A little after midnight, people scrambled through the darkened streets with their belongings, dropping them now and then; eventually leaving them behind, trying to make it to safety. But with the new Lord in control, there was no safe place.
My mom and I ran through the streets, many others trailing all around, crowding the path to the trains beginning to evacuate people out of the City. There were only three trains; two that had already departed moments before we arrived. Hopefully, there was enough room on the last train convoy to board everyone left behind.
“Mommy!” I shouted out, pushing my way through the crowd with a duffle bag draped across my back; black Wolf-mix Zanzabarr at my feet strapped in his harness, “Excuse me…excuse me…” I continued pushing through, slowly approaching my mom who stood near the train doors; passengers crowding past her.
“Sweetheart, where were you!?” my mom asked, holding onto her bag and cat carrier; black cat Freya hidden inside. She struggled to balance the weight of the carrier, her bag and wheeled trunk.
“Don’t worry about me. Let’s find a cabin before they’re all gone or crowded.”
My mom turned boarding the train, disappearing through the doors where the conductor kindly helped her pull her trunk through the cramped aisles.
Before I followed, I turned looking back at the Great City that was once glorious, but now it’s nothing but piles of rubble and smoke. It broke my heart because it’s been our home for the last five years upon relocating from the States for personal safety, avoiding our government’s detection of my hidden nature. However, that’s all destroyed now. The menacing clouds looming over the city, flashed bright with light as more unknown and hellish creatures erupted from within it. A large slithering mass slowly moved in the clouds’ concealment; a force that no one would have ever believed. But for those of us living in the City, it was a monster.
“Get moving!” a grumpy old man shouted from behind me.
“Shut it, Grandpa!” I snapped, “I’m moving…I’m moving!”
I boarded the train with Zanz; tightly grasped onto his leash, walking through the crowded aisles until finding my mom standing outside a small empty cabin. Just enough room with extra to spare. Once everyone settled in their seat and cabins, the train departed the station; spitting and churning of steam could be heard, as the engines powered. Sitting there looking out the window watching the tracks pass by and shifting in my seat, I asked worriedly as I felt my nerves trying to settle,
“Where do you think this train stops?”
“I don’t know.” my mom fearfully replied, “But wherever it takes us, I hope we’ll be safe and aren’t followed. The new order is very treacherous. I’ll never trust them. But now, we just have to be on our guard and try not to call attention to ourselves.” she too, shifted in place.
“Right. Don’t call attention to ourselves. You’re a witch…and I’m a woman traveling with a Wolf. Yeah, sure. That doesn’t call attention at all.” I said sarcastically.
My mom said nothing, flashing a faint grin.
Unfortunately those who weren’t able to board the trains in time were captured or beaten on the depot platform, by the Lord’s army; arriving minutes too late. Soldiers stood on the tracks, watching as the last train grew smaller in the distance. They weren’t upset so much that people had evacuated, but wanted control over the trains.
“Let’s get back to Commander Matrx!” one of the soldiers ordered in disappointment, “Nothing left here. They’ll be followed and tracked down! There’s no where to hide.”
Before climbing back in their tanks and trucks to return with their reports of failure, the soldiers looked toward the platform where the bodies of those killed, laid lifeless. Those captured, whimpered and cried as they were dragged and thrown into the prison vehicles, all chained together.
With reports he received from the Great City, a powerful immortal named MC stood among groups of supernaturals, paranormals and humans. He established a private haven for those seeking refuge. MC gathered most who lived behind the haven’s massive wall.
“A great change has occurred in the Great City on the mainland, as you may have already heard. All the guards are on high alert and what I asked of them, I ask of you. Be aware of travelers that might venture into our harbor. Treat them with caution and hospitality regardless of their race and beliefs. These are dangerous times, as you all know but also be mindful that whoever comes, is permitted access.”
“When you say regardless of their race!? Please don’t tell everyone here that you’re allowing more vamp…” a man objected.
“That’s none of your concern.” MC interrupted, “I said ALL who seek safety, are allowed. Is that understood!? You’ve given me enough trouble.” MC leered at the man, who turned away disgruntled.
Everyone nodded, agreeing to what MC asked of them, speaking among themselves. They respected his authority as the proprietor. At least some of them did.
Hours later, MC was called upon by his dragon telepathically. Sensing his urgency, he entered a secret passage through his study leading to an underground cavern, where the dragon dwelled. After entering, he approached the mythical beast asking calmly,
“What is it, great Blue One? Why do you call on me in such urgency?”
