The Hard and the Soft of It

Hola, survivors of U.S. Thanksgiving.  I made it through the day yesterday, heading down to Maryland to relax with friends, then back up to The Burg for a late-night brow waxing before heading home to call family.  Yes, busy day all around.

And you know what that means:  no writing.  Not yet, at least.  I did it yesterday morning, and you saw that, but I didn’t write before going to bed because I was just too tired.  Now, since I had a two hours drive down yesterday, and two hours back, I had plenty of time to figure out things with my kids, and even lay down a couple of scenes, one of which will get played out in the next book.  Wait, am I really talking next book?  Yeah, I am.  I’m strange that way.

I also started thinking about Motre spells and how they could be looked at in the same way martial arts is examined.  Why is this and what am I talking about?  First, they why, and it came from a comment from my friend and fellow blogger renxkyoko, who made this statement the other day:

 

Just a lame observation……

Annie’s is more feminine…. I mean, ribbons ? He he
And Kerry’s is manly…. I mean, a sword ?
I guess it’s natural instinct. They gravitate towards what they prefer, deadly shadow ribbons for a girl, and a sword for the guy.

 

Now, I don’t see those as either feminine or masculine traits, because a lot of women in fiction where fighting is involved use swords–several animes would tell you so, I’m sure–whereas there are certain martial arts films where you see guys doing a lot of deflecting and misdirection.  And this is where I start looking at Morte spells where they are seen as hard and soft disciplines.

To lay it out quick and dirty, a hard martial arts style is often defined as power coming from the outside the individual, using fast, strong, direct attacks against your opponent, while a soft martial arts style is usually defined as power coming from within, using relaxed, slow, indirect defense against your opponent.  In terms of martial arts, Shaolin Kung Fu, Eskrima, and Karate would be considered hard styles, while Tai Chi, Aikido, and Hsing-I are considered soft styles.

The different spells are used different ways, just as in martial arts you have different ways of pretty much doing the same thing.  When Annie did her Morte demonstration she used ribbons to bind–soft restraint there–and then used magic to turn one’s body against itself:  in short, she bleed out her opponent.  She could be seen as a practitioner of a soft style that didn’t require any outside attacks, and given that her signature Morte spell is Exsanguination, the way she goes about killing someone isn’t going to be all that flashy or noticeable:  just look at how she took out the female Deconstructor during the Link Bridge battle.

Kerry went full-on external using Electrify as his signature spell, and even went a step further by showing he could craft an electrical sword.  We can guess why he started learning Electrify:  because he’d seen it used within various entertainments in geek culture, and if you haven’t figured it out, that’s also one of the reasons he was initially drawn to transformation as a magical form as well.  At this point in his schooling Kerry is going with what he’s seen, knows, and loves, but he’s still young–I mean, he’s not even a teenager yet, right.

At the same time the kids known how to change up their styles.  First, look at how Annie fought her Judgement Trial.  Everything was external, full of deadly Air Hammers and an Electrify kill shot.  She had to because there wasn’t room for subtlety:  it was go or blow, and Annie doesn’t not blow when it comes time to show her stuff.  She also had a point to prove:  mess with me and I’ll put you down hard.  It was a bit different from the point she made in her Morte demonstration, which was, “If I want to take you out, you won’t see me coming.”

Kerry is still learning his styles, but now that he’s learning Exsanguination he’ll change up when the need arises.  Remember, Annie’s had a few years to develop her signature Morte spell:  Kerry’s only been working on this stuff for about a year.  When he took out the homunculi during his Exsanguination training it became an “Ah, ha!” moment for him, when he learned that for some spells overthinking–or over attacking–isn’t what’s needed; sometimes you just kick back, flick your finger at someone, and let the magic do the rest.  Now, Helena mentioned that Kerry knows the same stuff as Annie, but you can bet all his fellow B Levels remembered from that class is how he lobbed a zombie head in their direction.

And one last thing that I find interesting.  Helena has been played up as a major bad ass, and rightfully so.  And yet, we know Kerry has killed someone, Annie has as well, so has Erywin, and it’s been implied that Maddie and Jessica killed people during the Day of the Dead attack.  Now, we’ve heard that Helena has killed people, but have you seen her throw a Morte spell?  No.  One day I’ll have to write up the time she killed a student . . .

So, there are my musings for the day.  Tomorrow I’ll have more for you to read–

And I expect this to be the look on some faces while they do.

And I expect this to be the look on some faces while they do.

Demonstrations of Death: Observations in the Quiet

Finally, finally, finally, after four days and just a little over as many thousands of words as that, this fourth scene of the twenty-first chapter is over and done.

See, I don't lie. Not about this. Usually.

See, I don’t lie. Not about this. Usually.

So we get to the end of this cavalcade of blood–and it was bloody, and probably done that way for a reason, because my kids do know how to make a point when they put their minds to it–and Helena is one happy Mistress of All Things Dark.  Well, she’s almost completely happy, and you’ll see why–

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

Helena waited for some silence to return—and for the multiple instances of retching to subside—before speaking. “That wasn’t expected.” She gave the boy a lopsided smile as he turned towards her, the lightning sword still glowing in his hand. “Quite the move, too: I’d never seen that.”

Annie clutched her hands and rested them against her tummy. “He stared working on that beginning of December.” She appeared quite proud. “Said he wanted to have it perfected before the end of this month.”

“I’d say he’s succeeded there.” Helena approached him slowly. “Guess we’re going to have to get you some Jedi robes.”

Kerry made the sword disappear. “I actually learned that from an old anime—” He looked down, away from Helena. “I’ve only seen Star Wars a couple of times.”

“Still, it’s a good variation of Electrify.” Helena shook her head, chuckling. “You can always use another weapon—” She stepped between Kerry and his levelmates: the only one who could see them clearly was Annie since she was standing a few meters away from the others. She lowered her voice so Kerry was the only one who could hear. “You okay?”

 

First off, the fact that Kerry hasn’t seen Star Wars that much may seem strange, but there are some of us in that bucket.  (waving hands here).  Second, he’s right when he says he got the light sword from an old anime, because–of course–I know what anime he got it from.  That would be Tenchi Muyo!, the story of the most sexually repressed teenage boy in Japan and the extremely attractive and slightly psychotic girls who want to be his OTP.  It started out as an OVA, which I have, and then branched out into several variations of the same story, which is not all that unusual when it comes to anime.

