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Virtually Twisted (Original)

03/04/2017

Jim Rumsfield was a regular teenage boy, or so he thought. When he unexpectedly undergoes a twist his world is turned upside down.

Author’s Note: This is my earliest completed tg transformation story and quite frankly it really shows it. Please don’t hold that against me. This story is part of Morpheus’s Twisted Universe which can be found at fictionmania and bigcloset. Other entries by Elrod W and Trismegistus Shandy are worth checking out as well. The original post date was April 02, 2011. I actually started a rewrite a year or two back, but have never gotten around to finishing it.

I was sitting in class, on the last day of school at Clearville High, bored out of my mind. My fourth period teacher, Mr. Beekman insisted that every day of school was important even the last one. So there I was listening to a boring science lesson on the last day of school, instead of goofing off like I had in every other class.

I think I must have dosed off for a little bit because a short while later I woke up to the sound of the school bell. I immediately jumped out of my seat, but was stopped by Mr. Beekman, “Mr. Rumsfeld,” he exclaimed with his nasally voice, “In your eagerness you seem to have forgotten that class ends when I dismiss it, not at the sound of the bell.” With an annoyed sigh I sat back down.

“Alright class as I was about to say before Mr. Rumsfeld interrupted me,” Beekman continued, “Those of you that will be taking my AP Chemistry class next year remember there’s a twenty-five dollar lab fee that’s due by the first day of school. Class Dismissed. Enjoy your summer and don’t get into any trouble.”

I was one of the first out of class, every extra second in that place was one second less of my summer. I sped down the hallway, weaving in and out of the crowds. As I made made my way to the end of the Hall, I nearly ran into Megan Hails.

“Oh, hey Jim,” she said smiling. Megan was a pretty hot tomboy. Megan and I grew up together and had been friends as long as either of us could remember. When we’d gotten older I’d found myself rather attracted to her and I even asked her out a few times, but she didn’t seem interested in being anything more than friends. Which was pretty hard sometimes because I really had a thing for her.

“Hey, did you hear about that new Game Palace in the mall?” I said suddenly remembering I had been meaning to mention it to her.

“A Game Palace in the mall?” she said thoughtfully, “Awesome!” she suddenly grinned, “There’s one where my grandma lives.”

I grinned in return, “Yeah, there’s one in Clinton it’s pretty freaking awesome.” then I added, “You want to go check it out? They’re supposed to have a huge grand opening Friday”

“Sure,” she replied.

“Alright, I’ll pick you up Friday around noon,” I said.

“Sounds like a plan,” she said then added “I gotta go, see you later.”

“Alright,” I said, “later.”

Then I watched her fade from sight as she walked away.

I arrived home after a short drive from school. The house was empty, my mom hadn’t made it home yet. She worked some pretty crappy hours being a manager at her job so it wasn’t that surprising that she wasn’t home. So I climbed up the stairs leading away from the landing and I plopped down on the couch and flicked the television on with the remote.

I watched tv for a quite a while watching some documentary on a ziprock band who had made it big and squandered it all on drugs and prostitutes. It was mildly interesting and it gave me something to do until my mom got home.

After a few hours I realized the time so I threw a couple frozen meals in the oven for dinner. I sat down again and I watched a repeat of a sitcom I liked. It was pretty funny.

A short while later a voice called from the landing, “Jim, I’m home.”

I hopped off the couch and made my way down the landing where I found my mom, Kate, setting down her bags. “Hey mom, how was work?”

“I’m just glad to be home,” she said, “I’ve been doing employee evaluations all day.”

My mom worked as a Manager at a department store in the Mall called Haglund’s. She hated it, but managed to bring in a decent sized paycheck every month. Not bad, considering she started out as a lowly grunt and worked her way up the ladder in only eight years.

“Dinner should almost be done,” I said changing the subject, “I put in a couple of those Lasagna dinners you bought the other day they should be done in a few minutes.

Mom looked a little relieved, “Good, I’m famished.”

After dinner was over I looked to mom and asked her, “Want to watch a movie or something?”

“Maybe after the news,” she replied, “I want to see what the weather is going to do tomorrow.” So we went into the front room and mom switched on the tv.

“-is 570 MBC, News,” the tv blared, “This is Katey Charles with today’s News. In Los Angeles, a suspect has been arrested in relation to the Echo Park killings, the police have not released the suspects name, but he is believed to be a 24-year-old male Twisted, find out more after these words from our sponsors.”

Mom muted the television as she growled, “Those damn Twisted! Those freaks need to be locked up so they can’t hurt anyone else. What’s this world coming to when decent people can’t even trust-”

That’s where I started tuning her out. I really wasn’t in the mood to listen to another one of my Mom’s rants. I used to think the twisted where just as horrible as mom always said, but my views had become rather conflicted on the subject as of late. Megan’s dad was a pretty good guy, for a lawyer, and he seemed to think they were decent people. On, the other hand there were the twisted we heard about on the news, the ones that did horrible things, but maybe they were as much the victims as the people they harmed.

“Your father was-” my mother started to say snapping me out of my reverie, “You know what? I’m feeling tired. I think I’ll go to bed.” she said then sprang off the couch and hurried up the stairs.

“Mom wait! What about my father?” she didn’t seem to hear me. I think it’s needless to say I was rather perplexed at this point so I followed her up the stairs. When I had nearly reached her bedroom door she slammed it shut. I reached for the doorknob and found it was locked. “Mom, what were you going to say!”

“Mom!” I called out again. Still she didn’t reply. I pounded on the door a few more times, then I gave up.

My mom had done some bizarre things, but this one took the cake. What had she been about to say? Every time I’d ever asked my mother about my Father, she would quickly change the subject or act like she hadn’t heard me. What was it about my father that she didn’t want me to know? What had she come so close to telling me and what did it have to do with the twisted?

With an exasperated sigh, I made my way to my bedroom. Closing the door behind me, I went directly to the chair I had sitting in the corner and turned it over. I pulled loose the bottom, taped inside was my mother’s old sophomore high school year book. I’d found it hidden in the back of her closet a few years ago. Loosening the tape on the bottom of the chair, I opened the book.

I flipped to page thirty-two there listed in the second column was a boy named Harry Turow. A heart was drawn around his picture and underneath was written “Harry and Kate 4ever”. The boy’s physical resemblance to me was striking, which made me wonder: was he my father? If so what had happened to him?

I was born during my mother’s junior year of high school. I learned by asking Megan’s dad that his family had moved away the summer before I was born. Had he and his family moved away because they’d learned my mother was pregnant? Or had they moved away for some other reason not knowing of my conception?

I sat there for a moment staring at the photo of the boy, who might have been my father. I closed the year book replacing it in it’s place under the seat of the chair and popping the bottom back in. I righted the chair then I laid on my bed and thought about the boy in the yearbook photo.

When I finally fell asleep I dreamed about the boy who might be my father. In the dream the boy stood with a man holding a knife to his throat. The man pointed to a scar above his left eyebrow with his free hand and laughed. I begged the man to let go of the boy, but he refused.

“You don’t get it,” he said with a laugh, “This boy aint nothing. He’s not your father don’t you see?” the man raved.

The man’s arm began to shake uncontrollably. Blood dripped from the boy’s throat. I called out to the man demanding that he stop. The man grinned, then with one swift jerk he slit the boys throat.

“He’s not your father, Jim.” the man cackled, “I am.”

“Nnnnnnnoooooooooooo!” I screamed out ready to hurl myself at the man, but soon realized that I was no longer facing the man, I was in the comfort of my own room. After a few seconds I became fully conscious and realized I’d been dreaming.

“What a weird dream,” I mumbled as I stumbled out of bed and into the bathroom. I did my business then went to wash my hands. After I was done, I went into my mother’s room only to find it empty. She must have had an early shift. That wasn’t too uncommon, her work shifts seemed to hop all over the place. It was just one of the hazards of working retail, or so she said.

I made my way downstairs and had a couple bowls of cereal. After that, I headed back upstairs and took a shower. Once out, I went back into my room and switched on my Gamestation and began playing Last Illusion XX. It wasn’t long before I got caught up in the game and lost track of time.

It was almost noon before I remembered that I was going to pick up Megan to go to the Mall. I quickly saved my game then shut down the console. I raced out of the house almost forgetting to grab my keys on the way out. I hopped into my car and within a few minutes I pulled up in front of Megan’s house.

I was about to get out when the door to Megan’s house swung open. Out came Megan, followed by a really hot looking blond girl I didn’t recognize.

“Hey Jim,” Megan said as she approached my car, “Is it okay if my cousin Allison, comes along?”

“Sure,” I replied. Megan look at her cousin and seemed to scowl for a minute, but quickly covered it up.

“Well, hop on in, girls,” I said reaching across to open the passenger side door.

Allison got in the front, leaving the back for Megan. Megan didn’t say much as she got into the back seat, but I could tell she was rather annoyed with her cousin.

“Hey, I’m Jim Rumsfeld,” I said holding my hand out.

She took it and giggled, and with a rather vacant expression on her face she said”You’re friend is cute, Megan. I’d wonder why you weren’t dating him if I didn’t already know you were gay.”

I choked at that “You think I’m cute?”

“Yeah,” she giggled, “I’d totally date you if I didn’t have a boyfriend.”

Then it suddenly clicked what she’d said about Megan. I seemed to have trouble thinking straight around cute girls. “You’re gay?” I said looking back at Megan.

Megan sighed, “Thank you so much Allison,” she said with a sneer, “I wasn’t really ready to drop that particular ball, just yet. Were you planning on telling any other of my secrets today?”

The previously vacant expression on Allison’s face took on a more menacing cast as she said “No, but there are still plenty of hours left in the day.”

Things were getting a little on the heated side so I decided to step in,”Ladies, I think things have gotten off to a rocky start. Perhaps we should all forget what was said and just have a fun time.”

The vacant expression returned to Allison’s face, “Oh, we’re just teasing each other,” she said giggling again, “Aren’t we Megan?”

I looked back at Megan, “Yeah, sure” she said gritting her teeth, “Just teasing.”

The drive to the mall was pretty awkward, but luckily the mall was only a few minutes drive away. Once there, I found a parking spot and we piled out of the car. Allison went her separate way upon learning our intended destination was a gaming store.

Once we parted company with Allison I let out a sigh of relief. It was a lot less awkward with just me and Megan. There seemed to be some kind of rivalry with Megan and her cousin.

“So,” I said ,”You like girls.”

“Yeah,” she said, “I only came to realize it a little while ago. Remember, last month when I visited my uncle? Well…” she trailed off for a moment. “Allison had a slumber party with a few of her friends while I was there. Long story short, I-I” she stuttered a bit, “I found myself strongly attracted to one girl and without knowing what I was doing I sort of kissed her.”

I found myself thinking of Megan kissing another girl, and found the idea very provocative to say the least, but for the sake of Megan’s feelings I kept those thoughts to myself.

“Is that why things between you and your cousin seems so tense?” I asked.

Megan sighed, “Yeah, her friend that I kissed won’t talk to Allison, and she blames me.”

We continued talking as we made our way to the Game Palace, eventually our conversation shifted towards video games, and we had soon made our way to the store. The place was packed, and for good reason, they had the largest selection of games I had ever seen. We moved to the center of the store where they had an exclusive demo of the upcoming Demon Can Die game.

“Awesome,” I exclaimed, “I can’t wait till it comes out.”

Megan didn’t agree, “Oh, come on the only game of the series that was half-way decent was the first. I seriously doubt the fifth game will be better than the other sequels.”

I was about to retort when something caught my eye, “Holy freaking crap,” I said running to a display, “They have Death Stalker I’ve been looking everywhere for this,” I said grabbing it off the shelf, “and it’s only twenty-five bucks,” I added.

“Look,” Megan called out waving me toward an area where a crowd was gathering. At the front of the crowd there was some guy demonstrating the capabilities of some new virtual reality system, called Virtual World, that he claimed was supposed to make the gaming experience feel completely real , it even enabled people to feel the wind blowing on their skin inside the game or so he said. There was what appeared to be a big screen tv and something about the size of a motorcycle helmet sitting on a table under a big cloth behind him. He continued on for a few minutes, then he called for a volunteer to test it out.

I raised my hand just as everyone else did, “Pick me,” I called out. The man scanned the crowd for a few seconds then his eyes passed over me, and seemed to settle there, “You with the blue shirt there,” he said pointing at me.

In disbelief I made my up to the front of the crowd where the man was waiting.

“Young man, what is your name?” the man asked enthusiastically.

I replied haltingly giving him my name.

The man smiled a huge grin spreading across his face, “Tell me Jim, have you ever used a VR system?”

“No, but a friend of mine used the virtual attachment for the Playnetwork system,” I said then added, “He thought it sucked.”

The man laughed, “I’ve heard a number of gamers say much the same thing, but the Virtual World system is a much more advanced device than anything that has come before. As I’m sure you’ll agree once you’ve tried it out for yourself.”

“The Virtual World system uses diodes that are built into a head mounted sound and display system. It does not operate by catching your motions, like older vr systems, but instead senses what you want your avatar to do, and in turn feeds sensory information back to your brain.

“That sounds awesome!” I said feeling the excitement building inside me, “When do I get to try it out?”

The man laughed, “Well folks looks like our eager beaver is ready to try it out. What say you?”

The crowd was unanimous they wanted to see what the system could do.

“Alright,” the man said and with a dramatic flick of his wrists the man drew clear the cloth sitting atop the table. Underneath was some kind of helmet with a darkened visor over where the eyes would go. The man grabbed the helmet and placed it atop my head. He adjusted some knobs on the side as he did so I felt some metallic points touch the skin on my forehead and the back of my neck.

“Do you feel metal touching your forehead and neck?” he asked, and after I replied in the affirmative he in turn asked if I was feeling any discomfort. When I replied in the negative he flipped the visor down over my eyes.

“Now,” I heard his muffled voice speak, “As our friend, Jim, experiences the full splendor of the Virtual World System, this television monitor will display a limited visual interpretation of what Jim will be experiencing. So that you may catch a glimpse of the detail and awesomeness of the Virtual World Console.”

Suddenly, a flash of blue light appeared before my eyes and some kind of menu appeared in front of me. The man started to give me instructions. I chose to ignore him. I reached out with my hand and noticed that instead of a my own hand I could see something resembling what a crash test dummy might have.

“Must be some kind of default avatar,” I thought to myself. “As you might have noticed…” I heard the man start to say, but I chose to ignore him again. Instead I reached my hand out again and touched the menu option that seemed to indicate gameplay. There was another bright flash this time it was a green one and I found another menu before me.

I heard the man speak again, it was some dumb joke about me getting ahead of myself. I simply stopped listening to him at that point. I looked at the menu and noted what appeared to be several game demos. One had a picture of a really hot looking woman with light blue skin, almost catlike ears and a small set of horns in a futuristic setting, another had a bearded wizard with lightening shooting out of a staff, and the last had an Tarzan-like character in a rainforest.

I debated for a minute then reached out my hand and chose the science fiction setting. I’d always had a thing for science fiction, plus the alien, or whatever she was supposed to be, looked pretty hot. There was another bright flash, this time it was white then my vision cleared and I found myself inside what may or may not have been a spaceship. I marveled at the detail and how it looked real. It wasn’t until I drew near a bulkhead that I noticed a few details that didn’t look quite right. I drew my hand up the wall feeling it with my hands. I could feel it like it were real.

I studied the wall and the surrounding area for a few minutes, and then I took a look at my hand realizing for the first time that all was not quite right. It was blue like that of the woman in the image, but what struck most about it was that it had six digits rather than the usual five. The nails were short and well-manicured, the fingers themselves were long and delicate like those of a woman.

It was then that my hands went to my chest and noticed something very different from the usual. There protruding from my chest were what appeared to be a set of large breasts poking out from a rather revealing halter top. I grabbed hold of one and felt it jiggle on my chest. “Wow,” I said aloud, “That’s definitely weird.”

I started to feel tingly like static electricity was building around me and there was pressure that was somehow building up inside me. I wasn’t sure if it was the game or something else, but…

“Stop right there,” a voice said behind me, interrupting my thoughts. I found myself facing a character in the game in some kind of combat armor pointing some kind of ray gun at me. “Crap,” I said, hearing both the voice of the female character I was playing and my own.

Still feeling the pressure inside of me I looked down at my hip noticing the gun I had holstered there. I began to reach for it, but then stopped short when everything seemed to explode and a incredible jolt of pain shot through my body like I’d been struck by lightning. Massive forces rippled through me and for a moment it seemed as if the entirety of my existence began to waiver as if I would simply cease to exist. Dark swept over me and I lost consciousness.

When I came awake, a bright light blinded me, I tried to bring up my hand to shade my eyes, but nothing happened. I wasn’t able to move. It was as if some very strong person was holding me down. I opened my mouth to talk, but there was no sound.

I would have panicked then if not for Megan. “Jim, you’re going to be alright don’t worry,” she said not sounding particularly convinced herself. Nevertheless, her voice acted like a soothing melody calming my nerves and keeping me from the grips of hysteria. It struck me then what a good friend she’d been to me, it was too bad she was a lesbian I think she could have grown to be much more than a friend.

I tried to move my hand again, and much to my relief I felt my fingers twitch. I worked at it a bit longer and was able to bring my hand over my eyes, but in so doing my hand brushed against something. Something that shouldn’t be there. After a bit of a struggle, I was able to force my head up and found a pair of naked blue breasts poking out from my chest.

I simply stared at them for a minute. Was I still in the game? I looked around. Megan was there next to me and a crowd of people had gathered around me. No, I couldn’t be in the game, but then how was it that I looked as I did? Suddenly feeling very self conscious of my naked form, I used one arm to cover my breasts and another to cover my new privates.

“What is it?” A boy to the right of me said.

“It kind of looks like that character from the game. That hot looking alien chick. How is that possible?” said a voice from behind.

“I’ll tell you how it’s possible,” said a girl standing right in front of me. “That creature is a twisted freak.”

The second I heard those words escape from the girl’s lips I new she spoke the truth. I was twisted, I was a freak. I lay there stunned unable to understand how this could be possible. Then realization struck me, my mother must had known. That’s why she’d always been so secretive about my father. He must have been twisted too, but then…

My thoughts were interrupted by the girl “Your kind aren’t welcome here,” she said this time her voice filled with venom. Then she practically screamed. “Get out before you expose us all to the Antarctic Flu.”

I was so taken aback that I did not reply I simply stared up at the girl not knowing what to say. The girls lips curled up into a snarl and she acted as if she were about to speak, but before she could Megan stepped in front of me and hurled her fist into the unsuspecting girl’s face.

“Shut up, you stupid bitch,” she said as the girl fell to the floor clutching her nose. The crowd nearly erupted into chaos, and would have done so if not for the arrival of the mall cops. They cut right through the crowd and went straight for Megan, handcuffing her arms behind her back.

“Get up, you freak of nature,” the tallest of the three mall cops said angrily.

Still a little weak, I forced myself up and in so doing I felt my hair brush against my shoulders and my back. I reached back about to touch it, but then catching the look of undisguised hatred in the tall mall cop’s eyes I turned around putting my arms behind my back so he could cuff me. I looked back as we were leaving noticing the burn marks on the ground where I had been laying. It must have been a result of my twist. The damage to the floor was quite extensive. It was a wonder no one had been hurt. “Get moving,” the mall cop,who had cuffed me said kicking my bare rear with his shoe. I stumbled forward, barely able to stand let alone walk.

The mall cops marched me and Megan nearly halfway across the mall. They made no attempt to cover me up. When Megan asked for something so I could cover myself, she was told to keep moving. As I walked barefoot and naked through the mall I felt everyone’s eyes on me. It was the single most humiliating experience of my entire life. Tears cascaded down my face a few escaped far enough to splatter upon my breasts.

When we finally reached the security offices, Megan and I had our handcuffs removed and then they shoved us into a security cell. I narrowly avoided landing on my new breasts, as I twisted to the side.

I continued to weep, I simply couldn’t help it. I don’t know how long I lay there, but I remember Megan coming over next to me and wrapping her arm around me. She didn’t speak, but simply made her presence known.

As strange as it might seem under the circumstances, I think I must have cried myself to sleep because the next thing I remember was hearing voices speaking somewhere nearby.

“… story short Jim went through a twist and that’s why we’re in here,”said a voice I think it was Megan.

“That’s the only reason you’re in here?” the voice of a man asked, it might have been Megan’s dad Jonathan Hails.

“Well…” Megan’s voice said trailing off, “I might have hit another girl in the face, but she totally deserved it.”

“Oh god,” I said sitting up interrupting their conversation, “It really happened. I’m a girl now,” I said looking down at my breasts. “I even sound like a girl,” I said noticing my very feminine voice for the first time.

Megan started motioning towards my chest and I realized with a start that she was trying to tell me to cover my breasts. “Sorry,” I said my cheeks burning, “I never even suspected I was twisted. Suddenly, growing a pair of…” I said trailing off l looking embarrassed at Mr. Hails and then at Megan, “Well you know… breasts wasn’t exactly something I expected to happen.”

Mr. Hails cleared his voice nervously, “That’s quite alright Jim,” he said his face bright red from embarrassment. Then he quickly changed the subject, “I think it would be a good idea to contact your mother. She works somewhere here in this mall doesn’t she?”

“Yeah, she works over at Haglund’s,” I replied.

“I think It might be a good idea for me to go find her,” he mumbled then started toward the door.

“Mr. Hails?” I asked.

“Yes?”

“Could you maybe get me some clothes,” I said.

“Yes, yes. I think that would be a good idea,” he replied then swiftly left leaving me and Megan alone.

We both sat there awkwardly staring at one another for several minutes before Megan finally spoke, “So…” she said trailing off, “You’re about the last person I expected to be twisted.”

“Yeah I think my dad must have been twisted. Mom was always secretive about him.” I replied. “Your dad didn’t seem too fazed when you told him I was twisted.”

Megan pursed her lips, “You heard that?” she paused for a moment as if considering something, “Dad’s twisted, and everybody says mom was too. Most of their relatives are twisted, so it’s something we’re pretty used too.

“Wait both your parents are twisted that means you’re twisted.” I said.

“Yeah,” she shrugged, “I haven’t really been through my twist, yet.”

“Are twists usually this extreme?” I asked reaching up to touch the new ears and horns that were now protruding from the top of my head.

“No, not always. Some are, but some people end up looking more or less the same after their twist.”

I groaned “Why couldn’t I have been one of those.”

“Trust me it could be worse. A lot of people get weird compulsions and sometimes they make them do weird and even bad things. Like that guy they think killed all those people in California.”

“How do we know I don’t have some kind of compulsion?” I asked.

Megan pursed her lips and started to speak, but was interrupted as the door swung open behind me. I turned my head to see who was entering, it was my mom.

Mom looked down at me with a look of contempt on her face, “Twisted freak,” she muttered.

“Megan, where’s Jim, and what is this thing doing here?” she asked spitting out the last part.

“Well, um didn’t my dad tell you what happened?” Megan replied nervously.

Mom sighed, “No, he only told me there was some kind of incident and he seemed rather intent on buying some clothes,” she said casting her eyes once more towards me then mumbled, “Probably for this freak.”

Megan looked at me then back at my mother, “Well I, um Jim I mean h-”

“Oh for crying out loud,” I cried out, “I’m Jim. I appear to have undergone a twist. By the way mom thanks for telling me I’m twisted.”

Mom simply stared at me for a moment seemingly flabbergasted. Then suddenly she lifted her arm and slapped me, “How dare you,” she screamed, “I worked so hard to keep the truth from you. Hoping you would never end up like your freak father. Just look at you, you’re an even bigger freak than he is.” she spat.

It was my turn to be flabbergasted as I stared up at mom. Tears began well up in my eyes. “Mom,” I started, but found myself unable to continue.

Megan stepped in “You thought if you kept the truth from Jim, that he wouldn’t be twisted. That’s screwed up lady.”

“Shut up,” mom snarled. “this is none of your business.”

Tears still streaming down my face I finally was able to speak, “Her business or not, she has a point.”

“I can’t tolerate the presence of a twisted in my home,” she said suddenly, “You have until Wednesday to remove you’re belongings from my home,” she finished.

“What?” I said, “Where will I go? What will I do?”

“I don’t care,” she said flatly then turn her back and exited the room after waiting a moment for the guard to open the door.

Where before my tears had been a light drizzle now they gushed out as if they were a rapid torrent. Megan came over beside me placing her arm on my bare shoulder,”Oh god, Jim. That was horrible.” she said.

I didn’t respond I just buried my face in her shoulder.

I was still crying when Allison arrived about ten minutes later with a bag of clothes.

“Oh god,” she said, “Is that really you Jim?”

I didn’t respond, I couldn’t bring myself to speak. “Yes, it’s Jim.” Megan replied for me.

“Something has happened,” Allison said suddenly, “Why is she crying?” she asked. Her use of the female pronoun was not lost on me.

This time I answered, “I am crying because I just had my heart cut out,” I said, “My own mother wants nothing to do with me because I’m a freak!”

“What?” Allison’s responded her voice full of shock, “What happened?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said sniffing, “Are those for me?” I asked indicating the bag of clothes.

“Um yeah,” Allison said holding the bag out to me.

I grabbed it nearly tearing it out of Allison’s hands. In the top of the bag I discovered a package of bikini panties. I hesitated a moment then I split the bag open fetching a white pair then pulling them up my legs. I couldn’t help, but notice how different they felt from my usual boxer briefs especially with the lack of my usual equipment.

I peered back inside the bag and found a red polo shirt with a black collar. I slipped it eagerly over my head glad to finally cover my breasts. The shirt was a bit tight,especially over my breasts, but it would suffice. I was about to move on to the next item when I realized my hair was caught inside my shirt. I pulled the hair out and held it out in front of my face, noticing it’s purple color for the first time.

Brushing my hair behind my back I reached into the bag and pulled out a pair of black short shorts with a drawstring. I held them before me fighting the urge to throw them back into the bag. They were completely and undeniably feminine and despite my very feminine body, I wasn’t sure I could bring myself to wear them in public. Casting all doubt aside I forced them up my legs. They were a little loose so I pulled the drawstrings tight then tied them into a bow knot.

And finally I pulled out a pair of flip flops. I pulled off the packaging they were attached too and slipped them on.

I looked down at myself taking stock of how everything looked. The short shorts showed off a lot more leg than I would have liked though I had to admit I had a nice looking set of legs.

“Seriously,” I said, “short shorts?”

Allison shrugged, “They were cheap.” she said defensively.

“They look good on you,” Megan said suddenly.

I wasn’t quite sure why, but her comment was oddly comforting, “You really think so?” I asked.

Allison looked from me then back to Megan, “You definitely have the bod for it.”

I felt a tingle of excitement at Allison’s comment. “Oh, god,” I said, “I am so hot.”

“I think you might have some mental changes,” Megan said a hint of a smile on her face. When she caught the questioning look on my face she added, “It’s not that uncommon of an occurrence with a twist.”

I opened my mouth about to speak, but suddenly sensed motion from behind and I turned to find Mr. Hails standing in front of the now open door. “It took some doing, but I managed to convince them not to press any charges.” he said then looked about, “Jim I expected to find your mother here.”

“She was here,” I said finding myself fighting back tears, “She left. She won’t have anything to do with me, like this.” I said motioning down at my transformed body.

Mr. Hails stared at me for a moment then spoke, “I would have thought a mother’s love would see past such things.”

“Apparently not,” I said my lips trembling.

“I’m sure she’ll come to her senses,” he said, “Until then you can stay with Megan and me.

“Thank you,” I muttered.

“Come on,” Megan said putting her hand on my shoulder, “Let’s get out of here.”

A bit of a melancholy smile touched my lips, “Gladly,” I said, “I never want to set foot in this mall again.”

When we stepped out of the security offices I could feel the eyes of nearly every person in sight fall on me. I cast my gaze about noting the hateful glares on just about every face. I even noted a few lustful glances. For some weird reason I found myself liking the lewd looks I was given, but I still had a hard time with the hateful ones.

I noticed a boy of about thirteen staring at my chest, I looked and noticed my nipples were poking out through the fabric of my shirt. Blushing furiously I folded my arms across my chest. The walk out the Mall wasn’t as humiliating as my naked march to the security offices, but it was a close second. Before I’d been so shocked about my sudden change that I hadn’t really paid as much attention to the denizens of the mall. This time I noted every hateful glare, every obscene jester, and all the other looks I was getting.

We followed Mr. Hails to the North side of the Mall and had nearly made it out when I found myself face to face with the girl from before. The one who Megan had hit in the face. She was sporting a huge black eye, and her nose looked swollen.

“FREAK!” she screamed, “I don’t know how you got out, but I’m…”

“Shut up, and get out of my way,” I said.

“No,” she said, “I won’t let you get away.”

“You thought being hit by my friend here was painful.” I growled motioning back at Megan. “What I will do to you will make what she did pale in comparison.” I said with a nasty grin on my face.

The girl paled noticeably and stepped out of the way. “Freak,” she muttered halfheartedly under her breath as we walked away. From there we made our way out of the Mall’s double doors and into Mr. Hails car. I was startled to realize it was already dark.

“Thanks for coming to get us dad,” Megan said after buckling herself in.

Mr. Hails smiled,”You should really thank your cousin. She was the one that called me.”

Megan glanced at her cousin then after a brief moments hesitation she said, “Thanks Allison.”

“How’d you find out what happened to us anyway?” Megan asked.

Allison shrugged, “I started to wonder when I couldn’t find you guys. So I started to askFall around. I learned that someone had been carried off by the mall cops. I figured it had been you so I called uncle John.”

“Oh,” Megan replied, “That makes sense.”

Silence followed Megan’s comment and a few minutes later we reach the Hails home.

After Mr. Hails let us in. I realized I kind of had to pee, “Um, can I use your bathroom.” I said asking Megan.

“Yeah,” she said giving me a weird look, “Go ahead.”

I made my up the stairs, then once I had reached the bathroom I locked the door behind me.

I flipped open the toilet seat, and pulled my short shorts down ready to take a wiz in the usual fashion,only to be reminded once again that I no longer had my male parts. So I flipped the seat back down, and plopped down. It took me a moment, but after a few second and a little bit of pushing I managed to evacuate my bladder. Once, I was done I realized I was still a bit wet down there so I tore off a small chunk of toilet paper and I dried ‘it’ off.

Once done I pulled my shorts back up and began washing my hands. Even such a simple act reminded me of my change, my hands were long and slender and the additional finger made them look just a little too large for my arms. I glanced at the mirror and felt my jaw drop. The girl in the mirror was nothing short of breathtaking, despite the oddities. The girls breasts were quite nice. They were the perfect size, large, but not monstrously huge and oh so firm. Her angelic blue face was a framed by a mane of violet hair that ran almost all the way down her entire back. Atop her head growing out of her parietal bone was a set of horns that matched her ice-blue skin. Just to the side of each horn was a pair of blue-colored feline-like ears, but the most striking feature of all was here eyes. They were the same violet as her hair, but amazingly the iris seemed to constantly shift shades, almost giving it the appearance of some tumultuous violet fire.

“Wow,” I muttered staring at the girls eyes, until I realized I’d been thinking of my own reflection as if it belonged to another person. “No,” I said, “That’s me now.” I reached up to touch my ears each in turn. The were hairless matching the color of my skin it felt strange feeling something where it should not have been. Next, I reached out to touch my horns. The feeling reminded me of the way it felt to touch my teeth, but very different in other respects. I looked back at my reflection, “Damn,” I muttered feeling a bit turned on, “I’m totally fuckable.”

I continued staring at my reflection. I was a bit weirded out by the arousal I felt not only because I was getting off by my own reflection, but because the very same arousal I was feeling felt familiar yet alien to what I was accustomed too. It was an all-over sensation whereas when I was a guy it had been more concentrated. I couldn’t believe…

There came a pounding at the door, “Jim are you alright?” it was Megan, “You seem to be taking a long time.

“Yeah,” I said clearing my throat, “Yes, I’m fine I’ll be out in a minute.” I said then finished washing my hands and wiped them off then swung open the door.

I found myself eye to eye with Megan, “What were you doing in there?” she asked suspiciously.

“Nothing,” I said, “I was just looking at myself in the mirror.”

“Right,” she said obviously straining to keep a straight face.

“You know,” I said quickly changing the subject, “I think I’d like to have a chat with you guys. I think I need to know more about being twisted.”

“That might be a good idea,” she replied. “Here let’s go back downstairs.”

Once back on the main floor, we found both Allison and Mr. Hails lounging on the furniture.

“So,” Megan said the first to speak, “Jim wants to know about the twisted.”

“Why would you think we know more than anyone else.” Allison said with a nervous giggle.

Mr. Hails looked to me then to Megan then back to myself, “I think under the circumstances that Jim should be told the truth.”

“Dad, I’ve already told her that we were twisted,” Megan replied. I winced at her use of the female pronoun.

“Well in that case. What would you like to know Jim?” he said.

“Well,” I said, “I really don’t know much I know it was passed on by the survivors of the Antarctic Flu to their children and grandchildren. I know some guy from Canada, John Kinkaide I think his name was, brought it back after exploring in Antarctica.”

Mr. Hails nodded his head, “That’s correct though I might add that those who survived the Antartic Flu did not show any signs of being twisted. They’re descendants however did.”

“Oh,” I said, “I didn’t know that.”

Mr Hails sighed, “The schools don’t really seem to teach much anything where the twisted are concerned, except of course to fear and hate us.”

“Yeah,” I said, “People don’t really like th… us,” I said correcting myself.

“So,” I said suddenly, “How is it even possible really? It’s always seemed to defy all logic.

“Well yes,” Megan piped in suddenly, “but I’ll let dad tell you.” she said after catching a look from her father.

“I don’t really understand the scientific principles that well, but I’ll try to explain. The twisted are unique in that we can tap into some kind of quantum field. When a person undergoes a twist it’s usually triggered by a new experience, or an emotional response. It also the first time a twisted taps into the quantum field. For reasons I don’t understand the field changes us in strange and unexpected ways. The changes can include not only physical transformation as you have experienced, but also changes in personality. Many times the twisted gain compulsions to make them behave in way they otherwise wouldn’t and we almost always gain a trick.”

“A trick?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Allison said, “It’s kind of like having a super power.”

“You mean like flying or something?” I asked.

“Our abilities come from tapping into the quantum field and aren’t always so grand,” Mr. Hails said, “but some people do gain the ability to fly. We always refer to them as tricks so as not to draw any more ire from the public’s eye.”

“So what’s your trick?” I asked Mr. Hails.

“I can shrink or grow to a quarter my regular size and back,” he replied.

“That’s awesome!” I said, “Can I see?”

Mr. Hails grimaced, “Maybe later. I was thinking you might want to try out for yourself and see if you have a trick.”

“Yeah, but how?” I asked.

“It varies from person to person, but it for me it involves a good deal of concentration,” Mr Hails replied.

“Ok,” I said, “here goes nothing.”

I closed my eyes and begun to breathe in and out and cleared my mind. I felt a kind of tingling sensation similar to when I had undergone my twist, but nothing seemed to happen. I opened my eyes again and brought my hand up to my face as I did so my hand brushed against one of my breasts and I felt my chest jiggle a bit and found myself wishing my breasts wouldn’t jiggle so much.

That’s when it happened, my clothes seemed to twist and contort and change upon my body. It lasted only second, but the changes were almost immediately apparent. I looked down at my chest, instead of wearing the red polo as I had been before I found myself wearing a red t-shirt with with the lower portion cut-off. It left a good portion of my abdomen exposed. I touched one of my breasts and I noted it felt significantly less jiggly so I peaked under my shirt and noticed I appeared to be wearing a matching red bra.

“That was awesome,” Allison said suddenly, “I wish I had a trick that let me change what I was wearing.”

Megan seemed to stare at my chest for a moment, “Did you mean that to happen?”

“No,” I said, “I felt this tingling then I remember wishing my chest wouldn’t jiggle.”

“That doesn’t seemed to make much sense. Why would you be wearing that instead of a bra or something?” Allison added.

“I am wearing a bra,” I replied feeling my cheeks burn.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that you’ve gained the ability to change your clothes. I would guess that it’s limited by the amount of clothing you are wearing.” Megan said.

“Why couldn’t my trick have been something cool?” I said with a groan.

“It’s still possible you might have another trick,” Mr. Hails added, “It’s not too unusual for a twisted to have two tricks..”

I looked down at myself again, “God I looks so hot. I can’t hardly believe this is me.”

I looked over at Megan and realized she was staring at my breasts. I felt a bit of a thrill at that, like I had before at the mall. It must have had something to do with my twist. I had a hard time not looking at Megan, she was very attractive after all, but for some reason she seemed even prettier than usual.

“Well,” Mr. Hails said apparently oblivious of the looks Megan and I were giving each other, “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m feeling rather hungry.”

“Yeah, starving,” I said looking toward Mr. Hails then back at Megan, only to find that she was no longer looking my way.

“How’s pizza sound?” Mr. Hails asked.

After receiving an enthusiastic reply from Allison, Megan and myself, Mr. Hails called up Pizza Master and placed an order.

A short while later our pizza arrived and we sat down to eat. Throughout the meal I kept finding myself staring at Megan and she in turn would cast her own glances at me.

“Oh, for crying out loud,” Allison said suddenly slamming her slice of pizza into her plate. “Would you two just get a room already!”

Megan’s jaw dropped and her eyes immediately darted to glance at her father.

“Megan,” Mr. Hails said, “Your cousin is right you and Jim have been giving each other googly eyes all night. Is there something you need to tell me?”

Megan sighed and her eyes briefly met my own, “You were probably going to find out eventually anyway.” she hesitated for a moment then said flatly, “I’m a lesbian.”

“I can’t say I’m too surprised from the way you’ve been looking at Jim. I guess the question is how long have you known?”

“Since I visited Allison’s house in Spiral,” she said.

Mr. Hails raised an eyebrow and gave Megan a questioning look, “Is there something you and Allison need to tell me?”

“What?” asked confusion evident upon her face then realization seemed to strike and she said, “No no no… That’s not what it sounds like. Ew definitely no.” she said glancing at her cousin, “Allison had a slumber party and I might have kissed another girl.”

“Megan, you could have told me,” he said, “You know that I would never think less of you for being gay.”

“Yeah, I know dad. It’s just that I’m just coming to grips with it myself. I always has a clear-cut image of how my life would turn out. I never pictured my life any other way.”

Mr Hails smiled, “Sometimes when life takes you off the beaten path, you make your own way.”

“Look at me,” said a bit embarrassment evident in her voice, “Here I am whining about being a lesbian while Jim has had his hole life turned upside down.”

“It’s okay, Megan. I think I’m a lesbian too.” I replied.

Megan laughed and I think it must have been the most beautiful sound I had ever heard.

After we finished our meal, Mr. Hails excused himself, and Megan, Allison and I hung around and just talked. We kind of lost track of time and before we knew it it was getting pretty late so we headed to bed. Megan offered me a pair of pajamas, I turned her down upon seeing Allison in her night gown. I chose to morph my clothes into a rather form-fitting black nightgown. It wasn’t until after I had morphed into the nightie that I felt a bit of unease at wearing such a feminine garment, but then I thought about how hot I must look wearing it and suddenly it didn’t seem so strange.

“Aw shit,” I said, “You were right, Megan, I did get some mental changes. I don’t even know myself anymore.”

Megan smiled sympathetically and put her hand on my shoulder, “I’ve known all my life that I would one day go through a twist. You didn’t have that advantage. I know that none of this was expected, but maybe you can take comfort in knowing that no matter what happens I will be there for you.”

I felt my eyes mist up a bit, but I managed to keep myself from crying again, “Thanks Megan. I don’t know what I would have done had you guys not taken me in.” I replied reaching up to where Megan’s hand was touching my shoulder.

I don’t know quite how it happened, but I found myself feeling some very strong emotions for Megan. Suddenly I was face to face with Megan, our lips drew close to one another. Our lips brushed, and I could feel butterflies fluttering in my stomach.

Before we could truly kiss we were interrupted by the sound of someone clearing their throat. It was Allison, who I had forgotten was in the room with us.

“Oh, god Megan. You are such a lesbian whore. Jim just barely got turned into a girl and already you’re trying to stick your tongue down his throat,” she said.

Before Megan could retort I cut in, “It was as much me as Megan,” I said.

“I think we should just all go to bed and forget this even happened,” Megan said.

I felt a bit of disappointment at Megan’s suggestion, but I nodded my head in agreement nonetheless.

“Come on,” Megan said, “Let’s get you situated for the night.”

As a moderately successful trial lawyer Megan’s dad made a pretty good living, enough to afford a rather large five bedroom house. Two of those rooms served as bedrooms for Megan and her father, the third functioned as a guest room, the fourth as a computer room, and the fifth as a home office for Megan’s dad. Since, Allison was already occupying the guest room I was given the computer room. It had an old, but rather comfortable looking sofa sitting opposite the computer. Megan walked over to it and pulled the back of the couch forward then pushed it back and laid it down flat to make it into a bed.

I couldn’t take my eyes off Megan, she was so beautiful even in her big frumpy pajamas.

“Dad says it’s called a Klik Klak,” Megan explained, “There’s sheets and blankets in the closet.”

“Thanks,” I said my eyes drifting to her breasts.

“Well, good night,” she said seeming to blush a bit.

As she turned to leave I grabbed hold of her hand “Megan wait,” I said, “I don’t want to forget what happened.”

Then I kissed her. I had kissed girls before, but this was different this was so much better. Her lips were so soft and warm again my own. She broke the kiss then looked me in the eyes, and before I knew it I found her lips locked against mine again. We kissed for what seemed like hours,and I found myself wishing it would never end.

When we finally broke apart, we simply stood there staring at one another. It was Megan that finally spoke, “I can’t believe we just did that.”

“Me neither,” I replied sporting a huge grin.

We stood there for several minutes just holding each other. Then finally she kissed me lightly on the lips and said, “I better head to bed.”

“You’re probably right,” I said releasing my arms from around her back.

Megan smiled as she turned away, “Goodnight.” she said.

“Goodnight,” I replied closing the door behind her.

I collapsed on the bed, the memory of her lips touching mine still very clear in my mind.

I didn’t sleep too well that night. My body was still very foreign and I just couldn’t get comfortable. Every time I changed positions my new breasts or my hips, not to mention the ears and horns atop my head, seemed to get in the way. I finally resolved myself to lying on my back and after quite a while I drifted off to sleep.

I don’t remember much about my dreams but I seem to remember a lot of angry people screaming at me. I think my mom might have been there too. The rest was a big blur, but I do remember waking up in the middle of the night feeling really freaked out.

In the morning, I woke up to find myself in a strange place. The memories of the previous day were temporarily forgotten in the cloud of my drowsiness. I reached up to rub my eyes, and in so doing my hand brushed against something sticking out of my chest. I looked down and I freaked. I screamed like the girl that I now was.

I don’t know how long I kept it up, but after a stinging blow to my face I came to my senses and found Allison and Megan standing over me. All my memories from the previous day came flooding down on me like a wave. “Oh, god,” I muttered. “It really happened.”

I let myself drown in my self pity and anguish for a few moments then I pushed it aside, “Who slapped me?” I asked rubbing my jaw.

“That would be me,” Allison volunteered a bit guiltily.

“Thanks, I needed it.” I replied.

“Don’t mention it,” she replied giving me a quizzical look.

“Jim are you alright?” Megan put in.

“Fine, just woke up and sort of freaked.” I replied, “What with the new hardware and all.”

“Just don’t do that again, ok?” Megan said relief evident on her face, “It scared me.”

“It scared me, too,” I said a wry grin beginning to form on my face.

“Well, since you’re up,” Allison put in, “Uncle John is making chocolate ebleskivers for breakfast.”

“They’re Danish pancakes,” she added after catching my blank look.

“Sounds great,” I said, “I’ll be right down.”

After excusing herself Allison left the room, and I was once again left alone with Megan.

“You look nice,” I said giving her a peck on the lips.

“You look miraculous,” Megan replied, “I could never look that good when I first woke up.”

“Really?” I said feeling pleased by her complement.

“Definitely,” she said returning my kiss.

“Hey are you two coming or not,” said poking her head from around the side of the door.

“Yeah, we’ll be down in a second,” Megan replied a bit irritably.

“Well, I guess we better go,” I said wryly.

“I guess so,” Megan replied. And with that we both made our way downstairs.

The ebleskivers were done cooking by the time Megan and I had made our way downstairs. They looked a lot like a cream puff, but tasted more like a cross between a popover and a pancake and they were covered in powdered sugar. We had bacon and orange juice to complement the meal.

After breakfast we took turns showering when my turn came I found much to my distress that Allison had taken it upon herself to brief me on a few feminine hygiene basics. After a one of the most awkward conversations I had ever had with a casual acquaintance. I hopped in the shower. First I soaped my body using Megan’s body soap she said I could use. When I got down near my vulva I stopped.

I traced my hand over the very foreign body part. Feeling first along the slit then outward. I moved onto my breasts. They seemed massive when I looked down at them, but I knew from looking at the mirror, that they weren’t nearly as huge as they seemed. I cupped them with my hands gently caressing them. They felt so foreign, but the way they felt when I caressed them was unbelievable.

Once, I had finished with my breasts I continued to wash myself. I cleaned my vulva the way Allison had instructed me then I moved on to my hair. It was pretty wet by then so I just poured some shampoo into my hand and began lathering it into my hair. It took quite a bit more shampoo than I was used to, and it took a lot more work to get the suds out. Once done I repeated the process and then I was just about to turn off the water when I spotted the bottle of conditioner.

I’d never used the stuff before, but for some reason I felt a strong urge to use it. So I reached for it. I followed the instructions and I was soon out of the shower. I dried myself off and worked to dry my hair the best I could.

Then I reached for the clothes I had been given. First I put on the pair of panties from the package Allison had gotten me the day earlier. Then I reached for the jeans I had been given. They were definitely of a feminine cut, but looked to be pretty old. They must have belonged to Megan’s mom before she had passed away. Then I grabbed the shirt it was a bright pink t-shirt that had been given to Megan by a well meaning elderly relative. Megan, who detested the color pink, had never worn it.

I looked down at myself, not even remotely satisfied. So I morphed the clothing. I morphed the shirt into a violet tank top with spaghetti straps, to match my hair, and the jeans I morphed into a pair of form fitting black low-rise jeans. The excess material I used to form a builtin bra in my shirt and a pair of socks that matched my top.

Once dressed I yanked my hair irritably out of my shirt then, I opened the door and stepped out into the hallway. I found myself facing Allison. She took one look at me and let out an annoyed sigh. “You didn’t comb your hair did you?” she said irritably.

Before I could reply she directed me back into the bathroom and pushed me in front of the mirror. Pulling a comb out of drawer she proceeded to comb my hair starting at the tips and working her way up.

“Did you use conditioner?” she asked.

When I replied in the affirmative she spoke, “Good, just remember to always use it. It helps keep long hair from tangling. Shampoo takes all the moisture out of your hair, conditioner adds it back. Combing after showering helps prevent tangling, too. Make sure you use a wide-tooth comb and not a brush.”

“All right, professor,” I replied sarcastically, “Thank you for the lecture. Can I go now?”

“Yes, just remember what I said,” she said.

“Okay,” I mumbled then left Allison standing alone in the bathroom.

I walked down the hall and made my way down the stairs and found Megan sitting on the loveseat in the front room. “I think your cousin takes things a bit overboard.” I stated.

“Why what did she do now?” Megan asked.

I explained what had just occurred and Megan started to laugh, “Her personality changed a lot after her twist. She can be a huge pain sometimes.”

I sat down beside Megan and grabbed her hand, “Why is she visiting if you and her don’t get along?” I asked. “I’m sorry that’s none of my business.” I added.

“That’s okay,” she replied, “After everything I’ve witnessed happening to you, I don’t think there’s anything I couldn’t share with you. She’s here because her parents are on some sort of cruise and they had no one else to dump her off on.”

“Parents, at least she still has hers,” I muttered bitterly.

Megan gripped my hand more tightly, “I’m sorry if what I said upset you.”

“No,” I said, “That’s all right. I’m just been sensitive since my twist.”

Megan smiled sympathetically, “You have a right to be. I know I’d be upset as hell. I think you’re handling it pretty well.”

“Thanks,” I said, “I need to talk to mom, make her understand…” I muttered, “It’s not something I can control. It’s just who I am. I thought she’d know that.”

Megan jumped up, pulling me up with her, “Let’s go,” she said.

“What?” I balked, “No we can’t!”

“Look Jim, you need to confront her. You need to know for sure if she’s really wants nothing to do with you. She’s had all night to think about it maybe she regrets what she did.”

I shook my head, “You don’t know her like I do. She’s so damn stubborn she’ll never admit she was wrong. Not even over something like this.”

Megan sighed, “Then at least go and try and get some of your stuff. You need clothes, and with your trick you should be able to salvage your old boy clothes.”

I’m not sure what made me do it, but I finally relented, “Fine, I said, “but we’re leaving if things get too hairy.”

“Agreed,” she said.

We left after grabbing a roll of plastic garbage bags. The ride to my mother’s house was the longest of my life. Logic told me that it was only a few minutes, but it seemed like much longer. By the time, we reached the house, I was so nervous, that I almost told Megan to turn the car around, but after a reconsidering I forced myself to get out of the car and walk to the door. I was surprised to find my car sitting in the driveway. Mom must have had somebody bring it home with the extra keys.

Upon reaching the door, I hesitated for a moment, then I grabbed Megan’s hand for support and rung the bell. A few moments passed by then the door swung open. Much to my surprise, it was not my mother who answered the door, it was my aunt Lily who I hadn’t seen for a number of years.

“You! What do you want?” she sneered.

I bit my lips then clenched my teeth, “I’ve come for my belongings.” I said defiantly.

Aunt Lily laughed mockingly, “You have a lot of nerve. After, what you’ve done.”

“What I’ve done! You think I wanted to get turned into this!” I said grabbing hold of my breasts.

I forced my anger down, then said “Look, just let me talk to mom. Then I’ll leave if she don’t like what I have to say. I promise.”

Lily hesitated for a moment, then the choice was taken away from her as mom appeared at the door.

“What the hell do you want?” she said angrily.

“I’m just trying to understand. I’m still Jim beneath all this,” I said motioning at my breasts. “I just want you to say it’ll be all right. I want you to say you still love me.”

“Love you?” she spat, “I can’t love that and you…” she trailed off tears beginning to form, “You are not Jim. He’s dead.”

“But Mom,” I said nearly in tears myself.

“NO!” she screamed, “Go away! Go somewhere you’re wanted. Go live with your freak father.”

“My father? I don’t even know who he is!” I yelled back at her.

“Liar!” she growled, “I found my yearbook taped inside your chair!” she said storming off.

I followed her and confronted her inside the house. “All these years,” I said, “You could have told me. At least then I would have been prepared. I would have know that I was twisted!” I screamed.

“I had to hide it,” she snarled, “I was trying to keep you from ending up like your father.”

“What kind of sense does that make,” I said throwing my arms out, “It obviously didn’t work.”

“Because you asked too many questions,” she said poking her finger into one of my breasts. “Look at you, you’re an even bigger freak than he is.”

Frustrated I tried changing tactics. “That boy in the yearbook, Harry Turow, is my father.” I said making it a statement of fact, “Where is he now? Why did he leave?”

Mother laughed bitterly, “He left after he had his twist. Had I known he was twisted I never would have let him touch me. You never would have been born.”

I gritted my teeth, “But where is he now?” I asked again.

“How the hell should I know?” she spat.

Sighing, I spoke, “Is there any chance that you will ever want me” I wasn’t even able to finish before mother interrupted me.

“No!” she said vehemently, “I don’t want anything to do with you! Get out of my house!”

Suddenly I found Megan’s hand within my own again. I hadn’t even realized she had followed me when I had gone running after mother. I squeezed her hand and she in turn did likewise.

“Fine,” I said forcing the tears back, “Just let me gather some of my things and I’ll leave. You’ll never see me again if I can help it.”

My mother didn’t answer. So I took her silence as an affirmative. With Megan in tow, I went to my room. Megan pulled out the garbage bags, and we began throwing my clothes in them. I was a boy, so I didn’t have a lot of clothes about a weeks worth and a set of dress clothes for special occasions so my closet and drawers where empty in a matter of minutes. I grabbed a few other things, my stamp collection, all my money, and all my gaming stuff and I was ready to go. As I was about to leave I grabbed my extra set of keys that were sitting on my dresser as an afterthought.

We met no resistance as we left. Mom just stared at us, and Aunt Lily let out quite a few curses at me, but she made no attempt to block our departure. Once out the door I headed straight for Megan’s car. Just as I as reaching for the door, I looked back and noticed something hanging out of the trash can from under the lid. Without saying a word I walked over to the dumpster and flipped the lid open. Inside I found a binder labeled”Jim’s baby book”. With tears running down my face I grabbed the book and went straight for Megan’s car.

Megan put her hand on my shoulder once we were inside the car. “I’m sorry, ” she said, “I shouldn’t have pushed you to come.”

“It’s okay,” I muttered, “I needed that.”

Megan smiled sadly putting her hand on my shoulder then she started up her car and we were on our way.

We had our first glimmer of what was to come a few blocks away from Megan’s house. It happened at a stop light. The car beside us was an old Jeep, it belonged to a classmate of ours, Jeff Goldwin.

Without even thinking about it I waved a friendly hello. He returned my gesture, though in a much less cordial way. He flipped me off.

“Fucking twisted bitch,” he spat “If I had my way you’d be lying in a ditch somewhere.”

“Your kind aren’t welcome here. Go live with the rest of the freaks in Spiral,” a pedestrian called out as they walked across the crosswalk in front of us.

A few moments later the light turned green and Megan stomped down on the accelerator and in short order we had reach her home.

“Well,” I said, “That wasn’t very pleasant. First mom, then Jeff and that pedestrian. Is this whole town going to turn against me?”

Megan grimaced, “I won’t lie. It’s a very distinct possibility.”

It was my turn to grimace, as I said “I was afraid you’d say that.” then I added, “No use fretting I suppose, what will come will come.

“I’m sure everything will turn alright,” she said not sounding particularly convinced herself.

I smiled wistfully, “Let’s hope so.”

We sat there silently for a moment until finally I broke the silence, “Wanna help me with these bags,” I said reaching into the back of the car.

“Yeah,” she replied reaching into the back seat then we hopped out of the car and made our way inside.

Much later on that day after a great deal of emotional turmoil on my part, Megan decided that it would be a good idea for a diversion. She put a movie on and practically dragged me in front of the TV. The movie was one of Megan and mine’s favorite Science Fiction movies. The diversion worked pretty well, soon I had forgotten all about my problems.

Part way into the movie I took hold of Megan’s hand. Megan gazed at me then my hand. Smiling she gave my hand a gentle squeeze.

“You two are such nerds,” Allison said from the doorway, “I can’t believe you watch this stuff.”

“Allison,” Megan said with a sigh after pausing the movie, “You used to watch this type of stuff all the time before your twist.”

“Thank god for my twist then!” she exclaimed, “Because this show sucks.”

“Then why don’t you go somewhere else, so we can hear the movie,” I spat out.

“Fine I will,” she said and stomped off angrily.

“What was that about?” I asked Megan.

Megan shrugged her shoulders, “How should I know?” as she pressed the play button on the remote and resumed the movie. About ten minutes later, we were interrupted once again, this time it was the doorbell.

Pausing the movie again, Megan hopped off the couch and ran to the door. When she opened the door, Mrs. Belmont one of Megan’s neighbors and one of the town’s biggest gossips, stepped inside.

“So it’s true,” she said a look of disgust on her face, “You are harboring that thing,” she said emphasizing the word thing.

“Mrs. Belmont,” Megan said gritting her teeth, “I don’t really care what you think of Jim. I happen to like the company.”

Mrs. Belmont sneered, “Young lady I’d be careful who you associate with. People might get the wrong idea.”

I inwardly cringed at that comment, not necessarily because I found it insulting, which I did, but because I knew that Megan wouldn’t react well to such a statement. When she got mad, she had a tendency to do wild and impulsive things. I don’t think I was quite prepared for her reaction, although that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it.

Megan didn’t say anything immediately, she turned her back on Mrs. Belmont and then she practically flung herself at me. She kissed me passionately as if she and I were the only two people present. She pulled away leaving me wanting more.

Then she came to face, Mrs. Belmont and said, “I think that gives people the right idea don’t you?”

Mrs. Belmont was seething, “Little whore,” she spat, “Now I see it’s not from some misguided sense of charity that you and your father have taken this freak in,” she said then stomped off angrily slamming the door behind her.

Megan laughed, “That was awesome did you see the look on her face!?”

It was then that I noticed Mr. Hails standing in the doorway that lead from the adjoining room. Megan must have noticed me staring because her gaze shifted toward him. He didn’t look very happy. “Megan, that was foolish. Nothing good will come of this.”

“What was I supposed to do?” she retorted.

He shook his head, “Anything, except that!” he growled.

They went on like that for quite a while, finally Megan stormed off leaving me alone with Mr. Hails.

“I’m sorry you had to hear that,” he muttered.

I smiled a bit awkwardly, “That’s okay I know how stubborn Megan can be.” I hesitated for a moment then I added, “This is all my fault. Mrs. Belmont came here because of me.”

“No, don’t ever think that,” Mr. Hails said, “Don’t blame yourself for the prejudices of the world.”

“I know, but you, Megan and even Allison have all been tangled up in this. I don’t want your lives ruined for my sake.” I said casting my eyes to the ground.

Mr. Hails came and sat beside me, “Jim I’ve known you all your life, you’ve been friends with Megan since she was barely able to walk. You’ve been like a son to me. I could never stand idly by and let you stand alone against people that would do you harm.” he said then added, “It is only a matter of time before Megan undergoes her twist if you hadn’t gone through your twist we would have had to deal with the same problems further on down the road.”

“Thanks Mr. Hails,” I said, “It’s nice to know I have someone I can turn to.”

Mr. Hails smiled, “Don’t mention it.” he said an odd look passing across his face.

A little while later I wandered upstairs and found Megan lying on her bed. I sat down beside her and clutched my knee.

“God, you’re beautiful,” Megan said suddenly.

I smiled, I couldn’t help it I loved being told I was gorgeous. “Thanks, you’re not so bad looking yourself.” I replied.

She sat up and we shared a brief kiss. We sat there a moment staring at one another and then suddenly she spoke, “Jim, I want you to consider something.”

I smiled, “What?”

“I think you need to chose a new name, a female one.” she said.

I didn’t really know what to say in response to that. The tattered remains of my masculinity screamed at such an idea. It would be like giving in, proclaiming to the world that I was no longer a man. It was ridiculous considering the conditions of my twist, but a part of me felt that if I chose another name I would lose something of myself, something irreplaceable.

On the other hand, perhaps that part of me was already lost. Could I be masculine in a body that oozed femininity? Could I be a man if had a pair of boobs? Then my thinking became more concrete, I was whoever I made myself be regardless of what gender. Gender was such a small superficial part of who was. What really mattered was the type of person I chose to be.

“You’re right,” I said finally, “It’s silly of me to go around calling myself Jim, when the name obviously doesn’t fit me very well anymore.

She beamed, “Great! Have you thought of any names?”

I shook my head, “Megan, you know I haven’t, but I’m guessing you have.”

She smiled, “I’ve thought of a few,” she admitted a bit guiltily.

I sighed, “Well, let’s hear them then.”

Megan began listing off a few names and none of them really appealed to me they were all average or just a little strange for my tastes. I was just about to tell her to forget the whole thing, but after she listed a few more one seemed to grab at me.

“That last one, say it again,” I said.

A hint of a smile touched her lips, “Calista.”

“Calista,” I said trying it out, “Calista Rumsfeld.” I paused then said, “Calista Turow.” using the last name of my supposed father.

Megan smiled, “I think we found a match.”

I pursed my lips hesitating knowing that I chose this name I’d likely be using it the rest of my life. “Calista,” I repeated. Then finally said, “Calista it is.”

Megan seemed quite thrilled about the whole thing. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it, but knew it was probably for the better. She kissed me and said, “Calista you look even more beautiful then your new name.”

It was kind of a cheesy line, but what can I say? I’m a sucker for a pretty girl. We kissed again and then she drug me out of the bedroom to tell everyone the “great news”.

Upon hearing my new moniker Allison, mumbled something about it being “about time” and almost immediately began calling my Callie. Mr. Hails’ upon learning the news said that my new name suited me.

I had thought that Megan perhaps in er excitement had forgotten of her previoush argument with her father, but apparently she hadn’t, “Dad,” she said, “I’m sorry about before. You were right I shouldn’t have provoked Mrs. Belmont like that.”

Mr. Hails smiled, “I was wrong to get mad at you. What will happen would likely happen even without Mrs. Belmont leading the charge.” They hugged each other and everything was alright between them.

After a few minutes Megan and I went back upstairs and with short order I was setting up my Gamestation and we were playing video games and having a blast.

About an hour later Mr. Hails received the call. Someone, we were never really sure,called up and started making threats. I don’t know what exactly was said, but upon hearing the commotion Megan, Allison and I ran down the stairs to see what was going on. When we got into the kitchen we found Mr. Hails, his face had turned scarlet red and he was yelling at the person at the top of his lungs moments later he slammed the handset back onto the base station.

“Dad,” Megan said in a worried tone, “Who was that? What did they want?”

He sighed and shook his head, “I don’t know, their name didn’t show up on the caller id. They were calling because of J- Calista, they made some threats.”

Mr. Hails rubbed his forehead, “Girls,” he said looking from Allison, Megan and finally to me, “I want you to pack your bags. I have a feeling we won’t be staying in Clearville much longer.”

We went to go pack our things, most of my stuff was in the bags we had brought from my mother’s so in short order I was done and helping Megan, pack her stuff. Allison joined us a few minutes later, her bags for the most part already packed. It didn’t take much longer for us to pack the rest of Megan’s things.

“Calista,” Megan said suddenly just as we were finishing up, “I’m scared.”

It still felt weird being called that, but I thought so long as I had Megan in my life I wouldn’t have it any other way. I hugged her from behind my breasts digging into her back and my arms wrapping around her waist, “I am too.”

Allison rolled her eyes, “Can you two go five minutes without touching each other?”

“No, I don’t think so,” I replied.

Allison rolled her eyes again and stomped off.

Megan turned inside my arms, facing me she wrapped arms around my back, “Thank goodness she’s gone.”

We kissed deeply and passionately our tongues exploring each others mouths. We finally broke for air and we just held each other. It was nice, having someone to hold. I know it sounds girly, but I felt safe with Megan, she made me feel that no matter what was wrong with world, everything would be alright. Eventually we made or way to the bed, we didn’t fool around or anything. We just lay together cuddling. Eventually, I drifted off to sleep holding Megan in my arms.

The next morning I awoke to find myself intertwined with Megan. She wasn’t awake yet, so I just let her sleep all the while I watched her. I watched her chest rise and fall, the way the sun danced across her face. It was beautiful. Later Megan started to stir. She slowly opened her eyes and smiled. “Hey there,” she said with a bit of a yawn.

“Morning sleepyhead,” I said a bit of smile touching my lips.

She touched my face, “It’s hard to believe just a few days ago, you were a boy.”

“It seems like a lifetime,” I agreed, “At least if I’m stuck like this I get a really hot girlfriend out of it.”

Megan smiled mischievously and kissed me again, “I think I got the hotter girlfriend.”

“Oh yeah,” I said looking down at myself, “I think you might be right. I am one delectable little morsel.”

Megan laughed, “Come on, we ought to get up before Allison and Dad get up. Dad will freak if he finds out we slept in the same bed.”

I reluctantly agreed and we made our way downstairs. Megan seemed quite relieved when there was no one to greet us. It looked like we were the first up. We sat around for a while, just sitting close to each other and talking in whispered tones.

“Well, you two are up early.”Mr. Hails said from the stairs.

Megan smiled and squeezed my hand, “We had a good night.”

Mr. Hails gave her a strange look and looked as if he were going to say something then shook his head as if thinking better of it. “Did you happen to bring the paper in?” he said finally.

Megan shrugged her shoulders, “No, I forgot all about it.”

Without another word Mr. Hails made his way to the door,stepped out onto the doorstep and out of sight to presumably get the paper. A few minutes passed and he didn’t return. A few minutes more and Mr. Hails came back inside without the paper. His face was red, like it had been last night, and he was shaking with rage. He looked like we wanted to tear someone to pieces with his bare hands.

Megan and I exchanged glanced the Megan spoke up, “Dad what’s wrong?” concern was evident in her voice.

“Goddamned hate-mongering vandals!” he muttered.

I was taken aback I’d never once heard Mr. Hails curse. He had always been very polite and well spoken. I jumped off the couch, and Megan soon followed. We both sprang for the door.

When the door swung open my voice caught in my throat. I was unprepared for what I was seeing. I’d seen vandalism, but this was much more than the kind of vandalism I was accustomed too. When I thought of vandalism I though of teens flinging TP or graffiti. Although both were represented here this went far behind simple teenage vandalism.

There was spray paint all over the place even on the lawn with hateful phrases like “get out freak lovers”, “Die twisted freak” and a few I didn’t care to repeat. TP was strewn about all over. The mailbox and all of the lawn ornaments had been smashed to bits and both the cars had numerous dent in them, as if someone had taken a baseball bat to them. This had been an act of hate, pure and simple.

We stood outside gaping, until Mr. Hail called us back in. I couldn’t understand it I hadn’t done anything to harm anyone. Yet, all this hatred was directed towards me and the Hails simply for something I had no control over, something I could not reverse.

When we were back inside, Mr Hails closed the door behind us. “I’m putting a call into the underground. I’ve witnessed what can happen in these situations and I don’t care for any of you experience it.”

“The underground? What underground?” I said confused.

Mr. Hails paused for a moment, then spoke up, “Do you remember in your history classes if they ever mentioned the Underground railroad?”

I nodded, “Yeah, it some kind of network that supposed to have helped escaped slaves flee to freedom in the north before the Civil War.”

Mr. Hails nodded, “Yes, correct. The underground I’m referring to helps twisted who are being persecuted escape to Spiral and other safe locations. We work in much the same way as the Underground Railroad did. That’s why I came to Clearville all those years ago. My career as a lawyer helped me clear up sticky legal matters that the underground needed taken care of.”

I gasped, “It all makes sense now. It didn’t make sense that you would live here if you knew Megan would someday undergo her twist, and you’d have to leave. Now it does.”

“Actually, I never intended to start a family when I came here. I met Megan’s mother through my involvement in the underground after coming to Clearville.” he admitted.

Mr. Hails looked me in the eyes, “There’s more to tell. I’ve been holding back the truth from you for some time. I helped Harry Turow flee town almost eighteen years ago after he underwent his twist. I’ve suspected he was your father for years. I encouraged Helen, my wife, to place Megan in the same playgroup with you when you were both very young so I could watch you.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was about to speak, but Megan beat me to it, “Dad! You’ve known all these time, you didn’t tell Ji-” she paused, “You didn’t tell Calista and you used me to keep tabs on him.”

Mr. Hails rubbed his forehead, “I had no way of confirming my suspicions. You two hit it off so well that knew I’d be able to keep an eye on Calista here.”

I spoke up, “You said you helped my father escape.” Mr. Hails nodded and I continued, “Does he even know I was born?”

Mr. Hails shook his head, “No, I lost contact with him after we had him safely out of town.”

I hesitated with the next question, the one I had been seeking the answer to as long as I could remember. “Where is he?” I asked finally.

Mr. Hails pursed his lips, “My contacts in the underground tell me he’s in Spiral. He settled there a few years ago and started a family.”

I didn’t know what to think. All these years, I’d had no idea who my father had been. I’d never been able to get a straight answer out of my mother about anything concerning my father. All this time, Mr. Hails had known or at least suspected the answers I had wanted so much. He could have told me, but he didn’t.

I felt conflicted. He had been hiding this from me for my hole life. Yet he had been watching me, and trying to keep me safe for just as long. I turned to look at Megan I could see the conflict in her face, she must have been thinking similar thoughts.

I bit my lip, “You could have told me.” I said tears streaming down my face.

Mr. Hails sighed, “Maybe I should have, but I was afraid how you might react to such a revelation. Your mother had a strong hatred for our kind and I wasn’t sure you’d believe me. In telling you I risked exposing not only myself but my family. That is a risk I could never take.”

I felt suddenly very angry, “All this time. You knew and you didn’t tell me. I could have know I was twisted.” I said.

Megan started yelling at her father, I don’t think either of them noticed when I left. At the time I had no concrete plan, I just had to get away. I slipped out the back door, once outside I made my into the front yard and just kept walking. I walked without knowing where I was going and I really didn’t care.

As I walked I thought. I was not in a particularly clear state of mind and began thinking some pretty dark thoughts. I wondered if anyone really wanted me or cared about me. My friendship with Megan had been built on a lie, and I thought she might be better off if we had never met. Mr. Hails had lied to me and I didn’t feel I could trust him. The entire town had turned against me, including my mother. I stopped at a corner grabbing hold of a sign post with one of my hands then fell to my knees and wept.

So caught up in my own grief, I didn’t notice when someone came up behind me until that someone spoke, “Twisted freak.” a male voice spat. My head snapped up and I found Jeff Goldwin standing over me with a look of utter contempt on his face.

“Jeff,” I muttered, “Just leave me alone.”

Jeff’s face twisted into an angry sneer, “You stupid bitch!” he said hitting me across the face.

I fell backward my head hit hitting the curb. I stared up at him, too shocked even to speak. He moved closer to me then with a menacing glint in his eyes he brought his right foot up and kicked me in the face. He kicked me again and I fell over the curb.

Something inside me snapped. All the pent-up frustrations that had built up since I had undergone my twist exploded out of me. I felt suddenly on edge. When he brought his foot down to kick me again I grabbed hold of his foot and with more strength than I knew I had, I sent him reeling into the street behind me

I scrambled to my feet and watched as he picked himself up, “Stupid bitch,” he spat and started toward me again. When he got close enough, he swung his arm and I just reacted. Before his arm could had extended I knocked it aside and I hit him in the face with all the force I could muster.

He stumbled backwards and nearly fell backward, one of his hands coming up to cup his nose. A look of complete shock passed across his face. When his hand fell away I saw that he was bleeding. I don’t know who was more shocked him or me.

As a boy I had always been a little small, and I never could have taken on Jeff. Let alone after having transformed into a girl. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have gone down without a fight. I didn’t even have an athletic body,as a girl. I never should have been able to hit him that hard. Yet, I had. It was my twist it had to be.

Jeff, was coming at me again and I twisted out of the way. “Oh, you are in for a world of pain.” he jeered.

He made another swing at me and I blocked it. I hit him and sent him sprawling. He fell and I heard a sickening thud, as his neck hit the curb. I looked down at him, his neck looked fine. I knelt down beside him and tried to find his pulse. Admittedly I didn’t know what I was doing, but when I failed to find a pulse I panicked and I felt my heart jump into my throat. Oh god, I thought, I’ve killed him.

I panicked. I ran and kept on running.

After my confrontation with Jeff, I ran for quite a long time, until I collapsed from exhaustion. When I’d come to, I found myself in the park. It was dark by then and I didn’t remember what had happened. The events from earlier came flooding back to me, and I wept.

I finally stopped crying, and forced myself to confront my feelings on the matter and I knew what to do. My mind was set.

I couldn’t believe how well I could see, my twist must have given me the ability to see in the dark. I stood up then headed out of the park. I made my way back to Megan’s house, it wasn’t my final destination, it was just a stopover. Within moment I had reached the house and noted all the lights were off. When I got closer I noticed Mr. Hail’s and Megan’s cars were gone, they were probably out looking for me.

I snuck into the back yard, and then the back door. It was locked. Fortunately I knew were they hid a spare key so after a few moments I was able to get inside. I made my way upstairs and into the computer room that I had slept in that first night.

Quietly, I closed the door behind me and then I grabbed a piece of paper from the computer desk. I wept as I wrote, it was probably the most difficult thing I had ever done. It was a rather short note, but I told Megan how I felt for her and I wished I could stay with her, but I had to leave town and I couldn’t let her or her family come with me. I hinted that I would be going to the bus station. It was a lie, and I hated deceiving her, but I knew she would try to stop me from leaving and I couldn’t allow it.

Once done, I wiped my tears away and I went back into the hallway and slipped the note under Megan’s bedroom door. Then I went back to the computer room and I grabbed a bag of my clothes that Megan and I had retrieved from my mother’s home. Then I made sure I grabbed my money and keys. Then within moments I was back outside and headed away.

I snuck through town it was much harder going with the bag of clothes, but I needed them. Twice a car passed by. Fearing it was Mr. Hails or Megan I hid, once behind a bush the second time behind a car that was parked on the street. Finally, I reached my destination. My mothers house. I let out a sigh of relief when I noted her car was gone. I used my keys to open my trunk placing the bag of clothes inside. I slammed the trunk shut and opened up my car door and I hopped inside.

Technically the car’s title was in my mother’s name, but it was my money that had paid for it. I had not spent a single penny of my paychecks from my summer job last year to pay for it. I wondered if mom would report it stolen. I was likely already wanted for murder, so theft was the least of my worries. Although, it would make my trip a bit more complicated if the police were looking for a stolen car.

I shrugged there was nothing I could do about it in any case. I started my car, back it out of the driveway and began my trip to Spiral. My gas tank was almost full, so I didn’t need to stop for gas,. Which was a blessing I had very limited funds and I didn’t know if it was enough. It would have to be.

I drove through town, towards the town’s only interstate on-ramp. I told myself that I wouldn’t miss the place, but I knew in my heart that despite everything that had happened, Clearville would always be home. I turned down fifth avenue and the on-ramp was in sight. Within moments I was on the open road, headed towards my future.

I had been driving for some time, when realized I had no idea how to get to Spiral. I knew was headed in the right general direction, but that would only get me so far. So I took the next off-ramp and pulled into a gas station. I hopped out of my car, and was about to go inside when I looked down at myself. My blue skin really stood out, and I really didn’t want to draw that much attention.

I opened up my trunk and pulled out a few pieces of clothes. I morphed a few pieces of clothing into a light-weight hooded jacket and a pair of gloves to cover my hands. Then I pulled out an old hat that had been sitting in my trunk for some time and put it on. I pulled the hood of the jacket over my head and almost went into the store, but then I thought I might want to buy some gas.

I moved my car over to a pump and filled it up. Then once I was done, I replaced the gas cap and went inside. The place was empty save for the attendant I turned my back to him so couldn’t immediately see my face. I looked around for a few minutes and found a roadmap, and I grabbed some food and water realizing suddenly that I was very hungry.

I moved to the checkout counter. The attendant was reading a book, and he didn’t immediately see my face. When he looked up and saw my face he froze. I could tell he wasn’t sure what to think of me. He even looked a little scared.

“Relax,” I said, “Believe it or not, I’m not here to do you any harm. I just want to pay for this stuff and be on my way.”

“Y-yeah of course,” he said nervously as he grabbed my items and began to ring them up.

“I have gas on pump four,” I added.

He added my gas to the price, and I paid for everything with my cash. My purchases at the gas station had taken a sizable chunk out of my money I didn’t know how much longer it would last but I determined to make it to Spiral. I would get there by whatever means necessary. After a few minutes looking at my new map I headed back out and was soon on my way again.

It was early afternoon and I had driven through the night, and I was getting pretty drowsy. I didn’t have the money for a hotel so took an off-ramp and after a few minutes of driving I found a copse of trees a short distance off the road. I pulled up behind them then I reclined my seat and drifted off to sleep.

It was dark when I awoke. I was feeling pretty stiff from sleeping in my car, so I got out and stretched a bit. After that I ate some of the food I had gotten from the gas station then I hopped back into my car. I pulled out behind the copse of tree and decided it might be a good idea to fill up my gas tank. So I started driving down the road I had taken to get to the copse of trees and eventually found a gas station. This one unlike the last was not empty there were several cars in front and another at a pump.

I pulled in, then I donned the jacket and gloves again. This time I morphed a scrunchy out of my clothes and put my hair into a ponytail. I put my hat on, but I noted with considerable annoyance that it wasn’t very comfortable with my ponytail so I morphed a hole in the back to more easily fit my ponytail. Then I flipped the hood of my jacket over my head.

Once, I was properly attired. I got out of my car and began pumping gas. When I was done and I went inside. This time I spotted almost immediately. Everyone inside just stood there and stared at me. I grabbed some food off the shelves and a couple big bottles of water. As I was walked to the counter to ring up I was stopped by a tall athletic looking man who was probably a foot and a half taller than I was..

“Hey girly,” he sneered, “This place is for normal people, not freaks like you.”

I looked up at him, “You really don’t want to mess with me.” I said, “You might get hurt.”

He laughed, “Oh, yeah. You here that Jack I might get hurt.”

A scrawny looking guy started laughing too, “Oh yeah, I’m so scared.”

I started toward the counter again, but was again stopped by the tall buffoon, “He grabbed hold of my wrists and I dropped all my things. “Oh come one now I’m only just playing,” he said a menacing look on his face, “Why don’t you and I go out back and I can show you a good time.”

The idea was so repulsive to me that I could feel bile rising in my throat. Like it had happened with Jeff Goldwin, something inside of snapped and I felt on edge. I grappled with him and was able to free my wrists. He swiped at me, and I knocked his arm aside as easily as I had with Jeff Goldwin.

“Stupid little bitch,” he spat as he swung his fist at me.

I dodged out of the way and I hit him in the chest. He staggered back a bit, but he took the blow better than Jeff had. He did seem quite surprised by my unusual show of strength, but that didn’t stop him from making another swing at me. I hit him hard enough that time that he went down and stayed down.

Everyone in the place looked as if they wanted to bolt, even the tall guy’s friend Jack. “I warned him,” I said coolly, but the truth was I wanted to bolt myself. After what had happened with Jeff I really hadn’t wanted to fight anyone again. I couldn’t help myself I just reacted.

I held my calm facade, as I gathered up the water bottles and the food off the ground and walked over to the counter. I paid for everything using nearly all the cash I had left then walked out the gas station got into my car and drove off.

I drove all night and spent another afternoon sleeping in my car, then I stopped at a gas station this time with no incident. I used the little money I had to purchase a few gallons of gas. It didn’t come close to filling the tank, but I thought maybe it would be enough to get me to Spiral. As it turned out it wasn’t quite enough.

It was after noon the following day and Spiral was only twenty miles away when the engine in my car stalled. I was in the leftmost lane when it happened. It became very hard to steer, but I was able to maneuver the car to the side of the road before it stopped completely. I immediately knew what the problem was I had run out of gas.

I had no money, so I had two options I could hitchhike, or walk. Being pretty close to Spiral I tried hitchhiking, but after an hour it became pretty obvious no one was going to stop for me. I started walking occasionally sticking out my thumb hoping someone would stop for me. No one ever did.

I walked for about 5 hours when it started to rain. I tried morphing my clothes to give me some more protection, but my trick didn’t seem to be able to produce water-proof clothes. So within a few minutes I was thoroughly drenched. The rain continued and I made much slower progress. I was exhausted and it was a struggle to put one foot after another. After about two hours of struggling in the rain, I somehow managed to reach Spiral. It was dark by then I wasn’t really sure of the exact time, but it had to be after eight.

I had a renewed spurt of energy and I made my way into town. I stopped in at a small convenience store. I knew my father lived somewhere in town, but I had no idea where. I hoped the store would have a phone book so that I could look up his address.

The store was empty save for a boy about my age who seemed to work there. “Miss,” he said, “Are you alright?”

I must have looked a mess dripping wet as I was. I looked him in the eyes, they were the strangest bright orange. He was twisted, I realized, he was like me. I couldn’t help but smile, “I wasn’t, but I think I’ll be much better now.”

The boy gave me a weird look, and acted as if he wasn’t sure what to say. He didn’t have to say anything I spoke first, “Do you have a phone book?” I asked.

“Yeah, I think we do,” he said, “I’ll be right back.” He said disappearing behind a set of doors.

He returned a few minutes later phone book in hand. He handed it to me and I thanked him. I flipped it open and went straight to the T’s, Turow wasn’t listed.

“Dammit,” I cursed. I was so close and his name wasn’t listed in the stupid phonebook. How would I find him now?

“You wouldn’t happen to know a Harry Turow would you?” I asked the boy not really expecting him to know.

“Yeah,” the boy replied, “My little brother is friends with his kids.”

My heart skipped a beat, “Do you know were he lives?” I asked.

The boy grinned nervously, “Yeah, he lives over on Newmont Way.”

“How far is that?” I asked.

“Just a few blocks north of here,” he said then added, “I don’t know the exact address. It’s like two-forty or two-fifty something it’s the only blue house for a few blocks.”

“Thanks,” I said smiling and started for the door.

“Hey miss,” the boy called after me, “Are you sure you’re alright?”

I laughed, “Yes, I think I am.” I said then I burst out the door and started for my Father’s house.

I found Newmont Way a few blocks down just as the boy had said. I followed the street until I found a slate blue-house with the address 247 on the front. It had to be the one, there weren’t any blue houses nearby. I walked up to the doorstep and I hesitated. What would I say? Would he even be willing to hear me out?

