My Brother’s Keeper

The night is troubled with awful dreams. Not the vague terror of her childhood just a few years ago. She doesn’t dream of the beating heart or the green. She doesn’t run for her life or feel the earth breaking.

She dreams of her once despised brother. The ‘real mage’ of the family. The ‘proper son’ who always did the right thing. Who had apologized and asked forgiveness. Who had pleaded to help, even though she knew he couldn’t. Who she had left with Orrin to watch over him. Who was gone now. Taken.

He was with them now. Not dead. He couldn’t be dead. Not after everything. Not with everyone else already gone. Taken. Not dead.

But that made the nightmares worse. She Did remember the pain, even if she teased Remy about it. Remembered the searing pain inside when that thing held her in the fountain. But she was used to pain. Gerald was not.

She dreamed of him being tortured as she had been. She dreamed of him being ripped open. She dreamed of him being bled while they laughed at his screams. She dreamed of many more horrible things.

And every time she woke in a cold sweat, reaching out for him. She concentrated on finding him. On going to him. On finding the magics that would take her to her brother so she could save him. She prayed to the Dawnmother for guidance.

On her watch at the end of the night, she pulled one of the bones out of the bag of bits Marybeth had gathered. She cleaned it up, and held it, concentrating on where it came from. On the nest the creature had spoken of. On how to get there. She could already go short distances. They had traveled between the fae and here. Surely there was a way. They were no mere mortal men. They were Gods, as Remy loved to point out. And even he had a fae in his head.

When the group was ready to go, she would take them. They would find her brother and no more of her family would die.

Family & Duty

“Shandor died to save me. It’s my fault he’s dead. If only I hadn’t been so clumsy. If only I hadn’t panicked when the beasts came.”

“Don’t be silly, child. Shandor would have stayed to kill that beast even if you hadn’t fallen.” Tekla chided her daughter. “It was his calling, and he never shied from defending the Family.”

“That’s why I have to go, Mami. He called me to follow. He asked me to protect her, as he died.” Gilly looked up, eyes filled with tears. “As he died in my arms.”

“No, Gilly, my dearest, please. We don’t raise blades, we read Tarot, we sing. This is your calling, ever since you were a babe.”

“Na, Mami, the Unchained Demon and the Guardian call me now. You saw. I… I have to protect the Mother and the Family.”

“Oh sweet Gilly, please, it could mean something else, it could just be portents of the evil coming. It doesn’t have to be you.” Now her mother had tears in her eyes.

Gilly looked at her mother, so strong and Talented. They both knew what it meant. She had to try. Try to make up for Shandor’s death. Try to fill the hole he had left. Gilly was terrified, but that didn’t mean she could give up. He had died to save her, now she must offer up her life to protect them all.

“We can’t stand in her way, my darling.” Simen wrapped an arm around his wife’s shoulders. “This is her path now, this is her Journey. And if it is not, she will return to us soon enough.”

Tekla buried her face in Simen’s chest, and her patted her back, looking over his only daughter.

“Gilly, be sure you do this for the right reasons. Not because you feel guilty about Shandor. Shandor made his choice, and it is not for you to take the blame for a death he earned.”

“Na, Papi, I know.” She dropped her gaze to the ground. “I am called by the Tarot and by Madam Nadya, but I felt the call the moment he spoke, before he died.”

“Gilly, look at me. I want you to be sure. Be sure it is not just guilt calling you.” Tekla had stilled, but he held her close.

“No, Papi.” Gilly raised her face and looked at him. “I do feel guilty over his death, but that’s not why I’m doing this. There are so many safer ways to fix that. I will write him a song to honor his life and death.” They both smiled. “But this, I have to do this, I cannot turn my back on the call of the blood. Please, Mami, Papi, don’t turn your backs to me “

Gilly’s tears began to flow again. Her parents rushed to embrace her. Shushing sounds and reassurances. They would never, she was Family and their family. They loved her, no matter her Journey. They would always be her family.

How Tribe Get to Undermountain

Why we live in awful place, you ask? It strange to have so much under big wet city. Big folk always comin through, attack Tribe, take our things. Why we stay? What we doin here? Old Big Nose tell story sometime. Skeeter like stories, so Skeeter tell you.

Long time ago, we live above ground. Not in city or tree-place. In real caves, in big mountains. We live with ground below us, not above. With moon and stars outside. Fresh air, and tasty rabbits in their holes. Scare ’em out in the dark and snatch them up for stew. Big things come sometimes, but mostly no reason. We not in their way there.

