Captured by the Paladonic Knights, Eldon and his loved ones have little hope of making it out alive. Especially since their enemy knows everything about them.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Eldon stared at the blood dripping from Megan’s chin. His mind focused like a laser on the runnel as it pumped from the small cut, traveled down her smooth neck, and stained her shirt. He knew he should be more worried about the Paladonic Knights that managed to not only track the Orange Bubble but actually attack it. But his mind couldn’t fasten onto something he thought was impossible.
It was better than admitting that he knew the voice of the female calling out to them. The voice he knew almost as well as his mother’s commanding tones. The voice that taught him magic and healed his scrapes after a tough weapons training stint.
The voice of a woman who was supposed to be dead.
No. It was much better to worry about the tiny scrape to Megan’s pretty chin. His mind refused to think about that other subject.
“Is that…” Shlee started to ask, looking around at the ashen faces around her.
Don’t say it! Eldon thought, afraid that saying it would make it any truer than he already knew it was.
“You can’t hide in your magic car forever, Lyden!” Becky’s voice rang out before three pounding knocks sounded against the door that was still above them.
Everything in the car looked odd since it was on its side. One door was under them, half covered by the mattress and bed frame. Thankfully no one was on it when they were attacked.
He glanced at his father, wondering how the stoic and robust Lyden Snow was handling the fact that his dead wife was demanding they leave the safety of the Orange Bubble.
“I don’t think they can get in here,” Lyden said, his voice hard as he glanced up at the door. “If they could, they would have stormed in and taken us already.”
“But how did they attack in the first place?” Eldon asked. “I thought the Orange Bubble was invincible to everything.”
Lyden grimaced as he met his son’s gaze. “It’s impregnable to any mundane forces,” he said, his voice growing even harder. He dropped into a squat and ran his hand lovingly over the wall-turned-floor. His voice dropped to soothing timber as he continued speaking. “She has a portion of Angela’s soul in her, from before she became the Pillar of Fire. She should be as well hidden as any succubus when she doesn’t want to be noticed.” He glanced up as more pounding sounded from outside. “But if a friend were to come calling, she would respond.”
The last of his statement sent a shiver down Eldon’s spine. Antarctica would seem warm and hospitable by comparison. He watched his father stand, eyes locked on the door above them, shoulders rigid and back straight.
“Best not to keep her waiting,” Lyden said, though his voice managed a fine line between soft and hard. “Becky had the biggest heart of any of my wives, but it was always best not to make her wait.”
“Dad—” Eldon tried to argue with him, but Lyden held up one hand to forestall him.
“That can’t be my dead wife out there, Son,” Lyden said as he nodded to Mei, who had taken up position below the door. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m not going to wait in here and let them hurt my car anymore.”
Eldon considered arguing that they were better off waiting for help to arrive, or for the Orange Bubble to right itself and get them out of there. Instead, he watched in silence as mei flew up and gripped the handle. Who knew how long it would take before help arrived? And if the car could have gotten them out of there, it would have by then.
Mei met everyone’s eyes, took a quick breath, and released the latch. The door flew up and off its hinges. Bright lights flooded the interior, blinding them a second before Eldon heard a pop, followed by a fizzing sound. Eldon shielded his eyes as best he could, and saw multiple smoke grenades spewing noxious gas. Mei, who had remained silent throughout the turmoil, disappearing into the smoke.
He opened his mouth to warn the others not to breathe but hesitated. Something about the way the gas swirled made him smile. He couldn’t tell what it was but soon found himself chuckling as soldiers in dark uniforms and gas masks dropped inside the car. When he saw Becky float down and give them all a glare, he outright guffawed.
The woman looked much as she had before dying in the White House bombing. Her greying hair might have been a little tighter as it swept back into a bun atop her head, and her eyes held more disdain and disgust than he could remember, but it was her. Her stomach was larger than he recalled and remembered that while it wasn’t that long that he was in the other world, months had passed here.
His joyous hysteria didn’t appear to be lessening despite the danger he knew they were in. His knees buckled as he doubled over from laughing. He was laughing too hard… He tried to breathe through the giggles, but they were stronger than him. As darkness began a slow creep in around his vision, Eldon wondered why Becky didn’t need a mask. His unasked question was answered as she bent over her husband, and he saw the gas swirl around, but not touch her pregnant form.
“We have the betrayer of Humanity,” Becky’s grin split her lips, hard and cruel. “Take him and his ilk to the van.”
“This one is human,” a muffled voice responded as they examined Megan with some sort of machine. “What should we do with her?”
Becky glanced at the redhead as Megan gasped for air. The woman didn’t miss how Megan reached out for Eldon, as though he could do anything for her.
“She appears to be under their spell,” Becky said. “Take her. We’ll break her of their hold as they did for me.”
Eldon felt a boot impact his lower back, right at his kidney. He would have laughed at the whole absurd situation, but darkness finally claimed him.
* * * *
A dwarf and a minotaur shared Eldon’s skull, using it like a drum, pounding out a throbbing rhythm and making him groan. Eldon would have laughed, knowing that the two races didn’t particularly like one another, but he didn’t know if he could ever laugh again. Instead, a slow groan escaped him as he rolled onto his back. His chest hurt, his head throbbed, his throat felt raw and swollen, and his mouth was dry enough to make the Pillar of Fire’s domain jealous.
“He’s awake,” a rough voice he didn’t recognize said nearby.
Eldon opened his eyes and saw Shlee leaning over him, her muscular arms squeezing and running across his body. Her arm appeared to have healed already. Werewolves had excellent healing capabilities.
I Guess she won’t be singing anytime soon if her mouth and throat feel anything like mine, he thought and groaned as she helped him sit up.
“What…. Where?” He tried to speak, but his mouth wouldn’t cooperate.
“Drink this,” Shlee commanded. Something pressed against his lips, and tepid liquid filled his mouth. The water tasted awful, but he couldn’t stop himself from gulping as best he could. He didn’t get nearly enough before it ran out.
“That’s all the water we have,” Lyden said nearby.
Hearing that, he worried about Brock and Brooke. Those two needed water to survive more than the rest of them. Especially Brock, who had to be at least partially submerged. Looking around, he didn’t see his half-sibling, nor did he see Mei, Brooke or Oberon. They were all in the car when they were attacked, weren’t they?
His throbbing head made him doubt his own memories.
“They’re fine for now,” Lyden answered his unasked question. “We talked in my Menz Mundi earlier. They’re being treated harshly, but by the Knight’s standards, they’re rolling out the red carpet.”
Something in the look his dad gave him told him not to ask any more questions.
“You were the last to wake up,” Shlee informed him, still fussing over his injuries. Her voice grew even rougher with her emotions. He wished he could heal as fast as he once could, but those days were behind him. “Your father couldn’t bring you into his shared dream. I was so worried that… That…. He pulled me in before I even woke up here. But when he said he couldn’t reach you, I didn’t know what to think.”
“I love you, too,” Eldon said, grabbing her wrists and pulling her in for a quick kiss.
“Idiot!” she accused, but then wrapped him in a hug that told him his body was in worse condition than he’d thought. “Don’t make me worry like that again. Your body isn’t permanent anymore… and—and I was terrified of losing you.”
“Not today,” Eldon told her, seriously.
“Heh,” Shlee chuckled into his neck. “That’s what we say to death.”
“What?” Eldon asked, confused.
“It’s…” She trailed off and shook her head. “Never mind. I’m just glad you’re okay.”