Finally I forced myself to ring the doorbell. A woman came to the door. She looked about my mother’s age, she had long brown hair and kind green eyes that almost immediately registered concern. Was this woman my father’s wife?

“Is this the home of Harry Turow?” I asked pursing my lips.

“Yes,” she said then added, “Are you alright, dear?”

“Yes, thank god!” I said then on impulse hugged the woman.

I realized I was wet and quickly broke away. “Sorry,” I said with nervous laugh, “I didn’t mean to get you all wet.”

The woman smiled sadly, “You poor thing. Come inside and I’ll draw a nice warm bath.”

“Can I speak with Harry, first?” I asked. “It’s important.”

She frowned, “He’s not home at the moment, but I expect him home soon. Come inside and we’ll get you out of those clothes and into a nice hot bath. You can speak with him once he gets home.”

I reluctantly agreed, and allowed her to lead me into the bathroom. She ran the water, then helped me undress. I was pretty self-conscious about being naked in front of the woman, but I knew that women felt differently about this sort of thing than men did. So I let her help me.

I stepped inside the bath water, and it felt pretty good. I closed my eyes and just sat there for a moment. When I opened my eyes again the woman was gone along with my wet clothes. I lay there in the warm water until the woman returned with a set of clothes. She got a towel out for me and told me I could use anything I needed. She left again and I started to wash myself using the available soap and shampoo.

Once done I started to drain the water and got out drying myself on the towel. I got dressed, once again pulled the hair out from inside my shirt. I examined the clothes I was wearing, they fit fairly well, I could have morphed them to fit better, but I didn’t feel comfortable doing that to another person’s clothes without permission so I left them as they were.

I left the bathroom, and found the woman in a kitchen. She was heating up some food in a microwave. “I though you might be hungry.” she said.

“Thank you so much.” I said.

She smiled kindly, “You don’t have anywhere to go do you?”

I shook my head, tears welling up in my eyes. She wiped the tears from my eyes “Well don’t you fret, you can stay here for the night. Then tomorrow we’ll figure everything out.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“My name is Linda by the way,” she said get up to get the food out of the microwave and placed the dish in front of me.

“I’m Calista,” I replied grabbing the fork she offered and started to eat. I don’t know exactly what the dish was, but it was some sort of potato casserole with hamburger in it. It was pretty good.

She smiled, “Well Calista, you must have come a long way.”

I had a fork full of food in my mouth, and wasn’t able to speak so I nodded my head instead. Which was just as well I wasn’t sure I wanted to tell her too much without her husband present.

I scarfed down the casserole pretty quickly and she offered me another serving. Still famished I hungrily agreed. Linda looked as if she wanted to ask me something, but she seemed to hesitated each time she opened her mouth to speak. I continued to stuff my face hoping she wouldn’t ask any more questions.

“Linda honey,” a man’s voice said in that not so far distance.

Linda left the kitchen and I could soon hear her speaking with the man. “I dropped Amanda at the her cousins and Brandon and Cory are staying at the Pearson’s house. We have the house all to ourselves.” he said.

“Harry,” I heard Linda speak, “We have a guest.”

“A guest?” he asked.

There was a moments hesitation, “A teenage girl. I think she might be a runaway. She’s been asking for you.”

A runaway, I guess that did describe me though I hadn’t thought about it until then,”Do you know what she wants?” Harry replied.

“No,” Linda replied, “She was sopping wet when she got her. I haven’t done much more than get in her a warm bath and feed her. Why don’t you go talk with her she’s in the kitchen.”

I heard footsteps and in short order a man appeared in the kitchen. He was about average height, had brown hair and green eyes. What caught me almost immediately was his strong resemblance to myself, or more accurately his resemblance to me before my twist.

“Hello,” he said then sat down across from me and smiled, “My name is Harry. What’s yours?”

My heart raced. I had wanted for so long to meet my father here he was sitting right across from me and I had no idea what to say. Suddenly I noticed his hands six-digits just like mine. It was an odd coincidence and I’m sure it was no doubt a result of his twist.

Finally I managed to speak, “Calista.” I said then continued, “Are you Harry Turow from Clearville.”

He gave me an odd look, “Yes, I am. Do I know you?”

I pursed my lips, “No,” I said, “When you were in High School you dated Kate Rumsfield.” I made it a statement of fact.

He looked back to the doorway where I noticed for the first time Linda was standing and exchanged glances with her. “What’s this about?” he asked a look of consternation on his face.

“I’m your son.” I suddenly blurted out. Then realizing my mistake I added, “I mean I’m your daughter.”

Harry’s face seemed to drain of all color, “You are Kate Rumsfield’s child.” he said.

I nodded tears streaming down my face, “Yeah.”

He let out a long sigh, “When were you born?”

Still weeping I told him my birth date. He didn’t reply for almost a minute, “It’s very possible.” he said finally.

Linda came over beside him, sat down and took his hands. “I’m sorry.” he said finally. “Had I known. I would have done something I would have been there.”

“It’s not your fault.” I said, “My mother hates the twisted,” I added, “She thought if she hid the truth of my birth from me that it would somehow keep me from becoming twisted like you.”

“So, you came here looking for your father after you went through your twist,” Linda said.

I nodded, “I didn’t have any choice. Mom wants nothing to do with me.” I told them my story. How I used to be a boy, about my trick pretty much everything except killing Jeff. I wasn’t sure how they would react to that.

When I was finished Linda was the first to speak, “You poor thing. You’ve been through so much.”

I nodded, I wasn’t really sure what else to say.

We talked for quite a while after that. We talked mostly about my life, but after a while it turned to theirs. We talked about Harry’s life after he had left Clearville. How he had involved himself with the underground and had met Linda and come to Spiral to start a family. How he had started up his own business and become a successful entrepreneur coming to own several restaurants in town.

“I think it might be a good idea to get some sleep, we can talk more in the morning.” Harry said finally.

We all agreed, then they showed me into one of the bedrooms. They told me the room belonged to my three-year old half-sister, Amanda. They said, that they’d figure out some more permanent sleeping arrangements later.

The room looked every-bit like it belonged to a three-year old girl. The paint on the wall was pink and the decor had a strong princess motif. After they left I lay down in the bed and fell asleep almost immediately.

The next morning I woke up and felt absolutely terrible. My feet were throbbing from all the walking I’d done yesterday. My stomach hurt, and I felt like I could throw up. My breasts felt larger for some reason and the were really tender.

I got out of bed and stumbled into the bathroom. The one I had bathed in the previous night. I pulled down my pants and was about to pee. I was bleeding from my Vagina. I hadn’t paid too much to the girl stuff in sexed class, but I knew this was a common symptom of a period.

I cleaned myself up a bit, and left to find Linda. She was in the kitchen cooking some breakfast, my father was sitting at the table reading the newspaper and drinking a cup of coffee. When I entered the room they both stopped what they were doing and looked at me.

I looked to Linda, then to Harry, then back to Linda. As embarrassed as I was to ask Linda for help with my period. I was even more embarrassed to speak about it in front of Harry. I hesitated then finally spoke, “Linda could you help me?”

“Sure,” she said smiling, “What is it?”

I looked to Harry and grinned nervously then looked back at Linda, “Um, could you join me in the bathroom?” I said then walked off. Leaving them both with perplexed looks on their faces.

I went back into the bathroom and waited for Linda. I didn’t have long to wait, Linda appeared within moments, “Calista what’s wrong?” she said.

“I think I’m having my first period,” I blurted out.

Linda let out a sigh of relief, “Thank goodness. I thought it was something much worse.”

She helped me clean myself up then she took the clothes I was wearing to go wash them. I quickly showered then got out. Linda returned shortly with a sanitary pad for me to wear and the freshly washed clothes I had showed up in last night.

She showed me how to wear the pad under my panties and told me were they were in case I needed another one. Then she left to let me finished getting ready by myself I combed my hair before I did anything else. Then I put on my bra. It felt a little tight so I used my trick to make it feel a little looser. I put on the pants I had been wearing before, I changed their color to black then I put on my shirt once again morphing into the purple tank top with spaghetti straps then I sort of merged my bra into my shirt.

I stepped out of the bathroom and made my way back to the kitchen where I found Linda and Harry waiting.

Harry looked up from his newspaper, “Everything alright?”

“Yeah, Fine” I muttered not feeling particularly fine.

Linda offered me some eggs and bacon, but I turned them down. I don’t know if I would be able to keep any food down, I settled for a piece of toast with a little margarine on it.

“I think it might be a good idea to get you an appointment at the Spiral Clinic.” Harry said after finishing he eggs.

“What’s the Spiral Clinic?” I asked.

Harry smiled, “It’s a specialized clinic for the twisted. Many of us have unusual medical needs that most normal doctors can’t fill. I thought due to your unique physiology it might be a good idea to have a doctor look at you.”

I sighed the idea of going to the doctor wasn’t particularly appealing, but logic told me it was the smart thing to do, so I said,”You’re probably right.”

Harry nodded, “I’ll call and see if I can make an appointment.”

Harry made a quick call into the Spiral Clinic and due to a last minute cancellation was able to get me an appointment later that day. I didn’t expect to get in so soon, but figured it was probably better to get it done with sooner rather than later.

It felt pretty weird being around my father after all this time, which was complicated by the fact that none of us knew quite what to say to one another. We all sat around looking at one another. I could tell both Linda and Harry wanted to say something, but it was as if they couldn’t figure out how to ask what ever it was on their minds. I felt more or less the same way.

Finally it was Harry that broke the silence, “I have half a mind to call and speak with Kate. I just can’t understand how she could keep this from me.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond to this, when I did reply I immediately regretted speaking, “I know the phone number.” I volunteered.

It was about the last thing I wanted him to do, but there was no way I could back out if he decided to call. If word had gotten out that is was me that had killed Jeff Goldwin, mom would be sure to tell Harry. She loved to gloat, and she would revel in telling this particular piece of information. It would, in her mind, prove that she was justified in ridding herself of me. I could barely live with myself as it was. I don’t know if I could go on if I lost my father after having just found him.

Harry let out a long sigh, “If I could speak with Kate. It would feel so much better about this hole thing.”

I nodded my head, and reluctantly agreed to give him the number. I waited nervously, sitting across from him as he dialed the number.

“Hello,” he said into the phone “Am I talking to Kate?” he said as he stood up and moved to talk in the other room. I couldn’t hear what he said, but I was sure mom wasn’t being particularly pleasant.

It wasn’t long before Harry returned. He came back into the room and sat beside me. He sat there for a moment staring at me and slowly he shook his head, “I’m sorry Calista, I should have believed you when you told me you were my daughter. I don’t care to repeat what Kate said on the phone, but it was sufficient for me to believe her when she said you were my child”

I realized then that I was crying. God, I thought, I’m such a crybaby since my twist. “I can’t fault you.” I said, “I think I would have done the same thing were I our situation reversed.”

He wiped away my tears away, and spoke “I know this has been difficult for you, I found it quite difficult after my twist, but I had my family. You’ve lost everything you ever knew, I hope you can find a new home with Linda and I. I can’t promise you that you won’t feel heartache or pain because you are different, but I can promise that so long as I am able I will always be a part of your life.

I bit my lip as fresh tears rolled down my face. I think I knew then that I had finally found a place that I could call home.

I wasn’t very surprised to learn that Harry had decided to stay home from work that day. As owner of his own businesses he was able to make his own hours. I was grateful because it allowed me to get to know him and in large part I think he had stayed home for that very reason.

It was Harry that brought up the subject of my car, “You said you left your car out on the freeway.”

I nodded, “I suppose my mother didn’t say anything about it when you spoke with her on the phone.”

“Actually she said to keep it, She was tired of that damn lawyer pestering her,” he said, “I assume she was referring to that Hails fellow.”

I nodded again. It had to be Mr Hails, but what had he said to her? “I bet it was him.” I said.

“Well why don’t you and I go retrieve your car.” Harry suggested.

I agreed and Harry retrieved a gas can and we stopped to fill it we were on our way. One the way we talked, mostly about Mr. Hails, after I described him Harry remembered meeting him when he had left Clearville, but had never learned his name. He asked me about Megan, and how long I had been friends with her. I told him all about Megan, and how I feared I would never see her again. I told him I think I would even miss Allison.

We drove almost thirty miles going the away from Spiral then after finding an off-ramp we got back on headed back toward Spiral. After another ten miles we found my car exactly where I had left it. We emptied the gas can into my car’s tank and had it running in a matter of a minutes. I got into my car and followed Harry back to Spiral.

When we arrived back at the house, there was a car parked in front of it that hadn’t been there when we had left.

“That’s Sally’s car,” Harry noted. When he caught my blank stare he added, “Linda’s sister. She was watching Amanda for the night.”

Amanda, the little girl whose room I had slept in the previous night, my half-sister. I felt a bit nervous as I stepped into the house. A little girl with blonde pig-tails and a pink princess dress hurled herself at Harry. “Daddy!” she squealed in delight.

I stood to the side watching as father and daughter interacted. “How’s my little princess?” he asked a big grin on her face.

Amanda went on a long rant detailing her night with her cousin Emily. Harry listened patiently and occasionally laughed at his daughter. I had to admit she was cute as hell.

Finally after hearing out Amanda, Harry turned to me then back to Amanda, “Princess,” he said, “I’d like you to meet someone. This is Calista. She’s your half-sister.”

Amanda looked at me wide-eyed, then back at her father “What’s a halfthithter ?”

“It means your mommy isn’t Calista’s mommy, but I’m her daddy just like I’m yours.”

Amanda seemed to understand. I bent down to kneel at her level, and she gave me a great big hug. I hugged her back.

“Kawista wanna see my room?” she said.

I smiled at her and took her hand, “Sure let’s go have a look.”

She led me up to her room. Even though I had slept her in her room the previous night I let her think this was the first time I had seen it. I didn’t really want to spoil it for her. She showed me all her princess toys and her princess castle which she seemed particularly fond of and last she showed me her tea table. She had a ring of stuffed animal sitting around it and a plastic tea set sitting in the middle.

I half expected her to invite me to sit for a imaginary cup of tea, but once she was done she bounced back out of her room and I followed suit albeit with no bouncing.

I followed her back into the living room where Linda was chatting away with a woman I presumed to be her sister, Sally. She held a little girl in her lap, the girl was fast asleep. Introductions were made, and as I had guessed the woman was indeed Linda’s sister.

Sally seemed nice, but I barely had a chance to talk to her she left less than ten minutes after I had met her. Then it was just Linda, Harry, Amanda and me. Amanda sat down next to me, holding my hand and continued an endless stream of questions about me, I answered them as best I could, but when she asked me about my ‘mommy’ it hit a little close to home and I started crying. Linda came over beside me and whispered something into Amanda’s ear. Amanda looked up to her mother then back to me, then quickly scampered off.

“Sorry,” I said, “I don’t know what came over me.”

Linda sat down beside me, “Is there anything you want to talk about?”

I laughed bitterly, “It’s this damn period.” I replied then realized Harry was still in the room. I turned to look at him, he looked a bit surprised and uncomfortable as well. I turned back to Linda, “God, I hate this. At least when I had Megan around I felt like maybe being a girl wasn’t so bad.”

Linda put her hand on my shoulder reassuringly , “Being a girl isn’t so bad. There are some advantages you may not see them now, but you’ll come to see soon.”

“I hope you’re right,” I said tears still streaming down my face.

It wasn’t much later when the twins arrived home. They came running up the stairs to greet their parents. Amanda reappeared then climbed up beside me and almost immediately fell asleep. A woman stepped through the door followed by a boy about the age of the twins. Linda sat up and went to talk to the woman. In short order, the woman and her son were gone. Then, Harry introduced the twins and I to each other.

“Brandon, Cory,” he said, “This is Calista. She’s your half-sister.”

I couldn’t yet tell the twins apart, but the one in the red shirt spoke, “Half-sister? How come we never met her?”

Harry then explained that when he had still lived in Clearville and before he’d undergone his twist, he met a girl who he had strong feelings for. That he and her had lost contact with one another after he had left Clearville. He explained how the girl had had a child that he had been unaware of. Then he told them how I had come to them last night and finding out that I was his daughter.

The twins both looked at me then back to each other. I could tell the twins didn’t know quite what to think of me. My introduction to Amanda had been much easier, but Amanda was three years old and accepted anything so long as she could understand it. I tried to talk with them each time trying out different subjects, but each time I was met with blank stares and silence. Try as I might I couldn’t win them over.

Before I knew it, it was time for me to leave for my appointment at the Spiral Clinic. Harry and I left, leaving Linda to watch over the kids. A short drive later and we had reached the clinic. After a short wait I went in with the doctor and Harry followed.

The doctor was a middle aged man who had green hair otherwise he looked completely normal, he
held out his hand for us to shake, “I’m Dr. Clark. So had our twist have we?”

I nodded, “Yeah, it came as a real surprise.”

The doctor nodded, “So I take it you weren’t aware you were twisted.” I nodded again and explained how I had come to Spiral after having run away from home.

The doctor asked me about my medical history. I told him everything I knew, though I was hardly ever sick so I didn’t have much to tell at least nothing I could remember. He asked me if I’d had a period since my twist.

“Yeah, I’m having one right now. My first actually.” I said feeling a bit embarrassed.

“Your first period?” the Dr. Clark said incredulously, “A girl your age should have had her first period years ago.”

I blushed furiously, “Well, I was a boy before my twist.”

The doctor merely nodded and continued asking questions. He asked me all kinds of questions some seemed a little personal, but I could see how he might need to know the answers. He asked me if I’d exhibited any tricks.

“Yeah,” I said, “I can can morph my clothes and change them into a different outfit.”

The doctor smiled, “I could see that being very useful.”

He took my blood pressure, heart rate, tested my reflexes, and few other things. All of which he said were excellent although he did note that my reflexes were much better than average. He did a physical examination of my ears, horns and my hands. He noted my extra digits on each hand, and muttered something about polydactyl digits. Then he asked Harry to leave and I was told to undress.

I felt a little uncomfortable undressing, but I figured he was a doctor and was accustomed to seeing people naked. So I pulled my shoes and socks off then stripped off the rest of my clothes.

Dr. Clark asked me to lay on an examination table with a top that flipped down like a tanning bed. He told me to hold perfectly still then lower the lid of bed over me. The bed hummed weirdly and emitted a eerie purple light. After about five minutes, the doctor raised the bed and told me I could get dressed then turned his attention to a computer screen.

Shortly after I was dressed. The doctor let Harry back in and he discussed with us the details of my
exam.

“Well you are one healthy young woman.” He said, “You’re completely female. You could more than likely become pregnant if you wanted to. There were a few abnormalities. First, you have a thin layer of anomalous tissue surrounding the Epimysium, a fibrous tissue that covers your muscles.”

“So I have something wrapped around my muscles and you have no idea what it is?” I replied.

The doctor nodded, “More or less. I believe it has something to do with your twist. I don’t believe its anything to worry about in any case. Have you experienced any strange physical anomalies?”

I thought for a moment, then my flashed by to my fight with Jeff Goldwin, and the fight with that guy at the gas station. “Well, I seem to have these spurts of strength.”

“What do you mean by spurts of strength?” Dr Clark asked.

I skipped over the fight with Jeff and describe the fight with the guy at the gas station and how I had
been able to beat him.

“Interesting,” the doctor muttered, “I would guess the anomalous tissue surrounding your Epimysium is more than likely the source of these spurts of strength. I would like to consult with Dr. Foster, one of our experts on tricks, before you go in to speak with her. ”

I raised my eyebrows, “I’m seeing another doctor?”

Dr. Clark nodded, “It’s normal procedure for an individual who has undergone his or her twist to see three doctors. One does a physical exam, another is a specialist on tricks, the other is a psychiatrist that helps to determine the patients mental state.”

“The second abnormality has to do with your eyes,” he said, “I’ve never seen anything quite like them, the way the color shifts like that, but judging from your scan I think it’s likely you can see in the dark.”

I thought back to the night I had fled Clearville, I had been able to see quite well in the dark. I hadn’t thought of it much since then. “Your ears seem to be pretty close to the normal human range, despite their resemblance to cat ears.” he continued, “Your hearing is likely slightly more sensitive than it was before, but only just barely.

“Oh, there is one more thing.” He added, “I think under your circumstances it would be advisable to have a paternity test done.”

“A paternity test?” I asked, “How accurate will that be with the extent of my changes?”

Dr. Clark smiled, “More accurate than you might think. When a person undergoes a twist much of their genetic structure is changed, but many of the genetic markers that we look for in a paternity test remain unchanged.”

Harry interjected then, “You know you don’t have to do this if you’re not comfortable.”

I nodded, “I know, but I want to. This will remove any doubt.”

Harry nodded, “What exactly does this entail?”

The doctor shrugged, “I swab the inside of your mouths and then the samples are sent into the lab for comparison.”

“Alright,” Harry said, “Let’s get this over with.”

The doctor walked over to a cupboard and produced two little packets. He tore the first open and produced what looked like a single tipped Q-tip and then swabbed the inside of my cheek. Then he placed the swab inside a plastic bag. Then he did the same to Harry.

We waited in the the exam room for a few minutes then the doctor returned. When the doctor returned Harry left to go back and wait in the lobby. Then the doctor asked me to follow him and I found myself in another exam room with a really hot looking blonde female doctor who looked to be in her thirties. “Hi, I’m Dr. Foster, but you can call me Janet. I hear you have a trick, and you might have another” she smiling.

I nodded, “Yeah.”

She smiled again, “Would you like to show me?”

I agreed, then I closed my eyes and cleared my mind, when I felt the familiar tingling sensation. I willed my clothes to change. My clothes shifted on my body, my shirt shifted into a white t-shirt and the built in bra shifted into a real bra then my pants shifted into a black skirt my socks stretched out to become white knee highs and my shoes shifted into a pair of black low heels.

The doctor seemed impressed, “That’s one trick I’d love to have.” then she continued, “It says here you were a boy before your twist. I think judging from your choice in clothes you’ve had some mental changes as well.”

I nodded, “Yeah, it’s weird. I feel like I don’t even know myself.”

Janet smiled and nodded in understanding, “Yeah, my personality changed quite a bit when I went through my twist.”

“So how did this trick manifest itself?” Janet asked me.

I told her how Mr. Hails had wanted me to try seeing if I had a trick and how I had discovered that I could change my clothes.

She nodded, “And how exactly do you feel when you use your trick?”

I shrugged, “I feel sort of tingly allover almost like I did when I went through my twist, but not quite as intense.” I said.

“Dr. Clark believes you may have a second trick, and that it may have something to do with some unusual tissue that surrounds your muscles. Why don’t you tell me about this second trick?” she said.

I repeated the story of my fight with the big doofus at the gas station, once again omitting my encounter with Jeff Goldwin. “I think Dr. Clark suspicions are correct.” she said after I finished my story, “I’d like to run some tests and see if we can’t find something out.”

She guided me over to an exam table she attached some sensors to my skin and ran some scans. She had me use my trick to change my clothes several times. By the time I was done I was wearing a short purple dress that was the same shade of purple as my hair, and a pair of tall black boots that went up almost to my knee. I learned later they were called wedge boots. Then she had me concentrate like I did when I used my trick, and as usual I felt the tingling. Then she had me think of of the man from the gas station. Nothing seemed to happen.

She tried a number of other things until finally she found something that seemed to elicit a response. She had me think back to the incident with the big fellow and think about how I felt when he first approached me. I had been afraid. She told me to focus on that fear and imagine as if it were happening again. Almost immediately I could tell something was different I felt on edge like something bad was going to happen and I needed to prepare for it.

“I’m reading some interesting activity,” Janet said, “How do you feel?”

I breathed deeply, “Weird and on edge.”

She walked over to a closet and pulled out some kind of dummy. Then she had me get up and start pounding on the dummy. I knocked the dummy around as if it were a rag-doll. After a few minutes of that, she had me lift the exam table. I easily lifted it then gently set it back down.

“Very interesting,” Janet said finally, “How do you feel now?”

“I still feel a bit on edge,” I said, “but it’s starting to fade.”

The doctor examined her display for a moment, then she turned back to me, “I’d say this ability to call on strength as you did, is in fact a second trick as Dr. Clark suspected, but its also a physical characteristic of your new body. Without the unusual tissue surrounding your muscles I don’t think you’d be able to call on your strength. When you use your trick you call on the quantum field it then in turn produces an electrical field inside your body that activates the tissue, and somehow acts to temporarily enhance your strength.”

Janet sighed, “The main issue here is going to be control. If you can’t control your trick you could potentially cause unintended harm to others or perhaps even yourself. I would talk to the psychiatrist first and get her opinion, but it might be a good idea for you to try yoga or perhaps even martial arts. Yoga could help you learn control over your emotions, so that you won’t unintentionally use your strength. Many martial arts have a meditative aspect to them which could help you as well.”

I winced a bit when she mentioned me causing unintended harm. Thankfully she didn’t seem to notice. I nodded to everything she said indicating agreement.

She smiled again, “Well, I think I’m done with you, for now. I would like to see you again in a couple weeks. If you want to follow me, I can show you to Dr. Manfield’s office.”

I nodded, then stood up and followed her out of the room, down a couple hallways, and to a room with a closed door. Janet knocked on it and a middle aged woman appeared at the door, they exchanged greeting and Janet introduced me to Dr Manfield.

Dr. Manfield invited me in, but before she offered me a seat she said, “I’d like to start you off with a personality test. She pulled out a seat in the corner where a computer sat atop a small desk. “If you’d please sit here and answer all the questions as truthfully as you can. There are no right or wrong answers.”

Once, I sat down and started answering the questions on the computer the doctor disappeared from the room. The test was pretty long and had all kinds of weird questions that seemed pretty silly, but I answered them all the best I could until finally I was done. I sat there a few minutes waiting for the doctor return. After about five minutes she returned, then I waited a little bit longer as she studied the results of the test.

When she was done looking at the results, she smiled from across the room at me. “I don’t have anything to compare these results to, but I’m assuming you’ve experienced some changes in personality judging from your choice of clothing.”

I nodded, “Yeah.”

Dr. Mansfield scribbled something down on a notebook then she asked me another question, “I’d like you to describe some of the changes you’ve noticed in your personality.”

I told her how I liked to look hot, and how I liked to get attention because of it. I explained how I’d been much more emotional since my twist.

She nodded, “How long has it been since your twist.”

“I had my twist last Friday,” I said.

She asked me a bunch of questions, mostly about the details of my twist, how I felt about being female, and how I was dealing with the sudden changes. I told her the details of my twist and everything that had happened to me up to coming to Spiral. As I had the other times, I left out the part about Jeff Goldwin. I was still afraid what might happen if anyone found out I had killed him. I was afraid that Dr Mansfield, as trained psychiatrist,might be able to tell I was holding something back, but she gave no indication one way or the other.

She asked about my tricks and I told her everything I knew about how they worked. She agreed with Dr. Fosters recommendation that I try out yoga or martial arts. She thought martial arts might be the better choice, due to the nature of my trick. She even recommended a martial arts studio in town where I could receive one-on-one training.

We talked for a bit longer. Mostly about my feelings of rejection, first from my mother then the people of Clearville. Then we spoke about how I had been manipulated by Mr. Hails and how it made me feel. I cried quite a bit during this final part of the appointment. When the doctor was finally done questioning me she gave me a few kind words and few words of encouragement.

She looked down at her noted for a moment, “I’d like to speak with a parent.” she said then looked down at her noted, “It says here your father is Harry Turow.” she seemed pretty surprised by that. I got the feeling she new him, but she didn’t immediately say anything to confirm or deny my suspicions.

“Is he here?”she asked.

I nodded. She excused herself for a moment then returned with Harry.

“Harry,” I’d like to talk with you a minute about your daughter.

Harry gave her an odd look, “Is there something wrong?”

Dr. Mansfield shook her head, “No. Generally when I speak with a patient who has undergone their twist I like to speak with the parent so they can better help their child adjust to their changes. Although I must say I was surprised to learn that Calista was your child.”

Harry smiled ironically, “Yeah so was I.”

Dr. Mansfield, “I am a bit concerned about Calista. She’s had a great deal of emotional trauma since undergoing her twist. She has a strong resentment towards her mother and I believe she has numerous issues that need to be worked out.”

Harry nodded and sighed, “She has been through quite a bit.”

Dr Mansfield nodded, “I think she will benefit from the stable environment that I think you and your wife can provide.”

“As long as there is still a breath in my body I will do my best to make that happen,” Harry said.

Dr. Mansfield continued, “I am also concerned about Calista’s trick.”

“Her trick?” Harry asked, “You mean shifting her clothes? Is there some element of her trick I’m not aware of?”

Dr. Mansfield sighed, “I was referring to Calista’s second trick. Her ability to call upon tremendous spurts of strength for short periods of time.”

Harry bit his lip, “Is it that serious?”

“Yes and no. I think that if Calista doesn’t learn to control her trick, it could cause trouble for her. From the way she has described this trick, she just reacts to her fear when she feels she is in danger. If she were to get a false sense of danger she could mistakenly cause harm to another individual. One of our trick specialists recommended martial arts as a possibility to help her to learn control over her emotions. I happen to agree with her recommendation.” Dr. Mansfield said.

Harry sighed, “Martial arts, huh? I suppose that might help. I’ve heard certain types of martial arts practice meditation.”

Dr. Mansfield nodded and told him the dojo in town that she had recommended to me earlier. After a few more minutes of discussion most of which was more or less a recap, Harry and I were on our way out of the clinic after having made some follow up appointments with both Dr. Foster and Dr. Mansfield.

After a quiet dinner, Harry, the family, and I sat down in the front room. It had been a pretty awkward meal. Neither Brandon or Cory were very comfortable around me, and their unease had effused itself upon the enter family. It wasn’t until Harry suggested a family game night that the twins began to relax. Both enthusiastically agreed and in short order we were all joined in playing on the family’s Gamestation.

There weren’t enough controllers so we had to take turns. When Amanda’s turn came up we let her win. The twins on the other hand were another matter, they were quite competitive and seemed to dominate the game. So when it came my turn again, I decided to show them how a real gamer played. They were pretty good for kids their age, but I’d been gaming before either had been born and was able to defeat them pretty easily.

They got even more competitive after that and the next time it became our turn together I let them win by just a little bit. Gradually they opened up to me and we started joking with one another. By the time we were done playing, I think I had managed to win them over.

After a while Harry and Linda declared that it was time for bed. Linda guided the twins to their bedroom and Harry carried Amanda to her bedroom. Linda returned first, apparently Harry was reading Amanda a bedtime story and it would be sometime before he was done.

Linda smiled apologetically, “We really don’t have a place for you tonight. I hope the couch will be alright.”

“The couch is fine. I’ve slept in worse places.” I replied thinking back to the day I had passed out in the park.

Linda grabbed me a sheet to drape over the couch and a blanket. She whispered a goodnight and left me alone with my thoughts. I thought of Jeff Goldwin. Logic told me that I had killed him in self-defense and that it had been accident, but no matter how hard I tried to convince myself I couldn’t shake the feeling that it could have been avoided. The truth was I had killed a person and no matter how I tried to justify it I was still a murderer. I wept, sobbing silently so as not to wake anyone. I hated myself for killing Jeff, for leaving Megan and for being a freak. I could hardly live with myself.

I continued weeping in self pity my thoughts eventually leading to Megan. God I missed her so much. I wanted nothing so much as to be with her. It hurt so bad being away from her, but I knew also that she was much safer without me being around. I took some solace in that fact, it was the only thing that kept me going. I lay there for some time before I finally drifted off to sleep.

I was first up the following morning. I tried to go back to sleep, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t fall back asleep. I stumbled into the bathroom and relieved myself. After I washed up I decided to take a shower, but first I would need some clothes. After a trip outside to my car to grab some of my old boy clothes, I was back in the bathroom preparing for a shower.

Once, finished I morphed some of my old boy clothes into girl clothes. I started out by morphing a pair of shorts into a bra and matching pair of panties. Then I morphed a pair of jeans into a short black denim skirt and tight white sleeveless top with a neckline the exposed just a little bit of cleavage. I morphed a pair of socks into a pair of white knee highs and morphed my shoes from the previous day to match the ensemble.

Once done I headed back into the front room and switched the tv on, being careful to keep the volume down so not to wake anyone. It wasn’t long before Linda and Harry woke. We gave our good mornings then Harry left to go take a shower, and I helped Linda make breakfast. Harry returned shortly then we sat down to eat breakfast.

Harry smiled as we sat down to breakfast, “Calista, I’ve been thinking we should take you out today. I know with your trick that you don’t really need new clothes, but Linda and I were talking last night and she made me understand there are some things you might need as a girl.”

I stared back at him with a blank look. It was Linda that elaborated however, “Well I thought we could take you to the salon and get your hair cut for starters.” she said.

I reached up touching my hair, “Is it uneven?” I asked suddenly very concerned about how my hair looked.

“It just needs touched up a little,” Linda replied, “I thought you might want to stop by the mall as well.”

“Alright,” I said almost immediately regretting I had agreed to go.

Pretty soon Amanda, and the twins stumbled out of bed and ate breakfast. Soon afterward everyone save me and Harry took turns taking showers. Amanda being the last took a bath with Linda by her side. Once everything was said and done, we hung about the front room for a while then we all hopped into the families van. After dropping the twins off at a friends house, and Amanda at her cousins Linda, Harry and I were headed for the salon.

I followed Linda into the Salon with Harry taking up the rear. Once inside, Linda walked up to the counter and talked to the lady there. While Harry took a seat in a small waiting area, I was ushered onto a salon chair with Linda following closely behind.

A moderately attractive woman in her mid-twenties came up beside me, “Oh, wow,” she exclaimed, “You look unbelievable!”

I was a bit taken aback. I wasn’t exactly sure if her comment was meant as a compliment or an insult, but her next comment seemed to clarify “Very exotic. I think you look awesome.”

“Umm. Thanks?” I replied.

The woman smiled, “I’m Sally, I’ll be cutting your hair today.”

I gave her my name and she continued, “So I’m guessing this is your first haircut after your twist.”

I grimaced then nodded. “Well do you have anything in mind?” she said draping one of those cloths over me and then clipped it to me neck.

I hesitated not really sure what I really wanted. The part of me that was still male wanted her to cut it all off, but my feminine side was slowly becoming dominant and the idea of cutting my hair off seemed rather drastic. Especially since I wouldn’t look nearly as sexy. I was however getting sick of my long ass hair so I made a compromise between my two feuding selves. “This long hair is driving me nuts, I’d like it shorter.” I paused then said, “Maybe shoulder length.”

Sally looked rather distressed at this for some reason, but it was Linda who spoke first, “Calista it will take a long time to grow your hair out that long again. Are you sure you want to cut it that short?”

I nodded, “Do it.”

The hairdresser turned to Linda as if seeking her permission. They had a brief whispered conversation, Linda wandered off and then with a shrug, Sally began cutting my hair. I watched in the mirror as she began to clip long strands of hair away. Once she got my hair to the length I wanted she started trimming it to make it more even. When she was done she let me look in the mirror. It looked nice, but it just didn’t seem to fit me. It needed something.

“How do you like it?” Sally asked.

I grimaced, “It looks good, but it seems to be missing something.”

I motioned Linda over and she agree with my assessment, and suggested streaking my hair. It was something I had never even considered, but I knew the moment she suggested it that it was what I wanted. I grimaced inwardly I really didn’t want to spend much more time in the salon, but I also new that the feminine me would never be satisfied with my hair as it was. So with some trepidation I agreed.

I passed off to another lady who introduced herself as Wendy. I really didn’t spend much attention to the process, but it involved a weird looking comb that had a metal stick protruding from it, some aluminum foil, some hair clips and some colored goop. Wendy accidentally poked my ears a few times, but it didn’t hurt real bad so I didn’t say anything. When Wendy was finished, she had me look in the mirror. I couldn’t believe how different I looked. My hair was done up in small strands of my normal purple, pink and black. My hair had been styled with kind of choppy ends to give it a bit of a wild look. I looked hot as hell.

Wendy removed the cloth around me and I got out of the chair. I went with Linda to the counter and she paid. I couldn’t believe the price and felt guilty that she would spend so much on a such a simple thing as my hair. Linda however didn’t seem at all perturbed by the price. Once she paid, Harry got up from were he had been waiting and we were soon headed to the mall.

After we had arrived we strolled inside. I noticed almost immediately a huge difference in the attitude of the people towards me. While I did get a lot of looks my way, none of those who looked at me showed any hate or malice. A great many looked upon me with lust in their eyes, some of the girls gave me jealous glares, but there was no real malice in their eyes

Harry and I followed Linda through the mall, and after walking a short distance we stopped at a department store. I was beginning to feel a bit apprehensive, I was starting to get a good idea of what Linda was up to. My suspicions were confirmed when she led us straight to the makeup counter.

“Linda what are we doing here?” I asked feeling very uncomfortable.

Linda looked at me a bit apprehensively, “I thought you might like to try it out.”

A somewhat pretty middle-aged woman, with a name badge that said Candace, approached us from the other side of the counter, “Can I help you find anything?”

“I dunno, maybe,” I said with a gulp. I know it seemed silly especially since my experience at the hair salon, but I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of wearing cosmetics.

My apprehension was soon pushed aside when the Candace spoke. “My you are a very exotic beauty.”

She had pushed the right buttons. I blushed, “Thanks,” I said.

Linda smiled and said, “She just underwent her twist, she doesn’t know anything about cosmetics.”

Candace smiled sympathetically, “You poor thing. Come close here so I can take a look at you.”

I stepped forward a bit apprehensively and let the woman look at me. She grabbed hold of my chin and lightly traced her hands across my cheek. “You have beautiful skin. Which is fortunate, with your unusual skin color you’d be hard pressed to find foundation that would match your skin.” she said removing her hands from my face.

I had no idea what foundation was or why I would need it, but I nodded nonetheless. At that point, I was hanging on every word Candace said. Damn my twist. As my interest started to fade again, she managed to draw me back in. She recommended some eye makeup to draw attention to my “beautiful eyes”.

It didn’t take too long for her to convince me to consent to a makeover. She had only to complement my looks and I would do just about anything to enhance that beauty. She started by applying some make up around my eyes, first with a brush then with a little pencil. When she was done with that she got out of one of those metal things that curl eyelashes. Once she had used the curler on my eyes, she applied mascara with a brush.

When she was done with everything she gave me a mirror to look at myself. I had to admit, the eye makeup really accentuated my eyes. She had used some light colored purple eyeshadow above my eyes. The makeup wasn’t very dark, and had been only lightly applied. Nevertheless it had done its job and drawn attention to my eyes.

Candace smiled, “Now doesn’t that look nice?”

I nodded and smiled in return.

Candace then suggested applying some blush. I agreed, and she brushed some purplish power onto my cheeks. Finally, I allowed Candace to apply some lip stain and gloss to my lips and she was at last done. I looked myself over in the mirror again and was blown away.

I looked so feminine I couldn’t hardly believe it was me. Before, I had been beautiful, with the cosmetics and the new hairdo I looked even more so. After listening to a few beauty tips from Candace, Linda picked out some cosmetics for me and paid for them. Like at the Salon, I couldn’t believe how much they had cost. I felt guilty all over again.

As we made our way out of the store I happened to cast my gaze behind me. I thought I caught site of a familiar face. Within a word to Harry or Linda, I turned around and made my way through the crowd. I walked only a short distance, when I caught sight of a girl with familiar looking blonde tresses. I got closer then I called out her name, “Allison.”

The girl with the blond hair turned and I knew instantly that I had been right. It was Allison. Shock and recognition registered on Allison’s face. “Callie?” she said, “What are you doing here?”

I stood there a moment not really sure what to say. I had never expected to to find Allison here in Spiral, certainly not so soon after I had fled Clearville. I knew she lived here in Spiral, but it had never really occurred to me that we might one day meet again. “I couldn’t continue to endanger Megan. Spiral was the most obvious place for me to go. ” I said finally.

Allison rolled her eyes, “Whatever.”

It was the kind of reaction I had come to expect from Allison, but despite that her response still managed to make me feel guilty. “Is Megan here, in town?” I asked.

Allison shrugged, “And if she is?”

I frowned, “Allison, please. I need to know.”

Allison rolled her eyes again, “Yes she’s here in town. You didn’t really expect after what happened that Uncle John and Megan would be able to stay in that God-awful town do you?”

It really hadn’t thought about it. I had just assumed that with me gone, things would have gotten better. Apparently that wasn’t the case. “Where is she?” I asked.

Allison sighed, “Just chill out. She’s at my parents house. ”

I hesitated then. I was afraid what the answer to my next question was going to be. Would Megan welcome me back into her life, after I had left her. I had to know in no matter what the answer might be. I forced myself to speak, “How is she?”

Allison grimaced, “Oh, god she’s so annoying. The little tramp keeps going on and on about you. Even after I gave her a makeover and she went through her twist. She’s still going on about you.” She said.

“Wait,” I said, “She went through her twist?”

Allison nodded, “Yeah, she’s obsessed with fashion and make up now. She looks a little different too. Speaking of makeovers what’s the deal with the hair and makeup?”

I shook my head, “Never mind that now. Can you take me there?”

“Take you where?” a voice said from behind nearly scaring me half to death. I turned around to face the owner of the voice, it was Harry.

“Harry, this is Allison.” I said motioning toward Allison, “Allison this is my father Harry.” I added motioning back at Harry.

“The same Allison that’s a cousin to that Megan girl?” Harry asked.

I nodded, “She says Megan’s here in town.”

Harry pursed his lips, “Go to her.” he said, “Don’t let her slip away.”

“Thanks,” I said then I turned back to Allison, “Will you take me to her?”

Allison glared at me, “Oh, god you don’t give up. Fine, I’ll take you to her.” she said then without another word she turned back around and started heading the opposite way she had been walking. I followed her out the mall and to a little convertible parked near the entrance to the mall.

Allison let me in the car and we drove clear across town. On the way I tried to engage Allison in conversation, but she didn’t seem very interested. Her responses were often sarcastic snide comments, so I gave up talking to her. When we finally arrived we were in what looked to be a more wealthy part of town in the hills.

I sat there in the car seat as Allison turned off the car. What would I say? I had abandoned Megan, and I didn’t if she would forgive me. How would she react when she saw me? Would it be with arms wide open or would she reject me? I didn’t know, Megan had always been prone to impulsive acts. She was just as likely to kiss me as attack me.

“Ugh,” Allison growled, “Would you just get out of the damn car already?”

I looked to Allison and noted that she was standing beside the drivers side of the car. In my reverie I hadn’t even noticed that she had gotten out of the car. I got out of the car, and followed Allison to the door. She opened the door and I followed her inside.

“Allison honey, I didn’t expect you home this soon.” A man said who was sitting on a nearby sofa.

“Yeah well, I was expecting to run into Calista here.” Allison said with a sigh and pointed her thumb back at me.

A figure appeared in the doorway of the adjoining room. It took me a minute for the face to register, but when it did I realized it was Megan. Her twist had subtly changed her face, and it had taken me a moment to recognize her. Add to the fact that she was wearing makeup, a skirt and a pair of high heeled shoes, which was so unlike the Megan I had known so long, it was no wonder I hadn’t initially recognized her.

Megan simply stood there staring at me for a moment, then she muttered my name and walked over to face me. Then she did something that really surprised me, though it wasn’t really out of character for Megan. It was just the sort of impulsive thing that Megan would do. She balled her hand into a fist and punched me across the face. I staggered back a bit and I could feel my trick starting to surface. I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself. It didn’t work that well, but I managed to not hit anything.

Megan grabbed hold of the collar of my shirt, and I feared she was going to hit me again. Instead, she kissed me. The kiss was passionate and filled with anger, but was also filled with deep desire. We broke away and then I kissed her back.

“Idiot,” Megan growled after we had broken our second kiss, “What were you thinking?”

I looked at her as shame washed over me. I had been telling myself I had left to protect Megan, but that was a lie. I had left for my own selfish reason I had left because I was afraid. “After what happened with Jeff I couldn’t stay. I was afraid.”

Megan looked at me blankly then realization seemed to dawn in her eyes, “That was you? I don’t get it why would beating up Jeff Goldwin make you want to run away?”

I stared at her confused what was she talking about? “Jeff’s dead Megan. I killed him.”

Megan shook her head, “What? No, he’s alive and annoying as ever.”

I couldn’t believe it all this time I had thought I’d killed Jeff and much to my surprise, and he was still alive. “Oh, thank god!” I exclaimed.

“You really thought you killed Jeff?” Megan asked.

I nodded a feeble expression on my face, “It’s this second trick I have.” I said. “I have a hard time controlling it.” Megan looked confused so I explained about my second trick and how it worked.

“Jeff claimed he was attacked by a gang of thugs,” Megan said, “I guess his male pride wouldn’t let him admit he got beat up by girl.”

“I guess so,
” I agreed. Then I added, “Megan I should never have left. It was stupid.”
“Yes, it was.” she said and she kissed me again.

More than a month later, I was applying makeup in front of the mirror in my newly finished bedroom. Previously it had been part of the unfinished basement, but after I had stayed a few days with my new family, it had become quickly evident I needed my own room. So a portion of the basement had emptied out then walls had been put up and then the new room was painted, carpeted and gradually furnished.

I was getting ready in preparation for my date with Megan. It was her turn to drive and she wasn’t due for another half-hour, but I wanted to be ready when she arrived. Megan had forgiven me just a few nights ago, though I still hadn’t managed to forgive myself for abandoning her. After everything that had happened, I had been feeling undeserving of Megan. When I had tried to break things off with her, Megan had told me to stop being stupid and kiss her. So, I had dedicated myself to making sure Megan would never suffer heartache on my account again.

Then there was my life with my new family. My new life with them had been wonderful, especially when it came to Amanda. I don’t know how I could ever gotten through my dark times without her bright and shiny disposition. She was constantly giving me new reasons to laugh, and I loved her to death. She was the little sister I never knew I wanted, but now that I had her I wouldn’t trade her in for all the world.

The twins and I didn’t get along so well sometimes. Sometimes they treated me as if I didn’t really belong there. Part of it was my age, and another was my gender. Despite the fact I was a boy before my twist they didn’t know how to behave around me. Despite all my attempts we were never able to really bridge the gap between us. The only time we came close to doing so was when we were gaming against each other.

Harry, was starting to become the father I had always wanted. He and I had begun to bond and I was even considering starting to call him dad. The paternity test had come back positive, and proved without a doubt that Harry was in fact my father. Harry had even seemed relieved when the results of the test had come in his favor. Had they come back negative I don’t know where I would have gone or what I would have done.

I was growing close to Linda as well. She had stepped into the role of the surrogate mother and helped through some pretty hard times. She had even helped me embrace my femininity and become more confident in myself. At first I had resisted some of her efforts, but had quickly come to realize I liked my new found feminine self. After that I had come to accept her and now welcomed any advice she had to give.

Then there was my martial arts training, I had started the week following my reunion with Megan and I really believed it was helping. I was starting to enjoy the time I spent at the dojo. I struggled about with the meditative parts of my training, but it was time well spent if it meant controlling my trick.

All in all I couldn’t complain with my new life. I looked myself over in the mirror again. It had taken me quite a lot of practice and a little help from Linda, but I had learned how to correctly apply cosmetics. I’d tried a number of different combinations, but the one I favored was very similar to the combination the lady at the makeup counter had tried on me. The main difference was that I used pink blush which closely matched the color of pink in my hair.

Once I was done I picked out a silver necklace from my jewelry box. It had an amethyst gemstone set in a silver pendant. I undid the clasp then I reattached the clasp once the the necklace was around my neck. The necklace had been the first I had bought with my own money. It had taken some doing, but I managed to convince Harry to give me a job at one of his restaurants. It came in handy for buying jewelry, cosmetics and purses since my trick didn’t seem to extend to any of the three. Of course, that didn’t account for all my spending I was still an avid gamer and I needed money for my dates with Megan.

I looked over myself again, and smiled. I looked hot as hell, and I knew Megan would agree. I started out my bedroom and began my way up the stairs. It was then that the bell rang. In all likelihood it was Megan. Eagerly, I made my way the rest of the way up the stairs and reached the door. As I had guessed it was indeed Megan.

She kissed me deeply on the lips and I thought then that maybe I could spend the rest of my life with Megan. I returned her kiss then I followed her out the door and we left on our way to what could be a very bright future.

The End

Comments, no matter the length, are very much appreciated. If you liked this story please take a minute to leave a review or even just to tell me you liked it. Criticism is welcome so long as it is constructive and I will gladly answer any personal messages or emails you want to send my way.

As my other stories this is a work of fiction and as such any resemblance to real life individuals, events or locations is purely unintentional. Only my own site, Fictionmania, Bigcloset Topshelf, & tgstorytime.com have permission to host this story and my previous works unless I state otherwise.

Destiny: Legacy of a Spellbinder

03/25/2017

The final battle swiftly approaches and it has been given to me to complete a task so monumental that it may be the sole means by which the Jotun can be defeated. All of Midgard and the goddesses themselves depend on me. Am I up to the task, or will I fail and doom the entirety of human existence to total annihilation?

 

Author’s Note: As this is the third and final story in my Ragnarok Rising trilogy I highly recommend reading ‘Incompatible’ and the revised version of ‘Transfigured’ before proceeding further. This story was originally post as a serial, for simplicity’s sake I’m posting it in its entirety here. Each part comprises what was a separate posting on BCTS, FM and tgstorytime.
I’ve posted a glossary of terms (including the days/months and their English equivalents) and a Mythos which explains the underlying mythology behind the stories to go along with the series, both can be found here and at Bigcloset Topshelf, Fictionmania, & tgstorytime.
Shout outs go to the following people: Beyogi, Maggie Finson, Loki who served as either alpha and/or beta readers, The Rev. Anam Chara who helped edit some of the dialogue (spoken by the characters Hervor, Heime & Gilda) to more accurately reflect Elizabethan era English and last but certainly not least the late Holly H Hart for her superb editing prowess.

+ - + - + - +

Well, I should probably start out by introducing myself. My name was Neil back before I become aware of the whole Ragnarok mess. I really don’t look much like a Neil these days, but I’ll talk more about that in a little while.

Many of you probably have no idea who I am, but you’ll be getting to know me pretty well soon enough. Up to now you’ve heard the tale for the perspective of the Lady Aryanna le Fey, and there’s been good reason for that, and to tell the truth she could probably tell my story just fine. We actually discussed it, but she feels that it’s my turn to take the reins and tell you peeps what happened. So that’s exactly what I’m doing!

A good portion of the story has been lifted directly from my journal, but I’ve expanded on it and added dialog where I felt it appropriate. That being said, Aryanna will be adding her own two cents here and there mostly to help the reader fill in the gaps.

I didn’t actually start writing in my journal until after my first encounter with Hervor, so this first part was written entirely from scratch. It may not seem very relevant at first, but I felt it was necessary to tell of these events to help the reader understand some things mentioned further on in the story. So, let’s get this party started, shall we?

+

The exact date was the twenty-eighth of Hostmander, and a small group of friends and I were just getting out of a telepicture. It was pretty late and there were only a handful of steamcars left in the parking lot. Our friend, Sophie Rolfe was moving away so we’d taken her out as a final goodbye.

We all went to school together and out of the four of us, Leif was the only one that wasn’t a complete outcast. Sophie’s social standing really had more to do with choice, she dyed her hair electric-blue and had a nose stud and set a of snake bites in her lips. She wanted to be an outcast, she didn’t get along well with her mother and so acted out to piss her Mom off.

Ham, was an outcast because of his attitude. He hated the Spellbinders and frequently went into long tirades about why they were the ultimate evil. Not that I didn’t disagree, but Ham would have spared himself a lot of problems if he’d just learned when to shut his mouth.

Now me, I wasn’t really liked because of who my mother happened to be.

Like I mentioned before, Leif wasn’t a complete outcast, he was athletic, half-way good-looking and was the son of a powerful Spellbinder. That being said, I wouldn’t trade places with Leif for all the money in the world, even knowing what I do now. The Aquitaines were hung up on some of the oldest traditions, and they treated the male members of their family like crap. That really wasn’t the worst of it either. Many Spellbinder Houses still forced their male sons into arranged marriages in order to maintain the ‘purity’ of the bloodline.

The men’s rights movement had made some huge steps in the last twenty years or so, but the slowest change was coming from within the Spellbinder houses themselves. The government had created laws protecting men from discrimination, and it was becoming more and more common for men to get elected into positions of power. That being said, Spellbinder Houses still had far too much control over the lives and futures of their male descendants, and the greater majority of elected officials were still women.

Sophie, Leif and I had been friends for years. Leif and I really didn’t know Ham that well, but Sophie had been dating him, so we’d thought it best to bring him along. Sophie was really very pretty, despite having a nose that was much too large for her face, but the two of us had never been anything more than friends. Leif, on the other hand, had been nursing a secret crush on her for years.

“Well guys, I had fun tonight,” Sophie muttered.

“Yeah, me too,” I replied back. Leif and Ham chimed in with agreements of their own.

We all offered our goodbyes and Sophie and Ham shared a kiss before we all departed. It was weird saying goodbye to someone that I’d known so long. I always figured we’d be friends for our whole lives. Well, life seldom goes as we plan. Sophie leaving was just a small bump in the road compared to the events that would soon follow.

I was just making my way over to my brand new Hudson Roadster XL7 when there was a loud thud from the hood of a nearby steamcar. My heart leapt up into my throat, but when I looked over to investigate I didn’t see anything. Chalking it off to my tired mind playing tricks on me I continued on to my steamcar. When I was just a few feet away from the door, I could have sworn I felt someone’s warm breathe on my throat. Then there was loud inhuman wail and the sound of someone or something scurrying away. I didn’t know it them, but I came closer to death that night than I ever had up to that point in my life.

+

Well that really concludes my little introduction, the next part is from Aryanna’s journal, then we’ll hear from me again.

Freydag 3. Morsugur

I had a dream last night and the implications of that dream terrify me. In the dream wherever I looked there was madness and destruction. I watched as hordes of dark elves, trolls, draugar and other dark creatures swarmed across the land and the last remnant of humanity were squashed out like insects by gigantic Jotun, wielding weapons larger than the people they slaughtered. Even the goddesses were incapable of stemming the onslaught, and they too fell before the giants. Soon nothing remained but the shattered remnants of a once thriving world. I stared out into the crumbling remains of Midgard and wept. How had I failed? What could I have done differently?

In the dream, everyone I loved and cared about was gone. I was alone. What cruel fate would have spared me when everything else had been destroyed? Anger welled up inside me at the unfairness of it all. Why after everything I had done must I live to see the destruction of everything that I held dear? I screamed in rage and anguish and felt despair overtake me.

Suddenly, everything faded away and I found herself within a black expanse of nothingness. There was nothing save the darkness in any direction. “Aryanna Morgana le Fey,” a soft voice said and a woman with flowing black hair and a serene smile on her face appeared. Despite the darkness that surrounded me the woman was clearly visible as if she were standing out in the brightest sunlight.

“What you have been shown has not yet come to pass and should we be successful, it will not.”

“What is this place? Why have you brought me here? Who are you?” I asked.

The woman smiled, “I am the Goddess Nyorun. This is my domain, the world of dreams, and I have brought you here to speak with Frigg.”

I shook my head, “Why?”

“It is for Frigg to tell you her reasons. Please follow me,” she said with a dreamy smile, then swirled around and began to walk away without waiting to see if I followed.

I leapt after her and followed on her tail as the darkness fell away and was replaced with the brightest of white light. I put my hand over my eyes to guard against its glare, but it did no good. The light was so bright that it shone through my hand. I let my hand drop back to my side and noticed for the first time that Nyorun had disappeared. I spun around and found myself alone within the light.

“Be at ease, Aryanna,” a soothing voice said from my side.

“Frigg,” I muttered and turned to face her.

“The time is almost upon us,” Frigg said smiling sadly. “The final battle looms ever more close. In just over four months the Jotun will come and descend upon Midgard.”

“The final battle? Ragnarok cannot be so close. There is still too much for me to do,” I said with a shake of my head.

“There is a task that must be completed before it is too late. One which grows more urgent as Naglfar grows nearer to breaking from its moorings.

“What would you have me do?” I said staring at the goddess with wide eyes.

Frigg smiled. “It is not you that must complete this task, mortal.”

“Who then?” I asked.

The goddess’s smile widened further as she spoke and told me what must be done. A sense of dread filled me and I awoke…

+

“Elska,” the soft voice of Daniella said speaking softly into my ear. “What is wrong?”

I gasped and locked eyes with my partner of almost twenty years. Absently I traced my fingers across Daniella’s soft cheek. “The final battle is coming,” I muttered. “Oh goddesses, it is coming.”

Daniella smiled reassuringly, “It was just a dream, my love. Go back to sleep. The final battle has waited this long. It won’t be coming tonight.”

I shuddered and kissed Daniella’s hand. “It wasn’t just any dream. There is a person I must find or all will be lost. Frigg has shown me what must be done.”

Daniella frowned, “Who are you to find? How are you to find them?”

“She didn’t say. She said only that this person’s awakening would be marked by the touch of an elf,” I said, quickly getting out of bed, “and that I would know them.”

Daniella followed me out of bed, came to stand facing me then wrapped her arms around my waist, “What can you expect to do at this hour?”

I frowned staring at Daniella’s glorious naked chest then lightly kissed her on the lips, “I’m going to find some answers.”

+

My search for answers this morning proved to be fruitless. I spent much of the early morning hours searching for Brokk and a couple of my other sources to no avail. After returning home for some much needed sleep, I left the estates once again. It was getting dark at the time, but I knew Brokk’s shop would still be open.

“By the beard of Dvalinn, you filthy little…” the clean-shaven dwarf said, trailing off.

“Oh, ” he muttered a smile slowly forming on his face upon seeing me. “Sorry ’bout that. Filthy little beggar just wouldn’t take no for an answer. I thought maybe he’d come back. What can I do for yeh Lady Aryanna?”

I smiled a weary tired smile. “Is your brother around? I was wondering if I might speak with him.”

Eitri was probably the only cheerful dwarf I had ever met. Most dwarves had a gruffness about them that Eitri seemed to lack. He had an almost grandfatherly air about him. “No, sorry lass. Brokk hasn’t been about in days. The conclave has got him busy runnin’ all over the place. Yeh don’t be needed more weapons do yeh?”

I shook my head, “No, probably not. You haven’t heard anything concerning Nyorun or Frigg have you?”

Eitri’s face cracked into a big frown, “Nothin’ spercifically about the goddess o’ dreams or the Allmother, but word amongst the conclave is that the goddesses are on the move. Some are even whisperin’ that the final battle between them Jotun and the Aesir is comin’ round the corner. O’ course, I’m sure yeh would know about that wouldn’t yeh? Being Frigg’s champion and all.”

“You would think so. Wouldn’t you?” I muttered noncommittally. “What about the light elves?” I asked suddenly.

Eitri scratched his face, “As a matter o’ fact, that there light elf Queen Hervor is in town. Saw her meself just a few hours ago.”

“Really? That’s interesting,” I said remembering what Nyorun had said about the touch of an elf. “Any idea what she’s up too?”

“Now that little piece o’ information will cost yeh,” Eitri said with a greedy conniving grin on his face. Greed was a favorite past-time of the dvergar that Eitri, it seemed, was all too happy to participate in.

I smiled and shook my head. “How much?”

“A hunderd gold trigguts, and I gives yeh one more weapon,” he said.

I eyed the dwarf curiously, “Another weapon? What exactly do I need another weapon for?”

“It’s the only offer yeh’r going to get. Take it or leave it.”

“Very well, looks like I have little choice. I’ll send someone with the payment along later provided your information is correct.”

“Deal,” the dwarf smiled. “Rumor is the Elf Queen is lookin’ fer a half-elf.”

My face drained of all color. “A half-elf? Goddesses! Neil!” I muttered then disappeared with a great gust of wind.

+

Freydag, the third of Morsugur

Oh Hel, this has been one weird frizzing ass day and I need to vent. I’ve finally started writing in this journal my gramor gave me for the festival of Jul. I keep thinking that maybe it’s all just some weird dream, but I know better than that. I’ve been sitting here staring at this stupid journal trying to figure out where to even begin. I guess I’ll just start at the mall…

It was just a normal Freydag, and I was standing around in the usual place waiting for Eva, my girlfriend, if she could even be called that.

“Hey there,” a soft feminine voice said suddenly in my ear. “Sorry I’m late.”

I grinned and turned to face Eva. She had a pair of dazzling ocean-blue eyes, shoulder length raven-black hair, a nice pair of breasts, a smoking hot body and the face of a valkyrie. I’d met her a few months back at a party. She’d been standing in the corner glaring at everybody that came near her. I don’t know how I managed to do it, but somehow I convinced her to dance with me and we’d been together every since.

“Did you miss me?” she asked.

I grabbed hold of the girl around the waist and kissed her on the lips. “Fraggin’ frizz, yes!” I said grinning.

“Good. I missed you too,” she said, giving me a dazzling smile that made me weak in the knees.

I couldn’t quite place it, but there was something odd about Eva. Don’t get me wrong I’m crazy about her, but she keeps saying all this weird stuff. she will sometimes be brutally honest and she reacts to the most mundane things as if seeing them for the first time. There were other things too. She had never told me her last name, and I knew next to nothing about her. I don’t know why I put up with it. Oh wait, yeah I do, she’s freaking hot!

“Well, I can’t get you out of my head,” I murmured which was true enough. Despite the weird hluti I had to deal with I couldn’t stop thinking about her. Who was this strange girl? Why wouldn’t she tell me anything about herself? Where did she come from? I shook my head and grinned as I looked Eva in the eyes.

“I was thinking we could go—” I said stopping mid-sentence as I realized that Eva wasn’t paying attention to me.

“Look at that one,” Eva said suddenly. “She has a nice pair of breasts.”

Eva was into girls too, which I really thought was pretty hot, but I found it a bit unnerving when she pointed out pretty girls for me to appreciate. Odder still, she fully expected me to point one out if I happened to find her attractive.

“Someone is following us,” she said suddenly.

“What? Who would be following us?” I asked craning my neck to look around.

Sure enough, a woman with long golden locks seemed to be tailing us, and she really wasn’t making any secret of it either. When I locked eyes with her, she flashed a smile, and that’s about when I knew something was seriously wrong. I stopped mid-stride and stared at her with my mouth hanging wide open like some kind of idiot.

“I don’t like this. Can we please leave?” Eva asked.

I didn’t answer, not because I didn’t want too, but because I couldn’t. My feet were planted firmly on the ground, and I couldn’t move them no matter how much I tried. My eyes followed the blond woman as she got closer. She was drop-dead gorgeous, yet I didn’t feel the least bit attracted to her. There was something familiar about her, I didn’t know why, but I knew I had never met her before.

“I feel deep regret,” she muttered with a sad smile as she got closer.

“For what?” I asked dumbly finally able to speak.

The woman shook her head. A single tear ran down her face and she reached out to touch me on the right cheek with an open palm. “For the changes that I am about to invoke within thee.”

Eva leapt at her, muttering something in a language I didn’t understand. The soft glow of magic enveloped them both, and suddenly Eva went soaring through the air, and with a bright flash the blond woman was gone.

White hot pain shot from my face where the woman had touched me and surged through my entire body. I fell to my knees as sweat shot out from what felt like every pore and a strange lurching dizziness hit me. My stomach felt like it was going to explode and I clutched at it as my belly groaned in protest. The last thing I remember was hearing Eva scream and then the darkness poured in and brought me relief from my agony.

+

“Neil, are you alright?” Eva’s voice echoed in my head. I blinked and looked up and felt my eyes bulge out of my head as two Evas looked down at me.

“Frizz!” I said groaning loudly. “I’m seeing double. What happened?”

“She touched you and you just collapsed. I tried to stop her, but she got away,” she said tracing her hand across my face.

“She is a light elf,” Eva added suddenly, and leaned over me, which granted me an awesome view of her cleavage in the process.

I stared up at my girlfriend in confusion, “A light elf? What would she want with me?”

She shrugged, “I couldn’t say.”

“How would you know she was an elf anyway?” I asked with a sigh.

Eva gave me a cautious look, “I-I know an elf when I see one.”

“Holy Frizz I think you’re right. Mom told me what light elves are like, and I think she could be one. Where’d she go anyway?”

“I don’t know. She called up a travel spell and was gone before I knew what had happened,” she said with a shake of her head.

I shook my head and laughed, “Frizz, Mom’s not going to be happy.”

I groaned and started to sit up, but a wave of dizziness washed over me and I sank back down to the ground. It was about that time that I finally noticed the shield of spirit magic that surrounded us. I’d seen my mom raise similar shields before, so I was able to recognize it almost at once. The barrier must have been Eva’s, which meant she was either a Spirit Mage or a Spellbinder. No Charmer would ever have the power to raise any kind of shield, and very few Enchantresses would be capable of raising a shield as large as the one that surrounded us.

Eva closed her eyes and placed her hand on my left shoulder. I gasped as a bright white light poured out from her fingers and shot through my body. Eva rocked on her haunches and she let out a soft groan as a shudder swept through her body. Her eyes snapped open and I could see an expression of pure shock mirrored in her eyes.

“It cannot be!” she screamed hysterically. “It’s not possible! You can’t be one of them! No!”

“Eva…” I said in a vain attempt to calm her down, but was cut short as the air around us seemed to ripple and the dome of spirit magic that surrounded us shook like a bowl of gelatin.

Eva’s eyes widened further and her hand began to shake. “My Shield! I can’t let anyone through my shield!”

Suddenly the air started swirling around almost if we had been caught in the middle of a whirlwind. A bright blue light temporarily blinded me and faded away as a large tear appeared in the shield. A woman with long auburn hair and an angry scowl stepped through the crack in the barrier and I felt my heart leap into my throat when I saw her.

“Frigg and Hel,” I muttered under my breath and watched as the hole in Eva’s shield closed behind my mother, Aryanna le Fey.

Freydag, the third of Morsugur (cont’d)

“Get away from my son,” my mother said a faint aura of red energy beginning to form around her fists. Despite being almost sixty she still looked like she was in her early twenties which was to be expected since she was a powerful Spellbinder. My friends all thought my mom was hot, but I didn’t see it. I mean she was my mom after all.

“Hey Mom,” I muttered. “So, I guess you’re wondering how–” I said, but stopped short as she gave me a look that could have boiled solid stone.

“I said get away from my son! Elf!” Mother said rounding on Eva. “Where’s Hervor? Where’s your queen?”

Eva met my mother’s gaze calmly. “I have no queen, I have no people, I am unbound,” she muttered her eyes cast down to the floor.

I couldn’t have heard that right, Eva was an elf? It didn’t make sense, or did it? It would certainly explain almost all of her behavior. She was unbound? What in the name of Sif was that supposed to mean?

Mom’s anger seemed to fade away and she seemed a bit taken aback. “What in the name of Hel are you doing here?”

“It is a very long story. Neil is important to me, I think he may be my lifkyn.”

Mom eyed Eva warily then her eyes suddenly locked on me. “Goddesses,” she said. “I’m too late. Hervor has already gotten to you.”

“Hervor?” Eva gasped in horror. “That was Queen Hervor?!”

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen what you have, but I have reason to believe she was looking for Neil,” Mom said between pursed lips.

Mom obviously knew something about this whole mess that I didn’t. Which could only mean she had known something like this might happen. It would also explain a lot of her behavior over the years.

“Shit, what the Hel is going on, Mom?” I demanded suddenly.

“Neil! Watch your language!” Mom snapped.

“We will discuss it at home,” she added looking to Eva then back to me. “Privately.”

“Not without Eva,” I said resolutely.

“Oh, she’ll be coming with us. I have questions to ask her and I would very much like to know what an unbound elf is doing in New Copenhagen. Especially one that has so much interest in my son.”

“Fine,” I said glaring at her, “but I want her there when we talk.”

“We will see…” she said with a trailing off with a sigh. “It involves your father.”

There was a surprise, Mom never talked about my father, even my gramor who was usually very open about nearly everything became very evasive when the subject of my father came up. What was it about him that no one wanted me to know? When I had been younger I had always imagined that my father had died performing some heroic act, but as I grew older I had become more realistic. Mom had never shown any attraction toward men and I long suspected that she had never intended for me to be conceived. The answer to the question that had always been kept from me was dangling in front of my eyes and I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.

“She’ll be there,” I said stubbornly, “or I’ll tell her anyway.”

Mom didn’t look happy at all. “Sometimes I think you are too stubborn for your own good.”

“I learned from the best,” I responded irritably.

Mom gave me one of her looks, but I guess she decided not to respond. She turned to Eva, “What’s your name?”

“Eva.”

“Have you ever used a travel spell?”

Eva frowned, “No. I was never very good at controlling air magic.”

“Very well, take one another’s hands and we’ll form a circle. I’ll need you to drop your shield once I give you the signal.” Mother said kneeling down and taking my hand just as Eva clasped hold of each of our free hands.

“Now!” Mom yelled as the wind began to whip and whirl around us. Eva’s shield buckled then disappeared with a flash of light. I felt a strange yet familiar tugging feeling then we all disappeared into the void.

+

Laurdag, the fourth of Morsugur

I never got a chance to finish up my journal entry last night, but after what Eva and I did it’s not really much of a surprise, but I’ll write about that here in a little bit. Anyway, it’s a brand new day and I can’t say that the revelations of yesterday sit with me any better than they did Freydag. I was so shocked and frustrated from everything that happened that I hadn’t really felt like writing it down. I guess now is as good of a time as any to play catch up.

Shortly after arriving home yesterday Mother announced that she would return shortly then disappeared and left a gust of wind to ripple through my bedroom.

“I-I suppose you aren’t very happy with me,” Eva said almost as soon as the wind had subsided.

“You think? I mean when were you planning on telling me you were an elf?!” I asked glaring back at her.

Eva closed her eyes and tears started to form in the corner of her eyes. “I was afraid that if you knew what I am, what I once was that you might not want to be with me any longer.”

“Why?”

“You wouldn’t understand,” she said quietly.

“I wouldn’t understand? Well, I certainly won’t if you don’t tell me!”

“I’m unbound. It means I chose to leave my people. I couldn’t live with the darkness any longer.”

“Eva what darkness?”

Eva’s hands began to tremble, “It’s not something… You couldn’t understand. I used to be–” she hesitated.”

“Used to be what?”

“–a dark elf,” she continued sobbing hysterically.

Of all the things she might have said that was about the last thing I would have expected. How could she have ever been a dark elf? I’d heard Mom describe them and Eva didn’t resemble one in the least. What did it matter? She certainly wasn’t a dark elf anymore. I wanted to wrap my arms around her and tell her everything was okay, but I didn’t have the strength. Instead, I reached over and grabbed hold of her hand.

“Eva! Listen to me! It doesn’t matter who or what you were. It only matters who you chose to be right here and now.”

“You still don’t understand,” she said letting out a deep breathe as she attempted to rein in her tears. “I was sent to kill you.”

“W-what?!” I asked staring at her wide-eyed and let my hand fall away.

“You didn’t see me, I was cloaked in magic. It was a few weeks before the party where we first danced. I almost did it, I almost killed you. The magic was coursing through me and all I would have need done was summon it.”

I remembered that night, it was the night Leif, Ham, and I had taken Sophie out one last time. I’d had a pretty creepy encounter with a sort of invisible presence and I had managed to convince myself that it had all been a figment of imagination. Clearly, I’d been wrong. It had been Eva whose breathe I’d fealty on my throat, it had been Eva that had produced that inhuman wail and scurried away.

“Eva goddesses, why?”

“I-I don’t know exactly. I looked into your eyes and I realized what I was about to do was wrong, more than that I saw the wrongness within me. It terrified me and I just ran.”

“Eva… I don’t even know what to say. This is just so much to process.”

“Maybe it would be best if I left. I don’t know how you can even look at me,” she said and started for the door, but before she had made it halfway it swung open and in stepped Mom followed closely by the blond woman from the mall.

“Neil,” Mom said stopping mid-stride. “What’s wrong?”

The blond woman smiled, cocked her head and said something in a strange tongue.

Eva stumbled backward, looking as if she had been slapped, “Not long ago I wouldn’t have hesitated to kill you, light elf.”

“Thou hast forsaken the darkness within thy heart. Murder is no longer thy way,” the strange woman said with an odd gleam in her eyes.

“Hervor, what on Midgard is going on here?” Mom demanded rounding on the blond woman.

Holy Frigg the blond woman really was Hervor, the queen of light elves! What was she doing here and what interest did she have in me?

“Ask the girl, Seidkona. It is for her to tell,” Hervor replied with a tired sigh.

Mom’s eyes locked on Eva and she folded her arms across her chest. “Tell me.”

Eva sank to her knees and she started to sob again. “I-I used to be a dark elf.”

“What? How is that even possible?” Mom asked staring at her with wide eyes.

“Elves are not as humans. When darkness enters within it be reflected without. When light pierces the darkness and shines upon the soul, change be wrought upon the body just as it is the spirit,” Hervor muttered with that weird gleam in her eyes again.

“So what she’s a light elf now?” I asked.

“Nay, child. She is unbound. She hath chosen not to dwell among my people,” Hervor said with a sad smile.

“I-I should leave,” Eva said coming to stand on shaky knees. “After what I was, after what I’ve done I was a fool to think Neil would want to be with me.”

“Nay, I cannot allow it child,” Hervor said moving to block Eva’s path.

“Move light elf!” Eva screamed.

“I think not! Thou knowest not what be at stake.”

“What’s going on here? ” A new voice asked from the doorway and a familiar face pushed its way into the bedroom. It was Daniella, my… Well I’m not really sure exactly what I’d call her, but she was my mother’s partner of almost twenty years so that had to count for something. Especially since in many ways, she has been every bit the mother to me as Mom.

“Neil!” she exclaimed as she saw me laying in bed and came running to fling her arms around me. There was a familiar tingle as I felt her magic wash over me and I could see the worry in her eyes as she broke away.

“Oh goddesses,” she said her eyes growing wide. “Neil, no, not you too!”

“Would someone please explain to me what’s going on?! First, I get attacked by the queen of the crenking light elves in the mall. Then I find out my girlfriend used to be a dark elf who was sent to kill me. What the Hel has got the elves so scared of me?”

“Eva was sent to kill you?” Mom asked suddenly rounding on Eva, who withered under her gaze.

“I don’t know why the fólkhagi wanted him dead. I was just a low-level assassin with barely the enough power to match a human spellbinder.” Eva said her voice barely more than a whisper.

“And what about Hervor? What was that about?”

“I intended thee no harm. Half thy blood is Álfar, I merely caused that thy Elven side dominate and that the magic awaken within thee.”

“Okay, I couldn’t have heard that right. I’m a half-elf?” I replied letting out a long sigh.

“It’s true Neil. Heime, Hervor’s son is your father,” Mom said scowling at Hervor.

Holy frizz! I wasn’t just a half-elf I was royalty, the grandchild of the queen herself! It was couldn’t be true, it didn’t make any frizzing sense. Then I felt a cold chill tickle down my spine as the rest of Hervor’s statement set in. “You awakened the magic in me?” I asked filling dread fill me as I realized just what it meant.

“Aye, child,” Hervor said softly.

“Oh frizzing Hel. I’m going to change into a damn girl. What gives you the right?!”

“‘Twas necessary,” she said matter-of-factly.

“Why!? What possible reason could there be!?”

Hervor shook her head, “To ensure the survival of our peoples against the coming of Ragnarok and the final battle. Surely, that be reason enough!”

Ragnarok? I thought she was frizzing nuts, but when I looked to Mom and Daniella I was met with looks that only served to confirm the elf queen’s pronouncement.

“That’s crazy talk! Ragnarok? I mean come on, get real!”

“Hath he not been told?” Hervor said rounding on my mother.

“No, Hervor I didn’t tell him. I knew that you and Frigg had something big planned for him. The very least I could do for my son was allow him to have a normal life until the time came!” Mom retorted.

“The time is come, Seidkona. The truth cannot be kept from him any longer,” Hervor said with a weary sigh.

“Well, I don’t really have much choice, now do I?”

“Mom, this is freaking me out. Just tell me it’s not true. Ragnarok can’t be coming,” I muttered feeling a sense of panic and dread come over me.

“It is coming, Neil. I’m sorry I kept it from you. I just hope you won’t be angry with me once you learn the truth. I think it’s best if I told you the story from the very beginning,” she said. “It all started before my transformation…”

Mom went on to tell the story of when she was working as a security guard back before she became a woman she stumbled onto something she shouldn’t have and wound up getting attacked. If her magic hadn’t awakened to protect her, thus killing her attacker she probably would have died.

I’m obviously not going to tell the whole story here, but after a long series of events Mom found herself transformed into a woman, and named our ancestor Athilda’s apprentice. She wound up incurring a debt to Hervor in the process which is how my conception came about, but I’ll explain that here in a little bit.

Well, it’s pretty complicated, but Mom along with her then lover, Penelope, wound up getting abducted by none other than Claudia de Clission, the daughter of Jeane de Clisson, the woman Mom had killed when her magic awoke. Claudia attempted to invade my mother’s mind, but it didn’t work out very well for her as Penelope intervened and prevented her from turning my mother into her slave.

Penelope had been working for Claudia the whole time, but only because the De Clisson woman had been keeping her younger sister, Marion, hostage. Long story short, both Penelope and Claudia wound up dead. Athilda showed up and helped Mom rescue Marion then took Mom and the young girl back to the estates.

After they had returned safely, Athilda told Mom her concerning her suspicions that Ragnarok was coming. Not long after that Mom was visited by the Goddess Frigg who then confirmed that Ragnarok was coming and more importantly that it could be stopped. Frigg enlisted Mother’s aid and set her upon the task of finding a means to halt Ragnarok.

She explained that it had been her that had caused the magic to come awake within Mom, and that my mother would be instrumental in the fight against the Jotun. She also said that if they played their cards right there would be another ‘who could very well save our existence.’

She also insisted that whatever happened, Mom must fulfill the debt to Hervor. I know it sounds weird, and even knowing what came of that debt I still can’t figure out why it was so important.

As for the whole debacle with the De Clissons, with Claudia dead, the Seidskati decided to keep her betrayal a secret from the world. Athilda didn’t trust anyone within the council so she had elected to keep her knowledge concerning the coming of Ragnarok secret from her fellow council members and convinced them their actions had been nothing more than a grab for power. While the Seidskati did investigate the remaining members of the family, they weren’t able to confirm any involvement.

My gramor, wound up adopting Marion and they all grew pretty close, even Athilda. About five years into her apprenticeship, Mom discovered that Athilda was dying from Leukemia. Shortly after this discovery Mom would complete her apprenticeship and go on to become a full Spellbinder.

But that’s only half the story, the rest of it wouldn’t take place until a year after Mom’s ascension to full Spellbinder. By them, Mom had managed to accumulate a surprising amount of power. Athilda, having grown increasingly ill from her cancer, stepped down as Head of House le Fey and named Mom acting head in her place. Naturally, her rise to power at such a young age hadn’t made her very popular among her own house or even among the Seidskati. Everything she did was an uphill battle against overwhelming odds, and to tell the truth not much has changed in all these years.

It was about then that Daniella pitched in and together they wove the rest of the story. Like Mom, Daniella had begun life as a man, but her transformation had been brought about by entirely different means.

Daniella told the story of how she was abducted by the mad Doctor Mengele who was convinced that he could give men the ability to use magic by means of his formula, and it worked… sort of.

He had created his original formula years before and he was so eager to try it out that he tested it on himself. The formula did grant him the use of magic, but he also started to transform into a woman and he got stuck midway. While the magic had extended Mengele’s life considerably, continued use ironically was slowly killing him. Both Mom and Daniella seemed to believe that his condition may also have contributed to if not caused his madness. Whatever the case, he spent years trying to perfect his formula and when he thought he might have finally perfected it he tested it on Daniella and a handful of others.

This was all in the days when the Men’s rights movement was at its most violent and Mom was working with the Task Force Against domestic terrorism to track down the leader of the ‘Sons of Odin’, a man by the name of Jonas Talman. Together, they raided his compound which happened to be the same place Daniella was being held, but discovered that Talman was already gone.

The raid wasn’t entirely unsuccessful, they did manage to capture Nicholas Flint, one of Talman’s lieutenants and found evidence of Mengele’s experimentation. Mengele escaped, and took Daniella with him, but he did leave his other victims behind, all of whom died, but not before Mom discovered that magic had somehow woken within them.

Flint was a war hero, and Mom believed him to be a good man despite his involvement with the Sons of Odin, so she made him an offer, freedom in exchange for his help in averting Ragnarok. Naturally, he was pretty skeptical, but he would eventually come around. He told Mom about Mengele, but still refused to reveal information about Talman.

Mom left him to mull things over, and went to see if she could track down Mengele. Heime showed up to settle the debt owed to Hervor and that’s where my conception comes into play. It’s pretty screwed up, but Hervor sent her son to knock my mom up. Yeah, it makes me shudder just thinking about it.

“Frizz lady, do you have any idea how messed up that is?!” I said unable to keep my silence any longer.

“You have no idea,” Mom muttered with a shake of her head and a very slight shudder.

“What was done, was done out of necessity, Seidkona.”

“Here’s an idea. Why don’t you tell us why!?” I spat.

“Alas I cannot. The time is not yet right.”

