Category Archives: 12.04

Duress 12.4

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“I’m thinking we should start a fire in or near the house,” I explained.

I studied the expressions on their faces.  Concern was a pretty big one.

“That sounds like a bad idea,” Green Eyes said.  She had crawled part of the way up the desk, using one hand to prop up her upper body, and the fingernails of her other hand to comb gore out of her hair.

“Start a fire in the house… while we’re in it?” Ty said.

“Just enough of a fire that they notice,” I answered.

“Not even a small fire, then,” he said.  “Not a table or a piece of furniture.”

“No,” I said.  “The flames would need to cover at least a section of the house.  But we won’t be… the location isn’t important.  We can work out the details.”

“I’m almost on board with that,” Peter said.  “Burn down the house, put an end to this lunacy, house has to be sold if it’s flooded and burned, with the sale, money gets out there, and because we’ve all been helpful, we each get a cut.”

“No,” Kathryn said.  “That’s idiotic, and nothing in the contract supports it.  The law firm would take over the property.”

“Which would be messy,” Peter said, “Considering everything that’s involved, and the sheer amount of blood in the hallway.”

Tiff, Alexis, Ty and I were already shaking our heads.  Evan saw us and started shaking his head too.

“No?  Because… they’re in on it.  They’re a part of it,” Peter voiced his thoughts aloud.

“There you go,” Ty said.

“How much a part of it?” Kathryn asked.

“On a level,” I said, “They’re a bigger part of this than Rose or I.  They made this possible, and they’re perpetuating it.”

“Why?” Peter asked.

“That’s an answer too long and complicated for me to give,” I said.  “Our focus right now needs to be on getting through the rest of tonight.  It’s what, seven o’clock?  Not even?”

“Not even,” Ty said.

“Thirteen plus hours until all of this is over,” I said.  “We need a new angle.”

“And somehow this new angle leads us to burning the house down?”

“Part of it.  Maybe,” I said.

“Part of it maybe,” Ty said.

I could see Ty, Tiff, and Alexis exchange a look.

The look was about me.

The pounding on the doors changed in timbre.  Different hands and tools were smashing at the barrier, now.

“What are you guys not saying?” I asked.

“They’re worried that, your jokes aside, you’re legitimately insane,” Peter said.

“You’ve known them for all of one and a half hours, give or take, and you feel qualified to judge what my friends are thinking?” I asked.

“He’s… not wrong,” Ty said.

I didn’t have a response for that.

I could see their eyes, the lack of eye contact as they refused to look right at me.

“Blake isn’t crazy,” Evan said.  “He’s as sane as I am.”

“Thank you,” I said.  “I appreciate that.”

“Um,” Peter said.

“The bird is talking,” Ty clarified.  “We can hear it, you can’t.”

“Sucks to be them,” Evan said, “What I was saying, before I was rudely interrupted, is since I’m very level headed and very sane, and I’ve done so much, saved the day a few times, I’m pretty sure…”

“You can’t set yourself on fire, Evan,” I said.

No,” he said, exasperated.  “I want you guys to set me on fire.  Or turn me into fire.  Duh.  I’m too young to play with matches.”

Us setting you on fire is a bad idea too,” I said.

“Listen,” Peter said, pausing to wince at one particularly loud slam on the door, “I get that the bird supposedly talks, but this isn’t doing a lot to make things sound less crazy.”

“The… bird,” Green Eyes said, “wants to go out in a blaze of glory, I think.”

As a blaze of glory,” Evan corrected.  “I want to go out there as a blaze of glory.  Flaming bird, wings spread, trail of smoke behind me, all my enemies fleeing at the sight of me.”

“Sorry,” she said.  “As a blaze of glory.  That does sound pretty cool.”

“I know, right?”  If Evan could have smiled, he’d have been beaming at Green Eyes at that point.  She was propped up, leaning over him, half-sitting on the desk, now, with Evan on the corner beneath her.

