Red Malice

Part II of my Dark Fairy Tale Retelling. Introducing a couple more twists and surprises

Over the Rainbow Bridge was not as ominous as it sounds. The rotten underbelly of London’s drug network had bright nicknames for all the seedy places.

The four unlikely companions made their journey out of the dark alleyways, and towards Oz, Dorothy’s wolf-dog trailing behind them. Nearing the dimly lit bridge, Toto began to growl.

“What is it, Toto? What do you hear?” Dorothy asked her snarling wolf, reaching to her hip to clutch a dagger. Hatter tightened his grip on his cane, ready to draw the hidden sword at a moment’s notice.

Alice, her hand still around Chessie’s, looked at the Hatter, her eyes flashed with worry.
Chessie still grinned maniacally, but otherwise seemed unperturbed by the tension in the air.

A whoosh and thud was heard, followed by quick footsteps. Toto dropped to his haunches, preparing to launch at the surprise guest.

“Oh hush now you big bad wolf. I’ll blow your head off.” A feminine voice rang out, and a woman stepped into the light on the bridge. She was in black boots, black trousers, and a black linen shirt. Tucked against her were half a dozen visible knives. But what stood out was the crimson cape and hood. She was twirling a small pistol in her right hand.

Dorothy hissed, and stood protectively in front of Toto. “Red Ace, what are you doing here?”
Chessie clapped his hands and spun Alice behind him.
“Oh! Tiger Lily, you made it!” He called and ran towards her. She flinched, and dropped down, swinging her legs out and tripping Chessie.
He fell to the ground, rolling and tumbling, his laughter swallowed by the dark night.
“Tiger Lily?” Hatter asked, his eyebrow raised and he exchanged a look with Dorothy.
“The Red Assassin. I thought she was Underland’s” Dorothy said, palling as she took in Hatter’s expression. “Judging by your look of bewilderment, she’s not with you?”

A laugh rang out in the cool night, and sent goosebumps down spines.
“With Underland?? Why on earth would I submit myself to Underlands anarchy? It’s a mess over there, fighting for control of the place. I figured you’d be fighting too, Hatter” He nodded but a sly smile crossed his lip.
“Who said I’m not waiting for the right time?”

“Oh, waiting for the competition to kill each other. Well you’d better act soon. Or other stronger players might make their moves.” Dorothy commented, and the Hatter straightened slightly.

“So, what does the CardPack want tonight?” Hatter asked the Red Ace of the deck, the lead assassin.

“I want my black Ace.” She pointed at Alice, and three sets of eyes bulged.

“She’s no assassin!” Dorothy cried.”a bumbling little girl. We were going to blame her for Peter’s Murder. Captain James Darling thinks it was one of Oz’s.” Toto growled at the mention of the captain’s name.

“Oh Darling? That old Codfish has you on a hook, Dorothy. Baiting you to give him something.” Red smiled and sheathed her Pistol, cracking her knuckles.
“But anyways, I’m here to take Alice back to the Rabbit Hole, safely in the hands of the Cardpack.” She turned and held her hand out to Alice.

“You were going to blame her for Peter’s murder?” Hatter asked Dorothy through clenched teeth. His hand tightened on his cane.

Peter, Peter Pumpkin eater” sang Alice
“Kissed Alice and tried to beat her.
He yelled and screamed while she cried,
He turned his back, thought she was tied.
He gasped and gurgled as he choked
When little Alice slit his throat.”

She continued to hum and dance, while Chessie burst into uncontrollable laughter.

“Alice did kill Peter! Oh, that’s bloody brilliant. Not only did you take out the Queen of Hearts and blamed the King! You slaughtered the Prince of Neverland! You are malicious and mad, Alice. Malice!!” He fell back laughing, his hood falling back and revealing his sandy-brown short hair and his deep violet eyes.

Hatter, Dorothy and Red stood in stupefied silence as Alice, danced to her haunted tune, without a care that she was the reason the city was at war.

Underland, Alice and Oz

Thank you to @BRCloth on twitter, who gave me the prompt that started this series.

The beginning of a Series of Twisted Fairy Tales we know all and love. See how many references you can find.

Alice ruined everything. 

The wonder washed out, the fields burned, the tea ran dry. Now sobered up, I was sent to retrieve her to answer for her crimes. 

***

The Rabbit Hole in London- a dive bar to say the least, was where he found her, drunk and dancing for money. The walls were painted a dark brown, and white rabbits in various lascivious poses were painted on the walls. 

The Hatter immediately felt out of place in the derelict establishment, the patrons far below his usual company. He searched the dark club for the girl that once frequented his den. He tapped his purple and gold cane, a raven’s head adorning the top, shooing away the ladies who approached him with various ales and liquors.  

His eyes sparkled when he spotted the familiar face. “Alice…” he said to the dancing blond woman in the middle of the room. There were many women of the night milling about, dancing in between the tables, flaunting their bodies to the men drinking ale. Selling themselves for coin. Alice looked up when he said her name.  

“Hatter?” she slurred, her glassy eyes focusing on the cane. 

“Oh, Hatter, I figured it out! The raven is like a writing desk, because, because- the raven is…” her head fell forward and her blond hair covered her face. 

“Alice, be sane,” she whispered to herself. The Hatter watched perplexed as she flipped her hair back, forced a smile to her face, and her eyes dark and clouded over.  

“Hi handsome, A tenner and I’ll send your body to Wonderland,” she purred, putting her hand on his lapel and tugging him towards her.  

Her demeanor switch made him twitch as he thumbed the raven on his cane. This wasn’t the naïve young girl he remembered. The girl who caused a revolution in Underland. The girl who wielded the Vorpal sword and destroyed everything. 

