Thick fog rolled inland like viscous ooze, swallowing everything in its path. Hammer still clenched in her fist, Aislinn knelt, placing the mallet on the floor before leaning against the wall. As long as her strength endured, she rang the bell. The warning would have to pause. Arms curled around her chest, she drew her shoulders together and brushed her hands up and down over her prickly skin to ward off the damp evening chill. An eerie tingle crawled from the base of her neck and slithered into her fingertips as if her own body warned of the imminent danger. Yet this gallery, at the top of the lighthouse, soothed her like no other place in Chimera Cove.
Sitting with legs crossed, she gazed across the whitecaps. The soft ebb and flow of the water, barely visible through the ominous mist, calmed her tattered nerves. Drawing in several long, deep breaths, she tilted her head against the cold, stone wall and watched the flicker of the lantern, its beams reaching through the haze, alerting sailors of jagged rocks below.
Before the lighthouse, many seamen fell victim to the treacherous shoals north of the harbor. But the dangerous reef paled in comparison to what now lurked within Chimera. The mere thought of the last few weeks jolted Aislinn with a stab of fear. Her heart pounded again, and she countered by clenching her fists so hard her nails bit into her flesh.
I’m safe here. Until she reclaimed her composure, she whispered those words over and over. Atop the lighthouse she could see in every direction, and forty feet above the ocean, the tower provided her a stone fortress. Truly, she was safe, despite the uneasy ambience looming through the village below.
“Aislinn? Aislinn? Are you still up there?”
“Yes, Mistress Hannah. I kept the bell ringing as long as I could.” She stood and brushed the wrinkles from her apron. A lady’s maid to Miss Hannah Cullwick was a proper trade, and Asilinn knew she should regard herself as fortunate. Most women made far less than $38.00 a month, especially in Chimera Cove. “I’ll be right down ma’am. Your dinner is simmering and the table set. I shall serve you as soon as you wish.” She straightened her damp scraggly hair as best she could before tying it into a knot at the base of her neck, then she descended the spiral staircase one level to the kitchen.
“All right dear. I should be ready directly.” After her husband’s death, Hannah Cullwick couldn’t bear to leave the lighthouse her husband held watch over for most of his life. But an ailing woman in her sixties, she could no more carry the load of the duties than her husband’s ghost.
One of many who hoped to be recommended as Mistress Hannah’s “lady’s maid,” Aislinn expected her duties to be of personal service. She excelled as a seamstress, a masseuse, a hairdresser, a beautician, and a secretary. Bringing her mistress breakfast in bed, helping the lady dress and undress as well as selecting her wardrobe and jewelry, or styling her hair was a small price to pay when Aislinn considered that one day those duties could afford her a promising future in high society. But having landed the position, she soon came to realize the job entailed more physical duties aside from that of a lady’s maid, like maintaining watch as a keeper would, making sure the light was ever shining and the bell tolled when fog moved into Chimera Cove.
Mistress Hannah promised the addition of second order Fresnel lens as well as a newly invented bell tower striking apparatus. She intended to add them within the year, which would make Aislinn’s work considerably easier, especially on nights like tonight. Mistress Hannah proffered that the newest technology 1876 had to offer would make Cullwick Lighthouse among the most extraordinary on the east coast.
Truth be told, though tolling the bell manually on foggy nights with a double blow every fifteen seconds took all her strength, Aislinn loved the lighthouse. Perhaps not as much during her first few weeks, but as time elapsed, she found herself looking forward to her watch duties. Each evening she’d stand atop on the gallery deck or in the watch room below, looking across the deep blue sea. The experience gave her a sense of purpose far beyond that of a mere chambermaid. She grew to love the solitude and beauty, and she felt content living out her life here in Chimera Cove––until last week.
Shuddering, Aislinn recalled the evening of what began as a most cherished day. The July forth celebration in Chimera typically commenced with an exquisite parade then a picnic to follow in the town square. Later, adults would gather for a twilight dance, which ended with glittering fireworks bursting into the velvety night sky. The morning went splendidly well for Aislinn, who had noticed on more than one occasion, the town’s strikingly handsome blacksmith, Micah Wheeler. The idea he had designs on her had her pulse racing.
Throughout the day they’d kept company. Was it his dashing good looks with sandy-brown hair and that glimmer of blond when the sun hit just right that held her spellbound? Perhaps his seductive, slate blue eyes. Or was her attraction piqued by the way he made her laugh? Not a simple girlish twitter. Micah had her holding an aching stomach from utterly fascinating narrative or clever riposte. By evening, Aislinn’s enchantment burned into warm desire. Not that she would ever allow her passion’s promise. Despite her lady’s maid position, she was a true lady by birth and felt the regality deep at her core. Perhaps that’s why her duties came so easily.
She sighed, again remembering the events that evening. After several dances, Micah held out a hand. “Do you care to take a walk and let the night air cool us a bit?”
She happily nodded and laced her fingers through his. Strolling down Main Street, they paused at the stable to watch the fireworks. The smell of gunpowder and hay mingled with Lily-of-the-valley, while bursts of fire exploded, lighting the night sky. Micah drew her close and she welcomed his embrace. No doubt the night of July 4, 1876 would imprint in her memory as the night Micah Wheeler stole her heart.
“Aislinn. Do you not realize how beautiful you are? Even your name dances across my lips when I speak of you. What took you so long to honor me with your presence?” He lifted a loose strand of hair and tucked it behind her ear. “Can you not see how much my heart yearns for you?”
Convinced he could hear the pounding of her own heart, she angled her head and gazed at the starry night. “I thought you immune to my charms.” She smiled, parting her lips in hopes they would lure a kiss.
A soft brush of his finger traced around her mouth before a crooked finger perched below her chin, coaxing it upward. His lips, soft and warm, covered hers with a gentle graze that tempted her passion and tingled between her thighs.
One day, she promised herself…one day she would have this man as her husband. She’d never felt an attraction as strong as this, or the comfort she felt in his arms.
Micah held her close. So close she had to close her eyes to breathe. When she finally lifted her lashes, a blast of emotion ripped through her and she clung to Micah––frozen in fear.
He immediately responded to her frantic grip. “What is it?” He spun, still holding her close.
Yes, the fourth of July might have been the day she’d remember forever as the first blossom of love touching her heart. Instead, the memory seared into her mind as an image of panic. Aislinn shivered as the warm July night shifted with a chill that held her ridged, paralyzed by fear. No longer did the air smell of flowers and hay. The putrid stench of death now swirled around her, stealing the breath from her lungs. She coughed, choking from the dank, heavy air surrounding her, still clinging to Micah.
What she saw––what they both saw––radiated a feeling of dread, and yet the phantasm had no real substance. Something transpired right in front of them. An encounter? A possession? A hallucination? If a dream, then Aislinn and Micah experienced the same nightmare. They saw, smelled, and felt something that shifted the atmosphere and emitted a sense of dread. Whatever emerged that night, floated through them then drifted toward the town square and hovered like an obscure dome looming over the town.
Was the vision an illusion, an apparition, or a spell of some kind? Aislinn didn’t know and she spoke of the event to no one. Who would believe her, aside from Micah? The two were now bound together, but not by love. Whatever evil the phantom possessed, it cast an invisible veil over the square that shrouded everyone with mistrust and apprehension. For a week, neither she nor Micah could shake the feeling that––
An echoing shriek pierced through the night, breaking Aislinn’s musings. She lifted her skirts and rushed down the spiral staircase toward Mistress Hannah…
We hope the first chapter of Beyond The Moon intrigues you. Be sure to stop by Moonlight And Mystery every Monday to see a new chapter unfold! Be sure to check back Monday, May 21 for Chapter 2, by Alicia Dean.
Micah held the iron in place on the anvil while his apprentice, Frank, struck it with the large hammer. Not even a wisp of air moved through the overheated shop. Sweat dripped from Micah’s face onto the sizzling metal. He wiped his forehead on his sleeve, but it was useless. His entire shirt was drenched.
Frank stopped hammering and took a long, exhausted breath. “I’m too old for this shit,” he muttered.
Micah scowled in irritation. “You can’t stop now. The anchor’s not even close to being forged.”
“I don’t give a damn. I’m spent.” He lowered himself onto a nearby stool, took a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed his face.
“Yeah, this is bullshit.” Micha dropped the tongs to the floor. “He couldn’t have sent me here as, I don’t know…a sheriff or saloon owner. He had to make me a blacksmith.”
Frank grinned. “Ellory isn’t exactly out to make your life easier.”
“No shit.” He’d only been in this century a few weeks and he already hated everything about it. Everything except seeing Aislinn again. She didn’t remember that she despised him…didn’t even remember she knew him. So, he could be with her, enjoy the pleasure of her company, her sweet smile, touch her… Without her wanting to drive a knife through his heart. He’d enjoy it while he could. As soon as the full moon came around, he’d have to jerk them both back to reality, and to the twenty-first century.
Dirt clung to the wrinkles in Frank’s red face. “You know, it’s not exactly a pleasure trip for me either.”
Frank had been sent to keep an eye on Micah. Although it wasn’t necessary. Ellory had all the insurance he needed to assure Micah would follow his orders. If Micah didn’t bring Aislinn back to the twenty-first century, Ellory would kill the only person Micah loved.
“Yeah, well, he’s your boss. I can’t believe you’d work for him after what he did to your sister.”
Frank’s jaw clenched. “Rose was wrong to do what she did.” The quaver in his voice made the words less than convincing. “She took his child away from him. Far away, not only in distance, but in time.”
Aislinn’s mother was a sorceress. She’d finally had her fill of Ellory’s controlling, abusive ways and had spelled her daughter into another century, where she thought Ellory would never find her. And she’d been killed for her efforts. Although Ellory was accustomed to hired help doing his tasks, he’d performed this one himself, choking the life from his wife—the mother of his only child. Micah was glad Rose hadn’t known she’d died in vain–that after searching for only two years, Ellory had found Aislinn. Micah didn’t know how. Ellory himself was not magic. But, he was a powerful, wealthy man, who, thanks to the supernatural family he’d married into, had connections to the world of magic. One of those connections had apparently helped him find Aislinn. And he wanted his daughter back.
His thoughts went to the evening of the celebration. In spite of the intense heat from the nearby hearth, cold fingers of dread skipped down his spine. “Do you think that shit that happened last week was Ellory’s doing?” He didn’t know why the man would want to unleash an eerie cloud of evil. But what other explanation was there?
Frank shook his head. “I got no idea. I wonder if it’s something else.” His voice lowered ominously. “Something that knows what Ellory’s up to and is making its presence known.”
Aislinn reached the bottom of the stairs and let out a gasp. Heavy fog hung over the room. She squinted through the murkiness. The front door stood wide open. But still, how could fog enter like that? It was…uncanny. Cautiously, she started across the room to close the door when she stumbled into something on the floor. She waved her hands, trying to clear the fog so she could see. It dissipated somewhat, and fear shivered over her skin. Mistress Hannah was lying on the floor, deathly still, her eyes closed. Aislinn dropped to her knees and touched her fingers to Mistress Hannah’s neck, nearly crying in relief when she felt the steady pulse.
“Mistress, are you all right?” Aislinn was surprised to find her voice strong in spite of the way her insides quaked. She gently shook Mistress Hannah’s shoulder. “Wake up. Please, wake up.” No response. Aislinn’s head swiveled as she frantically searched the room, even though she knew no help was to be found. She turned her attention back to the unconscious form, her gaze falling on Mistress Hannah’s right hand. A fully-bloomed, gorgeous, red rose was gripped between her fingers. Aislinn blinked in confusion. Where had that come from?
Finally, Mistress Hannah stirred. She opened her eyes and slowly sat up. “What…what happened?” She looked down at the rose and quickly flung it away. Blood dotted the inside of her hand, where she’d gripped the thorned stem. “Aislinn, what on earth is going on?”
Aislinn shook her head. “I’ve no idea. I heard a scream and rushed downstairs to find you on the floor.” She gestured around the room. “And this bizarre mist.”
