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.”

 

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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?”

 

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SPG: September, 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!

Dakotah pounded up the stairs. Something rattled the windows. He heard screeching and barking and cold laughter. It sounded far away, but not like it was outside, more like it floated around him in space. When he burst into his room he gasped when he saw the three smooth river stones sitting on his dresser. He had been certain for one moment they would not be there.

He stuffed them into his pocket. He took the back staircase down, and left by the back door. Now he could hear nothing. The night was perfectly quiet and way, way too dark.

Dakotah circled the house but no one was on the street. Every house was dark but now the street lights were on. They illuminated almost nothing, though, and their light was a smoky orb of mist, from which barely any light could escape.

He had the strange feeling he’d left Saint Paul entirely. This place looked like St. Paul but also—wasn’t.

Dakotah walked slowly in the middle of the street. He doubted he’d see a car. Other St. Paul was a perfectly empty replica of his city.

He flipped the stones around in his pocket. That bastard.

He’d never thought that about Ike before. Ike had been a pretty serious guy. He asked Dakotah to do things and explained why and included him in the shop. He told stories in a friendly way, but never personal ones. Why hadn’t he asked?

Dakotah realized he’d thought he knew the boring basics—an old black man runs an antique shop in St. Paul. Where was his family? Who cared—even he only had his mom. Where were all the customers? Some came. Dakotah figured more came when he was gone. He hadn’t been there every second, anyway. He just tried to help out.

Why had Ike left him the shop? Why the three stones? What did he expect Dakotah to do about the goddamn monsters?

Dakotah’s steps slowed, then stopped.

He hadn’t felt scared since he entered Other St. Paul, but now something pulled at him. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end and he realized he was being followed. He stood very still, exposed on the street. Something else was there.

Fear doused him, his senses stood on end as he peered into the gloomy darkness. It was on the edges of his senses, the edge of his vision, but he was certain something was stalking him. Waiting.

He felt the haunting presence weigh him, decide if Dakotah would put up much of a fight at all, if the boy was even worth the time it would take to kill him.

Dakotah took a step forward. Then stopped.

“Come out!” he shouted.

All of a sudden the street blazed with bright light. Dakotah covered his eyes with he arms and lost his balance. He hit the street as a voice said, Follow.

It said it not in his ears but inside of his head and all around him. It wasn’t one voice but many voices.

Whatever dark presence had been watching him had been banished by the blaze of light. As the blaze faded, Dakotah lowered his arms and saw a pathway lined with small bright lights stretching out in front of him.

He took one backward glance and then ran up the path.

As he followed the path, Other St. Paul faded away. He didn’t feel like he was walking upward, but the houses and features of the neighborhood faded as if into clouds. No other features came into view.

“Where am I going?” he asked, projecting his voice into the gray void.

Immediately, the voice-with-many-voices answered, To secure the House.

Obviously, Dakotah thought sarcastically.

He tried another angle: “Where am I?”

The voices said, On the Lighted Way.

Dakotah rolled his eyes. “Why do I need to secure the House?”

To prevent the darkness from corrupting it.

Now the big one: “Why me?”

He thought maybe the many-voices-voice hesitated, but then it replied as dispassionately as ever, Icarus thought you worthy. But it does not have to be you.

It doesn’t? He did not know what to think of that.

The path rose and fell in gentle progression. Once, he looked down and realized he wasn’t really on a path at all, just walking on a gray space between the lights of the path.

Then, finally, he touched down again onto real dirt and grass, which within a few feet became sand, and then a lake. Around him, the lights faded.

“Wait, now what!” he called.

Cross, answered the voices, and he knew they would not answer again.

He swiveled his head. The lake faded into the distance, and the beach stretched on either side before fading away into a similar gray twilight.

“Like, swim?” he asked himself.

Even as he said it, he blinked, and there appeared a boat he was certain had not been there before. It was like a raft, flat-bottomed with low sides, and a pole to move it.

Dakotah signed. “A motorboat would’ve been better,” he said to the gray. “Something to work on for next time, guys.”

