Category: Avalon

Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 8


“Wow, this place is small,” Corrie said as Erik led her into the apartment. “I thought Anya was exaggerating when she talked about it.” Erik ignored the flash of pain from Corrie’s words. She was just making conversation, not trying to remind him of what he had lost.

“Yeah, well they won’t look for you here,” Erik replied, “The master bedroom is at the end of the hall. You can use that one.” He walked into the second bedroom and started peeling off his gear and armor. He stopped as he noticed that Corrie was standing in the doorway and watching him. 

“This is your place, why don’t you take the master?” Corrie asked. 

“For the same reason I haven’t been to this place for a couple of years,” Erik answered, trying to keep the pain out of his voice. He wasn’t as successful as he thought, because Corrie strode into the room and gave him a sisterly hug. Erik braced as her arms came around him, but relented and let him enjoy the warmth of the physical contact. He didn’t care how long they stood there. He had missed Corrie’s comforting presence.

“I’m surprised you kept this place,” Corrie said, finally breaking the silence. 

“I didn’t,” Erik answered, finally shrugging out of her embrace. “It’s owned by one of my family’s companies. They’ve just been nice enough to let me use it again.” He gave her a crooked smile. “You should go get cleaned up.”

“I’m not the only one,” Corrie said, punching Erik in the shoulder, “You’re a bit whiff too.”

“If I may remind you, your highness, I was doing that until you came in and interrupted me,” Erik shot back. 

“I did not interrupt you. I was checking on the well-being of one of my subjects. My concern is never considered an interruption,” Corrie said in a lofty tone. “I will now tend to myself while you make yourself presentable for such august personage, such as myself.”

“If you’re not careful, I’ll make you cook for yourself,” Erik said. Corrie stuck her tongue out at him as she walked back to the master bedroom. They spent the next few hours getting cleaned up followed by cleaning their gear and weapons. They worked in a companionable silence that Erik felt relaxing, especially considering the tension of getting off of Battle Island. Dodging delvers and their minions was bad enough, but they also had to evade the Army patrols out doing search and destroy missions against the Dark Towers. Having to cart around Ensign Bartley as well just increased the difficulty. 

“I hope that girl will be okay,” Corrie said as if she was reading Erik’s mind. 

“She should be fine,” Erik said, “You did a good job on the emergency patchwork and the ship’s captain said he’d make sure that she made it to the Hospitallers.” He turned back to look at Corrie as he heard her stop working.

“Seriously Erik, how long do we have before someone finds out that I’m not dead?” Corrie asked. There was an odd spike of determination in her emotions when she asked the question. Erik frowned as he realized she was planning something. He mentally frowned, careful not to let the expression on his face. Corrie wasn’t exactly known for the timidity of her plans.

“Probably twenty-four hours,” Erik answered, “It could be fifteen or it could be thirty. It’ll depend on when the Hospitallers call the base to tell them they have one of the Army’s ensigns. Even if it’s fifteen, we should be long gone from Battle City by then.” He looked her straight in the eye. “Why?”

“I’ve been going over what happened in my head,” Corrie answered. “I was at five thousand feet doing a wide sweep when my wing suddenly exploded. At first, I thought it was just a structural failure because nothing the Dark Towers has should be able to hit a plane that high up. Then, I was too busy trying to survive my plane disintegrating to figure out what happened.” Corrie went silent, and Erik could feel the determination building in her as she mentally prepared herself to lay out her plan. 

“Whoever did this is waiting to find out if I’m dead,” Corrie said, “This may be the best window we’ll have to find out who’s behind this and why they’re trying to kill me.”

“I thought intelligence was my job, not yours,” Erik said. 

“No, intelligence was Samantha’s job. You’ve always been more of a well-trained thug,” Corrie said in a teasing tone. Erik just rolled his eyes. Corrie’s expression grew serious again. “Listen, whoever is behind this must have had some help from inside the Army. How else did they know I was flying and where? It’s not like pilots have a set schedule.”

“Granted,” Erik said, not liking the spike of excitement in Corrie’s emotions. 

“I know my fellow officers,” Corrie said, “They play the political game almost as hard as they fight the Dark Towers in the field. Probably more so in the Air Forces than the ground pounders. If one of them set me up, they’re going to keep the evidence of who they’re working for until I’m confirmed dead. They’d need the leverage on their partners if the Imperial Guard came looking.” Erik took one look at the excited light in Corrie’s eyes.

“You want to go get that evidence,” Erik said, with a resigned tone.

“Of course,” Corrie said, a predatory smile spreading across her face.

“Corrie, I just pulled you off that island so that we could get you someplace safe,” Erik said, “A lot of work has gone into getting you back to the palace, and a lot of people have put themselves on the line for you. I’m sure the Saint is going to tear the fort apart looking for whoever was behind you getting shot down. Can we at least wait until we have you back behind a wall of Imperial Guard?”

“Erik, if I show back up at the palace, the bastards behind this will circle the wagons and we’ll never find out who it was,” Corrie said. “Erik, please. You’re the only one I’d trust to help me do this.” He sighed and felt Corrie’s soaring excitement.

“You said the same thing when we stole your father’s car because you had to go talk with Jamie Harrington,” Erik shot back. Corrie smiled at the jab. She knew that if he was bringing up their past capers, then he was already mentally preparing to go on another.

“That would have worked if you hadn’t missed the turn,” Corrie said, standing up.

“You were the one who was driving and managed to crash the car into Harrington Keep,” Erik protested.

“Which I wouldn’t have done if you hadn’t missed telling me the turn,” Corrie said as if that should have evident even to a small child. She gave him a wide smile.

“I’ll make some calls and see what I can arrange,” Erik said, reaching for his phone. 

Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 7


“Thanks Aunt Belinda,” Anne said as she hugged the short, round woman in the doorway. Anne smiled as she spied the twelve-gauge Remington leaning in the corner of the doorway. Aunt Belinda was still the practical woman Anne remembered. That was one of the reasons that Anne led the group this deep into the old city.  

“Oh, it’s no bother. I do so love having company these days. Even if it’s under rather unusual circumstances,” Aunt Belinda said, ushering the group into her small, comfortable house. “Anne dear, did you know that there’s a BOLO out on the four of you?” 

“Been listening to the police scanner again, Aunt Belinda?” Anne asked as she shut and bolted the door. Anne did a quick check around the neighborhood to see if they had any followers. The street didn’t have any unusual cars or lights on.  

“Well, I like to keep my hand in the game, you know,” Aunt Belinda answered as she scurried from the door and down to the short hallway to the kitchen. Anne, Samantha, Princess Anya, and Veritas followed her back. Anne felt part of her relax as the smells of home-baked brownies and coffee floated down to them. 

“Sit, sit,” Aunt Belinda said, motioning to a worn kitchen table and chairs. Steaming mugs of coffee and a plate of brownies seemed to materialize the moment the four sat down. 

“We should not relax yet,” Veritas said, “They are bound to be checking all of your family to see if they are harboring us. We probably don’t have a lot of time.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that,” Aunt Belinda said, “It’ll take a few days before they’ll think to look here. Besides, we should at least have a couple of hours warning before they show up at my front door.” Anne smiled as Samantha and Veritas did quick re-evaluations of the elderly woman. 

“You have my most heartfelt thanks, madam,” Princess Anya said. Aunt Belinda’s eyebrow crooked the tiniest bit upward at Anya’s accent. Anne restrained the giggle, but Aunt Belinda must have heard something because she bestowed one of her rare glowers on Anne. 

“Okay, Veritas, time to spill,” Anne said, looking at the elf, “What in the hell is going on?”

“Language, Anne. A lady shouldn’t speak like that,” Aunt Belinda reproved. Anne gave the older woman a look of contrition. 

“With all due respect to our host, I can’t discuss this in front of her,” Veritas said, and gave Aunt Belinda a small bow. The respect in the elf’s voice and gesture caught Anne off-guard.

“Aunt Belinda can keep a secret,” Anne said, “We’re trusting her not to report us to the authorities.”

