Thursday, February 21, 2019

Geekly Daily 71 (Thursday, February 21): Deadly Class is amazing

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Geekly Weekly TV Rankings ( for new)(PS: There will be Spoilers):
  1. ➤ Deadly Class *****I love this show so much. It's got the perfect blend of humour, but it's also touching and exciting and just hits every tone perfectly. I love it. I thought, the first couple episodes, that I didn't like the premise. But I thought that the episodes were deviating from what would probably become the formula going forward, but I was gonna enjoy it as long as I could. Because I don't like villains. I've never been someone to root for the bad guy. But these aren't bad guys. The show focuses on people who might be killers or selfish, or messed up, but it's because they've had these horribly traumatic childhoods, and the way they rely on each other is so... this show is perfect. Watch it.
  2. High Maintenance *****
    Great episode as usual. I definitely liked the first story more. The lesbians and their relationship was just so fascinating and I wanted to know everything. The second story was about like the two worst teachers like ever in the world. And then they have sex, cheating on their spouses and in so doing lose out on winning the lottery. It was a funny little story, but the first story definitely you empathized more. The second one was more like watching a trainwreck and just laughing that it's not you.
  3. The Walking Dead ****1/2
    Great episode of the Walking dead this week. We finally learned more about Alpha and her daughter, and I found her back story riveting. I also enjoyed Henry's relationship with Daryl, and that twist ending. I was a little confused about if the dad shaved his beard or not. Turns out no, I think that was a lie and the reality was her mother shaving her head.
  4. Shameless ****1/2
    Great episode as usual. I actually feel bad for Fiona. For all the things she's done to fuck up her life, everything that happened to her that episode wasn't really her fault. SHe didn't know the one guy was a recovering alcoholic. And she didn't know child services was coming for an inspection, nor was it her responsibility. She even tried anyway and did the best she could. She a mess, but she didn't deserve the way Lip treated her.
  5. Star Wars Resistance ****1/2
    Great episode of Star Wars. We're now so close to Force Awakens that Poe came for his droid. It's happening. As we speak, in a galaxy far far away, Force Awakens is happening. So that's fun. It's been pointed out that Force Awakens and Last Jedi are basically right after each other so we could have a really big catch up really fast. Good episode, if not much actually happened. It was cool exploring the outer rim, and the gravity well and the temple. It was all good stuff, just didn't really have time to go anywhere.
  6. Supergirl ****
    A good episode of Supergirl this week. Some great moments, and some terrible ones. Everything with Braniac was gold, and there was quite a lot of Braniac this week. Hiding in the closet. Jumping on the ceiling. He was great. Seeing Nianol in her costume was kinda cool too even if I guess she doesn't really have any powers that matter. She dreams about trouble and then runs over there, maybe hops on a bus, and then hits them with a stick I guess and hope they don't hit back. She could always get guns.
  7. Family Guy ****Funny episode this week. Great small punchlines that had me laughing the whole way through. I will say some of the transgender stuff seemed mishandled. For one thing, isn't that a gender neutral bathroom? I've never heard of a just for trans people bathroom. After all the whole point is not forcing them to make a choice, or forcing them into a label which includes transgender. Someone can be transgender and not have yet decided if they are transgender. I dunno. Also, Quagmire's father's argument that one most go through suffering and hate to be called transgender seemed unfair. There are people who are lucky to be surrounded by open minded people. Are they not allowed to be transgender because they didn't feel the same hardship? But these are complicated issues, and there's probably layers beyond the ones I brought up. And I laughed a lot so I'll give it that.
  8. The Goldbergs ***1/2This show is always fun, but this episode wasn't anything spectacular. Adam barely got a storyline, his new recast girlfriend showed up for the first time in like 10 episodes. She used to be so cool and now all her thunder has been taken out by the recast. Now she's just lame. As usual, Geoff was the most interesting part of the episode, helping Erika succeed... and then listening to her brother and ruining everything as usual. Wish he'd be smart enough to stop listening to Barry, but whatever.
  9. Gotham ***1/2
    Good episode. Nothing spectacular, but it kept my attention and continue it's zany antics. I guess I was a little disappointed with Bane. He seemed kind of a wuss, and I really dunno how much some drug is gonna improve him. It was fun seeing Bruce kick military ass, Lee was whatever. The events of this episode are whatever really, but the way the show went about those events were better than competent.
  10. ➤ The Gifted ***I was like, I'll be fair. I'll give it three stars. It's not my fault that still puts it at the bottom of this list. It was an alright episode of a not good show. I didn't have too many major problems with this episode. Obviously they are ramping up to the finale. I like the hinting that Blink might be alive. Also I couldn't help but laugh at this point when Amy Acker pulled out her Desert Eagle. I was like "All cops, beware!" and sure enough...
Geekly Weekly Talk Show Showdown:

  1. Last Week Tonight *****
  2. James Corden ****1/2
  3. Vice News Tonight ****
  4. Stephen Colbert ****
  5. The Daily Show ****
  6. The Graham Norton Show **

REPEAT: The Aldonn Chronicles 1x04 "Trick or Treat" Presented by 99geek.ca

1x04 “Trick or Treat”

Released on http://www.patreon.com/99geek on October 2017

The sun had set a good hour ago, the night time streets of Capsin were lit by the low burning flames of lanterns lining the city sidewalks. And still Lee wore his stupid shades.
He was leading August again, for the second time that day. And for the second time that day, she had no idea where it was they were going. She only knew that she probably wasn’t going to like it. “Where are you taking me now?” She asked him. She hoped it wasn’t another whore house. She hated that innocent people in the world suffered like they did. She could feel their pain, so many people around going through so much trauma. She sometimes imagined herself as a prostitute being bought by the very worst kinds of men. It was almost her way of mentally punishing herself for having it better off.
She was strong. At least she knew she could take it. She liked to think she was strong enough that she could never be broken.
“Don’t be scared,” Lee said to her condescendingly, though she was anything but. All she felt right then was anger towards him. She didn’t believe in acknowledging her fear. It was a waste of time. It interfered with her effectiveness in combat. To become the warrior she had become required saying goodbye to fear and never looking back.
“Seriously Sis,” Lee said as they turned a corner onto Beggar’s Row. The headquarters weren’t far from there, but August was fairly certain that wasn’t where Lee was leading her. “You need to relax. You’re too emotional.”
“I’m fine,” August muttered, the butt of her spear striking the pavement harder and louder than she’d intended. They slowed as they came upon a poor non-descript townhouse. Her grip on the handle was so tight now that it had become slick with her sweat.
She could still remember when they were young, and Lee was only a scrawny little kid. She was a couple years older than him, and would often fight off bullies that would pick on him. Not that Lee wasn’t sometimes asking for it. He used to get in all kinds of trouble she’d have to bail him out of. She wasn’t sure when it was the dynamic between them shifted. When he started calling the shots. Looking back, maybe that’s how things had always been.
“I drew you this,” he said, stopping outside the townhouse and presenting a piece of parchment to her. On it was a crude drawing of something.
“Is it a fork?” she asked him, lines coming down to connect to a strange semi-circle with a line in the middle. Like a rounded sideways capitol E.
“That’s the amulet I’m looking for,” he said, taking it back.
Lee did a smooth side step up the front sidewalk to the door of the townhouse. He struck the door with his knuckle. “Trick or treat,” he said loudly into the door as August, following dutifully behind, joined him on the step.
