SPG: November, Part 4/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

St. Paul Grimoire is a weekly serial that updates on Mondays. Each month will cover a self-contained story told over four parts.
It will not be overly edited, and character arcs and plotlines could be adjusted with your feedback! PLEASE let me know what you think!

They went out the back door of the shop, following a path of least resistance, the way Oceanus might have taken.

“Poor guy,” said Valene.

“We don’t know if anything’s wrong,” Dakotah snapped, his own stress leeching out at her.

“He’s probably scared,” she said. “Let’s split up. Pete and I can take Dunlap.”

“Yeah, sure, whatever,” said Dakotah.

Val rolled her eyes as they split from the boys.

“You’re welcome,” she muttered. “He acts like he don’t need us.”

Pete’s hand tapped a rhythm on her leg. “He’s figuring stuff out,” she said distractedly. Why were they even looking here? Oceanus was in Other St. Paul, not here.

She wondered if she, a Hero, could shift into Other St. Paul. Dakotah could now do it without a thought. She did sometimes have the double vision, the ability to see past fey glamour to the true form of something. But she’d never been able to do it without Dakotah present.

Valene had been unimpressed with the Hero classification completely. Probably because Pete had yet to show any sign of fey power, or whatever Heroes were supposed to show. As they walked, she tried to flip them into the fey world, but everything remained bright and cool and rainy.

Maybe Dakotah could give her a lesson. She sighed when she thought about Oceanus. He was so chill, why was he having all these problems?

Instead of a big thing like switching into Other St. Paul, she tried for the double vision. For a moment, nothing happened. Then, she spotted a splash of gold, almost hidden among the gold leaves. Pete clapped her hands over her ears to reduce distractions and stepped quickly over to the splash.

As she walked, she saw more and more, a trail of gold in splashes that had frozen over like ice.

“What are you doing?” asked Val.

“I think I’ve got his trail,” she said, then pressed her hands tighter over her ears. She kept the image of Oceanus forefront in her mind, kind of how she had kept Belfast in her mind when she and Dakotah had taken the Lake to Everywhere there.

“How do you know it’s—” Val stopped talking abruptly as they rounded the corner to to face a chorus of angels.

Pete’s vision went crazy, flipping back and forth between her world and the fey world. It felt like the lights were being flicked on and off, the angels before her losing and gaining their wings with each flip. Then the world shuddered to halt, and they stood in shadowy Other St. Paul. The chorus of shining angels stood in a loose circle around Oceanus, who sat on the ground.

One angel turned, and she recognized Pratum.

“Heroes,” he scoffed. “Notorious meddlers.”

The rest of the angels ran the spectrum from male to female, though most were somewhere in the middle with beautiful androgynous faces. They looked with apathy at Pete and Val.

“Get away from him!” Pete said.

“Jesus, Pete,” Valene whispered. She grabbed the other girl’s arm. “There’s like, twelve of them.”

“He’s under Guardian protection!” Pete went on.

Pratum rolled his eyes. “He’s left the Sanctuary. Don’t you know anything? The magic doesn’t work anymore.”

“That’s not true!” Pete bluffed.

“Oh, my god, Pete,” Val begged. “Don’t antagonize him.”

“The Guardian can still protect him if he wants.”

“The Guardian should mind his own business,” an angel snarled.

Pratum nodded. “Hero, this is an angel problem. We will solve it.”

“Why can’t you leave him be?”

“Because angels must be perfect.”

Pete didn’t see who spoke, but all the others nodded in agreement.

She did not need to ask what they meant. She had spent a whole afternoon with Oceanus. He was too quiet, too fixated on his toy. He wasn’t as polished as these angels before her.

“But if he just left the chorus—”

A ripple of horror moved through the watching faces.

“You are suggesting he become a fallen angel?” Pratum said. “Death would be preferable

“Maybe to you,” Val managed to say.

“You do not understand our ways,” Pratum snapped at her.

“I understand they’re stupid if you have to kill anyone who’s different,” Val snapped back. “Even I get that that’s fucked up.”

“Enough,” said another angel. “They cannot stop us. Take care of Oceanus, Pratum.”

Pratum turned his back on the girls. He lifted an arm. His fist crackled with flickering lightning.

“Oceanus!” Pete yelled. The angel lifted his head a bit. “Do you want Dakotah to protect you?”

Barely a beat passed, but for Pete it stretched on and on. Then he inclined his head. Pratum threw his arm. His heat lightning-like magic shot froward, crashing into Oceanus—and bouncing off.

“Shit!” cried Val. “It worked!” She squeezed her arms around Pete.

Her next sound was an eep of terror as Pratum turned to them.

He lifted his arm, lightning cracking again at the end of it. His face was a mask of rage. Before he could bring his arm down, though, he was blasted sideways.

“Dakotah!” Val shouted, her relief tinged with an edge of panic.

Pratum stumbled, losing his electricity for a moment. Dakotah squared off in front of him, while Phin burst through the circle of angels to take Oceanus by the arm.

Pratum shifted, and as he regained his balance he swung, releasing another bolt of lightning. Dakotah brought his arms up, blocking the lightning and releasing a blast of his own magic.

“Come on,” Pete said, and she and Val ran to help Phin. Oceanus kept his head bowed at they hurried to stand by Dakotah. Not close enough to be in the line of fire, but enough to let everyone know they were being protected.

Pratum paused with lightning crackling on both fists. “This isn’t your job, Guardian.”

“I’ll keep that in mind for the future,” Dakotah growled, not leaving his defensive stance.

“You overstep. So did Icarus. Neither of you knew where a human’s responsibility in our world ends. I am not surprised he chose a successor like you.”

“Thank you,” said Dakotah.

Pratum tried once more. “You do not know enough of our world, Guardian. You think you save him but you curse him. And when you overstep you run the risk of ending up just like Icarus.”

The energy on Dakotah’s hands flared up. “It’s time for you to go, Pratum. I’ll explain everything to Oceanus. He’ll decide for himself if he wants to leave the chorus.”

Slowly, Pratum lowered his arms. The lightning wound down and flickered out. He shook his head. “You will learn, Guardian.”

He jerked his head at the others. “Come.”

They stretched their pure white wings and lifted off, flying away into the foggy gray sky.

Dakotah took a deep breath, closing his eyes. When he opened them, they were all back in St. Paul.

They made their way slowly back to the shop.

“What was that?” asked Pete, catching up to Dakotah. Val and Phin walked behind, on either side of Oceanus.

“Weird shit,” he said. “Something happened, and I knew exactly where you were, and how to get there almost instantly. Then, when Pratum started using his power—then I could, too. Not exactly the same way, but I could replicate it.” He examined his hands. “I don’t know if I can do it again or not.”

“Well, it was awesome,” she said.

He grinned at her.

By the time they’d made the short walk back to the shop, he was exhausted. The stone cats meowed concernedly, and he pat their heads comfortingly. The magic fight had drained him, leaving a weird blank feeling in his chest.

The moment they entered the shop, he noticed the book on the checkout counter.

“Hey!” he said, quickly circling to take a closer look. The cover bore no title but was ornate, tipped in gold and with stylized painting on the leather. He flipped through a few pages. It was not written like a normal book. Text was handwritten and wandered the page, separated by ink drawings–close-ups of wings or eyes, diagrams of flight patterns, pictures of different types of clouds.

As he flipped through, his frown deepened.

“What is it?” asked Phin. “What’s wrong?”

Dakotah sighed wearily. “It’s in French.”

The AMAZING cover to my forthcoming novel, TURQUOISEBLOOD, will be revealed December 1st! Check back here tomorrow to see it first!

Advertisements

SPG: November Part 3/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

St. Paul Grimoire is a weekly serial that updates on Mondays. Each month will cover a self-contained story told over four parts.
It will not be overly edited, and character arcs and plotlines could be adjusted with your feedback! PLEASE let me know what you think!

“Fuck, sorry, we should’ve been here.”

“It’s cool,” Pete assured Dakotah. She had just told him about Pratum, the angel who had come looking for Oceanus. She’d invited Val over for extra support, but once Pratum had left, nothing eventful had happened. She yawned. It was past eleven.

Dakotah looked at the angel. He had set the clockwork toy near him, but he was watching Val braid her hair, answering whenever she asked him a question.

Val got up and went to stand with the others.

“I feel like an idiot,” she said. “I dunno what to, like, even say to him? He’s super nice though.”