“Oh, don’t worry, Anne. I’m not offended. After all, if I don’t hear what’s happening, I can’t testify about it later,” Aunt Belinda said, “Help yourself to anything in the kitchen, just please make sure to clean up after yourselves. I have some knitting to attend to.” She patted the three woman on the arm and dashed out of the kitchen.

“Okay, Veritas, talk,” Anne said, sharply. The elf looked back down the hall before turning back to the group. He looked like he wanted to ask about Aunt Belinda. Instead, he took a deep breath and looked down at his wristwatch.

“Three hours ago I discovered two men trying to place a bomb below the bedroom of the prince,” Veritas said. Princess Anya gasped. 

“We didn’t hear anything about that,” Anne said.

“Of course not, because I didn’t report it through the normal channels,” Veritas said.

“Why not?” Anne asked. Veritas gave her an exasperated look. 

“Would you stop interrupting, Detective?” Veritas asked. Anne folded her arms beneath her breasts and nodded at the elf. 

“I interrogated the two men who were setting the bomb,” Veritas said, “They were just local mercenaries in the city’s criminal ecosystem. They were hired through a local middleman named Yamin. They had no idea where the money originated and were even provided the explosive to be used. The device was one of the Navy’s medium limpet mines. Used properly, it would have easily blown through all of the normal and magical defenses surrounding the prince.”

“Wait, the American Navy or the Imperial Navy?” Samantha asked. 

“American,” Veritas answered. Samantha let out a string of curses that surprised Anne.

“So, someone on this side of the gate wants my husband murdered?” Princess Anya asked, confused. “I thought the purpose of these negotiations was to cement a stronger relationship between the Emperor’s government and the American government.”

“No, your highness, it wasn’t the Americans,” Veritas said, “Or at least, those of us in OSI don’t believe it was the American government.”

“Well, if it wasn’t the Americans who set this in motion, then who?” Princess Anya demanded. 

“The Saint believes that there is a coterie among the aristocrats who are not happy about your father-in-law seizing back his traditional powers,” Veritas said. “Not surprising considering the Emperor destroyed a hundred years of precedent that gave most of his power to the House of Lords.”

“If they didn’t want their powers taken away from them, then they shouldn’t have cowered behind their walls while the Commandante was wreaking havoc across Avalon City,” Princess Anya said with the first hint of true malice Anne had heard from the woman. Samantha snorted, and the princess glowered at the psychic. Veritas cleared his throat to continue.  

“That may be true, your highness, but it doesn’t change their actions,” Veritas said. 

“So, how did that bomb figure into Kurt giving us the ‘go-to-hell’ code?” Anne asked.

“I rendered the explosive in the mine inert and then enlisted the aid of Mr. Schneider and Agent MacMurtry. I thought it would be better if they discovered the bomb, considering the current tensions between the various security teams. If people on this side of the gate alerted the security teams to the presence, it was doubtful that the Americans would have been behind it. Plus, we were hoping that it would flush out the conspirators. Such was not the case.”

“Are Kurt and Jason okay?” Anne asked, not sure if she wanted to hear the answer. Veritas nodded and Anne felt like she could breathe again. She hadn’t realized exactly how worried she’d been about Kurt. 

“It seems someone else alerted the security teams about the bomb,” Veritas said. “Fortunately, the responding team of the Imperial Guard assumed the three of us had just stumbled onto the criminals and took them down. It was through them that we found out that the reported target was not the prince, but you, your highness.” Princess Anya paled and held her hand to her mouth. “Once Mr. Schneider found out the target, he asked me to get you out of the building.”

“Why would they want to kill me?” the princess asked.

“Because then they can get their own choice as the prince’s new consort,” Samantha answered without a hint of compassion for the princess. “Everyone knows that Prince Rupert is easily swayed. Having their own princess tow whisper what they want in his ear?” Princess Anya looked about to unload another salvo, but Anne held up her hand before the two women could even start to bicker. Much to her surprise, they both backed down. 

“So, as far as everyone back at the hotel is concerned, Kurt and Jason were just in the right place at the right time?” Anne asked. Veritas nodded as he sipped at the coffee in front of him.

“Won’t they learn otherwise from the two who were setting the bomb?” Princess Anya asked. 

“They didn’t survive interrogation, I’m afraid,” Veritas answered. Princess Anya stared at the elf in shock. Anne was also startled by the elf’s casual response, but Samantha didn’t seem surprised. Anne guessed that the death of certain prisoners was considered a normal outcome for those in the Office of Special Investigations. It was those kinds of revelations that rubbed Anne’s nose in the fact that her friends came from a very different culture. Anne out those thoughts away and pondered on their current situation for a long moment. 

“We have no idea who was behind the attempt?” Anne asked, finally breaking the silence.

“Not really,” Veritas answered. “OSI thinks Earl Dorn of Oyster Bay is the leader of the coterie, but we’re not sure if he is involved in his members more energetic plans.”

“Not surprised,” Samantha said, “Earl Oyster Bay is one of the staunchest conservatives in the House of Lords.” 

“I’ll let you three deal with the politics. Do you have pictures of the two men?” Anne asked. Veritas produced a phone from inside his jacket and handed it to Anne. She recognized both men as freelance hitters, although they both tended to stick to working for one of the city’s mafia families. Anne paced up and down the kitchen as she thought over what had happened and what she knew. 

“Okay, we’ll stay here until tomorrow night,” Anne said. “Then we’re going to question who hired these two and find out who is behind this.”

Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 6


Erik leapt from the truck to where Corry crouched over the wounded Ensign Bartley. Corry didn’t even look up at him as she snatched the med kit from his hands. Erik let Corry work as he stripped Bill’s corpse. Damn it, why did Call and Bill have to take the money? Why in the hell did they agree to assassinate the princess of the Empire? The whole plot against Corry made no sense. She wasn’t even the heir to the Imperial throne. So, why try and eliminate her? 

The snarl of orcs snapped Erik’s attention to the wall. Two of the eight-foot tall creatures perched above Corry and the ensign. Both were aiming their heavy crossbows down. Erik grabbed Bill’s pistol off the ground and emptied the magazine at the two orcs. The .400 Imperial cartridge did okay against goblins and draks, but it wouldn’t penetrate against the thicker hides of the orcs. That didn’t mean getting by a whole bunch of the bullets didn’t hurt the orcs. A crossbow bolt skittered off the asphalt while the other thunked into the shed above Corry’s head.

“Erik, would you stop them from doing that?” Corry ordered without looking up. “It’s distracting.” Erik knew better than to reply when Corry was in her working zone. He unslung his rifle. The two orcs tossed their crossbows, drew heavy swords, and leapt down off the wall. Erik stitched one with a burst as soon as it hit the ground. Its partner charged Erik with a bellow. Erik fired two more bursts, but the orc ignored the wounds and slashed out with its sword. Erik rolled to the side. The orc redirected his blade faster than Erik thought it could move. He barely managed to deflect the blade with a telekinetic push. The sword sparked as the orc dragged it across the asphalt. 

Erik rolled up into a crouch with his rifle leveled at the orc. He emptied the magazine into the monster. Twenty rounds tore the orc’s chest open. Erik dropped the spent magazine into a pouch before snatching a charged magazine and slamming it into the magazine well. He scanned around him, looking for more threats brought by the gunfire. 

He felt the alien emotions at the same time as he heard the heavy grunts. Two trolls rose up from behind the ruins of a small building. Trolls were twice as tall, twice as strong, and twice as tough as orcs. About the only good thing was that the ponderous monsters were about half as smart as an orc. Erik slung his rifle and jumped to the heavy machine gun on the back of Bill’s truck.

Erik had barely grabbed the heavy machine gun’s handles when the sun was blocked by a twelve foot section of wall one of the trolls threw at him. Erik made a quick calculation and jumped. There was a disheartening crunch as the wall flattened the truck. 

“What the hell just happened to the truck?” Corry called out from behind the shed.

“Trolls,” Erik answered as his mind raced with how to kill the two giant monsters. If he’d had another second or two, he could have brought the heavy machine gun with him. 

