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The Fall of Brin

Jasper

Darius looked down at the old man before him. Pulsating amber pillars bound his arms and legs to the floor, draining what little reserves he had left. The stone columns transformed the once-mighty Jasper Kane into nothing more than a helpless old fool. At another time, Darius might have taken pity on him, but now he felt only disgust. Jasper was a mess. Blood matted his shoulder-length gray hair and ran down his face from the split in his lip, and his left eye was purple and swollen shut. The old channeler had been hiding here for years, in plain sight, in this hovel of a rundown apartment he called a home. Darius grimaced as something crunched beneath his foot. He pulled his shoe upward from the fine layer of filth that covered everything. The floor resisted him, clawing back at the soles of his loafers with sticky tendrils of sap like goo. How could a person live like this, he wondered? Even the walls had grease stains. They ran like tributaries down the weathered strips of pealing paper that clung to the crumbling wallboard. A sink full of dirty dishes, a ratty couch, and the chair he was bound to were the only things Jasper owned. Not even a television, Darius thought.

Yet here before him, amongst the decay and desperation, sat one of the most powerful channelers of his era. A man who had proven himself in battle time and time again. If only he had chosen a different side for his last fight, Jasper would have had his own polished stone seat at the council’s table. Instead, his choices left him sitting here, alone and bound to the floor. When Darius look at him, he did not see an aging hero. All he saw was the answer to the question that burned within him. Where was the girl? He had searched seven books, seven worlds where she should have been. Each time he had returned with nothing, and his masters grew colder and more impatient. Time was running out, and Darius knew it. He felt their cold hands around his neck, like the slow tightening of a collar at the end of an ever-shortening leash.

A change in tactics is in order, Darius thought. He wiped some of the blood off his hands before kneeling in front of Jasper. “You know we can do this forever, old man,” he told him. “All we want is her location.”

A shattered black and white photo frame lay on the floor between the two men. Darius picked it up and shook it out, letting blood-smeared glass fall to the ground. A young mother with long flowing brown hair held a smiling toddler in her lap. “I’m going to find them, and when I do, I’m going to make you watch what we do to both of them,” Darius said. “Or help me find her, and we can make a deal.” As he spoke, Darius tore the faded photograph down the middle. He drew it out as he peeled the sections apart, then placed the portion with the little girl on his lap. “Tell me where she is, and I’ll give you the child. Trade your daughter’s life for your granddaughter’s. You know her mother would make that choice.”

Jasper looked up at Darius for the first time since his interrogation had started. For a while, he said nothing, but then he broke his silence. “So, you still don’t know where she is?” he asked. Darius frowned and shook his head, and the old man laughed. Jasper’s outburst threw him into a fit of coughing that gripped him for several minutes. When he regained his composure, a dribble of deep burgundy blood trickled out of his mouth. “She was always good at hiding, even when she was a little girl.” Jasper smiled for a moment—lost in the memory—before his face fell as he came back to the present. “Come closer, boy. I would look you in the eyes to know the truth of you.”

Darius inched forward, and Jasper leaned in. His breathing was slow and ragged. “So, you want to make a deal? Trade a life for a life?”

“Yes,” Darius replied.

Jasper’s face was solemn as he nodded his understanding. He licked his dry, cracked lips, summoned the last bit of moisture left in his body—then reared back and spat in Darius’s face. Before the saliva reached him, Darius flicked his hand and froze it solid. Jasper’s last act of defiance fell to the floor and shattered. His captor’s reaction elicited another uproarious laugh from the old man. “You thought I would make a deal with you?” he asked. “You can tell your boss he can rot on the ninth level of hell!”

Darius never showed his anger. Instead, he stepped backward and brought his hand up to the old man’s face. A cold blue mist flowed from his palm and wound its way through the air before plunging down Jasper’s throat. Jasper began to thrash as the frigid air froze his lungs, robbing them of their function. “It doesn’t have to be like this,” Darius told him again. “All you have to do is tell me where I can find her.”

Jasper’s eyes went wide as he struggled against the pain. His fingers clawed against the rough underside of the chair arm. Sharp splinters and jagged edges tore the flesh away from his fingertips as he scratched and pulled. Searching, looking for the notch. He found it and pushed hard, the thin wood gave way, and a single tiny stone dropped into his hands. He gripped it with all the strength he had left to obscure its ruby glow.

Darius’s man saw it too late. “Stone, sir!” he shouted to his master. Jasper drew up the last remnant of his energy and poured it into the rock. It was Darius’s turn to feel fear as he spied the crimson light peeking out from Jasper’s fist. He only had time to turn away and cocoon himself in ice before the room exploded into a roiling inferno.

Story Time

Brin let out an exasperated sigh, “Arisel. When mommy says it is time to put your jacket on, you need to listen.” Arisel continued to spin in a circle singing a new song she had made up. Her exasperated mother sat on the floor, holding her pink jacket open. One of Arisel’s spins brought her within arm’s reach of Brin, and she wrapped her daughter up in her arms. Arisel fell back into her lap, giggling. “Alright, you,” Brin said, helping her into her jacket. “If we don’t get going, mommy’s going to get in trouble.”

“But I don’t want to stay with Ms. Martin. She has too many cats,” Arisel complained.

“I thought you liked Ms. Martin?” Brin questioned. “And the cats too?”

Arisel scrunched up her face into a pout. “I don’t!” she replied. “They’re too scratchy.” Arisel held her fingers out like claws and swiped at her mother.

“Well, mommy has to go to work, and Ms. Martin is all we’ve got,” Brin sighed. She drew the plastic zipper up on her daughter’s jacket and handed her a very well-loved stuffed tiger who was missing one eye and whose tail hung on by a literal thread. Arisel drew it in and held it tight against her chest but continued to frown. Brin checked herself in their hallway mirror before picking up her keys. She grabbed her nametag from a heart-shaped dish, opened the door, and took Arisel by the hand. “Come on,” she urged her, “we can do the rabbit story on the way to Ms. Martin’s.”

“Ugh, we always do that one,” Arisel complained.

“I know, but it’s important to mommy that you learn it,” Brin told her.

“Fine,” Arisel replied. Then she brightened. “Mommy, will you do the girl before we go?”

Brin hesitated. They were already late, but it would be better than dragging a screaming preschooler down the street. “Okay, but remember you can’t tell anyone got it?” Arisel clapped and then did a little twirl of a happy dance. Brin caught her as she came around and cupped her hands together. A faint orange glow showed through the seams where their hands met. A small spinning column of flame emerged as Brin drew them apart. She twisted her fingers, and the cylinder morphed into a petite fire dancer that pirouetted with grace in her palm. Then with a flick of her wrist, Brin’s dancer leaped off Arisel’s open hands and disappeared in a cloud of sparks.

