Spades Fiction

Episodic stories of fantasy and science fiction.

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Seeking Dusk: Part 10

I couldn’t stay around Rand any longer. I take off, flying into the night air. I need to clear my head and try to figure all this out. Rand was out of his mind.

He questioned The Presence? Willingly threw himself in league with lesser demons in the name of compromise? The words he speaks remind me of someone else. Someone who long ago thought to question our creator. And the Morning Star paid dearly for his transgressions.

I don’t want to see a good man, my friend, go through all that. But talking with him was impossible! He countered every argument I made, in his on twisted way! Dammit! He’s probably still mad. Still cleaning that mess. If only I could show him. Or talk with someone about it.

Actually, I do think I can do that second one.

The question is whether he will see me. I change direction and fly back to the office of Dr. Alexander Matthews.

I touch down just outside the doctor’s office. It was a strange sensation. Humility. I had angered him and been angry in turn on my last visit. That was a mere day ago. And here I am, already having to come back and ask for help. My foolish pride was going to bruise on this one.

I slide through the door, my spiritual form allowing me to bypass the wall. I’m sure he knows I’m here, it’s not like I’m hiding the energy flowing out of me. He’ll be down shortly.

The office still had all sorts of books and artifacts thrown about the room. The man might have acted all high and mighty, but he’s one hell of a pig. His bookshelves are a different story. Each and every volume was specifically chosen. Each one contains some of the most important information we’ve ever utilized. And a select few shelves contain the only pictures of friends and family he has. It’s actually a little sad. All those memories in his head and-

“Aluma. Back so soon?” The doctor had entered from the hall while my back was turned. Looked like he hadn’t changed out of his clothes from yesterday. Polo shirt tucked into some old jeans all partially hidden under his white lab coat.

The man retired years ago and patching up angels doesn’t exactly get you dirty. I suppose it’s habit. Though that means someone else was just here. Hell, they might still be.

“Of course, doc. You know I can’t stay away.” I walk over and take a seat in a chair he had in the corner of the room. I need to be calm. No insults. I need his help. Be modest, and apologetic.

“How’s the investigation with Rand going?” The doctor moves to his desk, sifting through the drawers. I can’t tell if he’s actually looking for something or just making it seem like he didn’t come in here for me.

“Hard to say. On one hand, we’re talking with someone who might know where to look. On the other, Rand has been making deals with this informant for some time.”

“Is that so? Who’s the informant?” His eyes never leave his desk. Is he really being this petty?

“A shame demon. He runs The Milton.” And here’s the reaction…

“Ah, yes, Dumah. Lucky he’s a coward, or many of your missions would have failed.” …You’ve got to be kidding me.

“You knew about this?” I don’t think it is possible for me to be more incredulous.

He finally looks up, straight at me, like I was the one who just said the completely crazy thing.

“Of course I did. I’m the one who told him where to find Dumah.”

“…I think you broke my brain.”

The old man gives a sigh.

“Aluma, I understand that you were created with the specific purpose of killing demons, but haven’t you ever wondered how we found out where their most secret compounds are? Haven’t you wondered why, despite proving so useful in The Old War, you haven’t moved up in rank?

“You are so narrow minded, and want to kill everything labeled ‘demon.’ There’s a big difference between demons and the fallen. Though they take similar paths to get there, demons started off as humans. Which gives them that freewill we were so special for.”

I can feel myself instinctively roll my eyes.

“So you’re trying to say demons aren’t all that bad. Oh gee, why didn’t I ever think of that? Thank you so much for showing the error of my ways. I’ll be sure to give the next demon I see a nice big hug.” I start to get up.

Desine

And I immediately freeze in place. Damn.

“Please sit.” The biggest downside to being an angel, is that you were made to serve.

I resume sitting, and the doctor continues his lecture.

“Aluma, you have to understand, as much as I wish we could just run out and kill every last bit of evil on the planet, that is not our duty. Ours is to hold back that tide of darkness for as long as we can.”

“I fail to see how protecting them helps us accomplish that…”

“We’re not letting them do as they please. Aluma, there will always be evil in this world, from now until judgment day. So in turn for letting small fish roam free, we can put our efforts towards stopping the bigger fish.”

“Well, even if I did believe that, that’s not the biggest issue I have. It’s Rand. He’s talking about wanting an end to the war.”

“Well my goodness, that most certainly does sound horrible.”

Okay, it kind of stings to have your own sarcasm thrown back in your face.

“Well, it’s just… I…”

The doctor finally sits at his desk and addresses me directly

“Tell me, Aluma. Why did you come here?”

I think over the question, genuinely wondering the same thing. What is it about Rand that bothers me? If he still has use of the Light, shouldn’t that mean he’s doing something right?

“… I’m lost.” It was painful to admit, but it needed saying. It was what Dr. Matthews was looking for. His proud little smirk tells me that.

“You’re a host of heaven. Not the Lord himself. It’s natural to lose your bearings and need guidance.”

I didn’t want him to be right. The Great Aluma reduced to this. Asking a human for help.

“What has Rand done to shake you? What of it has made him so compromising?”

“It’s the callous way he so quickly became trusting of those we considered enemies. Maybe they can be of use, but to me, they were just things we killed not too long ago. I haven’t been sneaking around the backs of other angels to get what I need. I’ve entered a new world where allies, enemies and tools can spring from nowhere, and just as easily switch what they mean to me. And somehow, I’m just supposed to accept all this?”

The doctor shifts forward in his chair, his face showing concern. This hasn’t been easy for him either.

“It takes getting used to, but I can speak from experience on this matter. You want so badly for things to be one way. Black and white. But time with the angels of our Lord has taught me of the shades of gray plaguing my previous assumptions. While I might not always claim to understand the actions taken by such heavenly beings, I can tell you I either trust them, or call them out. Which do you think this deserves? What has Rand done?”

