For Better or Worse - part 6

For Better or Worse

When Tom married his wife, he truly believed the love they shared would pull them throught any problems that may come their way, but what happens when you discover the one you married was not even human?

~o~O~o~

Written by Nuuan
Copyright © 2017 by Nuuan

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the Author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

~o~O~o~

Chapter 33

Thousands of years at hiding had bred the small creatures into one of the best stalkers in all the realms, human, demon and Sidhe alike. Hundreds of them moved across the thick bed of dry leaves on the forest floor and through the upper reaches of the tree limbs in complete silence. Had anyone been there to witness the huge wave of creatures the most they would have seen was a shadow or something out of the corner of their eyes that was not there when they turned to look.

The two Kynlif females watched the human’s house from where they sat hidden in the undergrowth at the edge of the forest. They followed their father’s orders, only observing and to follow and report back if Cara or the abomination she had created left. So bored with their assignment the two were completely oblivious to the fact that the small creatures had surrounded them on all three sides and from above.

The two spotted a figure in the darkness come around the back side of the barn. Even with their heightened night vision it was impossible to see who the figure could be. They had been watching the house well and it could not be any of the women or the abomination of a child they were keeping from the council. Whoever it was had to have come up through the forest behind the barn. The only question the two had was this newcomer friend or foe?

“The Father’s had been talking about bringing in outside help, could this be the mercenary they talked about hiring?” one whispered to the other.

“Whoever he is he is walking straight toward us,” the second whispered in return, “he’s going to give our position away.”

The two watched as the figure began walking faster and faster until he was running toward them. Leaning forward as it ran straight at their hidden position it’s now obvious very long arms reaching the ground allowing the figure to increase speed on all fours now running like a dog, as it passed the front porch of the house, the light off the porch light gave enough illumination so that the two observers could finally make out the details of the newcomer.

“TROLL… RUN!” both Kynlif turned around to run into the dense forest behind them. They didn’t make it five steps before the small two foot tall humanoid creatures that had surrounded them swarmed in on the two, their razor sharp teeth reflecting off the distant porch light.

~o~O~o~

Thiton smiled when as heard the noise begin from the edge of the wooded area across the yard. “Our distraction has arrived,” A grin apparent on her face as she turned away from the window where she had been watching.

“Lord have mercy,” Mrs. Dennett shook her head at the sound of the racket going on, “It sounds like someone poked a stick into a den full of wildcats out there.”

Glitonea frowned at Thiton, “We only needed to distract them sister, not sic an army at them.”

Cara chuckled, “They sound pretty distracted to me.”

“Some days you both act way too much like Merla,” Glitonea sighed.

Thiton’s grin widened, “Goblins have always made a wonderful distraction.”

“You sent goblins after them!” Glitonea’s eyes went wide with shock.

Shrugging her shoulders, “They promised to only chew on them a little.”

“Goblins are real?” Mrs. Dennett sounded shocked.

“Yes ma’am, little guys about this tall,” Thiton held her hand down about two feet off the floor, “with big heads with even bigger mouths that are filled of rows pointy teeth.”

“They’re like two legged piranha!” Glitonea huffed, “I can’t believe you sent a den of them after those two poor Kynlif.”

Thiton looked down at the floor feigning a pout, “It wasn’t a den, it was the whole tribe that volunteered to come.” Thiton winked at Tessa.

Glitonea’s eyes grew wider, “By the goddess! That must be more than two hundred!”

“They promised to only hurt them a little, just enough to let them know Mrs. Dennett and her house is off limits.” Thiton explained before reaching her hand out toward Tessa, “It’s time dear, we need to get moving.”

“Tessa you have the crystal I made you?” Glitonea asked as Tessa took Thiton’s hand.

“Yes aunt Glitonea, “Holding up her left arm so that Glitonea could see the bracelet that Glitonea had fashioned after breaking the crystal into smaller pieces and imbuing them to cause the bracelet to work as a compass to locate the guardian.

“Good, don’t lose that,” Glitonea dictated as she walked over to the front door, “Give me a minutes before you leave. I want to makes sure no one sees the two of you leaving.”

Stepping out onto the front porch Glitonea began chanting something under her breath. In less than a minute fog began rolling in, thickening as it surrounded the house and the nearby forest in a fog so dense you couldn’t see more than five feet in front of you.

Thiton led Tessa out the back door into the thick fog. Nearly an hour later Tessa looked up to her aunt, “Can we just fly there, I’m tired of walking.”

“No dear, with the fog gone we need to stay on the ground under the trees where no one can spot us. Anyways we’re almost there.”

They arrived at the base of a short cliff around thirty feet high. Walking another few hundred yards along the rocky face of the cliff they came upon a wide crack in the rock that was just wide enough to walk into. “This is it,” Thiton waved at the crack in the rock face.

Peering into the crevasse Tessa could see that in under ten feet it narrowed back down too tight to allow even her smaller body to go very far. “That’s a dead end?”

“Sight can be deceiving, you need to learn to use your other senses,” Thiton took Tessa by the hand, leading her into the crevasse, “Close your eyes and follow me, whatever you do don’t let go of my hand.”

