Episode Twenty-Nine: Ocean: Scene 27

Being only slightly smarter than Derek, I called Kanesha before heading over to his place. I probably smelled of vampire. I’m basing this on the fact that nobody wanted to sit next to me on a full bus.

Oh well, I could bathe after I’d dealt with his latest stupidity. His home was a small house in Arlington.

I knocked on the door – and his mother answered.

“Derek called me.”

“I’m sure he did.” She frowned. “He needs to…”

“…stop bringing home magical stuff that’s glowing.”

“That would be a good start. Come on in.”

I followed her inside. “He’s upstairs. And I already took a look at it. It seems to like him.”

“That’s always bad news. Especially when there are demons after somebody.”

“Not always, but another set of eyes would be helpful.”

I went upstairs, the third step creaking ominously under my tread. The place was clean, well kept, but I wasn’t entirely sure about its structural integrity. They were poor.

Well, I was used to that. I knocked on the bedroom door.

“Come in.”

“Your mother thinks it likes you.”

“She told me.” He had it on the bed. It was spherical, roughly, and glowing. I sniffed a bit.

“Well, it’s not Fae magic.”

“Could it be something from, uh…”

“From your father’s side of the family? I hope so.” Because the alternative was that it was another demon trap.

“I guess…”

“Zaid might know. Your father would know, but…”

“But I’m not supposed to talk to him.”

“I’ve met him. Believe me, you’re better off without him.”

“I wish I had a real father.”

I thought of Mike for a moment. Then of my father. “Well, you know who mine is.”

He laughed. “But yours…”

“He’s embarrassing and occasionally evil, but he does at least wait for them to grow up first. But you are nothing like your father.”

“Except for the magic.”

I had an insight. I wasn’t sure about it. “Pick it up.”

He did. It glowed brighter for a moment, then settled.

“I have no idea what it is, but it definitely likes you. Which means somebody left it for you to find.”

And if it was efreet magic not demon magic, that somebody was probably…

…Derek’s father.

Episode Twenty-Nine: Ocean: Scene 26

Well, it became a mixed thing. We got back to DC, where it was hotter than it had been further south, thanks to the city being in a swamp and further from the cooling influence of the sea.

It was unpleasant for me and even more so for those without my blood. Kanesha hid in the air conditioning to study.

I forced myself to go out into the city, planning on meeting her for dinner after it had cooled off a bit. Looking for trouble.
Watching the people I was protecting. If I was honest, making sure nothing bad had moved in while I was away. I thought I smelled a vampire nest and headed that way, to clean them out before sunset.

If all I could do was keep those vermin out of the city, then I was achieving something. Something important.
A single life saved was worth it.

But there was the brooding threat of Surtur, of the war, of the possibility that all of this might come to an end. I found the vampires in a basement, killed them before they could wake up. Came back up into the sunlight.

Maybe what I needed…no. I had plenty of reminders of why I did this. I just needed to know how to stop it.

Surtur was going to come after me, as soon as he worked out a good way to do it. I had to stay alert.

I had to not relax like I had on the beach, except sometimes I needed to. Which is why I had friends to watch my back.

And I wasn’t going to let any more of them die, not without fighting pretty hard for them. And I wasn’t going to let the world end.

The sunset was beautiful over the city. The air was clear. I’d had a small workout.

I felt pretty good, and of course?

Of course that was when Derek called. It had to be Derek, too, not somebody I actually wanted to talk to.

“More problems?”

“Not exactly. I found something.”

“If it’s a magic item, take it to Clara or Seb, they can identify it better than I can.”

“They’re not picking up.”

Which made me suspect Clara and Seb were, shall we say, busy. “Is it urgent?”

“Given it’s glowing.”

“I’ll call that urgent. Where are you?”

Derek was probably being trapped again. I was already moving halfway through him giving the address. His home.

He’d taken a glowing artifact home.

Brilliant.

Episode Twenty-Nine: Ocean: Scene 25

Either way, we had three more days of beach time. Including the extra day most of us were staying just to relax.

That was the only half day, though. There was a lot of shooting – multiple clients, the agency having set things up so transport and housing costs and the like could be shared. Now I wasn’t in school any more, people were starting to treat me like an adult. It was refreshing.