“I have had a vision of your successor. The orb-stone has finally chosen, after centuries of searching. She will be coming soon, with another woman who practices magic.” the dragon replied telepathically.
“She? My successor will be a female? Impossible. A woman can’t rule this sanctuary, much less protect its secrets. She won’t gain the respect I have.”
“Nonetheless, in my vision the stone itself chose a young female. She will be from a far place, coming inexperienced; unknowing of all of our ways. That is all I have seen. But I do sense that this female possesses a strange essence that you nor I will expect. I sense a fire within and around her.”
MC paced, examining the cavern ceiling; thoughts crowding his mind. Pushing them aside, he said softly as he turned petting the dragon’s snout,
“As you say. Although, I still can’t see how a young woman can possibly handle this position. Unless she comes with great magic. But, have no worries Blue One. I will handle it. Now rest, dear dragon.”
He turned away, returning to his study. He contemplated when he should announce the new Keeper’s arrival, hoping to squelch the rumors of his impending retirement.
“A WOMAN?” he thought as he stared at the orb-stone, “WHY A WOMAN? HOW CAN SHE POSSIBLY TAKE ON THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THIS PLACE? IT CAN’T BE. IT’S IMPOSSIBLE. AND FIRE? WHAT’S THE MEANING OF THAT? A FIRE MAGE? FIERY SPIRIT? FIRE…OH, MARXUS ENOUGH WITH THE THOUGHTS.”
The orb-stone suddenly hummed as it sat in its box, taking on a pulsating glow answering MC’s thoughts in soft whispers. He ignored their words as he stood, stepping into the bathroom to splash water on his face. In his absence, the orb-stone momentarily took on a red-fiery glow before quickly diminishing. A low whisper emanated,
“Things are finally in place as planned.”
The train made several stops at depots along its route, but we decided to ride it to the end. The further the better. In our cabin enjoying the beautiful glimpses of the night sky and its stars, the conductor knocked on passengers’ doors, making sure all were settled. He collected tickets and fares. Suddenly, we heard a knock. Turning our heads toward the cabin door, the conductor’s head peeked inside.
“Hello, my lovelies.” he whispered, “Fare or tickets, please. And do you have room to spare for one more?” his eyes scanned our small cabin.
“Yes, of course.” my mom answered, handing him our fare.
“It’ll be a tight squeeze but I’m sure we can manage.” I added as I attempted to re-situate our luggage.
Zanz’s behavior suddenly flared, as he began growling through his muzzle at the conductor, who briefly grinned before stepping aside.
Stepping around from behind him, was a strange but nicely dressed woman in her mid-to-late 40s with short curly red hair; bohemian-steampunk attire.
Before closing the door behind her, the conductor smiled as he gave a quick nod.
“Enjoy your ride, ladies.” he commented.
As he made eye contact with me after calming Zanz, I looked into the mans eyes and could have sworn they flashed a reddish tint. Maybe it was just my eyes deceiving me or a reflection cast. Either way, it was strange.
“Thank you, Sir.” the woman said in an English accent before the door closed. Looking at us, she continued as she sat across from us placing her carry-on-bag in her lap, “Thank you for your space. Everywhere else was full. Bloody hell, they really know how to cram those cabins.” she smiled, “My name is Mary.”
“Hello, Mary. My name is DD and this is my daughter, Yzavela.” my mom replied, gesturing her left hand toward me.
“Hello.” I added, giving a slight wave and smile.
Reaching out to shake our hands, Freya hissed through her carrier and Zanz snarled, making her withdraw her hand rapidly. After calming our pets, we apologized, explaining they too were afraid and protective.
“My, what a beautiful dog! Wolf, I gather?” she asked, “Wolves haven’t been reported in England for centuries. Their breed is considered extinct. Where did you find him?”
“It’s a long story, but thank you.” I answered holding onto his harness, “I’m guessing his gold eyes gave him away.” I smiled, “He’s a Wolf-mix actually. Easy boy.” he lunged forward.
“Beautiful just the same.” then her eyes scanned us as she continued curiously, “I’m guessing they’re your familiars?”
My mom and I exchanged a quick glance.
Looking back at Mary, my mom answered suspiciously,
“Wh…why? Is that a problem?”
“Oh, no-no. I greatly admire Wiccans. I practice old gypsy magic myself. My specialty is reading an individuals fortune, to be exact.”
