passed more slowly than usual. For high school kids enjoying
summer break, that was inherently good and exceedingly rare. Too
often, a teenager will wake up around noon on the first, relish
in the weeks of summer yet to come, blink and find themselves
back at school.
much for Troy and company. The last few weeks had been, to put
it lightly, eventful. In the days following the Chioni debacle,
when Troy woke up he could only wonder what was going to happen
next. Once they had gotten back to L. B. Gould after the big
infiltration, the return to normalcy was jarring and
uncomfortable. Every day, Troy prepared for some sort of
retaliation or consequence of their bold rescue. It never
fair, that perception was mostly due to Troy's ignorance. In
many instances, the aftermath was messy and tedious. Kurt and
Molly and even Richard had questions to answer, forms to fill
out and demons to take into custody. Ellen did indeed lose her
job, settling for different office work in Huffington. The venue
change dropped her a few rungs, didn't pay as well and increased
her fuel costs, but at least there were no demons at the new
office. The financial hit wasn't readily apparent to Troy; his
mother still received child support checks from zip code 46195,
so the family was never in dire straits.
the fear of a demon attack was renewed. Golden Sun was still in
town. One of their non-evil managers took over for Darren Silars
and Kurt kept a very close eye on them as part of his field
agent duties. Still, the company didn't magically go away quite
the way Troy had expected. Between them and Kendrick, who
skipped away from the scene unnoticed, Troy went through another
August expecting something to happen. In some ways, he actually
looked forward to returning to school. At least that was a
controlled environment under Molly's watchful eye, in spite of
the human rights she denied the student body.
Determined not to let Troy waste another August wallowing in
paranoia, Kathryn and Marie intervened. Slow as it may have
seemed, the month was half over and damned if they weren't going
to enjoy some of their fleeting freedom. They, Kamila and Yuki
were going to the beach.
mind that they were in Ohio. 'The beach' in this case refers to
a small strip of sand alongside a lake within a state park. With
the sun bearing down and the water so inviting, they wasted no
time in changing into their swimsuits. For Troy, this meant
taking off his shirt. The girls had a slightly more complex
our stuff, okay?” Kamila ordered, slinging a grocery bag around
Troy's arm. She pulled a bikini out of it and headed into the
changing facility. The other girls, in turn, dropped each of
their bags at his feet and followed her in. Troy dragged the lot
to the back of the building where he could at least look at the
applied sunscreen stolen from Marie's bag, Troy watched a few of
girls tanning by the water. Just another favorable addition to
the scenery. Until he heard someone down there shout his name.
She was returning to shore from a dip in the lake, grabbing a
towel from the tanners' row and continuing toward him. She was
that the bags would not sprout legs and run off, he left them
and walked up to meet her. This was a total surprise to Troy,
and an amazing coincidence considering how far out of town this
beach was. But one look at the water droplets clinging to
Renee's body assured him that it was a pleasant one.
smiled brightly and asked, “What are you doing here?”
friends and I come here all the time,” Renee replied, turning to
said friends. A couple of them looked over from their beach
chairs to see the boy Renee was running to meet. One stood up
and approached them. She looked just as stunning.
subject of Renee's companions raised, Troy quickly ran a
security check: “Your sister's not here, is she?”
laughed. “Of course not. Have you ever caught Molly doing
nodded, more relieved than amused.
this?” Renee's friend barged in, wearing a devious yet playful
smile and little else.
this is Troy,” Renee replied, a little sheepish around this
other girl. “He's a, uh... friend.”
friend, huh?” the girl mocked, bitingly. Renee turned away. The
girl leaned forward, putting a hand on her hip and angling
herself in a pose that screamed both 'yes, I'm hot' and 'no, you
can't have- not yours.'
Madison,” she said to Troy.
nodded his head, unsure of what he was witnessing and whether he
was amused or intimidated by it. “Monroe,” he replied.
Adams!” Renee blurted. Since the whole display couldn't be any
more befuddling, Troy chuckled. Bad a joke as it was, at least
he knew it was one.
scoffed and slapped Renee's shoulder. “You're such a nerd,
Renee,” she said, playfully enough to not intend harm. She
ditched the pair anyway.
smiled at Troy. “Isn't she a riot?”
shrugged and looked over his shoulder. No sign of his backup
all with you?” Renee asked.
checked again. “Kathryn, Marie and Yuki. And Kamila. They're
sure taking a while.”
tugged a strap of her suit. “Well, our gear's a little more
complicated.” With a second thought and his attention turned,
she shimmied her hip and added, “What do you think of my new
not to,” Troy mumbled, not realizing he had said it aloud. It
was a lavender two-piece, modest but revealing more than he'd
ever seen before. Rather than revealing his actual thoughts
about it, he instinctively looked over his shoulder again.
