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Written by HermitThrush in portal Trident Media Group

Just a Couple of Loonies

"Could I get a refill of ale?"

"How much for wine with the meal?"

"I can't eat this soup! It barely has any meat!"

"We're running low on brandy."

Gilligania nearly ran as she served the patrons and answered questions. "Yes, five extra aurents, take it up with the cook, I'll check the cellar for another crate." Suppertime at an inn was always frenetic, but it would slow down as guests went to their rooms. Of course, the remaining guests would probably get rowdy, but rowdy she could handle. Gilligania ducked behind bar and descended through the trap door into the cellar.

She took a moment to revel in the silence afforded by the thick door, then flipped a switch on the wall, triggering a series of wires. Five candles were simultaneously lit by flint striking steel. Gilligania frowned. She would have to work on the ignition relay for the sixth candle. She found the brandy and hauled it up, blowing out the candles on the way back.

She emerged back into the bustling, noisy dining area. Noisy was good, because it meant guests, which meant more money. Those voices from the kitchen seemed a little too loud, though.

Gilligania walked in to see a guest arguing with Malthazar. "Preposterous! Soup needs meat, not tiny pieces of sausage! I refuse to pay for a meal that would barely sustain a house pet."

Malthazar's mouth twitched. "That 'sausage' is actually highly condensed meat. You'll notice the soup also has vegetables, purpleroot, and quinoa. It's enough to keep you on your feet for a full day's march. Is there another way you'd like to try to get out of paying?"

The guest raised his eyebrow. "Condensed meat? I've never heard of such a thing."

"That's because you're not a cook," snapped Malthazar. "So unless you want to learn how to cook for yourself tonight, I recommend you at least try the soup before complaining about it."

The guest grumbled but left for the dining room.

"A little harsh, weren't we?" asked Gilligania.

Malthazar shook his head. "Honestly, if I had an aurent for every person who made fun of condensed meat until they tried it, we could open ten inns. He'll try it, discover he likes it, and refuse to admit it, but at least he won't bother me again." He turned ladled soup into bowls. "By the way, Freckles, a big group just came in and they all want soup and ale."

Gilligania squeaked, grabbed some mugs, and ran toward the tables.

A few hours later, the last guest had finally gone to bed, and the foodrunners met in the kitchen.

Malthazar cleared his throat, and announced in a deep voice, "Now has come the time for the ancient ritual... of swapping gossip. Who has the best story tonight?"

A young runner named Pylia giggled and raised her hand. "I heard a good one. Apparently a wild mage decided he wanted to turn himself into a bird for a day. When he turned back he still had feathers, and he had to wait a week until they were gone!"

Everyone laughed, then a slightly older runner, Kelthin, took his turn. "I don't know about stories, but I might have a new record for the craziest theory I've heard about edgewalkers. This one guest insisted that edgewalkers come down from the moon, steal the body of the first person they meet, and dig themselves a cave to live in. Then they only leave at night to rain down fire upon unsuspecting travelers."

Welshai interrupted. "I don't know if that beats what his lady friend said. She thinks they come every ten thousand years to weed out the impure, then ascend to the heavens with the worthy. Then they let the worthy choose the course of destiny until the next cycle."

Thus ensued a fierce five minute argument about whether either of these arguments were more preposterous than the idea that edgewalkers were disguises created by amphibians secretly studying the workings of humanity. The argument was derailed when the last runner, Bruthae, decided to share her story.

"This one is kind of serious, but pretty juicy. It was those two clerics at the corner table. One of them said the Attalian Republic might be going to war with the Kingdom of Nimbor."

The room fell into silence. Bruthae glanced around, and spoke quickly. "Of course, it's probably not true. The other one didn't think it was. And he said it had something to do with The Forsaken, and you know how reliable those rumors are." She trailed off, and Welshai resumed the discussion about edgewalkers.

Gilligania and Malthazar glanced at each other. Inn gossip was notoriously unreliable, but every now and then you heard something important. A war between two of the biggest countries in the realm would be messy no matter the outcome.

Finally the runners left for home, and only Gilligania and Malthazar were left. Gilligania asked, "So what do you think of tonight's gossip?"

Malthazar shrugged. "Mostly the usual, I guess. I might try talking to the clerics if they're around again tomorrow night. Oh, did you get a chance to balance the ledger?"

Gilligania groaned. "Tonight was really busy. I'll get to it tomorrow."

Malthazar grinned. "Didn't you say that last night when you really wanted to work on the candle system?"

Gilligania sniffed. "I will have you know that the system will be useful to many people as soon as I work out that last ignition switch."

Malthazar pulled her to the ground, and a bolt of energy struck the wall behind them. Gilligania instinctively put on her goggles and turned to see what had happened. A robed figure stood behind them with an outstretched hand. Malthazar started whispering, and the room was cloaked in darkness.

By the time the cloaked figure conjured a light, neither Gilligania or Malthazar were in sight. The figure advanced into the kitchen, then walked toward the partly open back door. It emerged into the vegetable garden behind the inn. Behind the rain barrel at the corner of the inn, Gilligania finished mixing a potion. She threw it, and a cloud of sleeping gas wafted through the air around the figure.

The figure advanced toward Gilligania, unaffected. She pulled out her crossbow and fired. The figure easily dodged the bolt, then continued to approach her. Gilligania retreated to a nearby tree and pulled out another vial.

As the robed figure passed under the roof, Malthazar jumped onto it, channeling silvery light through his hands. For a moment it thrashed around, then Malthazar fell to the ground, clutching only a robe. Its occupant, seemingly, had vanished into thin air.

Malthazar stood up and dusted off his pants. "Well, I bet he'll return at an inconveniently dramatic moment. Sorry I couldn't be more help. It's a new moon, so I don't have many spells to work with."

"It," said Gilligania. Malthazar looked up inquiringly. "I don't think that thing was human."

Malthazar frowned and started folding the robe. "I think we need to start looking for someone to watch the inn. Just in case."

---

Title: “Just a Couple of Loonies,” chapter from “Knights of the Waning Moon”

Genre: Fantasy

Age range: 12+

Word count: 1189

Author name: [REDACTED] AKA Hermit Thrush

Synopsis: [REDACTED] – spoilers!

Target audience: Geeks like me, or anyone who enjoys fantasy

Bio: I was born in [REDACTED], raised in [REDACTED], and live in [REDACTED]. I went to school at [REDACTED] where I attained a degree in geology. I enjoy gaming, science fiction, and fantasy; all three influence my writing.

Note: due to a mix of shyness and paranoia, sensitive information has been redacted from the public release of this document. Missing information will be provided to individuals with sufficient security clearance upon request.

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Trident Media Group is the leading U.S. literary agency and we are looking to discover and represent the next bestsellers. Share a sample of your work. If it shows promise, we will be in touch with you.
Written by HermitThrush in portal Trident Media Group
Just a Couple of Loonies
"Could I get a refill of ale?"
"How much for wine with the meal?"
"I can't eat this soup! It barely has any meat!"
"We're running low on brandy."

Gilligania nearly ran as she served the patrons and answered questions. "Yes, five extra aurents, take it up with the cook, I'll check the cellar for another crate." Suppertime at an inn was always frenetic, but it would slow down as guests went to their rooms. Of course, the remaining guests would probably get rowdy, but rowdy she could handle. Gilligania ducked behind bar and descended through the trap door into the cellar.

She took a moment to revel in the silence afforded by the thick door, then flipped a switch on the wall, triggering a series of wires. Five candles were simultaneously lit by flint striking steel. Gilligania frowned. She would have to work on the ignition relay for the sixth candle. She found the brandy and hauled it up, blowing out the candles on the way back.

She emerged back into the bustling, noisy dining area. Noisy was good, because it meant guests, which meant more money. Those voices from the kitchen seemed a little too loud, though.

Gilligania walked in to see a guest arguing with Malthazar. "Preposterous! Soup needs meat, not tiny pieces of sausage! I refuse to pay for a meal that would barely sustain a house pet."

Malthazar's mouth twitched. "That 'sausage' is actually highly condensed meat. You'll notice the soup also has vegetables, purpleroot, and quinoa. It's enough to keep you on your feet for a full day's march. Is there another way you'd like to try to get out of paying?"

The guest raised his eyebrow. "Condensed meat? I've never heard of such a thing."

"That's because you're not a cook," snapped Malthazar. "So unless you want to learn how to cook for yourself tonight, I recommend you at least try the soup before complaining about it."

The guest grumbled but left for the dining room.

"A little harsh, weren't we?" asked Gilligania.

Malthazar shook his head. "Honestly, if I had an aurent for every person who made fun of condensed meat until they tried it, we could open ten inns. He'll try it, discover he likes it, and refuse to admit it, but at least he won't bother me again." He turned ladled soup into bowls. "By the way, Freckles, a big group just came in and they all want soup and ale."

Gilligania squeaked, grabbed some mugs, and ran toward the tables.

A few hours later, the last guest had finally gone to bed, and the foodrunners met in the kitchen.

Malthazar cleared his throat, and announced in a deep voice, "Now has come the time for the ancient ritual... of swapping gossip. Who has the best story tonight?"

A young runner named Pylia giggled and raised her hand. "I heard a good one. Apparently a wild mage decided he wanted to turn himself into a bird for a day. When he turned back he still had feathers, and he had to wait a week until they were gone!"

Everyone laughed, then a slightly older runner, Kelthin, took his turn. "I don't know about stories, but I might have a new record for the craziest theory I've heard about edgewalkers. This one guest insisted that edgewalkers come down from the moon, steal the body of the first person they meet, and dig themselves a cave to live in. Then they only leave at night to rain down fire upon unsuspecting travelers."

Welshai interrupted. "I don't know if that beats what his lady friend said. She thinks they come every ten thousand years to weed out the impure, then ascend to the heavens with the worthy. Then they let the worthy choose the course of destiny until the next cycle."

Thus ensued a fierce five minute argument about whether either of these arguments were more preposterous than the idea that edgewalkers were disguises created by amphibians secretly studying the workings of humanity. The argument was derailed when the last runner, Bruthae, decided to share her story.

"This one is kind of serious, but pretty juicy. It was those two clerics at the corner table. One of them said the Attalian Republic might be going to war with the Kingdom of Nimbor."

The room fell into silence. Bruthae glanced around, and spoke quickly. "Of course, it's probably not true. The other one didn't think it was. And he said it had something to do with The Forsaken, and you know how reliable those rumors are." She trailed off, and Welshai resumed the discussion about edgewalkers.

Gilligania and Malthazar glanced at each other. Inn gossip was notoriously unreliable, but every now and then you heard something important. A war between two of the biggest countries in the realm would be messy no matter the outcome.

Finally the runners left for home, and only Gilligania and Malthazar were left. Gilligania asked, "So what do you think of tonight's gossip?"

Malthazar shrugged. "Mostly the usual, I guess. I might try talking to the clerics if they're around again tomorrow night. Oh, did you get a chance to balance the ledger?"

Gilligania groaned. "Tonight was really busy. I'll get to it tomorrow."

Malthazar grinned. "Didn't you say that last night when you really wanted to work on the candle system?"

Gilligania sniffed. "I will have you know that the system will be useful to many people as soon as I work out that last ignition switch."

Malthazar pulled her to the ground, and a bolt of energy struck the wall behind them. Gilligania instinctively put on her goggles and turned to see what had happened. A robed figure stood behind them with an outstretched hand. Malthazar started whispering, and the room was cloaked in darkness.

By the time the cloaked figure conjured a light, neither Gilligania or Malthazar were in sight. The figure advanced into the kitchen, then walked toward the partly open back door. It emerged into the vegetable garden behind the inn. Behind the rain barrel at the corner of the inn, Gilligania finished mixing a potion. She threw it, and a cloud of sleeping gas wafted through the air around the figure.

The figure advanced toward Gilligania, unaffected. She pulled out her crossbow and fired. The figure easily dodged the bolt, then continued to approach her. Gilligania retreated to a nearby tree and pulled out another vial.

As the robed figure passed under the roof, Malthazar jumped onto it, channeling silvery light through his hands. For a moment it thrashed around, then Malthazar fell to the ground, clutching only a robe. Its occupant, seemingly, had vanished into thin air.

Malthazar stood up and dusted off his pants. "Well, I bet he'll return at an inconveniently dramatic moment. Sorry I couldn't be more help. It's a new moon, so I don't have many spells to work with."

"It," said Gilligania. Malthazar looked up inquiringly. "I don't think that thing was human."

Malthazar frowned and started folding the robe. "I think we need to start looking for someone to watch the inn. Just in case."

---

Title: “Just a Couple of Loonies,” chapter from “Knights of the Waning Moon”
Genre: Fantasy
Age range: 12+
Word count: 1189
Author name: [REDACTED] AKA Hermit Thrush
Synopsis: [REDACTED] – spoilers!
Target audience: Geeks like me, or anyone who enjoys fantasy
Bio: I was born in [REDACTED], raised in [REDACTED], and live in [REDACTED]. I went to school at [REDACTED] where I attained a degree in geology. I enjoy gaming, science fiction, and fantasy; all three influence my writing.

Note: due to a mix of shyness and paranoia, sensitive information has been redacted from the public release of this document. Missing information will be provided to individuals with sufficient security clearance upon request.

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Chapter 16 of The Disasterville Chronicles
Written by HermitThrush

Answers and Questions

So Jack's plan of staying under the radar failed. I kind of figured it would. I found out when the paper had a headline about a flying knight who saved a train full of people from an attack by the Devastator. The Devastator swore vengeance for some reason, which of course would keep Jack from publicizing the armor designs. And this is how people get sucked into the oh-so-secret super lifestyle. My parents thought I was pretty tired since I kept sighing and resting my head on the table. Well, it'll help if I have to play sick any time soon.

Jack texted me on the way to school. He wanted me to meet him once class was out. I elected not to tell anyone else in the car to avoid another chant of "boyfriend." Even though it's pretty clear we're friends, they still like to tease me about it. I doubt they'll drop it until I actually start dating someone, so I'll just have to live with it.

At lunch I saw Bernard sneak toward the back of the school. I glanced around; no sign of Ferris, so I ducked around the corner and followed. Eventually I found Bernard sitting on the ground next to the school wall. Usually no one hangs out there because it's right next to the dumpsters. Yet there he was, eating his lunch like it was perfectly normal.

I rolled my eyes and walked over. Maybe he was dangerous, but I couldn't just ignore him. Besides, given the trouble I had gotten into, I doubted being around Bernard would make it much worse.

