Friday, January 31, 2014

Flash Friday #80: Surviving Elsewhere, Part 28 -- Quiet

(Link to Part 27)

I watched the pixies flew into a few fleecy clouds, magic sparkles dancing across their path. The sky looked the same as at home, and yet I felt a sense of distrust. Were the clouds really clouds? Were the pixies really going? Or would they swing back around and attack us again?
What next was going to leap out and try to stop me?
The others were moving on. Shouldn't we find a place to hide? What could this council do to help us?
The cats scouted, moving on ahead and out of sight. I tried not to panic every time they went around a corner. We'd started heading into the heart of the city , walking along quiet streets where at most I saw a face peak about between lacy curtains.
"Why is everyone avoiding us?" I finally asked. "At least the ones who aren't attacking us."
Maggie walked beside me, her face showing consternation that she didn't speak of aloud. I wanted her to open up to me. I needed to know what was going on and what to expect. I needed facts to decide my own choices, rather than being bunted along like a hockey puck.
"Normally the fae and the others are inquisitive when we get someone new coming across the border," she said. "But from the start, there has been trouble with you. They don't know why and that makes them less likely to come out and be friendly. No one wants to be caught in the crossfire."
"You sent out word that I might be a Protector. That will help?"
"It should. But even so, what's happened so far isn't going to calm them," she admitted. Then she dropped a hand on his shoulder. "You're here. I'll see you through this."
"Is there anyway to find out if Sheriff Creston is on this side?" I asked. That was the monster lurking in the back of my mind. Even the ice dragon didn't seem to have affected me as badly as the thought of Creston.
"As soon as we get you straightened around," she said and glanced over her shoulder. That didn't help how I felt. Then she shook her head. "Let's take a break."
"The cats --"
"I'll get them," Davis said and sprinted on ahead.
Seeing him disappear didn't help my growing sense of unease. Maggie, though, took me by the arm and herded me over to a bench by a wall. I looked up at a window and then to the roof, fearing something was going to drop down on us the minute we settled.
Maggie sat down. I did not.
"Mark," she said with a shake of her head.
"What am I supposed to trust here?" I asked.
"You can trust me."
I focused on her, staring for a moment, trying to parse those words. I felt as though the word trust had suddenly fled from my vocabulary. I trusted nothing right now.
"Sit down," Maggie said and patted the bench beside her.
I took a deep breath and settled at her side, forcing myself to be still when I heard a distant sound. And where were Davis and the cats? What had gone wrong --
"Calm, Mark," she said and put a hand on my arm and looked into my face. "You need to get control of your emotions. Being half-fae means emotions have far more power than they do for humans. If you are coming into your powers, then you need to be sure you know exactly what you are projecting. This could be dangerous, Mark. Dangerous for you and dangerous for anyone around you."
"Then you shouldn't --"
"I'm not going to abandon you in this mess. But I am going to make certain you're thinking clearly. We might have a long ways to go and Forest Street isn't exactly safe. I'm sorry that everything is such a mess. I wish Edmond had seen more or told me more. It's hard to say what he knows."
"He's on our side," I said and looked towards the corner, wanting them to reappear.
"Edmond is a unique spirit. Yes, I do believe he is on our side. He's stuck with me through a lot of problems already, and some of them of his own making -- but this one is different. There they are. You can relax now."
I looked up to see the three coming back. Nothing appeared to be following them, ready to leap out and attack them an us.
"I never imagined this place could be so dangerous," I admitted. My body was tense and I couldn't relax. This couldn't go on. "What should I do?"
"We're going to get you to the council. After that, things will be different," she said, but I thought I saw a little hint of distrust in her face. She must have realized and gave a shrug. "I'll see you through this. Come on."
I didn't argue. What was the use of just sitting there? Or trying to hide? Nothing I did was going to help.
"What does a Protector do?" I asked.
"You save those in danger," she replied. "Which you have done, even if you don't realize it. The troll threw Edmond at you when you ordered him to give you the cat."
"Just chance."
"Nothing is chance in Elsewhere, Mark. That's the first thing you need to realize. Chance would mean magic without any control, and that would be chaos. A Protector has to work against the chaos. I should have considered it; I think we need to start training you right away. If this had been a normal walk to Council, we could have waited."
Davis had come to stand beside us. He looked startled. "Someone is trying to push him into using powers he doesn't understand so he does something that will tarnish his ability and maybe warp his powers. Yes, you're right, Maggie. And here is the first lesson. It's an old one: Keep Calm and Carry On."

