short story, Writing

Mary, Chaos Incarnate

(March 2022 short story) SUPER DUPER LATE

You know when even the things you dislike about a person make you love her even more? Well, that was Mary. On the one hand, she could talk endlessly about obscure texts. You couldn’t help but be drawn in. Her passion for obscurity was like a magnet bringing those in her vicinity nearer.

But, at the same time, she would go to great lengths to prove her point. Sometimes it was too far.

At this moment, she is about to get herself fired again. I am watching it happen, and there is nothing I can do to stop her. There wouldn’t be a point. If I try to intervene, it will only redirect her anger towards me. I don’t want to be in those crosshairs.

I only hope that when she is done telling the owner why his family is wrong to practice the school of magic that they’ve practiced for generations that he will not hold Mary’s outburst against me. I don’t want to lose my job.

Of course, there is also the chance that once he fires her, and believe me, it’s coming, she’ll ask me to quit in solidarity. It’s happened before. I hate job hunting. I’m not as charming as Mary, which is hard to believe at this moment as I’m watching her argue with someone about their family’s way of life.

Mary isn’t the only witch like this. She’s just too young to understand how incredibly rude she’s being. I tell her all the time that if she wants to educate people and change their minds, there is a polite way that they might actually listen to, and there is the Mary way, which immediately puts everyone on edge and shuts down their ability to listen to anyone.

But there is no arguing with Mary…

She was raised by a single father, a witch who collected spells as a hobby and who used those spells to try and force others to his view of the world. He was the magical world equivalent of an eco-terrorist. His daughter is a chip off the old block.

It is strange to me that I simultaneously love her passion for magical theory and hate the way she chooses to wield it.

I keep wiping the counters but stop when I hear the boss say, “that’s it. You’ve gone too far.”

“I’m just saying,” replied Mary.

He cut her off. “Get out. Right now. You don’t get to speak to me that way.”

“If you would only listen to what I’m saying,” Mary sighed. She rolled her eyes and pulled off her apron. She held her head high and her shoulders back as she walked around the counter. When she reached the other side, she glanced over towards me.

I shook my head. I silently pleaded with her to not drag me into this.  She shrugged and kept walking. The shop was silent, even after the door shut, ringing the bell above it.

I didn’t make eye contact with the boss and wiped the counter and made myself look busy.

“I’m going to the back,” he said as he stomped off and disappeared behind the “employees only” marked door. As the door was swinging on its hinges, I heard a few words he was mumbling to himself.

“Arrogant brat,” he said just as the doors stopped swinging.

**********

“Mary?” I yelled as I closed and locked the door to our apartment. I hadn’t seen any lights on from the street, but that didn’t mean anything. I’d closed the shop tonight; she might already by asleep.

“Mary?” I said again. No answer.

I took a few steps and turned on the lights. I scanned around and didn’t see her. Our studio apartment was small enough that I could see every inch of it from the entry way.

I wasn’t concerned yet. Maybe she decided to blow off steam. I checked my phone for the umpteenth time but there weren’t any messages from her.

I texted her asking her where she was and if she wanted any company. Knowing Mary, and I have since we were in the same kindergarten class, she was probably caught up in some drama.

She had a habit of going from one catastrophe to the next. You know that saying about celebrity deaths coming in threes, or whatever, that was true about Mary and disasters.

The first was getting fired today. Maybe she was out in the midst of disasters two and three. Hopefully whatever the tragedies were, she wouldn’t bring them home with her.

I looked again at my phone and saw that she hadn’t even read my message yet. It was pretty late. Should I be worried?

This was one of those moments. Mary wasn’t even here, and I was being drawn into her chaos. This time I vowed to not let it pull me in.

I worked on distracting myself instead. I plugged my phone in and placed it on the nightstand. I walked away from it.

I figured the best way to keep away from it was to keep busy. I tidied up, did the dishes, swept the floor, and even took out the garbage. Cleaning the whole apartment took just over thirty minutes.

I plopped onto the bed and reached for the phone. I stopped with my hand still hovering over it.

I would not be drawn in. I would not check my phone. I would not call her or text her.