“Why’d you wake up the trolls?” Corry asked, with an exasperated tone.

“Because I was trying to save you from those two orcs, and I didn’t sense them sleeping here,” Erik shouted. 

“Don’t yell at me, Erik. Just hurry up and finish them off,” Corry said. 

“How exactly would you like me to do that without the heavy machine gun?” Erik asked as he dodged a six-foot metal bar as it whistled past. 

“Maybe that magic sword of yours?” Corry called out. 

“Don’t have it. Long story,” Erik said. That actually caused Corry to shoot a surprised look over her shoulder at him. Erik didn’t have time to enjoy catching Corry off-guard. The trolls were continuing to try and squash him with debris. He managed to knock the man-sized boulder off course so that it missed him by a foot or two. It still showered him with shards. 

“Well, what about Little Britches?” Corry asked. Erik thought about that as he dodged more improvised missiles from the trolls. That might work, but Erik would have to get in close to the trolls. Closing with trolls was generally considered a bad idea. 

Erik made some quick calculations, sprinted, and then pushed himself into the air. The trolls stared up at him. They didn’t react well to surprises, and humans weren’t supposed to fly unless they were in one of their contraptions. As Erik arched down, he drew Little Britches and aimed the stubby tri-barrel. Three feet above the troll’s head, Erik touched off the armor-piercing barrel. 

Erik had the barest instant to see the heavy dart pulp the troll’s head before Little Britches’ heavy recoil tossed him back away from the troll and straight into the second troll’s fist. Pain flashed as Erik was slammed to the ground. Erik pushed with a bit of power to slide out from the troll’s stomp. He swung the heavy weapon around and touched off Little Britches’ fragmentation barrel. The troll howled as a hundred and fifty flechettes sliced through the its foot. The monster staggered back, trying hard not to step on the mangled mess of its foot. 

Erik leapt into the troll and touched off the final barrel. The troll screamed as the white phosphorus landed into its hide. Trolls were vulnerable to fire and burning. The troll ran away from Erik with a loping gait. Erik popped open Little Britches’ breech and three heavy steel casing clattered on the asphalt. Erik slipped in three more six-inch long, two-inch wide cartridges.

“Can I tell you how glad I am that the Imperial Guard let you keep that weapon?” Corry said as Erik approached.

“I’m fine thanks. Just a few bumps, bruises, and scrapes,” Erik said flatly. 

“Why are you complaining?” Corry asked, “Aren’t you Jaegar the Troll-Killer?”

“Because I killed one troll with a magic sword!” Erik nearly shouted. Two more orcs dropped down. Erik turned, put them both down with rifle bursts, and then turned back to Corry. The woman had one of her knowing smirks on her face. 

“Hey, now you’ve got two more on your record. She’s stabilized, but we need to get her to a field hospital,” Corry said. “Give me that rifle and ammo pouch so I can cover is while you carry her.” Corry scanned the horizon as Erik unslung the weapon. “Where are we going?”

“Thirty-Fourth and Broad,” Erik answered. “I’ve got gear stashed there for you.” He concentrated on the moaning ensign and carefully lifted her with some power. This kind of fine work was always more draining. “We’ll need to hurry or we’ll miss the boat.”

“Boat, what boat?” Corry asked as they moved into the city. She shot another orc that tried to stop them. 

“The boat that’s going to pick us up at 1600 tomorrow at Green Cove,” Erik said as he guided the ensign’s body through the streets as fast as he could reasonably control. When they were a bit safer, he’d fashion a stretcher and carry her. 

“Why don’t we go to Fort Andrews?” Corry asked. 

“Because the Army may be complicit in you getting shot down,” Erik answered.

“Damn it. It can never be easy, can it?” Corry said as she covered their rear.

“That’s my line,” Erik complained as he covered their front with his submachine gun. 

“Where do you think I got it from?” Corry asked. As they rounded another corner, she stopped Erik long enough to give him a chaste kiss on the cheek. “By the way, thanks for coming to get me.”

Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 5


Anne raised the stubby submachine gun at Free-Elf Veritas. The tall elf regarded the muzzle of the gun as an annoyance. Anne felt the strong pull on the wild magic streams before the gun was ripped out of her hands. She hadn’t even seen the bindings the elf had done to pull the gun. The submachine gun landed on the bed with a soft thump. 

“I believe the words you were looking for are ‘Honey Gold’,” Veritas said, stiffly. “And now you tell me?”

“‘Green Branch’,” Samantha answered, shutting the door and pushing the other two women into the hotel room. “Quit being a dick Veritas.”

“She was the one who pointed a gun at me,” Veritas said, motioning to Anne. “For someone with her reported gifts, it was disappointing.” 

“You aren’t supposed to be the one who was meeting us,” Anne replied, trying to keep her emotions under tight rein. “Where’s Kurt?”

“Where is my husband?” Princess Anya demanded. 

“No time,” Samantha said. “Who’s after us?”

“Right now, everyone,” Veritas answered. “Unfortunately, the spider is also among that everyone.” The elf looked down at his phone and frowned. “It looks like they’ve shut down the hotel. Give me your official phones.” The three women handed the elf their phones and went to change into the outfits they’d stashed in the room. In a few moments, Anne felt a strong pull on the fire wild magic and the smell of melted plastic floated through the room. Another pull and the smell vanished. Anne was impressed by the elf’s finesse, and she wished she had time to see his bindings.

“I’m still not sure how we’re going to get out of this hotel with all of the surveillance,” Veritas said as he walked back into the room. “The Americans were smart enough to ward the cameras against tampering them with magic.” He sounded grudgingly impressed.

“Give me my burner,” Samantha said. She hit one of the speed dials and laid the phone on the desk. It didn’t even ring once. 

“Considering that your calling on your burner phone and that every security alarm in the hotel just went active, I’m guessing that’s why you called,” Joseph said with mock severity. “Why couldn’t it have just been phone sex?”

“You’re on speakerphone, love,” Samantha said, her face slightly crimson. Anne hid her own smile. Joseph, the team’s tech specialist and erstwhile hacker, had made a remarkable recovery since being paralyzed. Anne suspected some of it was due to magic that Veronica had binded to the wound, but a lot of it also had to do with Samantha and Joseph’s budding relationship.

“Damn it. I hate speakerphones,” Joseph grumbled. “You couldn’t have warned me?”

“Sorry, love, but we’re sort of busy at this end,” Samantha answered, and she couldn’t stop the smile spreading across her face. 

“Yeah, I can see that,” Joseph said. “Okay, they’re going to be shutting down the phones in a few minutes, so we won’t be able to talk again until you’re a few blocks from the hotel. I’m going to launch one of my pre-done routines that should give you a clear avenue. I’m sending the route to you and Anne. As far as the task force and Imperial Security’s electronics are concerned, you won’t exist.” Anne’s phone beeped as she received the map. “Sorry, but I can’t do anything if you run into physical security.”

“Don’t worry, love, we should be able to handle it,” Anne said, with a slight teasing tone. Samantha shot her an evil look. 

“Hi Anne. Can I say again how much I hate speakerphones?” Joseph said. “The routine should be good in a few–” The phone cut off abruptly. Anne looked down at her own burner.

“They’re jamming the cell frequencies,” Anne said. “You might as well link us up now, Samantha.” Anne felt the slight pressure of the telepathic link. As she opened herself up to the link, Anne could only feel the princess’s and Samantha’s minds. Anne shot a questioning look at Samantha.

Veritas didn’t want to be linked with the rest of us, Samantha answered the unspoken question. 

Well, isn’t that suspicious, Anne said. 

It’s not like that, Samantha said, Elves don’t always interact well with psychic abilities. It’s uncomfortable for them to join a psychic link.

It’s also a good way to keep us from finding out if he’s a traitor, Anne said. 

You can relax. I’ve known Veritas for years, Samantha said, I used to work with him when I was full time with OSI.

“If you three are done trying to figure out if I am with the conspiracy, may I suggest we depart,” Veritas said, “It looks like your hacker’s routine is working.” Anne frowned, but she moved up to lead the group out of the hotel room. The hallway was clear. Following Joseph’s map on her phone, Anne led the group down a flight of stairs and then into one of the hotel’s freight elevators. 

