SPG: December, Part 4/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

St. Paul Grimoire is an urban fantasy serial that updates weekly. 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! Let me know what you think!

Dakotah’s mouth opened with fury but Val leaned forward quickly.

“This mediation is between you and your tribe daughter,” she snapped. “It’s against the law to try to bribe or threaten a mediator. Release Pete and Phin.”

“And Faunet,” Florelle squeaked from behind Obie’s arm.

The tribe mum sneered. “You’re not a Guardian, girl.”

“Release them or this mediation is void,” Dakotah snapped, “and we’ll have to move on to next steps.”

A memory flashed through his mind, of hearing similar words at a mediation with a lawyer, his mom, and some school officials.

The mum’s sneer remained for a challenging moment. But then she snapped her fingers. Though nothing changed in the room, she said, “it’s done. Though there’s still the matter of one wet cat.”

Val giggled. She stopped in surprise when she noticed Dakotah looking expectantly at her. “Oh,” she said. “Um, we can apologize about the cat.”

Dakotah turned to the mum. “We’re sorry.”

The mum inclined her head. “And we for besieging you.”

Dakotah’s lip quirked but he didn’t say anything.

“Sprites love order and propriety,” Val explained to Dakotah in a low voice, though the whole room could hear them. “They usually are a big part of the Seelie Court.”

“What’s a Seelie Court?” asked Dakotah. Then he waved a dismissive hand. “Never mind. Now what?”

“Both sides state their grievances,” Val answered.

Dakotah looked at Florelle and Obie. The couple had been cowering on their sofa, arms wrapped around each other.

He looked back to the mum. “You can start.”

“My name is Entreera. I am the mum of my tribe. As such, I decide who my sprites may wed, so that marriage alliances may better the tribe. Florelle married without approval. I want her to revoke and return.”

Dakotah started to ask if this was even possible, but Florelle interrupted. “The mum just advises. I’m perfectly within my right to choose another!”

“Is that true?” Dakotah asked Val.

“Sprites sign a contract of allegiance to the mum. So she’s an adviser, but I think we’d have to see Florelle’s contract…Right?” Val asked Florelle.

Florelle nodded but didn’t look any more confident than she had before, leaving Val to wonder if the contract would in fact prove Florelle and Obie could not be together.

“The contract?” Dakotah asked the room.

The mum reached a hand up and the five pages of a contract made of tree bark flashed into her hand with a blaze of green light. She handed it to Dakotah. As he and Val leaned over the document, the squiggles on the tree bark started to rearrange until they settled into English.

At least, some form of English. Legalese. He and Val divided the pages up and began to read slowly.

“Article IV,” Obie dared to say.

Val shuffled and found the section. “Got it,” she said.

Dakotah looked. “Hm,” he said. “There’s nothing here that says you can control her marriage.”

Obie and Florelle sat up excitedly.

“But,” he went on, finger on his own page of bark, “I found something, too. This says Florelle’s skills are valuable to the tribe.” He looked to Entreera for confirmation.

The mum nodded. “Cat hair styling is a significant income for our tribe.”

Dakotah determinedly kept from looking at Val, or he’d laugh for sure.

“This work clause says you will work for the tribe for a specific number of years,” he went on, this time speaking to Florelle. “If you marry Obie that’s fine, but you can’t leave the tribe. Your work contract isn’t up.”

Florelle was frowning. “But I don’t want to leave the tribe.”

“You don’t ?” asked Entreera. “But Obie is tribeless. I thought you meant to forsake us as well.”

“Perfect,” Val rushed to say. “Then Obie joins your tribe now and everything’s settled.”

Dakotah held his breath. Had Val spoken too soon?

“That should be acceptable,” Enteera acquiesced.

Dakotah kept a professional face on but Val ran to Florelle and cheered.

“I wish we still had a Seelie Court,” Entreera said to Dakotah. “Too much human involvement in fey affairs. But you have helped us, and so I thank you.”

“Half-bow,” instructed Val, suddenly behind him. “Sprites don’t shake hands.”

