Nathan Poole is ready to become Sarah's Warden, but a long lost family heirloom changes his life and future.
Thanks as usual to Eof for a great universe to play in and to Eof, Maggie F and Donjo for their input. And thanks to my readers for reading what I put out here and being patient when new chapters are delayed.
We arrived shortly before the party was about to get underway. We were also the first ones there, but that wasn't surprising since most the other guests had gone to the school party first and would have to extract themselves before joining us at the McGreggors. Jason and his dad were just finishing setting up some tables, benches, and even a few lawn chairs for the guests to relax in when we made our way into their back yard. “Hi Jason, hi Mr. McGreggor, is there anything we can help with?” I asked.
Both Weres turned toward us and once they saw us they just stared. Finally Jason broke the silence, “Wow Nat, that's really Titania's old armor? That is so awesome! You really look like Giselle in that getup, with the ears and all.” He chuckled at Sarah's costume, “I thought you were joking about that. I see even our Pixie friends are getting into the spirit of things. Nice costumes you two.”
Sarah just stuck her tongue out at him while Dani giggled on her shoulder. Mr. McGreggor smiled at us all. “Great costumes, I'm glad you could make it. Do you two mind helping Molly bring out the snacks and such? Jason should probably get changed before the other guests start arriving.”
“Sure thing.” Sarah answered for us both before pulling me in the direction of the house. “Let's get started Nat, the others will be here soon.”
When we stepped inside Molly was on the phone so we sat down to wait until she was finished while she gave us a smile and just kept on speaking. “... oh it's not a problem Sandra. One more teenager isn't going to to be a big deal. Besides this will be a good way for her to meet some of the island's Unseen and make a few friends right away. We look forward to meeting her, see you later.” She turned to us as she hung up the phone, “That was Sandra Brand. She wanted to know if it was alright if her niece came to the party tonight.”
I nodded, though I was a bit confused. “Of course she can come, I thought we already invited Erin.”
She shook her head, “No not Erin, though she will be coming as well. No this is her other niece from Japan, Moriko Brand. Her father is Sandra's brother Lyle. It seems your brother just landed with them on board. They will be staying with Sandra until they can find a place to buy here.” She chuckled, “Its almost a good thing Sandra lives alone that big house, it's going to be crazy there with both Lyle's and Gordon's families staying with her.”
I assumed Gordon was Erin's father. “Yeah that sounds like a full house. I know Erin is our age, how old is Moriko?”
Molly handed me and Sarah both large bowls of snacks while she grabbed a tray of her fresh baked sugar cookies. She motioned us out the door as she replied. “She just turned sixteen a few days ago. Sandra says she may be a bit shy so try not to be too hard on her.”
Sarah nodded, “We'll try to be friendly but not overbearing, right Nat?” she asked me pointedly.
I just rolled my eyes and didn't dignify her comment with a response. “It sucks starting in a new school halfway through the semester. At least Erin and I can both sympathize with her. I wonder why they moved at this time of year.” I placed my bowl on one of the tables.
Sarah grinned as she placed her own bowl beside mine. “Why don't you ask her when they get here. Tell her you only started school here a month ago. It might really help her to know there's potential friends here she has something in common with.”
As we went back into the house to fetch another load I replied, “I think I will. If it's bothering her it might help her to get it off her chest.” It was several more trips before all the snacks and drinks were outside. By the time we were finished Jason was dressed in his costume. As promised he dressed as a cowboy wearing a pair of jeans, cowboy boots, a flannel shirt and a cowboy hat. He even had a lasso.
Becky Lawson was the first guest to arrive wearing green face paint, antennae on her head, and a t-shirt that said 'The Truth Is Out There'. She sat across from Sarah and beside me in one of the lawn chairs. “Hi girls, nice costumes. Is that real chain mail Nat? It's gorgeous, where on earth did you get it?”
I grinned at her, “I have friends in high places. How are you Beck?”
“Better now that I'm with my friends. I'm so glad I'm done with that school dance and can unwind a bit. I swear, acting crazy for the Norms is driving me crazy.” She gave her patented wild eyed story telling look and laughed.
Sarah and I both laughed at that and Sarah said, “It was your brilliant idea to use absolute truth to keep the Norms from catching on to any of us Becky. You knew from the start you were going to tell some pretty crazy stories and huge lies to get it to work. I don't know how you do it. It seems your tales get wilder and less believable each time”
Becky shrugged, “Practice makes perfect I guess. It helps that I have all the Unseen students backing me by poking so many holes in the stories I tell that are believable.”