Eldon got to his feet with a little help from Shlee and looked around their cell. They appeared to be underground, two walls, the floor, and ceiling were all solid stone. Megan sat in the back, knees tucked to her chest and head resting on her arms. The area was triangle-shaped with an acute angle towards the back. Bright bars of metal blocked the front of the cell, keeping them locked in.
“Those are silver,” Shlee said with a shudder. Her voice was still rough but seemed to be smoothing out the more she spoke. “I can’t do anything to get us past them.”
Eldon nodded and stepped up to the bars. As far as he could tell, no one was out there, but the whole area was dim and hard to see through.
“Stand back,” he ordered, preparing to change forms. Silver or not, the ogre would make quick work of them, and they could begin their escape.
Shlee went to Lyden, and the two moved further towards the rear of their cage by Megan. Eldon concentrated on remembering that the others weren’t food as he focused his will on changing forms.
Nothing happened. Blinking and looking around, Eldon knew he was still in his actual body. He’d never failed to change before. Even after Areth sacrificed herself for him, he could shift forms. Squeezing his eyes shut, he tried again. And again, he failed.
“I… Something’s wrong,” he said, turning around to face the others.
“That’s because I’m blocking your ability,” Becky’s mocking voice sounded from outside. “You won’t be using your evil magics so long as my spell holds.”
Eldon turned to face the woman. Despite knowing what he’d see, part of him still hoped he was wrong. Perhaps this was a sister they didn’t know about. Or someone who just so happened to talk and sound like her… And walk like her… And even tuck a strand of graying-brown hair over her right ear in an exact manner that Becky did when she was faced with something distasteful.
His inner voice cried that it could all be an elaborate illusion, but he knew better. The Orange Bubble wouldn’t be fooled by an illusion, no matter how accurate. For some reason beyond anything he could imagine, Becky switched sides and now worked for the enemy.
Why is she blocking me from changing forms, but not Dad’s mental ability? Or is that why he couldn’t pull me in? He wondered but knew better than to ask. A million other questions rushed through his mind, but the words that came out weren’t planned.
“I’ve missed you, Becky. I’m so glad you’re okay.”
Her eyes narrowed as she regarded him in the dim light. “Missed me?” She scoffed. “Okay? You think I’m okay after all the sexual abuse that man put me through? The filth he subjected me to, and made me suffer? He brainwashed me, and… and…” she stumbled to a halt, rubbing her temples, before giving her head a violent shake. “I will never be able to forget the things he tricked me into doing, but I can say with all sincerity that I haven’t missed any of you. It makes me sick that I even have to carry his unholy child.” Her left hand dropped to rub her slightly rounded stomach.
Eldon stared at her in shock. Becky was always kind-hearted and open-minded. To hear her accuse his father of any of that went against everything he knew about his father and his wives. Sheila was the closest that ever came to being forced to do anything, but Eldon knew his mother got off on that behavior. While he couldn’t claim to know everything about his father’s sex life, he knew more than he cared to and knew that the accusations weren’t adding up.
“Son,” Lyden said, getting his son’s attention before shaking his head. He noted for the first time that the illusion making his father look old was gone. He backed away from the barrier separating him from one of his step-mothers. He was missing something and feared that they were in a much worse position than he initially thought.
“What do we owe to this visit?” Lyden asked next, an edge to his tone as he faced his pregnant wife. Eldon couldn’t imagine what must be going through his father’s head. His dead and pregnant wife was alive, but working for their enemy.
Becky regarded them all for a moment before speaking. “Curiosity,” she said when Eldon began to think she was going to ignore the question. “I know you better than I care to, Lyden Snow. You should be demanding to know why I’m working with the Holy Paladonic Knights. You should be raging at what you perceive to be my betrayal. Instead, you’re calm. This tells me that you have a plan or a hope for escape. There is no hope, by the way. You will die down here very soon. The world will be rid of your filth, and getting rid of your so-called Lydonese will get easier with you out of the way.”
The barest smile curled Lyden’s lips before he said, “My wife died in that bomb, set by the Kights. You are nothing more than a shadow of her memory. But you still haven’t said why you’re here.”
If his words affected her, she didn’t show it. “The woman you thought was your wife died, yes. Or to be more accurate, I woke up.” She paused to examine the back of her hand before placing it back on her belly. “I was deep undercover when we met. A Daughter of Respite. Somehow you seduced me and made me forget my purpose. I’ll forever hate you for that. That bomb allowed the Knights to recover me and strip away your foul magic.”
“That’s so interesting,” Shlee broke in, ignoring Lyden’s glare. She approached the silver bars but kept her distance from the metal that was anathema to her kind. Her voice held the slightest mocking edge to it. “The Daughters of Respite are all but immune to magic. And they are also the kidnapped girls of magical beings. How did he manage to not only cast a spell on you but change you into a full human?”
Becky stared at the werewolf for a long moment, blinking as she tried to reason her way out of that logic. Knowing that Shlee’s Aunt was once a Daughter of Respite gave weight to her arguments in Eldon’s mind.
“Are you sure that the Knights aren’t the ones who did the brainwashing?” Eldon piped up, stepping next to his girlfriend. “That makes a lot more sense, doesn’t it? I mean, it doesn’t add up that my dad could have made a magically immune Daughter of Respite forget how much she hates magic. In fact, I’ve seen the way you used to look at him. The love you held not only for him but for his kids as well. You taught us magic. You helped raise us. I can’t believe that an agent of them could ever behave like that. And why keep the child? I mean—”
“That’s enough,” Lyden cut him off, just as he started building up steam. “My wife is dead. This woman isn’t the Becky that I miss so dearly. She is nothing more than some trick or illusion. I’ll not give them the satisfaction of breaking my standards for the memory of my wife.”
Eldon opened his mouth to argue but shut it as Lyden’s glare intensified.
Silence fell as they regarded one another. Eldon didn’t understand what was wrong with his father. Why wasn’t he trying to convince Becky of the truth? To remind her of who she truly is?
“I’ll be happy to see your heads rolling across the ground tomorrow,” Becky cut in, a sadistic giggle sounded from the once-caring woman. “That was the other reason for me to suffer your presence. Tomorrow at noon, you three will be executed.”
“What about Brock and Brooke?” Eldon asked, his heart sinking.
“The mermaid is a beautiful woman, despite what she is,” Becky grimaced and shook her head. “She’s being kept alive to service some of the Knight’s baser needs. As for the changeling, its ability to switch genders has our scientist’s curiosity piqued. Experiments will begin after they witness your deaths.”
She turned to go, but Eldon asked one last question. “Why isn’t my ability to change going to be studied?”
“Do you want to be tortured?” Shlee elbowed him. “Because that’s how you get tortured.”
Becky paused for a moment but didn’t speak before she walked into the darkness.
“You two almost ruined that,” Lyden said, right behind them.
Eldon spun on his father, sudden anger, and a need to lash out overwhelming him. “We almost had her convinced! Why did you stop me?”
“You’re wrong,” Lyden said, his voice calm and even. “All you were doing was reinforcing her beliefs.”
Eldon opened his mouth to argue, but Shlee placed a hand against his chest and shook her head. “He’s right. I could smell her growing more stubborn as we talked. There’s no convincing her with words.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Eldon ground his teeth in frustration. “None of what she claimed makes sense. Surely she has to see that!”
