The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 9 Pt 2
The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 9 Pt 1
The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 8 Pt 3
The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 8 Pt 2
The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 8 Pt 1
The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 7 Pt 3
The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 7 Pt 2
The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 7 Pt 1
The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 6 Pt 2
The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 6 Pt 1


The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 9 Pt 2


Official Report
1328 Maryzell Ln
Tondzaosha, Idaho

“All right so I got you—” The voice spoke out of nowhere and Kruhl started, jerking her hand out of her privates, and cheeks burning scarlet, as her eyes turned to meet Teressa’s gaze.

Teressa, a bundle of clothes in hand, mouth slack and eyes wide. “I, uh, I mean I didn’t mean to intrude, I just thought—”

“It’s fine!” Kruhl blurted out, hands snaking up her chest and cupped her breasts in a belayed attempt at modesty. “Just leave it I-I—”

Teressa dropped the clothes on the vanity and bolted out the door, slamming it shut behind her. Kruhl swallowed in a fruitless attempt to rid herself of the lump in her throat and glanced down at her soap covered breasts. She was so engrossed in pleasuring herself, she’d forgotten all about Teressa.

The interruption left her feeling like a pit had formed inside of her and she saw no way to fill it. Before her transformation, such an interruption would have killed the mood. She couldn’t say if it was because she was female or human, but either way it made her squirm.

There was a genuine need for her to continue, but she stopped herself. Instead, she recovered the cloth from between her legs where she dropped it during her explorations and resumed washing herself.

When finished, she hung the cloth along the edge of the tub and cupped both hands together against her lips. She shivered, allowing herself to imagine Teressa kissing her breasts.

She drew in her breath and dipped below the water to wet her hair, gasping for breath as she emerged. She wiped the excess water from her face and gathered all the loose strands of hair dangling in front of her eyes and collected them behind her ears.

With shaking hands, she reached for the bottle of shampoo, Teressa explained the differences between body wash and shampoo, but the once-king considered the distinction strange. Soap was soap.

Still, as she recalled the others instructions, she imagined the other woman’s naked body heaving against her own, her lips moving their way up and down her neck. She swallowed hard, the bulge wedged in her gullet still refusing to go away, and again studied the bottle.

Like the body wash, it was labeled ‘Swan’, and was Lavender scented, but this time it purported to be both a Shampoo and Conditioner, whatever that meant, and claimed to be formulated for normal to dry hair. Kruhl sighed, dumping some into her hand and rubbed it into her scalp.

She worked her way through her tangled locks. A vain attempt at clearing one of the hair mats, only succeeded in producing a sharp jolt of pain and a yelp. Clenching her jaw shut, Kruhl gave up, instead focusing on cleaning. When she finished, she pulled the stopper from the drain and climbed out, retrieving the towel from the counter.

She unfolded the fabric and paused, fingering it, surprised that it would be so soft and light. Teressa led her to believe that these so-called towels were used for drying oneself off, and after at last examining the long piece of fabric she understood why. Back home, she had access to the finest materials and used any number of fabrics to dry herself, but this towel did the job much better. Then again, she now possessed less hair than before.

She tossed the towel aside and reecovered the clothes from atop the vanity.  She retrieved the shirt, a simple pink one-piece garment with an image of a strange character wearing a red dress with white dots and a tied-up bit of material upon its head. It bore rounded ears and had a short muzzle and exaggerated nose. Its features were rodent-like, but beyond that she could not guess what sort of creature it might be.

Even Kruhl, who’d never laid eyes on such attire, understood at once that it was intended for females. She crinkled her nose, before emitting a low growl, and pulled it up over her head and down over her breast. It fit snug in the chest, but not so tight as to constrict her breathing.

Next came the panties. Undergarments were not a new concept to her. Back at home she often wore a loincloth beneath her tunic or skirt, but the pink bit of fabric with heart-shapes on them were more feminine than her usual fair. Even the clothing they provided for her at the mental hospital had been less of an affront to her masculinity.

The skirt was the most tolerable part of the ensemble, at least in Kruhl’s eyes. Trousers were in their infancy among her people and used only by those who rode horseback. Loose-fitting skirts provided a flexibility of movement that slacks would never match, and as a battle-hardened warrior that was the most important factor of all.

Even so, she barely fit the skirt over her hips. It was designed for a child and Kruhl, while small, possessed the figure of a full-grown woman. Once she pulled it past her wide child-bearing hips, the garment fit her well enough, but as she looked upon her reflection, she saw nothing of herself looking back at her. It chilled her to the bone.

The mirror… she mused regarding the massive fixture which took up half of the wall. She’d never seen its like. Her people possessed mirrors, but their artisans crafted them of polished metals, and even the best only provided a muddy clarity.

She clenched her eyes shut and turned away with clenched teeth. Tears burned her eyes and she cursed the mirror’s creators before releasing a lengthy breath of air. She paused long enough to pull her water-logged hair from inside her shirt and slipped out of the bathroom where Teressa waited for her.

“I, uh, sorry, I didn’t think you would be well, you know…” Teressa kneaded one hand into the back of her neck, offering an apologetic smile and peered down at the former king.

“I would just as soon not discuss it.” Kruhl frowned, folding her arms over her chest.

Teressa nodded,  snaked a hand out and clasped her fingers around a lock of the other’s hair. “You want to get started?”

Kruhl grimaced, gaped at the other, and nodded. She doubted she would enjoy what followed, but understood that it was necessary. With a lengthy sigh, she followed the younger Van den Broeke down the corridor and toward what was certain to be a less than pleasant experience.

The razor buzzed along the side of Kruhl’s head and she closed her eyelids as the device ate her hair. It hummed against her scalp, vibrating so strongly it resonated in her eye sockets. She was not fond of the experience, but after seeing what the machine did, she understood its value at once.

Kruhl’s hair was such a mess, Teressa informed her, that she would have a much easier time if she cut it short. She’d given Kruhl the news as if she were a commander informing her she’d just lost an important battle. Kruhl didn’t see it as quite so devastating, but were it her glorious Assar mane being whittled away by the razor, she might have been singing a different tune.

Teressa knew her way around the razor, Kruhl could see that just by observing her, but the other seemed to think it necessary she explain that she once made a living as something called a hair dresser. Kruhl didn’t ask for specifics. She did not wish to get hair in her mouth again, but she pieced together that Teressa must have cut hair for a living. It seemed an odd vocation, but it didn’t surprise Kruhl. Little of this world made much sense.

As the other worked, Kruhl watched, lips pressed shut. She was going stir crazy, not just because she was stuck in place, but for other reasons.

Her nipples were hard and a glance down confirmed what she’d already suspected. They were showing through her shirt. She chomped down on her lower-lip, heart racing in her chest. She wanted, no needed, a release. Sex! The object of her desires was mere inches away, all she need do was lean forward and…

By Thun! Her face burned in shame. The once-mighty Kruhl, reduced to lusting after a human woman. Her father would have wept that she’d sunk so low, and the realization did her no good. She wanted nothing more than to leap from her seat and mount Teressa. Gods! When would it end?

And as if the gods had answered, the razor clicked off. Kruhl jerked her head, glancing over her shoulder. A tuft of hair fell over Kruhl’s left eye as she studied the hair stylist who stood, arms folded across her chest, razor in hand and her lips pressed in a thoughtful expression.

“I think that should do it.” Teressa planted both hands on her hip, then turned her back to Kruhl. The once-king swallowed, reaching a hand up to collect the stray hair and tuck it back into place.

“I thought we agreed you would cut my hair short.” Kruhl glowered, letting out a slight growl.

“I did,” Teressa replied, turning to Kruhl with a square-shaped object, perhaps two dorn long on each side, clutched in her hands. “Have a look.”

She held it out to Kruhl, and she hesitated only a few seconds before snatching it out of her outstretched hand, only realizing it was a hand mirror after she took it from the other woman.

Kruhl placed the mirror in her lap, handle out, and stared down to take a better look. The girl, whose face she despised, peered up at her. Teressa had shaved most of the left side down almost to nubs, and Kruhl traced her hand over it, the wound from her battle with Reesha and her minions was now visible, the black stitching sticking out from it. The cut had scabbed over, but it would be some time before it finished healing. She thought it a tribute to Teressa’s skill that Kruhl experienced almost no pain when the razor passed over it.

The rest of her hair wasn’t so short. Those locks were perhaps a dorn and a half, or about eight inches long. Teressa combed her bangs to the right, and Kruhl frowned, turning her head to get a better view. She expected something closer to the close-shorn cuts sported by the Angols, but this somehow looked more feminine. Still, she didn’t dislike it. Before she looked like a timid creature, the haircut made her countenance seem more… fierce.

“Well?” Teressa asked, leaning forward, her breasts pressing into Kruhl’s back.

This only reignited Kruhl’s arousal, and instead of answering, she at last launched herself toward the other, her lips locking around her mouth.

At first, Teressa resisted and pulled away, but then Kruhl pressed harder and the other woman melted into the former king’s arms, returning the kiss.

The next thing Kruhl knew, she was spread eagle atop the bed, Teressa’s lithe body mounted atop hers. Kruhl didn’t recall whether it had been she who had pulled the other atop her, or if Teressa had pushed her onto the soft fabric bedspread, but she didn’t care.

