Chapter 1: The Summons
A FAINT SCRAPING AGAINST THE FLOORBOARDS WOKE ME. My eyes opened. Faint, white light informed me it was midnight and something was moving under the bed. I laid still, hoping the sound was something my unconscious mind had fabricated—more scrapping.
Damn it. I threw off the covers and swung my torso off the side of the bed, my long hair fell to the floor, and I threw a hand out to steady myself. Luminescent yellow eyes greeted me from the gloom. Fabulous.
"Scram!" I injected as much venom into my voice as I could. It wouldn't do any good, but it made me feel better.
"The Oracle wants to see you." A low, gravel-filled voice intoned.
The voice belonged to a small, pebble-skinned creature. Crawling on all fours, its feet terminated in thick claws that scratched the wood floor as it moved. Its face, somewhat feline in appearance, reflected no emotion as it wrapped a long tail around itself.
Oracle, I scoffed internally.
"He's an alcoholic, and I have a cell phone."
My response was met with silence. The Umbra were not what you would call chatty. Much like the gargoyles they inspired, they tended to embody boulders. Unmovable and steadfast in their duties, they didn't argue or negotiate. It wouldn't leave either.
I pulled myself upright. While the blood in my head redistributed itself, I evaluated my options. The longer I delayed, the more hostile the Umbra would become. A low hiss came from beneath me. I closed my eyes in a long blink, exhaling my frustration. Sleep wasn't worth stitches. Besides, if Kenrick wanted to see me in person badly enough to send an errand boy, it meant trouble, and that was good for business.
I threw on the first things my hands' touched, grabbed my bag, and held the door open with my foot. My uninvited guest scuttled out and took up a silent vigil in a nearby tree like some demonic owl.
I stood in the doorway, breathing in the cool night air. A full moon. Perfect. The house was a small, simple affair, with a white wood panel exterior that desperately needed paint. Ivy crawled haphazardly up the sides and clung to the banisters supporting the front porch. I closed the weather-worn door and made my way around to the back of the house. The two-acre wall of living privacy was the real reason I had bought this place, and it had nearly wiped out my savings.
I stopped at the edge of the tree line and willed the shadows to me. Shadows were slippery, and working with them always left me feeling slightly damp, but it was the fastest way to locate Kenrick. This time of night, he would be about half a bottle in. I whispered his name my breath visible in the night air. Swirling shades of black congealed before me, creating a semi-solid image of a man sitting with his back to me. I squinted at the scene surrounding him, looking for hints as to his whereabouts. Unease crawled up my spine and settled between my shoulder blades. The bottle next to him was surprisingly full. He was pacing himself. Not good.
A faint fluorescent flicker on the right side of the image caught my attention. Lucy's Tavern. Gotcha. I fed my energy into the inky mass, forcing it to become solid. I cast a final glance back as I wrapped the night around me. My winged visitor had vanished, and then stepping forward, so did I.
The soft resistance of carpet met my foot, and dim fluorescent light fell just out of reach. The smell of liquor and cigarettes permeated the air, sinking into my pores as I crossed the width of the tavern. I took a seat at the bar and rested my forearms on the wooden railing. A mirror running the length of the wall opposite me allowed for a descrete inspection. He knew I was there; he just hadn't chosen to acknowledge me yet.
That's fine. I could wait. Kenrick was objectively handsome, I noted dispassionately. Dark brown eyes that were startling in their depth, set under equally dark eyebrows. His hair was neither here nor there in color, a strange mix of brown and amber. Sharp cheekbones and a defined jaw drew the eyes, while broad shoulders tapering to a narrow, well-muscled waist keep them there.
At thirty years old, he was intense, mercurial, and walked the fine line between genius and insanity. Most seers were. Even supernatural had limits. I glanced back at the shrouded alcove I came from. His eyes found mine in the mirror, silver swirling in their depths.
"Hello, Alex." The corner of his mouth lifted, showing a hint of teeth. "I knew you'd come."
About the Creator
I could be anyone, or anywhere. I am a daughter, a lover, and a friend. I am human. What more could you need to know?
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