"Hi," I said as I approached. Bernard glanced over, grabbed his lunch, and stood up. He turned to walk away.

"Wait, can we just -- talk?" Oh wow, real smooth. Clearly he would be enamored of my poetic eloquence and ask me to marry him.

Bernard stopped and turned back, but didn't sit back down. "Look, you need to just leave me alone. Everyone does. He's -- I'm -- too dangerous."

It took a lot of effort not to roll my eyes. "Dangerous, yes. But you did save my life, and I didn't get to thank you yet. So I figured I could risk talking to you like I did safely a bunch of times before you started avoiding everyone."

Bernard frowned. "He -- I mean I -- I mean -- look, I don't know if I can control this. Sure it worked out last time, but if I lose control I could just end up hurting you. So I have to keep my distance." 

I felt my left eyelid start twitching. "So isolating yourself from everyone you care about will help you stay in control?"

"Yes -- I mean no -- I mean -- hey, wait a minute, you never thanked me, but you also never told me how you knew about what happened. How did you know?" He stared at me.

I looked down. "I, um..." I forced myself to speak above a murmur. "Middle school. I was worried about you getting bullied so I followed you and I saw... well... you know."

Bernard turned away, clenched his hand, then sighed and released it. "And then you assumed I knew what I was doing." He sat down and laughed. "Well, I guess I know why you stopped talking to me for so long."

I blushed. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have but... I guess I was just scared."

"With good reason," interrupted Bernard. "So why are you talking to me now? What could possibly give you the impression you shouldn't be scared?"

I sat down a few feet away from him, but close enough to talk easily. "Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm still scared. If you flinch the wrong way I'm going to run like a scared rabbit. But it's not like it's your fault. It would be mean of me to give you the cold shoulder because of something you can't control."

Bernard stared at me. "What if I want you to stay away?"

I shrugged. "Your choice, I guess. But if you need to talk let me know." I stood up and started walking away. I stopped and looked over my shoulder. "And just so I know I've said it -- thank you for saving my life."

Bernard smiled faintly, then looked at the ground. It was something at least.

 

I kept replaying that smile through my head for the rest of the day. Maybe if he could find a way to keep smiling he'd find a way to bring the Berserker under control. Maybe it was just wishful thinking. Still, if there was a way for Bernard to have even a semi-normal life... it wouldn't mean he would reciprocate my crush on him. I tried to focus on everything else.

I headed over to Jack's place after school. We met in what I grimly thought of as his secret base. Guess there's no keeping down a super even if their powers are gone. 

"Sophia! Hi!" exclaimed Jack. He let me into the workshop, then handed me a stack of note paper. "You're not going to believe what I've found out."

I looked at the papers. Some of it was handwritten pencil, but there were also a lot of ink runes. I glanced back up. "What exactly am I looking at?"

Jack paced back and forth. "Some of it I dug up from my room, others are things I saw, some of it I found at the library. The short version is I think I know what the Blue Order is."

I raised my eyebrows. "Details please."

Jack nodded. "Well -- I'll save you the story of how I pieced it together. But what I found is that they're some sort of magical secret society." He paused and glanced at me. "It sounds crazy, I know, but stay with me. From what I can tell they go way back -- like, ancient Rome old. Most of the stuff I found out about them is vague, but when they show up it's always to help people who get caught up in natural disasters or other widespread destruction. There are also some references to them guarding something, but it's really vague."

An image of the burning sword popped into my head. That would explain why their name was on the pedestal. But why were they guarding it, and exactly what was it?

Jack kept talking. “But this is the best part: I think I know how to contact them. I found this one page in my room that talks about how initiates can find the meeting place.” He hesitated. “It's... kind of a secret society so I'm not sure I should tell you that, but I'm going to go. I want to find out more about them and why I joined.”

I nodded. “Anything I can do to help?”

Jack shook his head. “Not really. I mean, unless you want to try to dig up more about them? Actually, if you could find anything on their recent activity I wouldn't mind hearing about it.”

I agreed, but not before getting in a parting shot about how he shouldn't fly to the meeting in his armor if it was so secret. That annoyed him a bit.

Anyway, that's how I ended up spending the evening combing through every news report, conspiracy site, and blog I could find that mentioned anyone in blue robes.

As I went through the incidents, I noticed something unsettling. There had been a continuous decrease in super incidents over the past few months, and the recent sharp decrease wasn't my imagination. I started making a list of supers, from villains to heroes and everything in between, who had dropped off the map. Most of the ones who had gone quiet in the past couple weeks were ones I had profiled in my notebook. My hand started shaking. Was someone targeting supers? Were they using my notebook as a hit list? If they knew I knew was I a target?

I bit back my fear and returned to my original task. I tallied up all the blue cloak sightings, then counted again. Despite the drop in incidents, the activity of the Blue Order hadn't dropped. If anything, they were a bit more active and obvious, with more people aware they existed. I leaned back in my chair. Were the two trends connected? Maybe the Blue Order was just filling in the gaps since fewer supers were active. Maybe that stupid dream was prophetic and they also knew something was coming. Or maybe... my stomach churned... maybe they were the ones behind the drop in activity. Ancient, secret magical societies aren't usually benevolent. Jack seemed pretty convinced they were someone he should meet, but they might just be posing as a force for good to better conceal dark intentions.

I checked my watch and stopped for the night. I'll decide how much to tell Jack in the morning. Meanwhile, I'm going to try to stop worrying long enough to get some much-needed sleep.

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Chapter 16 of The Disasterville Chronicles
Written by HermitThrush
Answers and Questions
So Jack's plan of staying under the radar failed. I kind of figured it would. I found out when the paper had a headline about a flying knight who saved a train full of people from an attack by the Devastator. The Devastator swore vengeance for some reason, which of course would keep Jack from publicizing the armor designs. And this is how people get sucked into the oh-so-secret super lifestyle. My parents thought I was pretty tired since I kept sighing and resting my head on the table. Well, it'll help if I have to play sick any time soon.

Jack texted me on the way to school. He wanted me to meet him once class was out. I elected not to tell anyone else in the car to avoid another chant of "boyfriend." Even though it's pretty clear we're friends, they still like to tease me about it. I doubt they'll drop it until I actually start dating someone, so I'll just have to live with it.

At lunch I saw Bernard sneak toward the back of the school. I glanced around; no sign of Ferris, so I ducked around the corner and followed. Eventually I found Bernard sitting on the ground next to the school wall. Usually no one hangs out there because it's right next to the dumpsters. Yet there he was, eating his lunch like it was perfectly normal.

I rolled my eyes and walked over. Maybe he was dangerous, but I couldn't just ignore him. Besides, given the trouble I had gotten into, I doubted being around Bernard would make it much worse.

"Hi," I said as I approached. Bernard glanced over, grabbed his lunch, and stood up. He turned to walk away.

"Wait, can we just -- talk?" Oh wow, real smooth. Clearly he would be enamored of my poetic eloquence and ask me to marry him.

Bernard stopped and turned back, but didn't sit back down. "Look, you need to just leave me alone. Everyone does. He's -- I'm -- too dangerous."

It took a lot of effort not to roll my eyes. "Dangerous, yes. But you did save my life, and I didn't get to thank you yet. So I figured I could risk talking to you like I did safely a bunch of times before you started avoiding everyone."

Bernard frowned. "He -- I mean I -- I mean -- look, I don't know if I can control this. Sure it worked out last time, but if I lose control I could just end up hurting you. So I have to keep my distance." 

I felt my left eyelid start twitching. "So isolating yourself from everyone you care about will help you stay in control?"

"Yes -- I mean no -- I mean -- hey, wait a minute, you never thanked me, but you also never told me how you knew about what happened. How did you know?" He stared at me.

I looked down. "I, um..." I forced myself to speak above a murmur. "Middle school. I was worried about you getting bullied so I followed you and I saw... well... you know."

Bernard turned away, clenched his hand, then sighed and released it. "And then you assumed I knew what I was doing." He sat down and laughed. "Well, I guess I know why you stopped talking to me for so long."

I blushed. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have but... I guess I was just scared."

"With good reason," interrupted Bernard. "So why are you talking to me now? What could possibly give you the impression you shouldn't be scared?"

I sat down a few feet away from him, but close enough to talk easily. "Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm still scared. If you flinch the wrong way I'm going to run like a scared rabbit. But it's not like it's your fault. It would be mean of me to give you the cold shoulder because of something you can't control."

Bernard stared at me. "What if I want you to stay away?"

I shrugged. "Your choice, I guess. But if you need to talk let me know." I stood up and started walking away. I stopped and looked over my shoulder. "And just so I know I've said it -- thank you for saving my life."

Bernard smiled faintly, then looked at the ground. It was something at least.
 
I kept replaying that smile through my head for the rest of the day. Maybe if he could find a way to keep smiling he'd find a way to bring the Berserker under control. Maybe it was just wishful thinking. Still, if there was a way for Bernard to have even a semi-normal life... it wouldn't mean he would reciprocate my crush on him. I tried to focus on everything else.

I headed over to Jack's place after school. We met in what I grimly thought of as his secret base. Guess there's no keeping down a super even if their powers are gone. 

"Sophia! Hi!" exclaimed Jack. He let me into the workshop, then handed me a stack of note paper. "You're not going to believe what I've found out."

I looked at the papers. Some of it was handwritten pencil, but there were also a lot of ink runes. I glanced back up. "What exactly am I looking at?"

Jack paced back and forth. "Some of it I dug up from my room, others are things I saw, some of it I found at the library. The short version is I think I know what the Blue Order is."

I raised my eyebrows. "Details please."

Jack nodded. "Well -- I'll save you the story of how I pieced it together. But what I found is that they're some sort of magical secret society." He paused and glanced at me. "It sounds crazy, I know, but stay with me. From what I can tell they go way back -- like, ancient Rome old. Most of the stuff I found out about them is vague, but when they show up it's always to help people who get caught up in natural disasters or other widespread destruction. There are also some references to them guarding something, but it's really vague."

An image of the burning sword popped into my head. That would explain why their name was on the pedestal. But why were they guarding it, and exactly what was it?

Jack kept talking. “But this is the best part: I think I know how to contact them. I found this one page in my room that talks about how initiates can find the meeting place.” He hesitated. “It's... kind of a secret society so I'm not sure I should tell you that, but I'm going to go. I want to find out more about them and why I joined.”

I nodded. “Anything I can do to help?”

Jack shook his head. “Not really. I mean, unless you want to try to dig up more about them? Actually, if you could find anything on their recent activity I wouldn't mind hearing about it.”

I agreed, but not before getting in a parting shot about how he shouldn't fly to the meeting in his armor if it was so secret. That annoyed him a bit.

Anyway, that's how I ended up spending the evening combing through every news report, conspiracy site, and blog I could find that mentioned anyone in blue robes.

As I went through the incidents, I noticed something unsettling. There had been a continuous decrease in super incidents over the past few months, and the recent sharp decrease wasn't my imagination. I started making a list of supers, from villains to heroes and everything in between, who had dropped off the map. Most of the ones who had gone quiet in the past couple weeks were ones I had profiled in my notebook. My hand started shaking. Was someone targeting supers? Were they using my notebook as a hit list? If they knew I knew was I a target?

I bit back my fear and returned to my original task. I tallied up all the blue cloak sightings, then counted again. Despite the drop in incidents, the activity of the Blue Order hadn't dropped. If anything, they were a bit more active and obvious, with more people aware they existed. I leaned back in my chair. Were the two trends connected? Maybe the Blue Order was just filling in the gaps since fewer supers were active. Maybe that stupid dream was prophetic and they also knew something was coming. Or maybe... my stomach churned... maybe they were the ones behind the drop in activity. Ancient, secret magical societies aren't usually benevolent. Jack seemed pretty convinced they were someone he should meet, but they might just be posing as a force for good to better conceal dark intentions.

I checked my watch and stopped for the night. I'll decide how much to tell Jack in the morning. Meanwhile, I'm going to try to stop worrying long enough to get some much-needed sleep.
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///// Nightdwellers 'Beginning Line' Challenge (May) ///// Write a piece of literature with the beginning line ‘Lost in the dark, tangled in silken threads’ Tag it #nightdwellers #beginningline. http://www.facebook.com/groups/NightdwellersWrites/
Written by HermitThrush

Ghoul

Lost in the dark, tangled in silken threads, I coughed as I kicked up more dust. I cleared my throat and kept walking. The Catacombs were twisted, but I knew the general direction I needed to go. As long as I kept on track with my marks I would find my way back to the right path. 

I came to a fork in the tunnels. One side I had marked while still lost. Time to try the other side then. I left letters and arrows in glowing paint before proceeding. Soon I found another mark, one before I had gotten off track. I reoriented myself and headed for my destination.

A large doorway loomed in front of me. Its arch was made of skulls. The faint light of my torch only made the sockets seem empty, as if they were glaring malevolence upon my head. I approached slowly and silently, listening for any movement aside from dripping water or scurrying rats.

The room was large and open. This section of the Catacombs was supposedly closed to the public, but someone had been making themselves at home. There were chairs, a table, candles, and even a book case. There was another room connected to it, but the electric light of my torch didn't reach that far.

I stepped into the room and began to explore. The book case had a selection of books ranging from horror to self-help. The table was big enough for six people to sit at it easily, and had a long black tablecloth that reached the floor. At one end of the table was a stack of letters addressed to Persephone Noir. What an obvious alias that was.

I had just started to look through the letters when I heard voices approaching. I flicked off my torch and dove under the table. I almost screeched in pain when I hit my head on the underside, but kept quiet.

Footsteps drew near, as did the squeaking of wheels. Then I heard the clicking of a lighter, and the darkness faded. Then I heard grunting and faint squeaks. I just barely peeked beneath the tablecloth; I could make out two pairs of feet and a coffin being carried between them. I resumed my position under the table. Based on the dull thump I heard, though, they left the coffin in the other room.

As the footsteps came back, I heard a female voice say, "...and the last payment should have covered another delivery. I don't understand why you only brought half the usual amount."

"It's risky," replied a male voice. "I can only sneak out the ones that were supposed to be cremated, and even that draws suspicion. I might not be able to get the rest until next week."

The woman sighed, then replied, "Well, as long as it's no later than that. But if you can't keep up your end of the bargain, I might have to reconsider our terms."

I heard the wheels squeaking again, and footsteps left the room. There was another sigh, and the second set of footsteps headed to the other room.