Arisel squealed with delight. “Again, mommy!” she pleaded, but Brin shook her head.

“No, once is enough, we are going to be late.” Arisel put on a frown, but she relented and allowed her mother to lead her out of the house by the hand. As they walked down the street, Brin pulled out a faded and worn picture book and held it out for her. Arisel snatched it without a word. She held it out in front of her and began to recite it with practiced precision.

I heard an old secret passed down by the trees

About a place in the brambles that sway in the breeze

They whispered of woods with no one around

A place so quiet you dare not make a sound

There you’ll find an old stump where under you’ll see

A nook that’s so hidden you’ll have to agree

It’s so utterly safe it deserves its renown

Here you can nestle down deep and never be found

A few recitations later and they had arrived at Ms. Martin’s door. “Do I have to go inside, mommy?”

“Yes, dear,” Brin told her. She straightened Arisel’s hair and drew her in for one last hug. “Promise me you’ll be good today, okay?”

“I will, momma.”

Brin knocked several times before Ms. Martin appeared to let them in. “Alright, mommy has to go to work. I’m already late. Remember to be kind but tough, okay?” Brin got up to leave.

“Wait! One more hug, momma!” Arisel demanded.

Brin smiled. It was always hard to leave. She bent down to hug her daughter and kissed Arisel on top of her head. “Kind but tough okay?” she repeated. Arisel nodded her agreement, and Ms. Martin took her by the hand while Brin hurried away down the street.

A Clue

Darius walked along with Master Wenss through the main hall. His master’s long robe dragged against the speckled marble floor and swished with the rhythm of their travels. On either side, books of every color, shape, and size filled shelves that rose to meet the vaulted ceiling. This place smelled of books and power. Indeed, the Wenss collection was revered and of incalculable value. But even more impressive, Darius marveled, was what it must have taken to collect so many stories, so many worlds. But his master did not call him here to admire the literature. They were here to address Darius’s failure.

“So, Jasper got the best of you?” Master Wenss finally asked. Without thinking, Darius’s hand rose to his face, and he ran his fingers over the rough ridges of scar tissue from the fire. Wenss pulled a book from its shelf then rehomed it in a nearby slot.

“Yes, master,” Darius replied. “He had a hidden stone,” he offered as an excuse.

“A hidden stone.” Master Wenss replied, letting his voice trail off. Darius offered no more explanation, and the pair continued their walk in silence until finally, they reached the compendium. Master Wenss opened the ancient book with care. Its fragile pages crinkled like tissue paper as he turned to the back. He ran his wrinkled finger down a list of figures until he found Jasper’s name and crossed it off. The ink faded away to nothing.

“Do you know how many worlds there are, Master Darius?” Wenss asked him.

“I could only guess, master.”

“Hmm. Perhaps it is a billion, a trillion? More? No one can truly say.” Master Wenss swept his arms wide to encompass the works in his collection. “These alone represent hundreds of thousands of worlds across as many dimensions. Each book, each story provides the blueprint in its essence. They are the maps that guide us, the portals through which we travel. These old tomes are the very keys to stone lore and our survival.” Master Wenss thumbed through the pages of the compendium before continuing. “I’ve tracked her family for generations, sought them out across the multiverse. But now the trail runs cold because you were not capable of keeping one old man alive.”

Darius sensed danger in his master’s shifting tone. He had to fight to keep from switching to a defensive stance. But then, as quickly as Master Wenss’s anger had surfaced, it drained away. “Are you aware of why we search for her?” he asked Darius.

“No master,” Darius replied.

Wenss cracked a smile. “And yet still you search without question. Amazing. There is much to be said for your loyalty, Darius. That is why you are still with us.” He closed the compendium and continued to the large windows of the conservatory. Here on a podium lay a plain stone chest with no seam or hinge as far as Darius could see. Master Wenss put his hand upon it, and an orange glow emanated from his fingers. The walls of the chest melted away into the table, leaving behind a single tattered paperback. He picked it up and rifled through it. “This book leads to Volax and on that world, is hidden the Orin stone.”

“The Orin stone?” Darius asked in disbelief. “I thought that was a myth?”

Master Wenss shook his head. “It is all too real,” he replied.

“Then is it true what they say? The stone wielder can disrupt any channel? With such power, you could silence anyone. No channeler could stand before you,” Darius said.

“Alas, I cannot say,” Master Wenss replied. “I dedicated my life to finding the Orin stone. I spent countless hours searching the libraries of Auburndale and a lifetime amassing my private collection.” His arthritic fingers clutched the book tighter as he spoke. “I climbed the dark ridge mountains and found the cave of legend. Deep inside that labyrinth, I found it. I could touch it, run my fingers over the roughness of it. It had all the right markings and pulsated red with its power. But I failed to remove it.”

Darius’s natural curiosity begged him to ask why his master had failed. But self-preservation made him hesitate. He started to speak but stopped himself.

“Do you want to know why I failed?” his master quizzed him.

Darius’s eyes darted to the floor. “Only if it is a story you wish to tell,” he replied.

Wenss paused to consider Darius for a moment. Darius felt as if the old man’s eyes might bore into his very soul. “It is,” he said finally. “The stone is bound to the mountain, locked there by its creators centuries ago. Only a descendant of the Orin clan can retrieve it.”

Comprehension dawned on Darius. “So, this is why we search. Why not force Master Jasper to release the stone?”

“Because the blood we need does not run through his veins. It is the maternal bloodline we need. Brin’s mother was the key before she gave her life to protect the stone. As her father gave his to protect the girl.” Master Wenss dropped the book back onto the podium. He flicked his wrist, and the stone rose from the pedestal as if it were alive then flowed around it like cold lava before forming the chest again. “And now our last link to her is gone. I’m an old man Darius. I wield much influence, but even I at the height of my power struggle to flush her out.”

When Darius spoke again, his voice was no more than a whisper. “There may be hope, master,” he offered. Master Wenss raised an eyebrow as Darius brought forth a book from his back pocket.

“You offer me a story?” Master Wenss asked.

“Yes.”

“I hope it is a good one.” Wenss took the book from Darius’s hand. It was small, hardbound, and covered with a protective layer of plastic. He rotated it to see the spine and noted the catalog markings.