Strange man come one day. Offer shiny things and big sticks. Says has new place for us to live. Says we get everything want there. Says we get power there. But we like our caves. Shiny things too bright and big sticks not so big. Why we want power, have everything Tribe need here. Strange man get angry, blast a few old ones. Tribe get angry, drive him out with rocks and sticks. He disappear and Tribe go to bed.

Next morning, caves all wrong. They rock, but wrong kind of rock. They cold, but not cold enough. And they very dry. There firewood, but firepit brand new. Mushrooms and moss even different kinds. And there no way out. Tribe run to all corners of cave, but no way out. No way to moon and stars, no way to tasty rabbits. Old Big Nose find water, coming out of small wall in hole, filling small pool, but it is no way out.

No day and no night, but it many, many sleeps before Tribe find a way out. But way out is not to outside. It darker there. A group go look, never come back. Many sleeps later, another group go look. One come back, gibbering and bleeding. He no sleep, only babble: No, No, No. I can’t.  He no eat or drink or sleep. Finally die.

Big things started coming though. Coming in and killing Tribe, taking tribe things. And then going on. They no come back either.  Now only bravest of Tribe go out, and only Quint come back. So we go, we brave. We find out where Strange man took Tribe. We find way to moon and stars and rabbits again, some day.

Drow Story – or How Spook Became Skeeter

Everybody tired and sick. Margie made too big a dinner, everyone sleepy. Skeeter gettin restless. Tell us a story, they say. How bout drow? Okay, a story of stupid drow.

Drow things wicked and mean. They live in deep dark. Black like they skin, so they blends with the darkness. Outside match inside Mammy once said. No like other bigs, never can see bad on surface whole things. They look all kind and boring, til sword go through your guts. Whole things say we ugly and kill us for no better reason. Stupid drow only kill us if we in the way or make them mad. Stupid drow rather use us.

They came to see Tribe one day, tried to trade for workers. No one want to go with, til they threaten young ones. Group of men go with. Skeeter was still Spook then. Stupid drow not see him. They march for long time. Tribe-friends very noisy, make drow angry, easy to follow shouts and whips.

Drow not take tribe-friends to drow home. Take to big cavern full of spiders. Stone spiders, real spiders, drow spiders, glowing spiders, inky spiders. Spook not like it there, stay by entrance counting spiders. Don’t know words for how many.

Dirty drow take tribe-friends to big stone spider, tie em up and put them on table, like dinner. Spook scared. Drow eat goblins? Or they spider dinner? Too many spiders. Maybe drow fraid of spiders too? Drow lady shouting over table, others lighting fires, heating blades, shouting, too. Tribe-friends start screaming, spiders all get closer, Spook can’t watch.

Spook slip into room, start stabbing smaller spiders in back. Spiders at front too hungry, not notice. Spook keep stabbing, as tribe keep screaming. Why won’t stop screaming? Spook only see blood and death, spiders, drow and tribe. Spinning, whirling, then blackness all around.

Spook wake up, covered in blood. Spider blood. Spook blood. Dirty drow blood. Giant stone spider still overhead. Spook scramble away. Fall over, something wrong. Legs not work right. Can’t find feet. Where? What? Big spider on Spook! Get away, get off! Ow! Nononononono!

Spook wake up, still covered in blood. Don’t move. What happened? Spook flex fingers – works. Roll shoulders – works. Poke belly – works. Flex toes – toes? Not work. Legs? Yes, legs – too many legs. What? How? Spook have spider legs? Spider body under belly, too. Spook a goblin spider now.

Spook wake up, blood all crusted now. Still have spider legs. Gotta get outa here before turn into whole spider. Spook close eyes, fold up all legs, push upright with arms, legs under, slowly unfold legs. Okay, Spook standing. Spook open eyes, ground so far away. No, stay, no sleeping, gotta go. Walk is walk? One side then other? All together as one? Lift one side, Spook fall over. Ow! Try again. Spook fall down lots, but fall forward and out of room slowly. Figure out how to walk before fall all way home.

Spook get home, skin dark as dirty drow, too many legs and spider body. Many tribe run away from Spook. Fishface not scared. He laugh. Stupid Spook, got hisself turned into a spider. You a Skeeter now, Spook. Stupid buggy Skeeter.

Find drow someday, make pay for this, and for Tribe-friends. Stupid, dirty drow.