He got the idea from Ryoko, the aqua haired–yes, again with the aqua hair!–space pirate who, in the OVA, is imprisoned inside a cave on Tenchi’s grandfather’s property, and who is eventually released and who is probably responsible for ninety percent of the crazy shit that happens to the boy.  She can make swords out of energy–check for Kerry–and throw energy balls–another check–and can fly–okay, not so much a check for him, but right up Annie’s alley–

And she has cleavage, which is a must for all young anime space pirates.

And she has cleavage, which is a must for all young anime female space pirates, but isn’t something Kerry needs.

She’s also deeply in love with Tenchi, and wants more than anything to be with him–a check for Kerry in relating to Annie–and is extremely open emotionally–another huge check for Kerry.

She's also tried to kill him with energy blast, something Annie hasn't tried yet with Kerry.

She’s also tried to kill him with energy blasts, something Annie hasn’t tried yet with Kerry.

By the way, until I found this gif I’d forgotten this scene–the OVA is from 1992 and I haven’t seen it in fifteen years–and I realize that’s a pretty good approximation of Annie’s “kill shot”, though Annie needs to work up the power a bit more than Ryoko and she uses both hands to focus and fire.  By the way, Ryoko’s name is spelled using an unusual kanji, and generally translates as “Bringer of Demons,” though in the OVA it’s stated as meaning, “The Devil Caller”.  That’s not a check for Kerry because he’s not a devil caller–yet.

So why all the concern, Helena?  Well . . .

 

His gaze shot up from the floor and froze upon the sorceress’ face. “Yeah, I’m good.”

“You sure?” Since Kansas City Helena made a point of reviewing all of the training video of these two, paying particular attention to Kerry’s training. She was aware he’d “had a problem” during the fight on the Link Bridge, and she accepted Annie’s explanation that Kerry had over-thought the situation and tried to split up his actions instead of going on the attack.

Since then she’d watch him learn when to defend and when to attack, and Helena was satisfied that any situations like the one that arose in Kansas City wouldn’t happen again. However, she’d seen his reaction after he set his sights on the girl homunculus, and it puzzled her. He hadn’t froze out of indecision; Helena felt it was more like the homunculus had triggered something, though she couldn’t imagine what— I have to be certain he’s okay: I can’t have this being a problem, not if The Guardians decide to renege on their promise and whistle up a field op this spring.

Kerry nodded. “Yes, Professor.” He glanced over his shoulder at the headless body of the homunculus. “For a moment there—” He looked down, though he was chuckling instead of appearing pensive. “It was like I flashed on something for a second that kinda just . . . pulled me away.”  As he looked up he nodded slightly.  “It’s not a big deal; it’s not gonna happen–”  He nodded towards the wall to his left.  “–out there.”

Helena didn’t question what had happened—at least she wasn’t going to do so now. Annie saw this; I know she’ll ask him at some point. She patted him on the shoulder as her voice returned to a normal tone. “Okay, good job.” She tossed her head to the left. “Go join your SO and give her a hug.”

“Thank you, Professor.” Kerry did as ordered and carried out both request.

 

This is the first indication that Helena is monitoring their progress, that she not only aware of what went down during the Link Bridge Battle and that she’s spoken with Annie about it, but that she’s concerned that Kerry might do the same thing again were they out in the field and the shit hits the fan.  But she trusts his explanation, and she also knows Annie will get to the bottom of this as well, and give Helena a report.  Not because Annie’s a little snitch, but because, once more, her eyes are on the prize, and that means training up here Dark Witch to be the best.

This leaves up with nothing but cleanup and the notice that not everyone in the room is cut out for the Sorcesses’ Life–

 

“There you are.” Helena turned her attention back to the rest of the students. “That’s how you do Morte, and one day some of you may be able to do the same as my minions.” She turned towards Lisa, who was doing her best to slide unseen into the background. “Once again you questioned the abilities of your levelmates, and you got your ass handed back to you.” Helena flashed two fingers. “That’s your second strike; there won’t be a third.” She finally noticed Gavino, the Italian boy from Blodeuwedd, lying on the floor. “He fainted? Really?”

Shadha Kanaan nodded. “Yes, Professor.”

“Okay, get his feet elevated—” She finally noticed the students who’d thrown up, the various sports of vomit on the floor, and the head of homunculus laying close by. “Everyone who got sick, lay down against the wall.” She flicked the head away, sending it to rest next to its body. “I’ll get a nurse down here to see to you.” She turned to Annie and Kerry. “While we’re waiting head over to The Manor and get cleaned up. I’ll have Housekeeping—”

“That’s okay, Professor.” A satisfied smirk settled upon Annie’s face. “I’m fine like this.”

Helena’s right eyebrow shot upward. “What about you, Kerry?”

Though he wasn’t quite as messy as Annie, his face and clothes were covered with their fair share of blood. “I’m okay.” He smiled broadly before shrugging. “Blood’s kinda of an occupational hazard for some people in The Foundation, right?”

It took every gram of willpower the Head Sorceress possessed to keep from laughing. “Yes, that is certainly true.”

 

Never let it be said Annie and Kerry haven’t started coming into their own by (1) getting ready to help out in the class, while (2) being bloody as hell, (3) learning this same Morte spell at the same time–assuming they haven’t already–and (4) probably chuckling darkly at the mayhem they helped create.  And they got Lisa in trouble again, which is always a plus.

Now on to the Penultimate scene, and it shouldn’t be that long, at least I don’t think so–

I’m kinda up in the air about it.

Demonstrations of Death: An Electrifying Performance

So a quick one today this morning, ’cause I’m running behind schedule a little here–between this getting ready in the morning stuff and trying to get so many things finished before heading out the door to work, I don’t seem to have a much time in the mornings as before.  Getting dressed and getting my makeup on does seem to take a lot more time than before, when I used to throw on a couple of things and head out the door.  Sigh.  Don’t remind me that I chose the Vag Life.

Anyway, it’s time for Annie’s Soul Mate to get up and do his thing, and let’s see how that went–

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

It took a few minutes for Helena to juant away the body and have a couple of APs from Housekeeping clean up the mess left behind by the bleed out. She didn’t check on the condition of her students: they were seeing things that she’d grown into at a much younger age, and if they wanted to learn about Morte spells, then they were gonna have to deal with what the spells did, and the aftermath. They got a taste of this last year in Ramona’s class— The floor cleared and housekeeping departed. They didn’t handle it well then, which means they probably aren’t going to handle it well now . . . “Okay, Kerry: you ready?”