“Help me up, dear.”
Aislinn shifted her skirts aside and stood, then took Mistress Hannah’s hands and pulled the older woman to her feet.
Mistress Hannah held her hand out, palm up, staring in bewilderment at the red splotches. “Where did the rose come from?”
“I’m afraid I don’t know. Do you not remember anything at all?”
“I was going to go up for dinner, and I heard the door open.” Mistress Hannah swayed, and Aislinn guided her to her favorite arm chair, helping her lower to the silk-covered seat. Mistress Hannah fluttered a hand to her forehead. “I-I looked back down and no one was there. Fog was pouring in. I was frightened out of my wits, but I hurried down to fasten the door. The next thing I remember, you were waking me. I don’t know how I ended up on the floor. Do you suppose I fainted?”
“Perhaps.” But that did not explain the rose. Could it be related to the apparition she and Micah had seen? Micah…suddenly she wanted nothing more than to see him, to have him wrap his strong arms around her—arms that were muscular from all the hours of blacksmithing. What was it about him? She’d only met him a few weeks ago, yet she felt secure with him, comfortable. As if she’d known him for years. She pulled her mind away from Micah. Mistress Hannah needed a doctor. She might have sustained unseen injuries. She was not a young woman. “I’ll get Mr. Hydro to take me into town and bring the doctor to look you over.” It would not be a good idea for Mistress Hannah to take the bumpy trip into town. Not to mention, she seldom left the lighthouse and would likely be unwilling to go.
“Oh no, my dear. I’ll be fine.”
“We don’t know that. You need to be seen. I’ll be back in no time.” Aislinn was not anxious to leave the lighthouse herself. She had no idea what had occurred, what kind of darkness had befallen the townspeople. But her concern for Mistress Hannah overrode her fear—as did the hope that she might catch a glimpse of Micah.
Thank you for following along with our virtual mystery as it unfolds week by week. Be sure to check back next Monday, May 28 for Chapter 3, by Maureen Bonatch.
Maureen L. Bonatch
“Wait. Aislinn, you cannot leave. You must ring the bell.”
Aislinn turned from the doorway, startled at the intensity of her demand. The bell ringing duties couldn’t be more important than Mistress Hannah’s health. “Surely, it will be fine to allow the bell’s silence for this short time. I don’t believe any ships are due this evening. Besides, your wellbeing is more important.”
“No.” Mistress Hannah’s hands quivered and her gaze strayed to the discarded rose. “The bell must toll, it’s already been silent too long.”
The scent of roses overrode the usual damp, musty smell of the lighthouse until the odor made Aislinn’s stomach roil. The aroma was far more intense than a lone rose could emit. Aislinn glanced at the flower whose name had always brought her mixed feelings of comfort and melancholy. How did a rose appear here, where they didn’t grow anywhere near the rocky surf?
Fog crept through the cracks and crevices despite the closed door. Unusual wisps of shimmer were laced throughout the haze. The fog curled around Aislinn’s ankles. The dampness felt akin to a wet caress. Her unease increased.
Mistress Hannah straightened. The mild exertion washed more of the color from her cheeks. “Aislinn. Go now. I’ll be fine. We are responsible for the safety of the town.”
“The town? Don’t you mean the ships?” The tremble in Mistress Hannah’s voice disturbed Aislinn more than the odd mist. Perhaps she’d hit her head harder than she realized. Nothing ever disturbed the strength she concealed under layers of proper etiquette and lace. Her unshakable vigor had made Aislinn consider mentioning the odd thing she and Micah saw. Mistress Hannah would cast doubt on her uncertainties and ground her thoughts with logic. At least she thought she would. Lately, she wasn’t so sure.
She knelt in front of Mistress Hannah and clasped her shaking hands. She’d never noticed their frailty. When she looked to her face, the flickering lantern illuminated the blood streaked on her neck. She touched the back of Mistress Hannah’s head. A spreading warmth damped her palm. Her chest tightened with fear for the woman who’d become like family to her in this short time. She sought guidance in the older woman’s face. “What can I do?”
Mistress Hannah shook her head, releasing more damp gray coils of hair to cling to the perspiration and blood smearing her neck. “It’s not me that’s important, it never was. It will take more than a fall or a little blood to end my life. Believe me, they’ve tried before.”
“What are you talking—”
She waved Aislinn off. “First, please complete the task.” Mistress Hannah paused to take a few shaky breaths and cast another glance at the rose. “Probably should’ve told you from the start. Please, for all our sakes, just ring the bell. It might already be too late.”
Despite fearing the head injury was responsible for Mistress Hannah’s bewildering comments, her palpable fear ignited Aislinn’s. The more pressing concern was Mistress Hannah, but it seemed her anxiety would not be reduced unless she heard the bell’s toll. Then she could find a way to tend to her. “I’ll be right back.” After a quick glance at the dissipating fog dancing in the flickering of the lantern’s flames, she rushed up the spiral staircase.
The lantern in the small room at the top of the lighthouse had extinguished. Aislinn stumbled into the room as her eyes adjusted to the darkness. The pale light of the moon provided little illumination. If only it were full she might’ve seen the hammer before she tripped to sprawl on the floor. She winched as she clutched the hammer. After pulling herself to her feet, she hobbled toward the bell as her knee throbbed from the impact. She swung the hammer. The massive bell tolled and shook as if waking from an unaccustomed slumber.
Aislinn peered out the window, but saw no approaching ships in danger of the rocks from neglecting her post. Nothing to cause Mistress Hannah such undue distress. Her fall must be responsible for her muddled thoughts and irrational anxiety. In retrospect, she realized she’d made other unusual comments recently. Aislinn had ignored them, unwilling to consider that Mistress Hannah’s mind might be failing.
She lifted the hammer with considerable effort. Her aching muscles protested but she successfully sent the bell tolling again. A light sliced through the fog with the sound and illuminated a retreating figure. Aislinn narrowed her gaze and sucked in a breath. A rank scent overpowered the scent of roses, causing her to gag.
Something moved toward the surf. The darkness and the stress of the evening must have her eyes deceiving her. Because neither the odd fog, or the unusual apparition she and Micah had witnessed last week were nearly as terrifying as this unexplainable creature.
Although the night was early, Micah had discovered the reason most turned in early in this century. There wasn’t much to do when it was muggy, damp and dark. Plus, he wasn’t accustomed to the exhausting amount of physical labor required to survive in this century if you weren’t of the upper class.
He’d thought the most difficult thing he’d have to endure until the full moon and his return to the twenty-first century was losing the comforts of home. Although these minor sacrifices might be well worth it to get to enjoy Aislinn’s company again. Having a second chance with her, if only for a short time, was the only good thing about giving up his plush bed for an uncomfortable bunk reeking of livestock and manure. Because once Aislinn was returned to the present century, she’d remember her true feelings for him.
He couldn’t blame her, even if he was innocent. No matter how he tried to explain, she wouldn’t listen, and he couldn’t tell her the full truth—not then. But now he couldn’t keep Noah a secret anymore. He scowled. Dealing with Ellory was his penance, his brother shouldn’t have to pay the price by being held prisoner until he completed this task.
He and his mother had kept Noah safe for so long so that no one even had known he existed. It was the only way. People with Noah’s simple nature could see through the veiled magic in the world. They were a threat to those who had supernatural abilities, and coveted by those who didn’t.
It was his fault. He should’ve known better than to stay away, but he had missed his twin brother terribly. The forced separation had never been easy, even though his mother had insisted upon it since birth for their safety. Seeing him that one time may have sealed Noah’s fate, unless he did Ellory’s bidding. Even then he didn’t trust that Ellory would stay true to his word. Twins were sought-after in the supernatural community, but a twin like Noah was a commodity like no other.
He didn’t know what else to do. So, until he did, he’d go along with Ellory’s wishes. Surely, he wouldn’t do anything to Noah until he returned. Then he’d have to figure out how to save the three of them from Ellory’s wrath. Even if Aislinn hated him, he could never leave her with the monster who was her father.
He sighed and rolled over on his back. Perhaps the stars twinkling in the clear night sky would provide him with some clarity. He tracked his time here with the phase of the moon. By the time it was full, he hoped to have developed a plan. The odd apparition and unusual fog had him concerned that time-traveling here had inadvertently invited the supernatural to a century where it previously slumbered.
The silence of the night penetrated more deeply than the chill of the evening. Micah sat up in bed and swung his legs over the side. “Something’s wrong. The bell. It’s silent.” The constant sound in the evenings had become a comfort, lulling him to sleep in this strange land. It assured him that Aislinn wasn’t far, and that she was safe.
“What?” Frank mumbled and sat up, rubbing his eyes. A few pieces of straw clung to his hair. “Where are you going?”
“The lighthouse.” Micah pulled on his boots, belatedly hoping nothing had nestled in their depths for warmth. With his abilities absent in this century, he’d be unable to cure himself from an infection. His stomach churned with a sense of foreboding at the unnatural stirrings in the past few days. He feared that a potential vermin infection would be the least of his worries.
Thank you for following along with our virtual mystery as it unfolds week by week. Be sure to check back next Monday, June 4th for Chapter 4.
by M. S. Spencer
Micah was halfway to the lighthouse when he heard the bell ring out. Oh thank God, that can only mean Aislinn is safe. He turned to the sea, intending to head back home. At that instant a shaft of light split the night. In the distance, striding over the waves, he saw a figure. A wave of putrid mist assaulted his nostrils. He held a hand over his eyes, trying to discern what kind of creature walked on the water.
“It is Ellory.”
Micah swung around at Frank’s voice. “How do you know? How could he be here? He has no powers.” When Frank didn’t respond, fear twisted gnarly fingers around his heart. “Does he?”
Frank tugged at Micah’s arm. “Come on, let’s go back. He’s gone.”
“No!” Micah pulled away. The lantern shown out from the lighthouse. “If Ellory was here, he must know she is also. I have to make sure Aislinn is all right. But,” he stared hard at his companion, “I want some answers when I return.”
Frank didn’t argue—in fact, he seemed relieved at Micah’s order. He merely said, “Take care. The transfiguration is only temporarily at bay.” Then he disappeared into the darkness.
Micah marched to the lightkeeper’s house. He banged on the door. “Open up! It’s the blacksmith. Are all within in good health?” No reply came, other than the creaks and groans of an old house battered by the winds. “Hello?”
Slowly the door swung wide. Hannah stood on the threshold, erect but shaking. “Thank God, you’ve come. You must save her.” She stepped aside.
Micah brushed past her. The room was empty. “Where is she? Where is Aislinn?”
Hannah pointed at the ceiling.
He paused. “I heard the bell toll. Is there something wrong?”
“No, no.” She put a hand to her heart and stumbled back.
“You’re ill! Here, let me help you.” He set her down in the rocking chair. “Tell me, what is wrong?”
Hannah’s words came in a bare whisper. “I need to refresh.”
“Refresh?” Micah had a sudden inspiration. “You are from the future?”
Her eyes opened wide. “Future? No, not me.” She gave him a curious glance. “An odd question to ask.”
Damn. “I…uh…was reading a treatise on time travel. The author used the word ‘refresh’ to mean having to return to your own time.”
She continued to regard him with suspicion. “What aren’t you telling me?”
“I…uh…” I can’t tell her. If anyone of this time learns who I am Ellory will kill Noah. “Nothing. Now, may I fetch you some water?”
She passed a hand across her brow. “Yes. Thank you.” He went to the kitchen and filled a mug. When he returned, the room was empty.
“Mistress Cullwick? Where are you?”
He was about to check outside when he heard footsteps rushing down the stairs. “Mistress! Mistress! It was passing strange. I—” Aislinn stopped short on the last step. “Micah? What are you doing here?”
He stifled the urge to jump the short distance between them and take her in his arms. “I came to see…when the bell didn’t ring…I was worried…Where is your mistress?”