“Hit the button for the basement,” Samantha said as she entered the car. 

“We’re supposed to be getting off at the first,” Anne said. “The basement has no access out that isn’t heavily monitored.”

“Trust me,” Samantha said. As soon as the doors closed, Samantha walked over to the corner of the car. “Veritas?” The elf reached up and with a flash of magic, pushed up the access door.

“Your highness?” Veritas said, holding out his hand. The princess was lifted onto the roof of the elevator car. In a few moments, the rest of the team joined her. Anne felt Veritas pulling on the wild magic streams and the group started to hover above the elevator car. Anne was amazed at the intricate bindings. As the elevator continued down, they slowed until they were hovering in front of the closed first floor doors. 

“Anne, open the doors,” Veritas said. He hissed as she reached out. “With your magic, girl.” Anne bit down her rage. Who the hell was this elf to call her girl? She pulled on the wild magic and bound it. Anne released the binding and the doors slid open. Samantha was the first out. After making sure the hallway was clear, Samantha turned and helped the princess out. Anne followed with Veritas exiting last and dispersing his binding. 

“Sloppy, but interesting use of the streams,” Veritas said as the four walked out an unlocked access door onto the loading area. “I wouldn’t have expected the use of light in the bindings.”

“It kept us from being blinded when we stepped out,” Anne replied. She was annoyed – annoyed at Veritas for dismissing her and annoyed at herself for being pleased with the elf’s backhand compliment. 

So why did we do it like this? Anne asked over the telepathic link.

Joseph may have hidden the elevator’s movement from the computers, but one of the Guard was bound to hear the elevator going down, Samantha explained. This keeps them off of our trail a bit longer.

Guess that makes some sense, Anne’s replied.

Head to the clubhouse? Samantha asked as they walked towards the street.

Nope, Anne answered, I’ve got a better place.

Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 4


“Well that place hasn’t changed much,” Erik said to himself as he crouched in the rubble. Much like Avalon City, the city that once stood proud on Battle Island had been built by the mysterious Cairen. Two centuries of constant warfare had pretty much reduced much of the city’s buildings to piles of rubble. The south end of the island was firmly in Imperial hands, but the northern tip was under the control of the Dark Towers. The middle of the island was a no-man’s land where Imperial and Dark Towers combat units maneuvered and fought. Much of it was small unit skirmishing, but every so often there was a massive battle that did little more than get a bunch of people killed. Battle Island was a meat grinder for both sides, but too strategically important for either to lose. Even after the front lines were pushed several hundred kilometers north, Battle Island was the one place that the Dark Towers could send in massive forces. Erik was looking at the reason.

The three functioning gates stood tall and glowing. The Dark Towers fortress in front of the gate was only fifteen years old. That was his fault. The fortress had been only build as a reaction of when a very young Erik Jaegar chased Arem into the one of the then four gates and detonated a twenty kiloton nuclear device on the other side. Erik didn’t really care about the fortress except for its proximity to his objective. 

His comm vibrated the preset alarm. It was twilight – the critical time. Erik lowered the faceplate on his helmet and dashed out from his spider hole. The camp was set out just like a human prisoner camp. Erik didn’t know when the two commands on Battle Island started prisoner exchanges, but it was the only front where that happened. Maybe it had something to do with the grinder the Island had been for both sides. 

Erik used a bit of power and leapt over the concrete wall as soon as the guard walked past. Orcs weren’t the most observant of guards, especially in the confusing light of twilight with a light sky and dark ground. Erik used a bit more power to land silently on the packed dirt. Orcs patrolled the walls, but goblins and draks patrolled the internals of the POW camp. Erik pulled a small charge from his ruck and attached it to the wall. If all went well, Erik wouldn’t need the bomb disguised as a glow panel. If not, then Erik at least could make another way out or use it as a distraction. 

Erik jumped on the roof of the nearest building. He oriented himself to the camp’s layout and started jumping towards the women’s barracks. Knowing Corry, she’s already in charge of one of the barracks, Erik thought to himself, And she wouldn’t even need her lofty status. He smiled. He had missed Corry these last couple of years.
Erik was in the middle of a jump when he heard the clack-clack of a suppressed rifle. He pushed down to the nearest building and ran to the noise. Peering over the edge of the roof, Erik saw a man in armor shooting a drak patrol with a suppressed assault rifle. Erik brought out his suppressed submachine gun and took down two of the small humanoid lizards as they tried to run. With the draks dead, Erik rolled off of the roof and landed next to the freelancer.

“Jaegar, why am I not surprised?” Roland Call asked. Erik knew Call. The two had worked together frequently when Erik had been a freelancer on Battle Island. The military liked using freelancers as deep scouts and to supplement their own forces. “Who are you here for?”

“I imagine the same person you’re here for,” Erik answered. He didn’t have to wait for Call’s grunt to know he was correct. 

“I didn’t think they would send another freelancer,” Call said. The pair sprinted away from the battle towards the centermost women’s barracks where the officers were kept.

“Neither did I. Look, I’m doing this as a personal favor for my step-father,” Erik said, “I’m not here to jump your contract. Hell, I’m not even being paid more than expenses on this job.” 

“Yeah, those personal favors are a bitch,” Call said with a humorless chuckle. “Well, since you did step in with those draks and because of our previous relationships, I might be willing to cut you in on 10% of my contract.” 

“Ten percent of how much?” Erik asked. 

“Half a mil,” Call answered as the pair ducked past a goblin patrol. Both kept very still as the squat humanoids trundled past. Goblins weren’t much in a fight, but they were very good at spotting intruders. Plus, they’d bring all sorts of trouble down on the two freelancers. 

“Deal,” Erik said. “What’s the extract plan?” The two crept towards the lit barracks. Call was point while Erik covered their rear with his submachine gun. 

“South culvert,” Call answered. “Bill’s sitting there with a technical to cover our extract.” Erik nodded. Bill was a steady hand with heavy weapons, and he’d created a little niche in the freelancer world as a “sidekick for hire.” 

“There’s the final problem. You didn’t happen to bring Little Britches with you?” Call asked. 

“She’s too loud for this kind of job,” Erik said. He looked at the pair of hobgoblins standing outside the barracks. It would have been so much easier if he still had *Far’ling*. He holstered the submachine gun and unlimbered his rifle. “I’ll take right.”

“You always take right,” Call said as he sighted his own rifle on the left hobgoblin. “Target.”

“Target,” Erik said. Three heartbeats and both rifles coughed. Both hobgoblins dropped as the back of their heads were blown out. The two freelancers dashed forward. Before they could grab the handle, the door to the barracks opened. A stern-faced woman in prisoner togs frowned at the pair. From her bearing and the gray hairs in her neat brown hair, Erik judged her to be the senior officer of the women prisoners. 

“I can guess why you two are here,” the senior officer said in a whiskey voice. “Lieutenant Kinsey, front and center.” A beautiful black-haired, blue-eyed woman rolled off of her bunk and walked to them. Like most men, Call was momentarily transfixed. Erik raised his faceplate.

“Erik! I wasn’t expecting you to come for me,” Corry said in a rich voice. 

“You didn’t think I’d let one of my best friends langur here for long, did you?” Erik chided her as Call pulled himself together.

“Are you only taking her, or can you take another?” the senior officer asked. Call looked over the officers in the barracks. 

“I suppose we could take another,” Call said, his voice a careful neutral. 

“Ensign Bartley, you’ll be going with these two.” A doe-eyed blonde was quickly rushed next to them. “Follow their instructions to the letter and they’ll get you back to our lines.” Erik could feel the young officer’s terror with an undercurrent of determination. Erik guessed she was having a hard time in the Dark Towers’ hands. She had that look that the delvers liked in human women. 

Without any further words, the quartet scurried back into the darkness. Erik guessed they had maybe another fifteen minutes before one of the other patrols ran into either the dead draks or the dead hobgoblins. Fortunately, Call had the guards’ routes mapped. The Dark Towers never really understood the need to vary their guards routes or times. A tense ten minutes and the quartet was at the culvert. The stench of the putrid water filled the area.  