“We…never said we were wiccans.” I said cautiously, as our steampunk attire didn’t give off any signals either; displaying no magical jewelry.
“Well…” she commented, “you just admitted to having familiars and don’t Wiccans possess them? Look, please don’t fear me. I won’t turn you in, for I’m running myself. I’m on my way to stay with some relatives that live near here. Where are you two ladies headed?”
“We don’t know.” I interrupted replied quickly.
“You two are cautious, that’s wise.” Mary whispered before a moment of silence, then she kindly changed the subject, “ Perhaps then, I can read your fortune? Free of charge? I get a good vibe from the both of you and I’d like to see where your futures take you. Do you mind?” she held out her hands, palms facing up. Reaching out, she took my mom’s gloved hands holding them firmly; eyes turned white as she looked up, continuing softly, “I see a good life for you, however, there will be minor obstacles but you shall overcome them. You will encounter a lot of strange events but will survive them as you always have. You come from a long line of powerful witches, of which you already know. Stay strong, be cautious and always be aware of those around you.” she sighed, releasing my mom’s hands, who rubbed them together for she felt a tingling sensation.
Shaking her head and blinking her eyes, Mary took in a deep breath. She gazed into my mom’s eyes giving a smile of reassurance, then reached for my gloved hands, I reluctantly offered.
“Oh, my.” she continued; eyes white as before, “Yours on the other hand, takes a whole different turn but not drastically.”
“Not drastically!?” I interrupted, “ What’s that supposed to mean!? Is there a death involved!?”
“Yes. A near passing of one you haven’t come to know yet. A great task will be unloaded to you, through a powerful individual that will expect you to fulfill a destiny unknown to you. On this path, you will encounter friends, worst of enemies and a great love in the near future. He will be all you seek in this world.” then she flinched as her grip tightened, “Oh…”
“What!? What’s wrong!?” I worried.
“Fire…I see fire…everywhere, but not burning. I see figures standing…you’re a…”
I rapidly pulled my hands away before she could finish. I glanced at my mom; worried and afraid she discovered my fiery secret. I quietly gulped as I rubbed my hands that felt warm against my thighs.
Opening her eyes she stared at me, appearing weakened. She apologized, hoping she didn’t frighten us with her readings. She revealed that she’d seen many futures but nothing quite like mine. I grew worried of what she saw, as I stared at her. Aware of her frightened state, we grew more cautious.
I tightened my grip on Zanz’s harness which signaled him to be on guard. He perked his ears as he stared at Mary; menacing panting making her feel uncomfortable. I placed my other hand in my bag, holding onto a hidden pocket knife. My mom inconspicuously reached her hand into a hidden pocket of her coat, hiding a Wiccan Athame dagger. She too, if necessary would defend herself if needed. Mary noticed our uneasiness, remaining quiet for the rest of the ride.
Her stop quickly approached as she gave us the name of someone she knew located in the last town. Taking a pen from her bag, she scribbled a name and address on the back of a business card she removed from her pocket. After placing the pen back in her bag, she handed the card to my mom. His name was William Harley and could be very helpful. She smiled as she exited the cabin, departing the train with several other passengers.
As the train departed, she stood on the depot watching as the train grew smaller in the distance. Closing her eyes, she felt the ache of a migraine she’s never experienced. She exited the platform then paused, sensing as if someone followed her. Turning around, there was no one but felt a shiver. She kept on her course through the station, to arrange a ride pick-up.
I couldn’t help but roll Mary’s words around in my mind. Whose death? Mine…my mom’s…a friend? And the fire? What did she think of that? It worried me, but closing my eyes and feeling the calming motion of the train, it helped keep my mind off it. We rode on until coming to the last stop. WHITE-HAVEN. After an exhausting five hour train ride, our legs were cramped and stomachs empty. Our pets too, were uneasy from the long travel. Especially Freya; locked in her carrier for such a long time. There were a few remaining passengers following behind, as we unloaded our luggage and pets onto the depot platform.
Walking through the small station and standing outside, we hailed a taxi taking us to a nearby Inn. Luckily, one was close by; a mile from the train depot, highly recommended by the driver as he informed us it accepted pets. A few glimpses along the way, revealed White-haven was a large town, rather than a city.