I waited a moment, then climbed out from under the table. I had found her, all right. Gertrude Jones, ran away from home. Her parents asked me to find her. And why not the police? Because, as they told me in the strictest confidence, their daughter was a ghoul and that could cause... issues with the authorities. So I had to track her down myself, and finally ended up in Paris.

I stood up, dusted myself off, and headed toward the back room. I stood by the door and cleared my throat.

Gertrude whirled toward me, looking away from the coffin. She was tall, thin, and pale with long dark hair. She looked down at the cleaver she was holding and set it on a table next to the corpse. "I... um... this isn't what it looks like."

"It's all right, I know. My name is Lucy Harker. I'm a private detective. Your parents asked me to find you."

Gertrude snorted. "Well, tell them I'm fine. I'm not going back there." She picked the knife back up and hovered over the corpse. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm busy."

I raised my eyebrows. "Most people would not call squatting in the Catacombs fine."

Gertrude rolled her eyes. "Well, given my... dietary needs there aren't a lot of other options without drawing attention to myself. Besides, I still get out. I have a job, I made friends, I'm learning how to paint. That's way more than I would ever get back home." She used a cleaver and started hacking apart the body in front of her. "I was practically a prisoner. Never allowed to go outside except at night, never allowed to make friends, never allowed to have a life." As she spoke and chopped, she stole glances at me. Probably wondering if I would get intimidated by the macabre scene, but I had too much experience for that trick to work.

"Well, you are legally an adult so I can't make you do anything. But I should point out that you also are not living here legally and getting caught would be complicated."

Gertrude paused. "I know, but I'm not going back to my family. I know they were trying to protect me but I just can't live like that."

I handed her a letter. "They said to give you this if I found you, and to tell you they're sorry in case you didn't read it." I also jotted down my hotel room on the back of my business card and handed it to her. "If you do want my help, this is where you can find me."

The next day I heard a knock on my door first thing in the morning. I opened it and Gertrude stood there sheepishly. "I, um... wanted to ask you for advice."

I ushered her in. She took a deep breath, handed me the letter, and stared out the window. "Read it for yourself."

I did so. "Dear Gertrude," it began. "We are so sorry for everything..." I skimmed through the apologies and the pleas to come back. When I had finished I handed it to Gertrude.

"What did you want to ask?"

"I want to see them again but..." she sat on the bed. "But they didn't say anything would change. I'm afraid that I'll go back and they'll go right back to 'protecting' me." She bit her lips. "They're my family and I love them but I just can't risk that. So... what do you think I should do?"

I frowned. "It's not easy to say. Staying here isn't a good idea for the reasons I mentioned, but you have good reasons not to go back."

Getrude groaned and flopped back onto the bed. "How helpful."

"Well..." I said hesitantly, and she fixed me in her gaze. "I could help you get back to the States, and bail you out if your family does try to keep you under lock and key." I winked. "Of course, you'd have to hire me so I could consider you a client..."

Gertrude grinned. "Done. I can be ready to move out at the end of the week." She scribbled on the hotel notepad. "Here's my email address so we can work out the flights and your rates. Stay in touch, private eye." She giggled. "I always wanted to say that."

I smiled. "Can do."

We did keep in touch, but Gertrude didn't need me to bail her out. Apparently her family respected her independence enough to let her get her own apartment, though she said they weren't happy about it and won't talk to her. Last I heard she was taking forensics classes at the community college while holding down a job at a funeral home. Her explanation: "It's not like I'm freaked out by bodies."

It's always good to resolve a case successfully.

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///// Nightdwellers 'Beginning Line' Challenge (May) ///// Write a piece of literature with the beginning line ‘Lost in the dark, tangled in silken threads’ Tag it #nightdwellers #beginningline. http://www.facebook.com/groups/NightdwellersWrites/
Written by HermitThrush
Ghoul
Lost in the dark, tangled in silken threads, I coughed as I kicked up more dust. I cleared my throat and kept walking. The Catacombs were twisted, but I knew the general direction I needed to go. As long as I kept on track with my marks I would find my way back to the right path. 

I came to a fork in the tunnels. One side I had marked while still lost. Time to try the other side then. I left letters and arrows in glowing paint before proceeding. Soon I found another mark, one before I had gotten off track. I reoriented myself and headed for my destination.

A large doorway loomed in front of me. Its arch was made of skulls. The faint light of my torch only made the sockets seem empty, as if they were glaring malevolence upon my head. I approached slowly and silently, listening for any movement aside from dripping water or scurrying rats.

The room was large and open. This section of the Catacombs was supposedly closed to the public, but someone had been making themselves at home. There were chairs, a table, candles, and even a book case. There was another room connected to it, but the electric light of my torch didn't reach that far.

I stepped into the room and began to explore. The book case had a selection of books ranging from horror to self-help. The table was big enough for six people to sit at it easily, and had a long black tablecloth that reached the floor. At one end of the table was a stack of letters addressed to Persephone Noir. What an obvious alias that was.

I had just started to look through the letters when I heard voices approaching. I flicked off my torch and dove under the table. I almost screeched in pain when I hit my head on the underside, but kept quiet.

Footsteps drew near, as did the squeaking of wheels. Then I heard the clicking of a lighter, and the darkness faded. Then I heard grunting and faint squeaks. I just barely peeked beneath the tablecloth; I could make out two pairs of feet and a coffin being carried between them. I resumed my position under the table. Based on the dull thump I heard, though, they left the coffin in the other room.

As the footsteps came back, I heard a female voice say, "...and the last payment should have covered another delivery. I don't understand why you only brought half the usual amount."

"It's risky," replied a male voice. "I can only sneak out the ones that were supposed to be cremated, and even that draws suspicion. I might not be able to get the rest until next week."

The woman sighed, then replied, "Well, as long as it's no later than that. But if you can't keep up your end of the bargain, I might have to reconsider our terms."

I heard the wheels squeaking again, and footsteps left the room. There was another sigh, and the second set of footsteps headed to the other room.

I waited a moment, then climbed out from under the table. I had found her, all right. Gertrude Jones, ran away from home. Her parents asked me to find her. And why not the police? Because, as they told me in the strictest confidence, their daughter was a ghoul and that could cause... issues with the authorities. So I had to track her down myself, and finally ended up in Paris.

I stood up, dusted myself off, and headed toward the back room. I stood by the door and cleared my throat.

Gertrude whirled toward me, looking away from the coffin. She was tall, thin, and pale with long dark hair. She looked down at the cleaver she was holding and set it on a table next to the corpse. "I... um... this isn't what it looks like."

"It's all right, I know. My name is Lucy Harker. I'm a private detective. Your parents asked me to find you."

Gertrude snorted. "Well, tell them I'm fine. I'm not going back there." She picked the knife back up and hovered over the corpse. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm busy."

I raised my eyebrows. "Most people would not call squatting in the Catacombs fine."

Gertrude rolled her eyes. "Well, given my... dietary needs there aren't a lot of other options without drawing attention to myself. Besides, I still get out. I have a job, I made friends, I'm learning how to paint. That's way more than I would ever get back home." She used a cleaver and started hacking apart the body in front of her. "I was practically a prisoner. Never allowed to go outside except at night, never allowed to make friends, never allowed to have a life." As she spoke and chopped, she stole glances at me. Probably wondering if I would get intimidated by the macabre scene, but I had too much experience for that trick to work.

"Well, you are legally an adult so I can't make you do anything. But I should point out that you also are not living here legally and getting caught would be complicated."

Gertrude paused. "I know, but I'm not going back to my family. I know they were trying to protect me but I just can't live like that."

I handed her a letter. "They said to give you this if I found you, and to tell you they're sorry in case you didn't read it." I also jotted down my hotel room on the back of my business card and handed it to her. "If you do want my help, this is where you can find me."

The next day I heard a knock on my door first thing in the morning. I opened it and Gertrude stood there sheepishly. "I, um... wanted to ask you for advice."

I ushered her in. She took a deep breath, handed me the letter, and stared out the window. "Read it for yourself."

I did so. "Dear Gertrude," it began. "We are so sorry for everything..." I skimmed through the apologies and the pleas to come back. When I had finished I handed it to Gertrude.

"What did you want to ask?"

"I want to see them again but..." she sat on the bed. "But they didn't say anything would change. I'm afraid that I'll go back and they'll go right back to 'protecting' me." She bit her lips. "They're my family and I love them but I just can't risk that. So... what do you think I should do?"

I frowned. "It's not easy to say. Staying here isn't a good idea for the reasons I mentioned, but you have good reasons not to go back."

Getrude groaned and flopped back onto the bed. "How helpful."

"Well..." I said hesitantly, and she fixed me in her gaze. "I could help you get back to the States, and bail you out if your family does try to keep you under lock and key." I winked. "Of course, you'd have to hire me so I could consider you a client..."

Gertrude grinned. "Done. I can be ready to move out at the end of the week." She scribbled on the hotel notepad. "Here's my email address so we can work out the flights and your rates. Stay in touch, private eye." She giggled. "I always wanted to say that."

I smiled. "Can do."

We did keep in touch, but Gertrude didn't need me to bail her out. Apparently her family respected her independence enough to let her get her own apartment, though she said they weren't happy about it and won't talk to her. Last I heard she was taking forensics classes at the community college while holding down a job at a funeral home. Her explanation: "It's not like I'm freaked out by bodies."

It's always good to resolve a case successfully.
#nightdwellers  #beginningline 
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Chapter 15 of The Disasterville Chronicles
Written by HermitThrush

Stalked

The concert was AWESOME. We got to stand right up next to the stage and the band played most of my favorite songs and the special effects were so cool and I was hoarse the next day from screaming so loud. But in a good way for once. The only bad thing was Wisteria and I got separated after and it took us a couple hours to find each other again. Oh, and a monster (some sort of giant snail?) did show up right at the end but the Jewel Captains took care of it fast so it wasn't a big deal. AND I GOT AN AUTOGRAPHED POSTER!!!!!!!! It's hanging front and center in my room. I cannot WAIT for the Dizzy Tigers to release their next album. Anyway, I'm super pumped so I had to write about this before going to bed, so this is a short entry.

                                                              ***

OK, this week has been really quiet. There have only been about half the normal shenanigans, mostly from people who don't get much attention. It's probably just a lull and things will go back to normal crazy, but I'm jumpy so everything seems like a portent of doom. 

Well, to be fair I also overheard some disconcerting stuff. It's amazing how much you can find out by sitting in a crowded area of the cafeteria and pretending to read a book. For instance, Mandy and Kanishka were going on and on about how they had both lost their powers and what it would mean for their world domination plots. Pretty typical for the chess club, I guess, but still something to be aware of. And Linda is out sick; from how Amy is acting something might have happened after the snail fight. 

Speaking of people out sick, Bernard is coming to class again. He doesn't stick around so I haven't gotten a chance to talk to him, so I'm not sure how he's doing. No rampages by the Berserker, though, so I guess that's a good sign? Dang it, why are the dangerous ones always so cute?

Of course, the reason I'm really on edge is what happened Saturday. I was checking out the military surplus store since I've seen some cool stuff and heard they were getting a shipment in. I ended up picking up a cool portable first aid kit and a canteen. Anyway, I was just getting ready to head out when I saw someone staring at me through the window. It was Ferris. As in, the guy I had last seen getting dragged off by a demon Ferris. Something about him seemed different, but it was definitely him. I ducked behind a rack of uniforms and crouched on the ground, trying to keep watching him without him watching me.

"What are you doing?" asked a voice right next to me. I suppressed a scream and landed on my butt. I looked to the side; Harriet was crouching next to me. She covered a smile with her hand. "Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you."

"There's a guy staring at me and he's creeping me out."

Harriet frowned, and we both craned around the rack as I tried to point. He was gone. I sighed, but I couldn't keep my hands still.

Harriet took one look at me and said, "What does he look like? I can check and make sure he's not hanging around the corner."

I nodded gratefully, and gave her a description of Ferris. She flinched.

"What, what's wrong?"

"Um... tell you what, let's go out the back entrance. Sisters gotta watch each others' backs, right?"

"There's a back entrance?"

She pulled open a door marked "Employees Only," and grinned. "There is if you ask the owner nicely and get permission for the future."

I shrugged and ducked through. She led me through a storage room and out the back. "I'll walk home with you, just in case."

"Thanks," I replied. "So, um... why not just check the corners?"

"Ummm...." she looked away. "I mean, if he was hanging around he wouldn't expect us to go this way."

I narrowed my eyes. "Probably not, but what else is going on?"

"Well... someone who looks like that has kind of been following me around."

"Why would Ferris --" I stopped. Did not mean to blurt that out, wow I am bad at keeping my mouth shut sometimes.

"Wait, Ferris?" Harriet stopped and her eyes widened. "Oh my gosh it is him. He's been missing for how long now? Wait, why is he stalking me?"

"No idea." I glanced over my shoulder.

Harriet folded her arms, then snarked, "Probably, but what else is going on?"

I groaned. "OK, fine, but I'll tell you after we're somewhere safe, and then you tell me what you know."

She frowned. "Deal."

So she came to my house, we holed up in my room with cookies, and I told her everything that had happened with Ferris. Well, minus that the hunter I ran into was Mrs. Reiser. I also told her I thought someone had been following me, but I wasn't sure whether it was Ferris.

She stared at me. "Wait, so Mr. Daemon was ACTUALLY a demon? I mean, he was creepy but I didn't see that one coming." Then she leaned in close to my face. "You don't still have fangs, do you?"

I leaned back and covered my mouth. "NO! No I do not."

“Well, I guess I don't have to pull any punches since you clearly have a lot of experience dealing with weirdness.” She finished off a cookie. “All right, I guess it's my turn.”

To summarize: Ferris had started following Harriet a couple weeks ago, but she didn't recognize him for some reason. “Probably magic weirdness,” as she put it. He would just pop up out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly, but only in public places and rarely at school.

I nibbled at my last cookie. “Hopefully that means homes are off limits. I was worried it was just some sort of revenge thing, but that doesn't explain why he's following you.”

Harriet nodded. “And given what you told me? It sounds like he's running some sort of errand for Mr. Daemon. But I'm not sure why I would be a target.”

“Really?” I tapped my cookie against my empty glass of milk. “Are you sure you never got in Mr. Daemon's way or anything?”

“Not that I know of. It's not like I run around thwarting evil or anything.”

I raised my eyebrows. Harriet shifted.

“OK, maybe a little. Was it that obvious?”

