John is.. the least of Hannah's problems [3.4]

CCI01.jpg Some journey's are worth the effort.
Some of them are pointless.
Some of them are painful.
If your lucky then their short sometimes..

Events unfold including but not limited to:
Repeated appearances of the Chinese food that was more important then John.
(although it's mostly unwelcome this time)
And Hannah plays cat and mouse while getting in a whistle stop tour of the continental US.


 
Someone’s kissing me?..
Well.. that’s a nice way to wake up I guess?

WAIT!
Why is he..

No! Don’t do that!

The person kissing me squeezed their fingers down on my nose and blew hard into my mouth making my chest hurt as seemingly everything inside me inflated for a moment, then they let the pressure go suddenly.
Before they could even TRY to do that again I coughed hard into their mouth which happened to also unclog whatever was stuck in my airway.
Whoever was kissing me pulled away from me sharply and started sputtering to try get whatever it was that was stuck in my throat out of their mouth instead.

My eyes were watering but I managed to focus enough to blearily see who it was that I just re-gifted my last egg roll to.

..well.. hello college girl?.. hell of a greeting you’ve got going there?..

The gorgeous, annoyingly gay, man was hovering over us practically dancing from foot to foot in worry while wringing his hands nervously as if that would help in some way.
The moment the college girl was clear of me he moved over and scooped me up in another surprisingly tight hug.

“Oh dear! Mother are you okay?”

I was groaning anyway from the whole ‘nearly dying’ thing but I groaned louder in response because I could.
Please don’t call me Mother.. just.. just don’t.. please..

He reluctantly let me go, enough that he could pear down at me with bright, shining happy eyes.

“I knew you’d come here eventually, my special friend Frank at the mailbox called saying you’d come to collect your stuff and I just HAD to come over as fast as I could!”

FRANK’S GAY?!
I’m not stupid, I know what ‘special friend’ means when you say it like THAT!

I didn’t see that one coming?
I mean.. good on him and everything, yay for bucking the stereotypes that this new guy seems to have embraced to the hilt and everything, I guess?..
...Frank’s GAY?.. seriously?..

I REALLY didn’t see that one coming!
No wonder he didn’t react poorly when he found out about the whole ‘Hannah is Al’ thing back when I was still male..

The goatee wearing ex-hottie, now walking stereotype, grinned in a surprisingly sweet way at me for a moment before diving back in for another tight hug that made me rasp out a harsh breath of pain.

“I’m fine by the way.. if anyone’s curious?”

The college girl finally managed to spit out the last of the egg roll I ‘gave’ her and climbed back to her feet.
She glared at the new guy, her hands on her hips impatiently as if she was waiting for something.

The moment he let me go again she swooped in, pulling me into an equally tight hug that felt a LOT more awkward when I registered just how squishy her chest was, pressed hard against mine.

“Hmph! Line-cutter, I got to her first.”
The new guy pouted dramatically and stamped his wing-tipped shoe like a child, turning his whole body away from us both to show his disapproval.

“Oh will you give it a REST Narcissus?!”

He didn’t turn back to face us properly at the college girls yell, but he did cock his head to the side and stick his tongue out at her which only seemed to make her angrier.
For my part I was just kind of stalled.. trying to process everything mostly..

I think my brains finally done rebooting from the choking thing at least?..
Let’s see.. fireworks, my brand, the Hub, kicked Storytellers ass, John’s hurt, hunting him, got my phone back, Arista’s son turned up while I was eating..

Where does the ‘college girl’ fit into all of this though?

Aside from giving me CPR.. which come to think of it, isn’t something your meant to do if the airway isn’t clear are you?
Kind of lucky she didn’t kill me.. faster than the egg roll was at least..

Someone nudged me as they moved, pulling me out of my thoughts and back into the annoying real world.
Apparently the college girl and Arista’s son, the one she called ‘Narcissus’, are still busy arguing in a worryingly childish way?

“You’re not!”
Narcissus huffed and stamped his foot angrily, his fists clenched at his waist while he glared at the college girl for yelling at him again.

“I am TOO!”
The college girl let off a frustrated yell and threw her hands up into her hair in response to his declaration.

“You’re not gay Narcissus, stop this it’s insulting!”
They were both virtually nose-to-nose at this point, as if a closer proximity would prove their individual points better somehow.

“Show’s what YOU know, I like men!”
The college girl threw her hands up in the air again and turned away from him angrily.

Narcissus leaned away from her, a smug look of victory on his face that brightened a little when he noticed me watching them both.

“A man Narcissus, you like A man! Not ‘men’, you like a single man who happens to be YOU!”

That’s weird?.. what does she mean by-
ohhhhh..‘Narcissus’..

The man who was so beautiful, he died staring lovingly at his own reflection in a pond, Narcissus?

I think I see where this is going now.
Bloody Reincarnations!

While my eyes widened in surprise as the implications settled in, namely that Arista was somehow the supposed mother of yet ANOTHER ancient mythological figure, Narcissus’s face had shifted into a wide charming grin aimed over the college girls head at me.

With a dramatic flick he tossed his hair back and shrugged carelessly before fixing me with a look that made my toes curl in uncontrollable, completely unwanted lust.

“Can you blame me?”
He finished the line off with a wink that made me automatically want to giggle and blush at the same time.

When she noticed that his attention was on me rather than her, the girl seemed to grow even more enraged for some reason.
Her hand came up and she slapped him hard enough to leave a red imprint on his chiselled jaw.