I shook my head sadly. “True Becky ,we do help with that, but you're the one who always ends up looking like a fool and being ridiculed. I'm with Sarah, I don't know how you can keep doing it. You know, none of us would blame you if you stopped doing it.”
“Honestly,” Becky replied while stretching out a bit, “I see it as a team effort. We all work together to keep each other safe and sometimes someone has to take one for the team. It was my idea so I should be the one to do it, it wouldn't be fair to ask anyone else to do it. Besides I've already got the reputation built up, it would be stupid to stop now when it's working. I could use some help coming up with new material for the Norms though.”
I thought about that for a moment “How could we help? Maybe we could all meet after school once in a while?”
She shook her head. “No, people would get suspicious. I'm a social pariah and my stories sometimes out of necessity are about one of our group. If somebody were to see me hanging out chatting with all of you at the school it would bring way too much attention to us all. The only time it's really safe to hang out with all my real friends is during Unseen only events like this.”
“That's true, it sucks we can't hang out more because of that,” Sarah said with a sigh. “Any ideas how we can help you without making people suspicious?”
Becky gave a big smile, without the crazy glint in her eye that she normally added for the norms. “Actually, I was thinking of starting a private online discussion forum where all of us can post ideas for me to play out for the Norms. Then we can discuss if we think they'll work or not and figure out all the holes in the story for you all to exploit beforehand.”
Jason came back from inside the house and took a seat beside Sarah and nodded at Becky's idea, “That's a pretty good idea Beck, it'll help us to be better organized. We can also discuss things like whether we think someone might be getting suspicious there as well. It sure beats the risk of getting overheard while talking in the halls or an empty classroom.”
It was at that time that the Selkie contingent decided to show up. Shawn O'Brien was our age and shared a lot of classes with me while his brother Jack was turning eighteen soon and would be graduating this year. Bailey O'Brien was their cousin. She was also in our grade and shared our gym class, as did their other cousin Jackie Whitefeather. Jackie was half native on her father's side and she took after his side of the family. Gary Moore was from another Selkie family who shared classes with Jack and would also be graduating this year.
Jason got up to greet them all and brought them over to join us. Shawn was dressed as a leprechaun, Bailey as a barmaid, and Jackie as an Indian. Jack and Gary hadn't gone to the school party since they both had just got off work but they came to hang out and relax with us before heading home for the night. I groaned at the costumes and pointed toward the woods. “The stereotype party is over that way guys. Ask Sarah to show you the way.” There were laughs at that, after Sarah kicked me. At least it wasn't one of the Selkies, they're really strong.
The next to arrive was Daphne Potts, Jason's cousin and fellow Moose, dressed as a chef. She had barely come into the back yard when I saw Karen Dennis and her cousin Melissa Graves as well. Karen and Melissa were both Witches, both literally and in costume. Sarah quickly covered my mouth before I could comment on our classmates' costumes. As soon as her hand was off my mouth I cleared my throat loudly, “We will now enact scene one from MacBeth, we hope you enjoy the show.” That earned me another kick. “Good thing I'm wearing armor,” I said, grinning at Sarah.
At that point, conversation turned to where I had gotten my armor. I couldn't exactly tell even Unseen about the Sacred and Titania, and my friends in high places response didn't fly well. I was trying to come up with a believable story when I heard another new arrival call out, “Hey there my peeps!” It was Andrew Harris, a Fox and cousin to the Whitlocks, with his girlfriend Chloe Freemont who was dressed as the little mermaid. So many unimaginative costumes, I was embarrassed that I talked with these people during class. Maybe the time really was better spent learning.
I sighed, “If Erin comes as a catgirl I'm gonna scream.”
Andrew just grinned at me, “C'mon Nat, you know how it is. This is the one night that we can let our hair down, relax with friends, and be ourselves. Some of us just like to be ourselves with a bit of humor. So what does your costume say about you?”
“That I needed something that goes with my normal jewelry?” I said grumbling. Most of the Unseen in school knew I never took off the Glove, even if they didn't know why.
“It couldn't hurt to take it off for one night,” Chloe suggested. “Was it a gift from your boyfriend of something?”
I shook my head vehemently, “I don't have, never have had, nor do I wish to have a boyfriend. It's a family heirloom and I can't take it off. It's ummm... a Witch thing.” I was hoping this would keep the non Witches from prying. I wasn't worried about the Witches since almost every Witch on the island knew what the Glove was, even if they didn't know who it was from.