This was a traumatized woman. Her smile was fake, her eyes sunken in and hollow, her body, thin and malnourished, looked frail and easily breakable. What had this world done to this poor girl? 

“Oh, you don’t want her, luv. She’s raving mad. Pick me instead.” A brunette swept in, moving Alice away from him, and running a hand along his cheek. Alice’s eyes flashed, and her lips fell into a pout, and she pushed out her chest, “I called that one, Linda.” 

“Go away, Alice, you crazed lunatic. This one deserves someone who won’t bore him to death with your looney tales.”

The brunette to his side reached for his hat, the peculiar tilt catching her eye. He tensed and swatted her hand away.

“Leave us,” he hissed, reaching for Alice. Her green eyes brightened and her demeanor shifted again. The woman named Linda let out a huff and mumbled under her breath as she strode away, clinging to the next man she passed. 

“Is it really you?” Alice breathed out, and he saw the familiar little girl inside, the eyes of fire and determination. 

“It’s me, Alice.” He opened his arms and pulled her towards him, brushing his fingers through her long, blond hair. She reached and hugged him, arms tied around his chest and he heard her choke back a sob.

“Take me back, please… They’re all mad here.”

***

Poor Alice. He thought. Her frail body shook and shivered in the cool night air as they walked the dark London streets. 

Hatter’s stomach twisted, and he knew that whatever life had done to her here, bringing her back was going to be much worse.

They walked quietly, her shawl wrapped tightly around her as she wavered. 

“Hatter, I figured it out. I swear I figured it out… I just have to go back. I have to tell everyone.” Her voice was small, strained. 

“Alice,” she turned her emerald eyes to him, and the depth of her plea was plain on her face. Her small nose accentuated her pouty lips, and her flushed face was beautiful in the dim streetlight. 

I could have her before we return. He thought. She’s so damn beautiful. 

“I was sent to bring you back, Alice.” He said, his tone even and calm.

“You’re lying, Hatter. They don’t want me back.” She spit the word ‘hatter’ and he winced. She hasn’t called him by name since she saw him. He heard something in the alleyway and felt his stomach drop. Which miscreant was prowling around in the shadows tonight?

Chester watched from the shadows as the Hatter led Alice along the dimly lit London Streets. Tsk tsk. Shouldn’t be wandering the streets at this time of night. Jack might be about.

He flipped his hood up, the peaks like pointed cat ears on either side of his head. 

“Alice,” He mewled, “Where do you want to go today?” He called to his comrade. He grinned as the Hatter froze in the streets. The Hatter tapped his cane once and held fast to Alice’s elbow, speaking gruffly. “She’s with me, Chessie.”

“Oh, is that so? Alice? My dear Alice, where are you going with him?” The hooded man laughed as he emerged from the shadows, his forehead and eyes covered, but his grin was as full as the moon and shining just as brightly. 

“Well, that depends on where you ought to get to.” Alice replied, a glimmer in her eye. She twirled around in her tea dress, the necklace around her pale thin neck raising off her chest. A pocket watch for a necklace? Thought the Hatter. 

“Are you going home, dear Alice? With the Mad Hatter? Is the dormouse with you too?” Chessie asked the gentleman as he prowled closer, his dark long hair peeking through the dark hood. Chessie jumped in the air as a barking was heard in the alleyway.

The dog rushed towards Chessie, barking the whole time until a heavily accented voice called out, “Toto, shh. Leave him be. He won’t hurt you.” The woman from Kansas strutted out of the neighbouring alleyway as her ruby heels clicked against the cobblestone. 

“There’s no place like home, Alice. Let me show you the way.” Alice looked between them, confusion flashing across her face. She was familiar with the three of them. 

Hatter had inherited Underland, the biggest mushroom drug den in London, after his stepmother was brutally murdered and his father was convicted. The den was a wreck after that scandalous upheaval. It didn’t take long for the competition to move in. 

Chessie was a Lost Boy, a drug runner for Neverland, a newly opened lounge bar. The Lost Boys were a gang of miscreants and hoodlums who ran Pixie Dust from the Oz to the city. He and Alice were recruited when the Asylum was shut down, and the wards turned loose on the streets. 

Dorothy was the notorious leader of the Lollipop Guild, the biker gang that owned the Emerald City Casino. Famous for her Kansas southern charm, she and the Scarecrow were the biggest opioid dealers around. They moved the drug from the poppy fields that grew in Oz.

Oz- the colloquial term for the outskirts of London, under the control of the White Queen. 

The dog barked again, growling as the cat-eared man crept closer to Alice and the Hatter. Click clack. The ruby heels caught Alice’s attention, and she turned towards Dorothy. 

“Will you take me back? I need to finish what I started.” She walked towards the woman, her braids woven with ribbons, charms and trinkets collected from her victims. She smiled and held out her hand. 

“Of course I’ll take you back, dear. All it takes is some courage, some heart and your mind. “ 

“She’s still missing one of those,” Chessie laughed as he reached out and grabbed Dorothy’s hand, spinning her around, her locks of hair flying outwards, jingling as she turned.

“My dear Dorothy, even a good witch ,such as yourself, recognizes that Alice has lost her mind?” He laughed again, and put his hands over Alice’s blond hair, the grin ever present, ever growing wider. 

“Why- She’s as mad as the Hatter!” Chessie squeaked out, as his voice raised, his laughter growing more shrill. The Hatter stiffened, but remained calm. He breathed deep. He was cornered, but he would not be outmaneuvered. 

“How lovely to see you, Dorothy, and the little dog, too.” Toto barked at him, but continued to growl at the younger man dancing to an unheard song in the street. “Where are your bodyguards this evening?” He asked.