I can’t answer. I can’t say he’s compromised his ideals, since his first and foremost goal was protecting mankind as I have. I can’t say hiding these dealings from me, since even I can see, and am currently proving, I would take the news so poorly. I can’t respond.

“Aluma, why don’t you go get some air? I’ll send for you if I hear movement on more of the demons.”

I obey.

The Elysian: Twelfth Dream

I finally stop being so dumbstruck and command my body to move. I force myself to float to my right, just barely avoiding the plant monster. But I’m too slow up here. I need to get out of here! I never expected to find an abomination here! Everything, even Death, has seemed so innocuous, despite their abilities. I’ve never been so scared in my life.

He sends several more vines at me. I focus as hard as I can and dodge this new wave of attacks. Three snap on different sides of me. The last few barely miss my legs. I grab the last one before he pulls it back. This was a bad idea. It starts to shake back and forth, trying to get me loose. I can’t really focus as he sends some new vines at me. Then, I get an idea. I remember the lesson Puck taught me and let go of my emotions. I surrender to the empty feeling and lose my touch on the vine I was holding. The new wave all pass through me. Time to get out of here.

I try to fly away, but I hear him strike again. There’s no way to avoid it this time. I feel the vines snap around my leg. The jerk shakes my whole body. I try to become intangible again, but my heart is racing, and my emotions too ingrained to let go. I can’t slip out of this. His whips retract and pull me toward the frightening visage that was his face. I see the vines move and squirm as it opens the gaping jaw he’s made. He’s gonna eat me!

The forest monster was drawing me closer to his mouth, my mind racing to find a way out of this. My emotions were to worked up to turn intangible again. I had no weapons within reach. The creature’s grasp was too strong for me to break free. And I… I had an oddly long stretch of time in which to think about all of this.

I look down, the creature’s vines were not really pulling on me.

“Um, weren’t you going to eat me about two seconds ago?”

The vines release me and retract back into the forest man.

“No, I was expecting you to break free and fly away. Now I’ll never get rid of you.”

“…But… b-but….” He was just trying to scare me?! “I-I… but that…. BUT YOU TRANSFORMED INTO A GIANT MONSTER WITH AN INSATIABLE APPETITE FOR MY FLESH!!!”

“I changed into my guardian form.” As he talks, the vines shift and shrink, disappearing to God knows where. “I don’t really hurt people unless they hurt my trees. You were bugging me, so I wanted to scare you off, but you proved too weak and stupid for your own good. So look, I let you go. Can ya please leave? Go away?”

Out of all the insanity to have happened to me, I must admit, this hit me the most. I felt every bit of confusion throughout every fiber of my being. And everything said the same thing.

“Wha…?”

The spirit was finished shifting back to his small, wooden man form. He crossed his arms as he spoke.

“Leave me alone. Go run your little errand for Goodfellow. Get your reward and have fun bragging.”

That’s an odd thing to say.

“My reward? Now what are you talking about?”

The little man sighed and rolled his eyes.

“Happens all the time. Some spirit hears about the legendary challenges and pranks of ‘The Master of the Forest’ and thinks they can best them. After being led on a wild goose chase, he congratulates them on doing nothing, using his fancy word play and rhymes, making them think they actually did something of worth and let’s them wander off.”

…What?

He continues. “It’s actually one of his funnier pranks. It’s only once enough spirits are successful that they realize it was all a joke. I’m more curious to what they will try to do to him after-”

“WHAT?!!!?? He’s playing a prank on me!? I swear to whatever god you all worship I will wring his neck until he can’t-”

“Now calm down, ya idiot. He’s the master of pranks. Didn’t you think when you decided to come here and accept these challenges there might be something else going on?”

He thinks I’m just some afterlife thrill seeker.

“I’m not here for some faux-challenge given by an almighty jester! I’m trying to find my way home and your master promised me a key to the magic door if I solved his challenges!”

“Oh. Then you’re stupider than I thought. No way is Goodfellow giving you his key. Might as well go back to where you came from.” And the spirit turns to walk away.

“But that’s what I was trying to do…” I slowly descend to the branch. My prospects bleak. This was just a sick game, played by the master of sick games. What do I do now? How much time have I lost? Is Death getting closer? Did he trick me and this tangled mess my punishment for not choosing to pass on?

What do I do now?

“Ugh, dammit. Look kid, I don’t know what’s going on here, but everyone finds their way home.” The small man walks over to me, trying to be comforting. “Puck is more trustworthy than you might assume. Of course, that’s if you assume everything he’s doing is untrustworthy.”

“Thank you. That’s very helpful… I just- So, I apparently died not too long ago. Death came for me, but I couldn’t accept it. I ran away from him and have been trying to find my way back to my family. I thought if I just kept collecting keys from these spirits, one would maybe get me back home.”

“Fine. Let’s go get you that feather.”

The Elysian: Eleventh Dream

“Fine. I give in. What do you want me to do? I need to get out of here and the sooner I get done, the better. Tell me, Robin Goodfellow, what quest will I go on, and what lesson must I learn?”

Puck leans back, once again sitting on his breeze.

“That’s better. Now listen and hear my words.

The first item you seek is one for the birds.

A feather, specifically, one of color unknown.

But it’s not in sky, or trees. It’s under a stone.

And over a river. And next to the earth.

Bring it to me, and show me your worth.”

“That’s it. I have to bring you a feather? It’s no finding a planet in the universe, but what’s the catch?”

He smiles.

“There is none this time. Except the lesson you must learn.

It will all become clear. I hope the moral you don’t spurn.”

I am really starting to hate rhymes.

“Fine. I believe you said it’s near a river? Mind pointing me in the right direction?”

The master of the forest stands up and whips the wind around him. Leaves and dirt take shape at his sides. They form arrows pointing in either direction.