“I should hope so, master. Jasper checked it out six times from the library on his world. Once a year for five years. We searched his records,” Darius said.

“The sentimental fool,” Master Wenss replied with a smile. “He would condemn his family to see his granddaughter’s birthday. Jasper, I thought you were smarter than that.” It was Master Wenss’s turn to laugh. The sound was haunting and unnatural, coming from him as if he had forgotten how. His mirth was fleeting and passed in a moment. Wenss expression hardened as he handed the book back to Darius. “Go. Take who you need. Find her and bring her back alive.”

“The child?”

“Bring her too if you can. The blood runs through her as well, and she’ll make for convenient leverage.”

Darius nodded his understanding and spun on his heel, book in hand. Master Wenss watched him leave. “Do not return here without them!” he called after his loyal servant.

Darius would not. In truth, he could not. Failing a second time was not an option. Not if he valued his life or his sanity. Only the tattered pages of the paperback he clutched in his hand and his years of loyalty had spared him a gruesome fate. As he stepped out of the grandeur of the central library into the foyer of the Wenss ancestral home, he found his crew waiting for him. The group snapped to attention as he appeared. His first lieutenant approached him. “Surprised you’re not dead,” she said as she clasped his shoulder.

“Not yet, but there is still time for the old man to change his mind. And that means we need to get moving.” Darius left the group without a word and headed down the hallway to the east wing. The plush maroon carpet crushed beneath his feet like freshly fallen snow, damping the sound of his progress. His team hurried to fall in behind him. There was no need for orders. Where he went, they followed.

Darius shoved open a heavy patinaed door at the end of the long hall to reveal a small circular room. The heavy metal door glided aside on oiled hinges before banging to a stop against the wall. Here in the center of this tiny room, so out of place in this grandiose castle of a home, was his destination—a simple stone set atop a square pillar of rough granite. It was smooth, polished, and bore the carvings of Necra while the symbols of the others covered the floor beneath it. Darius placed his hand upon the cold rock and held the book up to his followers. “You have all read it?” he demanded.

His disciples nodded. Of course, they had. To disobey Darius’s order would have been unthinkable. Each one stepped forward and placed their hand beside Darius’s. He slid the book back into his pocket and closed his eyes. Several long seconds ticked past before he whispered a few quiet words. A golden glow rose from within the stone, entwining their arms before it consumed their bodies. Each person began to dissolve into a swirl of sparkling light. Then the room exploded in a flash of emerald green, and they were gone. The small chamber remained as cold and empty as it had been before they barged in.

Late as Usual

“You’re late, B!” Max shouted as Brin walked in the door. The café was bustling with the activity of the morning rush. Brin offered a weak smile as she squeezed past a stack of unwashed dishes waiting in a plastic crate and slid behind the decades-old yellow Formica lunch counter. Max was nice. He was a work friend—just a work friend. Brin suspected he was after more than that, but he wasn’t her type. Besides, she had enough trouble as it was. Not that Brin never thought about it, not with Max, but maybe someone else. She shook her head. Even considering dating someone was out of the question right now, being Brin came with a lot of baggage and a lot of danger. Life was easier when she kept everyone at a safe distance.

A fraying cloth apron hung from a twisted hook by the door. Brin grabbed it, tied it securely behind her back, and shoved through the scuffed metal doors and into the kitchen. She sighed at the little yellow tickets already piling up on the rail in front of her. “Where’s Kendal?” she yelled to Max. He just shrugged and went back to helping a customer at the register. “That girl is always late,” she cursed to herself, ignoring the irony.

The cooktop was cold, and the cramped cafe was full of disgruntled customers. Brin was in the weeds already, and she had only been on the clock for a few minutes. She fumbled around the cafe’s kitchen, looking for the matches to get the burners going. Brin pulled open drawers, tossed aside pans, and swore again when a knife fell to the floor. Great now I have something else to clean, she thought. Brin threw the dirty cutlery into the sink before she finally spied the box of extra-long safety matches.

Brin snatched the box and ripped it open to find—nothing. She crushed the container in her fingers and launched it into the trash. Then a thought occurred to her—a dangerous one. Brin looked around; no one seemed to be paying her any attention. She slid herself over to the cooktop and felt along the edge for the hole. With her eyes on the dining room, she turned the gas on and focused a small amount of energy through her index finger. A thin jet of fire leaped from the tip, and the stove sprang to life. A hand fall on her shoulder made her jump out of her skin.

“Having trouble with the grill?” Max asked. Brin scowled at him.

“No, I just got it going. Shouldn’t you be at the register?”

“Why? It’s not like you need any more work back here. You want me to help chop or something?”

Max was only being Max, but he had frazzled her, and now Brin just wanted space. Lighting the grill like that had been dangerous and stupid. For what? she thought. Just so some customers didn’t have to wait a few extra minutes for their food? What if someone had seen? “No, I said I got it,” she said. Then Brin shooed Max back to the front counter with some hand waving and a stern glare. With him out of the way, she grabbed a bottle of oil and squinted to see the first set of tickets.

Around lunchtime, an already exhausted Brin looked up at the sound of the doorbells jingling against the glass door. They reminded her of reindeer bells. Only they usually brought disgruntled customers instead of presents. But not this customer. Miss Bradley waddled her way in, untying her hair covering as usual. The old woman was the first lunch customer every day like clockwork. She ordered the same thing, chicken soup and a side of toast, and sat there reading a book for most of the day.

“Afternoon Coop,” Miss Bradley offered as an old man folded his napkin and got up to leave.

“Afternoon, Miss Bradley,” he replied with a tip of his nonexistent cap. This greeting happened like clockwork here every day as well. It was as if they were working in shifts. Nothing ever changed at the cafe.

“Afternoon B!” Miss Bradley called to Brin as she sat down at her favorite booth. Brin smiled back as she slathered some butter onto a piece of bread for her and flipped it onto the cooktop. The slice sizzled there as it browned. Life was uneventful in this world, predictable. It was one of the reasons she and her father had picked it.

The book they had used to find this world was easy to overlook. It did an excellent job describing this mundane world, but not so great of a job on the characters and plot, which is why it had languished in relative obscurity. It wasn’t even in print anymore, another reason it was perfect. The Brethren’s relentless pursuit had forced Brin’s family to spread out into the multiverse. And it was their careful choice of stories and worlds to hide in that had kept them alive for so long. Bring sighed. She had not seen her father since Arisel’s last birthday. That kind of travel was dangerous, but it brought them all so much joy that it was one of the few indiscretions she allowed herself. Life on the run is lonely if you want to stay safe, she reminded herself.