“There’s this phenomenon that happens to people who are obsessed with conspiracies,” Lyden said. “The more evidence you present to them to prove them wrong, the deeper they believe in the stupidity they have in their heads. Whatever magic the Knights used to brainwash her doubles down on that. I’ve seen it before with some of their victims after they were liberated. It’s also how the Daughters of Respite keep their members from learning the truth of what they are. The Knights expect people to try and convince them of the truth, and so their spells are woven to reinforce the delusions instead of dispelling them. They’re so successful that they don’t even need to keep the spells active once completed.”
“I don’t understand how you can stay so calm, then, Dad?” Eldon pressed as tears of frustration threatened to leak from his eyes. Brainwashing so thorough that the truth makes it stronger? How much more evil can the damned PK’s be?
“He’s not calm,” Shlee said next to him, folding him in her arms and offering the comfort he wanted to reject but couldn’t. “He’s furious, but he hides it well.”
Eldon knew she must be using her nose to read his father. Would he ever have that kind of control over his emotions?
“There is more going on than I can explain right now,” Lyden told them with a significant look at the ceiling. No doubt, every word they said was being recorded. On the one hand, Eldon felt comforted that his father had some sort of plan. On the other, it drove him nuts that he couldn’t know what the plan was. His inability to shift forms meant that if any fighting were required, he would have to do it in this body. It likely meant that Shlee was in the same boat. And while Megan could fight, he remembered that cut she’d received in the crash and noted how silent she was staying now.
He pulled Shlee tight against his body as he tried to figure out what he could do, and contingency plans, just in case. It was an exercise in futility, though, as he had no idea what to expect. He almost wished he could fall back to sleep, but his body denied him, despite the comfort of holding Shlee.
Then he realized that Oberon was never mentioned during the exchange, nor was Mei. Where were the vulgar little faery and his half-dragon sister?
* * * *
Damn those sneaky, mother-fucking, pig-sucking, whoresons! Oberon cursed as he hid in a dim corner while a group of three white-clad cake-sniffers walked by underneath him. He’d promised the person he loved to watch what he said out loud, but that didn’t stop him from using his extensive vocabulary in his head. What is that stuffy old man's problem with colorful language, anyway?
He was invisible and could fly right down the center without being seen, but he sensed enough wards set up to be on the cautious side.
“I still can’t believe we finally caught that bastard,” one of the Knight’s spoke to his buddies. “All these years… It won’t make up for the massacre he caused twenty years ago, but it’ll be something, at least.”
“You weren’t even there, Scion Brody,” said another in a gruff voice. He was the oldest of the three and walked with a slight limp. He had a slight accent that brought back memories of Oberon’s time in England and Ireland before the Pillars created the other world. “You were at the birth of your boy, Bobby.”
“He still dating that hot redhead?” Asked the third man. “Damn, what I wouldn’t give to get a piece of that fine ass. Of course, that redhead that came in with the betrayer was nice too, even if her face was all messed up. She had an ass on her that—"
“Keep your cock in your pants where it belongs, Scion Cordova,” said the European man. “We’ve got more important things to worry about than where you’ll get your next fuck.”
“Yes, Consul Mulhan,” Cordova responded with military alacrity.
“The two of you were assigned to me to record the execution tomorrow…” their voices trailed off as they moved away from Oberon’s hiding place.
The small faery shook with rage at the thought of them hurting his beloved. It took all of his control not to curse the three and leave them looking on the outside as ugly as they are on the inside. He needed to find his betrothed and get them out of here. He could sense that Brock was the one in charge of their body at the moment, but too much magic floated around the area to know much more than a general direction.
Of course, those ignorant snollygosters would use the magic they profane to hate all over their underground hideout, he thought as he zipped down hallways, feeling the one he cared more about than his own soul getting closer. He was so close!
He stopped before floating through an invisible barrier. He sensed the magic just in time from braining himself against it. He could feel Brock and his mother through here and to the right.
Hold on, my dearest heart, he sent mentally, though he knew his promised one couldn’t receive it. I’m coming to save you! And because they are important to you, I will save your family as well.
He sent his thoughts into the barrier, to determine what kind it was, and then stifled a chuckle at the foolishness of the Knights. The magic shield covering the portal from top to bottom and side to side was designed to stop any magic from going through. All he had to do was stop being magic for a moment, and he could pass.
With a grimace, he also realized that meant he would actually have to use his wings or walk, instead of his power to stay afloat. He’d also have to turn off his invisibility. He couldn’t remember the last time his wings were used for anything more than the brilliant decoration they were. He couldn’t even use magic to speed through.
Dropping to the floor, Oberon increased his hearing for a moment, before allowing it to return to normal. He couldn’t hear anyone through there, nor could he sense anyone coming through the hall. A camera swung lazily in one corner, though, so he would need to be fast and time it correctly. An inconvenience to be sure, but nothing that was beyond his splendid abilities or unmatched intelligence. These fuck-nard Knights thought they were so smart, but they were less than children playing with matches when it came to magic. Sure, they could do a lot of damage, but they didn’t know what they were doing.
Oberon watched for three iterations of the camera’s movement before dropping his invisibility and all of his other enchantments. Holding his breath, he dashed through the divider, feeling its slick surface slide cross his skin and let him through.
Then he felt the second barrier, less than two inches from the first.
Agony ripped a screech from his throat. He lost control of his muscles and collapsed to the floor as his body lost the magic that held it together. Before his eyes started to melt and his eardrums disintegrate, he saw the flashing red lights and blaring claxons of some alarm.
Despite the pain and torment ripping his body to shreds, anger suffused Oberon. His strength didn’t come from the fact that he was Oberon, King of the Faeries, Keeper of the Cup, Lover of Ladies, and Soulkeeper of the Fay. No, he was all of those things because of his strength. His life spanned millennia. His enemies were not only dead, but their names and deeds were forgotten. There wasn’t a reality in existence that would allow Oberon to succumb to the foolish Paladonic Knights.
With an effort of will that even a Gaia would be impressed by, Oberon forced his magical body to coalesce. The second barrier negated all of his magic, so he pulled from himself back together using the ambient mana in the atmosphere. Bit by bit, molecule by molecule, he reformed his substance. By the time he was done, his breath came out in ragged gasps from new lungs, and sweat coated his small body. His immediate surroundings were tapped out of magic, excluding the two barriers, but he was whole again.
And very pissed off!
“Who in the fuck puts a null-magic barrier right next to a stop-magic barrier?” he demanded of no one in particular. “That kind of fumble-witted nonsense is absurd!”
“Seemed to fuck you up pretty good, little man,” came a voice Oberon didn’t recognize. Nor did he appreciate the tone.
“Little man?” he blinked, looking up to see a rifle—no, make that multiple rifles—pointed right at him. “Don’t you know who the fuck I am?” He gave them a slight moment to respond before continuing. “I’m Oberon! King of the Faeries, Keeper of the—Oof!”
Oberon picked himself up off the floor after the soon-to-be-dust Knight belted him in the face with his rifle’s butt. It hurt, but not nearly as much as feeling his body separating at the molecular level.
He licked his lips, tasting the blood that seeped down from the new cut on his head. His newly formed body sucked in the remaining mana from the two barriers, and even the morons surrounding him. Already he could feel them weakening as he grew stronger. He wasn’t nearly to full strength, but if he were smart, he’d have enough to deal with these meat-cups.
Oberon saw that they were shouting at him, but he ignored whatever foolish orders they thought he should follow. He counted six guns in total pointed at him. With a simple gesture, they all turned into bouquets of flowers. Titania always loved flowers, and he often missed her.
