Monthly Archives: February 2021

The demons. (Journal Entry #29)

I could see Mak now, from where I was heading up the hallway. 

He had a few younger females near him. Watching him. I rolled my eyes to myself. I know we Dardaptoans almost always look around the same age—although some of us are cursed to look even younger. (Poor Riv has that very problem, she barely looks of age at all. It drives her insane to constantly be mistaken for a teenager!) 

It’s the way they dress that tells me how old they are. 

By the time we’re forty or fifty, we tend to tone down the more outlandish human outfits and settle into more traditional Dardaptoan wear. 

I mean, we’re Dardaptoans! We’re big on tradition, after all. At least we Woalds are. We take part in all the ceremonies. And we even have some of our own to honor Aerim.

The Feast of Aerim is the biggest Woald holiday of the year, and it happens around the winter solstice each year.

The females were young, and they were watching him. Wanting to touch him, maybe, on the hopes that he was their Rajni and just didn’t know it yet. Sometimes, it takes touch to know for sure.

Julea used to have a reoccurring nightmare when she was younger. She’d climb in my bed with me, and I’d tell her that it would be ok. I helped my parents with her quite a bit after she was born; my mother had been very weak after that day for several years. 

Julea’d dream that she was in the same room with her mate, and he’d never know because he never touched her.

After all, unless there are serious feelings between unrelated Dardaptoans, the males don’t touch the females! 

I’d tell her that wasn’t the way it worked. Daddy had said he knew his mate the moment she spoke to him. Just that quickly.

No doubt, it would be that easy for my sisters, too. I hope so. I want them to find their males and be happy forever.

Mak looked up. We made eye contact. I smiled at him, though I was a complete mess inside.

Then I heard a pop right beside me.

Everyone around me screamed. Several of the females tried to run.

I turned to see what it was that scared them so badly.

And found myself staring straight into the eyes of a hideous red monster that had to stand seven and a half feet tall.

With claws longer than my fingers coming right at me.

I screamed and tried to back away, to run.

Just as Mak came running, sword drawn.

He was too late. 

The claws sliced at my right arm, ripping through my favorite yellow vestis. Fire. Fire unlike any I had ever felt before flooded through me, and I fell to the ground.

I tried to pull myself to my knees, to crawl away. To just get away. But I couldn’t move fast enough.

The beast screeched as Mak reached us. “The queen must never live!”

The fire consumed me, and I fell into the flames. I could hear the sounds of battle raging around me.

Time to claim normal… (Journal Entry #28)

I don’t remember much of what happened after that. He walked me into class—this one, actually, some of you might have seen him with me—and I took my seat near the back of the classroom. Near the door. 

We were the first ones there, except for the instructor. His hand rose to cup my cheek. “I’ll see you in history class. I have some calls to make while you’re in class now.”

I nodded. Our schedules weren’t a one hundred percent match. He usually used my digital media class time to read and work on his own independent-study project. 

He was determined to learn everything he possibly could about the demon worlds. Not world, but worlds. I asked Theo about that, about how many demon worlds there actually were. He is a very learned male, after all.

He looked at me and flat out refused to answer. “I’m not telling you that.”

Blunt. Rude. Not like Theo at all.

Well. I’m just going to have to ask someone else; Alaun might know. 

Mak was working on something he hadn’t exactly shared details about either. But I noticed him drawing maps one day while I was working, and we were “ignoring” each other. 

“I’ll be ok, you know.” 

“I know you will. We’ll figure this out. I have faith in the goddess that we’ll do just that.”

Well, I’m glad one of us does. 

Like I’ve said before…I’m pretty sure the House of Woald is one the goddess forsook a long, long time ago.

I blanked out for the rest of the class as I tried to process everything that happened today. Everything that has happened in the last month. Everything Mak had said.

It was a bit overwhelming, and I needed to breathe. I excused myself from class. I headed to the restroom, just to wash my face. 

I could see Mak across the lobby area, his books spread out in front of him—not like Demonology 101 was anywhere online for humans to find, after all!—intent on his work.

That is one thing I admire about him. He does everything with intensity. Arrogant and intense, but calm and kind, too. He is such a contradiction. 

I almost went over to him, told him what I was doing. Probably because over the last month he has been told my every move from morning until the night guard took over. But no.

It was time to claim normal again, right?

I hurried in the restroom; as much as I needed the break, I’m a rule follower. Since I’m paying to be in class right now, I should be in class right now.

I made my way back, feeling only slightly clearer headed than before I left. 

Changing the World. (Journal Entry #27)

Mak took me home after work today. We were both silent in the big truck that suited him so well. I didn’t know what to say. This male has been the center of my world for almost a month. With just a few words from Theo, all of that changed.

