Round robin chapter 6


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Round robin chapter 6

  1. 1. “Oh thank god, I thought maybe I was having a stroke and smelling imaginary cake. But there does actually appear to be real cake at...9 a.m.” Alice shook her head at her sister as she checked her watch “So, Betty Crocker, can I have a slice or will one of the rainbows in the icing choke me to death?” Eloise laughed amiably at her sister’s jibes “It’s actually to take over to John’s tonight.” “Ooooh, hot date?” “No” Eloise flushed pink, “His parents are both working and he has to watch his little sister. He asked me if I wanted to come over and babysit with him.”
  2. 2. “Oooh, inviting you to co-baby sit.” Alice winked playfully as she stepped into the dining room “A bit old school for my taste, but still a valid flirting technique. Hell it looks like this boy of yours is as cutesy as you are Eloise.” “Guys shut up!” Eloise laughed, gone bright pink now “You know it’s possible for people to just be friends.” “Not in this family it’s not.” Alice contradicted, swiping a taste of chocolate icing. “What?” She caught the dirty look from her sister “I have a game this afternoon, I need the energy.”
  3. 3. “Eloise relax, that boy’s crazy about you. You didn’t have to make a cake to try to get him to like you. It’s very sweet though.” “Literally.” Alice put in, picking at what looked like an uneven bit on the side, and removing a fairly substantial chunk of cake which promptly went in her mouth. “This is really good. Remind me not to hug you or you might never be able to make it again.”
  4. 4. “Awwww, thanks Alice!” “What did I just say!” The dark haired girl groaned as her baby sister pulled her into a hug. “Freaking, lil’ miss Hugsalot.” Maddie laughed and attempted to even out the bit Alice had taken from the cake, which naturally meant that more uneven bits had to be consumed “Mmmm...that is pretty tasty. Hey Alice, since you’ve probably incapacitated Eloise for the day, go make another one of these will you.” “It’s not funny.” Alice grumbled crossly.
  5. 5. “Why do I smell cake?” David asked curiously, arriving a few paces ahead of Tara. “Because Eloise is trying to win the “50s homemaker-in-training of the year award.” apparently.” Alice shrugged. “Well it seems to have effectively gotten you all to the same place at the same time. That’s no small feat” Tara noted, then nudging David playfully she shook her head “Cake. Why didn’t we think of that?”
  6. 6. “As long as you’re all here, we need to talk girls.” “Wasn’t me!” Alice piped up instantly. “It was totally like that when I found it.” Maddie added. “Really when you think about it, it’s much better now.” “What?” “What? were saying Dad.”
  7. 7. “I was saying, we need to talk. Seriously.” “I have the feeling this is the sort of conversation that is going to require cake to help us through.” Maddie put in with mock sobriety. “I’ll get a knife.”
  8. 8. It took several hours and many slices of cake for David to go through everything...
  9. 9. ...he started at the beginning...
  10. 10. ...going through what he had been told as best he could...
  11. 11. ...what his father had told him...
  12. 12. ...what he knew from first hand experience...
  13. 13. ...until there were only crumbs left on the cake tray and everything that needed to be said had been.
  14. 14. Or almost everything. “Well screw that.” Alice piped up, with surprising nonchalance as she busily cleaned her fingers of chocolate. “Seconded.” Maddie put in, “Last I checked I was still in possession of free will. And as far as I know we’re as safe here as anywhere else.”
  15. 15. “It’s not always a matter of choice way or another...everyone leaves home eventually.” “But it doesn’t have to be to end up getting lost in the great wide nowhere of the universe.” Eloise interjected optimistically. “Dad, I love you guys. But we can handle whatever happens. Nothing’s going to force us to leave, just like nothing’s going to force us to stay. We can handle this.” David beamed proudly “I know you can we raised you that way.” All at once three normally verbose teenage girls were looking like bashful daddy’s girls.
  16. 16. “Well this has incredibly strange family bonding moment...” Maddie finally broke the tension “But I've got places to go and did have plans to play the piano until my fingers either bleed or fall off...or I until I master my new sheet music” “Or when I kill her.” Alice interjected. “Right, whichever comes first.” “Don’t forget, my game starts at two o’clock.” “Yeah yeah, I’ll be there I promise.”
  17. 17. “And that should give Eloise just enough time to bake another cake for her little baby-sitting Date before the game.” “Oh man, not my baby girl too!” David looked ruefully at Eloise who was somewhere between beaming and looking contrite. “It’s not a date! He’s a friend.” “You three are far too involved with your love lives you do know that don’t you?” Tara smirked “I completely blame your side of the family for this you know.” “You don’t have a side of the family.” “Exactly.”
  18. 18. “How long do you estimate it’s possible to watch an orange ball bounce up and down the court without wanting to claw out my own eyes.”
  19. 19. “Don’t claw out your eyes. You have very nice eyes.” Virginia teased Maddie playfully as the girls slumped back in the bleachers watching the game “Besides, we’re here to support your sister right?” “And the half dozen brothers you have playing with her.” Maddie commented dryly. “Seriously, if it weren’t for your family we wouldn’t actually have a basketball team.” “I don’t have that many brothers...wait...” Vee did a quick count “Huh, I guess I do. But they’re not all playing.”
  20. 20. Maddie watched as Alice caught the basketball and spun around aggressively, aiming for the net. Maddie sighed “I’m going to go get a soda from the cafeteria, you want anything?” “I’m fine.” Vee shook her head. Maddie kissed her once quickly before slipping out between seated spectators into the empty hallways of her high school.
  21. 21. She wandered quietly for some time before she found that her feet had led her inevitably to the music room. Knowing she had plenty of time left before the end of the game she slipped through the door and picked up one of the guitars that lingered in the corner. And began to strum it quietly, her fingers playing naturally across the chords. She was so absorbed in what she was doing she didn’t hear the door open.
  22. 22. “Uh...Hi.” Maddie looked up hastily, and smile politely at a girl she recognized vaguely from around school. “Sorry...didn’t mean to interrupt. I was just coming in to grab some sheet music. I did hear the music, I just figured it was one of the musical theatre folks practicing, since they’re in here constantly. Finding a random hot girl is a pleasant surprise.”
  23. 23. Maddie laughed “Thanks.” “I think I’ve seen you play down at the Central Drip, down town. You’re good.” “Thanks. I’m Maddie Doran.” “Amrita Patel. Call me Ami.” “ like Music?”
  24. 24. “Ahem.” “Oh Hey Vee.” Maddie smiled blithely “Is the interminable game over already?”
  25. 25. “No...but you were gone a really long time, I figured I would come make sure you were ok. Somehow I figured I’d find you here.” Virginia gave Ami a killing look “And somehow it also figures you wouldn’t be by yourself. Hi, I’m Virginia, Maddie’s girlfriend.” “Uhh...I should probably go.” Ami glanced between the two girls. “Yeah you should.” Virginia’s glare followed the other dark haired girl all the way out the door as she made a hasty retreat.
  26. 26. “Wow. If looks could kill.” Maddie laughed as she sidled towards Virginia. “No! Don’t. I’m angry at you.” “Good, you’re cute when you’re angry.” “Maddie this is serious.” “Ok...I’ll put on my serious face.” Maddie pressed her lips together sternly, as Vee rolled her eyes and pushed away.
  27. 27. “When the hell are you going to grow up?” “What’s that supposed to mean? Vee, it was harmless flirting.” “Every time I turn around you’re flirting with someone else!” “Vee, relax. We’re young. If this isn’t the time to have some fun, what are we supposed to do in high school. Study?”
  28. 28. “Maddie, we’re getting older. You’ve had plenty of time to have fun and run around. We’re graduating soon, we’re going to University-” “Yeah because College is definitely the place to settle down and be serious.” Maddie scoffed, now genuinely growing angry. “Why don’t you take anything seriously! It’s like everything is and games to you. Relationships, us, your future, your career...”
  29. 29. “What’s that supposed to mean. You of all people know how serious I am about music. How many times have I listened to you complain about me spending time practicing instead of with you. You’ve been around on the days I practiced until my fingers bled. I have the blisters to prove it.” “Music” Vee spat the word, “is a hobby. Not a career path. Come on, be realistic Maddie. How many people actually make it as Musicians! You need to stop being so childish. You can’t exactly spend your life running around messing me about and dreaming pipe dreams.” “I’m sorry, but when did I put you in charge of my life?”
