Archive for July, 2014




Early woke before dawn. She did not need a mechanical device to do this. She would return from dreamwalking and rise out of sleep at the same time every morning. Only exhaustion derailed her internal time clock. Exhaustion and her work on the other side.

On this day, she woke, instantly alert and rolled out of bed. Ten minutes later she was down on the street jogging towards Central Park. She did not push herself hard, only enough to get her blood pumping and her muscles warmed.

By the time she stepped into the plaza around the fountain, the sun hung just below the horizon, the sky the color of lemon chiffon behind the skyscrapers at the edge of the park. Early made a circuit of the great stone circle, checking for drunks and the homeless. It was deserted. The presence of people screwed with her chi and broke her concentration. Not for the last time, she wondered why she lived here.

Satisfied that she had no audience, she stood upon her favorite stone paver and sank deep into her stance, pulling chi out of the earth to reinforce her own. A few deep, cleansing breaths triggered the meditation. Holding her hands in front of her chest, she built a ball of energy between them. When she was satisfied that it would hold its shape while she moved, she slid her hands apart in the opening move of Tai Chi Chuan. The ball now rested on the palm of her leading hand while the chi she had gathered flowed into her trailing leg. Without a pause she moved into the second stance, transferring the ball into her other palm while the chi in her legs bled back and forth between the planet under her feet and the muscles in her body. Step, slide, dip. The exercise was old and familiar. She reached the end of her first pass and turned.

The priest, Joseph, sat upon the lip of the fountain, watching her. Early did not pause her routine, but the ball in her hands exploded outward, filling the plaza. Joseph was alone but she did not check further than the edges of the stone paving. That they had surprised her worried her. She should have felt him coming. Had they learned to shield their minds from her? And if they took the effort to do this, then they suspected far more about her than she had hoped.

Early completed the pass and bowed deep at its end, breathing out hard to release the tension building in her gut. The chi, she kept, letting it flow around her, a living thing waiting for her command.

Joseph met her eyes. He was pleased with himself.

She should be angry. They had found her, disturbing her in her place of silence. Perhaps it was time to move. To the west coast, closer to Connie and the rest of her family this time.

Joseph said nothing, perhaps waiting for her to react. It was arrogance, this. A show of power, a message, telling her that she was not as invisible as she might wish.

“Is there an emergency?” Early asked. “Have the gates of Hell been opened?”

“No,” Joseph said. “Not that I am aware.”

“Then why are you here? Why not contact me through the usual channels?”

“Cardinal Bennini wants to talk,” Joseph said. Early shook her head. “In person,” Joseph added.

“I am not flying to Rome,” Early said, her tone final.

“He is here. In the city. At the Archbishop’s residence.”

“Is he?” Early said in wonder. “Why?

“As I said. He wishes to talk with you.”

“Yes, I got that part. But I have nothing to say to our dear Cardinal. If he wishes for me to cleanse the world of demons, I am at your service. But I do not do conversations. It is not part of my contract.”

Things were shifting out beyond the edges of the plaza behind the wall of stonework and shrubbery. Joseph had brought at least a half dozen men, maybe more. There was a strange stink to them that filled her nostrils and choked her mind. She shook her head and glared at Joseph.

“Come with me,” Joseph begged. “Listen to what Cardinal Bennini has to say. A man of his importance does not come all this way for no reason.”

Early let her eyes wander, unfocused, to the shifting shadows around her. They were not ordinary priests, these men. Magic hung heavy about each form. Someone had been very, very busy. Certainly not this man named Joseph who did not believe in magic. Early suppressed a sneer.

Priests. Theirs was the magic of rote and ritual. Of power imbued icons and amulets created long ago by real wizards bent on controlling beings like herself. But the time of wizards had passed away, the wizards gone to dust, their knowledge lost in time. Now all that was left were dabblers who understood just enough to get into trouble. The Church thought themselves expert in the ways of the occult but in truth, they were glorified magicians.

“This is about Jimmy, isn’t it,” Early asked softly.

“Brother Benedict. Yes,” Joseph said. “I had a gravitational sensor set up in the next room. The readings were … alarming. The Cardinal would like your expert opinion on that … and other things.”

Early turned to check the men easing up behind her. They had that hard eyed look of mercenaries despite the priest’s collars. Rome had its own kind of soldier, just as well trained and deadly any other on the planet. She still had a chance to escape but she had friends and family. It was not love for them that held her in place. It was just that she was not quite done with them yet.

“Who are they, then?” Early asked nodding at the other priests.

“My body guards.” Joseph said with a small sly smile. “I do not trust that you would not kill me if we were alone.”

Early laughed a laugh that was devoid of humor. “Do not trust that they can keep you alive, should I wish you dead.”