For the Brethren Horde to discover her here at random would be nigh impossible. First, the Brethren would have to find the right universe, then the right world, and then locate her in that world. Finding the book first would help, though, she admitted. Wisps of black smoke slid out from under the bread and hung over the pan like a heavy fog before rising upwards. When the acrid fumes hit Brin’s nose, they snapped her out of her daydream. She swore to herself again, grabbed a spatula, and winged it into the trash. Miss Bradley was much too kind to her for burnt toast.

A few minutes of toast browning later, and Brin had a new order up and ready. She wiped the edge of the soup bowl clean and walked out from behind the counter to deliver it to the old woman. “No Kendal today?” Miss Bradley asked with a knowing smile.

“Nope,” Brin replied. “I’m head cook, dishwasher, and delivery today.”

Miss Bradley reached out and patted Brin’s hand. “Sit a while, won’t you?” Brin looked back at the line of customers in front of Max but relented anyway. She slid into the maroon vinyl seat and sunk into the cushion. The pealing vinyl poked at her legs, but Brin was too tired to care. She went to rest her arms on the table but thought better of it and leaned back and crossed them instead. The tops were made of the same yellowed Formica from the lunch counter, clean but somehow always sticky despite how much they wiped them down.

“It feels good to sit down,” she admitted.

“Sure it does,” Miss Bradley replied in that slow drawl of hers. “Tell me how that girl of yours is? Arisel? She still up with Ms. Martin?”

“Yep,” Brin replied, “almost every day it seems.”

“She likes it there?”

“Oh yeah, she loves it,” Brin lied.

Miss Bradley gave her a sly look. “Well, that’s good. Ms. Martin, she is a good woman. A little dull over at that house, but she is kind. At least you know your little one is safe. Something to be said for that.” Miss Bradley nodded in agreement with herself as she stirred some sugar into her tea.

Brin could feel the tension rising in her shoulders as she watched a steady stream of tickets print out at her station. The high-pitched squeals of that cursed printer haunted her in her sleep. Miss Bradley noticed her waning attention. “Don’t let this old lady keep you, dear. I got all the time in the world. Come back and sit when you ain’t so busy.”

“I will,” Brin promised as she slid out of the seat. Her back hurt again as soon as her feet hit the floor. Brin winced and tried to stretch it out as Miss Bradley picked up her book again.

By the end of her shift, Brin was dead on her feet. Standing over that cooktop every day, working through the heat and the monotony, was not a comfortable life, but it paid the bills. She found most people just looked past her when she worked there, which was how she liked it. For now, Brin just needed to survive. A job like hers at the cafe, which paid cash and did not ask questions, was perfect. She hung up her apron and headed to the counter. “See you tomorrow Max.”

“See ya, B. Hey, if you want to wait a bit, I’ll walk with you. It’s getting dark earlier now,” he replied.

“No, that’s okay. I have to pick up Arisel, or else I owe Ms. Martin an extra twenty dollars,” she lied. Max nodded his head, accepting her explanation, and Brin slipped out the door into the night.

One block into her walk, and a cold uneasy feeling crept up her spine that made her shiver. By the second block, she knew why. A tall, dark-haired man behind her feigned interest in a closed shop window, and Brin was sure she had seen him sitting on a stoop across from the café when she left. Am I imagining things?” she thought. Brin crossed the street and checked the reflection in a car window to see if he followed. He didn’t, but he was still with her when she checked again two blocks later.

At the next corner, Brin made a quick left, deviating from her regular route. There was an alley up ahead, and she ducked inside. Her heart was pounding as she waited for her stalker. Flames flickered and danced from her outstretched fingertips. An involuntary emotional reaction that she struggled to control. Seconds ticked by and turned into minutes. Her breathing slowed, and the fire died out. The man, whoever he was, had not followed her.

Brin shook her head. Maybe I am too paranoid. Brin slid up to the end of the alley before poking her head out. The coast was clear, with no one in sight. She stepped out and looked around, reluctant to leave the safety of the darkness. You’re being crazy, Brin told herself. Still, she took a longer winding route to Ms. Martin’s apartment.

“Sorry I’m late,” Brin offered at the door. Arisel bounded off the steps and into her mother’s arms. Ms. Martin gave her a reproachful look but let her tardiness go.

“What’d you bring me,” Arisel demanded, poking the to-go containers tied up in white plastic bags.

“Plain vegetables,” Brin replied.

Arisel screwed up her face. “And fries?”

“Fries are a type of vegetable,” Brin told her with a smile. Arisel giggled and clapped, then took her mother’s hand, pulling her in the direction of home. There they ate fries together on the couch and watched cartoons until it was bath time. After a bit of a struggle, Brin finally got her to bed. She hugged her through her blanket and then headed back to the couch, looking for some time to herself. As usual, she fell asleep a few minutes after she hit the sofa.

House Guests

Why were these apartments always so filthy? Darius wondered. Even in the dim stairwell lighting, he could see the same signs of decay and neglect. This place was just as run down as the last, and it reeked of cheap industrial cleaner. The stairs creaked and groaned as he made his way to the second floor. A cadre of channelers followed him. “You sure this is the place?” he asked a young woman behind him.

“The source is reliable,” she replied. “The old man said he saw her light a grill with ‘fire that shot out of the girl’s hand’ as he said.”

Darius only grunted in response. He looked at a scrap of paper in his hand and then at the door to verify the apartment number. It was missing, but the ghosts of its numerals were still visible in the thick layer of paint. He waved his hand, and two of his associates took positions on either side of the entrance while he grasped the doorknob. A burst of blue light shot out across the metal body of the door and covered it in a thick sheet of ice. He let go, stepped back, and gave it a vicious kick. The metal exploded into hundreds of shards that blew into the darkened apartment like shattered glass.

The blast snapped Brin out of her slumber. She bolted upright in time to see Darius step over her threshold, followed by two of his men. Grim, odd-looking fellows in long dark jackets. The first one was long and tall, with facial features like a rat. He stood to the side of his master, his face blank. The second one was stockier, with a fuller face and a good foot shorter than the first, but somehow, they managed to look alike. This second man held up his hand and produced a pulsing white light that filled the room, blinding her from making any more observations.

“Ah, Miss Brin,” Darius said. “I wonder if we might have a few words with you?” When he spoke, it felt as if he were drawing the warmth out of the room with every word.

Sleep still clouded Brin’s mind, and she struggled to process what was happening. The adrenaline coursing through her veins caused flames to flicker at her fingertips. She saw Darius notice it and cringed. He knows, she realized, and that made this encounter all the more dangerous. These people were not here to rob her.