  30. 30. “Virginia, you knew who I was when we started dating. Why the hell is the coming out now?” “Maybe I grew up and you didn’t. You’re still acting as much like a stupid teenager. And you know what. I’m fed up with the immaturity, with the cheating and with feeling like I’m nothing more than another fun time for you.” The words hit Maddie hard, but she steeled herself bravely against the look the girl she loved was giving her “If that’s what you think about me...if that’s how you think I think about you then maybe we really have changed.”
  31. 31. “Fine.” “Fine. It’s over.” “If you come to your senses and decide you’re through flirting with anything male or female that makes googly eyes at you and that you want to be serious about your life, and having a life with me, we can talk...until then we’re done.” “If you decide you can build up the self confidence to be with someone who doesn’t spend her time fawning over you and your ego constantly. Give me a call.” The door slammed behind Virginia on the way out, just as a cheer rose from the gym, heralding the end of the game.
  32. 32. “Nice game!” “Except you kind of lost it towards the end there Marcus.” “Yeah no kidding pal.” “That’s what you get when a hot girl you’re hooking up with is out there on the court with you. No concentration.” Marcus forced himself to chuckle good naturedly as his team mates jibbed and jostled him on their way out.
  33. 33. He glanced across at Alice who was laughing with Felicity Cleveland, one of the cheerleaders, who had already changed out of her uniform. She looked around and caught his gaze, smiling brightly she turned towards him.
  34. 34. “Hey” She leaned in and kissed him “Sorry about the whole bumping into you thing. I really didn’t mean to take away your mojo mid game.” “I know you didn’t.” “But hey! We won so, no harm no foul right! Ready to go?”
  35. 35. “Ummm...yeah...Alice...listen...we need to talk. You’re great but-”
  36. 36. “And then! And then! He pulls “I mean I know it’s a team sport and all. But you still gotta look out for number one, and it’s important that I play my best” and I’m like “Important for who? The team or your wounded ego!”” Alice kicked a chair hard “Sunnova Bitch.” “You know he’s just a macho jerk. It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong.” Eloise smiled at her sister as reassuringly as she could. “I know I didn’t! Unlike Miss Maddie over here who at least got dumped for a good reason!”
  37. 37. “Vee didn’t dump me, we broke up. Mutually...and I mean not even really. It was just a fight. We both just...need some time to cool off and it’ll be fine.” Alice muttered something about rivers in Egypt under her breath which Maddie chose to ignore. “You know I think you jinxed us.” Alice piped up again after a moment. “This morning you were all like “oooh, we control our own destinies, nothing has to change if we don’t want it to.” And then BAM! Things went and changed.” “Oh yeah, clearly this is all my fault.” Maddie rolled her eyes.
  38. 38. “Uummm...I hate to interrupt.” Eloise put in carefully “But...I have to go...” “Where?” “To see John, remember.” She said it almost guiltily “To baby sit Melly. I’m really sorry.” “Don’t apologize because you’re suddenly the only one of who can keep a boyfriend.” Alice kicked something again. “Shall we all hop aboard the bitter train...or would you like to ride it alone Alice?” Maddie chided her sister.
  39. 39. “You two could come if you wanted.” Eloise put in kindly. “I think I’d rather jump off a cliff than watch you and Johnny boy play house together, but thanks Eloise.” “What Alice is trying to say is that we’re not going to ruin your date. We’re just going to stay here and feel sorry for ourselves for a bit.” “Well if you’re sure...” Eloise already had one foot out the door.
  40. 40. As she left Alice and Maddie sagged against the couch, the only non depressing energy gone for the room. “So what should we do?” “I think in situations like this most girls indulge in rituals involving ice cream and soppy movies.” “I didn’t ask what most girls do. I asked what we should do...” “Shoot things on the game station and pretend they’re our exes?” “Right on.”
  41. 41. “Eloise!” Melusine Green catapulted herself into Eloise’s arms before she was even fully through the door. “Hi Melly!” Eloise hugged the little girl happily “What’s up?” “Hey guess what! I’ve had dinner and washed behind my ears and brushed my teeth and I’m in my jim jams so that now that you’re here all we have to do is play! ‘Cause John said I could stay up really really late! At least midnight!”
  42. 42. “Yep, and John definitely didn’t set all the clocks in the house ahead three hours.” John winked at Eloise over the oblivious head of his little sister before allowing her to pull him into a hug. “Glad you could come.” “Thanks for inviting me.” “Are you...” John trailed off distractedly as he inhaled “Are you wearing a different smell really...delicious...sorry is that weird?”
  43. 43. Eloise laughed a little bashfully as she pulled away from the hug “I probably smell like cake still...I made on this morning...I meant to bring got eaten.” “Oh...right...that must be it.” John smiled at his best friend. Then suddenly the both blushed and looked at the ground. Melusine wasted no time in seizing their hands “Come on let’s go play!”
  44. 44. “I gotta show you my dollies Eloise! John you can play too!” “That’s nice of you Melly, thanks.” “Come ooooooon. Time’s a wasting!”
  45. 45. “You know I hope they’re paying you over time at this place.” “Oh hey hon. You are aware that you’re not technically allowed inside this building right?” “Then they shouldn’t just have security on the doors.” “If I didn’t like it so much when you drop by I might suggest we get security inside the walls too. What’s up?” “I’m picking you up from work, remember.” David laughed “You were supposed to get off like forty five minutes ago. I figured I’d come and investigate.”
  46. 46. “So what’re you doing that’s so important?” David asked peering over his wife’s shoulder. “Well, instead of spending my whole day in a lab staring at samples and virus strains and getting absolutely nowhere, I figured I’d take a different approach to the sleeping sickness and I have now spent most of my day researching other cases of the virus.” “Uh-huh. How’s that working out for you?”
  47. 47. “It’s weird...none of it makes any sense . There have been other incidents, all over the world in fact but they don’t seem to have any rhyme or reason to them. Sudden outbreaks, only affecting children under the age of sixteen. Usually poor. Orphans a lot of the time. Kids no one will miss...and then all of a sudden, it just stops. The children never got better. But no more got sick.” “That’s weird.” David squinted at the screen where the antiquated newspaper article was zoomed in. “What is?” Tara returned her attention to the monitor.
  48. 48. “Right the background of the photo...doesn’t that look a lot does the other one actually.” David indicated an article under the headline Flinton Chief of Staff visits sick children in City’s slums. “That’s impossible that article is over a hundred years old. And...” Tara trailed off as she squinted at the figure...the resemblance really was uncanny. “Yeah, and you have a husband who can walk through walls.” David replied shortly “Who knows what’s impossible.”
  49. 49. “You know I think I’m going to stay a bit longer. I’ll find my own way home.” “Ok. I’ll swing by the store and pick up some dinner and then make sure the girls are ok.” “Mmmhhhmmmm” Tara nodded absently her fingers already flying across the keyboard as she began an extensive search for CORDIAL.
  50. 50. “Why don’t you have any story books in this house?” Eloise scanned the bookshelf curiously, it was devoid of anything resembling a children’s book, which was inconvenient when she was looking for something to serve as a bedtime story to Melusine. “Mom disapproves of them.” John shrugged, “I asked her why once and I got a very long lecture that started out with something about “unfair one dimensional characterization of the complex problems faced by the female antagonists” and ended with her telling me that Sleeping Beauty was “Much better off asleep anyway” and it was “a shame it didn’t stick.” I think maybe it’s a feminist thing...”
  51. 51. “Oook...that’s an interesting view on the world.” Melllllusiiiiiiiine. “You should hear her rant about the big bad wolf sometime.” Meeeeeelllllllyyyyyyyyy
  52. 52. “Mommy?” “ we’ll just have to find something else to read tonight.” “John!” “We’re coming Melly.” “But John! Mommy’s home!”
  53. 53. “Mom will be home when you wake up in the morning. She’s at work, at the Parent Teacher conferences remember?” “But...she’s here now.” “No she isn’t Mel, just hang tight ok!”
  54. 54. “Ok...What about this “Birth and Rebirth of pictorial space”.” “’ll definitely put her to sleep.”