Whatever was going on, she was in charge of her decisions. She knew where we lived. I didn’t need to check on her.

I took a deep breath and resting my hand in my lap realized that I’d been pulled along in the wake of Mary’s drama for too long now. I wanted to be in her life, but I didn’t need to rescue her or get arrested with her, either of which was equally possible.

The door to the apartment swung open with such force it banged into the wall, adding another dent.

“You are not going to believe what happened to me tonight,” said Mary dropping her bag and belongings and using her foot to kick the door shut.

Life, prompt, Writing

May 2022 Prompt

I swear I don’t know what is happening this year. I am soooooooo behind at this point. I’m not making excuses. Time is just getting away from me, and there are not enough hours in the day.  

My current distraction from writing is that I have a temp job that I normally do twice a year (once in the spring and once in the winter) that normally lasts two weeks to a month at this point in the year, and this year, it’s running into its second month now. Basically, I’m working on a project that I was not expecting to be at this point in the year.  

However, on a happy note, I’ve chosen a writing project to work on when I’m not busy with that job, which should be over in early June (maybe…).  

If you’re here for the prompt of the month, look no further: 

They were getting married in just three weeks, and things were not looking good. They hadn’t found a decent band, and Sheri was not going to have a DJ at her wedding. While Daryl didn’t have an opinion about anything, his mother seemed to have an opinion about everything, even the…  

Complete the Story

In addition to that story (which is due by the end of the month), I still need to write the story for March and April. (If it seems like I have no control over what is going on, sometimes it feels that way…) 

As a reminder, here is the prompt I should have written about in March

You know when even the things you dislike about a person make you love her even more? Well, that was Mary. On the one hand, she… 

Complete the Story

And the April prompt:  

Don’t let this one get away, she thought to herself. Tom had the look of a man quietly planning his escape. Christine watched him closely as he… 

Complete the Story

Happy reading and writing today and every day!

prompt, Writing

April 2022 Prompt

I swear I don’t get this behind on things all the time, though it seems that way sometimes. I still haven’t finished the short story for March… and April is almost over! Ugh!

Despite my tardiness for this post, I am working on a short story for April as well. Here is the prompt for this month:

Don’t let this one get away, she thought to herself. Tom had the look of a man quietly planning his escape. Christine watched him closely as he…

Complete the Story

I hope everyone is meeting their writing and reading goals this month! And if you’re not, know you are not alone. I’m personally blaming it on the weather. Mother nature in Washington can’t decide if it’s winter or spring, and it’s making me crazy.

Happy reading and writing today and every day!

prompt, Writing

March 2022 Prompt

How is it the 15th? Seriously? What have I been doing this month? I can’t figure it out…

I am behind with everything this month! But in happy news, my eyes are finally at a point where I can read and write again. I’m outlining my next novel and will begin drafting hopefully by next week!

If you’re here for a new writing prompt, look no further:

You know when even the things you dislike about a person make you love her even more? Well, that was Mary. On the one hand, she…

Complete the Story

I hope everyone is having a great month!

Happy reading and writing every day!

short story, Writing

Magic Misunderstanding

February 2022’s short story of the month

All right, maybe it wasn’t the best way to start off a conversation. In my own way, I was trying to take her side. It’s not easy to take her side, and very few people do. She has two, maybe three real friends in the world. There’s me, there’s Tilly, and of course, Mitchell. 

As soon as the words left my mouth, she glared at me with those solid black eyes that seemed to reflect everything they were seeing, and at the same time, suck everything in like a black hole. It was really hard to turn away from that stare, even if it made me question my sanity. 

“What did you say to me?” Finch asked through clinched teeth. 

“Um…” I couldn’t gather my thoughts. How did she do that to people? “What I said was despite what Conner said, I think your new outfit looks very traditional. Great choice for picture day.” I took a step back as I finished repeating myself. 

Finch’s beak snapped shut, and she blew air out of her nares. “I don’t care what you think. I don’t need you or anyone else to approve of my choices.” When she said approve, she made air quotes and rolled her eyes. She stomped away. 

I didn’t move for several seconds, and before I had a chance to decide whether or not to go after her, I felt something land on my shoulder. I didn’t have to turn and look. It was Tilly. 