Aislinn looked around the room. “I don’t know. She was hurt. She fell. I wanted to take her to the doctor but she refused to leave until I rang the bell. Micah, up there…I saw…a creature. Something out there on the water. It wasn’t the same thing we felt before, the night of the Fourth.”
Oh dear. She must not suspect. Not until I’ve won her heart here will I have a chance to keep it there. “Yes, tell me later. First we must find Hannah.”
“I’ll look in her bedroom.” Aislinn went down the hall.
Micah stood in the living room, uncertain where to start. He had started up the steps to the upper floor office when the front door blew open. The dark mist swirled in from outside, bringing with it the malodorous scent he associated with Ellory. “Ellory?” Oh please God don’t let him find us. Not yet.
He went back down, only to discover Hannah, sitting calmly on the divan, pouring tea. “One lump or two?” She asked brightly.
He stared at her. “Mistress Cullwick, where have you been?”
She dropped a sugar cube in a dainty cup. “I told you, I went to refresh myself.” Her eyes twinkled. “I feel ever so much better. Cream?”
Micah knew that the house had no indoor plumbing. Water was drawn at the village well and kept in a cistern in a small shed. “Uh huh. Do you want to explain?”
“Why, aren’t you the impertinent one, Mr. Wheeler! I do not have to explain my activities to you or anyone.” Her expression was angry, but he saw a hint of trepidation in her eyes.
She’s hiding something. He noticed the rose on the floor and picked it up. “What’s this?”
She snatched it away. Aislinn came in. “Oh, Mistress, I was so worried!” She surveyed the tea tray. “I would have made tea for you. You shouldn’t be up, after your accident.”
Micah looked from one to the other. “What kind of accident?” He gestured at the rose that lay beside Hannah. “Were you pricked?”
“Just a little. It’s nothing.” Her face hardened.
Aislinn’s face crumpled. “Leave her alone. My mistress has had a fall. Can’t you see she’s bleeding?” She put an arm around the old woman. “See?” Aislinn touched her head, but her hand sprang back. “Why, there’s no…there’s no blood!”
Hannah pressed her lips together. Her eyes glittered, giving Micah a chill. Refreshed? He gazed at Hannah speculatively. Her face was serene—not as wrinkled as before. He inspected her garments—not the ones she wore before she disappeared. These are…what are they? Where before she had worn severe black wool, now her dress was a flowered chintz cotton over a white underskirt. She’s been somewhere…another time?
Aislinn had been watching Micah. “Why are you here?” She blushed faintly.
“I…I…” I have to get out of here—think this through. He backed out, waving his cap rather awkwardly. He started to run down the path, but stopped at the lane and turned to look back. Aislinn stood in the lighted doorway. His heart paused at the sight of her. So beautiful. If only. Then he loped off toward the smithy and Frank.
He found the boy asleep in the hay. He shook him awake. “Spill.”
Frank rubbed his eyes. “Spill?”
“What was Ellory doing here?”
Frank took on a sly expression. “Just passing through.” When Micah raised a threatening hand Frank hastily blurted, “He can skip centuries.”
“What does that mean?”
“He…Ellory is not really from the twenty-first century.”
“Oh? Wait a minute—is that why he has no powers there? Just like I have no powers here?”
Frank nodded. “He is a…how should I describe him? A hitchhiker. He can travel to any time he likes.”
Frank shrugged. “How shall I put it? He…cracks time. Of course, it uses a lot of energy.”
“Was that the light I saw?”
“That was the break in time-space. He slips through it and kind of floats across the land.” He wrinkled his nose. “Usually wreaking havoc.”
“What was the smell?”
“Burning fuel. Like I say, it takes a lot. He can only spend a few hours at any location.”
“Hmm. You say he’s not from the twenty-first century. Does he belong to any time at all?”
Frank grimaced. “I’m not sure, but I think it’s the seventeenth century. They say he was burned as a witch in Massachusetts and likes to go revisit the place to reminisce.” He giggled.
Micah did not find the humor in it. “The other night Aislinn and I—we saw, felt something evil in the night. An apparition. Was it Ellory? Can he disguise himself?”
“No.” He seemed puzzled. “What did it look like?”
Micah remembered the feeling of dread, mirrored in Aislinn’s eyes, and the wraith that spread out toward the town. “I don’t know.”
Frank dipped a ladle in the bucket and drank from it. “Well, like Hamlet said, ‘There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’”
Micah knew Frank well enough to know he’d get no more out him on that score and took another tack. “What do you know of Hannah?”
“Mistress Cullwick? She’s a mystery, isn’t she? We’ve been tracking her for eons.”
Micah made a mental note to ask to whom his “we” referred, but had more pressing questions at the moment.
“Is she here to protect Aislinn?”
“We think so.”
At that minute the door burst open. Aislinn stood on the threshold. She pointed a trembling finger at Micah. “Who are you?”
Thank you for following along with our virtual mystery as it unfolds week by week. Be sure to check back next Monday, June 11th for Chapter 5.
by Sorchia DuBois
A rising gale sent a gust of cold, sea-scented air into the smithy’s small back room. Aislinn’s eyes, accustomed to the light of a storm shrouded half-moon’s light, blinked in the relative brightness put off by the gnarled ends of two tallow candles. One candle sputtered and went out. Frank cupped a sheltering hand around the flickering flame of the other.
“Shut the bloody door, woman,” Frank hissed.
On the far side of the small room, Micah’s blue eyes never wavered from hers, but his knees wobbled and he sank onto the cot. She saw surprise in those eyes—and fear.
Bits and pieces of memory swirled amongst Aislinn’s chaotic thoughts—visions of another place—another time. Amongst the shattered fragments or hallucinations, she saw the same pair of slate blue eyes — sometimes sparkling with laughter, sometimes dark with grief. She drew her hand across her own eyes as if to clear away the cobwebs—to see those blue eyes more clearly—to understand what they meant.
“You remember, don’t you?” Micah whispered. “Somehow you remember.”
Aislinn drew breath to speak though she didn’t know what she could possibly say. What did she remember? How could Micah know the turmoil inside her mind? One more look at those blue eyes and she was certain. What Miss Hannah told her was true. And Micah had known all along.
Micah and Miss Hannah. And Frank. She glared at the shaggy haired apprentice. The whole lot of them had kept this secret from her—had let her wander around in this place like a fool—had fabricated an entire history and fed it to her. And Micah had kissed her. Under false pretenses. Never mind she’d kissed him back. Never mind she’d fantasized about marrying him. Never mind that at all.
“You complete and utter ass!” The sound of her own voice steadied her, reminded her who she was. Familiar anger bubbled from deep in her soul. With every breath, she came more and more back into herself.
“Now listen,” Micah’s eyebrows collided above those eyes and he half rose from the rumpled cot. “You don’t understand . . .”
Aislinn flexed her fingers, felt the spark of magic, the power she inherited from her mother’s line. But her mind was fuzzy and slow as if she’d just woken from a deep sleep. Where was she? Why couldn’t she collect one thought and follow it? Encumbered in mind and body, she couldn’t tell the difference between reality and lingering snippets of the dream.
“What the hell is this?!!” She tugged the skirt of her gown, lifting the tail of it above her knees. “Good God. Look at these stockings. And these shoes.”
She dropped the hem of the gown and grasped a strand of her own hair, pulling it into view and crossing her eyes to get a look at the offending tress.
“Why isn’t this purple?” she demanded, sounding irrational even to her own ears.
Micah, who’d managed to stand to launch a spirited defense of his actions, hesitated and narrowed his eyes in puzzlement. “Why would your hair be purple?”
A rotund figure materialized behind Aislinn and breezed into the already crowded room. “Oh, it’s been blue and red and even green, hasn’t it dearie. She always was a headstrong child.”
“I’ve know her for five years and her hair has never been …any of those colors.” Micah waved his hand, dismissing this discussion of hair color. “That’s not important. Neither of you should be out in this weather.”
“Tosh.” Miss Hannah assured him. “You don’t know everything you think you do.”
Miss Hannah snapped her fingers twice and the two candles burst into bright flames. She closed the door firmly and shepherded Aislinn to the one rickety chair in the room. “Sit down dearie. You’ve had a shock.”
“She’s had a shock,” muttered Micah. He fixed a steely eye on Miss Hannah, now busy setting the untidy room to rights. “Who are you? What have you done?”
“Oh, I’m who I am,” said Miss Hannah cheerily as she poked the toe of her pointed black shoe at a sodden bit of cloth on the floor. “The question more to the point is who are you?”
A scuffling noise beyond the ring of candle light drew Aislinn’s attention. She should have been surprised to discover Frank the apprentice—or more accurately, Frank the apprentice’s backside–stuck in the one small window in what seemed to be an unsuccessful effort to escape. A flash of lightning illuminated the scene for a split second.
The entire day had been disconcerting in one way or another and she found she was only mildly interested. She wasn’t even surprised when a silver web flew from Miss Hannah’s outstretched hands, wrapping the hapless apprentice in its shimmering threads and pulling him onto the floor in a quivering mass.
“Here now,” cried Frank. “Here now, madam. That’s not fair play at all.”
Miss Hannah snorted and twisted the threads tighter. “You little sneak. I know good and well why you’re here. That bastard Ellory sent you.”
Frank curled into a ball apparently hoping to disappear entirely. Aislinn considered that a wise choice. Thunder muttered across the bay and a squall of rain pounded on the shingled roof.
Micah had again managed to stand and Aislinn noted how the small space became even smaller with the tall smithy taking up most of the room. Taking up most of the air, too, it seemed to her. Maybe it was just this blasted corset that made her heart feel like it was beating extra hard. She was angry about a number of things, but the indignity of being dressed like some sort of Puritan was the worst. And Micah wasn’t even a real smithy, she reminded herself. That was part of the dream, wasn’t it? She chewed the inside of her lip, trying to bring her thoughts into anything resembling order.
“I think we could all use a drink,” Micah said. He eyed Miss Hannah cautiously. “If you would just release my friend and if you can abstain from any more reckless displays of witchery, perhaps we can reason this out.”
Miss Hannah chuckled and elbowed Aislinn. “I like him, dearie. Despite his poor choice in friends and in employers. And I wouldn’t mind a wee tipple either, young man, but I think this sorry excuse of a creature can stay where he is. I don’t trust him any more than I trust you—no matter how pretty you are. But time is short and I must tell you a few facts that have escaped you.”
A muffled moan from Frank did nothing but elicit a satisfied gleam in Miss Hannah’s bright black eyes. Micah produced a glass flask from beneath his cot and passed it to Miss Hannah who took a deep swallow before she passed it to Aislinn.
The smoky taste of the fiery liquid calmed Aislinn’s jitters. The scent of peat and iodine along with the sound of the approaching storm triggered memories she couldn’t quite catch. Just as she almost had a clear picture in her mind, Miss Hannah’s voice jarred it way.
“You may not know who I am, but you’ve doubtless guessed what I am,” said the old lady. “Aislinn’s mother was my dearest friend for ever so many centuries. And that worthless troll of a brother of hers betrayed her–turned her over to Ellory though he knew good and well what would happen.”
“I never did,” wailed Frank, poking his face through a gap in the web that held him prisoner. “I never thought he would. . .harm her.”
“Never thought at all is more like it. “ Miss Hannah snapped, flicking a pebble at the bundle of misery on the floor.
Micah looked from Miss Hannah to Aislinn to Frank and back again. “Rose sent Aislinn here to protect her. You wouldn’t break the spell without reason. You know something.”
“I know lots of things, dearie. I know Ellory hadn’t ought to have meddled in the affairs of witches. No good will come of it.” She waggled a bony finger at Micah. “And I know you do his bidding.”
“That’s not the whole story.” Micah said. He looked utterly miserable. “I have obligations—just as you do.”
Aislinn would have liked to comfort him, would have very much have liked to feel his arms around her again, maybe kiss him once or twice. But Miss Hannah was right. Their lives depended on what she did now. And she was still mad at him for lying to her. And for kissing her. She should be very mad about that.