“That’s your mother, you SICK bastard! Have you no shame?! YOU’RE the one who tried to convince ME that YOU’RE gay just a second ago!”

It feels like she’s kind of stuck in a loop here?
The wordings a bit different but already his head has dipped away from looking at me and they’re both back to glaring at each other nose-to-nose.

That feels like it should..
..Echo?..

In the Roman version of Narcissus’s story there was a Nymph called ‘Echo’ that fell in love with him?
She was too shy to show herself because of a curse upon her and could only repeated things he called out, when she finally tried to hug him he rejected her.
She went off into the wilds and faded away until nothing but the ‘echo’ of her voice remained, lost in the wind.

Her story is where we GET the word ‘echo’ from.
Hell, Narcissus is where we get the word ‘narcissism’ from.
..bloody awakened mages..

Obviously that’s not what ACTUALLY happened.
Stories like that are all twisted out of proportion and I know from personal experience that history rarely records things accurately after a while.. but..

She IS trying rather hard to convince him he’s ‘not gay’ isn’t she?.. and she got angry when he was paying more attention to me then her?
..I think someone’s got a crush still after all these years..

Echo, if that really is who she is, was doing a rather nice job of keeping a huffy Narcissus’s attention off of me at least.

Careful to not catch their eye, I shifted my arm to scoop up my bag and slowly walked backward towards the door.
They were so focused on each other and apparently trying to see who could yell at the other the loudest, that they didn’t see me go.

I cringed when the restaurant’s door creaked a little as I opened it but luckily they didn’t seem to notice the sound either.
I hate to dine and dash but I’m not sticking around here any longer!

One of Arista’s kids finding me was bad enough.
TWO of them is just pushing it!

Have they seriously been camping out in Medford waiting for me to turn up and access Arista’s ‘mailbox’?!
The one that I didn’t even know existed until this morning!

Come to think of it, what are the odds that of all the places I could have MY mailbox it would be with the same family that SHE has HER’S?

I HATE Medford!
This whole city SUCKS!

Rather than waste time I made my way into a shadowed alleyway just off of the restaurants parking lot and dipped into my mage senses.

The right combination was easy to locate.
A distinctive tang of Hotdogs, Pizza and some type of metal that I’ve never been able to work out the name of but is probably related to aluminum, just judging by the way it puts my teeth on edge?

Screw Medford, I hate CITIES in general!
Whoever set’s up the waypoint flavors for major cities is an asshole!

The waypoint’s taste flickered to indicate it was clear for an incoming warp and not a moment too soon.

Narcissus and ‘Echo’ both burst out of the restaurants front door, their eyes scanning wildly around in the hope of finding me again no doubt.
For a second I locked eyes with Echo’s own worried ones which widened in surprise before my warp kicked in and all I could see was blue.

New York, New York, here I come!

======

The world came back into existence with a bump.
As usual I collapsed to my knees and panted a few deep breaths to recover.

“Move it sweetheart, I got a party of five comin’ through!”
..Bloody RUDE New Yorkers!..

I managed to stumble to my feet and out of the safety circle fast enough to not get mushed by an impatient ‘party of five’ but it was a close call.

When the three men and two women appeared they all looked at me weirdly.
The guard just glared at me but didn’t offer any kind of help at all.

With an annoyed huff I finally managed to get my feet under me properly and staggered out of the waypoint room.
New York, being a lot saner in general when compared to Medford, have their waypoint in a magically hidden back corridor of the New York Public Library on the corner of West 42nd street and 5th Avenue.

The spots pretty much in the dead center of Manhattan Island and perfect if you’re going for day trips, while being hidden well enough that no-one ever feels awkward when they turn up.

Who really pay’s attention to people going in and out of a library these days, honestly?

Before I could turn the corner out of the hallway leading from the waypoint room there was a sudden commotion inside it.
A lot of raised voices, at least one of them being the waypoint guard and I THINK the other two will be VERY bad for me if I don’t get moving!

With a jerk I broke into a sprint and quickly got myself lost within the stacks until I reached a corner where I couldn’t see the main corridor from where I was.
It took me a moment to get my breathing under control but the second I could manage it I opened my bag, pulled out the map and laid it out on the floor.

I need to hurry.
They were too close when I warped last time.
If you can reach the location that someone warped from and you know where to look it’s pretty easy to ‘piggy back’ on their warp.
You won’t know where you’re going and it can be dangerous if the waypoint on the other end isn’t clear when you get there but it’s possible.

Credit to them, I didn’t expect Narcissus and Echo to be able to put their squabbling aside long enough to reach that alleyway before I got out of the building at the very least.

I’ll just have to make this a whistle-stop tour of the big apple I guess?

Closing my eyes I slowly turned in a circle, hesitating twice when I hit the borders of where this strand of magic linking me to John eased its tension slightly.
When I had the directions solidly in my mind I opened my eyes again and dived into my bag for the compass and pen.

If I’m facing north then the points are... here and.. HERE!
Just gotta draw some lines out from those two points on the map..
..double check my locations..

My knees are a bit sore having to kneel on the floor awkwardly, to ease it I spread myself out flat on my stomach so I could focus on the map and draw easier.
It’s awkward but it’s easier then-

“She can’t have gone far.”
The sound of hammering feet made me freeze, spread out on my belly with my pen in hand.

“She wouldn’t have gotten anywhere if you weren’t such an asshole!”