The last day we partied. Pretty much. I didn’t dare get drunk, but I got to stay sober and watch everyone else. Which was almost as entertaining. (Besides, I wasn’t sure I could get drunk on anything brewed on Midgaard. Kanesha, of course, could).

But it was a lot of fun, and right in the middle of it the selkie showed up. Kanesha followed me as she beckoned me off to the side.

The selkie grinned. “Making sure your girlfriend’s here so you aren’t tempted?”

Kanesha slipped her hand into mine, laced fingers. “No, so I aren’t,” she teased.

I grinned. “So…”

“So, I have something for you.” And she offered me a string of pearls. Wild pearls, not farmed or cultured.

I took them with an eyebrow rising. “Oh, those are gorgeous.” They weren’t white pearls, either. They were a soft, delicate pink.

“I collect them,” she said with a smile. “Had those around for a while.”

I supposed that it was easier for a selkie to retrieve pearls. “There are worse things to collect.”

Kanesha grinned. “They’ll look great on you.”

I shook my head. “Maybe better on you. I already have pretties.” Which was true. Being a model meant you picked up random clothes and accessories. And I did rather think the pink would look good on her dark brown skin, better than on my pale.

The selkie laughed. “You two have that fight. I…found somebody to keep me from being bored.” And she disappeared into the crowd.

“I hope she hid her cloak better this time.”

“I hope she got a locked room and put it in a drawer.” Because, really, in this day and age… I grinned at Kanesha. Then, before she could argue further, I slipped the pink pearls around her neck.

They really did suit her. They went with the sundress she was wearing too. She blushed, but then we went and got food.

It had all gone very well, I thought. I had been interrupted, but not by a fire giant attack. And the next morning, we drove back to DC, exchanging stories in the van. I didn’t talk about Eden.

I had decided to put her out of my mind, at least for now. At least until Thruor called me to help clean out those witches, if she needed me.

More likely, she’d call Clara and Seb. But for now? For now I could celebrate a job well done. And enjoy being treated as a normal adult for a bit.

Maybe the adult part would even last.

Episode Twenty-Nine: Ocean: Scene 24

We stopped at a beachside restaurant halfway back for dinner.

“I think she’s going to be fine,” Sarita said, finally. “They’ll help her start over somewhere else.”

I nodded. “And get her a restraining order.”

“And you scared him off?”

“I think so.” I wasn’t going to talk about magical restraining orders right now. She was already more involved than I liked, but… “Thanks. I couldn’t have done this without you.”

“I don’t like men who act like that. They make me wish I was like you.”

I shrugged. “We can’t choose that.”

“No, we can’t. I wish more people really accepted that. On all sides.”

I thought about how some gay people treated me for being bi and nodded. “Yeah. All sides. Although it is a bit unfair that I can enjoy more of the eye candy in the movie.”

“I thought you were a lesbian.” Sarita shrugged.

“Nope. Bisexual.”

“And lucky.”

I grinned. “Nah, I just have better taste than poor Eden.”

“Oh, he probably treats her like a princess when he’s not being abusive. They usually do.”

I didn’t ask if Sarita had any direct experience with that, and shifted the conversation to something safer until we drove back to the hotel.

Kanesha was curled on the bed reading. “Mission successful?”

“Yeah. I should have taken you, though. We had witch problems.”

“Evil witches. Typical.”

“But it’s dealt with. We found some nice witches in Hampton Roads and I had them put a spell on the ex so he can’t go close to her.”

Kanesha grinned. “Some witches should set up a protection agency to do that sort of thing.”

“If we existed in a world where magic could advertise, yeah.”

“What if they didn’t admit it was magic?” She sounded thoughtful.

I grinned. “In that case they probably already exist.”

I was sure they did. Now I had it firm in my mind that kind of thing was possible, I wondered if there were witches who worked at domestic violence shelters and used magic to protect the residents.

Maybe a spell to keep men out. Although that wouldn’t work for everyone – some victims were men and some perpetrators women. No, it would have to be more subtle than that.

Unless, of course, you assumed it was always the man at fault. I hadn’t, even in this case, but those witches had given me the shivers.

Even if Eden lied, the kid didn’t deserve to be in contact with them.

And I was sure she hadn’t.