“Oh, I gave them the night off, visiting their families in Oz. It’s just me and Toto.” The vicious canine snarled, his wolfish features making Chessie pause. “I think we’ll be okay, though’“

Hatter smiled and tipped his hat, and a playing card fell forward into his hand. He toyed with it before placing it back. He wouldn’t need the CardPack just yet. “Even with The Ripper out and about?” The Hatter asked her, raising an eyebrow. 

“How do you know I’m not the Ripper?” Dorothy asked sweetly, crossing her arms as Alice looked between them all. 

“Then, please. Let us be off. I need to get her to Underland by morning.’ Hatter said.

“You can’t just take Alice back there! They’ll chop off her head!” Chessie exclaimed, pulling Alice into his arms protectively. 

“Yes. Allow me to hide her away in Oz while Underland gets its house in order. I mean, really? Blaming that poor child for the state of Underland. How Ungentlemanly.” 

“Why are you here, Dorothy? Chessie, I understand. He’s as mad as she is, and they went through a lot together. But you? What does Oz and the Lollipop Guild want with her?” Hatter asked her.

“I want to protect her from the likes of you.” With the look from the Hatter, Dorothy dropped the smile, the Kansas charm wearing off. 

“To be honest, I need a scapegoat, and the crazy Wonderland lady is perfect. She can take the blame and some heat off of us. She’ll sit in jail instead of being executed and then get off with an insane plea. The White Queen will remain in place. Though I do miss the Red Queen. Shame what happened there.”

Hatter flinched as she referenced his step mother. I need a spot of tea.

Alice was still twirling with Chessie, when her eyes locked with the Hatter’s. 

“Do you trust me, Alice?” He asked her. Something he had asked her long ago, when she held the Vorpal blade high and killed the jabberwocky. She said no then, and the pain that tore through his heart left him a broken man. 

“Nope. Mustn’t ever trust a Hatter. They’re mad, you know?” She said gleefully as she twirled and danced in her drunken stupor. 

“Fine.” He said, teeth clenched. “You decide. Are you going to go to Underland or Oz?” 

She smiled hazily, her emerald eyes lost in the cheshire cat’s own bright eyes and he whispered. “Do you want to fall back down the rabbit hole, or go somewhere over the rainbow?” 

“Over the Rainbow! I want to see it.” Alice shouted, throwing her hands up in a wide arc. Dorothy smirked and walked towards the dancing couple. 

“She’s made her choice, Hatter. Would you like to come with?” The trinkets braided in her hair jingled as she nodded, Hatter’s face grim. “Come on then, Alice. Let’s go over the Rainbow.”

“Hatter, come with me?” She looked at him, eyes pleading, as she grabbed at his cane. He was a sucker for those emerald green eyes and nodded. 

“I will join you,” and he linked arms with an excited Alice. 

Chessie reached around, grabbing Hatter’s hand and cane, and then Dorothy’s other hand. Then he meowed at the moon, his grin matching as he called out, 

“The adventure awaits, just follow the yellow brick road.”

The Search for Skiron Part IX: Tipping Point

Once again, this post is live on my blog as well as InThePantheon, however, the site is still having some issues with Google showing it to some people as Malware. Here is Part IX of the Skiron Story. When the site is restored, I will share the Link to their site.

When dawn came, and Aspen was up and ready, I went to untie our mounts. Artemis held her hand up to stop me. “We’re close enough, and I think we can get to the mouth of the cave.”

The snow up the mountain shifted and sent a wave of nausea through me. I trudged towards the cliff’s ledge.  

“It’s about time we leave the stench behind,” I said, trying to see the cave’s mouth. “Maybe you can smell the way better.” 

“That is enough,” Artemis marched over, pointing her finger at my chest. “You asked for my help, which I am giving to you, and yet you clearly wish I was not.” She glared into my eyes and lowered her voice. “If you have something to say to me, say it now before we go into battle. What have I done to make you so angry and distrustful of me?”

The snow shifted, and I felt an unsettled gust of the northwest wind. Skiron! He was up there! We were so close, and now she wanted to fight? She was still staring at me, her eyes like fire.

My irritation boiled over as her finger stayed aimed at my chest, her foot tapping impatiently.

“What did you do? Seriously? You’ve dragged me to every wrong cave around here, even if I’ve said otherwise. You’ve bewitched Aspen, made her your companion, and enjoyed my discomfort with yaks. I’ve seen those smirks! You made her lead me around like I’m a tag-along, like I’m insignificant.” 

I swear her eyes rolled, and my resentment reached a new peak. I raised my voice, ice pellets of frustration forming in my eyes. “In fact, I must be insignificant in your eyes since you’ve managed to forget that not only did your damn arrow go through me and kill my friend’s mother, but you also nearly killed me in the process! You don’t even care what you took away from me.” Her eyes widened, and I kept going.

Rage spilled into tears as my anxiety and frustrations overwhelmed me. I raised my bandaged arms, which still had wounds from the Mahaha. “In case you haven’t noticed, thanks to my cold core, I heal incredibly slow, slower than even mortals. Your arrow, whatever it was tipped with, stayed in my system for fifty fucking years!” I was shouting now, and I lifted my grey sweater to reveal the triangular scar on my abdomen. “Your arrow pierced right here. Here! Do you know what you took from me? Do you? You took away any and all chances for me to have another child! That’s what you did!” 

I felt my rage wane as her eyes widened, and her lips formed an O. Snow swirled around us as I fell into my grief, holding my side, my cold aura pushing outwards to cover us both in a layer of frost. Her hand lowered, hanging limp at her side. I broke down, the sobs escaping even as I tried to hold them back.

“And no one even cared to find out if I survived your deadly arrow. The gods were too distracted by Chione’s death and who would raise Autolycus and Phillammon. Your nephews. But I missed the chance to raise my only child, and now…I’ll never get another chance again,” I whispered as we stood face-to-face. 