Well.. at least they’re not working together properly I guess?
It sounds like Echo’s really pissed off at Narcissus at this point.
That’s good, anger makes you sloppy.

..case in point..
Their heavy footfalls were easy for me to track with my magically enhanced hearing.
They’re so busy picking on each other that they’re not looking for signs of where I might have gone.

They didn’t even hesitate at the start of the long row of shelves that I was tucked into the far corner of, just breezing past while arguing and keeping their eyes forward on the idea that I would have tried to leave the building first.

To be fair, if I hadn’t heard them arrive I probably would have done just that.
..maybe my lucks finally changing?..

When they’d moved far enough away for my liking I let out a heavy breath and stared back down at the map thoughtfully.

From the way that the two sets of lines cross over it looks like John is in either.. Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho or West Oregon..

This is why it’s important to get lots of research data before jumping to conclusions kids!

Okay.. I’ve got two options, North or South.
If I got north then I can get a downward angle on the map and cut out a lot of the useless states, same if I go south.

To get the best positioning it would have to be.. Kansas for the south or North Dakota.. for the north, obviously.
..talk about your hard choices?..

Did I mention its summer?

It feels like I’ve mentioned that little fact at some point when we were all sweating like pigs during the car journey to the farm?!
..yeah.. nothing short of a world ending invasion of giant, fifty-story high squirrels in tuxedos with flamethrowers and free alcohol is going to get me to even CONSIDER going to KANSAS in JULY!

It’s hot enough to melt steel down there at this time of year!
I’m not stupid!

North Dakota it is then I guess?
..now I just need to work out how to get there..

Unsurprisingly, I’ve never had a mission that’s taken me to North Dakota of all places.
The nearest waypoint that I have memorised would be.. Minneapolis?
That’s only.. about four-hundred miles off?
..damn it..

You know what?
Forget North Dakota!

I’m going to Minneapolis and crossing my fingers that it will give me a nice friendly result that thins out a lot of space even though it’s a bit too far off center on the map to be perfect.

If it’s a big fail I can just warp over to Denver on the south side of the remaining area, without the insane heat of Kansas, and get another point marked down with the time I save by not trying to travel four-hundred miles while being chased by ‘my’ bloody kids!

With a nod I pushed myself back up to my knees and shuffled everything back into my bag.

My sensitive ears picked up raised voices coming back towards me.
I spared enough time to cringe before dropping into my mage senses and searching for the waypoint that I know in Minneapolis.
It’s in the University campus, the ‘Malcolm Moos Health Sciences Tower’ to be exact.

Ah hah! Got it!
Full fat milk, burnt ozone and monkey’s fur.. the people who decide the flavors for waypoints are weird.. and mean assholes!

I can guess that this one’s a bit of a joke, I think the guy doing it may have been an old movie fan too?
Your setting up a magical waypoint inside a ‘tower’ dedicated to health ‘sciences’ named after a man called ‘moos’.. why not use cow’s milk, the lightning from Frankenstein’s famous ‘it’s alive!’ moment and fur from the tower climbing monkey King Kong?!

I’ve never personally had a problem with remembering waypoint flavors but some people do apparently.
A lot of waypoints are set up to try and provide some kind of easy way to remember how they connect with their location like that.
The logics there.. it’s just a bit.. ‘if you think like me then it’s simple’?

That’s mages in general for you though I guess.

Just because I know WHY they did it , doesn’t mean that I appreciate having the taste of monkey fur in my mouth though!
..bloody mages..

Narcissus and Echo are still a way off from the sound of it, but the faster I leave the more of a lead time I’ll have on them at the other end.
Powers help me if either of them think’s to get a sample of my magic!

I’ll never shake them if they do.

The Minnesota waypoint’s taste flickered in and out of existence to show that it’s clear for new arrivals so I dropped into warp and left the library behind in a flash of blue light.

======

The blue disappeared again leaving me to fall to my knees and throw a hand out for extra balance.
Using normal warp twice in as many minutes isn’t good for my stomach, I can’t afford to waste time recovering though, the kids are probably already locking in on where I warped from.
..Come on Hannah, get off your ass!..

Before the waypoint guard could tell me to move on I launched myself back to my feet and wobbled my way out of the waypoint room with a heavy sigh.

I can’t keep this up!
When I first planned this, as much as ‘planned’ can be applied to the decision to go traveling around the country chasing John that is, I figured I’d have time to stop off for a bit in each city to recover like I did in the restaurant after my first trip.

You would think that the shorter distance on that first little jump would have helped to lessen the problem in some way but it really didn’t.

Warp is warp after all.
Distance doesn’t make a difference in anything but the power needed and the time to travel when you’re warping by waypoints.
We still have the same limits on the amount of times we can warp in quick succession and I have a more specific problem where my travel sickness tends to get worse the more times I do it without taking a break.

I staggered along the hallway and reluctantly dipped into my lines to give off a micro-burst of magic to heal myself a bit.
My travel sickness doesn’t seem to usually be affected by healing spells, I’ve tried before, but the diversion currently on my magic doesn’t tend to care what I think about how magic works in general so hopefully it doesn’t matter this time either.

My legs felt a bit more stable after the little pulse of magic went off.
My stomachs not quite ‘normal’ yet, but it IS better at least.

Now I’ve got to get out of here!
If the ‘kids’ DID get a sample of my magic then that pulse will help them narrow down my location a LOT quicker than normal if I don’t move fast!