Episode Twenty-Nine: Ocean: Scene 23

Either way, with the valkyries as escorts, I handed him over to the coven master…not mistress, for once…of a group in Hampton Roads.

“We’ll need…”

“She’s carrying his child,” Thruor said. “That should be enough of a connection without having to bring her here.”

A bit of a smile from the witch. A smile I didn’t like. “Well, he won’t ever get close to her again.”

I trusted that was true, stepped outside. Thruor followed me. “We can’t take you anywhere,” she quipped.

“Apparently not. And I wasn’t even intending to rescue her, I was just trying to get a selkie her cloak back.”

“Don’t trust selkies.”

“I don’t.” My thoughts were amused. “But as I said to the selkie, I don’t really trust myself, either.”

“Good point,” Thruor quipped. “Given who you are.”

“Exactly. So, no, I didn’t trust her. Didn’t mean I wanted her forced into a relationship with whoever had it.”

“Except…”

“Except it was Eden, and she thought she could use it.”

Thruor pursed her lips.

“She’s got selkie blood.”

“Not enough. Well, occasionally enough of it comes together. But…”

“Not in her, or her kid.” I sighed a bit. “And apparently her ex is the only person with no magical talent in a family of witches. I sort of feel sorry for him.”

Thruor shook her head. “He could have come to somebody.”

“He did. He just picked the wrong somebody. But I…”

“You need to meet up with your friend and get back by nightfall.”

I nodded. “Do you…”

“Sarita would have dropped her off at the shelter.” Thruor rattled off the address.

I left the car and headed there on foot, at the quick pace I could manage when I was alone. Shields up, of course. Outside, I found Sarita.

“I won’t ask…”

“I carjacked her husband.”

Sarita stopped. Then she laughed. “He…”

“I gave it back to him, with enough of a scare that he won’t come back here any time soon.”

“You’re weird.”

“I know.” I rather hoped she’d forget how weird.

People I dragged into this had a habit of dying, after all.

Episode Twenty-Nine: Ocean: Scene 22

Being a reasonably civilized goddess, I let him live anyway. I tied him up, put him in the back of his car and drove towards Hampton Roads. Not really by choice – there wasn’t really anywhere else to go where I might be able to find backup.

I couldn’t hand him over to the cops, who would never believe me. But I rather thought there would be some decent witches there who could deal with this kind of thing in an appropriate way.

I wish I was sure what an appropriate way was. Killing him in cold blood and playing jury and executioner might have been justice of a sort, but it wasn’t something my mother would approve of.

No.

It wasn’t something my father would approve of. Odin, maybe, but Odin was a king. He had the right to do things like that. I wasn’t a queen and didn’t want to be. So, I didn’t.

The police had jurisdiction, but they were useless. So? I drove to Hampton Roads, not really seeing the beautiful scenery, and being very careful not to be pulled over. True, I had my license, but it wasn’t my car and I was…

I was carjacking the guy. But I didn’t quite make it to Hampton Roads before two motorcycles peeled out onto the road next to me.

Thruor and Kara.
Thank Odin – or whoever had tipped them off. I’d never been so glad to see valkyries in my life.

I pulled over with them flanking me.

“What do we have here?”

“Oh, he beat his wife and joined up with a black coven to sacrifice their unborn child for power.”
Thruor rolled his eyes. “The witches?”

“I hope they’re a good distance away. They tried to throw stuff at me through projections, but I sent them home.”

“Good work. How about we take him from here?”

“What will you do to him?”

“Hrm.”

“If I was going to kill him, I would have. I’m rather thinking…”

Kara suggested, blithely, “Turn him into a toad?”

I laughed. “Don’t insult toads.”

“I don’t know. They’re ugly and toxic.”

“And eat biting flies,” I pointed out. “Toads are too useful to insult in this way.” Even if I wouldn’t want to mess with one. “But I was rather hoping to find a coven in Hampton Roads with a good idea.”

“Honestly, what we probably want for him is a magical restraining order,” Thruor mused. “Then we’ll go after the coven.”

“A magical…”

She grinned. “A geas not to get within X miles of his ex or her child until or unless it’s released. And there probably is a witch in Hampton Roads who could do it.”

I wished I’d thought of that. “I thought of the mundane variety.”

“Oh, she should get one of those as well. But…”

“But he can’t ignore magic.”