Tessa guessed they could not have walked more than fifteen or 20 feet when Thiton told her she could open her eyes. The first thing Tessa thought was that Thiton has created another fog spell like the one Glitonea had done back at her grandma’s house when they left. Although this fog seemed different and nowhere nearly as thick. In fact the fog seemed quite thin as she could see swirls of the mist in the distance. Turning around she saw the same rocky cliff although she could make out trees on the other side of the crevasse. Also the crack in the rock didn’t look to narrow down, it looked like it stayed the same width all the way through the rock, which then looked like it opened up into a forest, the forest they had just left.

“Welcome to Underhill,” Thiton smiled down at the small girl holding her hand.

Craning her neck around looking for anything else through the fog, “I thought you said Underhill was a labyrinth?”

“It is dear,” Thiton explained. “You don’t need walls to make a place hard to navigate, easy to get lost or difficult to find an exit, which is by the very definition a labyrinth. With nothing to give you any visual reference a person can get lost here easier than any walled maze that could be built.” Kneeling down to Tessa’s level, “Never, ever enter the Underhill without a clear sense of where you need to go. And keep focused on that path, the most dangerous part of the Underhill are its distractions. Now concentrate on the bracelet, which direction is it pulling you?”

~o~O~o~

Both Azazel and Bathin looked out across the group of injured succubi in the room, “I find it difficult to believe every one of you that we have sent have failed to bring back the abomination or even keep a watch of what it is doing!” Azazel booming voice echoed in the room. “You two!” Azazel looked at the two sitting with bandages covering a good 80 percent of their body, “Your only job was to watch them and report and follow them if they left!”

“Father,” one of the two tried to answer, “As we said there was a troll…”

“Yes, yes I heard the story already,” Azazel shook his head, “And this troll chased the two of you into a goblin ambush. Two faerie creatures that have not been seen since before the great cataclysm appeared from out of nowhere and attacked the two of you.” Hearing one of the other women chuckle, he looked over at the chuckling woman, her back heavily bandaged so that she could not sit back in the chair she was in. “You believe this funny? The one who was attacked by an invisible wyvern? And you!” Glaring at another who had a bandage on her shoulder that bore the signs of blood still seeping through the bandaging, “Stabbed by a type of weapon that causes wounds that do not heal!” Turning to Bathin, “One of these incidents I could see as dumb luck but three? What in all the hells are we fighting?”

“I believe that crystal magic is involved,” Bathin replied.

“All the crystals are in the possession of the council,” Azazel stated, “I’ve been to the caverns under Afallach, I have seen for myself there are no more to be mined! And the forge of Afallach is a fable, a story of a place that never existed!”

“If the forge did not exist then where did the legendary sword come from and how did the abomination get such a weapon with similar magic?” Bathin fumed.

“Father the legends say that the Unseelie Queen had the power to command those creatures and to create such weapons,” One of the women, her arm in a sling spoke.

“Are you insinuating that the abomination is the reincarnation of the Unseelie Queen?” Bathin screamed at the woman.

“No father,” she bowed her head cowering. “It’s just that the scribes say that the Unseelie were never found and some said they could have gone into hiding.”

“Do you expect me to believe the faeries of the Unseelie and their Queen have actually been in hiding since before the great cataclysm?” Bathin roared his laughter.

“No father, it’s a ridiculous idea,” realizing it was a bad idea to suggest something however improbable but possible that they did not wish to hear. She agreed with him to get out from under his scrutiny.

Chapter 34

Becky sat down her cup of tea, getting up to go answer the knock on the door. Looking through the peephole she could not see any one. Thinking it may be a delivery and not wanting a package to sit out in the rain, she opened the door. Becky gasped when she saw the small girl standing there barefooted, wearing only a backless halter dress that did not quite drop below her knees. The girl could not be more than six or seven years old.

“You don’t taste like the guardian?” The little girl wrinkled her nose as she cocked her head to one side.

“Oh my god, where is your coat and shoes?” While the weather wasn’t that bad it was too cold for the way she was dressed. The small child’s lips were blue, causing Becky to fear the girl would get sick being out dressed as she was. Leaning out of the door Becky looked around to see who had allowed this girl out like this, “Where’s your mother?”

“Mommy sent me to find the guardian,” the small girl held up her left arm to show a bracelet she wore with green stones in it. “You don’t taste like her.”

Kneeling down eye level to the child, “You mean I don’t look like her.”

The small girl shook her head, “Mommy showed me how she tastes.”

“Okay, whatever,’ Becky sighed, worried more about the child getting sick than correcting her speech, “Let’s get you inside and warmed up.” Her own maternal instincts taking over Becky quickly ushered the small girl into the warmth of her home. Looking around one last time, Becky could see nothing but the cold rain that pelted down.

Closing the door Becky turned around to the child who was rubbing her hand against her knee. “Did you hurt yourself outside?”

Meekly looking down at the floor, “I’m not very good at landing.”