He obeyed.

~*~

“Thank you,” Dakotah said when the sprites had gone but he and Val had not yet left the room.

She shrugged. “I guess I could help you out. Just, like, sometimes.”

“Perfect,” said Dakotah. “Because a vampire arrived last night.”

Her mouth dropped open.

“I’ll get you the grimoire right away,” he said with a laugh.

 

My novel TURQUOISEBLOOD is coming soon! Learn about it here!

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SPG: December, Part 3/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

St. Paul Grimoire is an urban fantasy serial that updates weekly. 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! Let me know what you think!

The week passed slowly. Everyone was gearing up for winter break, getting excited even though they still had two days of school the next week.

Phin was frowning when Val and Pete came up to him at the end of the day. Pete was taking a respite from winter sports, and the lack of snow meant the Nordic ski team couldn’t practice with skiis. It still wasn’t that cold out but it was, weirdly for Minnesota, raining a bunch.

“What’s up?” asked Pete. The halls had cleared out quickly on a Friday afternoon.

“Dakotah wasn’t at school today.”

Val remembered hearing that phrase before. Dakotah used to show up to school whenever he wanted to. When he had shown up, he hadn’t gotten much done. But ever since he’d become Guardian–and a little before, she reminded herself–he’d been doing a lot better in school. Now the words “Dakotah wasn’t at school” meant something a little sinister to the three of them.

“Let’s go to Ike’s,” Pete said, and the others didn’t argue.

~*~

They crouched together behind a leafless bush. Through the dark and dripping branches, they watched a strange scene.

Slim green sprites rode on the backs of prowling cats in every color. They hunkered outside the gate (hissed at by the two watch-cats), or perched on neighboring windowsills, or paced on the sidewalk. The largest cat, a gray one with delicate white paws, had a rider barking orders to all the others.

“I bet that’s Florelle’s mum,” said Val. “She’s trying to get to Florelle!”

“And she’s trapped Dakotah inside,” muttered Phin. “ I think the House is under siege.”

“So now what?” asked Pete. “Will they attack us if we make a move?”

“Only one way to find out,” said Phin, taking a step forward.

“No!” said Val, grabbing his arm. “They’ll definitely kidnap you. They are scornful of humans, they think we stole their land.”

“How do you know that?” Pete demanded.

Val puled the sprite grimoire from her bag. “I read it here. Dakotah just needs to call a mediation—when the Seelie Court is not there to mediate, a Guardian has the right to do so and the sprites have to obey.”

Pete frowned. “Did you take that book from Dakotah?”

“Well…yeah. To help Florelle.”

Phin sighed. “Well then how will he know he has the right to call a mediation?”

“…Shit,” said Valene.

~*~

And so Pete snuck Val around the back of the House while Phin created a distraction. Pete had never entered the grounds from behind, but she knew the Guardian law allowed people without ill intent to enter the House. Helping the Guardian must qualify. They crouched in the sluchy snow behind the neighbor’s fence and lilac bush.

“Wait,” said Pete sternly as Val shifted anxiously.

A cat yowled.

“Go!” said Pete, and they dashed for the fence.

The fence around the backyard was high and wooden, surrounded by more lilac bushes.

“Shit,” said Val. “The fence is too high!”

Pete was half-distracted by shouts behind them. She turned back to Val. “I’ll boost you. Come on!”

Val stepped into her Hero friend’s linked fingers. Pete hoisted, and Val grabbed for the top of the fence. She swung her leg over, hampered by her shoulder bag, while Pete swayed under her.

“Holy shit,” said Val as she laid on the top of the fence.

“Drop down!” called Pete. “I’ll be there in a minute!”

“Fuckin’ A,” Val muttered as she swung, then squeaked as she dropped.

The backyard was a foreign land. It was as riotously overgrown as a jungle, but with brown and barren Minnesota plants. The little grass visible between the snow grew over the edges of a brick pathway.