“Mommy!” Arisel’s voice wavered as she called out for her mother in the darkness. Darius signaled one of his men to move down the hall towards their bedroom, spurring Brin into action. All those years of training flooded back in an instant. In one fluid motion, she threw off her blanket and flipped over the side of the couch. Then, as she twisted cat-like through the air, Brin threw out a roiling jet of flame that engulfed the intruders.

Darius covered his face with his arms and turned away. His motion brought forth an ice shield that took the brunt of the blast. Brin, meanwhile, landed crouched on her feet and made a dash for the kitchen counter. She hit the island countertop and slid over it, never breaking stride, and lunged for a small glass jar with two stones in it.

“She’s trying to portal!” shouted a woman from the doorway. That same woman drew up a howling wind that sucked most of the smoke and fire out into the hallway. Darius growled, smashed his melting ice shield, and stormed after Brin. He fired a blast of freezing wind at her, but Brin’s defenses were up, and it only iced over her kitchen. She grabbed the jar and turned to run for Arisel, but she ran out of room as Darius confronted her.

The burns across his face tightened, and he bared his teeth as he grabbed her by the shoulders and lifted her off the floor. His hands went ice-cold as he tried to freeze her solid. Brin kicked and flailed her feet as she pulled down thermal energy from her void and pumped it into Darius, trying to break his grip. It was no use. Tendrils of ice crept through her shoulders and wormed their way inside her neck. Brin choked against the cold. She could feel herself start to lose consciousness when Darius remembered his master’s orders. He snatched the jar from her hand and tossed her aside as if she were nothing.

Brin smashed into her kitchen cabinets and crumpled to the floor. “Momma!” Arisel’s voice rang out higher and shriller this time and urged Brin back to action once more. She rose on unsteady feet and stumbled forward to reclaim the jar. Her fingers glowed hot with flame and then flickered out as she fell to her knees. Brin looked at her hands, surprised for a moment before she understood the gravity of her situation. A dark channeler, she realized. She turned towards her ruined door. The woman standing there stared at her with absolute concentration, draining her reserves.

In front of her, Darius unscrewed the cap on the glass jar and let it shatter on the floor. “One for you and one for your daughter?” he asked as he scooped out the stones. Darius held them in his palm and rolled them around as if they were dice. Then he crushed them in his hand and let the dust fall away before her eyes. “No easy exit for you, I’m afraid.” Darius knelt down to her level. He put a hand on her shoulder, and she felt the cold once more. With no reserves to fight it off, the chill wormed itself further into her this time. “You know why we’re here, don’t you?” The dilation of her pupils and her rapid breathing told him that she did. “What did your old man tell you? That we wanted to kill you? Did he tell you the whole story, I wonder?” Darius looked into her eyes, trying to get a read on her, but she was blank as a fresh sheet of paper.

“I’ll tell you a secret,” he offered finally. “We need you alive. We need your help. Well, we need one of you alive anyway,” he shrugged. The shadowed form of Arisel appeared in the hallway behind him, clutching her stuffed tiger.

“Momma, I’m scared,” she cried as tears ran down her face. Even in the darkness, the look on her daughter’s face broke her heart.

“It’s okay, baby. Everything will be alright. Just go back to your room, okay?”

“What? No, it’s fine, come here, little one. Come see mommy,” Darius said. He offered his best impression of a smile while holding out his hand. Arisel eyed him closely. She inched forward a bit, then sprinted into her mother’s arms and buried her face in her chest. “There, that’s better, isn’t it. Mommy and daughter together again. And mommy is going to help us because she cares about you very much and doesn’t want anything awful to happen to you. Isn’t that right, mommy?”

Brin looked up at Darius with tears in her eyes. “Since we’re sharing secrets,” she whispered, “I have one for you.”

Darius leaned in to hear her words. Defiant as her father, he thought.

Internally, Brin put up a wall. She pushed the edge of the dark channel to the side and drew forth the last bit of strength she had left. Brin waited until she felt Darius was close enough and whispered, “The tile’s magnesium.” Darius’s eyes went wide, and he reared back to strike her, but not before Brin shoved her last bit of energy into the floor.

The tile burst into a searing white flame and fell away between the floorboards. It met a thick layer of fine iron oxide and aluminum powder Brin’s father had helped her pour years before. Brin wrapped Arisel in a tight cocoon and prepared for the worst. Darius stumbled backward as he switched from trying to attack her to trying to save himself. The powder below their feet ignited in a second, and the floor exploded in a tremendous fireball. The wood beams turned to ash, and Brin’s entire apartment fell through to the floor below.

The drop was jarring, but Brin had prepared for it, unlike her attackers. Hurt and confused, they struggled as the searing smoke burned their lungs, and the inferno seared their skin. Brin remained in control. Despite the pain in her knees, she forced herself to stand. She swirled her arm in a sweeping circle, gathering up some of the intense energy surrounding her. Then with a forceful push forward, a fireball sprung from her outstretched hand and blew a hole in the wall. Without hesitation, Brin plunged through the opening with Arisel in her arms.

The Village Library

Brin hit the pavement and rolled, cradling Arisel in her arms. Her body told her to stay on the ground, but she willed herself to rise. Brin gritted her teeth, pushed through the pain, and took off running down the street. She spared a second to think of her landlady, who lived downstairs. Hopefully, Miss Andrews had been asleep in her bedroom when her ceiling caved in. Brin’s feet pounded the pavement as she rushed towards the cafe. Max had a car, and she needed to get to the library if they were going to get out alive.

The cafe door slammed into the wall as Brin burst through, shattering the quiet of the night shift. “B!” Max called out with a smile, but then he got a look at her. “What’s wrong?” he demanded. Brin placed Arisel on the counter, but she fidgeted and demanded her mother hold her again.

“I need your car,” she told him. “I don’t care if you drive me. If I drive, but we have to go now.” The pleading in her voice told Max how dire the situation was.

“Yeah, okay. No problem.” Max stuttered as he fished out his keys from his pocket and placed them on the counter. Miss Bradley was the only other person in the restaurant. Brin never realized she came back for dinner. “Let me just lock up, and we can go.”

“Max, please,” Brin begged, “we have to go now.” She looked behind her in time to see a black sedan flying down the street. Right before it reached the cafe, the exterior turned to black smoke that disappeared into the night. Darius and two of his channelers emerged from the haze and rushed towards them. The windows turned to solid sheets of ice and then exploded inward with a blast of wind.