Becky looked down at the soaking wet child, her knees and hem of her dress muddy from where she must have fell. “Come on, let’s get you cleaned and warmed up,’ Becky led the girl into their upstairs bathroom where she ran water into the large tub before she began to undress the girl. When she tried to take the large brown leather purse that the girl had the strap over her head on the opposite shoulder, the girl grabbed it back hugging it to her chest.

“I’m not going to take it away, I’m just going to put it over there while we give you a bath okay,” Becky consoled the frightened child. “Now come on sweetie, you're freezing. Let’s get you in a warm bath.”

The girl nodded as she handed over the leather purse nervously. Becky sat it down on the counter beside the sink then smiled at the girl, “See, it’ll be right there. Now let’s get you out of that muddy dress and into a warm bath alright?” Becky helped the girl out of the dress, noticing she wore nothing under it.

Becky stood up then laid the girls muddy wet dress in the sink. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to call Kyley,” thinking about what she had learned of Kyley’s race and how other races may have regarded them as some kind of protectors or guardians as the girl insisted she was looking for. “I think she might be the guardian you are looking.”

Walking back down to the living room Becky picked up her phone. As she was sending a text to Kyley about the strange girl she noticed the footprints by the door. It wasn’t the small barefooted tracks of the girl that drew her attention, there were other muddy marks on the floor other than the small girl’s foot prints like something had followed her in. Having been right there holding the door when the girl entered Becky knew nothing had followed her and decided the marks had to have come from mud dripping from the girl’s clothing and splattering into the strange muddy marks on the floor. ‘I’ll clean this later, I don’t want to leave her alone in that tub for too long,’ Becky thought to herself as she headed back up the stairs. Right before she reached the bathroom she heard the girl giggling and the sound of water splashing.

“Sounds like someone is feeling better,” Becky smiled as she walked in the bathroom. Becky’s expression changed to that of shock when she saw all the water in the floor. ‘She’s just a little girl,’ Becky said to herself while taking a deep breath and counting to ten silently.

Becky saw the small girl was looking up at her eyes wide with fear. Smiling at the small child in the tub trying to let her know she had nothing to fear, “Did you leave any water in the tub?” Becky chuckled.

The girl looked down at the water then back to Becky, “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to make a mess.”

“I think we should get you out and dried off,” Becky stepped slowly across the wet floor to the small closet in the bathroom, opening the door and pulling two towels from it before closing it again. Sitting the towels on the counter beside the girl’s overly large purse, Becky turned the lever to drain the tub then helped the girl out of it. Wrapping the girl’s long hair up in one towel before drying the child with the second towel and then wrapping it around her chest, “Your lips are still blue, are you still cold?”

Shaking her head the girl asked, “Should they be a different color?”

“Well yes, most people’s lips are sort of pink, like mine are,” Becky explained, her eyes going wide with surprise as the girl seemed to concentrate on Becky’s lips, her lip color quickly changing to match the color or Becky’s lipstick. “That’s a neat trick,” Becky chuckled, “It would save me tons of money never having to buy lipstick again. Now stay here for just a minute while I go grab you something to put on.”

Going over to the closet Becky tried to find something that would come close to fitting the small girl, unfortunately nothing that either her or Kyley had would fit the small child. There on a hangar was a souvenir Tee shirt that Kyley had insisted on buying for Becky when they were at Sturgis. It was a pastel pink with the graphics of a Harley with the front wheel a long ways out in front of the motorcycle with elongated front forks on the front and super tall handle bars or ape bars as many called them. Above the graphics it read ‘Sturgis’ in a fancy script and below the graphics it had the year ‘2007’.Pulling the shirt off the hanger she headed back to the bathroom. While it was too large for the girl, it would be long enough to give the child some modesty. Right before she entered the bathroom with the shirt she heard the little girl whispering, “Lily stop it, you got me in trouble, she thinks I was the one that splashed water all over.”

Entering the bathroom again, Becky saw all the water that had been all over the floor was gone and the girl was standing there in the middle of the bathroom holding a small aqua colored clear crystal in her hand.

Seeing Becky standing in the doorway the girl looked up at her with the most innocent looking eyes, “I was really sorry so I cleaned up the mess.” The girl quickly opened the large leather purse and stuffed the aqua blue crystal into it. Becky couldn’t help but see that the purse was full of different colored crystals.

“Thank you very much,” Becky smiled. “That was very responsible of you. I don’t have anything that fits a girl your size, but you can wear this while we get your dress washed and dried. Becky glanced over at the leather purse while brushing out the girl’s hair, “So did your mother imbue all your crystals with magic for you?”

The girl shook her head spoiling half or the work Becky had done with her long hair, “The cave grows them with the magic in them. Grandmother and my aunts taught me and mommy what the different ones do. Mommy has a black one, grandmother says that it’s very rare for a dark crystal to choose someone even more rare than Grandmother’s rainbow one. All my aunts who are grandmother’s sisters have rainbow ones too! They’re really pretty and have all the colors of the cave crystals in them just like the home stone in the castle but smaller.”

“So is the only thing in your bag crystals?”

The girl nodded, “The cave gave them to me. Aunt Glitonea told me to always keep them with me and never let anyone else touch them as it can hurt you to touch someone else’s crystals.”

