Athena’s Gift – Part Eight

Athena and Justin’s bodies changed. They became taller, more slender. Hair lengthened until Athena’s touched her ass and Justin’s close crop fell to his shoulders. Delicate pointed ears emerged.

“Fey,” the Soul Creeper said. “Your kind was destroyed by the humans long ago.”

“There are a few of us still roaming the lands,” Athena said. Her voice, once low and husky, was now a high piping sound. “You cannot defeat us.”

“Your power is too weak,” the Soul Creeper said.

“Alone yes,” Justin said. His voice was melodic and sad. “Together, no.” The light intensified. The Soul Creeper took a step back. The combined power of the two faeries wrapped around it. It shrieked. Their magic didn’t waver. The Soul Creeper was reduced to a pile of ash.

When the light faded, the two of them were back in their human forms. “Fey?” Taylor asked when she could speak.

“Yes,” Athena said. She turned and faced the Circle. “Justin and I have roamed these lands for centuries, only settling into one place for a short time. We cultivate those who are sensitive, those who have the gift, until they’re ready to stand alone. Then we leave them to protect their homes.”

“It gets harder every year as more people shrug off their magic as a delusion of their logical minds,” Justin said. “Soon there will be no one to protect you from the monsters who prey on your kind.”

“There are so few of us left,” Athena said. “We grow fewer in number even faster than those with the gift of magic. I have seen no other fey aside from Justin in more than two centuries. We can’t feel them in the weave of this world. We don’t hear their songs. Our race was driven out by mortals and now we stand alone, no people to shelter us when we are in need, to help us in situations like this where two fey may not be enough.”

“Can’t you two, like, have children or something?” Haley asked.

“She is my sister,” Justin said. “That is something that is as forbidden among the fey as it is among mortals.”

“What will you do now?” Destiny asked.

“What we always do,” Athena said. “You’re strong enough to hold this territory without us. The Soul Creeper was a fluke. They are as rare as we are. This city is yours to defend. We will move on.”

“You can’t go,” Bailey said.

“We have to. We will draw other creatures here if we stay, now that we’ve revealed ourselves,” Justin said. “Our presence will be detected too easily. If we’re gone you won’t have to worry about it.”

“It’s for the best if we go,” Athena said. “I don’t know about Justin, but I was planning on leaving soon anyway. I do have a question for you though. Are any of you up to taking over the shop? I’m not packing the inventory along with me.”

“We’ll do it,” Destiny said. Blake nodded. “I’ve run a business before and Blake knows all sorts of places to get things.”

“Good,” Athena said. “I’ll leave you my list of contacts as well. Expect to see some weird people in the store.”

There was some shaky laughter. “Let’s go,” Justin said. “We have a few things to do before we leave and it’s best we do them now.”

“You’re right,” Athena said. She walked over and handed the key to Destiny. “The change of ownership papers will be sitting on the counter tomorrow.” She and Justin walked into the darkness.

“So we’re leaving again?” Socrates asked.

“Of course,” Athena said, throwing clothes into a suitcase.

“I was just getting comfortable here,” Socrates said.

“I know. Which means it’s time for me to leave,” Athena said.

Socrates growled and swiped at her. “Do I at least get some catnip in the carrier?”

“Of course,” Athena said. “I wouldn’t dream of asking you to get in without any.”

“You’ve learned,” Socrates said. Athena tossed a double handful of the dried green leaves into the pink and black plastic box. Socrates sauntered in. As soon as he was settled, Athena latched the door.

“He being a pain?” Justin asked as he rejoined her.

“As always,” Athena said. She picked up her suitcase and the carrier. “Where are you off to this time?”

“I thought a trip to Ireland was in order,” Justin said. “See how our old home fares, and possibly find others.”

“Ireland sounds good to me too,” Athena said. She looked around her home. “I suppose I’ll see you there then.”

“At some point I’m sure you will,” Justin said. He touched her hand before vanishing. Athena took one final look at her home before lifting the carrier into her hands. She pulled on a bit of power and stepped into the place in between all parts of the world.

Athena’s Gift – Part Seven

The next few days passed in a paranoia filled haze for Athena. The night of the meeting of the full Circle came. Athena was the first in the park, in the grove they used. No one disturbed the ancient ring of stones that protected the spot. Mundanes didn’t come in here and no one in the Circle would touch them.

Half an hour everyone was gathered. “So what do we do now?” Vanessa said.

“We call it,” Athena said. “Form a ring and take hands. Keep your backs to the center. I want everyone watching for it.”

“How are we going to do it?” Taylor asked.

“Create a power circle,” Justin said. “Like we were getting ready for some major casting. I don’t think it would resist a chance to catch all of us, to take the city as its own.”

“Okay, let’s do this,” Athena said. Everyone took their positions. From the weakest to the strongest, power flowed around and through them. A faint light, noticeable only to the sensitive and those creatures not of the mortal world, rose above them and vanished into the night sky.

Athena felt it before she saw it. A tall humanoid figure wrapped in a long black cloak, face concealed by a hood. “ It is odd to see you all gather here, easy prey for me,” it said.

“Hardly easy prey,” Athena said. “Now.”

The light coalesced, forming a very physical barrier around the fifteen people standing there. Justin and Athena directed the power as the others fed into it. “If you think you can take us, please try,” Justin said.

The being laughed. “You are quite amusing,” it said. “I have not been this entertained in a thousand years.” The hood fell back and revealed a blank space where a face should have been.

“A Soul Creeper,” Athena said.

“A well educated witch,” the Soul Creeper said. “I am impressed. There are few who have even heard of me, let alone knew what I looked like.

The circle wavered. “Keep it together,” Justin snapped. “It won’t make its way through us.”