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Flash Friday #79: Surviving Elsewhere, Part 27 -- Cat Trap

(Link to Part 26)

I was the first to rush ahead at the sound of the snarling cats. Something was wrong. I wasn't surprised. No one was, of course. I was now certain someone didn't want me to get to the Council and we would have more trouble every step of the way. Since I didn't know why, their constant interference just annoyed me all the more. I especially didn't like that they were attacking my friends.
My allies.
I rounded the corner only a couple steps ahead of Maggie and Davis, and it was a good thing they were so close behind because I wasn't ready for the trouble I faced. Small snarling green creatures filled the entire street, their huge ears flopping as their small green wings propelled them up and down. Some held small spears they shook in my direction as soon as I appeared. My first instinct was the laugh. I suspected this was not the right reaction.
They had snared the two cats in a trap; a huge net had fallen over them and then appeared to have tightened to hold them in place. Lord Snow was trying to bite his way through what must be very tough ropes. All I could see of Edmond was his tail sticking out from under the snow leopard.
One of the little green creatures landed on a bench and began jabbing at Lord Snow with his spear. I didn't think the weapon could even penetrate the fur, but the little creature was dancing with delight.
"Ha!" he shouted, a squeak of a voice that rose above all the shouts of the others. "Ha! Call us mice on two legs, will you! When was the last time mice trapped the cats, huh? What? Cat got your tongue? Or maybe the mice got it!"
The little green creatures all let out peals of laughter. Lord Snow twisted a bit and Edmond's head popped out from under him. The black cat did not look happy.
"I take it these are friends of yours, Edmond?" Lord Snow asked, his voice deceptively calm.
Edmond growled, well beyond speech at this point.
I took a step closer. The little things stared to jab at me and the spears did prick my ankle.
"Stop that," I ordered. "Get back."
Something odd happened. They all leapt backwards at the same time, some tangling with others. The one on the bench took one step away and then froze and appeared to have lost all interest in the cats. His spear came up for a moment and then lowered again.
"You -- you cannot order us," he said, though he sounded entirely uncertain of those words. "Only the fae can order us --"
"He's half-fae, Lord Egan of the Pixies," Davis replied. He stepped forward and gave a quick bow. "And he is a Protector. I don't think you really want to annoy a Protector, now do you?"
"Protector," Egan replied and looked me over. "Not sanctioned."
"Not yet," Maggie agreed. "We're heading to the Council now. Do you really want to slow us down?"
"We weren't after you," Egan said. His ears flickered and his eyes shifted to the cats. "You can go on."
"Not without my allies," I said.
He sighed. "We have to let the cats go?"
"I'm afraid so," Davis replied. He was clearly trying not to smile.
"It always works this way," Egan said and sighed. He gave a wave of his spear. "Let them go."
Little voices rose in protest as they went about the work of loosening the edges of the net. "Not fair! We got him good!"
In a few moments both cats were free and I feared they were going to leap on the Pixie Horde and have a quick snack. Oddly, the pixies didn't appear to worry, though. Lord Snow finally shook himself from the last of net and stretched. Edmond came out of the net last and turned his head from side-to-side, clearly trying to work a kink out of his neck.
"Well," Edmond said. He looked at Egan and gave a nod. "Well done, just bad timing."
"Yeah, figured that out," Egan said and moved to sit on the edge of the bench. "But the ball is in your court now. Sorry we didn't have a chance to celebrate this one, but I can see you're involved in real trouble."
"Yes," Edmond agreed. "We'll celebrate later."
"You're heading for Forest and the Council?" Egan asked. The others were coiling up the pieces of rope that made the net. I watched, intrigued. There was clearly magic involved. "There's a disgruntled earth elemental skulking around up that way. Kind of obvious, an earth elemental in town, even when he is trying to be discreet. And did you see the towers take off when your group entered the city? They didn't go to the Council."
"Where did they go?" Maggie asked.
"Straight for South Street and out into the desert."
"That's troubling," Lord Snow said. "Thank you for the information, which offsets any inconvenience you created."
"Yeah, sorry." He sat there and kicked his feet like a child. "We sensed Edmond in the area, but we didn't know there was another really big kitty with him. You're Lord Snow, aren't you? I thought you worked for the winter dragon."
"I do."
"And the towers headed straight for the summer dragon. If there is going to be a clash between those two powers, I think we'll just go dig into our burrows until everything blows over. Nothing personal, but I do hope we're not in for another ice age."
"Quite honestly, not something I would look forward to, either."
The pixie gave a laugh and then stood and launched himself into the air. He gave a quick, sharp whistle and the rest of the pixies lifted upwards and away they all flew like the down from a thistle.
Yeah, I had gone way over the edge.