Early curled up in the wing backed chair and traced the pattern of the ornate brocade cloth on the arm rest. Two of the magic-imbued priests guarded the door. She felt the weight of their gaze as surely as if they had laid hands on her. She was pretending to be a suitably cowed acolyte in the Church’s hierarchy. Meanwhile, she was busy picking apart the magic around them. The problem was she did not know how sensitive or adept these soldier priests were so she had to unravel their magical workings one thread at a time.

They did not really understand her nature, yet, else they would have bound her hand and foot and stuck her in a field dampening room far from this lushly paneled study. Early was fairly certain her kind had existed on this planet before and had been imprisoned, bound to the earth, by very powerful wizards under the hand of the White Elephant Lord. But it was this same Lord, the last holder of the knowledge of such magic who had made sure to kill all the wizards and burn their books once they had served his purpose, for fear they would turn that knowledge against him and learn to banish him as well.

Early was not a wizard nor did she wish to be but she was an expert on the subject of magic. Spells and incantations were merely the act of writing ones will upon the fabric of the world using the power of the Oneverse. This was an unbreakable binding that only time could erase if it was not superseded by the magical workings of a more powerful wizard.

Except there was a catch, something like the fine print on the bottom of a contract. The fine print on the contract between wizards and the magics of the world was that magic was a sentient thing and the will of the magic did not mind being bound as long as the binding did not countermand the pattern written in the matrix of reality. Since most human magic ran counter to the will of the Oneverse, it was not difficult to convince the magic to unbind itself and flow free.

The little magics did not interest her, unraveling easy enough. It was the amulets the priest wore under their clothes. Old they were, their magic ancient as the planet. Early frowned in concentration. They were not metal, these amulets. No, nothing so base. Stone. Not semi-precious crystals. No. Something softer. Jade or carnelian perhaps. She glanced up at the priests to see if they noticed her interference but they stared off into space as if she were not in the room.

The amulets had been around a long time and every wizard who had ever touched them had added to the network of bindings that kept the power inside the stones contained. With great care, Early unraveled the spells one layer at a time.

Something shifted inside the stones.

Early froze, afraid to breathe. She sent a tiny thread into the heart of the amulets.

“Who?” she asked.

“We know you,” the amulets whispered.

“What?” Early asked, saying it out-loud in her surprise. The priest by the door shifted. Early flinched and bowed her head to study the zipper on her running shirt.

“Like calls to like. Kith and kin, we are,” whispered the stones.

“I am Early, the One Tree’s Child. What kin does that make us?” Early asked down her thread.

“The Dragon Lord gave you another name.”

“Malice? Malice, the one called Blood Queen?”

The stones seemed amused. Early scowled. This was a first. What had she become that stones laughed at her?

“No. We mean this Lord,” they said, reaching into her mind and pulling the memory of the Consort hanging in the darkest part of space. Early gasped and sat up, startled by the intrusion into her mind. She thought her walls were stronger than that.

The priests by the door were growing tense. Early did not have to look at them to feel their feelings of bad blood towards her.

“Daughter,” Early said. “The Consort called me daughter.” What did that make the stones? Her grandmothers?

“Yesssss,” whispered the stones sleepily. They were going dormant again. “Daughter. Flesh of our flesh.”

“Wait, gawddammit, I have set you free. Will you sleep when you can fly free? You rest upon the necks of men who are without heart.”

“Yessss,” the answer came back, slowly as if it bubbled up through the heart of the earth. They seemed oddly pleased.

Early scowled at her zipper. Stupid stones. If someone had set her free she would run as far and as fast as she could. No. That was not true. She would probably stick around and destroy her jailers and her jail, one brick at a time.

“Yessss,” whispered the stones, liking that idea. Bloodthirsty, were these dragon-stones,

By the time Joseph returned with Cardinal Bennini, Early, needless to say, was in a very good mood. It was not much, the existence of the stone amulets, but it felt nice knowing something had her back. She could feel her grandmothers array themselves against the priests.

Joseph consulted with the soldier priests by the door as Bennini, dressed in a black cassok with scarlet piping and scarlet buttons from chin to ankle to match the scarlet sash wrapped around his large belly, crossed the room to her, smiling a smile that showed all his teeth. She never trusted that smile.

“Earline, my child, it is a pleasure,” Bennini said, extending his hand. Did he expect her to kiss his ring like the rest of the faithful? Early eyed the extended hand, tucked her own hands between her knees and watched him suspiciously.

“Ah, sorry. I forgot your aversion to touching.” The portly old man sat in the chair opposite hers. “Are you hungry? I don’t imagine you had time to break your fast before you set out this morning. They are bringing a tea tray, I believe. It’s a bit early even for my staff and I hate imposing on Archbishop Calhoun’s staff, they are stretched so thin trying to accommodate my retinue.”