Pulling up outside, we peeked out the window catching a glimpse of the Inn’s architecture. A sign hung above, framing the doorway; three large intersecting cog wheels turning above. The sign read in bold Italics:
THE NIGHT TABLE INN & PUB: OPEN 24 HOURS
hiding under one of the beds. Zanz took lead, laying spread across on the other declaring it his. We smiled, then partially unpacked enough essentials for a few days. Exhausted from our long travel, we rested for a few hours.
Now afternoon, we ventured downstairs to grab something to eat.
The pub continued the Victorian-steampunk design. Tables of different sizes were spread about with booths along one wall. A long bar with wooden seats spread across on the other. Patrons were scattered at different tables and toward the back; a man sat alone, drinking a hot beverage reading a paper.
Sitting down, our eyes scanned the menu deciding what to order.
A waitress in her early 30s; dark blonde hair streaked with pink, clothed in a buckled and studded tavern wench dress, walked over. Her taller thick frame and studded bracelets, gave an intimidating, but nonthreatening approach. Her rose colored cheeks of her round face, scrunched as she smiled. Holding a touch-pen to a digital notepad, she greeted cheerfully in an English accent,
“Hello, loves. Are you ready to order?” her pen flicking; ready to place it..
“Well…” my mom replied, studying the menu’s options.
“Newcomers, I see. Tell you what, loves...when you decide, just give a shout My name’s Ellen.” she walked away, with the notepad and pen still in her hand.
“Wow.” I commented briefly laying the menu on the ledge of the table, “This place is so oblivious to the chaos taking place in the Great City. I just hope the destruction doesn’t spread this far.”
“I hope not either.” my mom said glancing above her menu, “Now, um…what’s that?” she changed the subject, pointing at a dish, “As delicious as I’m sure that is, I won’t eat anything I don’t understand. Mm-mm. No way.” she shook her head.
I laughed as my mom’s eyes continued scanning the menu.
Two minutes passed.
“Are you ready to order now, ladies?” Ellen approached once more.
I looked up at her then over at my mom asking,
“I’m sorry, but what’s this?” I pointed out the meal my mom commented about, “Does that say…CHACCA-CABRA?”
“Oh, that!?” Ellen replied, “That’s our meat lover’s pie. We call it the BELLY OF THE BEAST in the kitchen. It’s inspired by the legendary creature, CHUPA-CABRA. It has a bit of everything and I mean EVERYTHING thrown in it.” then she added the waitress’ pitch, “It’s quite tasty really.”
My mom and I contained our nausea. We quickly sipped from our cups before ordering an American dish. The service was courteous and friendly; always on point as to what the customer requested. The dish we ordered was better than we expected. Piling the plates on the ledge of the table, Ellen walked over presenting us with the pricey digital check on her notepad before retrieving the dishware. Our eyes widened at the overall total.
“Gee…that’s breaking the bank.” I joked, scanning my credit card over the notepads’ screen, applying digital payment.
“Mm, but it was worth it though.” my mom added.
Once payment was accepted, Ellen approached our table one last time, retrieving her notepad. Before stepping away with a large smile, my mom questioned within an ears reach,
“Excuse me, Ellen…do you know a William Harley at this address?” as she revealed the business card reading 666 WEST ALCHEMY ROAD.
As Ellen studied the strange address, she replied with a curious frown,
“I don’t believe I do. I pass by that stretch of businesses everyday and I’ve never seen one with that address.” then she turned asking the patrons at the bar, “Do any of you blokes know if there’s a business at 666 West Alchemy Road?”
The patrons talked among themselves; not knowing of that address either. Some made facial expressions at the three digit number. All the digits in the area ran in fours. Ellen stated as she looked down at her curious customers,
“I’m sorry I couldn’t help you more. It’s very possible there’s a business there. Pretty much all the addresses around here have four digits, so it could be possible there’s a number missing or perhaps, you were given the wrong address? But 666 is bloody odd. Again, loves…I’m sorry I couldn’t help.” she smiled.
“That’s alright, thank you.” my mom appreciated as Ellen walked away.
My mom and I wondered.
Leaning on the table, the thought ran through my mom’s mind, “WHY WOULD MARY GIVE US AN ADDRESS THAT POSSIBLY DOESN’T EXIST OR IS JUST THE WRONG PLACE? AND REALLY, 666!?”
She wasn’t surprised when I spoke words similar to her thoughts.