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Flash Friday #78: Surviving Elsewhere, Part 26 -- Questions

(Link to Part 25)

When we walked for maybe an entire mile without being attacked, I turned to Davis. "What does it mean to be half fae?" I asked.
"You might, or might not, inherit the fae powers," he said, then gave a shrug. "You've shown sign of having inherited at least some, so I think we can assume there might be others. Fae come in clans, though, and different clans have different gifts."
"There's a Protector Clan?" I asked.
"No. The Protectors can be born to any clan. They have special abilities which help them protect others in danger. They usually only appear when there is a serious danger that threatens the fae lands."
"That's not good," I said and felt another chill. "I don't know what I'm doing. I don't even know what I am."
"We'll help you," Maggie said. "At least now I know why Edmond had the vision and knew I had to save you and get you into Elsewhere."
"Unless I'm supossed to be helping the humans," I said. "Didn't you say there might be were infestation? Werewolves?"
"Were come in all types. The larger mammals are the worst, but hordes of smaller ones can dangerous. Usually we figure it out before it spreads very far," Davis said. He shook his head. "I have the feeling of things out of balance, though. Edmond? What can you tell us?"
Edmond had been walking beside Lord Snow, both of them keeping a curious look around the cobblestone streets. I could see a few faces peak out here and there, and not many of them human. Fae. I had the feeling, though, that our passage had been marked and people were doing their best to stay out of the way.
Edmond moved up beside me and gave me a quick, curious look. "I didn't see much in the visions," he said. I had forgotten the visions. "I had the feeling Mark really, really would need to be on this side of the gate. At first I thought I was going to need his help -- but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed as though everyone needed him."
"That's not reassuring," I said. "What can I do that the rest of you can't?"
"We aren't fae," Davis replied. "Not even half fae for Maggie and me. So the question doesn't really apply to us. We need to get to the fae court and find out what they think."
"There has been a singular lack of fae around," Maggie added. "That's not usual. We've dealt with just about everything but one of them."
"They're worried about meeting me?"
"They're worried about something," she said. "I can't be sure what it might be."
"Fate, perhaps," Davis said. "The one thing the fae fear the most is that they might fall into some trap that fate sat along the way."
"But how do they know what they're doing now isn't the part fate sat out and they'd be wiser to come out?"
"They don't," Davis said and smiled. "But the logic is that if they are doing something they think about, then fate isn't involved. The fae had a very skewed idea of logic."
"That comes from living with magic," Maggie added. "When you can change the path of nature with a wish and a wave of your hand, then you start seeing logical conclusions as superfluous."
Davis laughed. Maybe it was a joke, but I couldn't tell. I needed more information. I needed to know what anyone expected of me.
"Why are we going to the court?" I asked.
"We need for the court to agree to your status," Maggie said. She couldn't quite hide her worry, which meant this wasn't going to be a simple act of showing up. "I've worked with them for years now, and I'm a messenger of the court, which gives me some powers and protections, which may be part of the reason no one has tried to stop us to talk. I am sure they're curious. But the reason we're going to the court is if they sanction you, then we can call on some allies to help against whatever is trying to kill you."
"But we already have allies, right?" I asked.
She nodded. "The Ice Dragon isn't someone the others are going to want to upset. Lord Snow's presence with us is a sign, and I'm hoping it's enough to get us to the court. However, there are others as powerful as Lord Ice who might see this as a challenge to their power base, even if they don't know anything else of what's going on."
"Ah," I said. Of course I couldn't hope for calm and quiet now.
"We are being watched," Lord Snow finally said, his voice a soft growl. "And there is a build up of power not far ahead. I can't tell why or who."
"Maybe we better find out before the two legs walk into a trap," Edmond suggested.
Lord Snow gave a rumbling whisper of a laugh. "Yes, you're right, daring little brother."
I watched the two of them slink off around the next corner. We were in the midst of several interesting buildings and arches, the ground laid out in a lovely mosaic pattern of stones. A pretty place, I realized. I was glad when Davis and Maggie slowed. I would have liked it better if they didn't look so worried.
"How far?" I asked.
"Probably several miles," Maggie replied. "It depends on how far into Forest Street they've gone. And why they've gone there. I don't --"
She didn't say more. Something growled, soft and menacing behind us and we both spun, but I only saw a shadow slipping behind a wall. Maggie put a hand on my arm and nodded the way we had been going. Davis moved up beside us, worried.
And then we heard the yowls of cats, large and small. . . .
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Thursday, January 09, 2014