“I don’t think we need to babysit him,” Dakotah said, explaining what Arturo had told him. He figured Oceanus would be safe while whatever problem blew over.

“Then we can go to bed?” Val asked.

Dakotah cast a wary look to the front gate. He noticed both of his cats were back in position by the front gate. He’d tell them to keep an eye out for Pratum. “Can you walk Val home?” he asked Phin.

Brother and sister nodded.

“What about you?” Pete asked.

“I have to do my homework,” Dakotah said with a roll of his eyes. “I’ll hang out here, see if the grimoire gets delivered.”

Dakotah put in his request for an angel grimoire—feeling strange as he set the note on the front counter. Then he sat on the ground and showed Oceanus how to play a racing game on his iPad.

“Are you…hungry?” asked Dakotah.

The angel shook his head.

“K…I gotta do some stuff, so…let me know if you need anything.”

Dakotah wandered away, still feeling like a babysitter even though Arturo had said he wasn’t.

What is a Guardian, then, if not a babysitter? What’s the point?

When he left for the night he kept a sharp eye out for Pratum or any other angels. No one bothered him, and he flopped into bed.

~*~*~

“He been mean-muggin’ me, man.” A locker slammed as an annoyed kid smashed a hand into it.

“I understand that, Damien,” a calm teacher said, “but do you think the appropriate reaction is throwing pencils while others are trying to work?”

Dakotah had woken up late and arrived to school (Central was within easy walking distance) in the middle of first period. The halls had filtered free of most students, and class was going on.

Mostly. Out in the halls was another world. A free-floating space you could wander like a maze, like skirting behavior specialists like Pac-Man ghosts.

“Waddup, Kotah,” someone said.

Dakotah gave the other boy a nod. Savion was definitely skipping class. He stopped to have a conversation, obviously more interested in anything but class.

“You late?”

“Yeah. M’tired.”

Savion nodded. He always fell asleep in class, Dakotah knew. Two years ago he’d been the same, when they’d been moving a lot. He’d been tired but filled with a restless energy.

The boys talked for a minute more, then a passing adult gave them the eye. Dakotah flashed his late pass for the both of them, and once she passed by he and Savion went different directions.

“Dakotah,” Pete said as she approached.

“Busy hallway,” Dakotah muttered. “Hey, what’s up? Where’re you going?”

“Library. Did you see Oceanus today?”

He shook his head. “Woke up like 15 minutes ago. I’ll check after school. He was fine last night though. I think angels don’t eat. Or sleep.”

“Was he still playing with that soldier?”

“Yeah, kinda. Like he played on the iPad but kept the soldier by him. I dunno. He seems alright.”

“I’ll go with you today.” She felt responsible for the angel. Dakotah hadn’t seen Pratum, he didn’t know the weird look in the angel’s eyes.

“K, cool.”

~*~*~

She and Val met Dakotah by the front doors. Phin stood with him already.

“When’s it going to get cold?” Phin wondered aloud. They started out from Central’s front doors, down the steps and the wide expanse of concrete to the sidewalk.

“You want to be cold?”

The four talked about nothing important as they made their way to the shop in the unseasonably warm weather. Yellow leaves fell around the Summit neighborhood, putting everything into a blaze of color. Construction and renovations on the Summit areas homes had finished before winter could settle in. Many had fresh coats of paint.

Dakotah worried about the upkeep of Ike’s shop. Did he have to handle that? Would magic hold it together? His enemies had broken the front window on his first night as Guardian. What did that mean for the future?

They arrived at the shop. Dakotah pet his cats as he walked by the statues, not noticing the others do the same.

Inside, the shop was quiet. Dakotah looked around, frowning.

“Oceanus?”

No answer. That wasn’t really weird, he reminded himself. His guest was quiet.

“I’ll check upstairs,” Pete volunteered.

“Has anyone been in or out?” Phin asked. “Can you tell?”

Dakotah closed his eyes, feeling instinctively for the house’s physical memory.

“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “Nothing feels weird. But I don’t know if what I’m feeling is anything…I know, I’ll ask the cats.”

Dakotah ran outside. Phin and Val split up and checked the shelves and back rooms.

Within a minute they all met by the front desk.

“He isn’t upstairs,” Pete said.

“He’s gone,” Dakotah said grimly. “An angel came by the front gate.”

“Oceanus went with the angel?”

“No,” said Dakotah. “He apparently left out the back while the angel stood by the front.”

“Shit,” said Pete. “He got scared, don’t you think? And ran?”

“This is a safe place,” Dakotah said. “Where would he run to?”

“If he’s out there alone, the other angels will find him,” Pete said, an edge to her voice.

Dakotah stood frozen while he considered. What were the responsibilities of a Guardian? Should he look for Oceanus, or did the angel cease to be his responsibility the moment he left the grounds?

“Fuck,” he said. “Alright, let’s look for him.”

My novel TURQUOISEBLOOD will be out December 15th! Keep checking back for updates!

SPG: November, Part 2/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

St. Paul Grimoire is a weekly serial that updates on Mondays. Each month will cover a self-contained story told over four parts.
It will not be overly edited, and character arcs and plotlines could be adjusted with your feedback! PLEASE let me know what you think!

Phin sat with his heart in his throat as they paddled to Mexico. He tried to follow Dakotah’s direction of keeping their destination in mind, but he kept getting distracted by the dark, dark water below. What was living in it? Water-fey? Dakotah probably didn’t even know.

Then there was the whole issue of the last time Dakotah had gone to see another Guardian: that Guardian had turned up dead.

When the lake lapped against the tile floor of a small Mexican kitchen, Phin breathed a sigh of relief.

Everything seemed to be in its place. Art still hung brightly on the walls, drawers were closed, a hand towel folded neatly.

“Be careful,” said Dakotah as Phin disembarked first. Phin didn’t know if he meant careful getting off the boat or careful entering the potential shitstorm.

They went through the house room by room. It was bigger than it had seemed. Phin felt a sense of peace each time he saw something so comfortably Mexican. He wished he could get down and see his family a few hours south, but the Lake probably wasn’t best used for personal trips, and there would be no way to explain to his family how he’d gotten there.

Dakotah got a little ahead of him while Phin put his hands through a ray of sunlight. The air was the perfect temperature in the house.

Then he heard Dakotah talking to someone.

“Arturo speaks English,” Dakotah said as Phin approached. “This is my friend Phin.”

Leaning around the doorframe, Phin saw the lanky form of a 30-year-old Mexican man, seated in front of his laptop. They exchanged a greeting in Spanish.

“Let’s sit out here,” Arturo said, leading them to the balcony. From their seats they had a nice view of the neighborhood.

“You’re the youngest Guardian I’ve met,” Arturo said.

“I thought you’d be older,” Dakotah responded.

A slight frown creased Arturo’s brow. “I think it’s not a safe job.” He shrugged. “We’re the crazy ones.”

“How long have you been a Guardian? How many others have you met?”

“A few years. I don’t see the others much. Too much going on here. I’ve met the Northern China Guardian, the Eastern Europe Guardian, a couple African Guardians…I met the Northern Islands Guardian in Belfast, Caitlin, before she was…well, whatever happened to her. When did you Ascend?”

“Halloween,” Dakotah answered.

Arturo stroked his wispy mustache. “Must be an American day of power. I Ascended on All Saints’ Day. Do you guys want a Coke?”

After drinks had been served, Dakotah leaned forward in his seat. “I think Sunil killed the Belfast Guardian. He came after me, too.”

He explained how he had pushed Sunil as far away as possible.

Arturo cursed in Spanish. “That rat bastard has it in for us. Guardians aren’t even the most powerful in the fey world, but he’s bent on taking us out.”

“Who is the most powerful?” Phin asked.

“Well, it used to be the Seelie court. Those fairies kept order all over the world. Now that the Seelie court has fallen, I guess the next powerful would be the Unseelie court.”

“Is the Unseelie court keeping order?”

Arturo laughed. “I don’t think so. The Seelie court is friendly with humans. They believe in beauty, and honor. The Unseelie court is all about chaos and change. They don’t need a reason to cause trouble.”

“So what happened to the Seelie court?”

“No se, no idea. I only have been a Guardian for a couple years, you know. I’m not trying to solve great mysteries of the fey world.”

“How do you know all this?” Dakotah asked. “That’s my problem, I don’t know anything. Like there’s an angel at the shop right now that I have no idea what to do with. Or how to combat my other enemies, not just Sunil.”