Then he got on the raft. It rocked and let in water, but soon enough he had balanced himself and taken up the pole and begun to ferry himself across the lake.

Part of him desperately wanted to hug the shore, but another part knew with certainty that that was no way to get anywhere. Grimly, he tried not to think about what would happen if he fell in.

Soon, the pole could no longer reach the bottom, and Dakotah found a paddle strapped to the side of the craft. The ferry moved with all the delicacy of an elephant but Dakotah supposed that since he wasn’t sure where he was going, a little veering side to side wouldn’t matter.

He paddled on.

He was wondering what the treasure room of Ike’s shop would look like. Would he know where to place the stones? How would he lock down the House?

Something began to take shape in the distance. He tried to paddle faster but it wasn’t much use with the ferry. As he pulled closer, he realized he was looking at an exposed room. The basement of Ike’s shop, enclosed by three walls—and the fourth left open to the lake.

The ferry glided the last few feet and bumped gently against the raised floor of the basement. Dakotah dropped the paddle and stepped up into dry land.

“Ha!” he said triumphantly.

He made to secure the ferry, but when he turned he was faced abruptly with the fourth wall of the basement, with no lake in sight.

Considering all that he had seen that night, Dakotah decided to shrug it off.

Behind the stairs, a raised pedestal sat before the cobwebbed wall. It had three impressions in it and Dakotah took out his stones and laid them one by one into the corresponding depression.

When the third was laid, he heard a click. The outline of door in the wall lit up, and then swung inward.

Inside was treasure.

 

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SPG: September, 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!

Valene wasn’t sure if the silence was because everyone was shocked or because everyone was considering whether or not to give Dakotah up.

“I’m Dakotah,” he said, pretty stupidly, she thought.

“You are Icarus’s Heir Apparent?” the man said. “He has given you the keys?”

“…Yeah. He did.”

Dakotah sounded uncertain, which was probably a normal reaction. There was something strange about the man. Val couldn’t get a fix on his looks. He didn’t look black or white or Hmong. His skin looked sometimes tan and sometimes gray. His head was shaved but then she blinked and it was covered in short dark curls. She blinked again and saw the outline of gargoyle wings behind him. Val shook her head.

“Then we have bigger problems than what I came here to tell you.”

He’s in pain, Phin thought. The man—or whatever—breathed heavily and leaned on the shelf.

“What are you talking about?” Dakotah asked. Phin’s question exactly.

“We must go to the treasure room and lock down the House until you Ascend and can protect it properly.”

A pause.

“Uh, what?” asked Dakotah.

The man ignored the question. “Do you have the key?”

Dakotah held up his key ring, limply.

“Not those,” said the man. “The one to unlock the treasure room. The three stones.”

Phin saw in Dakotah’s face that he did not have the three stones.

“I left them in my room. So I wouldn’t lose them.”

He sounded almost apologetic and Phin realized the man’s urgent tone was getting to all of them. But they didn’t even know who he was or what his deal was.

“How did you even get in here?” he demanded.

The man’s gray eyes met Phin’s. “The House allows all who need it to enter. It will also keep out the darkness. But not now that Icarus has passed.” He turned to Dakotah. “I am the gargoyle Michael. I will protect you while you retrieve the stones. But we must go tonight.”

Dakotah stood quietly for a minute. He seemed to be considering. Phin wondered what he had seen to make him believe, but whatever it was worked.

“Let’s go,” said Dakotah.

~*~

Michael led the way.

He’s not a gargoyle, he’s not a gargoyle, he’s not a gargoyle, Dakotah kept saying to himself. You hang out with Ike too much, he’s in your head.

Then why follow Michael? Are you going to lead him straight to your home?

Night had fallen and with only half a moon in the sky the block felt dark. They walked down the front steps and crossed to the gate. The two cat statues watched Dakotah leave with alert looks.

No, they didn’t, Dakotah thought.

A cat yowled a warning not a moment too soon.