With that thought in mind I took a random hallway and broke into a sprint to get clear of the area.
Hopefully, if they’re following my magic, then the pulse will have put out enough power to coat the surrounding hallways in a trace of it leaving them no choice but to check the area thoroughly.
That might actually buy me some time as long as I’m far enough away by the time they show up.

“Hold the door!”
The guy in his late teens wearing a blue sweater-vest looked up from his phone and gaped at me.

REALLY helpful jackass!

With a frantic movement I managed to dive through the elevator doors in a practically airborne sideways shimmy, but only just.
I almost managed to catch both my bag AND my boobs in the closing door too!

The doors shut tight and the elevator jerked into motion while I slumped slightly against the wall opposite to the sweater-vest guy.

“..uh..”
My head rolled back to thump against the wall and stare at him with a quirked eyebrow.
He blushed visibly and dipped his eyes down at the floor instead of looking at me.
“Sorry, I was going to press the button for you but I froze and you.. I.. um.. sorry?”

I almost smiled.
He’s kind of cute in a ‘nerdy, future Bill Gates’ way, terrible at hiding that he finds me attractive but still cute.
I always DID have a thing for shy guys before my second awakening, kind of amazing considering I was friends with John for so long but maybe that’s exactly WHY shy guys are so interesting to me?

It helps that even though he’s blushing up a storm and he obviously wants to, he’s not talking to my boobs?
I’ve found that to be a problem over the last week no matter what I’m wearing let alone now, when I’m standing here in a bikini top!

“It’s okay. These things happen, I’m Hannah by the way.”

My hand came out to shake his and his blush got even brighter somehow.
Almost reluctantly he reached out to take it while cutting his eyes up between my hand and my face as if I was suddenly going to pull it away for some reason?

“D.. Drake, I.. my name’s Drake?”
He actually managed to turn his name into a question.. that’s kind of adorable..

His hand finally landed in mine and his wrist twitched as if he was going to turn it over but he flinched into just shaking my hand instead.

I think he was considering doing the old ‘flip over the hand and kiss it’ routine from the look of how he reacted but I won’t hold that against him.
What geeky little dweeb’s not thought about someday pulling that off on a girl they like?
I certainly did back, when I was an insecure fifteen year old Al crushing on Sarah’s friend Tiffany!

It took him long enough that my mouth twitched up into a little smirk before he realised that we’d been shaking for far too long already.
He dropped my hand like it was made of lava and grimaced, probably telling himself off in his head.

The elevator jolted to a stop and the door’s opened smoothly beside us.

He hesitated to step out.
While he was busy second guessing himself I’d made up my mind.

I wasn’t the guy who got the girl in high school.
I was a complete geek at one point, as Sarah took great joy in telling me over and over again.
I was lucky enough to discover magic and gained some level of confidence from it though..

Drake flinched when I moved closer to him, but as I pressed gently to his side and went up on my tip-toes to give him a little kiss on the cheek his eyes went wide in shock.

“Don’t believe what they tell you Drake. Sometimes being the nice guy gets you the girl, yeah?”
He didn’t answer me but I knew he was listening to me anyway just from the way he was staring at me in amazement.
I added a little extra roll to my hips as I left the elevator and I could feel his eyes watching me as I left.
“You’re sweet Drake, someday some girl will be lucky enough to see that. Don’t lose hope okay?”

Without another glance I waved over my shoulder at him and smoothly slipped down the nearest hallway.
As soon as I was out of his visual range I broke into a run.

That felt nice, doing something good for him.
At least this body’s useful for something finally.
I kind of wish someone had been willing to do that for me at his age, ya know?

Still, I wasted a little time in doing it and the kids are going to be looking for me soon.

With that thought in mind I put a hand to the door sensor of the nearest fire exit and popped the lock-bar open while pulsing just enough magic into it to delay the alarm, before it could go off.
The door snapped shut behind me and after a moment of worried waiting on my part it didn’t start making any kind of noise which had me sighing in relief.

Wouldn’t it be embarrassing to sneak away so well and then get caught because I’m busy trying to explain to campus security why I opened a bloody fire door?!

A glance around gave me a direction to move in pretty quickly.
Across a little bush-lined street was the bike rack lined entrance of ‘Amundson Hall’.
I have no idea what goes on in there but that doesn’t matter, I just need some clear space to work on the map for a minute out of direct line of sight for my pursuers after all..

Checking both ways and trying to ignore all the mid to late teenaged males that were stopping to look at the girl in a bikini top walking through their campus, I marched across the street in search of a nice hiding spot.

======

It turns out there’s a handy, not too nasty, public toilet just within the entrance of Amundson Hall.
I dived into the ladies and set myself up in a stall with the map placed on top of a closed toilet seat.

A few girls gave me weird looks when I came in but I think I managed to be about as subtle as I can be in these clothes.
It’s all well and good to be dressed like this for a family barbecue in the summer heat but walking around a university campus gives a slightly different impression apparently.

I closed my eyes and slowly turned in a circle while mentally ‘holding’ the thread of magic connecting me to John.
When I had the directions down right my eyes snapped open and I got to work marking them out on the map.

So I’m facing west.. the points are here.. and HERE..
Extend the lines and.. well.. crap?..

The good news is that John’s not in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin or Iowa
The bad news is that he could be pretty much anywhere in Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho or West Oregon still.
I was hoping by going from the north end of the map I could cut down the possible states a bit more then this but it will have to do for now I guess.