“I don’t know about your regional enemies. Most people who come to me for Sanctuary just need time, you know? To figure things out, or wait for trouble to die down. Sometimes the problem just resolves itself. That’s because it’s never worth it to take on a Guardian. We’re not super powerful or anything, but the bond is. Once you invoke Sanctuary, that’s powerful protective magic. So lots of people give up chasing, or maybe they listen better to what the Guardian says. I’d just keep your eyes and ears open, I guess.

“As for angels, I get a lot of them here, they’re kinda weird. They’re kind of cultish, they police each other. They’ll usually leave after a few days and rejoin the chorus. They come for Sanctuary because it’s kind of a middle ground. If they leave the chorus they become fallen angels, but if they take Sanctuary for a few days it’s like a timeout from being perfect.”

“You must have met a lot of angels.”

“Yeah, but they don’t talk much. I learned a lot of that from the grimoire.”

“The what?”

“The angel grimoire. I read it after meeting my first angel.”

“But what’s a grimoire?”

Arturo looked shocked. “You haven’t been reading the grimoires? Holy shit, how have you managed to get anything done?”

Dakotah waited for an explanation.

“A grimoire is a book—a book of spells and magic. It also has TONS of information on every kind of thing, almost like an encyclopedia. Every time I meet a new fey I checkout a grimoire about them.”

Dakotah felt a wave of relief wash over him, followed by one of annoyance. “Why didn’t Ike tell me about these?”

“No idea, they’re so useful. How did you even Ascend without reading the Guardian grimoire?”

Phin and Dakotah gave each other a look. Their lives last month would’ve been a lot easier had they known there were whole books about the topics they needed to know about.

“How do I get these?”

“Well, I used to take the Lago to the Library, but lately I’ve just been taking a piece of paper, writing the topic I want, and a few hours later the book appears. They only let you take out one at a time if you do it that way, but it works.” Arturo shrugged. Dakotah felt that shrug embodied everything he knew about Guardianship. It just works, I don’t know how.

They sat around and talked until the sun started to set. Arturo knew a lot, but much was specific to the Central American fey. Still, Dakotah listened closely.

Afterward, they bid Arturo goodbye.

“You know you can just take the Lago home from here?” Arturo asked.

“Yeah,” said Dakotah as they stepped out the door. “Phin’s gonna show me around first.” Phin had only been to Mexico City once or twice, but Dakotah had never left the US at all, and they were going to explore.

“Ok.” Arturo shook his phone. “You have my number. I’m sure you guys’ll be fine though. Good luck, Dakotah.”

“Thanks, man.”

He’d been worried about getting back to Pete and the angel, but Arturo’s confidence had calmed him enough to enjoy the sites.

Phin, however, left the Sanctuary with his lips pursed. Arturo had a nice house, filled with cool art, but he hadn’t said anything about friends, or family, or showed any pictures. Neither had Ike. What would Dakotah’s future be like?

 

My novel TURQUOISEBLOOD will be out December 15th! Keep checking back for updates!

SPG: November, Part 1/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

St. Paul Grimoire is a weekly serial that updates on Mondays. Each month will cover a self-contained story told over four parts.
It will not be overly edited, and character arcs and plotlines could be adjusted with your feedback! PLEASE let me know what you think!

The weather had turned a freakish 70 degrees. Pete spread her arms in the sun and basked for a moment. She actually loved winter, but a break in the chill wasn’t a problem either.

She set off for home at a slow pace. Val was busy today so Pete couldn’t do her homework over there.

Though she was used to Leal’s presence by now, the baby still bothered her. Why did her parents even need another kid?

Val’s house wasn’t much better. She had an older brother, too, and three younger siblings—the youngest two years old. Val didn’t think anything of it, though. Why did it bother Pete so much?

She had a thought, and her footsteps changed direction, down a few blocks and up a few more, bringing her to Dakotah’s shop. Here she could do her homework in peace.

Dakotah was standing with his back to the door. At the sound of her footsteps on the porch, he half-turned.

“Hey,” he said, unsmiling. That was a typical look for him. Dakotah had long black hair that he worn straight and loose. He was part Native American, she knew, which was easy to see in the combination of high nose, brown skin, and that hair. His mom looked practically the same, too.

“What’s up?” she asked.

“Well, they’re coming to fix the window today, I have to clean literally everything and figure out the cash register, find my missing cat and start advertising, write reports for my mom so she doesn’t get suspicious about the shop, do my homework, go see another Guardian, and now this guy’s here.”

Pete leaned around to see where Dakotah was gesturing.

Seated on the floor was an angel. He was a gaunt man with sharp dark features, like a Lord of the Rings elf. Tall and broad-shouldered, she didn’t think he was handsome. No, he was beautiful. The beauty shone out of his face and body like rays of sun. It lit his wings, defining every white feather.

The angel was playing with a windup soldier, a clockwork toy that Pete had seen before in Dakotah’s shop.

When the angel saw her, he beamed. “A heroine,” he said.

Pete couldn’t help but beam back. “At your service,” she said. She never minded when the fey pointed out her apparently innate heroic qualities. “What’s your name?”

The angel didn’t respond. He set his toy loose and let it march around.

“I think…” Dakotah said carefully, “he’s got, like, mental…problems. He doesn’t really talk or act right.”

She could see that. The angel had fixated on the toy and apparently forgotten their existence. His smile had been like Leal’s—completely authentic.

“What does he want?”

Dakotah shrugged. “The House accepted him last night. I could feel it so I went to see what was going on.” Dakotah rubbed his eyes. “He was freezing and scared but I got him up to bed and gave him that toy.”

“He seems pretty relaxed now,” Pete observed. “Good job, Guardian.”

Dakotah didn’t smile. “Someone is chasing him.”

~*~

Phin arrived half an hour later, and by then Pete had offered to sit with the angel while he and Dakotah went to see the other Guardian.

“I’ll owe you, Pete, thanks. Be careful”

She waved them off a little sourly. She wanted another chance on the Lake to Everywhere, especially once she realized where they were going: Mexico City. Phin was going to help translate.

Instead, she watched as they climbed into a canoe, and then wicked out of sight, like the curtain of the real world dropping down over the lake.

She looked at the angel. They had half an hour before the window fixer came, so she sat by the angel’s side, in the small space before the rows of shelves.

“What’s your name?” she asked. At first it seemed like he wouldn’t answer, but then he said, “Oceanus.”

“That’s a beautiful name,” she said. “Mine is Pete.”

He looked at her matter-of-factly. “No it’s not.” Then he went back to playing with his toy.

“Well, you can call me Pete.” She formed her next sentences carefully, like talking to a child. “My friend Dakotah said you were scared last night. Were you scared?”

Oceanus nodded. He never made eye contact.

“Well, you don’t have to be afraid anymore. Dakotah and I will take care of you.”

She couldn’t tell if he was comforted or not.

A clanging at the gate drew her attention. Must be the window people, she thought.

She got up and went out the shop door. Coming off the porch, she saw a tall, gaunt man, beauty radiating from his pure skin. He stood just outside the gate. As she approached, she sometimes saw his wings, sometimes not. It was that weird double vision she got now, where she could sometimes see through the fey glamour. He wore equally pure white robes.

“Can I help you?” she called, wondering why he didn’t approach.

“Yes, hello, heroine. I am called Pratum. I have been informed by brother Oceanus has taken Sanctuary here. I am an old acquaintance of Icarus, you see, and still have friends in this area. Anyway, I am here to collect my brother, if I may.”

Perfect! Thought Pete. By the time Dakotah got back, she’d have solved his angel problem.

“Really?” she asked. “That’s great. You…I mean, you know Ike…”

“Has passed from Earth, yes. What a tragedy.” The angel’s voice was monotone. Pete frowned. “May I enter and see my brother now.”

He didn’t even say it like a question. Hesitantly, Pete said, “Okay, yeah, I guess so.”

His face changed as his calm regard dropped away and a hungry look took its place.

The angel took a step forward, but as his foot started to pass the gate he yelled in shock and stumbled back.

Pete jumped at the sound. Before she could recover Pratum was back at the edge of the property line, his face a mask of anger.

“You’re not the new Guardian,” he snarled.

She took a half-step back. “I never said I was! Dak—What do you even want?” she hastily caught herself from giving Dakotah away.

“Bring me my brother,” he roared.