Mak is assigned to me; it’s not like we have just found each other. No. It isn’t that. 

He reports to Cormac Jareth, the head of the Predatoi. Mak is both a warrior in the Adrastos forces and a demon hunter with the Predatoi. 

He’s very important. Too important to waste any more time protecting me from phantom threats. 

At least, I will still see him at class. That’s twice a week. Maybe, we can remain friends?

“Well…” Mak said. 

“W-well…” 

“You going to be ok?” he asked. 

I thought about it for a long while. Will I be ok?

“I’ll be fine. I’m tougher than I look.”

“That you are. You are to call me if you need me, at any time. Do you understand that?”

I nodded, but I’m not certain I believe it. Everything has changed in a blink.

I’ve worked for Theo for decades. Someone tried to kill me. I met Mak. 

I’m not so good with sudden change, you know? But at my age, adapting is the name of the game. 

“I’m looking forward to things finding a new balance.”

“I can still come by, pick you up, and drive you to class.”

I smiled. “It’s sweet of you to offer, but we both know you work twenty miles from where I live. The school is thirty—in the opposite direction.”

“Then you meet me before class, and we’ll grab something to eat. Or just talk. Or we meet on Fridays for dinner?”

“We can do that. I’d like that very much.”

“And no matter what happens, I know one thing—I’ve seen it.”

“Oh?” He was a strong seer. He’d told me that the first night he’d taken me out to eat. “What have you seen?”

“I’m a destined to protect you, Jume Woald. In this world or the next. Any world we’re in. I don’t take that duty lightly. I never will.”

Forever?” I had no clue what to think or say or anything right now. 

“It will be. When the time comes.”

“I have no Rajni.” I blurted out my secret right there in the front seat of his truck as he pulled into the parking lot in front of the Humanities building at DU. “I know you’re not meant for me that way.”

“I know.” 

He was so calm about it. When someone knew they didn’t have a Rajni and it got out there, people freaked. Worried and afraid. We’re the freaks of nature, after all.

I have no doubt that if I ever tell Kellis, she’ll go completely ballistic. She’ll demand answers, want to find every seer in our city, anything to make it not true. To make a Rajni just appear for me, somehow.

You know how it is—mates are everything to Dardaptoans.

As if we can’t have fulfilling lives without a partner in this world. Well, what about those of us who go three or four hundred years before we find our mates? 

Theo is well over six hundred or so, and he’s just now found his Mickey. 

He has changed the entire way of life for all of us with some of his earlier rulings, after all. So why are we so focused on that?

“You…know?”

“I’ve seen that, too. I know you don’t have a Rajni. But you have a destiny waiting for you, and I’m meant to be a part of that. Someday. But for now…”

I was still trying to wrap my head around what he was saying. I’ll admit it: it wasn’t easy. “For now?”

“Aodhan Adrastos pulled me into his office today. I’m needed elsewhere. There are Redd Gothan gathering around the city. I’ve been assigned to help the Taniss Lupioux Alphas find and stop them. I’m going to have to direct my attention there. For a few years, according to what I’ve seen for my own future.”

“A couple of years?” Lupoiux again. They were such horrible, dangerous beasts sometimes. Not all, but enough to give me nightmares. “And then what?”

“And then…I don’t know. I just know that that’s how long this will be. It’ll be changes. For all of us. Every Dardaptoan in this world will be impacted. And I’ve seen one more thing.”

“Yes?”

You will play a greater role in it than you can ever imagine. You will change the world one day, Jume. Don’t ever doubt or forget that.”

I just stared at him.

This…this is something I never would have predicted. I’m not sure what I want to do now.

I can’t change anything. I can barely deal with my own life day to day—how can I change a world someday?

I’m safe. I think. (Journal Entry #26)

Theo came to me a week later. He had news that he knew I had been waiting to hear. Halfway through my final two weeks with him. 

“The threat to you has left Dardanos. It won’t be returning anytime soon.”

I was elated; I impulsively hugged him—even though I was still furious with him. “Thank you!”

“So life can go back to normal for you soon.” He looked at me like he was trying to read my soul. Theo was mostly blind; he didn’t always see that well depending on whether he’s had any recent visions. His gift of prognostication is the best in all of the tribes, after all. “Your destiny will begin shortly, Jume. I…will miss you once you quit working here, but it is the path you are meant to take.”

I didn’t know what to say. He had never “seen” anything involving me before. “I…I wish you and Mickey well, Theo.”

I really did. He was my cousin, we weren’t close, and I am still angry with him over what he had done to little Mickey, but I still care for him, greatly. We’re family.

But my mind is made up. I just couldn’t work for the judicial department for the city any longer. I can’t do it anymore. I’ve spoken with my sisters about it, and they understand.