“Are you hungry or anything sweetie?” Becky saw the girl shake her head and realized she had not gotten the girl’s name yet. “Um I’m Becky, what’s your name sweetie?”

“Tessa, but my aunt Thiten calls me sweetie just like you do.” Tessa giggled, “Aunt Mazoe calls me her little goblin because she says I eat like one.”

Becky watched Tessa yawn, “You look tired, why don’t you take your bag and go lie down on the bed and take a nap.” After tucking Tessa into the king sized bed Becky turned to leave the room, never noticing the imprint of something invisibly climbing up on the foot of the bed, the only sign it was there was the oval depression in the thick comforter roughly the size of a large dog, where the invisible creature had curled up at the small girls feet.

Chapter 35

“I home quick as could!” Kyley closed the front door behind her.

Becky stuck her head out of their shared office, “Shhh, Tessa is still asleep.”

“This child is one ask for guardian?” Kyley came up the stairs toward Becky, “Where child? I see her.”

“I put her in the big bed,” Becky motioned Kyley up the stairs with her to the master bedroom. At the door Becky slowly opened it while holding her finger up to her lips as a sign for Kyley to stay quiet.

Kyley’s eyes widened at what she saw, “This not right, no possible E’draqvar child, and hatchling should not be out of nest.”

“E’draqvar?” Becky remembered Kyley using that name before but couldn’t place where.

Kyley seemed to stare off into space for a few moments, “I show you one when at big motorcycle place. English word for them Succubus.”

“Are you saying that girl is a young succubus?”

“Yes,” Kyley shook her head, “E’draqvar, not have children, reproduce with magic not sex. New one full size.”

“Are you sure she’s a succubus?” Becky questioned Kyley.

“No, she is young one and no young ones.” Kyley stated, “Also drake not like them.”

“Drake? You mean like a dragon?” Becky furled her brow confused why that information was important, “What’s a drake have to do with anything.”

“One sleeping by child’s feet.”

“There’s an invisible dragon in the bed with her?” Becky gulped.

“Not dragon,” Kyley appeared too scrutinized the empty foot of the bed. “It wyvern maybe, hard to tell it curled up like that and invisible, hiding, like clothing with leaves and tree bark painted on it soldiers wear.’

“Camouflage?”

“Yes some drakes have very good camouflage,” Kyley nodded. “This one even hides its body heat from my sight but not its aura.”

“Before she wakes up I have something else to show you,” Becky motioned Kyley to follow her as she quietly shut the bedroom door. Following Becky into their home office, Kyley could see several books that Becky had left on the desk. “The girl said some things that triggered something that I couldn’t put my finger on. I’d been in here going through many of my old books trying to figure out what it was.” Picking up one of large tomes that were open on the desk, “Look at this,” holding it so Kyley could see the page she had open.

“The prismatic cavern,” Kyley pointed to the ancient writing.

“The girl has a bag full of different colored imbued crystals she told me that the crystals grow in the cavern already imbued with magic.”

“If she correct she knows where the forge is,” Kyley gasped.

“That’s not all,” Becky sat the book down picking up another, “She told me her grandmother’s sisters taught her how to use the magic in the crystals and she mentioned names that I had seen before but couldn’t remember where I saw them. “Took some time but I finally found the names,” grinning from ear to ear Becky held the book out for Kyley to see. “The names of her aunts that she mentioned were Glitonea, Mazoe and Thiten.”

Becky was bouncing around so badly Kyley had to take the book from her to be able to read it. After reading she looked up at the over excited Becky, “If this is true this is the reason no one has found Unseelie Castle. The faerie Queen hid her castle in a daemon realm where no one would look.”

“Faerie Queen? Those are the names of three of the faerie sisters that lived in Avalon. That girl has been to Avalon!”

“The Unseelie and Queen’s castle disappeared before sundering, before humans wrote those stories.” Pointing at the next page of the large book, “The writing here is about a magical forge deep beneath the castle. The Unseelie castle also had a great magical forge in the catacombs beneath it.” Kyley paused, “The Queen of air and darkness had the power to move the entire island their castle was built upon between realms, making it possible that the Unseelie castle could have been on Earth at the time of your Avalon legends. But even if the child has been there, it does not tell us if she knows where that may be or if she can return to it.”

“If this Unseelie castle and Avalon are the same, we can never tell anyone about it,” Becky sighed. “There are too many that would do everything in their power to either take control of it or destroy it. Think about it, the forge where Excalibur was created and where the sword itself probably sits.”

“What’s Excalibur?” Becky and Kyley turned to find the small girl standing in the doorway rubbing her eye with one hand, wearing the Tee shirt Becky had put on her and the dark leather purse she never went without.

Becky walked over kneeling down beside the girl, “I thought you were asleep sweetie.”

“I felt the guardian here,” Tessa looked up at Kyley. “Mommy told me to find you and that you would help.”

“Alright,” Kyley humored the small girl. “Can you tell me why your mommy would think that?”

Tessa related the entire story, including the part where Kyley gave Cara the essence to save Tom by using the ritual to change him into Tessa. While Tessa told her lengthy version of her birth and life as Tessa and how the some of the council had reacted, Becky led everyone to the kitchen so that she could make dinner for the three of them.