“…Really?”

“Well, to be fair, you didn’t say

which river was more your way.

I’m afraid I’ve no more time.

I must go, enjoy the last rhyme!”

He opens his hands and slams them together causing a large splash of wind to envelope his body. And like that, he disappears. The little jerk just left me here. His two arrows pointing me towards the rivers are still here though. So helpful…

“Why can I not catch a break?!” I cry out, my voice echoing through the trees.

I can’t say I feel completely better, but there’s something cathartic about yelling and cursing at nothing.

Time to pick a path. Left or right? Towards the right is the path he had me traveling down for his first test. But he’s a trickster so it might have been to throw me off. Or maybe he knew I would think that.

Moment of truth. God, I wish I had a coin. Maybe if I start down one of the ways, I can get some kind of clue if it’s right or not.

“Ya mind, moving, buddy?”

What the hell? Where is that voice coming from? I turn around trying to find the source. There’s no one here. Maybe it’s invisible? I ask myself a lot of questions.

“I said move it buddy!!”

It’s coming from the downward direction. It’s a tiny little man, isn’t it?

I look down and try to find the small person. Bingo.

“Sorry. Can I help you?” I ask.

The source of the voice looked to be a miniscule figure made of wood. He had a beard made of grass. And a head that went up into a point with a single leaf.

“Yes you can. You can get off my tree!”

“I’m terribly sorry. My mistake.” I take off from the branch and float next to it. “So this is your tree? The whole thing?”

He looks up at me, his face incredulous.

“Yeah, the whole thing. Don’t ya see my name on it?”

“Well to be perfectly honest, no…”

“Look, mortal-”

“Why does everyone insist on calling me that?”

“-I don’t care what your problem is, and I don’t care why you’re so interested in me. Just leave me alone and float on somewhere else.”

Well, I obviously can’t let that slide.

“Well, you might start caring. My new problem is you. And I have a way to take care of that. Just point me in the direction of the river.”

“Those arrows left by Master Puck should show you the way out. Now get out of here.”

“But I need to find a specific river.

He sighs and looks at me with the angriest look on his face.

“Fine. Which river?”

“Um… the one with the feather?”

“Oh you’re a funny one, jack. Now, like I said. Get out of here.”

“But I need help! Your Master Puck has me trying to find some special feather around here. He said it was by a river. Ringing any bells?”

The strange little man gives me such a dirty look, it felt like he was cursing at me with no words.

“Look, buddy. I ain’t getting involved in none of the games Goodfellow is playing with you. Ya got a 50/50 chance of finding whatever river you’re searching for. I suggest you take it. NOW GET LOST!”

This is not going as I planned. I had hoped if I annoyed him enough, I could get him to tell me just to get rid of me. But I’m not sure where to go from here.

“What part of ‘Get outta here’ are you not getting, bub?” The wooden man has turned his attention back to me. I suppose I should go ahead and leave.

Or, and hear me out here, I can go for stupid.

I barely think it, and my hand shoots out and snatches the small man from the branch. He squirms against my grip, but he’s no match for my giant proportioned strength.

“Let go of me, you filthy mort! Put me down!”

His cries annoy me, but I can’t do much about it. He feels so fragile, and I think if I try to cover his mouth, I’ll accidentally break him.

And yet, he feels a bit denser than I expected. If he is made from wood, I would think it’s something closer to an ebony wood, as opposed to the apple wood kind of look he sports.

“I need a guide through this forest. You’re the only one around. So too bad for you.” It was mean, but I really couldn’t care. I need to get out of here now.

“You want to put me down, right now.” His voice became much more focused.

As threatening as it was, I maintain my grip.

But something is wrong. He doesn’t feel right in my hand. He feels like he’s… gaining weight? He’s heavier. The squirming in my hand has shifted. He was no longer moving like he was trying to escape, but rather something was moving around him.

And he was so heavy now! I reach out with my other hand to help hold him. That’s when I realize what’s happening. I couldn’t hold him anymore. I throw him back onto the branch, hoping to reverse the process, but it’s no use.

He has vines and branches growing out and wrapping around him. He lands and continues growing. All the added layers have made him immense. He’s bigger than me.

His body no longer resembles the small gnome before. He is now a rather rotund, humanoid figure. His face was a grotesque mess of vines and wood that I’m sure was meant to look like a human face with a beard, but instead, reminded me of the horrifying visage of an eldritch creature. His eyes were what scared me the most. The growth around it left sunken holes in his head where his eyes should be, a vain attempt to replicate a human.

“I warned you.” The booming deep voice sounded nothing like the little man. He was now a monster. And I pissed him off.

“I am no normal waldgeist. I’m a leshy.”

And with that, he waved his hands at me, vines shooting out of his arm and flying right toward me.

Seeking Dusk: Part 9

Most of the creatures are smart. They fled off into the night after the death of the lead vampire. The few scragglers who wanted to stand their ground would soon know why I am feared among their kind. Why my sword is the bane of their masters. And why my temper is something not to be trifled with.

I grip the hilt of my sword tighter and prepare the descent to-

“ALUMA!!”

Dammit. It’s Rand. He’s standing just out of the door of the club, arms crossed, wearing the face of a disappointed parent.

The other beasts notice the second holy warrior and run away.

“Don’t you ‘Aluma’ me! These creatures laid a trap for us!”, I cry out.

“That you willingly walked into. Did you even consider asking for help? Did you think when you maimed a dozen human souls without the mercy of a swift death?”

I float down slowly, my anger far too focused on my friend for me to go faster.

“You don’t get to judge me, Garrow! How long have you been coming here?! How long have you been making deals with the darkness? You offered what I could never condone. Was I to ignore that? I leave and they ambushed me. They wished to cause me harm. Yes, the vampire gave them courage to attack, but they’re the ones who wanted to. I refuse to let a mortal judge me for defending myself, especially against such an attack by the lowest of beasts.”