Kamila ducked behind the wall in time.
“Yep, she's flirting,”
Kamila declared, hiding behind the changing facility.
Yuki took another peak
at Troy and Renee. “I wish we could hear them.” What she meant
was, she wished she knew a good eavesdropping spell.
“No need, Yuk', did you
see that little shake? She knows what she's doing.”
Marie had so far looked
at the subjects only once. That was enough. “Jeez, why does she
have to be here?”
“Talk about bad luck,”
Kamila said. Arm over Yuki's shoulder, she snuck a look at
Renee's friends in the beach chairs. “And she's with Madison...
Jordan... bunch of stuck-up seniors. You got your hands full,
“It's not like she knew
we'd be here,” Marie mumbled, trying to reassure herself.
“Well...” Yuki said,
looked away from the other girls. “It's not inconceivable. I did
kinda mention the trip on Myspace.”
“Oh!” Kamila cracked her
knuckles. “Well, if that's how they're going to play, we'll just
have to ambush 'em.”
“Kamila,” Kathryn said,
stern. She had been quiet until now, hanging back in the doorway
with a look of dread on her face. The one word reprimand was all
she was letting out.
Marie took over.
“Kathryn's right. I don't want to start any trouble. It's
probably just our imagination anyway. I'll just cuddle up beside
him, pull him away and that'll be the end of it.”
Two steps on her way to
executing this plan, Kathryn lunged forward, grabbed Marie's
shoulder strap and pulled her back.
Marie turned around,
agog. “Please don't do that,” she muttered, sliding it back on
Shifting her eyes, still
pretty dour, Kathryn said, “Yeah, uh, that might not be such a
good idea either.” She pointed away from the beach. “Can we
That made Marie nervous,
but she nodded and they walked away.
“What about Kamila and
me?” Yuki asked.
“Duh, keep spying on
'em,” Kathryn replied.
Kathryn and Marie found
a bench by the parking lot. They sat on opposite sides and
despite their location and their attire they were both
apprehensive. Pulling Marie away was a natural reaction for
Kathryn given the situation and Marie's lack of knowledge about
the whole Troy/Renee thing. But now that she had, she wasn't
sure what to do herself.
She started with what
she did know: “Look, I've had a rough summer. I want to relax
and goof off and forget about things for a day. The last thing I
want to worry about is dealing with Renee and her princess
Don't discount the last
part: Madison and her friends were among the elite drama queens
in town- masters of various disdainful 'mean girl' tropes.
Jordan, one of the other girls tanning, was an all-region gossip
and gunning for all-state as a senior. Kathryn wanted no part in
“What's up with Renee?”
Didn't change the situation though. Marie remained uneasy.
Kathryn shifted her
eyes. What was up with Renee? Yes, it was entirely possible that
her being here was just a coincidence, that she was talking to
Troy because he was a friend and that her airy, cheerful way
could be seen as flirtatious. After the incident during the
Chioni battle, which Troy implored her to not talk about,
Kathryn couldn't be that optimistic. Yet, if she really was
trying to avoid petty conflict, she couldn't jump to
She settled for what she
knew: “They went out a few times freshman year.” Marie steeled
herself for more. “Hung out over spring break. Didn't really
hook up though. Molly found out and uh... well, Molly doesn't
Marie sighed. “That's
it?” Clearly, she was expecting worse. “That's more than a year
ago. That's ancient history.”
“Well-” Kathryn didn't
want to elaborate. Marie didn't let her.
“I suppose that's why
Molly has it in for him?”
“Sort of,” replied
Kathryn, pained. After trying to make sense of the Molly/Frank
connection, Kathryn gave up trying to figure out Molly's
“Well, all I want to
know is whether or not I should be worried about her,” Marie
said, calmly, looking Kathryn in the eyes. “Kamila can say
whatever she wants, but you know Troy better than anyone. So
should I be worried about Renee?”
It took a moment for
Kathryn's eyes to settle on Marie's. By the time they did, she
realized that even if she wasn't going to detail what had
happened that night, the ramifications were fair game. Kathryn
was determined to be fair.