Becky shook her head in disbelief when Tessa finished her story, “I can’t believe they are so cruel that they would kill a child because of her ancestry.”

“I can see several reasons they would want to end her,” Kyley looked over at Becky. “The prophecy is only the rallying point of this. If what we have heard and learned of this girl is correct she is of mixed blood, both faerie and demon. Either one of these would cause the daemons much concern, both together cause much fear.”

“That’s two,’ Becky stated. “You said there were several reasons?”

“Her faerie blood is Unseelie,” Kyley stated.

“But the Unseelie, they are still part of the Sidhe aren’t they?”

“Yes but Seelie think of Unseelie as lesser creatures, many Unseelie… slaves to Seelie of fivefold court before the Sundering.”

Tessa was nodding, “Grandmother and all her sisters taught me the Seelie are bad people. They would capture Unseelie and force them to become soldiers in their army.”

Becky laid her hand on Tessa’s hand, “Whatever happened then between the Seelie and Unseelie is in the distant past. There aren’t enough Sidhe around for factions such as that to exist today.”

Kyley jerked her head toward the floor by the doorway of the kitchen, raising her voice, “Stop hiding before someone trips over you!” Just inside the doorway the small German shepherd sized wyvern appeared sitting on its haunches like a dog or cat would.

“Oh my god, it is a dragon,” Becky eyes went wide.

“Wyvern!” Kyley and Tessa chorused.

Later after Becky had put Tessa to bed in the smaller bedroom, she and Kyley sat downstairs in the living room when Becky looked over at the unusually quiet Kyley, “Care to share what’s on your mind?”

“Sorry, I was thinking about something Night noticed about the girl,” Kyley forced a smile.

“What did Night see in the girl?”

“Tessa is family.”

“That’s good,” Becky grinned, “Even Night wants her to stay here with us.”

Kyley shook her head, “No, I mean yes she stays until safe for her. But she is family like a hawk-lord child but only part of her. Only explanation is the E’draqvar, the succubus, from the motorcycle gathering was collecting essence to give birth to Tessa.”

“How would that make Tessa part hawklord?”

“When I gave the essence, I pushed away all lesser essence and filled her well with my own. So the essence used to give birth was all from me.”

“So her essence feels like a hawk-lord?”

“Yes, but she is part Sidhe, magic is part of them, in their blood. The part of her that is faerie magic was infused with the essence I gave.”

“So you’re saying she is part Succubus, part Fae and also part Hawklord?”

“A very small part hawklord. What bothers me is that should have killed her or not worked at all unless…” Kyley sighed heavily.

“Unless what?”

“She is Unseelie royalty.”

Becky gasped, “Are you saying she’s a princess?”

Kyley nodded, “I believe so. Which means we have stop the N’draqvar from harming her or the Unseelie will avenge her death.”

“You’re telling me there could be a war over that little girl sleeping upstairs?”

Kyley nods, “The Unseelie Queen was known for her love, fairness and generosity toward her people. In return they showed their love of their queen with unbridled loyalty. They would show no mercy in defending or avenging the girl if it became known she is of their royal bloodline.”

“So what do we do?”

“We keep her safe until I can determine if she truly is what Night and I believe she is.”

“Then what?”

“Then I convince the N’draqvar council it is in their best interests to forget about any thoughts of harming her.”

“What about during the week while you’re in school and I’m working?”

“While you take our young ward shopping tomorrow, I will speak to Mrs. Carson about that. She needs to be someplace warded against attack or abduction, the school is a perfect place if Carson will agree to allowing her there.”

Chapter 36

The next morning after breakfast when Becky and Kyley were discussing what they should buy for Tessa and how much Becky should spend Tessa had walked back in wearing the dress she came in that Becky had washed for her, “You don’t have to spend money on me, Aunt Thiten gave me some money to buy anything I needed,” reaching into her large brown purse she pulled her hand out full of coins she sat on the table.

Becky picked up one a silver colored coin from the small pile bringing it up so she could see it closely, “This looks Celtic and in perfect condition.” Picking up another, “I’m pretty sure this is a gold Drachma.” Picking up yet another, “this looks like its Persian.” Picking up one more and studying it for a much longer time, “This, this is Orichalcum!” Becky’s eyes grew very wide, “The only place this was supposedly mined and used for coins was Atlantis.” Looking over at Tessa, “Do you realize how much these may be worth?”

Tessa shook her head, “Aunt Thiten gave me a lot more if those aren’t enough.”

“No sweetie, these would more than enough to buy anything you need today,” Becky shouldn’t have been surprised at the young girl giving her these after the coins Kyley had given her. “But we would have to go all the way to New York to exchange them for the money used here. So why don’t you keep them in case you need them for something else, okay?” Tessa nodded, putting the coins back in her bag.

The whole time Kyley had been eying the girl’s shoulder bag, “where did you get that shoulder bag?”

“One of my aunts gave it to me back at the castle, before she took me and mommy into the caverns to get crystals.”