A hefty man sat in the corner of the pub sipping his tea; hat pulled down over his face. Without notification, he heard a ringing coming from his pocket. Reaching inside, he retrieved a futuristic I-phone; screen displaying a woman’s image. Accepting the call, the woman greeted in a friendly, but serious tone as they engaged in a brief video call,
“Hello, William. This isn’t a social call, I’m afraid. I’m calling because you need to set-up your storefront, making it presentable. I sent a mother and daughter who’ll be coming into your…establishment. I’m sure they’ve realized the address I gave them doesn’t exist.”
“I believe I may be looking at them right now. Do they both have raven colored hair?” William replied in an elegant English accent.
“Indeed they do.”
“I’m having tea at the moment, but I’ll prepare as soon as possible for I think they may have already figured out you had given them a false address. They’re asking questions here at the pub.”
“They’re more attentive than I thought. Just the same, accommodate them accordingly, and make sure their needs are met. The young one’s very special and important. I sense something off about her though, so be cautious just the same. MC’s request.”
“Very well, will do.”
“Thank you, my friend. We will see each other again soon.”
“Pleasant evening, Mary.” William smiled.
His screen went blank.
He tucked the phone in his pocket, while scanning the notepads’ surface on his table leaving his tip. Standing, he walked past the two raven-haired women; grasping the feel of their energy himself. He noticed a strong vibe emanating from both but especially the young woman which seemed out of the ordinary.
“OUT OF THE ORDINARY, INDEED.” he thought, “INTERESTING.”
Without watching his path, he stumped his foot against the table behind my mom, catching our attention.
We cautiously glanced up, watching the man from the back of the pub, leave rather strangely, as if something disturbed him. We dismissed the caution as he swiftly swept through the doors, holding his head low.
After lunch, we decided to explore White-haven taking Zanz, giving him a long walk while we ventured into town. A beautiful sunny afternoon; the cobblestone streets were crowded with tourists, pedestrians and possible fellow refugees. There were many steampunk storefronts; antique shops thrown in between. The architectures blended perfectly together. Some buildings still utilized electricity while most others ran on steam operated generators. You could see the steam rising above the rooftops, escaping from smoke stacks. Occasional storefronts displayed their holographic billboards and technology.
Steam powered vehicles from the 1900’s Victorian era, drove up and down the streets; several tour shuttles also ran on steam. Hovercraft vehicles too, hovered about, mixing their futuristic designs amid the steampunk. A perfect balance.
Continuing to admire the towns’ mixed architecture, we came across the realty office no one seemed to notice. The outside was filthy, and the windows hadn’t been washed in quite some time. Faded bold lettering appeared to be on the window which I barely made out, with much difficulty:
WELCOME TO W.H. REALTY & TOUR GUIDE SERVICES
My mom read the address written on the card, then glanced up at the building. She examined the other buildings along the streets; all displaying four digits. The facade of the building was out of place with old, cracked red brick.
“I’m guessing this is the place because it says 666 on the building.” she observed, gesturing toward the business.
“How ironic is the address? But a number’s just a number.” I replied, “And you’d think they’d keep it cleaner. I mean, are they even open?” I walked over trying to look through the window. Rubbing the outer glass with my hand, I finally caught a glimpse of someone inside walking back and forth, “There’s someone in there.” I continued as I turned to my mom.
“Well, let’s go in and see if he can really help us. Mary suggested this place, so she must know him well enough to have referred him.” my mom answered, “And if this is the portal to Hell, then he must be the Devil.”
“True but that’s not funny. Although, I have been bad so…” I smiled then glanced down at Zanz, who took in all the scents as he intensely sniffed around, “Come boy.” I jerked his leash toward me.
Walking through the door, a bell above our heads rang, indicating someone had entered. Looking around, the office was small; maps covering the wall to our left marked with stars locating popular tourist areas. To the right was an old bookshelf situated in the corner, displaying antique books appearing worn with age. They were either leather or cloth bound. Tucked away on one of the shelves were rolled up parchments neatly stacked upon each other. But the main feature was dust covering everything with cobwebs hanging in the corners.
An old black wooden desk, sat in the center of the room stacked with papers and folders; two chairs placed in front as if expecting visitors. A small desk lamp tried peeking its way out of the mess and it too, had cobwebs hanging from it. Sitting behind the desk, was a heavy-set man in his early 40s with dark blonde hair and a trimmed mustache; glasses positioned on the ridge of his nose. He looked up greeting us in a jolly voice, as he laid stacks of papers down before him,
“Hello, ladies. How may I help you?” he leaned forward in his creaking chair.