Looking at how the new lines cut into my existing ones made me changed my mind about my next pit-stop, Denver wouldn’t give me the best result at this point.
I need another city, closer to the remaining search area.. maybe not a city at all actually?
Looking at the map, one of the most central areas I could go for which I happen to actually know the waypoint ‘taste’ for is Yellowstone national park.

It’s right on the northern edge of Wyoming and at least part of it is outside of my search area.
It should help me cut out a few more states from the map if nothing else..

The only other option that looks possibly useful at this point is Salt Lake City in Utah.
I had a mission down there once so I’ve got the waypoint and it’s pretty close to my search area but a little further then Yellowstone.
..I think Yellowstone’s the better option..

With a nod I finished packing everything up and dipped into my mage senses to search for the right taste combination.

Sulfur, basalt and spring water.
Yet again, waypoint makers like to make things obvious and simple when connecting locations with waypoints but not tasty!

The moment the waypoint flickered I jumped into warp without hesitation.

I’m going to feel SO ill at the other end but I might actually be able to take a break there too because Narcissus and Echo are probably going to waste a lot of time hunting for me on campus.
I’ve got a good solid lead on them and this toilet is out of the way enough that hopefully they won’t find it for hours, if it takes them long enough the remnants of my warp ‘trail’ could even fade to the point that they won’t be able to use it to follow me!

======

The world faded back out of that annoying blue shade of warp.
I collapsed to my knees, panting hard to try and suppress the sudden urge to puke.

Too many warps..
Not enough breaks..
I HATE normal warping!

“You okay there sweetheart?”
Instead of answering the guy I just kept my head down and groaned.
Without warning a strong arm slid around my waist and practically lifted me off my feet.
“Let’s get you into a chair, do you want a drink or a sick bag or something?”

I groaned again but nodded slowly.
Even that movement made the ‘sick’ feeling surge up again.

The guy left me in a soft chair and went off somewhere for a while.
When he came back he had a few people with him, not that I was up to opening my eyes yet but I could hear several sets of footsteps approaching at least.

“Oh you poor dear.. it’s okay Daniel it looks like she’s just overstretched herself a little.”
A soft, gentle hand that seemed to match the female voice speaking came to rest on my forehead and patted my hair after she was done checking my temperature.
“Don’t worry dear, this sort of thing happens all the time. You’d be surprised how many new mages decide to come to Yellowstone on their first waypoint day-trip.”

I opened my mouth to argue with her that I WASN’T a new mage and that this ISN’T my first waypoint trip but the moment I did the ‘sick’ feeling surged up again.
My lips quickly slammed shut and I clamped a hand over my mouth just to be safe.

“We’ll move you into the restaurants staff room until you’re feeling better dear, that way you can avoid embarrassment, okay?”
My head nodded and with slow, careful movements I eased myself out of the chair to be lead blindly out of the waypoint room.

A hallway later we entered a room with a few people chatting lightly in the corner.
I was lead over to a nice plush sofa and slid into its embrace gratefully.

My heads already clearing luckily, I’ve gotten pretty good at working through my motion sickness over the years.
It wouldn’t even be a problem normally if I hadn’t just warped three times in a row.
I’m pretty much at my limit, barring some kind of miracle, I’m not going anywhere by warp for at least another hour.. two if I want to feel at least slightly human by the time I reach my destination.

“Stay here and get her a cup of coffee Daniel, Tom will take over in the waypoint room for now.”
I squinted my eyes open and smiled a little at the warm look on the matronly looking Native American woman’s face.

She looks like she could be someone’s Mum?

“Okay Momma.”
I had to resist the urge to roll my eyes when the guy who picked me up before, Daniel apparently, answered so appropriately.

I should have seen that one coming honestly..
In touristy places like Yellowstone, a lot of mage clans tend to set up family businesses around the waypoints.

It’s a good little money spinner, usually it gives any non-mages born into the family an easy job too.

The Hub’s don’t mind it at all.
It costs less to subsidise a family for running a waypoint within their home/business than it does to pay a team of guards a full wage to do it instead after all..

At least I should be relatively safe here, even if there are any awakened mages working here their probably Native American.
The Native Americans have a lot of old techniques passed down through families to gain access to their past-lives knowledge without the weight of their memories coming with it all.

A lot of mages that come from European cultures originally think it’s all pretty disgusting honestly, like when John found out about my memory troubles, to European mages and most New Americans your past-life memories are just short of.. sacred?
It’s a pretty big clash of cultures that has left a sizable rift between the two magical sub-cultures honestly.

I winced when turning my head made me feel slightly dizzy again but my eyes came to rest on ‘Daniel’ at last.
His thick lips turned up into a warm smile that made my still recovering belly tingle a little.

What is it lately with me meeting tall, dark, handsome men?
His Native American heritage is obvious to see but that just adds an exotic edge to his good looks to my eyes.

I swear I don’t normally turn into such a hormonally charged mess around cute guys, but lately..
Ever since I got John to fix the cuffs to stop the past-incarnations involved in my cycle from usin-

..oh.. Damn magic!

My integration cycle!
My brain is taking past-lives and fully integrating them into my psyche!

The first one that I actively noticed it happening with was Dexi of all people.. no WONDER I’m acting like a love-struck schoolgirl at every moderately good looking guy I meet!

Dexi may have been jaded and wise to the way of the world for her age, but at her core she was always kind of a hopeless romantic.
She liked sex, she liked her job and she liked men in general but one of her biggest flaws as the roman equivalent of a ‘call girl’ was that she tended to fall for her clients a bit too much.