Thinking of his past lover, he grinned as he transformed the Knights next. Snouts stretched their screaming faces as their ears elongated. Their deep voices turned to a cacophony of braying. He recalled Cordova saying something about some redhead having a fine ass… Well now six previous humans wore the heads of asses. Perhaps one day, someone would be enamored of them.
The last of the barriers dissipated, their residue slipping into Oberon as he stepped past the twitching men on the floor. He didn’t care to waste what little strength he had left on flying, and he still needed to rescue…
Oberon stopped and shook his head. He no longer felt the overwhelming emotion for Brock or Bridgette that he had minutes earlier. The love spell Aphrodite placed on him was gone. As was his compulsion to protect and save them, or their family.
Oberon looked up at the ceiling, debating his next move. He could leave Brock to his fate, and go back to being carefree. He owed that family nothing. Other than an oddity, or a source of entertainment, Lyden Snow and his children meant almost nothing to him now.
A grin split his lips as he looked back at the men clawing at their furred faces. It was time to have some fun. Not here, though. He’d drained this area of magic and needed more. But first, he needed to turn off that damned alarm.
* * * *
Brock cursed his infirmity as he watched his mother pace their small cell. A steady trickle of water fell from a spout in the ceiling. It was enough to keep him wet and alive, but barely. Every moment was a torment as he felt on the verge of drying out.
They’d heard a scream a few minutes ago, but it had quieted shortly after. There might have been an alarm also, but it didn’t last long. The best they could guess was that someone was tromping donkeys through this lair, and one had stepped on someone’s foot.
Crushed their foot, I hope, Bridgette said to him. Serve the bastards right!
They deserve a lot worse than having their feet crushed, he thought back to his other half.
True, she agreed, but then he felt her emotions shift. But we shouldn’t focus on revenge. We need to be better than them. I hope our Oberon is all right.
Brock nodded to that. After talking in their father’s Menz Mundi, they knew their fiancee was free, but nothing more.
Oberon can take care of himself. We need to figure out how we’re going to get out of here. He knew that Bridgette felt his hopelessness, despite his words. He needed a constant supply of water to stay alive. Unlike any regular mermaids, he couldn’t shift into a human form. They were stuck with their tail and fins. Without his mechanical legs, and water bowl designed specifically for them, they were stuck in this cell. Brooke was a strong woman, but even Bridgette’s form was too heavy for her to carry far.
Are you ready to switch yet? his sister asked him. I can take over for a bit and let you relax. I can tell how much the dryness is hurting you.
He appreciated the gesture and made sure she could feel his emotions as he declined. I’d still feel it, even if it’s dulled. I can handle this. He knew that she knew it, but paradoxically, saying it took his mind off the discomfort.
Women have a higher tolerance for pain, you know, she chided him, though he could tell she wasn’t serious.
Of course, I know! he told her back. He knew her goal was to distract him, and he appreciated it. I’ve suffered your monthly cycles and even dulled, I don’t want to try the real thing.
Bridgette was quiet for a long moment, and he left her to her thoughts. When she spoke again, it wasn’t what he expected.
Do you think Oberon will want to have kids with us?
Brock’s tail slapped the hard ground a few times as he tried to process that thought. As he understood it, for them to have kids, Bridgette would have to control their body for the full term. They never went longer than a day without swapping. Being cooped in within their shared mind for too long made them antsy. He couldn’t imagine trying to stay inside for months on end. And they didn’t even know what the gestational period for them would be, much less with a Faerie father.
“I think it’s about time we blow this fucking popsicle stand, don’t you?” Oberon’s voice sounded from outside.
Brock gave an instinctive wince at the foul language but was too happy to see his lover to chide him over it.
“Oberon!” Bridgette’s voice sounded as she forced her way to the front and changed their form. “I’m so glad you’re… okay?”
Brock looked through her eyes to see what made her stumble over her words. Oberon looked terrifying. He’d look less frightening if blood covered every inch of him. Instead, he glowed an eery green color, including his eyes. The smile that split his lips wasn’t one of joy at seeing them, but of mayhem and mischief.
“Oberon?” Bridgette asked, holding a hand out to their lover. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Toots,” he responded with a wave of his hand. “But you should know that the fucking harlot of Greece, Aphrodite’s spell is gone. I’ll make her pay for that when I see her again, but for now, let’s get you out of here. I’m tired of turning men into jackasses.”
Brock felt his heart shatter at the same time that Bridgette forced him back to the front and hid in the deepest parts of their mind. Oberon didn’t love them anymore. He didn’t even seem to really care. Which explained why he was back to speaking like a thirteen-year-old, instead of an adult.
“I can’t leave this water,” Brock told him, trying not to reveal the massive lump in his throat. His heart might be broken, but their family needed them, and they needed to escape.
“What?” Oberon asked, distracted by something outside their cell. “Oh, for fuck’s sake. Where are your legs? Can’t you do something for your child, Toots?”
Hearing him call their mom by the name he’d used for them added a new dimension to their emotional pain. Brock shoved it down as he tried to comport himself. “I think it was out there,” he pointed to the antechamber that Oberon must have flown through.
Oberon zipped out, but came back a moment later, empty-handed. “Well, shit. It’s not there now… I might have turned it into a honey badger and sent it to chase some Knights. Those things don’t give a damn. They’ll take on anything.”
Tears seeped from Brock's eyes. It was too much. Getting captured, threatened, losing Oberon’s affection, and now the one thing that let him be mobile on land? He felt a maniacal laugh start to bubble up and couldn’t find the desire to stop it. He wanted to hide, but Bridgette was already there.
“Brock?” his mom asked, coming over to comfort him. “It’s okay. We’ll find another way.”
“Another way?” Brock demanded, slapping his tail to show how ludicrous that thought was. The sting of the slap allowed him to refocus his mind, however, and he looked around. Hope fled, though, as they’d done nothing other than trying to figure out how to escape since they woke up.
“You people would be useless without me,” Oberon stated as the bars melted into flower petals and opened up before him. He took a moment to study the water falling from above, then waved his hand. A torrent of water gushed out, soaking Brock and making him feel physically better, even if the water was brackish and cold. The water swirled around him for a moment, then lifted him up. It engulfed his body, swirling and turning him about with a maelstrom of force before it finally calmed down.
Opening his eyes, Brock’s Jaw fell. Water rushed and shaped itself in the form of his mechanical legs, but instead of stopping at a bowl for him to rest in, it covered him to his chin. He moved his tail, and the water legs turned him about, splashing against the floor but holding form.
“This…” He couldn’t find the words to use. After a few precious moments of trying to get his thoughts together, all he managed was a simple but heartfelt, “Thank you.”
“Yes, yes,” Oberon said, his voice dripping with annoyance. “If you’re done gawking at my mother-fucking awesome greatness, then we should be going.”
“Don’t talk to my son that way,” Brooke broke in, placing herself between the faerie king and his makeshift entry. “What happened to you, Oberon? I stood up for you and their relationship with my husband, but now I’m beginning to think it was all an act.”
“Ha!” Oberon gave a single laugh before responding. “I’ve got something standing up for you. Want me to show you?”
“Oberon…” Brock stepped next to his mother. While he was grateful for the new gift, he didn’t understand what was going on with his lover. Unless the Knights had somehow gotten to him as well, and brainwashed the little man… But he didn’t like Oberon’s new attitude. “What’s going on?”