The door opened to the large frock of a religious sister. August couldn’t tell by looking which of the many gods the woman worshipped, but by her large gown August knew the woman was a nurse mother. Using the butt of her spear to brush aside some vines from a nearby sign, she saw that it read “Sister Christine’s Orphanage” and wondered if Sister Christine had let the vines overgrow the sign on purpose. Anyone who needed to know her orphanage was there probably already did. Everyone else interested were probably people like August’s brother Lee.
Sister Christine looked first at August’s large weapon, and then to Lee’s face, immediately trying to shut the door on him. “It’s late,” She insisted.
Lee put his arm in the doorway, keeping it from closing. “Not for us.”
“We were just settling everyone down to eat dinner,” Christine complained, seeming to be desperate for any reason to get Lee to leave them alone.
“What are you cooking?” Lee asked, trying to squeeze through the crack in the door and get a whiff.
August placed her spear between Lee and the door. “Maybe we should come back another time.” Lee stepped away from the door, and for a moment she thought he might heed her council. Instead, he kneed her in the stomach with a surprise attack, and as she doubled over, he grabbed her face roughly with the palm of his hand and slammed her head painfully into Sister Christine’s doorframe.
“What the fak,” August swore, but Lee’s attention wasn’t even on her anymore. He was focused still on Sister Christine.
“Open the door.”
Reluctantly the nurse mother did as she was told. Lee let go of August, and she slumped in place, disbelief at what he’d just done still painted on her face. Lee had never touched her like that. And she vowed he never would again.
Lee walked right past Christine and into a room swarming with kids all screaming and running and playing. If August was going to confront Lee, it would have to wait. Christine leaned over to offer August a hand but she ignored it, using her spear to help herself up. Stepping into the orphanage, she recognized the stairs leading up to the second floor and wondered if she’d been there before. Her childhood was very much a blur to her, at least anything that didn’t involve Lee.
The kids had obviously met Lee before, many of them quieting, and some crossing the room to be as far from the man as they could get.
“You kids know who I’m looking for,” Lee said, smiling down at them. It wasn’t a question. “Where’s Johnny?” That was.
“Leave him alone,” One little girl yelled at Lee. “He’s done enough for you.” Lee gave the little girl a look, and for a moment August wondered if he was gonna strike the kid like he’d hit her. August swore she’d attack him right there if he so much as touched her.
Another boy stepped forward, wearing nothing but a tight T-shirt. “I can be your man instead!” the boy said proudly.
Lee smiled at the girl, barely glancing away long enough to take in the boy. “A successful thief generally wears pants.”
“Whatever Johnny does for you,” Sister Christine insisted angrily, “It stops now. These are children. Not your play things.”
“I’m sorry sister,” Lee said, and he looked to August, making her confused who he was talking to. “Johnny’s the only one in this city who can get me what I need. He has an apprenticeship in the mage tower you see.”
“I can’t go back there tonight,” a boy said from behind a crowd of kids. He stepped forward solemnly. “They’ll suspect something if I show up again. They aren’t expecting me till next week.”
“Well you’ll have to come up with an excuse,” Lee told the boy impatiently. “And make it something good. You left something behind. Or you thought of something you forgot to do.”
Lee kneeled down beside the trembling boy. “I’ve lost something, you see? I need you to find it.” Lee gave the boy the parchment with the drawing on it. “It would look like this.”
The boy looked at the drawing on the parchment.
“It’s an amulet,” Lee told the kid, the little girl sidling in to hear what Lee was saying. “You don’t have to steal it. Just confirm it’s there. Find out who stole it from me. Do that and you’ll be an official soldier of the Thieves Guild. Do that, and we’ll take care of the rest.”
“Don’t do it Johnny,” the girl said quietly to the boy. “You wanted to know how my daddy disappeared?” she grabbed Johnny’s hand. “He went on a mission for the Thieves Guild. For Lee.”
August thought she could see Lee’s eyebrow rise behind his shades. “Who’s yo daddy?” He reached out and pushed them apart. “What’s your name?” August suddenly remembered her promise to herself, and stepped forward.
“It’s Anne,” the girl said defiantly. Lee stretched out to touch her again, and this time August grabbed his arm.
“That’s enough,” she said. “I’m not going to let you put innocent children in danger.”
“Let me?” Lee asked. “You think you can tell me when things are enough, just because you’re my sister.”
“No,” August said. “Because I’m going to kick your ass.”
Lee threw something at the floor and suddenly there was a blinding flash of light. August let go of Lee to cover her eyes, and immediately regretted it. He kicked her hard in the stomach, knocking the wind out of her, but this time she didn’t drop. Everything still a blinding white, her eyes throbbing in pain, she barely made out Lee’s form and was able to bring her spear up to block his next attack. He was holding a dagger in his hand and, had she not stopped him, he’d been about to kill her!
Angrily, August thrust her spear out at her brother, aiming to kill as well. He dodged her easily, sidestepping the spear and spinning along the shaft to get in close. This was all like a deadly game to him. He grabbed her long thin black hair, and yanked it hard.
She dropped the spear, cursing as he used his knife to cut open the top of her leather armour. “You’re so na├»ve sis,” Lee told her, “if you think I won’t use you any way I see fit.”
“When you told me you wanted to lead the guild,” August muttered to Lee. “We promised each other to make the guild better than it was, that we would make that our mission.”
She tried to match his eyes, even as he pulled her hair so as to turn her away and towards the children. They were all watching in horror at the two adults fighting.
“What happened to that Lee,” August begged. “Huh? What happened to him?”
Lee released her hair and she stepped away from him. “You’ve got it all wrong sis,” he told her. “The guild is doing better than ever. It’s not your fault, of course, you’re just too dumb and innocent to realize.” It was clear they had different ideas on what was better for the guild.
She moved for her spear, but Lee threw more gunpowder. This time it wasn’t at the floor, it was directly at her upper chest. As the gunpowder ignited, it burned the skin of her chest and neck as well as blinding her. There was a sharp pain in her leg, where Lee must have cut her, and she fell into a wooden table, bringing it down with her. She could feel Lee grab her arm and pin it to the turned over table.
Her vision returned to her hazily, and she was just able to make out Lee’s form as he brought his dagger down on her. She thought he was going to kill her in that moment, but instead he stabbed the blade through her hand and into the table. She screamed despite herself, her fingers twitching as he tore through her muscles and tendons.
“Take the night for yourself,” Lee told her, getting up. “Walk it off, and come back to the HQ in the morning.” He reached out a hand to caress her cheek. “God you’re beautiful when you’re in pain.” She stopped his arm with her only free hand. Leaning in, he kissed her cheek instead. Pulling his arm out of her grasp he licked his thumb and rubbed something on her face. “You have a smudge.”
“Leave her alone,” Johnny said, stepping forward and bravely puffing out his chest at Lee.  “I’ll do what you want.”
“That was never in question,” Lee said smugly, looking away from August. He rummaged his hand in his pocket and pulled out a gold coin. He handed the gold coin to little Anne.
“This is for yo daddy.” He told the little girl. “The Thieves Guild looks after their own.” He seemed about to leave, but stopped and turned. “You’d better hurry,” he told Johnny, who seemed to cower just waiting for the coming threat.
“You’re gonna miss dinner.”