“You probably have no idea what it is made out of?” Kyley asked already knowing the answer as Tessa shook her head.

Curious as to what Kyley was getting at, “Is there something wrong with her purse?”

“Tell me what you see when you look at her bag.”

“Small leather purse, a little big for her, nothing special. It actually looks kind of worn and worthless now that you ask,” Becky described the girl’s purse.

“To me it looks like a messenger bag or satchel easily big enough to hold a smaller laptop,” Kyley stated. “I also see magic runes burnt into the leather that is telling anyone who looks at it, that they should see it as so ordinary that they should not notice it at all.”

“I think this one is pretty,” Tessa pointed at one of the runes on her bag.

“You said you brought some clothes with you?” Becky asked, “Can you show us what you have, it will give me a better idea of what you still need.”

Tessa cycled through the clothing her crystals contained. Three tunics, her brown stola, two dresses her grandma had purchased for her to wear to church, several opened back halter style blouses and tea length skirts that were coordinated to the halter blouses.”

“Is that everything?” Becky asked when it looked like Tessa was finished with the impromptu fashion show.

“Well there is this,” Tessa reached up to her necklace changing into the hydra hide armor her aunts had made for her.

“Now that’s not your ordinary outfit,” Becky took a deep breath. “And complete with your own small sword too.”

Feeling the magic from the large dagger on the child’s side Kyley leaned forward, “May I take a look at your weapon? Don’t worry I will give it back.” Tessa nodded handing her dagger over. Inspecting the dagger intently from tip to pommel Kyley finally looked up from it to Tessa, “This was forged under the castle your grandmother and her sisters live?”

Tessa nodded again, “I saw my grandmother making it in the room with all the writing on the walls and floor.”

“When you are safe, no more worries of attacks, maybe your grandmother will let me see this forge room.”

“I can ask her.”

“Okay, since it looks like you are ready,” Becky changed the subject. “We can go get in the car and do some shopping.”

Tessa followed Becky out of the kitchen. Reaching to pull her jacket off the coat rack, Becky turned back toward Tessa, “So do you have a coat hidden in one of those crystals?” She watched as Tessa nodded, “I know you might not find it cold outside but human girls your age would so can you put your coat on for me?”

Tessa nodded once again, reaching up to touch the crystal that hung from her neck by the silvery chain. Immediately the girl was wearing a dark leather jacket. Becky also noticed that the handbag Tessa had over her shoulder looked darker and maybe smaller, matching the leather coat very well.

Looking around Becky asked, “Where is that little dragon of yours? She needs to stay here.”

“She’s a wyvern, not a dragon.”

“She still needs to stay here so make sure she doesn’t try to follow us okay?”

Tessa turned around, knelt down and looked as if she were talking to an imaginary friend that is until Lily became visible nuzzling against Tessa while the girl hugged the wyvern.”

With the visual in her mind of where the little dragon had probably been drinking from Becky took down a large plastic bowl, filled it with water and placed it on the floor where Lily could get to it.

Once everyone was loaded in the car Becky drove up to the school to drop Kyley off before heading to Boston.

~o~O~o~

The trip to Boston and the mall was uneventful. At least the trip to the mall was.

The stop at Pet-Mart could have went better. Becky even thought ahead enough to make Tessa promise not to tell anyone that Lily was a dragon. So of course when saleslady asked what kind of pet they had Tessa spoke up while shaking her head, “Lily’s not a dragon.”

“So Lily is your pet’s name?” the saleslady stooped down grinning at Tessa who was smiling back as she nodded.

Standing up the saleslady looked to Becky, “So what breed is Lily?”

“We’re not really sure, but she’s good sized, sitting on her haunches she can look Tessa here in the eye.”

“And when she spreads her wings they are almost as big as mine!” Tessa’s eyes grew excitedly as she spread her arms as far apart as she could.

Believing Tessa to be a child with a great imagination the saleslady showed Becky where the supplies for large breeds were. As Becky was browsing through the types of dry dog food trying to figure out which one a small dragon my eat, the sales lady came back over, “Oh I should tell you we’re having a sale on all collars and leashes today too.”

Becky imagined walking Lily down the street and the small dragon disappearing leaving only the collar and leash visible. “No we’re good on that stuff, we only need to find a different dry food that she’ll eat and new bowls and maybe some treats.”

~o~O~o~

Becky finished hanging up the clothing she had bought that added to the small selection of clothing Tessa had brought with her to give her enough to make it through a week without having to do laundry every other night and hopefully stopped the small dragon form drinking out of the toilet bowl. She would need to buy more for the small girl if she was forced to stay indefinitely, but they would cross that bridge when they came to it. Becky wasn’t ready to raise a child, but there was no way she would let those others get to the small girl, not with what they would do it her. Before Becky would allow that she would adopt Tessa herself.

Kyley must have still been at Whateley working out any details of having Tessa there while she was in classes during the week when Becky and Tessa returned home. After helping Tessa put away the clothes Becky went down to the office her and Kyley had in the house. About fifteen minutes later Tessa came down carrying a laptop in her hands, “Becky would it be okay if I connect to your wireless?”