“What’s ol’ Finchy mad about this time?” asked Tilly. 

“Don’t call her Finchy. She hates that.” I didn’t answer Tilly’s question because I was too busy trying to figure out why what I’d said made Finch so angry. Harpies were hard to get along with, but I thought after years of being friends, I was finally understanding Finch—apparently not though. I shrugged and Tilly giggled. I’d forgotten she was on my shoulder. “Why don’t you just teleport to class? Why do you like hitching a ride with me so much?” 

“Oh, I see, the crankiness is contagious. Later then.” There was a popping sound as she disappeared. 

I was still trying to replay the incident with Finch in my mind. I got the books I needed and supplies from my locker. Putting my forehead on the locker, I sighed. 

“What’s eating you?” asked a raspy voice beside me. 

“Hi, Mitchell,” I answered without looking up. “I made Finch mad again.” 

“Hmm…” he didn’t finish his thought but kept repeating the same sound over and over. 

It took me a few seconds to realize he was having phasing problems. Today was really not off to a good start. In only a few minutes at school, I’d managed to anger a harpy, spread my crankiness to the happiest creature on the planet—a leprechaun—and send a ghost into a loop that wouldn’t allow him to fully form on our plane of existence. 

What else could possibly go wrong today?

I should know better to think things like that. It’s like directly challenging the universe to make things worse for you.

The challenge was apparently accepted by my history teacher—Mr. Avenue. As I sat at my desk, waiting for class to begin, Tilly ignored me, and Mitchell and Finch were no where to be seen.

“Attention class! Attention everyone!” He stamped all four of his hooves until everyone settled down. He brushed his mane over his right shoulder before he continued.

“That’s better,” he said. “I have a big announcement. Today you will be paired up with one another and the subject of your final projects for the year will be assigned.” He clapped his hands and stomped again.

The room shook a little whenever he got excited. I often wondered if the school had recently had any structural checks done. How many centaur teachers did we have now? Three? Four? I couldn’t remember just then, but I was sure that too many horses trapsing through the building had to be bad for the support beams.

“Okay. I’m going to use my magic hat to select names,” Mr. Avenue said, and with a flourish, he pulled the baseball cap out of thin air. A few of the brown nosers timidly clapped.

The rest of us just waited. Pulling things out of thin air was Mr. Avenue’s favorite pastime. We’d only seen him work that spell every day of the school year.

He started listing pairs of names.

“Morgana and Finch.”

Good news, I was working on my final history project with my best friend. Bad news, she was mad at me—again. It’d been happening more and more lately. Everything I said to her was the wrong thing, and somehow, I managed to offend her harpy sensibilities.

Mr. Avenue was still talking. “Okay, now that everyone has a partner, I will use my magic hat to assign topics.”

The pairs were given things like the First Magical World War, the Leprechaun Rebellion of 1920, or The Great Fairy Migration. All the subjects were big moments in magical history that were easily researched.

“Morgana and Finch,” Mr. Avenue looked at me as he reached into the hat and pulled out a little slip of paper. “The Fall of King Arthur.”

I groaned and buried my head in my hands. How on Earth could I possibly be expected to write about that? My ancestors were directly linked to it, and in my house, it was a subject that was forbidden.

My ancestors were on the wrong side of history with that one, and we did NOT bring it up.

“These projects will require you to learn your subject area backward and forward. You will each present them during the showcase.” There was a collective groan from the whole class. “Settle down. You’ll live through it. As I was saying,” Mr. Avenue continued, “you will present your subjects at the end of the year showcase that your parents are invited to.”

I was wrong, things could always get worse.

prompt, Writing

February Writing Idea

Today is a big day for me! I’m getting eye surgery today, so I’ll be off my computer for a while.

Before then, I wanted to share my February short story prompt:

All right, maybe it wasn’t the best way to start off a conversation. In my own way, I was trying to take her side. It’s not easy to take her side, and very few people do. She has two, maybe three real friends in the world. There’s me, there’s…

Complete the Story

If you are new to my site, each month I post a short story prompt. The goal is to write a story of at least 1,000 words by the end of the month. That’s it! No other strings attached. If you write one, please share it with me! I would love to see what others create using the prompts I use.