Brin shoved Arisel behind her back as Max, full of bravery and ignorance, met Darius halfway. “You can’t come in here,” he told him. Darius tossed him aside like a toy and froze him solid to the ground. Brin wanted to help him, but she had Arisel to protect. Glowing and flickering flames danced across her hands as Brin prepared to meet him. Beside her, Miss Bradley moved with an uncharacteristic spryness.

In one fluid movement, the old woman stepped out of her booth. The tattered old trench coat she wore turned a deep brown, flowed outward, and swirled around her like a banner unfurled. Her skin shimmered as it turned to scales of stone. Brin watched the transformation, eyes wide. “Go, child! I can give you minutes at most,” Miss Bradley ordered her. Then, with a broad sweeping motion, she drew her cane out in front of her, and it extended to form an earthen staff. As Miss Bradley turned to face Darius and his minions, Brin saw her cloak now bore the unmistakable symbol of the guardians.

Miss Bradley clawed her hand through the air. Roots and vines burst forth from the earth, entangling the two channelers in their writhing tentacles. Darius pressed forward, his arms glowing blue, ready to attack. But Miss Bradley was too quick for him. With a thunderous crash, she smashed her staff into the cafe floor. Rock formations shoved up through the tile sending booths and tables flying. The stone wound its way around his legs and rooted him to the ground. With an angry swipe of his hand, Darius crushed one of them to pieces with a blast of ice as Brin bolted out the back door.

Poor Max, Brin thought as she flew into the alley. But she pushed her empathy aside to clear her head and consider her options. With no car, there was little hope in making the main library. There was only one chance, however slim it might be. Brin had seen the stone her first month here. It sat on a shelf, hidden away in a seldom occupied reading room at the back of the village library. Cracked and broken, it barely had any power left. It was more of a last resort than an actual plan. With any luck, the library and its collection would give it enough energy to open a portal one last time. Perhaps just big enough for one.

The fastest way would be up above, she thought. Maybe they wouldn’t expect it. Brin ran to the nearest fire escape and blasted the latch holding the ladder in place. It crashed to the pavement with a twang of protest. “Come on, baby girl. We’re going on an adventure,” she told Arisel.

“Momma, I’m scared.”

“I know, baby, but it’s going to be okay.” Brin hugged Arisel just a little bit tighter as she started the climb. It wasn’t easy with only one hand free. At the landing, she hopped off the ladder, sprinted up three flights of stairs, and then clambered up onto the top of the building. Flat, black roofs stretched out in every direction, but she was looking for a break in the sea of sameness. She spotted it, three buildings to the south. Brin broke into a run. “Hold on, girl,” she told Arisel as she leaped from the edge.

Brin landed wrong on the ledge of the next building and felt herself falling backward. But a sharp burst of wind energy in a tight vortex gave her back her balance. Arisel was too stunned to speak. Instead, she buried her head as Brin sprinted for the next edge and then the next. Soon they stood above another alley that looked down at the rear of the village library. With no fire escape, this time, they would have to jump. “Ready?” Brin asked her daughter. Arisel shook her head no as Brin stepped out into the void and pushed hard against the wind. A sickening crack when her ankle met pavement told Brin she had not used enough force. Pain coursed up her leg as she tried to stand.

“Momma, I wanna go home,” Arisel demanded. Tears welled up in her eyes as her emotions finally caught up with her.

“I know. I know,” Brin told her. She pulled Arisel in close and held her there in the alley. “We just have to do one thing, and then we’re going to go, okay?” Arisel shook her head no with her forehead buried against her mother, but they had to press on. Brin put Arisel down and grasped the dull brass deadbolt in her hand. It glowed red hot as she poured energy into it. It melted right out of the steel security door a moment later and fell away onto the concrete step. After that, one swift kick led them into the darkened interior of the village library.

“Come on. We need to find the children’s section.” Brin dragged Arisel along behind her, ignoring her protests. The flickering glow from her fingers lit their way and cast long shadows in the stacks.

“Mamma, I want to go!” Arisel demanded, shattering the eerie silence.

“Arisel,” her mother hissed. “Enough! And be quiet.” Arisel switched to a pout and stifled whimpers. Meanwhile, Brin scanned the floor till she found a small set of steps leading down to another room. Brin jumped back. Large beady black eyes stared at her from the children’s section. Her heart pounded in her throat, and she squeezed Arisel’s hand tighter than she should have. But then she relaxed, and her breath came back to her as she realized what she saw. It was nothing but a giant stuffed animal.

“Mamma, you’re hurting me,” Arisel complained, wriggling to get free.

“I’m sorry, honey, I just go scared.” As soon as she said it, she wished she hadn’t. Brin looked down to see Arisel’s wide eyes looking up at her. No time for comfort now. Where was the stone? Brin began shoving aside stuffed animals, puzzles, toys, and books in a frantic search. Nothing. Maybe they moved it to another part of the library. Brin turned back to the door, and she saw it. The librarians were using her salvation as a doorstop. It glowed a faded blue when she touched it, and her heart swelled for a moment until she saw the crack again. This stone’s life was almost finished. But Arisel was small. It might still work. It had to. Somewhere in the darkened library, Brin heard the sound of breaking glass.

“Come here,” she ordered Arisel. The suddenness of her mothers’ shift in tone elicited more tears. “No. No crying. You need to be quiet and listen to mommy. Do everything I say, do you understand?” Arisel nodded, sniffling. Brin wiped the tears from Arisel’s eyes and pulled her under a tiny desk. She placed her daughter’s hand on the stone. The dim blue light lit again. “Listen, mommy is going to go check on that noise. You are going stay here.”

“But mamma,” came the protest.

“No, you listen. You are going to stay here and hold onto mommy’s special stone, okay?” Brin pulled out the worn copy of the children’s book they always read on the way to Ms. Martin’s. “I want you to read the story but quietly, okay? Read, and keep reading it over and over until I come back. Focus on it. Think hard about where the rabbit goes this time, got it?”

“Mamma, don’t go,” Arisel pleaded. She refused to let go of her mother’s sleeve. A loud crash came from the front of the library.

“I have to. It’s going to be okay. Just do what I say, and it will all be alright.” Brin squeezed Arisel close to her chest, “tough but kind, right?” Arisel nodded yes as more tears ran down her cheeks. It took a lot for Brin to leave her there, but she knew what she had to do. As she walked back up the tiny flight of stairs, Brin could hear Arisel begin to recite in her little voice.