I nodded. “I honestly don't know how everyone else doesn't know.”

She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, well, most of the time people either too busy ignoring or stopping the weirdness to keep track of what I'm doing.”

That actually made sense. Maybe Harriet wasn't quite as crazy as I thought.

She got up and stretched. “Well, I guess I have a better idea of what to look out for now. We should talk more often, it's kind of refreshing to not have to ignore the elephant in the room.” She picked up her plate and glass. “Besides, we should probably keep each other updated until we figure out what Ferris and Mr. Daemon are up to.”

“Yes. Why don't we text each at least once a day as a failsafe, then report any new information immediately?”

“Sounds good,” answered Harriet. She reached for the doorknob.

“Wait,” I said. Harriet looked at me questioningly. “Um... so what were you on Halloween?”

She grinned. “Myself, but stuck up a tree with a bunch of goblins at the bottom. That wasn't fun.”

I smiled too. “No, that must have been pretty bad.”

So yeah, now I have to worry about Ferris stalking me, but at least I'm not alone this time. It worries me that I have no idea what they're up to though. I can't shake the feeling that I'm missing something, but I need to give my brain a break.

Oh, right, we're finally having that family vacation this week. Mom and Dad were able to get the same week off work and school will be closed down for structural repairs anyway, so we'll have a lovely time in New York City. It has the added bonus of being nice and far away from here. But if Ferris shows up I'm going to scream.

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Chapter 15 of The Disasterville Chronicles
Written by HermitThrush
Stalked
The concert was AWESOME. We got to stand right up next to the stage and the band played most of my favorite songs and the special effects were so cool and I was hoarse the next day from screaming so loud. But in a good way for once. The only bad thing was Wisteria and I got separated after and it took us a couple hours to find each other again. Oh, and a monster (some sort of giant snail?) did show up right at the end but the Jewel Captains took care of it fast so it wasn't a big deal. AND I GOT AN AUTOGRAPHED POSTER!!!!!!!! It's hanging front and center in my room. I cannot WAIT for the Dizzy Tigers to release their next album. Anyway, I'm super pumped so I had to write about this before going to bed, so this is a short entry.

                                                              ***

OK, this week has been really quiet. There have only been about half the normal shenanigans, mostly from people who don't get much attention. It's probably just a lull and things will go back to normal crazy, but I'm jumpy so everything seems like a portent of doom. 

Well, to be fair I also overheard some disconcerting stuff. It's amazing how much you can find out by sitting in a crowded area of the cafeteria and pretending to read a book. For instance, Mandy and Kanishka were going on and on about how they had both lost their powers and what it would mean for their world domination plots. Pretty typical for the chess club, I guess, but still something to be aware of. And Linda is out sick; from how Amy is acting something might have happened after the snail fight. 

Speaking of people out sick, Bernard is coming to class again. He doesn't stick around so I haven't gotten a chance to talk to him, so I'm not sure how he's doing. No rampages by the Berserker, though, so I guess that's a good sign? Dang it, why are the dangerous ones always so cute?

Of course, the reason I'm really on edge is what happened Saturday. I was checking out the military surplus store since I've seen some cool stuff and heard they were getting a shipment in. I ended up picking up a cool portable first aid kit and a canteen. Anyway, I was just getting ready to head out when I saw someone staring at me through the window. It was Ferris. As in, the guy I had last seen getting dragged off by a demon Ferris. Something about him seemed different, but it was definitely him. I ducked behind a rack of uniforms and crouched on the ground, trying to keep watching him without him watching me.

"What are you doing?" asked a voice right next to me. I suppressed a scream and landed on my butt. I looked to the side; Harriet was crouching next to me. She covered a smile with her hand. "Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you."

"There's a guy staring at me and he's creeping me out."

Harriet frowned, and we both craned around the rack as I tried to point. He was gone. I sighed, but I couldn't keep my hands still.

Harriet took one look at me and said, "What does he look like? I can check and make sure he's not hanging around the corner."

I nodded gratefully, and gave her a description of Ferris. She flinched.

"What, what's wrong?"

"Um... tell you what, let's go out the back entrance. Sisters gotta watch each others' backs, right?"

"There's a back entrance?"

She pulled open a door marked "Employees Only," and grinned. "There is if you ask the owner nicely and get permission for the future."

I shrugged and ducked through. She led me through a storage room and out the back. "I'll walk home with you, just in case."

"Thanks," I replied. "So, um... why not just check the corners?"

"Ummm...." she looked away. "I mean, if he was hanging around he wouldn't expect us to go this way."

I narrowed my eyes. "Probably not, but what else is going on?"

"Well... someone who looks like that has kind of been following me around."

"Why would Ferris --" I stopped. Did not mean to blurt that out, wow I am bad at keeping my mouth shut sometimes.

"Wait, Ferris?" Harriet stopped and her eyes widened. "Oh my gosh it is him. He's been missing for how long now? Wait, why is he stalking me?"

"No idea." I glanced over my shoulder.

Harriet folded her arms, then snarked, "Probably, but what else is going on?"

I groaned. "OK, fine, but I'll tell you after we're somewhere safe, and then you tell me what you know."

She frowned. "Deal."

So she came to my house, we holed up in my room with cookies, and I told her everything that had happened with Ferris. Well, minus that the hunter I ran into was Mrs. Reiser. I also told her I thought someone had been following me, but I wasn't sure whether it was Ferris.

She stared at me. "Wait, so Mr. Daemon was ACTUALLY a demon? I mean, he was creepy but I didn't see that one coming." Then she leaned in close to my face. "You don't still have fangs, do you?"

I leaned back and covered my mouth. "NO! No I do not."

“Well, I guess I don't have to pull any punches since you clearly have a lot of experience dealing with weirdness.” She finished off a cookie. “All right, I guess it's my turn.”

To summarize: Ferris had started following Harriet a couple weeks ago, but she didn't recognize him for some reason. “Probably magic weirdness,” as she put it. He would just pop up out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly, but only in public places and rarely at school.

I nibbled at my last cookie. “Hopefully that means homes are off limits. I was worried it was just some sort of revenge thing, but that doesn't explain why he's following you.”

Harriet nodded. “And given what you told me? It sounds like he's running some sort of errand for Mr. Daemon. But I'm not sure why I would be a target.”

“Really?” I tapped my cookie against my empty glass of milk. “Are you sure you never got in Mr. Daemon's way or anything?”

“Not that I know of. It's not like I run around thwarting evil or anything.”

I raised my eyebrows. Harriet shifted.

“OK, maybe a little. Was it that obvious?”

I nodded. “I honestly don't know how everyone else doesn't know.”

She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, well, most of the time people either too busy ignoring or stopping the weirdness to keep track of what I'm doing.”

That actually made sense. Maybe Harriet wasn't quite as crazy as I thought.

She got up and stretched. “Well, I guess I have a better idea of what to look out for now. We should talk more often, it's kind of refreshing to not have to ignore the elephant in the room.” She picked up her plate and glass. “Besides, we should probably keep each other updated until we figure out what Ferris and Mr. Daemon are up to.”

“Yes. Why don't we text each at least once a day as a failsafe, then report any new information immediately?”

“Sounds good,” answered Harriet. She reached for the doorknob.

“Wait,” I said. Harriet looked at me questioningly. “Um... so what were you on Halloween?”

She grinned. “Myself, but stuck up a tree with a bunch of goblins at the bottom. That wasn't fun.”

I smiled too. “No, that must have been pretty bad.”

So yeah, now I have to worry about Ferris stalking me, but at least I'm not alone this time. It worries me that I have no idea what they're up to though. I can't shake the feeling that I'm missing something, but I need to give my brain a break.

Oh, right, we're finally having that family vacation this week. Mom and Dad were able to get the same week off work and school will be closed down for structural repairs anyway, so we'll have a lovely time in New York City. It has the added bonus of being nice and far away from here. But if Ferris shows up I'm going to scream.
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"Oh how I wish I were a rose . . . " Write a first person poem in the voice of a plant.
Written by HermitThrush in portal Poetry & Free Verse

A Rose

"Oh, how I wish I were a rose," she sighed,

And with a painful tug

She took me from my place

And put me in a jug.

"Oh, how I wish I were a rose," she sighed,

Then why was she so cruel?

My thorns were not enough

To protect from this fool.

"Oh, how I wish I were a rose," she sighed,

Tore off every leaf,

Swept away my petals,

Ignorant of my grief.

"Oh, how I wish I were a rose," she sighed,

Yet must be full of spite.

She tore me from the light

And watched me slowly die.

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"Oh how I wish I were a rose . . . " Write a first person poem in the voice of a plant.
Written by HermitThrush in portal Poetry & Free Verse
A Rose
"Oh, how I wish I were a rose," she sighed,
And with a painful tug
She took me from my place
And put me in a jug.

"Oh, how I wish I were a rose," she sighed,
Then why was she so cruel?
My thorns were not enough
To protect from this fool.

"Oh, how I wish I were a rose," she sighed,
Tore off every leaf,
Swept away my petals,
Ignorant of my grief.

"Oh, how I wish I were a rose," she sighed,
Yet must be full of spite.
She tore me from the light
And watched me slowly die.


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Chapter 14 of The Disasterville Chronicles
Written by HermitThrush

Jetpacks are Cool

I can't find my notebook anywhere. I've checked my house, my backpack, my locker, lost and found -- nothing. I even started asking my friends if they'd seen it and no one had. For now I'm hoping that it really is just lost or that if someone found it they haven't decoded it. Honestly, though, I'm more worried than if I had just lost it because of the missing time. My gut instinct is that those two events are connected in a bad way. Guess I'll just have to keep on high alert.

What else... oh, right, Jack. Wisteria and I were chatting about music when she ran off to class. Then Jack popped up.

"Hi Sophia," he said with a big grin on his face.

"Hi," I replied. "What have you been up to?"

"Oh, you know, wrapping up that project."

I rolled my eyes. "Ah, yes, the big mysterious project. Are you ever going to tell me what it is?"

"It might be faster if I show you. Do you have time to come over after school?"

"I suppose, but why all the cloak and dagger?"

"It's a surprise." He started walking backward. "See you later!" He turned and left.

I, meanwhile, had trouble paying attention in class. I couldn't shake the feeling that in this city "surprise" meant something that would directly or indirectly endanger me and should be avoided. On the other hand, Jack is basically normal now so maybe it's just a surprise. And, of course, he had gotten me curious. I headed over right after school got out.

Jack met me at the front and waved me around to the back yard. "Come on, it's out here."

I walked past his house. It was huge; it had three stories and an attached two-car garage. Is that huge in most places? Well it's huge for a city where buildings get knocked down at least once a month. The lawn was big too; I'm pretty sure my house would have fit in the front lawn. The back lawn was big too, and Jack guided me to the biggest, most well-kept shed I had ever seen.

"It's in here. My parents let me use it as... well, apparently it used to be a clubhouse, but now I'm using it as a workshop." He pulled open the door and mock-bowed. "After you."

I stepped inside hesitantly. It was dark, so I shuffled my feet to avoid tripping. I couldn't see very well, but there was something covered by a sheet in the corner. If it was a body I was SO out of there.

Jack flicked on the light and closed the door behind me. I flinched as it thudded shut. "Behold," he said in a deep over-dramatic voice, "my invention!" He pulled the sheet away.

My first impression was armor. It was stylized enough: helmet, shield, gloves, chain mail. Then I looked closer. Was that a jetpack? "What." I said. "Just... what????"

"I told you it would be easier to show you." He pulled out a remote and stepped onto a stepstool just in front of the armor. The armor pulled apart, allowing him to step in, then it retracted around him. He pushed himself forward and the jetpack kicked in, but it was so quiet I almost didn't notice. He hovered gently above the ground in front of me, then spun around. 

All the questions I wanted to ask tumbled over each other in my mind. What I finally blurted out was "You built that yourself?"

"Yup!," he replied, his voice somewhat muffled by the helmet. "Oops," he said, and pulled off the helmet. "Turns out I'm really good at engineering. I found some of the designs online, but the hard part was getting the chain mail right. What do you think?"

It makes sense in retrospect. I don't know much about magic, but it seems like you have to be pretty smart to do more than basic stuff. That intelligence wouldn't just go away with amnesia, and apparently Jack was now applying it to a different field.

I asked, "Why? I mean it's really cool, but... why?" Not even I can deny the coolness of jetpacks it seems, even though I know they're a hallmark of people to be avoided.

Jack frowned and landed on the ground with a clang. "Well... at first I just wanted to try making armor because I had read an article about it. But then I started thinking about how knights were supposed to protect people. Then I thought about how dangerous the city is. I mean, the monster attacks, the robots, the tunnels... I just want to help people who get caught up in all that."

"And your first thought was to make flying knight armor?" You know you live in a seriously messed-up city when that sentence doesn't even break your top ten weirdest phrases you've ever said.

Jack looked at me and we both burst out laughing. "Well, when you put it that way," giggled Jack. He cleared his throat. "But really, this is more than just armor. It also provides enhanced strength and durability. Plus with the infrared cameras I installed it's ideal for search and rescue missions. I want to test it and work out the kinks, but then I want to give the designs to emergency services like police officers and firefighters. That way they can help more people while being safer themselves."

Interesting plan. Why didn't more supers think like that? "That sounds like a great idea! Wait, how are you planning on testing it?" I bit my tongue. If the test runs put him in public fighting monsters, he'd probably end up just another superhero.

"Oh, don't worry, nothing dangerous. I'm just going to verify its limits, check its mobility in an urban environment, that sort of thing." He grinned. "Want to help me test it?"

"I'd love to, but..." I racked my brain for a good excuse. Rule number one of staying out of super stuff: stay away from prototypes and technology tests. "I'm kind of claustrophobic."

"Oh, I'm sorry. Yeah, of course, no pressure. Maybe you could do me a different favor though?"

"What is it?" Hopefully nothing that would get me killed.

"Can you keep it under wraps? I still need to work out the kinks, and I might end up filing for a patent."

Easy. "Of course. My lips are sealed." I leaned back against the wall, and I felt something click. It felt like the wall shot out into my feet, and I fell onto the floor.

"Are you OK? What happened?"

"I'm fine." I stood up slowly. It hurt, but nothing major. "What was that?" I turned to where I had been standing.

A drawer was now partly open, sticking out of the lower part of the wall. I looked at Jack and he shrugged his shoulders in confusion. He knelt down and pulled it open, while I instinctively stepped back.

Jack turned and looked at me. "What, like I'd booby trap my clubhouse?"