“For a people who are suppose to be incapable of lying you sure know how to withhold the truth,” I spat bitterly.

“I think I’m beginning to understand now why I was sent to kill Neil,” Eva put in.

“How can we trust you? Knowing what you used to be?” Mom asked glaring down at Eva.

“I would never hurt him. I’m no longer capable of the things I once was,” Eva muttered her voice barely more than a whisper.

“If the girl speaks so, it be the truth. She is no longer capable of deceit,” Hervor added.

“We can trust her Mom. I’ve been meeting her for months and never once has she tried to kill me,” I said.

Mom nodded, “I’m putting my trust in my son’s judgment, but if you hurt him I swear to the goddesses you’ll regret it.”

Eva paled visibly and nodded in understanding. “I would never hurt him, not so long as I live. I swear it.”

“Good,” Daniella put in folding her arms across her chest.

“So… what happened next? I mean if I’m supposed to be involved in all this Ragnarok business I should probably know what I’ll be dealing with.”

“Yes, it’s probably a good idea. After, fulfilling Hervor’s debt, I went looking for information…”

Mom told how she learned of Menegele’s whereabouts from a dwarf named Brokk in exchange for a piece of land which the family owned on Álfheim and an agreement that the dvergar would make weapons for the army she was soon to raise.

About that time, Flint had just been visited by Frigg who offered him a deal. In exchange for his help averting Ragnarok, Frigg would see to it that the playing field between the sexes would be leveled. Not long after that, he would be rescued from prison by an irritable Kobold named Crystal, who had been sent by the Frigg in order to lead him to Mengele’s hideout.

Well anyway, outside the abandoned apple distillery where Mengele was hiding, Mom met up with two other Spellbinders, Agnes Bernauers and Elizabeth Bathory. Believing that Elizabeth was a traitor in cahoots with the Jotun, Mom had invited them both in the hopes that she would be able to ferret out the truth. After an intensive search of the compound they found the room where the partially transformed Daniella was being kept, but apparently no Mengele. After they freed Daniella, Mengele made his appearance and inadvertently revealed the identity of the traitor in the process. It wasn’t Elizabeth it was Agnes, or at least a dark elf sorceress masquerading as her.

The dark elf quickly overwhelmed Elizabeth and had nearly managed to defeat Mom, when Flint showed up and took her out with a single bullet to the head. When all was said and done, Elizabeth was brought into the loop as was Flint and they both decided to join the fight. As for Daniella, well that was a bit more complicated. Like Mengele, Daniella was trapped in a form that was half-male and half-female, but Mom believed she might be able to either reverse or complete the changes. She was hopeful, that Daniella would chose to become female and join her in the fight against the Jotun. Daniella, wasn’t convinced, but after a visit from the Goddess Frigg she decided to accept Mom’s offer.

Daniella agreed to complete the changes at Frigg’s hand. Daniella was in love with my mother and she impulsively kissed Mom who panicked and rejected her. It didn’t exactly help things along when Athilda died. Mom let the grief overcome her for a while, but eventually she came to realize that she had feelings for Daniella.

Mom took Daniella as an apprentice, and over the next few months their romance bloomed into what it is now. By the time I was born they had pretty much become inseparable.

Over the years, Flint has been working behind the scenes and has apparently managed to amass a pretty impressive army. Of course, a standing army would draw far too much attention, but Flint’s experience with the Sons of Odin had provided the answer. Members of the army were organized into cells of no more than a dozen men. Each cell would hide inside a much larger organization and wait for the coming of Ragnarok. When the time came they would utilize the resources of those organizations to mobilize and fight the Jotun. It wasn’t the perfect solution, but it was the only choice available if they didn’t wish to reveal themselves and tip their hands.

It was almost too much to believe, but I couldn’t deny the truth not when it was my mother telling me and certainly not with Hervor and Daniella to confirm everything. I wasn’t sure what to think of it all, not only because the magnitude of it all, but because I had been deceived by the people I loved. Even Eva had withheld the truth from me and I felt betrayed. I’d kept my calm through the whole story, but now that it was laid out before me, I could feel the panic set in.

I’d long suspected Mom had never planned for me to be born, but the revelation that my birth had come about through Hervor’s machinations was downright disturbing. Ragnarok was coming and I had a part to play in the upcoming battle. The worst part was that I really didn’t think I had any choice. I don’t think I could live with myself if through my inaction I wound up dooming all of humanity.

As scary as all that was, it all took a back seat to the dread I was feeling about being transformed into a girl. I was a guy and wanted to stay that way. The thought of becoming a girl was terrifying. I was a guy dammit!

“Get out!” I yelled feeling suddenly very angry.

“Neil–” Mom started but I cut her short.

“No Mom! I don’t want to hear it! You’ve been lying to me my whole life and worse still I find out I’m going to change into a frizzing girl! I need some time alone… please.”

“Okay,” she said with a soft sigh. “I owe you that much at least.”

Everyone quickly piled out of the room until only Hervor remained. She walked quietly up to my bed and gently place her hand on my cheek. Warmth flooded through me and I felt strength return to me as the dizziness faded away.

“On the morrow thy transfiguration beginneth. Today marketh thy final day as a lad. Use thy time wisely. Now I take my leave of thee. Fare thee well grandchild,” she said with a sad smile then she stalked out of the room without another word.

Shit, talk about rubbing salt in a wound! The woman had a lot of nerve even talking to me. I didn’t want to be a girl, but Hervor didn’t seem to give a frizzing damn. I think I really I hate that fucking bitch.

+

I loved the gardens, they were so peaceful and best of all Mom almost always avoided them. Gramor said it was because they reminded her of Athilda. I needed time alone and the gardens really were the best place to isolate myself.

I plopped down on the nearest bench and closed my eyes. My life had just taken a very weird turn and I hated that I had been lied too, but really that was just a small reason for why I was angry. I was going to turn into a frizzing chick and I hadn’t even been given any choice in the matter. I felt like I’d been stabbed in the back and I knew things between my family and me would never be the same. Then there was Eva, she hadn’t exactly lied to me, but she had withheld the truth. The revelation that she used to be a dark elf was freaky as Hel and it made me squirm just thinking about it.

“May I sit?” a familiar voice asked.

My eyes flew open and I looked up to find Eva standing over me with puffy eyes and trembling lips.

“I-I guess,” I muttered not really sure if I wanted her around or not.

We sat there for a while, neither one of us talking. Eva opened her mouth several times as if to speak, but each time she would let out a soft sigh and her mouth would clamp shut.

“Eva, why didn’t you tell me?” I blurted out suddenly.

“I wanted to, but I was so afraid of how you might react.”

“Shit Eva, you had to know I’d find out eventually.”

“All this is so foreign to me, Neil. Before we met all I knew anger and hatred. Now there are a whole slew of emotions I can feel and it’s overwhelming. If there’s one thing you can be sure of know that I love you and I always will,” she touching my cheek with her open palm.

“I guess I hadn’t really thought about it from your perspective. This must all be so confusing for you,” I muttered clasping my hand around hers.

She nodded, “There is so much I don’t understand. Humans are so different from dark elves.”

“Eva what made you change? I mean I know what you said about seeing the evil inside of you, but there has to be more to it than that.”

Eva sighed and bowed her head, “It was the catalyst. I don’t know if I could really say it was any one thing. After I ran from you, I found one of those places you humans create that are suppose to resemble a forest.”

I didn’t understand what Eva was trying to say then it hit me and I almost laughed, “You mean a park?”

Eva nodded and continued, “There were children playing and one of them, a small boy, fell and hurt himself. He started to cry and a woman, perhaps his mother, began to comfort him. There was something so beautiful about the way she held the child and whispered in his ear that really hit me. I spent several days in that park, and I witnessed so many things. A couple sharing a kiss and whispering sweet somethings to each other, a family enjoying one another’s company, and a man confessing his love to woman. I just changed. It didn’t happen all at once it was a gradual process.”

“I don’t know why exactly, but after my change I became obsessed with you. I returned to the place where I tried to kill you in hopes that I would find you again. It took me a few days, but find you I did. I spent the next few weeks following you around. Then one night I followed you into the party and you asked me to dance. I didn’t know what dancing was, but I would have said yes to anything you had asked of me.”

“That explains some things,” I muttered. Eva was a horrible dancer, I’d just never had the heart to tell her.

Eva cocked her head and smiled sadly, “Thank you for asking me to dance.”

It took me a moment for her statement to really settle, “Elves don’t say thanks.”

“No, but humans do and I wanted you to understand how much it meant to me.”

“Odin’s bones it must have been hard for you. I mean you gave up everything you knew.”

“It’s not hard, not when I’m with you.”

“Eva what did you mean when you said you thought I was your lifkyn?”

“Humans have a term with a similar meaning. I think you call it a soul mate. It means Neil… that I love you,” she said as single tear rolled down her cheek.

Whatever doubts I had about Eva faded away with that statement. She may have been a dark elf once, but really that didn’t matter to me. I admit the fact she was sent to kill me did make me a bit squeamish, but I believed her when she said she loved me. The amazing part was that I think I felt the same way.

“Eva… I think I love you too,” I said quietly.

She smiled and we sat there and stared into each other eyes for a long time.

“Come on it’s getting late, we probably better get inside,” I muttered taking her hand and led her back into the estates.

+

Holy frizz yesterday took up a lot of pages in this journal. I’m going to run out of space if I keep up this pace. I’m sure Gramor, at least, will be happy to see me using this thing.

I woke up really early this morning to find Eva naked beside me on the bed. She was already awake and smiling at me. Neither one of us had intended for it to happen, but when we returned to my room I could hardly keep my hands off her.

I leaned in to kiss her, but before our lips locked I felt bile rise in my throat. I hurriedly, flung myself aside and sperged all over the side of my bed. Eva quickly dressed and left to find something to clean up the floor.

A woman with long blond hair entered the room just a few minutes later. “Hey, kiddo,” she said with a sad smile on her face.

The woman was my aunt Marion,who, like my mother, was a breathtakingly beautiful woman. Yeah, that Marion, the one who was rescued by my mother after the death of her sister all those years ago.

“Aunt Mare,” I groaned as my stomach continued to writhe in agony. “Mom’s told you everything?”

“I know enough,” she said a dark look passing across her face which faded away within seconds. “I’d be surprised if she’s told either of us everything. That woman has more secrets than the CNIA.”

“Marion, I know about Penelope,” I muttered averting my eyes.

“Should have figured she’d tell you about that. I had to find out about it from your grandmother. I spent most my life believing a lie about my own sister.”

“Marion, I’m sure Mom–“

“Don’t do it Neil, don’t defend her. She should have told me just like she should have told you about your father.”

“Marion, if you knew I was a half-elf… I mean why didn’t you tell me?”

“That is something that should really come from your mother. You don’t know how many times I tried to convince her to tell you, but the woman is too damned mule-headed to listen to reason. I know she’s been a woman for twenty-five years, but she still acts like such a man sometimes.”

“But enough about that. How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Like I’m going to frizzing explode.”

“I can imagine,” she said dryly. “Your mother asked me to come by and see how you were doing.”

“There’s not anything you can do about this, is there?” I asked her hopefully. Marion was a powerful spirit mage and a doctor of some renown. Even Mom couldn’t match her power when it came to Spirit magic.

Marion gave me a thoughtful frown. “Sorry, kiddo. If there was any way I knew of I’d do it in a heartbeat.”

“Now let’s clean up this mess,” she said staring down at the puddle of my puke. She closed her eyes for a few seconds and a shimmering sheet of spirit energy seemed to appear under the puke. The spirit energy rose up from the carpet, shaped itself into a bowl which she picked up as it reformed into a ball.

“Cool,” I said. “Kinda gross, but cool.”

“Who says you have to be a Spellbinder to get vomit out of carpet,” Marion said giving me one of her lopsided grins and a wink as she dropped the spirit-ball in the garbage and let its energy collapse.

“Now,” she said. “Let’s have a look-see shall we?”

She bent down and lightly touched me on the forehead. A few seconds later her eyes snapped open and she gasped. “Dang kid, you’re body is in for some major overhauls. I’ve never felt anything quite like it. Since I doubt you’ll be able to keep anything down, I’d like to put you on an intravenous drip to help replace some of the fluids and nutrients your body is consuming.”

“An intro-venous what?” I asked staring at her in confusion.

“Intravenous drip. It is a somewhat unconventional new therapy, where fluids are injected directly into the bloodstream. It’s quite ingenious actually and surprisingly cost-effective.”

I wasn’t sure exactly what to think of my aunt’s suggestion, but I nodded in spite of my doubts. Fluids injected into the blood? It sounded almost barbaric.

“Neil–” Eva said appearing the doorway with a bundle of rags in her arms and a glass of water. “Oh,” she said with a surprised expression. “You have a visitor.”

Marion smiled, “My name is Dr. Marion Valemont, I’m Neil’s aunt. You’re a light elf aren’t you?”

Eva shook her head and looked down at the floor, “I-I am unbound, I do not have a people. I am Eva.”

“Neil and I are together,” my girlfriend said suddenly practically throwing the glass of water in my face and splashing it all over the front of my shirt.

“Easy,” I said taking the glass and began to drink the remaining water inside.

“When did he take your virginity? From the way you are limping. I’d say quite recently,” Marion said with a toothy grin.

The water in my mouth shot out like a fountain and I started coughing uncontrollably. “What the Frigg kind of question is that!” I exclaimed.

Marion laughed. She laughed! What the Hel was so funny about that? Sometimes Marion could be so embarrassing. “Okay, okay,” she said. “Maybe that was a bit of a personal question.”

“You think?” I asked irritably.

My aunt sighed and shook her head, “Well kiddo, I need to get to the hospital. I’ll talk to your mother and see about treatment options before I leave.”

“Okay,” I muttered, “Just uh don’t tell Mom about that whole virginity thing.”

My aunt started laughing then ducked out of the room without giving me an answer.

+

I grabbed at my stomach and felt the world spin madly around me. I lurched and limped across the hallway and just barely made it into the bathroom before throwing up. I stared breathlessly at the red-brown sludge that had just come spewing out of my throat. With trembling hands I stumbled over to the sink and cranked the dial on the faucet to full blast. I let the sink fill with ice-cold water and then splashed it onto my face and stood there panting heavily. It didn’t take an idiot to figure out that the goop I had just sperlged up was. It was tissue my body had discarded as part of the transformation process.

I looked up at the mirror and shuddered, I looked gaunt, sickly even. I knew I had to have lost a good fifteen pounds of weight at least and I couldn’t be too sure, but I thought I might be an inch or two shorter. This was the first-trip to the bathroom today and I couldn’t help but notice the changes which had come over me. What little facial hair I had been able to grow had fallen out, and my face was beginning to look younger. It was now extremely painful to walk and I might be imagining it but I could swear my hips had a slight curve to them. A rash had started to form on my chest around each nipple which more than likely meant I’d begin growing breasts soon. My previous blond hair had fallen out and had started coming in the same dark auburn as my mother’s hair.

Another wave of dizziness washed over me and I braced myself against the counter until it subsided. It was then that it really settled in that I was going to change into a girl and I could barely stand the thought of it. I just stood there and cried as I thought about what had been done to me. What gave Hervor the frizzing right?! I forced back my tears as I felt the anger flood through me. I wasn’t going to let anyone see me this way, especially Hervor. She wouldn’t get the satisfaction.

I took one last look at myself in the mirror and gulped at the very sight of me. I didn’t look much different than I had before I hit puberty, but there was softness about my features that had never been there before. I might have even looked like a girl with the right haircut. I was still male for the time being, but how long till my equipment was gone? I shuddered at the thought of having a vagina and breasts then quickly washed my hands and staggered back to my bedroom.

I had expected Mother, Gramor (where was my grandmother anyway?) or even Daniella to pop in at any moment, but they had yet to show and I was beginning to wonder what was up. I gingerly lay down on my bed beside the sleeping form of Eva and flicked on my teleprojector.

A realistic image of Mom appeared standing in front of my bed. At first I thought she had appeared in my room via travel spell, but realized that the image was being produced by the teleprojector and I felt dread fill me as I saw an image of me replace it.

“…the New Copenhagen shopping center last evening. Little information has been released regarding the incident, but witnesses claim to have witnessed some sort of confrontation between two unidentified females and one Neil Steinburg that ended in one of those involved erecting a spirit shield. Later reports claim that Aryanna le Fey, the controversial head of the Spellbinder house arrived on the scene only to vanish with her son mere moments later.,” a voice said. A man in a gray suit replaced the image of me in front of my bed.

The anchorman didn’t seem to know much more, thank the goddesses for that. I was afraid what might happen if people found out about my transformation or that I was the grandchild of Hervor. Half-elves were rare enough, but it was unheard of for a member of the royal elven family to mingle with humans.

I was about turn the teleprojector off when it suddenly started to buzz and I let out a sigh as I realized there was an incoming call. I flicked the button on the remote to see who was calling, it was my friend Leif. I clicked another button on the remote and Leif’s huge disembodied head appeared hovering in front of my bed.

“Holy frizz, Venn! Are you trying to scare me to death with that ugly mug of yours?”

Leif’s massive head grinned and let out a chuckle. Suddenly, his head shrunk down to proper size and the rest of his body appeared. Leif had probably stuck his face right in front of his telecam just so he could give me a scare. “Relax, venn. I’m just calling ’cause I saw the news.”

“Yeah, I just got done watching it.”

“Me too. Look, is everything okay? I mean you’re not hurt or anything are you?”

“Well it depends on what you mean by hurt,” I muttered bitterly.

Leif opened his mouth to speak, but I stopped him short, “Things are just sort of complicated. I’ve learned some things and they suck some major ass. Things aren’t ever going to be the same for me.”

“Ah, venn that sucks. I’d come over, but Mom’s pretty eager to get me married off. I have damned date with this uggo from House Bathory. Who schedules a date at eleven in the morning on a Vordag? Shit, I really hope that this girl doesn’t want to bargain for me. I was kinda hoping the girl Mom would force me to marry would be a little hotter.”

“That’s alright venn, I understand.”

“You don’t know how lucky you are man,” Leif spat out with a jealous look.

Leif knew that my mother had no intention of forcing me to marry anyone and usually didn’t have any problem voicing his jealousy. Lucky? If only he knew about the transformation I was going through, he probably wouldn’t be jealous then. I wasn’t going to say anything over the teleprojector, Leif was smart enough to know that. Teleprojector communications were far too easily intercepted, if someone were listening in, anything I let slip would be all over the news within minutes.

“You have no idea,” I spat ironically.

“Hey, have you heard from Sophie, lately?” Leif asked suddenly apparently oblivious of my sarcasm.

“No, I left her a message a few days ago, but she hasn’t called back,” I replied. It had been a few months since Sophie moved away and we’d been keep in touch with her by teleprojector. Neither one of us had heard from her in a few weeks and we were both getting worried.

“She left a message on my machine. It sounding like she was crying… I’ve tried calling her back, but no answer.”

“Sophie crying?”

“Yeah, it kind of freaked me out when I heard it. I hope everything is okay.”

“If I hear anything I’ll call you.”

“Alright, well I really ought to go, venn. Hope things are okay,” he muttered scratching the back of his head.

“Later, venn.”

“Later.”

+

Well, the next part is an excerpt from my mother’s journal. Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon enough.

Laurdag 4. Morsugur

“Lady Aryanna,” the tiny pixie said with a bow of her head after she flew through my window and came to land on my dresser. “It is an honor.”

I looked the tiny vattir over and smiled, “To what do I owe the pleasure? It has been years since I was visited by one of the wee folk.”

The pixie shook her head and her small bird-like wings twitched, “I was sent as an emissary by the Gray Queen to offer the aid of the faekyn in the coming battle of Ragnarok.”

I looked down at the pixie thoughtfully, and wondered what had prompted the Gray Queen to seek an alliance with me. Like elves, fairies were incapable of lying, so I had no doubts about the authenticity of the pixie’s message, but it was certainly an odd move for the notoriously independent fairies to make. The Gray Queen was one of the most enigmatic and mysterious vattir that I knew of and that was saying something. I’d never heard of her involving herself in matters of humans or goddesses, but I supposed it really wasn’t that surprising. The Jotun would likely turn theirs eyes to other vattir once they’d taken care of the goddesses and humans.

“I would gladly accept any aid the faekyn would be willing to offer,” I smiled down at the tiny creature.

“The Gray Queen will be most pleased,” the pixie beam up at me.

The faery’s wings extended and she suddenly leapt up into the air and took off.

“Wait!” I called after her.

The pixie landed gracefully on the windowsill and turned back to me.

“How can I contact the Gray Queen?”

“One does not contact the Gray Queen, she contacts you,” she responded with an amused grin on her face just before launching herself through the window.

+

“Aryanna, something is wro–” Daniella’s voice drifted into my room with a gust of wind and suddenly cut short.

I leapt to my feet, sprang through the doorway, shot down the hallway and found Daniella holding a shield of spirit energy against a collapsing wall.

Once I got close enough I could feel magic pounding into the outside of the wall. I had powerful wards set around the entire estates, and I would have known instantly if someone brushed the wall with even the tiniest bit of magic. Clearly someone had found a way around my wards, I reached deep inside myself and latched onto that familiar well of energy I found there and began to weave a web of spirit energy around Daniella’s shield to reinforce it, but by then it was already to late. Her barrier flew apart, her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she collapsed. I was barely able to pull her away as the wall came crashing down around us.

Men came pouring into the gap and I just barely managed to finish raising my spirit shield as they opened fire. Bullets exploded against the shimmering wall of blue light and fell harmlessly to the ground. I sent a wave of fire magic through the hole and the attackers fell screaming to the ground as they were engulfed by the fiery torrent.

A bright white light clashed against my shield and I felt my knees buckle against a sudden strain. A very familiar face appeared in the hole in the wall and I let out a long string of curses. It was Claramae, one of my cousins who had long resented my placement as head of House Le Fey.

“Clara, what the Hel do you think you’re doing?”

“Something I should have done a long time ago,” she said with a growl and leapt at me with a fist-full of bright white light pouring from her hands.

I blocked her blows easily enough and sent her tumbling back through the hole with a massive gust of wind. I followed her through the gap in the wall and fell to my knees as I was bombarded on either side by bright ribbons of fire magic. If it hadn’t been for my shield I would have been dead, as it was I was just barely able to hold onto my barrier against the fiery onslaught. I couldn’t make out the figures on either side, but I knew that one of them was most likely Clara. From the amount of magic they were channeling that they were both Spellbinders and I knew I had no chance of overcoming them alone.

“Frigg preserve me,” I muttered between clenched teeth as I strained to keep hold of the shield.

Abruptly, there was a gust of wind and the threads of fire suddenly stopped. I tilted my head to either side and found that my attackers had simply vanished. My mother, Brigit, was standing there above me with a triumphant smile on her face. Her sudden appearance seemed to have scared my attackers off.

“You’ll never believe what Eitri had for me.”

I looked up at my mother and burst into nervous laughter,

“Goddesses? Aryanna what happened here?”

Laurdag, the fourth of Morsugur (cont’d)

I nodded off while watching the news. I don’t know how long I was asleep, but it was Eva that finally woke me. “Neil, wake up!” her voice pleaded. “You need to wake up, please!”

“What?” I managed to say.

“Listen!” she said.

I did as she suggested and heard the strangest wheezing sound coming from the hallway. It almost sounded like laughter, but I couldn’t be sure. I forced my eyes open and just as I did the door to my bedroom flew off its hinges, shot across the room and hit the opposite wall with a deafening thud.

Luckily neither Eva nor I were in the path of the shooting door, but it came pretty close to hitting the foot of my bed. A person stepped into my room. I say person because it wouldn’t be accurate to call ‘him’ a man or a woman. Half his body was that of really hot looking woman and the other was what could barely be recognized as a man. His skin was falling off in huge chunks and his male eye was completely white as if it had a cataract. His male side looked so weak and frail that I was surprised he could stand.

“Our plan has worked,” he wheezed with a mad gleam in his good eye.

“How fortunate that we have found you here. We have been hoping to find someone like you for a very long time,” he said and started to cough uncontrollably.

“Who are you and what are you doing here?” Eva demanded angrily.

“Forgive us, we didn’t mean to be rude. We are called Doctor Josef Mengele,” he said with a cackle.

“I know who you are. You’re the one that kidnapped Daniella and changed her,” I said with a loud gasp. Goddess, my insides felt like they were on fire!

Mengele threw his head back and laughed, “Interesting… Is that what she calls herself now? It is true that we initiated the changes, but our formula did not complete them. We would very much like to know how these changes were finished. Is she around?”

“You think if she was, we would tell you?” I spat.

“No, we suppose not!” he said with a loud cackle. “Studying her would reveal much to us, but that does not matter now. You are undergoing a transformation. We believe your blood will be far more useful to us.”

He took a step toward my bed and put his leg out to take another, but before his foot could reach the ground, a blinding white light shot into his chest. Eva had cast a lightning spell on the doctor and he was struggling against the power being used on him.

“Neil!” she said. “Run!”

I rolled off my bed and pulled the IV along with me. I tried to stand up so I could run, but I was too weak. I couldn’t even so much as crawl. The familiar blue aura of a Spirit Shield surrounded the doctor, and the lightning shot out from him and almost seemed to bounce back into Eva. She was thrown against a wall and slumped to the floor unconscious.

The blue aura faded away and the doctor turned to look at me with his one good eye. More dead skin flaked away from his body as he moved toward me. “Do you see what the use of our magic does to us? If we do not find a solution soon we will die! The changes that are taking place inside you, they are the key. Your blood will free us!”

I was in so much pain now that all I could do was stare up at the doctor in horror. “Please…” I pleaded, but the doctor wasn’t listening.

He walked over to where I was laying on the ground and pulled a syringe out of his pocket. “This will not hurt much,” he said in an almost sympathetic tone.

He stuck the needle in my arm and waited until the tube inside filled with blood. Then he repeated the process until he had five more vials. He removed a half-full vial of purplish liquid from his coat and popped the stopper from both it and a bottle of my blood.

“If we had more time we might test this newest formula, but we are too close to death. We hope this will work,” he cackled madly and dumped a small drop of my blood into the vial of the violet liquid.

The vial of purple liquid fizzled and hissed then started to steam and turned an almost sickly brown. Mengele laughed, then downed the whole tube and let it fall through his hand and shatter on the ground.

“We can feel it,” he fell to his knees in a fit of hysterical laughter.

“Mengele,” a cold voice said from what sounded like the doorway.

“Flint,” Mengele said and fell to his side shaking with laughter.

I groaned and looked over to the doorway where a man with short cropped hair was holding a gun. “I don’t know why you’ve chosen now to reappear, Mengele, bu—” Flint said but stopped short when the doctor started to convulse.

“Die!” Menegele suddenly howled and leapt to his feet with a clawed hand extended. A gust of wind shot out from Mengele’s outstretched fingers and Flint went flying back through the doorway. He managed to fire several shots just before he slammed into the hallway wall and slumped to the ground in an unconscious heap. One of the bullets hit Mengele in his male shoulder, and he fell to the ground shrieking and clutching at his wounded joint.

I tried to take advantage of the distraction and crawl away, but I was still too weak. I looked up at Mengele’s face and noticed something really weird, the skin on the male side of his face was rippling. The healthy female skin stretched across to the male side of his face and he began to change. It continued until roughly three-quarters of his face was female then it suddenly stopped.

Mengele threw his head back and giggled manically, “Our new formula works! You must come with us, we may need more samples.”

Suddenly there was a pressure inside of me struggling to break lose. I gritted my teeth and screamed as blinding white light shot out from my chest and slammed into the doctor.

Mengele flew across the room and was knocked into the wall. He staggered back to his feet and I prepared myself for another attack, but it never came. He made a waving gesture with his hand and was gone as a gust of wind whisked him away.

I tried to stand, but I was feeling even weaker than before and I collapsed to my knees. I gasped as pain shot through my body and I felt myself slip into unconsciousness.

+

“Neil,” my mother’s voice said. “Wake up.”

“No, just let me get a little more sleep,” I replied. “I don’t care if I’m late for school.”

“NEIL!” my mother shouted and I practically jumped out of my skin. My eyes flew open and I realized where I was and what had happened. Daniella, Mom and Gramor were standing over me with worried expressions.

“Oh, Neil, thank the goddesses,” Mom muttered leaning over to kiss me on the forehead. “You had us worried.”

“Eva?” I muttered.

“Eva will be fine. The magic overwhelmed her system, her body just needs some time to recover,” Daniella muttered running her hand through my hair.

“Holy crap, what happened to you two?” I asked really getting a good look at Daniella and Mom for the first time. They both looked about like I felt, like they’d been tossed through a frizzing blender.

“We were attacked, in what I presume was a distraction so Mengele could get to you,” Mom said with a tired sigh.

“Mengele? How did you know about—”

“Flint told us,” Gramor chimed in.

“Mom, he took some of my blood. I saw him mix it with this stuff, and he started to change,” I muttered.

“Norns preserve, if that creature has found a way to perfect his formula it can only mean trouble. Especially this close to Ragnarok,” Gramor said with a gasp.

“Time is running even shorter than I feared. Frigg appeared to me in a dream and told me we had a little more than four months,” Mom said between pursed lips.

“Good goddesses, Aryanna, that would mean—” Gramor muttered her face turning pale.

“It means we’re running short of time. It’s time I make the Seidskati aware of our plans,” Mom said with a soft sigh.

“What about this Mengele guy?” I asked.

Daniella sighed, “As much as I’d like to see Mengele brought to justice, he’s a minor player in what is a much larger game. He’ll have to wait.”

Mom nodded, “I don’t want you worrying about any of this right now Neil. I’m not sure how she’s done it, but Hervor has initiated the changes in you. You need to get some rest. Once you’re feeling better you’re going to be thrown out into the middle of this.”

“Mom, there’s something you’re not telling me, isn’t there?” I asked, my voice barely more than a whisper.

“Yeah, there is,” she said hanging her head. “We felt it when you used your magic against Mengele, which is how we knew to come find you. I’m not sure what to make of it, but you’re far more powerful than any living Spellbinder.”

“What!? How?”

“Elves are more powerful than humans, and it seems that you’ve inherited the magic from your Elven side. That being said, I know of only one elf with even a comparable amount of power to you, and that’s Hervor,” Mom said between pursed lips.

“Wait! You’re not saying I’m more powerful than Hervor, are you?”

Mom shook her head, “No, magical talent is difficult to measure, but I’d say you’re fairly evenly matched.”

I hadn’t expected that, I mean, I probably should have; it did make a certain amount of sense after all, but it shocked me nonetheless. What did Hervor stand to gain by doing this to me? I know the answer had to be buried somewhere with the depths of all the secrets that had been revealed to me, but I couldn’t puzzle it out. It was like trying to find a frizzing needle in a haystack.

“Mom, why didn’t you tell me?!” I demanded almost before I knew it was out of my mouth.

“I keep telling myself it was to give you a normal life, but the truth is I did it for my own selfish reasons. I wanted to keep you safe and away from all the chaos, but I can’t do that, not anymore, the world needs you. It would be harder, if because of my selfishness I doomed the world to total annihilation. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”

“I don’t know if I can do that, just yet,” I muttered shaking my head.

A single tear ran down my mother’s cheek, “Fair enough. Do me a favor try and get some restful sleep, okay?”

I nodded, “Okay, Mom.”

Mom smiled sadly then she bent in and kissed me on the forehead, and within moments she was gone. Gramor came over, knelt beside my bed and spoke quietly, “Don’t be too hard on her. Your mother has been through a lot and she cares for you deeply.”

“How would you feel, Gramor? Finding out you had been lied to by your own mother? Everything I thought I knew about my life is a lie.”

Gramor patted my shoulder and smiled reassuringly, “Not everything. Your Mother does love you, so do Daniella and I.”

“Gramor…” I muttered.

“Just get some rest, okay? We can talk later,” she muttered sadly, then kissed me in the forehead in the same place that Mom had and just like that she was gone.

+

I could feel hot tears rolling down my face as I glanced over at the mirror. Last time I’d seen my reflection I looked sickly. This time I looked much worse, as if I were on the verge of dying. My eyes were blood-shot and the dark circles under my eyes looked like they had their own dark circles. I had lost even more weight, and I was definitely shorter. My hair had gotten even longer and I now resembled a twelve-year-old girl on the verge of puberty, if a somewhat tall and gawky one.

I looked down at my hands and noticed that they too had changed. They had always been a bit small, but now they seemed longer and more delicate. They were without a doubt, the hands of a girl.

Goddesses! Why was this happening to me? What did I ever do deserve this? More tears ran down my face and a sob escaped my lips. I rubbed at my chest and noticed the very slight bulge of two mounds sticking out from it.

I started to undress myself, which was pretty hard because I was so weak from the changes, but I managed to get everything off. When I was unclothed I really wished I hadn’t. My hips had expanded quite a bit and had a noticeable curve to them. My feet had shrunk and look very dainty. Then there were my privates. My balls were shriveled up and were almost a third their usual size. My cock was only about an inch and a half long and hung limply between my legs. Then there were my breasts. They were very small, but they were unmistakable for what they were. I was growing a pair of tits! Holy frizzing fuck!

The sight of those mounds poking out of my chest were just too much and I fell to the floor and started sobbing uncontrollably. I know breaking down and crying like a girl wasn’t exactly the most manly thing to do, but give me a break, okay? I mean I am turning into a frizzing girl, after all. Oh, Hel do I really need to explain myself to a bloody book? Anyway, I vaguely remember hearing my mother at the door, but I didn’t answer.

+

I was pretty out of it for the next couple hours. I never really did fall unconscious. I just sort of was there, but not there, you know? When I did finally come back to the world, I was in my room where I found Mom, Daniella, and Eva hovering over me. Nick Flint was there as well, but I would hardly say he was hovering over me. He was leaning against a wall on the other side of the room with a thoughtful look on his face. It was the first time since Mengele had attacked us that I’d seen him, and I really felt as if I owed the guy something. I mean, even though Mengele managed to beat him pretty easily, he had come to my defense.

“Neil, thank the goddesses. We’ve been so worried,” Mom said when I sat up and looked at her.

“How did I get here?” I asked with a voice that sounded very alien.

“When you wouldn’t answer the door we got worried, so I magicked it open and found you lying on the floor,” Mom said.

“Shit,” I muttered.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” Eva said suddenly.

“I sound like a crenking girl, is what’s wrong!” I said feeling a sense of resignation come over me. I was turning into a girl and I couldn’t do anything about it.

Daniella sighed, “Its can be difficult to cope with the changes at first, but it gets easier with time.”

It was about then that I realized that I my stomach felt much better. “I’m frizzing starving,” I said.

Mom placed her hand on my shoulder and I felt a small tickling sensation. A moment later she removed her hand and smiled sadly. “Your transformation seems to have entered a new stage. I think you’ll be able to eat some solid food now. You’re going to need the nutrients to help finish the changes.”

“Lady Le Fey,” a familiar voice said in the doorway.

“Yes, what is it Meredith?” Mom ask turning to face the woman.

“Lord Neil’s friend, the young Lord Leif Yorgenson, insists he be allowed to speak with you. He claims it is urgent,” Meredith said.

“Leif wants to speak with me? What for?”

“He wouldn’t say,” Meredith said between pursed lips.

“Alright send him in and after that see to it that some food is brought up for Neil.”

“Yes, Lady Le Fey,” she said with a nod of her head and left only to return a few moments later with an extremely flustered looking Leif.

“Holy Frizz, Neil. Is that you venn?” he asked staring at me with wide eyes.

“Yeah, Leif it’s me,” I muttered, wincing at the sound of my new voice.

“Shi–,” Leif said but suddenly stopped with a glance at my mother who was staring at him with a disapproving frown. “you’re turning into a chick. What the frizzing fu— heck.”

“Leif!” Mom snapped with sudden impatience. “You wanted to speak with me?”

“Yeah,” he muttered. “Ah, frizz. I don’t know exactly how to say this so I’ll just come right out and say it. I know about the attack on your estates.”

“What how?” Both Mom and I suddenly asked at the same time.

“I overheard my Mother and the head of our house talking about it,” he said with averted eyes. Leif didn’t have the best relationship with his mother. She treated him like many Spellbinders treated their sons, as potential breeding stock to be sold to the highest bidder.

“Goddesses,” Mom muttered. “I haven’t even notified the police about the attack! If your mother and the lady Aquitaine have knowledge of it, that can only mean they were in on it.”

Leif swallowed hard and locked eyes with my mother, “I know.”

“Dammit!” Mother growled. “More traitors! I never cared for the Lady Aquitaine, but I always believed she was a woman of principle and I hoped that she would join forces with me once she learned what was at stake.”

“At stake? What’s at stake?” Leif asked with furrowed eyebrows.

“That is a discussion for another time. For now I must know everything you heard your mother and the Lady Aquitaine say,” Mother said.

“Well, there was talk of Jonas Talman and someone named Doctor Mengele,” he said with a shrug. “I only heard bits and pieces really. I was in another room and they didn’t know I could hear them. They mentioned Neil and something about a distraction.”

If Mom could prove that the Aquitaines were working with either Talman or even Menegele, the Seidskati would come down hard on their House. They might even get barred from the council altogether.

“The Spellbinders that attacked you…” Grammor said trailing off with a gasp.

“Clearly they were trying to get to Neil, but we really need to figure out how they knew he was changing.” Daniella added.

“Talman is resourceful,” Nick said speaking for the first time. “He probably has a spy here within the estates.”

“Claramae,” Daniella said with a shake of her head.

“No, I hadn’t notified anyone in the family of Neil’s changes yet. It has to be a member of the household staff,” Mom muttered.

“I need to know everything they said. Even a seemingly mundane comment could hold a secret meaning.” Mom paused for a moment, and I could tell she was thinking.

“As much as I hate to suggest it,” she said finally. “There is a way I could know word for word what you heard them say. I could look into your mind.”

Leif hesitated, but after a moment nodded. He had to know what a mind probe would entail. He had grown up surrounded by Spellbinders. “Okay.”

Mom came over and stood beside him, “This will be easier if you just let me in. If you resist me it will be much more difficult for the both of us.”

Leif nodded and Mom put her hands on his forehead. Both of their eyes turned milky white and then suddenly Leif broke away from her with a loud gasp. “Venn,” he proclaimed. “That was frizzing weird!”

“Would you be willing to testify before the Seidskati?” Mom asked him a thoughtful expression on her face.

Leif still acted a bit disoriented by the whole ordeal, but he managed a nod. “Yeah.”

Mom nodded back and quickly shuffled out of the room.

+

After everything died down a bit the others filed out of my room, leaving Eva and Leif alone with me. Since, they hadn’t been given a proper introduction, I did so. When I introduced Eva as my girlfriend, Leif seemed surprised. When he learned that she was an elf he was dumbfounded. Eva seemed to find the whole thing amusing, bursting into laughter at the most peculiar moments.

“Uh, so…” Leif said awkwardly. “I guess you’re girl now.”

“Shit, have I really changed that much?”

Eva pursed her lips, “Yes, you really have.”

“Damn,” I cursed.

“You actually look pretty cute,” Leif said unexpectedly.

“Venn,” I said with what I’m sure was a baffled look. “What the frizz?”

“What?” Leif said defensively.

“You think I’m cute? You realize I’m still a guy down there don’t you?”

“It’s the elf in you,” Eva said with a laugh.

“The elf in her. What are you talking about?” Leif said.

I sighed and shook my head. I really didn’t intend to tell him just yet. “Leif, I’m a half-elf.”

“Holy frizzing Hel,” he muttered.

“Shit, I mean are you sure?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure.”

“Did you feel an unusually strong attraction to Hervor in the mall?” Eva asked suddenly.

I hadn’t felt a thing for her. “No,” I said with a shake of my head.

Eva nodded, “Since you are her grandchild it is unlikely she would have used her aura on you. I, however, did feel the effects.”

“What? What are you talking about!” I demanded.

Eva started to laugh again. “All elves emanate an aura. For all elves who walk in the light it causes people to have strong sexual desires toward the one emanating the aura. For dark elves it makes people feel fear and loathing.”

“Holy Frigg,” I said. “So I can I turn it off, right?”

“I can teach you to control it, but it can never be turned off, only focused,” she said with a smile.

“Shit, venn. This is just weird,” Leif said.

“Tell me about it,” I replied irritably.

Thinks got a bit awkward after that and we spent the next few minutes hemming and hawing at each other. Thankfully, my food arrived shortly afterward and it gave me the perfect excuse to not to speak.

+

“Frizzing shit,” I said glowering at my reflection. I didn’t even recognize the person staring back at me. A girl with long auburn hair scowled back at me from the mirror. I gulped and touched my face, and watched as the girl mirrored my movement. I licked my lips and made faces at the mirror. The girl in the mirror matched my movements perfectly.

The girl was actually quite pretty, but there was something just a little off about her face. Angular, that was the word that came to mind, her face was just a little too angular. That would change soon enough, I knew, as the changes were almost done with.

I slowly unbuttoned my shirt and looked at my breasts. They had grown a lot since I’d last gotten a good look at them. I don’t really know anything about cup sizes, but if I had to give them a label I’d say they were somewhere in the medium size range. I cupped them and sighed. My now dainty hands fell away and I glared down at the strange mounds which had invaded my chest.

My waist had narrowed quite a bit and my pants now hung around my much rounder hips. I sighed and pulled my pants down. My testicles were completely gone, and an incomplete vulva had started to form around the shriveled remains of my penis.

“Goddesses be damned!” I heard myself say, but couldn’t remember having uttered the words.

I was starting to feel better, well in the physical sense at least. I was only slightly dizzy and the pain didn’t seem quite so bad anymore.

I looked at the mirror again, and felt anger rise up at the sight of the girl looking back at me. She wasn’t me! I felt a suddenly and overwhelming urge to lash out at something and I did. I grabbed the nearest thing I could find which turned out to be a can of my acne powder and hurled it at my reflection. The force of the impact was enough to create a rather sizable crack in the mirror.

I started at the mirror and started to laugh uncontrollably. It was just so strange. Just a week ago if someone had told me that I was a half-elf destined to save the world, I would have laughed in their face. If they had told me I was going to turn into the girl, I might have been a little more willing to believe, but I would have been skeptical. It’s not that big of a stretch to think that something like this might happen to me if you knew who my mother was.

I looked at the mirror and all my laughter died away. I gave the stranger in the mirror one final glare, then slammed the button on the wall to turn off the lights before walking out the door.

+

When I returned to my room, instead of finding Eva and Leif like I expected, I found Hervor, my mother, and some guy I didn’t recognize. I knew the man for a light elf almost immediately, and I felt as if my heart were going to jump out of my chest and run a marathon as I stared at up at his face. It wasn’t as if I was attracted to him, it was just that I when I saw that face I just knew he was my father.

“Holy frizz!” I shouted and stared up at him with wide eyes.

“Neil, this is Heime, your father,” Mom said biting her lips.

“I-I think I need to sit down,” I muttered, realizing just how weak I really was.

Mom grabbed hold of my hand and helped me back to my bed and Hervor and Heime followed us into my room.

Heime looked about as nervous as I felt as he spoke, “Well met, my child! Long have I awaited to behold thee.”

“Uh, so you and Mom, huh?”

“Neil!” Mom said glaring down at me.

“What?!” I protested.

Heime chuckled and grinned nervously as his eyes darted first to me then back to my mother.

“Why am I just meeting you now?” I asked him suddenly.

“‘Twas thy mother’s choice. She wished not that I play any role in thy life,” Heime said with a very slight bow of his head.

“I didn’t want you and your mother playing games with him the way you did with me,” Mom spat back with a scowl.

“What we did never was borne of malice, Aryanna,” Heime said his voice growing very soft as he spoke my mother’s name.

“No, it was all for the better good,” Mother spat.

“Thou art quick to accuse, Seidkona, but indeed thy guilt is as evident as mine,” Hervor replied blandly.

“I never manipulated anyone into conceiving a child!” Mother spat back.

“Enough! Mother, Aryanna cease this forthwith!” Heime said suddenly.

Hervor’s eyes grew very wide. She titled her head forward in a very slight bow and gave Heime a knowing smile, “‘Tis time to take leave of thee, my son. Stay, and bide time with the child.”

“Aye, Mother. Fare thee well,” he replied gripping his mother’s shoulder.

“Fare thee well, my son,” she said reaching up to pat him fondly on the cheek, then disappeared with a flash of light.

“Uh, okay? What was that about?”

“Honestly? I know not,” Heime muttered with the a shake of his head.

“So, I gotta know, what is with all the thee’s and thou’s?”

Heime bowed his head and started to chuckle, “I am very old, my child, and I have passed very little time among humans since I had learned thy language. ‘Tis as humans say, ‘Old habits die hard.'”

“This is weird, right? I can’t be the only one that thinks this is weird.”

“Neil!” Mom cut in giving me that look that all women did so well.

“Aryanna, worry not. ‘Tis fine.”

“How old are you?” I asked suddenly.

Heime pursed his lips, “I know not mine exact age,. Our kind placeth not such import upon the number of our years as do humans. I can tell thee that I had passed many hundreds of years already when I first met thine ancestor, Morgana le Fey.”

Holy, Frizz this guy is old. If she were alive today Morgana would be close to sixteen hundred years old. Heime could be well over two thousands years old, and if he was that old, no doubt Hervor was hundreds, if not thousands of years older, and it made me wonder how long I might live. Human magic users tended to age more slowly based on the strength of their magic, but my father obviously wasn’t a magic user, so it made me wonder what it was that kept the guy ticking. Then I remembered something my Gramor once said about the elves being kin to the Aesir.

“You’re immortal, aren’t you?”

“Aye,” he said.

“Am I?”

Heime let out a long sigh and pursed his lips, “I know not.”

And so that’s how I met my father. We had a pretty long discussion and at first we talked mostly about him as I kept asking him question after question, but finally the conversation shifted to me and it was his turn to ask the questions.

Sunadag, the fifth of Morsugur

When I woke this morning, I really, really had to take a piss. I ran across the hall, flipped the toilet seat open and pulled my pants down only to find that I no longer had the necessary equipment to take a wiz standing up. With an angry grunt, I plopped down on the seat and started to urinate. Peeing felt a little weird, but it wasn’t really very different. I did hit a bit of a road block, once I finished I realized I couldn’t shake off like I used too. So I grabbed a triangle of toilet cloth and wiped off whatever remained.

I washed my hands and felt my jaw drop at the sight of my reflection. Holy frizzing Hel, I was one fine looking maer! I looked a lot more like Mom than I used to, but I also looked quite a bit like Heime, and even Hervor to a lesser extent. I swallowed hard and touched my face with my long delicate hands. My skin was silky smooth and I let my hand fall away as I studied my reflection more closely.

My hair was pretty long, but it wasn’t as long as Mom’s. I had a complexion that most girl’s would die for, thick pouty lips and startling green eyes. “DAMMIT!” I yelled at the mirror.

I had a pretty good idea of what the rest of my body looked like, but I needed to see the whole picture. I slowly stripped out of my ill-fitting cloths and stared in disbelief at the changes. Yeah, I knew I was a girl. That wasn’t really a surprise, but my body was perfect. I had curves in all the right places, I wasn’t too skinny, but I wouldn’t say I was fat either. My breasts seemed to weigh a ton, but when I looked at them in the mirror, while they looked large, they seemed to complement my form perfectly.

I shuddered, quickly redressed, and reached out to touch my face. “I’m a stranger in my own fucking body,” I muttered, staring at my reflection for a moment, then left the bathroom. I nearly ran into Leif as I exited.

“Holy Frigg, Neil?”

Damn, I was shorter than him! I looked up into his face and couldn’t help but feel a bit intimidating by his size. He was a good five-inches taller than me and he had packed on quite a lot of muscle in the last few years.

“Shit venn, you scared the frizz out of me! What are doing here?” I demanded.

Leif scowled, “You don’t think I could go back home after what I told your mom, do you?”

“No, I guess not,” I said. “I’m starved want to grab some breakfast?”

“Uh, you sure you should be out of bed?” he said staring at breasts.

“I’m feeling much better now,” I said feeling my cheek turn red. Goddesses, why did he have to look at me like that!

“Okay, yeah I guess you would be. You’re… I mean… Shit you’re finished changing now. Aren’t you?”

I frowned, “Yeah.”

“Okay,” he said with an awkward smile on his face. “Well I got to take a leak. I guess I’ll see you down in the dining hall then.”

“Yeah, I guess you will,” I muttered feeling a surge of jealousy as I turned away. Even the simple act of urinating had become a foreign experience to me and I would have done almost anything to trade places with Leif at that moment.

+

Mom was nursing a cup of yerba mate and Daniella was munching on a piece of chicken when I appeared in the dining hall. “Neil!” Mom said with her eyes wide. “Goddesses, is it done then?”

I nodded and Mom and Daniella both gave me sympathetic looks.

“We didn’t expect you up this early,” Daniella said with a tired look on her face.

“Yeah, well I had to take a piss,” I said irritably.

Mom smiled and let out a slight chuckle. Then her face turned suddenly serious. “As much as I hate to push you, we don’t have much choice. I’d like to give you a few more days rest, but we don’t have that luxury. We’ll be meeting before the Seidskati tonight.”

“Tonight?” I said. “Like this?” I said motioning down angrily at my breasts.

Mom sighed, “We need to get you some new clothes. It won’t due to have you appear in front of the council looking like a slob.”

Clothes? Shit! I hadn’t even thought that. I gulped, “We’re going to the mall then?”

“Not exactly,” Daniella said. “Too many people. There are a few shops on the east side of town that should do for our purposes.”

Mom nodded, “As loath as I am to have you leave the estates with everything that is going on you need clothes. I’d have a seamstress come over and take your measurements, but we need something for you to wear tonight. You, Eva and Leif.”

“Eva too?” I asked. “What possible reason would you have for her speak to the Seidskati?”

“She’s Vattir, Neil, she can act as an ambassador,” Daniella said.

“Ambassador? She doesn’t even have a people!”

Mom shook her head, “That might actually play to our advantage. You’ve heard of the exiled elf tribes?”

“Yeah, they’re supposed to have some sort of self-imposed exile aren’t they?” I asked.

Mom nodded, “I don’t fully understand the reasoning, but they disagree with the Lejosálfar on a number of philosophical matters and refuse to live among them. The light elves are just as glad to be rid of them, as they’ve intermingled with lesser vattir like the fairies.”

“So you’re hoping since Eva is unbound that they’ll listen to her?”

“More or less, I’ve sent several requests to some of the bigger tribes for a meeting and none of them will have anything to do with me. They don’t trust humans, I’m hoping that they will feel differently about an elf.” Mother said.

“Morning,” Leif’s familiar voice said brightly. I turned to face him and felt my cheeks burn as his eyes seemed to linger on my breasts once again. What the Hel was wrong with him? Yeah my new body was freaking hot, but it was still me inside!

“Would you cut that out,” I snapped angrily. “My eyes are up here, you know.”

Leif’s cheeks turned red, “I wasn’t, uh, I mean I didn’t mean to. I mean, look at you!”

Mom snorted, “It’s not all his fault.”

“You mean this aura business? Eva already told me about it,” I said folding my arms across my chest and dropping them almost as quickly. It was weird feeling those bulges on my chest.

Mother nodded, “Get some breakfast in you and go take a shower. I want to get everything taken care of as early as possible.”

“Uh? Take care of what?” Leif asked.

“Neil will fill you in. Daniella and I have some things to discuss,” Mom said before standing and leaving the room with Daniella in tow.

I quickly told Leif what was going on and the room fell silent as we ate quietly.

“So what’s it like?” Leif said suddenly. “Being a girl, I mean.”

“So far it sucks, and it’s weird, too, but I haven’t been one long enough to tell you much.”

“Well, at least if you’re going to be a girl you get to be a hot one.”

“What? That is absolutely no consolation whatsoever.”

“Not to you maybe,” a soft feminine voice chuckled from the doorway. “But it is to me.”

Eva walked over and kissed me deeply on the lips. “Your transformation is finished?”

“Venn, that is so hot!” Leif said looking from me to Eva.

“As near as I can tell. Everything looks complete,” I said casting an irritated glance at Leif then kissed Eva back. I felt my heart rate quicken and I suppressed the urge to start undressing Eva. At least I knew I still liked girls.

“Frizz,” Leif said. “Two hot maers kissing. Frigg and Hel!”

Eva laughed, “Humans are so strange.”

“Yeah, well Leif’s weirder than most,” I muttered irritably before sinking my teeth into a piece of chicken.

+

Breakfast was… awkward to say the least especially after my father showed up and told me I looked as beautiful as my mother. Leif kept staring at me and I felt like I was piece of meat he was trying to decide whether he might eat. This actually seemed to piss Heime off, who kept staring at Leif as if considering whether he should rip out his heart. It was humiliating, and I wished things would got back to the way they had been before. I might look like a girl now, but I sure as Frigg didn’t feel like one. Why couldn’t Leif see that? As for Heime, I wasn’t sure what to think of that. The guy had just appeared, and I wasn’t even sure I liked having him around let alone playing the part of the over-protective parent.

When I was done eating I got out of there as quickly as I could. Gramor grabbed me shortly after that and led me into the bathroom. “Your mother tells me that you’ll be going out shopping today. What are you planning to wear?”

“I hadn’t really thought about it. I guess some of my old clothes at least until I can get something that fits,” I said.

“That is not going to happen,” she said with a shake of her head. “Your old clothes will hang on you. I’ll see if I can find something to fit you in Daniella and your mother’s things. Get in the shower and I’ll bring what I find in for you.”

Once she was gone, I pulled my shirt off and tried to ignore the unwelcome guests on my chest. I sighed and started to pull off the pair of shorts that were hanging loosely around my hips when the door suddenly swung wide open. I quickly pulled the shorts back up, and stared into the doorway.

It was Leif. “Frizz, I didn’t know you were in here,” he said with wide eyes staring fixedly at my bare breasts.

I could feel my cheeks burn and I quickly covered my breasts with one of my arms. Goddesses, what the Hel did he think he was doing just walking into a bathroom when the door was closed? Idiot! My embarrassment turned to anger and I felt my free hand ball up into a first and I just sort of reacted. I hit him in the face as hard as I could which happened to be much harder than I would have expected. Nevertheless, my hand felt like I’d hit a brick wall and Leif staggered backwards quite a way.

“What the Hel did you do that for?!” he asked with a loud gasp and cupped his hands over his nose.

“Get out!” I yelled.

“I didn’t mean to—”

“GET OUT!” I yelled at the top of my lungs.

Leif stumbled back through the doorway and I slammed the door in his face. I sank to my knees and gasped. A few tears fell down my face, but I forced them away. Goddesses, why did I feel so vulnerable? I wanted to cry and keep on crying, but I wouldn’t let myself. I wouldn’t give in. Damn my frizzing hand hurt.

A few more minutes passed by and the door swung open again. “Dammit Leif! I told you to—” I growled and stopped mid-sentence as I realized it was Gramor who had opened the door. She held a stack of clothes in her arms which she dropped on the counter .

“What’s happened?” she asked folding her arms across her chest.

“Uh, I don’t want to talk about it,” I replied quietly.

Gramor gave me that look that all women seemed to have mastered and I squirmed under her scrutiny. “Fine!” I said finally. “Leif walked in on me naked. You happy?!”

“That explains why he was running down the hall with a hand clasped over his nose,” she said with a faint smile on her face. “I ran into him on my way back,” she added in explanation

“Shit,” I muttered. “I probably shouldn’t have punched him, but who the crenking Hel walks into a bathroom when the door is closed? Damn my hands hurts.”

“I think any girl would have done the same in your place,” my grandmother said dryly. “Let’s take a look at that hand.

“I’m not a girl!” I protested before giving her my hand.

There was a weird tickling sensation then slowly over the next ten minutes the pain in my hand seemed to fade until it was almost completely gone.

“You may not see yourself as a girl, but like it or not the world isn’t going to agree. You managed to fracture one of the bones in your hand. If it had been much worse I wouldn’t have been able to heal it. It might be a little stiff for a few days, but other than that it should be fine.”

“Thanks,” I said rubbing at my hand thoughtfully.

“Get in the shower. I need to see to that fool boy.”

I nodded and stepped into the shower once she had left. I cranked the slider up to a ridiculously hot level and slammed the button on the wall and sighed in relief as boiling hot water rained down on me from the showerhead in the ceiling. Mom and Daniella thought I was nuts but I liked my showers really hot, I found it invigorating.

As great as the shower felt, I wanted to keep it short. The hot water against my breasts felt amazing, but only helped to remind me of how much my body had changed. I soaped my body up and tried my best to ignore the vulva between my legs and the breasts on my chest.

“Hey,” Eva said as the shower door slid open and closed behind her.

“What’s this?” I said unable to keep myself from smiling at her.

Eva shrugged, “I thought it would be more enjoyable if we showered together.”

“Is the water too hot? I can turn it down,” I said.

“It is perfect,” she said with a smile then kissed me. “We elves have a much better tolerance for heat than humans.”

Maybe my love of hot showers was more unusual than I had always thought. In fact I was sure of it. How many of my other habits had been effected by my elven side? I shuddered and put the thoughts out of my head. I would have to mull them over another time.

Eva reached over and began to soap my bare breasts. I had been so caught up in my thoughts that I hadn’t even realized what she was doing until her hands were inches from my chest. I didn’t tell her that I had already cleaned everything. Her hands softly brushed my breasts and there was a slow sensuality to her movement as she cleaned me. It was felt amazing and I hoped she would never stop.

Oh Norns, I was so freaking turned on. My nipples hardened on my chest and reached out to Eva and kissed her. I held her close and started to slowly massage her breasts. We got a little carried away after that and we didn’t quite go all the way, but we came pretty damn close. If it wasn’t for Gramor’s return, we probably would have.

“What’s going on in there?” Gramor said through the shower door.

I tried to answer, to tell my grandmother a quick lie, but every time I tried I couldn’t speak. “Shit! I can’t lie!” I said finally.

“We decided to share the shower,” Eva said. It wasn’t a lie precisely, but it wasn’t the whole truth.

“Uh, huh,” Gramor said. “That’s not all that is going on is it?”

To my shock I found myself answering her, “No.”

“Goddesses you’re worse than your mother,” she said with a chuckle. “The first time she took a shower after her change I found her fingering herself.”

“Gramor!” I protested. “I really didn’t need to know that!”

“Just be glad it was me that found you, and not your mother or Daniella,” she teased.

My grandmother’s interruption was a real mood-killer and it really didn’t take us long to finish washing up. We both got dressed and just when I thought we were all done I learned that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

To cut things a bit short, Gramor that she wanted to teach me about the my new anatomy and Eva piped in and mentioned that there were some minor differences between humans and elves that I should probably be aware of. So I got a lecture on a whole plethora of things ranging from how to proper clean my new privates, proper hair care and (yay!) periods.

Apparently, elves are much slower to reproduce than humans and have periods much more infrequently. Of course, since I was a half-elf, neither seemed sure exactly how I might be affected. I knew women had periods, but I hadn’t even really thought about having one myself. Frizz, what else would I have to look forward too?

+

“Seidkona! I am honored,” the middle-aged brunette woman said with a deep curtsy upon seeing my mother. Clearly, she recognized Mom, which was not very surprising since she was probably the most recognizable member of the Seidskati, especially in the New Copenhagen area.

Mom smiled politely, but I could tell she was irritated. She hated it when people groveled. “Please, that will not be necessary. Treat me as you would any other customer.”

The woman’s eyes widened, “Yes of course. Can I help the Lady Aryanna find anything?”

“Claire is it?” Mom said glancing at the woman’s name badge with a strained smile. “My daughter here needs a bra fitting.”

Claire gave Mom a startled expression, then her eyes fell on me. “My goodness,” she said. “You are very lovely.”

I felt my cheeks burn in humiliation. ‘I’m a guy, damn you!’ I cursed inwardly.

“Thanks,” I said between gritted teeth.

“If you will follow me, please,” she said with another curtsy and led Mom, Eva and me through the many racks of clothes and stopped just shy of a dressing room at the back of the store.

“I wouldn’t expect a girl your age to need a fitting. Why you have to be … you’re seventeen at least?”

“Eighteen,” I corrected.

“Goodness, in another year you’ll be of age. Yes, much too old to need a fitting,” Clara said giving Mom a funny look.

Mom forced a smile, “Children, huh? Just when you think they stop growing, they grow a little more.”

“Yes, yes of course,” the clerk said. “What’s you’re name dear?”

I stared at the woman, and felt a brief panic settle over me. Should I tell her my real name or make up a female name? “N- uh,” I mumbled. Oh, Frizz I couldn’t lie! Damn Hervor for awakening my elven side!

“I’m sorry what was that dear?”

“Nyla,” Mom said with a look of disinterest on her face. “Her name is Nyla.”

“Nyla!” the woman said with a smile. “Very unusual, pretty, but unusual. Dear, why don’t you step into the fitting room and we’ll have a look.”

I stared at the clerk with my mouth hanging open and looked back to Mom and Eva.

“Don’t worry dear. If you like, your mother or your friend can come in with you.”

“Eva,” I said almost immediately.

Eva smiled and followed the woman and me into the dressing room. “Well dear, if you could undress.”

“Undress?” I asked. “Why?”

“Well, you can’t expect me to take accurate measurements through your blouse. Now can you?” Claire chuckled.

“I… uh guess not,” I said with a grimace and began unbuttoning my shirt.

“My goodness,” Clair said with obvious envy in her eyes once my shirt was removed. “I’m sure the boys are just lining up. With a figure like that you must be a popular girl.”

“Oh, yes. I’m sure she would be very popular,” Eva said with an amused grin. Norns! Eva’s sense of humor could be so weird sometimes.

“You know it’s strange. I never heard that Lady Aryanna had a daughter,” Clair said.

“Uh, yeah,” I muttered. “Weird huh?”

Clair smiled with a knowing expression as she took my measurements. Her hands were cold and the whole ordeal was uncomfortable to say the least.

“In fact I remember when your brother was born it was all over the news,” she continued eying me with a smirk on her face. “There was a lot of speculation about who the father was. Nobody seemed to know. In fact, if I recall correctly he should be eighteen about now.”

Frizzing Hel! The woman was no idiot. How much did she suspect?

“I’ll be right back with a couple bras for you to try out,” she said with another damned smile and slipped out the door.

“Mom,” I said through the door once a few minutes later once I thought Clara would be far enough away. “Did you hear that?”

“Yes,” Mom said. “Don’t speak of it further and make sure you don’t say anything that might give you away. “

“Yeah about that… I have a bit of a problem,” I muttered quietly.

“Oh?” Mom asked through the door.

“Uh, I can’t lie,” I said.

I heard Mom mutter several curses under her breathe, “That could be an issue. I should have expected something like this with Hervor awakening your elven side. Just do your best.”

“Okay.” I muttered. “Is it just me or is it a little cold in here?”

Eva took a look at my chest and smiled mischievously and ran her finger across one of my nipples. “Oh, I’d say it’s very chilly in here.”

I felt a cold shiver run through my body and I looked down at my breasts. “Shit, why are they doing that?”

Eva laughed then leaned in and kissed me, “They do that when it gets cold. Maybe I’ll show you another way to make them do it later on.”

“Sorry to interrupt, but I have some bras for you to try on,” Claire said suddenly. She must have come in while we were kissing and we just hadn’t noticed her. There was a look of disapproval on her face, but it was quickly covered by an obviously false smile.

“Okay,” I said grabbing a white bra from her hand. I fumbled with the damn thing for several minutes, but couldn’t figure out how to get it on.

Claire gave me another disapproving frown which was replaced by a knowing smile. “You’ve never done this before have you?”

Shit! Shit shit shit shit! How the hel am I supposed to answer that question and not give myself away? “Uh…” I muttered trailing off.

“Here, let me help you with it,” Claire offered with a knowing smile.

She took the bra out of my hands and slipped the straps over my head, made a few adjustments then snapped several buttons together just under and behind either of my arm pits.

“There how does that feel?”

“Well I guess it feels good,” I muttered. I didn’t know how the damn thing was supposed to fit, and although it felt very odd, it felt sort of good too. I did notice my breasts didn’t seems as bouncy as they had before.

Clara seemed pretty insistent that I try on several different types of bras. I wasn’t sure what they were all for, well except maybe the exercise bra, but Clara seemed to think they were needed. After a little bit of argument I relented and tried everything on she put in front of me.

After everything was said and done Mom chimed in and decided I needed to get a few packs of panties, an exercise bra, a form fitting one which she said I might need for tonight and a weeks worth of ‘regular’ bras in white, black and ‘nude’. My size varied from style to style, but all the regular type bras were size 7-Þ. Mom even got Eva a couple pair.

After that Mom excused Clair and took me aside. “Mom, I think she knows who I am.”

“I overheard everything, Nyla,” Mom said using the false name she had given me.

“That’s not my name!” I growled.

“It will do for now. If you wish to chose another name later on you can do so, but that’s not important right now,” Mom said.

“Yeah, well what are we going to do?”

“It’s my own fault. I shouldn’t have said you were my daughter,” Mom replied. “We’ll buy these things and get the rest of your clothes somewhere else.”

“What about Leif and Daniella?” I asked.

“Daniella knows what to do if the worst should happen, don’t worry.”

I nodded and we went through the line at the purchase ringer. The woman at the counter picked up the items and placed them on a glass circle. A yellow light shot out from a glass circle in the counter and encompassed all the items then faded into nothingness. “That will be seven gold trigguts and five silver bolas.”

Mom paid the woman and we quickly made for the doors, but we both stopped just shy of the doors when we saw what was waiting for us outside.

“Damn! Reporters!” Mom said cursing under her breathe.

“You think that Claire woman called them?” I asked.

Mom shook her head, “It’s possible, but she would have had to call them when we first got here for them to have arrived so quickly.”

“What do we do?” I asked.

“This,” Mom said taking hold of me and Eva. Suddenly the ground lurched out from under me and a huge gust of wind shot into my chest and we went hurling through the void.

+

“Frizz,” I muttered as we reappeared in a busy street.

“Where are we?” Eva muttered after looking around and seeing the tall skyscrapers all around us.

“New Jorvík,” Mom said casually.

“New Jorvík?” I asked in disbelief. “That’s clear on the other side of the country! Why on Midgard did you bring us here?”

“People here keep to themselves, they mind their own business, and right now that’s exactly what we need.”

“Yeah, but New Jorvík!” I said.

Mother shook her head, “Come on.”

As we walked through the street I couldn’t help but notice all the looks I was getting. Men, and an unusual number of woman looked at me with barely disguised lust on their faces. It was pretty creepy and I did my best to ignore them as I passed them by.

Finally, after walking a few city blocks we stopped in front of a store that Mom thought would fit our needs. Eva had a look of amazement on her face as we entered, but I’d seen places like these before. Of course, I usually avoided them like the plague. It was just the sort of place that catered to rich Spellbinders.

“Hello,” a black-haired beauty said with a disapproving glare as we approached. “May I help you?”

“Yes, I need these girls fitted for dresses,” Mother said with a slight flick of her wrists.

“Might I suggest you try MacFrugal’s on Farsk Street? They might be more in your price range,” the woman said with her nose upturned.

I glanced at Mom and understood almost immediately why the woman was behaving the way she was. I was so accustomed to Mom dressing the way she did that I never even thought about it, but her slacks and plain button up shirt didn’t exactly scream rich spellbinder. Slacks weren’t very fashionable, and few women would be caught dead wearing them, especially not the head of a prominent Spellbinder house.

Mom’s demeanor suddenly changed and she took on an air of arrogance. I might have been shocked, if I hadn’t seen her do it before. It was all an act of course, but the woman didn’t appear to realize that as a look of uncertainty appeared on her face.

“You will refer to me, as Lady Le Fey, child,” Mother said with a cold glare. “Is this how you treat a member of the Seidskati? As if she were an inconsequential nobody?”

The woman’s eyes widened and her face seemed to pale. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize. Please come inside. I would be glad to help you with whatever you need.”

“I think not!” Mother said with mock indignation. “Find me someone who can afford me the sort of respect is due a person of my status. And hurry, or I might take my business elsewhere!”

“Yes, of course, Lady Le Fey!” the woman said, and I couldn’t help but laugh as she scurried out of sight.

“Lady Le Fey!” a new woman said with a deep curtsy. “I am Annelise. I apologize, Lady, for Sherrie’s behavior.”

“It is no consequence,” Mom said looking as if she were very bored.

“How may I help you Lady,” she said with a relieved smile.

“As I told that foolish child. I need these girls fitted for two formal dresses each,” Mother said.

I masked my surprise. Two dresses? Why did I need two dresses? Frigg, if I had my way I wouldn’t even get one of the damn things!

“As you wish,” she said curtsying again. “Now girls, if you would please follow me we will see what we can do.”

Eva and I followed Annelise through the store and stopped just short of a row of dresses. Mom gradually made her way over.

“That will do for now, child.”

Annelise scurried away and Mom and I burst into laughter.

“I don’t understand,” Eva said. “Why were you behaving that way?”

Mom smiled, “Because it’s the way they expect a Spellbinder to behave.”

“Humans, are so strange,” she said with a shake of her head.

“You know maybe I shouldn’t have sent that woman off. I have a horrible eye for style,” Mom said casting a sidelong glance back to where the woman had disappeared. “I’ll go get her. Act like you’re looking at the dresses.”

We did as Mom suggested and started looking through the racks.

“How may I help?” Annelise said, reappearing behind Mom.

“These dresses are absolutely deplorable! Clearly your reputation as a fine dress maker is exaggerated,” Mother said.

“Well I am sorry our selection is not to your satisfaction, my Lady. Perhaps I could make some recommendations.”

“Very well.”

Annelise went through several racks and pulled out a dress. “I’m sorry dear I didn’t catch your name,” she said looking at me.

“Call me…” I muttered before either Eva or Mom could speak up. After a brief hesitation, I blurted out the first feminine name I could think of, which happened to be “Bryn”. It was short for Brynhilde, the name of the first girl I had kissed. I wanted to take it back as soon as it had left my lips, but it was already too late for that.

“Well Bryn, how do you like this dress?” She said with a nervous smile and pulled out a cream colored dress from the rack.

“That might do,” Mother said with apparent disinterest.

After several trips to the dressing rooms Eva and I each had two dresses picked out. Or should I say Annelise had picked them out for us. Eva seemed just as lost as I was when it came to the dresses, but that really didn’t surprise me. Dark elves made everything they used by hand, and were completely self-sufficient. They did not live lavishly and wore plain clothing in the rare instances that they wore any at all.

I wasn’t exactly thrilled about wearing a dress, but I knew that Mom’s meeting with the Seidskati was pretty damned important. In order to make things go along without a hitch I had to play the Seidskati’s damn game, and if that meant wearing a frizzing dress, then by the many names of Frigg, I’d wear the stupid thing. When everything was said and done I’d cram that stupid dress up their asses and be done with the whole lot of them.

Just when I thought we were all finished they brought in the seamstress who happened to be a pretty talented wind mage. She had Eva and me put on each of the dresses and then with a number of complicated gestures she called up her magic and unleashed it on each article of clothing. Threads flew through the air around us, small pieces of cloth was sliced away with a well aimed gust of wind here and there. It took surprisingly little time, but when she was finished both dresses were a perfect fit.

Finally, we were done and Mom paid the bill, which ended up being seventy-eight gold trigguts and twelve silver bolas. She took us back home and there was another surprise waiting for me once we had arrived, a frizzing haircut.

I was dead-serious when I asked stylist to shave it all off, but Eva protested so strongly that I quickly relented. My hair was a tangled mess. I had horrible split ends and the stylist just wanted to trim it up a bit. Eva’s protestations kept me from getting it cut too short, but we finally managed a compromise. My hair got cut down just an inch past chin length into what the stylist refereed to as a shaggy bob.

Once, Mom had paid the stylist I turned to Eva and scowled. “How do you put up with all this hair in your face?”

“You get used to it,” she muttered with an amused grin.

The hairstyle was extremely feminine, but I had to admit that it really looked good with my new face. Really, it wouldn’t have mattered what sort of haircut I might have gotten, as there was no disguising the fact that I was female. I couldn’t hide it, not with a body and face like mine. I was beautiful and there was no way around that. Goddesses I hate looking like this! I hate beginning female, I hate seeing the face of a stranger in the mirror and I hate peeing sitting down! I just want to be a frizzing guy again!

Manadag, the sixth of Morsugur

Holy Frigg. Mom was right Ragnarok is coming. Norns, where the frizz do I even begin? Everything has changed. So many things have been called into question, and I find myself doubting everything. Yeah, today has been hel, and I don’t think my life shows any signs of going back to normal. Shit, I am so screwed.

We arrived at the Dingha by travel spell to find some frizzing reporters waiting for us. The Seidskati had never made much of an effort at keeping the times of their meetings private, and the recent news about Mom and me had drawn them like locusts to a wheat field. After our shopping trip the media was having a field day, and most were speculating on whether or not I really was Neil Steinburg transformed into a girl.

We pushed our way through the gaggle of reporters without any comment, and were soon inside the dingha where we were greeted by a gray-haired woman with a stern frown.

“Elizabeth,” Mom said with a relieved sigh. “Are they ready for us?”

It only took me a moment to register her name before realizing that the woman was Elizabeth Bathory.

“As ready as they’ll ever be,” Elizabeth said a scowl and a shake of her head.

Mom smiled grimly and nodded, “Is it that bad?”

“Bad enough, but it’s more of the usual. There have been speculation on why you’ve called the council together, but it is nothing more than speculation,” Elizabeth said with an irritable shake of her head.

“Then they have no idea?”

“None.”

“Good. Maybe I can catch them off guard.”

“Are you ready?” Mom asked, suddenly turning around to lock eyes with me.

“Yeah, I guess so.”

Mom nodded then turned to Daniella, “Remember what we discussed.”

Daniella nodded before Mom motioned for me to follow her down the long corridor that led to the chamber doors. Daniella, Eva, and Leif all stayed behind as we were ushered inside the council chamber by a pair of women with stern expressions on their faces. I’d never been within the chamber before and I couldn’t help but feel self-conscious as the hooded figures above all stared down at us.

“Kona le Fey, why have you called upon the Seidskati?” the wizened figure of a woman asked, glaring down at my mother. I wanted to shrink under the force of the woman’s gaze, but Mom held her ground so I did my best to follow her example and not slink into the shadows.

“Ancient Theodora, as I have been forced to reminded you on numerous occasions, it is inappropriate to refer to a fellow member of the Seidskati as Kona,” Mother said, meeting the elderly woman’s gaze with a glare just as formidable.

Theodora scowled, “Very well, sister, why have called us?”

“I have several reasons for calling the council together. The first of which has to do with the magical awakening of my son,” Mom replied placing a hand on shoulder.

“Do you mean to say that this girl is your son?” a scorn-filled voice chimed in.

“That’s right, Xiu.”

“I must say I find this news disturbing,” Theodora said, glaring down with a disgusted look on her face.

“Come now ancient, it is not as if Aryanna has any control over her child’s transformation,” a woman whom I recognized as Matoaka spoke up almost immediately.

As the only Native Nrylander among the Seidskati, she is nearly as controversial a figure as mother. Unlike the other members of the Seidskati Matoaka represented an entire tribe of people rather than a specific house.

“I am not so sure,” Ancient Theodora shot back.

“Neil’s transformation was not by my doing,” Mother said calmly.

“She speaketh sooth. ‘Twas I who did invoke the changes,” A figure dressed in white said walking through the chamber doors. It was Hervor, followed closely by my father.

“Queen Hervor,” Matoaka said frowning down at the light elf. “What brings you before the Seidskati?”

“I was entreated by thy peer to appear before thee,” she replied.

“For what purpose?” A woman said, standing and removing the hood from her face. It was Mi Cha Shin, a relatively new member of the Seidskati. Her home country of Goryeo had been at war with Nyrland for almost twenty years until an uneasy peace had been declared. Her house had only been recently been admitted to the Seidskati, but she had already proven herself to be a formidable force within the ruling body of the Spellbinders.

“To make you aware of a danger that threatens everything,” Mom replied calmly.

“What sort of danger?” Theodora asked with a scowl on her face.

“Ragnarok,” Mom said, locking eyes with the ancient woman.

The council chambers suddenly erupted with noise as nearly every single member of the Seidskati began to speak at once.

A soft glow surrounded Mom and she raised a hand to loose a light gust of wind that swept through the room. It took a few moments for Mom’s spell to have its desired effect, but silence once more fell upon the chamber. With a satisfied nod Mom dropped her hand and let the air in the room grow calm again.

“Sisters, if you would allow me to talk, I will try to explain.”

That only proved to provoke more yelling as a good number of council members were competing to be heard.

“SILENCE!” Elizabeth Bathory yelled from above with a magically enhanced voice. “Sisters, let her speak.”

That seemed to do the trick, as the room grew quiet again and Mom looked over to Elizabeth with an appreciative smile on her face. “Thank you, sister. Almost twenty-six years ago, after being named Athilda’s apprentice I was tasked to put an end to Ragnarok.”

“Tasked by whom?” Theodora asked suddenly. “The Eddas and the Codices clearly state that—”

“Sister, please, let me continue,” Mom said interrupting the ancient Spellbinder and continued after receiving a nod of resignation from Theodora. “It was Frigg, the Allmother, who tasked me with putting an end with Ragnarok.”

“You speak lies and obscenities! The prophecies are clear. Ragnarok is unavoidable!” Theodora spoke up angrily.

“Well Sister Theodora, it appears then that the prophecies are wrong!” Mom spat back between clenched teeth.

“Now please let me continue! As the goddess has revealed to me, a prophecy merely speaks of a probable outcome, not a definite one. It was the goddess herself who set me on this task. Unless you would question the judgment of one of the creators, Theodora. I would remain silent.”

Another shouting match broke out as nearly everyone in the Dingha started yelling at once. Mom raised her hand and seemed about to loose another gust of wind when a voice range out through the whole chamber.

“Hold your tongues!” It was Hervor.

Shocked silence pervaded the entire chamber. “Fools!” Hervor said angrily removing the hood from her face. “Very soon come the Jotun! Ye shall surely fall if ye heed not the words of Lady le Fey. Restrain your doubts and prepare yourselves for the final battle! ‘Tis the only way.”

The queen’s words invoked rippled murmurs throughout the council chambers, but no one came forward to speak.

“It seems likely that our young sister is telling the truth. As a spirit creature, the elf queen is incapable of deceit. It is certain that she believes Ragnarok is on the way. Does that not grant credence to our young friend’s claims?” Matoaka said finally breaking the silence.

The woman Mom had named as Xiu glared across the chamber at Matoaka, “The elf may not be capable of deceit, but she can still be fooled.”

Unexpectedly, Hervor threw her head back and started to laugh, “Thou thinkest me so easy to fool Seidkona? Many millenia have I lived. Though I be incapable of speaking untruths, I have had numerous dealings with thy kind. Thinkest thou that I be so easily taken in?”

It was about then that I began to feel a strange feeling of unease. There was a malevolent presence in the room that wanted nothing so much as kill me and everyone else within the council chambers. I clutched at my mother’s arm, and she glanced back at me with a curious expression on her face, but she turned away in order to reply to a comment made by one of the council members. I tried to make myself speak, but I wasn’t able to form the words. I could feel a sense of grim amusement from the evil force, but it did not seem the least bit alarmed that I was aware of its presence. I looked around the chamber. No one seemed to sense what I did, not even Hervor.

“…a traitor within the Seidskati,” I heard my mother say, but most of my attention was on the presence.

I vaguely remembered Leif coming into the council chambers and then it happened. The presence reached out and I knew that if something wasn’t done we would all die. I reached inward and clawed at the source of untapped magic locked deep within me. Blinding white light shot out from my chest and I screamed as the volley of power slammed into the empty space a mere half a dozen feet above me. Suddenly, I was flying through the air then, just as abruptly my back slammed into something hard. I let out a grunt of pain as I looked down and found that I was pinned by some invisible force against the wall. Darkness crept into my vision and I thought I might pass out, but there was a flash of light and when my vision cleared there was a man with long raven-black hair standing in front of me. I knew then that he was the source of the malevolent presence I had felt before.

“Wakey, wakey,” he said with a snap of his fingers.

I gasped as burst of pain shot through my body and the darkness that had been creeping at the edge of my vision was gone.

“Who are you?” I grunted as I realized the magic was still pouring out from my body. I tried to release it, but nothing I did seemed to work. Instead, the light pouring out from me seemed to be growing increasingly more bright. More startling, was that it was shooting right into him and the man seemed completely unaffected by it. Clearly he was able to summon some sort of power, but it wasn’t magic, that much was certain. I would have been able to feel it if he were using magic. Of course no man could use magic and live very long, so it was really a moot point.

He grinned maliciously and patted me on the cheek, “Hervor dearest knows who I am. Don’t you Hervor?”

Suddenly I lurched through the air and I landed on my belly at Hervor’s feet. “Tell them!” he yelled with a manic edge to his voice.

“Thou art Loki,” Hervor said staring at him with wide eyes.

“Oh shit,” I muttered under my breathe. “We are so screwed.”

+

Frigg preserve us, Loki was alive! How the frizz was that even possible? All the ancient sources said he was dead just like all the male gods, but it appeared he had somehow escaped Hel’s clutches. Maybe that really wasn’t surprising, considering she was his daughter.