“Son of a bitch!” The winged faerie cursed. “No, I’m not talking about you, Brock. Doesn’t anyone listen? I already told you that Gloria's spell to make me love you is gone. I no longer desire nothing more than your happiness. However, since I hate the assinine Knights, and your family is rather interesting, I’m deciding to save you. Now, do you want to blow this meatsickle stand, or are you waiting for an engraved invitation?”
“We need to save Lyden, Eldon, and—” Brooke started, but Oberon didn’t let her finish.
“Duh! I’d make a crack about all your intelligence being in your tits, but I’ve already seen you don’t have any. Now get moving toots, or I’ll really begin to think you want to see what your child was enjoying.”
It took all of Brock’s willpower not to punch, or throttle, or mangle the little shit. He wanted to stand up for his mother, but he also understood that this was their best chance for getting out of here. Once they were free, there would be a reconning. His heart was broken, and he wanted to join his sister in their shared misery, but he understood that there were more pressing matters to take care of first.
Brock picked up his mother, soaking her clothing as his water bubble extended to keep him submerged. With a nod to the man that was no longer his, he followed the faery out. These new water legs responded quicker and smoother than his metal ones. He knew that they wouldn’t offer as much protection, and considering that they were in the middle of escaping from a heavily fortified base, that was a worry.
“I can walk, son. Set me down,” Brooke told him, but he shook his head.
“No. I won’t tire carrying you, and I can shield your body with my own,” Brock told her while keeping his eyes locked on where Oberon led them. It was better than looking at the carnage staining the walls. He was sure that was a donkey’s head impaled on the end of a rifle. And he made the mistake of turning his head when he saw movement and witnessed a honey badger digging through the bowels of another man. He didn’t want his mother—who he knew had killed in her past—to see this. At least Bridgette stayed buried. He heard her sobbing in the corner of his mind.
Bridgette wasn’t weak by any means, but she tended to let her emotions control her from time to time. Not that his heart wasn’t broken also, but his logical mind demanded that they seek freedom first, recompense after. He’d let them believe that Oberon could actually care about him and that it wasn’t some spell from Gloria. Hadn’t Mandy claimed that the spell didn’t affect her because she already cared about their brother? But then again, Shlee was part of that spell also, and she’d turned down Eldon’s marriage proposal.
His mind was a confused jumble as they wound through hallways. Red lights flashed a warning to Knights that were spread across walls and dismembered in unique ways that he refused to focus on. He’d seen his own share of death, but this was a level of cruelty and carnage that defied words. Body parts poked out of walls, furniture, and even other Knights as though melded there.
“Brock?” A voice broke through the haze clouding his mind. “Brooke! What’s going on? Why are the sirens going off?”
He looked up to see his father, or at least the younger version of the man, staring at him through metal bars. Eldon and Shlee stood next to them, and Megan sat on the floor, cradling her head.
Before Brock could speak, Oberon piped in. “Okay, asshole, I’m here to save your tuckus, so stand back.”
For a moment, it looked like Lyden was going to argue, but whether it was the look on Brock’s face and the shake of his head, or the blood splatters on the Faerie King’s small frame, Lyden nodded and pulled the other two away from the cell bars.
The silver bars shimmered as they had for his cell previously, then fluttered away as flower petals.
“Good thing those fucking bars weren’t iron,” Oberon chuckled, a dark note in his tones.
* * * *
“Why does your magic work?” Eldon asked Oberon as he bent to pick up a few petals. “I couldn’t change forms or anything.” He’d felt useless as they waited to find out the cause of the alarms. And now to find out that his brother managed to escape before he could set his nerves on edge. And what was with his watery encasing? What happened to his metal legs?
“Wow, I like the new suit,” Shlee added in, pushing past Eldon and stepping up to Brock. “I can’t imagine that it’s as tough as your old legs, but it looks slimmer. I assume it links to your mind through magic instead of technology?”
Brock looked flustered as Brooke tried to reassure their dad that she was okay. “Would you tell our son to put me down so I can walk?” she demanded. Growing even more embarrassed, Brock let his mother go, and the two older adults hugged.
Realizing that his question was going to be ignored, Eldon turned back into the cell to get Megan. Her head lifted as he approached, and he noted how her eyes were crossed. Her red locks tumbled around her unsteady head as she tried to focus on him.
“Mmf… My head feels funny,” she mumbled as Eldon lifted her up. “Feels like I should be… um… Something?”
Eldon hadn’t spared much thought for this woman, knowing how tough she was. But now as she spoke, he realized that she was in worse shape than he’d realized.
“Oberon, can you heal her?” He asked, before realizing that the little man was already halfway down the hallway, not waiting for them. Instead, he turned to his brother. “Brock, can you carry her? She’s hurt, and I don’t think she can walk on her own.”
Brock nodded and reached for her. Eldon took quick note of Brock’s new mobility suite and wished it had the offensive capabilities of his old one. At least he can move and doesn’t have to worry about drying up, he thought.
“You’re cute, Mister Fishy Man,” Megan trilled as Brock lifted her in his arms. Her body slipped into the water surrounding Brock, soaking her, but she didn’t seem to notice. “But not as cute as the fucker who took my virginity.”
Eldon felt his cheeks burn, but moved to flank his father. Shlee stood on the other side, and together they took off after the Faerie King.
It wasn’t until after they rounded the first corner that Eldon wanted to vomit. Gore and entrails littered the room. He couldn’t tell where one person ended, and another bloody body part began. Noting the viscera that covered Oberon, he had no problems guessing who caused this carnage.
He tried again to shift forms and gritted his teeth at his continued failure. It wasn’t fair that Oberon flung magic about like nothing, while Eldon remained stuck in one form.
They rounded another corner, and Oberon paused.
“There’s a magical barrier here,” he informed them, his tone not condescending for once. “If any of you fuck-nuts have any enchantments on you that you want to be preserved, I’ll destroy it now. If they cast any spells on you that you want to be removed, step through that doorway.”
Eldon barely took a moment to think before stepping through the opening. Electricity buzzed across his skin. His heart hammered in his chest, then felt like it stopped. He couldn’t breathe. His lungs burned for air, but nothing came. Tears of frustration seeped from his eyes as he hit the floor and twitched onto his back. The electricity turned to lightning bolts playing across his nervous system as his body went into involuntary convulsions.
Then he saw Shlee doing the same next to him.
Panic sent a jolt through his system, reigniting his heart and making him gasp for air.
“Shlee?” he called to her through coughing fits as his lungs refilled again and again. Drawing in as much air as he could, he leaned over her, pressed his lips to hers, and forced air into her lungs.
Without warning, Eldon found himself flung off her until his back slammed against a solid rock wall. He just managed to keep his head from cracking against it as he picked himself up and looked to his girlfriend.
“Shlee? Are you all right?” he asked, unable to interpret the look on her face.
“Oh, yeah,” Oberon chuckled as he destroyed the barrier and flew through. “I should have mentioned that it hurts like Medusa’s snakes are using your nutsack like a punching bag.”
Eldon ignored the annoying little man as he stared at his girlfriend, afraid of what the null-magic screen did to her.
“She ran through right after you,” Brock said in a flat tone. “If it did the same to her that it did to Oberon, it removed Gloria’s geis to love you. I’m sorry, Eldon.”
