Recruiter

There are two kinds of ghosts in the world. It’s a fact I know as well as I know my own name, and a fact I know far better than the hallways of the old house I was trudging through. Somewhere in here there was a prospective student for Sycamore Hill Academy, but only if I got to her before they did. And as usual, the darker side of things had a head start on me.

The briefings for prospective student meetups are surprisingly well-prepared, all things considered. Most of our incoming students don’t exactly have the most thorough records. I had a short file on the girl. Seven years old, name Sara or Sarah, likely to hide from strangers but she likes dolls.

The stairwell ahead was dark but I could hear small feet running on the next floor up. She had to be running from something. Picking up my pace, I barrelled up the stairs and fished blindly in my bag for one of the pre-made sachets. If what I thought was here was up there, I would need it. When I reached the top of the stairs, I turned and darted into the hallway. It was like my sense left me. Something caught me in the shins and I fell forward, arms pinwheeling madly while the floor came rushing up to meet me.

I must have hit my head because the next thing I knew, a teenager had a hand over my mouth and was examining the cloth ball I’d held. Looking him over, I frowned, trying to place what seemed off. Then I had it.

“You’re not dead.”

“And thanks to me, neither are you.” He crouched by my head, staring down at me with brown eyes that oddly reminded me of dark citrines. “What are you doing here?”

“Doesn’t matter. What are you doing here?”

He smiled slowly.

“I live here.”

That set me back on my heels and I reexamined him.

“Okay, let’s try this again. I’m a recruiter and I’m looking for the little girl. Do you know where I can find her?”

He stood and offered me a hand up.

“Yeah, but you’re going to have to convince me first. I take care of her.”

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Urban Magic

Mason tossed the empty can of spray paint into the trash and turned to gaze at his masterpiece. The sigils were woven into the mural so carefully he doubted anyone would see them, but they would be charged by every kid who came out to this park to play and in turn, the sigils would keep the kids safe. He’d been seeing some of them starting to experiment with magic which was all well and good, but some few of those kids might start finding the darker stuff and he wanted to keep them safe for as long as he could. Pulling up his hood, he stepped away from the wall and started the long walk home. A few kids were already arriving after school, happily yelling the rhyming spells all children seemed to learn. An old woman sat on a park bench feeding the pigeons and quietly exchanging gossip with them. The birds went everywhere and they certainly had the best gossip in the whole city. He hopped onto the 131 bus headed towards his apartment. The whole city was humming under his feet when he stepped back out onto the sidewalk and turned the corner towards his building. There would be a thunderstorm later. Definitely a good day to put some jars on the roof to catch water. And he could recharge those crystals he’d borrowed from Amily. Perfect. Mason smiled to himself as he drew a circle on the doorknob with one finger to unlock it. He had a lot of things to do before Amily got home.

Missing: The Wrong Twin

Marcella stood frozen in the doorway, hand still raised from knocking. She’d expected Kate, not her twin brother. But the one standing in front of her was undoubtedly Cliff, despite the very strong resemblance.

“Marcy… I was about to call you.”

“Where’s Kate? Not that it’s not great to see you, but…”

“But I live 2 hours away and this is my sister’s house. But she never lets anyone but her answer the door. Yeah, I know. I called her, no answer. Repeatedly. Tried her cell. Nada. So I drove down. She’s not here, Marcy.”

Marcy stepped inside as Cliff moved aside. He looked almost…defeated. Like he was assuming the worst and blaming himself.

“She might just…be out? You know Kate. Maybe she lost her phone again… Or…”

But it was just hopeful thinking. That sort of ‘if wishes were horses’ sort of thing. Right now, between the desperate hope and downright nightmarish self-blame, they were fit to open a stable. Taking a place on the couch, Marcy looked up at Cliff.

“Has anything weird happened lately? Anything at all.”

He shrugged noncommittally.

“It’s sort of hard to gauge weird with our bunch, Marcy. You know that.”

“Point.” She leaned back and looked up towards the ceiling. “Well, we’re in luck. Your sister decided to start listening to me.”

“What are you-? Oh… Oh no.”

Understanding dawned on Cliff’s face and he took a half-step back.

“Honestly, I don’t understand why you’re scared of them. They’re harmless and helpful. And this little fellow is barely full grown.”

Standing on the couch with a silent apology to Kate for putting her sneakers on the cushions, Marcy reached for the spider sitting in the corner where the wall meets the ceiling. The tiny creature eagerly moved to her hand, letting her move back to sitting. Cliff perched on the arm of one of the two matching plush armchairs, doing his level best not to panic entirely as he watched a sight which really should have been normal to him by now. Marcy raised the spider up so she could look directly into his eyes.

“I’m dreadfully sorry for bothering you, but I need to ask you some questions. My name is Marcy. What’s yours?”