  55. 55. “Next time remind me to bring some of the books from our house.” “Well...maybe next time we can do something...without something together...or you know...whatever...” “I’d like that.”
  56. 56. “Mommy?”
  57. 57. “You know for a book with the word “Pictorial” in the title, this thing is surprisingly devoid of pictures.” “Melly?” Eloise looked up from where she’d been flipping through the book.
  58. 58. “Mel?” John looked curiously around the room, which was suddenly devoid of his little sister “Melusine, where are you?” Eloise looked anxious “Could she just be playing a trick...hiding?” John’s brow furrowed “No...that’s not like her...” “Well...she can’t have gone far. I’m sure she’s around here somewhere!”
  59. 59. The two split up quickly in search of the little girl, Eloise headed to the kitchen as John headed to the roof. It was there that he found the note.
  60. 60. My dear John, I have your sister. She is perfectly safe and she will remain safe as long as you do one thing for me. It is perfectly simple. All you need to do is say the following words out loud... John frowned at the piece of paper, trying to decipher the gibberish of syllables that followed, babbling them out as best he could. The last letter had barely died on his lips when he felt something begin to change...
  61. 61. The light flared up from nowhere, illuminating the entire house almost blindingly as John stepped back, suddenly panicked, groping his way to the door as best he could...
  62. 62. ...and then everything went dark.
  63. 63. “John.” He heard Eloise’s voice first as she came up the stairs “John all the power’s gone out.” There was a tremble of fear in her voice that he did not miss, but that he completely understood. No matter how he tried to tell himself that he was too old to be afraid of the dark he couldn’t help but feel inexplicable terror in that moment. He did his best to swallow his fear “Umm...I think the fusebox is up here somewhere. If we can find it I can-” He stopped short.
  64. 64. That was when they both heard it...a long high pitched cackling noise that split the eerie silence of the night.
  65. 65. “Oh well done Nephew of mine, very very well done indeed.” Kimberly Cordial smirked at her nephew “I was not entirely sure that would work but I must say that was beyond even my expectations.” “Who are you?” “I see you did not inherit your mother’s brilliant mind...and fortunately for me she has done nothing to educate you in the way she should have.” The witch sighed with exaggerated patience “I am your aunt Kimberly, and you just broke your mother’s wards.”
  66. 66. “Very good of you to do that for me by the way. It is a simple bit of magic, I would’ve done it myself years ago, if protection spells could be destroyed by the person they were set up against of course. Since that is not the case I needed someone else to do it, another witch. Obviously your mother was never going to...but you just did. Not all of them of course...not yet. The spell will spread over the next hour or so but for the time being you’ve managed to leave your house, yourself, and your sister completely unprotected. Congratulations, not bad for a beginner.”
  67. 67. “And of course...most importantly. Your little girl friend here.” She smiled at Eloise hungrily, who took a step back “You know why you are so drawn to her don’t you? Because just like me you can sense the power in her blood and you want can just smell how wonderful she would taste can’t you? You’re hungry for her soul....and little Eloise is just that...little.” Kimberly’s smile turned suddenly predatorial “Still little enough to be consumed.”
  68. 68. Without warning she lunged for Eloise. The small red head drew back but it was too late Kimberly’s hand had already closed around her arm. “NO!” John leapt for them, but too late.
  69. 69. But his hand only closed on a small handful of dissipating magical energy as Kimberly and Eloise vanished into thin air and he hit the ground with a painful thud.
  70. 70. “NO! Eloise!”
  71. 71. “Santana really has been doing very well in maths, but I’m afraid her reading skills aren’t coming along as quickly as some other kids in the class. I’d suggest maybe encouraging her to do an hour of reading time on her own every day. I’d be more than happy to suggest some books that are an appropriate difficulty level and...” Samantha’s spine stiffened suddenly as something prickled through the air, something...wrong. Something she couldn’t quite put her finger on...if she could just concentrate though...
  72. 72. “Uh...Mrs. Green?” “Mmm?” Benjamin Baldwin’s voice snapped her from her contemplation “Oh um...yes...what was I saying?” “About Santana?” Isabel prompted her youngest child’s elementary school teacher. “Ah yes, well she’s certainly a very energetic young thing. Very well integrated in the class and-”
  73. 73. Tara did not knock. “Samantha.” her expression was unflinchingly sober and Samantha watched with bated breath as the other woman’s eyes flicked first to her face then to the Baldwins “Will you excuse us for a moment. I have something important to discuss with Mrs. Green.”
  74. 74. For a moment the Baldwins looked like they might argue, but then something must have shown on Tara’s face because they simply nodded, gathered their things and were gone in a flash.
  75. 75. Samantha rose to her feet carefully “I knew you would work it out eventually” she tried to keep her tone even “You were bound to you’re very clever. Your mother was too you know.” “What do you know about my mother?” “Ah- so you haven’t put it all together yet...what exactly do you know?” “That you’re not human. That in itself I don’t give a damn about. My husband isn’t human either. But you’re not like him are you?”
  76. 76. “No.” “I’ve run and your sister have no birth certificates, no social security number, no bank accounts, no records of you ever existing. Except for the occasional real estate purchase. I couldn’t find all of them of course but I did notice that all the houses you’ve bought over the last century, match up to the time and places of the sleeping sickness. Care to explain?” Samantha sighed “Of course. This might take a while.” “I have time.”
  77. 77. “Come on, come on, mom! Pick up! Please pick up!” Hi this is Samantha, I can’t answer my phone right now. Please leave a message. BEEP! “Dammit Mom.” John fiddled with the phone for a few anxious moments, then quickly making a decision he dialled another number.
  78. 78. “You know what my problem is?” “That you can’t aim you sniper to save your virtual life.” Maddie teased, mashing a button in time to explode the head of a particularly vicious looking zombie. Alice ignored her“ The only guys who aren’t going to be threatened by me are the guys who aren’t going to be like...good at anything. And that’s not the sort of guy I want to date you know!” The phone buzzed insistently on the side table. “Ignore it.” Alice urged. “No, I can’t it could be...Mom and Dad.”
  79. 79. “Could be Virginia is what you mean.” Alice muttered, as Maddie reached for the receiver. “Or it could be Marcus.” Maddie pointed out, trying to be helpful. “Oh god. We’ve become one those girls. The ones who sit by the phone and wait for their boyfriend and girlfriend to call. That’s pathetic. Maddie don’t answer it, pretend we have something better to do.” “Too late.” Maddie sighed putting the receiver to her ear “Hello?”
  80. 80. “Oh Maddie thank god! I didn’t know who else to call! I was afraid the police would think I was nuts and I can’t reach my mom and dad and-” “John? What’s wrong, slow down.” “It’s Eloise.” “Eloise. Is she ok?” “No! There was this woman. She appeared out of nowhere and just grabbed her! And vanished! She looked just like my mother...but she wasn’t and she kept talking about witchcraft and souls and consuming.”
  81. 81. Maddie froze, receiver pressed to her ear as a memory she had buried deep in the recesses of her mind was stirred.. “That leaves you all for me my precious pretty little thing! Now tell me do you prefer your essence consumed whole or piece by piece?” “A witch.” Maddie heard herself ask John over the phone “Are you sure?”
  82. 82. “I know, it’s hard to believe but you have to listen, she has Eloise and she has Melusine and I don’t know what she’s going to do!” Maddie took a long shuddering breath “She’s going to kill her.” Alice looked up “What are you talking about? Witches?” “She’s going to kill Eloise.” Maddie could feel the panic rising in her chest and forced it down “John” she spoke into the phone “We’ll be right there.”
  83. 83. “And my said you knew her. How does she fit into all of this?” “She was a witch hunter. She knew what we were doing. Her job was to kill as many of us as she could. She was very good at it. Murdered half a dozen dark witches that I know of at least. She was coming after us as well. She most likely would have killed us as well, if she hadn’t gone and developed a weakness. You.” Tara felt a prickling down her spine as the reality of Sam’s words sunk in “Me?”
  84. 84. “After she gave birth to you she knew she couldn’t hunt us down and put your soul at risk of being devoured. So she ran away. She made some mistakes. She got clumsy. And we came after her instead. Made it look like an accident. We kept you alive so that we might feed on you. Fortunately for you things became complicated after that...they bounced you around child services for a while and then you disappeared into the system. By the time we followed you to Belladonna Cove you were too old for us to feed on. For what it’s worth. I’m very sorry.” “That’s not worth much. Not when you killed my parents, and tried to kill me. Not after you came after my daughters.”