“What do you want?” Early asked coldly.

“Down to business, it is,” Bennini said, nodding. “Joseph here has accused you of some very serious things, young lady.”

Early looked at Joseph. “I do not doubt it. We do not see eye to eye, your lap dog and I. He thought the death of Brother Benedict was unwarranted.”

“It is not the fate of the monk that concerns me.”

“What then? Did I make the needles on his infernal machines swing too far into the red?”

“I have data covering every microsecond in that room. You, not Benedict, were the focal point of most of the anomalies,” Joseph said, crossing to a large desk to open up a laptop.

“So?” Early asked. “Data without wisdom is just chaff on the wind.”

Joseph glared at her.

“Well,” Bennini said, seeing the dislike between them. “I see I will have to be blunt. He thinks your skill with eradicating the demons is due to the fact that you yourself are demon possessed and that what you do for us is no more than a very skilled confidence game and that your exorcisms are no more than clever illusions created by the demons you claim to cast out.”

Early scowled at him, her fingers tapping a pattern in the brocade of her chair’s arm. She finally uncurled her legs and straightened in her chair. “Would you eviscerate the goose who laid the golden eggs just so you could know where the gold comes from?”

“That is not a valid analogy,” Joseph snapped.

“What would you know, you who believe in nothing?” Early snapped back, mirroring his anger.

Bennini held up his hand. “Now children, don’t fight. Earline, I do not question your faith. Just give me something plausible that I can take back to the Holy See.”

“Words,” Early said, throwing her hands in the air. “There are no words that will not destroy the thing in the describing.”

“Try, Earline,” begged the Cardinal.

Early considered him but it was to Joseph she turned.

“You can observe a quark or you can observe its motion. You cannot do both.”

Bennini looked over a Joseph, a question on his face.

“She is talking about quantum physics. The act of observing changes the outcome in the world of sub-atom particles.”

“I am the motion,” Early said. “If you wish to find the thing inside, you will find nothing. Do not look lest you destroy what you value most. I do not questions my gifts, nor should you.”

Bennini nodded. “Which makes you no different than Brother Benedict.”

Early wanted to deny it. She opened her mouth to say as much but paused.

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “There is a difference. I understand the nature of the universe. All Brother Benedict had to shield him from the awful glory behind the Veil was his faith and faith is paltry armor against the beings who invented this game and make the rules up as they go. Until I understood that I was as lost as Benedict had become.”

“You do not think your father influenced that?” Joseph asked.

“Excuse me?” Early breathed, trying to control her rising fury. “What do you know about my father?”

“Well, hyper-awareness is common in abused children.” Joseph said, shrugging. “What you view as a gift could just as easily be hysterical over-compensation.”

“Do not think me broken, priest,” spat Early. “lest I turn the mirror on you and show you your own soul.”

“Calm yourself, Earline,” the Cardinal said, holding up his hands in a plea for peace. “This is my fault. Forgive me. I allowed Joseph to read your dossier. I thought it best before he met you for the first time. We have the reports from your teachers and I have personally interviewed the priests who administered your parish when you were growing up. No one will doubt how difficult your childhood was. Your siblings have not fared as well as you. That your belief in god was not crushed is a testament to the power of your soul.”

Early felt the wind get sucked out of her lungs. How dare he. How dare he build a dossier on her based on the meanderings of a couple of senile old priests who preyed upon her mother when she was at her most desperate. What had they done but convince her to submit to her fate and give her children up to a pedophile husband. It was her hatred of the Church that had made her seek them out and offer her services. She meant to dismantle their belief system one brick at a time. The old fool mistook their relationship if he thought of it as anything more than expedience.

She rose to her feet. “You know nothing of my life. Do. Not. Dare…. to presume… to understand who I am.” she choked.

The beings in the amulets fed upon her anger. She could feel the air in the room begin to crackle with their tension. Early closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths. These humans were nothing. Hardly worth her anger. Early shook that dangerous thought out of her head. It was the amulets. Their thoughts were bleeding into her own. The room was pressing in around her. Grandmothers or not, Early did not like being used. She needed space. With a thought, she opened the door in the core of her being behind which all the magic in the Oneverse existed and let it poor into the room, pushing everything and everyone away. All magic crumbled under the tsunami of her displeasure.

As every, she over did it. Cursed, like a bull in the china shop, her magic rolled out form her center, turning all magic into chaos, even her own. The walls around this place fell. She was naked to the Oneverse.

“Shit,” she said, making a mental note to rebuild her wards when she got away from here.

