First Born

Meredith smoothed her hands over the swell of her stomach and frowned, deep in thought. The closer they got to her due date, the more she was afraid. It had only been a dream, hadn’t it? So many years ago… It had to have been. That blithe childhood promise couldn’t have been real. Dennis put an arm around her shoulders, never knowing that his own thoughts intersected hers so well.
“Meri?”
“Hmmm?”
She leaned back into his grip and smiled.
“Everything alright?”
She looked down for a moment and then smiled.
“Of course it is.”
She ignored the lingering fear as she went and opened the window to try and bring the heat down some.

The leaves were falling as they came home together with their son in the backseat of the car. The little boy was fast asleep, tucked in with his little white blanket in his little tiny green onesie.
“He’s so quiet…”
Meredith glanced back and smiled.
“He’s sleeping, Dennis. Let him stay that way.”
When they got home, Meredith carried their son inside in her arms, a huge smile on her face…until she heard the voices arguing.
“Listen, you old hag, I was here first.”
“Old hag! Who are you calling an old hag, swamp thing.”
There were two old women standing together in the living room, glaring daggers at each other and periodically shooting glances at the ‘its a boy!’ banner over the fireplace.
“Oh good!”
They turned to face the terrified new parents with twin expressions of glee.
“You’re finally home. Time to settle up, dearie.”

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Magic Lessons

“Hey! Songchaser!”

Thomas turned, a pen in his hand and a splotch of ink on his cheek. Charlie came jogging towards him across the school grounds, waving and laughing.

“I was hoping I’d find you out here. Working on the paper for Markov’s class?” The blond boy dropped dramatically to sit down and opened a notebook. When Thomas nodded, he grinned. “Think you could help me out? I really don’t get this whole…temporal injunctive thing.”

“Temporal injunction,” Thomas said immediately and then blushed. “Sorry.”

“No, no, do go on. This might explain my confusion. And anyway, I betcha I’ll learn way better from you, oh glorious teacher, than I ever have in class.”

“That’s only because you pay more attention to me.”

“I’d pay more attention to Markov if he was a handsome devil like you, Tom, but sad as it is the only professor on this entire campus worth ogling is Fenrirson and I’m not into tails.”

Thomas chucked an apple from his snack at the other boy. Charlie just caught it with a wry thanks and took a bite out of it.

“Anyway…the paper. Temporal Injunction is really simple-“

“…Simple…”

“It is!”

Thomas flushed, embarrassed.

“I’m sorry, Tommy-boy, but not all of us spent our entire lives studying at the knee of the most powerful mages in two dimensions…”

“Sorry…”

“No, no, do go on.”

Charlie scooted closer and leaned in to get a good look at Thomas’s notes. Thomas inhaled deeply, trying to get back on track with his explanation and entirely lost his focus. Had Charlie always smelled so…good? That thought stopped him entirely in his tracks. What was he even thinking? He needed to breathe, needed to focus. Temporal injunction. Explain it. Come on, idiot. Mouth in gear and expound on arcane theory. You do it all the time. Thomas looked up at Charlie and his heart nearly stopped. Slamming everything that felt odd down, Thomas started to explain the theory as in-depth as he could. He tried to focus on literally anything other than the pounding of his own heart and other such confusing physical symptoms.

Jackal and Turbo #1 : A New Kind of Justice

Turbo zipped through the back streets, laughing as the wind rushed past him. He was a blur of color to the people on the streets, but a shadow high above on the rooftops tracked his position. Jackal always knew where his partner was, always kept one eye on him to make sure he was alright. After all, they’d been together a lot longer than they’d been doing this hero thing, long before they’d made the change from friends to boyfriends. Jackal adjusted his jet black armor and lowered the visor of his helm. It was the best way to hide the glow from his eyes as the night grew darker. It was almost time to call their patrol for the evening. There were other heroes out there who stalked the night more effectively than a pair of inner-city teens who had to go to high school in the morning. And anyway, they had a nice stay-at-home date planned for tonight. Jackal began making his way down one of the fire escapes, pulling a phone out of his pocket.

“Hey, babe, ready to bounce?”

