Bad Penny

Start at Breadcrumbs

Murphy Residence

Christmas Eve, 2007

The cooking thermometer made a loud -Ding- as the portal began to open.

Nicole tossed her paperback onto the workbench, and slipped a 9mm into the back of her pants. The number of refugees lately had increased, yet another war between Stydran, and Fryhel sending them through in droves.  The alarm had been Nicky’s idea, he was pretty clever occasionally.  It only gave them a minute of warning, but it was better than a sudden bright flash, and then visitors.

The light was bright silver, and it made a small crackling, as it slowly opened. Weak magic user.  The small auto garage the Murphy family worked out of was too well lit by fluorescents for the portal to cast any extra shadows, but still something felt darker in the large open space.

Aidanians, as the small cat people preferred to be called, did not often migrate to earth, so whatever brought it through the portal must have been important.  Nicole’s tension faded, just a little, at the sight of the mild orange fur on the short creature. It wore a white simple dress, and a red hood on it’s head, pushing down its furry ears. They walked upright, but could easily be mistaken for large bobcats when on all fours.

“Hi!” Nicole said. “I’m Nicole, and I’m a leprechaun.” She tried not to sound like she was talking to a cute kitty, they did not usually take that well.

“I know,” the creature said in a feminine voice. Nicole could never tell until they spoke. “Naughtwood-.” It broke off coughing a little, its white paw over the tiny mouth. Nicole had to cover her own mouth, and bite her lip to avoid saying ‘Aww’. “Naughtwood said that a leprechaun would be here. To tell them he was coming in hot, and to arm up.” Amusement turned fairly quick, as the words sunk in.

“Which one?” she asked rushing to the little cabinet in the main office. The keycode was her, and Nicky’s birthdays, and she messed it up on the first try. Deep breath before she punched the keys again. “Which Naughtwood, I mean?”

“Only one, on our world, thank Sojitoa,” the cat said. “I am Chio.”

“It’s nice to meet you Chio,” she said politely. “Can you describe Naughtwood? Does he have a first name?” She chose her battle axe, and grabbed an extra clip for the Beretta. The shotguns were tempting, but she had only ever fired the handgun.

“None that I know. He’s big, and coppery. Strong magic.”

“Anything else?”

“All the furless ones blend together. Sorry.”

“It’s fine,” she said, faking a smile. “It sounds like the right one anyway. Any idea why he’s coming in ‘hot’?”

“Bonsorcier is chasing after him with a lot of skeletons. He was distracting them.”

“Oh.” She pulled out her phone, and texted Nicky, telling him to raise the alarm. Pa was holding a Christmas Eve party, and most the Clan was there. Way too many to fit in the garage, and, yard, unless it spilled into the actual junkyard. Pa had sprung for a banquet hall, and she had volunteered to watch the portal. While Nicole was excited at the prospect of seeing Matt again after two years, despite his awkward farewell, at this point she sort of wished she had chosen the party.

The portal was still weak, and she pumped a little of her own magic into the spell. It sputtered a bit, before brightening. Anchor portals needed some sort of power source, and were a lot safer than the simpler reality tears magic users sometimes preferred.

“It safe to peek?” she asked Chio. The Aidainan nodded, so she poked her head through the portal. A violet moon on the horizon, deep bluish night all around them. A field, around fifty yards, lay between the portal, and the forest that surrounded it.

Over the forest, a little ways off,two fireflies played, crashing into each other, and then darting off, before repeating the action. One was a soft blue, and the other a bright gold, and for a moment she wondered if that was their natural colors in this world. A flash of white light from the blue one, and the truth of what she was seeing hit her like the explosion that tore the night sky a moment later.

That was them. The wizards.

Blue hit the ground, but immediately blasted skyward again. Gold fired a double shot of smaller blasts at the fleeing ball of light. They connected exploding into golden fire, but the blue one barely slowed.

Nicole realized she was all the way through the portal, a big no-no without a trusted person on the other side. The fighting was  hypnotic though, watching the magic-users crash in the sky. A ten foot long sword, bright gold like the wizard that held it, materialized. He slashed, the other blocked his attacks with a similar silver blade.

A blast between the two of them, and they were flying again, raging like planes across the night sky. Gold was on the run this time, blue already firing two orbs. Gold ducked into the trees, the chasing orbs detonating as they followed. Fire flared up in the forest, the flames spreading fast.

Nicole lost sight of them, for a moment, then realized the gold one was coming her way, dodging a second blast from the blue. She jumped back through the portal, and grabbed Chio by the fur on the back of her neck.

He came through a moment after they were clear. She had just enough time to recognize the glowing figure as Matt, his head turning to glance at them before the blue orb slammed into his chest, exploding with a sound like thunder, and slamming him into the ground. He slid, coming to halt against the wall.

Nicole dropped Chio, and the creature ran into the open kitchen door.

“Stay in there,” Nicole said, but she doubted the cat would return anyway. Aidainan’s are notoriously fickle creatures.

Matt’s arm was broken at least, she could see that as she approached. The angle of it was so extreme there was no way the bone was intact. Blood dripped from his nose, and lips. One eye was completely black, the other just underneath. The damage to his face looked half-healed in places, so apparently this was not even the week’s first ass-kicking.

“Is he dead?” Chio asked, leaning out the door.

She opened her mouth to answer, but Matt muttered, “Not enough, Chi-beans.”

“Good,” the creature said. “I like Naughtwood.”