She closed her eyes, allowing the younger Van den Broeke sister to pull the fabric of the once-king’s shirt up and kiss her nipples. Kruhl shivered, hands reaching up to kneed the other’s breasts. She didn’t remember removing her skirt or panties, but soon a hard throbbing shaft thrust into her cunt. She trembled, knowing it at once for what it was. She didn’t understand why Teressa had one, but the once-king didn’t care. It felt too good. She shrieked in pleasure, not caring who heard. At last, she’d found her release.

The computer flicked and the screen fizzed out, smoke rising out of the base, and Amelia leaned back, running both hands through her hair. She wasn’t the paranoid type, but this was her third attempt at getting in touch with AEGIS since coming to the house, and each time something had gone wrong.

When she tried to make a call using the house’s landline, the phone went dead after the first ring and repeated efforts to make additional calls had turned out the same. The first time she attempted to access the AEGIS secure servers,  the computer had shut down without warning and now this…

Someone was trying very hard to keep her from getting in contact with her superiors. Which could only mean one thing…

She jerked to her feet and took off running for the bedrooms. If she was right, she needed to warn the others before it was too late…

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 9 Pt 1


Official Report
1328 Maryzell Ln
Tondzaosha, Idaho

Kruhl fell face first into the bed, her tears dripping upon the sheets. Another universe… The thought sent an icy chill down her spine. She assumed Reesha had sent her to another realm, a strange one to be sure, but if what the agent said was true, it changed everything. The realms all existed within the same universe, separate but not so separate they existed within different universes. 

What hope had she of returning to Erda, her home world, if Van den Broeke was right? The prospect of spending a lifetime trapped in her tiny new body was almost more than she could bear. She was Kruhl son of Wurdan, King of the Eridon, and the bearer of Waldere, she knew it with every fiber of her being, but it amounted to nothing. She had no kingdom to rule over, and no strength with which to fight her enemies. By the Nether Realm! Would she even be able to lift Waldere?

She squinted at the window and considered leaving. Perhaps, if she found Waldere, she would be able to make use of its magic. She knew nothing of this world, or how to transverse its many roads. Another, bigger problem was finding and retrieving the sword. If these police were indeed seeking her out, it would be an act of sheer insanity to walk into their base of operations to take it back.

A knock sounded from the door. Kruhl pushed herself up and turned to peer at it. She did not speak up, or move to answer, but remained frozen in place. Doors were commonplace on her own world, and a knock, unsurprising, carried the same meaning. Still, she didn’t feel much like company. She turned away, but caught movement out of the corner of her eyes.

Teressa stood in the now open doorway holding a long black object with a rope dangling from its end.

“Oh, I’m—” she stopped taking in Kruhl and frowned. “Were you crying?”

“Leave me be.” Kruhl growled under her breath, turning away from the intruder.

“Look I understand that things are looking rough, but—” She started toward Kruhl again, but stopped when the once-king turned his luminescent orbs on her.

“You know nothing about me.” She said between gritted teeth. “Don’t think your empty platitudes will offer me any solace.”

“Fair enough,” Teressa released a sigh and turned away, stopping inside the doorway and again held up the strange contraption. “I just thought you’d like a haircut.”

“Haircut?” Kruhl cocked her head, peering at Teressa with a frown.

“Maybe you haven’t noticed, but that mop of yours is a matted mess.” Teressa but a hand on her hip and stared across the room at the other.

“My mop?” Kruhl reached up to run a hand through her locks and yelped when one of her fingers caught. “You mean my hair?”

Teressa nodded, folding her arms across her chest. “I mean, unless you like it that way?”

Kruhl pressed her teeth into her lower lip and shook her head. “I’ve been pre-occupied.”

Kruhl had been so caught up in events she had taken little time to make note of her locks or worry about hygiene. Not that she’d had a lot of choice, she’d been tied down and locked in a room for most of her visit to this world and her captors hadn’t exactly taken the time to provide grooming implements.

She had been quite fastidious about grooming herself back on Erda and brushing her magnificent mane had been part of her daily routine. While hair atop her head was not foreign to her, the way her human locks dropped behind her shoulders and hung limp across her back was distracting. 

Teressa sauntered toward her and reached out, twisting one of Kruhl’s stray locks between two fingers. She crinkled her nose and pulled away. “First though, you’ll need of a shower. You’re smelling pretty ripe.”

“Shower?” Kruhl sneered. “Do I look like Rema swine to you?”

“Uh, oookay, what about a bath?” She frowned, eyes wide.

“That… would be acceptable,” Kruhl replied with a grimace and shake of her head. 

“Come on,” Teressa motioned at the other and Kruhl followed, heart thumping in her chest. As the other woman led her out of the room, all Kruhl could think about was the interesting way in which her hips swayed as she walked.

“Let me know if it’s too hot.” Teressa craned her neck around and peered up at the once-king. 

Kruhl kneeled down at the edge of the tub and peered inside, watching tendrils of steam snake up into the air and disappear. “It’s hot, how is this possible?”

“There’s a thing called a water heater that collects water and keeps it warm for later use,” Teressa replied.

The once-kings mind whirled, trying to imagine the mechanics that would make such a thing possible, but was unable to fathom it. On Erda, the only way to get a hot bath was to heat the water in a kettle or travel to a hot spring. Such a method was beyond anything she would have ever imagined.

Kruhl had seldom bothered with such a luxury, but Gylda, her betrothed, had insisted she take one every day. Kruhl scowled, remembering the long line of servants bringing pot after pot through Wurdanhom just to satiate the mercurial princess. Had he known she would betray him, he would have never indulged her, but it was less agonizing than contending with another of her tantrums.

“So, uh, you’re pretty petite, but the people who own this place have a daughter, I’ll see of I can find something for you to wear in her things. Why don’t you get started while I’m gone?” Teressa stopped jerking her head toward the tub, eyes seeming to linger on Kruhl’s chest. She coughed, licked her lips and turned her back to her companion. “I’ll check back in on you in a few minutes.”

Kruhl watched her depart, then peered down at the pair of lumps on her chest and swallowed. She glanced up at the window on the other end of the room. Though the opening was small, she thought she could squeeze through it and be gone before she got back. Again, reason won out and she put such thoughts ouf of her mind.

She  pulled her blouse over her head, grimacing when it caught on her breasts causing them to wobble as the fabric came away. She threw the shirt over her shoulder, not even watching it land before loosening the trousers about her waist and pulled them down to her feet.

Kruhl stopped standing over the bathtub and tested the water with a toe before at last easing herself into the hot water. She planted her posterior against the rear of the tub and leaned back, just letting the heat soak into her. Her breasts floated on the water and she averted her gaze, doing her best to ignore the strange sensation.

She could count on one paw the number of times she remembered taking a warm bath, all but one had been when she was still a cub. The once-king had forgotten just how relaxing it was.  She closed her eyes, just letting her thoughts drift away.

Several long moments passed and Kruhl’s eyes snapped open, reaching out to retrieve the strange bottle of soap Teressa had called body wash. The container was smooth to the touch and she clutched it in her hands, brows furrowed. She pressed into it, discovering that it was pliable, and turned it over. What sort of material was this?

The front identified the contents of the bottle as Swan Calming Lavender Field Scented Nourishing Body Wash. Kruhl tilted her head, biting her lips. Did that mean the body wash was made from Swans and Lavender? Why would anyone make soap from a swan?

She locked her fingers around the lid and attempted to yank it open, but it would not come loose. What a strange container, she thought, again turning the bottle over in her hand, this time from top to bottom. The top of the lid was a darker shade of violet from the rest of the container. Kruhl frowned and pressed her finger into it, gratified to discover that the top flipped open. 

“How strange,” Kruhl muttered, squeezing the bottle’s middle, watching thick light-purple fluid ooze out of the new opening. 

When she brought the bottle up to her nose, taking a big whiff. If it contained swan meat, she didn’t smell it. No, the only scent that she made out was lavender. 

Why then did the bottle say swan? Perhaps the artisan who made it was named Swan. 

She regarded the bottle for a little longer, then retrieved the wash towel left for her by Teressa, dunked it in the water and then wiped the soap off the side with the cloth.

Kruhl did not possess the same social biases as a person of this world. She did not regard flowery soaps and perfumes as girly, but she found them wasteful. The Angols, who considered themselves more civilized, were inclined to dabble in such frivolities, but her people made do with simpler soaps composed of animal fats and ashes.

With a long drawn-out sigh, she raised the cloth to her breasts and scrubbed the dirt away. She was not prepared for the sensations that arose from such a simple act and bit her bottom lip, barely stifling a moan and thoughts of Teressa doing interesting things sprang to mind. When the next wail escaped her lips, she did not muffle it.

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 8 Pt 3


Official Report
1328 Maryzell Ln
Tondzaosha, Idaho

Agent Van den Broeke frowned, eying the laptop screen, thrumming her hand against the tabletop. She’d searched the web far and wide, and there nothing about what happened at the mental hospital. Odd, damned odd. There was no mention of Kruhl, herself or Teressa anywhere on the web or the local newscasts. 

She didn’t know what to make of it, she’d assumed their enemies would plaster their images all over the news. Why then hadn’t they? If this Odalrik was so powerful, why wasn’t he making use of that power and throwing everything he could at them? He must have some reason to keep the incident quiet.

She’d long since discarded her smartphone, knowing how easy they were to track. What if this alleged sorcerer had another means of finding them? She shivered at the thought and bit her lip. The agent reflected on Kruhl’s description of her encounters with the strange hooded figure. Like the once-king she considered it odd the specter of Odalrik, if it was indeed him, would demand Kruhl tell him where the sword was, if it was already seized by those in his thrall.