“Yes,” she said,
Marie, calm and brave
and ready as she was to hear Kathryn's verdict, reacted like a
pet had died. She slumped down, a hand covering her eyes. If
Kathryn thought she should be worried about Renee, than by golly
she was going to worry.
“Hey, don't wor-”
Kathryn caught herself and her little paradox. “You'll be fine.
He's not going to ditch you just because another girl bats an
eye at him.”
“But Renee Pearson?”
Marie pulled her hand away. She was fighting back tears-
successfully thus far. “She's...” Pretty? Smart? Genuinely
popular girl that didn't come across as a total bitch? “She's
awfully tough competition. You really think I can hold her off?”
“Who said you had to?”
Kathryn shook her head. “Troy ain't like that, and if he ever
thinks about it, I'll slug him. Look, I'll talk to him if I have
to. I didn't bring that boy up to treat you like that. All I'm
saying is Renee might be eying him again, for whatever reason.”
Marie was still tense.
“I don't know about her. There's something that just seems...”
She couldn't find the right word.
Kathryn nodded. She
didn't need one. “Yeah. I know what you mean. Just play it cool,
be yourself and I'll sort everything out with Troy.” She stood
up and walked around to Marie's side, setting a hand on her
shoulder. “If things do get a little heated, remember that I got
your back. You've been really good for him, and I'm not going to
let someone like Renee get between that. Okay?”
Reassuring, sure, but
the fact that the situation was demanding such sentiment
bothered Marie. Still, it was appreciated, and answered with a
“Thanks, Kat. Now can we
please go get him?”
Renee was successfully
distracting Troy: not with a cute swimsuit or a flirty pose, but
with idle conversation. She treated chit-chat as a craft to be
mastered and was showing off her mad skills here. Troy hadn't
done anything of note since they had last spoken, but after
asking him what he'd been up to, she hung on his every word. He
mentioned a couple TV shows, movies or stock car races he'd been
watching to pass the time and she was right there with comments,
quotes and recommendations. Then he would turn it around and ask
how she spent the last two weeks and she flipped the switch and
regaled him with all the silly outings and activities she'd had
with her friends. The only thing relevant about their talk was
the fact that they were talking.
It just about worked on
Troy. When he described his two weeks of time-killing, Renee
reacted with interest and amusement. He hadn't found his life
that exciting, but he had always admired her ability to get into
anything. In fact, the only thing he remembered about last
week's NASCAR race was that he watched it. Renee knew who won,
who crashed, and who took fuel and two tires on his last pit
stop. Troy found himself short of breath at hearing Renee
Pearson talk about fuel and two tires.
That warned him to stop.
Molly or no Molly, he had already been conditioned to treat
conversation with Renee Pearson as dangerous. Doubly so with his
girlfriend certain to pop out from the dressing room at any
moment. Which, now that he thought about it again, really should
have happened already.
“What the hell's keeping
them?” he asked, turning around and taking two steps back.
“They probably got to
talking or something and lost track of time,” Renee said. It
was, after all, exactly what happened to Troy. “What are you
going to do? Walk in on them?”
“At least I should
knock,” he replied, starting to walk back. “I'll talk to you
“Wait, Troy!” she
shouted, a little louder than she meant to. Definitely got him
to turn around though. “Um... I was wondering if, uh...”
“Yeah?” Troy narrowed
his eyebrows. Her sudden stammering made him uneasy.
“Did you, uh, want me to
try to talk to Molly and see if I can find out something about
her and your dad?”
Troy got choked up
again. He was wondering if everyone else had forgotten. Kathryn
didn't know what to think, Kurt wasn't spilling any more
information, and Ellen had basically given away everything she
knew in Columbus. But this had potential.
“I mean, because I doubt
she's going to answer to you,” she explained, not that it was
necessary. “But maybe I can get her to talk to me about it.
Frankly, I want to know too. I've been wondering how she got
involved with all this. I wouldn't mind trying to figure this
out for you.” She smiled a little.
“You'd do that?” he
said, again unnecessarily. Of course she would. She nodded,
still smiling. “Oh, that would be great. I mean, just anything
that would help me make sense of this.” He hugged her quickly.
Again- red light. He
released and backpedaled to the change room. “Let me know what
you find out. I'll talk to you later!”
Renee smiled, waved
back, and watched as he turned around. As soon as he did, Kamila
and Yuki 'just happened' to walk out.
