Monday, November 24, 2014

50 Word Thoughts - VIII


"Do you think I'm pretty?"



She smiled. "I'm glad."

"I'm sorry?" What?

She backed Archer against the wall, invading his personal space. She leaned in, putting her hands on his shoulders. Confusion mixed with an unfamiliar emotion. He shoved the woman away, violently, and ran.


She hummed while she painted, content. Applying pigment to canvas was a soothing activity, one she was growing to enjoy. It was not music in a human sense, the grinding and shifting of stone, the song of her homeland. The discordant noise would be unsettling, but she was alone.


The beauty of circuitry was often overlooked. She loved making the insides of her machines as beautiful as they were functional, even though no one else would ever see them. Sometimes - most of the time - it was a challenge to manipulate the machinery. For example, symmetry often required some redundancy.


There was a fighting force at hand; someone was always on duty. But there were no gryphonriders, no alarm spells. There were improvements to be made to the fort's safety everywhere she turned. She would suggest them, but even with her disguise, she was still only just a green recruit.


It was a hobby of hers, getting into places she was not supposed to be. She started with various buildings around the garrison, before getting adventurous. The orc threat posed a particularly juicy target. Getting in was a breeze - she climbed the crude, wooden wall. Delicious secrets lay just inside.


She enjoyed learning for its own sake, though some information was irrelevant or commonly known. Her beloved was knowledgeable and maintained a large private library, where she could look up anything she was curious about. One day, she read about murloc life cycles. The next, she might research star patterns.


She tried to be everything a leader should - confident and competent. No job was so menial that she would not do it herself, though she  obviously could not do everything! That was what the magical word "delegation" was about. Still, she patrolled the grounds and cleaned latrines with a smile.


She wanted to be a good person, she'd decided that. The problem was, how could you define such a thing? Was it a matter of being good at being a person? Or was there some deeper meaning? Neither ethics nor philosophy were especially clear - and neither gave detailed instructions!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Aftermath

She woke, groggy, feeling like every part of her body had been beaten with hammers. She didn't want to move, but she had to. Fighting a crippling weakness, she managed to pull herself up to hands and knees. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner of the previous day came up all at once, her stomach protesting what she'd done to herself.

When she was done throwing up, she wiped her mouth and looked around. Ugh. She was still on the cliff overlooking the orcish encampment. It looked very much like a tornado had torn up the area, tents and orcs strewn about like an angry child's toys.

At the center of the camp, a shadow stood, the inky black of the void reaching out and spearing nearby orcish corpses. She watched as a ghost was ripped free of its body. It struggled, trying to escape the thing's reach, but to no avail. The void consumed the spirit like so much candy.

She shuddered. The mission was apparently a success: dead orcs could not normally get up to march, much less to attack a village.

But what had she done?

A better question was, what forces had the orc been tampering with, that his death had loosed this monstrosity.

What would happen when it ran out of orcs?

Vladik! She realized it in a panic - where was her wolf?

She breathed a weak sigh of relief to find him standing nearby, all of his fur up on end. He was growling, his attention fixed on the disaster below.

"Let's get out of here," she whispered.

The wolf nodded, an entirely too human gesture, and trotted off.

When it became obvious that she would not be able to follow at any speed, he circled back to help. She rested almost all of her weight on him, grateful that he chose to be solid for h er.

However, when they got within sighting distance of the garrison, he disappeared like so much smoke.

They both knew that if he was spotted, it would be all too easy to identify her.

Still, she only managed to crawl a few more feet, collapsing in a heap without his support.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Mission

The orcs were planning an attack. Her first real mission as "Archer" was to thwart that attack. Straightforward enough.

It was a small force of Shadowmoon orcs, not really an army. How could she, alone, stop them from marching? Her instincts said "kill them all" - killing came easy, and it solved the problem. But in this case, it wouldn't be practical.

She reasoned out what she could do while scouting the encampment from above. Whatever else could be said about orcs, they were still mortal. They needed food and water to survive. They needed rest, of course, and they needed leadership. These things, she could disrupt.

Breaking the problem down like that, it was almost manageable.

The best part was, she wouldn't have to do most of it in person.

She put together packets of poisonous herbs, smiling as she worked.

Her beloved wolf would be the one to distribute the vile death she had concocted. Vladik had long since died; she couldn't hurt the ghost with her mixtures.

She explained what she needed him to do, still marveling at how smart he was. She watched as he made his way down the cliff and disappeared from view.

