Iron and blood


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The music throbbed in her body, making her head hurt and – Theresia was sure – her ears bleed. “Why did I let you talk me into this again?” she yelled at her best friend. Shouting was the only way to be heard. Between the music and the screaming fans it was nearly impossible to hear yourself think let alone talk to the person next to you.

“Because you adore me and didn’t want me to go alone,” Elinor said. She was jumping up and down, bobbing her head to the music. Her hands were in the air and she was waving them. “You have to admit they’re awesome.”

Awesome was not the word Theresia would use for The Sandman’s Children. But they were Elinor’s favorite band, and fear of druggies and drunks assaulting her best friend had forced her to agree to accompany the flighty young woman.

The concert ended and Theresia and Elinor joined the mass of people leaving. “That’s over now,” Theresia said. “Let’s get you home. I’ve got work in the morning and I don’t need to be out super late.”

“Aw come on, Tessie. There’s always an after party at The Stolen Graveyard,” Elinor said.

“Forget it. You brought me with you so I could protect you. I’m doing that now. We’re going home.”

“Spoil sport,” Elinor muttered.

“I’d be happy escort such a lovely lady as yourself.” Both women turned around.

A tall, slender man dressed in tattered jeans and a tight sleeveless shirt was standing behind him. He was well muscled for his build. Something about him set off all of Theresia’s alarm bells.

“No thank you,” Theresia said, moving to put Elinor behind her. “We’re going home.”

“Tessie,” Elinor began.

“No Ellie. We’re going home.”

The tone in her voice alerted her friend that something was wrong. “Okay. We’re going home.”

“Such a pity. I’d have loved to walk in with a delicate little elf maid on my arm,” the man said.

Elinor stiffened. Theresia gave him a withering look. “Elves are faerie tales.”

“If you choose to believe that,” the man said.

“Come on, Ellie.” Theresia led her friend away from the man.

Pounding footsteps came up behind them. Theresia fell. Elinor screamed, high and loud. Theresia rolled to her feet.

The man was standing over Elinor, blood dripping from a black knife. He turned and faced Theresia. “Save her if you can, bitch.” He turned and sauntered off into the crowd.

Several people were gathering around the stricken woman. Theresia pushed her way through and knelt at her friend’s side. “Ellie what happened?”



“I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault.”

Elinor opened her mouth to say something else. Blood foamed at her lips. She shuddered and fell silent. Her body went limp and her eyes stared vacant at the starry sky. Theresia reached over and closed her eyes.

Someone was on the phone to emergency dispatch. Theresia gathered her magic and wiped the memory of the crowd. She cloaked herself and the body in invisibility before scooping up her friend.

The Hunters were growing bolder. The non-human races, already decimated by centuries of war, were in danger. It was time for the guardians to step up. Theresia carried Elinor’s body to her car. It was time to call the circle and begin.

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