He nodded then gave the still slightly bloody Annie a hug before walking out to where his soul mate had stood only minutes before. “You want Electrify, Professor?”

“Yes, I do. However, let’s change things up a bit.” She tapped the display and two cabinets popped into position where the one had appeared for Annie.

He turned around, his head cocked slightly to one side. “I get two?”

“I’ve heard that Annie can handle two—” Helena gave Kerry a wink. “You wanna show her you can, too. Don’t you?”

He exhaled and smiled. “Sure.” Kerry spun around and faced his soon-to-be targets. “I’m ready.”

“Then here they come.”

Both cabinet doors snapped open at the same time, and both homunculus shambled out and made their way forward. Kerry felt his excitement begin rising and quickly he forced it down, setting himself to concentrate. His targets were much like Annie’s: zombie trackers about his age and size, both attired in Salem school uniforms, the one on his left a boy and the other on his right a—

Something ‘caused Kerry to close his eyes and shake his head; when he opened them the snarling fake walkers were less than three meters away and closing. He let out a short gasp as he realized his situation. How long were my eyes closed?

 

Now don’t get worried here, because Kerry makes a really nice recovery–

 

Kerry stepped to his left as he raised his right hand and rapidly crafted a Electrify shot, firing it off when the boy zombie was only about a meter away and reaching for him. He half-extended his hand and fired a bolt of blueish electrical energy into the throat and chest of the homunculus while taking two steps to his left to keep the girl zombie at a safe distance. The three second blast blackened the boy zombie’s shirt, jacket, and skin; before he dropped the spell the shirt caught fire and began burning the homunculus’ chin and face. He gave the staggering homunculus another electrical shot to the face and Air Hammered it hard: the upper half of the burning, damaged body ripped open jetting blood in several directions, with one of the sprays catching Kerry on this left side of his face and chest. He hit it with another Air Hammer, blasting it out of the way before it could become a messy obstacle.

With one undead creature out of the way, Kerry crafted a ball of energy in his left hand and prepared to take on the long haired zombie intent on biting him. Two meters away the homunculus raised its arms and reached for her target; Kerry closed his hand around the ball, turning it into a glowing blue-white pole a couple of centimeter across and a meter long, with three-quarters of the emerging from beyond his clenched fist. With a growl he shoved the electrical sword into the chest of the girl zombie, pushing he backwards as the smell of burning flesh began wafting away from the battle.

Kerry gave his sword a hard thrust and pushed it out the zombie’s back, scorching her jacket and crimson hair. He came face-to-face with this growling creature, grinning wildly, then jerked the sword down and to the left, ripping open the chest just below the zombie’s right arm. Ignoring the fresh blood pumping from the open wound, Kerry pivoted slightly to his left, then brought the sword around in a vicious forearm swing. He caught the girl homunculus just below the jaw, slicing through the neck and sending the head sailing towards Kerry’s levelmates. It landed with a thud that was barely heard over the screeching of several students.

 

I tried to find a nice image of a head flying through the air, but instead here's the story.  You can imagine the head on your own.

I tried to find a nice image of a head flying through the air, but instead here’s the story. You can imagine the head on your own.

It would seem that Annie and Kerry have learned a few tricks in Ramona’s Sunday morning class, and it’s paying off nicely, because Kerry wouldn’t have learned any of those neat tricks back in Cardiff public school.  Also, their styles are a lot different, but then so is their magic: from a martial arts point of view, Exsanguination could be seen as an internal discipline, while Electrify is always more external unless you’re already at Helena’s level.  And I should time line these both out, but all opponents were “dead” in under ten seconds.  That’s some quick dispatching.

Tonight I will finish up this scene and evaluate if I need to modify the next couple of scenes–because, really, they’re starting to bother me.  I’ll explain later.

Demonstrations of Death: Bloody Good Show

Before anything else goes down, there’s a little something that popped up on my Facebook time line today, and that something has to do with historical timelines.  I bring this up because one year ago today I posed The Coming of the Chestnut Girl, and we finally discovered the identity of The Chestnut Girl, about Kerry’s attachment to Annie through their dreams, how he first expressed something most important to her.

Of course that little coming out session led to my kids getting confronted by Helena as soon as they were done pouring their hearts out, and before long they’d find someone trying to rip their hearts out, because bad guys are assholes.  Not to worry thought, ’cause my kids were trained up enough that they managed to keep everyone from dying, and eventually Kerry learned (1) that someone wanted him to be a Dark Witch and (2) to stop overthinking everything.

What a difference a year makes–

Like almost a quarter of a million words difference.

Like almost a quarter of a million words difference.

I eventually wrote just over eighteen hundred words yesterday, and this section I’m showing today is all about practical demonstrations, and it starts off in a bit of a snarky way . . .

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

Kerry looked to Annie as she looked back. She half-shrugged her head to the right. “How do you feel?”

“You guys don’t have to do this.” Helena stepped so she was almost between them so she could speak more confidentially. “Like Annie said, you’re not here to show off.”

“True, but—” Kerry quickly glanced to his right, then between Annie and Helena. He lowered his voice. “I’m tried of Lisa’s crap.”

Annie nodded and spoke in the same hushed tones. “So am I.”

“Then it’s settled.” Helena returned to her spot to Kerry’s right. “Since I brought a few homunculi for those students who might be ready for a go at a quick test of their abilities, you’ll be able to see what my minions can do.” She glanced to her far left. “Annie, would you mind demonstrating the Exsanguination spell? I’ve not actually seen you do this on a full homunculus, and I would love to see it in action. I hear your spell is . . .” The right corner of her mouth curled upward. “Killer.”

Annie smiled darkly at Helena’s inside joke. “Of course, Professor.”

 

Who says Helena doesn’t have a sense of humor?  It’s just a little snark between Guardians, is all–and if you don’t believe Annie isn’t thinking of herself as a Guardian by now, you don’t know my Chestnut Girl.  As with all things involving her, it’s eyes on the prize, and this prize has a big “G” on the ID.

So let’s get Annie up there first with her killer spell:

 

Helena pulled out a tablet and began scrolling through something on the screen. A moment later one of the cabinets that were used for holding homonculi appeared about twenty meters from the group. “Since Ramona knows how much you all love those training zombies, she cooked up a batch this week just for you.” She tapped the screen a few times, then nodded at Annie. “You go first.”

“Yes, Professor.” She examined the cabinet as she stepped about five meters away from the other students. “Tracker homunculus?”

“Oh, yeah.” Helena grinned. “Those always give people an incentive to be good.” Her finger hovered over the tablet display. “Ready?”