But the feeling—the silence. No animals. No sounds from the fight beyond the fence. She strained to look through the branches of a pine tree—but she couldn’t make out the neighboring houses.

Shaking off the feeling of isolation, she booked it to the House.

~*~

She burst through the back door into an unfamiliar room, but the House guided her feet to the front shop.

Dakotah, Florelle, and Obie turned in surprise to look at her.

“Val?” Dakotah asked, incredulous.

“Val!” yelled Florelle.

“Call a mediation!” Val demanded.

Dakotah obeyed without hesitation.

“I call a mediation between Florelle and her mum.”

The simple words took on magic in the Guardian’s mouth. The earth shifted like planes of space sliding around, before Val settled on a low antique sofa. She didn’t know how she’d gotten there—she’d never seen this living room before. But somehow she and Dakotah were seated together on the sofa. A glass coffee table was before them. On one side of the table sat Florelle and Obie. On the other, a tall, fierce sprite with blazing eyes in a toadlike face. Her giant grey cat sat behind her sofa.

“When did that cat get so big?” Dakotah gaped. The sprites, too, were closer to the humans in size.

Does this part of the House exist in my world? Val wondered. Or is it for fey only?

“I’ll be clear,” interruped Florelle’s mum in a booming voice. “I have your Heroes captive. I will release them…if you give me Florelle.”

My novel TURQUOISEBLOOD is out soon! Learn about it here!

SPG: December, Part 2/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

St. Paul Grimoire is an urban fantasy serial that updates weekly. 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! Let me know what you think!

“Augh! The fuck is this?” Dakotah yelled in horror.

“You don’t like it?” asked Florelle.

Dakotah’s eyebrows arched. She sounded genuinely befuddled by his reaction.

The sprite still wore her white wedding dress. Dakotah was beginning to suspect the fact the dress was white and worn to her wedding was purely coincidence. That or she hadn’t had time to grab a change of clothes before running off. He hadn’t gotten much out of either of his new guests in the week they’d been at the shop.

And now this. Florelle had gotten to the stone cats who watched over his threshold– and done their hair.

One cat’s fur had been spiked with a green gel. It mewed and licked at its usually grey fur. The other had been shaved, the remaining fur styled to look like a lion’s mane.

His chill watch-cats, who had saved his life more than once. All dignity gone.

Pete’s laugh pealed from the open door. She’d come in with her backpack slung over a shoulder.

“They’re aDORable,” she insisted.

“Thank you, Hero,” Florelle said.

Dakotah, Phin, Pete and Val all looked at the sprite. Her reverent tone had been clear.

“Some hero,” muttered Val. She pushed by Pete and brushed by the front counter, decidedly ignoring the new grimoire. It was about sprites. She went straight for the back table where they liked to do homework. Pete and Phin, however, remained at the desk to talk to Dakotah about the violent fight that had happened at Central that day. They were only chased away when a customer strolled in.

Dakotah had had few customers in the month since officially reopening the shop. He left his friends to be attentive.

To Valene’s dismay, Florelle had followed. She was jabbering on about Phin and Pete being Heroes.

“You must be so helpful to the Guardian,” she drooled. “Do you see many amazing things? We sprites have been scattered lately, but even we heard of Sunil’s banishment.”

Val rolled her eyes and turned to her phone.

“We try,” said Phin, who had the grace to be embarrassed. They were figuring things out with Dakotah, they weren’t saving the day every minute.

Pete asked politely, “Where’s your husband?”

“Upstairs,” said Florelle with a shrug. “He reads a lot. I prefer to get my hands dirty, practicing my craft.”

Val snorted and looked up. “Your craft? You mean what you did to the cats?”

Florelle turned her chin up haughtily at Val’s tone. “I am a licensed cat stylist. One must take risks in order to stay abreast of fashion.

“I know about fashion,” Valene insisted. “And green gel is not going to be in anytime soon.”

Florelle smiled. “That’s why it’s a risk. If you want to have anything to do with fashion, you can’t look good all the time. That’s just following the trend.”