I heard an old secret passed down by the trees

About a place in the brambles that sway in the breeze

Brin limped up the steps and then dropped to her hands and knees behind the hip-high bookcases of the children’s section. It was easier to crawl to the end of the row than to put weight on her throbbing ankle. But the rough industrial carpet that ground itself into the scrapes on her knees did not make things much more manageable. The muffled sound of distant voices made her stop and go rigid. Brin held herself still as a statue as she strained to make out what they were saying. How many were there? Four, five? It was hard to tell from her where she hid.

“Are you sure she’s in here?”

“She has to be. Where else would she have been running too?”

“If we call the boss—and she’s not here—he’s going to ice us for real.”

“What do you think he’ll do if she’s here and we don’t tell him?”

There was silence for a moment before the last voice replied. “Fine, we’ll call him. But first split up and search the place. There aren’t that many places to hide in here.”

The dim glow from the street lamps outside spilled in through the cracks around the front door. It cast her pursuers as long shadows that danced like dark phantoms against the far wall. Brin counted four bobbing specters. Difficult odds, but not impossible ones. When her attackers split off in four different directions, Brin made her move. She hoisted herself up, dashed to the circulation desk, and rolled across it. From there, Brin slid into the librarian’s tiny office area, then out the back door and into the stacks—hoping to catch one of them alone. They were not hard to track. The first one she found scuffed his feet when he walked and ran his fingers against the shelved books. The crinkling of their dust jackets might as well have been a beacon.

If I time things right, I can take him without the others noticing, Brin thought. She was two rows removed from her attacker, but she followed his body through the space above the books. Fire is too obvious, but maybe I can pick him up and slam him to the ground with a burst of wind before he— Brin froze with her hand out. She had been miming the motion to call forth the gust when an overhead light flicked on in the opposite corner of the library.

“What is it?” a voice called.

“Stairs.”

Arisel.

There was no time to be discrete now. Brin thrust both her hands forward and twisted them in a half-circle. A pillar of flame burst forth between her arms, blowing a hole clean through the stacks and knocking the man she had been stalking into the next aisle. The scattered ruins of charred books fluttered down around her like black snowflakes tinged with still burning embers. Brin flicked her wrist up and threw a fireball at the ceiling so there would be no mistaking her position. And then, like a mother bird drawing its predators away from her nest, she slipped through the hole she had made and tried to limp away down the next aisle. Brin did not make it far before a couple draped in black rags blocked her path. If not for the woman’s crooked smile and the man’s gaunt sunken cheeks, the pair could have been twins. They stared at her with an unsettling hunger but did not dare advance, wary of the fire that still danced between her fingers. Brin let her gaze fall to their hands, hued in blue and cold as ice. They’re learning, she thought. Then she swiveled to look behind her. A man with long unkempt hair and obsidian eyes sneered back at her. As she watched, what little light was on him was swallowed up until he was nothing more than a matte shadow. Another dark channeler, Brin thought.

First things first, though. Brin crossed her arms, spun them in a circle, and thrust forward towards the twins. A turbulent stream of fire raged down the aisle, engulfing her enemies. Her flame was hot enough to melt the metal shelving, and the stacks collapsed, spewing burning books all over the floor. Wax plugs in the sprinkler system above melted and gave way, releasing a sudden downpour of water, adding insult to injury to the smoldering books. Her attackers emerged from behind an ice shield and threw two volleys at her. Brin ducked the first and parried the second. While she fought, the dark channeler behind her tried to bind her to the floor. She felt a tug as if someone had a hook on her insides that was pulling her slowly down to the ground. Brin set up a fire barrier to try to block his line of sight, but it did nothing to stop the steady drain of her energy reserves. While she was preoccupied, the first pair attacked again. Brin parried their first blast with one of her own, but the second caught her square in the back and knocked her to her knees. The cold stung her back and made it hard to move, but she willed herself to rise. Steam rose from her shoulders as she thawed herself.

Enough, Brin thought. She focused on opening her channel as wide as she could, and this time she did not send out mere jets but two churning walls of flame. They burst forth from her like shockwaves, flattening everything in their path. Brin stood alone in the center of the smoldering wreckage. Ash white paper fluttered down confetti before getting caught up in the spray from the sprinklers. The gnawing tug of the dark channeler had stopped, and the twins lay in front of her splayed out on the floor. Brin approached them and nudged the man’s leg with her foot. He did not stir.

Time to get Arisel and disappear.

Brin stepped over the twins made her way over the wreckage back towards the children’s section. She wanted to be gone before the fire department arrived and started asking questions. Best to leave town and avoid a lot of awkward questions. Brin slid past the circulation desk and back into the half stacks in the children’s area. We may even have to jump worlds this time, but where— A searing pain exploded from her shoulder blade, and then she felt a cold like she had never felt before. It was as though tentacles had spread through her internal organs and were crushing them from the inside. Brin turned as she fell to her knees and saw Darius step into the light. She wanted to scream, to cry out, but she only managed a gasp as her voice failed her.

Whatever Darius had stabbed her with was attached to a staff by a long blue chain. He slammed the other end into the ground, and a long spike embedded itself into the concrete floor of the library. The cold intensified, and Brin fell to the floor. Her skin burned with frostbite as her wet clothes solidified into ice. An insidious numbness crept in from her extremities, and something inside Brin knew when it reached her core, it would freeze her solid.

Darius leaned down and put his hand on her shoulder just below the blade. Brin did not even feel it. “Never seen a binding rod before? I can’t say I’m surprised. Its ancient technology, illegal to own of course, but still surprisingly effective after all this time—especially against fire channelers.” Darius put his other hand on the blade’s hilt in Brin’s back and shoved it in further. Brin whimpered, but that tiny squeak was all she could muster. “I have hunted your family down one by one. I slogged through countless false leads, dead ends, and failures. And now here you are, the last of your line save one.” He grabbed her hair and pulled her head to face him. Ice cracked and splintered along her skin as she turned. “Where’s Arisel Brin? Is she here? Or did you stash her somewhere? If you tell me—I’ll make it quick for both of you.” Brin tried to move her mouth, to tell him to go to hell, but no sound came out. But the coldness was gone. Now she only felt numb and warm at once. Silence fell between them in the darkened library. For a moment, all was still—until a tiny voice floated past their ears.

They whispered of woods with no one around

A place so quiet you dare not make a sound

Darius smiled a wicked grin and let go of Brin’s hair. She watched him walk away towards the three little steps that led to the children’s reading room—to Arisel and her book. Brin would have cried if her tear ducts were not already frozen solid.