She was confident her wolf would take care of his task. If there was a single scrap of edible food in the camp by morning, she would be surprised - and if they had a single wolf left, or a moment of restful sleep in the entire camp, she would be astonished.

As the local wolves began to howl, loudly, she set to work on her own task.

She wasn't much of a mage; she couldn't rain fire or freeze her enemies in place. She couldn't imagine being able to reverse time.

But she had some talents.

She settled in to the shadow of the cliff, focusing on her well of power. As she closed her eyes, she felt herself slipping free of her body.

The thing she designed was vaguely humanoid, thin strands of magic connecting at a central point. It had two hands, and something resembling a head - good enough. It was also more or less invisible, which suited her purposes quite well.

The thing was also quite mindless; she would be controlling it, directing its every movement. It would take all of her focus: hopefully, she wouldn't find herself under attack, as she would be entirely helpless - most likely unaware of what was happening, until after she'd finished her work below. She wasn't stupid, though - if the orcs caught a scrawny young human in their midst, they would certainly kill him without a second thought.

Carefully, she directed the construct to pick up the poisoned knife. Clumsy, but it would do. She edged down the cliff, before realizing that without a real body, there would be no need for gravity. She flung her 'self' forward, the construct flying out over the camp proper.

One of the tents looked - strange, to her magical vision. It billowed with a kind of inky black smoke, and it beckoned her, drawing her closer. Curious, she followed the call. She slipped unnoticed into the dark-lit tent, finding the orc inside fast asleep. So much power, though - she knew for certain this would be a high value target. She slit his throat without a second thought.

The power did not dissipate. If anything, it expanded, for a moment, before contracting into a vaguely humanoid shape. The darkness hungered - it was impossible for her to look at the thing. It was impossible not to. Ultimately, she found herself staring at it in awed fascination.

The darkness hungered, and before she realized what was happening, her construct was engulfed, consumed. She hastily broke her contact with her creation, cutting her losses and snapping suddenly back into her body. The monster she'd unleashed had stolen almost all of her magic - but at least she was still alive. The backlash of her actions caught up to her quite quickly. She'd expected to be weak after her working.

She was unconscious before she could realize the full of her mistake.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

50 Word Thoughts - VII


The silly little flower men had sharp teeth. She discovered just how sharp when one of them latched on to her arm. She did not scream - she had endured worse. Instead, she bashed its skull in, green goo flying. She shook the dead thing off, before resuming her vicious slaughter.


Northrend was notoriously cold, with biting winds and harsh snows. She had not fully anticipated staying the night in a tent that was completely buried. She dug a small vent up to let air in and what little smoke her heater gave off out. It was a long, grueling night.


She smiled as she worked. To a human, the splash of color on canvas was meaningless. The idea that she could craft her own art was an incredible thought. She did not try to capture the image of something that existed - why would she? Instead, she painted pleasing patterns.


She sighed. She wanted to believe in the good of the world, and then this happened. It was two of the woodworkers - she did not know their names. "You know this is not tolerated," she said evenly. Rage gave her punch strength. No one deserved to be hurt like that.


"Commander!" The man snapped to attention. She had been recognized for her efforts in the previous wars, but honestly, she had no idea how to lead. She had run mostly solo campaigns, because of her "gifts." The idea of running a fortress was terrifying. What if she failed her people?


With how many years the Alliance and Horde had been fighting, she would have thought that a translator would be superfluous by now. Still, she served as well as she could, for basic confrontations. The others around the garrison got together, cornering her to demand lessons. Of course, she obliged.


Once again, she found herself traveling to strange lands a t the beginning of a new war. She was not chosen as part of this mission, but her employer was. She was not one to abandon a job because it got dangerous, and so she demanded a position in their company.


She swung the 'copter around, firing at the massive skeleton below. There were still a number of free roaming undead after the fall of the Lich King, though not nearly so many as during his reign. She did not mind clean up: it gave her time to think.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

50 Word Thoughts - VI


She was dreaming. She knew that, but it was a good dream. She was enveloped in a sense of pure light and warmth. There was a soft chiming noise that filled her mind. "You are not alone," it said. She woke, groggy. On the contrary, she occupied a solitary cage.


"That is not good enough, maggot!" She appreciated that the instructor treated her no differently than the adults he worked with. She wanted - needed - to prove to herself, to everyone, that she could keep up, that she was as good as any adult - if not better.