“What the hell, Troy?!”
Kamila shouted, gesturing at their bags. “We told you to watch
our bags! Jeez, while you're off oogling the babes, some pervert
could just up and walk off with all our gear!”
Kamila's mock scolding
was loud and convincing enough for Troy to make a weak effort at
defending himself. This freed up Yuki.
“Is that Renee?!” she
said, waving and running up to her fellow mage.
“Hi, Yuki!” Renee
“Funny seeing you here!”
“Yeah, what a
Yuki turned her head.
“Well, you coulda known we'd be here. You check my Myspace,
“Oh, uh...” Renee
fidgeted, barely keeping her smile on. “Once in a while. So, did
anyone bring a watermelon?”
Now Yuki just looked
confused. “You guys don't do that here, do you?”
With Renee out of the
picture and Troy sufficiently berated, Kamila took her bag and
headed down to the shore. Troy didn't have to wait long for
Kathryn and Marie to arrive. “Where were you guys?” he asked
Marie smiled back. “Oh,
we just had to talk about some things. You know, girl stuff.”
She took her bag, kissed him on the cheek, and ran after Kamila.
Troy was left puzzled,
but thankfully Kathryn was still around. “Really, what were you
talking about?” he asked.
Kathryn shrugged. “Don't
worry about it. Like she said, girl stuff.” Her tone wasn't
nearly as light as Marie's. That made Troy nervous.
Not nearly as nervous as
when Kathryn spotted Renee. “Hey, is that Renee? Looks pretty
good in that suit, don't you think?”
“Oh... yeah,” he said,
trying not to sound too enthusiastic. Finally, he caved and
asked her, “Look, you didn't tell Marie about... uh... what
happened in Columbus, did you?”
“C'mon, Troy!” Kathryn
replied, loudly. With a big smile, she put a hand on his
shoulder. “We've been best friends for how long? You think I'm
going to tell your girlfriend stuff like that behind your back?”
Troy exhaled, nodded,
and smiled. When he looked back up at her, she was holding her
finger and thumb half an inch apart, right in front of his face.
Deadly serious, she spat, “I was this close.”
As he squirmed, she
continued, with a sinister tone he didn't realize she was
capable of: “You fool around with Renee one more time and so
help me God, you better hope Molly and Claude catch you first
because they ain't got nothing on what I'd do to you.”
Kathryn released her
hand as that soaked in. The hand found its way into the air as
she shouted down to Kamila, Marie and Yuki down at the beach.
“All right, who's up for volleyball?!” she yelled cheerfully.
Molly, it was a bothersome two weeks of depositions and
testimony as investigators sorted out the Chioni mess. She had
never actually learned the names of Mr. Winston, Mr. Cedric or
Bo, but now she was supposed to detail each of their actions,
attack methods, and who took them down. Worse yet, apparently
those anonymous goons that served as cannon fodder for Molly,
Kurt, Kathryn and Ellen also had names and needed prosecuting.
Molly ended up paying more attention to them in the aftermath
than she had when they were trying to kill her.
actual job of bringing the bad guys to justice fell on Richard
Herman, so after explaining everything she could remember (and
in some cases more), she was free to go. Interestingly, no
official said anything to demand that Grimoire 17 be returned to
its proper owner or someplace that was actually safe. Protocol
would have dictated giving it to Donovan; common sense would
have suggested a safe deposit box. As it were, she still had it.
she also had the original briefcase that suppressed the book's
magic aura. Kendrick had dropped it during the attack, and Molly
wisely held onto it. Now that the grimoire was back in its case
and securely in her possession, she also told anyone who asked
that it she never opened it. She lied.
it a week longer than Donovan, but even Molly Pearson could only
resist such a powerful grimoire for so long. Sitting at the edge
of her bedroom desk, it drew her eyes over more than she'd want
to admit. Finally, in the middle of a particularly boring round
of manipulating class schedules, she decided she needed a
distraction and popped it open for a quick round of browsing.
later, she had read more than half of it. She did so in random,
intermittent spurts within a dampering circle of her own design.
Even when giving in to indomitable curiosity, Molly didn't like
to take chances.
as casual bedtime reading went, it was hard to beat. She
understood more of it than Donovan, but ended up glancing over
the parlor tricks that he had sampled and went straight for the
more heady stuff. Although a few spells were bound to work their
way into her arsenal, Molly wasn't interested in picking up
anything new. She just wanted a better feel for just what a
Class A grimoire had to offer.