Turbo touched a button on the headset he wore under his light helmet and grinned when he heard Jackal’s voice.

“Ready. Just need a minute to get back to base. Meet you there?”

He was already turning, changing course with ease. Honestly, he’d probably be there before Jackal had a chance to respond. That was the upside to his powers. There were downsides of course. Heightened metabolism was a bitch and a half for a teenage boy. When you already want to eat everything in sight and then you need to eat even more everything? Yeah, it gets hard to explain and harder to manage.

“Yeah, sure. Mind if I borrow your jacket for the walk home?”

Turbo laughed, skidding to a halt in front of the abandoned warehouse they used as a homebase.

“Do I want my super hot boyfriend wearing my letterman? Does the moon orbit the Earth?”

Jackal was laughing as he came walking up a few minutes later. Turbo, now in his normal jeans and a t-shirt and known as Terry Walker, was leaning against the wall inside waiting for him. Jackal changed quickly, stowing his armor back in his duffle bag to take home and turned. With a grin, Max Jackson pulled Terry’s letterman jacket on and reached for Terry’s hand.

“Let’s go, babe. I’m so ready for movie night.”


They were on the train home when they heard the crash outside and exchanged a look. There was someone hovering over the tracks ahead of them. Terry sighed and unzipped his backpack.

“Looks like we’re going to have to postpone movies, handsome.”

Max looked out the window and nodded, reaching for his duffle bag.

“Yeah, this looks like the real deal. Give me a second to suit up and I’ll be right behind you.”

Magic Powers and Vigilante Justice

The morning was still dark with the pre-dawn haze as Marcy sat up. She wasn’t overly surprised to see that the spiders were there, not really. She was surprised when the woman strode into the room. She was clad in an odd white garment that Marcy was hesitant to call a dress. Certainly, it bore a remarkable resemblance to one, but at the same time there was something much more ancient about it. With dark brown, nearly black hair, and olive skin, she was a wonder to behold. But the part that made it the oddest was that the door she’d come in through was very much closed.

“Who-“ but the question died on Marcy’s lips as the woman sat on the foot of the bed and the spiders went to her.

“Dear child, dear sweet child, you who have protected so many of my children. I am here to meet you. In answer to the question you did not finish, I am Arachne, the mother of spiders.”

Pulling her knees up to her chest, Marcy watched this woman for a moment and then smiled.

“I’ve heard stories about you. And not just the human ones, either.”

“Good, my little ones followed my instructions. Dear girl, you who have risked so much for my young ones, you have not let me down once. Even in meeting you, you are everything my children have described and more. And for that, I would give you something.”

She stood again then, beckoning for Marcy to come to her. Marcy obeyed, but still she argued.

“Its the right thing to do, I don’t need a reward for doing the right thing. And anyway, they saved me.”

But Arachne was having none of it. She touched a hand to Marcy’s forehead.

“Already you could hear my children and speak with them, but now you will also be able to work thread as we work our silk.”

Marcy blanched and pulled back a little.

“W-wait…um…”

The woman laughed cheerfully.

“Don’t worry, my dear girl, you won’t have spinnerets. Merely the ability to work thread by means of magic.”

“Oh! Oh wow. Magic? Magic is…is real?”

“You who talk to spiders question if magic is real?” Arachne laughed again and tousled Marcy’s hair. “Dear Marcy, yes, magic is real, as are the gods of old. But, you will learn.”


 

I’m late. I’m late. I’m late.

Marcy chanted the words in her mind as she ran, heels click-clacking loudly on the stone floor of the courthouse. She cradled the heavy leather briefcase in her arms and ran into the prosecution counsel’s office.

“Sir, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I had to grab these and…the traffic…and…”

Jared, one of the senior partners, stood near the window and didn’t even turn to look at her. Pausing, she looked him over, noting that his shirt was rumpled…and the same one from the day before. His tie was sitting on the table beside a half-empty glass of what looked rather like bad scotch.

“Its alright, Marcy. We don’t have a case any more.”

She blinked a few times.

“But…but…Sir?”

“Our key witness…he’s dead. Without him, we’ve got nothing. This guy’s going to walk.”

She blanched and set the briefcase on the table.