“The bars under the water’s surface are cut away,” Call said. “Just keep your eyes closed and feel your way through.” 

“Don’t worry Ensign, just a few moments of nastiness, and we will be free of this hellhole,” Corry said in her most soothing voice. The ensign nodded, screwed up her face, and slipped into the water. 

“You’re next, your highness,” Call said when Ensign Bartley splashed out of the other side of the wall. 

“Just think of the vermilion fields,” Erik said to Corry as she walked into the water. 

“Vermilion?” she asked, in a cool tone. Erik nodded. “You know, I always hated the vermilion fields.” As soon as Corry was underwater, Erik pressed the button. The explosion was loud enough to be heard from across the camp. A fireball lit the night sky. 

“What the hell?” Call asked a moment before Erik put his rifle in Call’s face. The freelancer didn’t even bother looking surprised. “Damn, I was hoping to get you at least outside the wall.”

“Who hired you?” Erik asked. 

“You know I’m not going to tell you that,” Call said. Erik felt the freelancer’s resigned emotions. “I thought I’d hid it from you better. You never even let on that you were suspicious.” Erik fired a burst. As the body crumpled to the ground, Erik swore. He hated having to kill people he considered friends. 

The pair of gunshots sent Erik flying over the wall. He quickly found Corry from her psi-scent. She had Ensign Bartley behind a shed. Across from them was a small flatbed truck with a heavy machinegun mounted. Bill, the other freelancer, was crouched behind the truck door aiming a heavy pistol at the shed. Erik pushed against the wall a bit harder. Bill realized too late that there was someone above him. Much like Call, the freelancer wasn’t afraid, just resigned. Erik fired twice with his rifle. 

“Corry, let’s go,” Erik shouted as he landed on the cab of the technical. He knew something was wrong from Corry’s emotions. 

“That bastard shot the ensign,” Corry shouted back. “Bring the med kit or we’re going to lose her.”

“It can never be easy,” Erik gritted through his teeth as he grabbed the olive green pack and darted towards his friend and the orcs screamed in the night. Well, Corry was safe and he had Little Britches. 

Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 3


“Well, I’m glad that’s finally over with,” Princess Anya said as she walked into her bedroom trailed by Anne and Samantha. It surprised Anne to learn that the prince and princess had separate bedrooms, but the Avalonians considered it perfectly normal. From what Anne had gathered, it was traditional than an indication of any marital problems between the prince and princess. Avalonians had some weird customs. 

From Anne’s perspective, the royal couple looked like they had been cast in the roles. Prince Rupert was six-two with the lean, muscled lines of an active man. His blonde hair and blue eyes were perfect accent to the handsome face and tanned skin. The prince reminded Anne of that Aussie who starred in the *Thor* movies. The princess was also tall, around Anne’s own five-nine. She was slender, but not thin, with soft curves that reminded Anne of the young professional women that worked in the city’s financial district. The princess’s heart-shaped face was dominated by large, brilliant blue eyes and elegantly-styled curly brown hair. Anne could certainly see how Erik had fallen for this woman.  What Anne couldn’t figure out was how this woman had fallen for Erik. If she got the time, Anne wanted to hear that story. Erik and Samantha refused to speak of the relationship. 

“I hope we have enough time for me to explore your lovely city,” Princess Anya said to Anne as the princess lounged on the couch. 

“I’m sure we can arrange something, your highness,” Anne replied. Samantha curtly nodded. Princess Anya’s eyes narrowed as she stared at Samantha. The Avalonian psychic just stared back. Anne could feel the tension ratchet up between the women. 

“I’m getting very tired of your attitude, Samantha,” Princess Anya said. “You’ve been treading the line between barely proper and outright insubordinate since I arrived.”

“What did you expect when you asked me to be your personal gofer, your highness?” Samantha asked, not bothering to hide her sarcasm. “I thought I made my feelings very plain the last time that we talked.”

“That was over a year ago, Samantha,” Princess Anya said, “I had hoped your initial anger over what happened had cooled a bit. Samantha, you were one of my best friends. I don’t want what happened between Erik and me to come between us.” Samantha’s brown eyes blazed to the point Anne almost thought they had turned red. 

“I spent the better part of the last year trying to put Erik back together,” Samantha said through gritted teeth. “Do you have any inkling how badly he was torn apart by what you did to him?” Princess Anya took a step back at the sheer fury in Samantha’s voice. 

“He seemed fine when he called to congratulate me on my wedding,” Princess Anya said. Anne couldn’t stop the bark of laughter from escaping. The princess spun to face Anne with a look of anger and betrayal marring her pretty features. 

“Your highness, I’ve known Erik for less than a year, but even I know that he is a master at showing someone only what he wants to see,” Anne said. 

“I know that,” the princess snapped, “I saw exactly how much he had hidden from me during the Winter Solstice party.” Anne had no idea what the princess was talking about, but whatever it was incensed Samantha even more. 

“When he saved your life?” Samantha nearly screamed, “When Erik took on twenty armed men to save you and your family?” Samantha stopped and her eyes hardened. “That’s what happened? He killed the man holding you hostage, and it horrified you?” 

“Stay out of my mind,” Princess Anya nearly shouted.

“Right now, that’s like asking me to stop listening to you while you’re shouting at the top of your lungs,” Samantha shot back. 

“Maybe we should all calm down now,” Anne said, stepping between the two women. Anne traded harsh looks with both of them. Normally, Anne would have been all for getting things out in the open, but neither Samantha nor Princess Anya seemed ready to more than just argue. Before Anne could say anything, one of her phones rang. She froze as she recognized the ringtone. 

“Get up, both of you,” Anne said, in a command tone, “Samantha, get the go bags. Get her highness into something less observable.” Samantha was already moving. She knew what that ringtone meant as well. There was a yelp of protest as Samantha grabbed Princess Anya and pulled her over to the wardrobe. Anne swore as she cautiously stuck her head out in the hallway. 

“Well?” Samantha asked, as she finished dressing the princess. The princess was in a causal creme dress suit. It was something Anne might have worn to court, but on the princess, it looked downright casual. Samantha was putting on her sidearm when Anne joined them. The psychic handed Anne a messenger bag. Anne slipped the bag over her shoulder and grunted at the weight. 

“Hallway’s clear,” Anne said as she repositioned the messenger bag. “We use the stairs to get down three floors and into the safe room. Samantha, link us up. Just us for right now.” Anne felt the familiar slight push in her mind as Samantha established a telepathic link between the three women. 

What is going on? Princess Anya asked over the telepathic link. 

Someone is coming for you and security is compromised, Anne answered, We’re going to get you to a safehouse. The princess nodded with understanding. Anne was both surprised and grateful that the princess didn’t bombard her with dozens of questions, most of which Anne didn’t have the answer for. 

The three women walked out of the room with the princess between Anne and Samantha. Anne had to force herself to walk casually as she led the trio to the emergency stairs. Her own questions were swirling through her mind, but she clamped down on them. They were less than a dozen paces from the metal fire door when a pair of Imperial Guardsman stepped into the corridor. Both looked like they were straight out of a casting call for Secret Service agents. The only noticeable difference was one was slightly taller than the other. The two Guardsmen held up their hands. 

“I’m sorry, your highness, but there’s been an incident involving his highness,” the shorter one said in a calm baritone. “We need you and your aides to return to your room until this has been resolved.”

“Where is my husband?” the princess asked in a commanding tone. 

“We’re sorry, but–ARGH!” said the shorter one. Both Guardsmen grabbed their heads and grunted in pain. After a few seconds, they were on the floor. Anne just looked at them in shock. 

Anne, we need to get down the stairs, Samantha said. They’ll recover fast. Anne slipped a key in the alarm and disabled it. Pushing the heavy door open, Anne motioned Samantha and the princess through.

What did you do to them? Anne asked as the three women hurried down the stairs.