And the poor kid, I thought. With that for a father. No, with no father, he’d be better off. “As for the witches,” I added.

“Those I don’t think we should hesitate about sending right to Hell or wherever.”

Probably Hell, I thought. They were probably actual devil worshippers or something.

Or just, I couldn’t help but think, power-hungry fools.

Episode Twenty-Nine: Ocean: Scene 21

Desperate men do desperate things, but this one just froze until the witches stepped out to flank him.

Two of them, women, one old, one much younger and no doubt her trainee or apprentice. At first I had no idea how they had got there.

Then I realized they weren’t actually there. Projections of some kind. “Nice try, but I assume your backup is really back in town.”

“But of course. Why risk being stabbed? And we only want the child.”

“To sacrifice.” I kept my tone even. I was going to kill all three of them. “And you have him convinced he’ll gain power from it.”

They smiled.

“It’s not true, you know. There’s ways for normal people to learn magic, it’s a lot harder without the talent, but you could do it. Without hurting anyone.” A pause. “But you can’t just take the kid’s power. Or your wife’s.”

“They said we couldn’t take hers because she’s grown up, and besides, the kid will be stronger.”

I doubted that. I hadn’t sensed the child, which meant that its aura was still hidden by its…or his…mother’s. “The kid isn’t stronger. And I won’t let you do this anyway.”

“You and what army?”

“If I kill you…” I stepped forward, pressing the point of my sword against his chest. It wanted his blood. I could barely hold it back. “Which my blade wants to do.”

“They put a curse…”

I smiled. “Could any curse bind me?” Of course one could, but one set by these losers? I was confident they couldn’t touch me.

The witches did something at that point…the sword point was pushed back a bit. Straight up shield spell. Not bad, given they were doing it remotely.

I wished for Clara. She’d know how to stop them. And then I did, abruptly. They were projections.

The sword had just cut through magic. All I had to do was find…

I picked the younger one, abruptly darting right around the man to cut through the link between the image and her real self. It wasn’t like astral projection in the books. I didn’t kill her.

But I dispelled the image.
The older one blinked. Then she smiled. “A worthy opponent. Few would have thought of that.” Then she, too, disappeared.

No doubt she was checking on her apprentice. “Alone again.” The shield spell was still up. “Give me one good reason not to kill you.”

He didn’t.

Episode Twenty-Nine: Ocean: Scene 20

He managed to squirm free, and stood facing me. I kept the blade even and pointed at him.

He didn’t flinch. I gave him points for that. “She wants to leave you. Respect that or prove her right.”

“I need that child.”

Need.

He had no power, no magic, but… that didn’t mean he didn’t want it. “For what?”

“It’s none of your business!”

“If you knew who I was you’d know it was.” A bit of a bluff. I had no clue whether it was my business or not. Maybe he needed the kid to take over the family business.

“Why do you care?”

“Because I’m crazy.” I grinned at him. “Crazy enough to kill you right here if I don’t like the answers I get.”

“Then…” He had his hand in his pocket. Maybe he was dialing 911.

More likely he was calling whichever witch had told him where to find us. I didn’t make any move to stop him.

“…we’re at an impasse. You can’t follow them.”

“You don’t know that.” It happened to be true unless backup showed up, and I was a long way from my backup. But I could bluff him.

“I don’t see a vehicle.”

“Do you believe in magic, Carlton?” I asked him.

“Of course I do. Don’t you get it?”

“You want the kid to be trained and in your power.” He didn’t have any talent, but…

“Everyone else in my family has it. Don’t you understand?”

Honestly, I didn’t. “You want to be a witch. Failing that, having one you can control is almost good enough.”

“No. I plan on taking her power.”

He wouldn’t have said that if he didn’t think that he had backup. And the next thing I knew there was a spell trying to wrap around me.

“Nice try.” I actually slashed it with the sword, cutting through the magical energies. Huh. I didn’t know it could do that.

“What the hell are you?”

“A goddess,” I told him, with a smile. “Have your friend come out of hiding. Or…”

Or I really would kill him. Maybe I would anyway.

Maybe he knew that, from the look in his eyes.

Episode Twenty-Nine: Ocean: Scene 19

It would take us closer to two and a half hours to get to Hampton Roads, according to Sarita’s GPS. Thirty minutes in, I noticed we were being followed.