I sat Zanz by the door while my mom replied quickly,
“A friend of yours…Mary, I believe…highly recommended your services. She said you can help us find permanent lodging.”
“Oh, Mary. Yes.” he said casually, “A good friend indeed. So, where are you from?”
“The Great City.” I added as I faced him.
“Ah, the Great City. A lot of changes have occurred there and not good ones, I hear. Now, onto more pleasant matters. I think I may have what you’re looking for.” he pointed toward the cluttered bookshelf.
The office space was small enough as it is, so as he walked around his desk toward the bookshelf, my mom and I stepped aside. He scanned the shelves; fingers running over the parchments before removing one of them from their place. He turned with a smile then returned to his desk. Gently tucking the scroll under his arm, he attempted to clear his desk of all the dusty papers and folders.
“Please forgive the mess, loves. I’ve been away on business and didn’t find out until this morning, that my office aide is out sick.” he said.
“IT LOOKS LIKE IT HASN’T BEEN CLEANED FOR AGES.” I thought, flashing a quick smile.
Once clearing his desk of the last stack of papers, I noticed; carved directly into the wood, a large circle with a smaller circle inside. A cross divided both circles in half, both vertically and horizontally. Triangles capped each arm of the cross; the upper and lower points were upright while the left and right were inverted.
What it meant, I had no idea. He immediately placed the parchment forcibly onto the desk, rolling it out trying to conceal the symbol from view. I observed his actions but said nothing. Dust flew everywhere. We waved our hands blowing it away from our faces. If I didn’t know better, I felt a sneeze coming on but managed to contain it.
He kindly commented as he too, waved away the dust from the air and his vest,
“Apologies, ladies. It’s been quite a while since I’ve looked through these.”
“Are you sure it hasn’t been…centuries?” I muttered, looking away.
He gave a quick glance, ignoring the comment.
My mom glanced at me, gently nudging me with her right elbow.
He reached over shaking our hands calling our attention away from minor distractions. Sitting back in his chair that creaked once more, he said cheerfully,
“It’ll be a pleasure helping you. Now, you can call me Billy. Please, sit.” he gestured toward the chairs, then pushed the parchment toward us.
“Quick question, though…Billy.” I asked, “What’s up with your address? I mean, the waitress in the pub down the street thought we were freaking crazy going to a place with that particular number.”
“Well…a number’s just a number, right?” he answered bluntly, “Besides, I meant it as a joke. It has no effect on my business. A letter chipped away, so I left it that way.”
“Clearly.” I muttered sarcastically as I glanced around once more.
My mom smiled, shaking her head in silence.
Billy squinted but flashed a brief grin, noticing my sarcasm.
“SARCASTIC LITTLE BIRD.” he thought, “YOU WILL BE A CHALLENGE.”
The map was similar to those hanging on the wall; different housing locations. He opened the left drawer of his desk retrieving a few brochures, handing them to us across the desk. I didn’t know if he took this visit seriously or made it sound like we sought places for a luxury vacation. I know my mom made it clear we’re looking for permanent lodging and not your average site seeing tour. But whatever.
Skimming through the brochures (more my mom than me because I became more distracted) my eyes wandered toward what laid beneath the parchment, carved onto the desk. Slowly reaching my left hand over, I attempted lifting the edge of the paper to look underneath but my mom gently tapped my hand.
“What?” I whispered.
“What are you doing!? Stop it and be…NICE.” she returned the whisper.
“I am…being NICE.” I spoke through my smile then gazed toward Billy, who sat silent during our mother-daughter moment.
He rested his elbows on the desk’s ledge, looking at me rather strangely studying me. He gave a friendly smile in acknowledgment of some kind. Billy broke his gaze then leaned back in the chair, kindly excusing himself as he stood,
“Excuse me, loves. I’ll be right back. I need to use the loo.”
We smiled as he walked toward the back of his office; set rearward in an alcove with a storage room on the right and the bathroom on the left. A partition extended from the right, blocking off view of the rooms.
Billy entered the storage room.
Five minutes passed and we wondered where Billy had went, but continued skimming through the material laid before us, taking notes and giving complaints.