His status as a god certainly explained how he seemed immune to my magic even as it continued to pour out of me and shoot into him. He could call upon the powers of creation that were only available to the gods. What more he was Loki, the god of mischief and chaos.

“Enough of this!” Mother screamed. “Release him!”

“Him?” Loki said and I was suddenly jerked back to my feet. “You mean this pretty little thing? Funny, she don’t much look like a him to me.”

“Let him go!” Mom screamed frantically and lunged at the god.

Loki laughed manically as he lifted his hand and Mom abruptly stopped mid stride. “Silly girl, you think you can match the power of a god? You are nothing to me, even with your cute little box of magic tricks.”

“Unhand her, thou dissembling fustilarian!” Heime growled and stepped forward as he unsheathed the sword strapped across his back.

“Oh, now Heime, old friend, that just hurts. You might offend a fellow with language like that. It’s not generally considered polite to yell at an old friend. Especially when said friend happens to be a god. Just for that I’m going to have to make things a little unpleasant for your friend here,” Loki said with mock indignation.

“Unhand her!” Heime demanded.

“Now, now, you gotta do something about that temper of yours. Remember what I said about offending an old friend?” Loki giggled.

Heime clenched his teeth and pounced on Loki, but the god of mischief was ready for him and my father went soaring across the other side of the room with a casual flick of the god’s wrist.

“What a downer. Now, let’s have some fun shall we?” Loki said and suddenly I was spinning.

“Round and round she goes! Where she stops! Nobody knows!” Loki laughed.

The spinning started out slow, but it got progressively worse. I circled the great chamber endlessly until I thought I would pass out, suddenly I slammed into something hard and I heard Loki mutter a “whoops,” followed by a laugh. Something snapped inside of me and I could feel the magic building. I tried to stop it, but it was like trying to contain a bonfire with my bare hands. I knew what could happen if a Spellbinder lost control, and I’d been told I was far more powerful than any spellbinder. I could level the entire county, maybe even the whole state, if I didn’t put a stopper on the energy that was pouring out from me. I tried feebly to keep it from flowing out from me, but it continued to build, and it was only a matter of time before I popped.

Why wasn’t anyone trying to stop what was happening? Couldn’t they see that I could kill us all? That’s when it hit me. That is what Loki wanted all along. He had revealed himself to me in hopes of achieving this very end. Somehow he was preventing the Spellbinders, and even Hervor from intervening, but how? He seemed completely unaffected by my magic. Perhaps he had some way of keeping Mom and the rest of the magic users from using their powers.

Desperately I reached outside the council chambers. Perhaps if I couldn’t stop the flow of magic I could redirect it. There was a very familiar presence just outside the room and I realized it was Eva. I could feel her desperation, and I sensed that she was being blocked from entering the chamber. I wanted to reach out to her and comfort her and somehow I knew I could do just that. I felt Daniella outside the chamber as well, but her presence was more distant, and I knew I couldn’t touch her. I reached out to Eva and… she reached back.

Then it happened, I don’t know how to describe it precisely, but suddenly I could feel everything Eva felt. Not so much a her thoughts, but her emotions. For a brief moment I couldn’t distinguish myself from Eva. There was no me, there was no her, there was only us. Then that feeling of unity faded and I was myself again. I could still feel Eva in the back of my head, but her presence wasn’t as strong as before.

There was a suddenly bright flash of light and a tall statuesque woman appeared within a tall pillar of light that soon faded away. She had long black hair, carried a rather wicked looking spear and wore ornately gilded armor. “Enough with your games, Loki. Release the girl.”

“Gna, my, my, my, it has been a long time. Still running errands for Frigg I see,” Loki said in a mocking tone.

“Release her,” Gna repeated blandly.

“Make me. You don’t have the power, even with the help of these witches and Hervor over there,” he replied with a laugh.

“She may not be a match for you, but I am,” a new voice said.

Suddenly, I fell to the ground as Loki released his hold on me and pain exploded in my breasts from the impact. I could feel the power gush out from me at even greater levels. Goddesses, why couldn’t I control it?

“Freya, it really has been too long. Why I was just saying the other day that—”

“Silence!” the voice of Freya commanded. “You will leave this place now!”

A hand touched my shoulder and I looked up to find that it was Leif. “You must let go,” he said quietly.

“Let go? If I let go the magic will…” trailing off as I stared back at him, aghast.

“You must empty your mind and let go!” he insisted.

I nodded and closed my eyes. I tried to clear away all my thoughts. For a moment it seemed to work as the magic flickered into nothingness, but then it flared back to life. Suddenly, I felt Leif’s lips on mine. Then all thoughts fled as I became lost in the kiss. As we broke for air I realized that the magic had faded away and stared at Leif aghast. I wasn’t about to admit it to anyone, but the kiss had felt really good.

“Drat! Foiled again!” Loki bellowed. Then he vanished.

“What the frizz, venn?” I said rounding on Leif

“I— uh— Don’t you know your own family history?”

“What the Hel is that supposed to mean?”

“When your ancestor, Athilda was still an apprentice to her mother, Morgana, she lost control of the magic. A rather handsome admirer of hers intervened and managed to get her to loose her hold on the power of the Seidh by kissing her. ” Gna said coming to stand over Leif and me.

“Yeah, but I mean— I— I—,” I muttered unable to complete my sentence know full well it was a lie. I wanted so badly to say that the kiss meant nothing and I wasn’t attracted to guys, but neither were true.

Gna grinned down at me and winked before turning to Freya.

“You are lucky, girl, that Gna and I were watching. Had we not appeared Loki likely would have succeeded in destroying you,” Freya said, coming to stand beside Gna with a frown.

“So then he was baiting me?” I asked swallowing hard.

“Yes, see that you don’t let him do it again,” Gna said with a shake of her head.

“Enough,” Freya said. “Neither, Gna nor myself intended to interfere with your meeting, but our presence here has already changed the status quo. I believe a short recess is in order. Then we will discuss the coming of Ragnarok. There is still much that needs done, and time is rapidly growing short.”

+

After the Freya’s pronouncement Mom dragged me out of the council chambers and hugged me so hard that I thought she might squeeze my insides out. “Are you going to be alright?” she asked removing her hands from around my middle and bringing them up to touch my cheeks.

“Yeah, Mom. I’ll be fine,” I said with groan.

“What happened?” Eva said off to my side.

“Apparently, Loki isn’t as dead we all thought. He showed up and baited me into loosing my powers on him,” I said bitterly.

“Ancestors preserve,” Eva whispered, and I could feel her concern and worry seeping through the strange bond we now shared. I felt a twinge of guilt for the kiss shared with Leif, but I batted that guilt away. Why should I feel guilty? I hadn’t initiated the stinking thing.

“I couldn’t control it. I could have destroyed us all. I mean, if Leif hadn’t kissed me…” I said and almost immediately wished I hadn’t. Frizz, the whole not being able to lie thing was going to cause me all sorts of trouble.

Eva pursed her lips and cocked an eyebrow, “He kissed you?”

“I didn’t ask him to,” I mumbled and looked down at the ground feeling my cheeks burn at the memory of Leif’s lips locked around my own.

“Frizz, it didn’t mean anything,” Leif said, and I realized for the first time that he had been there the whole time without me noticing.

“We shall see,” Eva said with a shake of her head.

“Look, let’s just get back in there,” I muttered seizing on the opportunity to change the subject. “I’m sure Freya and Gna have better things to do than to wait on us.”

Mom nodded, “The sooner we get this done with the better.”

“Art thou— well?” a voice asked off to the side and I looked over to find my father standing a few feet away. I don’t think I was really prepared for the intensity of the emotions I saw in those eyes.

“Fine,” I muttered averting my eyes.

“Very good,” Heime muttered with a nervous smile. “I shall see thee in a few moments. Yet must thy grandmother and I attend to certain things before we return to the council chambers.”

“Okay,” I said with a nervous smile of my own.

Heime nodded, flashed me another nervous smile then walked off in the opposite direction.

+

This time when we entered the council chambers, Leif and Eva followed us in. It wasn’t until the doors closed behind us that I realized Daniella was missing. I pointed it out to Mom, but she only smiled and said that there “was nothing to worry about.”

Gna and Freya, as well as the rest of the Seidskati were waiting for us as we returned to the chamber.

“Sisters,” Mom said to the subdued council members. “I think by now you have all come to understand the seriousness of the situation. I would like to continue where we left off. As I stated before, there is a traitor in our midst.”

“What evidence do you have of this?” Theodora asked warily.

“This young man is a descendant of the Lady Aquitaine,” Mom said placing her hand on Leif’s shoulder. “He overheard his mother and the head of his house speaking of a recent attack on the Le Fey estates. What I have learned from him gives me reason to believe she was behind the attack, and that she is consorting with Jonas Talman and Josef Mengele.”

“Florette, what do you say to these accusations?” Xiu said, but there was no reply.

“Florette?” Xiu repeated looking around the chamber.

“Forget it sister, she’s gone,” Matoaka said with a shake of her head.

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Gna said with a smug grin on her face.

Suddenly, the doors to the chamber burst open and a figure flew through the air and landed at Mom’s feet. A brief moment later Hervor strode in accompanied by my father.

“This one hath attempted to flee,” Hervor muttered blandly.

“Florette, so nice of you to join us,” Mom said kneeling down next to the woman.

“Sister Aquitaine, you stand accused of orchestrating an attack on a fellow member of the Seidskati. What do you have to say to this?” Theodora asked glaring down at Florette.

“It was necessary,” she said quietly.

“So then you admit your involvement?”

The Lady Aquitaine’s lips twitched and she opened her mouth as if to speak, but instead she leapt to her feet and ran right for me. There was a blur of motion as Eva stepped in, and suddenly Florette was on the ground, convulsing and clutching at her throat.

“You alright?” Eva asked. turning to face me.

“Yeah, th—,” I started to say, but stopped short when I felt bile rise in my throat at the sight of the dead body. “That was close. How the hel can you move so fast?”

Eva shrugged, but I could see the haunted look in her eyes. “I was trained to always be ready.”

“Bryn, are you alright?” I heard Mom ask and it took me a second to realize she was talking to me. I still wasn’t used to being called by my new name.

“Oh just crenking peachy! Why the hel is everyone after me? Why the frizz am I so damned important?”

“They fear thee. They know not the reason for which thou wert conceived,” Hervor muttered coming to stand a few feet away.

“Yeah? Them and me both!” I growled, rounding on her.

“Mother mayhap…” Heime muttered leaving his sentence incomplete.

Hervor sighed and held her hand up, “Mayhap ’tis time. Brynhilde, ’tis given unto thee to complete a bold task,” Hervor said, staring at me with that familiar weird gleam in her eyes.

“What sort of task?”

“When the eve of the final battle is upon us, thou art to descend into Helheim and deliver Odin and the other fallen gods back into the world of the living.”

The silence that followed was so absolute, I could hear the beat of my own heart. I didn’t so much as move a muscle, I could only stare at Hervor in disbelief. Of all the people in Midgard I had been born for this purpose, but I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it. It didn’t make any sense, I mean, yeah I had enormous magic power, but I kind of doubted I’d be able to gain enough control of it in time for it to do me any good. Wasn’t there someone else, someone better suited for the task? Didn’t it make more sense for one of the goddesses to make the trip?

“This has to be some sort of mistake,” Mom said finally, breaking the silence.

“‘Tis no mistake, Seidkona,” Hervor muttered quietly averting her eyes as if ashamed to meet my mother’s gaze. “‘Tis Brynhilde’s destiny to undertake this journey.”

“But why me?!” I asked staring at her wide-eyed.

“Frigg hath foreseen it,” Hervor said with a sad smile.

“There’s something you’re holding back, isn’t there?”

Hervor nodded, “Aye, child.”

“And you’re not going to tell me are you?”

“Nay, I cannot,” Hervor said as tears started to roll down her face.

“Shit, you’ve got some nerve, lady,” I growled.

“You mean to say, that this girl is meant to rescue the dead gods from hel? No living mortal, or goddess for that matter, has managed to pass through the gates of Hel. What makes this child so special?” a new voice spoke incredulously.

I blinked and looked around. With everything that I had happened I’d completely forgotten we had an audience. I looked up at the woman. She was really young-looking to be a member of the Seidskati, and I thought she did look sort of familiar. Then my eyes grew wide as I realized who she was, Marianna de Clisson, the daughter of Olivia and current head of House De Clisson.

“The elf spoke correctly. This girl is the only one who stands any chance of bringing our male counterparts back from Helheim,” Freya added.

I could hardly believe my ears. I was the only one who stood a chance? What made me so special?

“And how is she to accomplish this task?” Theodora growled.

“I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I may have the answer,” Mom said quietly.

The soft glow of magic surrounded my mother as a swirling cyclone of wind magic shot out the council chambers carrying her voice with it, “Daniella, bring her in.”

A moment later Daniella appeared followed closely by my grandmother, who was carrying a cloth sack slung over her shoulder. Mom hurried over to Gramor and grabbed the sack. She upended the bag and out fell an old warhammer.

“I made a bargain with Eitri the dwarf for information. As part of that deal he agreed to give me a weapon. I had no idea what sort of weapon that would be until I sent my mother to retrieve it,” Mom muttered quietly.

“Eitri?!” Theodora gasped. “The same Eitri that forged Mjölnir with his brother Brokk?”

“The same,” Mom muttered quietly.

“But that would mean…” Xiu muttered trailing off.

“It means, sister that it’s a very good bet that this hammer is Mjölnir,” Mom said staring back at Xiu.

“The hammer is Mjölnir. I haven’t seen it in eons, but I would recognize it anywhere. Brokk and Eitri’s work is unmistakable,” Gna spoke up.

“Even if it is Thor’s hammer, I don’t see what good having it will do. It is written that only a god may wield the power of Mjölnir,” Theodora said.

“Actually,” Gna said folding her arms across her chest. “That’s not entirely true. Only a god may harness its full potential, but anyone may wield the hammer. Of course, a powerful vattir such as a princess of the royal Elven house, would be able to wield Mjölnir to near its full potential.”

I felt a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach at the realization that the goddess meant me. I hadn’t even thought about what my relation to Hervor meant, but my transformation had left me female, which meant I was a damn princess. Just frizzing great.

“Forgive me goddess, but who are you referring to?” Marianna asked.

“She means me. I’m a half-elf. Hervor is my grandmother,” I said staring up at Marianna with wide eyes.

“Is this true?” Xiu asked staring down at me with a thoughtful expression on her face.

“It is true, Seidkona. The child is my daughter,” Heime spoke up.

“Sister le Fey, I’m assuming you were aware of your child’s parentage?”

“Of course, sister,” Mother said.

“And you did not see fit to make us aware of this?”

“No, Xiu, I did not. I wasn’t sure who I could trust, just as I wasn’t sure whether I could trust the Seidskati with the information regarding the coming of Ragnarok,” Mom said staring up at her with a look of defiance.

“Is there anything else you haven’t told us?” Theodora asked with a weary sigh.

“Well, there is one more thing,” Mom said with a mischievous grin.

“And that would be?”

“You probably ought to know about my army,” Mom replied.

“Your WHAT?!” Theodora asked staring at my mother with wide-eyed shock.

“I wasn’t sure if I could count on the backing of the Seidskati when the time came. So with the help of a former associate of Jonas Talman, I began quietly amassing the forces I would need to help fend off the Jotun,” Mom said, staring up at the ancient woman.

“How have you managed to do this without our knowledge?”

“My associate is very skilled at what he does,” Mom said with a knowing smile.

“Sister, this is no laughing matter. Do have any idea of the magnitude of what you have done?!” Theodora spat out angrily.

“I am sure sister Le Fey is fully aware of the implications, Theodora. It is a waste of time to argue over Aryanna’s conduct. She has taken steps in preparation for the final battle with the Jotun. As far as I’m concerned she is above reproach,” Matoaka said suddenly.

“I am inclined to agree,” Marianna de Clisson said her voice barely audible from across the room.

“Regardless, something of this magnitude must be put to vote,” Xiu said with a weary sigh.

“Agreed. But what shall we vote on, sisters?” Theodora asked with a scowl on her face.

“Oh, I have a few ideas,” Mom said with a smile.

“Wait! Shouldn’t we test the hammer? Assuming it really is Mjölnir, shouldn’t we know if the girl can wield it or not?” Motoaka asked suddenly.

“Aye, methinks that be prudent,” Hervor nodded with a sage smile.

“Bryn, come over here,” Mom muttered, staring at me with a look of concern on her face.

I walked over to where the hammer was resting on the ground and shook my head, “What do I do?”

“Pick it up. See if anything happens,” Mom muttered squeezing my shoulder gently.

I nodded and bent over to pick up Mjölnir, and nearly dropped it when it started to shake and quiver. Lightning shot up my arm and I could feel the power of the hammer flow through me. When I first picked up the hammer, the haft was far too wide for me to fit my hand around it, but with a blink of an eye the hammer shrunk and became the perfect size for my hands.

“Whoa! Talk about a rush! So… what do I do now?!” I gasped.

“Try throwing it,” my grammor suggested.

“Okay, here goes nothing,” I muttered and tossed the hammer into the air above me.

I wasn’t really ready for what happened next. There was a sudden flash of light as the hammer transformed into a bolt of lightning and shot into the roof of chamber, then it returned to its original form and fell back to the ground. I dove away, afraid that the hammer would hit me, but instead it just sort of hovered there in front of my face.

“Holy frizz,” I muttered staring at Mjölnir in awe as I reached out to grab it out of the air.

I looked up at the ceiling where the hammer had struck and felt my jaw drop as I realized the hammer had punched a huge hole in the roof of the dingha. “I guess that’s yes on whether I can use this thing.”

“It’s settled then,” Mom muttered her voice full of awe.

There was a call for votes, and the endless arguing and debate started. After what seemed like hours they finally made their decision. I was accepted as an initiate as a Spellbinder, the council would declare war on the Sons of Odin, Loki, and the Jotun, the Council of the Seidkona would be called together and all magic users down to the lowliest Charmer would be summoned to appear. It was rare for the Council of the Seidkona to be called together. Generally the Seidskati saw fit to rule on matters without input from the greater magic community. Of course, the really amazing part was that they agreed to call together all magic users. As far as I knew, such a thing had never been done.

They even voted to meet with the leaders of the world and ask for their help. I highly doubted any of that would have been possible without the presence of Gna and Freya. I mean, almost everyone in the Seidskati hated Mom and believed her to have usurped the Le Fey legacy. With the goddesses present they had no choice but to accept the truth that Ragnarok was coming and that Frigg had chose my mother as her champion.

And of course, Mom mentioned sending envoys to various Vattir, including the exiled álfar tribes and the Dvergar Conclave. Eva’s name was put forward and the Seidskati agreed to send her as an ambassador to the various exiled elven tribes.

Finally, it was over and I let out a sigh of relief as we turned to leave. I just wished I could escape the feeling that I was being led like a lamb to the slaughter.

+

Eirdag, the seventh of Morsugur

Okay, well where should I start? My mind is seriously frizzed up right now. I’m really freaking out about all this Ragnarok business, but it’s not just Ragnarok that’s getting to me. It’s Eva, Mom, and everything. The worst part is Leif, I can’t get him out of my head since he kissed me. Yeah, apparently I’m attracted to guys now. Yeah, that’s right I only finished changing into a girl yesterday, and already I’m crushing on my best friend!

And there was Eva, I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m still crazy about her, but I keep finding myself drifting off and fantasizing about making out with Leif. Goddesses, what the hel is wrong with me? I think my transformation is messing with my head. Somehow I think Hervor has something to do with it. Although what she would stand to gain by making me attracted to guys is beyond me.

Then there was the bond that Eva and I shared. She was always there in the back of my head and I wasn’t sure if she was a permanent occupant or not. I really needed to talk to her, but I’d kind of been avoiding her. Okay, yeah I’m just going to go find her, this is ridiculous.

Later…

+

I found Eva pretty easily, as she spent almost all her time out in the gardens. I think she liked it out there even more than I do.

“Hey,” I muttered quietly.

“You’ve been avoiding me,” she said quietly.

“Yeah, I have.”

“You’re feeling guilty,” she said matter-of-factly. I didn’t even need to ask how she knew. It was pretty obvious she had sensed my emotions through our weird bond.

“Eva, what happened? Why are we connected like this? Why can I feel your emotions?”

I detected a faint trace of amusement as she answered, “All elves possess the ability to link ourselves with others. Dark elves use that ability to control and manipulate others. Light elves generally use it for much more benign purposes, usually as a marriage bond.”

“Marriage bond?” I coughed staring at her wide eyed.

Eva threw her head back and fell into a fit of hysterical laughter, “Don’t worry. This doesn’t mean we’re married.”

“Eva, there’s something I need to tell you.”

“You’re attracted to your friend Leif.”

“How did you know?”

“Do you really need to ask?” she asked giving me a pointed look.

I could feel her emotions through the bond and I wasn’t sure what to make of them. There were a whole slew of emotions half of which seemed to contradict the others. There was jealousy mingled with fondness, amusement mingled with possessiveness and strangely enough, there was even a bit of guilt.

“Eva, I want to be with you. I don’t want to feel this way about Leif, but this new body of mine doesn’t seem to understand that.”

“Elves are sexual creatures, much more so than humans. Those of us that actually try to suppress our urges have a much more difficult time of it than a human would. Since your changes, you have taken on many elven traits. I think this sudden attraction to your friend is probably due to your elven side gaining dominance.” She traced her fingers across my cheek.

“It bothers you that I’m attracted to Leif, doesn’t it?” I asked. With the link we shared it wasn’t really necessary, since I already knew how she felt, but I really felt like we should talk it out.

Eva nodded, smiling sadly, “I don’t want to share you.”

I stared at Eva, not really sure what to say. She couldn’t honestly believe that I would take Leif as a second lover as she seemed to be suggesting, or maybe she meant just that. I never got the chance to ask her to clarify as she spoke first, “I’m leaving tonight.”

“Eva—”

“Ragnarok is so close. Your mother wishes me to leave as soon as possible. If I can convince the exiled elves to join us then they’ll need time to prepare.”

“So you’re really going then?”

Eva pursed her lips, “This is a chance for me to do some good. If I can convince at least some of the exiled tribes to join the fight maybe it will negate some of my own transgressions.”

“Eva, you’re not the same person as you were,” I muttered, touching the palm of may hand to her cheek.

“That’s where you’re wrong. I’ve changed in so many ways, but a part of me will always be that twisted creature that almost killed you,” she muttered smiling sadly.

“Eva—”

“Good bye, Bryn. I love you,” she muttered with a sad smile. Then in moments she gone.

“I love you too,” I muttered as she left, but she didn’t give any indication she had heard me.

Vordag, the eighth of Morsugur

I’ve been holing myself in my room doing my best to avoid Leif. Now that Eva’s gone things between us have gotten even more awkward. Mom and practically everyone else is out making preparations for Ragnarok. It was pretty difficult to avoid him, seeing as he seemed to appear every time I rounded a corner. Of course until a few hours ago neither one of us had anything to do.

That changed when I was approached by Nick Flint.

“Hey, kid.”

I looked up to find the former revolutionary leaning against the doorframe. He had his arms folded across his chest, a smirk on his face.

“Mr. Flint” I said completely surprised by his sudden appearance.

“You can call me, Nick,” he said with a smile that didn’t quite touch his eyes.

“Hey, I meant to say something earlier, but thanks for your help with Mengele. I mean if you hadn’t showed up, who knows what would have happened.”

“Don’t mention it, kid,” he muttered, a dark look briefly passing across his face and fading just as quickly.

There was an awkward silence as I stared at Nick, trying to figure out what I should say.

nick finally broke the silence. “Look kid, your mother asked me to oversee your training.”

“Training?” I muttered staring up at him blankly.

“Ragnarok is coming, and from the sounds of it you’re going to play a pretty damned important part in the coming battle. We don’t have a lot of time, so I’m going to need every spare minute in order to make a decent fighter out of you.”

“Fighter? Me?”

Flint let out a slight chuckle and shook his head, “Things get pretty sticky in the middle of a battle. You might find yourself alone, with no one to defend you. A little training can take you a long way.”

“What about Mjölnir?”

“My experience is with modern weaponry. Your mother has arranged for his lordship the Prince Heime to help train you with the hammer,” he said with a smirk and the slightest hint of sarcasm.

“And my magical training?”

Flint shrugged, “I don’t know anything about that. You’ll have to talk with your mother. I’m sure she has made arrangements.”

I stared at him for a moment then nodded, “Well I guess we’d better get started.”

+

I had no idea that it was even there, but it turned out that there was a huge underground bunker under the Le Fey estates. Apparently, Mom had hired some dvergar to dig the place out. I couldn’t believe she could have done so without anyone knowing. The chamber looked every bit the training center that it was intended to be. There were mats in the floor, a track for running that ringed the outside of the room, as well as what appeared to be some sort of obstacle course. Yeah, the chamber was big.

“Hey Bryn,” Leif grinned as we moved toward the center of the chamber.

“What’s he doing here?” I growled, rounding on Flint.

“The kid wants to fight,” Flint shrugged.

“Is there a problem?” A new voice said. I’d been so focused on Leif that I hadn’t even realized that there were others present.

The speaker turned out to be an unfamiliar face and I knew almost immediately he was a light elf. Standing there just to his side was my father.

“Well met, my daughter. ‘Tis good to see thee,” Heime said tilting his head with a smile on his face.

“Who’s this?” I asked staring at the stranger. Goddesses why couldn’t I keep my eyes off him?

“I am Garik, son of Arik. It is a honor to meet you, Princess Brynhilde,” he said with a flourish and a bow.

Okay, I probably should have expected that, but I really wasn’t used to the whole royal treatment.

“Garik, stand!” Heime said with a shake of his head.

“As you wish, Prince Heime,” Garik said, standing back on his feet.

“How come you don’t speak like Heime?” I asked suddenly realizing that Garik’s vocabulary had a distinctly modern sound.

“The boy is very young. He learned to speak thy language but recently,” Heime replied.

I met Garik’s gaze and he flashed a smile as his eyes seemed to linger on my breasts. I felt my cheeks burn and quickly turned away. Just what I needed, another damn guy trying to woo me. As if Leif weren’t enough.

“Well kids, let’s get started,” Flint said suddenly, I was glad for the distraction.

“I need to know what I’m working with. Let’s start you off by running laps,” Flint added.

I’d never been much of a runner before my changes, so it was pretty surprising when we started off and I shot past Leif with almost no effort. He’d always been the more physically fit of the two of us and I ended up smoking him pretty badly. Garik, on the other hand, matched me pace for pace, and it quickly turned into a race between the two of us. I’m just glad I’d thought to change into a exercise bra before coming down to the bunker.

I don’t know how many laps we ran before Flint stopped us, but Garik wound up out-pacing me by a very thin margin. Leif was about a lap and a half behind, and he was breathing pretty heavily when he finally joined us.

“I’m impressed,” Flint said folding his arms across his chest. “I’ve trained hundreds of men and you two seem to be in unusually good shape.”

“Okay, what the frizz, venn? Since when can you run like that?” Leif said still panting.

“Elves lack many of the physical weaknesses of humans,” Garik said, staring at the Leif with a look of contempt.

Leif scowled back at Garik, but lost his chance to respond when Flint suddenly cut in. “Alright why don’t you drop down and give me thirty push ups.”

Garik stared at Flint with a blank look, “What are push ups?”

“Watch and learn,” Leif said dropping down with a triumphant smile.

“Ah, we call them risa-rata,” Garik muttered suddenly and dropped down to the ground.

I shook my head and growled a curse before dropping down and started doing push-ups. Both Garik and I finished before Leif, despite his head-start. Leif glared at Garik, but didn’t say anything. The two had only barely just met and I could tell that there was going to be trouble. Leif could get really competitive, especially when there was a girl was concerned. It just made it all that much worse that I happened to be the girl they were competing over.

Flint had us do jumping jacks, sit-ups and chin-ups next. Garik of course, had to be shown what each exercise entailed, but once he saw Leif and me doing it, he muttered some strange name and jumped right in. When we had finally completed the chin-ups, Flint called everyone to a stop and eyed us each with an appraising look.

“Well, since you two seem to be in such amazing shape, I’ll be focusing more on your combat training. Leif, I’m going to have to push you hard if I’m going to get you into good enough shape.”

Garik cast Leif a smug grin, then turned his attention to Flint, “There will be little need for me to receive any of your training, Mr. Flint. I have been training for Ragnarok for nearly the entirety of my life. I have served as a member of the royal guard for the past two years.”

“Then what are you doing here, kid?”

“General Flint,” Heime interjected suddenly. “I brought the boy to duel as partner for my daughter. If thou wouldst allow, mayhap, I think to begin her training.”

Flint nodded, “I’ll give you a few hours. Aryanna requested I train her with the Hyrklufar rifles.”

“Very well,” Heime said with a very slight bow of his head.

We separated, Leif went with Flint and Garik and I went with my father. Heime produced an old war hammer and an odd sort of wooden sword.

“They’ve been enchanted. The hammer should feel like you’re handling Mjölnir but it has been softened to prevent its impact from hurting anyone. The practice sword has been enhanced to prevent breaking and to prevent serious injury,” Garik explained.

“Is it dwarven made?” I asked as Heime handled me the hammer.

“Nay, ’twas forged by elven hands,” Heime replied quietly.

I tested the hammer out and it found that like Mjölnir, it felt unnaturally light in my hands. I was suddenly struck by just how strange my current situation was. The very idea that I would be training to use a war hammer was absolutely ridiculous. I dropped to my knees and fell into a fit of hysterical laughter.

“Brynhilde?” Heime asked with a concerned look on his face.

“I—uh—Doesn’t this all seem strange to you? I mean, me learning to use a war hammer? Goddesses, just look at me!”

“‘Tis as it must be,” Heime muttered sadly.

I shook my head with a loud sigh, “Let’s just get started.”

Heime nodded and asked Garik and me to stand across from one another. I half-expected Heime to have us start dueling it out there and then, but instead, he began with a primer about footing and form. After that, with Garik’s help, he began to show me some of the more basic moves. There was a lot more to fighting with a war hammer than I ever would have guessed, but it was still a weapon of brute force whereas the sword was a weapon that required a lot more finesse or at least that’s what my father said.

I don’t know how long we were at it when Flint finally stopped us, but I was just as glad it was over. I looked over to where Leif was waiting and I felt a tinge of guilt when I saw him collapsed in an exhausted heap on the ground. While Garik and Heime had been training me, Flint’d had Leif run the obstacle course. Flint hadn’t exactly been kind or gentle either. Whenever Leif showed signs of lagging Flint became every bit the stereotypical drill instructor; yelling at the top of his lungs and doling out curses and insults.

“Alright, boys and girls, it’s time for target practice,” Flint muttered as he approached us.

Flint lead us out the practice room, down a corridor and into a much smaller room which had been setup as a shooting range. In the corner was a rack of rifles. I walked over and picked up one of the guns and could feel my eyes widened as I looked it over.

“This is a dwarven fire-cleaver, isn’t it?”

Flint nodded, “Your mother was able to procure a large quantity of them.”

“How large?”

“A couple hundred thousand,” he shrugged.

“A couple hundred thousand? Holy frizz, venn! Your Mom’s been busy,” Leif whistled.

“Yeah, I noticed,” I muttered, absently tracing my hands across the rune markings on the barrel and stock of the Hyrklufar rifle. It was the sort of weapon every police officer, soldier and marksman dreamed of owning, but few ever would. Mom had managed to stockpile a massive number of dwarven weapons, where no one else had ever been able to get hold of more than a few hundred at a time.

I knew a little about guns. I’d even learned how to fire them a few years back, but this was a whole different class of gun. The fire-cleaver made the hunting rifle I’d used look like a peashooter. It was a weapon meant to do one thing, kill, and it did it very well. Humans may have invented firearms, but dwarves had perfected them.

It made me wonder just what my role in the coming events would be. Hervor claimed I was meant to free the dead gods from Hel’s clutches, but there had to be more to it than that. Otherwise, why change me into a girl? I could just as easily wield Mjölnir as a guy, and Hervor had as much as admitted there were things she was holding back.

“You listening, kid?” Flint asked suddenly, and I realized that he’d been speaking the whole time and I’d been completely oblivious.

“What? Oh, I was just thinking,” I said quietly.

He folded his arms across his chest. “This is too important for you to be daydreaming, kid.”

I shook my head and let out a tired sigh, “Let’s just get this over with.”

Flint went on to show us how the guns worked. On the surface all the basic components looked similar to human-made guns, but when you looked further you started to find things that seemed a bit out of place. The ammunition was probably the best example of this. Like many weapons it loaded with a cartridge, but what was unusual was the shape of the cartridge and the bullets inside. The cylindrical cartridge was roughly two inches long, had a diameter about the same size, and was loaded with really odd cork-shaped bullets. Flint explained that many human arms manufacturers had attempted to duplicate the dwarven made weapons, but none had been successful. The ammunition could be reproduced easily enough, but the metals that the dvergar used to make the guns couldn’t be found anywhere on Midgard.

Heime and Garik both knew next to nothing about guns, and seemed interested in learning to fire them, so Nick handed us each a set of earmuffs and got us started with the guns. At first, Garik and Heime had difficulty, but it didn’t take them long to adjust to the unfamiliar weapons and start hitting their targets each time with near pinpoint accuracy. As for Leif and me, Flint said that our aim was so bad that we couldn’t hit a drunken troll.

Flint didn’t yell at any of us like he had Leif earlier, but he was much nicer to me than anyone else. It made me wonder if Flint was giving me preferential treatment because of who my mother was, or maybe it wasn’t that at all. Maybe he was treating me differently because I was now a girl, or was there something else? Flint really didn’t strike me as the type to favor anyone, especially not for personal gain. There to be some reason for him to be behaving that way, didn’t there?

By the time we finally finished, it was getting pretty late, so I made my way to my bedroom. When I pushed in the light button, I stifled a scream as I realized I wasn’t alone in the bedroom. Hervor was sitting cross-legged in the dead center of my bed. Her eyes were closed and she had a look of deep concentration on her face. Abruptly, her eyelids snapped open and she smiled as she turned her head to look me in the eyes.

“What the hel? You scared the frizz out of me!” I growled at her.

“Apologies, granddaughter. I intended not to unsettle thee.”

“What exactly do you think you’re doing on my bed?”

“I await thy return.”

“Why?”

“I spake with thy mother and received her consent to train thee in the ways of seidh.”

“What? Why?”

“The methods in which I may train thee are more effective than those available to humans,” she responded with a cock of her head.

“Look, I’m really tired. Can we maybe talk about this tomorrow?” I replied with a tired sigh.

“Nay, haste be required so that thou art prepared when the final battle come.”

“I can barely keep my eyes open. Can’t it wait another damn day?” I spat glaring at her.

“Child, I understand thy resentment, but thou must learn to use thy magic. Time doth grow short,” she replied, sliding across my bed and climbing to her feet.

“I just want some sleep.”

Hevor smiled sympathetically then she came over to place her hand on my cheek. Ice-cold chills shot through my body and I let out a loud gasp as I felt my sleepiness and fatigue fade away.

“Holy frizzing hel! Ask me before you do anything like that!”

“Curb thy tongue! Such language becometh not an elven princess,” Hervor muttered in response.

“Don’t even go there, Hervor. You have no right to tell me what to do!” I folded my arms across my chest and glared at my grandmother.

Hervor smiled sadly and nodded, “Shall we begin?”

“You’re not going to let up, are you?”

“Nay, Brynhilde. I will not.”

I hung my head and gritted my teeth, “Does this mean Mom won’t be taking me on as an apprentice?”

“‘Tis for thy mother to decide,” Hervor said, reaching up to touch my cheek again.

I could see the soft glow of magic surround Hervor, and by the time I realized what Hervor was doing it was already too late. The world shattered into a million pieces as I lost focus of everything around me. I could feel Hervor in my mind as I realized what she was doing; she was forming a link like I had inadvertently done with Eva. I wanted to scream and make her stop, but there was nothing I could do. I was powerless as the magic bound us together.

Gradually my vision returned and I realized that I’d fallen to my knees. I let out a gasp and stared up at my grandmother in shocked disbelief. Just as with Eva, I could feel all her emotions in the back of my head and I had no doubts that Hervor could feel mine as well.

“Thou oughtst have told me that thou linkedst thyself with another,” she muttered quietly.

“What the frizzing hel is wrong with you!” I screamed shaking with rage.

“Brynhilde—”

“Just shut the fuck up, Hervor! I don’t want to hear it. You don’t give a damn that I had a life before you came along, and you certainly don’t give a damn that maybe I would have liked to have chosen my own path! This is my frizzing life, and you’ve screwed it all up. I didn’t ask for any of this! I damn well didn’t ask for a pair of these!” I yelled clutching at my breasts.

Hervor’s eyes grew wide and she took a step back from me. I didn’t stop to give her a chance to reply. “And what about Eva? I didn’t intend for me and her to be bonded like that, but now she’s stuck with you just like I am! Maybe if you had stopped to think about someone else for a change you might have realized that it was possible I was already bonded with Eva!”

“Thou understandest not. The bonds are separate. The girl and I share no link. I merely sense the link.” Hervor said quietly.

“Oh, and that’s supposed to make it all better?!”

“Nay, child.”

I opened my mouth to speak, but then I really started to pay attention to the bond. Hervor may have looked calm and serene on the surface, but now that I could feel her emotions I knew that it was all just an act. She was plagued with self-doubt, a deep and abiding sadness, a nearly overwhelming guilt and strangely enough a stubborn unrelenting determination. I was struck by the power of her feelings and I couldn’t believe she wasn’t curled up in a ball sobbing her eyes out. For Frigg sakes, I was having trouble keeping them back and the emotions didn’t even belong to me! Yeah, they were that powerful.

Ever since Eva had left, her emotions had been muddled almost as if they were somehow damped by the distance, but I could feel them rise up and touch me. Her worry for me and as usual, a deep sense of love came over me and I reached out to her, doing my best to project reassurance and calm so that she would know that I was fine. And just like that Hervor’s emotions didn’t seem quite so overwhelming, I let out a sigh of relief as I looked at my grandmother.

“Why? Hervor? Why frizzing hel did you do that?!”

“‘Twas necessary,” she said as I felt guilt and remorse rise up and nearly overtake her.

Up until that moment I’d thought of Hervor as a cold manipulator who would do anything to ensure she achieved her goals, but I’d completely misjudged her. Yes, she had manipulated me, but she actually seemed to feel regret for what she had done.

“Why, damn you! Tell me!”

“I cannot. I have taken an oath. I am sorry, child,” she said with a sad smile and guilt pouring out from the bond.

“An oath to who?”

“Frigg,” she said, folding her arms across her chest.

And suddenly a lot of things that Hervor had done seem to make a bit more sense. It wasn’t that she wouldn’t tell me. It was that she literally couldn’t. For an elf and nearly any other vattir, an oath had to be obeyed. If Hervor had sworn an oath, it couldn’t be broken no matter how hard she tried. I made a mental note to watch what I said from then on out, I didn’t know if I was bound by the same rules, but I really didn’t want to find out the hard way.

“Shall we begin, Brynhilde?”

“Yeah, whatever.” I muttered, doing my best to hold back my anger and resentment.

I didn’t like what Hervor had done, but I knew that learning to control my powers would help me survive. I resented her for what she had done to me, but at the moment she was my best chance at getting through Ragnarok. It seemed fitting really, I was going to use her just like she had used been me.

“Very well child, let us begin,” she said reaching up to touch my cheeks and the world shattered into a thousand pieces as I was lost to everything but the bond with Hervor.

+

Training with my grandmother turning out to be one of the weirdest experiences of my life. After she touched me the bond went into overdrive and the world around us just sort of faded away. There wasn’t darkness, there wasn’t light, there wasn’t anything. Our consciousnesses were just there.

“What the hel?” I called out and I could hear my voice echo in a strange disjointed sort of way.

“Be not alarmed, child,” Hervor’s voice called out with the same disjointed echo.

“What’s going on?”

“I created a bridge between thy consciousness and mine. In this place thou wilt be free of distraction.”

“So, what do I do?”

“Thou shalt learn to silence thy mind.”

“How?”

“Worry not, child. I shall show thee.”

Hervor led me through several exercises to help me empty my mind. In one, she asked me imagine a rose blooming and to let go of everything as the petals pushed out. In another, she told me to imagine a mountain stream and imagine that I was a pebble resting under the water. It took me a while, but I was finally able to let go as I fell into a sort of calm serenity that felt absolutely amazing. I could have stayed like that for hours if it hadn’t been for Hervor, who broke the link between us thus returning me back to the real world.

“Thou didst well, child,” she beamed and I was more than a little surprised to feel her pride through our bond.

“I guess we’re done then?” I asked.

“Indeed, now ’tis time for thee to rest,” she muttered.

I realized then that whatever Hervor had done to energize me had worn off and I was dead tired.

“Uh, well I guess it’s good night then.”

“Good night, Brynhilde. May thy dreams bring thee peace and contentment,” Hervor muttered and swept out of my bedroom with a swirl of her robes.

+

Vordag, the fifteenth of Morsugur

Well, it’s been a week. I haven’t had much spare time lately what with all the training. Eva’s still gone and it’s been pretty hard not having her around, especially with Garik and Leif competing over me. A part of me really likes all the attention, and that really scares the hel out of me. I’m trying to resist it, but this new body is changing me, and that scares me more than anything else.

My naming ceremony is today. Mom is pretty paranoid that Jonas Talman or one of his allies will crash the party, so she taking some pretty extreme precautions to insure that if anyone attacks they can’t touch us. I’m a little fuzzy on what she has planned, but I do know Hervor is in on it.

Well, I guess I better go… It’s time for me to get ready. I’m just so excited. Yay! Isn’t sarcasm awesome?

+

So… The naming ceremony turned out to be a major suckfest. Well, really that’s an understatement, but I’d rather just tell what happened…

I’d been to a few of my cousins’ naming ceremonies so I pretty much knew what to expect, but it was still pretty uncomfortable for me. Especially since Mom had a team of beauticians doll me up, and the dress certainly didn’t help. I looked every bit the elven princess that I was. I stood around greeting guests as was customary for the initiate being named. I only caught glimpses of my family and friends, but I knew they were all there, including Hervor, Heime, and Leif. Even Garik was there, but I’d hardly call him a friend, more of an irritation really. There were also a few familiar faces, various Spellbinders I’d met over the years and various members of the Seidskati like Elizabeth Bathory, Xiu and Matoaka. Mom and I stood around greeting guests until everyone was seated, then finally, Mom led me to the center of the room.

“Neil Gandalf Steenburg, my beloved son who through unfortunate circumstances has become my daughter. You have sought admittance into the Council of the Seidkona and have been found worthy to enter our ranks. Thus, I have chosen to take you on as my apprentice. Like me, you’ve had this mantle unfairly thrust upon you. You have trials ahead of you the like of which few can imagine. My hope is that you may find happiness despite what has been done to you. I name you, Brynhilde Athilda le Fey. Brynhilde a name of your own choosing, and Athilda after our ancestor, my mentor and dear friend. You are my pride and joy. I have given you the name of a legend because I believe that like her you are destined for greatness. Make me proud.”

Mom reached out to touch a lock of my hair, there was a bright of flash of light and I knew she had just laid the mark of an apprentice on me. The lock had been turned a reflective silver-gray and will mark me as an apprentice until I complete the trials to become a full Spellbinder.

It happened so suddenly, that it was over almost before I knew what was happening. I didn’t even have time to duck as the knife came soaring toward me and… went right through me. I’d known all along, but Mom and I weren’t really in the same place as the guests. Our images were being projected from the estates. Anyone who tried to touch our illusory figures, would believe they were touching solid flesh, but would in fact be groping at air. No spellbinder, my mother included, had the power to create such a complex illusion, but Hervor did. Once my grandmother created the illusion it was a simple matter of passing the weave along to my mother. Holding the illusion took a lot less energy than creating it.

There was a scream from the crowd and a flash of light, and one of the guests tumbled to the ground in a heap.

“Dammit! I hate being right,” I heard my mom curse as the image of the reception hall faded away.

+

I looked around and found that Mom and I were back in the dining room of the estates.

“Frizz, how many times are they going to try and kill me?” I asked bitterly.

Mom smiled sadly and placed her hand on my shoulder, “They’ll only stop if we let them succeed.”

“Well that’s comforting.”

“Lady Aryanna!” A voice said urgently from the doorway.

“Yes, what is it Meredith?” Mom asked glancing back at the woman.

“There’s been an attack, it’s all over the news. Vágburg has been leveled, and the Sons of Odin are claiming responsibility.”

“Goddesses!” I muttered in disbelief.

There were hundreds of thousands of people living in Vágburg, if they had leveled it they’d either gotten hold of some really powerful military-grade weapons or it had been done with magic. Either way it was scary as frizzing fuck that the Sons of Odin had that sort of power at their disposal.

“H-how?” Mom muttered.

“I think it’s better if you watch if for yourself,” Meredith replied after a moments hesitation.

Meredith led us out of the dinning room then down the hall to the nearby media room. The teleprojector was already running as we stepped through the door. Real-time images of the wreckage were being displayed, while a reporter explained that rescue efforts had already begun. They spent a few minutes on this. Then the screen suddenly flashed to a man sitting at a desk.

“For those of you just joining us, a shocking and unprecedented attack has been per—” suddenly the image flickered away and was replaced by a tall gray-haired man dressed in full military fatigues.

“People of Nyrland. I am Jonas Talman, the leader of the Sons of Odin. We have gained control of all teleprojector communications so that I might speak with you concerning our recent attack on the city of Vágburg.” he smiled darkly.

“This attack could not have been successful had it not been for the efforts of the beautiful Josefina Mengele, who has perfected her formula to grant any man the use of magic.”

“Holy frizz!” I gasped.

A smoking hot woman in a lab coat appeared next to the image of Talman. It was obviously Mengele, and ‘she’ had completed her transformation. She looked just like her female half when I’d seen her before, but with one major exception. Her hair was now the same auburn as my own. My blood must have been responsible for her change in hair color. I shuddered as I was struck by a sudden thought. What if it had effected her in other ways? What if it had made her more powerful?

Mengele had changed. She looked more controlled, and composed, but I thought I could still see the spark of insanity in her eyes. When she spoke she sounded sane, but that was probably because she was actually referring to herself as ‘I’ rather than her usually ‘we’.

“As my associate Jonas Talman has been so kind to point out, the formula may grant any man the use of magic. Unfortunately, the formula has another effect on the body, it transforms any man who takes it into a woman. I have injected a number of volunteers with the formula, and each one of them has been successfully transformed.”

“Norns,” Mom muttered, her face suddenly going very pale.

“Our attack on the city would not have been possible without Josefina’s formula. We all know what can happen when a Spellbinder loses control of her powers. We sent several of our volunteers to Vágburg where each one of the new women unleashed her magic in key locations within the city, thus causing the near total annihilation of the populace,” Talman continued.

“We regret the loss of life, but it has become very obvious that the Spellbinders will never give up their stranglehold on this country without some encouragement. Although great strides have been made in the Men’s Rights Movement in the last few years, the upper class will always be composed of Spellbinders. Men will continue to be second-class citizens and this is something the Sons of Odin will not stand for. So this message goes out to those in power. Step down from your positions, disband the government, and the Seidskati or we will destroy one Nyrlander city every week. It’s your choice. This is will be your only warning,” Talman muttered, then the image flickered, returning back to the image of a stunned looking anchorman.

Mom looked pissed, and I mean pissed with a capital ‘P’. I’d never seen her so mad. She raised her hands and a huge fireball shot out from her fingers completely annihilating the teleprojector. “That bastard is going to pay!” she said between gritted teeth.

“Mom, what are you going to do?”

She shook her head and let out a long sigh as much of the anger drained away from her face. “He has to know that his demands will never be met. He’s doing this to foment chaos. I need to find Elizabeth, and the rest of the Seidskati. We’ll need to issue a response to this.” Mom shook her head, then with a gust of wind she was gone.

+

Siffendag, the sixteenth of Morsugur

The media has had a field day since Jonas Talman’s pronouncement to the nation and the destruction of Vágburg. And just about the entire country is in an uproar. People were already starting to demand that the government and the Seidskati give in to Talman. If only they knew what was at risk. As much as I hated the old bats, the Seidskati would be needed if we were to defeat the Jotun.

Just hours after Talman had hijacked the airwaves, the government issued their response, vowing to hunt down Talman and bring him to justice, but made it very clear that they would never give in to his demands. The Seidskati has issued their own response, saying much the same thing, and as they did so they took the opportunity to call together the Council of the Seidkona and the world’s magic users.

+

Laurdag, the eighteenth of Morsugur

I haven’t been getting very much rest. My training takes up nearly all my time, and on top of my lessons with Hervor, Heime, Garik and Flint, I now have lessons with Mom too. Ever since my naming ceremony she insists that I train with her at least a few hours a day. Damn, I’m so tired.

I stumbled onto something I really wish I hadn’t earlier today. I’d just gotten through my lessons with Mom and was on my way to the bunker to start lessons with Heime and Garik when I passed by one of the guest rooms. The light was on, the door wasn’t fully latched and I could hear voices inside.

“Nick I’m scared,” I heard a familiar voice speak out. It belonged to my Aunt Marion.

“I know, me too, babe,” the voice of Flint answered back.

I felt my jaw drop, had Flint just called my aunt ‘babe’? I could hardly believe my ears. Flint and Marion? The guy had to be old enough to be Marion’s father! It just wasn’t right! I knew Spellbinders and other magic users hooked up with younger men all the time, but I’d always thought that was creepy. The reverse was pretty creepy too. The thought of Heime and my mother just made me shudder.

Someone cleared their throat behind me and I turned around to find my father standing there with his arms folded across his chest. “Come daughter, ’tis time for thy lessons.”

“Okay, uh—yeah, I was on my way, but I just—uh—,” Oh frizz, what was I supposed to say? I hated not being able to lie. “You know what? Forget it. Let’s just get down to the bunker.”

“Very well,” Heime said with his brows furrowed. He gave me a strange look, but didn’t say anything else as we made our way down to the bunker.

+

Manadag, the twentieth of Morsugur

So I’m getting really worried about Sophie. I got a call from her today, but when I answered there was no one there. I’ve tried calling her back, but I haven’t gotten any answer back. I talked to Leif about it, but as usual he wasn’t much help.

Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe her area just lost power. Yeah that’s probably it. I really hope that’s all it is…

+

Siffendag, the twenty-third of Morsugur

My hands are shaking just trying to write this. Yesterday was a game changer. If I had any doubts before they’re now gone. I’m not going to sit by the sidelines and watch as the people I love fight and die. Goddesses, I’m going to do everything in my power to make the Son’s of Odin and Mengele pay for what they’ve done. If only there was something I could have done, maybe Marion would still be alive.

I was in my bed, having one of those private moments that have been far too rare lately. I think I must have dozed off when it happened. The estates began to shake and quiver so strongly that my teeth started to chatter.

“What the hel?” I gasped, sitting bolt upright. I felt my eyes widen, then I jumped to my feet and sprang out the door.

I ran down the hall, turned a corner, found the nearest window and looked out. Fear flooded through me and felt panic threaten to overtake me. I almost gave over to it, but that stubborn part of me I’d inherited from my mother refused to give in. I looked out the window again and clenched my fists. A ring of women were pounding at the estate with bright bursts of magical energy. They were soon joined by a massive mob of human soldiers and horrendously ugly black-skinned creatures who appeared from out of nowhere via wind-spell. Though I’d never seen them before I recognized the creatures as dark elves.

“Holy frizzing shit!” I cursed and ran back toward my room.

I grabbed my shoes by the bed and slipped them on. I hesitated for a moment, then I grabbed my journal off my dresser and took off down the hall toward the bunker. With the estate under attack it was the only logical place to go.

“Bryn!” A voice called suddenly from behind me. It was Marion.

“Aunt Mare, the estate is under attack. We have to get out of here!” I called over my shoulder.

“Goddesses!” I heard her call out then she was right behind me. “Where are you going?”

“The bunker!” I called back and slowed down a bit so that I didn’t outpace her.

We’d just rounded a corner when we ran into Nick Flint, Garik and my father. All three were wielding dvergar fire-cleavers and were running right at us.

“This way! They’ve gotten through the shield. We need to find another route out!” Flint yelled once they’d gotten closer.

“Daughter, take the weapon,” Heime spoke tossing me a fire-cleaver that had been strapped across his back.

“Has anyone seen Leif?” I asked grabbing the rifle out the air.

“We shall find thy friend. Worry not, daughter.”

We were soon headed back the opposite direction. Marion took up the rear, holding up a spirit shield behind us as we fled. Human soldiers and dark elves were on our tails within moments, and it was only Marion’s shield that kept them off us as we sped down the corridors. Soon several magic users joined our attackers and I could tell it was taking every ounce of Marion’s willpower to keep the shield up.

“What about Mom and everyone else?” I yelled as we ran.

“Your mother made me promise I’d get you to safety. She says she’ll find her own way out. Hurry! We don’t have a lot of time!” Flint called back.

We rounded another corner and I almost ran right into Leif. “Come on!” I yelled back as I zoomed past him.

“What the frizz, venn? What’s going on?” Leif called after me.

“The estate is under attack! We need to get the hel out of here is what the frizz is going on!” I yelled back between gritted teeth.

We rounded another corner and Flint suddenly called for us to stop.

“Human, why have we stopped? It’s not safe for the princess for us to just be standing here.” Garik said rounding on Nick.

“There’s a passage here,” Flint muttered glancing back at the soldiers pounding against Marion’s protective barrier.

He stood there for a moment, his hands tracing across the wall, “Now if I can just remember…,” he muttered trailing off.

“Oh, for hel sakes,” I muttered stepping in and grabbed hold of a nearby sconce and pulled on it. The wall swung open and we found ourselves looking down a long flight of stairs.

“Where’s that lead?” Leif asked breathlessly.

“Out,” I muttered with a shake of my head.

“The strain! It’s too much!” Marion suddenly called out and I could see her shield begin to quiver like Eva’s had when Mom had forced her way through it in the mall.

“Come on!” Flint called. “We have to get out of here!”

I moved toward the entrance just as the shield collapsed and enemy fire came shooting out at us. I didn’t even have time to think as I leapt through the entrance to the stairway. I fell head-first down the stairs before landing on my chest. I hurt like hel, but I shook off the pain, struggled to my feet and looked back just as Garik and Heime came hurdling through the doorway. Flint and Leif came through a moment later dragging Marion along with them.

“Hey you! The runes in the doorway! Activate them!” Flint screamed gesturing wildly at me.

I hesitated a moment before leaping at the doorway and latching hold of my magic. I’d never activated a rune before, but I knew from what I’d learned from Hervor that they could activated with the slightest touch of the right magical element. I struggled against the whirlwind inside me and unloosed the tiniest bit of spirit magic on the rune. Bright blue light flooded the doorway as a spirit shield appeared in the empty space in front of me.

“We need to leave. That shield will not hold for long,” Garik muttered staring at the barrier then back to me.

“Yeah, good idea,” I agreed with a nod.

“Shit, venn…” Leif said trailing off.

I looked over to where Leif and Flint were huddled over Marion’s body and felt my stomach clench as I realized something was very wrong. Flint had his hand gripped around Marion’s and there was a sort of wild look to his eyes that I’d never seen there before. When I looked over at Marion I finally understood. Her entire chest was blackened and covered in sores and boils. Then there were her eyes… they looked empty. I scrambled over to where her body was laying and frantically checked for a pulse. There wasn’t one.

“I’m sorry, venn. When her shield collapsed she took a huge blast to the chest,” Leif muttered quietly.

“No, no, no!” I breathed feeling suddenly very angry. I wanted to destroy those fuckers who were responsible for killing my aunt.

I reached out to my magic and was ready to summon it when my bond with Eva suddenly kicked back into full gear. I felt her love and concern through the bond and I realized what I’d almost allowed myself to do. If I had loosed my magic in the narrow stairway, I probably would have killed us all.

“We need to get out of here.” I forced back my anger and felt hot tears sting my cheeks.

“Aye,” my father said nodding solemnly.

“Just—do me a favor. Don’t leave her here.”

“Of this thou hast my word.”

I got back to my feet and staggered down the stairs and did my best to keep a clear mind. I had to get out of the estate alive. I owed Marion that much at least. I heard Heime and the others following me, but I couldn’t bring myself to look back. Not if it meant looking into Marion’s dead eyes again.

+

The passage took us down a long flight of stairs and through an even longer tunnel that led out back behind the estates into the forested section of the property. There were runes all along the inside of the tunnel to keep anyone from entering it, but they weren’t there to prevent anyone from leaving, so we were able to exit with relative ease.

I stumbled out of the tunnel with tear filled eyes, still in shock from everything that had happened.

“Come on, we’re not out of danger yet,” Flint muttered with a distinctly bitter tone to his voice.

“General, mayhap ‘twould be best if I lead,” Heime said, placing a hand on Flint’s shoulder and smiling sympathetically.

“Do whatever the hel you want!” Flint yelled.

“Human, remember the signal,” Garik muttered suddenly.

Without a word Flint pulled a small silver coin out of his pocket and tossed it up into the air. There was a bright flash of light that shot straight up into the air, soaring over fifty feet before fading away a few minutes later.

No one really spoke after that. Leif wrapped his arms around me and I clung to him as if my life depended on it. My father took up the lead with Marion’s body still slung over his shoulder, and Garik walked a few feet behind him with a very slight frown on his beautiful face. Leif kept looking at me as if he wanted to say something, but couldn’t find the words. As for Flint, he kept a distance from all of us, his face didn’t display any emotion, but when I got a look into his eyes I could see a storm of despair brewing just under the surface.

We were walking through the forest away from the estates when we all heard a loud bang. I looked back and watched the Le Fey estate go up in flames. I felt my jaw drop as explosions rippled through the building. Then with one final great blast the building collapsed in on itself.

“It’s done,” Flint muttered.

+

“Thank Frigg,” Daniella’s voice said suddenly from out nowhere.

“Daniella!” I cried running right for her as she appeared out of the trees. I flung my arms around her and buried my face in her chest before she even knew what hit her.

“Bryn? What happened?” she asked after a slight pause.

“Oh, goddesses Daniella, she’s gone. She’s dead!” I cried hysterically.

“Oh, Norns. Is that… Marion?” I heard Daniella whisper.

“Aye,” Heime responded.

“Come on, Bryn. Let’s get you somewhere safe,” Daniella muttered with a slight quiver to her voice as wind began to whip around the two of us and we went soaring into nothingness.

+

We reappeared in the bunker a few moments later. Daniella touched my shoulder, “I’ll be right back,” she muttered, then disappeared with a gust of wind.

I collapsed to my knees and let it all out. Marion was dead and it had happened so suddenly that my mind was still reeling. I’d seen her body and looked into her empty dead eyes, and I still couldn’t believe she was really gone. Her death had been so abrupt. One moment she’d been alive; the next, dead.

I don’t really remember much more after that, I know that Daniella took a few more trips to bring everyone back down to the bunker. She wasn’t near as gifted with air magic as Mom so she wasn’t able to bring everyone down at once like Mom would have been able to do.

The bunker was safe, since the only physical entrance had been destroyed. The only way in or out was via travel spell, and someone could only do that if they knew the bunker’s exactly location.

I pretty well let my grief take over, Marion was more than just my aunt, she was one of my best friends and her death had left an empty spot in my soul. Shortly after being brought down into the bunker I felt a pair of strong arm wrap around me and lift me from the ground. I looked up to see Leif gazing down at me and I buried my face in his shoulder as he carried me away.

Manadag, the twenty-seventh of Morsugur

Well, it has been a few days… Marion’s funeral was today. It was pretty typical as funerals go, but it hurt more than any I’ve ever been to. It was a private ceremony and somehow Mom managed to keep the location secret from both the media and the Sons of Odin.

Mom and Gramor have taken Marion’s death really hard. Mom hides it pretty well, but I can see the pain in her eyes. I even caught her crying the other day. Daniella has been the rock upon which we’ve all leaned on. Marion’s death has effected her just like the rest of us, but somehow she’s stayed strong. Flint, hasn’t been the same either. He’s moody and snaps at the smallest things. He’s been running poor Leif haggard in our training sessions.

Yesterday, Hervor pronounced that I was ready to move on to the next phase of my training. I don’t quite understand how or why, but ever since I activated that rune when we were escaping the estates the magic comes more easily to me. Mom is amazed by my progress. She insists it’s nothing short of miraculous. I’ve done in a few weeks what would take any other spellbinder’s apprentice months to learn. I think a lot of it is because of my bond with Hervor.

The first few days after Marion’s death were the hardest, but when I woke up yesterday I realized that Marion wouldn’t want me to fall apart because she had died. She would want me to keep on living my life, so that’s what I’m doing. I’ve thrown myself into my training with a fiery intensity bordering on the obsessive. The next time the Sons of Odin attack I will be ready. I’m not going to let anyone else I care about die by the hands of those assholes.

Mom thinks the attack on the estates was to distract us while the Sons of Odin pulled off another attack and there’s certainly enough reason to believe she’s right. New Copenhagen, the center of the Seidskati’s power, has been destroyed. The attack took out a large number of Spellbinders, including two members of the Seidskati. The estates were just far enough outside the main city that they would have escaped the blast had they still been standing. Something needs to be done before they blow the whole fucking nation to hel.

Norns, it’s really gone. An entire city destroyed by those bastards. How many thousands did they kill? Almost everyone I know lived in the city. How many of my friends are dead because of their selfish actions? How do you mourn the death of an entire city? I don’t even know which of my friends are dead and which are still alive. Or are any of them still alive? It’s just… Goddess I can’t stop the damn tears. I hate this.

I wonder if Ham survived…

It was Mom that took out the estates. She knew that we didn’t stand a chance of overtaking those jackasses, so she decided to blow the place to hel. The coin that Flint threw up in the air was the signal that we’d had made it out safely. Mom managed to take out a sizable number of dark elves, soldiers and magic users with the blast, so maybe it was worth it.

Tomorrow, is the big day where the Council of the Seidkona are finally going to meet. I have no idea what the Seidskati are going to say, but I’m sure it’s going to be pretty Midgard-shattering.

I had an encounter with Flint that was… well it’s gotten me to think that he really cared for Marion. It was pretty early in the morning and I passed by his room inside the bunker. I don’t know why, but I got this feeling like maybe I should check in on him. So I did.

I didn’t knock, I didn’t know if he would answer if I did. I flipped the door open and I felt liked dying as I saw the tortured expression in his eyes as his head turned to meet my gaze. His hands were clutched around a small photo frame and I could just make out the picture well enough to tell that it was Marion.

“I- I’m sorry,” I muttered.

“You don’t have anything to be sorry about, kid,” he replied with a slight quiver in his voice

I moved over to sit next him on the small cot, “You really loved her didn’t you?”

Flint let out a long sigh, “Yeah, I did. She was just a kid when I met her, and I never thought of her as anything more than a friend, but a couple of years ago she…” he muttered trailing off as a sob escaped his lips.

I don’t know what made me do it, but I reached out and wrapped my arms around him in a hug. Flint seemed to gain a little control of himself and he spoke, “She made me promise that I’d look out for you, you know.”

That explained why Flint had seemed to have been favoring me, “I miss her.” I replied with a whisper.

“Me too, kid. Me too.”

+

Eirdag, the twenty-eighth of Morsugur

 

I could almost believe Garik was human dressed as he was in a suit and tie. We were at the Council meeting and the Seidskati were going to speak at any moment. Since New Copenhagen had been destroyed the meeting had been moved to Epegard at the convention center. Obviously not all magic users would be able to meet in one place, so everything was being retransmitted via teleprojector communication to various convention centers throughout the world.

I was a mere apprentice, so I had to stand among my peers. I think I was the only one with a protector, but after the many attempts on my life it was probably a good idea. Garik wasn’t my only means of protection either. Hervor was lurking about concealed behind a shroud of invisibility.

“Neil?” a voice said from nearby.

I turned around and found a pair of pale-blue eyes looking back at me, they belonged to a girl with long-blond hair, a nose that was just a little too large and a mischievous smile on her face. It took me a moment before I recognized her, the last I’d seen her, her hair had been dyed electric-blue and she had no less than three facial piercings.

“Sophie?” I asked in surprised disbelief.

“So it’s true, all this hubbub about you turning into a girl,” she said with a smirk and folded her arms across her chest.

“Yeah, but I’m going by Bryn these days. Norns, it’s good to see a friendly face. What are you doing here?”

“Oh, me? Well, you’ve caught me. I sneaked into this uber-secret event so that I could be bored out of my mind. The apprentice robes are part of my master disguise,” she said sticking her tongue out at me. She may have changed her appearance, but Sophie was just as big a tease as always.

“Why haven’t you been returning our calls? Leif and I have been worried sick!”

“Sorry, life’s been sort of crazy lately,” she replied back with a sheepish grin.

“What’s with the boy toy?” she asked jerking her thumb at Garik.

“He’s my protector,” I replied quietly.

“Protector, huh? He’s too pretty to be anyone’s protector. If it were me I’d be taking him for a ride ’round the block, if you catch my drift.” She grinned, giving Garik an appreciative glance before turning back to me.

“I don’t think my girlfriend would appreciate that too much,” I replied defensively.

“Oh, a girlfriend, eh? Someone’s been riding the Lesbo-train! Woooh! Wooooh!” she said loudly and several people looked back to glare at her.

I grinned, shook my head and let out a slight chuckle, “Odin’s bones, I’ve missed you. How’s your brother?”

“Sam’s good,” she said with a slight frown, which was quickly replaced by a false smile.

There was something very odd about Sophie’s reaction and I just knew something was very wrong with her. I looked into Sophie’s eyes one more time and realized what it was. The Sophie I’d always know had green eyes, this Sophie had blue eyes. I cursed myself for not noticing it sooner and quickly grabbed at her before she could realize what was happening. We went down in a tangle of limbs and I soon felt myself being lifted away as Hervor and Garik came to my aid. There was a sudden bright burst of magic as Hervor summoned a spell to incapacitate the impostor.

‘Sophie’ collapsed to the ground and I knelt down next to her and felt for a pulse; she was alive, but unconscious. Who was this girl? She looked and sounded like Sophie and she seemed to know me. Which could mean one of two things: either someone, probably the Sons of Odin, was holding Sophie hostage and had grilled her for information or the person laying on the ground was someone I knew. Sam, was Sophie’s older brother and I remembered his eyes being the same color as this girl. Besides having a strong physical resemblance to his sister, he was also shared a very similar personality. But, Sam and I had always been pretty friendly, and I couldn’t exactly picture him volunteering to get transformed into a girl, especially if it meant hurting people.

I had only to wait the answers would come soon enough. A crowd was beginning to form around us and I didn’t really think it was a great idea to stick around.

“Hervor,” I called out to my grandmother. “Get us out of here!”

Hervor dropped the spell of invisibility and appeared standing over me. She knelt down grabbing hold of my shoulder and mystery girl’s hand then my vision was flooded with the bright white light as Hervor called up her magic to spirit us away.

+

“What’s taking them so long?” I muttered under my breathe as I paced back and forth in front of the detainment room of the convention center.

Mom had been down to ensure everything was alright before returning to the masses within the convention center. The meeting of the Council of Spellbinders was important, and no one intended to postpone anything even after what had happened between me and ‘Sophie’. So I was stuck waiting while Daniella and Hervor interrogated the girl, whoever she happened to be.

“Patience, daughter,” Heime said quietly staring over at me.

“These things take time, Princess,” Garik added with an understanding smile.

“Would you stop calling me that?” I growled rounding on him.

“A-as you wish, Your Highness.”

“Frizz, that’s even worse! Just call my Bryn,” I said with a shake of my head.

“Okay, Bryn,” he replied with a pleased smile on his face.

“I can’t take it any more!” I shouted suddenly and burst through the door where Sophie’s lookalike was being held.

“Daughter, wait!” Heime called after me, but I was already through.

“Bryn, what are you doing?!” I heard Daniella cry as I breezed past her and Hervor.

“Alright you!” I said suddenly dropping to my knees in front of the impostor—who was chained to the ground in the middle of a circle of imprisonment—and latched onto the collar of her apprentice robes. “Just who the frizzing hel are you! And what do you want with me!”

“I’m so sorry! I didn’t want any of this, but after they found out that I knew you they wouldn’t relent…” she cried and burst into hysterical tears.

“No,” I whispered and let my head hang as I realized the implications in her words.

If she said she knew me that could only mean one thing. “Sam?”

The girl looked up at me and nodded, “I’m so sorry. They have Sophie. I didn’t have any choice.”

I shook my head, “The Sons of Odin?”

Sam nodded, “Yeah.”

“Why? Why did they change you? You could have easily gotten close to me without being transformed.”

“I volunteered.”

“What?”

“You have to understand… When I first joined the Sons of Odin, I was so lost. They gave me something to believe in, but deep down I knew I didn’t belong. I’ve spent my whole life pretending to be something I’m not. I was born male, but I wanted to be female as long as I can remember.”

“I can relate,” I muttered biting my lip. I had no idea Sam had ever felt that way before. I’d heard about people like Sam, but I’d never really met one. Well, I guess Mom and Daniella might have fit into that category at some point, and I didn’t exactly feel at home in my body, but Sam had been born feeling as if she were trapped as the wrong sex. Mom, Daniella and I had been stuffed into the wrong body after years of living as the right sex.

“I tried for years to be normal. I was afraid that people would find out what I was so I repressed my feelings and did my best to live life as a guy, but it didn’t work. I slipped into a deep depression and at one point I even tried to kill myself. People like me aren’t accepted by society.

“Then one day I met a recruiter for the Sons of Odin. He was very persuasive and told me that if men got equal rights, then transgendered people like myself would be accepted. So I joined. At first, I thought I’d found my purpose, and when they asked for volunteers to try out Mengele’s formula I thought it was my dream come true.”

“The formula worked and I finally felt like I belonged in my body, but then I learned what they wanted me to do. At first I refused, but then… they kidnapped Sophie and Mom. It didn’t take them long to figure out that Sophie and I knew you, and it all went downhill from there. They killed Mom and the threatened to kill Sophie if I didn’t agree to help them.”

“Now she’s going to die, and it’s all my fault,” Sam finished breaking down into tears.

I slowly stood to my feet and clenched my fists as anger flooded through me. “Goddesses those fuckers are going to pay!”

Suddenly, there was Mjölnir floating there in front of my face. Somehow the hammer had sensed my need and come to me. Clearly, I really was meant to wield the thing. I grabbed it out of the air and clenched my fist around the haft. The warhammer was an instrument of destruction, and that’s exactly what I planned to use it for.

“Bryn, what exactly do you think you can do?” Daniella asked abruptly.

“Whatever I need to!” I snapped.

“Where’s she being kept?!” I demanded turning back to Sam.

Sam stared up at me with wide eyes, “There’s a facility in the old warehouse district a few miles away. It’s on the corner of Weigh and Cross. That’s where I saw her last.”

I turned for the door, but was stopped by Hervor, “Granddaughter, this is folly. Thy training has only just begun, thou art not ready.”

“I won’t let someone else I care about die, Hervor. Never again!”

“I am sorry child. I shan’t let thee pass.”

I shook my head and looked down at the hammer. There had to be a way. I reach out to Mjölnir with my mind and smiled as I could feel it’s power flow through me. I acted quickly, slinging the hammer at the wall just beside the door and watched in satisfaction as the weapon transformed into a lightning bolt and blasted a huge hole in the wall.

I grabbed the hammer out of the air and ran for the hole before either Daniella or Hervor could stop me and leapt through it.

+

It didn’t take me long to find a way out of the convention center. I sped out an emergency exit, and already had the beginning of a plan forming in my head when I stopped dead in my tracks. Dark elves. They were everywhere and I knew then that Sophie was as good as dead. Whatever chance I’d had at rescuing her had been thrown out the door when the dark elves appeared.

“What have we here?” A voice asked.

I swirled around and found myself facing a dark elf woman with platinum hair and an inhuman smile on her face.

“A pretty little halfling has come out to play,” she continued with a wicked chuckle.

I looked down at my right hand and found Mjölnir still within my grasp. “I’m not just any frizzing halfling. I am Princess Brynhilde Athilda le Fey of the royal Lejosálfar house, and this is the hammer of Thor!” I screamed and struck before the vile creature could so much as raise a hand in self-defense.

There was a bright flash of blue light as the hammer struck her square in the chest and sent her charred remains hurling through the air. I reached out and the hammer flew back into my hand. “Any more of you scum suckers want some of this?” I howled in fury.

For a moment none of the dark elves moved, then they all lurched into motion at once and I felt my eyes grow wide. “Oh, shit! Midgard to Bryn! When you’re surrounded by an army of dark elves, don’t provoke them!” I cursed and started booking it back toward the convention center.

And from out of nowhere there was Daniella, and Hervor, standing between the me and the entrance. “Go! There are dark elves all over the frizzing place! Get back inside!” I yelled urgently.

“We know,” Hervor said between pursed lips just before she burst into action.

Goddesses, I knew Hervor was powerful, but I never realized how powerful, as she unleashed a fiery onslaught on our attackers. In just a few seconds she managed to wipe out several hundred dark elves with barely more effort than it took me to lift my hand. I shook my head and raised the hammer of Thor, I couldn’t just stand around in the middle of a battle when my ass was on the line. I spun around and released the Mjölnir and watched in amazement as it swept out in a wide arc and completely destroyed a dozen or so dark elves that were getting a little too close for comfort.

The hammer flew back toward me. I snatched it out of the air and threw it out again, aiming it at the next nearest group of attackers. I flung Mjölnir out again and again, and each time I destroyed a new wave of dark elves. They just kept coming, and before long I knew I was in trouble if the attacks didn’t stop. Each time I threw the hammer the more energy it seemed to drain from me. I was getting weaker and weaker, and I knew that if something didn’t change the dark elves would overwhelm me at the first sign of weakness.

Daniella was completely surrounded by dark elves, and I don’t know how much longer she could last. Hervor was fighting with the same intensity as before, but she was fending off Dokkálfar sorceresses in increasing numbers, and I doubted even she could keep up the pace for long. It was getting harder and harder to fend the dark elves off and I beginning to think things were hopeless.

Daniella wasn’t the only one surrounded by Dökkálfar. They had formed a circle around me and each time I took one out, two more took its place. One leapt at me from behind and white hot pain shot through my body as his blade sliced across my back. I screamed in agony and spun around in a mad attempt to loose his hold, but it was an exercise in futility as the creature refused to let go. I had the strength and endurance of a full-blooded elf woman and was actually stronger than most human men despite being much smaller. So it’s really no surprise I was able to remain standing, but when the dark elf clasped his arms around my neck in a stranglehold I couldn’t remain standing and collapsed to the ground.

I clawed at my throat desperately attempting to force the dark elf to let go, but nothing I did seemed to work and I could feel my thoughts begin to slow as my mind was gradually deprived of the oxygen it so desperately needed. Just as human men were generally stronger than human women, elven men were stronger than elven women, and this dark elf was no exception to the rule; his grip was like iron. Then I remember the hammer, and I felt a glimmer of hope as I reached out to it with my right hand. The hammer flew back into my hand and I quickly slammed into the dark elf’s arms. There was a bright flash of light as the hammer flared to life and suddenly I could breathe again.

For a brief second I remained on the ground, but as my mind came back into focus I realized how vulnerable I was. The encounter with the dark elf had left me weak, so it took some time to untangle myself from his corpse, but when I staggered back to my feet I found that the circle of attackers was gone. They must have figured me for dead and moved on.

I didn’t really have any time to recuperate, as a new attacker was on me almost immediately. I barely had time to raise Mjölnir to block his attack. Bolts of lightning shot out in every direction as the dark elf’s blade came in contact with the hammer. One of those bolts hit the elf in the face and he stumbled backward howling in pain. I seized on the opportunity and with all my strength I slammed the warhammer across his chest. The elf let out one howl of agony before the power of the hammer completely consumed him. His charred remains fell to the ground and I turned to meet my next opponent.

I was pretty well running on adrenaline, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I collapsed from exhaustion. I had pretty well given up on hope when suddenly, the first of the magic users from the convention center appeared, stepping out of a nearby door. She was only a Charmer judging by the strength of the magic she summoned, but her appearance was so unexpected that she managed to take out a full dozen enemies before taking a blast of fire to chest and collapsing to the ground. More members of the convention appeared, joining us in greater and greater numbers until even my mother, the ancient Theodora, and the other members of the Seidskati had thrown themselves into the fight.

The dark elves had greater numbers, but we had more magic users, and the tide of the battle quickly turned in our favor, but as I’d come to learn from my lessons with my father a fight seldom turned out the way you expected. Just when I thought the dark elves were about to turn tail and run, a new foe that was even worse appeared from out of the shadows. At first, they didn’t appear to be anything more than misshapen hulks, but as they drew close I felt cold chills run down my spine.

A large gray, hairy, and very angry looking creature with twin tusks on either side of its head appeared out of the shadows before me. It was human in shape, but that’s where the resemblance ended. Its face, was so gnarled that I couldn’t even determine if it had a nose, but I knew it what it was almost instantly, a troll. Trolls generally avoided humans and it was very uncommon for anyone to run across one, but you did hear the occasional story of a traveler happening upon one and it seldom ended well for the traveler. According to legend, trolls were big, incredibly strong, stupid, and worst of all, damn near impossible to kill.

The massive hulk in front of me let out a loud roar and it was soon joined by dozens of others just like it.

“Uff da, this can’t be good,” I muttered then flung Thor’s hammer at the nearest of the Trolls.

Mjölnir hit the horrid thing right in the chest, and it staggered a few feet backward and fell to its knees. When the hammer returned to me I saw that it had left a huge black mark on the creature’s chest.

“Double uff da, this is definitely not good.”

“You can say that again,” a voice said from nearby.

“Mom!” I said swirling around coming to face my mother.

“Bryn, I want you back in the convention center. It’s not safe for you out here.”

“Yeah, like I’m just going to cower inside while everyone else is fighting!” I shot back, then leapt into action, throwing the hammer back at the same troll I had hit before. This time when I hit it, it went down and stayed down.

Mom let out a curse and shook her head, but she didn’t say any more as a group of trolls came running right at her. Mom was amazing, I’ve never seen a magic user fight like her. When it came to air magic her skills were unparalleled and she used that to her advantage. She was like a ghost as she disappeared, only to reappear, then quickly strike and disappear again.

Heime appeared to join the fight, but I caught no sight of Garik, who I assumed was still guarding Sam. Heime’s blade sliced through his opponents with an ease that almost seemed impossible. The blade sliced through solid bone as if it were butter and with the span of just a few minutes he’d already killed a full half-dozen dark elves. If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn that my father were using magic, but no that couldn’t be it. There was something very unusual about my father’s weapon, and I had a feeling I might know what it was. Only one sword could cut through the wielder’s enemies with such ease. I remember hearing it mentioned in history class. Gram, but the sword had been lost and no one had seen it for centuries.

“Princess!” a voice called from behind. I swirled around to find Garik running toward me.

“So much for him calling me Bryn,” I muttered under my breath as I smashed a troll in the head with the hammer. The troll fell to the ground with a loud thud and I turned to swing the hammer at the next nearest target which happened to be Garik. I stopped the hammer just inches from his chest and let out a long string of curses as I stared up into his eyes. “What the frizz is wrong with you!? Are you trying to get yourself killed?!”

“Sorry, Bryn,” he muttered with a big grin on his face.

“What are you doing out here? Who’s guarding Sam?”

“Who?” he asked blankly.

“The girl I captured!” I yelled swinging my hammer at a nearby troll.

“I-I couldn’t stay in there, and do nothing. Not when you were in danger,” he said averting his eyes and then did something completely unexpected, he kissed me. It wasn’t much more than a light peck on the lips, but it felt good, too good.

“What the frizz did you go and do that for? I growled as he broke away.

“I’ve been wanting to do that for a while now,” he said with a grin, then turned to the nearest troll and started hacking at it with his weapon.

The trolls were hard as hel to kill, and many of the weaker magic users were having difficulty countering them. More and more fell as the trolls quickly overwhelmed them. Things were definitely starting to look bad, but that’s when something amazing happened.

A loud call, that sounded almost like a trumpet rang throughout the battlefield just as bright pillars of light appeared all over the place and from out them emerged tall fair-haired figures many of which were mounted atop horses. Suddenly, the bond between me and Eva was back to full strength and I knew that she was among those that had come to our rescue.

“It’s Eva!” I called over my shoulder.

“She’s brought the exiled elves!” Mom called back.

The newcomers tore into the trolls and remaining dark elves with a vengeance and it was only a matter of time before the enemy combatants fled the fight. I let out a relieved sigh, felt my arms fall to my side and watched as a trio of elves approached. They were tall and beautiful, and they walked with the same fluid grace that I’d come to associate with Hervor.

“We would speak with the one known as Aryanna le Fey. Is she here?” The foremost of the elves spoke, she was tall, long-legged, had wavy light-brown hair that fell all the way down to the back of her knees and save for the leather loincloth and strip of clothe across her chest that didn’t quite cover her breasts she wore no clothing.

“I am Aryanna le Fey,” Mom said stepping forward.