Annie looked straight ahead, flexing her fingers. “Yes, Professor.”

“Here goes.” She tapped the display.

 

Right off the bat, when Annie says, “Tracker homunculus,” the students watching should have grown nervous.  Then you watch Annie standing there like she’d ready to beat the hell out of someone, and that should have been Nervous Moment #2.  So let’s open the door and see who’s about to try and lay the smack on Annie.

 

The door opened and the homunculus stumbled out. Annie was well acquainted with the type: a girl-like humanoid about her size dressed in a school uniform and appearing to be about a week dead. Like the ones Kerry and she had trained with in the past, this one didn’t stink of rotting flesh, though Annie half expected that at some point Helena would throw a few like that at them to test their concentration.

The tracker zombie keyed on Annie and snarled, then began shambling towards her. She was aware that these homunculus moved faster than they appeared to move, but in the short time she’d had to set up Annie knew what she wanted to do to this thing. All of them want some sort of an exhibition— She pushed her hair back over her shoulders and began to craft.

The zombie girl was about four meters from Annie when two black ribbons eased down from the shadows and wrapped around the homunculus’ upper arms. The zombie snarled and thrashed, but couldn’t free itself from Annie’s spell. It stumbled forward another three meters, finally jerking to a stop about a half meter from the unmoving, unwavering Annie. With Annie close enough to touch it reached out, trying to get hold of her so it could carry out its instinct to bite.

Annie stood in front of the angry, snarling creature, showing no emotion. Once she was certain the homunculus was secure she reached out and took the zombie’s hand in her right and pressed it down hard. It was only as she began crafting the transformation spell that a slight smile finally appeared upon her face.

Slowly the zombie’s hair changed from the the dark brunette to a light blond almost the identical shade of Lisa’s hair. Annie knew it wasn’t necessary to go this far to make a point, but as like Kerry she’d grown tired of the girl’s crap, and while she didn’t know if the argumentative girl would get the point Annie was about to make, she knew others in their level would.

The little sorceress inhaled deeply, clearing her mind. What she was about to do next she’d done before, and under far different, more stressful, conditions. She focused her energy and pulled in the dark energy she needed finish crafting her Exsanguination spell. All that remained was for her to activate the spell with her will . . .

She raised her left hand close to her face and pointed her finger at the snarling face of the zombie.

 

So the kids wanted to see stuff, but they weren’t likely expecting Annie to go all Natural Born Killer on this simple homunculus.  Sure, it’s enchanted to make you go unconscious the moment it bites you, because you should always know that if this were real–and who’s to say this isn’t in this world?–you’d be Zombie Chow.

But Annie’s taking this shit to another level.  First, she shows she can truss up her zombie and that she has no fear it’s going to free itself from her shadow ribbons.  Then she works in her little bit of transformation magic she’s learned from Kerry and gives her homunculus the same shade of hair as Lisa.

And then she gets serious . . .

 

Blood immediately began gushing from the homunculus’ nose, ears, and mouth. The snarling increased as the creature’s head began whipping about, spraying Annie’s face and the upper half of her uniform jacket and blouse with flecks of blood. Annie gripped the creature’s hand and held it steady as the homunculus’ clothing began soaking up the blood seeping from its body. In a few seconds the creature’s eyes filled with blood and sprayed away from its face as a huge burst of fluids doused the floor under its feet. The homunculus jerked three times and went limp a few seconds before falling completely.

Annie took two steps back from the zombie before turning and presenting a bloody visage to her fellow students—some who were gasping, some who were retching. She swiped blood from her eyes and flicked it to the floor before waving her hand back over her shoulder to kill the shadow ribbons. “I hope—” She walked towards Helena as the lifeless zombie homunculus collapsed with a loud thud. “—that was what you expected, Professor.”

Helena nodded and did her damnedest to keep the smile on her face from being seen by anyone but Annie and Kerry. “That was was far more than expected, Annie.” She waited until Annie, bloody and smiling, stood at her left before nodding towards Kerry. “Give me a minute to jaunt this mess away, then it’s your turn.”

 

That Annie, she knows how to show off when she wasn’t intending to show off.  The thing is Annie doesn’t show off, and everything she did had a point–

"And I do hope you bitches saw that point . . ."

“And I do hope you bitches saw that point . . .”

Everyone in the room got to see Annie’s signature move, and managed to see it in a way that didn’t involve them screaming and running for their lives, as they likely would have done the first time Annie kicked this sucker off when it was meant to mean something.  Sure, the shade throwing wasn’t necessary, but as Helena once said, one of the best things you can get for yourself is a bad ass rep, and Annie certainly added to that one.

Up next, Kerry–

Just as soon as they bloody zombie is out of the room.

Details of Dark Witching

A comment came up yesterday, though it was more of a question:  if they heard Helena tell them, “I’m gonna show you how to kill someone,” they weren’t sure how they’d react.  Really, if you were twelve or thirteen and some scary woman told you she was gonna show you out to put out someone’s lights with magic, would you clench up and listen, or say, “Fuck this noise,” and head for the doors?

If you know this school, you know everyone’s in the first camp.  Mostly because anyone hitting the doors won’t be let back in class.  Helena would say there’s no shame there, not everyone can hack the darkness, and she’s probably wish you well in the rest of your studies.  In the meantime, however, she’s getting ready to launch all the kiddies down that path so she can see what shakes out.

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

Helena looked over the faces of her students and waited a few moments before continuing her talk. “Oh, wipe those shocked looks off your faces: most of you have wondered about this since the first day of sorcery class back in your A Levels when you got to see a Morte spell up close and personal.” Her eyes shifted slightly to her left, towards a couple of students standing to one side in the front of the group. “A couple closer than the rest of you.”

After the couple of students in question finished shaking their head and rolling their eyes, the Head Sorceress moved on. “As you know, as you were informed that day that there isn’t just one ‘death spell’, that there are seven Morte spells that can cause death, but the reality is if you are a skilled enough witch, any magic can be made deadly.

“For example . . .” She turned to her lift and began slowly pacing across the main room. “Never get into a fight with Professor Kishna. Any expert of transformation knows tons of magic they can use to give them a physical advantage over you—and if they know anything about transforming others—” She chuckled as she turned on her heel and paced back towards the center line of the room. “They could make you deaf or blind; they could make it difficult for you to breath; they could make it impossible for one’s nerve impulses to reach your limbs.” Helena shrugged. “Or they could just shut down your circulatory or nervous system and kill you in seconds. Not a pleasant way to go.