I was glad when Jenny and Max Whitlock came around the corner of the house and quickly focused my attention on them. Jenny was dressed as some sort of Vampire and her younger brother as a zombie. Jenny was older by 9 months but since Max's birthday was in August and hers was in November they were both in the same grade as us. “Hey Jenny and Max, grab a drink and make yourselves comfortable.” Sarah said before taking a quick look around. “Looks like everyone is here but the Brands.”
“Brands? Plural?” Shawn asked. “I know Erin can be really energetic and has that whole peppy cheerleader thing going for her, but last I checked there was only one of her.”
I nodded, “There's still only one of her thank goodness. I don't think I could handle two girls with that much energy and sheer girliness. I already have plenty hanging out with Sarah all the time.” Another swift kick was delivered to my shin. “You're gonna hurt your foot doing that Sarah.” She just stuck her tongue out at me and I returned the favor before turning back to Shawn. “Jason's mom said Erin's cousin just got into town. She's from Japan and is supposed to be living on the island now too. Maybe the kitties are having some sort of long term family reunion. Anyway Dr. Brand asked if she could come too so she could get a bit of a welcome to Sena Island from her fellow Unseen.”
Melissa looked around at us all, “You know we never really gave Erin a big island welcome yet. Let's all do our best to get to know them both and make this a party they'll never forget.” We all nodded in agreement to that and talk turned to what we'd all been doing lately. Everyone was starting to relax in the company of friends we didn't get to see near enough of despite most of us being classmates.
Reshin's scouts had returned from the human town with promising news. The girl was at some sort of gathering at the edge of the town with other children, with only two Pixies for protection. They were all wearing strange costumes but the Brownies were certain that the girl was among them. If he and his warriors attacked now he could capture the girl for himself and find out just what made her so important to Ly Erg and the Unseelie Prince.
Thanks to Ly Erg and the brownies he even had a description of Titania's witchling. She was a pale human girl with black hair and a tendency to wear dark clothing. He did not feel that the other children would pose any difficulty. Human children could not hope to stand against five Duergar warriors, if they tried then they would die. Still, Reshin felt that the Pixies may pose a problem. He would have the Brownies attack first, then he and his warriors would take the girl in the confusion.
Erin Brand and her cousin didn't arrive until almost ten thirty and to my surprise they came from the direction of my house, accompanied by Rick. Erin was a bit on the short side, blonde and blue eyed with a nice figure and was dressed in a cheerleader costume. Her cousin was completely different. Moriko was close to my own height and slim with long black hair and light brown eyes which, like her aunt's, looked almost amber. Her features were obviously asian, though her skin was almost as pale as mine. She was also wearing a very familiar looking pair of black jeans and grey hoodie.
Rick waved me over to join them while Erin came to join the rest of the party. I shrugged and stood up, “Excuse me guys, Rick needs to talk to me I think.” I walked over to my brother and the girl reaching out my hand to offer to her. “Hi I'm Natalie, and if I'm not mistaken you're wearing my clothes.” Moriko reached out to take my hand, seeming a bit nervous. “I'm Moriko... I guess.” She looked at the ground as she spoke and then she seemed to notice my armor, “Nice armor, can you actually use that sword?” She looked up at my face then, though her posture made it look like she was ready to bolt at the first sign of trouble. “Sorry about wearing your clothes, Rick and your aunt said it would be all right.”
I tried to give the nervous girl a reassuring smile, “I can use a sword pretty well but this one is new so I still need to get used to the weight and such.” Then I shrugged, “Don't worry about it, sorry I didn't have anything more feminine.”
She shook her head quickly at that, “This is fine with me, I'm not really.... very feminine.” She looked away again and I sensed something familiar in her. I wasn't going to outright ask though. For one thing if I was wrong it would make me sound crazy and if I wasn't it could make her even more uncomfortable. If she decided she needed to talk about it she would bring it up.
Rick nodded, “We didn't think you'd mind. Moriko was going to try wearing some of Erin's clothes but they couldn't find anything that fit, so I suggested she come to our place and try something of yours on since she had nothing to wear.”
I stared at him confused for a moment, “Nothing? Did the airline lose her luggage or something?”
Moriko looked at the ground again, “Something like that.”
I wondered briefly why she hadn't just come in the clothes she wore on the plane but I shrugged it off. “So what brings you here all the way from Japan?”
She looked away,“My chichi, ummm dad is an English teacher, the school here has been trying to get him to come teach here for months. I guess he and the Principal are old friends. And my aunt Sandra and uncle Gordon wanted the family all together again. After my birthday Dad decided to accept the offer and move us all here.”