I touch down right in front of him. He’s thinking. Thinking about what happened here. About my words. He’s trying to find a way to turn this around. To find a way I could have avoided violence. But he knows there is none. Humans. Ever hopeful.

“You still could have come and got me.”

“I didn’t think I had the time with a wendigo at my throat.”

“No, you just didn’t think.” He turns to one of the wounded creatures. He points his hand at the beast and lets his energy pour out. The bright white beam shooting out his hand envelopes the monster and when he’s finished, there is no more.

“I’m going to take a while cleaning up here. Go patrol. We’ll rendezvous-”

“No.”

He turns and faces me.

“Excuse me?”

“You’ve been acting so morally superior all day.  What is wrong with you?”

He looks around, slightly annoyed. He doesn’t get to play this game.

“Tell me Rand. Something happened between last night and this morning. Hell, something happened in the last few years. When I was last on assignment, you never would have gone to The Milton alone. You never would have defended these monstrosities.” He turns back around. I won’t let him escape so easily. “You never would have lied to me.”

“I didn’t-”

“Don’t start. Those marks on your arm this morning weren’t from a dog. It’s my turn to tell you to stop being stupid and tell me what’s wrong.”

He sighs. His head moves from left to right, surveying the carnage I wrought.

“I’m tired, Alli. Tired of fighting. Tired of this war.”

Is that all?

“You’re only human. An absolutely amazing one, but still human. Been fighting for, what, 10? 15 years? I’ve been at this for eons. Since the Morning Star first fell. The doctor isn’t as active-”

“No. I’m tired of this war. Tired of seeing pointless blood be spilled.”

Surprise doesn’t begin to describe how I felt.

“Rand… this is far from pointless.”

“Sure it is. One ideology versus another. Good and evil are merely-”

“Don’t you dare blaspheme around me, Garrow!”

“Alli, we want to protect humans, yet here are souls, wounded by your own blade. I can only purify so many before I get exhausted. Our God chooses to leave them to the wolves.”

“He leaves them to us. And we are-”

“Warriors. Spillers of blood. Violence is our nature, and he expects us to be equipped to heal the very warped souls he orders us to destroy?”

“He expects us to do our best.”

“Then I will. And if that involves me making deals and allies you don’t like, don’t complain to me.”

This is insanity. How could he have lost so much faith in The Presence? 

“Garrow…”

“Don’t you ‘Garrow’ me. Humans are born into a trap. Our world pains us. Teases us. Brings us down.”

“You at least have freedom.”

He walks over to the next creature and extends his hand.

“Freedom to choose how we die.”

The white energy fires from his hand.

The Elysian: Tenth Dream

“You are a different soul! Neither proud, nor humble be.

But the middle of the line, a place most un-free.

Your work demands excellence. Your daughters need guidance.

And so you found this middle ground, and built around you a fence.

“You couldn’t fail at work lest you lose your money

To provide for your family, and keep your life sunny.

And your kin must be raised, with a sense of humility

That wild dreams are work in futility.”

Yet you had a dream! Once upon a time.”

Which brings me right back to the start of these rhymes!”

He got really close to me, to make sure I could hear. It was like there was someone around he didn’t want listening in.

“You wanted to draw a building so wild!

But the jobs you took left you feeling so mild…

I had to put that spark back in your soul

There was only one problem. You had a big hole.

The hole was fear. Fear of failing, of loss

It was an experience, a bridge for you to cross.

And now with your terror, embraced and affirmed

It is time for you to find that lost feeling confirmed.”

How does he talk like that, I wonder?

He reaches into his pocket and brings out that which I had been seeking. The key was the same size as the other two, but it had a fragile look to it. Like it was made out of a fallen leaf. I had already caught on to the way this world is working, so I didn’t question it, but I still had so much to ask the strange man before me.

“Puck, I… Well, to be honest, I’m not quite sure I completely understand the lesson you were trying to impart to me, but I’ve been here plenty long and I get the feeling Death is chasing. So, I’ll just ask you one more thing. Why help me? Why teach me whatever lesson you beings feel are so important that you give them to me after I die and not before?”

“That is something I cannot tell you just yet.

But you needn’t worry about it. Don’t you fret.

Now take the key and continue on.

I swear I’ll see thee again before this journey is done.”

I take the key and turned around. Amazingly, a new door stood right next to me. Moving trees. I’ll have to try and remember those. Today’s lesson might not have made such an impact, but I certainly remembered Luna’s. Have to keep moving forward.

As I opened the door, I decide to yell back to the faerie.

“Hey, Robin. That last one was a half-rhyme.”

The light from the door blinds me as I walk through. That’s going to get annoying. Will it do that every time? Can’t this place be a little less dramatic? I suppose being the realm I’m in after I’ve died, that it really can’t.

As my eyes adjust to the light, I notice something familiar. Some familiar shapes around me- Wait…

“Most of my rhymes

aren’t perfect each time.”

Robin sits in front of me. Well, he’s standing. On his head.

“What!? I thought you gave me the key.”

“Yes, indeed you did think that.

But why, I can not tell.

You are far too trusting

Truly, an easy sell.”

He laughs to himself and jumps right side up.

“I should ask, Rodriguez, who am I to you?

What do you see standing here? Do you have a clue?”

“Um, you’re Robin Goodfellow? Sometimes called Puck? Spirit of the forest and all that?” He lifts his hand and summons a breeze that somehow becomes something he can sit on. He’s sitting on the wind. All this power and control and he just-

“You’re a prankster…”

“Correction, I am THE prankster, always seeming so odd.

My forms have been many, fox, fairy and even GOD

Your cultures revere me and used to pay me tribute.

But now my own existence has been rendered moot.