“Then there’s my special lady, Professor Sladen. She is by no means an expert Crafter of Dark Energies, but she has constructed some incredible mixtures that can heal whatever is wrong with you, or kill you just as quickly. She usually carries three or four weapons in Hammerspace, most filled with a concoction of her own design, and she’s proficient with each of them.

“And least you think only those of us who specialize in magic are the bad asses of the Aware Witch World, may I turn your attention to Professor Douglas. During The Scouring, when she was a thirteen year old C Level, she took on the Head Sorceress—” Helena raised her left hand and waved dramatically. “—and killed him with normal, simple magic. Because she is imaginative; because she is inventive; because she is that damn good.”

She stopped and faced her students. “Any which who is good and knows what they’re doing can take you on and take you out, and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it. Simply because someone isn’t a user of dark energies doesn’t mean they do you harm. However, being a sorceress does give you an advantage—just make sure you know your opponent and you don’t get too cocky.”

 

It behooves me to mention that during The Scouring, not only did Wednesday take out the Head Sorceress, but Jessica and Erywin also scored their own kills:  Erywin took out a couple of people with a big sci-fi like rifle filled with some of her magic goo that eats the flesh right off your body, and Jessica killed the Headmaster by . . . using transformation magic.  Yeah, that’s what happened.  Since Jessica and Erywin were instructors nothing happened to their files, but dear little Wednesday got something special added to hers:

"But all work and no killing makes Wednesday a dull girl!"

“But all work and no killing makes Wednesday a dull girl!”

But we’ll get into that “something special” in a bit, as Helena is gonna tell them about this spell–

 

Now that she’d told them a lot of information to put what they were about to do into prospective, she moved forward with her lesion. “It’s a given I’m going to teach Morte spells, but that only happens once we’re into the second half of your C Levels, and then further on into your D and E Levels—with the exception of this spell. What we’re going to start on today, and continue working on next week, goes by the name Lightning, as in ‘Calling down the’. It’s actually quite simple because it’s the only Morte spell that requires a foci, and that foci must give off some kind of energy. At the lower, easier levels, you pull from an existing source of magical energy which you may need to fortify with dark energy to craft the spell as true sorcery—and at the higher levels you can pull energy out of something as simple as a light bulb or mobile and focus the power to zap another person.

“The reason for starting you with this one is simple. One, in order to be a true master of this spell you need to learn a higher form of crafting, and you won’t learn those levels unless I invite you into C Level Sorcery. Two, the foci forms we’re using today are much like the forms we use for lighting throughout the school, only those forms are shielded so they can’t be used with this spell, so no worries that you’re going to leave here in a few weeks and start zapping fellow students in your coven commons.

“And three—and the most important part of the lesion—is seeing how you not only handle the crafting and use of the spell. For that not only helps determine if you are the sort of sorceress I want to invite into C Level Sorcery—” She clasped her hands before her as she grinned. “—but if your school record needs a yellow flag.”

Several seconds of silence passed before Leela Kaluwitharana asked the question that had popped up in the minds of several students. “What do you mean by having a yellow flag on your record?”

 

Now we see that what Helena is going to teach the kids is (1) a spell that isn’t one that’s easy to replicate at school, (2) can’t easily be done outside the school without additional learning, and (3) is going to be used by Helena to determine if you should go on to study that additional learning.  There is always a method to Helena’s madness, and this is sort of her “Pushing You Into the Deep End” to see if a student is ready to swim with the sharks.

And while we’ve touched on the whole “yellow flag” stuff before, Helena tells everyone in the room what it means, because unlike you, they’ve never heard of this stuff . . .

 

Helena loosely crossed her arms and began tapping her left forearm with her right index finger. “If any of you have ever pulled up your school records you’ll have seen a colored border around your student image. This is a color coding that we use to determine whether or not a student requires additional scrutiny due to their abilities as a witch. Nearly all of you have what we call green flagged files, which means there’s a green border around your picture. A yellow flagged file indicates that the student not only knows one or more spells that can be used to kill another person—usually Morte spells, but not always—but that they are in full command of that spell, and they can use it at varying levels of power.

“And since I know some of you are wondering and a few will ask—the next level up from that is red flagging. That means one thing: the student in question has used magic to kill another person. And there are a few students here with red flag files: they got them last school year during the Day of the Dead. They’re members of either our Air Assault Group or our Rapid Response Teams, and you’ll never hear them talk about what they did because having to kill someone is a duty that’s not to be taken lightly.”

Helena’s demeanor turned serious and not a little angry. “If I ever heard of any of my dark witches talking up about killing someone, they and I would have a quiet little chat far from the madding crowd, and my displeasure would be known. Fortunately—” She returned a slight nod in response to the two she’d seen. “—I don’t have to worry about that, because I know those I’ve trained, I’ve trained up right. So, if we—”

The distinctive accent of Edelmar Brodney from the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia, ran out. “You said almost all of us are green flagged; there’s someone here who isn’t?”

 

Yeah, teach, are there kids in this room who are yellow flagged?  Silly students . . .

 

“That’s correct.” Helena sensed a few students looking in Annie’s direction, but didn’t bother acknowledging. “As I gather nearly all of you want to know your fellow yellow flagged levelmates, I’ll make it easy for you—” She raised her voice a touch. “All students here who are yellow flagged please come forward and stand to my left.”

A moment of silence passed before Annie stepped away from the mass of students, with Kerry a half a step behind. Seconds later they stood next to their instructor, with Kerry situated between the Helena and Annie. The Head Sorceress let out a gasp of mock surprise. “Well, isn’t this unexpected.” She turned back to the rest of the students. “Most of you likely became aware of Annie’s abilities to use Electrify after watching her fight in The Manor—though I’m certain she shocked the shite out of one student—” Helena smirked as she returned Lisa’s angry glare. “—but she also knew, and could control, Exsanguination before arriving at Salem: that means she was yellow flagged as soon as she walked through Founder’s Gate.

“What you didn’t know is that Kerry’s been hard at work learning the same Morte spells—under my guidance, in case someone feels the need to ask and/or complain. The reasons for his instructions are mine, but the end result is that he knows what Annie knows—” She gave him a slight pat on the shoulder. “Which means what Annie knows, he knows.”

 

Helena had to point out the obvious and throw some shade back at the Queen of Ass Covering, which only leads to more shade throwing–

 

“Can he fly, too?” The sarcasm in Franky Smith’s voice was unmistakable.

