A Prelude to Murder

Master Byron Galewind leaned over his desk, his ledgers spread before him. He only had a few more rows of accounts he would like to have settled before the guests began to arrive. Glancing at the window, he knew he was cutting it close, but Tywin would forgive him. He always did, after all. At the thought of his husband, a tender smile crossed the half-elven man’s face. Just these last few rows and then he would dress for the dinner party they were hosting together.


Tywin Galewind practically floated through the estate in his new vivid purple robes bedecked in stars. He looked the very image of a master wizard, even if he only knew the most basic spells of the illusion school. He could hear quiet conversation in the formal sitting room and wondered who had arrived. What he found was his adopted Tiefling son, Gareth, chatting with his sister-in-law, Sadry. Gareth was hugging his pull-string dog tightly to his chest and he had a nervous smile on his face. Sadry, a full Elf to her brother’s half, looked up and smiled brightly.
“Ty!” She hugged him tightly and he laughed, returning the hug. “It’s good to see you. Will my brother be joining us or is he still-?”
“Buried in numbers, I’m afraid. But never fear, he promised this time.”
Tywin looked around to find Gareth again, but the little boy had vanished. He had a rather unnerving habit of doing that, but Tywin assumed it was just a relic of his time on the streets. Or a piece of his demonic heritage. One of those. Instead, he spotted Cogsworth. Smiling at the Gnomish butler, he turned away from Sadry.
“Yes, Cogsworth?”
“Lady Belissa of Runnerspring has arrived, Master Tywin, and she’s absolutely insistent that you see her immediately.”
Tywin sighed just slightly.
“Of course she is. Sadry, I-”
“Don’t worry about it, Ty. We both know how your cousin feels about me and Byron.”


Lady Belissa of Runnerspring didn’t like many things. She didn’t like that her cousin had married a commoner. She didn’t like that he associated with merchants. And above all else, she didn’t like that half of those merchants would like very much to put a blade between the ribs of either her cousin or his husband or, preferably, both. So, when she arrived at the Galewind home, the first thing she did was check in with her agent.
“Well, Cogsworth?”
“All has been well, my Lady. And I ensured that the Masters were never even aware of the last assassin that came for them.”
“Good. And this boy?”
“I’ve done a full background check and he is as he appears to be.”
Belissa nodded slowly.
“Very well. In that case, I wish to see my cousin.”
Cogsworth bowed deeply.
“Right away, my Lady.”


The last usual guest waited. He was unsure that he should be there, but by that same token, he should be seen in public while his plan went forward. In the end, Dennis Chandler arrived at the door and was led in. He paid no mind to the maid as she went up the stairs, even though he knew who she truly was. He’d seen to that some time ago. And it hadn’t even been difficult to replace the girl they’d had working for them with one of his own. He asked the Gnome they had as butler to get him a drink and settled into one of the comfortable chairs to enjoy the tense silence between Belissa of Runnerspring and Sadry Galewind. He wondered how quickly they would turn on each other when his plan had come to fruition. He would almost lay odds that Sadry would accuse Belissa of causing it. He hoped the Priestess had her bow ready.


Byron didn’t close his ledgers. He merely sprinkled sand across the ink to help it dry faster and went to change into his most elegant clothes for the evening. He didn’t see the girl come up behind him, wouldn’t have thought a thing of it if he had. As the blood pooled on the bed under him and he faded into the darkness, Byron’s last thoughts were to regret breaking his promise to Tywin.


The last guests had only just arrived, a group of adventurers from the local guild. Tywin and Byron had invited them on a whim, hoping that real adventurers would liven up the party some. With the guests all waiting in the formal sitting room, Cogsworth began to relax. With them all in one place, he could watch Chandler. That was when they all heard the scream issuing from upstairs. It was the maid.

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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.