Effective Weaving magic relied on the caster's ability to
conceive and visualize the spell's effects as much as the force
needed to make it happen. Thus, broad, intellectual minds were
at an advantage. Now Molly was a damn good weaver for her age,
but even she reached a point where she could only shake her head
in awe at some of the philosophies necessary to comprehend the
latter part of this book. Some of the passages alluded to a
thought process beyond that of a venerable mage. Something
middle of reading one of the more twisted pages, Molly was
startled by a knock on the door. Before she could return the
book to its case, Renee let herself in. “Hey, what's up?” She
caught Molly's frozen expression, and the grimoire in her hand.
“Ooh, reading the tome?” Renee asked, interested.
sighed and set the book on her lap. “It's not a tome. But I must
admit that Silars was right. There's some inconceivable magic in
here.” She stuffed it in the case and snapped it shut. “The
sooner it's out of our hands, the better.”
time Molly had properly stored it away, Renee had joined her on
the bed. “Why not study it and get stronger?”
Scoffing, Molly replied, “The last thing I need is more
attention. There's a few things I can pick up, but I have
neither the time nor greed to devote myself to fully realizing
its power. I've had it out too much already.”
afraid somebody's going to go after it?”
course. Just because we stop one faction doesn't mean the others
aren't interested. The Chioni merely had the resources to go
after it first. There are plenty of other demons who would love
to try for it as well.”
who?” Renee inched closer, a concerned eye on her sister.
stared straight ahead. “If they find out I have it, the Urayoni
perhaps. They've been eerily quiet since Kendrick showed up.”
nodded, pretending she understood. Other than a 'name the eight
demon factions' quiz at the academy, she didn't know much about
the groups she hadn't personally encountered. They were just
ominous names that bore little actual meaning.
did catch something else in Molly's answer that begged
elaboration: “You mean there were others going after you before
I got involved?”
nodded slowly, trying to mask her discomfort. “Yes, but nothing
this intense. The Urayoni I've encountered operate the same way
Kendrick does. One demon, cordial attempts to lure me over,
maybe a few empty threats exchanged. I call their bluff, they
back off. It happened a few times in junior high.”
leaned in. “Is that when Frank showed up?”
dismissive chuckle, Molly replied, “After he left, actually.
Nothing like having a demon visit you after being downright
not here now, is he?” She shook her head, still staring straight
ahead. “Typical of him.”
took a breath to prevent blurting something she'd regret. She
was close to getting somewhere and didn't want to get too eager.
Molly was clearly bothered by Frank's departure. More than Troy,
curiously. But Renee knew she'd get nowhere probing that, else
Molly would get angry and slam the gate shut like she always
you mean?” Renee asked, settling for simple elaboration.
didn't work. Her sister shook her head and muttered, “Never
know where he is?”
grunted. “Sort of. Something job-related. Whatever the reason,
it doesn't excuse him from what he did.” She turned her head
away from her sister.
forward, Renee continued on. “What did he do?”
of pause gave Renee hope that maybe Molly would answer. Then
Molly's eyes snapped open and she jumped to her feet. Normally
Renee would have been preoccupied with the lack of an answer,
but she felt something odd, like some magical white noise
butting its way into the room. Before she could ask, Molly ran
out the door.
followed Molly down the first flight of stairs, and was
surprised that she was heading down a second to the basement.
Molly opened the door to their father's study and stopped,
barely giving Renee enough time to avoid a collision. The room
was dark until Molly turned on the light switch.
last time, you're not getting it back,” Molly said to Donovan,
even before Renee saw him and the circle he was trapped in.
dare you turn the tome against its master?” Donovan muttered,
falling to his knees. The shaking he was trying to suppress
sec, is that the same shock circle Mr. Silars used on us?” Renee
asked her sister.
nodded. “I found it very efficient. A good deterrent, especially
since this is the only place in the house Donovan can teleport
underestimate me. Blaine! Bryce!” Donovan cried.
summoned... they arrived... they too fell over in pain as the
circle nabbed them.
and shaking her head, Molly sat down on the couch. “Only problem
is now I have to wait for them to pass out before getting rid of
that sucks,” Renee replied.
either of the girls could react, their dad ran downstairs and
poked his head in. “What's going on down here?”
“Situation's under control, father,” Molly deadpanned. She
turned his way. He was eying Donovan and his minions nervously.
“Static buildup in the carpet,” she explained.