Kerry answered the question in a quiet yet assured tone. “There’s an easy way to find out, Franky.”

 

Well, there’s a thrown gauntlet if there ever was one.  But wait!

 

Helena glanced to her left and gave Kerry a smile. “Maybe sometime later, huh?”

A loud snort emanated from the student group. “Yeah, when he’s had a bit more training.”

Here we go again. Helena sigh wasn’t heard beyond her and the minions at her side, but she was certain it was seen. “What bug is up your arse this time, Lisa?”

“No bug, Professor.” Lisa made her way to the front of the group. “Only if you’re gonna brag on your brats, at least show us what they can do.” A dark grin spread across her face. “Kerry made the point: only one way to find out if he’s as bad ass as his—” Her face twisted around into a mask of scorn. “Girlfriend.”

The girlfriend was having none of this. “We’re not here to show off for you or anyone else.”

“I’m not talking to you, Annie—remember?” Lisa pointed at Kerry. “But I think we should see this supposed talent before he gets the chance to punk someone in the ring.”

Helena saw what was happening—Lisa was trying to prove Kerry’s abilities before someone, perhaps her, could call him out to The Manor—and she damned herself for opening this door. On the other hand . . . “Okay, then.” She turned to her left. “How do you both feel about giving a practical demonstration?”

 

Once more Helena finds herself in a position where she has to defend her minions–or, is she?  After all, we aren’t seeing what comes next, and as far as defending her choices of minions–well, there’s no need to do that this far into the school year.  Which means that whatever’s coming next–

It’ll likely be interesting.

Shoot Down the Firing Line

Right before midnight there was a hell of a storm here in The Burg, and one bit of lightning went off that must have been right above the apartment, because the flash and bang were almost simultaneous.  Great way to see the first half of the summer out, right?  Doesn’t make for good time trying to get to sleep, however.

So the last two days I’ve skirted with the thousand word limit.  The day before last I had nine hundred ninety-eight; last night it was nine hundred eighteen.  Close, but not quiet there.  However, those thousands add up after a while, and with three more scenes left in Chapter Nine, I have a good shot of ending Act One right at eighty thousand words, especially since I crossed seventy-five thousand, four hundred words last night.

This also means that, sticking with my two weeks per ten thousand schedule, I’ll finish Act One in the upcoming week–right before I have to leave The Burg and head back to Indiana for some personal business.  I could even start Act Two while on the road.

But what about the end of Act One?  Where is Kerry?

Ginger Hair Boy got snapped at by Chestnut Girl, and neither are pleased that it happened.  But that’s the breaks when you’re training hard, and all the training, and learning, are in your hands.  Best then to take a time out . . .

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

“Yeah, you did.” Kerry chuckled. “Because it’s true.” He reached across his body to pat her hand. “Can we take a break?”

She tugged on his arm. “Let’s go sit in the viewing gallery.”

There were a dozen chairs in the viewing gallery, each big enough for a single person. Kerry chose one against the wall opposite the entrance. He held tight to Annie’s hand. “Sit with me.”

She eyed Kerry, then the chair. “There isn’t enough room for us both.”

“Sure there is—” He sat and patted his thighs. “Join me.”

Annie held her hands tight against her belly. “You want me to sit on your lap?”

“Sure.” He glanced up through the top of his glasses. “It’s not like you weigh a lot.”

She slid into his lap, chuckling as she wrapped an arm around his neck. “This all right?”

“You’re fine.”

“As long as you’re comfortable, my love.” Annie rested against his shoulder. “What’s bothering you?”

“I don’t know.” He slowly slipped his arm around Annie and held her close. “I just don’t get why it’s so hard—I know I’m seeing it correctly in my head.” He sighed. “How did you figure out the right visualization for blood coming out of the body?”

“Well . . .” She leaned in close and whispered. “I have some experience with blood coming out of the body.” She kissed the side of his head. “Like now.”

Kerry’s eyes rolled up for a second before turning just enough to see Annie’s face. “Oh, yeah: I forgot.” He snuggled his head against hers. “I did check this morning, Sweetie—”

“I know you did; you always do.” A soft sigh slipped out from between pressed lips. “You always make me feel good.”

“Except I got you upset.” Kerry began to smile as he felt his frustration slowly drain away. “I didn’t want to do that; I don’t like doing that.”

 

Once upon a time Kerry mentioned to Nurse Coraline during “The Talk” that he was aware of Annie’s cycle–and isn’t it a good thing he didn’t mention that to his mother?  I’d also mentioned that, knowing Kerry, he probably went and set it up on a calendar somewhere, so he’d know when Annie Dim Red Tides were upon high.  But noticed:  he didn’t blame her snapping at him on that; he says he knows he made her upset, and he’s chilling on anything else.

But there’s something else afoot here . . .

 

Annie shifted her body so she didn’t cause Kerry too much discomfort. “You didn’t, love: not really. I was—” She set back several centimeter so she could better see his face. “It was as if I could feel your frustration. And as you grew more frustrated—”

“—It affected you.” He chuckled. “I could feel it coming off you.”

Annie didn’t want to discuss what she felt from Kerry, or what he felt from her: she wanted to discuss the reason why they were here, and what she thought might be the source of Kerry’s frustration. “May I make an observation?”

He chuckled. “You can make as many as you like.”

She sat up, no longer leaning against her soul mate. “Whenever you’ve had this—problem—in the past, it’s not because you don’t know how to craft the spell: it’s because you’re over-thinking the spell.”

Kerry pushed himself back deeper into the chair, his expression changing as he eyed Annie. “Like the first time you spoke with me in Spell Class a year ago.”

“Yes—” She nodded slowly. “Just like that time.”

“Yes.” He leaned back and stared at the ceiling for several seconds as he remembered the time a couple of weeks after the start of Beginning Spells, when Annie took him aside and explained the difference between being a technical and a natural witch. How being a natural witch meant not seeing magic as a series of steps one needed to craft in order to perform a spell, but more of a feeling that magic should just happen a certain way . . .

Kerry slowly pressed the palm of his right hand into his forever. “Ohhhh . . .” He closed his eyes and exhaled. “I’ve been so stupid.”

 

You are stupid, Kerry–stuuuupiiiidddd!  Yep, with a little help he thinks he’s got it.  And what is “it”?  Pretty much what you think it is–

 

She slipped off his lap and stood. “Let us go then—” She helped Kerry to his feet. “My love.”