“You can all stop talking about me as if I wasn’t here,” said Aislinn. “We have something worse than my father to worry about. Can’t you feel it? We aren’t safe here anymore. Not in this place. Not in this time.”
Frank protested from his sticky cocoon. “We have to stay put. Everything’s arranged. If we leave now, he’ll never stop till he finds us.”
Miss Hannah bounced another pebble off Frank’s head. “You just shut up. We can go anywhere in time or space we choose. Ellory hasn’t the skill to track us.”
“What about the thing he’s awoken—the thing that stalks us even now? Can you guarantee Aislinn’s safety?” Micah stowed the flask in a pocket of his leather apron. His blue eyes grew hard as agate. “I have friends. But we must go back to our own time. I’m helpless here.”
Miss Hannah frowned. “You have your own reasons to go back there, don’t you, laddie buck? And they aren’t pure as the snow either.”
The surf pounded on the rocky shoreline, whipped into frenzy by the storm. Lightning flickered beyond the thin walls and thunder crashed directly overhead. In her mind’s eye, Aislinn saw the half-moon walking serene and silent, high above the swirling black clouds. As her mother taught her long ago, she took her council from that silvery orb.
“I’ve had enough of being coddled as if I were an anemic lamb,” she said, standing up and hitching the clinging folds of her gown as high as was acceptable in mixed company. “You three are going to do as I say now. And the first order of business–shadow demon or no shadow demon– is to get me some comfortable clothes.”
Will Aislinn take Miss Hannah’s advice—once her wardrobe issues are resolved–and jump into the time slip? Will she and Hannah use their witchy powers to transport themselves to another hiding place leaving Frank and Micah to fend for themselves? Or, unlikely as it may seem, is Frank right? Should they make a stand in the village of Chimera in 1876? Micah needs to take Aislinn back to his own time to save his twin brother, but can he really hand her over to her ruthless and power-hungry father? Check out next week’s chapter by Kim Hornsby.
Micah hadn’t wanted to leave Aislinn with Miss Hannah, but the version of Aislinn sitting in front of him was not the nineteen-year-old woman he knew. Or kissed. This Aislinn, for some unexplained reason, was a younger version, a girl who hadn’t yet reached womanhood. Now that he studied her, Micah realized that her face looked younger, her mannerisms seemed like those of a girl in her early teens.
Had Aislinn been getting younger? He didn’t see the clear jawline, her face fuller than yesterday. He also couldn’t find the depth of emotion in her eyes. Was it possible that time travel was affecting her in this strange way?
This Aislinn in the room would never have kissed him. Nor he, her.
“Does she seem younger to you?” he asked the witch.
“Yes. It’s something I feared but wasn’t sure of until today. I need to do something, get this girl back to the present time before she loses her age, her life.” Miss Hannah watched Aislinn fluffing up her hair, then staring at Frank who was still encased in a web on the floor.
“Uncle Frank, how did you get in that thing?”
Micah whispered to Miss Hannah. “How do we insure she doesn’t regress any more, get any younger?” Micah didn’t want to be in love with a ten-year-old.
With a flick of her wrist, Miss Hannah released Frank from his confines and shot him a look of warning. Turning back to Micah, her eyes were sparkling with excitement. “I have an idea of how to reverse the spell that’s making her younger, but it involves time traveling to the future and then gradually heading back to the present.” She pointed at Frank. “And you must pledge allegiance to us.”
Frank looked mesmerized. “I will.”
Firstly, the lighthouse bell had to be rung at regular intervals to keep the village safe from whatever was out there threatening Chimera. The bell had been everyone’s protection against the dark forces looking for Aislinn. They couldn’t leave and not arrange for someone to take over. Who knew what Ellory was capable of in his search for his daughter? He might decimate the town and never look back.
When they planted a young man by the bell, with orders to ring it regularly, the four time travelers raced down the winding staircase. The plan was for Miss Hannah and Aislinn to head to the future, three hundred years, to off-set the spell that was making Aislinn younger. The two women would work their way back to 2018 over twenty-four hours, hoping to also throw off Ellory and his dark forces that hunted them. All four travelers would meet at Micah’s apartment tomorrow. If Ellory was working from that time period, like they guessed, they’d fight him in present time and hope to elude the shadow demon that had found them in Chimera.
Letting Aislinn take off in a different direction would be hard for Micah, especially since sharing that kiss the other day, but seeing her as a fourteen-year-old girl made it a tiny bit easier. She’d all but told him that she must’ve had her head screwed on backwards to kiss him. He’d laughed but worried that if the spell was broken and if he was able to save Aislinn’s life in this struggle with a diabolical father, she still might never give him the time of day. It wasn’t guaranteed that he’d end up with Aislinn in the end. Even if they all lived.
Once Hannah and Aislinn changed clothes in the lighthouse bedroom, they took off to the future. It was now a game of hide and seek, the seeker being a man who wanted to control the hider into controlled submission.
Micah could only hope they’d stay ahead of Ellory’s forces — his wraith. There was no doubt in Micah’s mind that the dark spirit that was dogging them, was an emissary of Ellory’s.
With Miss Hannah and Aislinn gone, Micah’s job was to get to Noah. If Micah removed the threat that hung over his own head, he could fight Ellory. In any century. Hopefully Micah’s powers were equal to anyone Ellory had on his side but he had to be in his own time to access those powers. With his twin, the powers to fight would be doubled. He didn’t know how Ellory was able to control the spirit but he intended to find out. As soon as he got Noah.
Micah and Frank landed in 2018 beside Micah’s apartment building in Seattle in the dead of night. It was pouring rain and giant puddles dotted the quiet street. Frank had landed on his backside in a rhododendron bush, with a “what the hell?”
“Let’s get going!” Micah said.
Micah believed they had a small window of opportunity and he wasn’t going to let that lapse. Certain that Noah was being held at Ellory’s business headquarters, a software company he’d founded years before, Micah had to get over to InterWork to find Noah before Ellory realized what was going on.
It was fortunate that one of Micah’s abilities was to transport himself distances in the blink of an eye. Frank, however, did not have that ability, and agreed to meet Micah in thirty minutes. “I’ll take a taxi.”
“I’ll get a message to you as soon as I find Noah,” Micah said, his thoughts racing about where a meglo maniac would hold his brother captive. Micah had been on the campus before but didn’t know the grounds inside out. It was spread over tens of acres with over fifty buildings. Finding Noah would have to involve telepathy.
Landing in a treed park between two large office buildings, Micah pulled off his leather apron, leaving him with black pants, a dirty white shirt and old-timey leather shoes. This getup would have to pass for modern clothes. He couldn’t run around shirtless or shoeless on the InterWork campus. He was drenched anyhow, and it was the middle of the night. The campus was empty. The park was on a hill and as far as Micah could see, were InterWork buildings.
Micah tried to get a feel for the whereabouts of his brother. He took deep breaths and threw his arms out to receive messages. This method of tracking his twin had worked once before when they were within miles of each other. Nothing.
Frustrated, Micah left the park and started running through the campus, trying to locate his twin through telepathy.
Fifteen minutes later, when he still hadn’t zeroed in on Noah’s whereabouts, Micah remembered that Frank would be arriving in a taxi. He sent a message to Frank, picturing the man in his blacksmith clothing. “Meet me at the clock tower,” the message said. As was usually the case with telepathy, Micah felt the message zing off. It was remarkably like email in that if the message didn’t reach Frank, he’d know within the minute.
Nothing returned as Micah stood by the clock tower, waiting for Frank. Having another person in this quest, someone who worked for Ellery might be advantageous. But ten minutes later, when Frank didn’t show, Micah began to get suspicious that Frank wasn’t coming to meet him. What if he was loyal to Ellory and turned against Micah? Frank was known to be a turncoat and it would be just like Ellory to have something powerful, held against Frank to convince him of his loyalty. With that in mind, Micah held out his arms again, closed his eyes and thought of Frank, wondering where he’d gone.
His feet started moving before he realized that he was being led somewhere. Giving himself over to the feeling, Micah ran between the buildings in the pouring rain and stopped at a small dark brown brick building he’d never noticed before. No sign indicated what went on inside the building and unlike the others, there was no number outside to indicate how it figured in the grand scheme of the InterWork campus. He shivered in the cold.
The front door was locked, no surprise, and Micah crept around the outside of the building in the shadows, trying ground floor windows. If Noah was inside with Frank, Micah had to get in somehow. Would Frank be waiting for him, knowing he’d lead Micah here? Probably. Was it a trap? Maybe. Could he win in a fight against Frank if it came down to that? Definitely.
Micah entered the building through a vent he was able to access at the back of the building and on his tummy, he pulled himself quietly through a dark tunnel until he saw a light up ahead. It was slow going because his shoulders were almost too wide for the tunnel but if he stayed turned slightly, he made headway. Coming out in a dim office, he crept to the door and found his way into the hall.
There was a strong sense of Noah close by and Micah feasted on the realization that Noah was aware his brother was close.
“I’m coming to get you,” Micah said, sending the message off with a zing.
“I’m locked up in an office on the third floor, I think.”
Micah hadn’t been aware that his brother could use telepathy like him. Smiling, Micah made his way to the stairwell and ascended to the third floor.
“There’s a spell around me.” Noah’s message wasn’t surprising. Micah expected as much. He also expected Ellory might be close by. Especially once he realized Aislinn had left Chimera.
The communication between Micah and his brother brought Micah to an office door that was locked. “Can you hear me rattling the doorknob?”
“Are you alone?” Micah looked around. He’d expected people guarding the door.
“Guarded only by the spell.”
Micah gazed at the doorknob and it fizzled in the telekinetic charge, blowing the lock off the door. He pushed the door open with his foot, and walked in to a large, well-appointed office decorated in expensive art work and dark wood. His twin brother sat in a chair behind a desk, grinning.
“You found me.” Noah’s smile was his own, his face identical. Same blue eyes, same nose, same physique. He stood.
“Let’s get outta here. What’s the spell and how do we break it?”
Noah stood. “I doubt Ellory was prepared for how strong we’ll be together.” He walked to the edge of the desk, staring at Micah. “On the count of three, focus right here.” He pointed. “We’re going to blow a hole in the spell long enough for me to slip through. Think of cutting the spell with a razor and I’ll do the same.”
Micah nodded, preparing himself to give everything he had to that one spot near his brother’s hand.
“One, Two, Three!”
The two brothers stared at the air right by Noah’s right hand, giving everything they had to opening the spell. The air wavered slightly, like a heat wave off a hot pavement and when Noah burst through, it sealed up again.
“Hot damn! We did it!” Micah said.
“I’m assuming we’re going to take down Ellory now.” Noah grinned.
Micah grabbed his brother’s arm. “Yes, but we might need the witch Miss Hannah to defeat Ellory and insure that Aislinn is safe forever.”
“Where is this witch?” Noah looked ready to take down anyone in his path.
“That’s the thing. She and Aislinn are time traveling and won’t be here for another twenty-two hours. We need to either hide until then or try to throw Ellory off their path.”
“When they get back here, all four of us are going to take down Ellory?”
“That’s the plan.”
“I have an idea.”
The two men slipped from the building without incident, something Micah didn’t entirely trust and once outside in the fresh air, he turned to his twin.
“What’s the plan?”
“Do you trust me?” Noah grinned.
“I guess I have to.” Noah didn’t look like he was being controlled by Ellory or anyone else.
“Grab my hand,” Noah said.
Micah took his brother’s offered hand and stared hard into his blue eyes. “Dude, if this is a trick, if you are being controlled by Ellory, I can’t guarantee your safety when I find out.”
“Ellory doesn’t control me, Micah. But soon, we’re going to control Ellory.”
A crack of lightning flashed where they’d been standing, and the twin brothers were gone.