Stimulated their pain memories, Samantha said. They were remembering the worst pain they’d ever felt in their lives. Anne gave the psychic a cautious look. She’d never seen Samantha doing anything use her powers so offensively before and wondered why 

Anne reached into the messenger bag and drew out the small submachine gun. Holding the weapon at her side, Anne opened the door. The corridor was clear. Anne motioned for the other two to follow. The room was only a dozen paces from the stairwell. If things were going according to plan, Kurt would be waiting for them with changes of clothes, new IDs, more weapons, and hopefully, answers as to why he made the “go to hell” call. The “Do Not Disturb” sign was hanging on the door handle. Anne could spot the small identifier mark saying that the room was clear. 

Kurt wasn’t waiting for them in the room. Instead, Free-Elf Veritas was sitting on one of the beds with a dark expression on his too-pretty face. 

“So, butterfly, exactly where did you think you were running off with the princess?”


Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 2


“It is a great view at night, isn’t it?” said the man as he stepped out onto the catwalk. Erik didn’t bother acknowledging the other man’s presence. He’d come up to the top catwalk of the Temerity Pylon to get away from everyone, and Erik was annoyed that his solitude was broken. The man put his hands on the railing and looked down at Lower City. From twelve hundred meters up, the neighborhoods of the lower level of Avalon City looked almost peaceful. Both men knew the reality of Lower City. 

“Your father wants to see you,” Colonel Michael Hastings said. Hastings, better known to the masses as Post Primam, was the senior officer of First Battalion of Whiteguard – the psychics and sorcerers that guarded the Emperor. As the Post Primam, Hastings was expected to be the finest example of the beyond-natural humans in the service of the Emperor. The Avalonian version of Captain America. 

Erik knew Hastings better when the two were roommates at the Preternatural Academy. Erik, Samantha, and Hastings had been better known as the Terrible Trio that had terrorized the faculty with various pranks and jokes. Sam had even dated Hastings briefly after graduation. Erik and Hastings kept in touch over the years, but that had changed in the last year and a half. Erik had been avoiding his old friend since nearly getting Hastings killed during the ending of the Commandante Affair. Many of Hastings’s friends were killed when Erik unwittingly sent them into an ambush. Much to Erik’s relief, he didn’t sense any resentment or hatred coming from his old friend. 

“My father’s dead, Michael,” Erik answered, flatly. He could feel Hastings’s frustration. Well, that was his own damn fault. Hasting knew Erik’s feelings on that subject. 

“Your step-father then,” Hasting said, “Erik, quit being an ass. Do you think I would have been sent to find you if this was just a routine errand?” Erik stepped back from the rail and looked at Hastings. Erik probed harder with his empathic senses. There was an undercurrent of fear and worry running through him. 

“What’s going on?” Erik asked.

“Not here,” Hastings answered, lowering his voice. “Your step-father’s office.” Erik looked out at Lower City. He could go down to the street and take the next lift up to the Upper City, but that would take at least a half-hour. Erik grinned maliciously at Hastings. 

“What is going through that head of yours?” Hastings asked as soon as he saw the smile. He knew Erik far too well. 

“Practiced your flying recently?” Erik asked, and Hastings blanched. In terms of raw power, Hastings’ telekinesis easily eclipsed Erik. That being said, Hastings never learned the fine control that Erik had with his telekinesis – and flying was all about control. Erik pushed off of the catwalk and felt the welcoming familiar sensation of falling. Telekinetic flying required creating “columns” of telekinetic force to push and pull against much heavier objects, such as buildings, pylons, and the ground. Most telekinetics strong enough to lift more than their own body weight were taught the basics of flight at the Academy. Of those, only about half ever became proficient. It just required too much concentration. Then, there were those like Erik who excelled at it. Erik luxuriated in the sensations as he soared out beyond the walls of Avalon City and up to Upper City. His powers were too weak on Earth to really fly. He missed it more than he realized.

In less than fifteen minutes, Erik landed gracefully in front of his stepfather’s mansion. Like all of the buildings in Upper City, the mansion looked more like a small fortress. Reinforced arms reached out from the gray stone building to four sentry buildings. From the air, it had a passing resemblance to a Maltese Cross. All of the Upper City buildings had the same drab severity on their exteriors due to the occasional windstorms that tore through the streets when the invisible wind shields periodically turned off. Like so much of Avalon City, no one knew why the shields went down, but when they did, the winds were strong enough to knock a lorry off the side of Upper City. The aristocracy and those wealthy enough to afford homes in Upper City had learned long ago to reserve their opulence behind the stout walls of their homes.

“You’re a jackass, Jaegar,” Hastings said as dropped to the cobblestones with a meaty thud. Erik wordlessly shrugged his shoulders. “Well, let’s not keep them waiting. They’re waiting for us in your stepfather’s office.”

They’re?” Erik asked as they walked through the visitors gate. Erik had been expecting a servant to be waiting for them. Instead, one of his stepfather’s armsmen was waiting at parade rest. The soldier/bodyguard motioned for Erik and Hastings to follow him. His stepfather kept his office in the main house, just inside from the visitors gate. It was efficient and pragmatic, unlike many others of the aristocracy who made a person tramp all over the house just so the visitor would see all the expensive knick-knacks in the house. 

Stephan Luugard, Duke of Amwell, High Counselor of the House of Lords, and Mayor of Avalon City sat behind his antique oak desk. He was a tall, thin man in his early fifties dressed in a conservative suit of navy blue. Erik’s mother must have picked out the green silk tie that set off the suit. Luugard’s dark eyes narrowed as Erik walked into the room. Absently, he began to stroke his thick gray-streaked beard with a long fingered hand. Erik could feel annoyance, loathing, and – relief? – coursing behind his stepfather’s impassive facade. In the time Erik had known his stepfather, the man had never once felt relief at seeing Erik. 

As surprising as his stepfather’s emotional mix was, Erik’s eyes were drawn to the small, bookish man sitting in front of Luugard’s desk and sipping on a glass of amber. Thinning black hair and an off-the-rack gray suit made the man look like a mid-level manager or a slightly senior bureaucrat. The man’s perpetual bored look enhanced the image. Erik knew better. Vincent Paul was the head of the Grayguard’s Office of Special Investigations. In the ten years Erik had worked for him in Blackguard, Paul had been known as the Saint.

“Stephan, what’s going on?” Erik asked his stepfather. 

“Much to my own annoyance, I’m just playing host for Mr. Paul,” Luugard answered. Erik turned to his former employer.

“What do you want Saint?” Erik asked. “What could be so important and secret that you had to appropriate the mayor’s personal office?” The Saint flicked his hazel eyes up at Erik. The Saint was one of the few people whose emotions Erik couldn’t feel. The small man was also a past master at controlling his body language. 

“I don’t need anything from you,” the Saint answered cryptically. “Princess Corrine, on the other hand, is in desperate need of your services.”

“What happened to Corry?” Erik asked before he could stop himself. He felt Luugard’s flash of anger at the familiar name, but Erik didn’t give a damn. Erik had been part of a small coterie of children that had been allowed to play with the emperor’s son and daughter. Corry had been, if not his best friend, then a very close one. 

“She was shot down doing a reconnaissance flight above Battle Island,” the Saint answered. “From our best reports, she’s been captured by the Dark Towers.” 

“There’s more,” Erik said. Getting Corry out of the Dark Towers’ prisoner camps on Battle Island would be a job for the Imperial Guard, but from the intense frustration emanating from Hastings, they hadn’t been given the mission. Erik doubted they wanted him to go rescue Corry because of his prior relationship with the princess or his experience on Battle Island. 

“We have reason to believe that she was shot down by someone working for one of the other aristocrats,” the Saint said. It could never be easy. 

Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 1


Anne fought down the urge to smooth her skirt again. The light gray suit dress was a gift from Lady Maritza, and it was exquisite. Granted, Anne hadn’t put up much of a fight when Lady Maritza presented it to her last week. Just thinking how much it cost, much less the tailoring, made Anne slightly worried that IA would take a closer look at her relationship with Lady Maritza. Still, as both the Lady Maritza and Kurt stressed, it wasn’t everyday that she got to meet a princess. 