It’s a matter of principle. It…the darkness of our people’s worst was draining me far too much, and for far too long. I can’t do it any longer.

Not and stay emotionally whole.

I have to do this; and I have to do it now. Or I never will.

I’m going to focus on building up my pottery business. In the meantime, I’m going to work for Alaun as her publication/personal assistant again. 

Landrey, her current assistant, is going to resign for a while. She wants to focus on the twins she’s going to have in about three months. She grew up in foster care, so she doesn’t have a lot of family. She and her sister are both expecting twins now, are newly mated to very wealthy Dardaptoans, and are settling into their new homes clear across the city from where we live. They want to focus on their families now.

I can understand wanting to be with family.

Now that I know how to use the computer and do the necessary research Alaun will need, I think I’ll do just fine. 

Alaun will pay me for my part-time work. 

That will give me so much time to work on my pots. 

Now that I don’t have the threat of a hired killer hanging over my head, I can devote the time to finding the best clay in Dardanos. And making my own paints and glazes.

I’m actually looking forward to it.

Except for one thing.

Mak. I’m losing Mak. I haven’t really let myself process that yet.

I don’t need a guard anymore. 

He has no reason to stay. None at all.

They say it will be ok. (Journal Entry #25)

Kellis won. I am not going anywhere. She said that it was just as likely that the threat would just follow me wherever I went—and I’d be alone. Not worth it, she said. 

Usually, I can outwait and out silent Kellis when we argue. Not this time.

The two of us tend to argue quite a bit. So do Kellis and Ambrea. And Riv and Kellis. Well, I think you can see the pattern. But I understand why Kellis is a little bit bossy, even at our advanced ages. 

Kellis is afraid of just about everything. That comes out by her trying to control us.

She thinks I don’t know, that none of us do—but I can feel her fear sometimes, when I get close enough to her.

She wasn’t always this way; it started when we lost Mama and Daddy. That’s when everything changed for all of us.

For one thing, our parents’ creditors showed up the very next day, demanding their share of our parents’ estate. We hadn’t even realized they were in debt. Theo intervened for me after I begged him for help, buying us a two-month window to get everything together.

Kellis had her own place in town near the police station then, too. She moved in with Ambrea and the rest of us a week later. Alleah was such a sickly little babe; it took all six of us to keep watch over her. Day and night. We were consumed with paying off the debts and keeping Alleah alive.

Those were some of the darkest days of my life.

We almost lost her. I adore that little girl so much. 

I hadn’t exactly liked the idea of going off alone somewhere, anyway.

Mak told us that he was staying the night with us. There is a small guest room near the rear of our home. It was next to the smaller room that served as Alaun’s office. There is one of those fold up Murphy beds in the guest room. I needed a few moments to myself, so I took over the task of making up the bed for him. It took a few minutes. We tend to use the room as a type of home office in general.

He caught me in the hallway when I was done. Everyone else was starting to come in from their jobs. They were full of questions—it was hard to miss the jagged, baseball-sized hole in our front door. 

Kellis caught them in the living room; I could hear them out there. Could hear the questions.

I just stared at Mak, unsure what to say right now.

One large male hand rose; he cupped my cheek. “I will find them, Jume. You have my promise.”

“I…for how long? How long can I live afraid?”

He shook his head as his hand fell away. Then those hard arms were around me like they had been when we danced. He pulled me close.

I rested my cheek over his heart. 

“I don’t know. All I know is that I am here. Now. And I will always protect you; as long as I am able.” 

I just nodded. “Thank you.”

“It’ll be ok, Jume. It’ll be ok.”

I just wish I could believe him.

Should I hide? It’s been 2 weeks. (Journal Entry #24)

“Well, someone should have found something by now. You’ve had two weeks now.” Kellis was beyond angry. No surprise. She always had been extremely protective of all of us. “Get it in gear!”

Kierce leaned back on the couch. He had answered Mak’s call after Mak had scooped me up off the ground and hurried me inside the house. He’d put me in the hallway. It had taken me a moment to realize it was because of the lack of windows. 

I just sat there shivering like an idiot. 

Someone had just tried to kill me again. And I don’t know what I have ever done to anyone to deserve this. I never hurt anyone. I never share secrets. I try to help those less fortunate. I work hard—at home in the garden, and with my pots, and at work with Theo. I never say anything bad about anyone. 

What have I done to deserve this? I just sat there, shaking like an idiot as I tried to process what was happening around me.

“It’s not that easy, and you damned well know it,” Kierce said. He wrapped a hand around her wrist and pulled her to sit next to him. 

Even though I was extremely upset, I didn’t miss that touch. He’d never touched her in front of me before, I don’t think. Yet there was an intimacy about it that was unmistakable.

I was going to ask her about that later. Right now…I need to get my thoughts straight. 