During his absence, Billy stood at a small window calling out in a Latin tongue, summoning a messenger. Minutes after his call, a black Raven appeared landing on the windowsill. Billy wrote on a piece of parchment paper with a special pen he removed from his pocket. Writing the words in a magical ink leaving the content invisible to the eye, except for the one it was addressed to, he wrote:
I think I’ve found the one you’re looking for. There’s a young woman who has now appeared in my office and she…NOTICED the symbol carved onto the desk. She’s here with her mother and they’re searching for lodging so with your permission, I’ll send them to you. I’ll make the preparations and they should be there in maybe a week or less. But I must warn you, Sir…the young woman is very strange. Strange indeed.
Rolling the note he attached it to the Raven’s foot, instructing it to return the message to MC. He touched the birds’ chest before it flew off, squawking as it disappeared into the distance, West of White-haven toward a blanket of unnatural thick fog across the vast sea off the coast.
Ten minutes total, Billy emerged from the storage room, peeking his head around the partition. He noticed I once again lifted the parchment trying to study the carving on the desk but lowered the corner in disappointment as the carving had disappeared. He glanced down at his feet as he breathed deeply, stepping out fiddling with his belt. Trying to lighten the mood of the situation, he joked as he patted his stomach,
“I’m sorry, but lunch didn’t quite agree with me. So, have you chosen a place you’d like to go? There are so many to choose from.”
“Billy…this isn’t a vacation!” I objected as I abruptly stood throwing the brochures onto the desk tempted to set them ablaze, “We came here because Mary said you could help, but apparently you’re not taking this seriously! We need help and you’re treating this as if it’s all fun and games!”
Turning in her seat looking up at me, my mom said firmly,
“Watch your tone! You know better than that, now sit down!”
“No, it’s alright.” Billy added.
“No, it’s not.” my mom argued as she flashed Billy a brief glance, “She’s raised better than that.” then she returned her focus onto me, “Sit down, now! You know what happens when you get angry. Please…calm down, alright!?” she glared with an angry expression and I knew I was in deep shit. She was right though.
I clenched my fists tightly as I retook my seat. Sighing deeply I replied softly,
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean how that sounded.”
“It’s not me you have to apologize to.” my mom corrected me, waiting for me to apologize. After accepting the apology with no hostility and understanding the situation, my mom continued after the moment passed, “As you know, I’m sure…there was a major evacuation of numerous people in the Great City. We were driven from our home leaving everything behind, except for what we have at the Inn. And that includes our pets. We’re terrified of what’s ahead so can you blame us? Again, we apologize for being…edgy. You presented the brochures yes, and showed us areas on the map yes, but we don’t know where any of these places are. So if you can just…give us a good recommendation for a place best suited for us, then please do. We’re staying at The Night Table Inn and Pub, so if you need to contact us further, that’s where we’ll be. We have temporary lodging there and will probably need to move on before we’re found. Now, Billy…do have a good day.”
We nodded as we stood, turning away to walk toward the door.
Billy abruptly stood, pleading; hands resting on the edge of the desk,
“Ladies…please, sit. I do understand what you’re going through and I can’t imagine the fear you must be dealing with. You two stand out like sore thumbs, especially with your large dog over there.” he glanced toward Zanz, “He screams for attention and unfortunately for the wrong kind. However, I do know of a perfect place that’s uh…not listed on any of these man-made maps. Or any map for that matter.” he paused, watching as we turned to him; curiosity taking over. He smiled as we slowly re-approached his desk, sitting back in the chairs. Once the mood of the moment was quiet and calm he continued, “The place I’m speaking of, is hidden from sight but very much there. It’s extremely secluded from the public and requires special admission.”
“Sounds like a cult.” I worried.
“It most definitely is not, I assure you.” Billy quickly cut me short, “It’s such a beautiful and magnificent place and very safe. It’s actually owned by a good friend of mine. You should be happy and welcomed there with no problems. I give you my word, you’ll be safe there.”
“So, pretty much what you’re saying is that…this beautiful and magnificent place, takes in all the strays of the world?” my mom questioned sarcastically.
“In a sense, yes.” he chuckled.
My mom and I glanced at each other in wonderment.
“Alright, but do they allow pets because we’re not getting rid of ours.” I asked, turning to look toward Zanz who laid by the door.
“My daughter’s right. They’re our family.” my mom added.
“Of course they do. They have many animals there. Even a large barn and elaborate stables.” Billy answered, “Now, I must add and forgive me if I momentarily change the subject, but your dog is quite magnificent. Wolves. Very magical dogs. Such gorgeous gold eyes. Can’t say I’ve ever seen one in these parts.”