Either he had some motivation to deceive Kruhl, or there was another party involved. She gritted her teeth. If there was someone else mucking about in this mess, it would only spell trouble for the rest of them.

“What is AEGIS, Ameliavandenbroeke?” Kruhl’s voice spoke out of the darkness and Amelia turned to regard her tiny frame. 

“Amelia van den Broeke,” Amy said, pausing between each part of her name.

Kruhl blinked, and a feral smile crept across her delicate face. “Very well, Amelia van den Broeke, what is AEGIS?”

“The Agency for Exemplar Governance, Investigation, and Security,” she replied. “It’s an arm of the government that assists individuals with special abilities to learn their powers and protect ordinary people from those who misuse them.”

“So then, you are a teacher and a soldier?” Kruhl asked, cocking her head, golden eyes widening.

“Not exactly,” Amy shook her head. “I’m no teacher. You might say those who help others to use their powers are, but I’m closer to a soldier. I protect others and seek those who would do them harm and bring them to justice.”

Kruhl bit her lip, seeming to contemplate what the agent said, then nodded and pulled up a seat beside her. “This device,” she nodded toward the laptop and leaned in peering at the keys and then up at the screen. “How does it work? Why does that rectangle glow like that?”

“That’s not a question I’m qualified to—”

“These characters!” Kruhl exclaimed, sweeping her hands across the keyboard, fingers jabbing at Amy until she slipped hers away. “The order is wrong, but it’s the Angol alphabet.”

“The English alphabet,” Amy corrected, sliding the computer out of the others reach. “And they’re out of order by design.”

“English.” Kruhl tested the word on her lips. She remained quiet, eyes fixed on the keys before shaking her head and glanced up at the agent. “Does it not seem strange to you we speak the same language?”

Amy pressed her lips together and nodded. “The thought had crossed my mind, but I’ve been a little more concerned about staying alive. There was an ancient group of peoples, in our own history, who called themselves the Angles. They occupied what is now modern England. I wonder… do your people have maps?”

Kruhl’s eyes peered up at her, and she nodded. “My father had one commissioned of Eirdon, Angol and much of the lands across the ocean to the South and East. It is one of the most extensive in all the lands. It hangs on the wall of my bedchamber.”

“How well do you know it?” Amy asked.

“I burned it into my mind. I need only close my eyes and I can see it as clearly as if I were looking upon that glowing rectangle.” Kruhl gestured at the laptop.

Amy nodded, keyboard clacking, as her fingers zoomed across its surface. When she finished, she turned the screen toward Kruhl. “Look familiar?”

Kruhl leaned close, studying the features of the map laid out before her, taking it all in. “It is,” she said, lips parted in a scowl. “But the names and borders are all wrong. This island here is Eirdon.” She paused, pressing her finger against the screen at Ireland.”

Her finger slid down the map, stopping over an area that read ‘France’. “The upper part of this kingdom should be Nustra and down here we would have Quitar, Gascol and Septa. Over here, her finger strayed to the east and then north. “There is Burgne, and Austere, Sveba, Sa—”

She stopped peering up at the agent blinking as realization dawned on her. “This map is not of my world, is it? It’s of yours.”

Amy met her gaze and dipped her chin up and down. “A region we call Europe.”

Kruhl did not answer, but instead studied the map, frowning. A few seconds passed before she turned back to the agent and sank her teeth into her lower lip. “How could our realms be so similar?”

“Well, I’m no expert on the matter, but our scientists have theories concerning alternate or parallel universes. It’s possible you are from a reality very like our own.”

Kruhl regarded her, a long sigh escaping her lips. “Your words are strange. Are you suggesting I come from a different version of this universe?”

Amelia nodded. “More or less.”

“If that is true, I do not like the odds of ever returning home.” Kruhl hunched over, looking into her open palms. “Which means I may very well spend the remainder of my life in this body.”

Tears splattered her cheeks and her hands shook. “There are no Assar on this world. Did Reesha know this when she sent me here?”

Her lips trembling, she spoke, each word interjected by a sob. “Would you help me with something?”

Amelia regarded her out of the corner of her eyes before nodding.

“Will you come up with a name for me?” Kruhl asked turning her golden eyes upon the other woman. “If I am to live amongst you, it would seem appropriate that I have one of your names.”

“I’ll give it some consideration.”

Kruhl rose to her feet, leaned in and kissed the agent on the cheek before disappearing down the hallway.

Amelia watched her go, folding her arms across her chest and let loose a breath. Even knowing what she did of Kruhl and how she had treated her former subjects, she couldn’t help but feel sorry for the once-king, but try as she might she couldn’t think of a single way she might help her. 

With a shake of her head, she closed the laptop down, returning it to the shelf where she’d found it and trailed Kruhl down the hall thinking to console her. When she got to her door and raised her fist, she froze.

She lowered her hand and stared at the door, lips pressed together. Maybe something different was necessary. She turned away and moved down the corridor. Teressa was better at this sort of thing.

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 8 Pt 2


Official Report
1328 Maryzell Ln
Tondzaosha, Idaho

Ashley leaned forward, cupping both her palms over her face, blowing a long weary sigh of air out her mouth. It was well past two in the morning and she was finding it hard to keep awake. She shook her head and rested it against the the wall, closing her eyes.

It hadn’t even been twelve hours since Sapphira collapsed, and no one could tell them why. She peered up at the exemplars inert form atop the hospital bed, studying her face, and frowned. Her friend looked as if she were asleep, but Ashley knew better. The doctors said that her beta wave patterns were consistent with someone who was awake and alert. As far as the doctors were concerned, there didn’t seem to be any reason for her to be unconscious.

She brushed several long strands of auburn hair out of her eye and sighed, contemplating, not for the first time, chopping it all off. She was a natural blonde, but since she now possessed the body of a college co-ed, part of the condition that she remain in New Hebron was that she disguise herself. The colored contacts and hair dye were a part of it, but every morning she woke up and caked her face in several layers of makeup to conceal that she was wearing the face of a dead girl.

She never realized all the trouble women went through to maintain their looks until she’d actually become one. Even as the affirmed ‘tomboy’ of the group she still spent a jaw-dropping amount of time every morning prettying herself up and… though she would never admit it to any of the others, it was all worth it.

The girl’s cheeks warmed just speculating over it, but she liked the way her body made her feel, especially when alone with her boyfriend. A cold shiver shot down her spine just thinking about it.

Ashley stopped herself, remembering what brought her there, and bit her lip. Where were Hailey and Jenn? They left some time ago to get something to eat at Ashley’s insistence and had yet to return. She eyed the door as if willing them to come through, but they did not.

Still her eyes did not leave the door, and a few seconds later a soft rap sounded from its hardwood surface. She jumped, placing an open palm on her chest, and called out for the person on the other side to enter.

When the door swung open, a tall figure stood in the doorway. Ashley started watching him as he glided into the room. As usual Director Brian Malcolm of AEGIS was immaculately attired, resplendent in a custom tailored suit that cost more than most people made in a month. He slipped his left hand over his right wrist, adjusting a gold cufflink, and peered down at her.

“Ashley Harris,” he nodded, glancing back over his shoulder at Sapphira before turning back to her, steel-gray eyes seeming to look right through her, a deep frown creasing his lips. “Let’s talk.”

“All this time I’ve been fighting that godforsaken thing without knowing what it was, or even if it had a name.” Teressa began biting her lip, Amelia and Kruhl leaning in close. It was the morning after the attack, and the three women had gathered to share their experiences and try to make sense of what happened.

They sat within a large family room in the house’s basement in which they’d taken up sanctuary. They were careful to keep the lights out and spoke in hushed tones to avoid drawing attention from the neighbors. According to Teressa, the owners of the home were away on a trip outside the country and wouldn’t be home for several more weeks.

“Odalrik.” Kruhl bit her lips. “His name is Odalrik.”

Teressa nodded. “Yeah, I put that much together from what you’ve told me.”

Teressa was the last of the trio to share her story, Kruhl’s had been the most illuminating, providing answers for questions the other two had been trying to wrap their heads around.  Neither sister questioned what the strange little woman told them, Amelia because of what she saw in her visions and Teressa because she’d witnessed so many strange things.

She regarded them both, pausing only a second before continuing. “I was living in Grove City when he first came for me…”

Shadows bathed the room. A low trickle of light from the rising sun peaking through the blinds provided the only source of illumination. Teressa sat up, retrieving her phone from the nightstand and glanced at the time. It wasn’t yet six. She felt alert, more so than usual, but didn’t think much of it, until a black form floated toward her materializing from within the darkness of the far side of the room.

It seemed to be a substanceless creature, only given form by the cloak it wore. She looked within its hood, but saw nothing save for a darkness. When it extended an arm out, even the sleeve was empty.

[Teressa] It spoke her name, it’s voice full of malice. 

Teressa lurched away, crawling backward, but never took her eyes away from the apparition. It hovered toward her, the bottom half of its form passing through the bed, and continued onward. It backed her into the corner and she lay there back against the wall, trembling in terror.

[You will be mine] It spoke, its voice rumbling as a high-pitched cackle filled the air.