Cliff could see the little legs moving as the spider danced back and forth and Marcy spoke softly to it.

“I’m…gonna go make a pot of coffee and grab my pack from the car. Lemme know if your friend there says anything interesting.”

Marcy nodded and waved Cliff away with her free hand. By the time he returned with two steaming mugs, she looked like she was either going to cry or murder someone and Cliff really hoped she was being particular about who she murdered. He set the mug down on a coaster, smiling slightly that it was one of the lunar phase set he’d gotten for his twin for their birthday a few years back. Marcy took the coffee and stared into it, the spider back up on his perch.

“Well?”

“They thought she was you.”

“They? They who? What?”

“The Midnight Court. They thought that… Well, alright. They didn’t think Kate was you so much as they thought that…um…”

“They thought Kate was Alycia.”

He said the name like it was a brand scorching his flesh, like even something so simple as uttering it would undo years, decades of training and adjusting and medical procedures and Faerie glamour. Cliff scrubbed at his face, looking very much like a man staring down his own death.

“But…why would they want… I mean, they knew! They helped me change!”

“And they never saw the end result. Or, at least, they never saw adult Cliff. Just awkward, gangly Cliff. You also said they never remember you don’t glamour yourself to look like that anymore.”

“And now they have my sister… Who is very not me. Did they say anything about where?”

“The little one, I named him Archie, by the way. Archie said they talked about their web. That’s basically spider-speak for home.”

Cliff sagged into the chair.

“My sister has been kidnapped by Faeries who think she’s pre-op me and you named her living room spider…Archie. Glad to know nothing around here ever changes. So…” He leaned forward, suddenly shifting gears. “How are we doing this? I’m pretty well kitted out for a rogue troll here and there, but you’re talking about storming the Moonless Palace.”

“Yeah…and they have our only real magic user. So frontal assault is out.”

“We could play it like that time in Boston.”

“The time you got drunk and forgot to round your ears and we had to convince people you were a Trekkie?”

“No! The time we charmed our way into the knitting show with your silk and then busted the goblins-”

“-Who were trading in unicorn tail hair. I remember now.” Marcy paused. “You want to impress your way into…a Fae stronghold…in the Otherworld…with silk?”

Cliff shrugged.

“It’s the best plan I’ve got. My other-other idea involves really thick gloves and you loading my clips.”

“We are NOT taking bog iron rounds into the Otherworld! Do you remember last time? You’re lucky you lived!”

The grin that crossed Cliff’s face was not nice, comforting or human.

“Well then, we’d best figure out how to charm our way in before they realize they didn’t get the right toy.”

Photon and Spark – Special #1 – Origins of a Team

Max Jackson didn’t much like bullies. Bullies made things complicated. Bullies that were harassing him and Terry made things doubly complicated. It wasn’t as if the pair didn’t have enough problems. It wasn’t as if they weren’t both already trying to deal with high school, parents, life, and concealing superpowers. That last part was the worst. Especially right now, with Daniel Tompkins grinning at him like the cat who’d got the cream. At least Terry wasn’t here, so there wasn’t that risk. Terry had a hard enough time masking his preternatural speed when he was on the track, hiding it in a fight would be almost impossible. 

“Well, Jackson?”

He could hear the laughter in Daniel’s voice and Max clenched his fists, wanting so badly to just activate his powers and make it obvious who exactly Daniel was messing with. Then he heard another voice, a new voice.

“Hey, Tompkins, why don’t you go bother someone who actually bothered you?”

Max looked up in time to see a girl walking towards them, and not just any girl. That was Jessica Morrow. That was Crusader’s daughter. She had her arms crossed over her chest and was glaring at Daniel Tompkins in a way that said she was going to take no nonsense from him. He glared back for a moment and then stormed off with one last passing shot.

“Guess you have to get saved by a girl, Jackson.”

Max sighed and stood.

“Thanks for bailing me out, Morrow.”

Jessica returned his smile and held her hand out to him.

“No problem. And it’s nice to finally meet you.”

Max raised an eyebrow at that and Jessica leaned in to whisper for his ears only.

“I’ve got access to Sanctum records, Jackal. And I’ve wanted to meet you and your partner for a while.”