Be sure to check out next week’s chapter by Suzanne Jenkins!
by Suzanne Jenkins
Bright moonlight flooded the rooms of Rose’s apartment in South Park. It had waited like a living thing for Hannah and Aislinn. When the time for their arrival from Chimera Cove drew close, a supernatural barrier erected, a vestige from the days when Ellory and Rose got into horrible fights, and rather than kill him on the spot, she infused the brick and mortar space with her powers. Ellory didn’t know this, but Hannah did, and although Micah told her where she and Aislinn should meet him, she ignored him, knowing the moment that Aislinn was in decline that Hannah had to get her home, fast.
Taking Aislinn away to protect her from Ellory was a temporary solution. They could have stayed in the apartment indefinitely, but the danger with essentially imprisoning Aislinn in her late mother’s apartment was that she’d risk her safety and leave its confines. Ellory wouldn’t hurt Aislinn, but he would lure her away from Hannah, and Hannah couldn’t imagine life without Aislinn.
In spite of the battles that had taken place there, the apartment pulsated with love and memories. The familiar surroundings with mementos of their history as a family had an immediate affect on Aislinn, and she returned to her former self.
Sitting on Rose’s bed, Aislinn rolled the hideous wool stockings down her leg. “Tell me again what happened, Aunt Hannah,” Aislinn said. “By the way, I feel like I just ran a marathon.”
“You ostensibly did. Let me order some food for us and then I’ll try to explain. We can stay here for awhile, but if your father finds out we’re back, we’ll have to leave again.”
“I don’t want to see that jerk Micah, either. I’m so angry at him right now. He took advantage of me. He knew I wouldn’t remember him when he was kissing me. I’m just glad he didn’t try to cop a feel because I’d be out for blood.”
Hannah ordered salads and sandwiches from the pizzeria in the neighborhood, paying with a credit card. They would deliver and she wasn’t opening the door to anyone. It wasn’t a part of the city where women would feel safe venturing out at night alone, witch or no witch. While they waited for the food to arrive, Hannah answered Aislinn’s questions.
“Why the lighthouse? Could you have picked a harder occupation for me?” she asked.
“It reminded me of my husband, your Uncle Pete. He was the lighthouse keeper at Alki Point Lighthouse until he died. I liked making up the story that he’d been the keeper at Chimera Cove. Everyone accepted it as the truth. The people of Chimera Cove are innocent, and it was easy to fool them.”
“What will happen to that lighthouse now that the demons are threatening the cove?” Aislinn asked.
Glancing at her niece sidelong, Hannah smirked. “You can answer that yourself,” she said.
Aislinn thought for a while, picking at her cuticles. “You mean we brought it there?”
“Exactly. We brought the powers of darkness to a blameless people. Ellory doesn’t have the power to conjure up much more than those Hollywood smokescreens. The fog and the creatures on the water. Ha! Even the rose. It was Ellory’s prop to hurt me, to remind me of your mother. Child’s play. Don’t get me wrong, the man is a murderer. If he comes here tonight, the house will keep us safe as long as I’m vigilant. If he is able to overcome its power, you and I can simply disappear.”
“Where are Micah and Frank?”
“They’re in town at Ellory’s offices. By now, Micah will have found his brother. He’ll also have figured out that Frank is Ellory’s puppet. Frank is good for things like roses and fog, but for anything tangible, forget it.”
The buzzer in the apartment rang. Hannah went to the front hallway. “Who is it?”
“Delivery,” a voice said.
“Leave it on the bench by the door,” Hannah said into the intercom. Then looking at Aislinn said, “I won’t tempt fate.”
“Just use your powers, like you did to tie up Frank,” Aislinn said, giggling.
“Hey, I’m not infallible,” she said, sticking a handgun in the pocket of her skirt.
Aislinn went into the bathroom to wash her face while her aunt was gone. She walked out into the living room just as Hannah returned, Ellory holding on to her shoulder and pointing her gun at her head. When he saw his daughter, his anger dissolved.
“Aislinn,” he said, his voice breaking.
“Dad, let her go!”
“Hannah, if I release you, you’ve got to promise me you won’t try any funny stuff,” he said, tightening up on his grip of her so that she winced.
“I promise. I could kill you right now but I don’t want to do that in front of your daughter.”
Ellory handed her the gun and Aislinn ran to him, sobbing. They held each other until Aislinn calmed down. Aislinn looked up at her father with tears on her cheeks.
“Dad, why’d you hurt mom? Why?”
“I’m so sorry,” he said, meaning it. “I was brutal, I admit that. There’s no excuse for it. But it was mutual, Aislinn. Your mom was powerful. My body is well-scarred from Rose’s attacks. Hannah, tell her.”
Hannah turned away, wiping her eyes. Her best friend’s passion for Ellory often had a dark side. They were equals in that respect, one as capable of harm as the other, but she didn’t want to say anything in front of Aislinn. All Hannah was worried about was Ellory trying to take Aislinn away.
Turning back, she voiced her concern. “You’re not taking her,” she said. “I’ll do what I can to prevent it and you know I’m capable. I don’t want to do it in front of the girl.”
Ellory held Aislinn arm’s length away. “You know I would never hurt you, don’t you? And you know because of whom your mother is, you have her powers. Not equal to Rose’s. Not yet, anyway. But powerful.”
Aislinn looked at Hannah. “Is that true?” she asked.
Hannah looked away again and nodded. “Scary powerful.”
Aislinn let go of Ellory’s hand and sat on the couch, stunned. “I want to learn how to use it. All of this rigmarole that happened and now I find I could have just protected myself.”
“It wasn’t just me,” Ellory said. “Hannah, you know I don’t have the power they are attributing to me.”
“Who is it then!” she thundered.
Aislinn shuddered. The lights flickered in the room as Hannah’s power interrupted the flow of electricity through the wires.
“Who is the one person you’re forgetting in all this?” Ellory asked. “You’ve hated him for a long time.”
Rose’s brother, Tom was a literal troll. Looking like a harmless cherub, he moved through society with ease, deceiving all who came in contact with him.
“I never said I would harm Noah, either,” Ellory said. “I simply wanted to know where you were keeping Aislinn. The few parlor tricks Frank performed never hurt anyone, did they? I didn’t think so. He was just trying to keep the upper hand. But he was no match for you and Micah. The real danger comes from Tom.”
“Where are we supposed to meet Micah and Frank, anyway?” Aislinn asked, fidgeting.
“They should be at InterWork with Noah,” Hannah answered, “We are supposed to meet them in one hour.”
“Can you contact him?” Ellory said. “Micah needs to know that Tom is his adversary, not me.”
“I don’t have any numbers for him. Do you Aislinn?”
“No. I destroyed any evidence I ever knew him,” she said with a grimace. “Can you send him a telepathic message?”
Hannah turned her back to attempt to send Micah word that they were on their way. She didn’t mention Ellory.
“Are you okay to see him again?” Ellory asked.
“I suppose,” Aislinn said, resigned, a memory of a passionate kiss still lingering.
“Get a jacket on and let’s go,” Hannah said, reaching for her mink coat, a gift from the minks themselves.
On the way out, Aislinn looked in the mirror, and then looked at Hannah and her father. Frowning, she shook her head.
“What?” Hannah asked.
“With Ellory in that trench coat and you in that fur, we look like the cast of Twilight.”
“Ha! Come on,” Hannah said. “We’ll be late!”
They headed out into the moonlight for another adventure.
by Kathryn Knight
Tom awoke slowly in Chimera Cove, his skull pounding, his thoughts fuzzy. His surroundings came into focus as his vision cleared, and he blinked at the rough-hewn beams of a pitched ceiling. Beneath his prone form, straw poked and scratched at his skin, and the pungent scent of animals and manure filled his nostrils. A barn, then. Time-traveling to a certain town in a certain year had been hard enough for him. Selecting an exact location was well beyond his powers. Not for long, though.
A movement caught the corner of his eye, and he swiveled his head to the left, grimacing as a fresh wave of pain ricocheted between his temples. A striped brown cat stared at him warily, its tail twitching. “Get away!” he hissed, rolling to his side and aiming a swift kick in its direction. His boot connected with empty air as the cat fled, and Tom banged his fist against the dusty floor in exasperation. I should be able to incinerate that cat with a single look. I should be able to burn this entire stinking stable to the ground just by thinking about it, for that matter. Twisting his mouth into a frown, he hauled himself to sitting, searching the shadows for any other signs of life. Two horses dozed in stalls, heads drooping. In a pen in the corner, a pig snorted softly, offering him a disinterested gaze before returning to its nap.
He scratched at the old clothing he’d selected for his travels; simple garments that hopefully didn’t look too modern in the fading evening light. Now he probably had fleas. He shook his head at the injustice of it all. How had it come to this?
Betrayal burned through him as he picked pieces of straw from his hair. Frank. His muscles tensed. In truth, a long series of events had led to this moment, but the blame landed mostly on his traitorous brother.
Rose, Frank, and Tom were the children of a powerful warlock. But their father, Marcus, had chosen a common human as his wife, and as a result, only Rose, the firstborn daughter, inherited the strong magic of his bloodline. Frank and Tom possessed very limited powers—nothing of note as far as the world their father and his friends inhabited was concerned. When their mother died giving birth to Tom, the two brothers were left in the care of a bitter spinster aunt while Marcus traveled the world—and the centuries—teaching Rose to hone her skills.
It wasn’t right, and it wasn’t fair. Frank had seemed content enough in his role as a cast-off, but not Tom. His life would not be spent doing the bidding of others—as Marcus’s son, he deserved to give the orders, not take them. And so he spent his teenage years seeking the path to his destiny, and he found it, eventually.
The spell he would use was dark magic—the darkest and most forbidden, and therefore, the riskiest. Rose would have to be sacrificed in order for him to assume her powers. And he would need Frank to help not only to lure her into his trap, but to lend his strength as the ceremony took place.
And what had Frank done? Lied his skinny, useless ass off. He’d reluctantly agreed to help his younger brother, then caved and informed their father at the last minute. Tom’s body still bore the wrath of Marcus’s fury; the burns and scars lined his flesh like the barn cat’s stripes. But in the end, even the all-powerful Marcus had been unable—unwilling, really—to kill his own son.
A low, humorless laugh bubbled from Tom’s throat, and he shook his head. Stupid. He’d spent the years since then continuing to work on his powers, and time and practice had made him stronger than he thought possible. But it wasn’t enough. No one took him seriously, no one feared him, no one even gave him a second thought. What he had was nothing compared to the gifts Rose had been given, and what had she done? Gotten herself killed by the likes of Ellory. What a joke.
But the old spell still lurked in Tom’s mind, waiting—hoping—to come to fruition. Dark magic would not be denied. And while Rose was gone, a part of her lived on. A very powerful part of her…Aislinn, the naïve spawn of Rose’s fateful union.
He’d finally tracked her to Chimera Cove in the year 1876. It hadn’t been easy; Frank was helping hide her, along with a few other people either motivated by love or threats. No matter, he thought as he stood and dusted off the back of his pants. He might not be as powerful as some of the players in this game, but he was just as smart, if not smarter. And soon, he would be the one everyone feared and admired. Anyone standing in his way would be nothing but ash and bones.
The pig chuffed, turning in its sleep, and Tom glared at it. He needed complete focus to track someone, total concentration. He closed his eyes again and cast his mind outward.
Anger surged through him, boiling his blood, as each successive attempt to find her failed. He stomped his boot against the floor. She wasn’t here. That horrid witch Hannah must have spirited her away.
What a waste. He’d had to kill two humans to build up enough power to track Aislinn here and then travel here himself. While he didn’t care about their worthless lives, it was a waste of effort and time, and now he was going to have to find another victim to get himself back. With a heavy sigh, he took stock again of his outfit. His short stature already made him noticeable; odd clothing would only make him stand out more, and he didn’t need that. But he thought what he’d thrown together—dung-colored breeches and a simple white shirt—worked well enough to at least not scream ‘he’s from the future!’. Plus, it was growing darker outside, judging by the gray light filtering in through gaps in the wooden walls.