Happy reading and writing today and every day!

short story, Writing

Who’s That?

January 2022’s short story of the month

“When Bobby tells a joke, you’re always wondering if he’s going to take it just a little bit too far. He’s got this image of himself as outrageous and controversial, when in reality he…,” Shelley stopped talking mid-sentence.

Mary was staring at the boy who just walked into the cafeteria.

“Are you even listening to me, Mary?” Shelley asked.

“What?” Mary stuttered out. “What did you say?” She looked at Shelley and knew she was in trouble once again with her best friend. “I didn’t hear what you were saying.”

“No kidding,” said Shelley. “What are you staring at so intently?” She swiveled around on her cafeteria chair. She saw the boy standing in the doorway and shrugged before she turned back to her friend and her sad cafeteria lunch of spaghetti and a tiny salad of lettuce and three pieces of shredded cheese.

“Sorry,” said Mary focusing on her friend. She kept peaking around Shelley to sneak glances at the new boy, but she tried not to make it obvious. Something was off about him. She could sense it from where she was sitting. What was it though? She shook her head. Ever since she was little, she could read people’s auras and get a sense of who they were from just being near them.

She wasn’t near him though. He was all the way across the cafeteria, and yet, she could tell you things about him that she had no way of knowing. He was an only child. He’d just moved to town to live with his uncle. And then the thing that was bothering Mary about him finally hit her. She knew why something was off about him.

Death.

Death was following him. She didn’t know how to explain it to Shelley. Shelley, though her best friend since kindergarten, didn’t really believe that Mary had magical powers. She just thought Mary was really intuitive.

Mary’s aunts knew differently though. They came from a long line of witches and seers. The powers manifested differently in each person. Her aunts called her a soul reader.

And what she was reading right now from across a crowded high school cafeteria filled with egos and hormones, was a boy, close to her age, who’s soul was friends with death.

That was the only way she could explain what she was reading. She needed to talk to her aunts. She’d never encountered something like this before.

“I’m not feeling well,” she said, interrupting Shelley. “I’m going to the nurse’s office.”

“Right now?” asked Shelley. “At least wait until English, then at least you’ll get out of the most boring class in the entire universe.”

Mary smirked. Shelley’s disdain for their English teacher grew with each passing year. In a small town, you usually had the same teacher for each subject all years of high school. Their English teacher also happened to be Shelley’s dad. She spent the entire class rolling her eyes as her dad made nerdy puns and tried to make learning about poetry interesting to teens.

“I can’t wait,” said Mary. She placed her hand on her stomach. “Must have been something I ate.”

Shelley looked at her own barely touched food and pushed it away from her. “Probably.” She sighed. “Fine. Leave me here all alone.”

********

“I’ve never felt anything like it,” whispered Mary into the receiver. “What does it mean?”

“I don’t know, dear. We should probably look in our books. We can talk about this after school. Just stay away from him.”

Mary could practically hear her Aunt Carol wringing her hands through the phone. “Okay. I’ll see you later.”

Mary hung up, not feeling any better. When she’d tried to describe the sensation to her aunt, the only words that came to mind were dark and foggy.

********

She made it to class just in time to see everyone filing out of the room. Shelley came bounding toward her and looped her arm through her’s.

“Library day,” Shelley said as she skipped, pulling Mary along towards the library.

Library days were enjoyed by both teachers and students alike. The students liked them because they got to leave the confines of their normal classrooms and roam about in the book stacks out of the view of teachers. The teachers liked them because they escorted the students to the library, dropped them off, and then returned to their classroom for a blissful forty-five minutes of silence. On library days, they were someone else’s responsibilities.

After the librarian took role, they were released to “select books for personal reading.” Most students found a spot in the book stacks to use their phones or sat at the long library tables and wasted the time. As long as nothing caught on fire, and no one left bleeding, the librarian left them to it.

Mary and Shelley wound their way through the stacks on the balcony level of the library—the non-fiction section. They liked to camp out right in front of the encyclopedias (ancient tomes of information that no one even opened anymore. Thank you, Google!)