A Bard’s Life

The little half-elven girl bounced on the floor, watching her mother stitching on a shirt. “Tell me the story again, Mama?” The human woman laughed. She set a stitch and then smiled down at her daughter. “It was years ago, my little Sherri, that I met a wandering bard. He was the most beautiful elf I had ever seen.” Sherri hugged her small flute tightly, eyes wide as she listened to the story. It was her favorite, had always been her favorite. She liked to imagine that one day this great and glorious bard would stride back into their small home and be a part of their family. That he would take her under his wing and teach her to tease out the bardic magic she’d already begun to play with. She loved the way the music shaped in her mind, loved the feeling of an instrument in her hands. But she had no teacher. No one who could show her how to control what she had and learn more.
“Mama, tell me the story again?” Sherri clung to her mother’s hand, trying anything now to get her fading mother to speak. The woman was sick and it was ripping the young half-elf’s heart into pieces. There was nothing she could do, even with the fledgling magic she felt stirring inside her, it was doing nothing. Her mother coughed and smiled. “Don’t you know the story by heart, my little one? I’ve told it enough.” “I want to hear you tell it, Mama.” The woman smiled and squeezed her daughter’s hand, beginning the tale again.
Sherri ran, trying to ignore the pain in her throbbing shoulder. She had been stupid. Stupid and slow. The merchant had caught her trying to knick a bit of food and all she’d gotten for it was a beating. Now she was still hungry and she was in pain. Then her foot suddenly connected with something and she sprawled on the cobbles. Rolling to her back, she looked up into the eyes of an older half-elf boy.
“You’ve got the makings, girl. You just need some lessoning. Come on, girl, and I’ll teach you how to get fed and not get thrashed.”
She hesitated for a moment and then took the offered hand. It was a chance, and that was more than she had right now on her own.
This was the second time she’d had to climb out a window in the middle of the night. It was easier than the first time. At least this time, she wasn’t trying to leave her gang. But it was for the same reason, she supposed. She slung her battered lute over her shoulder and started to scale down the side of the building. It was a damn good thing she had no fear of heights, or she would be having problems. She regretted having to leave. This place had been good to her. She had been fed, she had been safe. But once again, another man had wanted more than she was willing to give. She checked her pack and her blades as her feet touched the ground and then headed for the woods. A few miles that way, and soon enough, she’d find a road. There were other places, she supposed. She would just have to find one.

The Dragon Who Wanted a Princess

Once upon a time, there was a mighty dragon. She lived on her towering hoard of precious, shiny things in a cavern deep below the ground. But there was one thing she didn’t have: a princess. She knew all about princesses from books, so she knew that all the very best dragons have a princess to call their own. So, one day she went out into the city to find herself a princess.


She walked through a neighborhood of houses that stood side-by-side and heard a voice shouting “Princess! Come here, Princess!”

“Well, that was easy!”

She ran towards the voice and found a woman feeding a cat.

“That’s not a princess, that’s a cat.”

She tried some of the kitty kibble and then went back on the search.


She walked down to the wharf and heard a voice saying “The Princess is almost ready to go.”

“Well, that was easy!”

She ran towards the voice and found a sailor getting a ship ready to travel.

“That’s not a princess, that’s a ship.”

She tried to stowaway, just in case, but ended up getting all wet.


She walked through the market and heard a voice saying, “That’s right, Princess.”

“This one has to be a princess.”

She ran towards the voice and found a man with a horse-drawn carriage.

“That’s not a princess, that’s a horse.”

She tried to get a ride, but she scared the horses.


Exhausted, she walked to the park and sat on a bright blue bench.

“I’ll never find a real princess.”

Three little girls heard her sad words and came over to see if they could help.

“Why are you looking for a princess, little dragon?”

“Because without a princess, I can’t be a real dragon.”

The girls whispered to each other for a minute and then held out a little sparkly purple tiara.

“Now you’re a princess. A dragon princess!”


So the little dragon thanked the girls very much and took her new tiara back home to her hoard in her cavern deep under the city. Now she was even greater than those other dragons. They only caught princesses. She had become one.

Called Home

Jennifer took a deep breath, then another. Her mind was reeling as she tried to process everything that was happening, at the words the woman standing in front of her was saying. Finally, she haltingly managed to say something, anything.
“You…you have pointy ears.”
The other woman, Aislinn was it? She brushed a curl of auburn hair back behind her ears.
“Yes, I do. And so will you, when I take the glamours off of you, your Highness.”
Jenny winced just slightly at the title and hugged her books a little tighter against her chest.
“Yeah, right. Uh…cool. But I need to get to class. Like, now.”
Aislinn reached out to grab her arm.
“Did you not hear me? We must return to the Otherworld so you can take up your rightful mantle and rule beside your mother. The war is over.”
Pulling away, Jenny laughed nervously.
“Right, sure. Whatever you say. This is the most intense invite to a D&D game I think I’ve ever gotten. And thanks, but I’ve already got a campaign I’m in so…”
There was an odd feeling in the air for just a moment and Aislinn sighed.
“So be it, but if you wish to change your mind, I shall be around.”
Jenny turned away then and ran to class, laughing to herself. She didn’t notice the smile on Aislinn’s face, didn’t notice the other students look at her oddly now, didn’t notice that the rounded tips of her ears came to a perceptible point now.


Aislinn watched as her princess ran off and smiled, reaching into her pocket for the spell stone that would allow her to call home.
“The princess resists for now, but she will be home soon, your Majesty. Of that, I am quite certain.”