“I like you too, Chio. Want to go hide some more?”

“In the last room on the left upstairs,” Nicole told her. “It’s my room”

“That you Nice?” he asked, then continued, “Must be, unless the sirens are missing their sweetest voice.”

“You always so charming, or is that just the concussion talking?”

“A bit of both. Chark come through yet?”

“Haven’t seen him since you two left.”

“He was the asshole who blasted me.”

“You guys having a spat?”

“Just a minor issue.” He finally opened his eyes, one a lot more than the other, and sat up. “Staff?” She shook her head, and was about to tell him it had not made it here when Chark broke through the portal.

He was wearing all black, as usual, and still enveloped in the blue light. The plastic spacers he had worn in his ears were gone, leaving loose hoops of flesh. The staff Chark carried was all silver, and looked as if it was made of segments of spine someone had dipped into molten metal.

Three skeletons followed him through, and as he cracked his head to one side, they mimicked him. Their bones were black, and they looked as if they were made of very smooth charcoal. Nicole had never seen magic of this level.

He glanced at Matt, still sitting on the ground. “I get you with that last one?”

Matt shook his head. “Like a snail. Could dodge that in my sleep.”

“Your shirt is smoking.”

Matt cracked a half-smile. “Just too damn hot, I guess.” Two golden orbs shot out of his good hand, but Chark deflected them. Matt tried to move, but before he could even gain momentum, Chark slashed with his staff.

The mage hit the wall again, higher up this time, landing in a heap on his broken arm. A spray of red was left on the wall where he had hit, and more blood seeped from under the crumpled man.

Nicole started toward him, but the skeletons rushed her. The axe crashed through one’s shoulder, removing the arm in a hail of splintered bone. The other two skeletons were closing in on her, one on either side.

Stepping hard to the right, she backed off ducking a grab. Her axe just caught air on the next few swings, the bone constructs easily dodging. One attempt caught a few ribs ineffectively, destroying them but not slowing the skeleton down. Her back hit the wall, and what little calm she had mustered began to fade.

They closed in, and Nicole tried to get away, but bone fingers twisted into her hair, pulling back. A skeleton fist caught her chin, and something hit the back of her knee. She slashed out with the axe again, taking off the nearest leg. It collapsed, but still grasped at her. One of it’s arms caught the axe, and Chark stepped in kicking the weapon away.

“Bitch-ass coward,” she said, taunting Chark as he laughed. He flipped her off, and another skeletal fist crashed into her head. Her vision blurred, and the world went black.

Nicole was on the ground, she could feel it cold on her face, as the kicking started. Faded sounds, and sharp sensations as the two standing skeletons beat her. Back to the wall, she curled up as best she could.

Her eye was shut tight, her arms, and legs took most the abuse. One foot stomped onto her hand, pinning it to floor. A booted foot this time, smashed into her nose. Blood hot on her face, and she was dazed again. The boot once more, this time in the stomach.

The other feet had stopped kicking. Her arm was still out, as the boot came down onto her hand. A final kick to the stomach, and he backed away.

Nicole opened her eyes, and scooted back a little, slipping her good hand behind her.

“Sorry, who’s a bitch?” Chark asked, with a laugh. He turned to the the skeletons. “Tie her up. My brother won’t talk, she’ll be able to help convince him.”

Her hand curled around the wooden grip, and she drew. No clever line came to mind, as she aimed the 9mm at him. She fired three times, and some invisible force caught the first two, the bullets hovering inches from Chark’s face. The third slipped through, tearing into his shoulder. He grabbed the arm, face twisting, and crooked teeth bared.

The skeletons faded to dust.

Chark must have teleported, using some strange magic that left behind a faint white aura in his shape. He was just as gone as his minions.

Nicole collapsed back onto the ground, but sat up when her hand touched a puddle of her own cooling blood.

Standing up was hard. Her hand hurt, but moved without any overt crunching sounds. Nose was sore, leprechauns are not made of glass. Take a lot more than a wizard, to break leprechaun bone. Tucking the gun back into her pants seemed like a good idea. Shooting lessons had paid off at least.

As soon as Nicole could walk, she headed into the kitchen. She grabbed the first aid kit, from under the sink. There was a bottle of Vodka in the pantry, a large cheap plastic one, and she brought that too.

Matt was still out, and she rolled him onto his back. He was wearing his normal leather coat, but a strange tunic under it, and breech style pants. The whole outfit had about five more belts than it needed, including one on each wrist, but from what she had seen of Otherworld style this was normal.

The shirt was burnt to a crisp all around his chest. Whatever material it was made out of was tough, but the little scissors in the first aid kit cut through the burnt spots easy enough. As soon as the shirt was off, she took the lid off the bottle. She took a quick sip, before dumping the spirit on the burnt, and bleeding throat, and chest. Vodka ran pink from the wounds, flecks of blackened skin floating like little boats, on the river of booze, and blood.

A single slash was the worst of them. It was thin, and ran from one nipple to his collar bone. Taking another sip from the bottle, she dabbed at the long cut with gauze from the first aid kit.

He was still out, as she threaded the curved needle. As soon as it broke skin, he groaned. “Glad I’m not stitching up a dead man,” she said. Another groan in response, and a minute before he spoke.

“I’m back,” he said so low it was almost a whisper. “Forgot the milk, honey.”

Okay, part two of the Breadcrumbs sequence done. Hope you’ve enjoyed it, getting onto the story proper soon.


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