The woman lay on the floor in a boneless heap. It was clear she was unconscious, but Glory feared the worst even as she knelt by the body.
“Alright you! You better not be dead. I don’t have time to see how well I understood the mechanics of necromancy.” She grunted as she turned the body over. “And as I’m sure that my prints are all over the basement window, I don’t doubt that creep cop would try to pin this on me.”
The woman didn’t make a sound as Glory moved her into a more peaceful position. Someone had beaten her badly. By the slimy spittle on the woman’s face, Glory was pretty sure it was probably the same kidnapper she had interrupted in the park.
Glory tried to feel some compassion for the woman, but all she felt was rage and frustration. Why was it that malice, greed, and lack of common sense seemed to be the rule rather than the exception with people. She leaned in close, urging the woman to wake up with every fiber of her being. Perhaps it was one or more of the tattoos that now decorated her skin or the sword that had become a part of her, but a surge of energy seemed to flow from her hands and into the seemingly lifeless body she cradled. Glory felt as if her bones were on fire as something seemed to rush through her and away. The woman groaned and her eyelids fluttered.
With a startled gasp, the woman’s eyes popped open. “What? Where?” she muttered groggily, blinking at Glory without recognition.
“You don’t remember?”
“You did something monstrous,” Glory announced without sympathy. “There was a boy in your care and you sold him to bad people who are probably going to do terrible things to him. Sound familiar at all?” She trembled under Glory’s hands, wide eyed with fear. “And then,” Glory continued, “you got stupid and decided to blackmail them.”
With a wail the woman ripped herself from Glory’s hands and launched herself across the room. Glory stared at her apathetically. No doubt her reaction was due more to emerging memories than any guilt she might feel. Despite what the woman had suffered, Glory couldn’t bring herself to feel anything but disgust for her. “Now you need to tell me. Where are the children being kept?”
“I-I don’t know. I don’t know.”
“I’m pretty sure you know something. You at least know the name of whoever’s responsible.”
“I don’t… She’ll kill me.” The woman sobbed.
“Boy have I got some news for you. She already tried. You’re still kicking thanks to me, but I’m pretty sure that once she figures out you’re still among the living, she’ll send someone to correct things. Now you can do something decent before you leave town for parts unknown and tell me who’s responsible for the missing children.”
The sun was setting as Glory walked down the street. She rubbed her scalp hard, trying to distract herself from the vague headache she’d had since healing the woman, if that was what she’d done. True, she had tattoos to do just that, but she tried to convince herself that the jolt she had felt was kind of electrical shock or that somehow the woman had just woken up. She wasn’t having any luck. The thought of actually healing someone though, that made her uncomfortable. That was power… just the kind of thing Lori craved. What if this eventually made her as bad as her sister?
Shaking herself out of her self-absorbed funk, she frowned at the sunset. It was the evening of September 20th. By most old ways of reckoning time, the 21st began at sundown. She didn’t need intuition to realize that if she didn’t find the children tonight, she probably wouldn’t find them at all. She stopped at the entrance to Graymalkin park and peered through the gate. Aside from the security lights, the mansion beyond was a dark, looming bulk set against a wilderness of overgrown trees.
Buses didn’t come to this neighborhood because the people that lived here didn’t take buses. No one was going to mistake her for a resident of this part of town, in part because they were all quite wealthy, but mostly because they all had a similar look. She’d once heard an old-timer refer to it as the Innsmouth look before he spat on the ground. At the time, she’d just taken it for another peculiar expression of bigotry aimed at the “blue-blood” (presumably inbred) population that lived in this part of Sybar City. Now she wasn’t so sure. Besides, most of the people that lived here had money to spare. They didn’t dress in mud stained jeans and second-hand sweatshirts. She half expected a squad card to pull up and ask what she was doing there, but the streets were deserted.
If the woman had been telling the truth, the children were being held in the home of one of the city’s most prominent citizens, Tacita Ruggles, the Graymalkin heiress. Like her forebearers, she continued in the family tradition of sizable charitable donations to the city’s environmental and social programs. Every nineteen years she returned to the city. Though no one was sure why she, like her mothers before her, kept to such an odd schedule, something to do with her claim on her grandmother’s estate.
As the full moon began to edge its way over the forest that took up most of the land beyond the gate, Glory suddenly groaned with disgust at herself. Of course, every nineteen years… the moon completed its metonic cycle, returning to exactly the same position in the sky in which it started. She began to look for a way over the wall. It wasn’t just that there was little cover on the street to hide her as the moon rose, but that she was almost certain that whatever Tacita Ruggles intended for the children, it would begin when the moon was at its height. But no tree over hung the wall. Nothing at all was close enough to use to reach the top. Glory hesitated for a moment, then went directly to the gate and gave it an experimental push. It swung open soundlessly. She hoped that there weren’t any silent alarms.
She need not have been so careful crossing the well manicured lawn to the woods surrounding the mansion. There was no sign of life. Keeping to the edge of the small forest, Glory made her way to the mansion to peer in the lower windows, but the building was dark. She began to doubt she was in the right place. What if the children were someplace else entirely?
The night was eerily quiet. Not a sound broke the silence as she rounded the side of the mansion. Behind the building, the forest proper stood. The trees stood like silent giants in an eerie mist which crept along the ground like a living thing. Some light illuminated the mist from deep within the woods. Tendrils of luminous, bone white fog explored the leaf loam in an unsavory way. It seemed to ooze evil even as it undulated through the ferns and fallen branches. Shuddering with revulsion, she stepped into its cold embrace. The further she went, the less she could see of the trees within the fog. Though she desperately tried to avoid anything underfoot that might give her away, it was soon moot as she couldn’t even see her feet let alone what was under them.
No matter how far she walked, she never seemed to get any closer to the source of the light. It felt as if she was going in circles. Her mind wandered to old fairytales of being pixie led and stray sods of grass. Finally, frustrated and unable to see anything anyway, she stopped. Shivering more with embarrassment than cold if someone should see her, she pulled off her shirt and turned it inside out. Better safe than sorry where magic was concerned. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on finding the kids as she slowly stepped through the misty woods. Like a lodestone, she felt her way through the darkness until suddenly the oddly muffled woods gave way to the sound of chanting and the soft sound of whimpering children.
to Book 2, page 5