Anne contented herself with looking around the main room. Lady Maritza, as the senior diplomat for Avalon, was sitting in one of the leather chairs. Across an antique coffee table from her sat Helen Murras. Anne couldn’t remember the woman’s lengthy title, but she was the senior diplomat for the American side. Kurt and Samantha stood at Lady Maritza’s shoulder. Kurt was Lady Maritza’s security, while Samantha was acting as the older woman’s aide. Jason was in one corner of the room with Agent Privas. Jason had been assigned as the liaison between the American supernatural task force (which was always referred to as just “the task force”) and the Avalonians. The task force was providing the American portion of security, since it was unlikely the normal agencies such as DSS and Secret Service would know how to handle a supernatural attack. Two more agents Anne didn’t know were acting as security for Ms. Murras. The agents eyed Anne warily, like they weren’t sure what side she was on. Anne was assigned as the personal liaison for the princess. Anne still wasn’t sure exactly what she was supposed to be doing, but the princess had asked for her personally. 

“The advance team is here,” announced the agent stationed in the lobby of the Marcom Hotel. The Marcom was probably the finest hotel in the city and the building was considered a historic landmark. The Avalonian prince and princess had been given the presidential suite that took up the entire fifteenth floor. To be fair, the suite was designed not just for the designated occupants, but for their expected staffs as well. That was a good thing, because Anne had been told to expect to reside at the Marcom for the Avalonians’ stay. Her room at the Marcom was a closet compared to the rest of the suite, but at least she wouldn’t be stuck in traffic on the few off-hours she expected. It also helped that Lady Maritza helpfully made sure she was sharing the room with Kurt.

It also helped that during the Avalonians’ stay, Anne wasn’t being teamed up with her erstwhile partner. It was now an open secret in homicide that Jason was a federal agent being quietly “loaned” to the city. None of the rumors even touched that the real reason he’d been assigned was to help protect Anne from being captured by the Dark Towers and forcibly taken back to Avalon. Still, he’d been taking a lot of ribbing in the past six weeks from the other detectives. That, combined with a lot of animosity over what had happened during the Outsider Event (as it was being called by the task force), had made him bitchy and irritable. It was like working with someone constantly on her period. 

There was a sharp rap at the suite’s main entrance. Three men and an elf walked into the suite. All were dressed in suits and wore earpieces. The only thing that seemed to distinguish the three humans was hair color. After months of dealing with Erik, Anne didn’t expect Imperial Security to look so much like feds. Lady Maritza walked over and shook hands with all four of them before escorting them over to the assembled group. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce Agents Barston, Sturm, and Calhoun of the Imperial Guard and Free-Elf Veritas of the Office of Special Investigations,” Lady Maritza said. If Ms. Murras had any qualms about meeting an elf, she kept her diplomat’s face as she shook the proffered hands. Each of the humans accepted Anne’s hand with the cool professionalism she’d expected. Veritas, on the other hand, almost seemed to sneer at her when they shook hands. As the elf turned to the next person, something dawned on Anne. Lady Maritza said that Veritas was from the Office of Special Investigations. That was the same outfit that sent Samantha, Erik, and Veronica to recruit Anne. She wasn’t sure, but Anne had a sneaking suspicion that Veritas wasn’t here solely to guard the prince and princess. Anne caught Samantha’s eye and the psychic nodded at Anne’s unvoiced question. 

“The prince’s party is expected to arrive here in four hours,” Agent Barston said after introductions were completed, “Agent Sturm and myself would like to go over the arrival plan once more with Ms. Murras and Agent Privas. Agent Calhoun and Free-Elf Veritas will need to speak with the Avalonian contingent and Detective Hearst about some last minute details about the princess’s visit.” 

“Anything we should be concerned about?” Agent Privas asked.

“No, it’s more clarification than anything else,” Agent Barston answered. 

“Well, if you two gentlemen will follow me into the command center, we can show you what we have,” Agent Privas said, motioning for the two Imperial Guardsmen to follow her down the hall. Ms. Murras and the rest of the feds followed the trio. As soon as they were out of the room, Samantha fixed Agent Calhoun with a hard gaze.

“You fucking traitor, Billy,” Samantha said with a cold anger.

“Good to see you too, babe,” Agent Calhoun said, equally as chilly.

“Are you going to have problems with everyone during this visit, Ms. Hart?” Lady Maritza asked. 

“Probably, but I do apologize for letting my temper get the better of me, this time,” Samantha answered in a contrite tone. She still shot daggers with her eyes when she looked over at Agent Calhoun. He ignored her and focused on Anne.

“Detective Hearst, you’ve been assigned as the princess’s personal liaison,” Agent Calhoun said.

“Yes. What exactly am I supposed to be doing?” Anne asked.

“Mainly acting as a combination aide and bodyguard,” Agent Calhoun answered, “In your off-time, Free-Elf Veritas will be helping you with your magic.” The elf just frowned at her. 

“Thanks, but I’m doing pretty well on my own,” Anne said. She didn’t bother mentioning that she’d accidentally set fire to the meditation room at the clubhouse a few days earlier. Something about Veritas made her uneasy. Besides, it had only been a little fire. 

“It’s not a request Detective,” Agent Calhoun said, “We need you to be more proficient with your magic.”

“Why?” Anne asked.

“We have a credible intelligence that someone close to the prince and princess will try to assassinate them during this trip,” Agent Calhoun said. Anne swore under her breath. Erik was right. It could never be easy.


Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 17


Anne sipped at her tea as she tried to process everything that Lady Maritza had just told her. It had been a week since the fight in the forest, and this was the first time that Anne had been allowed out of her bed. Officially, it had been to recover from injuries from the fighting with the Servitors. In truth, though, Anne, with Samantha’s help, had spent most of the week dealing with the memories that had flooded her mind when Arem removed her block. Damn it, she’d been just an infant. Why did she have to have the memories of Arem and Meliandre (Anne was guessing it was Meliandre) murdering her twin sister for some ritual. Samantha’s best guess was that unless Anne locked away all of her power, the memories would remain. Much to her own surprise, Anne realized she wanted her powers – even at the cost of the memories. She just wished she could figure out a way of looking at her parents without feeling guilty.

“I can’t believe Veronica’s gone,” Anne said as she set down the china cup on the coffee table. “I thought it would be easier after Dale died, but it’s just as hard.” Dale Melon had been her partner in homicide and had been killed during a fight with werewolves and Arem. It was hard to believe that was less than a year ago.

“It never gets easier, when those closest to us are killed,” Samantha said from where she was ensconced in an overstuffed armchair. “Especially the way people in our profession tend to go.” There was an odd fatalism in Samantha’s voice that Anne had never heard before.

“Jaegar was kind enough to offer to visit her family,” Lady Maritza said, clearly annoyed with having to admit it.

“He was the team leader. It was his duty,” Samantha said. “I just wish I was going with him. Those visits are harder for him because of his powers.” Anne flinched as she thought of what it must be like being an empath surrounded by grieving families. Maybe that was part of why Erik always seemed so cold.

“Yes, well, he’s proven to be quite capable of dealing with death,” Lady Maritza said and Samantha’s eyes narrowed.

“With Erik banished back to Avalon and Veronica’s death, who’s going to be filling out my security detail?” Anne asked. “Arem kept his word about not trying to get me back during the fight with the Servitors, but I know he’s going to try again.”

“Your security is no longer the responsibility of the Avalonian government,” Lady Maritza said, “Of so I’ve been told by the Americans. Their task force has decided to set up a permanent base here. Jason is not the head of your detail, and will keep his cover as your partner in homicide. Others will move into the apartments to take over as your detail.”

“What about Samantha and Kurt?” Anne asked.

“The Americans have asked us to stay on as ‘advisors’ on dealing with whatever the Dark Towers could send their way,” Samantha answered.

“Officially, they will both work for my husband’s security firm,” Lady Maritza said. “Which will make it easier on your relationship with Kurt, since the pair of you won’t have to go hiding about anymore.” Anne looked down at her cup and blushed. She thought they were doing a good job of keeping that from being discovered by Lady Maritza. Much to Anne’s surprise, Lady Maritza let out a peal of genuine laughter.