If I’m remembering it rightly that was one of the reasons they never used to let her work with the mage clients, her ‘owners’ didn’t like the idea of letting their powerful little pet go running off with another mage of some kind.

Dexi wouldn’t have put it that way but, like with my memories of life before my second awakening, there’s a certain detachment for me when I think about her memories that makes things that she missed or wilfully ignored feel SO painfully obvious.

I bet Dexi’s ‘owners’ couldn’t believe their luck when they got THE Arista as one of their working girls!
Wonder how many non-mage clients of hers truly knew who she was?..

How many of them chose her specifically because of the rush they could get from having her for a night?

The Romans were weird about mages.
They knew we were useful and they knew we were powerful but they didn’t tend to elevate normal mages above other people in society.

The God’s were different obviously, but times were different back then too.

The Roman Empire lasted for a LONG time.
By the time Dexi was born the elite had gained a lot more experience in dealing with mages and become rather jaded about religion in general.

That didn’t stop the normal people from still believing in the old gods obviously but the elite of Roman society tended to take joy in repressing or using mages for their own gains the longer the empire went on.
It was a dangerous game, one that ended up eventually biting them in the ass when they faced off with the warrior mage Celts in England but Roman society was all about playing games, dangerous or otherwise so I doubt they would have cared either way honestly.

There was this one time th-

“Do I have something on my face?”
Daniels lips were up in a slightly worried smile but he looked amused still.
At least he wasn’t annoyed at me for staring I guess?

“Sorry, I tend to drift off a bit sometimes.”

His warm, understanding smile made my belly tingle a bit more but I tried my best to ignore the feeling.
It’s just Dexi’s mind playing tricks on me.

I don’t really find him attractive, it’s just another case of my stupid brain being stupid!

It’s odd, when my magic was supressed by the cuffs I didn’t have this problem?..
Well.. no, actually I did I guess?..

The Aussies in all their gorgeousness.. that was a thing after all..

I don’t think I spaced out at all when I had the cuffs on though?
That’s something to think about.
To me that points to the slightly worrying idea that maybe the excess magic in my body is somehow flooding my brain so much that it’s making me space out more often?

Take away the magic, you take away the spacing out.. that sort of thing, ya know?

It’s something to keep in mind if I ever get around to actually doing a proper in-depth look at what the hell is going on in my head at least.
Who knows, maybe I’ve got a brain tumor or something equally mundane?
Gran DID say that people with a lot of compulsions put on them tended to die of brain aneurysms after all..

Okay, now I’m starting to get worried!

I should stop this stupidity, I’m not going to die!
My heads perfectly fine in a messed up ‘too much stuff in it with not enough organisation involved’ kind of way.

I’m just jumping at shadows.
It’s not like-

“You’re doing it again.”
Daniel’s amused smile still made my belly tingle even as I jolted back into the real world.

I don’t have time for this!
I need to find John!

If I focus on John maybe I won’t be so easily distracted.
My hand reached down to my side for the opening of my bag but came up empty.
For a moment my blood ran cold.

A second later Daniel reached down and pulled up my bag from the floor and offered it out to me.
I let out a long relieved sigh, taking the bag and smiling at him as best I could in gratitude.

“Is everyone here.. um..”
I cut my eyes over to the other two people wearing restaurant uniforms in the far corner.
Daniel seemed to understand what I was asking at least because he nodded with another warm smile.

My hand dived into the bag and pulled out the map to lay it out flat on the coffee table in front of us.
No point trying to be subtle if we’re all mages or at least know about magic in general..

I tried to ignore the curious eyebrow Daniel raised as I fished about for the compass and pen.

When I had it all laid out I took a deep breath and pushed myself to my feet.
For a moment I wobbled but I quickly managed to lock my knees and gain some level of stability instead of falling on my ass like an idiot.

Daniel seemed to be content with watching me in confusion as I closed my eyes and turned in a slow circle again.

When I had the two ‘tightness’ borders worked out I dropped back onto the sofa and started working on the map.
I’m facing east.. the first one was.. here.. and the other one.. HERE..
Just draw the lines out, the same as the last few sets..

My eyes shut tightly and I let out a long, slow groan of annoyance.

The good news is that I’ve managed to eliminate a lot of states from the search, practically all of them to be precise.
John’s either in Wyoming or.. no.. on second glance that’s it, just Wyoming actually?..

That’s great and all but it doesn’t help much considering that, from the way the lines divide up, we’re looking at a search of practically half the state!
That’s over fifty-thousand square miles to cover!

By the powers.. whatever made me think this was a good idea?
It looks so small and simple on the map, my thumbs bigger then the area left to cover..but in real life?..

I sunk back into the sofa and brought a hand up to rub at my eyes.
I’ve got a headache already to go along with the lingering travel sickness now.

I’m good but I’m not THAT good!
I’ve either gotta go for another warp trip to somewhere in east Wyoming so I can thin out the area AGAIN, which I’m REALLY not ready for at the moment, or.. I.. I don’t know?..

“Looks like you’re searching for something?”
I jumped at the sound of Daniel’s voice.
He’d leaned forward while I was busy complaining in my head and was staring at the map thoughtfully.
“If it’s magic related I’m surprised you didn’t just go to Avalon, someone there would surely be able to help you?”

Reluctantly I let my hand fall from my squinted eyes and I fixed him with a questioning look.