As soon as they crossed through the gate a winged beast swooped at them, screeching a terrible sound. Everyone yelled and scattered except for Michael, who swung his arms and met the beast with an inhuman growl. Dakotah stumbled back into the street. Michael didn’t have a weapon but he didn’t seem to need one. “Run!” he called, and Dakotah was the first to get his head together.

“Run!” he said, pushing Phin and grabbing Valene’s arm. “RUN!”

A second beast flew at them and he was forced to let Valene go so they could avoid it. It screeched, swinging low so its taloned feet could latch onto Valene’s arm. Dakotah could barely get a good look at the thing. It was some cross between a vulture and a—a what? Like Michael, he couldn’t really get a fix on its appearance.

Michael was there, wrenching it off Valene’s arm and lunging for the beast. She staggered away. Michael winced and grabbed his side and the beast took the chance to tear at him with its talons.

“I can handle it, go!” Michael shouted at Dakotah. “Get the stones!”

“Come on,” Valene said shrilly.

Dakotah turned, and then they were all running down the block, faster than they’d ever run before.

They had barely left the sounds of the screeching harpies when new shapes melted from the shadows on the sides of the street.

Where are the streetlights? thought Phin, as the shadows took human form. He saw them with a strange double vision, as human adults with leering smiles, and as shadowy human forms whose mouths stretched from ear to ear and were filled with gnashing teeth.

One ghoul swung a club at his ribs. He leaped aside and kept running. Sharp, cackling laughter followed him as the ghouls hopped from shadow to shadow, keeping pace.

Valene and Dakotah were flagging, they weren’t runners like him and Pete. He shouted encouragement, falling back to keep them going while Pete took the lead. The ghouls lurched in again, their clubs scattering the kids. Phin ran for the sidewalk, using the row of trees and garbage cans and dark streetlights as a barrier.

Dakotah went to the sidewalk across the street. The club-wielding things screamed battle cries. Where’s Michael? he thought desperately.

He looked back as he ran and almost fell flat as his shoe caught a broken edge of sidewalk. He stumbled and caught himself and then whirled at the sound of a low growl.

A dog with the strong square face of a pit bull and the wings of an eagle barked its warning. Dakotah didn’t have double vision now, he saw the monster clearly.

The dog jumped for him—and Pete came out of nowhere and brained it with a wooden spar.

Dakotah gaped as the dog monster dropped like a stone. “Pete!”

“They’re after you,” she said. Her breath came fast. “Not us. You.”

“Who cares?” he half-gasped. “We’re all screwed if—f”

Another bark cut him off. They turned, seeing two more dog monsters close in. Pete raised her spar but Dakotah knew she couldn’t be fast enough.

The screech warned them of the impending harpy and he and Pete ducked—and the harpy flew right over and went for the dogs.

The monsters barked and screamed at each other as they fought.

“What—?” asked Dakotah, but Pete was already taking his arm and pulling him up the berm and into someone’s backyard.

The shadows fell even darker there and they could slow their pace and creep around corners.

Dakotah struggled to control his breathing. “They—they fought each other.”

Pete carried her wooden beam awkwardly in two hands. Her ponytail had been wrenched to the side so that her black hair fell loose on the side of her face. “They must not want to share you.”

Dakotah shuddered at her certainty.

It was probably only five minutes, but it felt like a lifetime by the time they reached Dakotah’s house. Pete put up her hand before Dakotah tried to cross the street, searching the sky and the sidewalks for any movement.

She almost jumped out of her skin when Phin and Valene appeared and beckoned to them.

They ran across the street, up the steps, and into the duplex foyer.

Pete threw her arms around her brother.

“I’m good,” he said. “You good?”

She released him and nodded.

“Phin figured out how to confuse the ghouls!” Val half-shouted. Her wild eyes roved the foyer.

“Shh!” said Dakotah. “Just…wait here. Everyone. I’ll get the stones.”

Pete’s knuckles were white as she clenched her beam. “We still have to get back, don’t we?”

“I’m sure Michael will come,” Val said uncertainly.

Phin pointed out, “Michael said bringing the stones back would make the shop a safe zone.”

“Once we get there.”

Pete took a breath. “We’ll split up again.”