The specter brought its second arm up, holding them both before it, brilliant red light bursting from its extended appendages. Teressa shielded her eyes, the light growing so intense that tears streamed down her face. What its intentions were, were anyone’s guess, but when her attacker emitted a howl of rage, she sensed that it failed. She dove out of the bed, rolling through the specter’s dark form, cold needles prickling her skin for the brief second they occupied the same space.

Making for the doorway, she clasped one hand on her neck and threw the other up behind her. Inky dark haze exuding from her fingertips, she fled from the apartment. Her life, as she knew it, was changed forever…

“Odalrik came to me twice more, each time, was pretty much a repeat of the last. I don’t know what it is he was trying to do, but—”

“He was attempting to subvert you,” Kruhl said out of the blue, a scowl on her face.

“It is difficult magic, even for one as powerful as he, but judging from what we’ve seen so far, it seems he has become quite adept at it. For whatever reason, he was intent on gaining control over you, but ultimately failed. You possess some power of your own, it’s possible it helped you resist him.”

The warrior king pursed her lips, glancing at the pair of women. This is how low she’d sunk. She gritted her teeth, allying herself with a pair of humans. True, their abilities seemed quite formidable in their own respect, but before she could call on the might of all the Assar tribes of Eirdon.

Kruhl had more than once entertained the notion of striking out on her own, but it was a foolish idea. The once-king knew nothing of this realm, or its people. She would be a fish out of water.

“Shit,” Amelia answered, then turned her attention to Kruhl, who was doing her best not to make eye contact. “What about these skaeda, could it be he wanted to make her into one?”

“The magics for creating a skaeda and subverting someone are… related, but to make such a creature as a skaeda requires acts best left to the imagination. Subversion is simpler, but it is not as effective, you don’t gain complete control over the victim, they are very suggestive to your will and the control can be broken. A skaeda remains loyal until the end.”

Amelia sighed and leaned back in her armchair. “How many more of these skaeda do you think he has under his thumb?”

Lips pressed together in a tight frown, she released a slow breath of air, but still refused to look her in the eyes. “It is hard to say. As you might imagine, it would be difficult to find a willing subject to create a skaeda. In most cases, a sorcerer would need to break them into complete submission first. That alone requires a level of magical energy few practitioners of the dark arts can match. Odalrik is a powerful sorcerer, but I doubt even he could subvert more than a handful of individuals enough to create such creatures.”

“Bottom line is, Odalrik’s been amassing power, he’s already gained control of the Tondzaosha, Alameda, and Grove City police forces and may have at least partial control of each town’s city council, maybe even their mayors,” Teressa leaned forward clasping her hands over her knees.

Kruhl froze, finding herself staring at her exposed cleavage, and swallowed. Her heart pounded in her ears, and she glanced down at her chest where her nipples showed through the fabric of her blouse. She licked her lips, regarding first Teressa, then Amelia. If either woman noticed, they’d chosen to ignore it. The two long-lost siblings barely even acknowledged her.

The former warrior king folded her arms over her breasts and tried with little success to dispel thoughts of bedding the other woman. She never had the need nor desire to curb her sexual appetites and now that she was contending with a new and very different libido she could find no means of tempering it.

Worse, she found these humans attractive. If her father knew of her predicament, he would hang his head in shame.

She turned her golden eyes on the elder Van den Broeke and fought back similar thoughts. While both sisters were attractive, the agent possessed a much more interesting figure, and the thought of bedding them together… She swallowed again, this time harder, and looked away.

“All that is bad enough,” Amelia replied. “But if he sends even one more skaeda after us, we could be in big trouble.”

“If he does pray that is all he sends after us,” Kruhl said shaking her head.

A cold chill racked Kruhl’s spine, and any thoughts of sex were dispelled by her imaginings of the perverse acts Odalrik once committed. Though she never witnessed them being practiced, she’d heard accounts of the sorcerer’s many appetites. Such retellings were not for the faint of heart. Though the siblings were quite tough for human females, Kruhl did not see the need to inflict them with the information. When she’d first heard the tales as a child, she’d been haunted by nightmares for weeks afterward.

She had learned much since they’d begun their ‘little chitchat’. Each woman had shared a piece of the puzzle, but as yet so much had gone unexplained. One question haunted her more than the rest. If the people under Odalrik’s thrall already had possession of Waldere, why had the shade demanded she tell him the location of the sword?

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 8 Pt 1


Official Report
1328 Maryzell Ln
Tondzaosha, Idaho

Amelia sat bolt upright, chest heaving as she panted for air. She raked her hands out, but they only passed through empty space. The agent peered around, eyes not yet adjusted to the dark.

Her mind beginning to register she was not under attack, she cupped her face, sighed, and slid her hands away. She pressed one of them down on the surface upon which she laid. It was soft yet springy like a bed. Sure enough when she looked down, she discovered that it was just that. She peered about, seeing well enough now to make out a chest of drawers along the opposite wall and a door to her right.

“Good, you’re awake.” A voice spoke out of the gloom behind her and to her left and she jumped, leaping to her feet, hand slipping inside her blazer for her pistol, but stopped when she spotted the face of her mysterious rescuer.

“How you feeling?” The woman asked, tilting her head, a very slight smile touching the corner of her mouth.

Amy massaging her temples, but nodded. “A little confused, but otherwise fine. How’d we escape?”

“You don’t think you’re the only one with powers, do you?” The woman’s smile broadened into a grin and a low throaty chuckle escaped her mouth.

Amy jerked her head sideways, turning to gape at the mysterious woman. There was something about that laugh…

“You’ve seen how I can project an image of myself. I can do other stuff too, mostly just illusions and light tricks, but they can come in handy in a pinch. I called up a dark haze the police couldn’t see through. Once, we gave them the slip, I took the Pygmy into an underground parking garage, jacked us a new ride, and brought us here.”

Amy nodded, a sour taste in her mouth. What the woman did to ensure their escape may have been necessary, but it didn’t sit right with her. As an AEGIS agent, she made a vow to uphold the law. Breaking it, while necessary, went against everything for which she stood.

Her new friend drew closer, and Amy found herself looking into a pair of emerald eyes, a near twin to her own. Amidst the disorder of their escape, she never spared the other more than a sidelong glance. The agent gasped, a hand clasped over her mouth as she took in her rescuer’s features.

The younger woman bore a close physical resemblance to the agent. She had the same dark hair, green eyes, olive complexion and even an oval-shaped face. She was quite pretty, and there were enough similarities that most any passerby would surmise they were sisters. Her lips were thinner, and her nose wider, but there would be no mistaking the parallels.

The rescuer lacked the older woman’s curves, but Amy hadn’t developed those through ordinary means. No, this girl bore the same boyish figure and wide shoulders that the agent possessed after her transition, but before her transformation.

Amelia’s mind raced. Among her siblings only one other took after her mother in the looks department and it had not been Erica.

“Brian?” she asked, her eyes wide with disbelief.

The girl nodded, her lips trembling as she met the other woman’s gaze. “Yeah, sis’ it’s me. Just do me a favor, though. Call me Teressa.”

Tears stained the agents cheeks and she threw both hands out, clasping her sister’s face before enfolding the other woman in her arms, her body racked with sobs.

After so many years, to find ‘Brian’ in such a way seemed unthinkable. She gave up hope of ever contacting any of her siblings, afraid that her parents poisoned them against her. Now she found that the one she had been closest to had undergone a transition like herself. It was an irony, not lost on Amelia, but one which she would overlook if it meant having her sibling back.

She cursed herself, ruminating over her childhood, attempting to recall any signs that her younger sibling was trans, but try as she might she could not conjure a single instance that even hinted the younger Van den Broeke was trans.

She pulled away, still sobbing, trying to wipe the tears from her eyes, but failing as they just kept coming. “You never said anything, if I had known—”

Teressa shook her head fighting back her own tears, but did little better than her sister. “You know how our father was and how he treated you. I thought maybe that if I tried hard enough I might hide it, and be the man that asshole wanted me to be. Then they took you away and the state scattered us to the four winds. They sent me to live with uncle Aaron, you remember Aaron, don’t you?”

Amy nodded, understanding what the other was trying to say. Aaron, their father’s half brother, was a youth pastor and staunch conservative. To his credit he treated his children much better than his younger sibling, but he wouldn’t have tolerated any behaviors he viewed as degenerate any more than Lucas had.

“But enough about that,” Teressa smiled, still sniffling, but wiped the last of her tears away. “Tell me about you. Amelia van den Broeke, the big time AEGIS agent. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first laid eyes on you. God, that body! If I didn’t know better I would swear you were a cis-woman.”

Amy let a smile touch her face, before emitting a long sigh. “I suppose I am. It’s complicated. I passed pretty well after my transition, but I wasn’t what you might call curvaceous. Then I got caught up in an incident in New Hebron and I ended up looking like this.” She paused, motioning down at her body.

“It’s not something I can discuss, but let’s just say sometimes strange things happen to AEGIS personnel in the field. It’s how I wound up with this body and… gained the powers used against the police.”

Teressa eyed her, a sober expression on her face. She pulled a strand of hair out of her eyes, tucked it behind her ears, and smiled. “God, if the evidence weren’t staring me right in the face, I would say you were yanking my chain, but even with surgery most trans-girls wouldn’t come close to a body like yours. I’m happy for you, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous.”

Teressa paused, pursed her lips, a mischievous grin creasing her features before she at last spoke again. “I take it yours is an isolated incident? There isn’t a chance you would be able to spread the wealth is there?”