My only son, Eumolpus, had long given his life up in war, and I had been left alone, so entirely alone in this world. 

The grief hit me like a truck, as I remembered when I found out I couldn’t have more children.

I was barren, my womb damaged. The arrow and poison had destroyed the organ inside, leaving scars that would never fade, never heal. I was broken forevermore.

And it was her fault. 

The silence between us was deafening. Emotions crossed her face, and I watched, fixated as anger was replaced with recognition and then pain as the memories played in her mind. Sadness followed. Remorse. Her face twisted, and I saw it, the realization of self. I’d seen it before, in a cursed mirror. The realization of the horrific things a person could do. The guilt, the shame. She hadn’t known what she had done. 

She had not abstained from apologizing out of spite or some revenge plan to finish me off. She had not apologized because she genuinely didn’t know the damage she had caused. 

Artemis raised herself up, her head bowed towards me, not flinching away from my bitter cold frost. She seemed to hesitate slightly before looking me dead in the eye. 

 “I apologize for my actions, Khione,” she breathed. “There is no excuse for what I did to you, and I know I can never understand what it cost you.” I was taken aback by the direct apology. I’m not sure what I expected by spilling everything, but an apology was not it.

“I would like to try to help if you will allow me.”

I couldn’t respond, but I looked her in the eyes. The amber colours danced back at me. Her offer was sincere. I knew her background and what she had done for women. 

I had years of anger and hurt to untangle. I was angry at her. I was angry at others too. The ones who abandoned me. The ones who disowned me. The ones who left me to suffer in silence and solitude. The ones who forgot. But she now remembered, and she wanted to atone. As my emotions wavered, the cold deepened around us.

Aspen had been tearing down the camp. When I sensed her footsteps, I drew in my aura, but the frost on the two of us was still visible. 

“Oh my, Artemis, are you okay?!” she asked, running towards the stoic Huntress. “You’re all full of frost!” Aspen then spun towards me. 

“What did you do to her? She’s trying to help you! The cave is just north of here. We should be working together. Shame on you both for fighting!” 

I winced, and so did Artemis. How bold of Aspen to call us out. But of course, she was right. Uncle Skiron was just there, a few miles away. I had felt his presence, and I still needed her help. Composing myself, I spoke to the two of them.

“He is in the cave ahead. I felt his winds earlier when I moved away from the yaks. The snow is shifting unnaturally around here. It’s been driving me crazy and throwing me off balance pretty much since we set foot on this mountain,” I answered Artemis’s unasked question. She turned her eyes at me, understanding that I was suffering in silence—well, irritated mutterings notwithstanding.

She set her features and nodded. We would not get into our issues now. We didn’t have time. I shouldn’t have blown up and dumped that on her, but what’s done is done. Our internal battles would have to wait. We would need our wits about us for this looming battle. 

“The snow shifting kept throwing me off balance, which you noticed when I was riding the yak. His smell overwhelms my winter senses and makes me nauseous,” I explained. “But your tracking matches my own suspicions. That cavern to the north is the epicenter of the weird sensations I keep feeling. I’m guessing you feel it, too.” I looked back at Artemis. 

Her eyes searched mine as if she was seeing me for the first time as capable, as an asset, and not just an inconvenience.

She nodded and straightened her back, changing back into the stoic Huntress.

“The plan I have so far is simple. We will port to the outside of the cave. There is a walkway that is not being used. From there, we can make sure the entrance is clear before going in.”

She picked up a stick and drew in the frosty dirt as she spoke. “There is a narrow pathway that winds its way back to a couple of larger rooms. The pathway has two walls at some points and, at others, a deadly drop to one side. Alcholoë must be using something to protect her safe house because there is a roaring wind the length of the path.”

I was confused. I could sense the winds and snow, but I didn’t think she could see or sense the caves. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have explored so many wrong ones. 

“How do you know all of this? You said you found the cave, not that you went inside.” I questioned as a thought spilled out before I could stop. “Did you find my uncle and leave him behind?!” She wouldn’t? Would she? Did she purposely set me up?

“Pallas’s cat,” she interrupted my thought spiral, and I blinked back at her.

“What does that mean?”

“A Pallas’s cat is an indigenous feline that roams the mountain regions in this part of the world,” she said in a know-it-all voice.

“I know what Pallas’s cat is, but what do they have to do with the cave?” 

“Ah, I asked one, and she did a little scouting for me. That is how I know there are three people in this cave. One leaves by foot, one leaves by wing, and one stays in the cave. The cat identified the scent on the feather and the scale you gave to me.”

Aspen leapt up in a bubble of excitement. “You asked her? Like she talked to you? Did she actually talk? Was it interpretive moments? Do you understand meowing? How does—” Aspen literally bounced as her thoughts spilled out.

I smiled at her enthusiasm, her naivety.

“Whoa, Slow down,” Artemis told her. “Yes, I asked the cat. No, she doesn’t use words. I opened my mind to her, let a part of myself flow into her, and she showed me.” Aspen nodded and calmed. But I could still see the excitement in her eyes and her idolization of the Huntress. 

“The bird that led me to the cave saw her tracks, so I followed them to her den. I stayed at the den while she took a trip to the cave and let my mind tag along.”

I watched Aspen’s mouth fall open in awe. I kind of wished Aspen would look at me with the same adoring gaze. 

“Could I, maybe, learn to talk to kitties?” Aspen stuttered out, her eyes big and pleading.

“It’s a god thing. The Pallas’s cat could not make it through the wind tunnel but had seen the layout in previous trips. Other trilobites confirmed the presence of three people and identified their smell in the back of the cave.”