Green Eyes raised her head to look at me, “If we’re going to stay here, we’ll need food at some point.”

“Holy shit, you didn’t eat enough?”  Peter asked.

“We’re not staying here,” I said.  “They wouldn’t have attacked if they didn’t think they could finish off everyone in the house.  The whole point is to leave Rose without any supports.”

Which started almost everyone talking.  Too many things to be said, no organization, and even the people I was closest to had only a couple days of memories of association with me.

Alexis, Tiff, and Ty wanted to talk about tactics, or how much they didn’t like mine.  Peter was focused on me and Green Eyes and all the rest of the strangeness, almost being cheery or humorous in a weird way that might or might not have had to do with his near-death experience.  Kathryn was trying to clarify just how all of this worked, with a focus on the sensibility of it, which wasn’t constructive in the here and now.

Only Roxanne, Christoff, and Eva were silent, observing.

There was too much in the way of nervous energy, too many differing motives and points of focus.  The levels of experience, comfort and familiarity with this world varied by years, months, weeks, and hours.

Quiet!” I shouted.

People fell silent.

I could see how agitated they were.  Peter’s hands almost fidgeted before he stuck them into his pockets, leaning against a bookcase.  Kathy somehow looked furious, as if trying to be heard and failing had somehow offended her on a fundamental level.  Ellie was incapable of staying in one place, and Eva’s constant glare only made her more prone to nervous pacing.

“Please,” I said, as I glanced at Christoff.  “We’ve already lost Callan.  Some of you nearly died out there.  Things are bad.  Focus.  Let’s take thirty seconds to think.  Silence.  Then, when those thirty seconds are up, we’re going to go around the group.  Each person can say one thing, or ask one question for, let’s say, one answer.  Think about what you need to say and what doesn’t matter.”

There were a few nods.  Some reluctant.

“If you’re all going to be silent,” Eva said, “I might as well say-”

“Shut the fuck up,” Ellie said, glaring.  She was still bleeding here and there from the kicks she’d taken.  “I’ll forget what poison it was, and your brother can die, if you don’t shut the fuck up and play the good doggie.”

“Doggie?” Eva asked, eyebrows going up.

“Sit, stay, sic ’em if we give the order,” Ellie said.

“If you think-”

“I think,” Ellie interrupted.

Shut up!”  I said.

They shut up.  Eva didn’t pipe up, though she glared at Ellie, and the rest were content to keep their mouths closed.

The pounding and scratching continued, and I could almost see the nervousness of the others ratchet up in the quiet.  They felt the need to do something.

Trouble was, we needed to be on the same page.

I took more than the required thirty seconds.  It was only when most of the others had started looking around and acting like they were about to talk that I spoke up.

“We’re going by seniority here,” I said. “We-”

“Define seniority,” Peter cut in.

I had to resist the urge to reach through the mirror and throttle him.

“In order of seniority,” I said, my voice firm, “From the first people to be introduced to the Hillsglade House situation to the most recent, we each take our turn.  Hopefully the new people, like Kathy and the kids, will be able to pick up some details here or there, or amend their questions.  Everyone else stays quiet, unless you have something to add.”

There were a few nods.

“My name is Blake, I’m, as far as I can tell, a fakery that grandmother Thorburn put in place to take the hits while Rose figured out how all of this works.  Because our family has enemies.  As you’ve all seen.  Things have hit a climax, all of those enemies have mustered forces, and now that Jacob’s Bell is starting to grow, they want to fight to decide who gets to be in charge.  Just about the only thing they can all agree on is that they hate the Thorburns.”

“Because of bad karma?” Peter asked

I gave him a look, but judged it was a good thing to help clear up with the others.

“It’s complicated, but that’s it in a nutshell,” I said.  “Telling people about this stuff is a fast track to getting more bad karma.  Getting involved with the sort of things Grandmother got involved with is a faster track.  The lawyers are a part of that.  Those are the bullet points for what you need to know about why this is happening.  Rose is gone, and you guys are… like I said, nobody wants to be the one to tell you ‘hey, magic is real‘, so you’re-”

“Human shields,” Kathryn said.

