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.