“New Avalon? The big traditionalist enclave in Overlook Mountain? It’s about fifty miles south of here..”
His hand came out and he pointed to a spot on the map that fell well within my search range.

..oh powers..

I’m such an idiot.. New Avalon!
New BLOODY Avalon!

John was running, running from storyteller but he knew that I would follow him and he wanted to stop me from following him into the Hub!
He obviously didn’t think I could get back to Klamath Falls so fast because logically there’s no way I should have been able to with the town’s waypoint down for ‘maintenance’.
I wouldn’t have been able to if not for Gran’s necklace!

Where’s the one place on earth that he could just appear while wounded and be SURE that there was a virtual army of awakened mages ready, willing and able to go save me?
NEW AVALON!

Trudy’s little trick..
Arista’s kids..

I thought it was weird that Narcissus and Echo would stake out my mailbox in Medford on the random chance that I’d go there.. but that’s not it!
It wasn’t random chance at all!

John knows me.
John knows FAR too much about me!

He knows how I think.
He knows what my priorities are.
He took himself to the one place that he could find a nearly fanatical group of powerful people willing to do anything to help their ‘Mother Arista’ and then gave them their marching orders!

If my plan hadn’t been so random..
If I hadn’t literally been picking places as I went while marking up the map..
I BET that I would have come across more and more of Arista’s kids whenever I reached my usual haunts until they finally managed to catch me, once and for all!

John wanted me brought to him.
I didn’t give Narcissus or Echo enough time to stop their childish arguing and explain the situation.

I did it again damn it!
I panicked and just REACTED!

“I don’t suppose there’s a quick way to get from here to New Avalon that doesn’t involve me using a waypoint is there?”
Daniel grimaced but shook his head in response.
I threw my head back to rest on the sofa and sighed loudly in return.
“What’s the waypoint taste for New Avalon?”

He seemed reluctant to tell me at first.
I think HE thinks that I should rest before I go off warping again..

Personally, I agree with him?.. that’s not really an option though, is it?

“I’m pretty much recovered now, I’m fi-IAAI!”
My brand burned ferociously in response to my attempted lie.

I’d completely forgotten about it in all the commotion going on, it was rather nice to not have to worry about it when I had the cuff’s on before but it made me a bit complacent..

“Are you okay?”
Daniel had a hand on my stomach holding me in place on the sofa so I didn’t fall off as I thrashed against the burn.
The two gossipers in the corner stopped talking to warily watch me from afar as well.

With a groan I pulled my still twitching body into something close to a sitting position and sighed hard.
Just what I didn’t need.. MORE aches and pains to go on top of my travel sickness!

“I’ll be fine eventually.”
Hopefully he’ll buy that.. a nice simple lie of omission.

I WILL be fine eventually.. I just didn’t say how long off ‘eventually’ would be.

Magic is stupid sometimes, old magic is even worse.
It does what you tell it to do, not what you MEAN it to do.

With John’s ‘no lies about your feelings’ brand it only works on direct lies.
If I just phrase things in the right way I can probably get away with saying anything and not setting it off, it just takes a bit of thinking before I speak which tends to be more of a problem for me then I’d like to admit honestly..

“What was that? You just started having a fit all of a sudden?”

I tried to smile reassuringly at him but my slight wince half way through probably didn’t help calm him down about it all.
I could go into all the things that are wrong with me but he’s a stranger, a cute stranger but still a stranger damn it!

“Can you tell me the waypoint taste for New Avalon please Daniel? A lot of my problems will go away if I can get there quickly..”
Like the thirty or so of Arista’s kids undoubtedly making a nuisance of themselves in my favorite hangouts at the moment..

“.. if you’re sure?..”
I nodded.
Obviously against his better judgement Daniel leaned his head back and sighed loudly.
“..Okay.. Avalon’s code is fresh cut grass, fresh baked bread and cooked wild boar..”

Great.. another weird one..

“Thanks Daniel, sorry for all the hassle.”
I leaned across the sofa and placed a little kiss to his cheek in thanks.
He blushed a rather amusing shade of red which shone through his dusky skin tone.

Before he could do anything more than smile at me slightly I bundled the map back into my bag and reached out with my magic senses.
As luck would have it the waypoint was easy to pick up and the moment that I did, it pulsed to show it was clear for arrivals.

With one last smile for him I jumped into the blue world of warp leaving the nice little staffroom behind.

======

I landed hard at the other end on my hands and knees.
My stomach apparently decided enough was enough because seconds later I puked up some of my Chinese breakfast.
It just so happened to splash onto the shoes of the highly un-amused waypoint guard standing before me in a thick black robe and holding a Magi-staff proudly.

“Sorry.. travel sickness is a bitch..”

His mood didn’t seem even slightly improved by my light tone and awkward, apologetic smile.
I feel a bit better for having gotten that out of my system.. at least that’s something right?

Without a thought I dipped into my lines and let off about two lines worth of magic in the form of my now classic ‘golden dome’ shape.

The guard staggered back a step as the dome hit him and spread across the room.
I couldn’t help but sigh in relief when the horrible smell disappeared leaving a sparklingly clean floor behind in its wake.

“Sorry again, I’m kinda in a hurry.”

The guard seemed too stunned to respond so I shrugged it off and staggered to my feet.
I feel better for having vented a bit of magic, my diversion can apparently help a little more than it did the first time if I push enough power into it?