“You had a laptop in your bag too?” Becky looked down at what looked like a very high end NEXT laptop cradled under the girl's arm.

Tessa nodded, “I’m uh, I mean Tom was a programmer for this game company. It’s one of the things I do remember so I’ve sort of continued doing his job, which was my job or was my job.”

“How would it have been your job? Your people don’t believe in the children being responsible for their parent’s debts and that stuff do they?”

“I don’t think they do?” Tessa cocked her head curiously toward Becky, “I’m Tom, or at least I was and he’s in here too,” Tessa tapped her temple with her fingers of her free hand.

“So you remember all the stuff about programming that he, I mean you did?”

“Yes and as funny as it may sound I think I’m better at it now than I was before.” Tessa added, “I mean I was good, you have to be to get on and stay with a game company as we have to push the boundaries to stay on top. But before I used to have some trouble with algorithms and instead of writing new ones where I needed them I would modify existing ones to save time. Now I find myself writing new ones on the fly in half the time it would take me to modify an existing one and the new one run in fewer cycles.”

“Considering your situation I guess I don’t have to warn you about online predators,” Becky chuckled. “What game do you program for?”

“Good and Evil Online,” Tessa blushed.

“That’s a popular game.”

Tessa nodded, “Yes so popular that we’re constantly adding content and game modification to keep the players interested. There’s even a GM event we’re hosting tonight that will give players some really cool rewards if they can complete it.”

“Does that mean you’ll be playing the game too?”

Tessa nodded, “I’m supposed to be logged in game with my character as I have a small part in it.”

“Would you mind if I watch over your shoulder?”

“Sure, but just so you know I don’t have the same interface as a player do. Since I may have to make some change to some code or in game device, I have some windows open that players don’t have.”

Chapter 37

“What the hell?” Tessa gasped when the character screen came up showing a character she had never seen before.

“Young girls shouldn’t use that kind of language Tessa,” Becky scolded before leaning over Tessa’s shoulder to get a better view of what the girl had seen. “Is something wrong?”

“Pointing at the laptop screen, “That’s not my character. I had a male human ranger named Grayson.”

Becky took a moment to closely examine the character on the screen, “The resemblance to you is remarkable. I mean take away the raptor feet and the clawed hands and wings and it looks like an older version of you.”

Still not used to recognizing her own looks in a mirror, Tessa had not seen the resemblance at first. “Oh sh… I mean um darn.” Tessa stood up walking over to a clear area in the kitchen where she and Becky had been sitting, “How close does it look like me now?” Tessa triggered her armor to appear and changed into her daemon form.

Becky’s eyes widened at the change in the young girl’s appearance as she grew another six to eight inches. While still less than five feet tall the increase in height and small breast appearing on her flat chest gave her the appearance of being several years older. Bat-like wings appeared on her back and her feet morphed into raptor like claws while her skin changed into gray-green scales below her knees as her fingernails grew into longer four inch pointed black claws. Glancing back and forth between the girl and the picture on the screen Becky took a deep breath, “It’s you.”

“But how?” Tessa threw her arms wide while shrugging her shoulders. “I haven’t even logged into the game since before all this happened.

“Maybe you’ll find some answers once you log in?”

Changing back to her human form and clothing Tessa sat back down and logged into the game. A new screen appeared that gave Tessa the option to ‘Enter Game’ or ‘Dev Lounge’. Tessa clicked the button for the Dev Lounge. Instead of appearing in the developer’s lounge, a large room with plenty of chairs and tables, Tessa’s character appeared in a much smaller room of around fifteen feet square, a large dark wood desk sat toward the back of the room with a high winged back chair in facing it, behind the desk another large cushioned chair sat the in-game character her boss. As fitting Tessa used his in game character’s name as she bowed, “Lord Carleton.”

“Have a seat Grayson,” the large imposing man gestured toward the wing-backed chair. “I figured you would have some questions, so I had your spawn point reset to here.”

Sitting down in the chair, “What’s going on? Why has my avatar been changed?”

“This follows the story line from the last event we held,” He began to explain. “If you remember that event you had scouted for the forces of light’s army. In this event you were captured and thought to be dead, but the forces of light have received word that you were not executed and have been held prisoner for all that time. They have also received word that a young demon has run away from their citadel and this demon has critical knowledge about troop movements and plans along with information about Grayson.”

Looking down at her demon form in the game, “I take it I’m that escaped demon?”

“Exactly!” He grinned wide, “Grayson was used in a magical experiment. A spell was cast on him to make him into a subservient docile demon that would pleasure their forces.”

“You turned me into a demonic version of a sex slave?”

Lord Carleton chuckled, “That was the intent but the spell didn’t take into account your high constitution and while it changed your body it did not change your mind into the mindless bimbo that they expected. So you will be spawned several miles outside of the Citadel. Your job in the event is to do your best to return to the forces of light. Of course the dark forces know of your escape and are hunting you.”

While amazed at how much Lord Carleton’s overview of the changes they had made to his character bore a striking resemblance to what had really happened to her over the past few months, Tessa nodded her understanding. “So I’m the shiny,” using a game term that meant she would be something the players would be looking to find.