“Yet here I am, a being who can make you bleed,

Taking an interest in this little life you used to lead.

Did you really think I’d let you so easy?

Back on your quest, feeling so breezy?”

He jumps to his feet and stands on one foot while he crosses his arms.

“I have more for you mortal and I find you amusing.

So I have several tasks. Missions of my choosing.

Before you proceed-”

“NO! Stop it! I’ve had enough! I passed your little test already! Just give me the key and let me continue my futile plan to outrun death.”

“Technically you didn’t succeed…”

“Don’t care. You told me I was done. I just want to go. I can’t do this anymore. No. We’re done.”

Robin got silent. Like… really quiet. This guy likes talking too much to just get quiet for-

Oh shit, I just pissed off a god.

“Mr. Rodriguez,

I have shown you patience

Which is more than I do

In all the time I have

Been around mortals like you.

So if you would, appreciate the gifts I bestow.

Because I will turn on you, before you could know.”

I’m tired. I don’t want to keep doing this. I hate this place. But most of all, I hate dealing with personified concepts, with their phenomenal cosmic powers, with their mind games, with all the bullshit that comes along with whatever the hell they do.

I’m just so tired.

Seeking Dusk: Part 8

The lead vampire puts his hand stretched out into the air. I could feel him gathering energy into it. Absorbing bits of power from the other creatures. Three vampires, a wendigo, and two animali. Those would inspire lots of fear in any other hunter.

I start trying to tug out of my body. This is going to take a bit. Picking this fight was a bad idea.

Without warning, one of the animalus shifts into his true form, a wolf, and starts jumping down from the fire escape he was perched on. My attention is focused on the beast as it descends, but I forgot about the vampire. He throws the ball of destructive force at me, leaving barely enough time to react. I jump to the side and fall behind a dumpster as the energy explodes and sends chunks of concrete in the air.

This body is so damn annoying. I’ve got my head and shoulders out, but the rest of me is still stuck in here. The wolf is on the ground, but where is his companion?

“CRAHHH!”

Oh wonderful. He’s an eagle. And he’s divebombing right for me. I get up and run towards the wolf. He roars at me and lunges. Got to time this just right…

I jump and step on the wolf’s head for added momentum. Pushing with all my strength, I break free of the false body. It falls to the ground. Going to be pretty dinged up when I return it. If I return it.

In midair, I extend my free wings and quickly spin around, drawing my sword. Holding it out just in time, I block the bird from hitting me. He knocks me back a bit. Even without drawing on The Power, he shouldn’t have been able to do that. Still, just a shrug.

“GRA-ha! I wonder what Angel tastes like?” The other two vampires tackle me while I was dealing with the eagle, and latched onto my body. The air isn’t safe when four of the things I’m fighting can fly. They pulled me down a little. This is getting to be too much. One started going for my neck. Dammit.

My body lights up, engulfed in holy fire. The vampires are thrown back, burning to ash from the experience. My armor materializes. While I should now have the upper hand, this shouldn’t have been necessary.

“There it is. That’s what we came to see.” The last vampire was laughing from atop the building. I shoot a dirty look to the monster. He just smirks back.

I aim straight for the ground and slam my sword as hard as I can into the wolf. He dodges at the last minute. Something isn’t right. These creatures should know that with this power I could annihilate them all. Why aren’t they running?

“The prototype can’t give these beasts enough strength to bring you down, but I have a feeling I know what will.” The lead vampire puts two fingers to his lips and whistles. A group of about a dozen and a half more supernatural beasts pile outside from the door. He had backup hiding in the club.

They should still be nothing, but then that eagle was supposed to be nothing. The doctor’s words echo in my head. Courage doesn’t have to mean stupidity. Damn humans…

A good number of those reinforcements can fly. And if they’re as unnaturally strong as the vamps and animali, I have less than a second. A thousand and one ideas all go rushing through my mind. And the simplest one sticks out.

Take out the ringleader.

I push The Power just a bit more, the wave of light shoving the beasts away from me. I speed towards the top of the building keeping out of reach of the now ascending monsters. I ready my sword to rend that vampire’s head from his shoulders. I barely noticed the oddly cold wind brushing against my face….

I’m hit and knocked to the side. The wendigo tackled me in midair.

“They aren’t very bright, but they do make such lovely pets, wouldn’t you say, Host?” I hate vampires. Always so damn cocky.

I struggle with beast during the descent, which I was able to slow just a bit. The deranged human looking fiend kept gnashing at me. I finally spin and throw him off, just in time to see the group of monsters flying up at me.

I am not prepared for this. I should have ran. I should have called for Rand. I never should have agreed to this idea in the first place. I should never have sat there wishing for the bar to attack just so I could wipe them out.

The beasts finally reach me. I start slashing. Each cut is made without conscious thought. Instinct kicks in. It feels like it did during the war. That horrible war. Battle after battle.

It was cruel. I didn’t kill most of them. Sliced off an arm here. A leg there. I finally did stab that harpy at the end. It didn’t last long. One second, they were charging me. The next they were falling out of the sky. That harpy looked at me with a tear in its eye. But I could feel no pity.

“You realize they’re all part human, right? That each one is a soul. And because of your sword, none of them will reach your beloved heaven.”

I look up to the vampire. I see him smile that damned smile.

That did it. I point my sword back up at the vamp. I didn’t say a word. I didn’t make a sound. I manipulated The Power in a way I haven’t in so long. One instant ago I was halfway between the top of the building and the ground. No time passed. I was just there. Behind the vampire. My sword already sliced through his neck. His head fell the long way down towards the other beasts. They lost their leader. They lost their controller. And they knew fear of me once again.

The Elysian: Ninth Dream

Standing there, admiring the absolute hopelessness of the situation, I noticed something peculiar. Robin Goodfellow was staring at me. Not in the incredulous way he was doing earlier. As a matter of fact, it was almost a knowing smile. Only without the smile part.