Artemis met my gaze as she finished describing the layout. “Once we see the entrance is clear, I would like all three of us to go in. Can you do something about the wind?”

“I should be able to divert the winds using my own, but I can’t take control of the winds themselves.” It was going to be a lot, and I’d need to keep my emotions in check. 

“Aspen, I want you to stay close to me and be as silent as you can. Once we get to them, you can talk to Sybil while Khione goes for Skiron.” Artemis was all out professional now, being the leader, and us her maidens. Maybe she actually saw me as capable. 

“I don’t know what condition he will be in, but you should know, the smell of blood is in the air. If we need to fight, can you get everyone out of the cave who is not fighting?” she asked.

“Hey, I can fight,” I responded, taken aback by the plight to run.

“Yes, you can,” she said, smiling as she pulled a piece of ice from her coat and tossed it to the ground. “And you might have to. I’m not worried about your ability. I am worried about getting the others out. Alcholoë may not respond to reason, and I want to be able to concentrate on her if it comes to that.” 

Aspen had stopped bouncing and listened with rapt attention as Artemis gave her directions.

“Agreed?” Artemis asked us both. I ran through the plan in my head and nodded, as did Aspen. This has to work. We have to work together.

Artemis held out her hands, one to each of us, and there was no hesitation. I grabbed it, and together we ported to the mouth of the cave. 

The Search For Skiron: Part VIII: The Hunt

Due to a little trouble with the InthePantheon website, Khione’s post will be posted here in in full rather than a link to its hosted page.

When ITPs site it fixed, the post will go back to being a Link to their page.

The Search For Skiron: Part VIII: The Hunt

We left for Tibet in the morning. Aspen was practically dancing with glee when she met Artemis. I tried to control my face and stay happy for her, but I was already irritated.
Seth had been unsuccessful in finding any information online, even through less than legal methods. Then he disappeared in the middle of the night to do whatever thieves do.

I woke up on my couch with a blanket over me and the dagger from my hair missing.
Artemis was talking to Aspen, asking her questions, gauging her skills, and getting information on the ladies we were tracking. I stayed back, just listening, focusing on not interrupting and controlling my emotions to stop the storm brewing inside.


“I have someone I can talk to in Nagqu. Let’s go,” Artemis said.
I nodded as Artemis and I both held our hands out to Aspen. Aspen bounced over to Artemis, grabbing hers enthusiastically. I frowned, feeling like a tag-along, but I reached for Aspen’s other hand. We would need to stay together.


We popped into a small alleyway and steadied Aspen. Artemis smiled triumphantly. “I haven’t portaled as a group like that in a while. Aspen, you did great.” We rounded the corner and came to a stop in front of a fabric store. I raised my eyebrow but said nothing as she waltzed in like she owned the place.


“Aspen, can you and Khione stay up here? I’m going to the back to look at a different type of fabric.” Aspen nodded, but she was already lost in the colours and textures of the fabrics in the shop. I stood quietly in the corner, feeling like I was being watched.


Of course, she had ditched me the first chance she got. I was a hindrance to her. I focused on getting a sense of the snow in the nearby mountain range, but I was too far. I frowned, watching as Aspen chatted happily to the shopkeepers about the amazing fabrics and the type of clothes she could fashion for herself. I made a note that if she stayed with me, she would never be forced to make her own clothes. I saw Artemis select a few of the bolts that Aspen had lit up around and purchase some for her. Her face was practically glowing from the happiness.
Damnit. Why didn’t I think to do that?


“So, we will need to go up the mountain. There’s been some suspicious activity up near some of the caves there.”
“Do we get to portal again?” Aspen asked, clasping her hands together.
“No, we need to find the trail, and that means we will need to ride a yak.”
I nearly stumbled over my feet. A yak? A yak’s smell was nauseating, and they were excruciatingly slow. I could blizzard my way up the mountain in mere minutes. I thought about protesting, but the light in Aspen’s eyes stopped me, and I swore I saw Artemis smirk.


***

“Yaks are exciting!” Aspen said. I rolled my eyes out of her view, but pushed forward. At least we were going up the mountain now, even if I was following Artemis and Aspen on my own miserable, odorous, grey yak.


“I thought we would have a sherpa,” Aspen said to Artemis. I snorted as Artemis laughed lightly. “The more people in our party, the more chances of something going wrong. I don’t want to give the harpy extra targets if I don’t have to.”


“Pft, like we couldn’t protect a sherpa from a harpy,” I mumbled and pushed the plodding yak forward. He bounced along lazily, and I grew quiet, listening to Artemis and Aspen talk about tracks, trails, and markers.
Since reaching the mountains, my stomach had twisted into a knot. I had let my senses out and could feel the snow rolling unnaturally to the north of the range. Every time the snow shifted, my balance was affected, and I was getting frustrated. When we came to a cave Artemis wanted to search, I struggled to control the frost forming on my skin.


“This isn’t the place,” I grumbled as they went to check it out. My stomach twisted, and I looked up the mountainside, trying to feel which direction to go. Something was very wrong here. I needed to get to Skiron.


“You gave me very little to work with. Hunting takes patience and requires that we search,” she shot back, annoyed with me. The snow shifted again, settling back over the mountain, and my stomach flipped. How dare she be annoyed with me!


“We don’t have time! My uncle is in danger! Do you not grasp that?” It’s not a hunt for sport or food that we can be leisurely. I need to get there now. Something is really wrong up there.


“I understand, Khione,” Artemis said. She looked at me, and I saw Aspen fidget uncomfortably. “I do, but I’d rather not split up as there is dreadful cell reception in the Himalayas.” I took a breath and clenched my hands, concentrating on not yelling back, even as Aspen giggled.