“Fuck that,” said Dakotah.

“Seriously! We’ll make another distraction while you get back to the shop.”

“I don’t even know what to do when I do get back to the shop!”

“Well, we’ll just…” Pete faltered. “Figure that out. Ike can’t have just thrown you into this, can he? There must be…be instructions, or something.”

“I had no clue this was going to happen, if that’s what you mean. Ike never mentioned fucking trolls, or monsters, or basically anything about me dying.”

Shouts outside pulled all of their gazes back to the door. Val started in fear.

“Get the stones,” Pete ordered. She threw the door open.

“Hey!” yelled Phin as she went out, and he followed without hesitation.

Valene took a deep breath, meeting Dakotah’s eyes. “I guess…we’ll distract them. Go.”

 

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St. Paul Grimoire: September, Part 1/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

SPG 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. Come walk with me, man.”

Dakotah turned to see the 11th grade behavior specialist, Mr. Shakes, standing behind him.

Dakotah glanced between his two options, the pissed-off Vice Principal Anders, and the chill behavior specialist. If he spent another second with Anders, he’d be spending the second week of junior year suspended. He followed Mr. Shakes.

“Thanks, good choice.” Mr. Shakes’ walkie crackled and he clicked the volume down. He was a short, stocky black man with dreads going all the way down his back. Even though he worked with 11th graders, he, like most of the school’s behavior specialists, had known Dakotah since Dakotah had entered Central High School in ninth grade.

“So what’s going on?” Passing time was over, and the halls were mostly empty.

“He tried to take my…” Dakotah paused, rolled his eyes. “My rocks.”

“Your what now?” Shakes said with a quirked smile.

Dakotah produced them—three small stones worn smooth by the Mississippi.

“What’re you doing with those?”

“I’m not doing anything. My friend gave them to me.”

“What friend? Phin?”

“No,” Dakotah sighed. “My friend Ike. He…died. Last week.”

“I’m sorry man, that’s hard. Did he go to Central?”

“Nah, he was like, 60 years old. I worked at his antique shop, helped him move shit and clean. Chilled there all summer when Phin was in Mexico.”

Shakes’ walkie crackled again, calling his name. He stopped and put a hand on Dakotah’s shoulder. “I gotta run but listen, I’ll let Mr. Anders know about the stones. If you feel upset again you can come on down to my office, okay? You can talk it out with me. I know what it’s like to lose somebody.”

Dakotah nodded, letting his long black hair swing in front of his face. Shakes scribbled him a pass and headed off.

Dakotah spent the rest of the day slumped in seats at the back of his classes.

~*~

It was just like Ike. A letter came in the mail, sending Dakotah three smooth river stones, and oh-by-the-way making him the owner and proprietor of Ike’s antique shop.

“Can sixteen-year-olds even inherit businesses?” Phin’s mom, Violeta, asked.

Dakotah’s mom, November, spread her arms in a hopeless gesture. “I told him we can sell it to cover funeral costs. The man had no family, I guess.”

“Sad,” said Vio.

Dakotah hated how they talked about it like there was no other option. “We’re not selling it,” he snapped.

November barely glanced at him. “We already talked about this, D. Funerals cost thousands of dollars. And you can barely keep up with school. What, are you going to run his business as well? Have you even taken economics?”

“In ninth grade,” Dakotah muttered.

“He probably flunked it.” The new voice was Valene’s. She swept into the kitchen ahead of Phin and Pete.

“Shut up,” said Dakotah. Valene laughed and flipped her thin black hair over a shoulder. She’d clearly spent a long time in the morning trying to get her Hmong hair to hold a curl. Dark eyeliner and mascara had been liberally applied as well.

Dakotah found it strange she was friends with Pete. Phin’s younger sister Pete was super school-focused (like Phin) and sporty (unlike Phin). Valene was self-absorbed and had failed just as many classes as he had.

Pete came in next, adjusting her ponytail. She’d clearly just come from track practice and wore a long-sleeved shirt emblazoned with last year’s Nordic ski team slogan. Phin followed. The brother and sister looked just like each other. They both had wiry builds and dark eyes. Phin’s hair was cut into a faux-hawk.