They reentered the test area and Kerry proceeded directly towards the table with the practice torsos. He examined the torso on the right as if he were looking for flaws and imperfections. “I think I got this.”

“Do you?” Annie stood slightly behind him and to his left. “Do you really believe you know this?”

He glanced over his shoulder. “Yes—” He turned and stared at the torso for about fifteen seconds before slowly drawing back his left arm, keeping his hand close to his side. He held it there for a few seconds, then pushed it forward, twisting his hand around palm-upward once his arm was fully extended.

The moment Kerry’s arm became fully extended, blood began running from the torso’s nose, then started to pour from its ears and eyes as the chest and arms turned red with blood oozing from the pores. The pulsing heart began slowing as the light grew lighter. Ten seconds after the Exsanguination spell hit the torso, the light faded away as the heart ceased beating.

He turned to Annie, a huge smile stretched from cheek-to-cheek. “I do.”

She returned his smile as she began bouncing on the balls of her feet. “What changed?”

“Over-thinking.” He turned back towards the torso. “Way too much.”

Annie stepped next to him and took his hand. “How so?”

“By doing what I did back at the start of spells class, Sweetie. Here I’ve been thinking about Exsanguination the same way oxygen moves from the cells through the walls and into the tissue . . . I was trying to work the spell the scientific way, and it was all wrong.” He gave her hand a squeeze before throwing his arm around Annie’s shoulders. “This time I just thought about blood pushing through everything and pouring out into and through the body—” He shot an excited glance Annie’s way. “You put enough blood into the body, and even if it doesn’t ooze out of every pore, it’s gonna come out somewhere eventually. Right?”

 

One might say there’s no science in magic, and for the most part they’re right.  And even as good as Kerry can be at times, he still slips back into old habits–which is what happened here.  He’s trying to come up with some strange ideas of how the blood permeates the arterial membranes, when what he needed to see is blood being drawn out of someone’s body.  He figured it out, and he wants to move on–

 

“Yes, it will.” Annie turned and gave him a hug. “I knew there was something like that holding you back.” She leaned back, her face beaming. “It’ll take about ten minutes for the torso to soak up the blood, so you can use the other one—”

He shook his head. “No.” He looked over Annie’s shouldn’t. “I want to try the homunculus.”

“You do?”

“Yes.”

Annie backed away slowly, her eyes fixed on Kerry while she teased him with her words. “You do the spell right one time—”

“And I know I can do it again.”

She straightened her back and shot a stern look his way. “Farm Boy, I had better see his homunculus dead.”

He did a quick half-bow. “As you wish.”

 

Sure thing, Princess Buttercup:  you get that blue cabinet open . . .

 

Annie skipped over and planted a quick kiss on his cheek before turning towards the cabinets. “Let me unlock the door—”

“Not the blue.” His eyes shifted to his right. “The red.”

A moment of uncertainty passed over Annie’s face. “You really want a Tracker?”

“Why not? It’ll give me an incentive to get the spell right.” He rolled his shoulders, getting loose. “I mean, the worse that can happen is it’ll touch me and the enchantment will knock me out, right?”

“Right as rain.” She unlocked two of the red cabinet doors and began walking back towards Kerry. “I’ll get hidden so it doesn’t track me, then open the door.” Annie glanced to her right and examined Kerry’s mood. He’s not the least bit nervous—just like when we were in Kansas City. “Are you ready?”

He sighed out his eagerness. “Yes.”

Annie vanished from sight; five seconds later one of the unlocked doors opened and the homunculus stepped out.

Kerry was well aware of how these things worked. An enchantment keep the homunculus from noticing anything until they were about two meters from their cabinet, at which point they locked onto anything breathing. They’d continue following people around until they were either put down, or they came into contact with a person—at which point an enchantment carried by the homunculus rendered them unconscious, often with a variety of special effects.

As had happened many times during A Level Self Defense class, the homunculus detected Kerry after taking a few stepped away from the cabinet. The teenage-sized humanoid, attired in a light-blue paper coverall, headed towards him in a slow walk. He wasn’t fooled by their slow, steady movement: thought he was only four meters away, if he didn’t move the homunculus would be upon him in about ten seconds.

Having a Tracker coming his way put him under pressure to act—and to make everything work right.

He took a single step backwards as he visualized the effect the spell would have. He drew on the dark energy needed to power the spell. His crafting nearly complete, all that remained was to exert his will upon his crafting, and . . .

Kerry kept his hand close to his side this time, pressing his palm in the direction of the homunculus. Blood began flowing from the ears and nose, but it didn’t gush as it had with the practice torso. Now three meters away, the homunculus staggered slightly, but the lose of blood was only enough to slow the creature in its forward advance.

He took another step backwards and quickly re-crafted. He wasn’t rattled: his mind was clear and worked through his VEW steps rapidly. He drew in a breath, held it as he prepared himself, and pointed at the homunculus as if he were ordering it to sit.

Blood squirted from the nose, ears, and eyes. Red spots began appearing across the coverall as blood flowed from the pores, and small streams of blood flowed down the legs and dripped over the ankles. The homunculus took three staggering steps and slipped to the right, crashing to the floor. It twitched twice then lay still, leaving Kerry to stand over the homunculus and stare down at it in much in the same way he’d once done to a student during A Level Sorcery class.

 

Standing over a student in Sorcery Class?  Maybe one who is writhing in pain on the floor?  Yeah, that’s the Dark Kerry we’ve seen before, and he’s finally back.  He’s not only got this, but he knows something else:

 

Annie appeared at his left, having dropped her light bending spell. She hooked her right arm around his left. “I would say that was a successful use of Exsanguination.”

Kerry humphed. “It wasn’t perfect.”

“No, it wasn’t. Took you about twenty, twenty-five seconds to drop the target.”

“Yeah.” As much as he wanted to celebrate his accomplishment, he knew what was necessary. “I want to do it again.”

“I thought you might.” She turned him until he was facing her, then kissed him on the lips. “You’re becoming like me.”

“I’ll never be as good as you.” He kissed her back. “But I do want to get it right; I don’t want a repeat of the Link Bridge.”

Annie nodded. “Neither do I.” She pulled him closer. “Like it or not you are like me.”

“And I know what you would do—”

“Do you?” She nodded and released his arm, then hung both arms around his shoulders. Where the other kisses were quick and playful, this time she kissed him slowly and with enormous passion. My dark witch has learned his lesson

She broke the kiss but kept her eyes close as she breathed in his exhilaration. “Were you thinking of something like that?”