Amy regarded her sister. Though the statement seemed to be made in jest, the agent knew better. Even when they were young, Teressa had always hid her feelings behind a wall of humor. It wasn’t the most healthy of coping mechanisms, but when you had a father like Lucas van den Broeke, you managed the best you could.

She frowned. What would Teressa think if she found out she was pregnant? Amy put the thought aside. That particular bit of information could be revealed later.

“Ah well,” Teressa said, a grin stretching across her face. “Can’t blame a girl for trying, can you?”

“About today.” Amy cleared her throat, looking to change the subject.

“Today, you walked into the mother of all clusterfucks,” she bowed her head. “We can talk about all that tomorrow. You need your rest. I really only wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Amy bit the inside of her cheek and peered down at her hands. She’d lost consciousness after stopping the police car. When Sapphira had first gained control of her powers, they’d been erratic. Though her power set may have been similar to her lover’s, she thought it possible she had developed a different limitation. It would explain why she’d lost consciousness.

She glanced back up at her sister and nodded. There was no telling what use of her new abilities had done to her body, or… her child. “That’s probably a good idea.”

Teressa took several long minutes fussing over her, and offering her assurances that she was safe, before saying her goodnights. Once the other Van den Broeke had departed Amelia sank back down into bed, hand on her belly and closed her eyes. She did not, however, go to sleep.

Instead, she reached out with her mind, feeling for the fetus growing within her womb. Though it was only just beginning to take the shape of the infant it would become, she knew it at once for what it was. She searched for signs of damage or injury, but sensed nothing.

She did not detect an awareness, but the child radiated… contentment for lack of a better word. It was a primal, simple emotion, lacking the complexities of even the youngest child, but it was more than she expected.

She emitted a soft sigh all the tension and anger fading away, and without quite knowing how, the agent drifted back to sleep.

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 7 Pt 3


Official Report
State Hospital South
Grove City, Idaho

Gunfire rang out all around them, and Kruhl rushed forward on all-fours, springing into the Pygmy in a single bound. Amy hesitated only a second before following the other and slamming the door shut behind her.

“Hold on to your asses,” their rescuer said, pounding her foot on the gas and the old SUV lurched forward, rock-climbing tires squealing as it blazed a trail through the volley of bullets that rained down upon the ground.

Amy grabbed Kruhl by the front of her shirt, pulling her down and out of sight. “Stay down,” she hissed in her ear. “You’ll be dead real quick if one of those bullets hits you in the head.”

Amy doubted that the former warrior king had any idea what a bullet was, but as such things go, it was hard to mistake her meaning for anything but a warning of danger. Kruhl nodded, as the Pygmy’s engine roared, and their mysterious new friend took it out on the open road.

Amy craned her neck around, staring back as several police cars swerved out of the parking lot behind them in pursuit. She swallowed, staring at them, her jaw tight and a fire burning in her eyes.

She didn’t understand what happened, but her instincts told her she was being manipulated and she always trusted her gut. That being said, survival was her primary concern at the moment. Anything else would have to take a back seat.

Pygmys were many things, but they were not renowned for their speed. Their rescuer flattened the gas pedal against the floor, but the police still gained on them. If they were to escape, it would not be by outrunning their pursuers.

The agent focused all her will, extending her senses out. A bird flew above the car out of her range of vision, but she sensed it soaring on a pocket of air. It’s hunger was so palatable to her it seemed as if it were her own. It’s eyes pierced the clear blue sky seeking out it’s next meal.

A man stood by the roadside just a short distance away. His thoughts were easy to read. The chase brought a thousand wild different possibilities to his mind. Were they bank robbers or perhaps murder—

Amy shook her head and forced his thoughts out of her head. She had access to a new world of thoughts, feelings and impressions. She could spend days using her newfound abilities to pry at every little detail, but she would not allow herself to get distracted.

She focused her will on the foremost of the pursuing cars. Bracing herself, she reached inside the cab and pushed down on the brake pedal with her mind. The vehicle came to a screeching halt and the one behind it, unprepared for its abrupt stop, plowed into it, shredding through the bumper.

“Shit, how the hell did you do that?”

Amy blinked, regarding the woman, and massaged her temples, her whole head throbbing in pain. “I, uh, I—” She managed only a few syllables before she doubled over, the world beginning to spin.

Kruhl touched her shoulder, but she had already drifted away. The driver licked her lips and cursed under her breath.

“Is she all right, I mean did she—” She left the question unfinished, but Kruhl seemed to understand.

Kruhl regarded Amy’s inert form sprawled across the passengers seat, turning her head, luminous eyes gleaming.

“She breathes,” the girl turned her gaze on the mysterious woman.

“Well, Andy’s not the only one with a few tricks up her sleeve.” She glanced at Kruhl, a toothy grin spreading across her face as she slid a hand free of the steering wheel, clasping it over her throat.

A dark morass rippled across her eyes until they turned a deep depthless black and an inky haze billowed out through the cracks between her fingers. It oozed out the windows, flowed along the side of the SUV and shot out until it spanned the length of the street and until it disappeared into the horizon.

Nothing was visible beyond the wall of dark mist. Even the red and blue of the police lights did not penetrate the haze, but the wail of their sirens was still audible. That too soon faded before dying away.

When she dropped her hands, the smoggy vapor continued spilling out between the cracks in her fingers and her eyes remained black.

The woman turned the steering wheel, veering off into an underground parking garage and shut the engine down, after finding a suitable parking spot.

“We’ll need to find another ride,” she offered as if by way of explanation her eyes returning to their previous emerald shade.

Again Kruhl only nodded, she sprang out of the vehicle, moving to help the other woman lift Amelia’s inert form from within the Pygmy. She had so many questions, but not regarding what the outside observer ignorant of her background might suppose. She came from a world where magic was commonplace and in which Sorceresses and Sorcerers regularly exercised their magics. The powers she’d just witnessed being wielded were impressive, but she had seen similar acts performed before.

No, the questions which most puzzled the former warrior king were, who chased them, how the strange boxy carriages within which they rode propeled themselves without some kind of beast of burden to pull them, and who was this woman that had come to their aid?

She did not press the woman for details, she would question her later when she was certain they were safe. Then, she narrowed her eyes studying woman’s lanky form, she would get some answers.

Sapphira Olivia Scott stopped massaging her temples and sank her teeth into her lower lip. A sudden flood of emotions washed across her like a heavy downpour. She stopped, closed her eyes, and planted one hand against the wall to steady herself.

“Amy,” she whispered her lover’s name. Though what she sensed were not actual thoughts, Sapphira was familiar enough with the other to know whose mind she’d touched. Fear, anger, and grief came rolling into her on a tide that threatened to pull her under.

“Liv?” A voice spoke out and she snapped her eyes back open. Hailey had her hand on Sapphira’s shoulder and the exemplar bit the inside of her cheek, peering at the girl who, despite all evidence to the contrary, was her granddaughter.

They appeared close to the same age, though most would guess that Sapphira was a few years older. They were both attractive, but that was where any similarities ended. Sapphira towered over her granddaughter and possessed an hourglass figure the envy of so many others, while the other woman’s frame was slight, and though far from pale, she appeared quite ashen when she stood next to Sapphira with her chocolate brown complexion.

Not so long ago, Sapphira had gone by the name Everett Howard and had been well into her twilight years. Though she could never know if it was her intention, Ashtar gave her a new life and a younger body when she passed her powers onto her. Though it took some time for her to shed her old prejudices and accept the changes, it gave her the chance to reconnect with Hailey and win Amelia’s love.

“Liv!” Ashley repeated, echoing the first girl.

At first Liv had been Amelia’s own little pet name for her, but the other girl’s took a liking to the moniker and somehow it became the norm.

Both girl’s stood on either side of her and Jenn, Hailey’s girlfriend, positioned herself just a few steps away, twirling a finger through her long electric-blue hair, something she did when unsure what to do with herself.

“I-I’m fine,” she held up a hand to ward the three girl’s off, “but I think Amy might be in trouble.”

She regarded Jenn, and bit her lip, realizing she’d let something slip out she shouldn’t. Among them, only Jenn was ignorant of Sapphira’s true origins and powers, but back pedaling now would draw suspicion.

Jenn raised an eyebrow and pressed her lips together, but didn’t force the matter, instead folding her arms across her chest. It was Ashley that spoke next, casting a furtive glance at the other girl. “What do you mean?”

Sapphira regarded the leggy blonde, reminded of her origins that so closely mirrored her own. Ashley had once been a bit of a rival and sometimes ally, a super-powered bank robber with a penchant for rescuing ladies in distress who fancied Sapphira. Of course, that had been before she came to inhabit the body of the nubile young lady. Back when they first met she’d been a ‘he’ who’d been very proud of his African heritage.

Before she uttered a reply, the ring from an old-fashioned rotary telephone resounded from Sapphira’s pants pocket. Everyone froze, recognizing it at once as her ringtone. Without a word, she slipped one hand into her pocket to retrieve her Mittsuhoshi smartphone.

The number arrayed across the screen was not one which she recognized, but it had the same area code as Amy’s hotel. She doubted it was a coincidence that she would receive a call from the same region just moments after sensing such strong emotions from her life partner. She swallowed, swiped her finger over the display and put the phone to her ear.


At first, there no answer came, but then an ear-splitting screech sounded through the earpiece. A wave of dizziness washed over her and before she knew what happened, her head hit the floor. The last words she heard were the other women calling her name before the darkness swept her away.