“The House won’t let you in,” she realized. Then she straightened. “Good. Get the hell out of here, you’re not getting to Oceanus.”

Pratum leaned as close as he dared to the boundary of the yard. “I’ll be back, heroine.”

 

Sign up for my newsletter for serial updates and information on my forthcoming novel!

Interlude

In case you were wondering, my serial cover art was done by Beetiful Book Covers. I bought a pre-made cover for SPG  because it was cheaper and the serial is up for free.

I loved how dark and moody the feel was. Perfect for urban fantasy!

I loved how dark and moody the feel was. Perfect for urban fantasy!

It was really fun to search through covers without any set idea in mind. I picked one that matched the feel I was going for in the story, and I feel lucky to have come across a cool cover like the one I found on Beetiful.

(One thing I definitely noticed was that it was hard to find a fantasy cover with POC on the cover.  In the end I decided not to have people on the cover at all if it wasn’t going to accurately represent the characters.)

For my forthcoming novel though, I was VERY particular and knew exactly what I wanted.  It’s going to be awesome!  You can sign up for my newsletter to see it before anyone else!

SPG: October, Part 4/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

 

St. Paul Grimoire is a weekly serial that updates on Mondays. Each month will cover a self-contained story told over four parts.
It will not be overly edited, and character arcs and plotlines could be adjusted with your feedback! PLEASE let me know what you think!

“And then he just… disappeared?”

Phin paced a corner of the loud cafeteria. Dakotah sat on the ground, back to a wall, knees drawn up, hair swinging in front of his face.

“Yeah.”

“He killed Michael.”

“Seems like it.”

“But he didn’t kill Ike?”

“I guess not.”

“So we can assume Other St. Paul is actually the fey world. Or part of it.”

“Sure.”

Phin rolled his eyes. “You know,” he said, sitting by Dakotah. “If you don’t Ascend, Sunil will probably stop caring about you.”

“Yeah, I’ve thought about that,” Dakotah snapped suddenly. “I’ve thought a bunch about dead Guardians and monsters attacking us and how I’m too stupid to figure anything out! I’ve also thought about fucking creep Sunil and prowlers and how I could ever go back to my real life. How can we go back?”

Phin shrugged. “I don’t know. Whatever Sunil wants, I just know it’s all about the fey world, and we’re pretty lucky that we can duck out if we wanted. Don’t you want to?”

Dakotah did not answer.

At home, he flopped onto his bed and stayed there, staring at his ceiling. Wondering what the fuck Ike wanted from him. Halloween was weeks away, and he still had no idea how to Ascend. In fact, the only thing he did know about it was that someone would be waiting to kill him at the exact moment.

The bulky emerald necklace was still in his pants pocket. He was certain it was the talisman (indigestible) that had protected him from Sunil. He didn’t think Sunil could find him unless he entered the fey world, but now that he thought about it, every time he entered Other St. Paul was kind of by accident. And the prowlers—could they sniff him out?

And if he walked away, would it really be over?

Would Ike ever forgive him?

Dakotah felt like he aged years in the weeks to Halloween. He spent every moment at the shop, but his actions, his so-called studying, was all routine and automatic. He hadn’t made a decision about the shop. He hadn’t made a decision about his life.

He’d said that to Ike once, about how excited he was to get out of high school—but how unpromising the larger world seemed.

Ike had nodded sagely. “Find something that awakens you.”

Was the shop the thing that would wake him? He had no idea. He had no idea if he even wanted it. He thought about Michael and the image made him sick to his stomach. Was he supposed to guard people from psychos like Sunil? How the fuck was he supposed to do that? He was deeply unsure he wanted that responsibility. What could he do that Michael couldn’t?

The idea of gargoyles made him wonder why Michael had protected him in the first place. The gargoyle could’ve left him and the others to run home alone. Were there other fey who would help Dakotah? If so, were the hell were they?

It was too much. Dakotah threw down his earnings reports. His keys landed on the ground on the papers. Last went the three smooth river stones.

He almost threw the necklace as well, but ended up stuffing it into his pocket again. Until Halloween, he wasn’t safe from Sunil.

~*~

“Where’s Dakotah?” Valene paced back and forth in the hallway. She clamped her fingers tightly around her phone. It was the Friday before Halloween. Pete sat on the ground, drinking from a water bottle. She and Val and Phin had met by the Central’s front doors.

Phin shook his head. He had a textbook settled on his front legs, but wasn’t looking at it. “He wasn’t here all day.”

Valene frowned. “Then what the hell are we waiting for?”

“I hoped he’d show.”

“He ran off,” Valene snapped.

“Wouldn’t you?” Phin said sharply. “We don’t know what it’s like for him, okay?”

“I wouldn’t just leave,” Valene insisted. “I mean, it’s bad, but, like, what’s the point of a Guardian? They wouldn’t need one if everything was so great.”

Pete snapped her water bottle closed. “That’s kind of a good point, Val.”

“Duh.” She gestured with the hand still holding her phone. “Dakotah always avoids shit.”

“You don’t even know him,” Phin said. His voice was rising.

“You don’t either! You guys just started hanging out. When you were in ninth grade he was SUCH a loser. Why do you think he’s changed?”

“Like you’re so great—”

“Okay!” Pete said. “Okay, that’s enough. Let’s go to Ike’s. Maybe Dakotah’s just been there all day. We’ll find him. He’s going to be Guardian, you’ll see.”

~*~

Dakotah had floated through a lot of life. He’d thought he was king of the roost, but really he’d just been floating, following other people’s suggestions. He’d thought he was the coolest, and it had turned out he’d just been one of a pack of idiots. After he’d distanced himself from his old crew, he’d just been floating some more.

Asleep. He had been asleep.

“We’ve been looking everywhere for you.”

At the sound of Phin’s voice, he sat up.

He had spent the whole day in the garden between his and Phin’s houses. The meticulously groomed landscaping job had hidden him. It was a rainy, cool October afternoon, and his hands were bunched up inside his sweatshirt.

Phin, Pete, and Val waited expectantly.

“I can’t be Guardian,” he blurted out.

Pete let out her breath with a sigh. Valene rolled her eyes, though he didn’t know what emotion that was supposed to express.

“Why not?” asked Phin.

“I thought you didn’t want me to.”

“No,” Phin said slowly, “I just pointed out that you might be safer if you didn’t. I didn’t mean…”

“Give up? Whatever, that’s what I’m doing. This whole thing is bullshit, anyway. Nobody’s told me anything useful. They’ve been too busy trying to tell me how fucking dangerous it’ll be. I’m over it. I’m done.”

He laid back onto the wet leaves. He was aware of being wet and uncomfortable, now that they’d disturbed his meditative state.

“Well…” said Phin. “Okay then. That’s it.”

Dakotah closed his eyes.

~*~

There were a few parties on Halloween night, but Dakotah didn’t do anything. He lay in his bed while his mom answered the doorbell and cooed over tiny trick-or-treaters.

His phone read 11:00. Without thinking, Dakotah got to his feet.

If he wasn’t going to be allowed back to Ike’s shop once he refused Ascension, he should probably see it one more time.

The streets were covered in fallen yellow leaves. It had drizzled for days—some years in Minnesota it snowed by Halloween, but this year they’d only gotten rain—and so the leaves gleamed in the streetlights. The damp wind could barely stir them. The streets were empty by now. Jack-o’-lanterns burned on some porches.

He crossed the gate for one final time, petting the heads of the stone cats. He didn’t feel safe this time—he supposed Sunil was right, there was nothing to protect him on this night.

He’d left his keys on the ground inside, but the door swung open to his touch.

He stopped at the counter. This was his favorite vantage point. Ike would sit in his chair, and Dakotah would lean against the counter, and they would survey the work they’d gotten done: restocking and reorganizing, pricing, cataloging, finding and packaging special requests. Dakotah realized that even if he didn’t know the business side of the shop as well as he could’ve, Ike had taught him all the other aspects of running the shop pretty well.

It looked forlorn and disorganized now (more than usual), because he hadn’t taken care of it at all, not while he’d be worrying about the Guardianship test.

More like avoiding it. He realized now he could’ve gone to see another Guardian than the Irish one. He could’ve arrived in Kindred and Cloak’s office and demanded to know more. He could’ve searched his own inventory for a way to contact Michael, or anyone.

Instead, he’d wasted time, avoiding anything that might lead him too close to actual answers.