Pete watched with amusement as Florelle and Val’s argument turned into a detailed discussion of trends versus classic elegance versus pushing the envelope. Five minutes later they were still talking and Pete had started on her homework.

~*~

“See, sprites don’t wear white when getting married, so I took the style of a sprite dress, but sewed it of cobwebs and starlight–”

“Right,” said Val, not sure she understood.

“So it’s traditional but edgy. Then I sewed a matching outfit for my cat so I could ride her with style–”

“You ride cats?” Val interrupted.

“Cats are revered. That’s how I can make my living being a cat stylist, it’s a lucrative field. My glamour makes me taller and wider, but in my true sprite form I’m thin as a blade of grass and cats are the perfect size for riding.”

“So where is your cat now?”

Florelle pulled a sad face. “She ran in the opposite direction of the Sanctuary so my mum would get confused and lose our trail. It’s worked I guess, since mum isn’t here yet. But then, neither is Faunet.”

“Your mom didn’t want you to marry Obie?”

“Sprites have rules, you see. On everything. Who we marry and what we do for a living and how many books we have to read. Obie and I never liked all that, and when we met, we knew we’d break those laws for each other.”

“That’s SO romantic.”

The sprite smiled. “Of course, we can’t stay here forever, and my mum will find us eventually.”

“Dakotah will protect you,” Val said, a confidence of tone mixed with a feeling of uncertainty.

“Ay,” sighed the sprite. “In the old days it was easier, when the Seelie Court would mediate for us.”

Val shut the book she’d barely glanced at. “Why won’t the Seelie Court mediate now?”

“It has disbanded,” the sprite said simply. “Now we sprites are forced to interpret our own laws, and everyone disagrees on how to explain them. Some would say I’ve done no wrong by marrying Obie, since he’s above my rank. I’ve improved my station. But mum would insist he’s got no future. I myself don’t understand the laws well enough to argue for myself.”

Val glanced toward the front of the store. “Dakotah and I will figure something out.”

Later, Dakotah gathered his things and slipped them into his bag. Val waited for him to reach for the shop keys before sliding the sprite grimoire into her backpack. He’d never notice it was gone if she did some late-night reading. If anything held answers for Florelle and Obie, this book was it.

 

My novel TURQUOISEBLOOD is out soon! Learn about it here!

SPG: December, 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 and Valene stared at each other from across the counter.


I’m doing you a favor,” she reminded him. He seemed to need the reminder. Dakotah visibly collected himself.


“I know,” he grumbled. “Just let me pay you instead.”


“So you can be mean to me?” she asked archly.

Dakotah rolled his eyes, wondering not for the first time why it was that she of all people was the one who could speak and read French.  


“I have to get to Guys and Dolls soon,” she pointed out.


It was the fall semester’s school play, and she knew a bunch of people in it this year. Val didn’t act, but a lot of her friends did, and there were more than a few hot guys on the cast this year. Of course, her fellow tenth graders weren’t as likely to get lead roles, but some of the 11th graders were hot too, and not out of reach for her. She regarded Dakotah with a critical eye. Everybody thought he was hot–your typical bad boy obsession. She wasn’t swayed by that. He was still a jackass.


The book on the counter in front of them had no title. It was a grimoire, a book of spells and magic. Each grimoire covered a different topic and contained critical information on the fey world. Information that Dakotah could use to keep himself alive.
Unfortunately, the whole damn book was in French.


Unfortunately for Dakotah. She could read French no problem. Before attending Central High School, she’d gone to L’etoile du Nord, the French immersion middle school. Her family had moved, which at the time had been a good thing because she could enter Central’s big French program.

Whatever, she hadn’t entered it. She didn’t like French anymore (she could barely keep all the Hmong and English in her head some days). She was just going to become a hairdresser after high school anyway. Pete’s cousin Vanessa was a hairdresser in Minneapolis and she was so cool. Valene had never cut hair before but she was good at makeup. Her own eyes were cocooned in eyeliner, mascara and eyeshadow. Her hair was long, falling to the small of her back, though not as long at some Hmong girls.
Dakotah had long hair too, like lots of Native boys. Not that her school had so many. Central was mostly Asian, black and white.