The priests wearing the amulets utters oaths and scrabbled frantically at their clothing. Their cassocks smoked ominously over the stones. Bennini jumped to his feet, green with fear. Joseph shoved the Cardinal behind him as he pressed the ear piece in his ear, listening to god knows what. The room was obviously bugged.

Her dark haired lover suddenly appeared in the middle of the room, naked as a new born.

“You’re naked,” Early said.

Joseph grabbed Bennini and shoved him and the smoking priests out the door.

“Yes,” the creature said, “Yes, I am. Is that going to be a problem? You did not seem to mind last time.”

Early looked over at Joseph. He had a gun in his hand but he seemed conflicted about who to point it at.

“Can you see him?” Early asked curiously.

“Is this your demon familiar” Joseph asked. “Do you dress him in human clothes so that we will not fear him.”

“Familiar?” the demon asked. “I guess we got familiar.”

“That is not what he meant. He thinks you are one of the Dark Lord’s minions.”

“That is very nearly correct. Allow me to introduce myself. I am the Dark Lord, it is true. You can call me Harry.” Harry bowed deeply in Joseph’d direction, giving Early a wonderful view of his back end.

Early covered her face and tried not to giggle. The Dark Lord. Wonderful. She had taken the Dark Lord as her lover. She peeked through her fingers . He had a very fine ass. This was just getting better and better.

“I have a gun pointed at the both of you,” Joseph reminded them.

“Yes, yes you do,” Harry said. The Dark Lord looked back at Early. “Why is that, I wonder? It’s not like she is not the most annoying person in the Oneverse, of course. I have often thought about killing her myself, these past few months.”

“I thought I got rid of you,” Early said. “The Consort did not try to kill you?” She crossed to a side table and jerked the table cloth off, handing it to Harry. “I can’t think. Try bringing clothes next time.”

“Oh, he tried. He was crushing me into infinite nothingness when you opened the door and brought me through. Thank you for saving me.” Harry tossed the tablecloth into the air. It settled over him and became a gray shark-skinned suit cut impeccably to show of his long, lithe form.

“I did not save you,” Early denied hotly.

“If I shoot you will you at least try to die,” Joseph asked petulantly, annoyed that he was being ignored.

Early considered that. “I don’t think that you can,” she said, tapping her front teeth with the nail on her forefinger. “It is an avatar, this thing. The rest of him is … somewhere else.”

“Somewhere else?” Joseph asked faintly.

“Wouldn’t all fit, would I?” nodded Harry. “Got a lot of me shoehorned in, though. She did that, clever girl.” Harry nodded at Early, beaming.

Early shook her head. “It was the grandmothers. Meddling old busy bodies. Relatives keep popping out of the woodwork and here I thought I was an orphan.”

“We have grandmothers?” Harry asked with interest.

“You two are related?” Joseph asked faintly.

“Yes,” said Harry.

“No,” said Early.

“It’s complicated,” Early added with a shrug.

“Are you an avatar, too?” Joseph asked Early.

“No,” she said reassuringly.

“Yes,” said Harry.

“I am not,” Early insisted.

“Don’t believe her. She just has everything compartmentalized to keep things straight. Talk about shoe horn.”

“That’s enough,” Early said, not wanting all her secrets revealed to a man she hated.

“You could probably kill her avatar,” Harry said, tapping his front teeth with his fingernail, “But she would just spring up somewhere else, in another body, and there you would be, having to go searching for her all over again.”

“What are you doing?” Early asked. “Please shut the hell up.”

“The hell I will,” Harry said. “I owe you for sending me unprepared into the Consort’s lair.”

“I did no such thing. You were the one who ran off without even a goodbye kiss.”

“Oh, well, we can fix that. Funny. I thought you were the one walking out on me.” Harry said, drawing close. Early put her hand on his chest to keep him at bay. “We can always start where we left off,” he purred.

“Tsk,” Early snorted. “As I recall, I was deciding not to kill you.”

“Ah,” Harry said putting his arm around her waist and pulling her close. “I think you are fascinating, too.”

“That is not what I said,” Early said, stamping her foot in frustration.

“No?” Harry said, nuzzling her cheek. “You will have to explain it to me. I seem to be unaccountably dense.”

“Are you going to fuck me right here?” Early asked trying to push him away.

“Of course not. I was thinking about a certain beach in Scotland.” he said, claiming her lips.

“Mmmm,” Early purred. “Oh, and don’t forget the grandmothers.”

“Way ahead of you,” Harry said, holding up two amulets by their melted chains.

Joseph blinked. One moment they were there, the next they were gone. Bennini found him standing there moments later, a perplexed look on his face.


“It’s far worse than we thought. She is the devil’s lover.” Joseph said faintly.

“Marvelous,” said Cardinal Bennini, his grin showing every tooth.


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