He seemed to understand exactly what I was thinking. The emptiness piercing my being. I felt hollow. And my competitor was not taking another leap towards his ill-defined finish line. A curious sight.

The swarm was getting closer. My feet weren’t moving. It was done. I embraced the pain to come. As the first of the flying pests struck me, something odd happened. I felt nothing. The bees passed right through me.

The look on my face must have been something to see, because the imp broke out laughing. After the horde of insects made it through my now even more ghostly form, they faded out of existence. What in the hell is going on?

“The mortal’s mind twists and turns

He reaches for answers, he grasps and yearns

This strange event bewilders his senses

Let’s end this charade and drop the pretenses.

Ask the question. That you wish to know

I’ll answer in kind and make it so.”

The imp had hopped back over to me, laughing to himself. This whole thing was freaking me out, and that’s saying something considering the kind of time I’ve had recently. I was too tired to deal with this.

“What just happened? Why didn’t the bees sting me to undeath?”

Robin gives me a wry smile, almost as if he expected me to already know. A beat later he responds.

“The spirit of the moon told you the means

Through which your will has provided these scenes.

Your emotions and belief change your person…”

I blink and from seemingly nowhere he pulls out a screen, displaying an uncanny picture of myself.

“…And since your self confidence could only worsen

The wispy form you currently possess

Ditched what little it had; removed the excess…”

He snaps and the screen changes, showing a transparent version of myself. Little animated bees flew at the false visage of my being. I don’t know how it was doing that, but it was odd to say the least. Best not to ask.

“…Your non-physical body let the massive swarm

pass right through you, without coming to harm.”

He snaps and the screen disappears into nothingness. Robin grins, appearing pleased with himself.

I finally get the nerve to speak.

“So, I felt bad. And I became… feel-through? That’s… That’s ridiculous. What in the hell does feeling bad have to do with teaching me something?”

“Well you see, mortal-”

“DON’T ‘MORTAL’ ME! You jerk! What are you trying to do to me!?”

“Now it is with a chortle-”

“Stop with the rhyming! I’m done with it. Why in the hell do you rhyme?!”

He gives me a dirty look. Still not as scared of him as Luna, but I do have to remember he is the spirit of the forest. Best not to trifle with such beings.

“You forget that our existence is based on belief.

And we play such a charade without a relief.

Now if you’re quite finished with all your screaming

I’ll tell you why it is you should be beaming.”

“I am the master of pranks, who is sometimes called Puck

If find those around me who are down on their luck

Then I change their thinking, add a correction

Take a good hard look at your life in reflection

And if the mortal in question has a head far too big

Then his ego must shrink, lest he become like the pig”

“And yet back to you, our dear, good friend Rodriguez

…um…”

“Can’t think of anything that rhymes with my name?”

The imp looked embarrassed. His whole monologue fell apart. He takes several minutes, thinking through his words. If he’s supposed to rhyme, what does that mean for our ‘delightful’ conversation? I sit down on the tree trunk, quickly becoming bored. I should be trying to get the key out of him, but after his last outburst, I don’t think it so wise. Still, this was taking forever and-

“Allow me to start again. That rhyme was too slick

My words fell apart with but a mere simple flick.”

“Hold on, that’s not fair. You can’t just stop rhyming halfway through! You told me so yourself.”

“Devil’s in the details, my dear boy! Pay attention.

I can’t stop solely because it causes you tension.

But if my knowledgeable mind can’t find that right verse

I can slip around it, to stop my speech from becoming worse.

Now hold on a second… What was I saying?”

He takes his time again, perusing the recesses of his brain. I think I would prefer to deal with Luna over this. She at least knew where she was going and had a lesson I learned at the end of her test. This guy is trying to explain what I should know from completing his task. Wait…

“Robin, sir, if you don’t mind me interrupting, why are you acting like I finished the race when I didn’t?” Crap. That was probably going to bite me in the ass.

His eyes lit up at my question.

“Ah yes! I was going to explain the game we’ve been playing!”

Seeking Dusk: Part 7

“Are you two done?” Dumah said as we re-entered the room.

He looked annoyed. Or at least I think he did. It’s difficult to tell emotions under that slime.

“Dumah, we can discuss terms. But how do we know you can make good on your end of the deal?” Rand crosses his arms, trying to look tough, but I bet we’ve lost ground.

“You’ve got no choice. You’re desperate if you came to me for help.”

Rand scoffs at the suggestion.

“You’re stop number 1, mate. Don’t get me wrong, I figured you most likely had the information, but we haven’t knocked on any other doors yet. We’re far from desperate.”

Dumah scans Rand’s face, trying to detect any hint of lies. He shifts to me, almost imploring me to tell him the truth.

“He’s honest. We’ve not questioned anyone else yet. But Rand guessed you’d be our quickest option.”

Dumah sets his drink down and curses under his breath.

“Fine. You want proof?” He reaches into his jacket’s inner pocket, pulling out black smoke. He lays it on the bar.

I step closer, trying to figure out what it is, when Rand puts his hand in front of me.

“Don’t. It’ll make you sick.”

This human is getting on me nerves.

Rand steps forward and holds his other hand out. As he does, a light shines out from his hand, purifying the energy surrounding the item.

The smoke dissipates, revealing a stone totem. Enochian runes are carved into it, denoting a demand for payment.

“Someone is calling in a favor?” Rand asks.

Dumah sighs.

“I don’t know the three demons you’re looking for. But I know who called them. Because he called me too.”

Rand takes another step forward, when Dumah, snatches the stone up and puts it back in his pocket.

“You have my proof. Now I need your word. My person. My establishment. Both under your protection.”

I shake my head.

“I can’t give my word about that. It’s not possible for an Angel to swear to protect a demon, even one as lowly as you.”