The guard tried to call after me when I left the room but I’d already broken into a full run at that point.
Unlike Hub’s, enclaves traditionally didn’t have ‘reception areas’ as such
They did have a central enquiries area that newcomers could visit for help in finding the person or place they needed though, usually in the center of town.

When I came out of the waypoints little building into the street outside I paused in surprise.
This place is pretty impressive honestly?

Daniel wasn’t kidding when he said the enclave was ‘in’ Overlook Mountain.
High above our heads, dotted with tiny lights which almost look like stars at this distance is a massive dome of solid stone.
The Enclave is LITERALLY inside Overlook Mountain.

The city itself is HUGE.. I can see buildings going on, seemingly forever.
The space is way bigger then Klamath Falls at the very least!

I got slightly lost in looking over at the city with its odd mix of traditional building styles, more modern looking billboards and advertising lights.
That moment of wonder was shattered a second later when a rather dumpy woman in her late forty’s wearing an old wool robe walked past me and sniffed disdainfully to herself while glaring at me.

My eye’s drifted around the street and it was pretty easy to see why she reacted like that to me.
I’m getting a lot of attention already!

Daniel apparently ALSO wasn’t kidding when he said this was a ‘traditionalist’ enclave.
Everyone is either dressed like they just stepped out of the middle-ages or wearing thick black formal mage robes with wide hoods hanging down their backs.

Everyone also appears to be carrying either a Magi-staff like the guard in the waypoint room or a Wand!

Who the hell uses WAND’S in this day and age?!
They’re a crutch for the incompetent!

Non-awakened mages used to use them to help train children from an early age in how to harness their core’s power but they went out of fashion when people realised that full grown adults were going out into the world not knowing how to cast without them!
They were so conditioned into using wands that they couldn’t even FEEL their lines, let alone CAST with them!

“..stupid, backwards-ass idiots..”

It wasn’t until a young mother walking past me glared even worse than everyone else and hustled her kids away from me that I realised I’d said that out loud.
Judging by the glares I was getting now, she wasn’t the only one to hear me either.

With a heavy sigh I stepped out onto the street proper and joined the flow of people going towards the center of town.

Faster I get this over with the faster I can drag John back to Klamath Falls.
We may be a little town but at least we don’t have a load of idiot ‘traditionalists’ living with us!

I’d barely made it a hundred meters up the old cobbled street, with people glaring at me for the fact that I DARED to walk their streets in a bikini top and shorts, before a distraction decided to show itself in the form of a crying little girl.

She was huddled up against the side of a building on my left, her long red hair was tucked behind her ears but still messy and uneven looking in general.
She stood out, mostly because she was wearing a bright little modern style yellow top and a frilly pink skirt that I could imagine seeing in the kids section at the mall.

Everyone on the street seemed to be completely oblivious to her cries and sobs too?

I’ll admit, I felt rage build up in my chest at the sight of her.
It’s one thing for these traditionalist bastards to glare at me for wearing this awkward outfit in their city but she’s just a little kid!

What kind of sick bastards could just IGNORE a crying little girl like that when she obviously needs help, just because of the way she’s dressed?!

I slipped out of the moving crowd and made my way over to the girl’s side.
She flinched a little when I stepped close enough for her to notice me so I came to a stop and crouched down to her level to make myself look less imposing for her.

“Hi sweetie, are you okay? What’s wrong?”
She stared up at me with wide, frightened eyes.
Her little lip trembled as if she was moments from breaking into tears again while she stared up at me in surprise.

“..I lost my mommy..”

My heart melted a little at the plaintive tone of her voice.
A girl her age being separated from her parents would be bad enough, but in a city full of pompous traditionalist assholes like THIS one..

“It’s okay sweetie, do you know what her name is? I can take you to the town center so we can find her if you like?”

She stared at my face hard, in a way that was honestly quite adorable.
It looked like she was trying to decide if I was trustworthy or not?

She cautiously slipped forward on her knees so she was closer to me and tilted her head to the side as she examined my face.
Finally she seemed to be satisfied by what she saw because her little eyes lit up and a smile spread across her lips.

“Thank you! That’s okay though, I’ve found her now!”

Before I could react she dived forwards and latched her little arms around my waist.
A shock of magic went through my body out of nowhere.

What the hell is she doing?!
Why did she cast a numbing spell on m-
..oh.. crap..

Her little head turned up as she unburied her face from my stomach and she smiled at me with a bright, cheeky grin on her face which I’m now unwilling to admit is cute in ANY way!

“Gotcha Mommy! Dad said you’d be here eventually, his ring works too! I just got to call the others and we’ll go see him yeah?”

She looked EVER so pleased with herself as she let go of my frozen body with one hand and used it to fish around for something in her pocket.
With a flourish she drew out a wand which REALLY shouldn’t have fit into the little child-sized pocket sewn into the side of her frilly skirt and with a deft flick she sent up, what was essentially, a firework into the dark cavern sky.
It flew out high above the city and died with an eye-catching pop of red light.
Her task seemingly done she slid her wand back into her pocket and moved herself over so she could hug my still frozen body even more than her first grasp had managed.

“I’ve missed you Mom, everyone else has too. When we’ve gone to see Daddy can we have ice-cream?”
She turned big, bright puppy-dog eyes up at my frozen face.
A part of me melted at the look but a larger, much more mature and angry side wanted to pick her up by her adorable little neck and make sure she never pulls this sort of crap on me again!

I can’t believe I got tricked by a bloody toddler!!



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