It came to pass that she found herself working at a military base. As far as her peers were concerned, she was a young enlisted man. That was the story, anyway. They let her participate in their games, gambling being their favorite. She lost, so now she cleaned the latrines.


She snorted softly. The man - the dwarf - who ran this organization was a petulant child, going into an infantile rage because things were not as he wanted them to be. His wife was more respectable, in her eyes. Besides - it was his wife who had invited her here, not him.

Friday, November 14, 2014

50 Word Thoughts - V


She swore. The man cringed - she could feel his fear. He expected her to lash out. A small, quiet part of her said she should. It was the legacy of the runeblades: a persistent, bloody madness, one she fought every day. It was a struggle not to kill the messenger.


There was something hiding among the rocks, something that glittered. It was nothing so plain as simple metal. She recognized the feel of it - a beautiful, purple rock. She did not have the right word for this - gem - but she promised herself she would learn. She needed that knowledge.


She opened a single eye, just a crack. For a moment, that was all that distinguished her dark gray form from the stone around her. Then the hill that formed her body trembled. Her wings spread; she shifted to arrange her legs under her. She stretched, creakinjg, and then roared.


The massive, shaggy-furred beast foamed at the mouth. It had already killed three strong men. Their corpses lay at the monster's feet. No one dared approach the bear, fearing that they, too, would die. Maybe it was the confidence of the young that spurred her on. She charged in.


She twisted the currents of magic in the air. Flames twisted around her arm: blue, green, yellow. She refused to be anything less than perfect, at every skill she chose to learn. She spent all of her time practicing her talents, such that she had never learned what childhood was.

50 Word Thoughts - IV


She wrinkled her nose. While she enjoyed the sweet foods known as candy, she did not enjoy other aspects of this holiday. She had all-but avoided Stormwind for most of the month, for this reason: the low-flying Horde pelted the city with stink bombs. She could not breathe!


She did not understand the noises these strange, soft, two-legged creatures made. They opened their mouths and sounds came out. She tried to make the same noises, but she did not know what the noises were for.
"Chirp?" She asked.
"Yes, Chirp!"
She pointed at the squishy woman. "Hoo-min."


The hawkstrider ruffled his feathers. She could sense his excitement, as plain as any elf's. Without words, she guided the bird around, bringing the lance up in a salute to her opponent. She faced a large orc. He wore heavy armor, she did not. She still sent him flying.


"Do you think yourself funny?" The heat of his anger was palpable. Maybe she should be nicer, but she found it hilarious. His thick, plated pants lay unlatched on the ground, his sword danced just out of his formidable reach. He had picked on the wrong little girl today.


She swallowed heavily, looking out over the expanse - a shallow pool, really. She had learned to deal with some of her fears, but this one still haunted her. She dipped her toes into the water. It was cold and clear. Slowly, she edged into the pool. So far, so good.

50 Word Thoughts - III


They danced, twirling, spinning. She delighted in showing him the miracle of flight. She tucked one wing in, rolling. He was clumsy, but he mimicked her movements, chasing her across the starry night sky. Her love, her mate - he was everything she could have wanted. He worked hard - for her.


There was no grave for her to spit on, no practical way to display her newly kindled hate. And a large part of her, a traitorous part of her, did not want to. She channeled her rage into strength, throwing herself into her training. For all her hate, he won.


She crept through the dim corridor. She did not know where she had come from, nor where she was going. All she knew was a deep sense of dread. She was not a coward; she kept moving forward despite her fear. But it was hard. Her dream trembled in terror.


The orc's axe drew blood, opening a thin gash across her cheek. She was not especially vain, but she took offense to that. She moved with unnatural speed and magically enhanced strength, smashing the greataxe aside and kicking him squarely in the soft bits. He doubled over; she struck again.


She ground the delicate petals down, mixing the herbs together into a mushy paste. The herbs were worth their weight in gold, but they were that effective. Already, she had set aside a wealth of liquid magic: healing potions and elixirs to enhance every aspect of herself. It was necessary.


She punched, piercing the dummy's "eyes" with the spikes adorning the handguard of her axe. The girl stepped back, panting slightly. Long practice had given her endurance - she could keep going just short of forever. She did need to work on all her talents, though, so she had to stop.

Through the Dark Portal

The feel of her axe slashing through flesh, slamming into bone, was intensely satisfying. This was what she was meant for. This was what she had trained for.