  85. 85. Tara drew the gun from her pocket and looked at the witch very seriously “For all I know you’re lying through your teeth right now, and you’re still feeding on children. Why shouldn’t I kill you right now?” Samantha felt a ripple of invisible energy in the air, and suddenly she knew what she had been sensing, niggling at the edge of her mind this whole time. “Because the wards I set on your daughters to keep them safe are just about to finish cracking. And I doubt it’s an accident. My sister is coming after them. And if that’s the case you’re going to need my help.”
  86. 86. “So...Mom and Dad aren’t picking up their phones. I left messages but....” “Dammit. Ok...” Maddie took a deep breath “That’s fine...we’re just going to have to find Eloise on our own.” “She could be anywhere.” “I know but standing here isn’t going to do us any good. So let’s all three of us stick together and start with the waterfront and-”
  87. 87. “She’s not there.” The sisters turned towards John “How could you know that?” “I’m not sure...I’s like the witch said...she’s oozing energy , I can practically taste it in the air...” “Please don’t be creepy about our baby sister right now.” “I think...she’s that way.”
  88. 88. “We’re not actually going to listen to this are we?” “You got a better idea Alice?” Alice sighed as they quickly piled into the car “I guess not. Fine then Human bloodhound it is. Fantastic.” “Sarcasm isn’t going to keep Eloise alive you know.” “Look, you cope your way, I’ll cope mine...and let’s just hope we all still have little sisters by dawn.” “At least we’re not spending our Saturday night inside moping about being dumped I guess.”
  89. 89. “Now...essence of dusk....and what is it that comes next? This was so much easier when Samantha was around to help...she had it down to an art form.... Blast her eyes for leaving me in the lurch like this.”
  90. 90. “You...small one.” Kimberly cast over her shoulder to where her prey was sitting as she went to stir her cauldron “You know your mother quite well. Do you think when I killed you she might go back to being the insane babbling little creature I used to be so fond of?” Melusine sniffled into Eloise’s shirt “I don’t understand.” “I am trying to estimate the emotional value your mother places on you, you stupid little thing. And whether you loss might unbalance her.” Melusine began to wail.
  91. 91. “Stop it! Stop scaring her!” Kimberly turned a sharp gaze on Eloise, who immediately shrunk back “Please.” She added in smaller voice. “Oh don’t worry sweetheart. Mostly I’m just interested in you at the moment. I won’t kill this little one for at least a few days. So all I need you to do is sit tight right there for a few moments until this potion gets itself all ready. And after that...well you really don’t have to worry about that.”
  92. 92. “Ok...seriously? What was the real estate agent all out of gingerbread houses and towers with no doors. I mean come on.” “You’re sure this is it?” “I’m sure.” John nodded confidently taking a step forwards.
  93. 93. Alice paused on the steps as she realized that Maddie was not following them, “Maddie. Are you ok?” “Yep. Yep. Just trying to come to terms with this whole debilitating and completely rational fear of witches I’ve had since I was a child in the next couple of seconds so that I can make my feet continue to move.” “Eloise!” John was already rushing heedlessly into the house “Melusine! Eloise! Where are you?” The girls exchanged glances quickly, a silent agreement that they couldn’t let themselves be shown up by a boy passed between them. Maddie took a step forwards.
  94. 94. “Oh great, this place is exactly as creepy on the inside as on the outside. I like consistency. Awesome.” Maddie took deep breaths, trying to adjust to the unaccustomed feeling of being afraid. “So...where is she?” Alice glanced at the stairs quickly, but John shook his head. “No...she’s closer...she’s really”
  95. 95. “...right below us...” “Like...buried alive...” Maddie gulped, staring at her feet suddenly.
  96. 96. “Or, you the basement.” Alice cut across before her sister’s mind could start running morbid, striding quickly across the opening she had spotted.. “Oh right...” Maddie looked at the trap door “That was my next guess.”
  97. 97. “Can you smell that girls? Smells lovely doesn’t it? Like death...and victory...”
  98. 98. “Though I don’t suppose you are in a position to appreciate it. It’s your death and my victory after all...”
  99. 99. “One sip of this and you are mine Eloise Doran.”
  100. 100. “Your soul, your elf gifts, everything you are and could be...”
  101. 101. “And as for the rest of you three-”
  102. 102. “Honestly how stupid do you think I am?”
  103. 103. There was an unpleasant scraping sound as Kimberly’s spell sealed off the trap door. The witch smirked “No Escape now girls and boys.
  104. 104. “I suspected you would come.” She inspected her newest captives gleefully “You other girls are no good to me of course, too much age, not enough child like innocence.” “I told you being an adorable little baby faced sweet thing would get you into trouble one day.” Alice whispered as she squeezed her little sister’s shaking hand. “Do you really think that’s helpful just now?” Maddie hissed from her other side. “Now...let’s find out how tasty you really are Eloise Doran.”
  105. 105. “Heads up everyone! Coming through!”
  106. 106. David hit the ground with a thump and an undignified oofing noise, as the three girls’ face lit up “DAD!” “Hi girls...Trying to get yourselves killed here I see.” He looked at them with as much severity as he could muster under the relief obvious in his voice. “And you!” He turned his eyes fiercely onto Kimberly now “You’re not going to going to lay one finger on them. On any of them. You got that?” Kimberly stared at the new arrival for a moment, mouth wide, and then quickly recovered “You know it’s getting a tad crowded down here...”
  107. 107. “I suppose it might be time to clear the way... And you and I both know David Doran, that even with your you cannot get all of your girls out of I suggest you decide quickly which two are your favourites.” Kimberly’s words faded into a babbling of incomprehensible syllables as she pulled out her wand and began to move it slowly in circles around her head, muttering all the while.
  108. 108. David knew she was right, he could take two of the girls at a time, and then it would be too late. And he knew instantly what he had to do. He spun around grabbed hold of Alice’s arm. She looked up at him with wide eyes as he squeezed it tightly “Take your sisters and run.” He ordered her “And remember that I love you.” Alice stared as she looked at his hand against her skin “But Dad!” “There’s no time Alice. GO!” David pushed them as he turned towards the witch intent on distracting her.
  109. 109. Alice was still Holding Eloise’s with one hand, with the other she reached for Madeleine instinctively, but her elder sister drew away. “No...not me.” She hissed urgently “You’re only going to be able to get two people out of here... Take Eloise and Melly. They’re the ones whose soul she wants. Worst she can do to me is kill me.” “But-” “Don’t argue!” Kimberly’s words were rising to crescendo, the spell building around her wand as her voice rose. Alice had no choice but to obey.
  110. 110. “Come on!” She scooped Melusine up under one arm and grabbed Eloise’s hand as she dragged them both towards the ladder, clambering up as best she could with no hands.
  111. 111. Behind her, she heard Kimberly’s spell casting waver into a howl of outrage as she saw them go. “Alice.” Melusine wailed as she gripped her shirt “I’m scared. “I know. It’ll be fine.” Alice lied “Now hold your breath and close your eyes.” She urged her, as she plunged head first through solid stone, just as the crackling magic exploded behind them.
  112. 112. Alice dropped Melusine the second they were through reaching down for her sister even as she let out a whimpering noise. “Oh god, it’s burning! My legs!” “Almost there Eloise! Come on!” Alice urged her dragging her through the floorboards to safety .
  113. 113. They collapse into a heap, breathing hard even as Melusine rushed forwards, tapping at the place where they had come through “What do we do now?” “I don’t know.” Alice could feel herself shaking “It’s...sealed up...they can’t get out.” “But you could take us back in right?” “I-I’s dangerous...” “But...” Melusine looked bewildered “My brother is still in there.” “I know...believe me...I’s our sister, and Dad...I just...I don’t know what to do..”
  114. 114. “Well, you know girls...”
  115. 115. “You’ll never get anything done with that attitude.”
  116. 116. Maddie watched with a mingling of despair and relief as the ladder immolated in the heat of the supernatural fire moments after her sister’s legs vanished through the ceiling. She felt her father put one comforting arm around her shoulder “That was very brave Maddie. And very stupid.” “I know.” “I’m proud of you. And I love you.” She nodded as she took a deep shuddering breath and the ladder turned to ash in the supernatural flames.