“Well, I take it you’re feeling better.”

Mary shrugged. “I guess.”

They sat on the floor next to each other for a few moments, but sitting there left Mary feeling restless.

“I’m going to wander a bit. Be right back.”

She circled around the shelf to the other side and took a deep breath. No matter what she did, she felt like the air was too thick since she’d seen him.

She walked further along the shelf, noting the dust was espically thick on this row of books. She stopped to look at the titles that were just at her eye level. It was more encycolopedias. These ones were in burgundy covers and had gold lettering that was practically worn away. As she was trying to figure out what the book in front of her covered, she felt like she was being watched.

A wave of oppressive air swirled around her. She tried to breath but felt like she might hyperventilate. She grabbed the shelf in front of her and closed her eyes to try and steady herself. After a moment, she felt better.

When she opened her eyes, she saw across the shelf and into the next row of books. There were two large green eyes looking back at her.

She didn’t jump. She’d never been one to startle easily.

“Are you okay?” the voice that she assumed belonged to the eyes asked.

“Fine. Why are you staring at me?”

“You looked like you might faint.”

“And you just stood there watching?” Mary asked, not hiding the annoyed tone from her question.

“My name’s Victor,” he said.

“Mary,” she answered.

As he stepped back from the shelf, she could see now that it was the boy from the cafeteria.

“Are you in my English class?” she asked.

“Guess so.”

Just then, Shelley popped up. “There you are. Come on. You are not going to believe what Bobby did now.” Shelley grabbed her and pulled her away. Not for the first time, Mary was glad Shelley was oblivious to other people’s lives.

Life, prompt, Writing

2022 Boom

Let’s kick off the new year by getting things done sooner rather than later. (At least that’s what I’m going to start with. We all know it doesn’t always happen that way).

My new personal goals for this year are:

  1. Read 45 books
  2. Complete 4th novel
  3. Write 12 short stories
  4. Finish the Grimm Fairy Tale Cross Stitch
  5. Finish one medium cross stitch project
  6. Finish one larger cross stitch project

That’s all I’ve got on the list so far. I may add to or take away as the year goes. What are you up to this year?

And to keep things going in the right direction (or the write direction, wink wink) let’s start the year with a short story prompt:

When Bobby tells a joke, you’re always wondering if he’s going to take it just a little bit too far. He’s got this image of himself as outrageous and controversial, when in reality he…

Complete the Story

Unlike the last few years, I’m not going to try and connect all my stories together. I’m just going to write about whatever strikes me. I feel like I get better ideas that way that sometimes lead to longer stories (my novels, for example).

Happy reading and writing today and every day!

prompt, Writing

Adventure of a Lifetime

(December 2021 short story of the month)

I told Eddie it didn’t hurt too badly. “Give it a couple of minutes,” he said, smiling that smile of his. Like he knows it’s going to hurt, and like he’s secretly going to enjoy it. Eddie has this habit of being by my side when times are tough. He was there when we had the great idea to get tattoos.

Five Years Ago…

“We should get the water mage emblem tattooed on us,” said Eddie as he took another drink.

“I love that idea,” I said. I punched him in the arm. “Let’s go tomorrow. It’s raining right now.”

“Good point,” said Eddie settling back on the couch.

The next day we made our appointments and met with a tattoo artist.

As I sat there getting my ink etched into my chest, Eddie was in the chair next to me getting the same stamp.

“This hurts,” he said.

“No kidding,” I answered.

“I kind of thought it wouldn’t really hurt,” said Eddie.

“It’s permanent, and they do it with needles. What part of that did you think wouldn’t hurt?” I asked.

He laughed.

Present Day

“Seriously though, when you’re ready to call it, let me know.” He slapped me on the shoulder and made his way to the dance floor.

I just shook my head. Eddie was right about a lot of things, but not this. He did have a way of knowing when enough was enough though. Like the time we’d went to jail.

Six Years Ago…

“Can I have another?” I asked the bartender. The place was packed. Mages were perched on every stool and chair. More were lined up around the pool tables. The dance floor was covered with graduates celebrating.

