win the support of Bliss back.

If the old witch hadn't been such a caniving bitch, they might have gone through with it even.

So now they were left with what amounted to an toxic waste covered wild animal caged in the house. Lia didn't want to be kept, couldn't be easily dominated, and was constantly trying to run away. The Wolves as a group couldn't just let her go because that would permanently fracture their relationship with the Ladies. And, despite their reputation for random violence and as much as Chi-Wong hated to admit it, none of the Wolves really wanted to murder another shapeshifter, especially a child.

So why didn't Mohan want to just dominate her and be done with it? At least then he could tell her to stay put and she wouldn't have a choice in the matter. It was if he thought that her usefullness in negotiations would go out the window if she was broken but how would the ladies even know that if he didn't tell him? Chi-Wong had no idea.