He eased the barn door open and peered at his surroundings. Fifty yards away stood a farmhouse, presumably the home of the people who owned this lovely barn. In the other direction, a henhouse and several other smaller structures dotted the property, and beyond that, a rutted road led toward an intersection of sorts. Shops and taverns sprung up along the cross road, and the tang of fish and brine rolled in on the breeze coming from the harbor.
He chewed his bottom lip, considering his options. The farmhouse was populated; a woman was sweeping the front porch, and a man and boy were doing something in the yard with a bucket and some tools. He could certainly go for the most obvious choice and kill the three family members making themselves such a convenient target. But who knew how many others might be inside? It could get unnecessarily messy, and the last thing he needed was an additional challenge to his already waning power supply. He needed to recharge, not put himself at risk. It would be better to find some poor sap who was all alone, who couldn’t see him coming in advance across a wide open field.
Slipping out of the barn, he hugged the side of the building until he could no longer be seen from the house. His mind churned as he trudged toward the town. Really, the plan he’d been weaving would work just as well in the present. In order to assume Ailinn’s powers as they drained from her body along with her life, he’d need someone to lure her into the circle he would prepare. And he had just the puppet in mind.
Micah. She seemed entranced by the handsome buffoon, despite his role in all this. And Micah was weak—he was nothing compared to his twin. How could he stand it? Well, no matter, Tom would put him out of his misery once he was done with him. All he had to do, once he found them all, was build up enough power to take control of Micah’s mind for a bit. Once “Micah” convinced Aislinn to meet him privately for some lustful endeavors, it would be all over. Tom’s stomach turned. What was it about the idea of love? It seemed to be the downfall of even the strongest witches and warlocks. A wry smile tugged at Tom’s mouth as he kicked at a stone in the road. At least that was one thing he’d never need to worry about.
The toll of a bell rang out, an almost perfect soundtrack to punctuate his thoughts. Rolling his eyes, he cocked his head. Where was that coming from, anyway?
He gaze swept along the harbor, catching on a lighthouse jutting above the rooftops of the other houses and buildings. Someone must be up there, clanging the bell as an additional warning to sailors against the fog rolling in from the sea.
Hmm. It wasn’t a two-person job. Whoever it was up there would be alone. Unprepared for an ambush, unable to escape in any direction. And the top of a lighthouse offered unparalleled privacy.
Picking up his pace, he whistled under his breath as he headed for the lighthouse in the distance.
by Sharon Buchbinder
Cursing the long walk on his short legs, Tom shivered from the sea breeze and wished he’d had the foresight to toss a coat on before hopping back into this pimple-on-the-ass-of-time town. Chimera Cove. What kind of name was that for a village in 1876? Animals created by mixing different species weren’t even possible in 2018, much less 1876. He snorted. Somebody had been drinking when they made that name up.
The rocky path down the spit of land to the lighthouse rose and fell at irregular angles, twisting his crooked ankles until he cursed in pain. “I should have grabbed the farm family and been done with it.” But no, he’d been careful, like his failure of a father hadn’t been. That was the difference between him and all the other losers. Yes, he’d grab whoever was ringing the bell, make quick work of sucking the energy out of him, and dash to 2018.
As if conjuring the bell to life, the sound cracked over his head like a roll of thunder. Who had the strength to strike it that hard? He licked his lips in anticipation. All the better to recharge me, my dear. As the peals rolled over him, each one louder than the last, Tom quickened his pace, eager to meet his next victim. Once done with this sap, he’d find Micah, use him like a tethered goat to lure Aislinn into his trap, then drain every drop of power out of her.
He stumbled—again. “Damn rocks act like they’re out to get me.”
At last the entry to the lighthouse came into view. A few more steps. He grasped the handle and yanked. Locked? Who would lock a door out here in the middle of nowhere in the village of nothing? No matter. Even weakened, the metal was no match for his powers. A few minutes later, the offending iron—now molten slag, fell to his feet with a soft plop.
Pushing the door open, he yelled, “Heeeeere’s Tommy!” and giggled. Whoever was in there had no idea what was coming for him. He snorted, guffawed—and stopped.
Two chairs—one a rocker—and a table with a pewter platter, knife, and fork, occupied the space. Odd. The living room—if you could call it that—was warm and smelled of smoke, yet no flames blazed in the fireplace. He pulled at the neck of his stupid costume shirt. Too warm. He shook his head, shuffled around, found the winding staircase, and looked up. Cold air laced with a briny mist washed over his face. Bracing himself for the chill above, he grasped the railing, and took the first step.
A flapping sound, like sails snapping in a storm echoed in the concrete tube, wrapped itself around his head, and wormed its way into his ears. He froze. What was that? Did they have an umbrella up there to shield the bell? If it was made from iron, canvas would protect it from rust and corrosion from the sea spray. Huh. These people in 1876 were smarter than he thought. All righty, then. Onward and upward.
Another step, then another, scores of steps, it seemed. The stupid staircase was like Jack’s beanstalk. Panting, he could make out the edge of the landing at the top—and not a moment too soon. Breath coming in short gasps, his stubby legs wobbling, he heaved himself up to the ledge, and looked over the low circular wall.
Between strips of clouds, the full moon shone on the water, calling it to rise and fall. White caps tossed a little boat, as if playing with a bathtub toy. He examined the bell—no sign of a protective canvas—or a bell ringer. What the hell? He’d entered the living room as the last peal died down. No one had gone past him. Yet no one was here, either. The only evidence the bell had been rung was a large hammer leaning against the wall.
Tom stood and inched his way around the landing, taking care to avoid smacking his head on the low ceiling. No one, not a single solitary soul stood watch. He glanced over the edge in the off chance the caretaker had leaped off in fear when he’d called out his arrival. No body sprawled on the rocks below, nor did any figure scrabble its way back to the village in a state of panic.
The thing couldn’t ring itself—could it?
He pushed against the cold metal—it didn’t budge. Summoning his strength, he shoved and the massive dome began to swing, increasing the size of its path with each movement. Tom jumped back and his butt slammed into the low concrete wall. He teetered, arms flailing, heart hammering like horse’s hooves, and righted himself. Mopping his forehead with his sleeve, he took a deep breath. That was close. He hadn’t come all this way only to fall to his death in this one troll town.
The flapping noise began again and came closer, growing angrier with each snap. He whirled, looking up into the sky, searching for the source. Up to the right, a bat, it had to be a bat, nothing more, flapped its wings in the moonlight, looking for what? Mosquitoes? Wasn’t that what they ate?
“What a waste of time.” Tom’s stomach growled. “I’m hungry, tired, and now I have to go back the way I came to find someone to recharge me.” Hungry and angry—HANGRY!–he turned to stomp back down the stairs in search of better prey.
Huffing and puffing, his stumpy legs aching from the unwanted exercise, he closed his eyes, sighed, entered the living room—and halted.
“Oh, hello.” A shirtless, broad-shouldered young man with tousled black hair smiled up at him from the rocking chair. White teeth gleamed in his sunburned face, and lively dark eyes glinted with mischief. Large feet planted on the floor, he leaned forward and asked, “Did you have a good look around?”
Dumbfounded, Tom could only nod.
“Oh, where are my manners?” He placed his hand on his chest. “I’m Leo, the lighthouse keeper. Would you like some tea?”
Wisps of steam came out of a kettle hanging over the now blazing fireplace.
“No,” Tom snapped. “I’m not here for a tea party.”
“Ha! Of course you’re not. I suppose you’re looking for the woman who used to be here? Sorry to disappoint. I’ve taken over for Hannah. She grew too frail for this kind of work.”
Tom’s heart settled down to a less frenetic beat. He sneered, “Frail isn’t a word I’d use for that crone.”
“Well,” Leo shrugged. “It was time for her to go, and Chimera Cove needed someone to ring that bell, so I volunteered.”
Sidling toward the door, Tom mentally calculated his next move. He’d keep Leo talking, lull him into relaxing—although he wondered if this easy-going idiot could be any calmer than he was—then jump him and drain his energy. He just needed to catch his breath. Damn stairs and damn Leo for startling me. As soon as he was in control, he’d empty every last spark of life out of him.
“I was about to make some toast to go with my tea. Sure you wouldn’t like a bite?” Leo stood and towered over Tom. “I have some lovely strawberry and rhubarb jam. My mother put it up for me.”
His mother? How big was she? This adolescent had to be over six feet tall—and those feet. What size were they? He must need boats for shoes. Seriously, this giant was beginning to unnerve him. Not enough to give up, mind you, but enough to take the dude’s size into account when he attacked him. A minor adjustment. No biggie.
“Well, since you put it that way.” Tom slid into the non-rocking chair. He had plenty of time. And he was hungry. Why not have a snack before he killed him?
“You won’t be sorry, I promise.” Leo pulled bread out of a hole in the wall next to the fireplace and set it on the pewter plate. He sliced two generous hunks off the loaf and gazed at Tom, a smile playing on his lips. “How do you like your toast? Light or dark brown?”
Holding back a laugh, Tom said, “Golden.” This dope has no clue what danger he’s in. Tom rubbed his hands and reveled in the thought of the look in Leo’s eyes as he extinguished his life. “I can’t wait.”
“Me either,” Leo agreed with a grin. He placed the bread on the fork, opened his mouth—and flames shot out.
by Emma Kaye
Tom reared back, sending his chair falling over backward while he landed on his back with a painful crash. Holy shit!
Leo laughed and placed the perfectly golden piece of toast on Tom’s plate. “Sorry about that. I know I shouldn’t play, but it’s just so much fun to see people’s reaction when they realize what I am.” He peered at Tom, head tilted to one side, his eyes squinting to a fine line. “You do know what I am, don’t you?”
Tom nodded. “A-A chimera.”
Leo nodded. “Good. Mother says you’re the one who released us? You stopped the bells just long enough. That’s why we let you have a look around rather than just killing you. After all, you did come here to kill us.” He slathered jam on a piece of toast and shoved it in his mouth. “You’ve changed your mind about that, right?” he asked, sending crumbs flying from his mouth.
He certainly hadn’t done anything to stop the bells from chiming, but since Leo seemed to be in a thankful mood, Tom wasn’t going to disabuse him of the notion. “Of course.” He picked himself off the ground, set his chair back up at the table and sat. “How did you get trapped in the first place? That must have been awful.” He tried to look appropriately horrified and hoped his voice sounded more sincere than he felt. As if he actually cared about what happened to these freaks.
Unless he could use them? Chimera’s were rumored to be powerful creatures. They hadn’t been around for centuries as far as he knew. So where had Leo and his mom come from?
Leo scratched his head. “Been so long, I don’t remember.” He tilted his head back and blew a series of fire rings that drifted up and dissipated into clouds of smoke as they neared the ceiling. “The bells have kept the mist at bay for so long, we feared we might never be able to return. But then you came along and put a stop to them just long enough.” He stretched his arms wide and yawned.
“Ah, yes. The bells. Powerful.” Tom had no idea what Leo was talking about.
“Your power’s running low now though. I can feel it,” Leo said. “We could help you with that.”
Tom’s ears picked up. Now they were talking.
Aislinn shivered. Aunt Hannah’s fur didn’t look so ridiculous anymore as the wind blew through the open window of her dad’s Mercedes. “Can we close the windows, please?”
Aunt Hannah laughed. “You probably shouldn’t have insisted on dousing yourself with that flowery nonsense you love so much then. I’ll sneeze my head off if I don’t have fresh air.”
Aislinn crossed her arms over her chest and sat back with a pout. She swiped a hand across her nose trying to get a good whiff of her wrist without being obvious. She hadn’t put on that much, had she? She may have gotten a little carried away, but after living in the 1800s with limited bathing opportunities, she’d longed to smell like something other than sweat.
“You smell fine, sweetheart. Hannah’s always been sensitive.” Her dad smiled at her in the rearview mirror.