“I think this will be easiest,” said Dakotah. “You come over a few times a week and help me get through this one.” He gestured to the grimoire in front of him. “If something comes up and I meet something weird, I’ll get a grimoire about it and you can quick read it and give me the gist.”


The grimoire in front of them was called Le Gardien, the Guardian grimoire. She definitely got why he wanted this book translated first. Dakotah could do all sorts of weird stuff now that he was a Guardian, but the mostly went on feel. When they’d discovered two weeks ago that he could do the magic of the things nearest to him, everyone agreed it was time for some answers about Guardians.


She didn’t even know how she’d gotten into this. She wasn’t even that good at French and Dakotah wasn’t even her friend.


The bell jingled violently. She and Dakotah jumped to attention. Through the shop door crashed two–things. She never knew what things might come from the fey world. These skinny green creatures appeared to be fairies. They had delicate wings and sharp pointed features. They were stumbling in arm in arm, one in a tux and the other in a white wedding dress.


“Sanctuary!” cried the one in the tux triumphantly.

“Hello,” Dakotah said warily.

“We’re married!” shrilled the one in the wedding dress, lifting a glass bottle of amber liquid in toast.

“Congratulations,” said Dakotah. Val edged away from their raucous little circle.

“Take that, mom!” the wedding-dressed one said.

Val and Dakotah shared a look.

“Why do you need sanctuary?” he asked.

“Her mum’s a beast,” the one in the tux answered sagely. His fingers grasped for the bottle and she allowed him to take a drink, before taking a drink herself, before kissing him on the mouth.

“Ew,” Valene said with feeling.

Dakotah slammed his hand a few times on the desk until they broke apart. “Rooms are upstairs. Choose one.” He watched them sway through the shop. “You break it, you buy it!” he shouted, and the couple giggled.

Val grabbed the Guardian grimoire from the counter. “K, I’m gonna read this for like ten minutes, then I seriously have to go.”

“Get me something useful,” he grumbled, sitting down to look over expense reports.

~*~

She settled into a chair at the back of the shop. Maybe the chair was for sale, but it was set up like a little reading nook, complete with standing lamp (also an antique) and a view into the snowy side yard. The first snowfall had been late this year, happening just before Thanksgiving. Through the window she could see the house across the fence. It was another huge Victorian house, way prettier than the standard house she lived in. Pete and Phin’s house was nicer than hers too, but that was because they were rich.

With a sigh, she cracked open the grimoire. After glancing through the angel grimoire, she already knew this Guardian grimoire was different. It was thicker; had fewer illustrations. She read the first inscription, written in cursive alone on a page:

The safest place in the world is the Guardian’s House.

The most dangerous place in the world is the ground just before the Guardian’s door.

She thought of evil angel Pratum pacing the space in front of the gate. Oceanus, the fallen angel, had left a few days ago. He checked in with Dakotah every so often, but had not been attacked again by Pratum.

She looked back to the grimoire. The next page was another simple line of cursive:

A Guardian’s life is short.

Val pulled a face. This was what she had to translate for Dakotah? She didn’t like him much, but she didn’t want him to get ripped apart by…well, anything, really.

Next page: Choose wisely.

Next page: There is a careful balance.

Next page: Slide into the dark, and you will not be the same upon return.

She snapped the cover shut. It was already growing dark outside. She stared at the twilight for five minutes, then returned to the front. She tossed the grimoire onto the counter.

“Well?” asked Dakotah when she didn’t say anything.

“I…don’t think I can do this.”

“What? Why?”

She shook her head and went for the door. “Use Google Translate!”

“Val!”

But she was already out the door, to the gate–hesitating for a breath before stepping across the threshold–and out onto the street.

 

 

The AMAZING cover to my forthcoming novel, TURQUOISEBLOOD, is available for admiration now! Check it out 🙂