I blushed and stepped closer, leaning over his shoulder. He pulled the drawer all the way out. It had a blue robe. Jack pulled it on in a single motion, then looked up. "Wait, why did I do that?"

I shrugged. "Muscle memory? If you kept it in your clubhouse there must have been a reason." Of course I recognized it, but since apparently him knowing about it might be dangerous, I didn't volunteer any information yet. Plus he might be creeped out since I had basically stalked him to confirm whether he had powers, like I usually do when I'm not 100% sure. Writing that down sounds a lot worse then it did in my head.

Anyway. Jack pulled off the robe, then examined it. He didn't seem to find anything.

"What's that?" I asked, pointing at something carved in the bottom of the drawer. 

Jack leaned in and squinted. "Ordo Caerulis."

"The Blue Order," I blurted out. Of course, why hadn't I made the connection before? And then I realized I would have to explain myself when Jack turned and raised his eyebrows.

"Um... it's kind of an urban legend. People wearing blue cloaks have been seen helping people after disasters, but no one seems to know anything about them." I left out the bit where the name had somehow popped up in a dream that may or may not predict the destruction of the city. Wait, does that mean they could be the bad guys? But Jack was one of them, and he's a nice guy. Was he like that before he lost his memory, though? Ugh, this is so confusing.

He looked at the robe again, frowned, folded it and shoved the drawer closed. Then he started feeling around the walls. "I'll check this wall, you check the next one over."

About an hour later, we had found ten more hidden drawers and hideaways. Half of them had cloaks. The rest of them were empty. Jack kept holding up the cloaks, then putting him on when he got distracted. He seemed frustrated after the fifth time he caught himself doing it. Finally he tossed one into the corner and sat down. “You know, just when I think I've gotten my old life figured out...” he said.

I heard a click, and drawer number eleven popped open over his head. He sighed, got up, and looked in. “What?” he said, and pulled out a giant book.

I tensed. It was probably a spellbook or something equally dangerous. Jack, of course, flipped it open. “It's blank,” he said flatly.

I came over and took the book from him. I flipped through the pages. Sure enough, nothing written down. “Unless it's invisible ink,” I mused aloud.

“Reaally,” said Jack. Oops.

I decided it was about time for me to go. I looked at my watch. “Wow, look at the time. I'm sorry, but I have to head home or my parents will be worried sick.”

“Sure, no problem, I'll see you later,” he said, then sniffed the pages. “I'll let you know if I find anything.”

So yeah, Jack is well on his way to being a super one way or the other. On the one hand I'm kicking myself for getting close to someone who's dangerous to be around, but on the other hand he's been a perfectly good friend so it's not like I can just shut him out.

Still, there could be some upsides to the situation. If he does find out more about the Blue Order, maybe I can find out more about that weird dream world. If I find out how to avoid whatever might be coming, it could be safer to be friends with him in the long run.

I'm going to try not to worry too much about it either way for now, because the Dizzy Tigers are having a concert tomorrow night and Wisteria managed to score us tickets! It's going to be held in one of those abandoned warehouses, but we're going to try to get as close to the stage as... wait, crap, it's the warehouse district! It's like monster bait! Gaah, well, hopefully the monsters take a night off, or at least wait until the concert's over. No way am I missing out on the Dizzy Tigers.

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Chapter 14 of The Disasterville Chronicles
Written by HermitThrush
Jetpacks are Cool
I can't find my notebook anywhere. I've checked my house, my backpack, my locker, lost and found -- nothing. I even started asking my friends if they'd seen it and no one had. For now I'm hoping that it really is just lost or that if someone found it they haven't decoded it. Honestly, though, I'm more worried than if I had just lost it because of the missing time. My gut instinct is that those two events are connected in a bad way. Guess I'll just have to keep on high alert.

What else... oh, right, Jack. Wisteria and I were chatting about music when she ran off to class. Then Jack popped up.

"Hi Sophia," he said with a big grin on his face.

"Hi," I replied. "What have you been up to?"

"Oh, you know, wrapping up that project."

I rolled my eyes. "Ah, yes, the big mysterious project. Are you ever going to tell me what it is?"

"It might be faster if I show you. Do you have time to come over after school?"

"I suppose, but why all the cloak and dagger?"

"It's a surprise." He started walking backward. "See you later!" He turned and left.

I, meanwhile, had trouble paying attention in class. I couldn't shake the feeling that in this city "surprise" meant something that would directly or indirectly endanger me and should be avoided. On the other hand, Jack is basically normal now so maybe it's just a surprise. And, of course, he had gotten me curious. I headed over right after school got out.

Jack met me at the front and waved me around to the back yard. "Come on, it's out here."

I walked past his house. It was huge; it had three stories and an attached two-car garage. Is that huge in most places? Well it's huge for a city where buildings get knocked down at least once a month. The lawn was big too; I'm pretty sure my house would have fit in the front lawn. The back lawn was big too, and Jack guided me to the biggest, most well-kept shed I had ever seen.

"It's in here. My parents let me use it as... well, apparently it used to be a clubhouse, but now I'm using it as a workshop." He pulled open the door and mock-bowed. "After you."

I stepped inside hesitantly. It was dark, so I shuffled my feet to avoid tripping. I couldn't see very well, but there was something covered by a sheet in the corner. If it was a body I was SO out of there.

Jack flicked on the light and closed the door behind me. I flinched as it thudded shut. "Behold," he said in a deep over-dramatic voice, "my invention!" He pulled the sheet away.

My first impression was armor. It was stylized enough: helmet, shield, gloves, chain mail. Then I looked closer. Was that a jetpack? "What." I said. "Just... what????"

"I told you it would be easier to show you." He pulled out a remote and stepped onto a stepstool just in front of the armor. The armor pulled apart, allowing him to step in, then it retracted around him. He pushed himself forward and the jetpack kicked in, but it was so quiet I almost didn't notice. He hovered gently above the ground in front of me, then spun around. 

All the questions I wanted to ask tumbled over each other in my mind. What I finally blurted out was "You built that yourself?"

"Yup!," he replied, his voice somewhat muffled by the helmet. "Oops," he said, and pulled off the helmet. "Turns out I'm really good at engineering. I found some of the designs online, but the hard part was getting the chain mail right. What do you think?"

It makes sense in retrospect. I don't know much about magic, but it seems like you have to be pretty smart to do more than basic stuff. That intelligence wouldn't just go away with amnesia, and apparently Jack was now applying it to a different field.

I asked, "Why? I mean it's really cool, but... why?" Not even I can deny the coolness of jetpacks it seems, even though I know they're a hallmark of people to be avoided.

Jack frowned and landed on the ground with a clang. "Well... at first I just wanted to try making armor because I had read an article about it. But then I started thinking about how knights were supposed to protect people. Then I thought about how dangerous the city is. I mean, the monster attacks, the robots, the tunnels... I just want to help people who get caught up in all that."

"And your first thought was to make flying knight armor?" You know you live in a seriously messed-up city when that sentence doesn't even break your top ten weirdest phrases you've ever said.

Jack looked at me and we both burst out laughing. "Well, when you put it that way," giggled Jack. He cleared his throat. "But really, this is more than just armor. It also provides enhanced strength and durability. Plus with the infrared cameras I installed it's ideal for search and rescue missions. I want to test it and work out the kinks, but then I want to give the designs to emergency services like police officers and firefighters. That way they can help more people while being safer themselves."

Interesting plan. Why didn't more supers think like that? "That sounds like a great idea! Wait, how are you planning on testing it?" I bit my tongue. If the test runs put him in public fighting monsters, he'd probably end up just another superhero.

"Oh, don't worry, nothing dangerous. I'm just going to verify its limits, check its mobility in an urban environment, that sort of thing." He grinned. "Want to help me test it?"

"I'd love to, but..." I racked my brain for a good excuse. Rule number one of staying out of super stuff: stay away from prototypes and technology tests. "I'm kind of claustrophobic."

"Oh, I'm sorry. Yeah, of course, no pressure. Maybe you could do me a different favor though?"

"What is it?" Hopefully nothing that would get me killed.

"Can you keep it under wraps? I still need to work out the kinks, and I might end up filing for a patent."

Easy. "Of course. My lips are sealed." I leaned back against the wall, and I felt something click. It felt like the wall shot out into my feet, and I fell onto the floor.

"Are you OK? What happened?"

"I'm fine." I stood up slowly. It hurt, but nothing major. "What was that?" I turned to where I had been standing.

A drawer was now partly open, sticking out of the lower part of the wall. I looked at Jack and he shrugged his shoulders in confusion. He knelt down and pulled it open, while I instinctively stepped back.

Jack turned and looked at me. "What, like I'd booby trap my clubhouse?"

I blushed and stepped closer, leaning over his shoulder. He pulled the drawer all the way out. It had a blue robe. Jack pulled it on in a single motion, then looked up. "Wait, why did I do that?"

I shrugged. "Muscle memory? If you kept it in your clubhouse there must have been a reason." Of course I recognized it, but since apparently him knowing about it might be dangerous, I didn't volunteer any information yet. Plus he might be creeped out since I had basically stalked him to confirm whether he had powers, like I usually do when I'm not 100% sure. Writing that down sounds a lot worse then it did in my head.

Anyway. Jack pulled off the robe, then examined it. He didn't seem to find anything.

"What's that?" I asked, pointing at something carved in the bottom of the drawer. 

Jack leaned in and squinted. "Ordo Caerulis."

"The Blue Order," I blurted out. Of course, why hadn't I made the connection before? And then I realized I would have to explain myself when Jack turned and raised his eyebrows.

"Um... it's kind of an urban legend. People wearing blue cloaks have been seen helping people after disasters, but no one seems to know anything about them." I left out the bit where the name had somehow popped up in a dream that may or may not predict the destruction of the city. Wait, does that mean they could be the bad guys? But Jack was one of them, and he's a nice guy. Was he like that before he lost his memory, though? Ugh, this is so confusing.

He looked at the robe again, frowned, folded it and shoved the drawer closed. Then he started feeling around the walls. "I'll check this wall, you check the next one over."

About an hour later, we had found ten more hidden drawers and hideaways. Half of them had cloaks. The rest of them were empty. Jack kept holding up the cloaks, then putting him on when he got distracted. He seemed frustrated after the fifth time he caught himself doing it. Finally he tossed one into the corner and sat down. “You know, just when I think I've gotten my old life figured out...” he said.

I heard a click, and drawer number eleven popped open over his head. He sighed, got up, and looked in. “What?” he said, and pulled out a giant book.

I tensed. It was probably a spellbook or something equally dangerous. Jack, of course, flipped it open. “It's blank,” he said flatly.

I came over and took the book from him. I flipped through the pages. Sure enough, nothing written down. “Unless it's invisible ink,” I mused aloud.

“Reaally,” said Jack. Oops.

I decided it was about time for me to go. I looked at my watch. “Wow, look at the time. I'm sorry, but I have to head home or my parents will be worried sick.”

“Sure, no problem, I'll see you later,” he said, then sniffed the pages. “I'll let you know if I find anything.”

So yeah, Jack is well on his way to being a super one way or the other. On the one hand I'm kicking myself for getting close to someone who's dangerous to be around, but on the other hand he's been a perfectly good friend so it's not like I can just shut him out.

Still, there could be some upsides to the situation. If he does find out more about the Blue Order, maybe I can find out more about that weird dream world. If I find out how to avoid whatever might be coming, it could be safer to be friends with him in the long run.

I'm going to try not to worry too much about it either way for now, because the Dizzy Tigers are having a concert tomorrow night and Wisteria managed to score us tickets! It's going to be held in one of those abandoned warehouses, but we're going to try to get as close to the stage as... wait, crap, it's the warehouse district! It's like monster bait! Gaah, well, hopefully the monsters take a night off, or at least wait until the concert's over. No way am I missing out on the Dizzy Tigers.
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Simon & Schuster is one of the world’s leading publishers and we are always looking for fresh new voices. Write a story, chapter, or essay about whatever you like. The 50 best entries will be announced by Prose and read by our editorial staff for consideration.
Written by HermitThrush in portal Simon & Schuster

The Disasterville Chronicles: Chapter One

Explanatory note: My name is Sophia Baumeister, and what you will be reading are slightly edited excerpts from a diary I kept. As strange as it might seem to some of the audience members, I only changed particularly problematic grammar and the names of people and places involved. Everything else is as factual as can be expected of a diary. I also decided to be kind and translated it from the triple cipher method I used, otherwise it would be unintelligible.

Day One:

Since I am officially starting high school tomorrow, I have decided to start keeping a diary. I suspect it will be necessary catharsis after dealing with the usual drama. Writing things down will also help me keep track of who is speaking to whom, the latest gossip, and most importantly who is on hero/villain rotation. You know, typical high school stuff.

Oh, who am I kidding. This city is the craziest place on the planet. I still can't believe we've lived here as long as we have; you would think my parents would be more interested in moving after the third time downtown got demolished. But no, our lives and jobs and houses are here, so no matter how insane it gets we're not moving from Disasterville. So this diary is to help me survive the weirdness that no one else cares about or notices.

First off, my initial assessment of Disasterville High. It is, without question, one of the top five epicenters of the inexplicable in this city. Last year alone major portions of the school had to be rebuilt thirty-seven times for "gas leaks." Make that thirty-six times, once it was "planned renovations" that just happened to follow a major kaiju smackdown thwarted by a girl in a poofy dress and her pet cat. That, of course, brings me to the second stage of the assessment. Based on the apparent age of most heroes/villains/alien robots in the city, combined with the number of the same in middle school, I'd say that my class will have, at most, 50% normal people. Knowing my luck, most of the teachers will be decidedly far from normal as well. I hope at least some of the teachers are both normal and competent; it will be much easier to come out unscathed if so.

Anyway, I'm trying to decide what to bring in my backpack. I have to bring the usual stuff for class, plus my sketchbook. I'll definitely keep the flashlight, glowsticks, nonperishable snacks, water bottle, and umbrella from middle school. I'm tempted to replace the extra walkie-talkies with a burner phone, but that would defeat the purpose of having a radio backup if the cell tower is down. I'd also like to bring something a little more defense-oriented, but I'm not sure school policies allow anything more than pepper spray. I might be able to sneak in some flour bombs if I pretend they're baking supplies since smoke bombs are explicitly banned. At least the water bottle is stainless steel. Oh, and I can't forget to bring the inflatable life vest I just got. I'll go add that now. Oh, and garlic. Lots and lots of garlic. It might be hard to bring a spare change of clothes with all that; maybe I'll just dress in layers and keep a heavy jacket in my locker.