Flash Friday #77: Surviving Elsewhere, Part 25 -- Meeting Anastasia

I guess there's a point where you stop panicking at the thought of something big and ugly coming to attack you. I stood there, trying to feel some sort of reaction other than 'what now?' as the sounds came closer.
"It's big," Maggie said. She glanced to the right. "Let's see if we can get away by going down the alleys where they can't follow. I think our best bet is to get straight to the Council."
None of the others argued. I figured I was just along for the ride. Well, the run.
At least we weren't heading back into North Street. Lord Snow was taking the lead, Edmond rushing to stay with him for the first few blocks, but then he dropped back to move with me. We'd all slowed as the loud noises receded for a while. I had the feeling they'd be catching up with us again soon.
"You're looking a little odd, Mark," Edmond said, looking up at me.
"Half elf," I mumbled.
"You really didn't know? How humans can be so dense is beyond me." He shook his head and pranced along side of me. "And you know, I would think finding out a cat can talk would have gotten more reaction."
"It's kind of all muddled together," I said with a wave of my hand. "A lot has happened in the last few days. I killed someone --"
"The person you killed was not the person you knew," Maggie said. She moved up on the other side, which was pretty tight in this narrow passage between walls made of black brick. "It had already turned --"
"You can't know that for certain," I said, feeling panic and disgust at what had happened.
"It's a good guess," she said, a hand on my arm. "Everything we've learned makes me think you saved others, Mark. I'm not saying that just because you're my cousin. I have a higher calling as a messenger for the council. I not only deliver messages for them, but I also to report anything unusual or dangerous to them. I know what I'm talking about, Mark. What you did -- if Davis and Edmond are right about you being half fae -- was instinctive and the best thing you could have done."
"If I am right?" Edmond said. "When have I been wrong?"
"You really don't want me to bring up stuff, like the carnivorous dandelion, right?" she said.
"No fair! You'd given me the catnip!"
She gave a quick grin. "What about the nuthatches --"
"Anyone could have made that mistake," he replied with his head coming up. "Any bird that runs upside down, darking up and down trees should be trying to create a chaos spell. And besides, you can't prove I'm wrong. After all, take a look around."
"Never argue that kind of stuff with cats," Davis said from behind.
"I'm going to scout behind us," Lord Snow said. We squeezed up against the wall to let him pass. "I won't be far."
We kept going while Maggie and Edmond argued about chaos and nuthatches. I was starting to side with Edmond on this one. Everything was starting to look more and more chaotic --
We came around a corner and faced the most frightening, horrible creature I think I'd ever seen. Though not as big as the dragon, it was still huge and looked like a cross between a warthog and a rhino, with grey warted hide and bright red eyes. Green slime dripped from the gigantic mouth and it hit the stone of the alley, creating plumes of green smoke.
I started to yell something --
"Anastasia! Darling!" Maggie shouted with delight.
"Oh! So good to see you Maggie!" the thing answered and gave a grin with far too many teeth. "Sorry about the drool. I can smell hobgobs somewhere around here and I would love to have a nice snack. But you, my dear, seem to be in trouble. Far too many things are on the move."
"We keep running into them," she said with a shake of her head. "Can you tell me where the council is meeting?"
"They've retreated to Forest Street," she said with a lift of her head in the general direction we'd already been going. "They're not happy about you being involved in this mess, but I know you'll talk your way out of it. Well -- and look at that. The high and mighty Lord Snow is walking with the rest of us lowly beings again, is he? Huh. Can't be bothered to come by for a friendly game of cards --"
"I'm working for the Ice Dragon, Anastasia. You know how it is," Lord Snow said with an obvious shrug. "I'll see if I can't get some time free after this mess is cleaned up. What are we going to do about these humans, huh?"
Anastasia gave a rumbling laugh that made even me grin. Why not? This couldn't get any more insane -- though maybe I shouldn't think along that line because it sure wasn't showing any sign of getting better. Then she gave a sniff and shook her head.
"Yeah, we have some hobgobs tracking us," Lord Snow said, glancing back over his shoulder.
"Sounds like snack time to me," Anastasia replied, her eyes narrowing and a drop of green drool hitting the stone in a little puff of smoke.
"I appreciate your help, my friend," Maggie said and even we close enough to pat the creature on the shoulder, which was a bit higher than her head. "You might be able to help another way, if you're willing."
"Say the word," Anastasia replied.
"That's it, actually. Can you spread the word that Mark is half elf and most likely a Protector? It might get some of these things to think twice about coming after us. We just need to get him to The Council and get him sanctioned before anything stops us."
"Go," she said with a bow of her head. "Good luck."