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 7 Pt 2


Official Report
State Hospital South
Grove City, Idaho

Van den Broeke swallowed, her back to the wall and bit her lip, eying Rathdrum who’d taken a similar pose on the other side of the doorway. 

The other agent shook his head, and Amy licked her lips. She’d emptied all of her first clip and most of her spare when firing on Shanderly, and it seemed that Carter was in a similar predicament. 

“This could be it,” Carter said, his voice strangely calm as he turned his steel-grey eyes on her. “It’s been a pleasure serving with you Van den Broeke.”

“We’re not dead yet agent,” Amy cocked an eyebrow, a worn smile creasing her lips. 

Though she saw no means out of their predicament, she would not voice her disquiet. They were trapped inside a room with only one exit and God knows how many armed assailants bearing down on them from without. It was a miracle they’d survived Shanderly’s attack, but she doubted they would defy the odds again. If she were to go down, it would not be without a fight.

She glanced back at Kruhl. The girl’s slight form was hunched down against the wall, golden eyes luminescing in the darkness.  Though she returned her attention to the doorway, she pondered what the other must think. If she was from a more primitive world, as Amy suspected, she had seen nothing like their handguns. 

Before she finished ruminating, the first of their attackers rushed through the door. Rathdrum downed him with a single shot to the head, but two more took his place. They were wearing full-body tactical gear and moved with the fluidity and ease of battle-hardened soldiers. Both agents opened fire, but while they downed a few, they were quickly outnumbered. Worse yet, they were out of ammunition.

Amy dropped her gun, and Rathdrum did the same a moment later, each holding up their hands in surrender. The foremost of the assailants held an arm up signaling the others to stop and reached up with both hands to pull off her face mask. Steel-blue eyes peered back at her, and Amelia’s breath caught in her throat. It was Gwyneth Avery.

“Amelia van den Broeke, Carter Rathdrum, you are under arrest for the murder of Thomas Shanderly.” She stated in a cold flat voice, without once glancing at the deputy’s corpse.

Avery glared down at them, hands on her hips. Her eyes were distant, seeming to look past them and into some distant horizon that only she could see. There was a glossy quality to them, as if she’d been drugged. It raised the shackles on the back of Amy’s neck, and she shivered with the realization that the older woman was being influenced.

Amelia did not speak, peering at the chief with lips pressed together in a thin line. The tactical gear she and her minions wore was a little too sophisticated for a Tondzaosha cop. It was of the type used by AEGIS personnel and big city SWAT teams. The semi-automatic rifle she bore went for around fifteen-hundred dollars, which was well outside the budget of a small-town police force.

“A little outside your jurisdiction, aren’t you chief?” Rathdrum demanded, glaring up at the woman. His eyebrows shot so far up his brow Amy thought they might disappear into his close-cropped hair.

The chief clenched her jaw, anger smoldering in her eyes. She lifted her weapon, and a flash of movement caught Amelia’s attention. A delicate form pounced on all fours, a shriek of rage emitting from the attacker’s throat. Before the chief opened fire, Kruhl was on her, fingers raking her face like claws.

Avery shrieked out a cry, so full of rage and hatred it wasn’t even recognizable as human, and grappled with Kruhl. Hands finding purchase on her shoulders, she flung the girl away with a second, louder howl.

She again raised her rifle, no doubt to fire on the girl, but Rathdrum was already moving forward, his larger frame intersecting the two combatants. He dove forward, but Avery’s finger had already squeezed the trigger. A barrage of bullets pummeled his mid-section, each landing home with a spurt of blood. 

Amy cried out and ran forward. Gunfire rang through the air and she flung her palms out as if to shield herself. Everything froze in place, bullets stopping in mid-air, attackers standing so still they may as well have ben mannequins.

A new awareness bloomed within her. She didn’t just see and hear those around them, but felt them too. Every molecule, every cell within their attackers’ bodies registered within her awareness. The very walls themselves, having once seemed so flat and devoid, were teaming with life. Bacteria, germs, and other microorganisms swarmed across its surface oblivious to the massive entities that shared their space. 

Bullets hung in the open air, frozen in place by Amelia’s will. She stood there peering down at her hands, realization at last dawning on her. She had experienced an awakening of sorts, the same kind that her lover had undergone. It was how she walked away without a single bruise after being thrown across the evidence locker, and, she added, it was what had caused her transformation all those months ago. She didn’t understand why it had taken so long for her powers to come awake, when Sapphira’s had lasted mere hours, but she was damn well going to make use of it. Now if she could just figure out how…

“What the—” Avery stopped leaving the sentence unfinished eyes locking onto Amelia.

Amy clenched her jaw, focusing all her will on the bullets, sensing the texture and weight of the metal with her mind. She closed her hand into a fist, and watched the projectiles fall, one by one.

She cocked her head, eyes never once leaving the chief, and cocked her eyebrows in challenge. In answer, Avery rushed forward, pulling a knife from her boot. Amy was ready for her. She threw out an open hand and sent her flying into the opposite wall. The impact produced a lout thump, and the other woman slumped to the ground unconscious. 

Amelia extended her senses, feeling for signs of life in Rathdrum, thinking perhaps she might heal him as Sapphira had once healed her, but his heart was still. 

Hot tears stung her cheeks as she rounded on the remain attackers, surging toward them, fury building inside of her. She took one step toward them, and they bolted for the doorway. The last to exit possessed enough presence of mind to slam the door shut as he departed. Not that it would be much of an impedance to Amelia in her present state, but she had other plans.

She fell to her knees at Rathdrum’s side. She didn’t check for a pulse, she needed no confirmation. Instead, she placed two opened hands upon his chest and closed her eyelids.  

She reached out, extending her senses into his body, probing each of the bullet wounds, first drawing the projectiles free, then willed the flesh to mend, but nothing happened. She reached further, bidding his dying cells to do something, but they did not respond. 

Her mind raced. Why wouldn’t it work? Was it because he was already dead, or was there too much damage? Or, she added her heart sinking as she considered the possibility, perhaps she did not possess the same ability set as Sapphira.

A weight touched her shoulders and she turned to peer into Kruhl’s strange luminous eyes. “He is dead,” the other woman whispered. “We need to leave before they return for us.”

Amelia nodded, slipped her hands over his still open eyes and closed them. “I’m sorry, Carter. I promise your death won’t be for nothing.”

She wrenched herself away, rose to her feet, a sob escaping her lips as she fought back tears. She shook her head and faced away from him, eyes scanning the door. The longer they stayed, the more likely their attackers would return, but could they dare leave through the hallway? It would be far too easy for someone to pick them off in such tight confines.

Clenching her teeth, the agent spun around on the balls of her feet, fist clenched at her side, decided on a course of action. She threw one hand out, sent a wave of telekinetic force toward the exterior wall and grunted from the effort. The sheetrock rippled and exploded with so much concussive force that it shook the whole room. 

The agent threw her hand up to shield her eyes from the fragments of wood and sheetrock that came raining back on them and rushed forward, slipping through the opening before the dust had even settled. Kruhl followed in her wake, strange eyes scanning her surroundings.

They’d come out on the far side of the parking lot, splashes of red and blue colors illuminated the walls in the fading daylight. Police cars ringed the parking lot, and dozens of armed officers stood ready, weapons drawn.

Amy raised her open palm and swallowed hard, preparing for another attack. Kruhl ducked behind her, a low-rumbling growl coming from her throat. There was a moment of silence. The police froze, perhaps surprised by the odd duo’s sudden appearance.

At last a car horn sounded from the street beyond and a battered old Leland Quad bashed its way through the line of police cars and swerved toward the pair of escapees. The vehicle jerked sideway, tires screeched as it came to a halt, mere inches from Amelia. The passenger side door swung open, revealing the slender form of a woman in the driver’s seat. 

“Get in!” she screamed, a hand reaching up to pull a sweat-drenched strand of hair from her face. Though her features were unfamiliar to the agent, she recognized her voice at once. It was the girl who’d warned her about Kruhl.

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 7 Pt 1


Official Report
State Hospital South
Grove City, Idaho

“What the hell?” Rathdrum panted, eyes wild as they roved the darkened room. Faint overhead emergency lights provided the only illumination, revealing the forms of the two agents, the doctor, the orderlies and Shanderly in the corner, but little else. Rathdrum, who stood just below one, was the only person whose face was visible.

Carter moved to the doorway, reached for the latch and swung back to Amelia, shaking his head. “It’s locked.”

Amy didn’t answer, she drew her gun keeping both it and her eyes trained on the entrance. Only daring to look away to glance at Shanderly. As she suspected, the deputy was hunched over in his seat, unmoved since the lights went out. She frowned and arched an eyebrow, but didn’t voice her concerns.

Though Shanderly appeared to have taken ill, if she was right, they would soon have much bigger problems.

“Oh for hell sakes, Ms. Felch, get the damn door open.” Harrison said scowling at the two Agents as if they were idiots and waving at the female orderly.

“Carter,” Amy said, wiping a bead of sweat from her brow. “Get the girl, and get her out of those restraints, if we come under attack, she’ll make for an easy target.”

“Now agent, I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but—” Harrison moved to block Rathdrum’s path, shadowed on either side by the pair of orderlies, but froze when shrill, hysterical laughter rang through the room. It was coming from Shanderly.

“Harrison!” Amy exclaimed. “Get away from him, now!”