She was scuffing her shoes on the ground and I noticed she was wearing my shoes too. What the hell? Did she fly here naked? I just nodded and replied, “Our current English teacher is just a temp, it'll be nice to have someone new. Not many people want to come teach here, it's too remote. I think it'll grow on you though, I'm kinda new here myself and your cousin is too.” I took her by the hand and started to pull her along, “C'mon let's go meet the others and have some fun.”
We were all sitting around chatting about everything and nothing, enjoying the opportunity to just be ourselves completely in the company of friends. Most of us had a public face that we put on for the Norms and it was nice not to have to act within those restrictions. Even Moriko was beginning to relax a bit, and she and I got to talking about martial arts and weapons fighting. She didn't know much about guns, but she seemed to know her stuff where martial arts and more old style weapons like bows, swords and staffs were concerned.
It was during that conversation that Verbina flew back from her patrol and flew straight for me, “Natalie, we have a problem. I think the Winter Court is launching an attack. There are Brownies and Duergars in the woods and they should be here any minute.”
“Fuck!” I cursed as I quickly stood and drew my sword, startling Moriko in the process. “Dani get in the house and warn Mr. and Mrs. McGreggor. Tell them to call my parents and that we may need some guns.” Dani gave a quick affirmative and flew for the house. “Vina do you have any suggestions?”
“Fight them and hope for the best,” was her reply, “We would never get reinforcements from the Summer Court here in time and I'm more useful to you here than flying off to get them anyway.”
I nodded and cursed again as I realized Moriko and most of my fellow Unseen were looking at me like I was crazy. Jason had set off for the house at a run while Sarah looked at me expectantly.“Shit,” I cursed again. “Umm guys, some really nasty somethings are gonna come out of those woods any moment now. Dammit Vina there's no use in keeping hidden now. How many are there?”
There were several gasps, and Becky fell out of her chair, as Verbina showed herself. “There's ten Brownies and what looks like five Duergars. The Brownies probably won't put up much of a fight but it's the Duergars that are the really dangerous ones.”
It was then that ten small brown clad people erupted from the woods, screaming as they made their way toward us. The creatures weren't armed but they were quick and I figured they probably weren't meant to be much more than a distraction. Verbina drew a sword from nowhere and quickly dispatched the closest, as I yelled out, “If you can fight do it! Witches stay close to the house and cover us!”
Everything became a blur of motion then as I swung my sword at a Brownie that was almost upon me. The sword cut deep causing the creature to shriek in pain. It's shrieking ended once I thrust the sword into it's chest. As I was trying to pull my sword free I heard another shriek behind me and a muffled thump and I turned around to find Jason, bloody mace in hand, standing over a brownie with it's head caved in. “I got your back Nat.”
I nodded and retrieved my sword, “Thanks Jason.” The witches must have been doing their job as Brownies were tripping, sailing through the air and one was even hopping on one foot shrieking as it's shoe was on fire. I briefly caught sight of Chloe picking up a brownie by the arm and tossing it into a nearby tree where it crumpled to the ground lifeless. Meanwhile Daphne had changed to her Moose form and bulldozed over another before stomping it into a red mess.
Three Foxes were darting in and out nipping at one of the Brownies keeping it occupied and Verbina was quick to swoop in and end it's struggles. I looked for another to fight since that was taken care of and I saw that three of the remaining four were being pounded into oblivion by Shawn, Jackie and Gary. Where was the last one? I turned around searching and saw that Erin was backing away from one, obviously uncertain what to do.
Moriko wasn't near as uncertain as she leaped into action with a roundhouse kick which sent the creature flying back ten feet. She was about to finish it off when five more figures came out of the woods. They were all five feet tall at the most, but they were covered in muscles and wearing leather armor. One with a grizzled black beard picked up the Brownie and snapped it's neck like it was nothing. “Useless,” he said before looking over all of us. Finally his eyes settled back on Moriko, “So you're Titania's pet witchling. I don't see what's so special about you.” Then his eyes settled on me, “But there must be something if she has one of her own guarding you. I was told Titania's dog had left. Maybe you're this Eochair everyone is going on about after all.”
I realized that he thought Moriko was me, maybe he didn't know who he was looking for. Still I wasn't about to let him try and run off with her when it was me he was after. I stepped toward him, “She's not the one you're looking for you moron.” I turned to Moriko who looked really confused at the moment, before turning back to the Duergar. “Do you even know who you're looking for?” I shook my head sneering at him, “Probably not, you're just the errand boy aren't you? They didn't even tell you what you were getting yourself into because you're just not important enough to know.”