“Destiny, Blake, quit holding back,” Athena said. Strength flooded through those standing there and the fluctuations stopped.

“Such power,” the Soul Creeper said. “I will enjoy devouring your souls and spitting your lifeless bodies out at my feet.”

Athena, we can’t beat this thing. She heard Justin’s voice in her mind. Not unless we do something drastic.

I know. Athena bowed her head. Her voice was sad.

They’ve grown in power on their own, Athena. We no longer need to guide them. Justin’s voice was as sad as hers.

Athena’s head snapped up. “We will not let you take this city.”

“You don’t have the power to stop me,” the Soul Creeper said.

“Yes we do,” Justin said. He and Athena let go of the rest of the Circle. They kept their hands joined. Light brighter than that produced by the combined power of those in the clearing flowed around them.

Athena’s Gift – Part Six

 “Do you want me to come to the shop tomorrow morning and do the same thing we did here?” Justin asked.

“I think you’d better,” Athena said. “Of the two of us, I’m the one who’s the most accessible.”

“Do you want to meet an hour before the shop opens?” Justin asked. Athena nodded. “I’ll see you then.” He turned and left.

“It’s odd seeing the two of you working together,” Socrates said.

“We do it from time to time,” Athena said. “We don’t hate each other. We just have differing opinions on how things should be done.”

Athena went to bed, her night broken by nightmares. The next day she got up and dressed, this time for war. Her rune stones went into a pouch around her neck. All of her protective jewelry came out of its box and was fastened in place. She cast extra protections around herself.

“You’re going all out,” Socrates said.

“Do you expect me not to?” Athena said. “I’m not going to let that thing catch me off guard again.”

“Good plan,” Socrates said. He yawned and curled up on her pillow. He closed his eyes and pretended to go to sleep.

Athena caught the early bus. “This is weird,” Carl said.

“I’ve got some business in town so I thought I’d take care of it before I open up the shop,” Athena said.

“Same stop?” Carl asked.

“Yes,” Athena said.

“All right then,” Carl said. He eased out into the early morning traffic.

He stopped in the normal place and Athena hopped down. Justin was waiting for her. “I didn’t sleep well and I’m guessing you were having nightmares too,” he said.

Athena nodded. “Shall we get this done then?”

“Yes,” Justin said. “I don’t want to stay too long in case us being together draws it out.”

“I’d rather not deal with it this morning,” Athena said.

They walked into the shop. Back to back, they repeated the same thing done the night before. This time they poured even more of their power into the wards. When they finished, both of them leaned against the counter.

“It’s a good thing your shop is so welcoming to people,” Justin said. “Otherwise what we just did would drive the sensitive away.”

“It’ll still happen,” Athena said. “Good thing I’ve got a few months’ rent saved up for emergencies.”

“Are you going to get your coffee this morning?” Justin asked.

“If I deviate from my normal pattern it will know something is up,” Athena said.

“I’ll walk with you,” Justin said.

Athena shook her head. “You said it. If we’re together the creature may come after us before we’re ready.”

“If you’re sure,” Justin said. Athena nodded. “Then I’m heading to the cafe. Call if you need me.”

“I will,” Athena said. She walked down the street, hair prickling up on the back of her neck. She kept a constant watch around herself, expending more energy. She walked in. “Large mocha with a triple shot of espresso. Do you have any strawberry muffins today?”

The barista was the same one from the previous day. Her attentiveness was greatly improved. “Yes we do,” she said. “Is that all?”

“Yes please,” Athena said. She got her breakfast and paid the young woman. She returned to the shop. She opened it and put on the incense and the music.

The whole Circle drifted in that day, telling her of the feeling of being watched. Two of them even saw it, though they gave no indication they noticed its presence. “It took all I had not to run away,” Blake said. “I also kept my powers sealed up. It seemed like a good idea. If I show what I have, it might come after me before Friday.”

“Good idea,” Athena said. “I’d say stay home but we all have lives outside of the Circle and none of us can afford to take four days off.”

“Except for Justin,” Blake said.

“Even Justin doesn’t get time off,” Athena said. “He’s a freelance writer, remember? He’s always working even if he doesn’t have an office to go to.”

Writing Wednesday – Characters

Okay, so we know that characters are kind of necessary for our stories. It doesn’t matter who or what they are. They are what the story revolves around. If you wanted to write a story about a dining room chair you can, though I think it’d be difficult to create an anthropomorphic chair.

My characters are based loosely on people I’ve met in real life, character archetypes I’ve come across in other books and movies, and even a little of me. I have to be careful to keep the characters from becoming too overpowered, since a story where everyone is super human isn’t all that interesting if your antagonist doesn’t fit with them. And with my tendency to downplay antagonists in stories like that…yeah, I’m sure you can see the problems I have from time to time.

One of the things I do is I picture what my characters look like. Sometimes I’ll look up pictures online and try to match them to my characters, but since I tend to alter physical appearances (such as giving them scars, tattoos, etc.) those pictures become obsolete. So I draw the image in my mind. I add and alter things as needed. I’ll also write down the description and adjust it as I need to so it continues to show what the character looks like. I’m a visual person, and the list gives me what I need to see the characters.

I build my character traits in a similar fashion. I look at what I want the character to be and what I (loosely…I’m a pantser after all) want them to do. Then I begin shaping the character’s personality, quirks, flaws, etc. When that’s done, I add that to the character description.

This is where my story starts to take its final shape. I choose where my characters are going to live, and refine them further to match the setting I’ve chosen. I give them families and histories based on their homes, their culture, and their beliefs. Then I fix their point in my story and begin.

My version of world planning tends to be a little haphazard. I end up doing the setting and the characters first, then work on the history of the world and how it shapes the world the characters inhabit. There are times when I have to go back and rearrange things until they fit.