He closed his eyes and bowed his head. “You wasted your time with me, Ike.”

He hadn’t cried when he’d been told Ike had died. He hadn’t cried at the funeral. But now something washed over him and Dakotah squeezed his eyes together but wasn’t able to stop his tears.

When he opened his eyes, he was in Other Saint Paul.

He still stood inside the shop, but now everything glowed with magic. The river stones were a soft blue. The lamp in the corner was a malevolent red. Some things didn’t glow but had changed form, becoming unnaturally large or small, given extra ears or eyes.

“I don’t want to be here,” Dakotah said to the empty room—though it did not feel empty. He was surrounded by living magic.

“Mrow?”

He looked down. At his sides stood the two cats, their fur a stony blue-grey. They trotted ahead, then paused and looked back at him.

He knew they wanted him to go to the basement, to the heart of the House.

“I’m not Ascending,” he told them. “You gotta find someone else.” Their looks said there was no one else. He stooped to pick up the three stones. “Here, keep these.”

The cats yowled suddenly, and Dakotah jumped to the side without thinking.

The window shattered all around him. Broken glass rained down. He threw his arms over his head.

“Shit!” he yelled.

A roaring, cackling, screeching jangle of noise reached him.

“We knew you’d come, Dakotah!” shouted Sunil from outside.

Dakotah scrambled around the counter, keeping his head down. Another brick sailed through the window that had so recently been liberated of its glass. It hit the lamp, smashing it to pieces.

Dakotah realized the shop had stopped glowing. Sunil had said nothing would protect him, and the psycho appeared to be right.

“Find him!” yelled Sunil. “Bring me his head. Then raze this place like Belfast!”

It was the threat to the shop that finally got Dakotah to his feet. He ran down a row of shelves, glad the lights were out.

A slithering, padding, prowling movement came through the window in hot pursuit.

He swung himself around the doorway and pounded down the stairs to the basement. Something slashed his ankle. Dakotah yelled and fell the last few steps. He landed hard on his wrist.

A lion’s roar blocked out all other sound. He whirled to find a blue-grey lion in between him and the stairs. It faced his pursuers and roared again.

The horned, scaled, toothy, feathered pursuers stopped in their mad scramble down the stairs. The lion leaped.

Dakotah ran for the treasure room.

He didn’t even need the stones for the door in the wall stood wide open.

All defenses down. He ran into the room, straight for the giant quartz heart.

Right before he got there he pulled up short.

What was he doing?

“I can’t be Guardian,” he said, perhaps to the House itself. Perhaps to Ike’s ghost, because maybe something like that did exist in the fey world. “I can’t!”

Something hit him hard in the back and he stumbled forward, into the quartz.

Suddenly he was away, away from the basement, away from the fighting. He was floating in a crystalline purple space, in near complete silence but for his labored breathing.

“Dakotah.”

The voice-with-many-voices spoke his name.

“What?” he yelled angrily. “What does everyone want from me?”

The voices were impassive. “We want you to Ascend, and take up the mantle of Guardian.”

“Why?”

“Because…we need protectors. For those who cannot defend themselves. If you become a Guardian, you vow to do whatever possible to help those who come to you for aid.”

“Like help from psycho Sunil?”

The many-voices seemed to hesitate. “You may be best suited to the task, yes.”

“Why?”

“Sunil was once a Guardian. Icarus trapped him in the fey world, limiting his powers. He grows again in strength.”

“I fucking noticed. I meant, why me.”

“Icarus chose you.”

“That’s what you told me last time.”

“Yes…because that is reason enough for us. Now you must decide if you will choose us, Dakotah.”

In the movies there would have been some defining moment to change his mind. He’d have witnessed some great injustice, some injury to his friends, and the bravery would bloom inside him and he’d know just what to do at just the right moment.

But his friends had already been hurt, and he’d seen what Sunil could do, and he didn’t feel brave, he just had to commit to something, to choose to do it.

Part of him did want it. Part of him wanted it for Ike and part of him grudgingly admitted that maybe he knew what to do and another part fiercely declared that he was a match for psycho Sunil and anything else the fey could throw at him.

Icarus chose you.

Dakotah took a steadying breath. It was good enough for the fey…why wasn’t it good enough for him?

Ike believed in him. He had to believe Ike wanted him for a reason. He had to try.

“Okay,” said Dakotah. “Okay, I’m choosing. I’m going to be a Guardian. I will protect those who come to me for aid, and nothing will stop me from Ascending. What’s the test?”

“Test?” asked the many-voices. “There is no test. You just have to formally Ascend on a day of power. Good luck, Guardian Dakotah. Now that you have Ascended, the fey world will be open to you. Use your powers responsibly.”

And then he was standing outside the quartz heart, back in the real—the human—world.

A lion roared.

At the door to the treasure room the demons of Sunil and his lions were locked in combat.

Dakotah felt furious, and with his fury swelled a power within him.

He had felt hints of this power since becoming Heir. With difficulty he had summoned the lake, or moved into Other St. Paul, or seen the true forms of the things in Ike’s shop.

Now he felt that those abilities would come as easily as breathing. He felt connected to the House, his Sanctuary. And he felt furious at the intrusion.

GET OUT! He cried with his mind.

The House seized, magic spreading from Dakotah to every corner of the property. It bucked the prowlers out, sending them spiraling through Other St. Paul, back to wherever they’d come from.

Then he mentally lunged for Sunil.

The former Guardian had made a mistake coming onto the grounds. Here Dakotah’s magic was strongest, and he used it to push Sunil to the farthest corner of the fey world. Sunil screamed in rage.

Dakotah breathed. The House breathed. They were safe.

He hadn’t gotten rid of Sunil. But when he came again, Dakotah would be ready.

~*~

“Kay, so, where’s Sunil?” asked Valene.

“I banished him to the farthest reaches,” Dakotah said, unable to describe how he knew that or how it had felt at the time. “It’s like…just sending him really far away so it’ll take a while to get back. I didn’t lock him up, or even really hurt him, like Ike did.”

“We should figure out what happened between them,” Phin said. “So we’re ready when he comes back.”

“We?” asked Dakotah.

Valene rolled her eyes. “This dude wants to have all the fun by himself. Of course we’re going to be there. That sicko killed Michael!”

Pete asked, “What made you change your mind?”

“I didn’t. I never really decided before.”

“Do you feel weird? Like magical?”

And the questions kept coming and coming.

Dakotah didn’t feel magical. He felt like he had a lot of work to do.

~*~

“Mom?”

“Yeah, D, what’s up?”

He leaned around the doorway to the kitchen, making sure she knew this wasn’t a conversation. He was just popping his head in. “I’m keeping the shop. We’re opening Monday under new hours—evenings and weekends. I’ll send you quarterly updates. That’s all.”

He walked away and left her there looking vaguely confused.

~*~

Dakotah felt a flash of guilt as he packed things up from the Belfast Sanctuary. The Irish police would be confused. They might think the killer had come back for souvenirs. They’d never match the prints to an American teen. They’d waste more time on the case.

But he couldn’t leave it here.

He stowed the mirror-painting—it didn’t speak to him this time—and anything else remotely magical. He didn’t know if he would keep it or sell it, but it belonged in the care of the Guardians.

Lastly, he found the heart of the House.

The sky-blue crystal had broken, turning black were the cracks stretched. Huge chunks had fallen to the ground, turning black or smoky grey. Sadly, Dakotah picked up a chunk and put it in his pocket. Then he paddled back home.

 

Sign up for my newsletter for serial updates and information on my forthcoming novel!

SPG: October, Part 3/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

St. Paul Grimoire is a weekly serial that updates on Mondays. Each month will cover a self-contained story told over four parts.
It will not be overly edited, and character arcs and plotlines could be adjusted with your feedback! PLEASE let me know what you think!

When they finally made it back to the shop, Pete went home. He watched her go from the gateway, the stone cats flanking him. He could see her check to her sides and up above. Luckily, nothing had tried to kill them for several weeks, and the neighborhood was normally safe. He should’ve walked her back, but he wanted to sit in the shop for a while.

It was 2 a.m. His phone shone in the dark shop while he scanned Facebook, played Candy Crush, looked over his fake inventory, his real inventory. He walked the rows of merchandise, practicing seeing both forms of each strange object.

Eventually, his feet took him to the stairs. He walked up them slowly, almost as if he were being pulled against his will. He passed the second floor and its larger merchandise, and went on to the third.