My classes at least looks pretty good. I have history with Mr. Traveler (his first name isn't Tim, I checked), shop class with Mrs. Elric, Spanish with... actually the teacher isn't listed... geometry with Dr. Defender (take a wild guess what she does in her spare time), and biology with Mr. Daemon. Like I said, the classes look good, it's the teachers I'm worried about.

I should go to bed early but I'm nervous.I know I'll need to be at my best tomorrow, and that won't happen if I'm sleep deprived. I think I'll go double check the security system and set up the window cans just in case. In this city, you can't be too careful.

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Simon & Schuster is one of the world’s leading publishers and we are always looking for fresh new voices. Write a story, chapter, or essay about whatever you like. The 50 best entries will be announced by Prose and read by our editorial staff for consideration.
Written by HermitThrush in portal Simon & Schuster
The Disasterville Chronicles: Chapter One
Explanatory note: My name is Sophia Baumeister, and what you will be reading are slightly edited excerpts from a diary I kept. As strange as it might seem to some of the audience members, I only changed particularly problematic grammar and the names of people and places involved. Everything else is as factual as can be expected of a diary. I also decided to be kind and translated it from the triple cipher method I used, otherwise it would be unintelligible.

Day One:

Since I am officially starting high school tomorrow, I have decided to start keeping a diary. I suspect it will be necessary catharsis after dealing with the usual drama. Writing things down will also help me keep track of who is speaking to whom, the latest gossip, and most importantly who is on hero/villain rotation. You know, typical high school stuff.

Oh, who am I kidding. This city is the craziest place on the planet. I still can't believe we've lived here as long as we have; you would think my parents would be more interested in moving after the third time downtown got demolished. But no, our lives and jobs and houses are here, so no matter how insane it gets we're not moving from Disasterville. So this diary is to help me survive the weirdness that no one else cares about or notices.

First off, my initial assessment of Disasterville High. It is, without question, one of the top five epicenters of the inexplicable in this city. Last year alone major portions of the school had to be rebuilt thirty-seven times for "gas leaks." Make that thirty-six times, once it was "planned renovations" that just happened to follow a major kaiju smackdown thwarted by a girl in a poofy dress and her pet cat. That, of course, brings me to the second stage of the assessment. Based on the apparent age of most heroes/villains/alien robots in the city, combined with the number of the same in middle school, I'd say that my class will have, at most, 50% normal people. Knowing my luck, most of the teachers will be decidedly far from normal as well. I hope at least some of the teachers are both normal and competent; it will be much easier to come out unscathed if so.

Anyway, I'm trying to decide what to bring in my backpack. I have to bring the usual stuff for class, plus my sketchbook. I'll definitely keep the flashlight, glowsticks, nonperishable snacks, water bottle, and umbrella from middle school. I'm tempted to replace the extra walkie-talkies with a burner phone, but that would defeat the purpose of having a radio backup if the cell tower is down. I'd also like to bring something a little more defense-oriented, but I'm not sure school policies allow anything more than pepper spray. I might be able to sneak in some flour bombs if I pretend they're baking supplies since smoke bombs are explicitly banned. At least the water bottle is stainless steel. Oh, and I can't forget to bring the inflatable life vest I just got. I'll go add that now. Oh, and garlic. Lots and lots of garlic. It might be hard to bring a spare change of clothes with all that; maybe I'll just dress in layers and keep a heavy jacket in my locker.

My classes at least looks pretty good. I have history with Mr. Traveler (his first name isn't Tim, I checked), shop class with Mrs. Elric, Spanish with... actually the teacher isn't listed... geometry with Dr. Defender (take a wild guess what she does in her spare time), and biology with Mr. Daemon. Like I said, the classes look good, it's the teachers I'm worried about.

I should go to bed early but I'm nervous.I know I'll need to be at my best tomorrow, and that won't happen if I'm sleep deprived. I think I'll go double check the security system and set up the window cans just in case. In this city, you can't be too careful.
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CotW #66: Write about the biggest lesson life has taught you.
Written by HermitThrush

Who likes honesty?

Life has always been difficult for me to put into boxes. I hated essays, and still hate questions, that try to reduce a continuum into a point -- when did you realize X, what was your greatest victory or failure, what's your story, pick three words to describe you. It's always tempting to make up a something about that moment I ascended into the clouds and discovered the meaning of life. I strive for honesty, though, so the essays always took me much longer than they should have.

It is just one example of many I can think of where honesty is discouraged. There was that time in middle school when someone smugly dismissed any of the kids who said they didn't lie as liars. There was the discussion in class where everyone else looked at me like I had three heads when I suggested that you shouldn't just say "Of course it doesn't make you look fat." There was the time someone I knew almost missed out on a job interview because they weren't willing to screw over their current employer by skipping work. There was that one ethics session in class where it's taken for granted that you would agree to lie about your boss' whereabouts in the setup and the actual dilemma came later -- it's not a big deal, why wouldn't you? (I wish I were making that one up). Nothing major just -- well, everyone lies, so why won't you? Freak.

I think it runs a bit deeper, though. For me, I extend that honesty to things most people wouldn't think twice about. That's probably why they don't think twice when they forget to show up to an event they promised to go to when I would contact the hosts as soon as I realized my mistake and maybe even bake them something as an apology. And why I don't always reply with, "I'm good, how are you?" when the answer is closer to "AAAAAHHHHH!" Though I usually don't say "AAAAAHHHHH," I'm not that socially inept. I just hide my feelings from people I don't know well as a stopgap since I'm supposed to lie to myself and everyone else that everything is perfect. Not to mention how uncomfortable I get during interviews/job applications since employers want you to act like outgoing extroverts, at least until you get the job (Shy introvert here if that wasn't obvious).

Right. Life lesson. As much as it sucks, people don't always like the virtues they pay lip service to. They'll teach kids not to lie, certainly. It's cute and endearing when kids are honest. When it comes to honest peers, though, they'll steer clear, and reassure themselves that since they're not dishonest in big, damaging ways they're the better person. The message most people pick up on implicitly is, "Don't be yourself to succeed. Fudge things a little until you don't have to." Except the funny thing is once you start, it never stops. So my take on it is "Use discretion, but be honest even when it hurts because at the end of the day it's the right thing to do." Here's hoping I can get by on that.

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CotW #66: Write about the biggest lesson life has taught you.
Written by HermitThrush
Who likes honesty?
Life has always been difficult for me to put into boxes. I hated essays, and still hate questions, that try to reduce a continuum into a point -- when did you realize X, what was your greatest victory or failure, what's your story, pick three words to describe you. It's always tempting to make up a something about that moment I ascended into the clouds and discovered the meaning of life. I strive for honesty, though, so the essays always took me much longer than they should have.

It is just one example of many I can think of where honesty is discouraged. There was that time in middle school when someone smugly dismissed any of the kids who said they didn't lie as liars. There was the discussion in class where everyone else looked at me like I had three heads when I suggested that you shouldn't just say "Of course it doesn't make you look fat." There was the time someone I knew almost missed out on a job interview because they weren't willing to screw over their current employer by skipping work. There was that one ethics session in class where it's taken for granted that you would agree to lie about your boss' whereabouts in the setup and the actual dilemma came later -- it's not a big deal, why wouldn't you? (I wish I were making that one up). Nothing major just -- well, everyone lies, so why won't you? Freak.

I think it runs a bit deeper, though. For me, I extend that honesty to things most people wouldn't think twice about. That's probably why they don't think twice when they forget to show up to an event they promised to go to when I would contact the hosts as soon as I realized my mistake and maybe even bake them something as an apology. And why I don't always reply with, "I'm good, how are you?" when the answer is closer to "AAAAAHHHHH!" Though I usually don't say "AAAAAHHHHH," I'm not that socially inept. I just hide my feelings from people I don't know well as a stopgap since I'm supposed to lie to myself and everyone else that everything is perfect. Not to mention how uncomfortable I get during interviews/job applications since employers want you to act like outgoing extroverts, at least until you get the job (Shy introvert here if that wasn't obvious).

Right. Life lesson. As much as it sucks, people don't always like the virtues they pay lip service to. They'll teach kids not to lie, certainly. It's cute and endearing when kids are honest. When it comes to honest peers, though, they'll steer clear, and reassure themselves that since they're not dishonest in big, damaging ways they're the better person. The message most people pick up on implicitly is, "Don't be yourself to succeed. Fudge things a little until you don't have to." Except the funny thing is once you start, it never stops. So my take on it is "Use discretion, but be honest even when it hurts because at the end of the day it's the right thing to do." Here's hoping I can get by on that.
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Chapter 13 of The Disasterville Chronicles
Written by HermitThrush

What a Week

Ugh, where to begin? This week has been such a headache. Well, not entirely, but enough.

I started getting worried about Jack when he started skipping lunch. I texted him about it and he said that he was working on a project and it would be a surprise. Half the time that's code for "I'm off fighting alien invaders," but I saw him at the hardware store so I decided it might actually be a project and didn't worry about it too much.

The other reason I didn't worry is because of that stupid serial killer. When a serial killer prints clues to his next crime in the newspaper and still doesn't get caught, it's worrisome. A side effect of the situation is that my parents barely let me outside the house unless I have several people with me. While I appreciated the concern and the slightly higher safety margin, I got stir crazy fast. It felt like I was being watched, and I could have sworn I saw someone following me only to disappear into a crowd. Of course given who I ticked off on Halloween... but it was probably just me being paranoid. I hope.

Running club helped a lot. The park is lovely, and it's really helping my endurance. I've always been better at sprinting, not so much at going for a long time. Then on Wednesday my parents were late picking me up. I later found out that they closed a bunch of roads due to some sort of nanobot swarm. At the time, though, I just knew I was waiting by myself and the sun was going down. I pulled a Mrs. Reiser and kept my pocket knife handy.

I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and turned. Someone was coming out of the walking trail. I relaxed a bit when I saw it was Bernard. Then he walked toward me and I tensed up again.

"Um, hi Sophia," he said. "What are you doing here so late?"

"Just waiting for pickup. My parents will be here any second." Was that too much information? Wait, he has no reason to go after me -- still dangerous though.

"Do you mind if I wait with you?" He looked down and scuffed his foot against the ground.

"Of course, no problem." What was I supposed to say, go away I don't trust you?

He sat down at the opposite edge of the bench. I didn't feel like talking so I kept on the alert. 

After a while, I think the silence got to him. He took a deep breath, looked away, cleared his throat, then stayed quiet. Finally he said, "So, um... what did you think of that last geometry test?"

"It was OK." I got 100, but I kept that to myself. "It was hard, but I think the questions were fair."

"Well yeah, but you're really smart." He finally met my eyes with his soft brown ones and his hair looked good and GAAH STOP IT IGNORE THE CUTENESS.

I blushed. "Not really. I study a lot for that class, and the homework takes me a long time."

"Yeah, but so do I and I'm barely passing. Everyone knows you're at the top of the class."

"Maybe we should study together sometime." I immediately kicked myself for suggesting we spend more time together. And yet I still felt oddly happy when he responded, "Really? That would be great!" Then he got a big goofy grin. "Um... what time would be good for you?"

"Maybe right after class in the library?" It would be really convenient if our schedules didn't match up.

"Sure! I can do that!" 

My mind was torn between uncontrollable giggling and banging my head against the bench. Fortunately I did neither. "I bet we could make it a study group. I can ask a couple people in the class." More people equals safer, right?

Yet he didn't seem disappointed. "That's a great idea! And then we can all help each other study for the final too."

Then I saw someone walking by and immediately switched to observation mode. Bernard followed my gaze and scooted a bit closer. We both sighed when we were alone again, then jumped when the street lamps flickered on. I giggled nervously, and Bernard rubbed the back of his head.

"I guess we're both on edge, huh?" he asked.

I nodded. "Yeah, I mean with the news..." I trailed off. No need to finish that sentence.

He squirmed in his seat and crossed his arms.

"You OK?" I asked.

"Fine, fine, it's just cooling off a bit."

"You don't have to wait with me you know. My parents will be here soon." I checked my phone again. Still just a text saying they were stuck in traffic.

"I don't mind. It's kind of refreshing. I'll warm back up when I walk home."

I glared at him. "You're not walking home. I'll make sure my parents give you a ride."

"Really? Thanks!" He looked past me and stiffened. I turned to see what he was looking at.

The guy who had walked by earlier was now leaning against a vending machine. He looked away as soon as I turned, which meant he had probably been staring at me. I scooted closer to Bernard.

I leaned in close and whispered, "Don't stare. We can take turns keeping an eye on him."

He nodded and started blathering about newts while we did so. I had no idea there was so much to know about newts, but apparently he has an aunt who's a herpetologist. He had just gotten to a story about the time his aunt took him to look for newts during a camping trip when the guy started coming toward us. Bernard trailed off into a series of "umms" and took my hand. I gave it a squeeze. It felt reassuring somehow.

As the guy came closer, I noticed he was wearing sunglasses and a hood. At night. I released Bernard's hand so I could have both my phone and my knife at the ready. The knife stayed in my pocket, the phone on my lap. When he was a couple feet away, he asked, "Do either of you have the time? I'm supposed to meet a friend here but he's running late."

I flicked my eyes toward my phone. "8:37."

"Thanks," he said. He turned his back and started walking away. I almost relaxed. Then Bernard shoved me to the ground as he twirled around and pulled a gun. There was a sickenenly loud bang, then Bernard was bleeding.

The guy didn't have time to pull the trigger again before the Berserker was on top of him. My phone didn't even reach 8:38 before he was battered unconscious. I froze in shock as the behemoth in front of me shrank back into the cute kid from my class.

"Sophia, are you OK?" His eyes darted up and down, looking for any sign I wasn't.

I nodded, mouth open. Not exactly what I expected him to say.

He sighed and half-fell as he sat on the ground. "I saw the gun but he must have missed..." his voice trailed off as he looked between the hole in his shirt and the guy he had beaten up. "Wait, what? Did... did I?" He put his hand to his temple.

I started laughing weakly. Consciously I knew I was probably in shock, but it seemed funny at the time. 

Bernard stared at me like a wounded puppy. "What happened? Are you sure you're OK?"

I put my head between my knees and forced myself to take deep breaths. I finally looked up and blurted out, "You didn't KNOW?"

"Know what?" Bernard looked like he might throw up, which was about how I felt too.