  117. 117. “ very very...self sacrificing of you three...I am impressed, really.” Instinctively David stepped between the witch and Madeleine. Kimberly smirked as she watched him push his daughter and John behind himself. “You must realize that at best you have delayed their fate? In a few hours the spells I have set sealing this room will fade and I will go after you daughters. I will hunt them down and I will kill them. And until then...”
  118. 118. “ will pay.”
  119. 119. “Mom?” Alice and Eloise gaped as they staggered to their feet. “Mommy!” Melusine wasted no time in rushing to her own mother “’s really you this time right? ‘Cause the other lady...she looks like you but she’s not!” “I know sweetheart, I know. I’m so sorry. It’s really me this time. I promise...Mommy’s here and she’s going to fix this.”
  120. 120. “Mom...” Alice stared at Tara in bewilderment “What are you wearing?” Tara quirked a smile at her middle daughter “Alice, I’m in the SCIA. Did you really think spies wore skirts?” “I guess did you find us.” “Same way your dad did I expect. There’s GPS tracking in your phones.” “Mom that is a total invasion of privacy!”
  121. 121. “Hey! I worry about you girls. And given the current situation can you blame me? Although I admit when I installed it, I was thinking more sneaking out with boys than kidnapped by witches...” “So, what’s the plan?” “Right plan. We’re going to fight fire with fire...or in this case Magic with Magic.” Tara nodded towards Samantha who was still soothing Melusine. “We’ll need a way in first though.” the other witch noted, smoothing back her daughter’s hair protectively “She has proofed that whole basement against anyone going in or out by magic. I can feel it from here. I can’t teleport in.”
  122. 122. “Alice am I right in thinking you are currently borrowing your father’s powers?” “Yeah...” “Ok good. I need you to drop me and Samantha through the floor...we’ll do what needs to be done.” “Ok sure...just one problem with that though. I have to be touching Samantha to drop her through the do we know she’ll have any magic left after I’ve done that?” The sudden uncertainty on Tara’s face betrayed the fact that she hadn’t exactly thought of this “Well one problem at a time, we’ll figure that out if it’s an issue. Now...let’s do it.”
  123. 123. The pain shooting through Madeleine was like nothing she had ever experienced as Kimberly hovered over her, brandishing her wand. Out of the corner of her eye she could see her father lying unconscious...she hoped...unconscious and nothing more, John, pinned immobile against the wall awaiting his turn to be tortured.
  124. 124. Kimberly Tsssk-ed condescendingly as Maddie let out a noise of pain “Now now, Maddie...can I call you Maddie?” “Go to hell” “You’re the one who wanted to be a martyr. You could’ve gone off with your sisters but you decided to stay here. And now you get to reap the consequences. Not that they will be safe for very long of course...” “You. Will. Be. Sorry.” Maddie sputtered through clenched teeth as the pain racked her again. “Oh will I?” Kimberly seemed amused by this “And who exactly is coming to save you?”
  125. 125. Kimberly’s head whipped around as Samantha and Tara fell through the ceiling and alighted on the hard stone floor, her concentration slipping just enough for Madeleine to shake off the spell around herself. She practically heard the magic shatter as the pain left her and she sagged to the ground, Kimberly did not seem to notice as she and her twin slowly began to circle each other. “Samantha.” “Kimberly.” “Feeling Nostalgic for the good old days were we?” She raised an eyebrow at Sam’s attire. Samantha snorted “You can talk.”
  126. 126. “Maddie.” Tara rushed to her side “Oh sweetie are you ok?” “Yeah...fine...” Maddie croaked “You cut it a bit close there...” she admitted, then focused in on her mother “What’re you wearing?” “Time and a place Maddie.” Tara chastised her daughter gently. “Where’s your dad?” Maddie nodded silently to the collapsed heaped over in the corner. “I don’t know what she did...he was trying to protect us...she waved her wand and he just fell...” “Oh God, David.” Tara moved rapidly to her husband’s side as Maddie staggered to her feet.
  127. 127. “David! Please be ok! Please be ok!” She urged him silently, pressing two fingers to check his pulse. David groaned and began to sit up. “Oh thank god.” Tara felt her face break into a smile. “Hey...” “Hey.” David blinked at her in confusion for a moment “I like the outfit.” He said finally “It’s very sexy.” Tara laughed, shoving him gently “Shut up.”
  128. 128. “Kimberly, admit it you have lost.” Samantha stared down hard at her sister “I don’t want to have to kill you. But I will if you make me.” “Oh...we’ll see...go on...I dare you to. Give me your worst Samantha Darling. Perhaps you were perfectly willing to do others harm when your mind was broken, but I remember the little girl who used to weep with remorse when she accidentally crushed an insect. You are still that girl, and I don’t think she’d hurt her sister.” Samantha did not reply to that, she simply drew her wand and levelled at her sister’s chest, spitting a long string of words.
  129. 129. Nothing happened. Kimberly threw her head back and laughed “Oh perfect. You are willing to do me harm and you can’t. All this acting human has actually made you like one of them. Weak. Powerless. Pathetic.” Samantha cursed under her breath as she looked at the useless wand in her hand, Alice must have her magic, which meant she was defenceless, they all were. And Kimberly knew it. “And now...” she drew her own wand “It’s my turn.”
  130. 130. “Actually-” John stepped between them, seizing the wand from his mother’s fingers “It’s mine.” He spat the words he had heard his mother say, and felt the power build around the wand in his hand, even as Kimberly muttered her own spell. He aimed for her chest.
  131. 131. The witch shouted a final syllable and John felt a sudden energy ripple away from her as the spell was released. Samantha smirked “You’re too late nephew of mine. Too la-”
  132. 132. John’s spell hit her full force in the chest a second later and he had the satisfaction of watching her expression change from amused contempt to pain even as his mother took a sharp breath behind him. “John! Are you insane! You have no training! That could have backfired on you in an instant! You could be...”
  133. 133. “...dying.” An unpleasant high wheezing noise came from Kimberly as her wand fell from her fingers, her hands latching themselves around her throat desperately clawing at the skin.
  134. 134. John kept his wand carefully levelled as she fell to her knees gasping for air. “What’s happening to her?” Tara asked, watching as she glared daggers at her. “The spell was meant to stop her heart.” Samantha winced as she watched her sister take another laboured gasp of air “But John is not a full fledge warlock, it only half worked, she is dying breath at a time.” “That’s horrible.”
  135. 135. “But what about her spell? The one she shouted before John’s hit her, what was that meant to do.” “Well...that’s the bad news.” Samantha took a deep breath “That was an old spell, to summon a spectral drone. For hundreds of years we’ve used them as servants, but it takes a colossal amount of energy to summon even one. The spell she was magnified. She’s summoned a small army.” “But nothing happened.” “Oh it will.”
  136. 136. A second later Samantha was proved right, a sudden blaze of energy swept through the small basement as five figures seemed to materialize from thin air. Kimberly staggered to her feet, and pointed, “Kill them all.” she wheezed.
  137. 137. Five horrifying faces smirked at their victims and began to advance.
  138. 138. “Mom, mom what do I do?” “Ok...just calm just need to dissipate the spell. It’s a bit complicated though so repeat after me. Exactly.” Samantha uttered a long string of complex words, which her son repeated as best he could. Nothing happened. “Mom?” John looked at her his panic rising. “It’s ok...Just try again. Quickly.”
  139. 139. The spectres however were clearly not prepared to wait for John to figure it out, they were already moving towards their victims with a slow lumbering gait, intent on fulfilling their mission. There was no where to go “Ok. You know what. Screw this! I am not dying by pumpkin scarecrow!” Tara said decisively reaching for her gun.
  140. 140. The bullet caught the creature full in the stomach. It did not seem to feel pain, but it staggered back a few feet. For a moment it looked bewildered. As much as it could with no face at least. And then it came after them again.
  141. 141. “ we can’t hurt them.” “But we can hold them off.” “That’s good enough for me.” Tara fired again.
  142. 142. “Did you hear that? It sounded like a gun shot.” Eloise bit her lip anxiously “They’re in trouble aren’t they?” “Gee ya think?” Alice said sarcastically “We have to go down there. We can’t just leave them!” “’s dangerous. Mom said to stay here...” “Well we have to do something. I don’t know about you but this whole sitting around thing isn’t my style.”