Kerry kissed her on the nose before glancing towards the red cabinet. “That was great, but . . . you need to set up another Tracker for me.”

Annie lightly pushed away from Kerry and performed her own little bow. “As you wish.”

 

Nothing like using a metaphor for “I love you” while learning spells designed to kill people, right?  One could say they are entirely too happy about this success, and a few people would be right:  they are happy.  There could be a myriad of reasons why, but sealing off the Firing Line for these two to wreck havoc was probably done not so much to keep them from being distracted, but to keep other students from seeing that they might just be having a little too much fun.  There’s also the kissing parts, too–at least this time they’re not covered in blood.  (I would still love for someone to draw that picture of them embracing after the zombie fight.)

So here we are:

Closer to the end, for sure.

Closer to the end, for sure.

And I’m really shooting for finishing this act up next week.

But first:  minion duty.  Maybe.

Preparing the Firing Line

It all feels a bit strange this morning, as I progress with the development of the novel, and in particular the latest scene.  According to my record I’ve written almost sixteen hundred words since yesterday morning, and yet, it feels like I’ve written almost nothing.  Perhaps this is due to having a lot on my mind of late, and feeling a lot of distractions all around as I work upon this final chapter of Act One.

Also, last night, I was screwing around with a map route an trying to fill out the spell list, so that only added to the feeling that all is not as well in Salem as it should.  What is more likely is that I’m just freaking myself out over nothing, and given that I’ll probably start on the next scene this afternoon, as well as start on my first television review of the AMC show Humans tonight, this later hypothesis doesn’t require a great deal of testing to ring true.

But you don’t want to hear that, do you?  You want to see, not be told.  Seeing it is, then.

Homunculi and training torsos are in place, and Professor Chai has jaunted out of the house.  What does this mean?  You know it won’t take long to get to that point . . .

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

Now that they were alone, Kerry decided it was time to ask questions. “What’s up today, Sweetie?” He came over and joined her. “What’s up with—” He ran a hand lightly over the red cabinet. “—these?”

Annie took a deep breath before answering. “I spoke with Helena Tuesday night while you were in class. She wanted to know how our development was coming along.”

He didn’t need to ask about development in what. “You mean in sorcery?”

“And in transformation magic. We told her and the others last school year that I would teach you and you would teach me.” She gave him the slightest of smiles. “Helena wanted an update on where we were.”

“And what did you tell her?”

“The truth, my love. I said including the spells we learned in class last year, you knew Shadow Ribbons and Cold Fire, that you knew how to charge a Fireball and Air Hammer with dark energy, and that you could do the same with normal spells. Along with Physical Shields you were developing Minor Spell Shields and that you’d start on the major version of that . . .” She paused only long enough to catch her breath. “I also said that as far as Morte spells were concerned you were well versed with the minor version of Electrify, but that you hadn’t quite mastered the spell, and that you were starting to develop Exsanguination.”

 

As pointed out yesterday, it’s scary enough to know these two can toss around fireballs powerful enough to light up a large bonfire, but then you add in the Shadow Ribbons and C0ld Fire and dark versions of shields and Air Hammers, and it becomes a bit more frightening knowing how formidable they are–which, of course, a majority of the school doesn’t know, but can only guess.

But what about these death spells?  Well . . .

 

Kerry dropped his gaze towards the floor. He’d kept his birthday promise from last year, when he’d told Annie that he’d walk with her and become a Guardian—as she had put it, she wanted him to be “her Dark Witch—but learning Exsanguination hadn’t progressed beyond the visualization stage. He pointed to the cabinets. “I guess it’s time to do more than start developing.”

“Yes, it is. Helena said she wants you to reach my understanding and use of the spell as soon as possible: Her reasoning is that, should the need arise, we’ll complement each other with equal knowledge of both Morte spells, and that will make us more formidable should we—” She slowly arched her brow. “—run into another situation where we need those spells.

“While I teach you that, she wants you to help me improve my mastery of Electrify, since you have a better understanding of the spell.”

 

There you have it:  Helena worries they may encounter another . . . situation . . . and so the best thing to do is be more bad ass.  Just wait until Helena has kids of her own:  those will be some scary youngsters.  Just like Mom was when she went to witch school.

But is that all?  Of course not!

 

“It’s not.” Her gaze locked on to that of her soul mate. “I’m going to show you how to do Shadow Net, which is another Shadow Discipline, and can be used to restrain or capture someone. There’s also Blend With Darkness, which is also a Shadow Discipline and works something like Light Bending.”

“Why do we need that if we can already bend light?”

“It’s far harder to detect, especially at night. At low levels you are invisible and you can move seamlessly from shadow to shadow, but at higher levels you become completely insubstantial.” Annie’s eyes twinkled as she grinned. “Helena said it’s just like being an astral form within the Physical Realm: people can walk right through you and never know you were there.”

Kerry couldn’t help but smile as well. “Like being a ghost.”

“Exactly. Now, that’s what I am supposed to show you—” She tapped him on the chest. “You, my love, are to show me what you’ve learned as far as Minor Personal Transformations are concerned. We know you’re working on changing your features, because Jessica is speaking with Helena so she’s aware of everything you’re doing that class.”

“Guess I can’t hide anything from you guys.” He pulled Annie close and wrapped her up in an embrace. “How do you want to do this, my little pumpkin?”

 

No, death spells aren’t enough:  time to rock those transformations and Shadow Disciplines.  Blend With Darkness was what Isis used during The Scouring, but she could, and still does, only use it at a minor level:  as Annie mentions, once you’re using it at higher levels, you are a shadow.  And how does one combat a magic wielding shadow?

Just ask The Doctor:  he hates fighting shadows.

Become one with the Vashta Nerada.  And eat all the chicken you like.

There’s also transformation spells that Kerry is learning that, according to what Annie has learned from Helena, will allow him to change his features.  Meaning what?  Remember Jessica showing up at last year’s Samhain dance looking like a Na’vi?  Or Emma looking like a katana-swinging, zombie-killing woman of color?  Those are pretty good examples of “changing your features,” and if they figure these out quickly, they could be very popular with other students looking for costume ideas in a couple of weeks.  If not, there’s always next year . . .

The novel sort of looks like this now–

Moment by moment, scene by scene.

Moment by moment, scene by scene.

And what’s this?  A subscene!  My first of the story.  Given that it’s called Dark Witch Frustration, it could mean that Annie or Kerry, or both, are running into a bit of difficulty with this particular lesson–