I weighed my options, then decided he deserved the truth. "About the Berserker?"

He stared in confusion, then stood up and stepped back, mouth open. "Who? I didn't -- I can't be--" His eyes widened, he almost nodded, then he looked down at his hands. "I -- I should go." He turned and ran.

I called an ambulance and the police. They didn't ask too many questions when I said some guy showed up, saved me at the last second, then ran off. They probably hear that story more often than they'd like to admit. They told me I might have to testify, but that they'd contact me when it got closer. I just went along with it. If it meant putting a normal serial killer behind bars, that was something I could do.

My mom was crying when she picked me up, and my dad vowed never to let me out of his sight. They've gotten a bit less clingy over the past couple days though. On the plus side, they're talking about setting up a weekend vacation out of state just to spend time together, which would be awesome.

Bernard didn't come to school the next few days. Officially he was out sick. I sent him a text asking if he was OK, but he never replied. Can't blame him, really; I can't imagine how awful it would be to find out something like that. Well, actually I can, but it's still pretty bad. I suspected he would need a lot of space and time to work through it, if he ever did.

By the time Friday rolled around, I had just about decided I must have made it through without any further incident. After class, I grabbed Azlyn and Wisteria and we planned a trip to a new ice cream parlor. Next thing I knew, I was sitting in my room. I scrambled for my clock. I had one hour and twenty minutes of missing time. I searched my room and my backpack for anything out of place. When I realized what was amiss, I clenched my teeth. My notebook with information about my classmates' abilities was missing.

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Chapter 13 of The Disasterville Chronicles
Written by HermitThrush
What a Week
Ugh, where to begin? This week has been such a headache. Well, not entirely, but enough.

I started getting worried about Jack when he started skipping lunch. I texted him about it and he said that he was working on a project and it would be a surprise. Half the time that's code for "I'm off fighting alien invaders," but I saw him at the hardware store so I decided it might actually be a project and didn't worry about it too much.

The other reason I didn't worry is because of that stupid serial killer. When a serial killer prints clues to his next crime in the newspaper and still doesn't get caught, it's worrisome. A side effect of the situation is that my parents barely let me outside the house unless I have several people with me. While I appreciated the concern and the slightly higher safety margin, I got stir crazy fast. It felt like I was being watched, and I could have sworn I saw someone following me only to disappear into a crowd. Of course given who I ticked off on Halloween... but it was probably just me being paranoid. I hope.

Running club helped a lot. The park is lovely, and it's really helping my endurance. I've always been better at sprinting, not so much at going for a long time. Then on Wednesday my parents were late picking me up. I later found out that they closed a bunch of roads due to some sort of nanobot swarm. At the time, though, I just knew I was waiting by myself and the sun was going down. I pulled a Mrs. Reiser and kept my pocket knife handy.

I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and turned. Someone was coming out of the walking trail. I relaxed a bit when I saw it was Bernard. Then he walked toward me and I tensed up again.

"Um, hi Sophia," he said. "What are you doing here so late?"

"Just waiting for pickup. My parents will be here any second." Was that too much information? Wait, he has no reason to go after me -- still dangerous though.

"Do you mind if I wait with you?" He looked down and scuffed his foot against the ground.

"Of course, no problem." What was I supposed to say, go away I don't trust you?

He sat down at the opposite edge of the bench. I didn't feel like talking so I kept on the alert. 

After a while, I think the silence got to him. He took a deep breath, looked away, cleared his throat, then stayed quiet. Finally he said, "So, um... what did you think of that last geometry test?"

"It was OK." I got 100, but I kept that to myself. "It was hard, but I think the questions were fair."

"Well yeah, but you're really smart." He finally met my eyes with his soft brown ones and his hair looked good and GAAH STOP IT IGNORE THE CUTENESS.

I blushed. "Not really. I study a lot for that class, and the homework takes me a long time."

"Yeah, but so do I and I'm barely passing. Everyone knows you're at the top of the class."

"Maybe we should study together sometime." I immediately kicked myself for suggesting we spend more time together. And yet I still felt oddly happy when he responded, "Really? That would be great!" Then he got a big goofy grin. "Um... what time would be good for you?"

"Maybe right after class in the library?" It would be really convenient if our schedules didn't match up.

"Sure! I can do that!" 

My mind was torn between uncontrollable giggling and banging my head against the bench. Fortunately I did neither. "I bet we could make it a study group. I can ask a couple people in the class." More people equals safer, right?

Yet he didn't seem disappointed. "That's a great idea! And then we can all help each other study for the final too."

Then I saw someone walking by and immediately switched to observation mode. Bernard followed my gaze and scooted a bit closer. We both sighed when we were alone again, then jumped when the street lamps flickered on. I giggled nervously, and Bernard rubbed the back of his head.

"I guess we're both on edge, huh?" he asked.

I nodded. "Yeah, I mean with the news..." I trailed off. No need to finish that sentence.

He squirmed in his seat and crossed his arms.

"You OK?" I asked.

"Fine, fine, it's just cooling off a bit."

"You don't have to wait with me you know. My parents will be here soon." I checked my phone again. Still just a text saying they were stuck in traffic.

"I don't mind. It's kind of refreshing. I'll warm back up when I walk home."

I glared at him. "You're not walking home. I'll make sure my parents give you a ride."

"Really? Thanks!" He looked past me and stiffened. I turned to see what he was looking at.

The guy who had walked by earlier was now leaning against a vending machine. He looked away as soon as I turned, which meant he had probably been staring at me. I scooted closer to Bernard.

I leaned in close and whispered, "Don't stare. We can take turns keeping an eye on him."

He nodded and started blathering about newts while we did so. I had no idea there was so much to know about newts, but apparently he has an aunt who's a herpetologist. He had just gotten to a story about the time his aunt took him to look for newts during a camping trip when the guy started coming toward us. Bernard trailed off into a series of "umms" and took my hand. I gave it a squeeze. It felt reassuring somehow.

As the guy came closer, I noticed he was wearing sunglasses and a hood. At night. I released Bernard's hand so I could have both my phone and my knife at the ready. The knife stayed in my pocket, the phone on my lap. When he was a couple feet away, he asked, "Do either of you have the time? I'm supposed to meet a friend here but he's running late."

I flicked my eyes toward my phone. "8:37."

"Thanks," he said. He turned his back and started walking away. I almost relaxed. Then Bernard shoved me to the ground as he twirled around and pulled a gun. There was a sickenenly loud bang, then Bernard was bleeding.

The guy didn't have time to pull the trigger again before the Berserker was on top of him. My phone didn't even reach 8:38 before he was battered unconscious. I froze in shock as the behemoth in front of me shrank back into the cute kid from my class.

"Sophia, are you OK?" His eyes darted up and down, looking for any sign I wasn't.

I nodded, mouth open. Not exactly what I expected him to say.

He sighed and half-fell as he sat on the ground. "I saw the gun but he must have missed..." his voice trailed off as he looked between the hole in his shirt and the guy he had beaten up. "Wait, what? Did... did I?" He put his hand to his temple.

I started laughing weakly. Consciously I knew I was probably in shock, but it seemed funny at the time. 

Bernard stared at me like a wounded puppy. "What happened? Are you sure you're OK?"

I put my head between my knees and forced myself to take deep breaths. I finally looked up and blurted out, "You didn't KNOW?"

"Know what?" Bernard looked like he might throw up, which was about how I felt too.

I weighed my options, then decided he deserved the truth. "About the Berserker?"

He stared in confusion, then stood up and stepped back, mouth open. "Who? I didn't -- I can't be--" His eyes widened, he almost nodded, then he looked down at his hands. "I -- I should go." He turned and ran.

I called an ambulance and the police. They didn't ask too many questions when I said some guy showed up, saved me at the last second, then ran off. They probably hear that story more often than they'd like to admit. They told me I might have to testify, but that they'd contact me when it got closer. I just went along with it. If it meant putting a normal serial killer behind bars, that was something I could do.

My mom was crying when she picked me up, and my dad vowed never to let me out of his sight. They've gotten a bit less clingy over the past couple days though. On the plus side, they're talking about setting up a weekend vacation out of state just to spend time together, which would be awesome.

Bernard didn't come to school the next few days. Officially he was out sick. I sent him a text asking if he was OK, but he never replied. Can't blame him, really; I can't imagine how awful it would be to find out something like that. Well, actually I can, but it's still pretty bad. I suspected he would need a lot of space and time to work through it, if he ever did.

By the time Friday rolled around, I had just about decided I must have made it through without any further incident. After class, I grabbed Azlyn and Wisteria and we planned a trip to a new ice cream parlor. Next thing I knew, I was sitting in my room. I scrambled for my clock. I had one hour and twenty minutes of missing time. I searched my room and my backpack for anything out of place. When I realized what was amiss, I clenched my teeth. My notebook with information about my classmates' abilities was missing.
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Chapter 12 of The Disasterville Chronicles
Written by HermitThrush

Deal

In retrospect, it sounds like a dumb joke. Two vampires and a gorgon walk up to a house... maybe I'm just sleep deprived still.

We had finally gotten to the center of the spell. I was almost surprised at how normal the house looked (well, except for the obvious magic aura). Two stories, white paint, a lawn; that night something so normal looked strange.

When we got there a question I should have thought of sooner popped into my head. "Wait, what are we going to do about the invitation?"

Mrs. Reiser put her hand to her chin. "I... forgot about that. I didn't think it would be inside someone's house."

I looked around. Sanguis was gone. Then I looked up at the house. He was already on the roof, and gestured for me to join him. What was he thinking? I groaned and looked for a way to get up there. There was a tree growing close to the house at the back. I ran toward it, but found myself diving behind a bush before I registered voices coming through the closest window. That's when I realized why Sanguis was up there; enhanced senses meant that we could do some recon without even entering the house.

"This wasn't what I agreed to," said one of the voices. It was oddly familiar, but I couldn't quite place it.

"I don't see what you mean. I fulfilled the terms of our contract to the letter. Just as with our previous contracts." I froze. That was definitely Mr. Daemon's voice. I guess I should have been surprised, but he creeped me out enough that I had assumed he was up to something or other. Hm, but if that was Mr. Daemon, who was he talking to?

"The letter, yes, but I didn't want you to turn half the city into monsters! I only asked you for some easy fights so that everyone in the city will love me!" Ferris Eaton. Of course. Still not surprised somehow.

"Well, these new monsters will be easy pickings. Most of them have no idea what they are. And once you stop them, you will again be hailed as the hero who keeps the city from chaos."

I could feel my fangs starting to tickle my tongue, but restrained myself. Instead, I slowly crept to the window to peek in. Ferris was glaring at Mr. Daemon, hands clenched. Mr. Daemon had the smile he usually reserved for giving people failing grades, except creepier. In the background I saw an intricate circular pattern on the floor. I ducked back down. That must have been the magic circle.

I slowly started heading back to Mrs. Reiser, but kept listening. Mr. Daemon replied slowly. "If you want you may destroy the circle and render your part of the bargain null. But I will expect payment either way. And need I remind you of the penalties for doing so?"

As creepy as it sounds, I could hear Ferris' heart beat faster. When he didn't say anything, I heard Mr. Daemon reply, "Then stay here and make sure the circle is safe. You will reap your benefits in the morning."

I didn't hear anything else before I got back to Mrs. Reiser, but it was enough. She greeted me with hands on her hips. "I didn't realize vampires were compelled to run off without warning."

"Hey, he did it first," I said, motioning to Sanguis. This time he had popped up behind Mrs. Reiser, and it was really hard not to laugh. She jumped and started moving her knife before backing up.

"Besides," I continued, "I saw where the magic circle is."

They both looked at me. "It's in the room next to that window on the side. There are two people there guarding it. I think the caster must have been the older one, Mr. Daemon."

Sanguis hissed. "You know that demon?"

I blinked. "Um... he's my biology teacher. Wait, he's an actual demon? That sounds bad."

Mrs. Reiser switched out knives. "You could say that."

Sanguis moved to grab her arm, but Mrs. Reiser jerked away. He instead held out his open hands and said, "I can't let you face a demon by yourself."

Mrs. Reiser was surprisingly adept at glaring through her mask. "I can handle myself. And since neither of you can get inside without being invited, I'm going to have to."

"That might not be true," I interrupted. They both looked at me again. "The other person goes to my school. And I don't really look like a vampire yet. Maybe I can get him to invite us in."

The kept staring, and Sanguis frowned. I shrugged. "Well even if it doesn't work it'll distract them, right?"

Finally they nodded. Mrs. Reiser went to wait by the window, and Sanguis disappeared. I assumed he was close to the door, but I couldn't tell where he was hiding. I took a deep breath, marched up the sidewalk, and rang the doorbell.

I could hear hushed tones, but knew I shouldn't. So I waited a few seconds, then rang the doorbell again. I kept ringing the doorbell incessantly until I heard steps coming to the front door. I backed up as Ferris opened it.

"What?" he snapped. Then he must have realized it was a fairly normal looking teenage girl. "Excuse me. But what are you doing here in the middle of the night?"

"Oh, you're Ferris! I didn't realize you lived here. Oh, I'm so sorry I bothered you but... but..." I choked back disgust, but made it seem like I was about to cry. I could see his face soften. "But everything is crazy out here and your house looks like it might be safe! Can I please come in?"

Ferris scuffed his foot against the ground. "I don't know, I don't think we've even met..."

I looked down. "I mean... we haven't. I'm just a freshman. And you're so cool and popular and I guess you wouldn't even notice someone like me so I hate to bother you but my friends and I have been going around for hours trying to find somewhere to hide and I'm so sorry but if we could just stay until morning..." I trailed off, just about ready to gag. That should have stroked his ego at least.

"Friends? What friends? I don't see anyone with you."

I was hoping he wouldn't notice so Sanguis would get invited without too much effort, but I figured that might happen. "We split up to try to cover more ground. But now I'm by myself and I'm worried about them, and... and..." I sniffled. That was about as close to crying as I could manage. Not sure why everyone is convinced girls can just cry on command whenever they want something. But it was enough.

"Hey, hey, hey, it's OK. Come in, and your friends can come in when they get here. There's a spare bedroom upstairs you can stay in until morning, all right?" He put his arm around my shoulder and ushered me across the threshold.

I had hoped Sanguis would have enough sense to wait until we were upstairs to make a move, but nooo. The second he got that invitation he barged in and tried to jump Ferris. He must have been surprised when Ferris landed a hit no problem. 