She ripped her axe free of the dead orc's skull, lashing out and tearing through another orc's throat.

She wasn't alone out here, by any means - Alliance and Horde alike fought the crushing might of the Iron Horde. But it wasn't like she could hide behind the others, not that she'd want to. She had come to fight, and it was glorious.

A new wave of orcs stormed through the portal. Somehow, she found her efforts had brought her to the front lines, a position that she hadn't intended to occupy. Still, as the strongest warriors of every Azerothian race poured forth to meet this threat, she felt - confident. That was the word.

The orcs largely didn't focus on her, either, at least not at the start. She was small, and she had a trained talent for blending in. She slipped through their ranks unnoticed, ducking a wild mace, and began to wreak havoc.

Her knives had been displayed prominently, not for intimidation, but for easy access. They glowed blue-green as her power freed them from their sheathes. The blades began to dance around her, almost as though they had minds of their own. Blood spattered as sharp points found soft flesh. Her knives fanned out around her, while she herself laid waste to every orc that came before her. Limbs fell, heads rolled, and the orcs suddenly viewed the small half-elf as a threat. This fact, she realized too late.

She drew her blades in close to her body as one particularly large orc turned to face her. He grinned as he smashed his own axe down against her block. Another bone-jarring attack, another - this one was followed with a kick that knocked the wind out of her and sent her flying.

She felt the magic swirl around her as she rolled through the portal.


A heavy kick to her side woke her up. She attempted to lash out, tried to fight whatever - whoever - had thought to capture her. Her hands were bound behind her back, so she thrashed, wielding her magic like a club and blasting outward with raw power. She was stunned as her own magic was reflected back at her.

The big orc grinned down at her as she groaned, looking up. She noted absently that her armor had been replaced with rags that barely covered her modesty. One more thing to take out of the orc's flesh, when she was able.

Her orcish was rusty, but she understood him well enough. "You like to fight, little girl? Then you will fight." He threw two crude-looking axes down next to her. "You will fight in the arena," he said, "Until you die."

This was not exactly what she had wanted when she decided to put her skills to use.


She killed, and killed again, for the orcs' amusement.

She made a point of not getting to know the other prisoners: she didn't know when she would be forced to fight against them - or worse, when the orcs would just kill them all outright.

The first time they had tried to bleed her, she bit, kicked, clawed, and punched, thrashing until they knocked her out with a swift blow to the back of her skull. The second time, she fought only until they knocked her out with a sweet-smelling herb.

Before they could attempt a third time, something amazingly fortuitous happened: fire broke out, burning the huts around them, and the cage door swung open.

Somehow, she doubted the two events were unrelated.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Achaena's Diary, Page Four

I don't want to talk about it. But I suppose that's when I need to most.

Everything I know has been set upside-down.

My family - my Master - lied to me. They told me that my mother had abandoned me. That she hadn't wanted me, hadn't loved me.

But that was a lie.

I spoke with her ghost yesterday. She told me what they had done. They had killed her. My guess is that the house, where I'd lived all my life - was also the house where my mother lived, and died. Otherwise, how would her spirit have been there in death? So they killed my mother, took her house, and made me into a murderer like them.

And how was I to know? I was young and stupid. I accepted everything the Masters told me as absolute truth. They were all the family I had known - what else could I have done?

An example though - the farce known as "pain training." There was a woman who could get into your head. She did a kind of magic, and inflicted terrible, unimaginable pain, all without leaving a visible wound. Undeniably, it worked, at least for me. I can withstand all but the worst pain indefinitely.

But was it necessary to torture children? Really? I suppose in their eyes, it was; we could hardly be effective if we broke down crying over every little scrape like - like children!

And why children in the first place? Is it because no one would suspect a child in a poisoning? Or a knife in the dark? No - I suspect it is the complete obedience, the absolute loyalty. None of us knew any other life, any other family. We were slaves, worse than slaves, because we loved our Masters. We would have died for them. Looking back, I doubt they would reciprocate our devotion.

As much as it hurts now, though, this betrayal was in the past. There isn't any point in dwelling on it: it belongs in the past.

I spoke with the worgen, Raphael, to try and sort everything out. He's wise, maybe even as much as Kelgrim, and more importantly, I was able to locate him last night. I'm glad, honestly: he just seems more ... real, somehow. It's easier to accept the idea that there might be a few good people in the world when he says it, because - well - because I know that he knows the ugly side of the world. He has that kind of a person inside him, just like I do.