I followed numbly, feeling the snow ebb and flow in the unnatural rhythm, the knot growing tighter in my stomach. Aspen and Artemis were tracking together, and they were getting along great, even through several more empty caverns.


Aspen spotted something in the ice ahead. I perked up, listening to see what it was, but then Artemis was showing off, porting up to look, and then falling and porting again. Aspen was delighted, and I rolled my eyes at the antics. I could have brought the ice to us instead.


“It looks like wings brushed the ice, and there is a crack as if something hit the wall. The feather marks are larger than any bird in this area,” Artemis explained to Aspen. “I also detected the same scent that was on the harpy’s wing,” she said to me. “Keep going forward, Aspen. I’ll check out this lead.”


“Oh, don’t bother asking the expert in ice to have a look at the marks in the wall of ice,” I muttered, grabbing my yak and urging it to follow Aspen.


Artemis had completely ignored me and hadn’t bothered to ask my thoughts on anything. I knew I asked for her help, but I’m nearly certain I could find the harpy with these unusual snow rhythms now. I hadn’t even had the chance to say anything to them. They were too busy egging each other on to the next empty cave.


“Follow me, Miss Kia. We will head to the next bend. Looks like sunset is coming soon, so we will find a place to camp.” The snow shifted again. My stomach lurched, and I made the yak veer to the left.


“Good idea Aspen.” I heard Artemis call as she ported back up to the ice wall and then beyond.


“Sure, you let her lead and boss us around like I’m inexperienced in the mountains? She’s doing a better job than you are, finding marks and trails. And she’s mortal. All you’re doing is sniffing feathers,” I snapped at her.
My yak tripped on a rock on the path, throwing me off. My cheeks flushed as I collected myself off the ground, the tension and smell of the yak making me want to hurl.


“That’s right! I’m letting her lead you to safety since you can’t even ride a yak.” I saw red when I heard that. Pure anger coursed through me, and I struggled not to shift into the storm inside.


“Why would I believe you’d have my best interests in mind? I don’t think you’d care if my uncle was alive, as long as you find what you’re searching for,” I snapped.


“I wouldn’t have known your uncle’s life was in danger unless you had told me. You came to me and asked me for help. Help that I gave you. I stopped a search I was on, a search that was important to me, just to help your uncle so you can stop wasting my time with your petty bullshit. If you care about your own uncle, you will follow the mortal, who is certainly doing a far better job than you are, and let me do my work.”


I stomped off, forcing myself to stay in solid form and not full blizzard rage at the surly huntress. Why did I think this would work?
I stopped around the bend in a clearing and calmed my thoughts and anger. Aspen rounded with the three yaks. Oh crap.
“I’m sorry, Aspen,” I said and took the reins from her. I tied the miserable trio to a nearby tree.


“Let’s make camp. Tell me what you need me to do.” I smiled at her, and she beamed back, excitedly giving me directions. I followed them, focusing on the tasks instead of the hurt, anger, and the things I’d said. Aspen babbled her thoughts out loud. I could sense something moving on the snow a few miles north of here, but I wasn’t going to abandon Aspen.


We had a fire going and a tent set up when Artemis strolled into camp. She greeted the girl and the yaks, but barely acknowledged me, as she sat by the fire.


“The trail leads to a set of caves a few miles north. We should be able to reach it in the morning,” she said. “I couldn’t tell how many were with the harpy, so we should all go in together in case this is where they are keeping your uncle. Let’s get to sleep early. Tomorrow could bring battle.”


I nodded. It seems we were indeed on the right path, the two of us in agreement. A battle was on the horizon, and we would need to be rested. I retreated but didn’t sleep. I stared up at the moon and let it snow around me, like tears floating slowly from the sky.


I hope you’re safe, Uncle.

*** Artemis has Shared her Point of View on the story. Links will be on the Khione Page when the story is live***

A year in the making

One year ago, I started on a new journey. Some friends encouraged me to submit a literary piece for an online magazine.

It all started as a joke- the Blizzard Queen should be the voice of the Goddess of Snow. They told me to think about it.

Well, I don’t think I had a chance to think about it before the character had come alive in my head. She demanded to be a heard, a force of nature exerting herself over me.

I wrote an intro for her, and after some friendly proofreading, I submitted the piece to InThePantheon.com.

I had taken the first step in sharing my work and had embarked on a journey without a goal in mind.

There was a call for submissions for poetry. Odes to the Gods, for the book Immortal Hymns. I wrote two poems and submitted them both, figuring what the hell, if I get rejected, it’s all one big rejection, and I could retreat back into nothingness.

Then came the request for an interview, to become a Scribe for ITP. We met and talked on my birthday, and before I knew it- I was in orientation.

Khione was getting a voice, through me! They liked my story! On top of that- they liked my poems so much so that they selected both to be published!

I joined a community full of like minded individuals, and was encouraged to rejoin Twitter, and there I found even more support.

I was conned into NanoWriMo, let me tell you. I had no intention of participating back in Novembe. But I wrote 50k words for one project that had filled my head for a while, successfully completing NanoWriMo.

That project- is now in the hands of Tea with Coffee Media- an Indie Publishing company, and I am thrilled to be working with them!

Without the support and amazing people I have met on my journey- and the people who pushed me to make that uncomfortable first step, I would not have accomplished the things I did:

17 posts on InthePantheon (and counting!)

4 posts on 5minuteaffairs- Short Story Romamces.

2 Poems Published- in Immortal Hymns- available on amazon and KU

A NanoWriMo success!

And this Blog, that catches everything I’ve put out to others, and gives you short stories when I have the chance to get them on here.

What’s Next??

Well, I’ve still have lots of Khione’s story to tell, and will continue to be her Scribe, until she leaves me.