“Basically,” I answered.

She nodded.

“Cat’s out of the bag,” I said, “We’re trapped, and honestly, we don’t have a lot of options.  We could wait until sunrise, but I don’t think we’ll get that far, playing the defensive game.  If we fought, well, I don’t think all of us are going to beat all of them, because there’s an awful lot of them.”

I saw a few nods, fatalistic glares, and tension running through people’s bodies.

That’s why I’m proposing the fire,” I said.  “Fire gets people’s attention.  Rose wanted to play a game of chicken.  She’s betting on the fact that the people out there are too scared of the monster on the fourth floor to keep her in a straightjacket and padded room somewhere, or whatever they’re doing with her.  By setting a fire, we’re escalating the game of chicken and take away the sense that they’re in control.  That’s one advantage of the strategy.”

“There are disadvantages,” Alexis said, her voice still a little odd from the spiritual infusion.

I held up a hand.  “Hold on.  Hear me out.  There’s more to it.  Look at the big picture.  We’re holed up in here, and the monsters and friends of the major groups in the area are hounding us, pounding on the door.  Meanwhile, the others should be holed up in their individual homes and demesnes, watching, waiting, and keeping their metaphorical doors locked.”

“Ahh,” Peter said.  “I like this kind of thinking.”

“I thought you would,” I answered.

“Clarify?” Kathryn asked.

“The ones who aren’t monsters are, for the most part, people.  They have their own worries and concerns,” I said.

“What’s going to happen if we lose this game of chicken?” Peter asked. “What’s my enemy planning right this second?  Are we ready to make the next move?  Am I safe?  We’re fighting for our lives, but they’re tense.  They’re… are they singular or plural?  The powers?”

“Mostly families,” I said.  “One mostly-singular guy with a talking angel-dog and a lot of favors he’s just called in.”

“Yeah.  So they’ve got their own drama to handle, then.  Tension in the ranks?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“With the fire, we add to the tension.  See what snaps.  Number one way?  You see it every day.  ‘This deal expires!  Stock is running out!  Hurry!  Don’t think, just act!‘  Take away their time.”

“That’s more subtle than what I was considering, and some of these people manipulate time, so…” I shook my head a little.  “We’ve got help out there.  Not a lot, but Rose is there, so is Corvidae.  I’m… flexible in terms of how I can move around.  If we can draw them out, we can target them.”

“While the house is on fire,” Alexis said.

“While the house is on fire,” I agreed.  “It might scare some of the Others-”

“It scares me!”  Ty raised his voice.

I held up my hands.  “Hold on.  In order.  Alexis.”

Alexis glanced over the room.

“I have concerns,” she said, her voice still a little odd, “and by their nature, they’re concerns I can’t share.”

“That’s bullshit,” Ellie said, still upstairs, watching us through the railing.

“No, it’s not,” Tiff said, “Seconding that statement.”

“I’ll back it too,” Ty said.

I resisted the urge to snarl with frustration.  “That’s really not helping.”

“It’s the truth,” Alexis said.  “My turn to talk, right?”

I could still sense the spirits within her.  Her voice was eerily clear, almost clearer than anything I’d ever heard.

“Go ahead,” I said, though I couldn’t meet her eyes.

She might have thought it was out of anger or frustration.  It wasn’t.

“There are other factors at play.  You can’t go with your gut because you’re not entirely you.  You… put a spirit inside of me to give me the energy to keep going.  That you can even do that should be a clue that there are forces at play inside you that aren’t purely Blake.”

I’d unconsciously shut my eyes, following her words.

The word that stood out to me, oddly enough, was entirely.  A few hundredths of a second’s hesitation partway through speaking the word.

Not entirely myself.

“Stop,” I told her.

“She’s supposed to say her piece,” Peter said.  “You laid down the rules, don’t break them right away.”