“Sorry I’m late,” Phin said, slinging his backpack down. “Let’s go.”

“Where’re you going?” Valene asked, but they both ignored her.

September in Minnesota was still hot. Phin and Dakotah stepped into late afternoon sunlight into the backyard.

Violeta Abe owned the landscaping company, and November was one of only a few employees. Part of their promotional material was landscaping their two backyards—the Abes’ backyard rolled into the backyard of November’s duplex’s backyard. Small pathways wound in between the plants, benches, fountains, statues tucked underneath sprays of flowers. Framed by the Victorian mansions of St. Paul’s Summit Avenue neighborhood, the effect was enchanting.

Phin and Dakotah crossed through without looking around.

They sat on the duplex veranda. Phin flipped through a chemistry textbook, making notes on the first chapter. Dakotah didn’t even have a backpack. It was only the first week. Last year Phin had helped him pass with just enough to avoid summer school, the first time that had ever happened. Still, no need to start this early.

~*~

Phin organized his binders. He had five AP classes this year, plus band. If he wanted to get his Ph.D in chemistry he really needed to stay focused this year and get into a good school. Beside him, Dakotah sat with a book open in front of him, scrolling through his phone.

“What did your mom say? About Ike’s shop?”

Dakotah shrugged. “Same thing as before.” He imitated her voice. “‘Funerals cost money, Dakotah. Do you even know how to run a business?'”

“Well, I mean…” Phin started to point out that Dakotah didn’t know how to to run a business, but thought better of it at Dakotah’s look. He reassessed. “So, the first hurdle is money. Your mom wants to sell the shop for the funeral, so if we had enough money, she wouldn’t have an immediate reason to sell it. How much do funerals cost?”

Dakotah Googled it. “About $7,000,” he read off his phone.

Shit, thought Phin. He wished Dakotah’s family had more money. Even if he and Pete pooled their money and asked to borrow from their parents, that was a ton of money.

“And Ike didn’t leave anything?”

“I told you he didn’t.”

“Maybe that was his point. He left you the shop knowing you’d sell it and pay for his funeral and keep the leftover money.”

Phin watched Dakotah consider. Like a lot of stores in the Summit neighborhood, the shop was actually inside of an old Victorian mansion. A normal pawn shop—antique shop, Phin corrected himself—might not be worth much, but the mansion was easily worth upwards of half a million dollars.

“I don’t think so,” Dakotah said. “Ike, like, loved that place. I bet he wouldn’t want me selling it.”

Phin nodded. Then he frowned. “He left you the keys, right?”

“Yeah?” A whole ring of keys sat on Dakotah’s dresser.

“Is one of them maybe to a safe?”

Dakotah sat up. That idea had traction.

“I’ve never seen Ike use a safe. Just the cash register. But it has to be around there somewhere, right?”

“Let’s check tonight.”

~*~

After dinner Dakotah slipped outside. November wasn’t that great at keeping tabs on him. He used to sneak out and smoke on the roof of the house all the time. He’d run with a different crowd then.

Phin met him at the corner. Pete and Valene followed him.

“They wanted to help,” Phin explained.

“Whatever,” said Dakotah with an eyeroll. Pete probably wanted to get out of the house and away from the baby. Valene was probably being nosy. But he wouldn’t say no to more people searching. Ike’s shop was kind of a mess.

“So where is the shop?” Valene asked.

“Down on Portland,” Phin said. “It’s blocked by trees a little but it’s cool once you see it.”

The foursome walked the rest of the way in the low September light. Everyone still wore shorts and t-shirts, but knowing he had school tomorrow changed the feel of the night. No more long summer nights staying up until 3AM. No more helping his mom working odd jobs or landscaping. No more hanging out with Ike, listening to the man tell meandering stories, most of which were lies. The time Ike saw a goddess. The time Ike saved a whole town but lost his lucky hat. The time Ike dreamed he was a king, but not a good one, no sir, he wasn’t cut out for that.