“Oberon?” Eldon looked up at the smirking Faerie, then to the pitying look on his brother’s face. With horror filling his chest, he turned back to Shlee. He still couldn’t identify her facial expression. Somewhere between shock, nausea, and anger, and yet none of those.
Part of him, the part that always worried if she loved him for him, or because of Gloria’s manipulation, felt relieved. While he couldn’t identify the look she gave him, he knew it wasn’t a loving one. The other part—the part that took comfort in having her there, and knowing that she cared deeply for him—shattered.
“Shlee, I’m…” he trailed off as he tried to find words to say. What do you say to someone who just woke up from being forced to love someone they didn’t care about? It made him understand Becky’s attitude earlier, even if she was tricked into believing that her love was false.
“Kind of liberating, isn’t it, Bitch?” Oberon cackled.
“Don’t call her that!” Eldon snapped at the Faerie King. “She could pick you out of her teeth if you piss her off.”
“No,” Shlee gasped, still trying to catch her breath. “I doubt he’d taste good, and I can’t think of what wine he’d pair well with.”
Eldon stared at her, surprised that she was capable of making jokes. She met his eyes and grimaced.
“Damn it, that was tougher than I thought it’d be,” she said next, while Eldon waited for the hammer to drop all the way and shatter the remnants of his heart. “I had to be sure, though. Sorry, Eldon.”
“It’s…” He swallowed the lump forming in his throat and tried again. At least he knew that he loved her for her and that Gloria hadn’t cast a spell on him. His eyes closed as he fought back the tears. When he was confident his voice wouldn’t break, he opened his eyes and met her beautiful blues. “I’m sorry you had to go through that. I’ll understand if you never want to see me again, but I hope you’ll at least still help us escape.”
“Never…” Shlee stepped up to him in two quick movements. Her hand moved with blurring speed, slapping him hard. He knew he deserved it for taking advantage of her while under Gloria’s influence, but it hurt all the more because he still loved her. “Eldon, I… Do you no longer love me?”
His head snapped up to meet her fiery gaze. “I was never under a spell. At least, I don’t think I was. I meant what I said when I told you how deeply I love you. I guess you’re thrilled you didn’t marry me now.” He tried and failed to keep the bitterness out of his voice.
He saw the second slap coming, and braced himself for it, rather than dodge or block. If this was what she needed to recover and move on, then he would endure. What he didn’t see coming was the way her lips pressed against his before she pulled back. Tears filled her eyes as she grabbed both his hands. He noted that her hands were slightly furred, and from the warmth dripping down his cheek, he guessed that her claws were out.
“Eldon, I still love you,” she told him, though the words didn’t make sense to him. He must have misheard. Those two slaps, plus getting thrown against the wall, must have genuinely rung his bell. “I’m sorry for making you wonder, but I had to be sure. I fell in love with you for you and for who you are. You’ve proven yourself as a worthy mate time and again with your actions, how well you’ve treated me, and your bravery. Honestly, the only part of you lacking is how little you’re interested in geeky stuff, but I’m more than happy to convert you to the dark side. I know I hurt you—I can see it in your eyes—but some part of me worried my love was still because of the spell, and so I had to be sure. I hope you’ll forgive me. I know now that I love you for you, Eldon.”
“Forgive?” he asked, still trying to get his thoughts in order. “There’s nothing to forgive. You have the right to be free and love as you choose. I’m sorry if I subjected you to anything you didn’t really want.”
“Um… While I confess that I never thought of myself getting into a poly-amorous relationship, I admit that I still love Mandy as well,” Shlee said, worry filling her blue eyes. Her hand came up to cup his bleeding cheek before she gave him a quick peck on the lips. “Eldon… Are you hearing me? I’m telling you that I still love you.”
She… Still… With a shake of his head, everything she’d said finally sunk in. His heart leaped into his throat, cutting off any chance of further speech, so he picked her up and hugged her close.
“As touching as this is,” Oberon’s voice cut in, “and as unexpected, I believe we’re still in the middle of an escape.”
“I’m so sorry for your cheek,” Shlee said as Eldon put her back on her feet. He could see some of his blood smearing her cheek and used his sleeve to wipe it away. He felt giddy inside and invincible. She still loves me! Shlee Olsen loves me for me, and not because of some spell!
Then his eyes fell on Brock, and his heart broke again. The merman stared at Oberon with a longing that went ignored. This also explained the Faerie King’s current attitude. If he was released from Gloria’s geis, then he no longer cared for Eldon’s sibling.
Why then was he helping them escape?
Eldon didn’t know, but considering the carnage behind them, he was glad the little man was on their side.
“Dunk your head in your brother’s water, and let’s go,” Oberon commanded without looking at them. “It has healing properties. I can feel a powerful sorceress approaching. She’s no match for me, but I’d rather not expend the strength to destroy her.”
“That’s Becky!” Lyden said, stepping in front of the powerful-yet-small man. “We need to capture her and take her with us if we can. Don’t harm her or my unborn child.”
“Mother-fucker, you’ve got some balls on you Lyden Snow,” Oberon growled. “Few men would dare order me, Oberon, King of the Fairies, Keeper of the Cup, Lover of Ladies, and Soulkeeper of the Fay like that. Too bad you didn’t teach your child that gumption.”
Eldon saw Brock wither into himself at that comment, but he didn’t have the time to help his brother out. Becky arrived, coming down a set of carved stone steps with a coterie of Knights behind her.
“Well, I guess I know why you were so calm the last time we spoke,” Becky smirked as she looked at them. “And I see you wasted little time in replacing Arethusa. Tell me, Lyden, how is the little statue? No matter. We’re prepared to fight fairies. Even if they are uglier than your last lover. I know all your tricks, and you won’t be escaping our justice.”
“Ugly?!” Oberon spat and charged forward. “We’ll see who’s ugly after I—Hey, let go!”
Moving with a speed he never could with his mechanical legs, Brock managed to snatch the king out of the air, without dropping Megan, who appeared to be sleeping in his other arm. Either that water enhanced his strength, or Brock was stronger than Eldon gave him credit for.
“She was baiting you, you moron!” Brock snapped. “Look at her left hand.”
Eldon looked and saw that Becky held a small dagger that seemed to be equal parts iron and silver. A deadly weapon against Oberon or Shlee.
But only a minor weapon against him. He hoped his ability was back as he stepped away from Shlee. Becky would know of all of his transformations and be prepared to counter them… Or at least, any that his parents knew about. There were a few that only Shelly and he knew of, though he hated using them.
He locked eyes with the Knight on Becky’s left, and to all appearances, Eldon vanished.
His brain was too small for anything but the most basic of thoughts, and so he had only two. Get to the man before him, and become something more dangerous. His fly body zipped through the air, ignoring everyone but the sweaty man that was his target. He didn’t remember why he needed to get to the man but knew it was necessary. The knight ignored him, looking around for something, so Eldon landed on the back of his exposed kneck.
Without preamble, he vomited on his forward hands and rubbed them together. The man moved, and he needed all his hands down to keep steady. There was something else he was supposed to do. Something important, but his mind was too small to remember. His minuscule tummy demanded to be fed, but there was nothing worth eating. At least, not in this form.
Without understanding what he was doing, Eldon’s body elongated and grew. He heard a scream as the Knight jerked. A forked tongue slipped out and tasted the fear of the man as he tried to dislodge Eldon from around his neck. Instead, Eldon sank his fangs into the Knight’s cheek, before a hand gripped him and flung him away. His fangs ripped free, but not before he managed to pump plenty of his viper’s venom into the man’s face.