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Friday, January 03, 2014

Flash Friday #76: Surviving Elsewhere, Part 24 -- Lord Snow

(Link to Part 23)

Maggie wanted me to move. I wouldn't. I sat on the edge of the fountain and stared at them, waiting for something to make sense. Maybe that was asking for too much. Maybe this sort of insanity happened all the time in Elsewhere, and the others were so used to it that suddenly deciding my father was fae sounded normal.

It didn't sound normal to me.

"Japanese," I said, though none of them had been talking to me.

Maggie looked at me, a little smile quirking her lips, but she must have realized how unsettled this had made me. She waved the other two to be silent and came to sit by me on the fountain's edge.

"I know that's what you believed growing up, Mark," she said, a hand on my arm. "But this isn't so bad, you know."

"Too much change," I finally said, trying to fit this new idea into my worldview. It wasn't going to fit. I couldn't be fae. Half-fae. What did that even mean? I couldn't even begin to frame questions and I found myself staring at Edmond, as though he was going to give me any answers.

"I am constantly amazed by the human ability to ignore the obvious," Edmond said with a shake of his head. "How you people figured out civilization --"

Maggie came over and scooped him up with an indulgent smile. Maybe she had seen my fingers twitching. When I looked at her she grinned and I couldn't figure out why this wasn't bothering her more. She was my cousin. Me being --

Well, she had more contact with fae than she had with Japanese, I suppose.

A cold wind blew out of North Street over us and I shivered at the feel of snow flakes brushing over my skin.

"He's anxious for us to get to work," Davis said. He glanced up the street and frowned. "Something is coming."

I could see movement in the fog and snow but I didn't realize what we faced until the one hundred plus pound snow leopard bounded out of the snow and crossed to the fountain. I was in the fight or flight stage -- and definitely edging far over to the flight side.

"Hey, Snow," Edmond said and jumped from Maggie's protective arms to walk over and rub against the big cat's leg.

"Hello, dark and daring little brother," the big cat said, a rumble of words that sounded as though he purred as he spoke. He looked around at the rest of us and gave a regal nod to Maggie. "I came as soon as I could. Lord Ice felt you might need some guidance."

"Always glad to have your help, Lord Snow," Maggie said with a friendly nod. "This is my cousin Mark. We seem to have run into a problem with him."

"So the dragon seems to believe." He sat down and shook snow from his very large paws sending Edmond leaping away with a bit of a hiss. I thought the big cat smiled. Then he looked at me, large green eyes blinking. "You are not aware of your heritage, I see. Not knowing you are half fae would have made matters far worse if you'd stayed in the human world for a few more years. Here, at least, you have a chance to learn to control your powers. I do suppose this is hard to get used to, though."

"Right up there with having polite discussions with snow leopards," I replied.

The big cat gave a coughing laugh, but a nod of understanding.

The wind blew past again and Lord Snow looked over his shoulder with a twitch of his tail. "For a creature who claims he doesn't care about what goes on outside his realm and who has no concept of time, our fine dragon friend seems to be in a bit of a hurry. Or at least seems to think we should be. Come along boy. We can walk and talk at the same time."

I found myself falling in beside the snow leopard while the others went on ahead. I had no idea where we were going.

"We will need to find out who your father is," Lord Snow said with a glance at me.

"I've no idea," I said.

"That may have been for your own protection. We don't know, after all, why your father was even in the human lands. We need to learn these things before we can understand anything about why you might have been drawn here now. Have you shown any aspects of fae powers?"

"No --"

"Yes," Davis said. "When he saw a were-creature killing a girl on the human side, he called a gun from the were's pack and killed it."

"I --" I began. Then I stopped. Stopped talking and stopped moving. I stopped seeing anything around me as well. "Is that how I got the gun?"

"Yes," Davis said. "And I think that gives us a good lead on where to look for his father. He called the gun instinctively, with no training --"

"Mark is a Protector!" Maggie said, startled. "We need to get to the court. We need to get him sanctioned right away."

The others agreed. I still had no better idea of what was going on than I had before. I had to find the right questions to ask, but my mind was still trying to fit the idea of being half-fae into my thoughts.

"Why didn't my mother tell me?" I finally asked. "It's not like we don't know about Elsewhere --"

"She might not have known," Edmond explained. "We don't know. There's no reason to speculate on that --" He stopped talking and looked over his shoulder with a sudden hiss of anger. "You know, I think we could have one conversation without being interrupted."

This was not going to be the conversation. Whatever was coming, it was loud and large and we didn't have time to run.

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