I have a sequel to dive into and finish writing.

I have another Work In Progress that was inspired by another Canadian Artist- and I’m working on getting his okay to share before I reveal it.

I think the writing community found me and picked me up when I needed it. And to everyone who reads this:

Thank you 💙👉👈

The Strangest Friend

I stood in line at the cafe, waiting to order my coffee. The person ahead of me was taking forever to spit out his coffee order. I thought it was pretty simple, A large coffee, 2 sugar, 2 cream. Except the girl behind the counter wasn’t understanding. 

“I’m sorry sir,” she said. “We don’t have ‘gibberish’ coffee. I will make you a large coffee and you can put your fixings in on the table over there.” She pointed in the direction. “It will be three dollars.” 

The man paid the money and walked away. Finally, I could order my coffee. “Large caramel macchiato please.”

 “Oh not you too! What is this, prank the server day?!” She sighs exasperated. “What kind of gibberish drink do you want?” 

Another server looks up questionly and walks over. “Hey, Val are you alright? This is our regular, she gets a large caramel macchiatto.” She looks up as she finishes punching it in. That’s five seventy please.” 

I nod and pay the servers, wondering if Val really was okay. The man who ordered his coffee comes up to the counter. 

“Excuse me, can I get a stir stick or a spoon, please?” Both servers look in confusion, and I realized that neither of them understood us. I looked around the room and made a stirring motion while saying “stiiirrr stiiiick.” What a joke. 

The second server looked at me and asked me “what language are you speaking? It’s like nothing I’ve ever heard?”

 “It’s just gibberish, it’s a prank on me. I swear to God if I’m on TV later I’ll be pissed!” 

I turned and looked at the man, and shrugged my shoulders. They handed me my drink and I went and sat down to enjoy it in peace. The man walked up to me and asked politely, “May I join you?” 

“Sure! Why not. Let’s wait and see if this really is a prank show.” 

“This is not a prank show,” And he shook his head. “You are speaking the same language as I am. And understanding it.” 

I looked at him curiously. So NOW I’m the one being pranked, hmm? 

“Oh. Yes.vThat makes sense. But I only speak english, and some made up language with an imaginary friend when I was like 6.” I laughed and took a drink. 

“Funny, I can’t speak English.” He looked serious.

“But you’re talking English right now!”

 “I am not. Here.” He took out his phone and a video.The screen showed a video where there was a family bowling. They were laughing and talking. I didn’t see anything unusual. “Okay? That’s just you and your friends bowling.”

 “Let me put on the subtitles.” And he did and replayed the video, but the words flashing across the bottom of the screen, they looked like symbols. My eyes widened as I realized that I COULD read the symbols. My brain tried to reconcile what I was reading with what I was hearing, and all of a sudden, I realized I was speaking HIS language. 

“What on earth? How? HOW?” I asked the man sitting calmly in front of me. 

“I was going to ask you the same. It is a language only spoken in the most remote land I come from. Very few people understand it outside of the region.” 

“I.. I made up this language when I was six. I was talking to an imaginary friend. He couldn’t speak English, so he taught me his langu–oh my God. Are you an alien?” 

“Alien?” He laughed. “Good heavens no. I am human. Mostly, there’s a bit of residual magic in the bloodline.” 

“Oh magic, ” I scoffed. “Back to being pranked.”

 “No really.” He smiled. “We don’t have coffee in our area, and I quite like it. So I teleport here often to get some. The servers usually recognize me, but that server is new.” 

“Yeah she is. Poor girl, probably having a bit of a breakdown.” 

I finished off my drink as he sipped his. 

“So teleportation huh?”

 “Yes. That’s how come your parents thought I was imaginary.” He winked. “Everytime someone other than you came into view, I’d disappear back to my island.” “☼◄‼? ” I choked out. 

“The same.” He smiled warmly, and I was taken back to my childhood, before we moved. “You’re really real.”I mumbled. He laughed.
“After you moved, I tried to find you, but never could. Would you like to see my world now?”

I looked him up and down. I didn’t know this stranger, but he was familiar. He smiled warmly, and the best friend I knew was there deep inside. He held his hand out waiting for my answer. “I would” then I took his hand…

Airport Pickup

You didn’t meet me at the airport. Our flight was delayed, but only by an hour. 

I sat at the airport bar, drink in hand, and surveyed the crowded place. It was late in the evening, and the airport was full of business executives chatting on cell phones and families trying to coral hyper kids. I was done waiting for you. 

He sidled up next to me at the bar, ordering a drink as his carry-on dropped to the floor. The backpack was grey, old and torn, showing signs of age and extensive use. It matched the torn and baggy jeans he wore. The bartender served him up his draft beer, and he took a swig before looking around as I had done. 

Some child screamed at the top of his lungs as he ran back and forth down the open floor plan, and the man beside me winced. A dark curl fell in front of his eyes, and he lifted a hand that was calloused and rough to push it out of the way and tucked it under his cap. He moved with confidence. He was a man who knew what hard work was, what getting your hands dirty meant. I eyed him up and down, the puffy vest trying to hide his t-shirt that fit a little too snug. 

I tipped my glass back and asked the barkeeper for a second. If that screaming hyperactive kid was on my flight, I would drink until I could pass out. 

He eyed me as I picked up the fresh glass and smiled. It was lopsided, and his face was scruffy, not a beard, but a little more than 5 o’clock shadow. His jawline was squared beneath the scruff, and he was handsome. I liked the look he gave me. He was into me, I could see it, I appreciate the compliment. He wanted to flirt? I could flirt, liquid courage running through my veins.

I shot him the sexiest smile I could manage, tilting my head down to look out at him through my eyelashes. 