A Second Achilles – A Scuttle Bay Story

    The child would have powers. She had promised herself that when he had been born. This child would have powers one way or another. No matter what it took, she would not let her son be one of the few Normals of Scuttle Bay. Even if she was, even if her husband was. The question was how. It wasn’t in his blood, that much was clear. That left magic and science as her options. From the day he was born, she started in with everything she had. Vitamibe, spellwork, offerings left for Faeries and gods alike. None of it worked. Finally, she took her infant son to the coast. A pirate wreck lay deep under the water still and she could just barely see the shadow there. Holding the child by the ankle, she held him in the water. He would have powers. He would be a hero. He would make it in this place. Of that, she was convinced. The boy stopped moving. She pulled him out, a mad gleam in her eye. What great powers would he manifest? But his eyes were glassy and dull and he didn’t move

The Daughter of Mars

She raised her shield, blocking the blade coming down at her head, and pivoted as the crowd above her roared. Her own blade cut deeply into the leathers her foe wore and she heard another cheer go up. Footsteps sounded on the sand behind her and she dropped, rolling to the side. Back on her feet, she faced two foes now. They were burly men, gladiators trained. Not like her. She was something else. Something they’d never seen before. She kicked the sand up into the face of one man and slammed her shield into the other, roaring her own battle cry.
“For Mars!”
She swept his feet out from under him and laughed with triumph as she looked up at the Emperor. Would he give her the signal and let her draw their blood in her father’s name? He nodded as the crowd cheered, every one of them as bloodthirsty as the last. Her blade bit deep and she relished the feeling of strength that flooded into her body as she offered her fallen foe to Mars Ultor. Then she stood again, twirling her gladius as she looked for her other opponent. He must be here somewhere.

Not Like the Comics

It’s not like the comics.

My name is Brooke, but most of the world knows me as the Cobalt Crusader. Not exactly the name I would have picked if I’d had a say in it, but you know how these things work. But pretty soon, they’re gonna have a new name for me. The latest victim of the Bronx Ripper. He started out as a two-bit serial killer, nothing special. The kind of guy the detectives go looking for. Sure, I kept an eye out, just like I always do. But I’m in it to protect people actively. I don’t solve crimes. Then he got a name and people finally realized what his MO was. Whoever this guy really was, he thought he was Jack the Ripper. He said so in the letters he was sending to the NYPD, talking about being the Ripper reborn to finish his work. He does his research too, the bastard. He knew how the armor plates in my suit work, knew exactly where to get me with a knife to bypass the armor. And he knew my fighting style. Now he knows my face. And I’m on the floor with nothing. The armor is worthless, the training means nothing, and I’m out of tricks. I’m not like the other heroes. I don’t have powers, just the stuff I made. He’s setting up a camera now. All I can think is to wonder what time it is. Will my face, my name, and my death be on the 6 o’clock news or the 11 o’clock? I’m beyond the point of fear. Fear is good, it helps you survive. But when there’s no hope, the fear goes too. Now all I have is the pounding of my stubborn heart as he turns on me with that knife of his. It’s not like the comics. Never let anyone tell you it is.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the news anchor was pale, unusually shaken, as he tried to pull his words together. “It falls upon me tonight to express a sorrow that cannot be described.”
The doorbell interrupted the news and Joe sighed, getting up from the couch. He dropped his greasy slice of pizza on the counter and stalked towards the door of the shabby apartment. Whoever was at the door started to bang on it, rather urgently.
“I’m comin’, I’m comin’. Jeez, can’t a guy eat in peace?”
When he opened the door, he looked up several inches into the face of the police officer standing there.
“Sir, are you Joseph Tucker?”
“Yeah, that’s me. What’s this about?”
The officer looked uncomfortable for a moment and then spoke again.
“I’m here about your daughter-“
“Brooke ain’t home. She’s never home on time. What’d she do this time?”
The silence was interrupted by the news anchor’s voice.
“The hero we knew and loved as the Cobalt Crusader has died at the hands of the Ripper.”
The officer looked at his partner and then gestured towards the television.
“We’re going to need you to identify the body. It’s…it’s an honor to meet you. It was a pleasure working with your daughter.”
Joe didn’t know how to respond to that in the slightest.

Unwanted Toys

Yesterday a woman cried
And the universe stopped to listen
The smoked glass bottle of poison on the windowsill
Of the child’s room was empty
And the little girl was a broken doll on the floor

The woman cried not out of sorrow
As she cradled the little doll
There was nothing but silence as she sobbed
And the little girl walked away into a ferocious eternity
Escaping the imprisoning embrace

Guilt wracked the woman
And the universe stopped to watch
She lifted the stiff little doll to lay her on the bed
Then went to call them to take away her unwanted toy,
With one hand on her unborn but welcome son