Left Hand Path
Fire, orange metal.
Screaming knives hurling themselves into him.
Cold river, old as the ages.
Songs around him, as the air burnt with life. Cold again, but shaped, heat at the edges, as his senses kicked in.
A face, dark skin, and dark eyes. Long black hair, and small gray wings, folded tight against her back. Curvy body, shaking as she retched, vomiting onto the floor. She stood, but there was a flash, as something crashed into her. Chocolate eyes on his, and she crumpled .
Matt tried to see her attacker, but his vision blurred, and a little elf on a faded poster floated into view.
Nicole was in a chair, shrunk tiny, and covered in a small blanket. She snored softly, and he was glad for her presence. If he could move, he would go to her. Anyone touching him, acknowledging his life, and it could be real again.
“Babe,” he said softly. She shifted a little, but he just leaned back, deciding to let her sleep.
His jacket was on the bed, near his feet, but he could not pull the magic together to call it. If they had discovered the book, or even this volumes theft she would not be sleeping in the same room as him. Forcing his thoughts to other matters, he wondered how long he had been out. His arm hurt, and was wrapped up, but taking off the bandages seemed like a bit too much right now.
A phone cord led up onto the dresser, and he gave a little tug, barely catching the slim white device that fell. Passworded, of course, but he entered it with a sly smile. Nice was clever, but he knew her, as well as himself.
Tuesday. He had to check his call time to see he had called on Monday. Only a day, which was a lot better than he thought.
That explained the gnawing stab of hunger deep in his stomach. Waking her up was out of the question, so he just let it sit.
After about ten minutes he realized he was holding a cell phone, and texted Nicky.
<Hungry Matt. I am AWAKE and so damn hungry>
<Send food or silenced gun. Dont want to wake up nice but I need to end this hunger….> Matt sent immediately after.
<Why must I endure this pain?!!> A few seconds after the first two.
<Naw when you get a chance> Matt gave the leprechaun a minute, or so, to catch up, but he was halfway through the next message when Nicky texted back.
<In a fucking wheelchair man. Ab is bringing you some food. You okay?>
<Ney, dead as fuck, ye rapskillet>
<Or shrimp anything I’m dying> Matt realized he had literally been waiting five years to use that gag.
<I didn’t miss you.>
<Naw I saw those wet emerald eyes bro. U like me.>
The fairy was a few more minutes, and Nicky was either too busy, or too annoyed to be much more entertainment. She was wearing a hoodie again, but jean shorts under it. They were long enough, but he still had to stop himself from admiring Nicky’s taste in women too much.
Matt noticed one of her eyes was bruised a deep magenta color, and her lip was swollen. She looked tired, her wings sagging against her back.
“Damn, you look like hell, kid. Rough night?”
“Catclock,” she replied, in Fairy Matt guessed, but he never learned a lot of the language.
“Sorry,” the mage hoped that would cover it. “Food?”
“Pizza?” she asked in a low whisper. A white paper plate, already soaked through with orange grease. The color bugged him, but the reason was out of his reach, as she sat the plate on his chest.
“It’s all I can cook,” she said. “Sorry you got bit by that Crowner.”
“Happens,” he said, grabbing a slice with his good hand. It was from a chain restaurant, rebaked in an oven. “Red pepper?”
“No idea,” she said. “Sorry. Want me to bring more?”
“Something to drink, if it’s not too much trouble.”
“It’s fine,” she said, still quiet. Backing out of the room, he saw her shrink, flying down the stairs.
“You not dead?” Nicole asked, her voice still heavy.
“Super strong, honey,” he said. “Takes more than a snakebite to put me down.”
“You see your arm yet?”
“Nope,” he said. “Gonna eat this pizza first.”
“Probably a good idea,” she said standing up. “Know how long you’ve been out?”
“Like a day? Not bad huh, remember when I took those shr-.”
“Fucking hell, Matt!” She punched his shoulder, and he grabbed it, catching hard leprechaun knuckles with his own on the next hit. “You’ve been out since 9:30 last night, like fucking 20 hours, of the day since you’ve been back.”
“You didn’t have to fucking be a hero again,” she said, almost walking out the door. “Just fucking at least act like you’re sorry!”
“Sorry,” he said immediately. Too quick, he spotted. “I mean sorry…”
Nicole eyes softened, her anger letting out in a long sigh. “I’m going to go see what’s taking so long with that orange juice.”
“Fairy’s like orange juice.”
Matt spent a long time staring at the ceiling. After a few minutes he got the feeling that they were probably having some conversation. He was almost asleep, when they both returned. Annabelle had a large glass cup of the aforementioned juice, that was just a little warm. Nicole took her seat back, and the hand the fairy slid across her shoulder gave Matt a very bad feeling.
“We need to talk.”
“Not just us. Conference call with the witch. Cowell will be there. Me, you, of course.”
“I’m going to go grab the cookies.” The fairy was gone, Nicole narrowed her eyes at her friends escaping back. The leprechauns mouth dropped open, and she muttered a few words Matt did not catch.
“I missed you, babe.” No smile. “I missed you a lot.”
“But you’re what? With someone else? Just not interested? Fucking hate me? That’s half a thought, honey.” He set the untouched orange juice on her dresser, and tried to swing his legs over the edge of the bed. Throbbing pain danced through him with every movement, and he fought a sudden wave of nausea.
“Just stay there, it’s not that bad,” she said, pushing his shoulder down. “You just got back, and for fucks sake, you’ve been in some crazy fucking basilisk coma!”
“I saved the house from a freaking snake. Where the hell did it come from anyway?”
“Where do you think?”