“Maybe there’s another angle, Sir? Something we haven’t tried?”

Jared turned and grabbed his glass, not even looking at her as he downed the rest of it.

“Marcy, we already tried everything. Even DNA is circumstantial with this guy…Dammit, I know it was him. And now the bastard’s gonna walk.” With a long sigh, he slid the case over to him. “Well, I’m going to work out the best defense I can manage…but…you might as well not suffer too. Take the rest of the day off, go relax or something.”

“Sir…?”

“I mean it, go on. I’ll make sure you get paid for the day. Go have fun.”

She was reluctant to leave him alone like this, but well…he was the boss.

“Yes, Sir.”

Once she was out of his sight, she leaned against a wall and wondered what she could do. Then she had an idea. A crazy, stupid, possibly suicidal idea.

I’m either gonna get in so much trouble, or this is going to be awesome. Now I just need to find the Little Ones.


With a glance into her bag to make sure everyone was still alright, Marcy got off the subway. It wasn’t until she got to the neighborhood where the perp lived that she realized she probably shouldn’t let herself be recognized. Ducking into an alley, she sat and called on her new powers. Slowly, she reshaped fabric of her clothing into an entirely new outfit. But…she needed a bit more to make a mask. With a sigh, she took the whole thing in, tightening the weave until it hugged her figure. Then she pulled on her new mask and held her hand out to her Little Ones.

“Come on.”

She’d promised them a meal, and a good one. They climbed all over her, taking up a perch wherever they could as she climbed up the side of the building. Again, the blessing of Arachne benefitted her. Her fingers clung to the tiny cracks between bricks as she climbed, pulling herself up with an ease she never could have imagined. She swung herself up onto the roof and stretched, bouncing idly.

“That was fun. Everyone still alright?”

“We are fine, Protector.”

“Great! Then, off we go.”

She was glad she’d swapped over for her old Skechers, even if it meant her shoes were hot pink. They were a lot more comfortable as she ran over rooftops. Part of her was surprised how easy it was to fall back into the old pace, but then, she had been a runner for most of her life. Periodically, she glanced down into the streets to make sure she was going the right way, making her way to the house. Finally there, she grinned wickedly and climbed down. Happily for her purposes, a window was open. She climbed inside and started to look around for the man. She found him quickly enough, sitting at a table laughing and playing cards with his buddies.

“Hello, Mister Richardson.”

“What the fuck?! How the hell did you get into my house, you costumed freak?”

“You killed your daughter, Mister Richardson. And then you killed her boyfriend so he could testify against you.”

The other men were starting to stand now, moving towards Marcy, but she held her ground. Then she grinned wickedly.

“I’m here to make sure you never hurt anyone again.”

The spiders all moved at once. And not just the ones Marcy had brought with her. All of the ones in his home too. She flicked her hand and his clothing started to stitch itself together. The others were screaming, but she did nothing to stop them from leaving. Stepping out of their way, she moved closer to him.

“Confess, Richardson.”

“You’re a psychotic bitch!”

“Now, now. You really should get caught up with the times, we don’t call people that anymore.”

And the spiders began their real work. Marcy didn’t watch. She just thanked them and made her way back out. Pausing for a moment on the roof, she wondered what people would say when they only found his bones the next morning. Then she just sat down to wait for her spiders to return so they could all go home together.

Going Home

Gwen paced nervously as she waited for the knock on the door she knew was coming. Nessa would be there any minute with dinner. She would have a takeaway bag of their favorite Thai foods and that smile Gwen couldn’t say no to. Except that tonight she would have to say much more than no. Tonight, she would have to say goodbye.

She stopped her pacing for just a moment, leaning against the countertop to stare down at the roll of parchment that had upset the careful balance of her life. It had been a shock when it had appeared beside her bed in the night.

Bitterly, Gwen remembered so many years ago when she had been sent, sobbing, far from her home. It had been for her safety, they had said. They couldn’t guarantee her protection if she stayed. Now they wanted her back, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to go.
Scooping up the offending scroll, she looked one last time at the seal of her house and shoved the whole thing into a cabinet. If tonight had to be the last, then better it be a good memory for them both.