“We’ve grown a tail.”

“Joy. Is it our friend?”

Eden was kind of curled up on the back seat. She ventured a peek. “Yes. It’s him.”

Or at least his car and his license plate, I thought darkly. “Somebody told him.”

“How did they know what car I’d be in?”

I thought about that. “I don’t know.” I wanted to give a better answer to this one than that. I don’t know was not a good answer to somebody finding out close-held information.

“Somebody…”

Somebody had sold her out. It couldn’t be the cop. He would have told the guy she was going to Hampton Roads, but he didn’t know how or in what vehicle. We were driving along one, not very wide road.

“Should I…” Sarita frowned.

“Pull over.”

She did so. “I’m testing to see if he’s really following us or just happening to be on the same road.”

But he slowed and pulled in behind us. “You stay in the car. Get ready to drive.”

“Leaving you here…”

“I can handle him. Even if he’s armed. I’ve done this kind of thing before.”
I hopped out…and drew my sword. I heard an in-drawn breath.

“Where…how…”

“Just be ready to drive.” I wasn’t hiding the weapon. I wanted it visible. I wanted it intimidating. Bullies tended to be very afraid of feet of sharp steel that served only one purpose.

Often more so than of guns.

He got out of the car. Staring at me. “Who the hell are you?”

“Just a concerned citizen.”

“She told you I beat her.”

“She told the truth.” His aura had no magic to it. “How did you know where she was?”

“Witch told me.”

I’d have to deal with that witch.

“She’s mine. The child is mine.”

“Her name is Eden.” I said those words. “And the child is hers.”

He wasn’t about to charge me. “Drive,” I hissed at Sarita.

She did so. This was risky. I could be left here with no transport, but I sensed a bit of a build of power nearby.

He started to turn to run for his car. I switched the sword to my left hand and lunged forward, grabbing for his shirt with the right. “You’re not going anywhere. The courts will sort this out.”

“Ah, yes, they will. And I’ll win. You’ll see.”

Win proof that he hadn’t beaten her. And it did occur to me that maybe he hadn’t. “Either you beat her, in which case she needs to be away from you. Or she’s lying to get you into trouble, in which case why do you want her?”

“My child.”

Maybe she had manipulated us, but if that was the case we were doing this man a favor. But he seemed to care more about the child.

Episode Twenty-Nine: Ocean: Scene 18

“I really don’t trust him.”

I nodded to her. “I don’t, either.” I pulled my phone out. “Okay, so how do we get you to Hampton Roads.”

“I don’t think there’s a way without a car.”

I growled. “You’re right. Transit not available. And I don’t have a vehicle, there’s no room in the van, and I’m stuck here three more days anyway.”

I had money, but you couldn’t buy what nobody could sell. A taxi that long a distance would cost a fortune. It was, I recalled, close to two hours. But there was no other alternative.

“So…”

“So, we’re going to have to hire a car and driver.”

“You have that kind of money?”
A pause. “No, but…the alternative is to rent a car on his credit cards, which with a one-way rental will…”

“I could dump the car and leave him with the bill.”

“He’d still find you too easily.” Of course, the same was true with a car. If I was a few years older. Well, legally older. “Unless…okay. You need to meet some people. Let’s go join them for dinner.”

“Do you think that’s safe?”

“I don’t think we have a choice.”

And with an entire group of women… So, we headed for the restaurant we were meeting at.

“I’m paying for this one too.”

Sarita looked at her. “Is this the lady who needs some help?”

I nodded. “Can you think of a good way to get her to Hampton Roads?”

“We have a half day tomorrow. I’ll take her.” A simple offer. A simple solution.

“I can…”

“No, you don’t need to cover my gas,” she told me, firmly.

“I think I want to come along. Three is better than two if he manages to track us down.”

She nodded. Then she looked at Eden. “We’ll get you away from him. Assuming you’re really determined to leave.”

“I’m pregnant,” she said, finally.

I glanced at Sarita. Then back to Eden. “Should have told that cop that.”

“I would if I thought it would help. He’ll probably tell Carlton where we’re going.”

I shuddered. “If he does, then…”

Then he might have signed Carlton’s death warrant. I wasn’t about to be nice to the guy, after all.

Or let him hurt Eden or her child.