“Take care of the other children and anyone else who may come along,” the Duergar said to his companions, pulling a massive war hammer from it's place behind his back. “I will handle Titania's dog and the witchling.” The others pulled similar weapons, wielding them as if they were made of cardboard and started to move toward the others. One tripped as he made his way toward the Foxes, who spread out cautiously at his advance. I didn't get a chance to see much more than that though as my more immediate concern was the giant hammer swinging at my head as the nasty dwarf said, “I am Reshin, and I will be your death.”
I pulled my head back and took a step back just in time to avoid the probable introduction of my brains to the local plant life. How the hell am I supposed to do anything against that hammer with this thin blade? I thought. It'll snap in half if I try to block or parry with it. I'll just have to keep him off balance and get in hits when I can. “I'm Natalie, and I don't plan on dying any time soon, so I think you're a little premature there Reshin. Do you often have that problem with girls? Or is it just me?”
His answer was another swing of the hammer. I was keeping my distance though and managed to avoid it again as I looked for an opening. I saw one in his swing. He tended to put all his strength into a swing and as a result it would pull him a bit off balance during the follow through. Once he recovered enough to swing again I dodged the blow and as he was off balance from the momentum I darted in and slashed at his arm before jumping back again. He winced, but the blow seemed to do very little damage. What is this guy made of?
To cover my surprise at only barely scratching him I decided to taunt him again. “The strong silent type huh? I can respect that. Actions do speak louder than words. Though you don't seem to be very good at the action part either.” An overhand swing this time, one that would have turned me into a puddle had I not managed to step aside. I took a slash at his chest while Verbina did a fly by with her sword at his back. My cut was a little deeper this time, managing to slice through the leather chest plate, but it still only got a grunt out of him. This was not going well. I hoped the others weren't doing as badly as I was but I couldn't risk a second to check on them.
Reshin glowered at me as he swung again. “Die!”
At that moment Moriko delivered a kick to the back of his knee as his momentum carried him off balance again. It almost managed to knock him down and I got a good slash in at his shoulder, this time drawing blood and causing him to grunt again and drop the hammer. “I told you already I wasn't interested in that. Don't you know when a girl says no she means it?”
I wasn't quite fast enough backing out of his range and he managed a kick which knocked me on my butt. Fuck that hurt. He leaped toward me, quicker now that he dropped the hammer. I fell to my back, pulling my legs in and using them and his own momentum against him to send him flying behind me. My chest hurt where he had kicked me, but at least I had managed to get him away from that hammer. I got to my feet and risked a look to see how the others were doing.
Jason's father had come out of the house and he and Daphne were struggling to hold one of the Duergars still while Jason smacked it silly with his mace. Shawn, Jack, and Bailey were using a similar tactic on another as were Jackie, Gary, and Chloe. Meanwhile the Foxes were playing hit and run with another while the Witches were keeping it off balance. It was having trouble standing while Erin, who had finally changed into a tawny spotted Lynx, had joined the Foxes and was trying to take pieces out of it before dashing off and then going in for another pass.
Moriko had come up to stand closer and help me and I pulled my dagger handing it to her. “This might help a bit,” I said and turned to face Reshin. I was just in time to see him tackle me with a knife in hand.
“Die dog!” I raised my arm in time to block the knife and it skittered along my armor harmlessly. He had managed to knock me to the ground though, and the impact knocked the sword from my hand and the air from my lungs. I was going to be feeling that in the morning, provided I lived that long. He was standing above me with a hungry look in his eyes. Moriko tried to get him from behind with my dagger but he knocked her aside. “Humans are so frail and weak aren't they?” he said without even sparing her a glance. “She won't be much of a problem after I kill you, you pathetic worm.”
“You... say the sweetest... things.” I was having troubles breathing and I smiled up at him defiantly while pulling the wax off my left ear. “You got... something wrong though. She's not the human... I am.” I turned my head to look behind him at Moriko who was changing into a silvery beige colored Lynx with long black tufts on her ears and a furry ruff on her neck. Her amber eyes glinted in the dark and she was about two feet tall at the shoulders and almost three and a half feet long from her nose to the tip of her stubby tail. Reshin was looking at me, confused now as I started to laugh, which really hurt. “Here kitty... kitty... kitty.”