“I’ve heard that before and yes, he is magnificent.” I remarked as Zanz heard his name, “Come here, boy.” he walked toward me, enjoying the tender scratches I gave to his massive neck, “Very rare indeed.”
“Mm. Incredible.” he smiled, “Anyway, I’ll make the arrangements which should take me…a week, maybe less depending on the availability of my contacts and transport. I’ll send word when everything is ready, alright?”
“Alright. Thank you again.” my mom appreciated.
“No problem.” Billy flashed a warm smile, as he kindly escorted us to the door, “And in case we don’t see each other again, travel safe.”
“Thanks.” I said, “And again, I’m sorry for my reaction earlier. Hot temper.”
“I sense that. Now, have a good rest of your day ladies.”
We flashed smiles once more as we exited the shop; door bell ringing as if giving it’s own farewell. Reaching his hand up toward the bell, he grabbed onto it, silencing its sound as he watched us stroll down the street, engaging in conversation through his crusted windows. He turned away, immediately reaching out to his CONTACTS he spoke of.
Leaving his establishment with hope, we discussed Billy’s strange behavior but agreed we’d have to learn to trust some individuals if we’re to create a new life and friendships.
Returning to the Inn, Freya had bravely greeted us as we entered our room, upon our 3-4 hour absence. After feeding her and Zanz making sure they were settled in, we ventured downstairs for an early dinner. Sitting in one of the booths, we discussed the Great City; what’s possibly taking place at that very moment. Shaking the thoughts from our minds, we tried focusing on more pleasant things but still worried we were being followed. After walking Zanz once last time , we settled in for the evening.
As Billy locked the doors to his office; lights dimmed to a low glow, MC appeared.
“Hello, old friend.” MC said.
Startled, Billy turned seeing MC standing in the corner of the room; hidden in the shadows.
“Bloody hell…” Billy pondered, “you gave me a fright.”
MC stepped from the shadows, toward Billy. Examining the office he answered bluntly,
“I apologize for my sudden appearance, but I received your letter. I see this place still hasn’t been cleaned, William.” he ran his fingers along the desks’ surface.
“Yes, well…” Billy mumbled as he titled his head, “you’re not here to discuss my office. And may I say, Sir…you’re looking very elegant today. Special occasion?” he eyed MC’s appearance in high admiration.
“No, I’m not.” MC stated as he raised an eyebrow, ignoring Billy’s comment while making direct eye contact with him, “Are things in order?”
“Yes. In about a week or so, but I feel things will come together much sooner.”
“Very good. I’ll make the proper preparations on my end. Now, tell me more about these women, more importantly about the young woman in particular.” MC reluctantly sat in one of the chairs, after dusting its surface. He elegantly rested his elbows on the arms of the chair, waiting for Billy’s explanation.
Billy sat as he began explaining the events that occurred earlier in the day.
“First off, she noticed the symbol carved onto the desk designated by you, as I mentioned in my letter. Its appearance indicates you’ve found the person you’re looking for, right?” he watched as MC nodded, “Well, Sir…you’ll not be disappointed for I think she’s the one, but that’s not all.”
“Oh?” MC inquired curiously as he shifted in the chair.
“There was a moment, where the young woman became agitated and I swear, Sir with my own eyes, I saw a quick…glimmer of flame in her eyes. It most definitely wasn’t a glare cast off my glasses or hers.” Billy answered proudly.
“Flame in her eyes, you say?” MC mumbled, reflecting on Billy’s words then thought, “BLUE ONE MENTIONED SOMETHING ABOUT FIRE.”
He stood taking Billy’s words to ear; pleased that everything fell perfectly into place. He smiled as he removed a black velvet pouch from his pocket; high quality silver coins hidden inside, worth thousands on the collections market. Billy politely declined the gift, telling MC that payment wasn’t necessary for he did this as a favor. MC smiled, tucking the pouch back into his pocket.
After speaking with Billy, MC knew things were set in motion and that this search had come to an end…or has it? But what MC didn’t realize, is just how strong this young woman’s character really was. Or WHAT she really was but he was surely going to find out soon.
He returned to Ravenstone (the sanctuary for all) later that evening, visiting his dragon who without words, knew the meaning of MC’s brief visit. Both grew pleased that the stone sent out; searching for centuries, had finally found the one chosen.
“Soon, Blue One…Ravenstone will have its new Keeper.” MC whispered, “Soon.”
“Indeed it will.” the dragon replied telepathically.