He saw the blade coming for him, even as he twisted in the air. He was too large to dodge and had no leverage. While his brain was a bit better in this form, he still didn’t understand fully what he was doing as he shifted back into a fly, landed on the mailed glove holding the swinging blade—everything seemed to be moving so slow!—and crawled up the leather sleeve of the Knight. This time, a snake would be too large.
An Indian Red Scorpion took the place of the fly, and he wasted no time in stabbing the arm with his stinger again and again.
Something smashed against him but failed to crush his body. It was time to move on again. He heard a sword clatter to the ground as his small fly form zipped away. With each transformation, it felt as though he lost a little bit of himself, but also kept a little bit more. He couldn’t remember his name, or even that he was actually a man, but he managed to remember that he was in danger. He found a safe wall to land on that was out of reach, and through his multi-faceted eyes, looked around. He couldn’t tell what was happening, nor where the danger lay. He needed to shift again. Something sturdier and better equipped to handle such giant foes.
Unfortunately, he was still too dumb to remember that while his current body could cling to walls, most of his other forms could not. An ogre crashed to the floor with a thud and a grunt.
Getting up, he found lots of nummy morsels around him. His much larger tummy reminded him that he needed to eat, and he grabbed the nearest bite. It screamed as he picked it up. Something long with an open end in its hand popped loudly, and Eldon felt something slapping against his chest, but he ignored it as he tossed the noisy end of the snack in his mouth and crunched down. The nummy went silent, but he didn’t have much time to enjoy his meal. Despite its satisfying crunch, he had to work some metal out from his teeth.
Luckily, another meal provided a pokey piece—a shadow in his mind provided the word ‘sword’—and he picked up that man, pinched off his arm, and used the sword to pry loose the previous mouthful’s helmet.
Looking around for his next bite, Eldon saw a furry dog creature that he knew would tickle his throat on the way down and ignored it. Another morsel was surrounded in water, holding a rather tasty looking treat. He could quench his thirst and get a bite at the same time!
Taking a step forward, a tiny little man flew into his face and threw sparks from his hands. “Shit, you’re an ugly ogre, Sheldon Lance. I much prefer you in your natural form.”
Eldon blinked as he surveyed his surroundings. He was back to his original body, though he couldn’t remember choosing to change. This was the first time someone else forced him to shift, and it left him disoriented.
His mouth tasted disgusting, and he turned his head to spit out a mouthful of blood, trying not to retch as he remembered the Knightly meal.
“You won’t get away with this, Betrayer!” Becky screamed, drawing Eldon’s attention, and reminding him that they were in the middle of a battle. Becky stood stiffly, her hands at her sides, glaring around the room. Though her bonds were invisible, he noted the way her clothing pressed in, and even her arms dimpled as though ropes of air held her in place.
Lyden held his right arm within the water encasing Brock, and as Eldon watched, a large gash closed, and the swirling water swept the blood away. Megan stood next to Brock, a bewildered look on her face, and her clothing plastered wetly against her curvy form.
A sound made Eldon spin in time to see Shlee changing back into her human form as she wrapped him in her arms.
“When you vanished, I was so terrified that she’d cast a spell on you!” She gushed before licking up his neck, chin, then pressing her lips to his. The kiss wasn’t filled with passion or heat, but if he had any lingering doubts about her love for him, they vanished as his arms wrapped her tight.
“Speaking of spells…” Eldon trailed off with a nod to Becky. “Can we break the spell on her mind by shoving her through one of those barriers?”
“There is no spell on my mind,” Becky glared at them. “I can pass freely through those barriers, which only confirms that my mind is free of your wicked—oomph!”
Her mouth hung open, but by the look in her eyes, it wasn’t her choice to stop talking.
“I’m getting so sick of hearing her spout her stupid nonsense!” Oberon complained. “Lyden, if you don’t shut her up—with your hand, a gag, or even your cock for all I care—I’ll shut her up permanently.”
“Don’t you dare harm her,” Lyden said in cold tones, before straightening his shoulders and modifying his speech. “Thank you for all your help, King Oberon, but I will deal with my wife as I see fit.”
“I have a feeling I missed quite the party,” Megan spoke up, looking around at the carnage. It was gruesome unless compared to what they’d walked through to reach this point. Half a Knight—that Eldon didn’t want to consider where the other half was—rested in one corner. He could see the swollen black face of the Knight he’d bitten as a snake, but he couldn’t tell which one he’d stung while a scorpion. Two Knights had their bowels and throats ripped open, and there was evidence that one Knight simply exploded by the number of pieces and gore staining the walls. Of the group that entered with his Step-mom, only Becky remained living.
“Are you okay?” Eldon asked the redhead. Most human women he knew would have tiptoed through the viscera, or been disgusted by the carnage, but all Megan did was grimace and shake her head as she walked over to him.
“My head’s still ringing, and I’m not sure how we got here, but otherwise, I’m all right,” she said, her Texas accent a little thicker than usual.
He nodded to her and moved to join where his father stood over Becky’s short frame, but Shlee’s sharp elbow to his ribs made him grunt. He looked down at his girlfriend, confused.
“Comfort her,” Shlee’s whisper barely reached his ears.
“She’s a strong woman and doesn’t need my comfort,” he snapped back under his breath, knowing that her sharp ears would hear him.
That didn’t stop her from shoving him at the redhead. He stumbled but managed to right himself before colliding with Megan.
He wanted to glare at Shlee, but instead placed a hand on Megan’s wet shoulder and met her chocolate brown eyes. “Are you sure you’re all right?” he asked, not missing the way her eyes challenged him. Damn it, but this was a strong woman! Why did Shlee insist on him comforting her? Hadn’t Megan already proven that she could handle herself? “You seemed pretty out of it after the accident, and we don’t know what’s ahead. I know you can handle yourself pretty well. I’m not offering to take care of you, but ensuring that you’re up for a fight when it happens.”
For a moment, it looked like she was going to snap at him, but then a smile split her pretty lips. “There’s no shortage of excitement around you or your family. If I can find a couple guns, I’ll be right as rain on a warm summer eve.” Her eyes regarded him for a moment before her hand came up and wiped something from his cheek and chin. “The faerie was right, though. You’re one ugly ogre. I much prefer this face. You still have blood on your face. Otherwise, I might be tempted to kiss someone so concerned for an ally.”
Was there ever a time this woman didn’t throw me for a loop? he wondered as she stepped next to the fallen half-Knight and recovered his pistol. Then he remembered Shlee’s kiss and swiped at his face to clean it off. Of course, the werewolf wouldn’t have a problem kissing him after she’d torn throats out with her maw. Mandy probably wouldn’t have kissed him, either, but he didn’t think she would have reacted as Megan had either. Gloria… She didn’t bear thinking about. He had a messed up dating life, and it wasn’t as though he’d gone looking for it.
Then he glanced at his dad, wrapping a gag around Becky’s face and shook his head. At least Mandy and Shlee weren’t out to kill him. If what Becky claimed was true, then whatever the Knights did to her didn’t remain as a spell. Which meant that it was either permanent or would require some specialized treatment to remove the conditioning.
“We need to get to the Orange Bubble and get out of here,” Lyden said as he straightened up. Becky was slung over his shoulder, and despite her muffled protests, Lyden had a firm grip on her.