Pearson nodded slowly. “Ah... well, make sure no one touches the
computers then.” He headed back upstairs. “Goodnight, girls.”
her efforts to keep Grimoire 17 away from Donovan through
August, come September, Molly handled the book in the same
fashion as he had. Naturally, she put a little more thought into
her hiding place at school. In fact, Molly's office did have a
hidden safe indented in the wall. Not even Claude could access
it. The book would be safe there until somebody remembered that
she wasn't supposed to have it.
about a week into the new school year. Labor Day had passed,
which was good because it gave kids an extra day in the weekend.
Then again, it made Tuesday feel like Monday and proved to be
extra-depressing since the shortened weeks were now over until
random inservice days in late October.
mood even infected Molly. She was a senior now. Between the
added strain Grimoire 17 put on her MST responsibilities and
trying to figure out a way to continue her reign of terror in
college, she just wanted this school year to pass quietly
without any major insurrections. In her freshman year, she sort
of enjoyed extinguishing the fires of rebellion.
year, however, it was just tiresome. She returned to her office
triumphantly, having instilled fear in two sophomores happy that
this was her last year. After a long reprimanding, she handed
their student files to Claude to add to his watch list.
there's a mysterious old man here to see you,” he said.
narrowed an eye. “You let a mysterious old man into my office?”
insisted.” Claude opened the door. Uriel was inside, enjoying
the view out the window. Like everybody else, he didn't realize
the room wasn't next to an exterior wall.
Molly greeted him. “Hello, mysterious old man.”
turned around and frowned. “I'm not that old.”
shutting the door in Claude's face, Molly sat down at her desk
and got right down to business: “So... you're alive.”
course I am,” Uriel replied, suppressing the urge to add, 'no
thanks to you.' Instead, he sat down and said, “Did you fear
you hadn't reported in after the battle so Kurt and I figuring
you were either dead or faking it to avoid debriefing.”
scoffed. “As a matter of fact, I had a scheduled vacation last
month. I decided to start it early, seeing as how I had been
left for dead on the top floor of a Chioni stronghold.”
sure you were alive first,” Molly retorted.
had been dead, would you have done anything differently?”
moment of thought, Molly answered, “Fair point. But I see you've
to magic. Suffered a mild concussion, cuts along my back and
nodded along- sensible injuries, light in fact given the
situation. Except for one, she realized: “Wait, bruised ribs?
How do you get bruised ribs backing into a glass window?”
grimaced. Looking down, he said, “Your student's energy ball
inflicted that on me.”
glowered. “Please say you're joking.” Uriel shook his head,
equally aware of the implications.
wasn't explicitly forbidden, the MST frowned upon Weavers
casting spells that did direct bodily harm. It wasn't taught and
it was always a taboo topic- something about humanity's
defenders not stooping to the same dirty tactics as the demons.
Of course, inflicting bodily harm indirectly was
perfectly kosher and Thrusters never seemed to come under
scrutiny, so there was a very transparent hypocrisy at work.
Nevertheless, the principle held.
sure what to make of it. Didn't think Professor Melrose even
taught force balls in the first year,” Uriel said.
minions taught him,” Molly replied. “But one's a Thruster and I
doubt the other could do that.”
shrugged. “Well... something to keep your eye on.”
rolled her eyes. “Or not. I assume he's going to be punished for
not,” Uriel mumbled. Molly leaned back, folded her arms and
waited. She knew this would be good.
the perks of keeping a Class A artifact is that you're entitled
to do pretty much anything that can be justified as necessary to
protect it.” Keeping his poise despite the ruling, he added,
“Since I did pop in out of nowhere and he didn't know who I was,
they're giving him the benefit of the doubt.”
the ceiling and shaking her head, Molly huffed, “You were
laughing pretty maniacally.”
Kurt really did not have mention that in your reports,” Uriel
her hands on her desks, Molly stood. After a quick glance at the
door, she walked over to the illogical window and opened it.
Rather than a stiff summer breeze, there was a compartment on
the other side with a door-less black safe. One trigger later,
the front end popped open and Molly pulled out the briefcase.
chuckled. “Don't tell me Donovan's attacked you too?”
you, I don't let my guard down.” Molly handed him the case.
“It's all yours.”
didn't take it. “We've been over this, Molly,” he replied,
suddenly tiring of the subject. “There's nothing I can do. The
grimoire belongs to Donovan for the next seven years. Twenty-one
if he somehow procreates.”