He did not move, glancing back and forth between Van den Broeke and Shanderly. It was difficult to tell in the gloom, but it looked to Amy like Harrison’s brows were furrowed in confusion. The younger man leveled his gaze on her and Amelia stopped unprepared for what she saw. Shanderly’s eyes were glowing blood-red. At the sight of this, Rathdrum rushed to release Kruhl’s restraints.

He lurched up, lips curling out to reveal a row of razor-sharp teeth, a low wolfish growl rumbling from his throat.

“You should listen to her.” Shanderly smiled, his voice taking on a rough almost wheezy quality.

“Shit,” Felch cursed under her breath, backing away, pulling her younger peer back with her. She attempted to draw the doctor away with her, but Harrison remained planted in place.

Shanderly pounced, clawed hands slashing at the doctor’s throat. Blood splattered all over Rathdrum and the doctor’s lifeless form crumpled, falling to the ground at the agent’s feet. Carter ducked, hands releasing the last of Kruhl’s straps about her ankles. The creature that had once been Shanderly raked his claws down, slicing at the young woman, but she jerked her head sideways before his claws could find purchase. She kicked out, landing a blow between his legs and he howled doubling over both clawed hands cupping his privates.

Kruhl pounced over the side of the chair, landed on all fours like a cat, and rushed toward the relative safety which Amy provided. Rathdrum, did just the opposite, standing and training his gun on Shanderly.

“Hands where I can see them,” the older man said between gritted teeth.

Shanderly froze, blood-red eyes peering up at Rathdrum, features stretched into a horrendous grin. With inhuman speed, he lurched sideways toward the orderlies. Rathdrum peppered the space he’d vacated with bullets, but his opponent was too quick. He slammed into his targets, tossing the man into the steel table where his skull impacted with a sickening crunch and a splash of blood. The deputy spun the woman around and tightened an arm around her throat, shielding himself with her body.

The creature pulled his free hand back, balled it into a fist then slammed it through the woman’s back, and out the front of her chest, spraying her blood and entrails all over. Before either agent could again open fire, he raised her lifeless body and tossed it across the room, straight into Rathdrum.

He rushed toward Amy, but her pistol was ready. Van den Broeke opened fire. The first shot impacted his right shoulder, but he kept on coming, seemingly unaware of the injury. Amy dropped all pretense at aiming and just fired shot after shot until her clip was empty. Each time the bullets hit home, sometimes impacting his torso, but once it struck his cheek. Each time, blood splattered from the wound, but still he came.

Amy dove out of the way just before he reached her, sliding a hand inside her blazer for a spare clip and turned to face him. By then, Rathdrum had untangled himself from the woman’s corpse, and risen to his feet, gun blazing. Shanderly lurched toward the second agent, giving Amy enough time to reload, then she too was firing upon the deputy. At last, he fell to his knees no longer able to shrug off their weapons fire. With one great screech of pain and rage, Shanderly’s eyes rolled into the back of his head and he collapsed to the floor, dead.

“Fuck,” Rathdrum cursed under his breath, returning his pistol to its holster. “And I thought this shit couldn’t get any weirder.”

Amy did not re-holster her weapon, but instead, moved toward Shanderly, knelt beside him, and checked for a pulse. Unable to detect one, she lowered her head and let out a long sigh.

Though the light was still scarce, she furrowed her brows as she examined the body. She snaked an arm out and lifted one of his hands, his fingers had reverted to the stubby digits he possessed before, but stranger still there was no blood anywhere on either hand. She peered into his mouth, which hung agape, and again spotted nothing unusual. His sharp teeth had disappeared, replaced with garden-variety pearly whites. When she pulled an eyelid open to look into his eyes, they too had regressed. There was no sign that he’d ever transformed, nor did there seem to be any evidence that he slaughtered anyone.

Her mind spun, thinking back to every case she’d worked and the AEGIS case files she’d read. She’d never heard of anything like this.

“Rathdrum, check the other bodies, see if you can’t find a key. Something tells me, Shanderly was only the tip of the iceberg.” Amy said, eyes still peeled on the corpse.

The other agent moved away, and Amelia remained in place. Still thinking.

“He was a skeada,” a soft high-pitched voice spoke up and Amy started, her eyes finding the girl, her tiny form bathed in shadows. Amidst all the tumult she’d forgotten the other had been there at all.

When the other woman did not respond, Kruhl cleared her throat and stepped forward, “A creature changed by dark sorcery, to become an assassin, only revealing their altered form when it is time to kill. Death is the only release from such a fate.”

Amy pressed her lips together green eyes, never leaving the girl as she moved toward her. She was quite pretty, even with the cat eyes. Though small, she possessed curves in all the right places.

Amy wasn’t quite prepared to ascribe Shanderly’s transformation to magic, despite her musings to the contrary. No, this had to be something else. Perhaps Shanderly was the victim of some advanced genetic manipulation for which Kruhl had mistaken for sorcery or, she added another theory occurring to her, Shanderly had possessed some new exemplar ability. Either way it seemed likely they were dealing with a very dangerous enemy.

A loud clang sounded from the door and both agent and mental patient turned to watch Rathdrum swing the door open.

“Well,” Carter said, throwing a thumb over his shoulder. “I don’t know about you, but I’ve had about enough of this place.”

Amy nodded, and paused, turning to regard Kruhl, who stood looking at her with wide eyes. She would need the girl’s cooperation, but though she had a better idea who and what she was since her visit to the park, that didn’t mean she could trust her.

“Don’t worry,” Kruhl said with a harsh growl that sounded far too rough to have come out of such a tiny little thing. “You saved my life. That much, at least, has earned you my cooperation until we’ve reached safety.”

The agent hesitated only a moment and nodded. She didn’t like any of it, but like it or not, Kruhl seemed to be at the center point of this whole mess and she couldn’t very well leave her there to get killed.

“All right,” she nodded.

Kruhl stalked forward, hunkering down on her hands and feet, luminescence eyes seeming to glow in the darkness. “I will lead.” She stepped through the doorway and peered back. “I see better in the dark.”

“Perhaps,” Amy replied, her voice flat. “But Rathdrum and I are armed.”

Kruhl’s golden eyes gleamed, as she peered back at the agent, but then she stepped back into the room and gestured for the other to lead the way.

Amy moved forward, slipped through the doorway and jerked back as the sounds of weapon fire resonated through the corridor.

“Oh hell,” Amy cursed, again raising her weapon. “Why can’t these things ever be easy?”

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 6 Pt 2


Official Report
State Hospital South
Grove City, Idaho

“I really must ask you to reconsider Agent, her mental health is already fragile as it is.” Dr.  Harrison regarded Amy and plunged both hands into his lab coat pockets. “You must realize that any information you may glean from her will be suspect.”
Rathdrum and Shanderly trailed behind them, the latter walked hands inside the pockets of his suit coat a smirk touching the corner of his lips and the former seemed as if he were on automatic pilot, heedless of anything but putting one foot in front of another.
Amy kept her face neutral, suppressed a sigh and met his gaze. “I understand your concern, Doctor, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’d interrogated an unreliable witness. If she can provide me with even one lead, it could be of great use to our investigation.”
Harrison’s eyes scanned the agent, lips twisting into a sneer and nodded before releasing a sigh that seemed just a little too forced. “Very well, this way.”
Harrison led them further into the building and Amy scanned her surroundings as they passed.  One hallway was more or less indistinguishable from the next. The walls were flat white and they bore no adornments or furnishings. She’d been in more than a few hospitals, and while they tended to be sterile, this one took the cake. It felt and looked more like a prison than a place of healing. They passed dozens of rooms, but if any of the patients within were aware they were moving through the corridor, none called out. It was quiet, Amy thought, lips creasing into a frown, too quiet.
The shadow woman’s warning came screaming back to the forefront of her mind. She had no reason to trust the mysterious apparition, but she would walk into any potentially dangerous situation unprepared. 
She moved one hand into her jacket as if to reassure herself her pistol was still there and caught Harrison eying the weapon, his sneer curling into a scowl. Her insistence on bringing it into the hospital had been the first point of contention with the staff and later the good doctor and things had gone downhill from there. 
Amy understood his reasoning, the very thought of a gun in the hands of a mental patient was enough to give anyone pause, but she knew of no agent who would have agreed to give up their only means of defense unless they were obligated to do so by law or ordered by a superior officer. She would have been a fool to do so under the circumstances, there were too many unknown factors and at least one potential threat, two if the shadow woman was not on the level, and three if you counted the girl.
The room the doctor led them to was at the far back of the corridor. He flicked the lights on and gestured them inside. Once inside, he regarded them each before promising to return with the girl, a pretentious smile stretched across his wide face and disappeared through the door.
“Pleasant fellow,” Rathdrum remarked, leaning against the wall. “Seems quite convinced of his own moral superiority.”
Van den Broeke didn’t comment. She pressed her lips together and emitted a long sigh. She turned toward Shanderly who had taken up residence on one of the seats in the room’s corner. The deputy was hunched over and his skin was a shade or two paler than usual.
“Shanderly, you all right?” Rathdrum asked beating the other agent to it. “You’re looking a little worse for the wear.”
Shanderly’s eyes shot up and he met the other man’s gaze. “Uh, don’t think my lunch quite agreed with me. I’ll be fine, just let me sit for a while.”
The agents exchanged looks but didn’t press him for details. She couldn’t say why Shanderly’s sudden sickness did not sit well with her. Her hands shook and she peered down at them before slipping one into her blazer. She did not have nerves of steel, but she wasn’t the type to get herself so worked up. Something felt wrong about this whole ordeal and she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.
Van den Broeke took the time to surveil her surroundings. The room possessed the same sterile white undecorated walls as the rest of the hospital. The only furnishings were the row of seats where Shanderly had seated himself, a long steel table and matching chair were bolted to the ground and a pair of padded seats sat on the opposite side. 
Amy turned, catching movement out of the corner of her eyes, an inky black substance slinked through the air in the doorway and a form jerked into view. The shadow woman stood before her. Amy strained her eyes trying to get a better look at her face, but, other than a vague outline, all she made out was her eyes.
“They’re coming now. Be ready,” the woman said, peering over her shoulder at Shanderly before turning back to meet Amy’s gaze. “And don’t trust anyone they–”
The visitor stopped, glanced back into the corridor, before dissolving into the air like a wisp of smoke. Amy sucked her breath in, eyeballing first Rathdrum then Shanderly, neither seemed the slightest bit aware that anything strange had happened and she wasn’t sure she should illuminate them. Yes, the stranger had warned her of danger, but she doubted the deputy would open to the idea of portents of doom from an apparition only she could see. 
“Rathdrum,” she said slipping a hand over her holster and released the thumb break. “Be prepared.”
Rathdrum stiffened, snaking a hand up to strain his tie and turned to meet her gaze. It seemed almost as if someone had flicked a switch. The facade he so carefully laid out evaporated, laying bare the man who lurked just below the surface. Here stood a person who knew what to do in a fight, someone who did what was necessary and didn’t pull any punches. He didn’t enjoy that side of himself, which is why he kept it locked away, but he was always ready to let it out, like a lion unleashed from its cage. All pretense of good humor had faded away from his face and all his rough-edged features seemed all that harsher.
When Harrison returned, he stopped dead in his tracks, peering through the doorway like a deer ready to bolt. He eyed Rathdrum and Van den Broeke, no doubt picking up on their shift in demeanor and shook his head as he stepped inside.
A slender figure bound in restraints that was so tiny, Amelia mistook her for a child, came next, and was trailed into the room by two orderlies adorned in all white coveralls. The taller of the pair, a woman with broad shoulders and a stern frown moved to secure the door behind them, while the second an aging skeleton of a man with a shock of scraggly brown hair guided the girl toward the steel chair and began to fasten her in place.
The girl did not make eye contact with anyone, staring down at the floor instead. Amy might have supposed that it was the behavior of a beaten and dejected soul if not for the fire that burned within those golden cat’s eyes. She had the look of a caged lioness, one who had accepted she’d been imprisoned, but who was biding her time until she had the opportunity to escape.
A loud clang sounded from the door and Amy’s hands shook, and she slipped one of them inside her blazer. The lights flickered and the room went dark.