When Arisel saw Darius’s shoes from under the table, she stopped reading and only mouthed the next few words.

There you’ll find an old stump where under you’ll see

A nook that’s so hidden you’ll have to agree

Darius offered her his fakest of smiles and raised his voice an octave to sound more reassuring. “Come out, little one. You’re safe now. Your mommy is hurt, and she asked me to come to get you and bring you to her. She’s right outside in the ambulance waiting. You don’t want to get separated, do you?” He reached his hand out under the table, but Arisel shrunk away and pulled the cracked stone and her book close to her chest.

If Darius thought she had forgotten him from earlier, he was wrong. Arisel did not want to go with him. She wanted her mother. She wanted to be home safe and snug in her bed—but she knew it was gone. The rabbit’s house then, she thought. Arisel wanted to be in her favorite story, the one her mother made her read every day. Far away under the brambles with the rabbit family where no one could get her, and she would be safe. The thought of it overwhelmed her, consumed her, and as she sunk into that fantasy, the broken stone glowed. Arisel shimmered like a flickering lamp. Darius’s eyes went wide, and he lunged for her but grasped nothing but air. The stone and book fell to the floor as Arisel dissolved into a fine golden mist.

“DAMN IT!” Darius snatched the book from beneath a broken half of stone. He flicked his wrist, and a floating scrap of paper appeared. He yelled, “Get me a stone!” at it, and his words appeared in shimmering silver ink. Then the paper folder itself unto itself several times and disappeared. She won’t get far, and we have the book. Darius walked up the steps back to where Brin lay, breathing her last breaths. He looked down at her in disgust. Stupid women thought her trick would buy her daughter some time. Something about his last thought haunted him. He looked at Brin, then the book, and then thumbed it open. Darius’s chest tightened as he flipped to the next page, then the next, and the slow realization washed over him. There were no words. Of course, the kid couldn’t read. She had just memorized it. Hot anger boiled up from the bowels of his soul. Darius crushed the tattered paperback in his hand—froze it to ice—then hurled it at the nearest wall, where it shattered into shards and pebbles.

On the floor below, Brin’s final thought was, Run far, little rabbit. Run far.

To her surprise, Arisel found herself no longer in the dark and terrifying library but instead under some sort of thicket. The long intertwining branches of which held out sharp thorns in every direction to keep its leaves safe from hungry deer. Cheerful rays of sunlight penetrated from above, yet the thorn bush still kept her hidden. An old-fashioned doorbell jingled in the distance as a man in a long brown robe hurried down the back steps. He struggled to tie a rope around his waist as the door to the cottage behind him slammed shut. The man was young and thin, with a ruddy face beneath a mop of brown hair. He rushed down the lane kicking up all manner of dust with the odd gate of a man walking as fast as he could while trying his hardest not to break into a run.

The branches moved aside for him when he reached the bramble, leaving a tiny opening to Arisel. A grim smile crossed his face as he kneeled to her level. “Arisel?” he asked. She did not say a word. He frowned, not at her but at his own inability to gain her trust. Then a thought occurred to him. He held out his hand, not reaching for her, only showing. A tiny fire dervish spun up from his palm and then morphed into a beautiful ballet dancer. She did an Arabesque the led to a Grande Jeté off of his hand before disappearing. His expression softened. “Your mother taught me that. And I helped her write the book that brought you here.” He extended his hand to her again. “With the secret of the trees and the rabbits. I promised your mother I would take care of you if—anything went wrong.” The last part pained him to say out loud, but it was the truth. Arisel’s face was still painted with doubt, but she reached out her hand and took his finger. “My name is Igno,” he told her. “You’re safe here. They won’t be able to find you.”

Igno helped her out of the brush, and they walked up the dirt path to the cottage together. Arisel was too overwhelmed to cry, but a stream of unchecked tears ran down her face. Her tight grip on Igno’s finger was her only comfort. On another planet, in another part of the multi-verse entirely, her mother finally felt at peace.

-END

OLD NOTES BELOW

she’s going to walk over them to leave head back to find Arisel. A fourth blocks her she gets stabbed. As she’s freezing solid to the floor and darius asks where daughter is they hear the girl saying the story again. To the hidden glenn where evil dare not goHis rage act will be turning the book to ice and smashing it to pieces against the wall.].

In the attack lets have guy hit her from behind and freeze her back it stings. She gets hot and it boils off of her.

Now I want her to attack they duck she hits them, they hit her it’s a fast paced battle with few words before she gets stabbed. Maybe she makes a run through another hole she blew when the main guy Darius stabs her with a ice pick and then bolts the other end into the ground with a spear like gun tube thing.

Gets close to him a light flicked on in the children’s section distracts her so she attacks to draw their fire. Then hobbles away and quickly gets stuck between he stacks.

She hides after that making a noise to draw them away like a mother bird would. She’s moving stalking a third who is part of the back that splits up. But a guy grabs her through the stacks and starts to drain her. Or he stabs her with the ice knife and she kills him. A second guy shields the drainer with ice shield. Two or four others try to hold her in the stacks. She burns a hole in the whole place but then they come out of the wreckage as her flame starts to dull and flicker.

She falls after they hit her a few times. Guy pulls her up by her hair. Has a dead or alive talk. Then pushes the ice stake into the ground where it saps all her energy away and she begins to go numb as her body crystalizes.

Head back to the restricted section. He finds her, and he says some creepy don’t worry I’ll take you to mommy bullshit. She mouths the end of the story. In that moment she wanted to be anywhere but there, somewhere safe in the bramble like the rabbit. It was the first thing she thought of. The stone glowed blue and she’s gone.

Check the story give it to me. We can find another stone. Grabs it finds out its just a picture book so he doesn’t know the world she left to. Angry out burst. Lifts table and hurls it at employee.

Arisel appears with a young master igno in a bramble patch behind his garden. He makes the same fire or whatever dancer her mother made. She goes with him as he leads her inside. Or he hugs her. Is mommy coming, I’m afraid not dear. But you’re safe her with me. She goes inside with him tears running through the dirt on her face. Oh and he has to carefully peal the bramble back.

“I heard an old secret passed down by the trees

About a place in the brambles that sway in the breeze

They whispered a secret for only I to know

and spoke of a place evil dare not go

they whispered a secret so soft and low

and spoke of a place that evil dare not go

follow the creak that flows through the glen

there you’ll find the perfect spot for a rabbit to den.

until you find a rabbit snug in his den

was a safe little spot for a rabbit family to den

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