  143. 143. “But- we could be killed.” But Alice was already ankle deep in the floor. “Eloise. I know you’re scared. And unlike everything else you’re scared of...which is like...everything, I’m actually scared too. But it’s time to man up...or you know...woman up I guess...and do something. So come on are you with me or not?” Eloise gulped.
  144. 144. “Ok...maybe we can talk about this...” Maddie was scrambling back as the creature advanced on her single mindedly “Or maybe you could...stop. I dunno...deactivate, cease and desist...abracadabra?” It took another step forwards and Maddie took a step back, and her foot caught on something, sending her tumbling back onto the ground.
  145. 145. Maddie scrambled back out of the way of advancing creature, groping behind her for something...anything. Her hand closed around something solid, she did not look to see what it was as she scrambled to her feet, swinging her new weapon unthinkingly.
  146. 146. The sight of a banjo splintering against a pumpkin was a fairly surreal sight to say the least. But Maddie felt a satisfying cracking noise as she made contact and sent the creature reeling, staggering back for a very long moment.
  147. 147. But the Spectre barely slowed down long enough to allow Maddie to drop the broken remains of the instrument. He took another step, reaching out his hands to her throat as Maddie was left with nowhere to go.
  148. 148. “Look out! Look out! Look out!” “Eloise?” Her sister’s feet slammed full force into the creature’s back sending him careening forwards to smash into the stone floor.
  149. 149. “Oh gosh! I said look out!” Eloise fretted as she hoped from one foot to the other unstably on the creature’s back “I didn’t mean to hurt any- is that a pumpkin?” “Eloise I have never been so glad to see you in my life!” The creature twitched a little, but seemed to stay down, for the time being at least “Just...stay put ok?” “Why is he pumpkin?” Eloise asked, still staring in bewildered horror at the thing below her shoes.
  150. 150. “Honey?” David heard Tara’s voice urgently behind him as he struck an assailant full in his bizarre orange head. The Pumpkin lolled back un-naturally on it’s neck, like a bobblehead, before straightening itself to stare at David. He punched him again. “What is it dear?”
  151. 151. “Not to worry you or anything. But I’m out of bullets.” “Ok, that’s not good.” David stuck out again, this time hard enough to send the creature careening backwards a few paces, just in time for him to turn and see the creature advancing on his wife. “Tara!” he cried out as it reached out it’s hands towards her.
  152. 152. It was then that a long blade sprouted between its ribs. David and Tara jerked back as the monster stared down in surprise at this new thing now skewering his body, and then he began to fall, his pumpkin head smashing against the floor.
  153. 153. “Well...” Alice said pulling the sword out of the new inert body “That was weird.” “Alice?” her parents gaped “Where did you get a sword?” “I dunno...I figured the armour displays weren’t using them, I’d might as well take one...I’ll put it back later I promise.” David’s attention was caught by something in the corner “Girls look out!”
  154. 154. Maddie spun at her father’s warning to find another pumpkin spectre advancing determinedly towards her, she didn’t let him get that far, instead rushing forwards she shoved the creature sharply, sending him reeling back towards the still bubbling cauldron.
  155. 155. He hit the potion mixture with a hideous sizzling noise and before Maddie’s very eyes the spectral body dissolved until there was nothing but a huge pumpkin head bobbing in the water. Staring at her.
  156. 156. “Ok John...I don’t mean to rush you...” Samantha tried to keep her voice steady as she took a step back and found herself bumping into something too solid to hope for further retreat “But we’re going to try this spell one last time ok. Now hold the wand steady...and repeat after me.” John nodded soberly and did as he was told. Instantly he felt power begin to build around himself.
  157. 157. It hit the creatures with a crackle of electricity that sent them shuddering and smoking to the ground, smelling like a strange mixture of cooked meat and pumpkin pie. John tried not to gag “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat thanksgiving dinner again.” he muttered, letting the wand fall to his side. And then Eloise screamed.
  158. 158. Instantly six heads swivelled towards her but it was too late, un noticed by all Kimberly had seized the youngest of the Dorans, her hand firmly clamped over her mouth, as she uttered the words of the spell through half choked breaths. “NO!” Maddie screamed lunging for her sister, but it was too late.
  159. 159. Eloise went limp as a rag doll in Kimberly’s arms even as the witch released her, a high cackling sound filling the dank cellar as she rose from the ground. “So much power!” She laughed “I knew it! I knew it! I have every last drop of her soul!”
  160. 160. “I am a god!”
  161. 161. “Eloise! Oh god Eloise!” Her parents were next to her limp body in a second, as Kimberly lifted herself gleefully into the air, revelling in her new found power. Tara cradled her daughter’s head in her lap, her hands shaking “My baby girl. Oh sweetie. Wake up. Please please wake up.”
  162. 162. “Eloise! Eloise.! Eloise!” “You must be able to do something!” Maddie looked desperately to Samantha “There must be something! Anything you can do!” “I-I don’t know...” Samantha stammered “There’s never been cause to reverse it. There’s no way to. I’m so very very sorry.”
  163. 163. Above them, as oblivious to their pain as if they were ants below her heels Kimberly was still revelling in her power “It’s too late! Far too late! I have her soul now! I am all powerful...I can fly! I can bend the elements to my will...I can feel it in my fingertips...all of them...waiting for me...I can...I can do anything!”
  164. 164. “Yeah? Then how about you start by giving me back my sister’s soul you Witch.”
  165. 165. Alice’s fingers had barely closed around Kimberly’s ankle when the witch felt the rising rush of power flee her body. “No!” She cried, sudden panic beginning to replace her glee, she could feel herself falling “NO!” But it was too late. Alice jerked backwards violently as she absorbed everything. Eight hundred years worth of witchcraft, worth of power, and above all, one single soul and every single drop of the potential power that had ever been in the Doran bloodline.
  166. 166. And suddenly she could feel everything. She knew everything. There were gifts coursing through her veins that did not belong there. Images chasing each other through her mind, thoughts and feelings that did not belong to her, images of things she had never seen, was never meant to see, all over the world. Alice reached up, vainly clawing at her hair “My head.” She heard herself cry from somewhere far away “is killing me.” She felt her knees buckle as she fell to the ground, pressing her forehead to the cool stone as she willed it to stop.
  167. 167. “Alice! Oh god! Alice no!” Maddie knelt next to her sister. “She’s going to ok right? It’s temporary! And then it’ll stop, she’ll give it all back, like she always does. She’ll give Eloise back.” she could hear the desperation in her own voice as the stroked Alice’s hair “Right?” She turned to Samantha, who looked pained. “No...she’s a human....mostly. Not a witch, she can’t handle this sort of power. It’s going to burn her mind and destroy her before it fades away. I’m so sorry.”
  168. 168. From somewhere far away Alice heard people shouting. But louder, louder than all the voiced in her head she could hear her sister “Alice...Alice please. I need you to listen to me. Can you hear me.” “Of course...I can hear everything.” “Ok good, pay attention. I need you to do something for me. I need you to let go of the power you’ve taken, get rid of it. Can you do that?” “I can’t” “Yes you can. Right now you are all powerful. You can do anything you want to. Please.”
  169. 169. “Alice.” Maddie laid her hands on her sister’s “You can’t die. You can’t let Eloise die. You have to do something. Please. Don’t leave me here on my own. Please.”
  170. 170. “Doctor Green! Doctor!” “Yes, what is it Nurse Redfern?” “It’s a miracle Doctor! The children...they’re all waking up.” “They’re what?”
  171. 171. “Eloise! Eloise! Speak to me! Please!” Eloise let out a groan as her eyes blinked open.
  172. 172. “What happened? Why does my head hurt so much?” Tara laughed as she pulled her daughter into a hug “You’ll live. Trust me.” Then Eloise caught sight of her sister...lying face down on the ground “Alice!”
  173. 173. “Alice! Alice! Alice! Are you ok?” Groaning Alice lifted her head off the floor and squinted up at her sister. “Oh good.” she rasped “You’re alive.” “I I have you do thank for that?” “You’re welcome.” “I know you hate hugs but...can I hug you. Seeing as it’s a special occasion?” “I’m not sure...let’s find out if I can stand up first .”