“I’m not,” I said.  “Just… I can’t stand here and let her keep saying what she wants to say without full disclosure.  The spirit I gave you, it’s giving me an in.  A way to see what you’re saying or feeling.  I don’t know.”

I managed to meet Alexis’ eyes.

“If you keep talking, I might be able to figure out something I shouldn’t.  I may already have an inkling from what you just said.  I don’t… I can’t convey how badly I want to figure out what’s going on.  I feel like it’s a matter of life or death, a question of my existence.  But I want to play fair with you more.”

In the seconds of near-silence that followed, with only the pounding on the door, Alexis folded her arms.  I saw her turn her hand over, as if she was studying it for changes.  She clenched her fist.

‘Kay,” she replied.

Just like before, I was able to read her tone, getting a sense of her attitude.

Pretty fucking powerful implications for a damn one-letter response.

They weren’t implications I could wrap my head around, but the general sentiment was clear.

I’d done more harm to our relationship than good, confessing that much.  A breach of trust that I might never recover entirely from.

“I guess I’m next?” Tiff broke the silence.  Ty shrugged.

“Sure,” I said.

“I studied some divination, mainly because I studied a lot of the defensive stuff,” she said.  “I’ve always been pretty lame.”

“Passive,” Alexis said.  “We were working on that before all this started.”

Tiff shrugged.  “Passive.  Focusing on the protection stuff seemed like the thing to do.  Figure out what they’re going to do by telling the future or remote-viewing them and prevent it.  Keep things intact and let Rose be the heavy hitter.”

I nodded.

Her voice was quiet.  “If we’re going to set fire to the house and try to draw them out, I can do a reading.  It might give us better odds if I do it right.  But I agree with Alexis.  I don’t know if you’re saying we should do this because it’s you or if it’s the… less pleasant things inside you that are saying it.”

“Less pleasant?”

“You were sent to the Abyss, and that’s why Rose was able to take your place.  You were supposed to die, but you didn’t.  You came back…”

“You don’t have to be nice, Tiff,” I said.

“Dirty.  Darker.  I- I-”  She stuttered, obviously uncomfortable with the number of eyes on her.  She made a conscious effort to get her thoughts in order.  “-don’t know how you were before, but you’re a little twisted now.  Your arms bend funny inside the sleeves of your sweatshirt, and there are places I can see through the branches that are covering you, and I just see…”

“Darkness,” Ty said.

Tiff nodded.  “You brought a bit of that place with you.  And maybe that place wants you to burn the house because it’s a place that chews things up and it wants to chew up this world too.”

“You’ve done your reading,” I said.

“Yeah.  Rose has summoned a lot of bogeymen.  I wanted to know how to deal if another one of them went wrong.”

I nodded.

“So… I guess if I have to finish saying my thing… maybe we should let the others chime in.  If the fire seems like a good idea, without your saying anything to make it happen, then maybe we do it.”

She shrugged, obviously unhappy with the compromise.

I wasn’t too happy with it either, but I could shut my mouth and let the others have their say.

“Alexis and Tiff think you’re the problem,” Ty said.  He was holding one of the nails with tags attached – the ones jammed into the mountain man hadn’t done anything.  “I’m just not sure it’s a good idea.  How do we fight past that group outside the doors?  How do we start the fires?”

“Ahem,” Evan said.

“More importantly,” Ty said, “how do we put it out?”

“We could decide on the plan and then work out the details,” I said.

“We could,” he said, “But should we?  I’ve had moments where I had to wonder whether I should move forward with a project or abandon it.”

“Shitty tags that didn’t do anything are a clue you should abandon more shit,” Eva commented.

“Probably,” he said.  “Wasn’t talking about the magic.  There’s stuff in the books we haven’t read yet.  If we get everyone reading, we could come up with something, a summoning, or a ward…”

“That you haven’t found and bookmarked in the last few weeks?” I asked.