With that, Lee was gone out the door. Johnny went after him, ignoring all of Anne’s protests, but after stepping out the doors August was fairly certain he went in a different direction.
August grasped the dagger pinning her hand to the table. Just that slight shift in pressure sent jolts of pain up her forearm. She whimpered, and gritted her teeth. Pain was nothing to her. She liked pain. She loved it. She welcomed it.
Come on!
Grasping the knife tightly, she released a guttural war cry and was about to pull the blade free when an older woman’s hands rested on top her own. It was Sister Christine.
“Let me help you with that,” the sister said, being tender with her. “You can spend the night here with us.”
August opened her mouth to protest but Sister Christine wouldn’t hear it. “I promise you,” she told August, “most of us don’t bite.”
*     *     *
“Your ice has melted.”
Frankie opened the door of the ice box, and turned her nose up to the contents. “Looks like all your meat has gone rancid too.”
“All of it?” Edward complained, joining her in his small kitchen.
“You can smell it if you want,” Frankie said. The ice box was only designed to keep things cool for a day or two before one had to get more ice to fill it with. Luckily there were plenty of low level wizards who never made it to the higher ranks of the wizard council, and spent much of their remaining days selling ice in the market. Apparently making ice was an easy spell for a mage, not that Frankie knew much about magic.
Edward closed the door of the icebox in Frankie’s face. His apartment was beyond modest, with a kitchen that could barely fit two people at the same time. Stepping out of it to give Edward some space, the main room she stepped into consisted of just a couch and a table in the corner without any chairs. A door from there led to a bedroom that could barely fit a bed.
“So this is what a guard’s salary gets you,” Frankie commented, though she’d promised before stepping in that she wouldn’t. Aldonn looked up from the couch as if to warn Frankie not to push Edward.
“I could have just stayed in the barracks and saved my money,” Edward told them. “But I like my privacy.”
“So do I,” Frankie said, rejoining Edward in the kitchen. “Don’t get me wrong, I kinda like this place. It’s livable.”
“It’s mine,” Edward told her. “I’ve got this loaf of bread that hasn’t gone moldy yet.” It was a fairly small round loaf. Taking the knife from Edward’s hand, Frankie cut the loaf in half, then cut one of the halves in half. She handed one of the quarters to Edward, and handed the other one to Aldonn. Laying out on the couch, she rested her spiky haired head against Aldonn’s lap and took a bite from her half.
“So now what?” Edward asked between mouthfuls of bread. “What’s our next move, oh fearless leader?” He had changed out of the pink tunic Frankie had gotten for him, instead wearing a blue tunic over black pants. His sword hung in a scabbard at his side, looped into his belt.
“I’m not really the thinking ahead type,” Frankie told Edward. “I say we catch some sleep here and maybe something comes to me by morning.” She nodded to a collage of pictures and items and scribbled notes all with lines connecting them and different pins keeping everything in place. “What’s that.”
“Don’t change the subject,” Edward said, looking up to follow her gaze, and then letting the subject change despite himself. “I’ve been looking for my parents.”
“You’re an orphan too, huh?” Frankie asked. “Welcome to the club. Did you get the T-shirt?”
Edward crossed his arms. “Could you at least take your boots off my couch?” he asked her. “Do you ever care for anyone other than yourself?” There was a knock on the door that Edward ignored as he fumed. “Have you ever done anything nice or were you born a thief?”
“Once a thief,” Frankie muttered, begrudgingly getting to her feet. “I’m getting the door aren’t I?” she said to Edward, rejectedly heading to the door as another knock sounded. It seemed the person on the other end was frantic.
“It’s not a good deed if you’re doing it to make a point,” Edward told her, his arms still crossed. His wavy black hair was obscuring his eyes a little, but he seemed too angry to bother pushing the locks of hair aside.
Frankie opened the door to find her old nurse mother Sister Christine about to knock for a third time.
“You have to help me Frankie,” Christine begged the younger woman. “Lee has gone too far this time.”
Frankie was very confused. “How did you find me?” she asked the woman who had practically been her mother for many years.
“I’d heard you were back in town,” Christine told Frankie. “I had my kids find people who had seen you. A couple people in the area said they saw you come in here.”
Frankie looked around the room, as if they were being watched at that very moment. “Hello?” She said out loud to no one in particular. Satisfied by the lack of a response, and ignoring the looks she was getting from everyone else, she focused back on the Sister.
“Is everything okay at the orphanage?” Frankie asked Sister Christine.
“Can I tell you on the way?” the Sister asked them.
Frankie gestured for Sister Christine to lead the way. “This closet was getting a little cramped anyway.”
“Hey!” Edward said in complaint.
*     *     *
There were no easy entrances into the Mage Tower. Anne knew of the one Johnny would use, time and again when he was looking to get in or out without permission. It was through the sewers, at one of those intersections in the sewers she knew he had to pass through, where she waited for him to return.
She trembled as rats and insects scurried through the muck around her. She’d been waiting there for over an hour when nearby movement caught her eye. She tried to squint through the darkness to peer at the form in the moonlight from a nearby grate.
“Johnny?” she called out into the sewer.
“Anne?” Johnny called back. “What are you doing down here? I told you to wait at the orphanage.”
“And I told you not to go on this stupid mission,” Anne told him. “I guess neither of us are good at following orders.”
“You’re wrong,” Johnny said to her angrily. “I did what I had to do.” He was beside her now. “You shouldn’t have come down here. It’s dangerous down here.”
“It’s dangerous everywhere,” Anne said, drawing Johnny into an embrace.
Johnny pushed away from her. “What was that noise?” he asked, looking around frightfully.
Anne didn’t hear anything. “Come on,” she said, grabbing his hand. “Let’s get back to the orphanage.”
“You’re a good friend,” Johnny told her, holding her hand tightly.
“What did you find out in that tower, anyway?” Anne asked Johnny.
Suddenly Johnny dropped to his knees in the muck, screaming out.
“Johnny?” Anne screamed his name, crouching down beside him. To Anne’s surprise, something grabbed her in the dark, lifting her like she was nothing. Anne screamed as loud as she could, her screams echoing through the sewers for long into the night before they finally went silent.
*     *     *
“Lee beat up one of his lieutenants?” Frankie asked, repeating Sister Christine’s words. “Was it Bart? I’d love to get my jacket back.”
“August,” Christine told Frankie, leading them through the market district into Beggars Row. Frankie didn’t have a witty come back for that. In fact, she kind of assumed that August would win in a fight between the two of them. She couldn’t imagine how violent it must have been.
“So we don’t have to break into the thieves guild after all,” Edward told Frankie, following behind them with Aldonn. “We just wait for Lee to return to the orphanage for the information he wants, and we kill him there.”
“In my orphanage,” Sister Christine insisted to Edward. “In front of all my kids?”
“I didn’t say the plan was perfect,” Edward mumbled.
“We couldn’t beat August in a fight,” Frankie reminded Edward. “How do you expect us to beat Lee after Lee beat August in a fight?”
“We’ll have Aldonn on our side this time,” Edward told Frankie, and they both looked at the muscular blonde man following them.
“Hey,” Aldonn warned them. “I’m no warrior. I like Frankie’s idea. We focus on helping the kids.”
“Of course,” Edward mumbled. “Always siding with Frankie.”
“I like your blonde friend,” Christine told the young thief.
“He’s pretty awesome,” Frankie bragged. “Everyone should get one.”