  174. 174. With a little bit of cautious help Alice was pulled to her feet and immediately smothered in hugs, in spite of her protests. “Oh come on! You just handled a lot more in your head at one time then powers from the four of us.” Maddie chided “Last I heard baking and piano playing wasn’t going to rip your mind apart.” Alice could not argue with that so she consented to be hugged.
  175. 175. “So what’s going to happen now here?” Tara asked as they broke apart finally. “Well...the spectres will dissipate in a few hours or so...return to atoms and dust and nothingness...” Tara glanced to the corner where Kimberly was slumped, unconscious “And what about her?”
  176. 176. “She’ll die. No question about that. She used too much magic summoning the spectres, she needed Eloise to survive not just become super powered. When she lost your daughter’s soul and the others that were sustaining her, there was nothing left. And now she’s too far gone for me to save her even if I wanted to.” “I’m sorry.” “I’m not.”
  177. 177. “No matter what she did, she’s your sister.” “Yes. Isn’t family complicated that way.” Samantha’s voice was strangely flat as she turned away. “I think it is time we left.”
  178. 178. Kimberly Cordial was aware of the sensation of dying. It was strange, like a creeping darkness at the edges of her vision that was slowly enveloping her to take her away. She wondered if this was what it had felt like for all the children, all the little ones they had killed. If they dreamt of the darkness after they took their souls. Or if it was faster for them. If they never remembered that they were meant to wake. From somewhere far away in the rapidly fading world of the living Kimberly heard the sound of footsteps, but she could not find it within herself to care.
  179. 179. Vaguely she felt a pair of arms lift her up from the cold ground, felt herself being carried and set down with surprising gentleness on the nearby sofa.
  180. 180. “Well well well.” said a voice from another time and place, “You look terribly unwell Mademoiselle Cordial.” Slumped painfully on the couch Kimberly forced her eyes open as a familiar face came into focus reluctantly. “Monsieur Auguste” She nearly smiled at the Vampire “Now I know I must be dead and gone to hell. How did you find me?” “Give me some credit darling. With the energy flying around this night this house city might as well have been lit up with a sign declaring the presence of Magical energy. I doubt there is a being for miles who did not pick up on it. I just happened to be close.”
  181. 181. Kimberly could not help but notice that he was grinning at her in the most maddening way, and she did her best to glare “The poseur sunglasses are new, they look ridiculous.” Annoyingly, his grin widened “You know I always liked you Kimberly.” He rolled her name pleasantly in that accent he had never quite gotten rid of “Much more than your sister. Even before she left me to die.” Kimberly could feel the darkness creeping around the edge of her vision again “So” she managed, “are you here to watch me die? Or are you going to do the Gentlemanly thing and finish me off yourself?”
  182. 182. For a long moment Auguste was silent, the only sound in the darkened room was Kimberly’s laboured breathing. She did not even have the energy to flinch as cold dead fingers brushed along her neck, “What an offer my dear. Very kind of you.” He tilted her head ever so slightly so her jugular was exposed even as Kimberly’s face contorted with the effort of staying conscious. “Well...I am a very kind person.” She laughed humourless as his fingers traced her neck. “ fact if I recall correctly, you saved my life last time we met...or un-death.”
  183. 183. “I thought I could repay the favour.” Kimberly did not even have the energy to scream as his teeth sunk into her throat. Oblivion claimed her instantly.
  184. 184. She was not sure how long it was before she awoke. She had not been expecting to after all. But she was aware that something was different immediately. That the pain was gone, that the darkness seemed to have receded once more.
  185. 185. She glanced up at Auguste standing a little way off, watching her with an amused smile. “You see Kimberly darling, you have been fighting it all these centuries, but dying is not so bad.” Kimberly smiled back as he helped her to her feet a little shakily “This is against the rules Auguste. The Coven will come after us you know.” “You do not sound too daunted by this prospect darling.” She simply smiled at her vampire companion, relishing the still feeling in her chest where her heart should have been.
  186. 186. “And besides you make a lovely vampire. As I always knew you would, ma belle.” “Flatterer.” She rolled her eyes without guile at the Frenchman. He grinned back “Are you hungry dear? I know of a little place only two hours away, open until dawn, crawling with stupid, inebriated, delicious young prey.” “Auguste, are you asking me on a date?” Kimberly laughed. “My dear...I have wanted to dine with you ever since we met. Do you remember that night, death and destruction all around us.”
  187. 187. “Ah yes...the plague. Back when no one asked questions if their loved ones never came back out of the night...” “Indeed. But with you dining on children and me on young ladies I’ve had to wait half a millennium to invite you to dinner. Now, what do you say?” “I say anything sounds better than elves and children right now. Remind me to stay away from, at least for now...” “As you wish my love.” Auguste grinned at Kimberly as he kissed her hand gently.
  188. 188. “ that about sums everything up I suppose. Again...I am so very sorry.”
  189. 189. “So...” Maddie was still looking at Samantha a little suspiciously as she finished her story “it’s your fault that Alice does what she does?” “It might be. It might not be.” Samantha, stroked a sleeping Melusine’s hair absently “When I took a piece of her soul when she was a child it’s possible that I took with it something important...something she was meant to have. That somewhere deep in her DNA was unlocked another gift as a reaction. I took something of yours and so you are constantly trying to fill the gap by taking from other people. Then again it is entirely possible that this was what you were meant to be all along. I cannot know. But I am sorry. And I thank you...whatever I did take from healed my mind.”
  190. 190. “I would say it’s my pleasure know..., while I do appreciate you coming in as the cavalry with my mom...I’m still ticked off if you did make this.” Alice did not meet Samantha’s eyes as she digested this information. “I understand.” Samantha nodded soberly.
  191. 191. “Well...” Tara stored her phone in her pocket as she returned to the room “the SCIA is panicking because all of the comatose children have suddenly woken up without explanation. Since I was in charge of the case they want to know what I know.” Samantha tried to keep her face still as she looked up at the other woman “And?” “And I send a virus into my computer at work to destroy the files full of recent suspicious looking information on you and your sister. Except now they’re calling and they want to come in and debrief me on what I know about the situation.”
  192. 192. “Unfortunately I’m not great at tricking lie detectors. I’m sorry Samantha, I’m going to have to tell them about your involvement.” Samantha nodded “It’s quite all right. Kimberly and I made a habit of moving cities any time suspicion began to gather around us. I am used to it. If I could just ask that you give me a few days to organize some things before turning me in....I will have to tell Gabriel about...what I am...give him a choice to come with me or not. He might wish to stay here with the children, it’s not fair of me to ask them to uproot their lives for me. It won’t be long. I can be in another country by tomorrow night.”
  193. 193. “You shouldn’t have to do that.” David put in soberly. “I don’t want to.” Samantha sighed looked exhausted “I love my husband, my children. If I thought I could stay safely...I would never leave. I am very tired of always leaving. But what other choice do I have.” “We could leave.” David shrugged simply “If we disappear the SCIA never gets your name. You can stay.” Tara’s eyebrows shot up abruptly “Ummm...excuse us for a second.” She said seizing David’s hand and leading him out into the privacy of the Greens’ Kitchen.
  194. 194. “What are you talking about?” “We disappear, you never tell the SCIA anything about witches or curses, or Samantha.” David smiled “Between the two of us we have the contacts to get new papers, whatever we need. We have the money...” “But what about the girls...they would have to disappear with us. What kind of life is that for them?” “They wouldn’t have to come with us, I mean obviously they can if they want to but the SCIA wants nothing from them, and they’re old enough to take care of themselves now if they decide to stay. Or if they decide to go somewhere else.”
  195. 195. Tara could feel a smile beginning to spread across her face, she tried to fight the sudden swell of adventurous notions bubbling around her brain with logic “But, we have our friends...responsibilities...” “So...we’ll tell your dad so he doesn’t worry...everyone else will just think we’ve moved away. They’ll wonder for a while and then people will forget about us.”
  196. 196. “Tara do you remember what you said to me all those years ago. You said you never knew if I was here for good or not. Well...I guess Belladonna Cove was really only a pit stop...a long pit stop...a great pit stop...and now I’m ready to leave. With you. Tara we could go anywhere in the world, do anything! So, how do you feel about adventures?” Tara was grinning now too “You know I’ve always wondered what the jungle is like...and the desert...and the mountains...I’ve always wanted to stand barefoot in an eastern temple and- do a million things.” “So what do you say?” “So I guess we’d better pack.”