“Then you have nothing for me. There’s nothing you have that I want besides to live.”

I’m about to make a threat, when Rand steps in again.

“What if we do?”

Dumah and I are surprised and each of us gives Rand a strange look.

He continues.

“What if we have something you want more than protection for your bar?”

Dumah laughs at the suggestion.

“You’re looking to stop a war, and will probably start one instead. What could I possibly want more than survival?”

His phrasing intrigues me. I’m just here to hunt demons. What makes him think it will start a war?

“A source of true obsidian.”

Dumah stops laughing. I stand up. Rand, you cannot be serious.

“You’re lying.” Dumah is quiet, but curious.

“You could outlast whatever war you’re afraid of. You could outlast even our winged friend here.”

I don’t move. I can’t. How did Rand find it?

“You’re promising me the source of the Devil’s Mirror?”

Rand takes a seat and puts his feet on the table.

“No. I’m offering to get you a piece. A very small one. Enough that you can weather the storm.”

Dumah considers it. Even if he doesn’t use it all, a small piece would be more than enough to buy him a piece of the pie.

I can’t stay here. I start walking to the door, when Rand notices me.

“Alli! Where are you going?”

“I need air. And I have nothing I can offer. Get our information and don’t do anything stupid.”

Rand looks down and back up. Before he can say anything, I speak again.

“You better know what you’re doing. Because if this goes south, it’s on you now.”

I leave the room and cross the club to exit again. The whole building is awash in dark energy and it’s making me sick. I finally make it back out to the alley and take a seat next to the wall. Feels good to breathe again.

The idea of Rand cutting deals feels horrible. How long has he been doing this? Has he given them true obsidian before?

And why do I feel like shit?

I have to wonder if I ever really knew him at all. I’ve lived for millennia and known Rand for only ten years. Why does this feel like a betrayal of a brother?

He isn’t even doing anything officially wrong. If he was, The Presence would have stripped him of his powers. So he has to be doing something right, right?

Damn it, Aluma. Stop being so melancholy.

“Out for a nice stroll, host?” a voice yells in the distance.

That’ll do it. I jump to my feet and look around for the source of the voice.

“Up here!” it calls out.

Up on the building across from me, stand shadowy figures. Looks to be about six of them, though more might be hiding nearby. They’re all low-level creatures and shouldn’t be able to sense me. Dumah barely could and he was suspicious enough to suspect me. Something isn’t right.

“Well boys, you found yourself an angel. Now what are ya going to do?” I shouldn’t be taunting them. It’ll take me a bit to get out of this body. They have the upper hand.

“I think we should play a game. What do you all say?” Vampire was doing the talking. The fact they knew I was here should put me on edge, but all I could do was fight back a smile.

“If you really want to play, I’m game.”

The Elysian: Eighth Dream

I pull myself into the crouching stance I assumed before. No time to think about hurting my ethereal body. There’s a sprite on the run, and I need to catch up. This time when I leap, I keep my eye on the trunk I’m aiming for to keep from hitting my stomach again.

It works, and I land exactly as I planned. Yes! I can do this! The imp is still a few trees a way, but I can catch up now!

I work on launching myself immediately after landing, making up the time. It doesn’t take very long for me to be only two trees behind.

“The mortal leaves me impressed. Good work I must say!

But your task is not so easy, more to do for you today.”

“What does that mean?!”

He smiles, putting his fingers to his mouth and lets out a loud whistle.

“Robin Goodfellow is no individual thing.

The entire forest my will. At my call they will sing.”

I hear something. Something behind me. It starts low, like a gentle hum. But it grows as we move, getting louder and more violent. I stop and turn just for a second, just to see what follows us. Immediately, I realize the mistake, and seeing the dark cloud following us, I figure out pretty quickly what he summoned.

I jump faster. Pushing myself from trunk to trunk. I may not be a physical being anymore, but I don’t want to see what a swarm of bees can do to me.

They were catching up quickly, and the focus on jumping from tree to tree is keeping me from thinking clearly. The faerie I was competing against just laughs at my predicament. I can’t help but wonder how it came to this. It couldn’t have been more than a few days ago that I was just an architect, driving home to see my family. Now, I race forest spirits who summon swarms of bees.

Remind me to give Fate the finger and a swift kick in the shin if I ever meet him.

How do I avoid bees? It’s not like I have insect repellent on me. The thought of cartoons hiding in water pops in my head, but even that far flung idea won’t work. I haven’t seen any lakes or ponds around so yeah.

I’m officially out of ideas. Wait… what did Luna have me do?

I yell ahead to my opponent, “Hey, Mr. Goodfellow? Would you please call off the swarm of bees?”

He stops and stares at me, his eyes going wide. It’s like I just asked him some horrifying question. I catch up and land on the same branch as him and wait for his answer. He just keeps that same look on his face. I turn and look at the oncoming horde of pain and back quickly.

“Will you please call them off please?!”

“Hmm.. No.

Let’s go!”

He responds quickly and jumps off towards the trees again. Damn! He was messing with me. The bees are even closer now. I have to keep moving. The hum of the swarm never lets me forget the danger should I stop. As fast as we’re going, they’re going to catch up at some point.

Bees behind me, unhelpful imp ahead, and the stupid wind circling all around us.

Wait. For real this time. Robin entered with wind. Each movement draws more air in gushes and gales. The following swarm moves faster with his movements. So is he controlling wind? Is that the secret?

Luna taught me how gravity was just my perception. That I didn’t have a body to be pulled down. Can I possibly control the wind like Robin?

If so, how? I had to let go of my beliefs to lose the pull of gravity. Do I have to forget I can’t control wind? I take a leap to the next tree and close my eyes. I concentrate on the belief that I can control the wind. I can’t not move the air with my mind.