It was a tradition for all graduates of The University of Mages to spend the evening getting wasted in The Four Elements, the oldest pub in London. Following the day’s ceremony, they’d all teleported discreetly to London.

The party was going strong. The drinks were being drained almost as quickly as they were being served.

Eddie and I were having a great time.

“Look what we have here, boys. The water mage sisters,” said a voice from right behind me.

I barely turned my head and looked at Eddie. We didn’t have to look to know who was calling us “sisters.” The only person who thought something like that was funny was Ben. Ben lived across the hall from us in the dorms. He was an earth mage. He was big and dumb like an ox. His favorite past time, other than being big and dumb, was picking fights with anyone who wasn’t an earth mage.

There was always a bit of rivalry between the different elements while at university, but Ben and his classmates took the rivalry to a whole other level. For them, it was all out war. They fought with any one and everyone who wasn’t an earth mage. It made the years at university very long. Eddie and I were glad they were over.

“Don’t,” I said to Eddie. “It’s not worth it.”

“You’re right,” he said.

“Look at the two twin sisters finishing each other sentences. Aren’t they so cute?” Ben said in a taunting sing songy voice.

“However,” said Eddie as he sat his cup on the counter and turned around swinging.

The fight didn’t last long. The police had been told to stand by. Not only was a graduation party at The Four Elements a tradition. About half the party-goers ending up in jail was also a tradition.

Present Day

I watched Eddie dancing with all of my sisters at the same time. They thought of him as another brother. I laughed as they all joined in the chicken dance.

There was no way I was going to be dragged into that ridiculousness.

I saw Annie coming toward me through the dancers with a smile spread across her face. Okay, so maybe there was one way.

She grabbed my hand and I joined her on the dance floor. We did the chicken dance, followed by the YMCA, and ended up doing the macarena before I finally got an opportunity to steal away again.

Eddie found me standing further away from the dance floor.

“Never thought I’d see the day when you’d willingly do the chicken dance,” he said shaking his head.

“You’d be surprised what you would do for the right woman,” I said. I was watching Annie chat with relatives. She worked the room, making every one feel like they were our special guests. She really was special.

Four Years Ago…

“Move the couch to the left and tilt,” I said.

“I’m trying,” said Eddie. “There isn’t anymore left for it to go. Unless you want me to move it through the wall.”

“Please, don’t,” said a voice from behind Eddie and the couch that I couldn’t see around.

“Hey, doll,” said Eddie. “We’ll be out your way in a few moments.”

“Great. Don’t call me doll,” the voice said.

I couldn’t see her, but I could see her converse shoe tapping on the other side of the railing. She was not so patiently waiting for us to unblock the stairs.

Standing there like a couple of idiots trying to fit an oversized couch up the stairwell in front of a potential mate was enough to motivate Eddie to try harder. He pulled and hefted and the couch moved.

As I made my way onto the landing, I saw her for the first time. I gave her a half-hearted smile from over the side of the couch.

“Hi, my name’s Charles. Looks like we’re going to be neighbors,” I said as I smiled and walked with the couch.

“Annie,” she answered. “Welcome to the building.”

I didn’t see anymore of her that day.

Present Day

I would get to see every day for the rest of my life after today. Eddie was wrong. This was one adventure he wouldn’t understand. I would never be done with her.

short story, Writing

Mage Games 2021

November 2021’s short story of the month
(Super late)

The day was scorching hot and bone dry, the air smelled like burnt toast,
and everyone’s nerves were on edge. Only Zeke was calm. He patrolled the
perimeter, making jokes about women and how stupid they were.

“Hey, knock it off,” said Charles. He placed his hand over his chest pocket
where he kept a picture of his fiancé, Annie. He leaned back feeling the wood
of the makeshift fort they were currently waiting in. He couldn’t wait to get
this over with. One month from now he would be married, and his life could
begin. This silly game felt like the last of a very long to-do list he had to
finish before he was finally done being a child. He was ready. Ready to grow
up. Ready to start a family. Ready to start a career. His service to the Elders
was complete. He was now his own mage. There were a lot of exciting career
fields a water mage could go into.