“Oh my, Anne, you are precious,” Lady Maritza said, “I’m not blind. I can see how the two of you look at each other.” The older woman’s eyes had a wistful look. “The pair of you remind me of how my husband and I used to act when we were your age. Younger, actually, now that I think about it. Someday, I will have to tell you that story.”

“Joseph’s also going to be joining us as soon as he completes his recovery,” Samantha said, barely containing her own happiness.

“As much tragedy as this incident has caused us, there have been a few bright spots,” Lady Maritza commented. The women fell silent in contemplation.

“So, what now?” Anne asked, after a few minutes.

“In another week, you’ll go back to work,” Lady Maritza, “Although, you’ll be taken off of active cases for at least the next two months or so.”

“What? Why?” Anne asked, almost sputtering into her cup. Strangely, Lady Maritza looked over apprehensively at Samantha. The psychic’s jaw dropped, and then her face scrunched in intense anger.

“What the hell is she doing coming here?” Samantha snarled.

“Escorting her husband, as is proper and expected,” Lady Maritza answered cooly.

“Lady Maritza, would you kindly explain to me what’s going on?” Anne asked.

“Of course, Anne dear. I apologize for inadvertently excluding you,” Lady Maritza said, “The Avalonian government is sending the Crown Prince Rupert here to discuss with the American government recent events and negotiate a better course of action. His wife Anya will be accompanying him, and has asked that you be detailed to serve as one of her personal guards and liaison.” Anne frowned as she thought about having to do diplomatic security. High level muckety-mucks tended to bring their own security, and the Secret Service and State Department tended to send even more. These details usually ended with her being sent for coffee because she happened to know what were the best places in the city. Then Anne’s mind caught the woman’s name.

“Wait, wasn’t Erik’s ex-girlfriend’s name Anya?” Anne asked. “The Avalonian prince is married to Erik’s ex-girlfriend?”

“From what I understand, it was probably closer to ex-fiancee,” Lady Maritza said after it was clear that Samantha wouldn’t say anything. Lady Maritza’s head snapped to Samantha.

“Yes, you will work with ‘that woman,'” Lady Maritza said, answering a telepathically sent question, “For some reason, Princess Anya considers you to be a friend, and has specifically asked for you and Anne to be assigned as part of her aides.” Anne didn’t think she’d ever seen Samantha so furious in all the time she’d known the Avalonian. Lady Maritza continued as if she didn’t notice Samantha’s expression. “The Crown Prince will be here in six weeks and is expected to stay for a fortnight. Perhaps longer if necessary. From now until then, we’ll be working with the Americans to make sure everything is prepared for their arrival.”

Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 16


Erik felt more than saw the Servitors’ shield come down from Anne’s magic strike. He could see the shock on the cultists’ faces as they scrambled to finish digging their summoning symbol. All except their leader. The High Servitor seemed more annoyed than anything else. Erik brought up his Galil ACE and fired a burst at the man. The High Servitor anticipated the attack and pulled one of his minions to shield himself from the gunfire. The cultist jerked as the three bullets hit her and then went still. The High Servitor dropped the body and smiled. He bent down and drew a circle on the ground. Erik had a sinking feeling he knew what was going to happen next.

“Kurt, open fire!” Erik shouted an instant before the clearing rocked with a horrific roaring. Something large and tentacled lifted itself out of the circle. Erik couldn’t tell much more because it hurt to look at the monster. Kurt yelled something in German until the rapid dud-dud-dud of the machine gun drowned him out. As they’d planned, Kurt didn’t fire at the monstrosity that was bearing down on them. Kurt was there to kill as many of the Servitors as he could. Half a dozen of the Servitors were cut down before one of the monster’s tentacles ripped the machine gun from Kurt’s hands. Erik aimed at the painfully blurry mass and fired his grenade launcher. The monster’s howl drowned out the pop-hiss of the willie-pete grenade. The next thing Erik knew he was airborne and his ACE was bent nearly in half. 

Erik knocked down several of the black-eyes as he landed on them. He tossed the useless carbine aside and drew his revolver. Erik didn’t bother wasting the precious rounds in the cylinder on the black-eyes. He sprinted back towards the monster. It was still screaming in pain as John and Nigel each pumped in more of the burning white-phosphorous grenades. The monster lashed out at the two operatives. The chemical fire made weakened it, but the monster’s tentacle slap was still strong enough to throw John a good five meters. Erik braced and fired all five rounds in his revolver. 

Erik wasn’t sure where Kurt got the “mostly-depleted” uranium he’d used in constructed Erik’s bullets, and he damn sure wasn’t going to ask. Especially not after seeing the effect they had on the Outsider monster. It’s screams took on a new high-pitch wail, and it slinked back to the portal. Erik popped open the cylinder of his revolver and dumped the brass. From what he saw, another five “special” rounds should be enough to finish the monster.

The human scream ripped Erik’s eyes away from the monster. He looked to where the High Servitor stabbed deeper into Veronica’s chest. Blood poured out of the small woman onto the grass. The High Servitor smiled triumphantly and chanted something in the Outsiders’ infernal tongue. A brilliant white tear appeared in the air behind the pair. It had to have been fifty meters high. The bastard had managed to open a gate for the Outsiders. That must have taken most of the High Servitor’s power, because suddenly Erik felt all of his powers flood back into him. He was nearly buried under the emotions and psi-scents that permeated the clearing. Erik focused on the satisfaction of the High Servitor and Veronica’s terror. 

Far’ling gleamed in the night as Erik pushed himself into the air. The High Servitor’s satisfaction dimmed as he watched Erik arc through the air. Shock and surprise blossomed in the man. The High Servitor dropped Veronica and tried to run. Erik made a small adjustment and then felt the High Servitor’s vertebrae crack and pop under his weight as he landed. 

“The Nameless God will see this world before the night is done,” the High Servitor croaked. Erik silently slashed down with Far’ling and neatly parted the man’s head and body. Decapitation was one of those wounds that made resurrection nearly impossible. Erik’s head snapped up as he heard Veronica’s whimpers of pain. Erik leapt over to Veronica. She was still bleeding profusely from the stab. Erik slapped on the single magic-infused patch he had on him. It couldn’t heal a wound that severe, but it would make sure that Veronica didn’t bleed out.

“I’m going to get you to the medics,” Erik said, “This is going to hurt.” She pushed his hands away. “Veronica, we need to get you help, now.”

“Erik, stand me up,” Veronica wheezed. He felt the determination and fear running through the woman. Carefully, he used his power to help her stand. Veronica stared at the gate. Her determination and fear heightened even more.

“We need to close this gate. Right bloody now,” Veronica said, holding her hand to patch. “I can feel them coming through.”

“I can get Arem and Anne up here to help,” Erik said, but Veronica just shook her head. 

“No time, Erik,” Veronica said. “I can see the framework of the gate, but I need more power to close it.” She gave him a sad look. “I need Far’ling.” The request took Erik aback. He’d won the sword over a decade ago. The pleading look in Veronica’s eyes told him she understood how much the blade meant to him, and how desperately she needed it. Reluctantly, he handed the elven blade over to Veronica. She closed her eyes and murmured in elven. Then she collapsed to the ground and cried out in pain and frustration. 

“What?” Erik asked as he knelt next to Veronica. 

“It’s not enough,” she cried. She looked up at Erik and he felt the pure terror that ran through her. 

“I don’t want to die,” Veronica whispered. Erik didn’t understand why she said that, but he could feel her bracing herself. Veronica handed the sword back to him, and then gave him the most sorrowful expression he’d ever seen. 

“Erik, stab me through with that sword and toss me into the gate.”

Erik didn’t hesitate. The elven blade punched through Veronica’s chest like the woman’s body was made of silk. He felt her fear, pain, and last-second fight to cling to life. He used his power to hurtle the dying woman into the widening gate. The brilliant light was the last thing Erik remembered before everything went dark.