I'm still not giving it back to him,” Molly said, returning the
case to the safe. Before she closed it, she pulled a sheet of
paper out and handed it to Uriel.
It was a
printout of assorted regulations involving Grimoire 17. Molly
had circled a paragraph that read, “Should the bearer a)
demonstrate an inability to secure the artifact in a manner
consistent with the standards outlined above, whether by lack of
magic presence, negligence or suspected demonic influence and b)
remain a student at a training academy, his Guardian reserves
the right to hold the artifact on a temporary basis until such
time that either of the two conditions are no longer fulfilled.”
that qualifies,” said Molly, sitting back down.
snickered. “Absolutely. I can get that facilitated. Your way
with magic is rivaled only by your bureaucratic willpower.
Though you'll still have to take care of it until he graduates.”
nodded slowly. Donovan not having the book was a necessary first
step, but having it in her hands didn't make her feel much
better. It still invited the same threat of attack. Even if a
demon advance would be less likely to succeed, the danger to
Molly and her unit remained high.
her apprehension, Uriel said, “Honestly, that's a good hiding
place. There are also more ephemeral options out there if you
really want to keep it secure. Inter-dimensional storage,
burying the information in your mind, maybe even something
involving computers... have Marlowe ask some of the professors
if you're interested.”
doesn't matter where I hide it if the demons know who has it,”
slow nod, Uriel almost looked compassionate. “I must say, your
unit has put up with a lot. Honestly, I think it's a testament
to all of you. Not too many can say they've held off four demon
factions in a year and a half.”
wasn't encouraged. She was, however, discordant. “Three, you
checked his notes. “No... I've got four.”
really wanting to argue, but unable to tolerate misinformation,
she clarified, “My incidents with the Urayoni occurred well
before the unit was initiated last April.”
pressed his nose to his papers. “I wasn't even aware of those.”
it's only three,” she huffed. “Hokoni, Zukoni, Chioni.”
you forgot one.” Uriel looked up and pointed at her.
Perhaps if it had been
one of the more benign factions like the Bushioni, who stuck to
the entertainment industry and influencing the media rather than
direct violence, it wouldn't have been quite a shock. But just
hearing the word Hageshoni made Molly ill. They were by far the
most aggressive of the factions on Earth. While the Hokoni and
Urayoni would use false promises and intellectual arguments to
win supporters, the Hageshoni would use more of a hard-sell
approach- namely clubbing you over the head and dragging you
back to their lair.
So after the initial
shock of hearing they had apparently been in L. B. Gould, Molly
had an obvious question: “How could the Hageshoni attack us
without us noticing?” Again, they weren't known for subtlety.
Uriel rifled through his
briefcase. “Well, says here it was last July.”
“The only incident was
the garage vandalism. That was Kendrick.”
“Ah...” Uriel found the
right sheet. “Yes, Kendrick was responsible for the destruction
in the garage.”
Molly exhaled, cursing
Uriel for frightening her with a typo.
Then he added, “But at
about the same time, there was an incident in a second room in
the school. Club room for one of your students, I believe.”
Molly narrowed her eyes. “If you recall, that was a Hageshoni.”
And Molly was ailing
again. “As I... recall?”
“Well, yes, it was in
the final report.”
Now she was just
baffled. She reached into her desk drawer and dug through a
year's worth of bound documents to find the report. With no
discernible social life and few academic obligations, Molly had
plenty of time to pore through every detail related to her
duties. How else could she have turned the relatively mundane
position of student council president into one of tyrannical
power? Molly found it hard to believe she had missed such a
crucial revelation. Normally, she devoured official reports like
they were gripping novels, even when she had no part in the
Her answer was on top of
the vandalism report: Kendrick's attack a month later. In the
time it took for the MST to turn around and release their
findings on the garage destruction, Kendrick had attacked
Donovan (or rather, according to the report, Donovan had
attacked Kendrick). The threat to her life was a little more
concerning than some roasted car, and made for a more thrilling
report. The vandalism incident had become a mere prologue.
Sure enough, the report
exonerated Kendrick from the damage to the dark room. In fact,
that mischief likely had happened a day after Kendrick ruined
the garage, but still before Richard Herman had finally dragged
his ass into town to investigate.
“Unlike the garage,
where all markings and magic discharge were consistent with
Hokoni activity, the largest mark on the north wall of the club
room is of unknown significance but similar in design to
Hageshoni symbols found in prior cases,” Molly read, skipping
the numbers referring to footnotes listing the prior cases.