“I am Solveig of the Vindálfar,” the elven woman said with a very slight tilt of the head.

“I am Ingolf of the Saerálfar,” a man said coming to stand just to Solveig’s side. He wore a plain gray shirt, black shorts, and carried a trident in his left hand, but the thing that really stood out about him was his blue hair.

I felt a sudden weight up against my side and looked over to find Eva leaning against me with a thoughtful expression on her face. I smiled and reached for her hand. I felt her love and warmth through our bond and I basked in its glow. I didn’t say anything, I didn’t need to. The emotions we shared through our bond conveyed more than words ever could.

“I am Snorri of the Hyrrálfar,” the final member of the trio proclaimed. Snorri was probably the strangest looking of the three. His hair was snow white despite having an agelessly youthful elven face, and was done up in a braid that hung on the right side of his head. His clothes were a garish collection of worn patched-up cloth, with every color from bright pink, to putrid green.

“We come before you to pledge our peoples’ support in the coming battle of Ragnarok,” Solveig continued once her other two companions had introduced themselves.

A slow smile crept onto Mom’s face, “Well then on behalf of the Seidskati, the Council of the Seidskati, and House Le Fey I gladly accept your pledge of support.”

Solveig tilted her head forward and bowed ever so slightly, “It is agreed then.”

“Sam…” I whispered suddenly and met Eva’s gaze.

“Come on,” I muttered dragging Eva along with me back toward the convention center.

+

“Bryn, what’s wrong?” Eva asked as I led her into the convention center.

“I’ll explain later. It’s just I have a bad feeling…” I muttered quietly as I leapt into motion and shot down the hall.

I flew into the small room where Sam was being held and stopped dead in my tracks. Sam was lying on the ground, still secure within the circle of imprisonment, but she wasn’t the only person in the room. There was a tall beautiful woman with auburn hair standing over her. I didn’t even need to see the woman’s face to know who it was. “Mengele!” I cursed.

“Why hello again,” Mengele smiled pleasantly.

I eyed Mengele warily. There was no doubt in my mind that ‘she’ was dangerous, but this woman was very different from the Mengele I’d met before. For starters she looked and acted sane, but it went beyond that. She struck me as someone who was very comfortable in her body. Everything from her clothes, her makeup and her perfume gave her the appearance of a refined upper-class woman.

“What do you want?” I growled.

“I have to thank you. I never imagined having a female body could be such… fun. It has been so long since I was capable of having sex. Have you tried it? Sex as a woman? If you haven’t you really should. It feels so good it’s almost indescribable.”

I shuddered and looked into Mengele’s eyes. The spark of insanity was still there, “Mengele… step away from Sam!”

“No, I don’t think I will. I made her, she’s mine. She’s failed, and I must punish her,” Mengele said, staring back at me with a cruel grin on her face.

“What have you done with Sophie?!” I spat back.

“You mean the sister? There was an unfortunate accident and she died. It’s regrettable, but sometimes these things can’t be avoided.”

“Damn you! Damn you to frizzing helheim!” I screamed. I didn’t even think before I acted. I raised Mjölnir, felt the hammer’s power flood through me then I leapt at Mengele. The hammer came down and hit Mengele square in the chest. She had been in the process of raising a spirit shield when I hit her, so it didn’t hit her at full strength, but there was enough power in the blow to send her flying against the wall. Her spirit shield cushioned her from a good portion of the hammer’s strength and most of the impact of hitting the wall, but I doubted it would be able to withstand much more. I raised the hammer and prepared to attack, but stopped short when Eva suddenly screamed out. “Bryn no!”

I hesitated for just one moment, which was long enough for Mengele to get away. She summoned a travel spell and was gone with the blink of an eye.

“Why did you stop me?” I demanded reeling on Eva once the wind from Mengele’s travel spell had died down.

Eva shook her head and locked eyes with me, “You were acting out of anger.”

“So!?”

“Bryn, that path doesn’t lead to a good place. Believe me, I know that better than anyone else,” she muttered quietly, and I felt her concern wash over me.

I felt tears well up in my eyes, I grabbed at Eva and let all my anger and grief loose in a flood of tears. Sophie was dead, and the person who was responsible had gotten away.

Vordag, the twenty-ninth of Morsugur

All this death and destruction… What is it all for? So many people have died and for what? Aunt Marion, Sophie, the people of New Copenhagen, Vágburg, and all the dead from the convention center. How many more will before this is all over? Are humans as a race doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over? Will we ever learn that death is not the way? And yet I’m not fully human, so where does that leave me?

I think I’ve figured out what my purpose is. When I go to free the dead gods from Helheim, I don’t think I’ll be returning. I think that maybe I’m meant to sacrifice myself so that Odin and the others may return from the grave. It’s a terrifying thought, but if it means saving humanity, maybe it will be worth it… Then again, maybe not. Maybe we’re not worth saving. I just hope that if I am supposed to die that it’ll be quick.

I’m so angry right now, I hate what’s been done to me. I hate that Marion and Sophie are dead. I hate that the horrible things that the Sons of Odin have done. I hate that people are dying, and I hate my inability to do anything about it! I have so much anger that I don’t know where to direct it. I need to do something, dammit! I need to let this anger go, but I can’t! I just want things to go back to the way they were before I met Hervor in the mall.

Eva’s the only reason I’ve stayed sane. When she and I are together, I don’t feel so angry, and I think that maybe just maybe I’ll live through Ragnarok. I don’t know how many times we’ve had sex since she returned, but it’s been a lot. Sex as a woman feels good, not really better per se, but good nonetheless.

There so much more to tell, but I don’t really feel like writing. Maybe I’ll play catch up later. It’s about time for my lesson with Hervor anyway…

+

Freydag, the first of Thorri

Well, I’m feeling a little better about life now… Sophie’s death was just too much, and for a while I could hardly keep myself together. I still can’t believe she’s gone. I hadn’t seen her for months, and then bam suddenly she’s just dead.

Well, I guess I’ll catch up on everything that’s happened so far…

The Sons of Odin have attacked another city. This time it was New Jorvík that got hit. The attack destroyed a major portion of the city, but thanks in large part to the efforts of Theodora and several members of her house, much of the city was saved. They realized what was happening at the last moment and were able to raise several spirit barriers to protect as much as the populace as they could. Maybe we aren’t as helpless against the Sons of Odin’s attacks as I once thought.

Mom, got together with her old friends from the Task Force Against Domestic Terrorism and they raided the compound where Sam said Sophie was being kept. The Sons of Odin had pretty well cleared the place out, but they did find Sophie’s body scattered among some other corpses. I’m just glad I didn’t have to see it. It’s bad enough that I already have the image of Marion’s dead eyes floating around in my head.

Mom still has Sam locked up in a circle of imprisonment. Not because she’s necessarily a danger to the rest of us, but because Sam keeps trying to kill herself. She’s been pretty cooperative about providing Mom information, but most of what she knew hasn’t been that helpful. Mom’s probed her mind several times and she’s convinced that Sam is genuinely repentant about her involvement with the Sons of Odin. Eva’s actually spent a lot of time with her. If anyone understands what she’s been through Eva does.

Sam’s physical appearance isn’t quite what it was when she was first captured. She had a sort of illusion cast over her. She still resembles her sister, but she doesn’t have her sister’s over-sized nose, and just like Mengele, her hair is auburn. Mom says that anyone who’s been given the formula will likely have auburn hair once they’ve finished their transformation. Mom actually thinks she may have found a way to detect those who have been transformed by the formula, and she strongly suspects that my blood holds the key.

The exiled elves have taken up residence above the bunker where the ruins of the estates now stand. Mom offered to let some of them stay down below with us, as there’s a lot of empty room, but they refused, claiming that they dislike enclosed spaces. That is probably just as well. The few encounters that Hervor and Heime have had with them have been downright icy. I’ve tried asking Hervor, Heime and Garik why the exiled elves dislike the light elves so much, but each refuses to speak of it. Eva’s no help, as she’s just as confused by it as I am.

More and more exiled elves have joined those at the encampment. At the moment they number in the tens of thousands and their numbers keep on growing. Of the four main tribes, the mountain elves are the only ones who have yet to join. Eva mentioned that the fellálfar are ‘slow thinking like the mountains they named themselves after’. I don’t understand entirely why, but Eva burst into hysterical fits of laughter after making that statement. Elven humor is so strange.

My training is going pretty well, and since Eva’s joined our training sessions I’m learning new ways of fighting. Eva and I are both around the same size and she knows quite a lot about fighting much larger opponents. Her fighting style is much different than what I’m accustomed to, but it’s not particularly suited for fighting with a warhammer so on top of everything else I’m now learning to fight with throwing knives and my bare hands.

And then there’s Garik. Since he kissed me, things between him and me have been tense. I’m attracted to him, and we both know it. Leif and Eva have picked up on it too, and all three of them have been really competitive. I may be attracted to all three of them, but my heart belongs to Eva. I just wish they’d all realize that so I could have some frizzing peace.

I think that’s about it for now… I wish I could say I’ve had direct involvement in everything that’s going on, but the truth is I’ve been sitting here along the sidelines twiddling my thumbs… I just feel like I should be doing something, but Mom insists that I should stay out of danger until it’s time for my mission into Helheim.

+

Laurdag, the second of Thorri

Just got back from Sophie’s funeral. I can’t stop crying. Marion’s death was hard, but losing Sophie such a short time after Marion is harder still. How many more friends and family members will I lose before this is all over? I can’t stand the thought of losing anyone else. I think I’d even be upset if I lost Heime. As for Hervor… well I don’t really know how I’d react if she were to bite the dust.

Mom and the other members of the Seidskati have figured out how to track people transformed by Mengele’s formula. It’s all pretty complicated, but Mom was right when she said my blood held the key. The amount of magic required is staggering, but the number of magic users who are actively implementing the wards to track Menegele’s pawns are just as amazing.

Hopefully, we can stop that monster, I can’t stand the thought of what she’s done with my blood, but if I’m going to be honest with myself, which my elven side pretty much guarantees, then I’ll have to admit that the main reason I’m so eager to catch her is because of what she did to Sophie.

+

I kind of stopped short with my last entry there. Mom stopped by to talk with me and I didn’t have time to finish it off. I really didn’t have much to more to say, but I do now.

I heard a knock at the door and I hurried to finish my last sentence before hopping to my feet and leaping at the door. Mom was on the other side and I could tell by the look on her face that she was there to tell me something big.

“May I come in?” she asked.

I nodded and winced as I watched my mother step hesitantly inside the small room.

“We need to talk,” she said quietly as she turned to close the door behind her.

“What is it? Is it bad news?”

“Not of the sort you’re likely expecting,” Mom said locking eyes with me.

I eyed her warily, “What is it then?”

“I’ve been talking with Hervor. Things on Midgard are only going to get worse before they get better and it’s not safe for you here.”

I stared at my mother and winced. I had a feeling I knew what was coming next and sure enough she confirmed my fears when she spoke. “Hervor has agreed to take you to Álfheim where you’ll be safe.”

I stared at Mom for a few minutes then I slowly started to shake my head, “No, Mom I don’t know what Hervor told you, but please don’t do this. I want to stay right here. I need to be a part of the fight against the Sons of Odin. The things they’ve done… I don’t want to just sit along the sidelines and watch as the world goes to hel.”

“I’ve already made my decision. Pack your things you’ll be leaving in two days.”

“No, Mom. Please…” I pleaded.

“Bryn,” she said reaching out to touch my face. “I’m sorry for everything. I’m sorry I never told you about your father. I’m sorry for the deaths you’ve had to witness, and I’m sorry for the way in which Hervor and Frigg have manipulated you. You are more precious to me than all the world. I just want to keep you safe for as long as I am able. It’s too dangerous here on Midgard. You’re meant for great things I just want to ensure that you live long enough for you to fulfill your destiny.”

“What does it matter? I’m probably going to die anyway!” I spat back. I didn’t intend to say it, but the words were out of my mouth, and the damage was already done.

“Oh, Bryn!” Mom said and wrapped her arms around me. “Is that what you think?”

I tried to hold back the tears, but it was like someone had opened the floodgates and I couldn’t keep them back. “What am I supposed to think?”

“Bryn,” Mom said pulling away and locking her eyes with mine. “You’re not going to die! You hear me? I’ll descend into the depths of Helheim, if that’s what it takes, but I won’t let you die.”

“Mom I… I just want everything to go back the way it was before. I hate being a girl. I hate what the Sons of Odin are doing. I just want my life back.”

“I know, I wish I could give it to you, but we don’t have that luxury.”

“Just please… Mom don’t make me go. I need to be here. I need to be a part of it all. After the way Marion died and what Mengele did to Sophie I…”

“No Bryn. It’s not safe. You are going. I’m sorry, but it’s for your own good. I want you to promise me that you’ll go with Hervor without any fuss.”

I did it without thinking. I hadn’t exactly made a habit of it, but like all teenagers I’d made my fair share of false promises to my mother. “I promise,” I said and felt my heart sink as felt something click in the back of my head. I’d just made a promise and I was pretty sure that my elven side wasn’t going to let me break it no matter how much I tried.

It seemed almost a contradiction really, I could make a promise fully intending to break it, yet I couldn’t lie. It didn’t make sense. Wouldn’t my inability to lie prevent me from making that promise? Yet, by speaking the promise, I’d bound myself and pretty well assured that the promise couldn’t be broken. So by speaking it, I had in fact, turned a lie into a truth. It was a real puzzler. Boy, being a half-elf sure can be complicated sometimes.

“You tricked me,” I growled at my mother.

Mom smiled sadly, “I didn’t want to, but I knew it was the only way to keep you from doing something bullheaded.”

“What makes you think I would have done something bullheaded?!” I spat back angrily.

“Because I know you. I know how you think, because I was just like you at that age,” she said touching my cheek.

I turned my back on my mother and moved as far away from her as I possibly could within the confines of the tiny room, “I know you think you’re protecting me, but with everything that’s happened I deserve to choose.”

“You’re right, you should be able to chose, but you’re not seeing the whole picture. If you die before you’re supposed to go into Helheim, what then?”

“I-I don’t know.”

Mom nodded, “I can’t risk losing you, Bryn. Please understand, you are my child. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“I know…” I said quietly.

+

Manadag, the fourth of Thorri

Well… I’m never going to make another promise if I can help it. I can’t even think of trying to run off without feeling all itchy… Okay, that’s probably not the right word, but I don’t know exactly how to explain it. Anytime I think of going against my promise I get all antsy and that feeling doesn’t go away until I turn my thoughts to something else. Usually, I wait until the last minute to pack when traveling, but I kept getting this nagging feeling like maybe I should get my bags ready, and whenever I tried to resist, that itchy feeling popped into my head and made me want to scream. So I finally gave in and got everything ready yesterday.

I hate this. I don’t want to go, but I’m stuck making all these preparations because of a promise. Me and my stupid frizzing mouth, if I’d just kept it shut I would be able to find a way out of it, but all I can do is grin and bear it.

It’s about time to head out. I don’t know if I’ll be able to write anything for a few days. Somehow I doubt I’ll be able to write much traveling up the root of the world tree. I don’t know what it is, but my stomach kind of hurts. I hope I’m not getting sick. Gah! I’d better go, there’s that damn itching again.

+

Eirdag, the fifth of Thorri

I’m not really sure if it’s Eirdag or not… There’s really no way to tell up here in the heavens… Yeah, that’s right I said, ‘heavens.’ Traversing the roots of the world tree is definitely an experience, which is how I got to be here in the first place…

It was early in the morning when we left the bunker, I don’t know the exact time, but it was somewhere around seven in the morning. Mom, Daniella, Gramor, Eva, Leif, Heime, Hervor were all there when we left, but there was one other person I was surprised to find in our party and that was: Sam.

“I guess I’m coming with you,” she muttered, staring at the floor and looking like someone who was ready to crawl out of her own skin.

“Mom?” I asked looking to my mother for answers.

Mom let out a long sigh and shook her head, “I’ve been trying to protect Sam from fellow members of the Seidskati. They’re convinced if they probe her mind deep enough that they can find something of use.”

“And that’s a bad thing?” I asked.

“If they probe too deeply, they’ll kill her,” Mom responded. folding her arms across her chest with an ever so slight frown.

“That be the least of what I deserve,” Sam muttered, quietly meeting my gaze for the first time. I shuddered and quickly looked away. Never had I seen such a haunted look in another person’s eyes.

I wondered briefly why my mother seemed so intent on trying to help Sam after everything she had done. If it hadn’t been for Sam’s poor choices in joining the Sons of Odin, Sophie would still be alive. I didn’t know if I could forgive Sam for that.

“Remember what we discussed,” Mom said, putting a reassuring hand on Sam’s shoulder.

Okay… Yeah, I’m not really sure what that was about and I really didn’t get a chance to ask, since Mom spoke first.

“Everyone ready?”

“What about Flint?” I asked her suddenly.

“I need him here. Heime is more than capable of completing your training,” Mom replied, placing a reassuring hand on my shoulder.

I actually felt a little sad about that, which kind of surprised me, even though Flint wasn’t exactly the easiest person to get along with. “Tell him goodbye for me, would you?”

Mom’s eyes widening in surprise, but she nodded. “Sure.”

“Let’s get going then,” I muttered quietly. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to my trip, but I wanted it to be over with, and I couldn’t do that by standing around.

“Join thy hands together,” Hervor said suddenly.

Gradually we each complied, I clasped hands with Eva on my right and Heime on my left. Finally after we had all joined together, I felt Hervor grasp hold of her magic and summon up a travel spell. There were two types of travel spells: the type used by most humans and weaker vattir, and the type Hervor and other powerful vattir used. The former utilized air magic, while the latter required that the user combine all five magical elements into a single spell, and the weave was probably the most complex I’d ever seen. It required the user have a greater well of energy than a wind-based travel spell, but strangely, it actually used less energy.

Blinding bright light filled my vision and suddenly we were there standing out in the cold of the arctic. It was daytime, which wasn’t really surprising, as sun stays up something like six months at the North Pole.

“There are wards set all around the root that prevent travel spells being used once you get a few hundred yards in,” Mom said with a sad smile

I tugged at my spell-enhanced coat and turned to my mother, who had a thoughtful expression on her face. “Is this where we say goodbye?”

“In a moment. There’s still something Aryanna needs to do before we get to that,” Daniella replied quietly.

“Where’s the root? I mean, shouldn’t we be able to see it from here?” Leif asked abruptly.

“Thou shalt gaze upon the root soon enough, child. The wards set upon this place also hide the root from prying eyes,” Hervor stated, staring at Leif with a blank look. Hervor’s presence through our bond seemed distant. I got the impression that her mind was on other things, but what those things might have been I had no idea.

There was a very slight twinge of nervous fear emanating from Eva and I was pretty sure I knew why. Eva had spent most of her life hating the light elves, and now she was about to begin a journey that would take her to the light elf home world. She had pretty well set her hatred aside, but I think she was worried the light elves would reject her because of her past. I was pretty nervous myself, and for similar reasons. I wasn’t sure how I’d be received, I mean, I was Heime’s daughter and a member of the royal family, but I was only a half-elf, and I had been raised by a human mother, while completely unaware of my elven heritage. I didn’t know the elven language, which would likely only serve to remind the people of just how much of an outsider I really was. I did my best to set my fears in the back of my mind, but despite my best efforts I couldn’t keep them completely at bay.

Mom moved over to a rather large snow bank a few yards away, and I saw the soft glow of magic surround her as she summoned up her magic. Abruptly the snow bank disappeared, and a very large multi-passenger vehicle took its place. It looked pretty similar to an old wind car like the one Mom used to keep in the garage at the estates, but instead of tires, it had a sets of treads on either side.

“I’ve had this thing hidden here for almost fifteen years,” Mom explained with a smug grin.

“Yeah, and it was a pain getting the freaking thing out here. I’ll be glad to see the thing get some use for a change,” Daniella muttered with a shake of her head before motioning everyone inside.

“It’s about time we leave then, isn’t it?” I asked.

Mom nodded, “Bryn, come here.”

I moved over to where Daniella and Mom were standing and wrapped my arms around my mother in a hug.

“Mom,” I whispered so that only the two of us could hear. I was still pretty miffed at her for forcing me to go to Alfheim, but I didn’t want to leave her on bad terms, since there was a chance I might not see her again, so I swallowed my pride and continued.

“I want you to know that I understand why you kept things from me and why you’re sending me to Álfheim. I don’t know if I would have done the same in your place, but I can’t hold it against you. You were trying to protect me, and I really appreciate that. I’m going to miss you, and I love you, Mom.”

“Thank you. I really needed to hear that. I love you too, Bryn. Goddesses I’m going to miss you so much,” she whispered as we broke away.

I moved over to Daniella and wrapped my arms around her just like I had my mother, but it was Daniella who spoke first. “I know we don’t share any blood, but I love you like you were my own child. I’ll miss you Bryn.”

“I’ll miss you too Dan… Mom,” I whispered back. There was a startled but pleased look on Daniella’s face as we broke away. If anyone deserved being called my mom besides my mother, it was Daniella. She was every bit the mother to me as Mom, even if as she had said we didn’t share any blood.

Everyone else said their goodbyes to Mom and Daniella, then we all piled into the wind car and began the first leg of our trip.

+

There was no bright flash of light, or any other indication as we passed through the wards, but when the root of the world tree suddenly materialized in front of our eyes it was a dead give away that we had gone through them.

The root of the Yggdrasil was planted directly in the center of the North Pole, and it reached straight up into the sky as far as the eye could see. It was completely invisible from anywhere else in the world. The powerful wards we had just passed through saw to that. Over the many millennia since the root of the world tree had settled into Midgard, ice sheets had formed up around it and had created a permanent ice-field.

As we drew closer to our destination I could make out the form of a building that had been built up around the root. The building appeared to be made from plain gray stone, but the snow and frost made it difficult to make out any more details.

The drive to the building, or station, as I’ve come to think of it, was pretty well uneventful. When we arrived, Gramor stopped the wind car, but before we could get out, a figure with a long black beard appeared and motioned for us to continue. Gramor shifted the wind car back into gear and started in toward an entryway that had opened to accommodate our vehicle.

“Well, what haves we here?” A grizzled gray-haired dwarf said appearing to greet us as we climbed out of the wind car.

“Durinn,” Hervor said with a tilt of her head. “‘Tis good to see thee again.”

“Don’t yeh worry ’bout that!” the dwarf yelled, suddenly pointing a stubby finger at Leif, who had been working at unloading the wind car. “I’ll get me lads teh unload yer windy-merchine.”

“Interesting company you be keepin’, elf. Haven’t ever see yeh travel with anyone but yer son afore,” he growled, turning back to Hervor.

“It is as the humans say, strange times make for strange traveling companions,” Hervor said with the barest hint of a smile.

“Aye, there’s truth in that. Strange times we’re livin’ in, that’s fer sure,” the dvergar said, running a hand through his beard.

“Are yeh ready ter go then?” he asked suddenly.

Hervor nodded and produced a small sack cloth that jingled a bit as she handed it over to the dwarf. The dwarf pulled loose the draw strings and peeked inside, nodded with satisfaction, then tucked the bag into his tunic. “Aye that oughts ter cover it then. Yeh knows the way, but I suppose with these humans I proberly oughts to show yehs so they don’t wander off.”

We followed the dwarf as he hurried down a long corridor, through a large chamber, and down another hallway before finally coming to an abrupt stop in front of a large metal gate. “Through here is the path ter the root. Yer ride be waitin’ inside o’ there.”

“Ride?” Sam asked blankly, speaking for the first time since we’d left the bunker.

Durinn threw his head back and laughed, “How der yeh figure yer goin’ to get to Alfheim then? Walk up the root o’ the world tree?”

“What exactly are we going to be riding?” Leif put in.

“Yeh’ll find out soon enough, lad,” the dwarf growled.

“Let’s go then,” Eva said quietly.

“Once yeh pass through them gates, there’ll be no turnin’ back,” Durinn muttered, scratching at his beard.

“I know. I’m ready.”

“Aye, so yeh are lass,” the dwarf muttered quietly as he moved to open the gate.

I stepped through the gate as it swung open and didn’t look back.

+

I stepped into another long corridor, clenched my fists at my side and kept on walking. Vaguely I sensed the others following, but I paid them no mind. As much as I had resisted going to Álfheim, there was a part of me that really wanted to see the home of my father.

Finally, I stepped into what could only be described as a stable. On either side were four huge stalls that were larger than my bedroom in the estates. Despite their size, the stalls were far less remarkable than what they housed. The creatures were massive, had long serpentine scaled bodies, and five pairs of legs.

“Draki!” Eva hissed suddenly.

“Aye, these be dragons,” a light voice said from inside one of the stalls. A moment later a short stocky figure emerged from within the nearest stall on my right. She was a female dwarf, and while she wasn’t very attractive, there was something very appealing about her calm smile, and blue eyes.

“We’re going to ride dragons up the root of the world tree?” Leif asked in disbelief.

“Aye, young lad. Ain’t no better means of travelin’. The viddraki were bred for this purpose,” she replied.

“Domesticated dragons,” Gramor murmured with a shake of her head. “I never thought I’d see the day.”

“Was quite the task breedin’ them, but it were well worth it. Now is we going to stand ’round and talk, or is we goin’ to leave?”

“Aye, let us begone from this place,” Heime said irritably. I stared at my father in surprise. I’d never seen him behave in such a way. I don’t know if it was the station itself, or if it was something else, but I could tell just by the look on his face that something was bothering him.

“Yeah, I guess it’s time to leave.”

Sogvor nodded her head in satisfaction then turned back toward the stall and swung the door wide open. “Come on then, Else. We haven’t got all day now, do we?”

The dragon inside took a few tentative steps forward and peeked its head out. It stared at me for a moment, then it suddenly rushed at me and before I could even think to leap out of the way it was on me. I closed my eyes and fell to the ground as the dragon’s snout hit me in the chest. Something warm and wet slithered across my face and for a moment I thought the dragon was going to sink its teeth into me.

I heard Sogvor let out a throaty laugh. Then I felt myself being lifted to my feet and let my eyes snap back open.

“She likes yeh!” Sogvor said with another laugh. I felt something big brushing again my stomach and when I looked down, I saw that it was the dragon.

“Alright Else, that’s enough,” Sogvor said sternly.

“As yeh can see I’ve already gots her saddled up. I still gots ter get Eksel ready, and the Durinn and the others still hasn’t brought yer things up,” she muttered with a shake of her head, disappearing into another stall.

It took a good twenty minutes before we were finally ready to depart. A pair of dwarves brought up our baggage and helped Sogvor fasten our bags on Else and the second draki still inside the other stall.

“Ready!” Sogvor said appearing from one of the stalls, leading another dragon along with her.

The other two dwarves departed and Sogvor helped each of us climb onto the dragons so we could mount up.

“I hate to be the one to ask the obvious, but who exactly is going to steering these things?” Leif asked as Sogvor was tightening the straps around him.

“I’ll be takin’ Else’s reins, but Eksel ain’t be needing anyone ter steer him. He’ll follow his sister wherever she goes,” Sogvor grumbled.

It took a few minutes to get us all mounted up, but in the end I wound up riding Else along with Gramor, Eva, and of course Sogvor at the reins. Sam, Leif, Heime and Hervor all rode mounted atop Eksel.

So, that’s how I found myself riding a ten-legged dragon up the root of the Yggdrasil. The ride was pretty bumpy, seeing as Else used her ten limbs to slide up the trunk. The dragons seemed to be moving slowly, yet we were actually moving at an amazing speed. Hervor explained that it was the magic of the Yggdrasil at work. The distance between worlds was immense, and without the world tree to speed things up it would have taken hundreds of thousands of years.

It was pretty unnerving riding the dragon as it climbed straight up the root of the Yggdrasil, but it was pretty frizzing amazing, too. The view alone was worth all the discomfort, but before we reached the outside of Midgard’s atmosphere my stomach started to feel progressively worse. At first I thought that I was sick, but when I shifted my legs I felt something wet and I knew what it was.

“Not now,” I groaned.

I felt Eva’s hand on my shoulder, “Bryn what’s wrong?”

“I think… I’m having my first period,” I grumbled.

I could feel the touch of her magic ripple through my body as she called it up to examine me. I felt her power fade away and I could feel sympathy flood through the blood. “This is not going to be a very pleasant ride for you,” she muttered, patting her arm on my shoulder.

“Welcome to womanhood,” my grandmother added with a sympathetic look of her own.

We didn’t stop for several hours, but even then we couldn’t dismount from the viddraki, since they were all that were keeping us from plummeting to a gruesome and certain death, which made my predicament all the more unpleasant. Norns, I really hate this body. I tried repeatedly to think of something to keep my mind off of my period, but nothing worked.

+

Partway into the ride I discovered that by closing my eyes and clearing my mind of thought as Hervor had taught me, I was able to forget my discomfort and drifted into a realm of pure relaxation. I don’t know how long I stayed like that. It could have been minutes, but at some point I felt a tap on my shoulder. I let out a loud gasp as my eyes flew back open and I turned my head to stare at Eva, “What was that for?”

“Look,” was all she said.

And so I did. I strangled another gasp and felt wonder, and awe fill me as I looked. We had left Midgard’s atmosphere long before and I had a clear unobstructed view of the stars. They shone much more brightly than they ever had from below, and I could only stare in wonder, as I looked around, noting the sun, and the moon. It was the most beautiful and marvelous sight I had ever beheld. Then, I looked down at Midgard and felt my breath catch in my throat. All the wonder in the heavens paled in comparison to the beauty of the world below. It was a wonder the goddesses weren’t moved to tears each time they looked down on the world they had created.

We traveled several more hours after that, and when we finally came to a stop my period was at the back of mind, but not quite forgotten. By then we had crested a ‘rise’, for lack of a better word and were actually able to get up off the dragons and walk around. Sogvor set up a sort of barrier on either side of the root to prevent anyone from falling over, and we made camp right there out in the heavens. Obviously, we couldn’t start a fire, so we ate a meal of cold sandwiches, then set up our beds and everyone except myself drifted off to sleep.

Here I am, writing in my journal sitting on the root of the world tree with Eva’s sleeping form cuddled up beside me. Sogvor says that we’ll reach Álfheim tomorrow. I guess I ought to try and get some sleep. We have a long day of travel tomorrow before we reach our destination.

Vordag, the sixth of Thorri

When we finally arrived at Álfheim, Hervor called us all to a halt and after we all dismounted from our rides. She moved away from us all and began to weave a spell. Ribbons of pale blue magic flew out from her fingertips and spun around in a complex pattern which stretched out in all directions. The magic washed over us all, and what looked like a spirit shield appeared in a wide circle around the root. No, that wasn’t right, the shield had been there the whole time. We just hadn’t been able to see it.

A hole appeared in the shield and Hervor gestured for us to move through. We quickly complied, dragging along all our baggage as we hurriedly passed across the opening. Hervor didn’t immediately follow us. Instead, she calmly walked over to Sogvor and handed her a small bag, which I assumed contained payment then followed us through the hole. The shimmering blue barrier closed behind her then seemed to wink out of existence as it returned to its previous invisible state.

The root seemed to be planted firmly in the middle of a forest that extended as far as the eye could see. It really didn’t look any different than a forest on Midgard might. I even recognized several different varieties of trees including maple and cedar. It was so green and vibrant that I almost thought I could feel the life emanating all around me.

“Miun drouneng,” a voice proclaimed abruptly as a tall figure detached itself from a nearby tree and fell to one knee facing Hervor and was joined by three more figures. Each of them had been so well disguised that they had appeared as if they were part of the forest.

“Resa,” Hervor proclaimed and the elves each returned to their feet.

There was a brief exchange, and I didn’t understand any of what they said, but when I heard my name accompanied by the word ‘prinsessa’ it didn’t take an idiot to figure out Hervor had just introduced me as her granddaughter.

The four elves turned to me and each fell to one knee. Each muttered something in Elvish, then returned to their feet as Hervor commanded them too. I hadn’t even realized that two of the camouflaged elves were women until they spoke. They wore so much paint over their features that I had been barely able to distinguish their faces, let alone determine their sex.

Hervor muttered something with a casual flick of her wrist and two of them disappeared back into the trees as if they had never even been there. One of the remaining two approached me.

“Your highness, I would be honored if you would allow me to take your bag,” she said in almost perfect English.

“Sure, if you don’t mind,” I muttered, warily relinquishing my bag to her.

She stared at me a moment, but didn’t say a word as she grabbed it from my hands.

“How much further do we have to go?” Sam asked suddenly.

“Not long, child. Dagdedar is merely a travel-spell away,” Hervor replied, eying Sam with a calculating expression.

“Dagdedar what’s that?” Leif asked dumbly.

“It is our capital city, human,” Garik muttered, staring at Leif in irritation.

“Why don’t we get going then? I’m eager to get out of these dirty clothes,” Gramor muttered suddenly.

Hervor nodded and direct us all to stand in a circle with her standing at its center. She called up were magic and began to work the weaves. There was a bright flash of light and then we were standing in the middle of what I at first took to be another forest filled with massive trees, many of which were as large as a house.

“Venn, what’s this? I thought you were taking us to this Dagdedar place?” Leif asked, looking around with wide eyes.

“She did,” I muttered, feeling a sense of awe come over me.

The place where Hervor had brought us was a forest, but it was also a city. When I looked around, I was able to make out the outline of a window here, a doorway there.

“It feels so good to be home,” Garik said from my side with a huge smile on his face.

“Aye, no offense to thee my daughter, but I find human dwellings to be much too confining.”

“You actually built your homes inside of the trees?” Sam asked in amazement.

“Nay child, these dwellings were not built. They were grown,” Hervor said with a soft murmur.

A face appeared around a corner. It belonged to a young child who let out a delighted squeal then disappeared again. I could hear his voice carry out through the city as he called out excitedly. It didn’t take long for a crowd to gather, they each bowed to Hervor and Heime and stared curiously at the rest of us.

Hervor smiled and addressed the people that had gathered. Again I noted her use of the word ‘prinsessa’ and my name. The people turned to me and I felt a sense of panic set in as I realized I had no idea what to say or do.

“Prinsessa Brynhilde,” an elven woman close-cropped light-brown hair at the front of the crowd said with a flourish and a bow. She beamed up at me and said something more in Elvish.

“Princess,” a voice whispered from my side. It was the guard who had volunteered herself to carry my bag. “This woman names herself Aglaia. She wishes to welcome you home and hopes your visit will be a pleasant one.”

“Tell her that… I’m sure it will be,” I muttered, staring at the guard with wide eyes, remembering at the last moment that elves felt it was poor manners to thank someone.

The guard relayed my message, and Aglaia beamed back at me. I waved awkwardly at the crowd, then I heard Hervor make a pronouncement in Elvish and the assembled elves moved out of the way to make a path for us. Heime took the lead, motioning for us to continue as we made our way through the Lejosálfar capital.

We reached the center of the city where the branches of the massive royal palace reached up into the sky. Sunlight shining down from above seemed to make the great tree appear almost as if it had been set afire. There was a brief delay as we all gawked in amazement before we were led inside.

There’s so much to tell, and yet I find myself at a loss for where to start. Dagdedar is a really amazing place, as are the people. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but they are much different than I could ever have guessed. I’ve always thought of elves as being humans with a more magical nature, but the truth is that elves are very different. They simply don’t care about the small things that humans worry and fret over. They have different priorities, and I’m not entirely sure if the divergence is just cultural, or if it’s due to a fundamental peculiarity at the very core of their being.

I have to ask myself is that divergence a part of me, or am I more human than elf? Even just a few days ago I would have said I was more human without question, but since coming to this place I’m not so sure. I’d never felt so complete before coming to Álfheim. It was as if a piece of myself were missing, and I hadn’t even known it. It was like this huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders and I felt free of it for the first time in over eighteen years.

I’ve changed so much since my transformation… Sometimes I feel as if I’m a different person who somehow got stuck with Neil’s memories. The question really is: how much of this change is due to my own natural progression, and how much has been forced upon me by Hervor’s many machinations? Or is it simply my innate elven nature slowly growing more dominant? I wish Hervor would talk to me and help me to understand, but all she will say is that understanding will come to me only when I’m ready. Well enough of that. If I keep this sort of talk up I’ll wind up driving myself crazy.

There’s a sort of celebration tonight. I get the impression that Hervor comes and goes quite a lot, and it’s not usual to make a big deal when she returns. I think it’s because of me. The light elves seem captivated by their new princess. I was afraid how the people might react, but they really seem genuinely pleased to have me as part of the royal family. I think had the people been human I would have received a much different reception.

+

Siffendag, the seventh of Thorri

Well I met my aunts last night… Yep I said aunts. Apparently, Heime has two sisters. I’m not really surprised, but it would have been nice for someone to tell me. Like every other elf I’ve ever met, my aunts are tall, beautiful, and fair. When I first met them I thought they were twins they looked so much alike, but there’s quite an age gap between the two of them, something like a few hundred years.

Gilda is the older of the two, and she seems to the more outspoken of the sisters. Dagmar, has Hervor’s calm serenity, but unlike my grandmother, actually seems to have a sense of humor. She speaks with a much more modern vocabulary than any of my other Elven relatives. Well at least the ones that I’ve met. Both my aunts admit to having children, though none so young as me.

My suspicions that the celebration last night was supposed to be in my honor turned out to be dead on. There was a feast, and well… a really wild party. The elves are highly sexual beings and they have very few inhibitions in that regard. I witnessed several couples have sex right out in the open. Needless to say, I returned to the palace early that night. Eva seemed disappointed, and actually found my embarrassment quite amusing. Leif, Sam and even Gramor shared my discomfort, and we all stayed inside for the length of the celebration.

I have a feeling my time spent within the Dagdedar is going to be an eye opener. I have the day more or less to myself, and because Álfheim is protected by a ultra-powerful spirit shield and the place is practically crime free, I can go pretty much wherever I like without having some overzealous guard getting in my way. Eva and I plan on hiking up into some nearby foothills where we can have some alone time.

+

Freydag, the fifteenth of Thorri

It’s been over a week since my last journal entry… I’ve become quite the celebrity among the Lejosálfar wherever I go I can’t seem to get any privacy, but I guess that’s to be expected since most elves have little understanding when it comes to the concepts of personal space and privacy. They are a very open people, which I never would have guessed from my experiences with Hervor. Maybe she’s spent too much time among humans. I’ve tried to keep under the radar, but that’s pretty difficult since there are no locked doors anywhere in Dagdedar, or anywhere else on Alfheim near as I can tell.

I immersed myself in my training, since I didn’t seem to have much else to do besides stand around and let the elves gawk at me. There are some fields a few miles outside of Dagdedar that we all trained at. Until coming to Álfheim, I had been training almost exclusively with the practice hammer, but all the open space allowed for me to do a little practice with Mjölnir.

Hevor handed over most of my magical training to my aunts. I still have training with my grandmother once a week, but most of what she’s been teaching me is more meditative in nature. The rest of the week I rotate between lessons with Dagmar and Gilda. Dagmar’s teaching style is pretty similar to Hervor’s, and I was able to adapt to lessons with her quite easily. Lessons with Gilda aren’t exactly what I’d call pleasant. She’s not very good at explaining things, and when I failed to do as she instructed she got impatient and yelled at me.

Ah, well not much else to tell about…

I think I’ll go and check in on Eva. We haven’t been spending enough time alone together I need to let out some of my stress, and what Eva and I did in the bedroom does wonders for that particular problem.

+

Eirdag, the twenty-sixth of Thorri

So, I haven’t been keeping up with my journal much. I’ve been busy… Hervor insists I need to spend time learning about my people. I’ve spent the last few weeks dodging the dusty old elf Hervor assigned to teach me about elven history and politics. It’s pretty dry stuff and I really have no interest in learning any of it. I enjoy spending my time here in Dagdedar, and I almost feel like it’s a second home, but I never really had much interest in history or politics, and having both crammed down my throat by some monotone-voiced librarian isn’t what I consider fun. I mean, despite being older than dirt, my tutor, like all elves doesn’t show her age, and like any other elf she’s amazingly attractive, but it’s still boring stuff even if the person who’s reciting it happens to be easy on the eyes.

I started to pick up the elven language. I didn’t really intend to at first, but most elves don’t speak English and after a while I was starting to feel pretty isolated. I’ve only met about a dozen and a half elves who speak English thus far, and most of them are related. I still don’t understand most of what I hear, but I know a few phrases, I’ve memorized the runic alphabet, and I can count up to thirty. When I asked Eva to help me learn the language she admitted somewhat reluctantly that she didn’t know how to read or write, and insisted she was ill-suited to teach me.

I tried asking my father and Dagmar for help learning Elvish, but like Eva, they both insisted they weren’t suited to the task. There was absolutely no way I was going to ask Eydís, (that’s the name of librarian), for help, and Gilda was pretty well out of the picture as well. When I finally got to the end of my list Garik, was the only one I hadn’t asked, and much to my surprise, he agreed to tutor me. Well, maybe it shouldn’t be so much of a surprise. I mean it’s pretty obvious the guy has feelings for me. I think he’d do anything to spend a little one on one time with me which really makes me wonder if spending alone time with him is such a good idea. I mean I am attracted to him, and if I’m going to be really honest with myself, I’m beginning to like him even if he can be a little annoying sometimes.

At least I don’t have to worry about Leif anymore. I don’t know how I missed it, but he and Sam have coupled up. I mean pretty much everyone else knew, but I only figured it out a few days ago. It kind of pisses me off… At first I thought it was because of Sam’s past, but really it’s because I’m sort of jealous. A part of me liked the attention Leif was giving me, and I think I actually had feelings for him… Gah, me and this damn love square, pentagon or whatever the hel you want to call it. It’s some sort of polygon anyway. Nothing is simple anymore. Not that I ever thought relationships were simple, but honestly, this is just ridiculous! Frizz, I need some peace I think I’ll go meditate for a while that always helps me clear my mind…

+

Vordag, the twenty-seventh of Thorri

I did something really stupid today… No, it wasn’t stupid it was completely and utterly insane! I-I… kissed Garik. It was just a light peck on the lips, but even so I find myself wanting more. What the frizzing hel is wrong with me? Why can’t I be happy with Eva? I love her, shouldn’t that be enough? I know it’s not uncommon for elves to take multiple lovers and occasionally multiple spouses, but I just want to be with Eva… Damn this frizzing ass body! I hate being a damn girl, and I hate being attracted to guys! Especially, frizzing Garik! Leif was bad enough, but Garik?! Gah! Dammit all to Hel!

+

Vordag, the fourth of Goa

Shit… I saw exactly what happens when a light elf goes dark last night. The worse part is that it was Gilda that turned bad… I know she wasn’t exactly the easiest person to get along with, but still I never would have thought she would go all super-villain on us. Eva and I had just returned from our daily training sessions and we were walking through one of the branches of the palace-tree when we heard a blood curdling cry ring out through the corridor.

We exchanged glances, then I grabbed Mjölnir from where it was strapped at my waist and we took off running toward the source of the sound. We ran down the branch in a mad rush and stopped as we came into sight of Gilda and her victim. I don’t really know the full story. None of us really do, but apparently Gilda had gotten into a heated argument with one of the servants and just lashed out at her.

“Gilda,” I whispered as I approached the tall elven woman. She was standing over the corpse with her back to me.

She whirled around and I took an involuntary step back when I saw the look of pure hatred on her face. She hadn’t started to change yet, but the change had already been wrought upon her soul, so it was only a matter of time before she started to transform.

“I am free!” she yelled and leapt right at me.

I raised Thor’s hammer and felt it slam into Gilda with the full force of its power. It might have killed her had she not called up a spirit shield, but it still sent her reeling down the hallway.

“Gilda, no!” an anguished cry called from behind me as my father came bursting onto the scene.

“‘Tis already too late, brother,” Gilda hissed leaping back to her feet.

“Nay sister, ’tis never too late. Thou canst still redeem thyself!”

“Thou understandeth not. I want this!” she howled.

“Even knowing the pain it will bring to your family and friends? Do you want to do this to them?” Eva retorted.

“What knowest thou thereof? Never have I felt so free!” Gilda shuddered, and grinned madly.

“I’ve lived with the darkness howling in my heart. It will consume you until there is nothing left but the desire to kill and destroy is all you care about,” Eva called back.

“I do not care. Canst thou see? This is how I was meant to be! For too long have I tried to hold it back, but no longer!”

“Gilda!” Heime pleaded.

“Nay, brother! I will not hear thy pleas. Fare the well!” she exclaimed and was gone before any of us could act.

As the light from her travel spell faded away I watched as my father fell to his knees and wept. I felt his pain and grief almost as if it were my own, and moved to wrap my arms around him.

“Eva,” I muttered quietly. “Go find Hervor or Dagmar. If Gilda is on the loose they’re the only ones with enough power to defeat her.”

Eva nodded and disappeared down the corridor as I did my best to comfort my father…

+

Laurdag, the seventh of Goa

Gilda is still on the loose. It has been hard on Dagmar who was closer to Gilda than anyone. Hervor, well… she hides it well, but since I can feel her emotions through the bond I know she’s feels deep remorse for her daughter. There’s a little bit of guilt too… I don’t think she was surprised by her daughter’s betrayal, it’s almost as if she were expecting it. It sounds crazy I know, but this is Hervor we’re talking about.

I think I’ve grown closer to my father than I ever realized. It nearly breaks my heart to see the pain in his eyes whenever Gilda’s name is mentioned. He and Dagmar are leading the hunt to find their sister, but the search hasn’t been very successful. Since Hervor has the shield around the root locked up, the only way in or out of Alfheim is through Hervor, so the hunt has been focused in the area around the palace in the belief that Gilda will return to confront her mother.

Well that’s all I know… Hopefully we can find Gilda soon. Having a dark elf on the loose isn’t good for anyone’s nerves.

+

Eirdag, the tenth of Goa

“Prinsessa,” a voice said from the opening to my room. I turned to find one of the servants standing there staring at me apprehensively. Very few of the servants spoke English not that it mattered since I’d requested the few that did to speak only to me in Elvish.

I still didn’t understand the language that well, but when I caught the words ‘drouneng’ the elf word for queen, and ‘tronraem’ the Elvish word for throne room, I was reasonably sure I knew what she wanted.

I let her lead me through the branchway down into the main section of the palace-tree and finally into Hervor’s throne room. Bright tapestries adorned the walls and a simple unadorned padded chair seated Hervor on a raised platform near the back.

A familiar figure with long auburn hair stood in the center of the room facing Hervor. Had there not been a very slight ring of light around my mother’s form, I might have believed she was actually there. As it was I knew there was some form of magic at work. The Seidskati didn’t have the sort of power required to send messages across worlds, but it was well within Hervor’s abilities and sure enough, when I looked over to my grandmother I saw her hand clenched around a glowing purple orb about the size of a small orange. My mother had a similar orb clenched in her hand, and I just knew that the orbs were magical objects more than likely created by Hervor herself.

“…Sons of Odin are telling people that the Jotun will spare those who join their side. I don’t know if it’s true, but they have more and more magic users flocking to them. We’re having some success detecting those transformed by Mengele’s formula, but for every one we capture, another gets through. It isn’t helping our credibility. Many are arguing the Seidskati aren’t doing enough, and it’s getting difficult to convince the people that we’re doing everything in our power. For the time being we have the advantage, but I don’t know if that will last.”

“This is most troubling,” Hervor said with a slight frown.

“You’re telling me. We could use some help… if we don’t stop Talman and his followers, there may be nothing left when it comes time for the final battle.”

“I have apprised thee of the situation, Siedkona,” Hervor muttered, staring at my mother with a meaningful look.

“Surely, one dark elf can’t be that much of a danger. You’re going to have to open the barrier around your world sooner or later.”

“Of this I am well aware. Steps are being taken to resolve the matter.”

“Hervor, we’re supposed to be allies. We need your help. Are you just going to sit idly by while our world burns to ashes around us?”

Hervor let out a long sigh, “I will send my troops as soon as I am able.”

“I certainly hope so. We’re not getting desperate yet, but it’s only a matter of time. Please hurry.”

“I shall do all within my power. Thou hast my word, Seidkona. Now tell me what of the faekin?”

Mom shook her head, “The faeries have been quite a valuable asset, but there is only so much they can do against human weapons. Very few of them are skilled at using their magic for destructive purpose and many of those that do have the knowledge refuse to use it in order to kill. I’ve yet to see the Gray Queen face to face, but her messengers assure me she is doing everything within her power to help.”

“Have the dvergar settled upon a price?

“The dwarves seem unusually reticent. I’m convinced they’re holding out for something, but I can’t even begin to guess what it would be.”

“The dvergar are no fools. They shall see the light soon. Thou hast only to wait.”

“And what of thy other allies?” Hervor muttered, and I could feel her discomfort through the bond. Obviously, she was referring to the exiled elves, but her pride kept her from speaking of them directly.

“The Fellálfar still haven’t come to a decision. The other tribes are probably the only reason we’re holding our ground. Now enough with the questions. I’d like to hear how my daughter has been doing.”

“Ask her thyself, Siedkona. She has been listening upon our conversation for some time,” Hervor said, waving a hand in my direction.

Mom spun around, and I saw her face for the first time in months. She looked haggard, tired and worn, but her face seemed to brighten considerably when she caught sight of me.

“Bryn, I’ve missed you so much.”

“I’ve missed you too, Mom. I wish I could be there with you,” I muttered, wishing for all the world that I could wrap my arms around my mother’s image, but she was just an illusion, and I doubted it was a good enough one to allow for me to ‘touch’ her.

Mom shook her head, “No, Bryn you don’t. I’ve seen the very worst of human nature come to light since you’ve left. I don’t ever want you to see the things I’ve seen. It’s better you stay where you’re at in Álfheim, but enough of that. I want to hear how you have been.”

“I’m fine.”

“Bryn, please… I need this. Tell me what’s been happening with you,” she said staring up at me with an expectant expression.

Things must have gotten bad. I knew my mother and I knew how she thought. She wanted to hear about me because it would put her mind off her troubles for a short time. So I told her about my training, Sam and Leif’s budding romance, my attempts at learning Elvish and I finally described Dagdedar and Álfheim to her.

Mom didn’t interrupt me, instead she merely listened with an almost wistful expression on her face. When I was done she seemed disappointed, but didn’t press me for any more information.

“I suppose it’s time for me to go… The rest of the Seidskati will likely want to know what I’ve found out. Goodbye, Bryn. Goodbye, Hervor,” she said sadly, then suddenly her image faded away and it was just me and my grandmother again.

+

Siffendag, the twelfth of Goa

Well, I think Hervor has had enough playing cat and mouse with Gilda. She announced today that she was going to be sending troops through to Midgard as part of an effort to try and get Gilda to reveal herself. Of course, it’s a calculated risk. Hervor can’t lie, so she actually has to send troops. So we’ll probably only have one chance at capturing Gilda, and if we fail it’s a good bet she’ll escape through Hervor’s shield.

The real surprising part is that when we spring the trap on Gilda, Hervor wants me there. Hervor, Dagmar, and I are the only ones with enough power to match Gilda. While I have very little training in the full use of my magic. I more than make up for that particular shortcoming with Mjölnir at my side. I’m pretty sure Hervor has some secret reason for including me, but I really don’t care. I want to be a part of this. At the very least I can help my father get some closure.

+

Vordag, the eighteenth of Goa

Yesterday we sprung our trap and it was a disaster.

With a blink of an eye we appeared outside the root with a few thousand of Hervor’s soldiers.

“Gilda, daughter, I know thou art here. I know also that thou waitest for me to open the shield, likely so that thou mightest sneak through. Know this, daughter, I shan’t let thee through. I didst give the humans my words that I would send aid, but I gave them no promise of when. I will to wait thee out, daughter. Wilt thou to wait me out?” Hervor called out in English.

There was no reply… So we sat and waited… and waited… and waited. It was hours before anything happened and just when I was beginning to think Hervor had miscalculated, Gilda finally made an appearance. It was getting late and Dagmar, Hervor and I were all sitting around a fire. There were guards posted all over the place, but when dealing with a magic user as powerful as my aunt, the guards were superfluous.

She came at Hervor from out of nowhere, and it happened so suddenly that she was on my grandmother before I realized she was there. Hervor was ready however, and a spirit shield formed up around her to repel Gilda’s attacks. The black blur that was Gilda let out a howl of impotent rage and disappeared just as quickly as she had appeared.

“Thou shalt die, mother! I would have preferred that thou live, but thou hast left me with little choice,” a voice called seemingly from everywhere at once. The voice wasn’t recognizable as belonging to Gilda. Before, her voice had been soft and musical. After her change her voice sounded rough and guttural.

“Gilda, sister, please, return with us to Dagdedar… It’s not too late. You can still redeem yourself. You can still expel the darkness from your soul,” Dagmar pleaded.

“Nay sister, I will not! I have been liberated!”

“She hath chosen her path, Dagmar,” Hervor pronounced quietly.

“Mother, I give thee one more chance. Let me through or die!”

“Nay daughter, I will not.”

“So be it!” Gilda growled.

“Mother!” Dagmar called out suddenly and flung herself in front of Hervor.

The air in front of Dagmar flashed a sickly yellow color and she let out a high pitched scream as the magic worked its deadly course through her body. Steam rose from her skin as her flesh started to boil. I let out a strangled cry and turned away so I didn’t have to watch the rest. When I let myself look again, Dagmar’s charred remains were lying on the ground at Hervor’s feet.

I was angry, but I couldn’t afford to be angry… I’d seen what anger could do to an elf who let it take control, and I didn’t want that. No! I couldn’t allow myself to take that path. Gilda had allowed herself to take that trail, and she had killed her own sister in an attempt to kill her own mother. I reached hold of my magic and let it wash over me. Then I emptied my mind of all emotion as Hervor had taught me. It worked, the anger faded away and a calm serenity washed over me.

My eyes scanned the small clearing looking for Gilda. She was nowhere to be seen, but I knew she would strike again once she detected a hint of weakness. I didn’t intend for that to happen. She had to be stopped, and Hervor and I alone were the ones that had the power.

“Hervor!” I called. “Duck.”

I grabbed Mjölnir from my belt and raised it up into the air. A bolt of lightning flashed from above and hit the hammer in the center of its head. I swept it in a wide arc and watched as bolts of lightning shot out in all directions. Power sizzled across the landscape and the trees. I heard a thud and a loud gasp as the wave of lightning hit Gilda and sent her careening to the ground. I caught my first real glimpse of her post-change, and I kind of wished I hadn’t. She had completed her transformation and looked like a typical Dokkálfar female. Her nose had been blunted, her skin had turned completely black, and her once golden locks had gone completely white.

She snarled up at me as I approached and leapt back to her feet in a flurry of motion. I raised Thor’s hammer and sent bolt after bolt at her as she leapt through the trees. She was just too damn fast and none of the bolts hit home.

Power crackled around me and a yellowish splash of color appeared before my eyes. I leapt to the side, but the field of yellow followed me wherever I went. I knew that if I didn’t act soon I would die just as Dagmar had. Mjölnir’s power proved useless in this regard, so I turned to my only other avenue, my magic. Power flooded through me and I concentrated on creating a spirit shield. Although, I knew how to form the weave, I’d never successfully created a barrier, and it was only in my moment of desperation that I was able to successfully form the proper threads of magic together. A bubble of blue energy winked into existence around me and Gilda’s curse fizzed harmlessly against it.

I looked down at my hands and realized with a start that there were first-degree burns up and down my arms. I had become so deeply immersed in the workings of my magic that I hadn’t even felt the corroding effects of Gilda’s magic against my skin. They hurt like hell, but I wasn’t seriously injured, so I forced my attention back onto what was important and leapt back into action.

Gilda’s spell had succeeded in one respect. It had occupied all my attention and allowed her to move against Hervor. I let the spirit shield slip away and took off running toward my grandmother and Gilda as they duked it out. I waited for an opportunity to slip in, but the swirls of magic that surrounded both of them emanated a few yards in every direction and there was simply no way I could get close enough to do any good. So I watched hopelessly as they dueled.

The amount of power emanating from the two of them was staggering, but I got the feeling that Hervor was holding back. The emotions pouring through our bond were those of a mother in distress for her daughter. Hervor couldn’t bring herself to kill Gilda. Even after everything my aunt had done, Hervor still loved her daughter. I couldn’t hardly believe that Hervor would let her emotions keep her from do what was necessary. It was a horrible thing for a mother to have to do, but this was Hervor, the same being who had commanded her own son to father a child with a woman he had barely known.

Gilda pounded at Hervor with her magic and I watched as Hervor slowly lost ground. Finally, it looked as if it might be the end. Gilda summoned an incredible amount of earth magic and the ground started to quake. A huge cavity appeared between the two of them, and a massive arm shot out from it. The arm, which was composed entirely of stone, reached out and snatched Hervor up from the ground.

“Now mother, ’tis time for thee to die!”

“Not if I have anything to say about it!” I yelled, having finally found my opening.

I jumping at Gilda with the hammer above my head and brought it down with all the force I could muster. The power blasted into Gilda’s shield, which crackled and fizzled against the strain. Gilda staggered back and lost hold of her earth spell. The arm collapsed to the ground, and Hervor became lost among the debris. I didn’t stop to concern myself over my grandmother’s well-being. I had caught my aunt off-guard, and I didn’t intend to lose that advantage. Lightning shot out all around me as I unleashed the power of the hammer against her barrier. She tried to counter with a fire-spell, but I saw her attack coming a mile away, and summoned a spirit shield to dispel the attack. With another hit from the hammer Gilda’s shield shot apart and she fell to her knees, seemingly dazed.

I moved in for the final blow, but Gilda wasn’t nearly as weakened as she had led me to believe. She struck out with massive blast of fire and it was all I could do to keep my shield up.

“Gilda!” Hervor called out. She was bruised, and bloodied, and looked like shit, but she was still alive.

Gilda’s head snapped toward the sound of Hervor’s voice and while she didn’t loose her hold on the fire spell, it waned just enough to allow me to act. I pushed outward with my shield and let it absorb the full brunt of her attack as I took a tentative step forward. I clenched Mjölnir in my right hand and slammed it into her chest with all the strength I could muster. She let out a nightmarish screech of pain as the lightning cascaded through her body and built up inside of her. I sensed what was about to happen next and averted my gaze as her body exploded from the energy building up inside. Her bloody remains littered the forest floor and I did my best to ignore them as I let my shield fall away.

The combined use of my magic and Mjölnir had left me feeling quite drained, but I wasn’t so weakened that I couldn’t remain standing. I stuffed the hammer back into the loop on my belt and moved slowly over to where Hervor had fallen to her knees. She looked to have lost a lot of blood, and I suspect that her right arm was broken, but she would survive.

“Thou hast done well, Brynhilde,” she muttered with a wary shake of her head. “Thou hast done what I, in my weakness could not.” I could feel her despair and misery through the bond. In just a short span of time she’d lost both of her daughters.

“You knew this would happen,” I whispered suddenly. I don’t know exactly why that particular thought popped into my head. There was no indication whatsoever to give me any reason to believe it were true, and yet I knew down at the very core of my being that it was.

“Aye, I knew,” Hervor and began to weep. I’d never seen my grandmother lose her hold on her emotions like that. I found that I couldn’t hold my tears back either, so I wrapped my arms around her and we wept together.

+

Freydag, the eighteenth of Goa

Lejosálfar funerals—if what I just experienced can even be called that—are very different from human ceremonies. Everyone got together, and they simply talked and consoled one another. There were no speeches, no prayer-songs, they didn’t even bother burying or burning the bodies. They simply they left them sitting out in the woods for the animals to carry away.

Hervor wants me to return to Midgard with the next batch of soldiers. She said that I’m finally ready to return… I know it sounds odd, but she actually brought me to Álfheim to protect me from myself. According to Hervor, after Marion and Sophie’s deaths I had set myself on a path that would have led to me going dark. As much as I hate to agree with her, I think she’s right.

After Sophie’s death I had been out for blood. If I had allowed my anger to control me, I could have easily gone down the same path as Gilda, and there’s no way in Hel that I want to let myself go down that road. That’s why Hervor’s been cramming meditation down my throat. She knew that it would help me gain control of my emotions. Had I been completely human, I couldn’t have learned so quickly, but elves are capable of a much deeper control than humans. We’re actually able to fragment our minds, so that while we still experience the emotions in a tiny corner of our brain, our emotions won’t affect our ability to think rationally.

I don’t think Mom really understood why Hervor wanted me to come here. I think she was more concerned about my physical well being than anything else. She probably won’t be happy to see me returning home, but I think I’m finally ready.

+

Vordag, the twenty-third of Goa

“Are they ready?” I asked turning to my father.

Heime nodded and I turned back to Leif, Sam, Gramor and Eva. After receiving a nod from each, I gave the all go to the elven spellcasters. A flash of bright light filled my vision and once it had cleared I found myself standing in the shattered remnants of New Copenhagen. It was my birthplace and my home of eighteen years, and almost nothing of it remained. It made me want to weep, but I didn’t allow myself to become lost in my grief. We hadn’t come for sentimentality sake. We were there with a purpose in mind. The city had become one of the primary focal points between the war against the Sons of Odin and their allies. It was for that reason we had come.

Hervor had given command of the elven soldiers to me, all five-thousand of them. I didn’t have the experience or knowledge, but Heime was there to guide me and keep me from making any stupid mistakes. Hevor seemed to think I needed the experience, but as always, she refused to tell me why. The Lejosálfar soldiers had embraced my leadership enthusiastically. I was after all, the hero who had defeated the dark elf Gilda.

Suddenly, I felt a trickle of cold chills run down my spine and I knew someone was casting a spell nearby.

“Havta frem!” I called in Elvish issuing the command to move forward.

My companions, along with the contingent of soldiers leapt into motion behind me and I moved quickly toward the source of the magic. The icy tingles became stronger as I moved closer to the source, and judging from the frequency and the power of the magic being used it was a good bet we were about step into the middle of a battle.

“Father, there’s a lot of magic being used over that way,” I whispered at my father pointing to the North.

Heime nodded thoughtfully, “Then to battle we must go, daughter. ‘Tis the only the choice.”

“I know it’s just… I’ve never ordered anyone into battle.”

“Aye, ’tis a difficult burden, but methinks thou shalt bear it well,” he replied back, gripping my shoulder with an encouraging smile.

“Bryn, you were born for this,” Eva said whispering on my other side.

Sam, Leif, and Garik all joined in offering their support.

I nodded, unhooked Mjölnir from my belt, and called “Havta frem!” one final time before breaking out in a dead run.

+

A burst of air magic shot toward me and I summoned up a spirit barrier to block it. My attacker was an air mage, and while she was extremely skilled in the use of her power, she was no match for me when it came to raw elemental potential. Really, it sounds arrogant, but no human was.

Mjölnir made short work of her and I moved on to the next fighter, only to find that there were none left to fight. Our arrival had turned the battle—well, maybe skirmish is a better word—quickly in favor of our allies. There were maybe a few hundred soldiers and a dozen or so magic users on on the other side so we pretty easily overwhelmed the enemy.

A very dirty and very tired looking soldier appeared. “It was sure nice of you folks to show up.”

“Glad we could render some assistance. I’m Princess Brynhilde le Fey. And you are?”

“Lieutenant Jensen at your service, your highness. I’m sorry but did you say le Fey? I thought elves didn’t have surnames.”

“I’m only half-elf. My mother is Aryanna le Fey,” I replied quietly.

“So the rumors are true,” he said with a shake of his head.

“Well, I guess I ought to show you to camp. I’m sure the Lady le Fey will wish to see you,” he added.

“Lead the way,” I muttered with an extended hand.

+

“…move some troops down south to this ridge we can head them off before they can get any closer,” Mom said. Nick Flint, Daniella, Matoaka and Theodora were all huddled around her, listening intently as she spoke. She was leaning over a large map and had her back turned away from us as we stepped inside the command tent.

Daniella was the first to note our presence and I saw her eyes widen in surprise as she whispered my name. Mom straightened her back and swirled around to face me, “Goddesses, Bryn what are you doing here?”

“Why yes, Mom, it’s nice to see you too,” I replied.

“That’s not what I meant. It is good to see you, but why aren’t you on Álfheim?”

“Hervor thought it was time for me to spread my wings and fly,” I replied dryly.

“Hervor… That woman never ceases to confound me,” she muttered with a shake of her head.

Mom stared at me for a moment, then moved across the room and embraced me in a hug. “I am glad to see you. I just didn’t want our reunion to take place in the middle of a battlefield,” Mom whispered in my ear.

Daniella joined in our hug and there were warm wishes spread all around as we greeted one another. Our reunion was cut short as a soldier appeared at the tent entrance to announce an incoming attack.

“I’ve brought five-thousand battle-ready Lejosálfar soldiers if you’ll have us,” I volunteered.

Mom looked ready to object, but after a brief moment let out a weary sigh, “I’ll welcome the help, but I don’t want you putting yourself in danger.”

“I don’t think my troops will be willing to go into battle without their prinsessa,” I replied with a smirk.

That seemed to do the trick, “You’re not going to take no for an answer, are you?”

I smiled ruefully and shook my head, but before I could make a reply there came a loud bang from somewhere outside and we all went running out of the tent.

Vordag, the ninth of Einmander

Goddesses, Garik… He’s so close to death right now. The last battle was a great victory for our side, but Garik took a huge burst of fire to the chest. The doctors and elven healers are doing their best, but when someone is that badly injured there’s only so much they can do. If they flood his body with healing magic, they could wind up killing him, so they have to do it in small bursts.

If he dies I don’t think I could bear it. I care about him, much more than I want too. I think I love him, but I love Eva too. Oh hel, I can’t stand the thoughts of losing him. I’m so confused right now.

+

“Bryn, we need to talk,” Eva muttered quietly coming over to place her hands on my shoulders.

“The doctors say he’s going to live,” I said quietly squeezing Garik’s hand.

“You love him, don’t you?” she asked and I could feel her apprehension through her bond.

I reached up to touch her hand, and felt tears well up in my eyes.

“Yes, but I love you too.”

“I know,” she whispered.

There were so many emotions swirling through the bond, but love was the most prominent among them. Surprisingly there was no jealousy or anger at my pronouncement, but there seemed to be a good deal of self-recrimination.

“I’ve been selfish—”

“What? Eva no! You’re one of the most selfless people I know!” I cut her short.

“It’s true, Bryn. I thought I could keep you to myself, but elves seldom confine themselves to a single mate. You deserve to be happy, and you can’t do that if I keep you to myself.”

I stood on my feet and turned to meet Eva in the eyes. “Eva… That’s really… selfless of you, but I can’t… I mean. It’s not …” I couldn’t bring myself to finish a single sentence because everything I want to say was a lie.

Human morality simply doesn’t apply to me anymore. Of all the sapient beings, humans are the only ones who have confined themselves to such a strict and often times baffling moral code. All beings have a sense of right and wrong, but humans tended to get hung up over so many silly and pointless details that most Vattir looked on us with a sense of amusement. I was only half-human, and since Hervor had awakened my elven side I was becoming more and more elf-like.

Everyday I felt more like an elf and less like a human, and in many ways it scared the frizz out of me. And yet… A large and ever-growing part of me wanted to shed away the final remnants of my humanity and be done with it. It was my humanity that kept me from accepting what Eva was telling me, but I knew what I wanted, and it was my elven side and my heart that finally won out.

I let out a long sigh and wrapped my arms around Eva, “If I’m with him. I can be with you?” I asked.

I felt shame for even asking it, but that was my human side, and I couldn’t let it get in my way. My heart was made up, and there was no going back.

Eva nodded and I felt her regret mingled with relief through the bond, “Yes, of course.”

“Thank the Norns! I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders,” I said with a nervous laugh.

Eva smiled and I felt her warm emotions flood through the bond. “If you’re happy. I’m happy,” she said before we joined in a kiss.

+

Laurdag, the third of Harpa

Today, I leave to face my destiny. It’s been a long, twisted and difficult journey that has made me the person I am today. I’m ready to do what is necessary in order to insure my people, both humans and Lejosálfar, survive. If that means I must die then so be it, but I will die fighting, and I will make my death mean something.

I’m so afraid, but what choice do I have? I must complete my destiny. I cannot allow for either Midgard or Álfheim to be destroyed. They are my homes, and the people I care about are depending on the efforts of both myself and others.

It’s time for me to go. My supplies are packed, and I’ll be leaving this journal here in case I don’t survive. If I die, I want to leave something of myself behind. I’m ready, goodbye to everyone and everything.

+

Manadag, the twelfth of Harpa

Well, I survived the trip to hel, but even I don’t understand how. It’s been almost a week since the final battle, and I still can hardly believe everything that has happened. So many of the things Hervor has done make sense now, but there so many questions that have been left unanswered. I think that I’ll go back and recount everything from my last journal entry just to help my mind make sense of it all…

We departed from the root of the Yggdrasil just as we had when we left for Álfheim, but this time Hervor was not with us. She was making final preparations back on the light elf home world and would soon be leading the last of her troops to Midgard for the final battle.

We said our goodbyes as we had before, but this time the goodbyes were much more emotional, as both Mom and Daniella realized it may very well be the last time they saw me.

Again, we mounted up on Else and Eksel, and again Sogvor was our dwarven guide. Finally, we were underway and our mounts were crawling up the root of the world tree.

We travel for a good ten hours before coming to a level section of root. We made camp and after a fitful night spent tossing and turning we broke camp, re-mounted the dragons and continued onward. We reached the trunk of the Yggdrasil in less than an hour. The world tree was so massive that the trunk appeared to go on forever, and I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t see its branches. I yearned to stay longer and explore every branch and root of the tree, but I knew that we didn’t have the time.

Sogvor steered her mount down a nearby root and we started our descent down to Niflheim. At first things were calm and sedate as our previous days travel, but then we heard a loud howl coming up on our tails.

“Oh frizzing hel, dark elves” I cursed after turning to look back.

“Sogvor! We’ve got company!” I shouted.

“I see ’em!” Sogvor called back over her shoulder, and suddenly Eksel began picking up speed and Else did the same.

The dragons moved fast, but the dark elves were even faster as they scurried down the root of the world tree. I don’t know how they kept grip, but I suspect there was some form of magic at work. I tore Mjölnir loose from where it was strapped at my waist and summoned the power of thunder. I directed a bolt out at the dark elves and felt a sense of grim satisfaction as those at the forefront were sent soaring over the edge of the root. I felt, Eva and Gramor summon their magic and begin to help fend off the approaching Dokkálfar, but no matter how many we killed, more took their place. Heime, Garik, Sam and Leif all helped fend off the attacks with their dwarven fire-cleavers. Sam hadn’t developed her magic to the point that she could use it without fear of losing control, so she had no choice but to depend on the fire-cleaver to defend herself.

Despite our best efforts, the dark elves got closer and closer until they were riding on Else’s tail, literally. The dragon let out a loud rage-filled roar and snapped at a dark elf as it latched onto her tail. She bit into it with her mouth of razor-sharp teeth and flung it aside with a snap of her neck.

Three more dark elves leapt onto Else’s back. She took out the first with a swing of her tail, but the other two climbed up the dragon’s back and started ripping into her flesh. Sam took out another one with her rifle, but before she could level her gun at the third it was on her. The monstrous creature let out a loud screech as Leif grabbed it off her, but then it had already ripped the straps holding Sam to shreds. She slipped from where was seated and flew forward, directly into Leif and the dark elf that was tearing at his chest. There was a snap as the Leif’s straps flew apart and all three tumbled off Else’s back and into oblivion.

“No!” I cried out frantically feeling as if a part of me had just died.

Else lurched into motion, first loosing her hold on the root, then suddenly leaping into the open space ‘above’ us. Gramor summoned wind magic and I felt my stomach lurch as it whipped all around us. We went shooting past Eksel and landed about twenty feet in front of him. I tugged on the rein and Else lunged into a mad dash fueled by adrenaline and desperation. I looked back and watched as Eksel heaved into the same mad-dash behind us.

“Leif… Sam…” I whispered as we raced toward Niflheim and away from the dark elves.

+

The dark elves stayed on our tail for almost the whole ride. The hurried pace was taking a heavy toll on the dragons, but they were creatures of magic and seemed able to push themselves beyond the limits of any mortal creature. The viddrakis’ pace kept the dark elves from getting too close, but not far enough for us to slow.

I tried not to think on Leif and Sam’s apparent deaths as we fled. Logically I knew that it was extremely unlikely that they had survived, but for whatever reason I couldn’t accept it on an emotional level. Too many people had died already, and I was sure more were to follow. Maybe it wasn’t so bad, I’d probably wind up seeing them again very soon.

We reached Niflheim after hours of traveling with the Dokkálfar nipping at our heels. We were tired and weary from the ordeals, but were forced to press on as our pursuers showed no signs of relenting.

Niflheim proved true to its name. The place was dark and the fog was so thick that we could barely see a few feet in front of us. Not only that, but it was cold, colder even than the arctic back on Midgard. The root of the World Tree had been very cold, so we were still wearing our cold-weather gear when we arrived on the world of mist.

“The conclave will be expecting compensation for my continued services,” Sogvor growled as she pulled Eksel up alongside us.

“Is that all you think of? Money?” Gramor asked from the other draki.

“What yeh think? I’m dvergar,” Sogvor retorted falling into a fit of laughter.

“The conclave will receive their compensation,” I replied coldly, then spat bitterly, “Let’s just get going. The dark elves will be on us any minute now.”

Sogvor nodded, and without another word, guided Eksel back into motion, Else followed a moment later.

+

The ride to Helheim seemed to drag on for days and it very well could have. There was no day on Niflheim and it was perpetually dark, which made it that much harder to tell how much time had passed. I know we stopped repeatedly to eat and rest, but time just seemed to bleed together and I had a hard time keeping track as the hours ticked by. We didn’t dare stop for more than a few hours so we weren’t able to get much sleep.

Several times the dark elves almost had us, but each time we managed to get away by the skin of our teeth.

Finally we reached the bridge leading into Helheim, but someone was waiting for us.

+

I looked around and noted something odd. Pale colorless figures were arrayed in a line and were walking slowly toward the Gjöll bridge. They moved in perfect unison and seemed completely unaware of anything but the bridge into Helheim.

“Holy frizz,” I muttered quietly as I realized what I was seeing.

“Bryn? What is it?” Garik’s voice said from behind me and I felt his hand on my shoulder.

“Can’t you see them?” I asked him.

“See what?”

“The dead,” I responded back turning to look him in the eyes.

Garik didn’t give me an answer and I didn’t wait around for one. I quickly pulled loose the straps holding me atop Else, jumped down to the ground and moved quickly toward the bridge. I stopped just a few feet away from the entrance. According to legend there was a Jotun named Modgud who guarded the entrance to Helheim. So where was she, and why hadn’t she made an appearance?

“Modgud!” I called out.

I sensed movement under the bridge’s gold-thatched roof and a figure emerged from within. She was huge, standing close to twelve feet tall, so huge in fact that she couldn’t stand upright inside the massive bridge. Aside from being a bit on the muscular side she was actually quite pretty, and had she been my height she could have easily passed for human.

“Who calls me?” she asked her eyes moving to each member of the party.

“I did,” I said, staring up at her defiantly.

Modgud stared down at me thoughtfully then spoke, “And who are you to speak my name so freely?”

“I am Brynhilde, daughter of Aryanna le Fey of the Seidskati and Prince Heime of the Lejosálfar.” I stared up at her feeling my breath catch in my throat.

“Your lineage means nothing to me, half-elf,” the Jotun woman glared down at me coldly.

“Let us pass,” I demanded meeting her glare.

Modgud shook her head and laughed, “You are a bold one, I’ll give you that, but I cannot let you pass.”

“Let me rephrase that. Let us pass or I’ll flatten your ass with Mjölnir,” I replied coldly raising Thor’s hammer for the Jotun to see.

Modgud threw her head back and let out a great booming laugh, “This is my task, girl, I must not let just anyone pass, even one who wields power such as yours.”

I racked my brain trying to think of something that would help persuade the giantess to let me pass, but I had no idea what would persuade her. If I chose to fight, I somehow doubted I could win, yet I knew I couldn’t convince her to let me pass. She was Jotun, and I was seeking to resurrect beings who were her sworn enemies.

“Modgud, what is it that you desire above all else?” Eva asked, suddenly stepping forward.

“To be free, but my oath binds me here as surely as if I had been cast in chains,” the Jotun spat bitterly.

“Oath to whom?” I suddenly thought perhaps there was another way after all.

“Odin.”

“Dost thou know why we are come hither?” Heime stepped forward.

“It does not matter. It is a fool’s errand. Turn back or suffer my wraith!” the Jotun howled.

“We’ve come here seeking to free the dead gods from Hel’s clutches,” Gramor added, appearing next to Heime.

“Then you are even bigger fools than I had realized! Begone from my presence!”

“We have to press forward, even if that means fighting you. I was conceived for this purpose, and I will not be deterred, even by the likes of you,” I stared up at her defiantly.

“And if I let you through, what will you do for me?” Modgud asked, stroking her chin thoughtfully.

“You wish to be free, don’t you? Perhaps we can convince Odin to free you from your debt!” I replied.

“I would have your word, little elfling. If I let you pass you will do all within your power to convince Odin to free me.”

I hesitated, what Modgud asked seemed simple enough, but I didn’t want to be bound by another oath. And there was no telling what I would have to do in order to fulfill such an oath. Yet I didn’t have any choice… and it was as simple as that. If I wanted to pass I had no choice but to make the promise.

“I swear it,” I said and felt a familiar click in the back of my head as my innate magic surged to life and forged the link in the back of my mind that would compel me to fulfill my oath.

“You and your companions may pass… Be warned. Hel will not welcome you with welcome arms. If she finds you, and find you she will, she will stop at nothing to destroy you.”

“Thanks,” I muttered quietly then I motioned to the others to follow and stepped past Modgud without another word.

No one spoke as we passed across the bridge. After a walk of about thirty minutes we made it to the other side and I looked down a long winding path. I swallowed hard and started forward. My destiny was waiting for me.

+

I lost track of all time as we journeyed that last little ways to Helheim. It could have minutes, or hours or days and I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference. My thoughts turned to Sophie, Marion, Leif and Sam. Would I see them again? Would I get to speak with them and say my final goodbyes? Or was I destined to join them?

The dead walked along with us as we made our way down to Helheim. I tried my best to ignore them, but it was difficult when they were following the same route.

When we finally reached the gates to Helheim, Hel was waiting for us, and she just was as horrifying as I had imagined. She was standing in front of the entrance with a wicked grin on her face. One half of her face was that of pale-skinned beauty, while the other was the stuff born of nightmares. It was coarse and black and was all broken and twisted. Her split-faced countenance reminded me of Mengele, and I suppressed a shudder as I pulled Mjölnir loose from my belt.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” she stared at us with a predatory smile.

I didn’t stop to think before I acted. I knew what I had to do. No one tried to stop me. Maybe they understood that what I was doing was necessary or maybe I caught them by surprise, I still don’t know. I heard footsteps pounding on the ground behind me and I knew that my companions were following on my heels. I was just a few feet away from Hel when I swung the hammer at her. I let out a loud gasp as I felt it reverberate against the pale blue bubble that had appeared suddenly around her.

“Did you really think you could match the power of a goddess? Even with the power of the hammer you are nothing,” she sneered.

I scowled back at her, lifted the hammer and hit it against her shield as hard as I could. The second blow didn’t do a thing, so I hit it again and kept on pounding.

Hel scowled at me and I could feel her weave the magic just enough time to dive out of the way as a blast of fire came soaring my way. Pain exploded in my back, but I gritted my teeth and forced myself back to my feet. It hurt pretty bad, but I could still move and I was pretty sure the injury was superficial.

“Bryn watch out!” Eva called from behind and I swirled around in just enough time to see a large blood-drenched dog that could only have been Garmr jump right at me.

I brought the hammer down, swept it in a wide arc, hit the dog right in the snout and sent it soaring into the air. I didn’t even wait to see it land before swirling back around to face Hel. She hadn’t been twiddling her thumbs while I’d been distracted. Sickly green light filled my vision and I thought that it was the end. Then suddenly there was a bright flash of light and Gna appeared from out of thin air between me and Hel.

“Bet you weren’t expecting that!” Gna grinned before pounding her spear into the ground. Pale light leapt up and down the haft of the spear and Gna brought it down to pound against the goddess of death’s shield.

I felt a pair of hands on my shoulder, and winced in pain as I looked back to find Eva tracing her hands across my injured back. Light poured out from her hands and the pain faded to a dull throb as she worked a spell to heal the wound.

“Thanks, I needed that.,” I grinned up at her, and shared a brief kiss just before leaping back into action.

“Pitiful!” Hel spat. “Is this the best Frigg could do? A half-elf, and a messenger. Neither of you have the power to undo me. Even together you don’t have what it takes! Why am I even bothering with you?!”

Gna and Heime were both doing their best to fend off Hel’s attacks. Gramor and Garik were duking it out with Gramr while Sogvor kept a safe distance mounted atop Eksel. Garik and my grandmother seemed to be doing a pretty good job keeping the beast at bay, so I moved in to assist Heime and the messenger goddess who were struggling to keep Hel at arm’s length. Both Heime and Gna were more skilled fighters, but Hel’s magic cut through their attacks like they were butter. Each time Hel sent a burst of magic at my father he would raise his sword and it somehow seemed to dissipate nearly the entire brunt of the attack. That’s not to say he escaped her attacks unscathed, as he had sustained several burns and a gash from a particularly wicked wind-spell.