The door to Ike’s old bedroom swung open. He had unlocked it weeks ago, but done nothing more than stand in the doorway.

He’d thought dying unexpectedly would leave all your secrets exposed. You wouldn’t have time to hide or trash anything. He thought about his own computer, his Google searches on goblins and gargoyles. His mom would be so confused.

Ike’s room wasn’t at all like that. It was meticulously clean. The bed was made, the bedside table drawer empty, the floor free of dirty clothes. A look in the closet produced rows of neat shirts—plus a few weird-looking hats, proof of the zany side Ike kept well-hidden.

He ended up shutting the door again with no more clues.

On his way out of the shop he caught sight of the emerald necklace where Pete had placed it. He picked it up. She’d been a big help that night, she deserved something in return.

Dakotah was walking in the middle of the empty st. Paul streets when he stopped. A familiar prickling on the back of his neck sent his senses roaring. He turned—and as he did, transitioned into Other St. Paul.

“There he is.”

The man who had spoken was a thirty-something Indian man. He was dressed in a Nehru jacket and his voice carried an Indian-English accent. He wore his black hair a little long, slicked back with gel.

In his left hand, he carried the severed head of a man.

No, not a man, a gargoyle.

Michael.

Dakotah’s jaw dropped.

The man went on, “Dakotah, Icarus’s Heir Apparent.” He spread his arms like he was revealing something to a large crowd, though they were alone in the grey-edged world of Other St. Paul.

Or, almost alone. Despite only being able to see the man in front of him, Dakotah still felt surrounded by a sinking, slinking dark force. It prowled on the edges of his vision. The mist-wreathed lampposts did little to improve his view.

Michael’s head swung by his hair in the man’s grasp.

“Makes me feel sort of poetic, holding this.” The man lifted the head slightly. “Know anything about Indian culture?”

Dakotah shook his head.

“Ah, public education. Nevertheless.”

Dakotah averted his gaze. “Who are you?” he demanded.

“I,” the man pronounced theatrically, “am Sunil. I’m glad I met you before you Ascend, Dakotah.” His eyes flicked over the boy. “You’re a hard one to track. What Heirs lack in power they make up for in cloaking abilities, I suppose.”

Dakotah waited. He waited for the man to say something more about the fucking head.

“Icarus surprised us all by even choosing an Heir. He always was a loner. And now that I see who he chose—well, you understand why I’m not afraid of you in the slightest, don’t you, Dakotah?”

“You don’t have to be afraid of me,” Dakotah said. “I’ve got no issues with you.”

“Well not yet,” Sunil responded smoothly. “It was Icarus who had issues with me. Would that I had been there to watch him die—that would have been the next best thing to getting my revenge. Which, by the way, I haven’t gotten. No, Icarus escaped by dying—and threw you right into my path. I’m sure he’s told you all about our relationship, hm?”

“Of course, “Dakotah lied. “But that was before I came around. If you just leave me alone…”

“I’m afraid I can’t. You know how the fey world operates. If I leave a loose end,” he held up Michael’s severed head, “suddenly I’ll be looking at a hundred loose ends. No, my only choice is to kill you before you Ascend.”

Dakotah could barely muster a snarled comeback when Sunil gestured with one hand. Out of the shadows rose the prowlers. They looked like smoke panthers, moving close to the ground, black muscles tensing. The first sprang for him.

Dakotah yelled and threw up his hands. But the prowler never connected. A bang sounded and the prowler screeched in pain as it was blown away from him. It hit the street on its side and didn’t move.

Sunil growled, suddenly looking more like an animal than a human. “A powerful talisman. You’re smarter than you look, Dakotah.”

“Leave me alone!” shouted Dakotah.

“No, I don’t think so. You’ll have to come back to the fey world—like when you Ascend. At that moment, the House, your talismans—everything will be stripped away. And that is when I will shoot you down.”

Sunil vanished in a flash of light. By the time Dakotah blinked and his vision cleared, he was back in St. Paul, shaken.

Sign up for my newsletter for serial updates and information on my forthcoming novel!

SPG: October, Part 2/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

St. Paul Grimoire is a weekly serial that updates on Mondays. Each month will cover a self-contained story told over four parts.
It will not be overly edited, and character arcs and plotlines could be adjusted with your feedback! PLEASE let me know what you think!

It took him several tries to raise the Lake. He was starting to get the hand these Guardian tricks, of controlling his double vision, or calling up the Lake. He could also shift into Other St. Paul, though that also took several tries and in the end never got him anywhere useful.

“Whoa,” said Pete as the rippling water reached for her running shoes.

“First things first,” said Dakotah when he saw the raft. He closed his eyes and concentrated, grasping for that feeling he was getting the hang of. When he opened his eyes, he felt a surge of success at the sight of a long canoe and paddle where the raft had been.

“That’ll be way easier to steer,” he said. “I used to canoe a lot with my uncle on the reservation. Have you canoed before?”

“Like once,” she admitted. She gripped his hand as he helped her into the boat. Most Minnesotans were big on the outdoors but her family’s vacations had always been to Mexico. “My mom hates the water.”

“It’s easy,” he assured her. “Only thing is, while you’re paddling, just think about the Santuary in Ireland. Keep thinking about it the whole way.”

She nodded.

Valene probably would’ve hated gliding out on black water into an uncertain veil of mist, but Pete loved the rush. She loved watching the water ripple over her paddle. She didn’t look forward, she took in everything all all sides.

“Do you think you can swim in there?”

“You’re wack, Abe,” Dakotah said, which was a phrase he often used on her brother. “Why you wanna swim in there? There’s probably, like, monster fish.”

“Maybe,” she said. But she didn’t think so. Yes, they’d been attacked, and seen some scary things, but she’d met them all, and felt ready to face them again.

Hero Class, a voice in her mind said.

Plus, there was that necklace. And Ike. The fey world couldn’t be all bad.

“There,” said Dakotah, and barely a minute later they were bumping into the side of a room.

But Pete did not have time to wonder at the lake lapping quietly at the edges of a landlocked house. The living room they were looking at had been ransacked. No object had been left upright. Mirrors and frames lay shattered, couch stuffing ripped up, shelves cleared of their objects with a swipe.

“Fuck,” said Dakotah.

She didn’t know if that Hero Class comment was infecting her brain, but she said, “We have to look around.”

Face drawn, Dakotah nodded.

They stepped warily from the ferry. Like before, as soon as they were on dry land, the lake faded away behind them. Pete started off like a TV detective. She walked with head bent as she examined the wreckage.

The place wasn’t a shop, it was a home. They had entered through the living room. A kitchen lay beyond. The ceiling was low and close and there wasn’t an upstairs.

“I don’t see anyone,” Pete called.

He could’ve told her that. The weight of the silence was complete. He knew there wasn’t another soul in this house.

Dakotah went straight to the front door. He opened it and stepped in the Irish dawn. In the early morning light, he saw a house surrounded by a high, barred fence. Other houses on the block were the same. Unruly shrubbery blocked his view of the street, and he bet people’s eyes slid right by this house, missing it just like they did Ike’s shop.

“Dakotah…”

At the sound of Pete’s confused voice, he snapped the door shut.

She stood in the living room, in front of a huge oil painting of a woman on a horse. Dakotah frowned. Had that painting been there before?

The woman turned her head and looked right at him. “Guardian.”

“Uh, just the Heir…” he said lamely.

“What happened?” Pete jumped in. “Where’s the Irish Guardian?”

The layers of paint making up the woman’s face crumpled, and she brushed away a tear. “Caitlin was killed some time ago. She had no Heir, she was so young herself…”

The horse whickered sympathetically.

“‘Some time ago?” Dakotah repeated. “Did you call anyone? Who’s looking for her killer?”

The painted woman shook her head. “The human world has ruled her death a murder. They will search… and never find her killer, of course. This house is a crime scene, I suppose.”

“I meant, from the fey world,” Dakotah insisted. “Who’s gonna find her real killer?”

“Things do no work that way in our world, Guardian. One must look after oneself. Guardian is no easy task. There are many, many people who could have killed Caitlin.”

“But—” stuttered Pete. “But what about, like, fey police? No one’s even wondering how a Guardian was killed? I thought they had special powers!”

The mournful woman shrugged. “In the past, we had a court. A court of beauty and goodness. But now we must all fend for ourselves. It has become a cruel world.” Her voice shuddered, and broke. “I am sorry.”