“I don’t like this,” Edward mumbled.
“Well you could have stayed home,” Frankie said in a sing song voice, sorta happy to be spending time with her foster mother again. She wasn’t about to let that annoying ex-soldier ruin it for her.
“I just mean,” Edward continued, “if magic is involved I guarantee you things are going to get ugly before the end.”
“He’s just bitter,” Frankie explained to Christine. “Magic made his job obsolete.”
“Tell me,” Christine said to Frankie. “Have you been a good girl like I raised you? Tell me that Lee and the guild haven’t changed you like everyone else.”
Aldonn stepped beside them. “She’s the kindest, most caring person I’ve ever met. If you helped raise her in anyway, you should be proud of the woman she’s become.”
“You missed the part five minutes ago when I paid him to say that,” Frankie told Sister Christine, hoping the woman wouldn’t notice her blushing as they came to the orphanage. It had only been days since Frankie had last been there, but this would be the first time in years that she’d used the front door.
Christine entered first. “August?” she called out into the quiet building. “I think everyone is upstairs.”
“She’s still here?” Frankie asked.
“Well I wasn’t going to leave the kids alone.”
Frankie crossed her arms. “So you left them with August?” Alone might have been better.
Everyone followed behind Christine and Frankie as they ascended the steps to the second floor. The orphanage was the same modest wooden building she remembered, cheap in its look, but spacious and full of wonder for a child with an imagination. On the second floor they found the children snug in their beds, looking beyond bored.
“Five hundred seventy three times two hundred forty seven,” August said, reading from what looked like a school textbook. “The answer is one hundred forty one thousand five hundred thirty one.”
“Please,” one of the children begged Sister Christine. “Make her stop.”
“They wanted me to tell them a story,” August told the nurse mother. “I thought that would be a frivolous waste of time but came up with a compromise I think most efficient. By reading from this textbook I have been able to keep their minds exercised and elastic while you have been away.”
“Oh you poor children,” Frankie muttered.
It looked like Sister Christine had done a good job of patching August up. Her hand was wrapped in a bandage, and her leg was in a splint. Frankie couldn’t help but notice her spear was close at hand, leaning casually against the wall near her bed.
“I’ll tell you a story later,” Christine told the kids, taking the textbook out from August’s hands. “You should be sleeping.”
“I don’t require much sleep,” August told the sister.
“You do if you want to heal,” the nurse mother insisted to Lee’s lieutenant.
“We heard you took quite a beating from Lee,” Edward said, practicing his usual tact as he entered the room with Aldonn. Even in the dark of the candle lit room, Aldonn’s hair seemed to glow.
“Great,” August muttered from her bed. “You brought Doofus and Derp with you.”
Edward looked to Aldonn. “Who’s who?” he asked with confusion.
“You’re definitely Derp,” Frankie told him.
“Obviously,” August said. “Do we really need them?”
“Well I thought your humiliation needed an audience,” Frankie said sarcastically. Just like a Durgens to make everything about them, and not the kids in danger.
“Where’s Anne?” Sister Christine asked, noticing that one of the beds in her orphanage was empty.
“She went after Johnny into the sewers,” one of the kids volunteered to the adults.
August looked to Christine. “I couldn’t go after her without leaving the rest of the kids.”
“And you didn’t think to lead with that?” Edward asked her.
“Hey!” Frankie yelled loudly to Edward. “Don’t say things I was gonna say before I say them.”
“We have to go after her,” Aldonn told them.
“Hey,” Frankie said to Aldonn. “What I told him.”
“You want to go into the sewers?” Edward asked, not sounding at all enthused by the idea.
“Well,” Frankie told him, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “I mean, I figured that would be a good place to start looking.”
“Someone’s going to have to stay and protect the orphanage of Lee comes back,” Edward insisted to them.
“I can do it,” August told Edward.
“You can barely stand,” Edward pointed out. “Plus you’re currently oh for one when it comes to protecting these kids from Lee.”
August grabbed her spear from her bedside. Planting the butt of the spear in the ground she put her weight on it as she slid out of bed, her bad leg clunking to the ground. Christine seemed to have built a wooden splint for her. She stood up as tall as she could, wincing and trembling from the pain. “I can stand,” she told Edward. “And that means I can fight.”
Edward reached out and tried to push her over but she was sturdy and immovable.
“Dammit,” Edward muttered. “I’ve never gone into a sewer before,” he admitted to the group. “At least not in real life. It’s sort of been a recurring nightmare for me.”
Frankie rolled her eyes. “Come on Derp,” she told him. “Let’s go search your nightmares for a little girl.” Cause that sounded like fun.
*     *     *
King George was having another nightmare. It was the same one every time. Enemies were storming his castle, and they wanted his head. It didn’t matter who the enemies were, they were always shrouded in darkness. They could have been thieves, or wizards, or druids, or vampires, or midgets, or monsters. It was a little different every time. The way he tried to get away was different every time as well. But it didn’t matter where in the castle he retreated to, they always found him. They always got him.
George woke up in a sweat, his sheets drenched even as he trembled in the cold. He never really understood how the body could both be freezing cold and covered in sweat, but this wasn’t the first time he’d experienced such phenomena first hand.
He fell back against his pillow and tried not to think about the horrible death he’d just witnessed for himself. The truth was, he didn’t want to go back to sleep. They’d only be waiting for him again, in that labyrinth of halls.
Getting up, he slid his feet into his slippers and stepped into the hall. At least these real halls didn’t have monsters in the shadows trying to kill him. He decided to take a comforting walk around the castle just to be sure. All the doors were closed as everyone in the castle seemed to be asleep. He was nearly on the very opposite end of the main keep when he came across a muttering. There was still light coming from one of the rooms.
It seemed King George wasn’t the only one awake.
The light was green, emanating through cracks in the door frame surrounding Manejo’s door. “…after twenty three eighty four…” George heard his magical advisor’s mutterings through the door. “Forbidden magics…Regulan serpent horn.”
King George opened the door, without even thinking to knock. “What’s going on in here?” he asked, the middle aged mage sitting cross-legged beside his caldron, the green flame soaring high and a book propped in his lap.
“I’m reading,” Manejo insisted to the king. “Sorry if I disturbed you. I read aloud sometimes. It’s why I wanted my room as far away from anyone else as I could get.”
George looked around the room, so transformed it seemed from when it had been given to the mage. There was a circle of bookcases against one wall, just filled to bursting with large heavily bound books. There was also a mirror against one wall, and no bed that he could see.
“Where did all these books come from?” George asked Manejo.
“The Mage Tower,” Manejo told his majesty. “I grabbed this one from there just today.”
“But how?” King George asked. “I haven’t seen you leave the keep once since you got here.”
Manejo smiled, closing the book and getting up. “You haven’t seen me leave,” he repeated George’s words. “No. But I in fact come and go many times a day.“
“It is very difficult for a person to enter the Mage Tower,” Manejo explained to George, touching the mirror he had hung from his wall. “But for people of a high enough rank in the council, they can come and go from the tower any time they wish.” It was as if George’s reflection in the mirror suddenly disappeared, and the room reflected in the mirror was suddenly a foreign one to George.
The room he seemed to be peering into through the mirror was a library bustling with activity, as mages in robes were pulling books from large shelves that extended many stories in the air. He could see no ladders, but George saw one person flick his wrist and a book from the top of a shelf floated down to land neatly in his hand. Another mage seemed to jump high into the air and hover in place, putting a book onto the shelf and floating across to a different section to pull free a different book.