Hannah scowled. The two may have come to a truce, but it was an uneasy one at best. At least their silence was giving Aislinn some time to figure out how she felt about her dad’s return. He’d always been good to her, but…
Her parents’ fights were legendary. Her mom’s magic and her dad’s fists had always scared the crap out of her. He was right that they’d both been brutal. The fear that they’d kill each other had always haunted her. That her mom was the one killed first was the only surprise. After all, her mom’s magic was ten times more powerful than her dad’s fists.
And now she had Uncle Tom to worry about as well. Damn, her family was messed up.
Micah gripped his head, worried it was going to fall off if he moved too quick.
“You okay, brother?” Noah asked.
“What the hell was that?” He squeezed his eyes tight before opening them to stare at his brother. They’d teleported plenty of times before, but they’d never called down lightning in the process.
They’d arrived at one of their old apartments. Their mother had made them leave in a hurry, so most of their furniture remained. They’d escaped that night with only the clothes on their backs. They were used to it. Twins were rare in the magical world and their mother was paranoid about protecting them from all the evils that would want to take advantage of their power.
With good reason as it turned out. It wasn’t long after that Ellory had captured Noah and forced Micah to do his bidding.
With half the units in the building vacant, no one had rented the rooms in the six months since they’d left. At least half an inch of dust coated every surface, but at least they were dry, warm, and off the streets.
Noah shrugged. “Was a new one for me. Our power’s building, I think.” He stared at his hands as he flexed his fingers. “Powerful stuff, the two of us together.”
“Enough to defeat Ellory and save Aislinn?” He resisted the urge to punch something. They had another twenty-plus hours until Hannah and Aislinn arrived, giving Frank plenty of time to find Ellory and give away their plan. He felt like she was walking into a trap and there was nothing he could do about it.
“Speaking of Aislinn—” Noah swiped dust off a cushion and sat. “Did you two work everything out yet?”
Micah glared at Noah. “How exactly was I supposed to do that? Her mom whisked her away to another century to get her away from Ellory. And before that Aislinn wouldn’t let me within twenty feet of her after what you did.”
Noah blushed and stammered, “H-how was I to know the one you’d been yammering on about was there that night? We were miles from where you’d met her. I didn’t think…”
“Yeah, you didn’t think all right. Why the hell did you have to use my name if you were going to make an ass out of yourself? The least you could have done was explain about being my twin when you realized my fiancée was in the club and witnessed you making a fool of yourself over that girl.”
“I didn’t know who she was until after she slapped me. And she didn’t stick around long enough for me to say anything.”
Micah slumped onto the sofa next to his brother. A cloud of dust rose around him and set off a sneezing fit. By the time the dust settled and his sinuses were back under control, he’d lost his will to fight with Noah over the past. It really was a stupid mistake. If Rose hadn’t sent her daughter off the very next day, he felt confident he would have been able to work things out. “You know what? Forget about it. Once Aislinn sees the two of us together, she’ll figure out what happened. If we can figure out how to save her from Ellory, proving I wasn’t cheating on her will be a piece of cake.”
Aislinn shrugged off the weight of her father’s arm across her shoulders. Despite spending the past hour in the car thinking about her family, she hadn’t come to any conclusions on what to do about it. She’d just have to take things one at a time. First, they had to deal with Uncle Tom.
“Concentrate, Aislinn,” Aunt Hannah scolded.
“I’m trying, but I’ve never done anything like this before, so cut me a little slack.” She loved her aunt, but they were going to have to talk about her bossy ways. Her Aunt wasn’t Mistress Hannah anymore, and Aislinn wasn’t a simple lady’s maid. Ever since learning she held her mother’s magic in her veins, she’d been hyper aware of the power running through her. The magic itched to get out, but something blocked her abilities.
Self doubt? Or was some external force at work?
She redoubled her concentration on the still bowl of water before her. They were attempting to find out where in history Uncle Tom was hiding and what he was up to. But no matter what Aislinn did the water remained still, reflecting only the sky above them rather than providing images of what she wished to see.
“This is important, sweetie. My sources say your uncle is working on a spell that will steal your powers. He tried to get your mom’s but he wasn’t powerful enough, though he did drain her to a certain degree.” He hung his head and whispered, “I think that’s why she died.”
“What?” Aislinn studied her dad’s pale face in horror. “You killed her. Now you’re trying to blame him?”
Tears glistened in her father’s eyes. “I’ve gone over it again and again. There was nothing unusual about our last fight. She should have been able to push me away with ease. But she didn’t. At first I thought she’d used up her magic sending you through time with Hannah—”
“But we did the travel spell together,” Hannah interrupted. “That wouldn’t have drained a witch as powerful as your mom.”
“Exactly,” her father said. “But Tom was there that day. He was waiting for her when she returned that night. I didn’t think much of it when I ran into him right before I confronted your mom. She was cranky and out of sorts. I figured she was feeling guilty about what she did, but then this rage came over me…”
Aislinn covered her ears with her hands. “I don’t want to hear it. You killed her. You took advantage of her weakened state and you killed her.”
“You have to listen.” He grabbed her by the upper arms and swung her around to face him.
Her anger got the better of her. A white blast of heat swept out from her in a roaring arc. Her father was thrown back, landing on his back several feet away. Aunt Hannah staggered, but kept to her feet. She had raised one hand and was able to partially block the spell from hitting her.
“Stop it, Aislinn. We don’t have time for this,” Hannah scolded. “We can’t let Tom catch us unaware. Your mother was able to fight him off and still, look where it got her. You’re nowhere near the witch your mother was. Not yet. So we need to be prepared. If he wants your power—”
“Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad,” Aislinn said. “Look where having powers got mother. Maybe I’m better off without magic.” An image of that wonderful Fourth of July she’d spent with Micah in the past came to mind. They hadn’t had magic then and it was one of the best days of her life. Until magic ruined it. Magic ruined everything.
“It’s not that simple. He’s not just going to drain your magic and leave you to go about some normal non-magical life. Magic is a part of who you are. Without it, you don’t exist. If your uncle takes your power, he also takes your life.”
Aislinn shuddered and turned back to her scrying bowl. “No pressure,” she mumbled before turning her full attention to the task at hand.
by Tena Stetler
The change in location from the car to a safe shelter did nothing to assist in locating Tom. Aislinn stared into the scrying bowl. Her hand flew to her mouth as she sucked in a breath. Rippling waters replaced the smooth sky’s reflection and a woman’s smiling face appeared. Finger to her lips, the water sloshed over the edges as the woman shook her head.
Mist surrounded the clear crystal bowl. A hand gripped Aislinn’s shoulder. “You can do this, concentrate.” Her father hunkered over her. “Your mother’s powerful magic pulses through your veins. Use it.” He gave her a little shove.
She glared at him and smacked his hand from her shoulder. “If she was so strong, how did she die at your hands?” A shiver ran up her spine. Did I just say that out loud? Turning to face the people in the room, her gaze swept from one person to another. Their slack jaws and rounded eyes told her all she needed to know. Shit, I did. “I mean…”
“I know what you mean.” His concerned expression turned thunderous. The muscle in his jaw twitched. “Tom had weakened her. How was I to know?”
“She shouldn’t have to defend herself against the man she married. That’s not how it works.” Memories of the Fourth of July night with Micah flooded back, tears threatened to spill down her cheeks, but she blinked them away. Men were the bane of her existence.
“Nor should she have to defend against her own brother. Trolls shouldn’t have magic sucking power.” Hannah stood, her hands fisted on her hips. “But he does. Now find him.”
Mist engulfed the tabletop, shimmered into sea-green phosphorescence and spilled onto the floor, then began an upward spiral into a woman’s shape. She emerged out of the fog and stood before them, her raven hair flowing in waves down her back, blue jeans hugging her curves and an over-sized sparkling emerald sweater hanging to mid-thigh.
“Rose.” The group grasped in unison.
“That’s right.” Pointing a long slender finger at Ellory she narrowed her eyes. “Don’t think for a minute I’d actually let you kill me. I’d hoped between feigning my death and the disguising spell, you’d have no way to follow Aislinn.” She turned to her daughter. “I’m sorry for the way things played out. I was only trying to protect you.”
“Protect me? You and magic ruined my life.” She shouted.
“May I continue?” Her mother tapped her booted foot on the floor impatiently.
Aislinn opened and closed her mouth a couple times then nodded.
“I learned too late that Tom had discovered his latent talents. He is a troll with magical abilities inherited from our mother. He embraced the dark power and became a magic leech. He will stop at nothing to obtain your magic. The only way to stop him—is to kill him.”
“Why wait all this time?” Aislinn spread her arms wide. “Why not stay and fight, rather than run away?”
She stamped her foot and clenched her hands. “I didn’t run away. I transferred the majority of my magic to you in a disguising spell before we sent you back in time. Unfortunately, shortly afterward I discovered the truth about my brother. Your father’s abusive behavior escalated and in my weakened state I had no choice but to feign death until I could recover. I used my familiar to keep tabs on everyone. She was the ever present owl outside your windows both in the present and past. You see I’m a time spinner, a rarity in witches. As are you my daughter. Making time slips easy, even unintentional at times. That I hadn’t counted on. Figured you were safe in 1876, but the shadow demon sent by Tom to search for you honed in on your abilities. Though you weren’t aware, the magic sang through your blood like a homing beacon. ”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Hannah shrieked. “I’d have used a different strategy, had I known.”
“I didn’t know. Apparently at the time I transferred my power to Aislinn it awakened her abilities. They remained dormant until she needed them.” Her mother pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes at Hannah. “Didn’t you think returning to 2018 with Aislinn was a bit too easy?”
A soft knock sounded on the door. “Now what?” Aislinn rose from the table and strode toward the door.
Hannah intercepted her. “Better let me find…”
“No, I’m done being sheltered, coddled, and protected. If we are going to win this fight, we need all hands on deck, including mine.” Her third eye opened revealing the individuals at the door. “What the hell—” With a wave of her hand, she flung the heavy wooden door open to a surprised Micah and a person who looked just like him. “There are two of you.”
In an apologetic tone, one of the twins began to speak. “I’m Noah, Micah’s identical twin brother.” He stared down at the ground, shifted from foot to foot, then looked her in the eye. “Yeah, I kinda messed up Micah’s relationship with you. But in my defense, you disappeared before we could explain.”
Quick as lightning she raised her hand and slapped Noah across the face leaving red welts in the shape of her hand print. “If you hadn’t had your tongue down that floozy’s throat, and your hand in her pants under the table, you would’ve had plenty of time to explain. You saw me, yet continued your sordid behavior.”
“How’d you…” Noah started but stopped mid-sentence at a warning glance from this twin.
She paused a moment. That was a good question. How did I know what was going on beyond by view? Then it hit her. My third eye was awakening even then and I wasn’t aware.
“We are sorry things played out like they did. I’ve chased you through time to make sure you were safe—maybe explain—or ask for forgiveness? Hell I don’t know.” Micah raked his fingers though his hair leaving little rows in his already tousled mop.
She shook her head sadly.
He touched her cheek and drew back quickly. “Another time. The important thing now is to stop Tom and his band of shadow demons.” With everything out in the open, he raised an eyebrow and glanced at Ellroy. “They are on their way here having escaped the Chimera in the past.” Tilting his head, Micah took notice of Rose. “Aren’t you supposed to be dead?”
Rose shrugged. “You know what they say…You can’t keep a good witch down.” She snickered. “I hate to interrupt this little reunion, but Micah is right.”
“Is he still under Tom’s influence?” Noah asked jerking his chin toward Ellory.
“No he’s back to his disagreeable self.” Rose waved a hand dismissively. “What I ever saw in him…”
Her husband took a menacing step toward her. “How could you?”
Heat rose in her cheeks as her temper vibrated at the end of its tether. Emotions have no place in battle. She yanked her growing fury back to simmer. “Right back at you, sunshine. How could you let Tom get the upper hand and use you to do his bidding? Couldn’t you see what he was doing to us—to our relationship—to Aislinn?”
“You’re the one with the magic,” he snarled.
“And I did what was necessary to keep our child safe.”
“In fact if it wasn’t for your nar’ do well brothers, we’d not be in this situation.” Ellroy snorted, turning on his heel and stalking across the room.