I got as close as I dared, waiting for an opening, then jumped in the moment one became available. The hammer came down so hard on Hel’s spirit barrier that the shield began to waiver. I let out a shout of triumph and moved in to follow up with another hammer strike, but that proved to be a mistake. Another, burst of sickly light came pouring out of Hel’s hands and hit me square in the chest. It had happened so fast that I couldn’t do anything to avoid getting hit, and I knew I was royally screwed.

White-agonizing pain shot through ever single pore in my body and I fell to the ground, unable to maintain motor control of my limps. I heard several voices call out my name, but by then I was so lost to the pain that I had no idea who they belonged too. Darkness crept into the edge of my vision, but it wasn’t unconsciousness that threatened to overtake me, it was complete and utter oblivion. Not just death, but a total unraveling of my existence. I don’t know exactly how I knew this, but I understood it to be true with ever fiber of my being.

“No!” I screamed out in defiance. I would not let Hel win! I wasn’t going to fade into the darkness and let everything I had worked for be for nothing. I clenched my teeth and fought against Hel’s spell. At first, it seemed to work, as I could feel the darkness withdraw, but then it was back with even greater force and I wept from the sheering agony of it. I felt as if I were on fire, but the pain transcended the physical. Hel was attacking me at the very core of my being. She was trying to destroy my soul.

“No! I won’t let you win!” I screamed with renewed determination and did the only thing I could think to do. I let my magic wash over me and summoned a spirit shield to block her attack. Hel shattered my spell with almost no effort and continued her assault as I writhed helplessly on the ground.

Just, when I thought I was doomed I felt Eva reach out to me through our bond and I knew what I had to do. I reached back and anchored my consciousness to her. As one we reached across the cosmos to Álfheim, where Hervor’s mind was waiting to be touched. Just as I had with Eva, I anchored myself to Hervor, but it wasn’t enough. I extended my magic and looking for something, anything, that would help me stop Hel and I found it. I reached out to Garik and my father in desperation. I could feel their emotions join Eva’s and Hervor’s as I formed a bond between them and me. Hel’s spell of nothingness receded further and I knew I was so close from defeating it, and yet I sensed it still wasn’t enough.

There were no more minds for me to join with so I lashed out with the hammer. A bolt of lightning struck out at Hel and hit her right in the chest. Hel’s concentration broke just enough for me to gain an edge. The bond gave me the last of the strength I needed to fend off the evil that was attempting to destroy me. I erected another spirit barrier and funneled all the energy into it that I could muster. Sickly green light flashed in front of my eyes, then vanished as I sat bolt upright watching as the dark power consumed the one who had summoned it. Hel let out an inhuman wail, her face filled with horror as a whirling cyclone of pure black energy swirled around her flailing limbs.

The tips of her fingers turned from solid flesh to sand which was sucked into the cyclone then slowly the rest of her body dissolved into the same black dust. It started with her fingers then moved up past her wrists and soon consumed both of her arms, and finally her entire body was gone and nothing remained. The dark swirls of power faded away and I was left staring up in wide-eyed disbelief at an empty patch of ground.

I’d done it, I’d done the impossible, I’d turned the power of a goddess against her and killed her. No, she wasn’t just dead, she was destroyed, her very soul had been ripped apart and nothing remained, not even a body. I let out a sigh of relief and fell into a fit of hysterical laughter.

“Frizzing Hel yeah!” I called out, the irony of invoking the dead goddesses name not lost on me.

“Bryn, are you alright? What happened?” Eva asked.

“I’m fine,” I muttered and stretched out to touch Eva through the bond to reassure her and I felt Heime and Garik minds reach out to me at the same time. Heime’s and Garik’s concern for me matched Eva’s, and was so strong that it nearly brought me to tears.

I felt my breathe catch in my throat and shook my head in a vain attempt to clear my thoughts. I looked over to Garik and remembered for the first time that he and my grandmother had been fighting Gramr before Hel had tried to destroy me. My eyes scanned the area nearby and I noted the hound of Hel’s dead body and its severed head just a few feet away.

“Bryn, what happened?” my gramor asked.

I shook my head and looked up at her, but I didn’t get a chance to talk since Gna spoke first, “Hel tried to use the vilest sort of magic on our young friend. Had she been successful, Bryn’s entire being, her very soul, would have been destroyed.”

“Norns,” Gramor said biting her lips and wrapped her arms around me.

“So Hel is dead then?” Garik muttered from nearby.

“Not just dead. I think her spell backfired,” I sighed shaking my head and moved to stand.

“Daughter, thou must rest,” Heime said putting a restraining hand on my shoulder.

I shook my head again and stared up at him defiantly, “There isn’t time.”

“Bryn, Prince Heime is right, Hel’s attack on you was traumatic and you’ve expended a lot of magical energy. You need to rest at least for a few minutes.” Eva added staring into my eyes her concern flaring up through the bond.

I closed my eyes and let out a long steady sigh, “We don’t have the time, Eva. I need to get into Helheim.”

“She’s not going to change her mind. I know that look, she’s just as stubborn as her mother,” Gramor added quietly.

I gently moved Heime’s hand off my shoulder then grabbed Mjölnir from the ground and stumbled back onto my feet. Eva was right, I was weak, but I didn’t think I had any choice other than to continue on. There was this sense of urgency compelling me to keep going and it was getting stronger by the minute. With it was a growing certainty that if I allowed myself to stop something terrible would happen.

I walked over to Helheim’s gate and I shuddered at the sight of the place. The very air around us seemed to radiate a sense of foreboding and malevolence and I could barely contain my terror as I drew closer to the entryway. The gate itself was black, resembling wrought iron, but I doubted it was made of something so mundane. The walls on either side of the gate were solid black, completely devoid of color or light, but were smooth and solid to the touch.

With shaking hands I reached out to touch the gate’s latch. It was freezing cold, but I didn’t let that stop me as I lifted the latch and forced the gate open. It swung open without any resistance and I took one step forward and turned back to my companions.

“I go on alone,” I muttered staring back at them.

“Bryn no!” Eva muttered immediately and her protests were joined by similar protestations from the rest of the party, well everyone except Gna and Sogvor. Sogvor had kept herself apart from the rest of us since coming to Niflheim and she had been perfectly content for things to remain that way. Gna, on the other hand actually agreed with me.

“Bryn must do this alone. The task is hers and hers alone,” Gna said quietly.

A few minutes more and Eva and everyone finally relented and agreed that I had to go inside alone. We said out goodbyes and then I turned back toward the gates to Helheim, stepped inside and didn’t look back.

+

A sort of pale luminescence permeated the air, but nearly as I could tell it didn’t have an discernible source. Once I moved a couple dozen feet inside I began to make out the forms of the dead. They stood in row after unending row, looking blankly off into the distance. I suppressed a shudder and started forward again.

I moved through the rows of the dead, not really sure what I was doing or whether the gods could be found intermingled among the other dead. All the people I passed by were wearing modern clothing and none of them were old. I passed unfamiliar face after unfamiliar face and time seemed to have no meaning as I wandered aimlessly through the crowds of dead. I stopped suddenly in surprise when I realized I recognized one of those faces.

“Sophie,” I whispered and moved closer to where she was standing amongst the columns of the dead.

I stared at her for a moment and I reached out to touch her face and quickly withdrew it when I realized that she was solid to the touch. I hesitated for a another moment then I reached out to her with my magic and watched in amazement as color slowly returned to her face and the rest of her body. She blinked suddenly and she looked at me with a look of confusion.

“W-Where am I?” she asked.

“You’re in Helheim,” I muttered smiling sadly.

“I’m dead then. That explains a lot. I was in a happy place, Mom and Dad were there and my grandmother.”

I could feel tears beginning to form in the corner of my eyes and I did my best to hold them at bay. “Goddesses, I’ve missed you Sophie.”

Sophie blinked at me, “Do I know you?”

I sighed and shook my head, “Sophie it’s me, Neil.”

“Neil? Right! And I’m the Goddess Frigg. I’ll give you credit you sort of look like him, but last I checked Neil was a boy.”

“Sophie, it’s really me.”

“Prove it,” she said folding her arms across her chest.

“Last year, I walked in on you and Ham having sex,” I replied quietly.

“That bastard! He swore he’d never tell anyone!”

I grabbed Sophie by the head and forced her to look me in the eyes, “Sophie I never told anyone. It’s me.”

Sophie’s eyes grew wide and she gasped, “Holy frizz! It is you!”

“Look Sophie–“

“You’re a girl! How did this happen?!”

“It’s a really long story and I’d love to tell you all about it, but I don’t think I have the time.”

“Neil what are talking about? You’re dead, you have all the time in the world.”

“Sophie, I’m not dead.”

“What? Than how’d you get here?”

“Ragnarok has come. I’ve been sent here to resurrect the dead gods.”

“Okay, you know that sounds crenking thached don’t you?”

“Like I said, it’s a long story.”

“Obviously,” she replied back folding her arms across her chest with a thoughtful expression on her face.

“Sophie… I don’t know how to tell you this… but Sam and Leif… They didn’t make it.”

“How?”

I explained about their deaths and I saw a slow smile creep onto her face.

“If they’re dead then they’ve gotta be here! Let’s find them!”

“Sophie, I wish I could, but I have to find the gods before it’s too late.”

“Did you know where they can be found?”

“No.”

“Well then we can look for Sam and Leif while we’re looking for them!”

“Yeah, I guess we could do that,” I muttered quietly.

“So what’s your plan?”

“Well… I thought I’d just keep looking.”

“That’s it? That’s your plan?”

“You have any better suggestions?” I shot back sticking my tongue out at her.

Sophie snorted, “Well, you could always ask for help.”

“Help? Where on Midgard am I going to find anyone to help me?”

Sophie shook her head and grinned at me mischievously, “Could you be any thicker? I see getting changed into a girl hasn’t made you any smarter. Neil, look around you.”

I did as she suggested and winced as I realized she’d meant I should ask the dead for help. Why not? I’d already awakened one dead person. Why not a few more?

“Call me Bryn,” I muttered, then took off running through the columns of the dead. I got the feeling that waking too many of the dead was a bad idea, and I really didn’t know which of them I could trust, so I looked for a familiar face. I stepped into another column and found that the people around me were wearing clothing that was several hundred years old. I almost turned back when I caught sight of a face that made me momentarily panic.

“Hey, what’s the deal running off like that!” Sophie growled, appearing from behind a row of the dead.

I didn’t answer, I could only stare at woman I had stopped in front of in utter confusion. “Oh, N- Bryn. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s not Mom,” I said finally. The woman looked like Mom, and she was about the same height, but her hair was black which pretty much gave it away. Well that and the old-style clothes.

“Holy frizz!” I yelled suddenly.

I knew who the woman was, she was Lilith le Fey, my ancestor. I once again summoned up my magic and touched the woman on the cheek.

“Why have you awakened me?” she asked abruptly as color slowly returned to her face and body.

“Are you Lilith le Fey?” I asked her quietly.

“I am,” she replied cautiously. “Who are you?”

“I’m Brynhilde le Fey. You’re my ancestor.”

Lilith stared at me with an appraising look that reminded me of my mother, “It’s nice to meet you Brynhilde, but I don’t understand why you’ve woken me.”

“We’re looking for dead gods! We thought you could help!” Sophie interjected enthusiastically.

“Dead gods… Oh, I see you’re not dead. The fact that you’ve managed to get this far is astounding, but I’m afraid I can’t help. I don’t know where Hel has hidden the Allfather or any of the others. For all I know this gentlemen standing here next to me could Baldr.”

“Any help you could give would be appreciated. Time’s running short and I have no idea what I’m doing here,” I replied.

Suddenly, Lilith looked down at my waist where I had the hammer of Thor strapped to my belt. “Maybe you already have what you need to find them,” she muttered.

Of course! Why hadn’t I seen it before? As soon as she said it I knew Mjölnir was the key.

“Thanks!” I beamed at her.

Lilith nodded then her skin turned gray and then it was just me and Sophie again.

“You can probably go back to sleep too. I think I can find them on my own,” I said quietly.

“You’re kidding, right? I wouldn’t miss this for the world!”

“I thought you might say that,” I grinned back at her, then tossed Mjölnir up in the air and willed it find its target, namely its master Thor.

+

Mjölnir flew through the air and went soaring through the rows of the dead and we followed after it at a dead run. We swept past row after row of the dead, and I thought we might keep running forever when suddenly a building appeared suddenly from out of the abyss. The building looked like something out of the history books. It was built from what appeared to be ordinary stone, it was long and narrow and had a thatched roof.

I yanked the hammer back out of the air and clenched my fist around it. I expected some sort of guard as we entered the building, but there was no resistance whatsoever. My ears filled with the sound of laughter when I stepped into the main room and I felt my eyes widen at the sight before me. I’d found the gods, and they were sitting around a long table laughing and drinking.

They didn’t seem to register our presence and I just sort of stood there trying to think of something to say. Of course, Sophie took care of that.

“Heya!” she said enthusiastically.

The laughter died down and all eyes in the room turned to look on us.

“Why do you disturb us?” a voice said at the other end of the room.

“YOU! What are you doing here!?” I said in shocked disbelief.

“Well last I checked it was because I was dead,” Loki answered back staring at me blankly.

“No, you escaped. You attacked me at the dingha months ago. Why would you come back?”

Loki laughed and stared at me with a bemused expression, “Escaped? As appealing as that sounds, I haven’t left Helheim since my death.”

“Lies! I saw you! You trick me into releasing my power!”

“Enough, of this nonsense!” a voice said from the end of the table. He was missing an eye, and he looking every bit the image of an old viking warrior.

“You come here and disturb our rest and then you make accusations that cannot be true. Loki has been here by my side for all these centuries. He is bound by the same chains that bind us all,” the old warrior, whom I presumed to be Odin, growled, pointing down at the floor where each of the gods was chained.

I stared at him in disbelief. If it hadn’t been Loki who had attacked me, then who had it been? Obviously, someone had been masquerading as him, but with the sort of power the doppleganger Loki had displayed, it could only have been another god or Jotun.

“I was attacked by a god. He claimed to be Loki and he looked just like him.”

“You were attacked by a god and you’re still alive? Your story is getting harder and hard to believe!” another voice accused in disbelief. He had long gold hair and looked like a much younger and larger version of Odin.

“Be calm, my son. Let the girl speak,” Odin said quietly eying me thoughtfully.

“Allfather, I’m incapable of telling lies. I’m a half-elf,” I said staring up at the god defiantly.

“You’re a what?!” Sophie asked from my side.

“She’s speaking the truth, she is a half-elf as she claims. I can see the truth of it glow around her,” another god said, thoughtfully stroking at his long-brown beard.

“She has Mjölnir!” the younger-looking Odin called out suddenly and extended his open hand.

The hammer suddenly flew out of my hands and shot toward its master. Thor let out a howl of glee as he grasped the weapon in his hand. Abruptly, lightning flooded my vision and when it cleared, Mjölnir had returned to its proper size in the grasp of the god’s hand.

“Girl, why have you come here?” Odin said quietly.

“I was sent by my grandmother Hervor, the Queen of the Lejosálfar, and my mother, Aryanna le Fey, on behalf of Frigg to free you.”

“Hervor?! Queen of the light elves?!” A god with a long-brown beard suddenly leaped to his feet angrily.

“Freyr, be at ease, we have been gone for a very long time,” Odin said quietly. then turned back to me.

“You say you were attacked by a god. There is only one of us that has been free to roam Midgard for all these centuries and that would be Lodur.”

“Lodur?” I asked in disbelief. “Why would one of the creators align himself with the Jotun?”

Odin sighed and shook his head, “Long ago, when the Aesir and Vanir were at war, Frigg foresaw our end.”

“Ragnarok!” Sophie hissed.

Odin nodded, “Lodur, my brother, grew angry at the pronouncement. He didn’t wish to die, so he killed Skuld.”

“What?!” Sophie asked suddenly.

Skuld, was one of the Norns, the trio of goddesses that controlled the fates of gods and men alike. Urd the oldest sister had control over the past, Verdani the middle sister kept watch over the present, and Skuld the youngest, kept watch over the future.

“With Skuld out of the way Lodur was able to manipulate events in his favor. He knew that the best way to do that was to ally himself with the Jotun. The Aesir and the Vanir were at war and he manipulated events to keep us fighting, instead of making peace as was foretold.” Odin finished.

“You weren’t supposed to die! Why didn’t you try to stop him?” I called out in sudden realization.

“Because, we didn’t realize the truth until it was too late!” Thor howled angrily, swinging Mjölnir at the open air.

“But the codices and eddas all say that all the male gods died! Why didn’t the goddesses know Lodur hadn’t died with the rest of you?!” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Odin said quietly.

So many things were beginning to make sense, but that mysterious sense of urgency was beginning to creep up on me again. I had so many questions, but I knew that they would have to wait. Ragnarok was lurking at our doorstep and I wasn’t about to let it come tearing into the house and catch me unaware.

“Allfather, Ragnarok comes. We have need of you. Will you join in the final battle to help save Midgard?” I asked urgently.

“You need not ask, girl,” Thor spat.

“Lodur must be stopped,” Odin agreed.

“Then what are you waiting for? Come on, let’s get going!” Sophie exclaimed.

Odin cocked his head and furrowed his eyebrows, but didn’t respond to Sophie’s pronouncement. Instead, he turned to Thor. “You know what to do.”

Thor grinned and let out a long bellow. Then with a mighty swing he threw the hammer out of his hands and let it soar right at his father. Mjölnir hit the shackle on Odin’s right foot and shattered it, but instead of returning to Thor, the hammer blasted into the shackle on the other ankle and blew it into pieces. The hammer flew through the room, and destroyed the chains about each of the gods’ feet before finally returning to its master hands.

I felt a pang of regret as I realized that my time wielding the war hammer was at an end, but I took solace in knowing that it would do far more good in the hands of the one it had been crafted for.

“Shall we get going then?” I asked quietly.

“Not yet,” another of the gods, whom I later learned was Hoenir said with a shake of his head and a toothy grin. “There’s one more of our number that needs freed.”

+

Odin and the other gods led us out of their prison, then, just as I had done, Thor threw Mjölnir up in the air and we went chasing after it to find Skuld’s prison.

“Allfather,” Skuld said, her voice full of wonder as we approached.

Unlike the other gods she had been left outside among the other dead, but like the other gods she was still aware of her surrounding. She was chained to a tall post and she had a sort of hollow sunken look to her.

“Skuld, what has been done to you?” Odin asked with fists clenched at his side.

“As the eons passed. I have been forced to watch the future unfurl without my guiding hand. Nothing is as it should be. It is painful for me to see such things, knowing I cannot fix them,” the norn said, staring up at Odin with a haunted look in her eyes.

Thor moved forward and slammed the hammer into the chains about Skuld’s feet. “Then let’s make a new future!” he bellowed.

Skuld nodded and took Thor’s hand as he helped her to her feet.

“Now, we are ready,” Odin pronounced turning back to me.

Manadag, the twelfth of Harpa (cont’d)

We found our way back to the entryway and just as we were about to leave Sophie turned to me and smiled sadly.

“I guess, this is goodbye.”

I stared at her and slowly started to shake my head. It didn’t have to be goodbye at least not yet.

“No!” I cried defiantly and let my magic flood through me.

I poured wind energy into my throat and called across all of Helheim. My voice carried through the entire realm as I spoke: “I would speak to all that dwell here in Helheim! It is time for you to come awake.”

Slowly, color returned to dead all around us and I heard Thor growl, “What is she doing!?” before I continued.

The dead were awake, most of them looked confused, but a few looked angry. “I am Princess Brynhilde le Fey of the Lejosálfar! Ragnarok is at our doorsteps. I was sent here to bring Odin and the other gods back from the dead to help in the fight. I did not intend to wake the rest of you, but as I look around I realize that many of you have friends and family who are still alive. They need your help! The Jotun seek to destroy the entirety of human existence! I ask… No, I beg for your assistance. Please, there are far too many lives at stake!”

My pronouncement was met with dead silence, literally, but then a tall woman with long auburn hair stepped forward. She looked sort of familiar, but I couldn’t quite place her.

“Who is your mother, child?” she asked with a very slight tilt of her head.

“Aryanna,” I answered.

The woman nodded and smiled, “I thought so. I see she has passed along her spirit of defiance onto you.”

“Who are you?”

“Athilda le Fey,” she answered with a very slight smirk.

Mom had known Athilda when she was a very old woman, and yet the woman before me looked to be in the prime of her youth. Apparently if you were old when you died, you didn’t stay old.

“Will you help us? You could use your knowledge and experience, and I bet Mom and Gramor would be glad to see you too,” I said quietly.

“I passed from life when my time came, child. It seems unnatural that I should return now. This is where I belong,” Athilda replied quietly.

“The girl is right,” Hoenir growled from behind me. “Everything has been skewed. Nothing is as it should be, and the one responsible must be stopped. Join us, so that we bring some sanity back to the world.”

Athilda seemed to hesitate for a moment, but then Lilith appeared from among the throngs of the dead, “Mother, please. Our descendant is pleading for our help. Don’t let her calls fall on deaf ears.”

Athilda nodded, “It appears that I have little recourse. Let us begone so that we may end this quickly.”

“What of the rest of you?! Who else will join in the fight? Your descendants need your help!”

“I will!” a familiar face with long-blond hair said stepping forward.

“Marion!” I cried.

“Hello, Bryn. It’s good to see you again,” Marion replied with one of her lop-sided grins.

Another blond woman came up to stand next to my aunt and place her hand on Marion’s shoulder, “You’re just as beautiful as your mother. I’ll answer your call. It’s the least I can do for Aryanna and Brigit after they watched over my sister all these years.”

It started out at a trickle. At first, just a few more people pledged to join the fight. There were a few familiar faces, Kona Peterson my third-grade teacher, Cindy Lawson a girl I knew who died in a steamcar accident a few years ago, and there were some not familiar faces. Then they came in a great flood and I was overwhelmed at the sheer number of those who stepped forward. People from all walks of life, and people who were garbed in modern clothes people, people in tights, people in loincloths, people in chain mail, people wearing nothing at all, elves, humans, dwarves, and all manner of creatures. They had all come because I’d called them. They were mine to command, they were my army of dead.

Of course there were those who refused to join. Many of them were creatures of a darker nature, or else humans of the most unsavory sort, but I paid them no mind. It was time to leave.

“Thank you, we march for the future of humans, elves and all creatures who walk in the light!” I called then I turned my back and moved through the exit and back into the cold of Niflheim.

“Bryn!” Eva proclaimed as I stepped through, flinging her arm’s around me. Garik joined her in the embrace a moment later and I shared a brief kiss with each of them before turning back toward the entry way.

Odin was the first to emerge, but the other gods were right on his heels as they passed through the gates.

“Norns! Marion!” Gramor let out a wide-eyed cry as Marion and emerged.

“Mom!” Marion cried just as loudly and embraced my grandmother in a hug.

“Hello, Brigit,” Marion’s sister, Penelope, said quietly with an awkward smile.

“Penelope,” Gramor replied back with a curt nod.

Athilda and Lilith appeared next, at first Gramor didn’t recognize Athilda, but as soon as the ancient Spellbinder spoke my grandmother’s eyes widened and she flung her arms around the other woman with a delighted laugh.

Sophie emerged next and I saw the disappointed look as she looked around, “Why aren’t Leif and Sam among the dead?”

“Mayhap, they be taken as Einherjar,” Heime interjected suddenly.

“Yeah, that’s probably it!” I beamed back at my father. “Just wait, Soph, we’ll get to see them soon enough.”

Odin appeared at my side, “The final battle is nearly upon us. I can feel it in my bones. We must go.”

I nodded in agreement, and within a few moments we were on our way.

+

When we entered the roofed entrance to the Gjoll bridge and Modgud appeared to block our path.

“So you survived. Why am I not surprised?” she asked, staring down at me with a wry smile.

“Modgud let us pass,” Odin commanded from my side.

“The girl made a promise. I intend to see that it kept,” Modgud replied staring down me.

That familiar buzzing sprang to life in the back of my head and I was barely able to remain standing against its wheezing onslaught.

I winced and turned to the Allfather, “She wants free of her oath. I promised I would try to persuade you in exchange for safe passage across the bridge.”

The buzzing faded away to a faint tingle and I let out a long sigh of relief.

“If I agree to free you from your oath, what would you do?” the creator god asked.

“Rejoin my people of course,” she replied eying Odin thoughtfully.

Odin shook his head and looked up into her face, “You are free to go, but I fear you will not like what you find waiting for you.”

“I’m never going to make another oath like that again, not if I can help it,” I muttered with a shake of my head as the buzzing faded away. When I turned back to Modgud she was gone.

+

When we emerged on the other side of the bridge we found an army of elves waiting for us, but they weren’t the same elves that had followed us down the root.

“Lejosálfar!” Freyr proclaimed with a smile.

“No,” I replied with a shake of my head. “These are exiled elves.”

Freyr seemed taken aback by this, but didn’t say a word as a tall elf dressed in woodland garb appeared to greet us.

“Lord Freyr!” He proclaimed falling to one knee.

“Rise,” Freyr muttered quietly.

“Princess Brynhilde, we have defeated the Dokkálfar who followed you here,” the elf said casting an apprehensive look toward Freyr.

“So you have,” I replied.

“Lord Freyr, I want you to know that the Fellálfar have stayed loyal all these years, as have all the exiled tribes. After Hervor proclaimed herself queen, we refused her rule and left Álfheim,” the elf said staring at the god apprehensively.

“Your loyalty is appreciated,” Freyr replied. He didn’t look very happy, but I had a feeling his ire was directed at Hervor and not the Fellálfar.

So, that was why the exiled tribes had broken off from the Lejosálfar. Everyone knew that Freyr had once ruled over Álfheim, but after his death it appeared that Hervor had taken his place as ruler. I somehow doubted Hervor would willingly step down from the throne, and I was pretty sure Freyr wasn’t going to take no for an answer.

“As interesting as all this is. We don’t have any time to waste on idle chit chat,” I muttered.

It took a good thirty minutes to mobilize the Fellálfar army, but after that we finally got underway there weren’t any more stops. It was pretty difficult marching such massive armies across the root of the Yggdrasil, but with so many magic users, magic pooled from both the Fellálfar and the army of the dead, we were able to get the people moving up the root and on the path to Midgard.

+

Eirdag, the thirteenth of Harpa

When we reached Midgard the battle had already begun. I’ve seen battles before that day, but never ones on such a scale. I was among the first among our numbers to appear in the battlefield in New Copenhagen. A massive sail-ship that dwarfed some of the largest buildings I had ever seen rested on the ground near where the Seidskati’s dinga had once stood. Jotun fought beside draugar, dark elves trolls, dragons and their human allies, while the forces of good battled desperately against them.

Goddesses summoned spells that could have shattered whole worlds, and Jotun countered with magic that was just as powerful. Tanks rolled across the battlefield, blowing everything in their path to smithereens, airplanes and zeppelins soared in the sky spewing explosive rounds at any number of flying horrors as destruction rained down from all directions. Fairies and other small vattir whizzed through the battlefield magic whirling all around them as they fought much larger opponents.

For a moment all I could do was stand and watch in horror at all the death laid out before my eyes. It seemed so senseless. Yes, people were fighting for their survival, but they should not have had to. I clenched my hands around the Hyrklufar rifle I carried and slowly shook my head.

“No more,” I whispered.

I felt Eva, Garik, Heime, and Hervor’s emotions through the bond, and knew their thoughts mirrored my own.

“Fyr lejos!” I cried and leapt into motion.

The army of the dead followed behind me, and the Fellálfar weren’t too far behind. Odin and the other gods held back for just a moment, then they too leapt into the foray and joined the fight.

Gramor didn’t stay with the main group, insisting that she should be of better use tending to the wounded, so she disappeared into the camps where the wounded were being kept. I don’t know exactly when, but it was about this time that Sophie disappeared.

I wished, not for the first time, that I had a better handle on my magic, but I did with it what I could. Mostly, I used it to form spirit shields to block attacks to both myself and my companions, but occasionally I was able to summon a small thread of fire, or use a gust of wind magic to send an enemy combatant soaring. My bond with Heime, Garik, and Eva allowed us to coordinate our attacks with unparalleled precision. As the only one who could feel the emotions of all three I was the one responsible for relaying any possible dangers that might have cropped up.

I raised my rifle, blasting a hole through the nearest dark elf, then quickly dove to the ground as I felt my father direct a warning at me through the bond. A massive fireball flew across the space I had just vacated and I rolled back to my feet just in time to block an attack from a dark elf who had just jumped at me. I hit my enemy across the face with the butt of the rifle then I brought it back around and emptied several rounds into his chest. I felt another warning of danger, this one from Garik, and whipped around in time to fire a blast into the neck of a human soldier who had sneaked up on me from behind.

It went on like this for some time, and for each enemy I killed two more appeared to take his or her place. Then finally, I felt a sudden agonizing burst of emotion from Hervor and felt a sense of urgent need through the bond. I hesitated only a moment before breaking out in a run toward where I sensed that she was waiting. Heime, was right on my tail, and my other two companions weren’t far behind, but by the time we reached my grandmother there was nothing we could do.

A massive ring of fire surrounded Hervor, and she was doing all within her power to hold it at bay. She was fighting a losing battle and we all knew it. The source of the fire was a Jotun sorceress who had a cruel smile on her face as she loosed her power against the elven queen. The bodies of dozens of elven soldiers surrounded the circle, and half-again as many were heavily wounded. Two elven spellcasters were doing their best to fend off the Jotun sorceress, but nothing they did seemed to do the trick.

I clenched my fists and did something really, really stupid. I grabbed hold of my magic, and summoned as much of it as I could possibly hold and I channeled it all at the Jotun sorceress.

“Get down!” I warned as I felt my control slip.

White hot power erupted from my hands and shot toward my target. The magic was on her in an instant and slammed into her with such force that she simply exploded. I tried to bat the magic down. There was something new there, something lurking just below the surface and it didn’t want to be contained. I fought down panic and I closed my eyes, and emptied my mind of all thought as Hervor had taught me and felt the magic fade away.

Heime let out a strangled gasp and I followed his gaze to where Hervor was laying on the ground. It was a miracle she was even still alive with the burns she had sustained. Her face was the only part of her body that had been left untouched, and her arms and legs ended in stumps where her hands and feet had been burned away.

“Brynhilde come,” Hervor called weakly and I rushed to her side.

It was no secret that I’d never gotten along with my grandmother, but I would have never wished such horrendous injury upon her. How she continued to breathe, let alone talk, was beyond me, but somehow she was still alive.

“Brynhilde, I sorrow for the burden that I am about to place upon thee, but now that my daughters be gone thou art the only one capable of maintaining the bond,” Hervor gasped.

“Mother, please preserve thy strength. Speak not. We must find a healer we must–“

“No Heime, this body is beyond repair. Twilight is nearly upon me, as Frigg didst foresee. Allow me to speak, my son, what I must say is of great import.”

“Brynhilde, I have kept the true reason of thy conception from thee. Thou wert born to take my place as queen,” Hervor pronounced, wheezing for breath.

“What?! No, you can’t be serious. No, I can’t… Please, anything but that!” I protested, shaking my head in disbelief.

“Who then shall take my place Brynhilde? Both of my daughters have fallen, and none of my grandchildren save thyself have the power to maintain the queen’s bond.”

“The queen’s bond?”

“Aye, it shall bind thee to all Lejosálfar.”

“Mother, Brynhilde is ill prepared for this. Mayhap another can–” Heime protested.

“Nay son, she is the only one. Thou must guide her. Under thy tutelage she shall become a great queen.”

“And if I refuse?” I whispered quietly.

“Without the bond… The Lejosálfar they shall fall! It gives them strength. It lets them become as one. Without this bond the battle shall be lost, and all thou dost care about shall fall into ruin,” Hervor replied quietly.

Hot tears stung my eyes, “Do it then!”

“One more thing,” she croaked, gasping for air.

“What?”

“Whatever thou dost do, whatever thou dost say… our people must remain free of Freyr. Thou must swear it!”

“I swear it, Hervor,” I muttered, binding myself to my grandmother’s dying wishes.

I felt the stub of Hervor’s arm reach out to touch my chest and suddenly millions of minds joined with mine all at once. I clutched at my head and screamed out in terror. I became lost in an endless river of emotions that did not belong to me. I tried to swim free, but the currents kept pulling me back in. I called out desperately for help, and felt three minds reach out to me with love and encouragement. I swam towards them, but the endless river engulfed them and I thrashed about in desperation. No matter how much I tried I couldn’t break free. There were just too many minds holding me at bay.

Then I remembered my training sessions with Hervor and her lessons on meditation. With a start I realized she had been trying to prepare me for this very moment. I couldn’t fight the river. No, I had to embrace it before I could contain it. I stopped struggling and let the emptiness seep into my mind. Then I let the river drain away into a corner of my mind where I locked it in place. The river would always be there waiting where I could use it, but I could never let myself become immersed in it. I could lose myself that way.

I opened my eyes and looked down to find that Hervor had passed on.

“Grandmother… Why didn’t you tell me?” I whispered with tear-filled eyes before staggering back to my feet. Goddesses I was dizzy and… I felt so strange!

“Bryn!” Eva called moving to help me to stand.

“The battle!” I exclaimed with a weak voice.

“It’s all right, Bryn. The enemy troops have withdrawn… for now,” Garik muttered from beside Eva.

“What why?”

“I think our appearance caught them off guard. They’ve likely withdrawn in order to regroup.”

I shook my head and felt some the dizziness fade away. “We need to get to the command tent. I’ll need to speak with Mom and our other allies.”

“Father, I need you,” I said turning back to Heime who was on the ground clutching at Hervor’s broken body.

Heime turned to me and I could see the tears streaming down his face as he released Hervor and came over to stand beside me. “Aye, daughter.”

+

We never made it to the command tent. The hiatus was very brief and we had just enough time to gather our wits before the battle commenced. As new queen of the Lejosálfar it was my job to lead my people into battle. The elves didn’t seem to express any reservations, and I felt none through the bond. It was strange, really, despite having them practically forced upon me I felt responsible for the light elves. I had become irrevocably bound to them and they to me. I couldn’t stand idly by and let those people … my people fight for their lives while I stood on the sidelines.

Sophie reappeared just before our return to battle. She had been searching for Leif and Sam, but had been unable to find them from among either the Einherjar or the dead from Helheim. She was convinced that they were alive, but I didn’t share her optimism. If they were alive where were they? Shouldn’t we have found them by now?

The ground shook under me as the enemy fighters renewed their assault. Magic coursed all around me and a there was a release of energy nearby as one of my subjects released a spell of dissipative earth magic under our feet. The ground ceased to shake and I raised my rifle as Dokkálfar appeared from the distance, leaping at our front line with reckless abandon.

A wall of blue magic flared to life as I summoned a spirit shield to ward against the dark elf assault. Our enemies flailed uselessly against the shield, and my troops cheered triumphantly as our spellcasters and bowmen began pelting them with their projectiles and magic. While the bow and arrow was considered a laughably antiquated weapon by modern human standards, our arrowheads had been magically enhanced, and they were often just as effective as any human or dwarven firearm.

Bright ribbons of fire magic began pelting my shield and I felt several more spellcasters raise up shields to help support mine, and others still cast their spells to counter the enemy attacks. I fired my Hyrklufar rifle into the opposing forces, directing it through my shield. Eva fought beside me, hurling her magic through the shield at the nearest enemies, while my father issued orders to the troops.

Humans and light elves fought side by side and the lines between the allied armies became blurred as more soldiers on each side moved in to help fill in the gaps in each others lines. Humans and elves on both sides died. Power the likes of which the world had never seen was unleashed before my eyes. Together we fought and survived.

+

We fought for hours, and the human troops were beginning to tire. The elves and all the other vattir possessed superior endurance, but as mortals, humans didn’t have that advantage. The Spellbinders used their magic to help keep the human troops going, but there was only so much they could do and it was only a matter of time before they succumbed to exhaustion. Of course, if it happened to our troops, it would happen to the human soldiers on the other side, but they were fewer in number and would not feel the loss as greatly as we would.

“We have to end this!” I called over the roar of battle.

“How, daughter?” Heime called back.

I shook my head and looked him in the eyes, “You stay here. I need to go find my mother.”

+

“Come hither, young Garik,” Heime called with a crooked finger as we were about to depart.

Garik quickly moved over to my father. Heime unstrapped his sword belt and held it out Garik with both hands. “Take it.”

“My Prince! I cannot take your blade!” Garik replied staring at Heime in utter shock.

“Garik, I have lost both my sisters and my mother. I will not suffer the loss of my daughter, not when I hath known her so short a time. Thou art a skilled swordsman. By thy hands Gram shall cut thine enemies in twain,” Heime insisted.

‘Gram?’ So I had been right. The legendary sword, once reforged by the dwarven blacksmith Regin, was said to be nearly unbreakable and would cut through just about anything.

Garik smiled graciously and took Gram from my father. He unstrapped his own sword belt and handed it to my father, “I fear that a simple soldier’s blade would be unsuitable for you, your highness, but I have no other to give.”

Heime grasped hold of Garik’s sword with a sad smile, “‘Tis a fine blade. It shall suffice.”

After, the exchange of weapons, Garik, Eva, Sophie and I set out with a hundred soldiers and a dozen spellcasters in tow. It didn’t take long at all for me to find my mother. She was leading troops near the front line alongside Daniella, Nick Flint, Athilda and a red-haired woman dressed in flowing blue robes I didn’t recognize.

The fighting was very intense, and I moved in to fight beside my mother.

“My friends and I thought we’d stop by for a visit,” I said with a crooked grin.

“Bryn! What…?”

“We need to talk,” I muttered.

I felt mother’s hand on my shoulder and hurriedly grabbed at Eva, Sophie and Garik before I felt the winds of my mother’s travel spell swirl around me as she whisked us away.

“This better be important,” her disembodied voice said mid-transit.

We reappeared atop a hill cresting the battle and I shook my head to clear away some of the lingering dizziness. I looked around and noted that Daniella had come along for the ride. A swirling whirlwind appeared nearby and from it emerged Athilda, along with the red-haired woman.

“I think it’s time to end this.”

“End it? How?” the red-haired woman demanded.

“We need to get out there where the gods are fighting… It’s important. I don’t know why. I just feel it.”

“Child, this is no time for foolish notions! If you go out there you could get yourself killed!” The red-haired woman said irritably.

“Hold your tongue, human! You’re speaking to the queen of the Lejosálfar!” Garik growled.

“The what?!” Daniella asked, eyes bulging out of her head.

“Hervor’s dead… I took her place. It’s what she intended all along. It’s a long story and under different circumstances I’d love to tell it, but now’s not the time.”

“This is a waste of time. We need to get back to the battle,” the red-haired woman growled suddenly.

“Who are you?” I asked staring at the woman curiously.

“I am but one of many Einherjar. In life I was known as Morgana le Fey,” the woman answered back.

Morgana le Fey an Einherjar? That could only mean she had died in combat, and was chosen by the Valkyries to fight in the final battle.

“Look, we need to end this. I know it. I don’t know why, I just do. Ever since I’ve killed Hel something is different. There’s this sense of urgency goading me on.”

Morgana’s eyes widened as did Mom and Daniella’s, but it was our ancestor that spoke. She pursed her lips and stared at me thoughtfully, “This sense of urgency… You say you first felt it after killing the goddess Hel?”

“Yes, but that’s not important. It’s time to take action,” I replied eying her suspiciously.

“Oh, I disagree, child. I think it very important. Nevertheless, now is not the time for discussion. I believe you are right, child. I will go with you,” Morgana stated resolutely.

The sudden turnabout was quite odd, but I got this sense that she had been testing me. I glanced briefly at Athilda, who nodded briefly and gave me a knowing smile. I got the sense that she too was willing to follow me.

“And the rest of you?”

Eva smiled and place her hand on my shoulder, “You are my lifkyn. There is no place I won’t follow you.”

Garik nodded and stepped forward, “You are more precious to me than all the jewels and precious metals in the nine worlds. I go where you go.”

Sophie grinned. “Hey, I’m already dead. What do I have to lose?”

Mom shook her head and stared at me for a moment in wonder, “I don’t know about this sense of urgency, but you are my child. I’ll go, if only to keep you safe.”

Daniella nodded in agreement. “Bryn, I feel the same way as Aryanna. I love you. I can’t stay behind and let you take this risk without doing something to help. I’m not much of a fighter, but maybe I can help in some small way.”

“It is decided then. We go to put an end to this madness,” Athilda spoke quietly.

+

We returned to the battle-line and Mom stopped to confer with Flint and her other advisers. We were nearly ready to head out when familiar raspy laugh sounded from the front lines. It had been unnaturally enhanced, and boomed through the battlefield. I didn’t even need to look to know who that laugh belonged to. I’d only ever met one person with such a laugh: Menegele. When I’d last seen her, she’d seemed almost sane, but this Mengele looked every bit the madwoman I knew her to be. Her clothing had been nearly torn to shreds, so much so that she might as well have been wearing nothing. Her hair was a mess, and she was covered in dirt and blood.

A strange purplish hue surrounded her as she sent bursts of magic in all directions, completely heedless of whether they hit allies or enemies. For a brief moment, I stared at her in morbid fascination. Then I felt that strange sense of urgency shift focus. Mengele had to be stopped, but it wasn’t me that moved to confront her. It was Daniella.

“She’s mine!” Daniella said suddenly.

She didn’t look angry as she jumped into the throng of fighters around the madwoman. Daniella had never been one for violence, but in recent years she had resigned herself to using it in order to protect the ones she loved. I would never know for sure, but I got the impression that she wasn’t making a move against Mengele out a need for revenge. That wasn’t Daniella’s way. She had never hated Mengele for what she had done to her, but she recognized that she was dangerous.

We would have helped, but we had problems of our own to deal with. A group of Dokkálfar sorceresses had surrounded us, and we were doing all in our power to fend them off. I held a spirit shield and fired my rifle at the dark elves and watched Daniella battling Mengele out of the corner of my eye.

Daniella hit Mengele with a rain of icy spears which shattered against the other woman’s shield, sending pieces of ice flying in all directions. Mengele countered with a bright bursts of blue fire which Daniella sent careening back into the doctor with a gust of wind. Mengele howled in frustration before calling up a travel spell and disappearing, only to reappear a moment later at Daniella’s side. Daniella was ready for her, and summoned a ring of fire shooting out in all directions around her. It caught Mengele unprepared, but before it could do any real damage Mengele stumbled backward with an agonized scream.

I was forced to turn my attention back to the Dokkálfar as one of them came running right at me. I jumped aside and brought my rifle around like a club, hitting the creature across the back of the knees as it shot past me. The dark elf went careening to the ground and Garik stepped in to lop it’s head off with Gram.

When the dark elves were taken care of we all turned back to Daniella and Mengele. By this time the rest of Mengele’s clothing and most of her hair had burned away. She was completely naked, and she had first, and second degree burns all over her body. She let out a mad howl and ran right at Daniella, but she never made it. With a gust of wind Daniella sent a icicle about a foot in length shooting right at Mengele. The icicle hit the doctor directly in one of her eyes. Her head snapped back and she was dead before her body hit the ground.

We all let out a collective sigh of relief, but it was short lived, as Daniella’s hands moved down to grasp at something protruding from her ribs. It turned out to a small combat knife. No one had any doubt as to how it had gotten there, Mengele. Her side was covered in blood and her face seemed to drain of color as she stared at us with wide eyes.

“Guess, I won’t be coming with you after all,” she mumbled. Then her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she fell to the ground unconscious.

+

Garik carried Daniella back to the allied encampment where the healing tent was located. We stayed only long enough to receive assurances that Daniella would live before we set out again. Mom was loath to leave her, but that sense of urgency that was by now all too familiar seemed to insist that waiting around would not turn out well. We lingered long enough for Mom to give Daniella a brief kiss and to mutter a few whispered words. I have no idea what she said, and I didn’t ask…

+

Swirling white beads of energy appeared all around us and I watched as they shot outward in all directions killing dozens of Dokkálfar in the process. Waves of magic shot in all directions as the magic users loosed their magic against our foes. Elven soldiers fired bow and arrow, while human soldiers loosed automatic weapons fire into the foray. Fairies, pixies and other small vattir wove in and out of the crowds of human and elves soldiers, splattering magic wherever they went.

We fought our way through the enemy lines with a vengeance, and time seemed to come to a standstill. We suffered losses, and through the bond I felt the sting of death as each of the elven soldiers passed into the next life. Tears ran down my face, but despite the pain I fought on.

Had I know exactly where we needed to go I would have had my mother send us there with a travel spell, but my odd sense of urgency wasn’t specific enough to allow for that. All I had going for me was a sense of the general direction we had to head, so I remained at the forefront to guide us in the right direction.

I wished time and time again that I still had use of Mjölnir, but it wasn’t meant to be, and I didn’t allow myself to dwell on it. I fought as best I could and held a spirit barrier around us.

Then abruptly we weren’t fighting for our lives anymore. The dark elves withdrew and kept a wide berth of us… No, that wasn’t right. They weren’t avoiding us, they were avoiding the gods and the Jotun as they clashed.

I let my spirit shield fall and slip away, then glanced briefly at my mother before moving forward again. The gods and Jotun seemed to ignore us as we passed among them, but that didn’t mean there was no danger. They were using power the likes of which few humans, or elves for that matter, had ever seen and the residue of it splattered all around us.

Thor fought against Jormungand, Odin against Fenrir, Freyr against a massive Jotun who had blood splattered down the length of a long gray beard, and Loki (the real one) didn’t do much fighting at all. Instead he moved among the battling gods issuing insults and throwing things at both gods and Jotun alike. I knew the other gods and goddesses were there too, but I only caught brief glimpses of them and the residue of their powerful spells.

I came to an abrupt stop as something clicked in the back of my head and I knew that we had reached our destination…

+

The sense of urgency reared back to life and I didn’t hesitate as I summoned up my magic. I reacted instinctively, and I’m glad I did, as a blast of energy pounded into the shield I just formed. I gasped and fell to my knees as the unknown power pried into my shield. My barrier collapsed, and I felt as if I were going to be torn apart. Then I felt it again, a sort of power lurking inside of me. What it was or where it came from I have no idea, but I knew that it was my only hope of surviving.

I let it rip through me, and there came a fundamental change from within. The strange new power became a part of me and I became a part of it. I was reforged, into what exactly I still don’t know, but something had changed at the very core of my being. New power flooded into me and I reached out to it in order to form a new spirit shield around myself.

“Impossible!” a voice gasped.

The voice turned out to be, the impostor-Loki.

“You!” I breathed.

“It’s not possible… That should have killed you. No elf has that sort of power!” he yelled with a wild-eyed look.

I shook my head and scowled at him. “Why do you continue to hide behind that mask, Lodur?” I asked.

Lodur smiled and shook his head, “I’m a better Loki than Loki ever was. Look at the chaos I’ve created! Everything has changed! Humans were never meant to have real magical power! Elves weren’t supposed to be involved in any of this, and yet look around you”

“Why!? Why do this?” Mother demanded.

“So that I might live… Had I let things happen the way they’re supposed to I would have died! And now nothing will stop me. All who stand in my way will be annihilated, and I will remake the Nine worlds the way I see fit, and most importantly, I’ll never have to die.”

“No, brother,” a cold voice said from behind.

Lodur quickly swirled around to reveal the form of Odin holding a bloody spear. The body of Fenrir lay just a few feet away.

“That’s not possible! Fenrir should have finished you!” Lodur cried.

“You said it yourself brother, everything has changed,” Odin growled and brought his spear around, hitting his brother across the chest with its shaft.

“It doesn’t matter either way. You will die, if not by Fenrir’s jaws, then by my sword!” Lodur screamed, a sword suddenly appearing in his hands.

Odin brought up the haft of his spear to deflect a blow from his brother’s weapon then dropped it to draw the sword strapped to his back and thrust it at Lodur’s chest. Lodur parried the blow and slammed his left fist into his brother’s face. Odin laughed, shrugging off the blow and ducked as his brother’s sword swept above his head in what would have been a killing blow. Odin threw himself at his brother and the two went down in a tangle of fists and limbs.

The two brothers battled back and forth, and we watched in amazement as two of the most powerful beings in existence beat one another with their fists. Odin was the larger and more powerfully built of the two, but Lodur was quicker on his feet, and used his superior agility to dodge his brothers attacks. When Odin’s blows did hit home they were devastating, and left his brother in a dazed state. Lodur hit his brother in quick jabs and cheap shots that left the older brother howling in pain.

Suddenly, there was a blast of energy from Lodur’s hands and Odin went flying away, screaming in agony. Lodur staggered back to his feet and started toward us again, but Loki appeared in front of us with a loud boom.

“There can only be one, Loki!” He laughed, staring at the pretender with a sort of crazed look on his face.

“Loki, surely you’re not going to side with the likes of these! You were meant to fight alongside the Jotun,” Lodur retorted.

“I side with no one! Not the Aesir! Not the Vanir! Not the Jotun! I side only against you! You masqueraded as me and manipulated events that resulted in my death, and I really don’t appreciate that!” Loki shouted, sticking his tongue out at Lodur.

“Join with me! Together we can recreate the worlds in our image!”

“No! I don’t wanna!” Loki cried, a foolish grin on his face before leaping at Lodur.

The two went down in a tangle of limbs, and it was difficult to tell which was which as they landed blow after blow on each other. Finally one of the Lokis emerged victorious, but instead of turning back to us, he turned to the other Loki and started dancing merrily, kicking the body of the other Loki periodically through the silly display. When he finished, he landed a powerful kick into the side of the other god then turned back to us with a deep bow.

“What? No applause?” he asked staring at us expectantly.

No one moved.

“Oh, fine! Be that way!” He muttered with a dramatic sigh.

“Now where were we?” he asked. “Oh, yes. That’s right. I was about to kill you,” he finished smiling wickedly.

“Lodur!” Mom growled.

The god smiled and shook his head, “Nope, its me, the one and only Loki. See that dead guy? That’s Lodur. You forget who and what I am. I thought it would be fun to kill you. So I’m going to kill you. Then I think I’m going to co-opt Lodur’s insane plan and declare myself supreme god.”

Without another word Loki leapt at me and unleashed a torrent of fire. I blocked it with a spirit shield, but it was all I could do to contain the powerful blast. With my new found power I was more powerful than any elf or human magic user, but against Loki it wasn’t enough. He was simply too powerful.

“You’ve gotten much to big for those britches of yours. You have far too much magic for a half-elf. Sadly, it’s still not enough. My magic is far more powerful than yours!” he laughed gleefully.

His magic? Men couldn’t use magic. Gods were no exception to the rule… Or were they? Something just didn’t add up. Yet, he was using some form of power against me, and certainly it could be described as magic. It didn’t make any sense!

He bounded against my shield and I could feel my hold begin to slip away as he relentlessly pressed against it. I didn’t know what to do… I tried unleashing my magic against him in erratic uncontrolled bursts, but he batted them away effortlessly. Again I found myself upon the precipice of death, helplessly teetering over the edge and I had no way of getting my balance back. It was only a matter of time before I toppled helplessly into death’s dark abyss.

“Lady Aryanna!” Garik’s voice called out and there was a flash of steel as something flew over my head.

Abruptly, Loki’s head slid off his neck and fell to the ground at his side. The power he had summoned faded away, and I could see well enough to identify my mother standing behind the still standing body of Loki with Gram in her hands. The body tottered, then fell to the ground chest-forward at my feet.

“Well, that takes care of that,” my mother said with a grim frown.

+

With both Loki and Lodur defeated, we moved in to assist the other gods. We proved to be of little actual help, but our presence served as a distraction, and helped Thor defeat Jörmungand. Soon Thor joined Freyr, and together they defeated the great bearded giant that Freyr had been combating. Odin appeared to join his son and former rival, and together the three of them blasted the Jotun with a vengeance. Soon, Heonir and Baldr joined, then Sif and Frigg. The Jotun lines fell before this new onslaught, but they didn’t flee. Instead they fought on until every last one of them had fallen. I even recognized Modgud among their numbers.

With the Jotun defeated, the gods joined in the fight against the dark elves. Their attack proved devastating, and the Dokkálfar fled, leaving their human allies to suffer the vengeful wrath of the gods.

It was over, I realized with a long sigh of relief. We had won.

Vordag, the fourteenth of Harpa

Midgard is in ruins, and the total death toll numbers in the hundreds of millions and that’s just for the humans. The Lejosálfar and the exiled elves losses were much fewer, but their numbers were much lower to begin with, and it will take them many more years to recover their numbers. The Dokkálfar suffered even more devastating losses, and it will take them centuries before they pose a serious threat again.

Relief efforts have started, and we’re beginning the long process of rebuilding. The Lejosálfar are helping in whatever way we can, but it will likely be many years before the wounds from what people are beginning to call the Ragnarok War will be completely healed.

Daniella is a little bit worse for the wear. She’s still recovering, with so many wounded the healers have been working hard to keep as many as they can alive. Many of the wounded have only been healed enough to ensure they’ll live. Daniella is no exception. She’s up and walking, but she’s still in a good amount of pain. I’m glad she survived It would have been hard to suffer another personal loss like I did when Marion and Sophie passed.

As for me, I’m still trying to get a grasp on being queen. The Lejosálfar accept me as their leader, but exiled tribes still refuse to accept any queen. I wish I knew how I could reunify the two people, but my final oath to Hervor prevents me from doing the one thing that would allow that. The exiled tribes believe Freyr to be their rightful ruler, and nothing I say or do will change that.

And then there’s the issue of my new found power… I still don’t understand where it came from, but it seems to be here to stay. I’m more powerful than any elf alive, and I even rival some of the goddesses in raw potential. Which begs the question: am I a goddess, or something else entirely? How and why was I given this power and what am I supposed to do with it? So many questions and I don’t have the answers to any of them… I know of one person who might have the answers, but Frigg has yet to grace me with her presence.

Since our victory the gods have retreated from Midgard and no one knows when they might return or even why they’ve disappeared.

There has been so much death and destruction, but at least it’s all over. Everyone suffered horrible losses and there’s one more loss that I had not expected. Nick Flint. We found his remains tangled with those of Jonas Talman, and it appears that the two did each other in. Maybe now he and Marion can be together. I hope he’s happier in the next life than he was in this one.

The dead are returning to Helheim in droves, and we all got a chance to say goodbye…

“Oh Bryn,” Sophie whispered, tears streaming down her face as she we embraced for one final time.

“At least this time we get to say goodbye,” I whispered back, feeling tears of my own well up.

“I envy you. You have this amazing life ahead you.” She smiled wistfully, grabbing hold of each of my hands.

I squeezed her hands and shook my head. One of the many things that that really been hit home since I’d taken Hervor’s place as queen was that I might live forever. I was immortal, and unless someone took it into their head to kill me, I would never die. I know there were some people that would do anything to trade places with me for that very reason, but it scared me that I might never see my loved ones again once they had passed on.

“You could stay. Maybe I could convince Gna to let you—” I pleaded.

“No, Bryn. I’m dead. Mom and Dad are waiting for me. I want to be with them.”

“What about Sam and Leif? You said yourself that you think they’re both still alive.”

“Then I hope you find them, but I still have to go. I’ll see them when they die,” she shook her head.

I nodded and wiped the tears out of my eyes, “Goodbye Sophie.”

“Goodbye Bryn,” she whispered then her hands slipped out from mine and she disappeared into the lines of the dead.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and I looked back to find Garik staring at me with a gentle smile on his face. I wrapped my arms around him and started to sob hysterically. Eva came up and wrapped her arms around my back and the three of us just stood there holding each other.

“Bryn,” Marion’s voice called and I broke away from Garik and Eva to watch as she approached with Penelope at her side.

“I guess this is goodbye.” A new voice, and I turned to see my mother accompanied by Daniella and my gramor.

“Aryanna, I’m sorry for all the pain I caused you. Thank you for looking after my sister. I’m glad you could find someone that could make you happy,” Penelope said.

Penelope, Marion and Mom all muttered their own regrets. Then they each said goodbye and Marion’s gaze met my own.

I walked slowly over to her and I felt her arms around me, “I’m going to miss you Bryn,” she whispered.

“Oh, Marion. I’m so afraid,” I said.

“Don’t be, you’re going to do just fine. It’s time to go. Flint is waiting for me in Helheim.” She smiled, then I felt her arms withdraw.

“Goodbye, Aunt Mare,” I said.

“Goodbye Bryn,” she called and was gone within moments.

Heime came up next to me and put his arm on my shoulder. Neither one of us spoke and everyone gathered around us.

A figure mounted atop a tall white horse appeared in the distance and started galloping right at us. The animal came to a sudden stop in front of us and the rider leapt to the ground in front of us.

“Gna!” Mom called out.

The goddess grinned and looked us each over, “So, it is done then. Ragnarok has been averted.”

“Yes…” I whispered with a shake of my head.

“Is this it then? Is this how it all ends? With Hel gone, who will watch over the dead?” Mom asked.

“I will,” Gna said with a very slight from.

“So you are to become the new goddess of death?” I asked incredulously.

“No,” Gna said with a shake of her head, placing her hand on the pommel of the horse’s saddle.

“Then who?” Daniella asked.

Gna shrugged and remounted her horse. “I couldn’t tell you. There isn’t anyone… yet,” she said just before spurring her horse into motion and speeding off into the horizon.

+

Sunadag, the eighteenth of Harpa

Mom reached up to touch the lock of hair that marked me as an apprentice. Suddenly there was a flash of light and when I reached over to put the lock in front of my face I realized it had returned to its previous auburn color.

“What did you do that for? My training isn’t complete.” I asked staring at her in confusion.

Mom smiled sadly, “It’s not appropriate for the queen of the Lejosálfar to remain a spellbinder’s apprentice.”

“Well, I must admit you seem to be doing quite well in your new position,” a voice said off to my side.

I felt my heart leap in my chest and my head darted to my side where a woman with long brown hair was staring at me with an amused grin. Light seemed to dance in her eyes and there was a sort of soft glow that swirled around her.

“Frigg,” my mother whispered.

“Good, you’re both here. This will make things easier,” the Allmother grinned.

“So,” I said glaring at Frigg. “The great manipulator has come to explain her actions.”

Frigg seemed momentarily taken aback as she stared at me with wide eyes. Then she threw her head back in a hearty laugh, “Such defiance! You are your mother’s child, I’ll give you that! I suppose I deserve your scorn after the things I’ve done.”

“Then tell me… What am I?” I asked with a shake of my head.

Frigg smiled sadly, “I think you already suspect the truth, but do you understand how it happened?”

“How what happened? What have you done to my child?” My mother demanded.

“It was never something I intended to happen, and somehow I failed to foresee the possibility,” Frigg said with a shake of her head.

“Foresee what?!” Mom demanded.

“Your daughter is a goddess,” Frigg said with a slight frown.

“So it’s true… but how?” I asked.

The goddess grinned, “When Hel attacked you, her spell backfired. It destroyed both her body and soul, but all that magical energy was left behind and it had to go somewhere…”

“…so it went into me,” I finished.

Frigg nodded, “The magic changed you… It didn’t happen immediately, it took your body a while before it could begin to assimilate all that power.”

“Oh frizz… Finding out I was a half-elf was weird enough, but this… I don’t even know what I’ll do with this sort of power.”

“Whatever you like, girl.”

“Whatever I like? You know as well as I do that my choices are limited.”

Frigg frowned and looked me in the eyes, “I know all too well. Hervor and I … we planned it all together almost from the beginning. I regret what had to be done. I wish there had been another way, but the route we chose had the highest likeliness of success.”

“We’re just pawns to you. Pieces to be moved around on a damn game board! Tell me! Why did you do this to us! Why? What did it gain you?” Mom yelled between gritted teeth.

“It gained us the edge we needed, Mortal,” Frigg said, glaring at my mother with narrowed eyes. “Lodur had changed so much so that in order to beat him we had to make changes of our own. Of course, we didn’t know it was him that had been changing things. We always assumed it was the Jotun. The first step was granting human women the use of magic all those years ago. We spent centuries watching over your family, knowing that the ones we needed would be born from the Le Fey line.”

“You’ve been manipulating the family for that long!?” I gasped.

Frigg nodded and continued, “By seeing that both of you were transformed we were able to change your fates. It gave us an advantage we wouldn’t have otherwise had.”

“And Daniella?” Mom asked.

“Her contribution wasn’t as great as yours, but without her by your side it would have been much harder for you,” Frigg stated.

“What about Flint? You had a bargain with him. Now that’s he’s dead. What of that deal?” Mom asked.

“I always keep my promises, mortal. Always. There’s something we have kept from the world. Men can use magic.” Frigg stated.

“What? But if they can use it why haven’t the been given use of it?”

Frigg shook her head, “Because there was no one around who could give it to them. Magic works differently for men and women. It comes from the same source, but it’s like two different sides of the same coin. I can’t use it, and I can’t pass it on. Only a powerful male magic user, such as Odin may pass it on.”

“And you’re going to convince Odin to pass along the power to men?” Mom asked.

Hervor smiled and nodded her head, “It has already been done. My promise to Flint has been fulfilled.”

“And what will happen to them? How will they learn to control their magic?”

“They’ll have help. Just as early spellbinders did,” she replied in a matter of fact manner.

“Now that our purpose has been fulfilled, what will we do with our lives?” Mom asked.

“You and Daniella are free to take whatever path you like, mortal. I’ll even return you to your original forms if you desire,” Frigg responded.

“But… Not me. I’m stuck with the life you and Hervor made for me,” I said running my hand through my hair.

Frigg nodded, “I swore an oath to Hervor. I cannot undo what has been done to you. Your fate has been set in stone.”

“So this is how it must be… I know of no way to break my bond with the Lejosálfar. I’m stuck with them, and they’re stuck with me,” I said, feeling the weight of my statement bearing down on me.

There was no one to pass the bond onto, and somehow I doubted there was a way to remove it even with Frigg’s help. The weaves that had created the bond were ridiculously complicated, and it would be like trying untangling a massive ball of knots, but it was far worse than that. Unweaving it was dangerous in the extreme, unravel it the wrong way or use the wrong amount of power and it could very well blow up in your face.

“I-I need to be alone!” I cried as I finally let it all set in and fled out the tent and into the darkness of the night.

+

I still couldn’t hardly believe it… In just a few months time I’d gone from believing I was an ordinary teenage boy, to being transformed into a girl and becoming the immortal queen of the light elves. Then there was this business about me being a goddess. Physically I was still a half-elf. Of that much I was sure, but I was a goddess too. The very idea scared the frizz out of me.

“May I join you?” an unfamiliar voice asked from my side.

I nearly jumped out of my skin as I swirled around to meet the gaze of a tall willowy woman with long silver-blue hair and unnaturally bright-blue eyes. She wasn’t human, that much was pretty obvious, but I was pretty sure she wasn’t an elf or goddess either.

“I apologize, it was not my intent to startle you,” she said with a very slight tilt of her head.

I gripped my hand around the railing of the bridge and stared at her with my brows furrowed. “I’m sorry but who are you?”

“There is no reason to feel sorrow for me, young one. Among most I am known only as the Gray Queen, but you may call me by my given name, Alia.”

I felt myself give a sharp intake of breathe. “The Gray Queen? But your… I mean you’re not a faery!”

Alia nodded and smiled, “I am a halfling like you. My father was an exiled elf, my mother a water sprite. I was orphaned at a young age, and raised by the faekyn. I am a faery in spirit, if not in actuality.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Because you and I have many things in common, Queen Brynhilde.”

“How do you know my name?” I said staring at her with wide eyes,

“Why should it come as such a surprise? Much of your story is well know. I have desired to speak with you for some time, and as a creature of dual natures I was able to recognize that same dual nature within you.”

“Because I’m a half-elf.”

Alia nodded and moved toward me, her hands gripping the railing next to me, “So much of this city has been destroyed. It seems so strange that this bridge would have remained intact among all this wreckage.”

“I was born here, you know. Save for a short time in Álfheim I’ve lived in this place all my life and now almost nothing of it remains,” I felt tears start to form in the corner of my eyes.

“They will rebuild it. Humans are a resilient people,” she said wrapping a delicate arm around my shoulders.

“I know, but I can’t afford to be one anymore. I can’t let my humanity get in my way,” I stated suddenly. Frizz why was I telling her this?

“Can’t you? Tell me Brynhilde, do you know why the Jotun sought to destroy humanity?”

I stared at her a moment in consternation, “They’re enemies of the gods. They wanted to destroy all of the gods’ creation.”

“Yes, but there is so much more to it. To understand their reasons you must understand who and what they are. They are vattir, and like all vattir they are limited by their passions. Dvergar for their greed, Lejosálfar and exiled elves by their sexuality, Dokkálfar for their hatred, fairies for their love of nature, Aesir and the Vanir for their need to control and Jotun for their single-mindedness. The Jotun hated the Aesir because they had destroyed Ymir, their forefather. They fostered that hatred for eons because they could not move past it. It was a part of who and what they were. Over time that hatred extended to everything the Aesir had created, and eventually to the Vanir because of their alliance with the Aesir.”

“I assume there’s a point to all this?”

The Gray Queen nodded, “Yes, you are vattir, and yet you are not. Your human nature gives you the ability to move past your passions and become so much more than what you are. Do not be so quick to give up your humanity, it is a precious jewel. You shouldn’t keep it locked away. You should display it proudly for all to see.”

“Look around you, Alia, look at what has been done to this city. It was destroyed by humans! How am I supposed to be proud of that?!”

She shook her head, “All creatures have their darker sides. Look no further than the light elves. Within them is the capacity to become completely depraved of all that is good.”

“So that means I should embrace my humanity?”

“Humans are not perfect. They have many flaws, but in one respect at least they are superior to vattir. They can move past their flaws, vattir cannot. Ask yourself, do you really wish to give that up?”

I bowed my head and closed my eyes. I felt Alia’s arms slip away and when I opened my eyes again the Gray Queen was gone.

+

“Bryn,” Eva’s soft voice said from out of the darkness.

“Hey…” I said turning to look her in the eyes.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s just… It’s finally starting to set in. I’m stuck being the queen of Lejosálfar.”

“Oh, Bryn… I’m sorry,” she responded reaching up to touch my cheek.

“How can I be a queen to these people? I barely know anything about them. I don’t even know their language well enough to hold a frizzing conversation!”

“I don’t know, but I’ll be here by your side every step of the way.”

“As will I,” said Garik appearing on my other side.

“How long have you been there, Garik?” I asked.

“Just as long as Eva,” he said with an awkward smile as he scratched at the back of his head.

“You came looking for me together.” It wasn’t so much a question as a statement of fact.

Neither, gave an immediate response and I didn’t wait for one before kissing first Garik, then Eva on the lips. I was still a bit squeamish about our odd love triangle, but the last lingering bits of my resistance were gradually falling away.

I had changed, I realized, and not necessarily in a good way. The Gray Queen had been right to caution me. I’d let my elven side slowly grow more dominant, and my humanity had started to slip away, but I couldn’t allow that to happen. I couldn’t allow myself to turn into Hervor’s image of a perfect Lejosálfar. I had to strike a balance between my two sides… Strike that, my three sides. I was after all, a goddess now too I reminded myself. There was nothing saying I couldn’t embrace my humanity and my elven side too. And frizz, why not throw a little goddess into the mix too? If I had to be queen, I was going to be the sort of queen I wanted to be.

“Come on,” I whispered with a weary sigh, “It’s time for me to get to work.”

+

It has been quite a journey. Sometimes I wish I could go back to the simple life I knew before it all began… And yet the more time I spend among the Lejosálfar the more I come to care for them. That’s not to say I’ve completely come to accept my predicament. I still resent what’s been done to me, and I continue to writhe under the net that has been thrown over me. The elves are my people, of that much I am sure, but I will always feel separate from them. In many ways I’ll always be human at heart, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to completely understand them, or they me.

Eva understands me better than any of them, and yet in many ways she is more like them than I am. She is, after all, technically a light elf now. It happened when the queen’s bond was passed on to me. The weaves for the bond between us became tangled with those of the queen bond, and in that moment Eva effectively became an unwitting light elf. Eva doesn’t seem to be bothered by this in the slightest. She insists that it’s for the best. If she’s going to spend the rest of her life with me it’s only natural that she should become a light elf.

My weird romance with Garik and Eva has continued to bloom, and there already whispers among the people that it’s time for us to wed. I don’t know if I’m ready to take that step, but the thought of marriage really doesn’t scare me as it once might have. The thought of being married to two people is pretty unusual to humans, but I’m working to get past that particular cultural constraint.

Ruling isn’t at all what I might have expected, but the elves are an unusual people, so it stands to reason that ruling over them would be an unusual experience. I have a lot more free time than any human ruler might and yet there’s one thing that bothers me. The elves have no drive to better themselves. They’re content with who and what they are. They make use of no advancement, technological or otherwise. A human civilization would stagnate and decline under these conditions and yet the elves thrive. I think it’s time I give the people a little push.

+

“Lord Freyr, I’ve been waiting for you,” I said staring across the throne room.

He stormed through the room, climbed the raised platform where my throne was situated and came to stand just a few feet away, glaring down at me.

Heime, appeared at my side, his fist clenched around Gram in a defensive posture. Garik appeared beside my father with his own sword drawn, and there was a flicker of power nearby as Eva summoned up her magic.

“I’ve come for what is mine,” he said, shaking with rage.

I looked up at him, traced my hand across the intricate carvings on my newly crafted throne, then calmly stood to meet his gaze.

“Freyr, the Lejosálfar were never yours. The Vanir came as conquerors, and took Álfheim with your superior powers. You were a brutal and merciless leader, and I cannot fathom why the exiled tribes love you so. I will not allow my people to suffer under your rule again,” I said, pacing back and forth in front of him. My people, I don’t know if I’d ever get used to calling the Lejosálfar that!

“You speak of things you cannot possibly know! You usurped my throne! I will not stand for it!”

“Usurped your throne, Lord Freyr? For me to have done that it would have had to have belonged to you in the first place! You took what rightfully belonged to the light elves, and selfishly took it for yourself! I am not the usurper! You are!”

“You insolent little child!” He growled and suddenly drew his sword.

I let my magic flow through me and quickly constructed the all too familiar weave for a spirit shield just before his weapon bounced into it. Heime and Garik quickly moved in, and within moments Freyr had been disarmed.

Heime slammed his fist into Freyr’s chest and sent the god tumbling to the ground at the base of platform.

“Dad,” I said, quietly holding out my hand. Dad, that one felt a little weird on my tongue too, but I thought it would be far easier to become accustomed too.

I felt Gram’s weight in my hand, then I calmly walked over to where Freyr had fallen and knelt down next to him. “I freed you from Helheim, and this is how you repay me? By trying to kill me!? You should be ashamed of yourself Lord Freyr. I thought the Vanir prided themselves on their honor!”

“Álfheim is mine!”

“I swore an oath to my dying grandmother to keep the Lejosálfar out of your grasp. The only way for you to get it is to kill me. Do you really think the light elves will welcome you with open your arms after you kill their queen? Father told me about your conquest of our world. The people resisted you for some time before submitting. Do you think it will be any different this time around?” I whispered holding the edge of the blade against his neck.

“It is mine!” he repeated.

“Then you will die,” I said, my eyes locked onto his.

“You wouldn’t dare!?”

I edged the blade closer to his neck and watched the tiniest bit of his blood trickle down his throat as Gram made a very slight cut into his flesh. “Are you willing to take that risk? Do you think there will be anyone to bring you back from the dead this time around? How many centuries did you languish in Helheim the last time?”

Freyr stared up at me for a moment with wide-eyes, then he started to laugh. “Freya told me you were a feisty one, but I believe that to be an understatement! I will leave Álfheim to the light elves.”

“And the exiled tribes?”

“Do with them as you will,” he replied with a sigh.

“Good. Consider yourself absolved of your debt to me,” I said, carefully removing the sword from his throat and stood over him with my hand out.

“Never could get used to elf maidens being so infernally strong,” he grumbled as I pulled him back up onto his feet.

“I just wish I could get used to being a maiden,” I replied.

“Your highness,” a tall elven woman said seeming to appear from thin air.

“Sigvit, isn’t it? How can I help you?” I asked.

She averted her eyes, “Yes, your highness. A patrol found a pair of humans wandering the roots of the Yggdrasil.”

“A pair of humans? Are they here in the city?” I asked, feeling cold chills run down the length of my spine. It couldn’t be, could it? After weeks of being missing, could Sam and Leif actually be alive?

“Yes, my queen,” Sigvit said cocking her head to the side.

“Have them brought to the palace immediately. I wish to see these humans,” I said feeling as if my heart might leap out of my chest.

Sigvit nodded and disappeared with a bright flash of light.

I turned back to Freyr, but found that he was gone.

+

I returned to my seat to wait. The throne was nothing like the one Hervor had used. Elves cared nothing for precious metals or riches of any kind, and her throne had reflected that. Mine on the other hand had been hand carved with elaborate designs of dragons and other creatures. Precious gems had been set into the eyes of each of the creatures and a gold overlay had been laid over much of the chair.

I don’t know who was responsible for its creation, but the seat was one of the most beautiful pieces of furniture I had ever laid my eyes on. Even with the gold and gems, the craftsman had somehow managed to keep it from looking gaudy. My subjects had gotten the idea that because I was half-human I had an appreciation for fine things. They were in the process of completely redecorating the palace-tree, and the few clothes that I had, had been replaced with ones made from the finest cloth. There was even talk of celebrating my nineteenth birthday when it came around next month. I suspected that either Heime, Garik, Eva or perhaps all three were behind these changes, but I had yet to confront them about it.

“Your highness!” Sigvit proclaimed, entering the throne room with two very worn figures trailing behind her.

“Bryn?” the taller of the two asked.

I jumped from my throne, ran across the throne room, flinging my arms around Leif and Sam in a hug and let out a pure squeal of delight.

“That’s Queen Brynhilde to you!” I proclaimed with lopsided grin, and couldn’t help but laugh as both Leif and Sam’s eyes grew wide in surprise.

Vordag, the seventeenth of Ylir

Garik’s strong hands worked their way down my back and I let out a long sigh of pleasure. I’d had a rather stressful week dealing with the Seidskati, and Garik’s back rubs had become a regular part of our daily routine since I’d learned I was pregnant. It came as real shock. Despite having the powers and abilities of a goddess, I was still biologically a half-elf and I was far more fertile than any other elf. Elven women, though much slower to reproduce, have the ability to control whether they could become pregnant. I didn’t have that control, and because of that I had to suffer the results of my night activities. Once this child is delivered I think Garik and I are going to have a long talk about contraceptives.

At first, I’d had mixed feelings about the child, but after some soul searching I’d come to realize that a part of me really wanted it, while the other side was scared shitless by the idea of motherhood. My human side was especially terrified by the idea, and every time I looked at my pregnant self in the mirror I felt that fear rise to the surface, but I thought that maybe with Eva and Garik at my side it wouldn’t be too bad. She was a girl, the magic of the elven healers told me that much at least, but I wondered how human would she be? Would she share my dual nature? Would her existence be a constant battle between her two halves as it had become for me?

“Is something the matter, my asynja?” Garik whispered in my ear.

I turned to look Garik in the face and smiled up at him. He seemed to find immense amusement in called me his asynja. At first, I’d found his pet name more than a little annoying, but over time it had grown on me.

“I was thinking about our child,” I said, tracing my hand over my bulging belly and felt his love and warmth rise up through the bond.

He smiled down at me, but he never had the opportunity to reply.

“Another bad day?” Eva asked, poking her head inside the room.

Garik nodded, “Theodora has been raising a fuss again.”

Eva nodded, “She doesn’t wish to give up her power. I doubt she will ever come around.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t be too sure about that,” I replied with a huge grin on my face.

Eva came over and place her hand on her shoulder and looked down at me with accusing eyes, “What did you do this time?”

“I threatened to take her magic away,” I said with a shrug.

“You really shouldn’t antagonize that woman,” she leaned down to plant a kiss on my lips.

I shrugged, “She’s standing in the way of progress. If I’m going to help the humans form this new joint-ruled magical council, I can’t have that damn woman standing in the way. She is a relic from an age that has come to an end. If she can’t change her ways then she has no place in this new order. Men must have an equal say, or they’ll be stuck repeating the mistakes of the past.”

“I should probably tell you that Leif is waiting outside. He wants to speak with you, but after the last time he want to be sure that… How did he put it? Oh, yes, that you were ‘properly clothed’,” she said with a tinkle of amusement in her eyes.

I let out a soft chuckle and shook my head as I reached over to grab my blouse from the chair it had been draped across. Despite my resolution to maintain my humanity, some Lejosálfar ways had begun to rub off on me and I’d almost completely lost my human sense of modesty. Elven modesty only extended to the outdoors, and that was mostly to protect oneself against the elements. Once indoors it was considered completely acceptable to roam about naked, even when you were a guest in another person’s home. You saw this far less frequently within the palace-tree, but it still wasn’t that uncommon an occurrence.

“Leif, I’m dressed. You can come in,” I called through the entryway as I finished with the last button.

After, Leif and Sam had been lost in our descent into Niflheim I had given up hope that the two were alive, but somehow they had survived. Leif told me that they come awake near the spring of Urd and had survived off its water and small insects that inhabited the roots of the Yggdrasil. Initially, no one understood how or why he and Sam had been spared, but after some time we’d come up with a pretty interesting theory. We think the goddesses spared them. The Eddas spoke of two humans, a male and a female, that would survive Ragnarok by hiding within the roots of the world tree. What if Leif and Sam were those humans, and the goddesses had hidden them there in the eventuality that we wouldn’t succeed?

“I came to say goodbye,” Leif said with sad smile.

“You’re not staying for the wedding?” Eva asked.

“No, I am, but I’ll be leaving afterward and I might not get to see you. So I thought…” he mumbled trailing off.

“Say no more. So where are you headed?” I said.

“Back to Midgard. They’re setting up a school for male magic users in Epegard,” he responded.

I moved across the room and flung my arms around in a great big hug, “Oh Leif, I’m going miss you. Please, try to stop by and visit from time to time.”

“You’re my best friend, Bryn. Of course, I’ll visit, but I kind of hoped you might visit me too… At least, whenever you’re on Midgard that is.”

“Of course. What about Sam? Will she be going with you?”

“Yeah, and believe it not that Matoaka lady has offered to take her on as an apprentice. It’s weird, but apparently Sam’s a descendant of hers from a really obscure line,” Leif replied.

“That’s great! Matoaka has a home in Nehrburg that’s just outside Epegard. You two will be able to see each other whenever you want.”

“Yeah, it’ll be pretty great. Well, I guess I better get going. I still have some packing to do before I leave tomorrow. I hope your wedding goes well.” Then he disappeared back out the doorway.

“You know… The wedding is in the morning. I think it’s about time you get to bed,” Eva said a moment later.

I shook my head and glared at Eva in mock indignation. It was one of the many drawbacks to being pregnant. Everyone had been treating me with kid gloves. Especially my future bride and my groom to be. Eva would never share any blood relation to the child, but she showed the same concern for the child’s well-being as Garik. Of course, she’d been there the night the child had been conceived, so that might have something to do with it. Garik and Eva didn’t love one another as they loved me, but once the two had stopped competing, their relationship had become much more amicable. They shared their bodies with each other when we made love, but I doubted they’d ever share their hearts with anyone but me.

“You were up half the night last night. You need to take care of yourself if you’re going to deliver a healthy child,” Garik chided.

“Fine, fine,” I shook my head with a dramatic sigh.

“You know…” Garik said with the barest hint of a smile. “It’s not really that late, and the wedding isn’t that early. I think we could afford to have a little fun before bed.”

“Fun you say? What exactly were you thinking?” Eva asked with a mischievous glint in her eyes.

I traced a hand across Eva’s face and embraced first her then Garik in a deep kiss, “Oh, I think I can suggest a few things.”

<img” src=”http://danielawolfe.com/tg/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/ary.png” alt=”” width=”221″ height=”2″ />

Siffendag 18. Ylir

I clutched at Daniella’s hand, doing my best to keep my apprehension at bay. I had accomplished everything I had ever dreamed of since learning of Ragnarok, and yet nothing I could have done would have prepared me for this. Bryn was getting married.

Elves had no temples or churches, because they had no gods to worship. So the marriage was being held outside in the foothills surrounding the city as all marriages in Dagdedar were held. Thousands of Lejosálfar, along with a handful of human guests had gathered for the occasion to watch the new queen be wed.

I took a look at that beautiful girl and I have a hard time believing that she was ever my son. Yet, there’s still a lot of Neil in Brynhilde, whether she realizes it or not. When I learned she was getting married, I believed she was making a mistake. She was only nineteen for Frigg’s sake! She was too young, and she wasn’t just marrying one person she was getting married to two! To further complicate matters she was six months pregnant with Garik’s child. The very idea seemed appalling to me and my human sensibilities. Then I realized something: Bryn wasn’t human, not entirely, anyway. As strange as that relationship was to me, Garik and Eva made my daughter happy, so I held my tongue and kept myself from saying anything. Bryn’d had a terrible burden placed on her shoulders, and she would spend the rest of her life, and potentially all of eternity as ruler of the light elves. She would need the love and support of both Garik and Eva to help maintain her throughout the eons.