“Other than typical Hageshoni motives such as intimidation,
territory claim or magic amplification, we note the connection
between the room and Central student Donovan Dunmar, D-202.3,
along with recent Hokoni efforts to draw the student over. This
particular location may suggest an attempt to undermine the
“They nailed that one,”
Uriel added. “Those two don't like each other much.”
“Doesn't it seem
far-fetched that a Hageshoni would show up, desecrate the dark
room just to interfere with Kendrick, then leave?”
“Of course.” Uriel
raised his eyebrows. “Logistically, they were either already
here or they haven't left yet. Or both.”
“That's a scary
proposition. But if it were true, why would they uncloak
themselves to do this rather than catch us off guard with
He shrugged. “Probably
goes back to the intimidation and territory claim. Those were
valid motives as well.”
Molly slammed the report
down and leaned forward, annoyed at how casually he was relaying
such foreboding info. “Don't you think that's a problem?”
“Richard was aware of it
when he was assigned here. I just assumed you'd read the report.
Besides, it was last year. It's not like those markings are
Leaning back, Molly
grimaced. “Assuming Donovan bothered to clear them.” She pushed
a button on the intercom. “Claude?”
“Yes, madam?” Claude
“When was the last time
you were in Donovan's club room?”
“Last week, when his
candles set off the fire alarm. Why?”
“Is there a large,
mysterious mark on the north wall?”
“The white one? Well
yes, it's been there for a while now.”
Molly released the
button and stared at Uriel. They both rushed out the door.
Outside, it must have
been a passing period as kids overwhelmed the hallways, blocking
key chokepoints to have idle conversations.
“Out of the way!” Molly
shouted. The sea parted. As she and Uriel walked down the open
hallway, the students lining the walls stood at attention. Some
saluted. Uriel was impressed.
Molly left the door open
as they entered the dark room, but Uriel closed it right away
and reached for the light switch. Nothing turned on. Casting a
light ball, Molly said, “His minions rewired the room.”
No matter, the Hageshoni
marking reflected the light and glimmered white. Uriel
approached it cautiously, gently feeling it with the back of his
hand. By now, a year after it had been placed, it was one with
the cement wall. At first it felt appropriately cold, but after
a few seconds gave off a burning sensation as a dark energy
seeped through. Uriel pulled his hand away quickly.
“What is it?” Molly
Rubbing his hand on his
suit, Uriel stared at the marking, deeply concerned. “There's
definitely some demonic force at work. You mean this has been
here the whole time?”
“This is the first I had
heard about it. I don't like going in here.”
With his other hand, he
rubbed the back of his neck. “Well clearly, this needs to go.”
Bringing his fingers around and flicking his thumb, Uriel lit
the entire room.
Molly nodded. “Fine by
me. Go to work.”
Uriel snickered. “Me?
You think I know the first thing about removing demonic
markings? I don't know even know who does that sort of thing
“What?!” Molly snapped.
“There has to be somebody who can remove it!”
He grinned, but hid his
face from her. “Of course there is. I just don't know who's
available off-hand. It's not a common skill. But rest assured
I'm sure somebody exists that can take care of this and I'm sure
they make a very good living doing so. I'll get someone at the
office to make some phone calls.”
That seemed to placate
Molly. After all, the marking had been there for more than a
year without incident, so an extra week or so didn't seem like a
“I will say this...”
Uriel looked around the room at all of Donovan's 'occult-ish'
goodies. “This room may need to be purified to get it removed.”
Molly scoffed. “It's not
like there's anything significant in that junk.”
“No, but if we're going
to have the place sanctified, we should do it right.” He scanned
the books on his shelf. “Look at all this hooey. You'd think an
MST student would know better.”
Molly folded her arms.
“Especially one that kicked your ass.”
Uriel stood up and
glared at Molly, who smirked back. He coughed and headed for the
door. “Yes, well, I'd better head back and get going on this.
I'll let you know the details. In the meantime, I'll make sure
Kurt's keeping his eye open for any Hageshoni activity in the
“Wait... you think they
still might be in town?” she asked, urgently.
Throwing the door open,
they saw the river of students flowing once more, all blissfully
unaware of what was inside the dark room. At least Molly hoped
Grim, Uriel sighed and
answered, “Honestly? Between that mark, the grimoire and you...
why wouldn't they be?”