The king could only imagine the view one might be privy to were they underneath the man and looked up into his robes.
“Care to come with me?” Manejo asked, and to George’s surprise, the mage stepped into the mirror. It was as if the surface of the mirror was a liquid mercury, but once Manejo was on the other side he seemed completely dry. “It’s easy,” he said through the mirror, his voice sounding distant as if through water.
George touched the mirror, and his finger sent ripples across its surface. “Alright,” George said, taking a deep breath. “Here I come.” He held it, and stepped through the mirror, seeming to be quite all of a sudden in the large library as if he’d just stepped through a simple doorway.
“I’d seen Salem make a portal in fire,” George told Manejo. It seemed to him that a mirror was a whole lot easier.
“We can make a portal in nearly any surface,” the mage informed his majesty. “Some are just easier than others. Fire has the unique quality of containing all the energy you need for the spell within the fire itself. You just need to be able to protect yourself from the heat.”
An old woman passed the king, touching the mirror he’d just stepped through, and changing its reflection to be that of a log cabin. Outside a window George could see grassy mountains. She stepped through the mirror and disappeared.
“A lot of mages have secret hideouts in remote areas of the world just for them,” Manejo tried to explain to George. “Some of those places aren’t even on our world.”
“So where are we right now?” George asked his Mage assistant.
“We’re in the Mage Tower,” Manejo told George, chuckling as if it was obvious.
“Come on,” George said, looking around. Though in his robe and slippers, the king felt strangely appropriately dressed amongst the robed mages of the library. “There’s no way all this could fit inside that tower,” he insisted to Manejo. “What are all these people even doing up?”
“Time and space become of little relevance to a mage after a while,” Manejo said, leading George to a window. He looked down from the window upon his city. There was no doubt now, they were in the Mage Tower.
Manejo pointed across the city at the royal keep, passing the king a long tubular spyglass. George brought it to his eye and aimed it where Manejo pointed him. He focused the spy glass on a window of the keep, and the mirror in the window.
“That’s the mirror we just stepped through to get here,” Manejo told George. “Would you like me to take you back?”
“No,” King George said, “not yet.”
*     *     *
“I wanna go back!” Edward complained as the disgusting sewer water seeped through his pants. He was starting to wish he was still wearing the gross pink clothes Frankie had stole for him.
“Is it really necessary we all go down here like this?” Edward continued to complain, “I easily could have been the point man from above.”
“Split up?” suggested Frankie. “That’s how most campfire horror stories start.”
“Yay,” Edward said, his shoe sticking in the muck. “We can all die together.”
“What’s going to kill us?” Aldonn asked, seeming relatively unconcerned by the slime or the feces or the smell. “Is there a deadly monster down here?”
“More like sepsis,” Edward muttered. They each had a torch when they came down, but Edward had quickly gotten his snuffed out in the feces infested waters. To say he was having a mild panic attack would be a slight understatement.
He stuck close to Aldonn, who seemed to be brandishing his torch about with curiosity, examining every collection of mold, and every bug that crawled past.
“People don’t frequent down here often,” Aldonn commented naively, “do they?”
“Not unless they’re a thief,” Edward said, casting Frankie a dirty look she didn’t see. She had her torch focused solely on what was ahead of them, leading them through the sewers.
“We tend to clean up the sewer passages we use more often,” Frankie said in her defence from the front of their group.
“Then what are we doing in these?” Edward asked, getting increasingly fed up.
Frankie stopped, pointing into the darkness ahead of her. “The Mage Tower is that way,” she told him, continuing forward.
“How the hell she know that?” Edward asked Aldonn.
“These are her sewers,” Aldonn told Edward, following after Frankie.
“But not like these sewers,” Edward said with irritation, rambling on as the others ignored him. “Cleaner sewers.”
“There’s something ahead,” Frankie called back to them, quickening her pace.
Edward and Aldonn kept up with her. “Is it one of the kids?” Aldonn asked Frankie.
“I just hope it isn’t poop,” Edward muttered though he was fairly certain they were no longer paying him any mind.
“I think it’s the girl,” Frankie said, reaching something and kneeling down.
“Is she alive?” Edward asked from behind Aldonn. “Let me by so I can check for a pulse.”
“I don’t think you’re gonna find one,” Aldonn said, peering over Frankie’s shoulder. “There’s only pieces of her left.” Edward felt a sinking in his chest. He noticed Frankie was slow to get up. Taking her torch from her hand, Edward held it out into the distance, spotting something.
“I think I can see the boy,” he said, inching past them to slosh through the muck to make it upon the boy. He was floating face up in the disgusting water, looking pale but otherwise unharmed.
“His name is Johnny,” Frankie said, finally getting to her feet and joining him.
“He’s alive,” Edward assured her.
“Let’s get him out of here,” Frankie told them, and for once Edward found himself agreeing with the thief.
“I’ll race you,” he said, lifting the boy effortlessly into his arms. He was pretty sure he was about to make it out of that sewer in record time.
*     *     *
“Better than your last two times,” The head of the city guard said as Penelope passed him for the third lap. She stopped, rolling her eyes and grabbing at the stitch in her side. “You have to be faster,” he chided her. “I could beat your record my first try, and I’m ten times your age.”
“That’s an exaggeration,” the princess said, out of breath. “You’re like four times my age at most.” He’d had her running laps atop the walls of the royal keep, while the whole time he was counting the seconds as she went around.
“Don’t forget I’m wounded,” Penelope warned the old man, rubbing the padded bandage her butler Roric had replaced for her. They’d chosen to begin her training at night, when they were to attract the least attention. With that said, there seemed to be a guard coming to join them.
“If you weren’t wounded I wouldn’t be afraid to embarrass you myself,” Christoipherson told Penelope, and she had to remind herself this was what she wanted. “As it is, if I raced you, it wouldn’t be close to fair.”
As the third person on the ramparts with them got closer, Penelope recognized the guard as Bill Natter. “Natter,” she said, tensing up.
He nodded to her. “I know it was you in the market, princess,” he said after a moment of awkward silence.
She looked at Christopherson who nodded at her reassuringly. “I told him,” Chris said, and Penelope didn’t feel remotely reassured. “He came up here to tell us something in private. Away from prying eyes.”
Bill passed Penelope a towel, which she took not because she forgave him, but because she was really sweaty. “What is it?” the princess asked reluctantly. She knew he was crooked and didn’t think anything more needed to be said. His attack on her had said enough, even if it had been before he knew it was her. She was pretty sure there was nothing he had to say that she wanted to hear.
“The Thieves Guild is having a big meeting tomorrow in their HQ,” Bill Natter told the princess. Apparently she was wrong.
“What use is that news to me?” Penelope asked with frustration. “We don’t even know where their headquarters are.”
The two guards went quiet, both looking at each other with yet another awkward silence. “Forgive me, your highness,” Captain Christopherson said at last. “But we do know.”
“Then why haven’t we routed them out?” Penelope asked, almost wondering if she’d have to define the term rout for them.
The two men shared another glance. “We have an understanding with the Thieves Guild,” Christopherson said at last.
Penelope rolled her eyes. “Not you too.”
“I haven’t made deals with them,” Christopherson said with a seemingly disgusted look at Natter. “I swear to you I’m not a crooked guard.”