I felt Daniella squeeze my hand. I looked over at her and smiled. Frigg had offered to return us to our original forms, but we had both declined. We had been in these bodies now for many years, and we’d grown accustomed to them and to each other. Before our transformations we’d both been heterosexual men. While we cared and loved each other deeply, we didn’t care to test the limits of that love.

We couldn’t understand any of the ceremony, as it was all being recited in the Elvish language, but as we were both included, we had both been advised on what to expect. Bryn, Eva and Garik were standing in a triangle facing one another. Daniella and I, Heime, as well as a man and a woman who were Garik’s parents stood in a circle around the trio. There were no priests or anyone to officiate as the three spoke their parts.

Each were supposed to name what they felt were the others greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses, which probably explained why Bryn looked so embarrassed and humiliated as her two lovers finished what they were saying. The elves believed that if a marriage was to last, that it must be tested from the very beginning, so that the bond between those being wed would be forged to become stronger than steel.

When it was Bryn’s turn to speak, she turned to Garik, and I saw his eyes widen with shock and surprise and a pleased smile crept onto his face. Her grasp on the Elvish language, while still imperfect, had become good enough that she could hold a conversation and be understood. Slowly the smile turned into a frown and he lowered his head in shame and nodded in understanding.

When it came Eva’s turn, she eyed Bryn thoughtfully and threw her head back and laughed as Bryn listed her weaknesses. Eva was odd, even by elven standards, but considering what she used to be, that really was no surprise.

Finally, they each repeated the words, ‘bundr allilífu,’ separately and then together. They kissed and turned to the crowd and repeated ‘bundr allilifu’ one final time before there was a flash of light and the three disappeared with the light of Bryn’s travel spell.

Daniella turned to me and smiled thoughtfully, “So what now?”

“I don’t know,” I said, squeezing her hand and shaking my head. I’d never intended to have a child, but doing so had brought a completeness and fullness to my life that I never would have expected, and now that she had moved on to a new life I didn’t know how I would cope.

“You know, our lives are going to be empty without a child in our home,” her words mirroring my thoughts.

“I was just thinking the same thing,” I replied back.

Daniella kissed me lightly on the lips, “There are so many children who have been orphaned by this terrible war. Maybe we could adopt a few.”

I placed a hand on either of her shoulders and kissed her back, “I think I’d like that.”

 

Comments, no matter how short, are very much appreciated. If you liked this story, I would be very appreciative if you left a review at fictionmania, tgstorytime or bigcloset topshelf. Criticism is welcome, but only when presented in a constructive and positive manner.

 

As my other stories this is a work of fiction and as such any resemblance to real life individuals events or locations is purely unintentional. Only Fictionmania, Bigcloset Topshelf, & tgstorytime.com have permission to post this story and my previous works unless I state otherwise.

 

Ragnarok Shorts: Tales from the Spellbinder Universe

04/01/2017

In a world where magic reigns supreme, identity and gender can be as fluid as the forces of nature. A mad scientist, a transgender woman who has become involved with a radical revolutionist group, a goddess of mischief, a supplicant to an inexperienced goddess, and a young apprentice; each person’s life takes a strange and unexpected twist as elemental forces reshape their existence.

Author's Note

Each piece can be read as a standalone, but you may get more enjoyment from them if you read my Ragnarok Rising Trilogy as they are set in the same universe and feature some of the same characters. Each of these tales takes place at different points in the Spellbinder Universe chronology and contain minor spoilers. As such they may seem to contradict each other if you’re not familiar with the mythology and history of universe in which they are set.

Thanks go out to Hutcho for creating and putting out the Mixed Tape anthologies in which these stories were originally featured. I’d also like to thank Maggie Finson who pre-read “Convergence of Magics” and to all the other Mixed Tape contributors who provided valued input on each of these tales.

‘Bathe in his blood!’ she said as I collapsed to the ground.

I heard the guard’s feet clomp on the floor followed by the clank of the cell door closing behind him. I rolled onto my back panting and clutching at my side where I was certain his repeated kicks had resulted in broken ribs. Each time I drew in breath, the pain which was normally a dull throb swelled to the point I felt myself growing faint.

‘Get up! Fight, kill, burn everything!

“I-I can’t, I don’t know how!”

‘Let the magic burn inside of us!’

My vision flashed a brilliant bright white and gasped and gritted my teeth as I sat up. I could use magic, but given my current state I wasn’t sure I could live with the consequences. I flexed my hand, the female one, and watched fascinated and in disbelief that it could be mine. I cupped my breast and gasped, letting my hand drop back down. There was a jagged split down the center of my body, like two of my victims sewn together in a bizarre mishmash of male and female.

So many years, so many experiments, and it had all come down to this. It all started with twins, but it’d gone far beyond that. How many victims did I abduct over the years? I always had such a clear image of their faces in my mind, but now I could only recall a handful. I’d lost my passion for the work and instead became obsessed with power, specifically magic. Men were denied it’s use, but I’d been determined to find a way to make it mine and… I did.

I’d never been given the time I needed to test it, they came before I could and I’d been forced to inject myself to save the formula. It’s how I found myself in my present predicament, a prisoner of the Nordic empire.

‘Let it course through us. Burn our enemies to ash and cinder!’

“No! I-I can’t. I won’t! It’s too dangerous!”

I hadn’t called upon the magic, but I could feel it boiling just under the surface. It was said that it took years to master the power of the seidh, but the pure destructive force could be harnessed by the untrained if they were willing to take the risk.

‘Let the power burn!’

“YES!” I screamed my resistance slipping away as I let the magic just wash over me. It whipped and whirled. It burned… oh how it burned. I let it go swirling out of me a whirlwind of destructive fire and rage that blasted my little cell into oblivion.

‘We are free!’

The voice had been so right, all this time I had fought it, but she had known. The magic consumed me, eating away at male flesh, but I didn’t care. The voice and I howled out in unison until… I couldn’t discern her voice from mine. We were Mengele.

+


As featured in Funky Lady

Tires screech from the street behind me and I pull my apprentice robes close as I step into the convention center. I shudder, and bite my lips. I am worried that the gathered magic users–Spellbinders, Charmers, Enchantresses, and Mages all come at the behest of the Seidskati for an emergency meeting of the council–will see through my disguise. I am an imposter, once a man I had been transformed so that I could tap into the power of the Seidh, a power which is denied to males.

I stop and cup my breasts and get an odd look from the woman next to me. My boobs feel so right, but come with a terrible price. I have always been certain that I am meant to be a woman, but society hasn’t been so understanding. Once, I came close to taking my life, but then I heard about the formula, one which promises to turn any man into a woman and by extension a magic user. Whispers mostly, unsubstantiated, but I had so desperately wanted to believe and as a member of the Sons of Odin it was already in my grasp.

The spellbinders control everything and the Sons of Odin claim to want equal rights for men and even transgendered people like me, but their methods are not those of the righteous freedom fighters they claim to be. There are rumors that they are preparing for the end, the battle of Ragnarok, but if so I think I’ve chosen the wrong side. I hate them. They killed my mother when I refused to cooperate and are holding my sister ransom to ensure I cooperate now.

I have no choice, I must continue or risk losing the only person I care about. I walk slowly through the convention center, craning my neck around looking for a flash of that trademark Le Fey auburn hair. The place was big and it was going to take time. There is a balcony up above and stage at the far end. She could be anywhere. Bryn is Sophie’s friend, and given my transformed self’s resemblance to my sister I am the perfect person to play her. Especially with the illusory spell cast over me.

“Neil?” I ask sidestepping the fair-haired giant of a man standing guard over her. She is beautiful just like her mother, and like Aryanna she has been born male.

Bryn spins around and I watch her eyes grow wide. “Sophie?”

My lying face contorts into an awful smirk. A lie, just like everything else about me. The Sons of Odin want me to get close to Aryanna, and through her daughter, I can do just that. Aryanna is part of the task force hunting down the Sons of Odin and they desperately want to get at her. A lot of people will probably die as result of my actions, but I don’t care. I will do anything to save my sister, even betray her best friend.

+


As featured in Du Bist Sehr Schön

Boobs, you gotta love them. As a goddess I have a pretty rocking set, but that hasn’t always been the case. I used to be a dude, but that was another life and I’d tell you all about it if it weren’t so incredibly boring. My new existence is far more entertaining, but that sort of comes with the job description. I am, after all, the goddess of mischief and chaos, which used to be Loki’s gig, but he went and got himself killed (twice) and I got the honour of stepping in to fill his rather robust shoes.

Sex is a riot, but my partners are usually mortals and they just don’t have the same stamina that I do. Take my last two studs. Their affections had been pleasurable, certainly, but I’d done about everything I could think of with them and frankly it was getting incredibly stale. I knew just what they needed, a nice pair of luscious melons. I snapped my fingers and couldn’t help but grin as I watched the two transform, the taller blond one’s short cropped hair grew darker and cascaded down her back in a mass of curls before her body shifted taking on a perfect hourglass figure. The other, I made a redhead and well… let’s just say I left a little something extra between her legs.

I couldn’t wait to take the two for a test drive, but it was time to perform some of my godly duties. It was a bit of a bother, but once in a while I could derive some fun from it. I snapped my fingers, disappearing from my abode and reappeared in the domicile of a mortal, a silly little man who was always praying to me and whimpering about all kinds of dreary things. I don’t often answer prayers, but when I do, as you might imagine, things don’t usually turn out quite the way the supplicant envisions.

He couldn’t see me, which is how I like it when I’m working. The little guy went about his monotonous little existence doing all sort of tedious things. He wanted me to make his life more exciting, you know give it a little spice, and I giggled as I realized just what gift I’d confer on him, a pair of mammaries. You know it’s funny how often it comes down to that. I grinned, but instead of snapping my fingers, I switched it up and wiggled my nose.

His chest bloomed into a pair of glorious mounds, and his hips, legs and the rest of his body soon followed. Hair splashed down her back where before she had almost none and her face morphed into the perfect vision of feminine beauty. I smiled and left her to discover my handiwork. I heard her scream just before I vanished and I rolled my eyes. You know, some people are just never happy with the gifts bestowed on them.

Tiny little droplets, trickled down my cheek and I stared up at the statue of the goddess begging her to answer my prayers. If the Aesir were so powerful why wouldn’t they grant my simple appeal? I would think she, of all the gods, would be the most sympathetic to my plight, but I guess the worries of a simple mortal like myself were beneath her notice.

I stood and pulled my hood up over my face, glancing around the temple and shook my head. Her shrine was unlike that of any other god or goddess, there were no priests, priestesses or even an attendant in sight. Other than a simple altar and a towering statue with her likeness the room was empty, but even as I looked around I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was not alone. Was it the presence of the divine that I sensed or was it merely a product of my imagination?

I shook my head and moved for the open archway which led back out into the city, but before I could I felt a hand on my shoulder. My heart was racing as I slowly turned to meet the gaze of the smiling figure. The statue didn’t do her justice, her soft features were framed with long auburn tresses and one look at her body was enough to make me weak in the knees. She was perfect in every sense of the word, and I doubted that anyone, man or woman, could find fault with her voluptuous form.

“Do you know who I am?” she asked her hand reaching up to touch my cheek.

A simple nod was all I could muster, but it seemed to be enough for her. She backed away, then shook her head and placed her hands on her hips. It seemed so strange, but there was something very… human about her posture. Everyone knew her story and how she had been born to a human mother, but somehow I expected that she would have shed her humanity. To see that it was still very much intact seemed so… odd.

She shook her head and turned her back to me. “Prayers are… still a little weird for me. So, forgive me for taking so long. I-I’ll gladly help you, but you do realize that once it’s done, it will be permanent. It’s a big change, I know, so if you don’t think–”

“NO!” I screamed, then ran a hand through my hair and grimaced. “Please, you can’t come all this way just to tell me no.”

“I didn’t intend to.” She spun back around and smiled.

It happened so quickly that I don’t think I was fully prepared for it. Whirling bursts of energy flew out from her fingertips. The brightest light filled my vision, and when it cleared again, the goddess was gone. I looked down at my now flat chest and smiled, finally my prayers had been answered.

+


As featured in Miniskirts

Lights swirled and whizzed through the room at almost sickening speeds. Sometimes one would bounce of a wall and ricochet off in another direction, and other times it would simply disintegrate. There was no rhyme or reason to it, but magic could sometimes be unpredictable that way. My master and his wife were pioneers in inter-gender magic research and the lights were one of many unforeseen results of their experiments.

The lab was a simple unadorned room, with cupboards lining the walls and a large workspace at its center. Empty beakers and test tubes lined the counters, but they weren’t what I had come for. The more dangerous stuff was locked in the cupboard at the back of the room and it was there that I went. Otto and Thora would be gone for some time and I knew that if I didn’t take advantage of their absence I may not get another chance.

I unlocked the cupboard with the key, I had swiped from my master, then quickly gathered the magic artifacts made from Thora’s power, a feather of wind, three fire beads and five small phials of spirit essence. I memorized the recipe the last time my master had granted me permission to view his valdbok and I was familiar enough with potion making that I was confident I would be successful.

Potioncraft was a new art and it was one of the few ways in which male and female magic could be used together. Otto was fond of saying that the power of the seid for men and women were like different sides of the same coin. While either type differed slightly from the other, they were both elemental and some abilities, like transformational spells, were much more difficult for men to perform. Women’s enchantments had their own weaknesses and it couldn’t exactly be said that either sex was overall more powerful.

Inside a large beaker, I mixed the ingredients in the order the recipe had directed then closed my eyes and began to funnel the required amounts of male energy into the container. When I opened my eyes again I found that the ingredients had turned into a clear blue liquid. I grinned then, before I could chicken out, quickly downed the entire potion.

A moment later the world started fade into darkness and when I came to again, I was laying on the ground. I shook my head then stood up. Something felt wrong, and when I looked down at my chest I found a pair of breasts sticking out from it.
“Crap!” I yelled.

A check inside my pants revealed a new vagina. The spell was supposed to make me more appealing to girls not turn me into one! “Double crap!”

“Alibran?” A voice, which belonged to my master, called from the other side of the door. “Did you sneak into the lab, again?”

“TRIPLE CRAP!”

+

Comments are very much appreciated. If you liked these stories please take a minute to leave a review or even just to tell me you liked them. Criticism is welcome so long as it is constructive and I will gladly answer any personal messages or emails you want to send my way.

As my other stories these are a work of fiction and as such any resemblance to real life individuals, events or locations are purely unintentional. Only Fictionmania, Bigcloset Topshelf, & tgstorytime.com have permission to host this story and my previous works unless I state otherwise.

Good Deeds

04/08/2017

Doing good always helps to bring a little happiness into your heart, but it’s nice to get a thank you every now and then.

Author's Note

This story was originally part of an anthology which can be found by clicking this link.

This story is part of an open universe, if you are interest in writing in this universe, visit the open universes page and if your still interested use the contact form and shoot me an email with your idea.

Sometimes it’s hard staying humble, but it was a virtue so I had to at least try. Still, I had to admit I did good work even when I seldom got credit for it. My current venture was only just wrapping up.

She was in a restaurant, a ritzy one from the looks of it. Funny, how changing just one little detail had such a ripple effect. Before I got to her, she was holding a gun to her head, ready to blow her brains out. Judging from the way she was looking around she didn’t understand where she was, or how she’d gotten there nor did she seem to have noticed her new body.

I was beginning to wonder if she’d ever wise up, but then she finally glanced down at her chest. She let out a high pitched squeal and lurched onto her feet. I followed her into the bathroom and when she caught that reflection in the mirror she started to teeter on her feet. That’s when dark beads of mascara stained her cheeks, and I rolled my eyes as she started to sob. Why were mortals always so emotional? Wait, that last one didn’t sound like a sob, in fact it sounded more like a giggle, which was followed by a second and third.

I couldn’t blame her for laughing, I would be too if I found myself living in the right body after a lifetime spent in the wrong one. I doubted that she’d be posing in any magazines any time soon, she was far from ugly. She was pretty in a girl next door sort of way, which I think suited her pretty well.

“Hey, are you Ellie?”

“I, uh, well,” was all she said to newcomer who’d just stepped inside the restroom.

“Well whatever, there’s some guy out there looking for an Ellie.”

She moved to leave, but the other woman stopped her. “You know you may want to clean yourself up. Unless you want him to know you’ve been crying.”

She bit her lip, then grabbed a paper towel, dampened it and washed the mascara from her face. She didn’t spend any time applying new makeup, but I don’t think she knew how.

“There you are.” A tall dark-haired man approached her a moment after she exited the bathroom.

She looked nervous, but I really don’t think she should have. The two of them had grown up together in Meridian. In her old reality she’d never had the courage to tell him how she really felt and their relationship had never been a romantic one, but… well things had changed.

“Thank you, whoever or whatever did this,” she whispered to the open air.

She couldn’t see me, but I couldn’t help but smile, sometimes I did get credit for my good deeds. “You’re welcome.”

“Something wrong?” Jeff asked.

“No,” she bit her lip then looked around a final time before turning back to him. “Everything is just fine.”

The End

Comments, no matter the length, are very much appreciated. If you liked this story please take a minute to leave a review or even just to tell me you liked it. Criticism is welcome so long as it is constructive and I will gladly answer any personal messages or emails you want to send my way.

As my other stories this is a work of fiction and as such any resemblance to real life individuals, events or locations is purely unintentional. Only my own site, Fictionmania, Bigcloset Topshelf, & tgstorytime.com have permission to host this story and my previous works unless I state otherwise.

I wish that I was Jessie’s Girl

04/22/2017

An unusual song somehow finds a way onto a Jogger’s playlist and it changes ‘her’ life forever.

 

Author’s Note: This story features a parody of the Rick Springfield song ‘Jessie’s Girl’ which ironically enough is a tune I dislike with a passion. I heard this song in the store one day and the idea popped into my head. This story was originally featured as the intro piece to The Music Celebrates With Me

 

I wish that I was Jessie’s girl

The music blared in my ear and I glanced down at my phone. That wasn’t right. I tried pausing the playlist, but the music just wouldn’t stop. Even the skip button wasn’t doing a damn bit of good.

Yeah, I know she’s been a good friend of mine
But lately something’s changed, that’s so hard to define
Jessie’s already got a girl, but soon she will be mine

“What the fuck?” I stopped in my tracks fiddling with my phone and tried to turn it off, but even that wouldn’t work. I gave up and reached up to yank the earbuds out of my ears, but even though I was pulling as hard as I could they wouldn’t pop free.

Something odd was going on, the only damn thing the phone would tell me was that the song was part of a playlist called “The Mixed Tape.”

And you know I have a hot bod
One she’ll never be able to resist, I just know it
Pretty soon we’ll be making love, all day and night

You know, I thought to myself, it’s really not that bad. I grinned and took off running again. What was I so worried about anyway? It was just a stupid little song. Was my chest bouncing? That didn’t seem right.

You know I wish that I was Jessie’s girl
I wish that I was Jessie’s girl
Why can’t I be a woman for her?

Next time, I went for a jog, I really needed to wear a sports bra. What could I have been thinking? I thought about going back home, but I was really just getting into the groove of things. A good work out was like a good dance, if I quit and went back now I’d screw up my rhythm.

I’ll play for as long as it takes
I’m sick of sitting around and biding my time
When I’m done with her, she’ll only want to be with me
I’m gonna tell her that I love her and I’ll have her forever

I slowed and smiled as I approached Jessie’s place. I had a thing for her, but we were just friends. Maybe that would change. I undid my ponytail glanced down at my chest and smiled. I wished I was a little more presentable, but my heart told me that this was the time. I swallowed hard and with slow furtive steps I found myself at her doorstep. I reached up to knock and…

And you know I have a great bod
One she’ll never be able to resist, I just know it
Pretty soon we’ll be making love, all day and night.

“Jessie!” I grinned pulling my earbuds free as the door swung open. She looked like she was ready to go out for a jog herself, but that didn’t stop me. “So listen, I was thinking that we could go out sometime.”

 



The End

Comments, no matter the length, are very much appreciated. If you liked this story please take a minute to leave a review or even just to tell me you liked it. Criticism is welcome so long as it is constructive and I will gladly answer any personal messages or emails you want to send my way.

As my other stories this is a work of fiction and as such any resemblance to real life individuals, events or locations is purely unintentional. Only my own site, Fictionmania, Bigcloset Topshelf, & tgstorytime.com have permission to host this story and my previous works unless I state otherwise.

Battle For Earth: Prologue

04/29/2017

I was only four years old when the Qharr invaded our world. They rained death and destruction upon the Earth and when the smoke finally cleared those of us who survived lived to see ourselves fall under their rule.

Author’s Note: This was originally posted as a serial in various-sized chunks on the usual sites.

Although, it’s a bit ‘spoil-rific’ I feel I need to warn people that I do kill off a lot of characters throughout this series. I make no apologies as I believe in staying true to the story even if it means putting my characters through hell.

Thanks to the following people for pre-reading the story and helping with grammatical edits: Beyogi, Maggie Finson, Loki and Zapper.

 

Prologue

I remember when the Qharr invaded the Earth though I was only four years old when it happened. The United Earth Defense Fleet had been battling them in the skies above for days and I watched from the safety of our family home in wide-eyed fascination. It wasn’t until I grew older that I finally understood what those bright flashes of light in the night sky had been. Death. Humans ships exchanging fire with the Qharr invaders. The battle was an exercise in futility, everyone knew it except me. I was too young to understand what it all meant.

The Qharr were coming and no one that remained was safe not even my then four year old self.

“Jellfree!” my mother, Muriel Briggs, called my name as she appeared in the doorway of my room.

“Come on, honey. It’s time to go!” she called urgently.

I tried to protest, to ask my mother why, but she merely smiled sadly as tears cascaded down her face. She gently reached over to where I was sitting on my bed and picked me up. I started to cry. I didn’t want to go! I didn’t understand why we had to leave. My cries fell on deaf ears as she rushed me out of the house. My father soon joined us accompanied by my older sister, Rebecca . Mother rushed me into the family aerocar, a battered old Ford Vision, and my sister joined me in the back seat. My father, Lloyd, drove and took us out onto the nearest lane speeding into traffic with a velocity that reflected my own terror.

I didn’t understand what was happening, but I knew enough to sense that something had my parents and older sibling scared. Neither my sister or I spoke; instead we clung to one another with wide eyes. Our parents offered up reassurances from the front seat, but it was abundantly clear that they didn’t believe a word they said. They told us we were going somewhere safe, somewhere where the Qharr couldn’t find us. Over the last few weeks I’d heard my family talk of the Qharr, but I didn’t really understand the threat they posed. They kept speaking of invasion, but I didn’t know what that word meant.

My father let out a long string of curses and the car went veering off to the side of the road. I peeked out the window and noted that traffic was so packed it had come to a standstill. The car stalled and floated down to the ground. Becca and I exchanged glances and with faces glued to the window we watched in amazement as all the surrounding vehicles did the same. My parents started to argue, they’d been doing a lot of that during those last few days. One of them mentioned an EMP and while I’d heard that word a lot. I didn’t know the exact meaning. I did know it was some sort of weapon the Qharr had been using against us. Our parents seemed to come to a decision as they both undid their restraints and urged my sister and me to do the same.

Once we were out of the car we started walking. We traveled by foot for what seemed to be an eternity to my child’s mind. I started to cry, my feet were throbbing and I didn’t want to walk any longer. Mother attempted to sooth me, but it was too no avail. Instead of stopping, my father picked me up and put me up on his shoulders. This had always been one of my favorite modes of transportation and my father knew it. I quickly settled down and we resumed our journey through the city streets.

There wasn’t a soul out in the open, and it almost seemed as if the entire city was out stuck in traffic. It was an eerie experience walking through the empty streets and even to this day I remember it quite vividly. Once or twice we caught sight of vague outline of a person lurking in the shadows or group of people moving in the distance, but none of them came close enough to us for me to see them very clearly.

Our long walk came to a very abrupt end after rounding a corner. A large, almost insect like black monstrosity rested in the middle of the street blocking traffic going in every direction. I had no idea what the horrendous thing was, but I later became much more familiar with the god awful things. It was a Qharr J’narr class destroyer, but that was nothing compared to the horrible gray-skinned creatures that littered the street around it.

It was my first glimpse of our conquerors but it certainly wouldn’t be the last. We just stood there for a moment in complete shock, and then my father handed me off to my mother and reached into his jacket producing a phase pistol. We started running in the opposite direction as one of the Qharr called something out and two of them broke into a run behind us. My father shot his weapon haphazardly behind him as we ran, but the shots never landed home and our Qharr pursuers got closer and closer until they were right on our heels .

The shorter of the two grabbed my father’s arm as he reached back to fire and tore the gun out of his hand. My father spun around to punch at the Qharr with his other hand, but the alien caught his fist with the casual ease of a trained fighter.

We all stopped to watch in horror as the Qharr grabbed my father by the throat and lifted him from the ground.

“Muriel dammit, don’t just stand there! Run !”

We started running again, but I peered over my mother’s shoulder and watched as the Qharr snapped my father’s neck and cast his body aside with casual disdain. I screamed out in terror and I felt my mother’s tears splatter against my neck as I bounced in her arms. She didn’t utter a word, but her weeping was indication enough that she knew my father’s fate. His demise only distracted them for a few short moments before they were right back after us. It didn’t take them long to catch up to us and I think my mother finally realized that fleeing wasn’t doing us any good because she stopped just as they were nearly on top of us.

She calmly set me down then she stepped in front of my sister and me facing the Qharr with both fists planted on her hips and head held high in defiance. “I won’t let you harm my children!” she screamed.

The very same Qharr who had killed my father stepped forward and regarded my mother with a trio of unblinking pale yellow eyes then abruptly he raised his hand and struck her in the throat. Mother gasped for breath and clutched at her neck, but soon collapsed dead to the ground. Becca tugged at my arm screaming at me to run, but I fell to my knees and wrapped my small hands around my mother’s corpse.

“Mommy!”

I’d never known death before, but instinctively my child’s mind knew that my mother was gone. I felt a massive hand lift me up, and I clenched my eyes shut and waited for the Qharr to do to me what he had done to my mother and father, but my death never came. My eyes flew back open and watched as the other alien lifted my sister into his arms. The two aliens carried us off and we began our new lives as slaves…

Comments, no matter the length, are very much appreciated. If you liked this story please take a minute to leave a review or even just to tell me you liked it. Criticism is welcome so long as it is constructive and I will gladly answer any personal messages or emails you want to send my way.

As my other stories this is a work of fiction and as such any resemblance to real life individuals, events or locations is purely unintentional. Only Fictionmania, Bigcloset Topshelf, & tgstorytime.com have permission to host this story and my previous works unless I state otherwise.

Battle For Earth: Resistance

05/06/2017

I had been a slave to the Qharr nearly my entire life, but one fateful day
everything changed. I joined up with a group of rebels, and through a twist of fate,
no one could have ever foreseen, I became the woman I am today…

Author’s Note: This was originally posted as a serial in various-sized chunks on the usual sites.

Although, it’s a bit ‘spoil-rific’ I feel I need to warn people that I do kill off a lot of characters throughout this series. I make no apologies as I believe in staying true to the story even if it means putting my characters through hell.

Thanks to the following people for pre-reading the story and helping with grammatical edits: Beyogi, Maggie Finson, Loki and Zapper.

Chapter One

Rich violet blood splattered my face as I stepped out into the practice yard. I brought a hand up to wipe it off and just barely managed to duck out of the way as the body of a Qharr soldier flew over my head. For a brief moment he simply lay there on the ground, but then he jumped back to his feet and rushed his opponent with his g’th stick whirling in a furious blur of motion. Corrector Duvak Nakyrr blocked the young soldier’s blow and swept his own weapon in a wide arc which his opponent nearly didn’t block in time.

The young soldier knocked the Corrector’s g’th stick out of his hands and sent it flying through the air. The soldier swirled his stick around aiming at the Duvak’s left side. He easily dodged the blow then brought his right foot around in a round house kick that smashed into the other fighter’s chest with an audible thud. The soldier fell backward and landed on his back, giving the Corrector just enough time to retrieve his weapon. The other Qharr was soon back on his feet and the two were once more locked in hand-to-hand combat.

The Corrector was quite short for a member of his race, but despite being both smaller and much older than his opponent he cut through each attack with ease. The two of them battled back and forth for another ten minutes and Duvak managed to knock the young soldier off his feet three more times before finally felling him for the fifth and final time. Duvak coughed and threw his g’th stick off to the side with an almost disdainful flick of his wrists. In the five years that I’d served within the compound I’d only been invited out to the practice yard a few dozen times and even then I doubted I’d seen Duvak duel more than half a dozen times. Never once had I seen him go up against an opponent who even came close to matching him in skill. I might have wondered why he bothered if I didn’t understand the bastards’ mentality. As commander of the facility it was his personal responsibility to make sure that his men received proper training which apparently meant kicking their asses on a routine basis.

I stood silently off to the side and waited for my master to take notice of me. To the Qharr I was just an honorless and lowly human slave and speaking to Duvak without permission was a good way to get myself beaten or, on a bad day, killed. I hated them with every fiber of my being, but if I let myself show that hatred I’d be dead in seconds. I’d seen what our masters did to humans who disobeyed them and I didn’t want that to happen to me. So I played the part of the obedient slave, and did the very best I could to survive. Which had worked out pretty well for me, I was only twenty-eight and had one of the most important jobs a human slave could ever be tasked with.

“Ah, Master Cook Briggs,” Corrector Duvak said his three eyes locked on me halfway across the compound.

I felt rush of hatred and anger as the Corrector studied me. Here standing before me was the one responsible for my enslavement, the same soldier who had carried my sister and I off more than twenty-four years ago, after murdering my parents. As the one who had captured me I’d been given into his care to serve him until the day that I died. For many years lived as his slave, and I had all but given up hope of ever being free, but then I met Kaya and she reawakened my passion and hatred for those grays-skinned bastards. I still served my oppressor as I had for nearly my entire life, but I only did so because I saw no other choice. If the Qharr ever realized that I felt the way I did they’d kill me without a moment’s hesitation.

“Corrector, I am honored to once again be allowed to bask in your presence,” I said, with a bow of my head and fake subservient smile.

I didn’t say a word as Duvak came over to me and placed his massive six-fingered hand on my right shoulder in a Qharr gesture of greeting. I brought my left hand up and lightly gripped it around his second and third digits then withdrew it sliding my open palm across my chest as was expected. Duvak nodded–a human gesture he had picked up from all his years working with our kind–then drew his hand away and coughed loudly.

As I mentioned before the Corrector was actually quite short for a Qharr standing at just a little over 1.9 meters tall, but to a human slave he cut an imposing figure nonetheless. Like all of his kind his skin was a glossy dark gray and had a segmented almost insect-like quality to it. As any Qharr soldier my master had a tattoo extending from his left shoulder in the shape of circle overlapped by the Qharr symbol for unity. There were two arrays of tattoos branching out from the symbol. One extending downward, displaying his exploits in battle with a long array of Qharr characters and the other extending toward his right shoulder showing his rank. He had a thick mop of black hair that ran just past his shoulders. Like humans, our masters stood on two legs, and while their proportions were similar to ours there was no mistaking them for one of us.

“An important day approaches, young Jellfree,” Duvak said, staring at me with all three of his eyes. His lip-less fang-lined mouth seemed to be a frowning, but I knew it was just the natural set of his features.

“If you say it, it is so, great one,” I said injecting the expected amount of reverence into my voice.

“It is so, human, in three days Overseer Jahal Tkyr will arrive to visit the compound,” he intoned pacing back and forth in front of me.

And I understood why the Corrector had summoned me. The Overseer was a high ranking Qharr official and it was customary to greet the arrival of such an official with a feast. As the compound’s head cook I would be expected to prepare a meal appropriate to the occasion.

“I understand, great one, I will prepare a meal that shall bring the Overseer’s praises heaping down upon you.”

Duvak coughed and brushed at my chest with the back of his two middle fingers in an expression of amusement. “Good. I am told that the Overseer is quite fond of canine meat. I have placed a large order of it and it shall arrive on the morrow see that it is prepared in jum’kar juices.”

“Yes, great one.”

The Corrector did not respond instead he stared at me his head titling from side to side as if he were trying to size me up. He coughed again then turned away. “Leave, slave.”

I swallowed hard and quickly scurried out of the practice yard. I don’t know why, but I got the impression that Duvak was worried about something. I’d spent a lifetime around the Qharr and I understood them as well as any human could. Duvak had displayed behavior that was odd even by his people’s standards. Something had him on edge and that didn’t bode well for anyone least of all a slave like me.

“Jellfree!” Kaya Brzezinski said spinning around with a large wooden mixing spoon in hand.

A small bit of sauce from the spoon splattered my face in almost exact place where I’d been hit with Qharr blood just a little time before. Kaya was one of the cooks who worked under me, and was one of the most attractive women I’d ever known. Like me, her life was one long sad tale, and I’d heard enough variations on the same story that I could recite hers by heart. About six months ago I found her waiting in my room after we’d both worked a long shift in the kitchen and the two of us had been together ever since.

She bit her lip and stared up at me apprehensively, “What did the Corrector want?”

I wiped the sauce off my face then I reached over to yank the spoon out of her hand and pulled her close. “The Overseer is coming.”

“How long?” she grimaced and reached at empty air as she made several futile attempts to snatch the spoon back out of my roving hand.

“Three days,” I said, spinning the spoon around, and then tossed it from hand to hand before holding it out for her to take.

She yanked it from my outstretched hand and shook it in front of my face. “Three days?! And how, the fucking hell, are we expected to prepare a welcome feast on such short notice!? It would be nice if our Masters would have given us a little more warning!”

“Kaya! You shouldn’t talk like that! What if one of the guards heard you!?”

I loved Kaya dearly, but there were times that I feared she’d get us both killed. She was impulsive and she nearly always spoke her mind. Honestly, I had no idea how she’d survived so long as a slave. Few Qharr were as tolerant as Duvak and even the Corrector had his limits. He’d proven on more than one occasion that he could be every bit as cruel and ruthless as any other member of his race.

Kaya looked like she wanted to scream, but instead she swallowed hard and slowly nodded. “You’re right, Jellfree.”

I kissed her lightly on the forehead then whispered in her ear. “Come on, we’ve got work to do.”

Kaya’s sleeping form was sprawled on the bed-pad beside me and I stared down at her in amazement that such a beautiful woman would want anything to do with me. She deserved better, not just from me, but from life. She would never know anything but the life of a slave, yet I couldn’t escape the feeling that she was meant for so much more. Before I’d met her I had pretty much given hope of ever being free, but her free spirit had started to rub off on me and I’d begun to let myself hope again.

It seemed ridiculous, I know. What was there to hope for, really? The Qharr had slaughtered billions of our kind and there were more of them living on earth than humans . Our masters seemed perfectly content for humans to exist as a slave race and I doubted that they’d ever let our species die out, but there had to be more to live for than just serving Duvak! It hadn’t been too long ago that man had roamed the stars. Perhaps someday we’d transverse the cosmos again.

Kaya had a passion for life that I’d never seen in another slave, it was why I loved her so much, but it was also why I feared for her. It was relatively easy to hide things from the Qharr. They showed their emotions with complex body gestures and few of them cared to learn human facial expressions well enough to understand what they meant. Even so, they weren’t stupid, and Kaya wasn’t very good at hiding her emotions. There would come a day when her defiant attitude would come back to bite her in the ass, and I would probably be caught in the crossfire. Even so, I wouldn’t trade my time with her for all the world.

“Good morning,” Kaya muttered softly her eyes fluttered open as she let out a loud yawn.

“Morning.”

We’d spent dozens of nights together, but each night was as precious to me as the last.

“We probably ought to get down to the kitchen,” Kaya said suddenly sitting up and letting out a long sigh.

Duvak was considered quite lenient for a Qharr Corrector, but if either of us were late for our duties we would be severely punished, particularly if we were late on such an important day. I let out a sigh of my own and lumbered out of bed. We both dressed and shared a brief kiss before separating to make our way to the showers.

“Jeck, is the spotted g’tck dripping?” I called out over my shoulder.

He let out a loud yelp and I winced as a loud high-pitched wail filled the kitchen. “Not yet!”

I hated preparing g’tck of any sort, but spotted g’tck were particularly troublesome as they were harder than hell to kill. And I didn’t particularly like that in order to properly prepare g’tck you had to boil one alive. It was a cruel way to kill the creatures, but if you killed them any other way they’d release their stench pouches and make their meat all but inedible. Well really, only the Qharr could eat the stuff, it was toxic to humans. When a g’tck started to leak it meant the poor thing was dead and its stench pouch was properly boiled out.

I turned my back and went back to whisking the large vat of murr cream and did my best to block out the foul smell. I wasn’t particularly fond of Qharr cuisine, but according to Duvak I had a talent for preparing their food that few humans shared. Most human cooks tried to make the food more palatable to human tongues, I just cooked it the way I knew the Qharr would like it. I boiled the cream until it turned a sickly bluish-brown then switched the burner off and moved to check on the next dish which happened to be dog meat marinated in jum’kar juices.

I spent the better part of the morning dashing around the kitchen, and trying to get everything ready for the Overseer’s visit. By the time it was all prepared to my satisfaction I was both mentally and physically exhausted, but my day was far from over. After a second trip to the showers, I got dressed and made my way to the meeting hall where Duvak along with a select group of slaves and Qharr would await the coming of the Overseer

Chapter Two

“Kaya,” I whispered between gritted teeth and tugged at her arm. “Who is this guy? What happened to Jeck?”

He certainly looked harmless enough, standing there holding a tray of food peering off into the distance with a look of disinterest. He was short, shorter even than most women, and my first impression was that he was only a teenager, but on closer inspection I realized he must have been at least in his mid twenties. He had dark circles under his eyes, a goatee growing from out his chin like a little bush, and despite his appearance his presence set me on edge.

Kaya bit her lip as cast her eyes down to the floor. “He… uh got into an accident and broke his leg. I had to find someone to replace him at the last moment.”

I didn’t like it, I loved Kaya, but I knew when I was being lied to. I didn’t doubt Jeck had broken his leg, but I knew Kaya well enough to realize she was probably the one responsible for breaking it in the first place. The two had never really gotten along and if Jeck had provoked her she may have let her temper get the better of her. It wouldn’t have been the first time that she’d attacked him.

I sighed and shook my head. “Just makes sure this new guy knows what’s expected,” I said releasing my grip on her shoulder.

She smiled nervously and nodded. “Oh, he knows.”

I got the distinct impression that Kaya was keeping something from me, but I had no time to find out what it was. I doubt even had I known, I could have prevented what followed.

“He better, if he doesn’t he could get us all killed!”

When the Qharr had conquered Earth they’d re-purposed many human structures to suit their needs. The research compound in which we all worked was one such building, but standing there in the meeting hall I never would have guessed that the place had been built by my kind. Most of the compound clearly showed signs of human style architecture, but the meeting hall had been completely rebuilt to give it that distinctive organic look that the Qharr favored. The walls had no corners giving the room an almost egg-shape, and were coated with the sort of black hardened resin that our gray-skinned masters used in nearly all their constructions. Then there was the smell, it wasn’t one I could easily describe. Whenever I stepped inside the meeting hall my nostrils begin to tingle and I got whiff of something faintly spicy that reminded me of gilish grinds.

The doors to the chamber flew open and a quartet of barely-clothed female slaves appeared in the doorway, swaying into the room as if they were moving to some unheard melody. The slaves glided to a halt in the center of the chamber and spun around on the balls of their feet to face the doorway. In marched a tall Qharr woman who was trailed by a pair of guards who were each a good foot shorter than their charge. Gray-skin females tended to be taller than their male counterparts, but their bodies weren’t nearly as bulky and like human women they were on average physically weaker than their male counterparts. The alien woman that stepped into the room looked to be an exception to the rule. She was nearly eight feet tall and her stone-gray body was ripped with muscle.

Her blue hair marked her as a member of the Edant K’teth, an order of elite soldiers whose exploits were legendary among the Qharr. I’d never seen one before that day, but I’d heard the guards within the compound speak of them. Whenever the topic came up they spoke of the Edant K’teth in hushed tones filled with awe and reverence. I didn’t put much credence to any of the stories, but many claimed that members of the order had special powers that enabled them to do amazing feats some of which were said to defy the laws of physics.

“Duvak!” she bellowed with a deep guttural and almost masculine voice, that was typical of a gray skin woman.

The Corrector appeared from the opposite set of doors and walked quietly through the meeting hall before stopping in front of the newcomer. He tapped on his left elbow three times, then brought his right hand and placed an open palm against the flat of his neck. “Valk Bysk, Baend!”

The Qharr woman brushed at Duvak’s chest in amusement and let out several terse coughs. “Now there really is no reason to be so formal, Duvak. We have known each other far too long for that!”

“As you wish Jahal,” Duvak said with a loud cough of his own.

I looked over at Kaya and noted an all too familiar half-crazed look on her face that sent cold chills down my spine. The last time I’d seen that expression on her face she managed to enrage Duvak and nearly got us both killed. As if to affirm my fears, the whole chamber went dark, and everything went to hell.

Bright flashes of light pierced the darkness as a loud angry roar escaped from the throat of one of the Qharr guards. I dove to the ground when I realized what was happening. Someone had decided to fight against the gray skins and I’d been caught in the middle of it. I started crawling toward the door, but I’d only made it a few feet when I felt a hand on my shoulder. There was just enough light from the passing phase blasts that I was able to make out Kaya’s shadowy form kneeling next to me.

“Going somewhere, Jellfree?” she whispered staring down at me with that all too familiar manic look on her face. She was holding something in her hands and I had to do a double take when I realized that it was a phase pistol.

All the pieces fell into place as I let in a sharp intake of breath. “You’re a rebel!?”

She nodded and held the weapon out to me. “The way I figure it, Jellfree, you’re either with us or against us.”

It was insane! Kaya a rebel? There hadn’t been a resistance group large enough to post a serious threat to the Qharr in almost ten years! And yet… even with Kaya holding a gun in front of me I still loved her. It sounds nuts I know, but love had made men do some pretty crazy things before. Defy my masters? Just a few hours ago the very thought of it would have been inconceivable to me. Don’t get me wrong, I hated the Qharr, but defying them was a pretty sure way to get yourself killed.

“Jellfree!” she yelled dropping the pistol as she spun around and extracting a second and much smaller weapon from her shirt sleeve and began firing into the darkness.

I reached out to grab the gun, not to use it. Not really. I didn’t know what I planned to do with the damned thing. The lights flicked back on and Kaya dove to the ground just as a bolt of energy fizzled past where her head had been. I felt my jaw drop as I looked around at all the corpses scattered throughout the room most of them were Qharr, but there were quite a few humans among them. A group of about ten rebels stood in a circle surrounding Duvak and the Overseer, the only surviving gray-skins, and they all had phase pistols trained on their opponents.

“So, this is how it’s going to be, Jellfree?” Duvak called from across the room.

I clenched my hands around the pistol and let out a long string of curses under my breath. A lump formed in my throat and I fought down the urge to scream. There wasn’t any going back, Duvak thought I was with the rebels and once the Corrector made up his mind nothing would convince him to change it. Even if he were killed there would be an investigation once the Qharr Ascendancy caught wind of Kaya’s little rebellion. So that was it, I really only had two choices as shitty as they happened to be. I could either join the rebels or wait around for the Qharr to come and kill me.

“Yeah, it’s how it fucking is. I’m done being your spineless slave!” I spat glaring at Duvak.

Damn, that felt good. All my life I’d been holding myself back, keeping myself from saying anything that would get me killed and now to finally be able to speak my mind… It was liberating!

“I-I think it’s time we get out of here, isn’t it?” A soft, yet masculine voice said from my side. It belonged to Jeck’s replacement, Jaysen.

“Not without our dear friend Jahal here,” Kaya said with grim smile as she raised her pistol.

The Overseer let out a long booming cough then she leapt high up into the air. Kaya cursed raising her pistol and traced the path of the Qharr female’s ascent, but didn’t shoot. The other rebels didn’t show the same restraint and opened fire pelleting her path with phase bursts. “Stop firing! We need her alive, dammit!”

“Fools! You have no idea of what I’m capable of!” The Overseer’s voice boomed through the chamber just before she leapt back to the ground and landed with a loud thud that shook the whole chamber.

Someone screamed out in sudden pain and I turned to watch as Duvak slammed into the nearest of the rebels. I was tempted to raise my gun and fire, but I’d never used a phase pistol in my life and I knew I had almost no chance of hitting my former master. I didn’t dare fire for fear of hitting one of my new allies. Not that I was particularly overjoyed with them, but if I stood any chance of getting out of that predicament alive, I’d need their help.

Duvak leapt at another rebel even as gun fire whizzed all around him and the rest of the chamber. After finishing his second opponent, the Corrector’s eyes locked on mine and I fought down my panic as he came tearing across the chamber toward me.

Still grappling to fight down my terror I raised my gun and swallowed hard then fired. Duvak leapt out of the way and the phase bolt splashed harmlessly against the wall. Before I could fire another shot, he leapt in front of me. His gigantic hand wrapped around my throat and he lifted me from the ground. My mind flashed back to my father’s death and in a very strange way it seemed fitting that I should die the same way and by the very same hands.

I clutched at my throat and gasped for breath clawing at Duvak’s flesh as I fought to free myself from his iron grip, but my efforts were in vain. As my life slowly drained away my thoughts turned to my sister, Becca. Was she still alive? It had been almost ten years since I’d seen her and yet in that moment the pain of separation was as deep as it had been when they’d forced us apart. Anger swelled inside of me and as my consciousness began to fade away I remembered the phase pistol that by some miracle was still gripped in my hand. My strength had been almost completely drained away, but I fought against my weariness and managed to raise my hand and pull the trigger.

The resulting flash was so brilliant it temporarily blinded me, but it seemed to have done its job because I collapsed to my knees. Air flooded back into my lungs and once my vision cleared I was able to make out Duvak’s inert form beside me. I didn’t know enough about Qharr physiology to check for signs of life so with I tired sigh I climbed back onto my feet and staggered away and back into the fight.

While I’d been busy with Duvak the Overseer had killed four rebels and left another to die. She went from crawling across the ceiling to leaping all over the damn place. She moved fast and gravity appeared to have no hold on her as she scurried about the walls and ceiling, and worse still the phase fire of the panicked rebels seemed to have no effect on her. Shit, maybe the stories about the Edant K’teth were true after all…

“We need her alive!” Kaya screamed repeating her previous protests with growing futility.

Since the phase fire from the others didn’t seem to be doing much of anything I tucked the pistol into my waistband and spun around looking for something I could use for a weapon. If the Overseer couldn’t be killed with phase weapons maybe a low-tech solution was the answer or at least that’s what I told myself. I didn’t care about Kaya’s plans. I just wanted to get out of this mess in one piece. I found a splintered leg from one of the buffet tables on the floor a few feet away and snatch it from the ground as the screams of another rebel filled the chamber.

I spun around with makeshift spear in hand, adrenaline rushing through me, and caught sight of Overseer who was speeding across the chamber toward Kaya. My fatigued was all but forgotten as I let out a blood-curdling scream and went peeling across the chamber in a mad rush to intercept the gray-skin. The Overseer was nearly on top of her by the time I arrived and I did the only thing I could think to do, I slammed into Kaya and flung her out of the way. I held the table leg out in front of me, clenched my teeth and waited for the her to come barreling into me.

Chapter Three

The Overseer flew at me with terrifying speed, but just as she was almost on me she coughed, her nostrils flared and I knew that I’d caught her off guard. I think she must have scrambled backward, but she already had built up an incredible amount of forward momentum and she just slid across the floor and kept on coming. I thrust my weapon at her chest and closed my eyes as she went soaring into it. I tried to resist the sudden urge to fling myself aside, but it really didn’t matter, the overseer was on me too fast to do anything but stand there and take the full brunt of her attack. She hit me with so much force that I was thrown back into the wall then collapsed under the weight of her body.

I opened my eyes and groaned. Everything was dark, I couldn’t see a damned thing and my whole body was throbbing. My chest burst with sudden a nd brilliant pain, but it faded away so quickly that it left my wondering whether or not it had been real. Light flooded my vision and it felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from me and I realized that’s exactly what had happened. I watched a group of rebel’s lift the Overseer and cast her dead body aside. Kaya’s face appeared seemingly as if from nowhere and I thought it must have been the most beautiful sight in the world.

“Holy Hanna!” I exclaimed latching onto Kaya’s hand and staring up at her panting heavily.

“Jellfree? Shit, are you okay?”

“I hurt like hell.”

I was no stranger to pain, having been beaten by Qharr guards on several occasions, for reasons real or imagined, but it had been a long time since I’d been so badly injured. My head was pounding and, there was this odd feeling in my chest as if thousands of tiny insects were crawling around under my skin . It wasn’t painful exactly, but it certainly wasn’t a pleasant sensation. It was almost strong enough to keep my mind off the pain… almost.

“What happened?” I asked.

Kaya smiled down at me, “You killed the Overseer and probably saved my life. I don’t know why, but phase fire didn’t do a thing against her. Well so much for taking her prisoner.”

“I did what?!”

“Do you think you can get up? It’s time for us to make an exit,” she said kissing my hand and smiling fondly.

I groaned and tried to push myself up, but howled in agony and fell back to the ground as my right arm and shoulder flared with sharp unbearable pain. I gritted my teeth and tucked my fractured appendage against my chest–which brought further flashes of pain–then climbed to my feet. My whole body was throbbing and there didn’t seem to be a single square inch that wasn’t hurting. It really was a wonder I hadn’t broken more bones. The Overseer had been moving at inhuman speeds and our collision should have resulted in much more severe injuries on my end.

I glanced over to my side where the Jahal’s body rested and saw that the table leg had been thrust cleanly through her chest and I shuddered at the sight of all the blood. I looked down at my chest and hands and shuddered anew, much of the Overseer’s blood was all over me. The table leg had made a much better weapon than I’d expected and I wondered if she had been moving any more slowly if my weapon would have been nearly as effective. Then there was the question of her resistance to phase pistols, it seemed so strange that she’d be able to shrug off energy weapon blasts, but not a simple broken-off piece of wood.

Amid all the chaos only one of the Overseer’s personal slaves survived the attack, she was in the corner curled up in a fetal position and no matter how much Kaya’s group of rebel’s tried to coax her she wouldn’t move.

“Damn crouchers,” one of the rebels growled stepping away from the woman in disgust. A croucher was a slang term for a human slave that eagerly served the Qharr because it was said they always waited in a crouched position, ready to serve. I didn’t blame him for using the term, there were few things I disliked more than a croucher. Of course, just a few days ago those same rebels would probably have labeled me one as well even though nothing would have been further from the truth.

Kaya turned to look in the direction of the hysterical slave and planted her hands on her hips. “Leave her, if we bring her along she’ll be a liability and the longer we stay the more likely we’re going to get caught.”

I grabbed Kaya’s shoulder with my left hand and spun her around, “Just where do you think we can go?! The compound is heavily guarded we can’t just waltz out of here!”

Kaya grinned, patted me on the cheek then turned away and started walking toward the set of doors that led out. “Relax Jellfree, we’ve got it covered. Come on, it’s time for us to get going.”

“SHIT!” Kaya yelled and jumped back, a moment later, as a bolt of phase energy splashed against the wall in the space she had just vacated.

I pressed my injured arm against my chest, raised the phase pistol in my other hand and with slow movements peaked around the corner. A half a dozen guards were blocking our path out and I mouthed a dozen of my more choice curses before turning back to Kaya.

“What do we do?” I mouthed the words not daring to utter them out load.

Kaya pecked me lightly on the lips then raised her phase pistol, dove around the corner firing blindly and yelling at the top of her lungs. Jaysen, stared at me with wide unblinking eyes, took in a deep breath, shrugged and dove after her. I watched in utter disbelief as every single one of the rebels went tearing with reckless disregard around the corner after her.

“They’re all nuts it’s the only explanation!” I muttered under my breath, hesitated for just a moment then threw my body into the foray and prepared myself for a fight only to find that the Qharr had already been taken care of.

After, several minutes of sneaking and fighting our ways through the corridors of the compound we found our way outside where the Qharr Jadarr-class craft loomed above us. I swallowed hard as I looked up at the cursed thing. Though a mere transport ship the vessel had the look of a carnivorous beast. At any moment I half expect the fearsome thing to jump out at me and swallow me whole. Like every other Qharr vessel the ship had a streamlined design that from a distance gave it the look of a gigantic insect. When you got closer you could make out the mechanical components that gave the ship away for what it truly was. This particular ship was the Overseer’s personal transport and it was more than large enough for a group our size, but that didn’t matter because we’d never be able to use it.

“You can’t be serious!” I rounded on Kaya who was staring up at the ship with a smirk on her face and though she’d never stated her intensions I knew that look on her face well enough to guess at them.

“Why not?” she replied folding her arms across her chest and staring at me between pursed lips.

“You want to steal the Overseer’s ship! Everyone knows that Qharr technology is keyed to their physiology. It won’t allow for a human or any other species to use it!”

“Jellfree, this isn’t our first rodeo…” she muttered with a shake of her head and ran a hand across my cheek before stepping onto the ship’s ramp.

I watched her walk up the ramp and shook my head in confusion. What on Earth was a rodeo? Jaysen, scrambled up the ramp after Kaya and pulled out a handheld device that looked like that had been dug out from the trash. He lifted up a panel beside the entry-hatch and inserted a wire, fiddling around with his little computing device just a moment before the hatch slid open.

Kaya turned back to me and grinned, “See there’s nothing to it!”

I followed the remaining rebels into the ship and I fought down my sudden anxiety as I stepped inside the hatch. I had this feeling like I was about to step into the belly of the beast, and as the hatch slid shut behind me that feeling only grew more intense. A door opposite the hatch we’d just entered slid open and I scurried out of the confined space and followed Kaya and the other rebels–who took off down the corridor–to large open cabin which I assumed to be the ship’s control room.

Jaysen scurried over to a nearby control panel. “Good, good… the ship’s in standby mode. The Overseer must have planned for a short visit,” he mumbled under his breath scratching at his goatee.

“How long before we can be underway?” Kaya said taking a seat at a station a few feet away from him.

“Oh, I don’t know about five minutes, maybe.” He glanced at Kaya, frowned, and turned his attention back to the console.

“Well, now that we have a few minutes maybe someone can explain to me what the hell is going on!” I screamed suddenly feeling all my frustration and anger come to a boiling point.

Kaya eyed me and sighed, “Oh, Jellfree… There’s so much that I need to tell you, but I guess I can at least get the ball rolling.”

I stared at Kaya and shook my head she’d always had a fondness for strange expressions, but two in one day was unusual even for her. ‘It’s really not important,’ I thought irritably.

“So why exactly did you rebels come to the compound? To kidnap the overseer?”

She grinned then pursed her lips, “You call us rebels and I guess the shoe fits, but we like to think of ourselves as freedom fighters. As for our goals… Our group operated out of the compound, but when we learned the Overseer was coming we couldn’t let the opportunity pass by. If we could capture her and learn her secrets… Well, the things she could have told us would have been an incredible boon to our cause.”

“And I killed her and screwed everything up,” I muttered lowering my head in shame.

Kaya smiled sympathetically, stood up and grasping either side of my head and gently pulling it down so she could look me in the eyes, “Oh, I wouldn’t say our mission was a complete failure.”

I wanted to ask her what she meant, but whatever chance I might have had was lost when Jaysen called out. “Ready!” My teeth started to chatter as the entire ship came alive and blasted into the night sky.

“Shit!” Jaysen cursed just a few minutes into our ride.

“What!?” I asked. “What is it?”

“Qharr patrol ships! They want to establish a communications link!”

“What do we do?!” someone called out, Brendon I think his name was.

Kaya turned to Jaysen, biting her lips as she gripped her hands on the consoles edge. “Any chance we can fight them off?”

“I might be able to get one or two shots off, but I can only get this thing working on auto-nav it won’t accept manual input, at least not from any of us. We won’t be able to dodge their attacks,” he said staring across at Kaya with wide eyes.

“I told you this was a bad idea!” I hissed.

“Not now Jellfree!” she responded before turning to Jaysen and saying, “Open the com line maybe we can bluff our way out of this.”

“Glark bytenk grek menall!” A gruff Qharr voice boomed over the ship’s comm system.

Kaya winced and closed her eyes then yelled back. “Tryvet venn benarr!”

“Benarr!? Golgak stemm! Beyar ghel beet amar!”

Kaya stared at me with wide-eyes as the comm line closed. “Shit! They didn’t buy it! They know about our attack on the compound!”

The ship rocked and I was thrown against a nearby panel and the strange crawling feeling on my chest exploded. The pain was excruciating I felt like I was being consumed by thousands of tiny insects. I struggled to gather air into my lungs and my whole body tingled and pulsed. A shadow seemed to fall on me as strange alien presence overwhelmed my senses.

“The inertial negator is offline!” Jaysen screamed.

I tried to brace myself to move in some way, but my body wouldn’t respond and I just flopped around on the floor. Another blast rocked the ship and I was thrown against the wall unable to brace myself against the impact. My ears were buzzing and the sound was growing more intense by the second until it was all that I could hear. Something was wrong, and I fought with every fiber of my being to stay awake as a pit of emptiness suddenly threatened to consume me.

‘Jellfree,’ a soft feminine voice whispered in my ear somehow cutting through the torrent of sound that had overwhelmed everything else.

I gasped and tried to respond, but no sound came from my throat.

‘Jellfree,’ the voice repeated. ‘Saved… they can be saved, but you must take the controls…’

Again I tried to say something, anything in order to respond to the strange voice, but my vocal cords failed me.

‘Jellfree! YOU MUST OR THEY DIE!” The voice yelled urgently seeming to rattle around inside my mind.

It didn’t make any sense! How could I, a human slave, operate a Qharr ship? It defied logic and yet the voice seemed to think I could do it. I don’t think I was entirely lucid because never once did I think to wonder who the voice belonged too or why it seemed to come from nowhere. What did it matter, anyway? We were all going to die!

“NO!” I screamed out in sudden defiance as control of my limbs suddenly returned to me.

Maybe it was futile, but I wasn’t going to lie down and die! I had to do something! I wasn’t going to give the Qharr the satisfaction! All my life I’d let them control everything I said and did! No longer!

I scrambled to my feet with renewed energy and lurched across the teetering control room and flung myself at a nearby control panel. The previous dark surface flared to life and I gripped at the side of the panel as the ship quaked again. I tried to decipher the Qharr characters that appeared on screen, but I had no idea what any of them meant. The Qharr went out of their way to keep their human slaves from learning their language and I’d only ever learned a few of the symbols.

“Give me the body!” the voice–which now seemed to have become a presence in the back of my mind–said.

A very large part of me wanted to resist, to tell the presence no, but I knew that if I did I’d die. Shit, what did I have to lose any way!? I closed my eyes and let my resistance to the entity fade away. Seeming to take on a mind of their own, my eyes snapped back open and I watched my unbroken hand fly across the console in a furious blur of motion. Abruptly, the ship stopped rocking and righted itself. My hand zoomed across the panel’s surface and the ship spun around in response, turning to face the quartet of patrol ships.

“Jellfree! What the hell… How are you doing that!” Kaya’s voice demanded, but the being didn’t answer and I seem to have lost the ability to do anything but watch.

Very few Qharr transports were a match for even one patrol ship, but this one was different. It was the Jahal Tkyr’s personal ship and besides having enhanced engines and maneuvering capability it was also armed to the teeth. I don’t know how I knew that. The knowledge was just there waiting in my head without any understanding on how it had gotten there. My right index-finger mashed down on a small button on the panel and the ship rocked slightly as a missile went flying toward the nearest patrol ship. The missile struck home and destroyed its target in a brilliant cloud of fire and debris.

“He’s destroyed one of the patrol ships, but there are still three more on our tail!” Jaysen called over his shoulder.

The entity continued to manipulate the controls and since the inertial negator was offline we felt every twist and turn with the full force of gravity’s pull. Several of the rebels had collapsed unable to bear the pressures of gravity acting on them, but Kaya and Jaysen at least seemed to be able to withstand it. My body stood erect as the being battled against the Qharr ship despite the overwhelming pressures of inertia acting against me.

The entity fired off the ship’s phase cannons and the lead ship’s side burst with explosions and went careening into the earth below. My hand danced across the control panel in amazing display of fluid grace then pounded down on the panel loosing another volley of missiles on one of the patrol ships. Like the previous one this projectile hit its mark and again the intended target burst into a cloud of flames and debris.

That left one last patrol ship and the thing in my head didn’t waste any time as it brought the ship around for another attack. It dodged a barrage of phase cannon fire from the smaller ship then again looped around coming along the enemy’s rear. Phase energy blasted out of the transport’s front cannons and the patrol ship darted and dove in increasingly futile attempts to dodge the transport’s weapon fire.

A blast from the phase cannon hit the underside of the patrol ship’s fuselage, and another hit it’s left wing. It put out a trail of smoke a sharp contrast to the clear blue sky and started to lose altitude. My fist pounded down on the control panel one final time and another missile shot out and slammed into the other vehicle blasting it into oblivion. A sense of relief flooded through me and I abruptly regained use of my limbs.

I turned and looked around at Kaya and the other rebels, well, those that had remained conscious during the battle. They all stared at me with wide-eyed disbelief and I shrugged and looked back at them unable to offer up an explanation. What the hell had happened? Some strange consciousness had awoken within me and despite that it saved us it scared the shit out of me. What if the being woke again and tried to take control permanently? It was a scary thought and I didn’t know if there was anything I could do if it did.

‘The transponder shut it off. If you do not… the masters they will hunt us,’ the voice in my head whispered.

I bowed my head feeling suddenly very tired and weak, “The ship… find transponder… shut it down or they’ll… find us.”

Each word was harder to get out than the last, and I collapsed to my knees when the final syllable left my lips. On some distant level, I remembered Kaya coming over to my side and screaming my name, but whatever else she said I didn’t comprehend. I had just enough strength left to look over my shoulder and see Jaysen scrambling out of the control room presumably to find the transponder and shut it down. Then everything came crashing down around me and I was lost to the dark.

Chapter Four

‘We must speak,’ the void itself said.

“Where am I?” I asked, my voice echoing through the emptiness.

The air a half a dozen feet in front of me seemed to ripple and where there had been nothing a woman appeared, but a woman like none I had ever seen. Her hair cascaded down her face in dark-blue colored ringlets, and her eyes were strange whirling disks which seemed to rotate endlessly. She was tall for a woman, standing at close to five-nine, and she had the look of a predator ready to spring. She was one of the most beautiful creatures I’d ever laid my eyes on, but there was an inhuman quality about her that almost made her seem repulsive.

“This place… it is in your mind, Jellfree.” She smiled and tilted her head at an odd angle.

“My mind?! So I’m not conscious? And what are you some sort of figment of my imagination?” I stroked my chin, somehow I didn’t doubt any of it.

“Wait I know you! You’re that voice… that thing in my head that piloted the transport ship!”
The woman eyed me with almost inquisitive expression and nodded. “Correct.”

“Damn… What the hell are you?”

“I am K’teth.” She didn’t blink or move a muscle as she studied me.

My jaw dropped and I stared at her with eyes wide. “K’teth as in… Edant K’teth?”

She shook her head, “I am K’teth. The Edant… they are the Qharr masters. You are not Qharr therefore we are not Edant K’teth. We are something… different.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I am K’teth. You are my host. We are joined.”

I swallowed hard and tried to wrap my head around what she was saying, “Your host… So you’re some sort of parasite?”

This seemed to offend her and she responded with a very loud and very angry “NO!” before settling back down.

“If not a parasite then what are you?”

“I am K’teth! We are joined! The words they are difficult… Your mind is strange.”

I bit my lip and stopped a moment to think about what she was saying, but try as I might she didn’t seem to be making a whole lot of sense. “You’re inside of me?”

She nodded. “Yes.”

“Then how are you not a parasite?”

“I AM NOT A PARASITE!” she howled in fury before once again calming back down. “We are joined. It is… beneficial for K’teth and host.”

“And how did you get inside of me?”

“You killed my host the one you know as Jahal Tkyr, the Overseer. There were none of the masters near… I cannot survive without a host so I was forced to attempt to bond with you.”

I shuddered “And can we be un-bonded?”

“Only if you wish to die.”

I gulped and stared at her with wide eyes. What exactly did that mean for me to be joined with this alien entity? The creatures were obviously aligned with the Qharr somehow… Did that mean that she would wish to continue her relationship with her masters? If so what did that mean for me?

“I must stop now… It is difficult for me to speak with you. Your body it resists me… I must fix it… then, then it will be easier,” she whispered and disappeared without any sort of flash or bang. The world faded out and the darkness was absolute.

Chapter Five

I woke, gasping for breath and struggling to bring air into my lungs. I felt strange… my whole body had this intense itching-crawling sensation and it seemed to be growing stronger by the second. My insides felt as if they were on fire and my bones felt almost as if they were vibrating. God, what was wrong with me?

I sprang up into a sitting position and found myself inside a nondescript room. The walls had probably been white at one point, but the paint had grayed with time and it was peeling from the wall. That in and of itself was highly unusual, the Qharr were meticulous in the care for the buildings they inhabited. If the paint was peeling they certainly would have seen to it that the room be repainted.

I heard a loud squeal just before a sudden weight pressed into my side. “Jellfree! You scared me!” Kaya’s voice pronounced.

She slowly drew away from my side and I turned my head to look her in the eyes. “Where am I?”

She shrugged, “One of many of our hideouts.”

“What happened?”

“You saved us! I don’t know how you did it, but you managed to pilot the ship and fight off the Qharr patrol ships,” she replied the beginnings of a thoughtful thrown forming on her face.

“I remember… what happened after…”

“You collapsed, Jaysen turned the transponder off and we got away,” she frowned. “Jellfree, what is it? There’s something wrong isn’t there?”

I wasn’t even sure how to answer. I remembered speaking with the K’teth. It seemed so vivid, so real to me at the time, but looking back I had my doubts. How else could I explain what had happened? I wanted so very badly to tell Kaya, but what would she think? Would she think me crazy? Or worse… What if she thought I was being influenced by the creature? It had saved us, true, but what if it had been looking out for its best interest? What if it intended to return to the Qharr at its next opportunity? If that happened would I be able to resist it? It had already taken control of my body once already.

“No, I’m fine,” I said, feeling ashamed with my lie.

I couldn’t bear the thought of Kaya’s scorn even after she’d let me walk into the firefight unaware. I stared at her for a moment… I loved her, but how much did I really know her? I understood why she might have kept the truth from me, but it stung. I’d laid my soul bare for her and she hadn’t done the same. I thought I knew her, but I’d been wrong.

“Kaya… How long have you been a reb…” I sighed. “A freedom fighter?”

She shook her head and refused to meet my gaze. “I’m sorry Jellfree… I wanted to tell you, but I was afraid if I did that you’d give me away.”

That hurt… after we’d shared a bed for so long she’d thought I’d turn her over to the gray skins. “Kaya…” I shook my head. “I wouldn’t do that.”

“Jellfree there are things I’ve never told you. When I was twelve, I lived in a mining complex… the Corrector there–” she paused to shaker her head and wipe away a tear, “–he was one of the cruelest and most hateful Qharr I’ve ever known. Beatings were something you expected whether you’d done anything to warrant them or not. They barely gave us enough food to prolong our miserable existence. I lived there with my older sister… she was the only family I had. The camp’s cook took a fancy to me and in exchange for sneaking me and my sister extra servings of food I spent my nights with him.”

I wished I could say I was shocked by Kaya’s story, but I’d heard similar tales time and again. Many slaves who got into a position of power often used that position to take advantage of other slaves. Kaya selling her body for food wasn’t so unusual, but it was detestable nonetheless especially since she’d been so young and worse yet, her sister had gone along with it.

“My sister and I, we hid the food and kept a small supply hidden inside our little corner of the women’s quarter, but then one day the Qharr guards did a search and found our stash. My sister claimed no knowledge of it and implicated me and the cook.”

I stared at her aghast. That sort of thing did happen sometimes, but my own bond with my older sister had been such that we would have died before ratting one another out. The fact that Kaya’s sister had betrayed and used her in such a way went against everything good and decent. Families had to stick together; if the Qharr managed to force our families apart then we had nothing but ourselves. Something I knew all too well having watched my parents murdered before my eyes and being separated from my sister for almost ten years.

“So… what happened?”

“I was beaten and they had me chained in the center of the camp. They left me there for over a week without food or water. I almost died, but I managed to make it through. The camp’s cook wasn’t so lucky he was executed and my sister managed to escape any punishment… I was nursed back to health by an older woman who was sympathetic, but my sister would never look me in the eyes or speak to me again. I grew angry and I came to hate her. So much so that a few months after I recovered I snuck over to her bed and slit her throat in the middle of the night.”

Tears were streaming down her face and I wrapped my arms around her doing my best to provide comfort. I couldn’t imagine hating my own sister so much that I would want to kill her, but I can’t say that if I’d experienced what she had I wouldn’t have done the same thing. Such acts of retribution weren’t uncommon among slaves, and the Qharr didn’t really care if a body turned up here or there. They only stepped in if things got really out of hand.

“I was betrayed by the only person I cared about… That’s why I feared to tell you, Jellfree, I was afraid you’d turn on me like my sister did. Even when it came time to plan the attack on Jahal I just couldn’t tell you. I’m sorry I should have trusted you. I put your life in jeopardy and I can never forgive myself for that. I love you Jellfree which makes what I’m about to tell you all the more difficult,” she said lowering her eyes in shame.

“The two of us getting together… it wasn’t my idea. One of our leaders, a woman by the name of Mara, suggested I get close to you. She said it was important. I still don’t know why,” she said sobbing hysterically.

A lump formed in my throat and let my arms fall away as her words settled in. She’d seduced me because she’d been told to, not because she had wanted to and she’d put me in danger by letting me walk into the middle of firefight without any warning. I felt betrayed and I started to shake with sudden rage. I had loved her and the whole thing had been a ruse! I wanted to grab hold of her and shake her until she started to scream. I’d never been so angry in all my life and I was terrified of what might happen if I gave into it, but try as I might to contain it, it raged within me like a tempest storm.

“Jellfree! You’ve got to believe me, I really do love you!”

“You… lied to me! You seduced me! You used me! Dammit Kaya I loved you! Hell, I think I still do! How the hell can I trust anything you say?!”

She nodded and wiped the tears from her face, “I don’t know. I’m so sorry Jellfree.”

“Got out of my sight! I can’t even look at you right now!” I yelled and turned away from her, the rage still stewing and bubbling inside of me.

I heard a sob escape her lips then she scurried out of the room and then I was alone…

It had only been a few moments since Kaya had left and I was staring down at my hands trying to keep them from shaking. They were numb… Dammit, what the hell was the K’teth doing to me!? Everything was falling to pieces at my feet! First, there had been the attack on the compound, that thing inside of me, Kaya, and finally my own body was betraying me. The creature said it needed to fix my body, but that could mean almost anything. I was terrified and a part of me longed for the comfort of Kaya’s embrace even after what had happened between us.

“Jellfree?” An unfamiliar voice asked from behind and I turned to look on the newcomer.

An elderly woman stood in the doorway. She had a calm almost dignified bearing and her eyes studied me like a Qharr scientist would examine an interesting specimen. The hair stood up on the back of my neck and I got the distinct impression that despite her frail appearance, this woman was very dangerous. I eyed her cautiously as she approached.

“God… You look just like Harold did at that age…” she said reaching out to touch my face.

I flinched and jumped back and the woman let out a throaty laugh. “I’m not going to hurt you, Jellfree Briggs.”

“Who are you?”

“My name is Mara. I’m one of the leaders of the resistance,” she said stopping a few feet away from me.

“You’re the one that told Kaya to seduce me!” I yelled stepping a few steps back and shaking my head in disgust.

Mara sighed and shook her head, “That girl… I merely suggested she get close to you. I never intended her to go quite that far, but I should have realized she would interpret it that way. For what it’s worth, she really does seem to care for you.”

“What do you want?!” I asked folding my arms across my chest as I continued to glare at her.

Mara laughed, “I wanted to see you. Why the last time I laid my eyes on you, you were an infant.”

“Look lady, I–” I started to say, but she suddenly interrupted me.

“You really have no idea who I am, do you?”

“And why should I?”

“Maybe your parents never told you about your Uncle Harold and me, but I’d always assumed that your sister would have at least,” she replied staring at me between pursed lips.

My heart skipped in my chest. My sister had told me about an uncle and the name Mara certainly sounded familiar, but it had been so long ago that I’d almost forgotten about it. “You’re Harold’s wife?”

“That’s right,” Mara gave me an approving smile.

I felt a lump form in my throat. So much had been taken away from me and now… maybe I could get something back. A link to my past someone who had known my parents. My sister had told me about them, but she had only been seven when they had been murdered by the Qharr. This woman had known them as an adult. Since Becca and I had been separated I’d lost hope of ever being with my family, but maybe I’d given up too soon. This woman certainly wasn’t of blood relation, but we had a common connection something that we both shared.

Yet… living the life of a slave had taught me one thing and that was to be cautious. This woman was a rebel, and I had no doubts she was dangerous. I’d have to be cautious so as not to let myself get burned, but even as I told myself that I realized that a part of me really wanted to trust her. I’d felt so very alone since I’d lost my sister…

“I’m glad to have finally found you Jellfree. I had hoped that we could get better acquainted, your uncle has been dead for many years and you and your sister are the closest thing I have to family,” she coming over to place a hand on my shoulder.

“I-I think I’d like that,” I said placing my hand atop hers.

“Okay, that’s a little weird.” It had taken me all that time to realize that my arm felt completely fine. Hadn’t I broken it back at the compound? If that was true why didn’t it hurt? The answer came to me quick enough… somehow that thing inside of me had healed it.

“Is something wrong?”

“I-I it’s–”

Before I could finish my sentence my scalp started to burn with sharp pain and I clutched at it and fell to my knees. White light blinded me and I thought I was going to pass out again, but then my vision cleared and I felt a hand on my shoulder. Something had changed… I knew it without anyone telling me, but it was a sort of vague indefinable feeling.

I just knew that my body had been altered me in some way. Perhaps, I spoke too soon; I could detect at least one thing that had changed. My already perfect vision had become more acute; I could see things in greater detail than should have been possible. Everything from the previously imperceptible cracks in the wall to the tiny little pores on Mara’s face. And did I mention the colors!? Everything seemed so much more vibrant and alive.

“Good God!” Mara gasped covering her mouth and taking several steps back.

“What is it?! What has that thing done to me!?” I yelled my hands shaking with rage.

I sank back down the ground and clutched at my head and tried to fight down panic. Just when I didn’t think it could get any worse my hair started falling out. It started with a small clump that tumbled down my face before slipping down the collar of my shirt. I reached up to touch my head only to find that regardless of what part of my head I touched my hair fell away.

“Get the doctor! Something’s wrong, hurry!” Mara called cracking the door open speaking to someone on the other side.

She closed the door then knelt down next to me planting a hand on my arm.

“Don’t worry Jellfree. You’re going to be fine,” she said and I was pleased to realize that the concern I heard in her voice sounded sincere.

“Hmmm… most intriguing,” the tall bulb-headed creature tooted absently scratching at one of the bright orange tubular protrusions that jutted out from the bottom of its green face. The creature was vaguely human in shape, but its frame was tall and elongated and gave it the appearance of something that might blow away in the wind. It had no mouth, ears or nose that I could see and I had no idea how it was speaking let alone breathing.

Mara had called the creature the doctor, but hadn’t given it a name nor had she indicated that it had a gender. It continued to examine me for several more minutes before looking back to Mara. “Vakrexid, needs to scan him with my equipment. This is most puzzling.”

Mara nodded, “Whatever it takes to get to the bottom of this, doctor.”

“Vakrexid has a notion, but if it proves true it will be most perplexing. I must be sure before Vakrexid makes this diagnosis,” the creature fluted.

Mara folded her arms across her chest and let out a long sigh. “Very well then doctor.”

“Jellfree, may Vakrexid call you Jellfree?” The creature said turning back to me.

I nodded. “Yeah.”

The creature let out a loud below, “Good, sometimes it is difficult for Vakrexid to know with you humans. Many have I met who do not use their full names and prefer to shorten them. Vakrexid finds this most befuddling, but I do try to be respectful of their wishes.”

“Look I really hope I’m not going to offend you by asking this, but I’ve got to know. What on Earth are you?”

“On Earth? Vakrexid is the same on Earth as I am on any other planet. Your question makes no sense.”

“It’s just an expression,” I said. “I just meant to ask you what species you are.”

“Ah, of course. Vakrexid believes I’ve heard some of you other humans use that expression. I have little memory for such things. Vakrexid is dexagarmetrax. We are a wandering people we go from world to world and learn from other species so that we may fulfill our sacred duties as commanded by our gods. Vakrexid specializes in medicine most choose to study different subjects.”

“Is there something I can call you… I mean I can’t keep calling you Doctor, can I?”

“Doctor… it is the only form of address that would be appropriate. Among my people one is always referred to by one’s profession. It’s sacrilege for anyone but Vakrexid or my life partner, should Vakrexid chose to take one, to speak my name,” it trilled.

“And what about your gender… Are you male or female?”

“Both, Vakrexid’s species is hermaphroditic, but please if you chose to refer to me by a pronoun let it be he. Vakrexid likes the way it sounds in your language, but let us stop this discourse as it is not currently pertinent. You are in need of medical care and I would prefer to examine you sooner rather than later in hopes of staving off death.”

“Death? You think this could kill me!?”

The doctor cocked his head, “Perhaps, Vakrexid doesn’t know what’s wrong. Death is a possibility, but so is life as is the chance that your skin will turn a deep kleferix and you’ll sprout flarks out of your ears. It is best to be cautious when dealing with that which is unknown. Can you walk without aid?”

I tried to stand up, but immediately fell back onto my ass. “No, I guess not.”

“Doctor, you get his right side, I’ll get the left I think the two of us should be able to move him to your lab without too much difficulty.” Mara placed her hands on her hips and staring down at me with pursed lips.

The doctor tooted something unintelligible then the two of them knelt down next to me on either side and lifted me up. Mara seemed pretty fit for a woman her age, but I could tell that the effort was straining her. The doctor on the other hand didn’t show any sign that he was having any difficulty whatsoever. They each grabbed a shoulder then the doctor flipped the door open and they carried me down the hall.

Midway down the long undecorated and dimly-lit corridor we passed Kaya. She didn’t say a word as our gazes locked, but tears were streaming down her face and I felt that bubbling rage rise up to the surface just before I turned away unwilling to look into those eyes any longer. A part of me wanted to reach out her, to tell her everything would be alright, but another part wanted to start yelling and cursing at her at the top of my lungs.

In any case Mara and the doctor had me inside the dark lab after a very short trip. They set me down atop a long narrow bed and the doctor moved away to flick the lights on. Unlike the corridor and the other room, the walls were stark white and looked as if they’d been painted sometime within the last few years. Below me the bed came thrumming to life and a strange white board, which had been previously indistinguishable from the wall, detached itself and hovered over the bed. Bright white light blinded me and I closed my eyes against the illumination.

“It shall only take a moment,” the doctors’ voice spoke as the bed began to thrum louder and louder.

Something inside of me stirred and I swore I could feel something ripple underneath my skin… ‘LIFE!’ the K’teth’s voice screamed within me and I clutched at the side of my skull as my screams joined those of the being lurking under the surface.

God it hurt! Never before in my life had I known such pain! My body was burning from the inside out and I thought that I would lose consciousness at any moment. Yet, the darkness never came and the pain kept on building until it reached a climax and I thought that every fiber of my being would be consumed. I writhed in agony and thought that if it didn’t stop soon that it just might prove to be too much.

Then I was beyond it, and there was only the pain, but then it was joined by something else. Power the like of which I’d never known. I could feel it waiting to be seized and I had only to reach out for it to be mine. So I did exactly that, or tried to, but it was the K’teth within me that reached out. I could feel the energy being pulled into me and while the pain wasn’t diminished somehow it became more bearable. It began to focus on different parts of my body starting in my face, but briefly extended to my scalp my shoulders and chest, but then it ceased and the light from the hovering platform disappeared.

‘Not enough!’ the K’teth’s voice screeched inside of my head.

My eyes snapped back open and I found that I didn’t feel nearly as weak as I had before coming into the lab. I glanced over to my side and felt my eyes grow wide as I looked on the doctor. The board which had been hovering over me was clutched in his arms and his chest was rising and falling almost as if he’d overexerted himself. I slowly sat up and felt hair fall into my face…

‘What the hell…’ I thought, as I reached out to touch it.

It must have been close to fifteen centimeter long, but that wasn’t the odd part… It had gone from my usual brown to blue! ‘Blue? Blue like those damned Edant K’teth,’ I thought my hands starting to shake. ‘What the hell are you doing to me!’ I yelled at it.

‘Damn you, answer me!’

‘More life! Need more life!’ the K’teth muttered its voice growing weak and distant.