“Found, bookmarked, summoned and lost,” Tiff said.  “We burned a few bridges, just trying to get by.  Others that can only be summoned once every so often, because the Abyss holds on too hard.”

I nodded.  I felt a little uneasy talking about just how short the collective resources here were getting, with Eva listening.

“There’s not a lot,” Ty said.  “But it beats the alternative.”

“What’s the alternative?”  Peter asked.

Ty shook his head, “Ask if you’ve gotta ask, but ask on your turn.  Let me finish.  Blake, I’m willing to be convinced, but if everyone’s getting their say, it’s going to take a while.  I don’t think we have that long.”

“Like Peter said before, about pressure and lack of time messing with your ability to think critically,” I said.

“Goes both ways,” Ty said.  “It might be affecting you as much as it’s affecting me.”

“Yeah,” I answered.

Ty shrugged.

“My turn?”  Evan asked.

“I suppose it is,” I said.

“I should have had my turn before, you know.  Because I was your familiar before Alexis and Tiff and Ty did the ritual.”

“Yeah,” I said, “You were one of the first to get clued in, but Alexis knew about the general family circumstances before, and… yeah.”

“Technically,” the witch hunter said, “I’m the most senior one here.  I’ve known about how fucked up the Thorburns were since I was four.”

Alexis spoke in a low voice.  “Technically, I don’t expect you to have anything to add.  You’re just a problem, until there’s something to be killed.”

“Story of my life,” the witch hunter said, sounding far too casual.  With a little more bite in her tone, she added,  “Hurry up so I can unpoison my brother.”

“Okay,” Evan said.  “Right.  Ahem.  So.”

“So,” I said, echoing him for the benefit of those who couldn’t hear him.

“Fire.  Awesome.”

“Fire, awesome.  I think I see where you’re going with this,” I said.

“Ty was saying we need strategy.  So… we gotta get out of here, right?”

Not where I’d anticipated him going.

“We do need out of here.  That would be step one.”

“We open the door and there’s a buttload of monsters out there.”

“Yeah,” I said.  “The monsters pose a problem.”

“And we want to come back.  Because we gotta go somewhere after the fire is started, and if we leave the house, we’re not going to do very well.  This-”

“This library is our starting point and our ending point,” I said.  “Nowhere else to go, as sanctuaries work out.”

“With monsters filling the space between here and the far side of the house.  In the hallways.”


“Rooftop,” he said.


“I’ve flown over this house a bunch of times.  I know how the outside is.  Instead of going through the hallway, down the stairs, all the way to the ground floor, then alllll the way to the back hallway, we go out, then duck right.  Out the window, or through the bedroom and out the bedroom window, then we’re on the roof.”

“There are gargoyle-things outside,” Ty said.

“But probably less than there are things inside!” Evan said.


“Sum up?” Peter asked.

“If we decided to start a fire, we could head out a window and make a break for it along the roof.”

“Slick,” Peter said.

“Snow could help or it could hurt,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said.  “Would we even make it to the window?”

“No guarantee,” Ty said.  “And those gargoyle shits were vicious.  Just saying.”

It’s not the answer.

“Food for thought,” I said.  “Thank you, Evan.”

“Is it worth a brownie point?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Because I’m saving up my brownie points, to call in a favor,” he said.  “I want-”

“I know,” I said.  “I know.”

My eyes fell on the Other who was sitting with Evan.

“Me?” Green Eyes asked.



“No pressure,” I said.

“No,” she said.  “I’ll help.  But if things go bad, and I get killed, I’ll probably wind up back at the Drains.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Bring me back?” she asked.  “Please?”

“First real chance I get,” I said.

She nodded.  “Thanks.”

That cleared up the practitioners and Others in the group.

Leaving me to deal with the Thorburns.

“Peter,” I said.  “Anything to say?”

“Alternative,” he said.


“Before, you mentioned an alternative.  You implied it was bad.”

“Demons,” I said.

His eyebrows went up.

“Not nearly as good an idea as you’re imagining,” I said.