“You just made deals with crooked guards,” Penelope tried to clear things up. “That’s a rather fine distinction, wouldn’t you say Mister Christopherson?”
Bill Natter seemed to gulp down some phlegm. “Can I go, sir?” he asked his superior officer.
“No!” Penelope exclaimed loudly at him, her face twisting with disgust.
“There’s certain rules we both abide to,” the captain tried to explain, giving Natter an awkward shrug. “Not rules so much as, it’s a balance.”
“You couldn’t pay me not to tell you how lame that sounds,” Penelope told Chris. She looked to Natter who seemed to be taking the matter quite seriously. Christopherson opened his mouth to speak again but Penelope interrupted him. “It’s really lame.”
“Yes your highness,” Christopherson said humbly. “It’s to ensure that neither side resorts to extreme, and undesirable, methods. The understanding was made long ago, long before I was born. They consist of things like no attacking royalty. Or not setting foot in their headquarters.”
“You wanna know the problem with rules,” Penelope said with a frown. “They only work as long as everyone chooses to play along.”
“Well WE’RE not going to be the first people to break the rules,” Christopherson said. “But there’s no rule against YOU setting foot in their headquarters.”
That was more like it. Penelope nodded. “Alright,” she said, nodding again as her voice caught in her throat. “Do you think I’m ready?” she asked the captain.
“Not even close,” Christopherson told her. “Hopefully you won’t have to engage with anyone if you can keep a low profile.”
Penelope frowned. “So then what’s all this exercise for?”
“In case everything goes belly up and you have to run like hell. Now go do another lap.”
*     *     *
“Where’s Anne?” Sister Christine asked, as Frankie followed Edward into the orphanage. He still had Johnny in his arms. Her head turned as Edward passed her. “Is he okay?”
“He’s still unconscious,” Edward told them.
“Take him up to my room,” the sister yelled after Edward as he made his way up the stairs with the boy “It’s to your left.”
“What happened?” the sister asked, turning her attention to Frankie.
“Something got Anne,” Frankie said, struggling with words as Aldonn came in behind her. “It tore her to pieces.”
Sister Christine covered her mouth in horror. “Oh my goodness,” she muttered low in horror. “Who could do that to a child?”
“It looked like some kind of creature…” Frankie started to say, but she couldn’t continue. Instead she gave her old foster mother a hug.
Behind Christine, Edward came lumbering down the stairs. “You wanna look him over?” he asked the sister.
Christine nodded, and followed him up the stairs.
“Are you okay?” Aldonn asked Frankie, and he seemed to be watching her with his big blue eyes under that long blond hair.
“She was a good kid,” Frankie said, remembering all the times she’d watched over the young girl during Sister Christine’s story time.
Aldonn put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “This orphanage really means a lot to you.”
“You’d have to be a monster not to give a shit about these kids,” Frankie told Aldonn, and the two of them joined the rest upstairs.
It seemed all the kids were out of their beds now, hyper with excitement at the return of their friend. All the kids were crowding around outside Christine’s door.
“What happened?” August yelled from her bed. “Is Johnny okay?”
The door opened and Edward pushed through the kids, making way for Christine to get out behind him.
“Aldonn,” she said. “Would you be so kind as to take these kids downstairs?”
“Of course,” Aldonn said, rounding up the children. “Let’s see if we can find some cookies in the kitchen.”
“Okay!” one kid said excitedly and they all followed Aldonn downstairs.
“He seems perfectly fine,” Christine said to Frankie, and behind them August breathed a loud sigh of relief.
“What about Anne,” August asked desperately.
“What’s it to you?” Edward asked her grumpily. Always the charmer to a thief, that one.
“She’s far from fine,” Frankie muttered. She instantly felt a twinge of guilt. “Didn’t mean to be funny or anything.”
“Good,” Edward said, “Cause you weren’t.”
“Seriously,” Sister Christine said. “There wasn’t a scratch on him. No bruises. No bump on his head.”
“So why would a creature tear Anne to shreds and leave Johnny untouched?” Frankie asked the group. “Maybe it’s like Ed and just really hates women.”
“I don’t hate women,” Edward mumbled. Considering he was in the audience of them, it was a good answer.
“I wonder what Penelope would say to that,” Frankie said, with a raise of her eyebrow.
“She’d say I don’t hate women,” Edward said angrily, so easy to bait.
“Wait,” August said, and for a moment Frankie thought she was going to bring them back on task. “He slept with the princess?” She didn’t seem to believe it. “That guy?”
“I usually smell better than this,” Edward admitted quickly.
“You should see his dick,” Frankie told her. “Everyone else has.”
“There’s something else you should see,” Christine said, beckoning for them to follow her into her room.
It was a room Frankie had never actually stepped in before. As a kid it was the only room in the orphanage to be off limits. She’d always imagined it would be decorated with elaborate pieces of art, massive symbols of her faith. She was surprised, then, to find the room was largely barren besides the double bed and a quaint make-up table by the wall.
Johnny was tossing and turning in the bed, and Christine grabbed one of his legs long enough to pull up a pant leg.
“A week ago Johnny cut himself playing at the playground,” Christine told them, looking down at his leg. “It was a deep cut, left a large scar. A scar that was still itching him last night.”
If there had ever been a scar on his leg, it wasn’t there now. When Christine had said there wasn’t a scratch on him, she had meant at all. Anywhere on his body. “It’s like this boy is healthier than he’s ever been,” the Sister told Frankie.
“What kills a girl,” Edward asked, “rips her to shreds, but then heals a boy at the same time.”
“A monster who hates women,” Frankie said again. “Kind of like Edward.”
“I’ll kill you,” Edward muttered to her angrily.
“It won’t help your case,” Frankie told him. Edward stole the chair from the make-up table, and sat down on it beside the bed. Frankie stepped outside the room to take a deep breath, Christine following her out.
“What did you see?” August asked from her bed. Frankie ignored her.
She watched Christine as the older woman paced impatiently. She’d never been in a situation like this in which the Sister ever treated her like an equal. She’d never felt more adult. And watching her old foster mother slowly freak out was really leaving her unnerved.
“You were my first crush,” Frankie told Christine slowly, remembering back to when she’d first come to the orphanage. “You just seemed so strong, and unstoppable.” Frankie had good memories of her time at the orphanage. They were some of the only good memories she had. “I feared you. Respected you. Loved you.”
“I remember the day you were first brought to my orphanage,” Christine said to Frankie, finally coming to a stop from her endless pacing. “You were a troubled little brat. I could tell you’d gone through some bad stuff, but no one wanted to tell me what kinds of things.” The old woman smiled and touched Frankie’s arm. “I could tell even then that none of the stuff that had happened to you had changed the good person you’d become.”
“I really made that big of an impact on you?” Frankie asked, constantly surprised at the woman’s kindness.
“I remember all my kids,” Sister Christine corrected her. “They are everything to me. They’re why I get out of bed in the morning, and they’re the last thing I’m thinking about when I get in my night gown and finally let my hair down for the night.”
“You?” August asked with disbelief from her bed. Frankie had almost forgotten the other woman was there. “Let your hair down?”
“Occasionally,” the sister tssked from under her frock.
“Do you remember Lee?” Frankie asked the old woman, her curiosity getting the best of her. What exactly was that asshole like before his balls dropped?