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 6 Pt 1


Official Report
En route to Grove City
Tondzaosha, Idaho

Amy filled Rathdrum in as she drove, telling him everything she’d seen, but avoided discussing her suspicions. Rathdrum could draw his own assumptions from her descriptions, she didn’t need to cloud his thinking with what ifs. When she concluded her tale, he sucked in his breath and shook his head.

“So we have a seemingly magical sword that makes anyone who touches it with their bare flesh feel as if they are on fire and has, in at least one case, thrown a person across the room, some sort of anthropomorphic lion who appears out of thin air and subsequently transforms into a human girl, a robed apparition with freaky fire powers who tried to cover up said transformation, and a woman who materializes out of nowhere and warns you that the girl is in danger. Yeah, we’ve definitely walked into a big old shitfest. Goddamn, and I was hoping this one would be an open-and-closed case.”

“Has it occurred to you that this woman might not be on the level? What if she’s in league with our robed friend?” He asked after a brief pause.

Rathdrum didn’t go into specifics, but she could read between the lines. If this woman was lying, she might be leading them into some kind of trap, but what purpose would that serve? Why appear to her at all? She must have known they would be visiting the girl at some point. 

Whether her spectral visitor was trustworthy was immaterial at this point. If the girl was in danger, they couldn’t afford to let the phantom get to her before they did.

Amy turned to her subordinate and perhaps he saw something in her eyes. He released a long breath of air and jerked his head back and forth. “We’re going to be taking a little field trip, aren’t we?”

Amy nodded, lips pressed together in a tight frown.

“And here I was going to suggest we call it quits for the day and pick things up tomorrow,” Rathdrum muttered with a shake of his head.

Amy glanced up at the sky, the sun still blazed overhead, but dusk would soon be upon them. Under ordinary circumstances she would have been all too happy to retire to her hotel room, but all her instincts were screaming at her that something was amiss. If they didn’t get to the girl soon, they might never have the chance to speak to her.

“Get the state mental hospital in Grove City on the horn, notify them we intend to pay the girl a visit.”

“Should I inform Shanderly? He said he would like to be there when we interrogated her,” he glanced at her out of the corner of his eyes.

“Uh, we talked when you were in the hospital,” he added.

Amy neither wanted nor required the deputy’s help, but there was something to be said for cooperating with the locals. At the very least, it might keep Chief Avery off her ass.

“Notify them both, just try to keep the deputy out of the way if you can. From what I read in their reports his last encounter with the girl was less than friendly.”

Moments later, Rathdrum had the mental hospital on the line and Amy pulled their rental onto I-15. Though the agent didn’t show it, she could not escape the sense that somethingwas about to go very wrong and it filled her with dread.

Kruhl lay curled in a ball upon her bed, numb and tired from her ordeals. These people were mad, she had determined as much after her first session with Dr. Harrison. He seemed intent on learning everything about her, but shed doubt on whatever she told him as if he believed her entire life story was a lie, and try as she might she could not understand what was the purpose of the stiff sheets of white parchment with the black stains. Utter nonsense all of it, and yet she sensed there was a motive to the strange man’s actions.

She sat upright, stretching her arms out and glowered at the intruder that had taken up residency in her crotch and shuddered. She felt it again, that simple biological need. It didn’t seem so different, but the very fact she needed to sit down to relieve herself made the act unbareable. She closed her eyes, and cupped her face before at last forcing her eyelids back open, slipped out of bed, and stood before the metal basin attached to the base of the sink.

They called the infernal thing a toilet and she scowled at it, before slipping her pants and panties around her ankles, shuffled around so she was facing away from it and seated herself shivering as her butt cheeks touch the cold metal seat. Another of her tormentors, a tall woman dressed all in white, seemed amused that Kruhl did not know how to use the device and had instructed her with a smile stretched across her long face.

Oh, how she hated the woman in white. If it had been just that one instance she might have been able to put the wretched hag out of mind, but after coming awake in this prison, the doctor, and the loathsome female walked in on her naked, weeping, and exposed. Angered by the intrusion and seeing her chance to escape, she lurched for the door the moment she locked eyes with the man, but she had been unsuccessful. The woman, lightning quick, despite her size lurched forward, slammed all of her body weight into Kruhl and pinned her to the ground.

Escape would have been futile, Kruhl reminded herself. Much of what she’d seen was foreign to her, but she recognized the barred door at the end of the corridor for what it was, a security barrier. They had not permitted her pass through it, instead they led her into another room, forced her into a chair and strapped her in place. That had been the first time she’d encountered the woman, and the others had been no less humiliating.

She put thoughts of the woman in white out of her head and peered down at her privates. She had tried ignoring them, pretending that they were not there, but it seemed counter-productive. This was her lot in life it seemed, to be trapped in this body, tormented by strangers and left to rot away in these walls for the rest of her life.

Urination as a human female wasn’t so different, she experienced the same pressure and released it with the same little push, but there was no way to aim. When she finished up, she wiped her nether regions with a square piece of the cloth the woman in white had called toilet paper and washed her hands in the sink.

When she hunched over to retrieve her pants, she slipped them back up her waist, but paused lips pressed closely in a frown when her eyes locked on her vulva. She dropped them, her heart pounding in her ears as a hand slid down, almost of its own volition, and slipped an index and middle finger inside the cavity between her legs. She shivered at the sensations that arose.

She pulled her finger free, bracing herself against the sink and bit her lip. Cold shivers worked their way down her spine and she stood there panting glancing at the bed, cheeks burning as she considered what she might do with this new found understanding. She never needed to pleasure herself on her own world. Even as a boy on the cusp of manhood there had never been a shortage of willing females, but in this new place she was isolated and often left to her own devices.

She had far too much time to think and wallow in her own self pity. At least this way she might distract herself. She stepped out of the trousers, leaving them in a heap on the ground, and slipped into bed, fingers working their magic. When she clenched her eyes shut a moan slid out of her mouth.

[Kruhl] The voice spoke out of the open air.

Her eyes snapped back open as a black ichor resolved itself in the air before her. It twisted and contorted, shrieks and howls rang through the air and she shrank back pressing herself against the wall. A cowled head resolved itself before her, the inside as black as the deepest pit.

[I’m coming for you] Cold laughter reverberated through her mind and Kruhl clenched her eyes shut, shielding her face with her hands expecting the creature to attack.

When it did not, she risked a quick glance. The apparition had disappeared and she propped her back against the wall a cold chill working its way through her whole body.

She stared into the empty air, shuddering at the prospect of an attack, but if that was its intent no assault came. Kruhl remained there naked from the waist down frozen in terror, all too aware just how vulnerable she was in her new form.#popmake-5560

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