He grabbed that beer with a firm hand, turned and leaned against the bar, his jeans sagging low. He reached his other hand and hiked them up, tugging on the leather belt. I imagined the feel of that leather belt on my wrists, and felt a bead of sweat form on my neck.

“Kids,” he growled, his low voice sunk into my chest. I leaned forward to hear what else he had to say, my heart beating faster still.

“They should just be given a beer to put them to sleep for flights. Works for me.” He chuckled and took another swig, and I imagined that voice whispering in my ear, his hand grabbing my waist and tugging me into his broad chest. 

“I’d rather find a bed somewhere and skip the flight.” I said out loud. My eyes widened, and I quickly lifted my glass to my lips. He raised his eyebrow and looked at me outright. 

“If that’s an invitation, I’m in.” He smiled and held out his hand. I glanced at his hand, and at him, and at my boarding pass, the paper a reminder of what I was supposed to do, where I was supposed to be.  My heart beat furiously, and I took his hand, feeling the roughness against my skin. Thoughts of those rough hands running down my body made me smile and I set my glass down.

Our boarding passes were left under our emptied glasses, growing damp as the agents called for us, over and over.  

The Soul Pool

“The pool is nearly empty,” the inky blot whispered. 

“What was that?” another amorphous splodge responded. 

The two beings circled a void of darkness in the furthest reaches of space. 

“THE. POOL. IS. NEARLY. EMPTY.  Great Sliehffgf you need to get your hearing checked.” 

“Empty? How can it be empty? We’ve made each portion already 1/64th of what it should be. We can’t go any smaller,” the Amorphous Splodge said back to the Inky Blot. 

“Well, I don’t fill it. I just portion it out. We can’t go any smaller. They are already fighting each other. Hating each other. Those full portions aren’t dying and returning their shares. They just keep living, on and on and on.” 

“I see. And has anyone petitioned to the Shliehffgf to have a catastrophic event to force some to return their portions?” 

“We have petitioned him. But because the smaller portions are out there causing havoc, he wants the full portions to be able to steer them to each other. To find their full portions. I think he’s calling them  ‘soulmates’.” 

“I thought he started that when we split them in half? Find your other portion to feel whole? Now they have 64 soulmates? Why doesn’t he just put them to rest and have them return to the pool? We would have more to portion out.”

“The pool is nearly empty, but only the smallest portions are returning. Seems life doesn’t last long with only small portions. They tend to feel lost, sad, alone, depressed. Some choose to return it willingly. Others find themselves in a fight for land that shouldn’t be bound. Then the other small portions use it to become wealthy. Accumulating stuff until they can’t anymore. And then they return the little piece they have.”

“What about Lucoabs? Does he still collect portions from the creatures who dare to make a deal?”

“It’s still not enough to fill the pool. ” 

The two beings stared at each other as the requests came in for another portion of the pool. “That’s the last of it, then.”

“Those who come into existence now, will forgo a portion altogether. I fear for our universe.” 

They portioned out the rest of the pool, scraping the last bit of it out and giving as much as they could, hoping that somehow, enough portions would be returned to fill the quota.

From deep within the black void, they heard the Rorschach announce, “ We are going to end a planet, and have them return their portions. They are one of the shortest lived. So for now it’s a temporary fix.” 

“So Earth is getting its core blown up. That should fill the pool for about 2 weeks.”
“Those creatures weren’t good when they had the full portion. I imagine it’s total chaos with only 1/64th a portion.”
“Nah, humans had half and quarter portions. They were just a terrible plague. Good riddance.” 

The two beings swirled with excitement as the pool began to fill. All the creatures on earth had returned their portions. Their souls would be portioned out to the next creatures born into existence.

May the Pool never empty again.

The Heat of the Land

It was hot. 
The sky was hazy, the sun not quite the solid circle in the sky. The breeze, gently brushing my skin, did nothing to cool me off. 

The sunshine was warming my hair, making my scalp prickle, the sweat film starting across my neck. I could feel my muscles relaxing, and my eyelids growing heavy. My skin soaked in the heat, warming me from the outside in. 

My breath was deep, but not satisfying; the air feeling heavy in my chest. My mouth was drying up, my saliva not quite moist enough to keep my lips from drying out. My throat was getting scratchier the deeper I drew my breath. The wind was blowing my hair onto my face, sticking in the beading perspiration. I closed my eyes and leaned back, letting the sun bake me.

I could feel my shirt dampening, a drop of sweat formed on my back, crawling slowly down my skin. The breeze blew past again, but still the warm caress could not soothe. I could feel my skin warming now, my blood rising to the surface, turning my skin flushed and red.

The warmth was rushing throughout my body, from my scalp to my toes. I let the heatgasm wash through my body, raising my core temperature and feeling oh-so-good. But my temperature still rose. The sweat was on my skin, the backs of my knees, my armpits and inner elbows are all distinctly on my radar now. The back of my neck was slick with perspiration, my hot hair was now damp, sticking to my neck and to my forehead. My eyes grew too tired. My body yearned to yawn. My stomach grew taut while my muscles relaxed. 

My lips, drying quickly, needed to licked, but my tongue was not satisfying enough.  

“Water” I croaked, my voice cracking, my throat drying. “Need water”. I struggled to stand, my muscles limp and floundering, not wanting to contract. My eyelids were still too heavy, my body feeling like a pool of goo, as I yawned. My relaxed body laid on the ground, as the sweltering heat boiled on around me, raising my temperature higher, and higher.  

I’m in hell, I thought. The soles of shoes melted to my feet in painful agony. I think I tried to scream, but just noiseless air escaped my parched mouth, my vocal chords too hot to function. 
This is how I die. I close my eyes and let the heat overtake me, consuming me, boiling my blood and searing my skin as I nourished the parched earth.