“Hey, wait!” said Dakotah, but her image was fading, along with the horse and background, until it was completely blank.

He and Pete traded a look, but there wasn’t much to say after that.

 

Sign up for my newsletter for serial updates and information on my forthcoming novel!

SPG: October, Part 1/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

St. Paul Grimoire is a weekly serial that updates on Mondays. Each month will cover a self-contained story told over four parts.
It will not be overly edited, and character arcs and plotlines could be adjusted with your feedback! PLEASE let me know what you think!

Dakotah’s leg bounced. He stared down the clock, willing the bell to ring.

When it did, he shot out of his seat.

“Where you going?”

Dakotah spun in the hall, almost running Phin over.

“Oh. Hey, man. I can’t stay here. I’m gonna go crazy.”

Phin lowered his voice. “Going to the shop won’t help. You’ll just get in trouble if you cut school.”

“I’ve wasted two weeks,” Dakotah snapped. “I still have no idea what I’m supposed to be studying! I still have no idea what the Guardianship test is even like!”

“There’s still a whole month to Halloween.”

“One month! What if I have to know literally everything about the fey world in just one month? What if it’s a Scantron asking me about the Human-Fey Act of whenever?”

Phin smirked. “I doubt the fey use Scantron tests.”

“Then what do they use? ‘Fight a fucking Minotaur and then you can be Guardian, Dakotah. Oh, you DIDN’T read how to defeat a Minotaur?'”

Phin laughed. Dakotah did not.

“Get to class, guys,” called Mr. Shakes as he passed by them.

“We’ll walk to the shop after school,” said Phin. Dakotah saw he was getting antsy; Phin was never late to class. “Ok? Just don’t get in trouble now, or we’ll have way more problems.”

Dakotah stayed in school, but only because he didn’t even know what he’d do if he left.

~*~

He’d spent two weeks tearing the shop apart. Two weeks trying to shift into the empty Other Saint Paul, to contact literally anyone.

The whole shop, the street at night, the basement, were silent. Sometimes he went into the treasure room in the basement of the House and looked at the money and the huge quartz heart, just so that he knew it was real. It was dumb to think it wasn’t real. Valene still had the scratches on her arm from the harpy attack.

Dakotah wondered why nothing tried to attack him again. Was he being protected? Or did no one think he was worth the trouble?

If he couldn’t Ascend, it would be a waste of their time to kill him anyway.

At 11 p.m. he sat in the shop alone, in a pile of junk he’d been searching through.

The bell jingled, and Pete entered the shop.

“Hey,” he said morosely. He wasn’t surprised to see her. The Abes had a new baby, and Pete hated it. She never said as much, but she found any excuse to get out of the house when it cried.

Dakotah wondered what it’d be like to have siblings at all.

“Phin said you might need help,” she explained. Pete’s hair was in its usual post-track-practice ponytail. She and Phin both had smooth black hair like their dad. Their mom had the riot of inky ringlets, and it looked like the baby would, too.

He shrugged. “I don’t really know what else to try, so…” He trailed off.

“Plus, my mom thinks she can hold the shop over my head now.”

“What do you mean?” Pete picked up a statement necklace made of gold and emeralds. At the time the necklace had been made, the statement had probably been, “I’m the boss bitch.”

“Are these real emeralds?”

Dakotah shrugged. “My mom got a letter from my accountants.”

“The goblins.”

“Kindred and Cloak, yeah. It told her all this legal bullshit she didn’t even get, but she asked for a bunch more shit, like old profit and loss reports. She’s still not sure I should keep the shop.”

“Sucks, dude.” She held up the necklace to her neck. She didn’t have a mirror but she could feel its weight. She never wore jewelry, but something about this necklace called to her.

“Anyway, none of this will matter in a month if I don’t figure out this stupid Ascension test. Also, I might be hunted down and killed by monsters.”

Pete straightened. “Hey, I don’t know about your whole Ascension studying-slash-potential death thing, but if you need information on your business, why don’t you just ask your accountants to figure something out for you?”

She saw his eyes light up. “I’m an idiot,” he said, leaning forward to snatch up the receiver of a very old telephone sitting on the counter. It was covered in a layer of dust, like most things inside the shop. Dakotah made no move to dial, he just said into the phone, “Kindred and Cloak, please.”

His accountants had left him a card the first time they’d met, and the back of the card had read, “Lift receiver, ask for us.” Dakotah had no idea if it would work on his cell.

“Griphook,” a gravelly voice came from the other end of the telephone.

“What?” said Dakotah.

“Sorry, goblin humor. Dakotah, right? This is Kindred.”

He remembered Kindred. He was the smaller goblin, the one who had stood behind the one doing all the talking. He was the one who’d looked at Dakotah with pity.

“Hey, yeah, it’s me.” He gave Pete a look. She’d put on the necklace and leaned over the counter. She smiled encouragingly. The green looked good against her dark skin and hair.

“I… need, like, accounting stuff?” He sounded like an idiot. In another life, he’d been the tough guy, taking no shit. Now even when he kept his head down, trouble’d found him. “Like, my mom wants quarterly profit and loss statements, earnings reports…” He tried to remember other phrases his mom had thrown at him just to confuse him. “Merchandise records…”

Kindred was silent for a minute. Dakotah heard the tapping of a computer. Did goblins use computers? “Ok, be right there.”

The line went dead.

Dakotah looked at the receiver in surprise. He hung up the phone.

“What happened?” asked Pete.

Before he could explain, the bell jingled and Kindred came walking in. The three-foot-tall goblin wore a tie and nothing else. In his arms was a stack of paper.

“Evening, sir, miss” he said, slapping the stack onto the counter that was taller than him. A loose sheaf drifted from the pile, and Pete reached out an snatched it from the air.

“Now, this is all last quarter, so it’s all Ike’s information, but I think I covered everything you might need. I’ll send you one every quarter.”

“Awesome, thanks,” said Dakotah.

“It’s well within the scope of my responsibilities to you,” Kindred demurred. He spoke clearly about accounting-related things, but became awkward when the conversation took a personal turn,

“Here’s your entire inventory,” the goblin lifted the edge of a long sheet of fax paper. It clearly went on for several folds. “And here,” he gestured to a manila folder, “is your actual inventory.”

Dakotah stood and pulled both lists toward him.

On one sheet were entries like: “paperweight; child’s knight costume; garlic.” On the other were entries like: “crystal ball; suit of armor; talismans, digestible.”

“They’re the same,” Pete said, reading the same lists as Dakotah. “What the real world calls it, and what the fey world calls it.”

“The fey world is the real world,” Kindred corrected. “But you are right. And a sharp guesser, too. Let me guess, you’re Hero Class, aren’t you?”

“I’m what?” Pete frowned.

“Hero Class. You know the type,” Kindred looked from Dakotah to Pete. “They’re easily recognized because they’re so damn annoying, pardon my language. Straight A’s, gifted at every sport or instrument they lay a hand on, good-looking, funny, quick reflexes in dangerous situations…basically naturally better at everything than everyone else.”

“Yeah, that’s Pete,” Dakotah confirmed before Pete could respond. “And Phin.”

“Phin a relation?” Kindred asked.

“My brother.”

The goblin nodded sagely. “No uncommon a thing to run in families. You get two Heroes…or two Villains, you know how it goes.”

“But…” Dakotah frowned. “Where is all of this stuff? I haven’t seen a suit of armor.”

“It’s in front of your eyes, boy,” Kindred laughed. “Look at her necklace.”

Dakotah did so. “Okay?”

“You’re not really looking, if I may say so, sir. Relax. Try again.”

Dakotah took a frustrated breath and let it out in a long sigh. He looked at the necklace. For a moment, it was the same dusty piece of ornamentation of unclear origins, with grimy joints blackened by age.

And then. The double vision hit him, just like the night he and the others had met the gargoyle Michael and fled the strange monsters. And then he blinked, and in the dirty necklace’s place was a new one. There was no doubt the precious stones set into the wrought gold were real, they certainly were. They blazed brighter than normal emeralds, throwing light onto Pete’s face.

“Weeeird,” said Pete, touching the glowing stones with a fingernail.

“You just have to get the hang of it, but once you Ascend it’ll obviously be easier.”

“Actually,” Pete said, “it isn’t obvious. We don’t know anything about being a Guardian. Doesn’t Dakotah have a test to study for? What does he have to do for it?”