“Maybe I…I need to go away for a while?” I asked. “Hide?”

Kellis stopped at looked at me. She shook her head emphatically. “Absolutely not. You’re not going anywhere.”

I don’t feel safe anymore. (Journal Entry #23)

Mak took me home. I didn’t have much to say to him; I’m too unsettled for that. 

The Taniss Four—what a ridiculous name—have changed everything around here. So many people are angry that four innocent females didn’t die.

Because of archaic laws of vengeance that don’t make sense to anyone who stops to think about them for more than five minutes. 

“You’re quieter than usual tonight,” he said as he drove us back to the home I shared with my sisters on the outskirts of the city. Woalds have been farmers for as long as there had been Woalds. You rarely found us inside city limits. 

“I…a lot of things are changing for me lately. I n-need to think about them for a bit.” Maybe that was a cop-out, but I couldn’t think of anything else.

Whatever had been in that courtyard had unsettled me. 

Something had definitely been watching me. I could just feel it. Me and Mickey.

And it had felt malevolent. 

I shivered again. I just couldn’t help it.

“I can understand that.” He pulled into the winding driveway I’d helped my father gravel more than fifteen years ago. It needed more gravel again. But the money for that long of a driveway was something Riv—who handled the family finances—hadn’t approved. Other things—like food, clothing, shelter, utilities, and blood—were far more important than gravel. 

Then there was our house. Our beautiful, sprawling farmhouse that my father had lovingly built with his own two hands, with help from his brothers and nephews and his daughters. The house my mother had designed. 

It was their dream home. 

Perfect for the seven of us. “I…thank you for the ride, and for guarding me.”

“No invitation to dinner tonight? I take it you haven’t forgiven me yet?” He sent a sly look at me. One that was both attractive—and irritating from my head to my toes. 

Adrastos males were arrogant creatures, after all.

“I…I…what has happened to those young females…it isn’t right.”

“Now that I have met them, I have to agree. Even at over five hundred, I apparently still have something to learn. Thank you for that, by the way.”

He held my hand as we walked up the porch together. No one else was home yet, so I pulled my key free from my bag.

Just as something hard slammed into me, knocking me to the dirt surrounding the front porch of my home. I heard something strike the house above where we lay.

I stayed there under Mak, shaking, until he told me it was safe to move. 

I finally turned, enough to look at the door of my home.

Imbedded in the thick oak door my father had hand carved almost two centuries ago was a twelve-inch dagger. 

If it had struck me, I would no doubt have bled to death before Mak could have gotten me back the eighteen minutes to town to the Healers’ Hall. 

I would have died.

Mak had saved me in the nick of time.

I stared up at him as what had happened sank in. 

Mickey Sebastos. (Journal Entry #22)

There was something in the goddess’s courtyard that was watching us. I could feel it, and I sensed the young female with me could as well. But being a former human, I don’t think she was aware of what it was she was feeling. We all know humans just aren’t as attuned to feelings like we are.

I’m just not certain if she was the target, or if I was. It was hard to tell. 

Oh, it’s so hard to put into words what it felt like! I’m not the writer in the family, after all. Not like Alaun.

Whatever it was, I felt it. 

Mak didn’t. Only when I mentioned it did he step closer. His warm hand covered my back. I could feel his heat through the thin, cheap cloth of my gray uniform. I wanted to cuddle close for a minute. 

But I’m a Woald. 

I can stand on my own two feet.

I gave Mickey a quick tour and filled her in on the legends associated with the goddess and the Dardaptoan creation stories. She was so nervous. Frightened. But very much like a young sponge, listening and learning as much as she possibly could.

I felt for her; I truly did. I wanted to put her at ease, so I told her some of the stories my father had told me, that his father and his father and his father had passed down. 

Stories that even Mak, at five hundred fourteen, didn’t know. 

I’m not sure how that is possible. I mean…it’s a part of Dardaptoan history, right? Oral tradition? Especially the story of Aerim. That has always been my particular favorite. 

Probably because of how much my sisters and I resemble that long-ago ancestress. My mother was a gifted artist and seer; she had painted portraits of Aerim long before I was even born. Or even Ambrea. 

It is from Aerim that we get the curls, my mother said.

We walked around the courtyard for several more moments, until Theo found us there. 

As I watched him lead Mickey away, I both envied her for having her male and hurt for her how it had happened. 

No female deserved to find her male in that way.

I must have sighed. Mak’s hand went around my waist, and he pulled me closer. I wanted to cuddle against his broad chest. “They will find their way. It is the will of the goddess, after all.”

“Perhaps.” The will of the goddess. 

Was it the will of the goddess that I am fated to die before finding a male of my own? 

At times, I find it difficult not to curse the goddess. 

I’m fated to die. Early. How can a female ever get over that?