Vanessa knocked not more than a minute later, a smile on her face as she held up the bag.
“I got extra satay since you ate all of mine last time.”
“You’re the best, Nessa.”
Gwen closed the door, trying to figure out what to say and how to say it while Vanessa put the food on the table.
“Hey, Earth to Gwen.”
Vanessa’s giggle drew Gwen out of her thoughts and she looked up to see Vanessa holding plates in one hand and the roll of parchment in the other.
“What’s this, love?”
“It’s…that’s…” Gwen froze, staring at the scroll, then her shoulders slumped. “It’s a royal decree from my mother. I have to go home.”
“A royal decree?” For a moment, Nessa grinned, but slowly the smile vanished. “You’re serious. Oh God, you’re serious.”
Vanessa set the plates on the table and dropped into her chair, reading and re-reading the scroll. Then she set it on the table and looked across at Gwen, her face full of wonder.
“Tell me. Tell me everything.”
For the next two hours, they ate and Gwen told Nessa everything she could remember from those long ago days under the double moons. She told about her mother’s court and the civil war, about the death of her father, the rumors of assassins. Gwen didn’t notice when she set down her fork and didn’t pick it back up, so wrapped up was she in her telling. She painted a picture of words, drawing on every detail of her so-nearly forgotten childhood. She could see it all again from the slightly blue shade of the grass to the light grey sky with the single golden spire of her mother’s castle illuminated against it.
“The war’s over.” The words left Gwen’s mouth quietly, uncertainly. “That means I have to go home. Be the heir.”
“But you don’t want to.”
It wasn’t a question. It was never a question, but Gwen answered it anyway.
“I don’t want to leave you.”
The silence hanging between them in that moment was painful. Then Vanessa tapped the scroll.
“They said there would be a portal? To bring you home?”
Gwen nodded mutely and Vanessa soldiered on.
“You know how this stuff works. Would anything go wrong if we both went through?”

At the stroke of midnight, the portal opened in the throne hall as scheduled. This was the best time, during the conjunction of celestial objects that would put their material existence closest to that where they had hidden the Princess Gwynneth. Tonight, she would be coming home. The court tittered with excitement and the Queen leaned forward on her throne with eager anticipation. A shadow formed in the portal and a shape stepped through, followed closely by a second one. There was no mistaking the princess, even in tattered jeans and an old, oversized t-shirt. It was in her manner and her bearing. She bowed low before her mother and gestured to the woman who stood at her right hand.
“Mother, may I present my love, Lady Vanessa.”
The Queen smiled and nodded as Vanessa sketched a shaky bow. Gwen relaxed inwardly and reached for Vanessa’s hand. Now. Now, she was truly home.

Thirteenth 

Mother Leeds bore thirteen children in her day. Thirteen who were all sired by her husband and born in the home of her own mother. Twelve healthy boys and girls, and a devil. That was what everyone said down in the Pine Barrens and that was the truth of the matter as well. What they didn’t know was how much Mother Leeds loved her devil-child. Thirteenth he may have been, but he brought something none of the other twelve had: power. He wasn’t enough mouth to feed, he was a beast who hunted from birth and sometimes left a meal for the rest of his family. He was a phantom that stalked the nights and protected them from those who would do harm to a poor family. And when Mother Leeds breathed her last breath to become as much a legend as her demon son, he was there. Just outside the house, he stood and watched through the windows. And he’s still out there, the Leeds Devil is, watching over his family and scaring the locals away from his hunting grounds.

Mirror

Her world was silver and glass and cold as ice. It hadn’t always been like this. Sometimes, she could remember the feeling of the sun on her skin or the warmth of another’s touch. These days, she barely remembered what it was like to have skin. She was a nightmare monster given substance and forced to haunt the slumber party set. She was blood red eyes and terror sealed between silver and glass. She was the specter of midnight and thrice spoken names. 

“Bloody Mary.”

She was a promise in the dark and a crossroads. The words of the game were a key to her prison and the players were her sustenance.

“Bloody Mary.”

The forms were nearly observed and soon she would feed. Soon, the little sweet sixteen who dared challenge her memory would be nothing more than a statistic and a mystery. 

The girl opened her mouth a third time.