Actually, I’m thinking that’s probably bad,” he said.

“I can virtually guarantee you that it’s worse than you’re thinking,” I said, thinking about Rose’s theory that demons of the first choir were the reason the universe was as empty as it was.

“Okay,” he said.  “It’s bad enough that being killed like Callan was is a pleasant alternative.  How much worse?”

“In December, you and I would have resembled each other.  Different builds, I’m taller, but I was human, to all appearances.  One demon, and it sent me to the same place that she came from.”

“Yeah,” Green Eyes said.  “It’s where we met.”

“I lost everything,” I said.  “My humanity, fake as it might’ve been, my home, my motorcycle, my friends, my familiar, my ability to feel properly, my identity.  It… I think it hurt my friends here, took something from each of them, because affecting me was enough to affect them too, as collateral damage, by association.”

I was careful to meet each of the Thorburn’s eyes.

I had to communicate just what the danger was, here.

“You being inside a mirror, that a part of the demon or something else?”

“Little bit of column A, demon, little bit of column B, Grandmother.”

“Right,” he said.

“And the kicker?” I asked.

“There’s a kicker?”

“It didn’t get me.  It almost got me, and it did all that.  I was lucky.  It missed, and it ruined the very fragile image of Blake Thorburn and left only Blake the Bogeyman.  That demon is still alive, still active, within a kind of binding circle.  It’s not even a major demon, as far as I know.”

“A not-major demon turned you into a monster.  What does a major one do?”

“You’re asking too many questions,” Kathryn said.

“If this goes south,” I said, “and they enter the room on the fourth floor and look at the occupant wrong, we may well find out,” I said.

“Ah,” Peter said, with a nuance that suggested the pieces were falling into place.

I hope he doesn’t make me regret this.

Then, with with all the sarcasm he could muster, he added, “Great.

“Kathryn,” I said.

She shook her head.


“This is your fault.  You… set this up.”

“Rose did,” I said.

“Ok, then what is Rose doing?  Aside from using us as human shields and playing chicken?”

“I imagine,” I said, “That Rose is talking to people.”

Alexis added, “She’s playing chicken, she’s got to look brave.  She’s got to scare the other guy.”

“Rose?  Scary?” Peter asked.

“She’s read up on pretty terrifying things,” Tiff said.  “Demons, bogeymen, real monsters.  Stuff we couldn’t summon if we had a few months to prepare.  Right now, she’s got an incarnation in her head.  Conquest personified, leaking into her brain and behaviors.”

“She might not be able to back down,” I said.

I could see Alexis’ expression change as I said that.  I was too aware of it.

Why?  Why had she reacted?

In the interest of not using this knowledge to my gain, I looked away.

Stupid, maybe, but I wasn’t about to tell Alexis I wouldn’t use illegitimate knowledge and then turn around and read her body language.

“Head games, then,” Peter said.

I nodded.  “Same way she could stay levelheaded when she was dealing with our family.

“Wow,” I heard Roxanne mutter.

“She didn’t have a lot of time to prepare,” I said.  “What I’m wondering is how much power the locals have over her.  Did they have her drugged, or explicitly avoid drugging her?  Could they deny her a mirror?”

“You’re thinking of paying her a visit?” Ty asked.

“Yeah,” I said.  “There’s a lot of things I’m thinking of.  But too many start with us opening these doors, and we don’t have a lot of options once that happens.  Any thoughts, Ellie?”

She shook her head.

“No comment or questions?”

She shook her head again.  “This is fucked.  Comment made.”

“Roxanne?” Tiff asked, talking to Roxanne like she was a normal kid.  “Do you have any questions?”

“The lying thing,” Roxanne said.  “That’s for real?  He can’t lie?”

“I can’t either.  Ty can’t either.”

“Uh huh.  If I became like you, I wouldn’t be able to?”


“Uh huh.  Alright.  That’s all I needed to know.”

Why did that bother me more?