August made a noise from her bed. “We didn’t go to this orphanage, moron.”
“I still remember you though,” Christine told her. “You and your snot nosed brother came by quite a number of times. He loved causing trouble, that one. He’d get all the boys pissed, then hide behind you and have you take the beatings for him.”
“I can’t remember,” August admitted. “I only remember the fights I won, I suppose.”
“You had your share of those,” Christine told the younger woman. “But I still remember one fight where they beat you so bad that I was afraid you’d suffered a concussion. You couldn’t even remember your name. I remember walking you home, only for your foster parents not to care in the slightest, taking you and shaking you roughly for being so careless. Striking you across the head causing you only unimaginably more damage. It’s no wonder you don’t remember anything from that time.”
“So she has brain damage,” Frankie summarized, trying hard to stifle her laugh. August’s story had been so much worse than hers. It wasn’t funny. At least August wasn’t finding it very funny. Frankie thought it explained a lot, however. The look August gave her made her want to change the topic. Quickly.
“When did Lee start giving your orphanage such a hard time?”
Sister Christine frowned, sitting down on the edge of August’s bed. “The Thieves Guild has always preyed on orphans.” She looked at the both of them. “How do you two think you got recruited?”
“Why have you put up with it for so long?” August asked the Sister with concern, getting the question in before Frankie could ask it.
“There’s a lot of things in this world you can’t control,” Christine explained to the women. “You can spend your life fighting against each and every thing, complaining loudly and putting your foot down, or you can focus on the things you can control, and make the world a better place a little bit at a time any way you can.”
“He’s awake,” Edward called from the other room. Aldonn took the stairs two at a time to join them at the top, and the three of them joined Edward in Christine’s small room. Johnny was coughing, stirring uncomfortable in the bed and trying to prop himself up upon seeing Christine.
“Who are all these people?” Johnny asked Christine, looking very scared and confused. “Where am I?”
“You’re back at the orphanage,” Sister Christine assured the boy calmly.
“Where’s Anne?” He asked, looking around the room. “Is she here too?”
Edward leaned forward in his chair, the closest to the bed. “What’s the last thing you remember?” he questioned the boy carefully. No one else seemed willing to speak up. It was rare that Frankie found herself at a loss for words, but today it had been happening with increasing frequency.
“I heard a noise in the sewer,” Johnny said. “Then there was just pain and everything went black.”
Frankie looked at Christine who seemed to be doing a poor job keeping her concern from painting her slender wrinkled face.
“What about before that?” Aldonn asked. “Did you make it to the Mage Tower okay? Did you make it back to the sewers without being found out?”
Johnny made a slow guttural scream, turning and thrashing in the bed. His mouth was starting to foam.
“Whoa,” Edward said, getting out of his chair to lean over the boy. “Relax kid. It’s just a simple question. What happened at the Mage Tower.”
“AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!” Johnny screamed, Edward putting out his hands to try and hold the kid down. Christine and Frankie reached out to grab the boy’s legs. “Don’t ask me that!” The boy screamed.
“It’s okay Johnny!” Christine tried to reassure him. “Calm down.” She looked to Frankie with tears in her eyes. “He’s having some kind of fit!”
The boy was spitting foam now, thrashing so hard against everyone in the room that even together they could do little to keep him still.
“Try to focus!” Frankie yelled at Johnny. “Come on Johnny. For Anne, you have to remember what the creature looked like. Was it the Mages? Did they release the monster after you in the sewers? Did they know Lee sent you? Where is the monster?”
Suddenly a large tentacle like appendage stretched itself out from Johnny’s chest, shooting out at Frankie and knocking her clear through the doorway out onto the second story floor. Through the door Frankie could see Johnny’s arms seeming to mold into tentacles as well, one hitting Aldonn so hard he was thrown back into the wall, leaving a large indent in the wood beside the door Frankie had just been thrown through.
Johnny let out a loud wailing moan that shook the very orphanage at its core.
“What’s going on in there?” August asked with real concern.
Frankie got up and dusted herself off. “I’ll get back to you on that,” she promised August, storming into Christine’s room to rejoin the chaos. Johnny was standing on his bed now, his arms flailing around, stretched out to be nearly twice their normal length. A third tentacle was whipping around from his stomach, and his neck seemed to be melting with his head into his torso, releasing the same loud wheezy moan she’d heard from outside the room.
Christine was screaming quite beside herself. Frankie grabbed the nurse mother and shook her. “You have to get the children out of this building now!” A tentacle grabbed Frankie’s arm. “Go!”
The tentacle lifted Frankie off her feet like she was nothing, possessing strength Johnny most certainly didn’t possess. The parts of the monster that had once been a little boy were unrecognizable now, his bulbous body seeming to be growing in size as the face where his chest used to be whined and moaned in agony as the tentacles flailed about.
Frankie was thrown into a wall, and then lifted by her neck, the tentacle wrapping around her throat and squeezing tightly. She tried to peel the tentacle away with her arms, but it had a vice-like grip. It was supernaturally strong. Her vision was swooning.
There was a loud splortch, and Frankie dropped hard with a thud to the floor as Edward sliced through the tentacle holding Frankie in place with his sword. The monster gave out a horrifying high pitched screech and Frankie had to cover her ears even as she hungrily took in oxygen.
“I’m surprised you didn’t want to wait and see if it killed me,” Frankie quickly muttered despite her lack of breath.
“I was tempted,” Edward said. The screaming creature thrust out its stomach angrily, and two more tentacles seemed to sprout out from where Edward had cut off the one. A tentacle knocked Edward back and through the wooden wall. Another tentacle lifted Christine’s make-up table and threw it across the room to smash into Aldonn as he tried to make his way to Frankie.
“Aldonn!” Frankie yelled. She dodged a tentacle aimed for her head, and was knocked off her feet by another.
Edward sliced off a tentacle as it surged at him through the hole in the wall into Christine’s room. Any damage he caused to the monster only seemed to encourage it to form more appendages. The tentacles were snaking all throughout the orphanage now, tearing through beds and whipping around dangerously.
Edward was thrown into August’s bed, as she grabbed for her spear and slid to her feet.
“What is this thing?” she asked Edward in horror.
“Some new monster concocted by the Mage Council,” Edward told her, putting all the pieces together in his head. “Probably some trap they tried to lay for Lee.” In the body of a child, no less. For all the hatred Edward had for the Thieves Guild, he knew they would never resort to such a despicable tactic. Mages didn’t follow the rules of everyone else. From that tower above  Capsin, the rest of them looked like simple play things to be used at the whims of the council.
Frankie was thrown from the room, and Edward watched in horror as Aldonn was impaled by a tentacle through the shoulder. Another tentacle went for Aldonn’s head, but he was able to grab it, and in a moment of ingenuity the blond man tied the flailing tentacle to the one impaled in his shoulder.
The creature ripped free of him, and Aldonn rushed to assist Frankie to her feet, battering off tentacles that came for them. One grabbed his arm, and Edward cut it off.
“I need to get myself one of those,” Aldonn told Edward, eyeing his sword with a seemingly new appreciation.
“It doesn’t seem to help,” Edward muttered as only more tentacles came surging from Christine’s room. The creature’s large bulbous form came to the door, its grotesque face twisting and moaning as the tentacles continued to flail about violently.