  197. 197. “So...leave then?” Maddie bit her lip as she presented the verdict to her sisters, debating the choice that their parents had just presented them with. “I mean...that’s what I’d do. Mom and Dad say they could just pass the house into our names...we could stay here finish high school...Grandpa would be our legal guardian...” “No...leave.” Alice agreed “It would be...way too weird in that house without Mom and Dad. Like being orphans.” The two older girls looked questioningly at Eloise for her decision “I- I don’t want to go.” She admitted finally.
  198. 198. “You sort of have to.” “Alice! No she doesn’t!” Maddie gave her sister a stern look “She can stay here if she wants to.” “No. She can’t. I saw it. When I was...when everything was in my head. If you don’t leave of your own free will, something will come along and make you leave by force. It’s not up to you. It’s our family, it’s our curse...our name, I saw everyone always leaving...for generations. If you don’t leave of your own free will the universe will come along and drag you out of here until it gets tired of pulling you along and you’ll end up...who knows where. Wouldn’t you rather leave on your own terms?” Eloise looked at her hands and nodded “ it is then.”
  199. 199. The three were silent for a moment and then Maddie reached out and smacked Alice hard around the head “Ow! What was that for?” “Stop being all deep it creeps me out.”
  200. 200. Eloise found John on the roof where she had been abducted a whole lifetime ago, literally. He smiled at her as she took a seat next to him on the wall “So we kind of suck at the whole babysitting thing huh?” “Hey, I think we did ok. I bet most nannies would ask to be paid time and a half in the event of witch kidnapping.” “We should draw up a contract detailing that for-” John had been about to say next time, but he realized at the same time Eloise did that there wouldn’t be a next time. They lapsed into silence, both thinking of what could have been if they’d had the chance, if they’d had the time, if things had been different. Neither said anything.
  201. 201. “Thank the way. For coming to rescue me. I don’t think I said that.” “Oh...uh...sure...I mean...of course.” “I should go...” Eloise said finally “Lots of packing and...other goodbyes before tomorrow...” “Oh yeah...sure...So...goodbye I guess.” “Goodbye. I- I’ll miss you.”
  202. 202. “Well this is all very unorthodox.” Armand shook his head as he inspected his three only grand daughters “But then again...your parents are who they are and you girls got all of this from them I suppose. I will miss you all very much. And I love you.” “Love you grandpa.” “Miss you too.” “We’ll call.”
  203. 203. “Well...before you go I have something for you three.” “More presents.” Alice looked around suddenly eager. “Alice!” Maddie hissed reproachfully. “In a manner of speaking.” Armand chuckled “I was going to give this to you three as graduation presents. But...I have set up trust funds in all three of your names, respectively. I do not know what is going to happen to you, what you are going to do. And I am rich enough to know that money can’t buy you happiness, but it can at least help you stay out of too much trouble...or get out of trouble when you inevitably get into it...Do what you want with the money. I don’t care! But it’s yours.”
  204. 204. “Now you take care of yourselves. You’re the only grand daughters I have. I’m counting on you to be’m counting on you to be great.”
  205. 205. “So...they’re all packed. And we’re all packed.” “Yep it looks that way.” “Are you ok?” “I’ll be fine...everyone leaves home eventually after all.” Tara nodded, trying to swallow the lump in her throat as she stood in her eldest daughter’s empty room.
  206. 206. “Just...they’re our babies.” her voice cracked as David pulled her close. “I know...I know....” Tara buried her face in his shirt even as she felt his tears on her neck. They held each other for a very long time.
  207. 207. “I hate goodbyes...” “I do too...” “So we just shouldn’t say them should we.” “We love you. So much. Remember that.” “We will”
  208. 208. “And we’ll miss you.” “We’ll miss you.” “Be safe.” “Be good.” “Be brave.”
  209. 209. “And most importantly... “...have an adventure.”
  210. 210. “So....where should we go?” “Left.” “Right.” “Ok, someone make a decision.” “Stop the car!”
  211. 211. Maddie’s foot jammed the brakes automatically, Eloise already clambering out, “Where is she going?” Then she caught sight of a figure on the sidewalk “Oh.” She said simply and put on the parking break.
  212. 212. “John!” “Eloise! What are you doing here?” “I saw you and I wanted to say goodbye.” “Oh ok...goodbye...again.” “No I mean properly this time.” “What’s properly?”
  213. 213. “Goodbye John.” John blinked at her for a moment, and then grinned “Bye Eloise. I-” “Yeah I too. But don’t say it, or I won’t be able to leave. But maybe I’ll see you again some day...if it’s meant to be. Otherwise...I hope you have a great life.”
  214. 214. “Go Eloise not being a coward!” “Not even out of the city limits and already being adventurous.” “Clearly we’re good influences after all.” “Clearly.” Eloise blushed as she climbed back into the car “You’ll have to do, you’re the only big sisters I have. And...I feel really good right now.”
  215. 215. “I do too actually.” Alice admitted climbing forward to prop her feet on the dashboard “Weird...” “’s all strangely...liberating.” Maddie contemplated, drumming her fingers on the steering wheel, and thinking of the life she had been planning on having...of Virginia, of University, of Music. “Who wants driving music?” She said suddenly. “Can I stop you?” Alice groaned but Maddie was already fiddling with the dials on the dashboard, until something that suited her came on. “I love this one!” Eloise grinned as Madeleine pressed her foot down on the accelerator. In the light of the sun, is there anyone? Oh it has begun...
  216. 216. Oh dear you look so lost, eyes are red and tears are shed, This world you must've crossed... you said...
  217. 217. You don't know me, you don't even care, oh yeah, She said You don't know me, and you don't wear my chains... oh yeah
  218. 218. Essential yet appealed, carry all your thoughts across An open field
  219. 219. When flowers gaze at you... they're not the only ones who cry When they see you
  220. 220. You said... You don't know me, you don't even care, oh yeah, She said You don't know me, and you don't wear my chains... oh yeah
  221. 221. She said I think I'll go to Boston... I think I'll start a new life, I think I'll start it over, where no one knows my name, I'll get out of California, I'm tired of the weather, I think I'll get a lover and fly him out to Spain...
  222. 222. I think I'll go to Boston, I think that I'm just tired I think I need a new town, to leave this all behind... I think I need a sunrise, I'm tired of the sunset, I hear it's nice in the Summer, some snow would be nice... oh yeah,
  223. 223. Boston... where no one knows my name... yeah Where no one knows my name... Where no one knows my name...
  224. 224. Yeah Boston... Where no one knows my name. Boston - Augustana
  225. 225. “Can I just say...travelling with you...I love it.” “Me too.”
  226. 226. And that Ladies and Gentlemen marks the end of my turn in the RR. It’s been a crazy experience and I’ve had so much fun getting to something completely different and participate is something so community oriented and getting to add my own little generation in. The lovely RoseFyre will be taking over from me for Generation 8, and I will let her tell you which one of these girls is heiress. But until then I have some people to thank.
  227. 227. First everyone who listened to me rant and ramble about everything from plot points, to fonts, to graphics to naming, personalities, and staging. You guys know who you are. You’re all awesome. In particular I want to thank Rose for being my sounding board for so much minutia and for getting excited over our girls with me, and mostly indulging substantial amounts of my crazy. I also owe a huge thanks to Cait who made David’s adult outfit for me out of two separate pieces of CC, and who gave me the basis to make Samantha’s singed dress. Di and Jenn for helping me with building cheats for apartments and community lots. Because I’m apparently too addicted to staging to actually shoot anything without the freezer clock. And credit for Banjo related things go to Gin.
  228. 228. And I want to thank all the ladies who came before me in the RR, Especially Marina for kicking off this whole thing (and being very understanding when I took a wee bit more time than I should have on my turn...sorry! As well as for letting me shout a barrage of Doctor Who quotes at her a couple of times...) and Pen, who provided me with an heir I was instantly smitten with, filthy capitalist and all. And I want to thank everyone for reading as well. I sincerely hope you enjoyed it because I enjoyed doing it. And that is all from me folks!