He asked me about what my mother's ghost said.

She wasn't happy with the life that I've led, the kind of person I was raised to become.

So he pointed out that I can be whatever I want, do whatever I want.

I don't know what I want, ultimately, but I know that for now at least, I want to be useful. I've been bored, even practicing every day. My mind and body are sharp as ever - why shouldn't I help in the fighting?

I'll contact Foranth tonight. It shouldn't be hard to pretend to be a few years older. I don't even know that a dwarf could tell the difference.

Achaena's Diary, Page Three

So I was right to check on the dwarf - to alert her father. She was no match for the titanic system she was trying to tamper with: she found herself caught by the machine. Fortunately, Kelgrim was able to circumvent the defense systems and save her.

I guess that means I did the right thing.

Elle is safe, so that's good.

The other thing I wanted to mention though - I got accosted by a dwarf. She's apparently called Mistrel Weaving, though she didn't tell me that at first. See, I was minding my own business, transmuting some living steel. It was in the mystic ward of Ironforge - that area with all that power. She took a minute to tell me how good my work was - for someone my age.

Then, she got suspicious. She pieced together what I was, not that it's exactly a well-kept secret. If the SI:7 knows and follows me around, I think it might as well be a matter of public record. I'm just not that important, especially given recent events.

But this dwarf was paranoid.

She seemed to think I was an assassin sent to kill her, for her efforts in the Siege of Orgrimmar or some such thing. I managed to set her straight - I had no idea who she was or what her organization was about. I guess being dragged around is better than having someone try to eat me.

I even got a job offer out of it. She suggested that I might be able to offer my services to the "Anvil March."

Kelgrim was less than happy about that idea. He says that they're gearing up to make an expedition through the Dark Portal, to fight the Iron Horde.

That does influence my decision.

It will be good to use my talents again.

Achaena's Diary, Page Two

Perhaps I am being too harsh. There have been good people in my life, haven't there? What about Rennfri? She adopted me after my family died. That has to count for something. That may not be a good example. Although she seems to care - she DOES care for me - the death and agony that follows her, that she deals out, that is done in her name - I cannot honestly call her 'good.'

What about the elf who had lived next door? She seemed .... innocent of the evils in the world. Maybe the healing woman - the one who became pregnant?

You might say that every nosy paladin who has tried to enforce a curfew on me might be considered good - at the very least, they largely say they are doing it for my safety. So they are nice enough.

And of course, there is the matter of the dwarf, Kelgrim Forgefighter. Undoubtedly, he has made his own mistakes. His relationship with his daughter suggests that she is at the center of one of his bigger ones. But - she has a relationship with her. He's trying to repair the damage done. "Good" is not synonymous with "infallible."

So maybe there is one good person.

I do hope he doesn't hate me, especially after I let his daughter walk blithely into danger. I did send him a letter, so if something is wrong, he can help to fix it.

I'm on a boat now, me and my golem, sailing across the sea to Kalimdor, so that I can fix my own error. I despise water - the only way that I can make the journey is in a windowless room where I cannot see my impending doom.

If we capsize, I will drown and die.

How pleasant.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Of Ghosts

The elf wasn't anyone she recognized. She had known the others she had encountered, either personally or by their armor. This ghost was a civilian, though. She worse a simple, white nightgown, and a river of blood ran from her throat, which had been slit.

"They lied," the woman said, her voice wispery and almost inaudible. Achaena thought for a moment that she had imagined it. "They lied to you."

"Who lied?" She asked. "Who are you?" She wasn't particularly afraid - only the strongest ghosts could harm the living - and she didn't feel that this ghost meant to do her harm.

The woman floated forward, reaching out for her. She felt a chill as the ghost's hand cupped her cheek. "I would never abandon you ... my daughter."

She froze. Years of resentment, of hurt and anger, surfaced momentarily, before melting away. "Mother?" Her voice trembled. This had to be some kind of trick. She'd always been told ... but the dead weren't supposed to be able to lie. Not like the living could. And, when she was younger, hadn't she believed everything the Masters said?

The woman looked like her, tall and willowy, though her features were bleached in undeath. She enveloped Akkie in a cold, yet loving, embrace. "They killed me," the ghost whispered. "I could only watch as they twisted you, tortured you. Made you like them." Her voice held horror and pain. "That wasn't the life I wanted for you. It broke my heart."