Rose took in a deep breath. A bead of sweat trickled down her temple. She wiped it away with the back of her hand and released her breath slowly. “This is getting us nowhere. We have less than forty-eight hours before the full moon rises and our magic will be at its peak. Between now and then, we need to help Aislinn learn to control her magic, and devise a plan to extinguish Tom and the darkness before it destroys all we hold dear.”
Hannah rubbed her hands together excitedly. “What’s the plan?”
“Micah and I will work with Aislinn. Noah keep tabs on Tom’s whereabouts and keep us informed when he gets close. Hannah infuse this—” Rose glanced around at the bare rafters, cracked plaster and the yellow paint peeling off the walls. “—poor excuse of a structure with magic and protection spells. Pour everything you got into it as if our lives depends on it. Because well…” She paused for a beat, glanced at Ellroy and tossed a binding spell on him as a security measure. At least then Tom couldn’t channel his magic through her husband as a conduit of information or use him against them.
“Where’s Uncle Frank?” Aislinn picked nervously at the hem of her shirt as the others shook their heads.
Micah moved closer to Aislinn and wrapped his arm around her shoulder tugging her close.
“A better question who’s charged with ringing the bell in 1876? Or is it too late? Have the fire-breathing she monsters returned to claim Chimera Cove?”Icy fingers of dread shot up Rose’s spine as she stared off into another time.
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Don’t Miss a Minute from Beyond The Moon!
by Tamara Ferguson
Micah squeezed his arm around Aislinn’s shoulders, this time in reassurance.
Thank God he was here.
She blinked. Where had that thought come from?
Aislinn sighed resignedly. She supposed she’d forgiven Micah from the moment she’d met his twin, Noah. A lot of her anger came from somewhere deep inside, because she was actually scared about making a commitment to Micah. After all, what kind of example had her parents been?
Looking at Micah’s face and gazing into his eyes, she finally allowed him inside for the first time since reuniting.
His sudden gasp made her realize that they’d always had a powerful psychic connection; fate had somehow brought them back together.
And then another vision of the past occurred.
“No, it couldn’t be,” Aislinn murmured.
“Yes, it could, my love,” Micah answered.
“But that would mean…” Aislinn closed her eyes, envisioning the past they’d shared together at Chimera Cove, long before 1876. She saw the bright smiling faces of the men and women in the community, the same men and women who were there today. Chimera Cove was a refuge for those with power, because for one reason or another, their magic could not be used effectively on their own.
“That we’ve been married all these years?” Micah said softly, pulling her into his arms. “Why do you think I keep coming back for you? Trouble has followed us for centuries. We’ve always belonged together.”
“I hate to interrupt this little love fest reunion of yours, you two,” Noah said dryly. “But we need to be prepared.”
Dread suddenly permeated Aislinn’s senses, as a vision abruptly appeared before her eyes. Aislinn was able to look back in time, but she wasn’t quite sure what she was seeing. Chimera Cove was dense with fog, which seemed to be surrounding the entire town like a shroud.
Trying to erase the apprehension invading her senses, she shook her head numbly, attempting to focus her attention on what her mother was saying.
“Your visions will become stronger as we approach the full moon. Your powers will be greater than anyone’s here,” Rose admitted. “Not just because you are coming into your own as a sorceress, but because of the tamp down spell I had to put on you—there may be some side effects. Headaches, nausea, anxiety—”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I got it. Effects like they list in one of those pharmaceutical drug commercials on TV, where you wonder why anyone would want to take the drug in the first place, no matter what it’s intended to do for you?”
Her mother gave her the first smile Aislinn had seen since she’d returned into her life. “I was only trying to do what I thought would protect you, sweetheart.”
Aislinn suddenly realized something. Her mother was alive, and she hadn’t even told her how happy she was to have her back.
“Mom?” Aislinn sighed deeply. “I’m so glad you’re okay.”
Her mother held out her arms, and Aislinn fell into them for a long lingering moment.
“Alright,” her mother said, stepping back and looking determined. “Let’s get to work.”
And for the next twenty-four hours, Mom worked to perfect Aislinn’s powers. “Focus on your intent,” she kept saying. “Don’t let your emotions break through, otherwise it interrupts the spell.” She paused. “You will become more powerful during the next forty-eight hours. Not only will you be able to move inanimate objects, but will be able to control anyone’s will, even someone infused with strong dark magic. Yours is a natural power, whereas Tom’s has been strengthened by the souls he has invaded. It may be possible for you to awaken them and overturn his power if we handle this correctly.”
But as much as she attempted to downplay her emotions, Aislinn’s deep sense of foreboding was becoming increasingly worse.
Chimera Cove came to her mind again. There was no light, until there was. Spurts of fire shot out from here and there across the cove, before a much brighter light erupted like a volcano high above the blanket of mist.
She blinked, because the lighthouse was the source of the steady blaze.
What was she seeing—the past, the present…or the future?
After Micah and Noah finished working with Hannah to prepare their abode for a sudden attack by infusing the walls, ceilings and even the entire structure with protection spells, Micah approached, wearing a worried frown.
“You’ve been seeing it too, haven’t you?”
Aislinn nodded imperceptibly. “What do you suppose it means?”
Micah grimaced. “I’m not at all sure. It’s like we’re being cloaked from seeing what’s happening.”
Aislinn was puzzled. “Who would have the power to do something like that? Surely not Tom?”
Micah looked at her in apparent consternation. “No. Tom doesn’t have the capability. Unless something here is not quite as it seems?”
Aislinn’s eyes searched the room. “No. But I find it odd that no one has seen Uncle Frank since he returned here, to this time period, with you.”
Micah sighed, looking more worried. “Yeah, I thought for sure he’d show up sooner or later, since he’s your dad’s sidekick.”
Aislinn looked at her mother, and then at Hannah. “Are we ready?”
“As ready as we can be,” her mother answered.
Micah continued, “Now it’s up to Noah to warn us. Meanwhile, we should try to get some rest.”
“So far, nothing,” Noah said, grimacing. “But I’ll be ready here, on guard.”
Her father, who was slightly discombobulated from the binding spell Aislinn’s mother had put on him to prevent him from being a conduit finally spoke. “I’ll be ready and waiting too, in case there is something I can say or do to stop this travesty.”
He’d missed the comfort of her arms. For now, it was enough, Micah thought as he held Aislinn close, laying on the bed in her room.
But was it his imagination, or was it getting to be very warm in here?
Suddenly, he heard Noah’s voice call out from the living room. “What the hell is happening? The temperature in this place has risen like twenty degrees in the last fifteen minutes.”
Sleepy-eyed, Aislinn sat up in the bed, shaking her head as if to ward off centuries of fear as an inhabitant of Chimera Cove. It was the same situation, only a different scenario this time. The danger had never gone so far.
Standing, Noah wiped the sweat from his brow as Aislinn scrambled from the bed.
“Can you see anything?” she asked Micah. Drawing the clinging damp shirt away from her body, she flapped it at the hem, huffing out a breath.
“No,” he answered, grabbing her hand and pulling her through the doorway into the living room. “How about you?”
“No,” she answered, heaving a sigh.
Everyone was awake and standing in the living room, looking at Noah, who frowned and shrugged. “I’m not getting anything either.”
Suddenly, they were all surrounded by flames. The wall of protection was holding back the fire, but it was taking its toll on their power, the longer they worked to hold it back.
Micah growled, “Wait a minute. What in the hell are we doing remaining here?”
“Not everyone can be transported,” Ellory muttered.
Micah asked, “Then how did you end up at Chimera Cove?”
Ellory looked puzzled. “I was never in Chimera Cove. Who told you that?”
Micah looked at Noah. “Frank,” they said in unison.
Micah’s eyes searched the room. The fire was bursting through cracks in the wall, and their spell of protection wouldn’t hold up much longer.
“We’d better decide what to do soon,” Noah muttered, yanking his sweat soaked collar away from his neck.
“I don’t have the power to transport Ellory, but Aislinn does,” Rose finally admitted.
“Well, hell, woman. It took you long enough to admit it,” Ellory snarled.
Rose huffed out a breath. “I had to think about it after everything that’s happened between us.”
Looking at her father first, and then her mother, Aislinn muttered, “Alright, I’ll do it. But on one condition.”
Ellory looked leery. “What?”
“You and Mom promise to get counseling,” she growled. “I mean it. I can’t stand the idea of the two of you continuing to battle it out with abuse and squabbling.”
Rose blinked, looking at Ellory, who appeared to be taken aback. “How about it?”
There was a loud crack and a burning ceiling beam jutted through the weakened shell of the bubble surrounding them.
Ellory roared, “Yes, anything. Let’s get the hell out of here.”
It was a trap. Aislinn realized Tom had known the only place they could possibly arrive back in 1876 would be at the lighthouse, high above the protective shroud covering the community of Chimera Cove. They stood surrounding the now silent bell as Tom looked down at them from where he was perched on the wall of the open tower.
But this wasn’t the same Tom they knew. Tall, broad and muscular, he’d somehow acquired a brand new body, with monstrous sized feet balancing his strange physique like talons.
Tom was wearing a leering smile. “Finally, you’re all here, right where I wanted you.”
Flame burst from Tom’s mouth.
But suddenly, there was a loud boom, and the lighthouse shook.
Aislinn looked at Micah. “Is that fireworks I hear?”
“No,” another strange creature answered.
Aislinn’s mouth gaped open, looking at the large dark green figure perched opposite from Tom. He was twice Tom’s size, with dragon-like wings, and a face resembling a reptile.
His face suddenly began to transform, and everyone in the tower stared at the creature in shock.
“Frank?” Ellory roared. “What in the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“What I’ve been biding my time to do. Waiting for the perfect opportunity…the perfect moment, when I can suck the power from each and every one of you. I’ll have more magic than anyone has ever had. Rose, Aislinn, Hannah and two powerful twins?” Frank looked at Tom, who even appeared stunned. “And even my brother dearest.” Fire roared from his mouth. “This will be the last time anyone ever underestimates me,” he growled loudly, obviously preparing to pounce on Tom.
Quickly, Micah whispered to Aislinn, “The Chimera have invaded. They’ve already sucked the power from the men and women in our community. There’s nothing we can do here and now.”
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Aislinn’s eyes were wide. “Take my hand, Micah.”
Micah and Aislinn held hands, and as fire erupted from the traitorous chimera that both Tom and Frank had become, their war began in earnest.
Micah and Aislinn focused on another time, and another place, transporting themselves once again.
“I now pronounce you man and wife,” a minister announced loudly.
Micah and Aislinn were still holding hands, this time returning to their wedding day, centuries before. She gave Micah a brilliant smile. This was the first time Aislinn had remembered everything. She knew they would have two children during the next three years, a girl and a boy, who would each be powerful in their own right.
Did Micah know?
Yes, he did, she realized, recognizing awareness in his deep blue eyes.
Much to her surprise, they were surrounded by family, and as Aislinn glanced at the smiling faces of her mother and father, she realized that this was not the first time they’d had to defend Chimera Cove.
Nor would it probably be their last.
But this had definitely been the most well-thought out attack yet.
Hannah stood with her husband, Joe, the keeper of the bell. Micah’s brother Noah was flirting with a pretty girl who lived in the community. Frank and Tom were here too, just as if their traitorous attack to seek power over all of them had never occurred. They wouldn’t remember, as their magic was not that strong.
Even her grandfather Marcus had arrived for a short visit. He’d been the founder of the town of Chimera Cove, trying to defend those of them with power who could not always defend themselves, by locating them beyond the moon.
But it was their home, as it had been for centuries, and would continue to be in the future.
No matter how many places they traveled, whether it be of necessity for defense, or even to patrol in the future for others like themselves, Chimera Cove was the only place in this world where Micah and Aislinn could truly be themselves.
The minister smiled warmly. “You may kiss the bride.”
Smiling at each other, Aislinn and Micah kissed, as if it was the very first time.
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