“Do we know? Or just guessing?”
“Anyone else looking to kill you?”
“Probably just him. You?” he asked back.
“When have people been out for me? It’s always you healing up in my bed. I’m just in danger of getting a crooked spine from sleeping in chairs.”
“You shrunk,” he said.
“Well it’s not my fucking bed.”
“You can join me?”
“Not…. Just not until things are a bit clearer.”
“Give me a kiss?” A quick brush on his cheek, and he let his head fall onto the pillow.
“Don’t rush me, Matt,” she said, voice dead, eyes calm on his. “I loved you, and maybe I still do, but you push it, and I can’t promise anything.”
Matt stared into her dark blue eyes, realizing they used to nearly match his own. He barely even tried to hold his ground, folding under her stare in moments.
“Don’t be sorry, just chill out some. I promised Morgan we could call her. Are you up to it?”
“I still don’t get why she runs the path?”
“Because she’s the only one on our side that the big bads are scared of anymore.”
Nicole sat her laptop on the bed, at the end facing it toward them. After it started she opened a program, and in a moment bright red hair filled the screen, one triple pierced ear visible under the loose curls.
The Witch leaned back, a smile spreading across her dark lips. She looked to be in her early twenties, but she had looked like that when she stepped through the portal six years ago. ‘Witch’ was just a title, as her powers closest resembled one. Rumor was her father was the trickster god Coyote, but no one knew with any certainty. A being of more rumor than most of the gods he knew, at any rate.
The mage had seen her power for himself The Witch had murdered the three men that traveled through the portal with her. Rumor was she had killed a dozen more that week. A few were missing things. Another rumor was she ate those things. Matt had not seen that for himself, but there was something in her smile, a hardness you only saw in the alpha predators.
Matt settled on the bed, and Nicole sat next to him, covering his wounded arm. Matt wondered what level of trust they were dealing with, but if she did not want them to see he trusted her judgement at least.
Cowell popped up in the corner of the screen, his scar still in place, and a bit grayer than when the mage had seen him last.
“Matt,” the witch said, with a smile, and a slight inclination of her head.
“Morgan,” he said back.
“Good to see you among the living.”
“Thanks. Good to see you not eating people.”
“Matt,” Cowell said his voice low.
“Good to see you too, popsicle dick.”
Nicole snapped the computer shut. “If you’re-.”
“Sorry, Jesus sorry. Just still tired, and I don’t know why you passed leadership onto a fucking predator. Not only that, what the fuck is his problem, he hates her.”
“I can still hear you.” Faintly from the closed laptop. “We’re not here to discuss politics, Matt.”
“At least she’s not dumb enough to kiss a gas truck at 80 miles an hour,” Cowell’s voice. Predator support network. Nicole opened the laptop.
The screen was still full on the Witch, a hand stuck a single french fry into her mouth. “We’re traveling, and I’m hungry. Go on, I’m ready to listen.”
“Why are you traveling?” Matt knew, but he wanted her to confirm it for him.
“We’re worried about Stumptown, well I am. Didn’t get a huge response for backup here. With Chark back, I thought you could use the support,” Morgan said, a playful smile, as she crunched a sauce laden chicken nugget. “Also sort of missed you too, you’re a real inspiration for a lot of us.”
“I get that a lot. Usually not from people who tried to stab my face, but it’s always nice. Hows, um, Darcie?”
“Marcy. Lighting god got her a few years back,” the witch replied. Her tone gave no indication as to her feelings, or what ‘got’ meant, but he could not dredge up that much interest in an old enemy right now. “I met a sword guy. He’s cool, but he’s a traveler. You’d like him.”
“That’s great. Not James is it?”
“No, his name is Kint.”
“I knew a James Elledge,” he said. “Had a cool sword cane. Cut up a bunch of zombies with me.”
“He’s got a cane sword. I’ll ask him when I see him.”
“Are we done catching up?” Cowell’s face was a little red. The witch ignored him, so apparently she did not take the predator support that serious.
“How are you Nicole?” Morgan’s voice was friendly, charming. Politician. He listened as Nicole ran through a list of Portland related events. Lewis, Chark’s second, had taken over for him as the leader of the Stumptown region; the land from British Columbia, Canada to Fresno, California. Portland, was its capital, and namesake. Ran the territory around the same as Matt’s brother. Less death, but less was wide when dealing with Chark. If Lewis was failing to make headlines, it was a probably a safer rule.
“He’s fine. Doesn’t know about Annabelle yet, wouldn’t like it.”
“That don’t sound fine, sweetheart,” Matt said, attention returning to full. “That-.”
“Matt,” Morgan cut in. “We don’t have, or want, problems with Lewis right now.” Matt forced his eyebrow to stay down, but he could tell Cowell caught the tone as well. Nicole too, and he almost wondered what the game was; since they were all dealed in, why the quiet? But he added that to his list of questions.
“So basilisk?” Morgan looked at her cell phone, as she asked. “Attacked Murphys?”
“Scream alerted us, but no one will admit to it.”
“I would, that was a manly scream. Wish I sounded that good terrified,” Matt said.
“I’ll be there in the morning,” Morgan said. “We can look into it then.”
“I’m going to check Corvene for the book,” Matt said. “We might be panicking for nothing, but I really doubt it.”
“I’m passing by anyway. Is it just under ‘Evil Books’, or do I have to do something special?” Morgan asked, sipping from a soda.
“It’s cloaked, but just look for it, it’s not very well hidden. It was just supposed to be temporary.” Matt knew Nicole felt him tense, but neither Morgan, or Cowell gave any sign.
Next post up soon.