"Mother, I - " The ghost pressed a finger to her lips.

"Shh." Her mother offered a sad smile. "This wasn't what I wanted for you, but it brings my soul a measure of peace to know that you are strong enough to survive the cruel world I brought you into. My only regret is that I could not - can not - be there for you." 

Already, I can feel my rest calling.

Be strong, and brave.

My daughter."

Her spirit faded. There came a sense of profound peace.

She sank to her knees, silent tears streaking down her cheeks. Her world had been set upside down.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Achaena's Diary, Page One


That's how these things begin, right? A greeting, an introduction, and then I spill my darkest secrets.

But the healer says that this will help. So, let's do this properly.

My name is Achaena. I am a half-elf. I am twelve years old. And I am a monster.

Oh, not like the Worgen, or the San'layn. No curse has made me to be what I am. But I bear no illusions: I am a monster.

But I'm only twelve, the astute observer will remember. What could I have possibly done?

Let's begin at the beginning. An elven woman deposited her newborn baby on the front doorstep of the orphanage. I remember neither my mother, nor the orphanage. I was too young. But I know what happened next.

A group of assassins, my family, adopted me. They raised me, trained me. I learned to fight with all manner of weapons, including my own magical talent. I also learned to brew potions and poisons.

I made my first kill when I was only ten. I've never felt any guilt. Why should I? This is what I was raised for. I was proud; Master was proud of me. He presented me with a set of ten perfect knives, which I carry to this day. They're a part of me, and more importantly, they are my last reminder of him.

You see, it was less than a year later that their scheme was uncovered. I returned from a job to find the house - my home for my entire life - crawling with guards. Everyone I'd known and cared for was dead.

But time moves on. I escaped the guards' notice easily enough, kept out of their way. I pursued legitimate work, even looking after a hunter's pets for a time. That was interesting. One of them was dead - killed long before I met him. I made fast friends with the ghost wolf named Vladik. He is a supremely loyal companion; he rarely leaves my side. The hunter ultimately let me keep him. If there is one person I trust implicitly, it is him.

I've met a lot of people - some of them were even good, I imagine. But mostly ...

There was that warlock who tried to kill me in Dalaran, because I wouldn't kill someone for free. Stupid - no gold, no blood.

He didn't succeed, obviously. Neither did the dwarf who tore a chunk out of my leg.

I'm still alive, but that one was close. I still have scars from those encounters - the leg healed with the help of magic, but nothing can cleanse fel taint permanently.

Even my own friends are - many of them - awful, horribly cruel people.

I think the dwarf, Kelgrim, is probably the best person I've met, and all I do is anger him. Maybe I should try to listen to him - he's old, he's supposed to be wise. But the things he says are so unrealistic.

People are mostly bad. It takes work - hard work - to care for anyone other than yourself. Even those who claim to be altruistic are only doing it to feel better about themselves.

Now I'm feeling bitter.

Maybe I'll burn this page - that's supposed to make you feel better, too.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

50 Word Thoughts - II


She let the magic flow through her. It was almost pretty, the way the colors swirled together. She found the process soothing. It gave her mind a rest. The magic mixed with the metal in a beautiful pattern of light. It was always good to profit off of enjoyable talent.


The girl called Chirp rubbed at her eyes, trying to wake up. The magic that enhanced her mind would only last a little longer. She wanted to cram just a bit more learning in before then. She just could not keep her eyes open for even a single moment more.


So much time had passed. The house was repaired, and ready for sale, but the word was that it had become haunted. Stormwind's forces were busy elsewhere. No one could be spared for the exorcism. The house stood empty and unwatched. She entered, quiet, in search of her beloved dead.


She was pleased with herself, to know she was still as good as she was once. The mark was fat and easy, the coin heavy in her hand. He would barely miss the fat purse. For her, it was less about money. She had legitimate pursuits. This was just fun.


Bored. The trip took several days, and all she could see for miles in all directions was dull, boring water. At least it was not quite as scary as it used to be. That is, so long as she did not fall in. She could still, too easily, imagine drowning.


The man was named Walter. He was a rich merchant who liked to mix business with pleasure. He was also dead. The two facts were very much related. He had tried to get just a bit too friendly, and she simply could not allow him to compromise her current disguise.


She had never in her life experienced such a variety of flavors, of textures. The word for this one was "potato." She found that it was sometimes hard, but she liked it best when it was hot and soft and covered in "butter." This food was served with dead meat.