The water mages were tired of waiting. The games were always like this—get
there, wait, and wait some more. The Magic Elders staged one game a year
between different teams. It was a way for mages all over the world to get
together and meet.

This year, they had decided that each team wound be a different type of
magic. This left the teams unevenly matched. Certain types of mages were more
common than others. For example, there were more earth mages than water mages,
and more fire mages than air mages.

As they sat in their temporary fort waiting for the start, they weren’t even
sure what their objective was.

Zeke was still making jokes that were inappropriate. He clearly didn’t care
who heard. He made another crack about women being dumb.

A water mage in a blue robe stood up and pushed her hood back away from her
face. She crossed her arms over her chest.

“You need to stop telling those jokes.” When she said jokes, she used air
quotes.

“I’m just saying,” said Zeke. “In my experience…”

“Don’t finish that sentence,” chimed in Charles.

“Why not?” asked Zeke.

Charles nodded towards the mage still standing and glaring at Zeke. “Pretty
sure, she’s a princess or something. Very powerful mage.” Charles bowed
slightly. “Your highness.”

She curtsied in return.

Zeke opened his mouth and then snapped it shut again. Even he wasn’t dumb
enough to purposely piss off royalty.

Charles never got a chance to see how Zeke would react, and the princess
never got a chance to tell him what she really thought.

There was a loud boom followed by tiny pebbles raining down on them.

“Take cover,” someone yelled.

He didn’t need to be told twice. Charles, Zeke, and the princess all dove
into the tiny makeshift room. It was the only place in the fort that anything resembling
a roof.

“What is happening?” asked Zeke.

The pebbles continued to rain down on their fort.

“Well, if I had to guess, I’d say the earth mages have found our fort and
are attacking.” She looked outside and saw the ground covered with tiny grey
rocks. They covered every square inch of the area inside the wooden fort wall.

“Shouldn’t we fight back?” asked Charles.

“Fight against what?” The princess reset her hood. “I haven’t seen any mages
yet. It was just pebbles. They’re just showing off. Trying to draw us out. I
say we sit tight. Let them get in closer and then we go for it.”

“Go for what?” asked Zeke. “You seem to know a bit more than the rest of us about
what is going on right now. What’s our objective even?”

The princess opened her mouth, but she never answered because another mage
listening in on their conversation shook his head. She shrugged. If she wasn’t
supposed to tell the others, fine, she could keep a secret.

Charles saw the princess respond to the other’s look. “You both know
something,” he said. “I get it. You were probably told not to tell anyone. But
how is it that you know something the rest of us don’t? You’re royalty, and I’m
guessing tall and silent here has some powerful family too. You guys always
come to the mage games knowing more than the rest of us. I don’t even know why
they invite the rest of us.”

Neither the princess nor the silent mage said anything in response.

Charles glared at them both. “You’re really not going to tell us anything?”

Both shook their heads.

“Great. That’s just great. Okay, Zeke. How do we fight someone we can’t see
and fulfill a mission that we have no idea what the goal is?”

Zeke shrugged. “I say we just run out there and hit ‘em with everything we’ve
got. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”

Charles stared at Zeke for several minutes trying to decide if he was being
serious. Zeke just stood there blinking. He was fully serious.

“You know what. I think I would like to be done with this sooner rather than
later, and if the two that have information aren’t sharing, let’s just go for it.”
Charles pulled his hood up. “You and me, Zeke.”

Zeke pulled on his hood too. He nodded.

The two walked out of the little ramshackle building, walking carefully over
the piles of pebbles that rolled around under their feet. They didn’t even
hesitate. They pushed open the large gate and walked out of the fort.

There standing in formation for as far as their eyes could see were the
other mages. The earth mages were in the center and made up the majority of the
ranks. They were flanked on either side by the fire and air mages. They were
all just standing there.

Two water mages versus the entirely of all the others.

“Right. Any ideas?” asked Charles.

“Only one,” said Zeke as he clapped his hands and started running right at
the assembled mages.

He wasn’t casting, and he continued running straight for them.

“If you can’t beat them…” said Charles as he too ran into the armies.