“Callan,” Christoff said, the moment he’d realized it was his turn.  “Can I bring him back?”

“Probably not,” Tiff said.

“Not like he was,” Alexis corrected.  “There are other ways.”

“I came back, kind of!”  Evan said.

“The bird mo- he came back,” Green Eyes translated from ‘can’t be heard by innocents’.

“I never left, really, but I got to live again.”

“There are ways to call spirits and put them in vessels,” Alexis said.  “There’s… probably very good reasons that practitioners don’t generally bring back their loved ones.”

“But I could,” Christoff said.  “If I became a wizard?”

“If you became a practitioner, maybe,” she said.

“Can I, now?”

“Not now,” she answered.  “We don’t have the things needed to do the ritual.”

Christoff nodded.

Peter was rubbing his chin.

“What?” I asked.

“Seems wrong, that the dead could be brought back from being dead, but our whole problem is we’re in a bad place and we can’t get out of it.  The dead can go from one circumstance to another, violating the natural laws of the universe, but we can’t get from A to B?”

“Bringing back the dead requires certain circumstances,” Alexis said.  “Like with Evan, he never quite left.

“But it’s possible.”

“A lot of things are possible,” Alexis said, sounding annoyed.

“Okay,” Peter said.  “Cool.  So, knowing absolutely nothing about this world, I’ll just put it out there.  We’ve got a fish on dry land, a bird without room to fly, a bogeyman in a mirror, and a ton of people crammed into a library, waiting for the doors to get kicked down.  In the interest of thinking outside of the box… how do we get out of this… box?”

It wasn’t a question with an immediate answer.

Ty walked along the perimeter of the library, looking at book spines as if he could find something to spark an idea.

Alexis and Tiff talked in low voices.

A chunk of wood fell, dancing along the floor.

A hole in the bookcase.

One red eye peered through the hole.

That was it for our sole sanctuary.

They’d die and I’d…

I looked at Green Eyes.

The thought sparked an idea.

“Ty,” I said.

“‘Sup?” he answered.  He was up on the floor above, still looking at spines.

“You’d probably be the one to know.  We can bring Others here.  Summoning them.  Like we did with Green Eyes.”

“Yeah.  Varying amounts of resistance, demands, obligations…”

“Can we go the other way?” I asked.  “Visit… there?”

“Another exit,” Peter said.  “While they think we’re here…

“Where do you want to visit?” Ty asked.

“Anywhere but here,” I said.  “But I’m thinking the most obvious, familiar territory for two of us…”

“No,” Green Eyes said.  “Aw, no.”

“Just for a short time,” I said.

“It’s doable,” Ty said.  “Question is, do we want to do it?”

“If we can get around to the back of the house,” I said, “There’s a stone porch and some furniture.  It’s where Rose and I summoned June.”


“If we can approach from an angle they don’t expect, we could probably get a bit of fire and smoke there without risking the house.  From the town below, it’d look like the house was burning.  If the situation called for it, we could be more ambitious with the firestarting.”

“We never agreed-”

“Ty,” I said, “This wouldn’t just be hoping that Corvidae could do something with the opportunity.  We would be able to flank them.  All of us.  At least make a couple of moves.  Set a fire, get their attention, and attack, while everything and everyone’s looking at the house.”

He, Alexis, and Tiff exchanged looks.

“You’d know better than us how bad these ‘Drains’ are,” he said.

“They’re bad,” I stated.

“Better or worse than what’s out in that hallway, making their way in?”

Something wispy was starting to creep into the library.  Tiff stepped forward to banish it with a dash of salt.

“Can I get back to you on that?” I asked.

Tiff pursed her lips.

“But at least that way, there’s hope,” I said.  “A short trip.”

“You don’t come out in one piece,” Green Eyes contradicted me, her voice quiet.  “It’s almost a rule.”

I could see Alexis’ reaction, much as I’d caught certain words and bits of body language.  I wished I hadn’t.

Not in one piece.

That meant something.

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