Dakotah wanted to reach over the counter and hug her. Of course his fey accountant would know about the fey world!

“Ah, yes,” said Kindred uncomfortably. “The untimely passing of your predecessor. Surely he left you some information…” The goblin trailed off at the looks on their faces. “Quite. Well, unfortunately only Guardians know the secrets you are looking for. All I know is that Ascension will allow you to come into your full powers. They will be necessary once this House is a functioning Sanctuary once more. Who knows what trouble—” The goblin seemed to realize he’d said too much and clammed up.

“You know who could help?” Kindred went on. “Another Guardian.”

“Another Guardian?” asked Dakotah, leaning forward. “How can I talk to them?”

“Guardians are a rare breed. Your next-closest kinsperson is located in—” Kindred thought. “Belfast.”

“Belfast?” asked Dakotah the same time Pete said, “In Ireland?

“Technically Northern Ireland, these days.”

“How am I going to get there?” Dakotah despaired.

Kindred shrugged. “You’re a Guardian. You can take the Lake to Everywhere.”

The image rose in Dakotah’s memory, of a raft and a long paddle through quiet mist.

“What’s the Lake to Everywhere?” Pete asked.

Dakotah smiled. “I’ll show you. You can come with.”

 

Sign up for my newsletter for serial updates and information on my forthcoming novel!

SPG: September, Part 4/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

St. Paul Grimoire is a weekly serial that updates on Mondays. Each month will cover a self-contained story told over four parts.
It will not be overly edited, and character arcs and plotlines could be adjusted with your feedback! PLEASE let me know what you think!

Dakotah barely dared set foot inside. Gold—coins, bars, blocks, jewelry, inscribed with many languages. Precious stones—in jewelry, crowns, scepters, clothing. Paper money from every country and in every color. Stacks of other paper he glanced at and saw stocks and bonds and other banking terms he did not really understand.

But what took his breath away was the center of the room. Many huge spars of purple quartz shot like swords from the ground, higher than his head and, at the base, as thick as his body.

It was not just the center of the room, he knew. It was the heart of the House.

Dakotah passed the riches and put his hands onto the cool quartz. Without overthinking or questioning, the thought, Lock down the House.

The response was immediate. His hands burned as the House’s attention focused on him, swept through him. He felt it recognize him, all the days he had spent there, and Ike’s approval. He saw Ike in his mind’s eye—not a stooped shop owner but a Guardian, one who controlled all aspects of this House and had decided that Dakotah was his Heir Apparent.

If Dakotah wanted it.

But Dakotah did not have to answer that question now. The House blazed with magic, then settled, and he knew he was now in a safe zone.

~*~

He met the others in the front of the shop.

“Dakotah!”

“Thank god!”

“Where were you?”

“The House is locked down?” Michael asked.

The gargoyle looked much the worse for wear. He had long scrapes down his face. His human clothing was torn and bloodied. Not to mention whatever his original wounds had been.

Phin, Valene, and Pete were pale and shaken. Valene had claw marks on her right arm and Pete had a bruise over her eye.

Dakotah pulled up a collection of chairs for them.

“It’s locked,” he said to Michael. The others sank deep into their chairs but Dakotah sat perched on the edge of his. “What the fuck’s been happening.”

“This House,” the gargoyle waved a hand at the general area, “is a Sanctuary for magical beings. Icarus was a Guardian. He kept this place safe for all who needed it. When he passed, some thought it might be their chance to seize the House and its magic while it is weak.”

“So those things we saw tonight?” asked Phin.

“I fear we have meet most of Dakotah’s enemies tonight.” He turned his gaze to Dakotah. “You will have to learn fast, to protect this place.”

Pete asked, “Weren’t you bringing Ike a message? Before we were attacked, I mean.”

“No need to worry about that now,” Michael said. “We have other problems. Tonight the Heir Apparent returned to the House for the first time since the old Guardian’s death. By now all creatures will know of the shift. We will need Dakotah to Ascend as soon as possible.”

“What does that mean?” asked Dakotah, but Michael interrupted him by standing.

“I will go immediately and begin the proper preparations. You will be contacted soon, I am sure.” He looked carefully at Dakotah. “Be careful who you trust.”

The gargoyle was gone before Dakotah had time to marshal his many questions.

“So,” said Valene after a moment of silence. “What’s our, like, plan?”

Dakotah laughed sharply, making the others jump. Then he pulled from his pockets two stacks of crisp green hundred dollar bills. He threw the stacks on the ground in the middle of their circle of chairs.

“We’re having a funeral,” he said.

~*~

Many people came. The weather was rainy and blustery and they hid under scarves and raincoats. They said nothing.

Some were St. Paul fixtures, older people who had known Ike for many, many years. They gave many speeches, told many tales. Dakotah was not surprised at all to hear of Ike’s wit, or bravery.

Others were a different kind of St. Paul resident. They hid their faces and said nothing. They glanced too frequently at Dakotah.

November wrapped her arm around Dakotah as they walked to the car. “You did great, D. Finding Ike’s safe and haggling with the lawyer over the will. We would’ve missed out on such a beautiful funeral.”

“Everyone helped,” Dakotah mumbled. He’d be happy when that lie passed, it was too hard to make up details about the legal proceedings that had supposedly produced the money to pay for Ike’s funeral.

“Now we just have to think about selling the shop.”

“What?” said Dakotah harshly. He pulled away from his mother. “Sell? But we paid for the funeral!”

November’s dark brows raised. “Dakotah, I don’t get why you want it so much! It’s a huge responsibility and I’m not even sure the legality of a sixteen-year-old running an antique shop. Ike never should have left it to you. I don’t know why he thought you could handle it alone!”

Dakotah turned away from her and strode quickly in the the other direction. If he walked fast, Phin could give him a ride.

~*~

He sat alone in Ike’s chair, his legs thrown up on the counter. He stared blankly at the shelves of stuff that packed the small rooms of the House’s ground floor.

Nothing strange had happened to him in the past week. He longed to call for Michael, or to cross the lake, or do something.

The bell jingled as the door swung open.

Dakotah sat up. He heard approaching sounds and muttering, but no person emerged.

“Down here!”

Standing, Dakotah peered over the counter. On the other side stood two—somethings—each about three feet high. They had pointed ears and gnarled skin the color and appearance of rock. They wore ties.

One of the things cleared its throat. “Are you Dakotah, Heir Apparent to the Guardian of the Midwest Sanctuary, theretofore known as the ‘House’?”

“…Yes.”

“Mr. Dakotah,” said the same little monster, “will you be intending to Ascend to the rank of full Guardian, accepting all duties commensurate with this position, including but not limited to: care of the House and surrounding properties, keeping secret the doings of the fey world from the human world, and protection and defense of all creatures—physical and metaphysical—who come to you for aid?”

“I am—Yes, I intend to Ascend.”

The second little monster checked a few boxes off of his clipboard.

“And will you be registering any Class A confidants?” The first monster sounded bored now.

Dakotah stared at them.

The second monster spoke quickly, like it wasn’t used to being allowed to talk. “Anyone you want to tell about the true nature of the shop? Humans are allowed a few confidants, five or fewer.”

“Oh. Well, Phin, Pete and Valene already know.”

“Full names,” said the first monster boredly.

“Valene Vang, Phoenix Abe and…” Dakotah hesitated. “Pete Abe.” It wasn’t her real name but the monsters didn’t really need to know that, Dakotah was sure.

The second monster’s pen scritched and scratched.

“Well, that’s all we have for now, sir,” said the first. “We’ll begin the necessary steps to convince the human world there’s no problem with you owning a shop. Any problems from human authorities can be relayed straight to our offices. Please do not attempt to convince human authorities on your own. As always, Guardian taxes and other fees go through us. We’ll be in touch after you Ascend. If you don’t Ascend, you won’t be allowed back onto the premises, but as of the Human-Fey Act of 1832, your memories will not be wiped.”

“Wait, wait,” Dakotah cut in. “What do you mean, ‘if I don’t Ascend’? I said I would.”

The first monster extended a hand behind him and the second gave him the clipboard. “Your test date is…” He flipped through it. “Halloween night. If I were you, I’d start studying. Here’s our card.”

He set a business card primly on the counter and the two were gone with a jingle of the bell.

Dakotah stared at the door. “Studying what?”

 

Sign up for my newsletter for serial updates and information on my forthcoming novel!