I shook my head and sat up locking eyes with Mara. “Dear god!” She gasped and took a step back the moment we matched gazes.

“Vakrexid would not believe it, if a rolling claxid had come along and beat upon my trelp!” the doctor suddenly called out.

I turned my head back the other way and watched as the doctor gently placed the board down then turned to me. “Vakrexid knows what has happened to you.”

“Then whatever that thing was… it worked?”

“No!” he cried his hands flapping wildly. “It didn’t work at all, but it matters not! What happened to you, it showed Vakrexid what I needed to know!”

“And that is?”

“You have been joined with a K’teth!”

“I know…” I muttered quietly.

“You did? Then why did you not tell Vakrexid?”

“I-I was afraid about what you would do to me if you found out that I have this damn thing inside of me? Can I even trust myself? What if it takes control of me and forces me to…?” I trailed off unable to let myself utter the last few words.

“Ah, Vakrexid believes I understand. The K’teth are a symbiotic species. Previously, it was always believed that among intelligent beings only the Qharr were able to join with them, but apparently it is not so. I cannot say with certainty, there is little known about their nature, but it is believed that the K’teth are incapable of controlling a Qharr host. Most likely it would be the same if a human were to bond with one.”

I nodded, acting as if I was reassured by the doctor’s comment, but I didn’t feel even remotely better. I’d already had the K’teth take control of my body once before and if it could do it once there was a good chance it could do it again. What happened if it took over completely and I became a prisoner in my own body? There was, however, a small glimmer of hope. The K’teth had only gained control of me because I had let it do so, maybe it couldn’t control me unless I allowed it to. It was a flimsy hope I know, but if I let the rebels know that it was possible the creature could control me I didn’t like the prospect of what they might do to me.

“Doctor, how exactly is it that you came to realize Jellfree was infected by this… what did you call it a K’teth?” Mara asked.

“Vakrexid knew as soon as I activated the body scanner. Jellfree began to glow and consume the energy from it. It was fortunate for you Jellfree that Vakrexid was near. I was able to catch the upper unit once all its energy had been drained.”

“I-I glowed… a-and consumed energy?!”

The doctor bobbed his head, “That is how Vakrexid knew. That and the changes, only a K’teth has the ability to do such things.”

“My hair… and eyes…” I said remembering that Mara had said something about my eyes.

“And face…” Mara added.

“Oh, god! What did that thing do to me! I need a mirror!” I yelled reaching out to touch my face. It felt wrong, my nose was far too small, my lips were just a tad fuller and my skin felt as smooth as freshly boiled g’tck. As I traced my hands over my face I realized that all my stubble was gone and my eyes grew wide as the doctor flung a mirror in front of my face. What I saw in that mirror was enough to make me sick. The reflected image was the visage was that of a woman, but not just any woman; it was the face of an incredibly beautiful one. The eyes were the strangest part of the face, they were so inhuman. They looked like magenta-colored swirled disks which when paired with the blue hair and feminine face would definitely make me stand out in a crowd.

I shuddered and forced the mirror out of my face feeling tears start to form out of the corner of my eyes. The face I had seen in that mirror hadn’t looked anything like the form the K’teth had taken in my mind, but the hair and eyes were the same. I knew what the K’teth was doing to me, but I still didn’t understand why. What possible reason could it have for changing me into a woman? My new face was proof enough of its intentions, but that still didn’t provide any explanation.

‘Why?!’

Again, the K’teth didn’t answer, but I was coming to expect it.

“It is most distressing that the body scanner is no longer of use, but since Vakrexid has been left with no other choice I would still like to perform a physical examination. It would tell Vakrexid little in comparison to a full body scan, but I think it would be best so that Vakrexid may chron… No, that is not right. Ah, yes, document, that is the word. So that I may document your changes,” the doctor said suddenly.

I let out a long sigh trying to calm myself and looked up at the doctor, “I guess… Yeah, that would probably be a good idea.”

Vakrexid bobbed his head, “Strip down to your skin so that Vakrexid may examine your testicles!”

Mara snorted and shook her head then stalked out of the room the sound of laughter following her as the door closed behind her.

He cocked his head, “Did Vakrexid say something wrong?”

I snorted a bit myself then I looked over to the doctor, “Can we just get this over with?”

“Yes, yes, of course, but first you must remove your clothes.”

I sighed and started to unbutton my trousers, “Sure, doc… Whatever you say.”

The doctor’s examination while brief was definitely an experience I wouldn’t want to repeat. I’d never met a human doctor, well, at least not that I could remember, since the Qharr had seen to it that anyone with advanced scientific knowledge be put to death. Because the gray-skinned assholes only allowed the most injured and sick to be treated by their healers I’d never actually had a doctor look me over. I shuddered, suppressing thoughts of Vakrexid’s long fingers running over my body like a dozen small tentacles. Hell, was it really necessary for me to turn my and head cough? What exactly was that supposed to tell him?

Once he finished up he let Mara back into the room and I could tell by the look on her face that she was trying to determine what to do with me. “I’m sorry Jellfree, but you can understand why I’m concerned. There’s no telling what influence this K’teth creature might have on you,” Mara said, her eyes boring holes into me.

I bowed my head and wiped away the tears from my face. “So what exactly do you intend to do, kill me?”

“Nothing quite so drastic. For the time being I’d like to keep an eye on you. You’ll be allowed full access to all the communal areas of the compound, but I’m afraid I’ll have to insist you be escorted by an armed guard at all times. Just until we’re sure that thing inside of you is not a threat,” she said placing a reassuring hand on my shoulder.

“Vakrexid agrees. It does not hurt to be cautious,” the doctor chimed running a hand up and down his center face tube.

I nodded and forced down my fear as I met Mara’s gaze. Her concerns echoed my own that the K’teth might try to gain control of me or at least influence my mind. If it came down to it, I would fight the K’teth with every fiber of my being, but I wasn’t sure if it would be enough.

“And…what about these changes?” I reached up to touch my face or maybe it was best to say the face the K’teth had given me. It wasn’t mine, not exactly.

“They will continue,” the doctor tooted. “Vakrexid cannot say how long it will take, but if that face shows the truth of the K’teth’s intentions it will need to feed upon a very large amount of energy before it completes your transformation.”

“Feed?”

“Feed, what is the right word? The K’teth consume energy. To a point they can draw it from the host, but they cannot take much for fear of harming them. Feeding on the energy from the body scanner allowed it to transform your face. If it had more energy upon which to consume it could likely complete the changes,” the doctor said his big purple eyes blinking repeatedly.

“What about phase energy?” Mara asked stroking her chin thoughtfully.

“Yes, yes. It is why the Edant K’teth can withstand phase blasts. Energy is absorbed by the symbiote and some of it is passed back to the host. The host is given superior endurance, speed and strength as a result. It may be better to give the symbiote the energy it needs so as not to prolong your transformation,” the doctor replied.

I shuddered and looked to the doctor then to Mara and finally back to the doctor. “There isn’t any way to stop it from changing me, is there? I-I don’t want to live my life as a woman.”

“Vakrexid is afraid not, I am sorry, but even if Vakrexid were to operate and attempt to restore your facial features, there is nothing to keep the symbiote from returning it to the way it is now. The K’teth is bonded to you at the deepest most microscopic level; it is not just changing your genetic structure. That would not be unlike changing a blueprint after a building was built. No, it is changing you cell by cell. Moreover it is only because it has suppressed your immune system and is in fact acting in its place that your body has not rejected the new cells.”

“Oh, god! So… I can either sit back and let this damned thing change me, or shit… I don’t really have any choices, do I?” I whispered. There was one possibility I hadn’t really voiced, I could take my life before the changes completed. The idea of committing suicide had always been pretty unappealing to me. Despite living under the Qharr’s thumbs for so long, but the prospect of becoming a stranger in my own body coupled with the fear of the alien entity gaining control of my mind terrified me.

Mara eyed me thoughtfully. “This must be very taxing on you. Why don’t you get some rest? I’ve had a room prepared.”

I stared into her eyes and swallowed hard as she met my gaze. She may have phrased it as a question, but I got the feeling that she meant me to do exactly as she had asked. That woman might have looked frail, but she had a core of steel and I just knew she wasn’t about to take no for an answer.

I nodded. “That would probably be for the best.”

Mara stood up, moved across the doctor’s lab and swung the door open. “Felix.”

A tall lanky man who looked to be somewhere in his late thirties stepped into the room. He had a battered looking phase pistol holstered at his waist and he looked like someone who knew how to use it. His eyes scanned the room and when they landed on me, they widened slightly and he pursed his lips before his gaze settled on Mara.

“Felix, be a dear and show our friend Jellfree to the guest quarters I had prepared. He has free access to any of the public area of the compound, but do try to keep him from wandering into areas that might get him into trouble,” Mara said placing a hand on his shoulder and smiling fondly.

Felix nodded and muttered a “Yes, ma’am” before jabbing his thumb over his shoulder. “Coming?”

Felix led me down the hallway and up a flight of stairs before stopping at a featureless door. Never once did he speak to me, and I wasn’t feeling very sociable so that was just fine by me. He kept glancing at me and looking at my face, and I suppose if our situations were reversed I’d have done the same. I was a pretty odd sight and with the female face, and the male body, not to mention the magenta-colored eyes and blue hair. Really, it was a wonder he could stop gaping for even a minute. It was humiliating, but I held my head up high and pretended like it didn’t bother me. What the hell else was I supposed to do? I stepped inside the room and heard the door shut behind me. I was a prisoner plain and simple, Felix knew it and so did I.

The room really didn’t look all that different from the one I’d had back at the Qharr research compound. It was just little larger, and only had two pieces of furniture including a small chest of drawers and a bed, not a bed pad, but a real bed with a frame, foundation and mattress. I sat down on the edge of it and slipped my boots off then I just sort of melted into its soft surface. The last time I’d laid on a real bed my parents had still been alive and though I only vaguely remembered doing so the experience seemed very familiar. I savored the feeling of the fabric as I closed my eyes and let out a long sigh.

‘Are you there?’ I thought at the K’teth.

For a moment I was met with only silence and I was about to call out to the alien creature again when it finally answered back. ‘I am always here.’

‘Why are you doing this to me?!’ I demanded screaming out inside of my mind.

There was another pause, this one much shorter. ‘Because I must… I wish I could help you understand, but I know not the words. Your mind is still strange to me.’

‘Well that’s just swell and all, but I’d really like you to change me back now,’ I replied slamming a fist into the bed.

‘I cannot.’

‘Why?’

‘If I did so much would be lost.’

‘Dammit… Are you trying to piss me off? Do you want me to trust you or not?’

‘Your trust is not necessary.’

“Just tell me what it is you want!” I screamed growing so angry that I actually said the words out loud.

‘In time. Now… now I must rest.’

“Oh hell no! You’re not getting out of it that easily!”

The K’teth ignored me and I howled in frustration. ‘Answer me! This is my body! The Qharr may have taken everything else from me, but the one thing they could never rob me of was my body! They might have claimed to own me, but this body is mine, dammit!’

Again the symbiote was silent.

“God damn you! You fucking parasite! I’m talking to you, you damned ass-dripping piece of shit!” I yelled letting out several curses I would never have otherwise let myself utter.

No matter what I did or said to provoke the K’teth nothing seemed to work and I tried everything I could think of as I offered up insult after insult. Hell, I even threatened to do myself in and still the stupid thing wouldn’t answer. I sat back up in the bed–feeling my new longer hair fall into my face as I did so–and felt tears well up in my eyes. I was used to feeling helpless living as a slave, but this felt different. The symbiote threatened to take away the very essence of my being and I don’t think there was a thing I could do to stop it.

I wiped the tears from my face then I stared at my hand… What the hell was that thing doing to me? Why was I crying? I felt so wrong… I didn’t feel like myself my emotions were so much closer to the surface than I was used to.

“No,” I whispered clenching my hand into a fist. I wouldn’t let the K’teth have the satisfaction of seeing me succumb to my emotions so easily. I would be strong, more importantly I would be me! I wasn’t going to lose myself to the K’teth not if I could help it!

I sighed and laid back in the bed, I stared up at the tiled ceiling and absently ran my fingers through my hair. I didn’t even know what time it was, but I was tired… Living as a slave had taught me how to sleep even when I feared for my life, and while the threat the K’teth presented loomed over me I was able to drift off into the world of dream without too much trouble.

Chapter Six

I woke and knew immediately that something was wrong. I looked around groggily trying to remember where I was. The place looked familiar, but the memory was just out of my reach. I was in a dark room and as my hands felt around the surface upon which I was resting I realized I was lying on a real bed, not the thin pad that most slaves were forced to sleep on.

“What the hell?” I muttered and gasped when I heard my voice. That voice–a light soprano wasn’t even remotely close to my regular medium tenor! Then the memories of the previous day came flooding back to me.

I reached up to touch my face and traced my hands down my neck and chest. I sighed with relief when I found that, on the outside at least, nothing had changed. Whatever the K’teth had done to me while I slept the only change that I was able to find was my voice. I sat up and felt something fall across my face. Hair, I brought my hand up to brush it away and realized that one other thing had changed. My hair was longer, it had grown at least another seven and a half centimeters overnight. I shuddered and slipped off the bed and moved to the door. It was dark, but light was coming through the cracks in the door and it provided just enough illumination for me to see.

I pulled the door open and on the other side I found a figure seated on the floor fiddling with a small mechanical device about the size of my fist. He looked up and once I saw his face I realized that it was just Jaysen.

“Morning, sleepyhead.”

He grinned scratched at his chin, his eyes lingering on my face just before he returned to the device. He didn’t seem at all disturbed by my female face and he didn’t say a word as he continued to tinker with whatever the hell that thing was.

I watched him as he toyed with the device for a moment before speaking. “Jaysen what time is it?”

He stared up at me with wide eyes as if I’d startled him then he pursed his lips. “Oh, well if I had to guess I’d say about ten… probably.” he said then returned to his gadget.

“Ten?!” I asked in disbelief. As a slave I’d always been expected to wake at the same time, five in the morning. It was strange to think that I’d allowed myself to sleep so late.

Jaysen nodded absently, but didn’t give any other indication that he’d heard me. “Hey, look…” I started, but Jaysen cut me short.

“You’re probably hungry,” he said frowning up at me. “I doubt there’s any warm food, but I think we could probably scrounge up some cold bread and maybe some cheese or something if you like.”

I nodded. “Yeah, that’d be great.”

“Well, look who it is Farris,” the tall muscular man said as we stepped into the kitchen slapping the back of his hand against the chest of a shorter man with platinum blond hair that was so light it was nearly white.

“It’s the sissy and what’s this…” he said grabbing the underside of my chin with his left hand then pushed me away. “I think I’ll call you the freak.”

Farris grinned. “Quite a pair these two make, eh Pyramus? The sissy who wants to be a girl and the man with the face of a woman and… God! Look at those fucking eyes and that hair. I don’t know what Mara was thinking when she recruited ’em.”

“Why don’t the two of you just fuck off?!” Jaysen said shaking with impotent fury.

Pyramus snarled glaring down at the much smaller man. “That wasn’t very nice! Apologize! Now!”

Jaysen opened his mouth, but Pyramus pounced before the other man could so much as squeal. I wanted to intervene, but both bullies were larger than me and I doubted I’d be able to do anything but get myself hurt. Then the whole world came to a screeching halt and I stared at Pyramus as his fist hung motionless in the air.

“What the hell have you done?” I gasped looking around the room to find that Pyramus wasn’t the only to have been frozen in place.

‘I slowed down your perception of time,’ the symbiote answered back.

“Well, undo whatever it is you did. This is damned creepy!”

‘You can beat him,’ the K’teth whispered within my mind.

“What the hell do you care?”

‘I do not like bullies,’ the symbiote replied just before the world lurched into motion, but at a snail’s pace.

Pyramus’s fist moved as if it were passing through molasses and I only hesitated a second before making my move. I grabbed his arm and threw it aside then I slammed my open palm into his chest. The world erupted back into a full boil, returning to full speed and Pyramus went flying to the ground with far more force than I had anticipated. Hell, the blow had hit with more force than I thought I was capable. I looked down at my hand in disbelief and shuddered. It was that damned thing inside of me it had to be. Just like it had done for the Overseer, it had given my enhanced physical capabilities.

“Fuck!” Pyramus yelled between clenched teeth.

I walked over to where Farris was standing and grabbed him by the collar, “All we want is to get something to eat. Leave now and everything between us is square, but so help me if either of you try anything like that again I’ll beat your asses down,” I said glaring at him with all the false bravado I could muster.

Farris gulped and nodded. I released my hold on his collar and he promptly booked it out of the room. I glared down at Pyramus and he glared back up at me before shaking his head and stumbling back to his feet.

“Shit, I don’t know what the fuck you are, but just keep the hell away from me,” he spat and followed Farris out the door.

“Holy freaking hell! That was awesome! I don’t think I’ve seen anyone put Pyr in his place well except maybe Mara, but hell that woman could boil water with a look. Not that your way was less impressive. God I wish I could have gotten a rec of that! The look on his face!” Jaysen proclaimed with a huge grin on his face.

I wasn’t really sure what to say to that, and I didn’t have to because Jaysen spoke first, “It’s because of that thing in you isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” I said bowing my head and running a free hand through my hair. “How did you know about that?”

Jaysen scratched his chin, “Well, Mara told me. I guess it explains why you were able to pilot the Overseer’s ship. And god, it probably won’t be long ’til those two jackasses find out too.”

“And, what do you think about that… the K’teth I mean?”

“Well, to be honest I don’t know what to make of it, but what I do know is that you saved us from those patrol ships, which is something I’m not going to forget!” He shook his head and looked at me with a grateful smile.

I swallowed and bit my tongue. I wondered what Jaysen would say if he knew it had been the K’teth that had piloted the transport and fought off the patrol ships and not me.

“Is it… is it going to change you all the way?” he asked suddenly fidgeting with his hands and staring at me with a nervous smile.

I nodded, “Yeah, so I’ve been told.”

“Oh, well… um why don’t we get you something to eat?” he said with a smile that didn’t quite hide the flash of envy mingled with revulsion that passed across his face.

I felt my eyes grow wide and for a very brief moment I let myself believe what Pyramus had said about Jaysen wanting to be a girl. If it were true it might explain the look he’d just given me, but then again I had to consider the source. In the end I decided to let the matter pass and watched as Jaysen turned away and moved to the center of the room where a line of cupboards were mounted to the wall.

The room had the look of a kitchen, but it was much larger than any kitchen than I’d ever seen. There were rows of cupboards, metal counters lined with dozens of cooking implements some of which even I didn’t recognize along with half a dozen ovens, automatic dishwashers and sinks. The compound the rebels occupied was huge and clearly was intended to house several thousand people.

“Jaysen, what is this place?”

Jaysen who had opened up a cupboard and was looking inside turned back to me with a rueful smile, “Well, Mara’s the one that found this place. She said it was built many decades before the war with the Qharr back when the world was still divided and the threat of conflict between the nations was a constant threat. This place was built in case the worst should happen and the North American Union got obliterated. Once the United Republic of Earth was formed this and other places like it were abandoned and forgotten about.”

“And how did Mara know about it?”

“Beats me. You’d have to ask her,” Jaysen shrugged and returned to the cupboard.

“Here,” he said suddenly tossing a bread sack at me.

I grabbed it out of the air and set it down on the counter then caught the next as it came soaring through the air toward me. “How many people live here in the compound?”

Jaysen walked slowly across the room and set a container down on the counter next to the others. “Well we’re up to twenty-three, counting you.”

“It’s getting close to lunchtime,” I mumbled with a quiet whisper. I looked around the kitchen and smiled, “Well they didn’t call me master cook for nothing. Might as well put my skills to use.”

And so I did.

I always liked to cook, but was constantly frustrated at the lack of nutritional eats that I had to work with. The Qharr gave us food, but only to fill our stomachs. They didn’t care how long we lived or if we were living healthy. The only thing that mattered to them was that we continue to work and the food they gave us was enough, in their eyes, to do just that.

Most days the best I was able to make was soup broth and simple unleavened bread, and the sort of food the rebels had access to wasn’t really any better. God, I didn’t know what I was expecting. It wasn’t as if they could go find an empty field and start planting crops. The Qharr would never allow that sort of thing and the rebel farmers would be found out in short order.

So, I ate a little bit of the bread–which was a few days old and very dry–then I got to work cooking the meal. I was in the process of cutting up a few stunted carrots when I heard the door creak open and turned to look and see who it was. Kaya was standing in the doorway and she looked pretty surprised to see me. She stood there with her mouth hanging open and I half-expected her to turn her back and disappear back through the door, but she did just the opposite.

“Jellfree…” she stepped through the door and let it swing shut behind her.

“What do you want Kaya?!” I snapped feeling that familiar anger boil up to the surface.

“I-I didn’t expect to find you here. It was my turn to prepare lunch and I thought I’d get an early start,” she responded looking back and forth between me and Jaysen. “Mara told me what happened to you but, God, I don’t think I really believed it. Shit, Jellfree I’m so sorry. I can’t help thinking that it’s somehow my fault. If I had included you in our plans maybe… maybe it wouldn’t have happened.”

I glared at her and said nothing. Jaysen grimaced and scratched his head, “I’m sure Jellfree doesn’t blame you. It might have happened even if he’d known. Right, Jellfree?”

“Why don’t you mind your own damned business?! This is between me and Kaya!” I yelled rounding on him with knife in hand my anger exploding out of me suddenly and without warning.

Jaysen eyes grew wide and he shook his head, “You know what… I think I’m going to step outside for a minute. Obviously something has happened between the two of you and I really don’t want to get involved.”

“Yeah, I think that would be a good idea!” I growled at him as he fled the room.

“There’s no need to pick on Jaysen, Jellfree. I’m the one you’re mad at so take it out on me!” She yelled.

“Alright then I will! What the hell am I supposed to do Kaya?! I loved you and it was all a damned lie! You put my life in danger and now everything is going to hell! I trusted you and you took advantage of that trust Kaya and now… God, Kaya… what am I supposed to do now? I just don’t know anymore!”

Kaya moved across the room and took my head in her hands. I tried to protest, but when her lips unexpectedly locked around mine all my anger suddenly fled. When we broke for air I stared down at her flabbergasted as she started to weep.

“Oh hell, if you hated me before you’re really going to hate me now. Jellfree, I-I love you and before you started to change I would have fought with every cell in my body to try and convince you that I wanted to be with you, but now… Hell I can’t. I do love you, but… God this is so hard. I wish there was some other way, but that kiss it didn’t feel right. I’m not attracted to women, and I can’t fight to be with you knowing that you’re changing into one.”

I started at her and slowly started to shake my head, “So that’s it? It’s over between us?”

She nodded and pursed her lips. Tears were flowing freely down her face and I wanted nothing more to scream and yell at her, but she looked so vulnerable… so sad standing there that it was all I could do to keep myself from wrapping my arms around her and tell her everything would be alright then I came to my senses. I glared at her, “It’s not fair.”

“I know,” she whispered. “We can’t be lovers, but maybe we can stay friends. I want to help you through this, Jellfree. It’s the least I can do after everything I’ve put you through.”

“I don’t know,” I scowled. “It’s going to take time Kaya. I can’t just pretend like nothing happened!”

She nodded tears flowing freely as she spoke. “I will do whatever it takes.”

I shook my head then grabbed some supplies out of the cupboard and turned back to her. “Well, I could use some help with this meal.”

Kaya sat down across from me and smiled as she set her plate down. I tore off a piece of food and held it out with my fingers before slipping it in my mouth and savored the taste of the freshly baked bread. “So, I guess I’m a rebel now. What exactly am I supposed to do?”

Kaya held her spoon out in front of me and pursed her lips with a thoughtful frown. “Well, I’ve been discussing that with Mara. She wants us to take some time off and get you trained before we move on to the next mission.”

I shook my head and tapped my fingers against the table. “You mean she wants to wait to see if I can be trusted.”

“Of course, you can be trusted! After what you did I don’t know how anyone could not see that!” Jaysen protested from his seat at the table next to Kaya.

“Kaya’s not the only one who’s had a talk with my aunt. She’s afraid of that damned parasite inside of me. Hell I am too. I can’t blame her for not trusting me I’d probably react the same way in her shoes. Maybe it would be better if you just locked me up and threw away the keys. If that K’teth gains control of my body–” I shuddered. “–who knows what it might do.”

“Your aunt…?” Kaya asked staring at me with wide-eyed confusion.

“What, she didn’t tell you?” I asked looking from Kaya then to Jaysen and back to Kaya. They each shook their heads and I let out a long sigh. “Well she says she was married to my uncle Harold. I don’t really remember, but I think I believe her. It’s weird, until yesterday, I’d forgotten I even I had an Uncle Harold.”

“Well, that certainly explains some things,” she said waving her spoon around then dropped it into her soup. “Look Jellfree we’re not going to lock you up. We’re fighting for our freedom and we need everyone we can get.”

“And if this thing gains control of me?”

“Then… I’ll do whatever’s necessary,” she said narrowing her eyes and saw just a bit of that manic fire come to life inside of her again.

I shuddered and locked gazes with her. There was no doubt in my mind if she thought the K’teth had taken control of me she’d do whatever it took to stop it, even if it meant taking my life. I smiled… I couldn’t live being a prisoner in my own body and if I became a danger I wouldn’t want to go on living knowing what it might force me to do. I think if anyone could find a way to kill me it would be Kaya and in a strange sort of way I’d rather it be her than some stranger.

“Sustenance!” a voice called from the other side of the bunker’s massive cafeteria. All our eyes turned to watch as Vakrexid came sweeping across the floor and halted in front of the large pot of soup I’d placed on the table in the next row over. He grabbed a bowl from the nearby stack and scooped some soup out of the pot. He lurched back into motion and plopped down at the table beside me.

“Hello Doctor!” Jaysen beamed.

“Hello all. It is most agreeable to see you,” he tooted and promptly dunked all three of his tubes in the bowl of soup. There was a strange sucking sound and within just a few seconds the doctor’s bowl had been sucked completely dry. Well, other than a few chunks of meat and vegetables that wouldn’t fit up his tubes.

The doctor cocked his head and touched me lightly on the shoulder. “Vakrexid would like you to pay a visit to my lab. I have unpacked some equipment that should allow Vakrexid to run tests on you without use of the scanner. Those tests will not be as conclusive, but there is little else I could do. ”

I nodded. “Sure thing doc.”

“Also, Vakrexid would like to encourage you to continue your transformation. I have procured a powercell which would be most suitable for this task,” he said absently rubbing at his tubes.

“You can’t be serious!” I protested staring at the doctor with my mouth hanging wide open.

“The process, it will be most unpleasant, I believe it would be a much easier adjustment if we sped it along. Vakrexid would much rather it be done under my supervision. If you were inadvertently exposed to a power source and the K’teth began to consume its energy the process could leave you weakened and unable to find aid.”

I sighed and pursed my lips. “Damned K’teth, I… I thought I would have more time.”

“The choice is yours of course. Vakrexid was merely suggesting what I thought was the most prudent course of action,” the doctor said running a finger along the inside of his bowl.

“I-I’ll think about it,” I muttered and promptly crammed another piece of bread into my mouth.

“Very well,” Vakrexid tooted then he suddenly lurched out of his seat and scrambled away with his empty bowl in hand.

I shook my head. “Such an odd creature. How exactly did the doctor get caught up in the rebellion?”

Jaysen shrugged. “I tried to ask him once, but all the doctor would say was that he had nowhere else to go.”

Kaya pursed her lips, “Mara told me once that the Qharr despise the doctor’s people, but that for whatever reason they have some rule against doing them any harm. The gray skins won’t lift their fingers against the doctor, but neither will they help him leave Earth. Mara says she’s known him for years, but he’s only been with the resistance for about five.

“You mean to say he was alone on Earth for almost twenty years without anyone to help him?” I asked finishing off the last little bit of my bread.

Kaya shrugged and shook her head. “Mara said once that the doctor is a part of a much larger puzzle about the Qharr one which most of the pieces were missing. She wouldn’t say anything more.”

“Well, maybe we can find the pieces,” I said dipping my spoon in the soup.

Kaya nodded then downed a mouthful of food and didn’t say another word. All the pieces… Then it occurred to me, maybe I’d already found one of the missing pieces. I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was missing something about the K’teth something that would explain so many mysteries about our self-proclaimed masters, but there was still too much I didn’t know. God, if only that damned thing would speak to me again, but nothing seemed to catch its attention.

I sighed and continued to eat my soup and resigned myself to hoping the answers would come with time.

Just as we finished eating the rest of Kaya’s band started to show up. I recognized a few of them from the compound, but other than first Jaysen then Felix, I had never learned their names. The rest of them were new faces and they studied me with thoughtful expressions as they passed our table. Pyramus and Farris made an appearance too, but neither would look me in the eyes and went out of their way to avoid me.

“My dear Kaya, you’re looking absolutely breathtaking today, just as you always do,” a tall bearded fellow with fiery-red hair seating himself next to Kaya with a roguish lopsided smile on his face as he threw his arm around her shoulder.

Kaya rolled her eyes and let out a long sigh. “Strave, so help me if you don’t remove that hand I’ll break that damn thing off.”

“You’d really do that? You’d really break my arm?” he asked his eyes growing wide in mock disbelief.

Kaya face stretched into a wicked grin and twitched an eyebrow. “I wasn’t talking about your arm.”

Strave chuckled and quickly slid his hand away. “Kaya my beloved queen of ice someday I will win your heart, I just know it.”

“It will be a cold day in hell, Strave,” she glared at him.

Strave grinned and shook his head. “So… you must be Jellfree,” he said his eyes suddenly darting across the table to land on me. “Everybody’s been talking about you. You’ve got Pyramus and Farris all fired up which is a surefire way to make friends around here. The name is Straffen McMillan, but all my friends–” he said pausing and glanced at Kaya before continuing. “–call me Strave.”

I choked. “The Straffen McMillan! God, you’re a real person! I always figured you were the product of someone’s over-active imagination.”

Strave grinned and stroked his beard, then turned to me lowering his voice. “Some of my exploits may have been exaggerated. If I’d done half the things that people say I’ve done, the Qharr would have had me hunted down and killed me long ago.”

I shook my head in amazement… Straffen McMillan was something of a folk hero among the slaves of North America. There were dozens of tales about him freeing slaves, and fighting Qharr with his bare hands each more ridiculous and over the top than the last. When people spoke of Straffen McMillan it was always in hushed tones out of earshot of the Qharr. I’d always enjoyed hearing the tales, because they always depicted the Qharr as the blood thirsty tyrants they really were, but I’d always figured them to be fiction. Perhaps, there was some truth to them after all.

Kaya snorted. “I’d say. Strave is pretty good in fight, I’ll admit that much, but the only reason he’s still alive is because he has more luck than any person has any right to have and an ego twice as big.”

“Kaya,” Strave said in mock-surprise, “I do think that’s the closest you’ve ever come to giving me a compliment. There’s hope for us yet!”

“Why don’t you leave Kaya alone, Strave? I think it’s pretty obvious she despises you,” Jaysen said suddenly.

“Jaysen my good friend, what would be the fun in that?”

He paused and looked at me with the spark of curiosity in his eyes. “Is it true? What they’re saying? That you’ve been… inhabited by some sort of creature one which grants you superior strength?”

I coughed then looked around the room. “Well that didn’t take long to get out.”

“It’s also responsible for giving him that face and it’s probably going to give him a body to match. So if you’re interested in having one of those things put inside of you I’m all for it. Maybe if you had a pair of breasts of your own you’d even leave me alone, for a change,” Kaya said glaring at Strave.

He grinned and let out a soft chuckle. “Kaya, my love for you is eternal. I’d be willing to go lesbian for you!”

Kaya rolled her eyes and let out a long sigh. “Come on, Jellfree. I think I’ve had about as much of Strave for the day as I can handle. Why don’t I introduce you to the rest of the group?”

I nodded and gave Strave a sideways look before following Kaya to the next table. “Hey, Bentley!” Kaya called and then began the round of introductions.

Besides Pyramus, Farris, Strave, Kaya and Jaysen there were five other rebels in the room I had yet to meet.

Bentley Laden, was the first to step forward and introduce himself. He scowled and shook my hand, eying me with a set of cold blue eyes, before smirking and stepping aside to. My first impression of Marta Galday was an interesting one. Outwardly she seemed open and friendly, but there was something about the way she kept glancing into my eyes that made me uneasy.

“Name’s Territh Roggin,” a wizened little fellow stepped forward and clasped his hands in mine. He looked frail, but the firmness of his handshake definitely seemed to belie that impression. He grinned, displaying what few teeth he had left, then stepped away without another word.

“Uh, hi? I-I’m Nate Leeson,” a gawky kid stepped forward rubbing at the back of his neck. He reached out to shake my hand, but yanked it back and wiped it on his shirt. “Sorry, I’m a little sweaty. Been working out.”

He smiled and put a hand on the shoulder of the final member of the crew. She jumped and looked up at the kid with wide eyes. “This here is my cousin Loon Melowitz. She can’t really talk though. Her old qharr master cut her tongue out.”

Loona nodded and opened her mouth to demonstrate. I averted my eyes, and cleared my throat before returning my attention to the group as a whole. “Nice to meet you all. I’m sure you’ve heard all about me already.”

There were a few polite exchanges, but then things took a decidedly uncomfortable turn when they started up the questions. Most of them were about the K’teth symbiote and for the most part I really didn’t have any answers. I gave it my best, and the questions certainly didn’t get any easier to respond to. My answers were met with a lot of skepticism and distrust, and looking back I don’t think I handled it all that well, but considering the way I had been received it wasn’t all that surprising.

“Fuck it! You guys really think I have the answers! I’m through with all your damn questions! All I know is I have this thing in me! I don’t know why it’s doing this to me or what it wants, but I do know it scares the shit out of me and I don’t need you people badgering me for answers that I don’t have!” I snapped then went tearing out of the dining hall.

I stopped just outside the doors leaning against the wall and taking deep breaths as I fought down the vast array of emotions that I suddenly found myself confronting. My body had been invaded by an alien being and I had no idea what it was doing to me and on top of that I had been caught up with a group of rebels nearly all of whom were worried that I was under the influence of the entity.

“Jellfree,” Kaya said from the doorway.

“Leave me alone Kai,” I yelled thumping my head against the wall. “I don’t want to be consoled, especially not by you. I just want to be left alone.”

“Fine.” She folded her arms and stepped away before disappeared back down the hallway.

I stood there with my head still resting against the wall and let loose the torrent of tears. God… I hated what was being done to me. I knew there was no way I could stand up to that freaking parasite. It was fused to me like two metals melted into an alloy. How could I resist that?

I heard footsteps again, but this time they were coming from the opposite direction. I wiped the tears from my eyes and turned to find Mara standing at my side with a single raised eyebrow. She put her hands on her hips and shook her head. “Jellfree, dear, what wrong?”

“Nothing, I’m fine.” It was an obvious lie, but I didn’t want anyone else prying into my business.

She frowned and folded her arms across my chest. “If everything is fine why you were crying?”

“I-I, just leave me alone!” I yelled then shouldered past her and fled back to my room.

Chapter Seven

“Ah, Jellfree, sit, sit, sit!” the doctor said patting at the scanner bed as Mara and I stepped into the lab. Jaysen, my guard for the day, peeked inside, frowned, pulled something out of his jacket then let the door close in his face.

Mara gave me an encouraging smile, but didn’t say a word as I plopped down where Vakrexid had indicated. I stared at the doctor apprehensively as he moved about the lab and caught a glint of metal as he grabbed something off the counter then spun back around to face me. “Before you humans perfected the body scanner, your forebears used another means to find illness and infirmity within their bodies,” the doctor said holding out a plastic tube from which protruded a long metal needle.

“Well doctor!” Mara smirked. “It looks like you’re finally going to get a chance to use one of those things.”

“What the hell is it?” I asked, staring at the wicked looking thing in complete confusion.

“It’s a syringe, they used to use them to draw blood,” Mara said suddenly the very barest hint of a smile touching the corner of her lips.

“Draw blood?” I asked then I realized what she meant and turned sharply to eye the doctor warily. “You’re going to stick that thing in me aren’t you?”

“That is the function of this particular instrument. Vakrexid has practiced using it in the event of equipment failure, it will only be slightly painful but the pain will be gone quickly.”

“Damn, try to make it quick, just looking at that thing gives me the creeps.”

“Why did Vakrexid’s not cogitate with my dlepebur!?” the doctor proclaimed slapping an open palm against his forehead. “Vakrexid needs a tourniquet and something for sanitation!”

The doctor scrambled across the room and pulled open a drawer, grabbed something out of it, then quickly returned to my side with a sort of flexible rubber tube, a bottle filled with clear liquid and a white cloth. “Vakrexid needs your arm,” he said looming over me.

I sighed and held it out. The doctor slid his hand up my wrist and pushed the sleeve of my shirt up my arm. He cleaned the crook of my elbow with the cloth and liquid then grabbed the rubber tube and tied it around my arm. He held the syringe over my arm then plunged it into the vein. I gritted my teeth and as I felt a very brief sharp sting and I swear I could feel the needle inside my arm as blood filled the inside of the tube. Then it was all over, the doctor released the rubber tube and pulled the damned thing out.

“Vakrexid shall have the computer analyze this sample,” the doctor tooted.

I grunted. “Well that was fun… let’s do it again sometime.”

Vakrexid cocked his head, “Truly?”

Mara laughed, “No doctor, remember our little discussion on sarcasm?”

“Yes.”

He blinked his eyes and stroked his hand around his center face tube, “Humans! Vakrexid is continuously perplexed by your kind! Why do you persist in saying things and meaning something else entirely?!”

“Doctor, even humans sometimes have trouble understanding why we behave the way we do.”

“How strange,” he tooted then suddenly turned his back and walked out of the room.

I really, really hate awkward silences, so as you might imagine I was pretty miserable after the doctor left and I found myself languishing within such a ticklish situation. Silence. Mara didn’t say a single word, and I couldn’t think of a damned thing to say. I opened my mouth, thinking that maybe I might say something, but soon thought better of it and snapped my jaw back shut. Thankfully, the doctor wasn’t gone long and burst back into the room lugging a large cylinder about a quarter of a meter around in both his arms.

He let out a high-pitched whistle and lifted the cylinder onto the counter opposite me. “That is most cumbersome.”

“Vakrexid has put the computer to the task of examining your blood. It is very old and it shall take some time before the results are given. I wonder, have you given any thought about what Vakrexid said earlier concerning the continuation of your changes?”

“Shit, you’re not going to give up on this are you?!”

I dropped my face to my hands and slowly shook my head.

“Maybe it would be for the best,” Mara said suddenly.

“Oh god! What the hell has gotten you two so eager to let this damned thing have its way with me?!” I demanded letting my hands fall away from my face as I glared at her.

“There is a certain logic to it. Without letting it near a source of energy how long will it take the K’teth to change you weeks? Months? The sooner you are transformed the sooner we know if it will be able to take control of your body. I think that if I found myself in your situation and that horrid thing was changing me into a man, I’d rather have it over and done with. That way I wouldn’t have that horrible weight hanging over my head for so long. At least then it would be over!”

“Yeah, well it’s not happening to you!” I yelled. “What if by feeding that thing we give it the opening it needs to gain control of me?!”

‘I can only gain control if you give it to me and only then for a limited time,’ the symbiote’s voice echoed suddenly within my mind.

‘Where the hell have you been?! I demanded immediately aware just how much more well-spoken the creature seemed.

‘I haven’t gone anywhere. I have been working to complete the joining process so that we may better communicate because of this our minds were temporarily… disconnected, but that will no longer be an issue,’ the K’teth replied in an almost matter of fact manner.

‘You seem so much more well-spoken now,’ I noted.

‘A result of our bond being complete. It is very difficult to communicate when the joining process has first begun. Fortunately, once our minds are tied communication is no longer a problem.’

“Great, we can communicate. Just what I always wanted a damned voice in the back of my head. Fuck, this still doesn’t mean I can trust you.’

‘Trust must be earned. At the moment, you have no reason to trust me or I you, but perhaps we can find some common ground. We both want the same thing, after all.’

‘And that is?’

‘Freedom from the Qharr!’

“Jellfree!” A voice called urgently as a hand latched onto my shoulder.

I blinked and found Mara standing there next to me, her eyes were wide with worry as she spoke, “Jellfree, dear, what is it? What’s wrong?”

“It’s the K’teth it was speaking to me,” I mumbled reaching up to touch her hand.

‘She… call me she I am female,’ it suddenly insisted.

“It spoke to you? What did it say!?” Mara demanded.

“Among other things it… she says she wants to be free from the Qharr,” I responded.

“She?!” the doctor exclaimed suddenly stepping between Mara and myself. “The symbiote, it is female?”

I nodded. “That is what it claims.”

“Fascinating!” Vakrexid said then suddenly backed away from Mara who was glaring at him. “Apologies!” the doctor tooted shuffling away, “please continue.”

“I don’t care what that thing says. I do not believe it can be trusted… Maybe accelerating your changes isn’t such a good idea.”

Mara glanced over her shoulder, frowning at the doctor.

“No…” I said surprising even myself with the sudden change of heart. “Shit… I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I don’t think I want to prolong this any longer than I have to. If she takes over me then I’d rather know sooner rather than later. Just don’t hesitate to pull the trigger if you think that thing is the one calling the shots.”

Mara nodded, “Very well, I would be loath to terminate your life, but should the worst happen I will not fail to do what is necessary.”

The doctor made some strange comment, but I wasn’t paying attention I was too focused on what I knew I had to do. My eyes locked on the large cylinder which the doctor had toted into the lab. I was pretty certain it was a powercell, but there was no way to be sure. Well, there was only one way to find out I could try touching it and see if the symbiote reacted. Before anyone could so much as mutter a word of objection I leaped across the room and slammed my hand into it. For a moment, I thought that nothing was going to happen, but then I heard the K’teth’s voice howl in my head and it began.

Just like before light filled my vision and my ears started to buzz and then the pain came. It burned through my body like a wildfire and I screamed out in agony. It started out in my scalp and I felt it burn as hair gushed from my head in a single great eruption of blue that went flowing down my back in a shower of wavy ringlets and got so long that it flowed down past my waist. I could feel my skin ripple and gritted my teeth as the flesh on my neck and inside of my throat begin to twist and change. For a very brief moment I couldn’t breathe, and I clutched at my throat gasping for breath, but then air flooded back into my lungs. The pain seemed to subside for a bit then suddenly flared back to life and I let out a loud high-pitched wail when the bones in my right shoulder started to crack and snap.

The transformation gradually trickled down my arm and every bone, every muscle sizzled with pain until it finally stopped at the end of my finger tips. I gasped as my vision cleared just a little bit and brought my hand up so I could look at it. My entire arm was smaller and the hand itself was too. Before my fingers had always been short and stubby, but now the transformed one was long and delicate and it was very much the hand of a woman. The area around my right nipple started to tickle and I grabbed at it as it began to swell. There was a very brief flash of pain, but as the right side of my chest gradually bulged outward, the pain was almost nonexistent. When the tingling started around my left nipple I gritted my teeth and prepared myself for the left side of my chest to start growing. Sure enough after another very brief burst of pain the left side began to grow too. In very short order I had two full-sized breasts sticking out from my chest.

The changes rippled across my body and continued to my left shoulder and down my other arm. It hurt like hell and I fell to my knees my hand still latched onto the powercell as the transformations cascaded down my body. After my left arm came my abdomen and as my insides twisted and turned I felt my stomach rebel. I turned my head and spewed a seemingly never-ending stream of vomit all over the place. Then the pain hit my waist which produced even more cracks and pops before the ripples moved down into my crotch and hips.

I gasped and reached a hand into my pants and felt my penis retract into my body. I shuddered and slid my hand out of my pants as the changes continued. After that my hips swelled out then my legs shrunk one at time until finally it was over.

My hand fell away from the powercell and I slipped it into my shirt and felt a pair of lumps–‘no’, I corrected myself ‘they’re breasts’–sticking out from my chest. Hot tears stung my face and I gritted my teeth as I muttered the words, “Oh god, how could I have been so damn stupid?”

“Jellfree?!” Mara’s voice asked and I felt her hand on my shoulder.

I shuddered, reaching up to touch her hand. Everything felt so very different, even her hand on my shoulder. Not because she had changed in any way, but because the size and shape of my entire body had been altered so drastically.

“Dear lord… Jellfree are you alright?”

I shuddered anew and put my hand on the ground to push myself up, but quickly snatched it back up when I felt it touch something wet. I brought it up so I could look at it and found it covered in a thick brown, almost black, sludge and holy hell did it stink. I looked around and found that a large pool of it had formed around my body. My now over-sized pants and boots were drenched in it. Well, that and my vomit. I was amazed that I hadn’t noticed it sooner, but I think the pain from my transformation and the shock of finding myself so suddenly in a female body had been what had kept it from becoming immediately apparent.

“Dead flesh left over from the transformation process.”

A new voice said suddenly and I looked up to find the K’teth’s female human form, standing over Mara and me, seemingly made flesh.

“What the hell?!” I said suddenly blinking up at her.

The K’teth looked down at me and smiled. “Don’t worry Jellfree, I haven’t gained physical form. The image you are seeing is an illusion that you and you alone can see. I thought that if we could interact this way it might be less disconcerting for you.”

“Well, how considerate of you!”

“Jellfree?” Mara cut in. “Who are you talking to?”

I closed my eyes and shook my head. “That damned K’teth… She’s not just talking in my head anymore… She’s chosen to appear as a full-blown spook.”

She folded her arms across her chest and looked at me with a thoughtful expression, “Interesting.” She glanced down at my feet and frowned.

“What is it?” she said reaching down to touch the black goop on the floor, sniffed at it then scrunched her lose in disgust.

“Vakrexid would surmise that it is discarded tissue from the transformation process. The K’teth likely expunged it through Jellfree’s pores or perhaps her anus,” the doctor tweeted walking through the illusory form of the K’teth and kneeling down next to me.

I groaned at the doctor’s use of ‘her’, but didn’t try to correct him. Vakrexid may be the first person to use a female pronoun, but I knew he would not be the last. I certainly looked like a “she,” and had the body to boot, but hell I certainly didn’t feel like one. I still felt like myself on the inside; I’d just been stuck into a pretty little wrapper.

“I… shit I’m a mess.”

“God,” I added looking at my long and delicate-looking fingers. “It’s done… I’m really a woman now.”

“Amazement!” the doctor proclaimed flailing his arms wildly before turning to examine Mara’s face. “It is most remarkable, but Vakrexid believes you bear a striking resemblance to Mara.”

I locked gazes with Mara and saw her eyes grow wide in astonishment then she abruptly blinked and shook her head, “God, you’re right. How is that possible?”

The K’teth’s image rolled its eyes, and she knelt down next to me between Mara and the doctor.

“I used her genetic code as a partial template when remaking your body, is it really that hard to deduce?”

“You used her as a template?! And what gives you the right?! Why the hell did you do this to me?!” I screamed my hands shaking with sudden rage.

“Jellfree,” Mara said reaching out to grab my shoulder.

“I did what I felt was necessary. You don’t know what it means fo r me to find a host among a species other than the Qharr. It could mean freedom for my kind!”

She reached out my face and I suddenly jerked back when I felt the touch of her hand as if it were real.

“And… making me female? That was just for shits and giggles?!”

“That is a discussion for another time once we’ve gotten a little better acquainted,” she grinned then abruptly vanished.

“Dammit!” I cursed.

“What did it say?” Mara asked finally joining the doctor and the K’teth on the floor beside me.

I relayed what the symbiote had said about using Mara as a genetic template and her successive refusal to explain herself. Mara’s eyes widened slightly upon hearing the news and I got the sense that she found it very distressing despite the lack of emotion displayed on her face. I caught a flash of concern in Mara’s eyes as she let out a long sigh.

“Come, Jellfree dear, let’s get you cleaned up then we’ll try to help you through this.”

I wobbled on my feet and gripped the sides of the cupboards as I struggled to gain balance. I tried to take a step forward, but my foot slid and I nearly went tumbling to the ground. Thankfully, Mara was there to catch me.

“Crap…” I gasped and fought down the sudden urge to run away screaming like a mad… woman. It would have ended disastrously anyway I couldn’t seem to keep my balance in this damned new body.

“I think it would be helpful if you removed those boots of yours. At the very least I think you could move a little easier.”

“Vakrexid will help!” the doctor suddenly proclaimed.

The boots were coated in that god awful goop left over from my transformation, but the doctor didn’t show any hesitation as he moved to unlace the boots and helped me slip them from my feet. It didn’t do much to improve my balance, but at least I wasn’t wearing those huge clodhoppers anymore. My pant legs were coated in it as well and the doctor looked up at me, but it was Mara that spoke. “I think you’re going to have to remove your pants or else you’ll track that muck all over the place.”

I swallowed hard looking down at my pants in dread. My newly expanded hips were all that was keeping them from falling to my ankles, but removing them would leave my crotch bare for both Mara and Vakrexid to see.

“Oh, hell,” I said reaching down to the waist on my pants with shaking hands.

I closed my eyes, unfastened the button then undid the zipper and pushed my pants down from around my hips. I opened my eyes and looked down to see a full formed –and for some reason hairless– vagina resting between my legs. I wanted to weep, but I forced back the tears and gritted my teeth. As much as I hated it I was going to have to live with that infernal body for the rest of my life and I was going to have to accept it.

“The goop soaked all the way through your clothes.” Mara said, craning her neck to look over at the doctor. “Doctor, I don’t suppose you have any rags laying about, do you?”

The doctor blinked. “Nothing suitable to this task, Vakrexid is afraid.”

Mara sighed looked from me then to the doctor and then over to the door. She walked across the room then slid the door open a crack and poked her head out the opening. “Jaysen, do be a dear and go retrieve a towel or two.”

“Yes, ma’am,” came Jaysen’s muffled reply through the door.

“Oh, and Jaysen,” Mara added suddenly. “Why don’t you find Kaya while you’re out and have her retrieve an extra set of her clothes for young Jellfree here?”

Mara slid the door shut and I looked down at my bare crotch my cheeks burning bright red with embarrassment as I realized I’d been standing around the whole time with my privates exposed. I quickly covered up by yanking down on my shirt and pulling the ends down over my new vagina.

“Why’d you ask him to go get Kaya? I’d prefer to keep away from her for the time being.”

“I can understand how you must feel, dear, but I need you two to get past your personal issues if you’re going to be working together. We have a planet to retake, and as much as I can sympathize with your predicament, I can’t have these sort of problems getting in the way of what must be done.”

“I’m so sorry to have inconvenienced you. I didn’t ask for any of this, all I want is just a little space. Is that too fucking much to ask for?” I glared at her and felt hot tears sting the corner of my eyes.

She smiled and put a reassuring hand on my shoulder and I cleared my throat before clearing my throat. I bit my lip and quickly changed the subject. Quite frankly, Mara confused the hell out of me and I didn’t know how to respond to her.

“You really think you can do it? I mean the gray skins have such a stranglehold on Earth. Even if you somehow managed to form a large enough force to drive them off they can call in reinforcements and quickly retake the world.”

“We will retake Earth, it’s just a matter of time.”

Though she didn’t raise her voice, her conviction almost made me believe, almost. She smiled coyly and I got the sense that there was something she wasn’t tell me, but I never got a chance to ask her as it was about that time that the door swung open.

“Hey, Maya I got some towels and clothes like you asked,” Jaysen said stepping through the door followed closely by Kaya then his eyes darted to the corner of the room where I was standing. “Oh,” was all he said as he stared at my with his jaw hanging open.

“Jellfree?” Kaya gasped bringing her hand up to her mouth. “God! Is that you?”

“I-I’ll just set these down right here,” Jaysen muttered his face bright red as he practically threw them onto the counter and fled out the room.

“I probably should have told him to knock before entering,” Mara grinned before turning to frown at Kaya. “Help me towel the bo… girl off would you?”

“Vakrexid will never understand this human obsession with… what is it you call it? Oh, yes modesty,” the doctor muttered absently. “On my home-world it is considered completely natural for-one to walk about unclothed supposing it is warm enough.”

I glared at the doctor and held up my arms so that Kaya–who had just finished toweling me off–could pull the shirt over my head. The fabric running against my nipples felt odd, and I shuddered as it came free. The exam room was cold and I folded my arms across my naked chest, to help cover them both for warmth and modesty.

“Damn!” Kaya proclaimed as she stared fixedly at my breasts.

“What?!”

Kaya shook her head and sighed.”Well, it’s just that you’re bigger up top than me.”

“I don’t think any of the women in my family were ever that busty if that creature used me as a template it certainly took some liberties.”

“If you two are through staring at me chest, can I have a damned shirt please?” I growled feeling very self-conscious as they stared at me.

Mara snorted then grabbed a shirt from the nearby stack and tossed it into my arms.

I held the shirt in my hands and looked down at the two balls of flesh poking out from my chest. They were pretty big, I had to admit, but not so huge that they appeared freakish. In fact, if they weren’t sitting there on my chest I would have found them to be quite glorious, but they were there and that was a pretty big problem or at least I certainly thought so. Hell they weren’t really much bigger than Kaya’s, but God who would have thought I’d end up with bigger boobs than my ex?

I slipped the shirt on and grimaced as my hair caught in the back of my shirt. It was insanely long and had grown down to the back of my knees. The end of it had gotten a little dirty from the black goop on the floor, but Kaya had toweled it off which had dried it up a bit. I slid the hair out of my shirt and shuddered a bit as the damp end slid up my back. I held a big handful of it in front of my face and grimaced.

“I don’t know why that thing gave you such long hair… and really blue? What’s that all about?” Kaya said her nose all scrunched up and her lips pursed.

“The hair I can handle,” I muttered glaring at Kaya irritably as I cupped my breasts in my hands. “It’s these damn things that I’m a little more concerned about, them and the freaking slit between my legs.”

Kaya grimaced. “Yeah, well… I can’t really say I know what it’s like on the other side of the fence, but I don’t think I’d be exactly thrilled if my chest flattened and I suddenly grew a cock and balls. I can’t say I’d really miss the periods, and it might be nice to be a bit stronger.”

“You sound almost like you might like to be changed.”

She shook her head and sighed. “There are a lot of things in my life that might have turned out a little differently if I’d been a man, but honestly being a woman is part of who I am. I wouldn’t trade it in for anything.” She rubbed the back of her neck and cleared her throat before blushing and glancing around the room as if she’d said something she thought was embarrassing. “Well… all I can say is welcome to team girl.”

“Yeah, thanks just what I always wanted,” I responded dryly. “Can I have those pants now?”

“Oh! Right!” she Kaya responded tossing a pair of slacks at me.

“Thanks,” I said gratefully as I quickly grabbed them out of the air and pulled then up my legs.

“You know…” Kaya said crinkling her nose. “I think you need a bath. You really stink…”

I grimaced then held my hand out to her, “Lead the way.”

“It seems like such a waste to get dressed only to have to get undressed again.” I grumbled staring across at Mara and Kaya who both had their arms folded across their chests in near identical disapproving poses.

“Well,” Kaya grinned. “You could have walked through the hallway naked. I’m sure the guys would have liked that.”

I crinkled my nose and looked around the shower room and let a long sigh. I knew I smelled absolutely horrible, but I wasn’t all that eager to get naked again. It was strange, I know, but when I had clothes on I could almost pretend like I hadn’t been changed. Once, I stripped down I knew that I’d be confronted with my new feminine body and I didn’t know if I could handle it. Logically, I knew that all the parts were the same whether I was nude or clothed, but having to see my bare breasts and those damned vaginal lips between my legs… Hell, it wasn’t exactly something I was looking forward to.

I shuddered ever so slightly then I started to strip down to my birthday suit and walked toward the nearest shower stall. The room itself wasn’t much different than the one back at the compound. The walls and floors were covered with plain white tiles and maybe half a dozen shower stalls. That really was the only big difference, the stalls. The Qharr didn’t really understand the human sense of modesty so they built shower rooms for humans slaves without any separators or dividers. They did at least have separate shower rooms for men and women, but that was only because they had this weird superstition about bathing in the same water as the opposite sex.

I looked down at my naked breasts then back at Kaya and Mara then made my way for the nearest of the stalls and closed the door behind me. I pressed the indentation in the wall in front of me and gasped as hot water come cascading down the shower head above me.

“Here,” came Kaya’s muffled voice and I looked down to watch as a bar of soap slid across the floor into the small gap at the bottom of the stall. I retrieved it from the ground and started to soap up my body. I tried to ignore the strangeness of it all, but the unfamiliarity of my new form prevented that and it wound up being the most unforgettable shower of my life.

I ran the soap over every nook and cranny and when I got down to my crotch my hand hovered over my pussy and I pursed my lips. I looked down and scowled at the damned thing before tracing my fingers across its surface. God! Those damned lips didn’t belong between my legs and as my hand came away I leaned against the side of the stall weeping silently.

“No, no, NO!” I screamed gripping the side of my head. How could I live like this? The body the K’teth had forced upon me felt so foreign and above all just wrong.

“Jellfree?” Kaya’s voice called through the door. “Is everything alright?”

I blinked away my tears and shuddered. “No, not even remotely, but I’ll live.”

“Jellfree…” Kaya’s voice called again.

“Just… let me finish,” I snapped. “The sooner I get out of here the better.”

Kaya didn’t say another word and I sighed looked down at the pair of boobs on my chest and moved to soap off the rest of my body. When I reached the end of my toes I grimaced and reached for my hair. It was way too long and I held the soap in my hand in front of my face realizing just how inadequate the little bar of soap was to the task, but did the best I could with it. I ran the soap through the hair, particularly at the bottom where it gotten saturated with that goop.

“Hey, Jellfree,” Kaya said suddenly. “You need something for your hair?”

“Now, you ask,” I grumbled under my breath. Why did she have to ask after I was done washing my hair?

“What was that?” she asked.

“No, don’t worry about it. I got it covered,” I replied back pursing my lips and staring at the soap before dropping it and shaking my head. Well, at least I was done. I flipped the stall door open and I stumbled out. My sense of balance was still a little off and I was pretty wobbly on my feet.

Kaya held a towel out for me and I let her wrap it around my shoulders as I approached. “Where’s Mara?” I asked looking around the room and shivered as Kaya started to rub me dry.

“She left… she said there were some things she had to take care of,” she shrugged with a slight frown.

Kaya’s hands reach down to my crotch and my eyes grew wide as I let out a high-pitched squeal, “Kaya! Good God woman! Could you be just a little more rough with that towel, please?”

Kaya’s cheeks turned red and she looked down to the floor. “Sorry.”

“Damn.” I muttered grabbing a fistful of my hair and holding it in front of my face. “Do you think you could lob some of this off? It’s driving me nuts!”

Kaya threw her head back and laughed, “Yeah, let’s get you dry then we can see what we can do with that hair of yours.”

“Would you stop moving!?” Kaya yelled grabbing hold of my chin.

“Well if you hadn’t clipped my skin I wouldn’t have jerked!” I yelled back touching the side of my neck gingerly. It wasn’t a serious injury, in fact I doubted that it would even scar, but god it hurt.

“Alright, let’s see,” she mumbled reaching up to pull my hand away. Then I heard her gasp and proclaim “Holy fucking shit!” as the pain in my neck suddenly faded away.

“What!? What is it?” I asked grabbing her shoulder.

She pursed her lips and shook her head. “Your neck just healed itself!”

“Oh, yeah that,” I muttered. “I guess the symbiote can heal injuries. I had a broken arm from killing the Overseer and after I woke up here for the first time it was fine.”

‘You’re welcome,’ a voice whispered inside of my mind.

‘Go to hell,” I shot back. ‘I’d rather live a few months with a broken arm than be infested with you!’

“Damn,” Kaya cursed. “I could see that coming useful.”

I shuddered briefly cupping my breasts before looking up to Kaya. “Yeah, but I think the price is a little too steep.”

Kaya nodded then resumed cutting my hair. She was silent for several minutes then startled me by suddenly speaking, “It’s my fault.”

“W-what?!”

“If you hadn’t stepped in to save me, you never would have had that parasite jump inside of you,” she said wiping tears away from her eyes.

I bowed my head and let out a weary sigh. “Kai, don’t… It’s not your fault. It might have happened even if I hadn’t knocked you out of the way. It’s not good to second guess ourselves we could have all been killed. Besides, the K’teth is a thinking reasoning being, she’s responsible for her own actions just like you and me.”

“I-I’m sorry not just for that, but because of everything else. I feel horrible for the shit I’ve put you through. You probably won’t believe this, but I still love you. When I kissed you, after you started to change, it just felt so wrong. I… can’t be with someone I’m not attracted to. No matter how much I wish it could be different!’

I bowed my head and shed a few tears of my own before speaking. “Kai, I can’t forgive you… not yet. I can understand why you chose to keep the truth from me, but it doesn’t make it right.”

“I know.”

“It will be a while before I’ll be able to trust you again, but I don’t think we can go on avoiding each other. That’s probably why Mara left when she did because she knew it would force us to talk. I want this to end, if we can’t be lovers, maybe we can at least be friends.”

Kaya smiled wiping away the tears. “I’d like that, and… I’ll find some way to make up for what I’ve done, I swear it.”

I closed my eyes and nodded, “Now, do you think you can finish this haircut?”

“Yeah,” Kaya replied reaching up to grab a fistful of hair. “I still don’t get it… Why blue?”

‘It’s the mark of a host that has been joined with a K’teth,’ the symbiote said.

I ignored the K’teth and glanced at Kaya, but didn’t say a word as my ex-lover continued. “Still… It is sort of a pretty color and it doesn’t really subtract from your beauty… If anything it makes you look exotic especially with those eyes.”

“Oh, boy, I’m exotic, just what I wanted to hear.”

Kaya chuckled and clipped a few more hairs before stopping and proclaiming, “There I think that just about does it!”

I wiped all the excess hair away then climbed back onto my feet and carefully walked across to the north wall where a large mirror took up nearly the entire wall. I stopped, carefully studying the face I saw reflected back at me. The woman in the mirror was beautiful, a real knock out, and I could hardly believe that what I saw was actually my reflection. I ran my hand through my hair which now stopped just past my shoulders and watched in morbid fascination as the woman mirrored my movements.

“That… that isn’t me!” I screamed at the woman in the mirror and turned my back on her unable to stomach the very visual reminder of what had been done to me. Of course, it didn’t change anything I was still trapped in the wrong body and though I’d only had it for a very short time, I was becoming increasingly aware of just how strange it felt. Every time I so much as crooked a finger I could feel the difference.

“I’ll catch you later Kai,” I muttered under my breathe seething with rage. “I think, I’d like to be alone for a while.”

Chapter Eight

“Dammit!” I cursed throwing the blankets off of me and springing out of bed. I couldn’t get comfortable no matter what position I got in, my breasts and hips kept getting in the way. I sighed and ran a hand through my hair–briefly entertaining the idea of putting it into a ponytail– before moving across the room and swinging the door open.

A shadow appeared in the doorway and it took me a moment for my eyes to adjust enough for me to be able to tell what it was. “Felix?” I asked squinting into the light.

The figure nodded and stepped out of the way. “Yeah.”

“Look, I can’t sleep… I thought I might take a little walk. Is that alright?”

“Fine.”

I stared up at Felix thoughtfully realizing for the first time that he had to be a good twenty centimeters taller than me where before he’d only had about seven or eight centimeters on me. In my new form I was tall for a woman–about a meter and a three-quarters–and I was even taller than Kaya and Mara, but many men, except Jaysen of course, towered over me and it was something I guess I was going to have to get used too.

I took one last look at Felix then turned away and started walking down the hallway with no real destination in mind and Felix trailing a little way behind me. I don’t know how long I walked, but the whole time I just kept thinking about what had been done to me. I briefly considered that I might attempt to summon the K’teth and try to grill it for more information, but I wasn’t in the mood to confront her at the moment. So, I just wandered and pretended that Felix wasn’t following me. Eventually, I found my way to the kitchen and I took a good hard look at the doors before pushing my way through them.

There came a loud clatter and a figure with a shock of red hair swirled around to face me. “Oh, thought you were Pyr and Ferris the two of them have been looking to filch my stash for a while now, but as yet haven’t managed to find it,” Straffen grinned then he furrowed his brows and stared at me for a moment. “Jellfree?” he asked his eyes growing wide in disbelief.

“In the flesh,” I said pursing my lips and did my best not to wither under his gaze.

“Well… I think you need this more than me, but–” he said digging through the cupboard and setting a large bottle of amber liquid on the counter in front of me. “–the good news is there’s enough for us both to get good and drunk.”

“Drunk?” I blinked.

“Yeah, drunk… You know as in intoxicated, inebriated, under the influence, looped, smashed, tanked, loaded, bombed…” he trailed off grinning like the rouge that he was.

I put my hands on my hips and sighed. “I know what drunk is… I just… I’ve never…”

“Been drunk? Well, Jellfree, my good…” he trailed off looking at me thoughtfully, “…woman tonight that’s gonna change.”

“Uh… thanks but I—” I started to say, but stopped abruptly when Strave suddenly called out.

“Felix, my good man! Care for a drink?!”

Felix… Shit I’d completely forgotten about him. I looked over my shoulder and watched as Felix silently folded his arms across his chest and frowned at Strave disapprovingly.

“Ah Felix, my friend, chatty as ever I see!” Strave grinned before turning away and began to dig through the cupboard again. Finally, he poked his head out and slammed three glasses down on the cupboard just to his side. “Felix man, you sure you don’t want a drink?” Strave said pouring some of the amber liquid into the first glass.

Felix shook his head with a disapproving frown as he replied with a very firm, “No.”

“Your loss.” He shrugged and turned to look at me with a glass full of booze.

“Thanks, but I…”

“Trust me, you’ll thank me later. There ain’t no better way to drown yourself in your sorrows and believe me I think if I’d just been transformed into a woman, and a devastatingly beautiful one at that, if you don’t mind me saying, I’d drink myself stupid.”

I stared at the glass and hesitantly took it from his hands before bring it to my lips.

“God that tastes awful!”

I proclaimed after taking a very small sip. It tasted like… crap I didn’t know what it tasted like, but I do know that it burned going down.

“You drink this stuff… willingly?” I coughed holding the glass in front of my face and scowled at it.

Strave laughed. “Its damned god awful I’ll give you that, but it’s not really about taste now is it? The goal here is to get blind stinkin’ drunk.”

I jiggled the cup in my hand for a second, sighed, shrugged and then downed the rest of the glass. It didn’t taste any better going down the second time, but it didn’t seem to burn quite as badly. I shuddered, then held out the glass to Strave and coughed. “More, please.”

“That’s more like it!”

I don’t really remember much after the first couple drinks. I remember talking to Strave a little bit about the K’teth and my life before meeting up with the rebels, but the rest is all murky. After the final glass, I do remember having enough presence of mind to stagger back to my room and collapse into bed

 

Chapter Nine

“Jellfree!” a familiar voice called urgently drawing me out of the darkness.

“Kaya?”

I groaned and fought to open my eyes. My lids felt far too heavy and it took all my willpower to just to get them to open a tiny little sliver. A bright light filled my vision and I moaned before bringing up a hand to block it out.

“Jellfree,” Kaya’s voice repeated. “God, I’ve been trying to wake you for almost five minutes.”

I sat up slowly. “What time is it?”

“Almost ten thirty… Are you alright? You really don’t look so good.”

I palmed my face with both hands blocking out the light. “I feel like I got ran over by pack of dre’ks.”

“Are you gonna be alright?”

“God… if I’d known when Strave offered me that drink that I’d wind up feeling like this I never would have accepted,” I grumbled brushing my hair out of my face.

Kaya snorted. “Well that certainly explains it, you’re hungover. Although, I think you really could have displayed a little better judgment. Strave is only out to cause trouble. Spend any time around him and you’re bound to get burnt.”

I collapsed back onto the bed. “Come back later… Jellfree’s not home right now.”

Kaya let out a long sigh and I could practically hear her roll her eyes as I felt her arms on my shoulders. “Come on get up. You need to get hydrated and then you need to get into the shower. Trust me, it helps.”

I gritted my teeth then let Kaya help me up off the bed. “I think I’m going to puke,” I said and promptly did just that spewing bile all over the floor in front of me.

“Well fuck, there’s no way in hell I’m cleaning that up,” Kaya muttered just before guiding me out the room.

“Feeling better?” Kaya muttered taking a seat next to me.

I gripped the side of my head and nodded. “Just a little.”

“Isn’t that thing inside of you supposed to help along the healing process?”

I nodded taking another long sip from my glass.

“Then why did this hangover hit you so hard?”

“Well, I’d say it’s because alcohol effects me as much as it does you,” a voice pronounced suddenly from my side.

“Holy hell!” I proclaimed and swirled around to find the image of the K’teth staring at me with a sardonic smile on her illusory face.

“Oh, great you again,” I groaned clutching at my head and willed the pain to go away.

“What is it? It’s that thing again, isn’t it?” Kaya asked, clamping down on my arm with claws made of iron or at least that’s it felt like.

“Yes, it’s her. Now, would you let go of my shoulder, freaking crap Kaya!”

“Sorry,” Kaya muttered with an apologetic smile as she released her talons.

“Do me a favor… don’t ever drink again. The headache is just a killer!” the K’teth sighed reaching around my shoulder to trace her arm across my back.

“You have a head?” I blinked.

“No, my physical form is…” she trailed off looking thoughtful. “Well I’m pretty much shapeless. Before my kind first join with a host our bodies, for lack of a better word, are a milky-white formless goo that’s just thin enough to be malleable. Now as far as the headache goes, I feel whatever you feel.”

“Oh, well that’s just fascinating, really.” I replied dryly. “But can you shut up now and leave me alone!?”

“Jellfree, what is it say–” Kaya started but I cut her short.

“This is difficult enough without having to recap everything, Kai. Just be quiet and I’ll fill you in later,” I growled irritably.

“Okay,” Kaya muttered looking hurt.

“Jellfree…” the K’teth said thoughtfully. “You know that’s such a masculine name you should really think about changing it.”

“Is there a reason you’re here or have you just come to pester me?”

“Jellfree, Jellfree, Jellfree,” she muttered, absently stroking my face.

“Would you cut that out!” I yelled grabbing at her arm, and grumbled as my hand passed right through hers. “How the hell are you doing that anyway?! Why can you touch me, but I can’t touch you?!”

“I’m not touching you in the truest sense… I’m merely manipulating your senses to make it seem as if I am.” She smiled running a hand down my neck.

I scrambled off my seat and moved halfway across the room. “Stop it!”

The K’teth rolled her eyes held up her arms then tucked them under her pits. “Oh, very well. I’ll keep my hands to myself, I swear.”

“That’s better,” I said retaking my seat between the K’teth and Kaya. “Now, you’re going to answer some questions.”

“Oh, very well. I suppose I owe you that much, at least,” she replied back letting out a long sigh.

“For someone who claims to want freedom for her people, you sure have an odd way of showing it. If it were me I’d be as forthcoming as possible.”

She smiled, and her lips cracked into a smile before she replied. “Why is it so hard for you to understand? You’re human and until recently we were enemies. Would you be so quick to give me information if you were a voice in the back of my mind? Be that as it may I’m willing to give you some answers. Perhaps you should take advantage of the situation.”

I stared at her for a moment, and then slowly started to shake my head. “Do you have a name? We could be stuck together for a long time. I just can’t keep calling you ‘the K’teth’ can I?

She smiled and stroked her chin thoughtfully. “A name? I’ve never had one… My previous host, the Overseer, called me, g’tel the Qharr word for pet. I’ve been called many different things by my hosts, although most just called me K’teth. No member of my species has a name; at least none that I know of; the masters do not see a reason for us to have one.”

“Well, you better come up with one because I’m not going to call you g’tel and I’m certainly not going to keep calling you K’teth!”

She grinned then let her hand fall away from her chin and land in her lap. “Name myself? What a novel idea! The more time I spend with you Jellfree the more I like you. I think I’m really going to enjoy being joined with you. Now let’s see a name… Oh! I’ve got it. ‘Khala’ it’s an old word in one of the many ancient Qharr languages. It means freedom.”

“Alright, Khala now you’re going to tell me why you did this to me and this time I want a real answer! Don’t pussyfoot around! ”

“Should have figured you’d ask me that! You don’t understand… you could never understand what it means for my kind to find another race to which we can become joined. For over ten thousand years we have been the faithful servants of those you call the gray skins and what do we get in return for our service?! We are treated little better than trained beasts to do their bidding!” She yelled her eyes alight with rage as she spoke her anger seeming to build with each syllable, but it didn’t just show on her face. It swirled around her in whirling ribbons of fire and great bursts of illusory smoke.

“You think I don’t know what it’s like to be trampled under the feet of the Qharr!? They invaded this world, my home, and murdered billions of my people. When I was four years old I watched a hunter murder my parents right in front of my eyes and was forced to serve that same bastard as he rose through the ranks of the Ascendancy for over twenty-four years! Don’t tell me I wouldn’t understand!” I screamed that all too familiar rage bubbling inside of me.

“I suppose you do…” she admitted staring down at the floor and biting her lip. “If we worked together maybe we could–”

“Okay stop right there!” I interrupted. “I’m not buying the act. You expect me to trust you?! For all I know this is just some big show put on for my benefit! And you still haven’t explained why you did this!” I proclaimed grabbing at my breasts.

“I was getting to that… I didn’t want to just spring it on you without an explanation,” she said standing up and started to pace back and forth. “The truth is I’m no ordinary K’teth. I’m a H’ra, I guess you could call me a queen, I’m one of only a handful of my kind capable of reproduction and I need a female host along with her womb and ovaries in order to breed.”

My insides froze and I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up, “Oh God. Oh hell… you can’t I won’t let you! You’re not going to use my body for that!”

“Use your body for what?” Kaya interrupted suddenly and my eyes shot toward her having completely forgotten that she was there.

“To spawn more of those… things!” I howled.

“Oh god! How?! Why!?” Kara asked her eyes growing as big as saucers.

“Yes, why?!” I said rounding on Khala.

“The K’teth were engineered so that our ability to reproduce was contingent on whether we were joined with a host. Because of thast we have always been dependent on the Qharr, but now…”

“But now you have me,” I finished folding my arms across my chest and clutched at my gut feeling the bile rise in my throat. What the K’teth wanted to do with my body made me want to run away screaming, but there was no running from the K’teth. Anywhere I ran I’d be taking her with me.

“So you understand now why having a human host would be important to me. You’ve brought hope were before there was none,” she said grabbing me by the shoulder and stared into my eyes intently.

“Oh, I understand… I understand that I have absolutely no reason to trust you or to believe anything you said. You could just be telling this to try and gain my sympathy and if you are telling the truth I’m not going to let you use my body to create more freaking parasites!” I shuddered screaming at the top of my lungs.

Khala glared at me, before disappearing with a suddenly flash of light accompanied by a loud boom, like a thunderclap. ‘It is already too late. My daughter was already growing within Jahal for nearly three months when you killed her. I was able to save her by bringing her into your body’ the symbiote’s voice reverberated through my head howling with inhuman intensity.

“Oh god!” I yelled out loud and clenched the side of my head.

My hands shook and I looked over to where Kaya was still staring with her saucer-like wide eyes. God, she was so beautiful and I wanted so badly just to lose myself in her comforting embrace, but I couldn’t. Oh, I had no doubt she would comfort and hold me, but our relationship had been changed dramatically. When she held me it wouldn’t be as a lover, it would be as a friend. I couldn’t hold the tears back and longer and they come pouring out of my eyes as Kaya grabbed hold of me and held me in her arms.

“You must know that I find this revelation particularly disturbing,” Mara said thrumming her hand against the desk her lips pursed in a thoughtful expression.

It had been almost two hours since Khala had dropped her bombshell on me and since then I had this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that just wouldn’t go away. It had been Kaya’s idea to tell Mara, and while I had resisted at first I was beginning to think that maybe it was for the best. If I was going to gain the rebel’s trust I had to be upfront and honest with them, but a part of me worried that they’d turn me out and leave me to fend for myself. I didn’t have anywhere else to go and I think Mara knew that. If I allowed the Qharr to recapture me I kind of doubted that they would take too kindly to a human joined with a K’teth.

“Yeah,” I muttered folding my arms across my chest. “You’re not the only one.”

“I can imagine.”

She pursed her lips then let out a long sigh. “Well, I appreciate you coming to me with this. It shows you’re willing to cooperate.”

“So what exactly do we do?” Kaya asked her hands clasped in her lap.

“To tell you the truth, I have no idea. This is an unprecedented situation… I suppose we’ll have to wait the creature out and see what happens when the infant K’teth fully matures,” Mara replied as she continued to tap her fingers against the surface of the desk.

“Since you are here, there is something I’d like for you to try.” Mara abruptly stood and slowly moved across the room.

“This belonged to your uncle Harold,” she said setting a small cylinder about as wide around as my index finger on the desk in front of me.

“What is it?” Kaya asked reaching out to touch it.

“The both of you are probably too young to remember, but before the invasion these were quite common. It’s called a biometric key, it’s keyed to the genetic code of the owner… in this case your uncle Harold. He and I both had one, but mine was destroyed during the invasion. Because we never had any children he had the key imprinted with both you and your sisters genetic patterns as a failsafe. There were a total of five keys, one each for both Harold and myself and three others for the other founders of the resistance,” she said picking it back up and twirled it around in her hand.

“Why didn’t he have his key imprinted with your genetic code?”

Mara smiled. “These keys are designed to hold a maximum of three patterns. My key was encoded with mine along with my sister and her son’s patterns. We felt it was better to imprint the keys with the maximum possible number of genetic patterns rather than have redundant ones. Unfortunately, since my key was destroyed and the other three are unaccounted for this is my last hope.”

“And my sister is the only one who can use it,” I added. “What does it open, if I might ask?”

Mara frowned and I felt her eyes on me as she studied me thoughtfully, “Something important to humanity’s survival.”

I bit my lip and fought down the urge to ask her for clarification. I knew she was holding back and I really wanted to know what the key opened, but I had the feeling that she was holding out because of Khala. If she didn’t want the K’teth to know it was probably best that that she didn’t even if it meant keeping me in the dark.

I grimaced then reached up to touch the key. As soon as my fingers wrapped around the small cylinder I could feel its energy pulsating from a tiny power supply encased within just begging for me or rather Khala to drain it all away. I fought against the sudden urge and flipped the cylinder around in my fingers before holding it out to Mara. “How can you tell if it works?”

Mara let out a long weary sigh and picked it out of my hand. “The end would have lit up if it recognized you, but I would venture a guess that there isn’t enough of your original genetic pattern for that to happen.”

“Shit, well… I hope it’s nothing too important,” I said staring up at her and cursed Khala silently.

“More than you could ever know,” Mara said with a very slight tremor. She bit her lip then turned to Kaya, “Kaya, I hope you don’t mind I’d like some alone time with Jellfree here. There are some things I think the two of us need to discuss.”

“Sure, I mean, why wouldn’t you? I bet you two have plenty to talk about.”

“I have something you may be interested in,” she said pulling open a nearby drawer once Kaya had left.

“I don’t have many possessions left over from before the invasion, but I did manage to squirrel away a few photographs among other things. This one in particular, I think would be of interest to you,” she added holding out a plain off-white envelope.

I took it and glanced up at her before carefully opening it and pulling out the photo within. As I examined it, I found myself looking upon the face of a vaguely familiar looking woman and a man who shared a striking resemblance to my former male self. I took a sharp intake of breathe and traced my hands across the image of my parents. I felt tears well up in my eyes then reverently slide the picture back into the envelope and gently set it down on the desk in front of me.

“Thank you,” I muttered, wiping the tears from my eyes.

Mara picked the envelope up then help it back out to me. “Take it. It’s yours.”

“Oh no!” I protested. “I couldn’t!”

“Jellfree,” Mara said looking at me flatly. “That photo has more meaning to you than it ever will to me. Please, I insist.”

“Thank you,” I said smiling gratefully then grabbed the photo off the desk and looked up at Mara thoughtfully. “What were they like, my parents, I mean. I don’t remember them that well and I was hoping that maybe you could tell me something about them.”

“Oh, child,” she whispered softly. “I wish you could have known them better. Your mother was one of the kindest and most caring people I’ve ever known. She was one of those people who could light up a room just by stepping inside. Your father, was a quiet man, but when he spoke it usually to say something important,” she paused a moment and a smile touch the corners of her mouth. “He had a way of unexpectedly saying the most insightful things at the most pertinent times.”

I swallowed hard trying to fight down the surge of emotions that threatened to overtake me. All my life I’d wanted to know more about my parents, but now that I had the opportunity I couldn’t think of anything to ask or say.

“Were they good people?” I finally managed to choke out.

Mara nodded. “They were wonderful people and they loved you and your sister with all their hearts.”

“Thank you,” I whispered. “And…Harold, your husband, what was he like?”

Mara frowned and smiled wistfully. “Harold was a colonel with the United Earth Defense Fleet and he was a good man. Stubborn, like your father, but that’s where the similarity ended. Never, have I met a set of twins who were so different yet they were as close as any two brothers could be. Harold was outspoken, the man had an opinion about everything,” her smile expanding into a grin. “Sometimes I thought he never closed his mouth. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about him. I miss him.”

“He died during the invasion?” I a