Luckily Ferris didn't make the connection between the two events. "Go, run! I'll hold him off!" I nodded and ran straight to the room I saw the circle in. "Wait, not that way, that's --" Ferris got cut off by Sanguis' counterattack. Those two should keep each other busy, at least.

When I got there Mr. Daemon was still camped right over the circle. I guess him running out to see what the commotion was would have been too easy. He looked at me and smiled. "Why, Sophia! Fancy seeing you here. Why are you out so late at night?"

Wait, if he's a demon, can he tell if I'm lying? I was careful about my words, but took on a decidedly hysterical tone. "People are turning into monsters and everything is getting torn apart and FERRIS IS FIGHTING A VAMPIRE! SHOULDN'T YOU HELP HIM?"

Mr. Daemon put his finger on my lips. "Now, now, that's an impressive act, but I saw you lurking outside the window earlier. Besides, I can tell that you've been... affected."

Crap. I got ready to run, but he didn't seem like he was going to attack. Maybe if I ran he would still follow though? I definitely needed to keep him talking; I could see Mrs. Reiser quietly working on the window.

I sucked in my breath. "I... I... I don't know what you're talking about."

"Don't lie, my dear, I can tell." Mr. Daemon's smile got wider. "But don't worry, I don't mean you any harm. In fact, I have a proposition for you."

"No," I blurted out. How stupid did he think I was?

My bluntness prompted laughter. "A no before you've even heard the terms? Ah, Sophia, you should really listen to your teacher. Really, it will only be to your benefit."

I kept staring at Mr. Daemon but saw Mrs. Reiser easing open the window. Keep him talking. "What kind of proposition?"

He paced forward slightly. "You're here because you've changed. Indirectly my doing, I'm afraid. I suppose that monster in the other room told you the only way to get your life back is to destroy that circle? Well that's not true."

Mrs. Reiser started squeezing through the window even as Mr. Daemon came closer. I paced backward, one hand feeling behind me.

Mr. Daemon continued. "I control the spell. If you want, I can lift your curse and you can be on your way. Just don't tell anyone what happened and you'll have a normal life. Or," and his eyes glowed faintly, "I can grant you power. Far more power than what you feel right now. All you would have to do is lend my your aid when I called."

By now I was backed against the wall and Mr. Daemon was uncomfortably close to my face. Mrs. Reiser dropped to the floor. The noise caught his attention, and he started turning.

"No," I repeated, and punched him in the face. Then I ducked and rolled toward the door. He lunged at me, but then Mrs. Reiser tackled him.

The two of them struggled, and I headed toward the circle. I scuffed my foot against it; chalk. I pulled out my water bottle and dumped the contents across the circle. The symbols blurred into random streaks. Suddenly everything seemed a lot darker, but I could also feel my heart beating.

Mr. Daemon loomed behind me. "I expected more from such a good student." He knocked me to the floor. Then Sanguis was in front of me while Mrs. Reiser lunged at Mr. Daemon from behind.

Mr. Daemon's eyes glowed red and hot, almost like fire, as he dodged out of the way. He snarled, then dove around the corner. I looked out just in time to see him disappearing with the unconscious Ferris. "I am still owed my price," echoed his voice in the empty hallway.

Mrs. Reiser took off her mask and tied back her hair. She took my arm firmly and started walking out the door with me. I was too tired to argue or care. I figured I would let her explain the outing to my parents.

"A word," interjected Sanguis. Mrs. Reiser stopped, but kept her knife out. 

"I apologize for my rash assumptions," said Sanguis. "I should not have been so ready to attack when you instead needed my help." He handed me a piece of paper. I looked at it and saw a phone number of all things. "Should that demon attempt to harm you for your role in this night, contact me and I will come to your aid." Then he vanished.

I programmed the number into my cell phone, ignoring Mrs. Reiser's look of shock. If there was even the slightest chance of retaliation, having a vampire's phone number was a good thing. Unless it happens during the day, in which case I'm screwed.

Anyway, Mrs. Reiser and I made our way back. We saw a lot of people wandering around, and the news the next day said something about a fire from a gas leak. I didn't hear that until later because I slept for about ten hours, grabbed something to eat, then slept until the next morning. My parents didn't bug me at all, so apparently they bought whatever Mrs. Reiser told them. That or they didn't want to talk about what happened. Given the oddly large feathers I found later it might have been the latter.

Oh, and there was an email that we're getting a new biology teacher. I hear he's old and makes atrocious puns. Haven't heard anything about Ferris, so we'll see.

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Chapter 12 of The Disasterville Chronicles
Written by HermitThrush
Deal
In retrospect, it sounds like a dumb joke. Two vampires and a gorgon walk up to a house... maybe I'm just sleep deprived still.

We had finally gotten to the center of the spell. I was almost surprised at how normal the house looked (well, except for the obvious magic aura). Two stories, white paint, a lawn; that night something so normal looked strange.

When we got there a question I should have thought of sooner popped into my head. "Wait, what are we going to do about the invitation?"

Mrs. Reiser put her hand to her chin. "I... forgot about that. I didn't think it would be inside someone's house."

I looked around. Sanguis was gone. Then I looked up at the house. He was already on the roof, and gestured for me to join him. What was he thinking? I groaned and looked for a way to get up there. There was a tree growing close to the house at the back. I ran toward it, but found myself diving behind a bush before I registered voices coming through the closest window. That's when I realized why Sanguis was up there; enhanced senses meant that we could do some recon without even entering the house.

"This wasn't what I agreed to," said one of the voices. It was oddly familiar, but I couldn't quite place it.

"I don't see what you mean. I fulfilled the terms of our contract to the letter. Just as with our previous contracts." I froze. That was definitely Mr. Daemon's voice. I guess I should have been surprised, but he creeped me out enough that I had assumed he was up to something or other. Hm, but if that was Mr. Daemon, who was he talking to?

"The letter, yes, but I didn't want you to turn half the city into monsters! I only asked you for some easy fights so that everyone in the city will love me!" Ferris Eaton. Of course. Still not surprised somehow.

"Well, these new monsters will be easy pickings. Most of them have no idea what they are. And once you stop them, you will again be hailed as the hero who keeps the city from chaos."

I could feel my fangs starting to tickle my tongue, but restrained myself. Instead, I slowly crept to the window to peek in. Ferris was glaring at Mr. Daemon, hands clenched. Mr. Daemon had the smile he usually reserved for giving people failing grades, except creepier. In the background I saw an intricate circular pattern on the floor. I ducked back down. That must have been the magic circle.

I slowly started heading back to Mrs. Reiser, but kept listening. Mr. Daemon replied slowly. "If you want you may destroy the circle and render your part of the bargain null. But I will expect payment either way. And need I remind you of the penalties for doing so?"

As creepy as it sounds, I could hear Ferris' heart beat faster. When he didn't say anything, I heard Mr. Daemon reply, "Then stay here and make sure the circle is safe. You will reap your benefits in the morning."

I didn't hear anything else before I got back to Mrs. Reiser, but it was enough. She greeted me with hands on her hips. "I didn't realize vampires were compelled to run off without warning."

"Hey, he did it first," I said, motioning to Sanguis. This time he had popped up behind Mrs. Reiser, and it was really hard not to laugh. She jumped and started moving her knife before backing up.

"Besides," I continued, "I saw where the magic circle is."

They both looked at me. "It's in the room next to that window on the side. There are two people there guarding it. I think the caster must have been the older one, Mr. Daemon."

Sanguis hissed. "You know that demon?"

I blinked. "Um... he's my biology teacher. Wait, he's an actual demon? That sounds bad."

Mrs. Reiser switched out knives. "You could say that."

Sanguis moved to grab her arm, but Mrs. Reiser jerked away. He instead held out his open hands and said, "I can't let you face a demon by yourself."

Mrs. Reiser was surprisingly adept at glaring through her mask. "I can handle myself. And since neither of you can get inside without being invited, I'm going to have to."

"That might not be true," I interrupted. They both looked at me again. "The other person goes to my school. And I don't really look like a vampire yet. Maybe I can get him to invite us in."

The kept staring, and Sanguis frowned. I shrugged. "Well even if it doesn't work it'll distract them, right?"

Finally they nodded. Mrs. Reiser went to wait by the window, and Sanguis disappeared. I assumed he was close to the door, but I couldn't tell where he was hiding. I took a deep breath, marched up the sidewalk, and rang the doorbell.

I could hear hushed tones, but knew I shouldn't. So I waited a few seconds, then rang the doorbell again. I kept ringing the doorbell incessantly until I heard steps coming to the front door. I backed up as Ferris opened it.

"What?" he snapped. Then he must have realized it was a fairly normal looking teenage girl. "Excuse me. But what are you doing here in the middle of the night?"

"Oh, you're Ferris! I didn't realize you lived here. Oh, I'm so sorry I bothered you but... but..." I choked back disgust, but made it seem like I was about to cry. I could see his face soften. "But everything is crazy out here and your house looks like it might be safe! Can I please come in?"

Ferris scuffed his foot against the ground. "I don't know, I don't think we've even met..."

I looked down. "I mean... we haven't. I'm just a freshman. And you're so cool and popular and I guess you wouldn't even notice someone like me so I hate to bother you but my friends and I have been going around for hours trying to find somewhere to hide and I'm so sorry but if we could just stay until morning..." I trailed off, just about ready to gag. That should have stroked his ego at least.

"Friends? What friends? I don't see anyone with you."

I was hoping he wouldn't notice so Sanguis would get invited without too much effort, but I figured that might happen. "We split up to try to cover more ground. But now I'm by myself and I'm worried about them, and... and..." I sniffled. That was about as close to crying as I could manage. Not sure why everyone is convinced girls can just cry on command whenever they want something. But it was enough.

"Hey, hey, hey, it's OK. Come in, and your friends can come in when they get here. There's a spare bedroom upstairs you can stay in until morning, all right?" He put his arm around my shoulder and ushered me across the threshold.

I had hoped Sanguis would have enough sense to wait until we were upstairs to make a move, but nooo. The second he got that invitation he barged in and tried to jump Ferris. He must have been surprised when Ferris landed a hit no problem. 

Luckily Ferris didn't make the connection between the two events. "Go, run! I'll hold him off!" I nodded and ran straight to the room I saw the circle in. "Wait, not that way, that's --" Ferris got cut off by Sanguis' counterattack. Those two should keep each other busy, at least.

When I got there Mr. Daemon was still camped right over the circle. I guess him running out to see what the commotion was would have been too easy. He looked at me and smiled. "Why, Sophia! Fancy seeing you here. Why are you out so late at night?"

Wait, if he's a demon, can he tell if I'm lying? I was careful about my words, but took on a decidedly hysterical tone. "People are turning into monsters and everything is getting torn apart and FERRIS IS FIGHTING A VAMPIRE! SHOULDN'T YOU HELP HIM?"

Mr. Daemon put his finger on my lips. "Now, now, that's an impressive act, but I saw you lurking outside the window earlier. Besides, I can tell that you've been... affected."

Crap. I got ready to run, but he didn't seem like he was going to attack. Maybe if I ran he would still follow though? I definitely needed to keep him talking; I could see Mrs. Reiser quietly working on the window.

I sucked in my breath. "I... I... I don't know what you're talking about."

"Don't lie, my dear, I can tell." Mr. Daemon's smile got wider. "But don't worry, I don't mean you any harm. In fact, I have a proposition for you."

"No," I blurted out. How stupid did he think I was?

My bluntness prompted laughter. "A no before you've even heard the terms? Ah, Sophia, you should really listen to your teacher. Really, it will only be to your benefit."

I kept staring at Mr. Daemon but saw Mrs. Reiser easing open the window. Keep him talking. "What kind of proposition?"

He paced forward slightly. "You're here because you've changed. Indirectly my doing, I'm afraid. I suppose that monster in the other room told you the only way to get your life back is to destroy that circle? Well that's not true."

Mrs. Reiser started squeezing through the window even as Mr. Daemon came closer. I paced backward, one hand feeling behind me.

Mr. Daemon continued. "I control the spell. If you want, I can lift your curse and you can be on your way. Just don't tell anyone what happened and you'll have a normal life. Or," and his eyes glowed faintly, "I can grant you power. Far more power than what you feel right now. All you would have to do is lend my your aid when I called."

By now I was backed against the wall and Mr. Daemon was uncomfortably close to my face. Mrs. Reiser dropped to the floor. The noise caught his attention, and he started turning.

"No," I repeated, and punched him in the face. Then I ducked and rolled toward the door. He lunged at me, but then Mrs. Reiser tackled him.

The two of them struggled, and I headed toward the circle. I scuffed my foot against it; chalk. I pulled out my water bottle and dumped the contents across the circle. The symbols blurred into random streaks. Suddenly everything seemed a lot darker, but I could also feel my heart beating.

Mr. Daemon loomed behind me. "I expected more from such a good student." He knocked me to the floor. Then Sanguis was in front of me while Mrs. Reiser lunged at Mr. Daemon from behind.

Mr. Daemon's eyes glowed red and hot, almost like fire, as he dodged out of the way. He snarled, then dove around the corner. I looked out just in time to see him disappearing with the unconscious Ferris. "I am still owed my price," echoed his voice in the empty hallway.

Mrs. Reiser took off her mask and tied back her hair. She took my arm firmly and started walking out the door with me. I was too tired to argue or care. I figured I would let her explain the outing to my parents.

"A word," interjected Sanguis. Mrs. Reiser stopped, but kept her knife out. 

"I apologize for my rash assumptions," said Sanguis. "I should not have been so ready to attack when you instead needed my help." He handed me a piece of paper. I looked at it and saw a phone number of all things. "Should that demon attempt to harm you for your role in this night, contact me and I will come to your aid." Then he vanished.

I programmed the number into my cell phone, ignoring Mrs. Reiser's look of shock. If there was even the slightest chance of retaliation, having a vampire's phone number was a good thing. Unless it happens during the day, in which case I'm screwed.

Anyway, Mrs. Reiser and I made our way back. We saw a lot of people wandering around, and the news the next day said something about a fire from a gas leak. I didn't hear that until later because I slept for about ten hours, grabbed something to eat, then slept until the next morning. My parents didn't bug me at all, so apparently they bought whatever Mrs. Reiser told them. That or they didn't want to talk about what happened. Given the oddly large feathers I found later it might have been the latter.

Oh, and there was an email that we're getting a new biology teacher. I hear he's old and makes atrocious puns. Haven't heard anything about Ferris, so we'll see.
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