Reshin turned in time to get a bundle of fur, teeth, and claws in the face and I reached for my sword while getting painfully to my knees. He managed to dislodge the hissing, scratching and biting wildcat and tossed her to her side. Verbina made another pass, nicking him again, as Moriko quickly sprung to her feet and began to circle warily around him. As I was watching her circle I saw someone else moving up behind him as well. He didn't seem concerned about Moriko and Verbina, probably thinking them more of an annoyance than anything. I, on the other hand, had a sword even if I could barely move.
He knew I was in trouble, I could see it in the predatory look in his eyes. He was ignoring Moriko and Verbina's little strafing runs to focus on me. “You are stubborn human, I'll give you that. I will have you for my own. Prince Sarric and Ly Erg want you and that makes you valuable.”
“Oh you... say the sweetest things.” I dropped my sword and straightened up, holding out my right hand and focusing on my command spell. “Stay...right there.” I grimaced at the movement but I could feel the Glove tingle in response as it amplified my spell.
Reshin seemed surprised that I could hold him in place. “You may be useful after all. But how long can you keep it up? Do you really think you can hold me long enough for the Pixie and the cat to kill me?” I laughed and groaned at the pain it caused me and mumbled something under my breath. “What did you say witchling?”
“You... should have worn... a helm.” His eyes went wide as a shot rang out and then he fell forward, the back of his head a bloody mess. “Thanks Rick... what took you so long?”
“I was washing my hair,” he joked back. “Are you okay Nat?” He offered his hand to help me up.
I quickly picked up my dropped sword and dagger, sheathing the unused dagger as I let him help me to my feet. “I'll live. I hurt like hell though.” I caught sight of Moriko shifting back to her human shape and changing back into my clothes and quickly looked away. “So did Mom contact the Coven? I figure they're going to want to clean up this mess and keep things quiet.”
Rick nodded as he led me slowly back toward the house. “Yep, they'll want to do a clean up but since there were no Norms here I don't think they'll need to do much to keep this quiet.”
I chuckled at that, grimacing at the pain that caused in my chest and ribs. “Yeah, not even Becky would use this story for the Norms.”
When we reached the others Moriko had finished changing and caught up with us. The other Duergars had been taken care of and both Sarah's parents and mine were making sure everyone was okay. I paused to clean my sword on a piece of a Duergar's tunic before sheathing it. Erin had joined us to make sure her cousin was alright and I gave the pair a grin. “Welcome to Sena Island. Do we know how to throw a party or what?” Then I promptly passed out.
I wasn't out for long, and I awoke to Dr. Dennis was giving me a good look over. Apparently Sarah had helped them to figure out how to remove my chain mail shirt, and she didn't even use a can opener. “Hey doc, will I live?” I joked.
Sarah's father frowned at me. “Your chest is a mass of bruising and you may have some cracked ribs, but nothing seems to be broken. I'll want to take some x-rays later and run some other tests at the clinic. I'll drive you and any other injured there after the cleanup is done so Sandra and I can have a better look at you. Until then I've taped up your ribs. You'll be uncomfortable but you should be fine.” He picked up my cloak and put it on my shoulders.
Taking that as a dismissal for now I grabbed my chain mail shirt and headed toward the fire to join the others. Sarah leaped up and hugged me, causing me to hiss in pain. “Careful Sarah, I'm fragile.”
She hugged me again but less exuberantly, “Bullshit. But I'm glad you're okay.”
“I'll be fine.” I gingerly took a seat as I looked around at the others. Almost everyone seemed to be in good shape, though I saw Max had a bandage around his right ankle and Chloe had one on her left wrist. How about everyone else? You all okay?”
Chloe wiggled her fingers, “Everything works okay. Dr. Dennis thinks I may have sprained my wrist though while I was beating the tar out of that thing. Max twisted his ankle a bit but most of us got by with just some scrapes and bruises. Seems like you took the worst of it. How are you?”
I laughed, and damn did it hurt. “It only hurts when I laugh, or move, or breathe. Lots of bruising and maybe cracked ribs. He doesn't think anything is broken though. Those Duergars are tough bastards.”
“Their leader mistook Moriko for you didn't he?” Becky said, breaking the silence that had fallen over us. “In your clothes she did look like you in the dark.” I sighed and nodded. Of course Becky would pick up on something like that, probably more too. She confirmed that as she looked me right in the eyes and said, “Pixies, 'friends in high places', creatures we've never heard of before coming after you, that armor, and of course your family heirloom matches it. Nat, we're all your friends but whatever is going on with you put us in danger tonight. I think you have some explaining to do.”
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