Dakotah sighed.

“Almost walked by it,” Phin said, stopping abruptly.

The shop had that quality. Despite being a big, old house built of heavy red limestone, it sometimes faded into the background. Three tall pines shaded the left side of the deep-set porch and two floors of bay windows. That side of the roof came to a triangular finish over the third floor but the right side was a tower, also at least three floors tall. Hostas lined the path to the front door (three steps from the sidewalk, a long walkway, then three steps to the porch). A wrought iron fence, overrun with the lilac bushes growing alongside it, further obscured the entrance.

Dakotah, however, could never miss it.

The others let him go first, which meant they all saw him reach down and pet the cat statues on either side of the gate. One cat leaped, the other sat calmly, but Dakotah always greeted them both with a pat on the head.

At the door in the shadowed porch, Dakotah pulled out his ring of keys. An indeterminate number swung from the ring, but he pulled up the one for the front door without hesitation.

~*~

Pete was the last to step through the door. After a short entry and hallway, the shop bloomed before them. The register and checkout counter were to her left. The shades were drawn, making the rest of the interior dim at best, and dark in the farthest corners. In the small rooms of the house—some divided only by the alcoved walls—were rows and rows of stuff.

Her brother and Dakotah went to the register but she and Val kept walking, into the rows.

“This place is so creeeepy!” Val said, picking up a stuffed mouse. “Does a fake mouse count as an antique?”

“Is it fake?” asked Pete, and Val squealed and dropped it. They walked down parallel rows, deeper into the dark shop.

“I found Dracula’s man ring!” called Val. “It looks kinda good on me.”

Pete giggled and kept going into the darkness.

Creepy doesn’t cover it, she thought. The shelves were put into no order she could figure out. Dusty stained glass windows sat next to doll heads and Chinese-patterned wallets. She picked up a rose and put it down quickly when she saw the thorns were made of jagged glass.

“You guys used to hang out here?” asked Val. She sounded far away. It wasn’t possible. These old Victorian houses had tiny rooms. She remembered going to the Wedding Shoppe on Grand Avenue when her cousin got married and that store had to buy a whole second house next door just to hold everything.

Something moved in the dark.

Pete started, dropping the leather journal she’d been holding. “Val?”

It was too dark to see. Had she imagined it?

No—another shuffling step out of the shadows, revealing the dim outline of someone huge filling the space between the row of shelves.

“Icarus,” he said in a great deep voice.

Pete screamed.

The others came running, pulling up short when they saw the shape of the giant man. He stumbled, catching the top of a shelf to steady himself.

“Icarus,” he said again. Not angry or anything, Pete realized, but maybe a little urgent.

“Ike’s not here,” Dakotah answered, pretty bravely, Pete thought.

Phin grabbed her arm and pulled her back next to the others.

“Where?” asked the hulking man.

“He…died,” said Dakotah. “A few days ago.”

The giant man paused. “Then,” he said in a strained tone, “I need Dakotah.”

St. Paul Grimoire Preview!

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire
Something moved in the dark.
Pete started, dropping the leather journal she’d been holding. “Val?”
It was too dark to see. Had she imagined it?
No—another shuffling step out of the shadows, revealing the dim outline of someone huge filling the space between the row of shelves.
“Icarus,” he said in a great deep voice.
Pete screamed.
The others came running, pulling up short when they saw the shape of the giant man. He stumbled, catching the top of a shelf to steady himself.
“Icarus,” he said again. Not angry or anything, Pete realized, but maybe a little urgent.
“Ike’s not here,” Dakotah answered, pretty bravely, Pete thought.
“Where?” asked the hulking man.
“He…died,” said Dakotah. “A few days ago.”
The giant man paused. “Then,” he said in a strained tone, “I need Dakotah.”

~*~

Dakotah thought he was inheriting an antique shop. Instead, he is chosen to be a Guardian—the keeper of a sanctuary where magic and magical beings congregate. Together, Dakotah and his friends struggle to learn the secrets of this new world—but they must do it quickly, for a dark force is rising to challenge them.

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