“Hoo-aah!” I scream out. The tree I was aiming for moved, hitting me in the head. I fall to another tree below.

Ugh! I don’t have time to think. And closing my eyes to concentrate leads to the trees messing with me. Besides I don’t think it was working. I tried changing my thoughts but I didn’t feel anything.

I didn’t think it would be that easy, but I was really hoping. The bees are getting closer and I don’t know what they’ll do to me. I’d hope against hope that I can’t be hurt, but hitting these trees show me how wrong I’d be. The real question is ‘Can I be stung to death if I’m already dead?’

Both yes and no have bad answers. Second death versus eternal pain. Of course, I could maybe have the bees pass through me. I’m not real. Lord knows I’m not that lucky though.

There has to be something I’m missing. The swarm is almost on top of me. The faerie is nearly out of sight. I’m stuck on this branch, without any clue as to how to move forward and escape this whole scenario. My journey looks to be over as soon as it started. There has to be something…

No… There is nothing. I can’t win.

I might continue to jump forward and catch up to Robin, but I can’t win the race until he decides it’s over. Highly doubt he’d be so kind as to do so before the bees catch up to us. I could try going somewhere else to escape the bees, but that gets me nowhere. I lose this race, I lose my chance to move on. And it’s very unlikely the bees will listen to reason. I have nothing. I can’t move on.

I surrender.

The Elysian: Seventh Dream

The imp in front of me quickly regains his composure, and addresses me again.

“The mortal is direct, bold and fierce!

But should watch his voice or his tongue I will pierce!”

Okay, so it’s not just his entrance. He’s going to speak in rhyme this whole time. That won’t get annoying or anything.

“Robin Goodfellow…” Why does that name sound familiar? “I’m trying to get through this door. Would you happen to have a key?”

He gives a smile and responds.

“No need, Mr. Rodriguez, to be so meek.

I know of your plight, and have what you seek.

I had heard you were different.

That your mind is quick.

So let us compete.

Off I go, to my path must you stick.”

He lets out a chuckle, and bends down on all fours. He wants to race? To where?

“Um, what are the rules?”

“The endeavor is simple. Stay within sight.

None have done so. Not beggar, lord or knight.

The trees are our road. The air, our muse!

And dire consequences if you should lose…”

I’m getting annoyed with all this rhyming. Just got to remember what Luna told me.

“Fine. I keep up with you until the end, and I get the key. Let’s get this over with.”

“The mortal accepts. Very hasty, quick thought

A challenging ordeal for himself he has bought”

“Yeah, yeah I get the picture.” At least, I hope I do.

I don’t know where we’re running to, or what nasty tricks he’ll throw at me along the way. He’s right though, I did just kind of agree to this without thinking. Barely two minutes in, and I already got myself into a bit of a mess. This sideways forest, and the man who challenged me are complete mysteries. How do I know if I can keep up?

I focus. Concentrate on my beliefs, turning an mere thought into absolute certainty. My body separates from the tree trunk, hovering a few feet above it. Robin Goodfellow gives a chuckle before speaking.

“What wise Luna teaches, you masterfully learn

But now is the time, for this key you must earn

Are you prepared to start? Can we begin the test?

Can we see if you’ll truly best the best?”

I couldn’t help myself.

“Take off for wherever, I swear to keep up.

And when we reach the end, you’ll have to pay up.”

The spirit laughed.

“You cannot rhyme a word with itself, silly man.

Though it’s funny you tried.

Enough with these words. Let’s begin

And see the power I eyed.”

With that, he leaps into the air, landing on a tree trunk next to us. He’s so fast. I float after him, trying to concentrate on moving myself faster. Before I’m halfway there, he jumps to the next adjacent trunk.

Have to keep moving, but I feel so slow in comparison to my opponent. Luna showed me there were limits to belief here. Is it a limit on my belief specifically or is there a universal limit? I push onward, trying to keep Robin in sight. He was fast and could easily outrun me, but I think he wants to play games with me. Or maybe teach me something like Luna.

We keep up this game for several more trees. He would land and wait, while I do my best to fly over faster. If he keeps up the show, I’d make it to the end with my eye on him, but I somehow doubt he’d be so simple. He jumps to another tree, and I decide to land on his previous one.

“This can’t be all. There has to be a catch. What’s going on here? Are you really just going to take it so easy on me?”

The faerie gives a smile. I immediately regret my words.

“If the hazard is too low, then I suppose it should increase!

Prepare to lose mortal! With your deity, make your peace!”

“No!” I cry out.

It was too late. The spirit takes off jumping from tree to tree, with no pause between. I must act fast. Have to think! How do I keep up? He runs and leaps on all fours faster than I can on two. He jumps like an insect, and he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

I try to push my floating ability to keep up, but it feels like flying through jello. I’d almost think I could do better running and jumping myself.

That’s not a bad idea. Maybe.

If he can go that fast moving like he does, then maybe I can too? It’s stupidly simple logic, but I don’t have anything else to go on. I crouch down, readying my legs for what was sure to be a huge mistake.

I look over the edge of the tree. No, that was the huge mistake. C’mon, I can do this. I concentrate. I believe.

My legs push off as hard as possible, my will focused on moving like Robin. I’m sent sailing through the air for my efforts, moving quickly like the faerie.  I’m moving so much faster! The wind seems to carry me, and it feels as if the trees are moving.

The trees are moving?

I look down and notice the trunk I was aiming for shifted to just out of my reach. I try to reach my hand out, still miss and go sailing down.

Another tree below it has moved into position to intercept me, and I thank whatever gods may exist for the save.

Then I land on my belly, sending pain through my entire body. It’s not fair. I don’t breathe, and can barely be said to exist, but somehow I can still be hurt? If I had a stomach, its contents would be coming up about now.

But I did it. I can move like him. Now I just need to catch up.

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