“Oh and the magic used to change you keep you from telling anyone who you really are, so when they ask your name it will always come out as ‘Isca’ as your new name is ‘Isca DePrisao’ so get used to it.”

“Why do I have a feeling the new name has some hidden meaning?” Tessa sighed knowing her bosses sense of humor.

Still watching over Tessa’s shoulder Becky whispered in Tessa’s ear, “It’s Portuguese. It roughly translates to ‘jailbait’.”

“Jailbait!” Tessa’s in game character shouted in the game as Tessa did picking up everything Tessa said through the boom microphone attached to her ear, it’s slim black rod running forward along her left cheek, “My new name is Portuguese for Jail Bait?”

The man behind the desk’s face formed into an evil grin, “Oh and don’t let anyone else on the dev team know about this, as far as they know you’re a new hire while in the game alright?”

“Yes sir,” Tessa took a deep breath before exhaling sharply.

“Alright then, the door will open to the dev lounge. Good luck in game,” he dismissed her.

~o~O~o~

As she was told the door did open to the dev lounge where she recognized all her fellow developer’s avatars and even a few of the alphas, the players that were granted alternate avatars that assisted them during events.

“Woah, check out the new alpha,” a large human avatar clad in silvery plate mail armor nudged the red skinned devil sitting beside him.

“She’s not an alpha dumb ass,” The red skinned horned devil rolled his eyes at his friend, “She’s named.” Pointing out the fact that the alpha’s avatars were only allowed a single name while their avatars had surnames.

“Well I’m going to go introduce myself to her,” The knight stood up.

“You know we only have two females on the Dev team and both of them are already here.”

“So?” he looked back at his horned friend.

“God you’re dense,” The devil sighed, “She’s a guy, and she looks underage.”

Grinning back at his friend, “her avatar may look underage, but kids aren’t given Dev access.”

As he watched the knight walk over toward the new girl the devil shook his head while whispering under his breath, “Pervert.”

Tessa sighed when she saw the armored knight walking toward her. While the avatar was probably everything a woman would expect of some valiant knight in a movie, Tessa knew the man behind the avatar was an overweight mid-thirties graphics artist whose wardrobe looked like he had time traveled back to the disco era with the loud colors and wide collars. If he was only a tenth as good with women as he was with art he might possibly land a girlfriend but as it were women that knew him avoided him and those that met him quickly learned to do the same.

“Hello I’m Sir Laughlin Starr,” Starr smiled holding out his hand toward Tessa.

“Isca,” Tessa held out her hand, which he took as he went to one knee in front of her kissing the back of her hand.

“I’m your dream come true,” He smiled while standing up. “Your very own knight in shining armor.”

Tessa did her best to hold a straight face, although she could easily see why the few women that worked in their office called him behind his back ‘Sir Laughing Stock’ with such corny lines.

Tessa saw the tall older elfin woman walk up to her side, “Hello, I’m Aelrue. You must be that new girl that created all that new coding I’ve been trying to break.” Knowing shop talk would quickly chase Starr off Aelrue continued, “Those algorithms you sent are great. Best ones I’ve seen in a long time, no erroneous code that take up processor cycles, perfect error correcting loops and bypasses. I loaded them into the dev simulator on some NPCs and found it hard to tell they weren’t player controlled. Keep that up and you’ll be the technical lead on NPC coding before the year is out.” Seeing that Starr had retreated back to the table he had been sitting at Aelrue chuckled, “I knew that would chase him off.”

“Thanks for the save,” Tessa smiled up at the taller woman. “The last thing I needed was someone trying to hit on me.”

Glaring over her shoulder at Starr, “He’s bad about doing that to every woman he meets, but with you? That an all-time low for even him. I seriously hope you don’t look this age in the real world.”

“No, my avatar’s age doesn’t reflect my real age,” Tessa grinned, ‘If she knew how old I really look she would freak!’

“Come, I’ll introduce you to Nusala,” Aelrue spoke turning toward the other side of the room away from where Starr sat.”

~o~O~o~

“Must be a smart girl to shoot you down that fast,” The horned devil chuckled as Sir Laughlin Starr sat back down at the table.

“At least I figured out she’s a real girl,” Starr stated.

“Oh?” The devil raised his large hairy eyebrows, “How’d you figure that out so quickly?”

“She didn’t flirt with me.”

“How’s that prove she’s a girl and not a guy running a female avatar?”

“Jeez man, that’s easy!’ Starr grinned. “A guy playing a girl would have been ready to flirt with any guy she met in the game.”

“Starr your logic is utterly amazing,” The horned devil deadpanned as he shook his head.

~o~O~o~

“Sixty seconds to drop!” a loud voice boomed throughout the room as the number ‘60’ appeared on all four walls and began counting down.

Aelrue rolled her eyes as she looked over at Tessa, “That’s the boss's way of telling us to be ready to be ported to our starting locations. You would think this was some science fiction game the way he does somethings. Once you port in head west and keep your head down Nusala and I will be coming from that direction with the advanced forces.”

Tessa watched the bold numbers count down. When it reached Zero she found herself alone in a forest surrounded by trees.



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