“Won’t they just attack us again?” Megan asked as she tucked another pistol in her waistband. Eldon wasn’t sure, but he suspected that she’d acquired all the available weapons from the doomed Knights.
“Not if we have Becky with us,” Eldon told her. “At least, we’re pretty sure that’s how they managed to attack us last time.” He didn’t blame Megan for not remembering the conversation after the crash. She was pretty dazed.
“I got a good look at the car as they dragged us away,” Shlee added in. “It was in pretty bad shape. Will it even run?”
“She’s a good car,” Lyden said. “As long as she’s not killed, she’ll heal like any other living being. I’ve seen her recover from some serious damage, and the longer she’s been alive, the stronger she’s become.”
Eldon wondered why that was. He knew that part of Angela’s soul inhabited the car… Could it be that all the sex that occurred within strengthened her? That was a philosophical question for later.
“I’m glad I’m sticking with you,” Megan said as she stepped past Eldon. “Your family is a lot more exciting than anything I did back home. I don’t know if my daddy would have approved of you, but you’re a lot like him. Noth the shape-shifting thing, but you’re as stubborn as he was in his most agreeable times.”
Eldon ground his teeth instead of responding to her. One moment she’s cold, and the next… well, if not hot, at least lukewarm towards him. And this was all after she was seriously injured. Maybe that blow to her head caused some permanent damage.
Oberon zipped down from the top of the stairs that Becky had descended, meeting them. “Now listen up, my minor minions,” he started out in his most offending tones. “We can either do this the fun way or the safe way. My preference is to destroy, mutilate, or just plain fuck with as many as we can before we go.”
“What’s the safe way?” Brock asked. He still looked miserable, but he wasn’t letting it slow him down. Considering how bad he felt after Shlee went through the barrier, Eldon understood some of what his sibling was going through. He remembered Brock standing up against Oberon earlier, and was glad the merman was staying active.
Oberon gave him the barest glance, before grimacing and saying, “I turn us all invisible and we sneak like little cowards through their camp. But if I get the chance to zap someone, or have some fun, I’m taking it. These fucking Knights don’t deserve to breathe the same air as me.”
“Do you have to swear so much?” Eldon heard his dad mutter. If Oberon heard him, he was ignored.
“The safe way,” the rest of them chimed in almost all at once. Becky squirmed and tried to say something, but her vote didn’t count.
“Huh…” Oberon pouted. “I disagree with the redheaded toots! You fuck-tards are boring as a dryad’s tea party. Well, everyone gather around, and I’ll make sure we’re not seen. Anyone know where that car is?”
“I can feel her over that way,” Lyden said, pointing up and to the right. Eldon didn’t know his dad had that kind of connection with the car but wasn’t going to complain about that right then.
If Oberon did anything to make them invisible, he couldn’t tell, but they followed him up. They entered a room that looked like an ancient mid-twentieth century nuclear bunker. No one was in the place, and they rushed through and up another flight of stairs. Eldon nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw two guards standing upright, swords at their hips, and rifles held across their chests. Eldon prepared to attack, but then noticed the blood dripping down, and the holes in the backs of their helmets and heads.
“I figured they weren’t using their shit-for-brains anyway, so I took them out,” Oberon chuckled.
Eldon was beginning to suspect that the little faerie was a sadistic monster and that it was perhaps a good thing that he was no longer tied to Brock and Bridget.
Someone in the robes of a Knight, but not the armor, went running by and didn’t pay them, or the dead guards any notice. Whatever Oberon was doing allowed them to see, but remain unnoticed.
This place wasn’t what Eldon expected to find when they escaped. The sun’s early light crested a thick copse of trees in the East. Little huts and more than a few hovels dotted the ground throughout the area; some of them no more than blankets strung between trees. It looked like a homeless encampment, more than a military base. Here and there, doors in the ground gave evidence that there were more underground passages.
Lyden led the way through the thick forest and broken living spaces. Oberon’s magic kept them hidden. Multiple times, Eldon saw the little faerie prepare to cast something at a passing Knight, but Brock would hiss something at him, or in one case that Eldon was confident would end in someone’s death, Brock pulled the Faerie down to meet his gaze and whispered something in furious tones. Oberon glared for a moment, then burst into guffaws that they all cringed and feared would get them caught. No one came running, though, and Oberon didn’t try anything else.
They wound their way through the trees until Lyden stopped them before a large, camouflage tent. It looked like it was military-grade, and could hold at least a platoon of soldiers inside. Without waiting, his dad slipped through an opening. They followed after, and Eldon saw that it was a makeshift garage. The Orange Bubble was lifted onto a couple jacks, and mechanics swarmed around it, attempting to take her apart.
A wave of anger that he didn’t expect to feel for the car welled up in Eldon. He prepared to charge forward and hurt these bastards that would dare to harm the vehicle that protected and transported him since he was a baby. This wasn’t an ordinary vehicle, but a member of his family. It wasn’t a machine, but a living being! And yet, these Paladonic Knights were attempting to take her apart as though she had no feelings.
Before he managed two steps, however, the car let out one long, blaring horn, doors opened, smashing unexpecting heads, and the jacks gave out, crushing two other Knights. Three Knights, who weren’t within the Orange Bubbles attack range, slumped to the ground, the remains of their heads splattering the tent walls.
“What?” Oberon demanded as Brock glared at him. “She started it. I just helped!” the Faerie King pointed to where the battered-but-whole, old-style, orange Volkswagen Beetle rolled up to Lyden.
“Everyone get in,” Lyden ordered. “Unless I’m mistaken, the reason our execution was scheduled at noon was that the law the Paladonic Knights were trying to get passed was to be voted on at that time. We should still have enough time to get there and stop it.” Without waiting for a response, he Set Becky in the passenger seat and shut the door. “Don’t let her out, Girl. I’m glad you’re still here. I missed you too.”
Eldon waited as everyone else got in, then closed the door behind him. His dad was in the driver’s seat, talking in calm tones with his car as they started moving.
Brock and Oberon were in the back, by the bed, talking with animated gestures, but Oberon must have created some kind of barrier, as he couldn’t hear them.
Shlee and Megan sat on the couch, a spot empty between them. As though they rehearsed it, they patted the empty spot at the same time, indicating that it waited for him.
“I hope you don’t plan on talking to me, because I could really use a nap,” Eldon said as he more fell than sat in the spot. Despite only having been awake for a short period, after changing forms so rapidly and with such a significant size variance, he was exhausted. His stomach also rumbled, but remembering the last thing he ate, he held no interest in food right then.
“Oh, nothing important,” Shlee said in an off-hand tone that told him he needed to pay close attention to what she said next. “Just plans for our wedding. I’m thinking something sci-fi themed, or with a fantasy—”
The car rocked unexpectedly, lurching from side to side and throwing him to the ground.
“What the hell was that?” he asked, looking around to make sure no one was hurt. Everyone was either picking themselves up or hadn’t moved much. “I thought we’d be safe since we have Becky with us.”
“That wasn’t those motherfucking Knights,” Oberon said with a dark chuckle. “Or rather, it was them, but not them attacking us. However, those three MOAB bombs that they intended to blackmail governments and detonate across your planet won’t be of much use to them now. I may have stumbled across their plans, and set them to go boom as soon as we were safely away.”
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From the Author
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Chapter 26 was denied due to a scene where Shelly was breast-feeding her baby.
The story is complete, with 30 chapters including the epilogue. I will not be posting the epilogue, but it will be included in the published book. Don't worry, though, as the story is complete without it.