Edward slashed away another tentacle, and watched in fascination as August stepped into the center of the room. The tentacles for the most part had all just ignored her so far, and calmly she took her place in the middle of all the chaos, planting her spear resolutely on the wooden ground beneath her feet. A tentacle smashed into the floor near her, tearing up the floorboards but the wounded thief didn’t even flinch.
The creature sent a tentacle straight for August’s torso, looking to wrap itself around her, but in a flash of movement she whipped her spear up from the ground, spinning it expertly in her hands, and stabbing down on the tentacle to impale it into the wood of the floor. It flailed around helpelessly, and the creature screamed in anger or maybe pain, sending more tentacles to make short work of this new danger.
August seemed to be doing a sort of dance around her spear, leaning it left and right to batter tentacles away as she side stepped one attack and kicked away another. The creature couldn’t lay a blow on her. She continued the beautiful dance, almost seeming unslowed by the splint on her leg. At this point the tentacles weren’t even attacking the others anymore, the creature was focused solely on August.
The creature surged forward with every tentacle it had, as well as a couple new ones sprouting out from all parts of its body. August continued her dance, lifting herself up into the air by her spear thrusting herself over all the creature’s tentacles to land on the floor closer to it than ever. Not letting go of her spear, she pulled it from the ground, spinning it in her hands and throwing it with what seemed like every ounce of strength she had at the torso of the creature.
The spear impaled the monster, and the creature let out its loudest high pitch squeal yet. The force of the spear was enough to launch the creature into the wall, and pin it there. Thrashing and squealing, the creature’s tentacles began to shrivel up, and the large bulbous creature shrunk back into the shape of a, now dead and limp, boy.
“You killed it,” Edward said quietly, unsure if he should be happy or upset.
“The boy was the monster?” August said after a long silence in the room. She screamed at them, “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THE BOY WAS THE MONSTER?!?” Edward jumped a little, but nobody could respond. August let out another frustrated scream, this time at no one in particular.
“Is it over?” Sister Christine’s voice called from downstairs.
“Don’t come up,” Frankie called down the stairs, but the Sister was already doing so.
“My gods,” the woman said at all the destruction.
“I’m sorry,” Frankie said as Christine turned to look upon her room. The boy’s body lay on her bed, August’s spear and August herself nowhere to be found. How she’d disappeared in the few moments Edward had been distracted, was beyond him.
Sister Christine burst into tears, dropping to her knees.
“There was nothing we could do,” Aldonn tried to say but Frankie silently shook her head at him.
Behind Edward, part of the roof caved in.
*     *     *
August didn’t have to walk far to come upon what she was looking for. A bar. A rowdy one at that. The bustling of drunkards inside sounded particularly dangerous and violent, and that was exactly the kind of crowd August was looking for. She passed the sign that said “Janice’s Pub and Inn” and stepped into the busy establishment.
Everyone in the room seemed bigger than her, strong strapping men with bulging forearms lifting massive flagons of ale and chugging them down. Her eyes scanned the room and fell upon the dirtiest, smelliest, most dangerous bunch in the entire establishment.
“Don’t do it,” the dark skinned voluptuous bartender said from behind the bar. “Don’t blame yourself.” August gave the woman a look. What did the woman know about her life? Nothing.
Lee’s sister approached the table where the men were celebrating. They looked like they were sailors, many scarred and likely put through prolonged torture at different points in their lives. Some were missing chunks from their ears, or an eyeball. One had a peg leg, and he looked the meanest of the bunch. All the women in the bar seemed to be keeping quite as far from that table as they possibly could, and August knew why. They played too rough.
“Hey you,” August said rudely to the meanest one. She snatched his beer from the table and downed it in one gulp. It hadn’t been beer, that had been straight whiskey in a flagon.
“I’d get out of here if you want what’s best for you,” the grumpy man said in a grizzled voice, pointing his finger at August.
August grabbed the man’s finger. “What if I don’t?” she asked, breaking his finger and punching him in the nose. The man screamed and all twelve of his crew pulled weapons on her, one man’s cutlass digging so deep into her neck that it drew blood. She smiled.
“You dumb slut,” the man said angrily, getting in her face. “Do you know what I’d do to you?”
August licked her lips eagerly. “Hopefully you’ll bring all your friends,” she told him, and he looked at his men in confusion.
“Come on,” she said. She deserved this. Every second of it. “What are you all waiting for?”
*     *     *
“Do children turn into monsters a lot?” Aldonn asked his two friends as the three of them sat melancholy on the steps outside Christine’s orphanage. The children still stood on the street, surprisingly quiet for a large group of kids.
Frankie sighed. “Not usually until their teens,” she admitted. Sister Christine stepped out from the rubble. They’d left her alone in there, to give her a chance to grieve. “What are you going to do now, sister?”
Christine touched Frankie’s shoulder as she passed. “I’m going to rebuild,” she told Frankie resolutely as if there was no question. “Come on kids, let’s find you spots in some other orphanages for tonight. We’ll start cleaning all this up in the morning.”
“A mage did this,” Edward told the two of them. “I told you when mages are involved, things only ever end badly.”
“When the balance isn’t maintained,” Frankie tried to clarify. “This was all a trap for Lee. This is why the guards work so hard to maintain a balance in this city. When war breaks out between guilds, its innocent people who suffer.”
“So what do we do?” Aldonn asked his two friends. “How do we stop this from happening again?”
Going into the Mage Tower would be folly. Frankie didn’t even know how to get in. “We’ll go ahead with the original plan,” she told them. “Tomorrow night we break into the Thieves Guild Headquarters and try to stop this war before it begins.”
*     *     *
August stumbled into the headquarters, the sun only just starting to rise somewhere far above them, out of sight on the surface. She traced her hand along the cool stone of the underground walls, and numbly she stepped into the senior officer’s lounge. Her bed wasn’t much farther now.
Lee was waiting, or perhaps keeping himself busy, pouring over maps on a table in the center of the lounge. “I knew you’d be back,” he told her.
She didn’t say anything, hoping to sneak past him without a dialogue.
“You’re just going to have to trust me that I know the greater good,” he continued to explain to her though she didn’t respond. “I’m smarter than you. And it’s not an insult. Only I can understand the depravity of the human mind. Only I can see everything that’s happening in this city.” He looked across the map in front of him. “It’s only in accepting the bad with the good that I’ll be able to manipulate all the pieces. It’s the only way we can win this war.”
“Johnny was found out,” August told him, reaching the door to her room. “The mages turned him into a trap. For you.” It was enough to make him stop. At least for a moment. “I took care of it.”
“Was he able to divulge anything?” Lee asked. “Who wanted me dead?”
August shook her head, and though Lee was still looking at the map, the sound of her hair swishing was enough for him.
“This doesn’t change anything,” he told her.
“There’s still a meeting tomorrow,” she told their leader. He’d talked about delaying it, but hadn’t made a formal decision so she’d kept the gears turning as per his original command.
“Good,” he said. “Then tomorrow we go to war.” He turned around to look at his sister. “There’s probably going to be more things you don’t agree with. You have an innocent heart, and a virgin body. You’re just going to have to let me make the hard decisions.”
August gave him her best smile. Her brother really thought he knew everything, thought only he could imagine the true depravity of the world.
August had a little secret, something that Lee didn’t know, and it was that thought that made her smile much easier to fake. He thought she was his perfect servant, a play thing for him to use however he pleased. But August knew the truth.
She knew she’d be having the last laugh.