Under the Boardwalk

Echoes in the dark...

Eddie paced back and forth in front of the fountain, the proximity to the iron made him itchy. “It has to be Monty nothing else makes sense!”. The dead man threw his arms up turning sharping to face the blood splattered Gargoyle. “Bridge burners. No one else would do something this bat shit crazy. Right?”. The Darkling leapt to the edge of the fountain crushing some thorny creeper vine under his feet as he dipped into a perch. “Have you ever ran into any?” he asks his friend still staring at the gaping iron wound. Almost immediately he shakes his head and waves dismissively , “It doesn’t really matter unless its the same group right? Crazy might be the same but it usually wears a different coat.”. He twists around swiftly to face his friend running his hands through his hair and stretching the skin around his face into a gruesome  mask. “I know we’re still hunting the witch Monty! I haven’t forgotten.” The uncharacteristic yelling echoes throughout the room. Red Eddie sighs and lets his shoulders slump forward.

Suddenly Red Eddie sits straight up, “Oh shit have I showed you the thing?!”  springing from his seat he dashes helter skelter  across the room. He hops over the desk, surpringly spry for a dead man and tears through the misfiled junk they’ve hidden away in the drawers. “I think I have a plan!” Eddie calls before jumping up with crumpled handfuls of paper work. “Here! I haven’t shown the others yet but I think I know where the next victim is going to be! I think tomorrow if the numbers line up!”. A creaking above sends the spazzing corpse diving for some cover to hide behind. He peeks around intermittenly until he is sure nothing is coming down. Casting a glance toward Monty he whispers, “You heard that right? I am not crazy am I? Thank you.”.

He groans shimmying out from his hiding spot. “I know, I know I should find them now. The Miasma is parting so Orvis and I can make good time.” Eddie shoves the handfuls of paper into his pants and slinks towards the front door. "I know we need locks. Just watch the place until we get back please? ". The dead man slipped out the door leaving the empty lobby  behind him, Monty’s bloody clothes draped over a chair where Eddie had peeled them off.

The next few hours were packed. Consulting with Queen Greer, double checking points on the Hedge with points on the map the Motley had put together, shifting through the people, the market and the safer neighborhoods in the Miasma city. His pride rankled at the whispers he endured from his fellow Lost, the wounds on his ego deeper for the knowledge he had accrued from his errands. He could not slink from secret meeting to secret meeting however and so the snickering was just responded with bloody scowls for all they were worth. 

When he was done picking up and putting pieces together he returned to A Hallowed Hotel he was overcome with a sense of safety rarely found in the Thorns, he knew immediately not to trust it. “Monty! You were right the girl at the refreshments stand was Lost!” he called as he passed the thresh hold. His words echoed throughout the lobby as he looked around. Monty’s bloody were gone and something twisted in Eddie’s gut. The expression on his face twisted uncontrollably between anger and confusion. “Monty?”…he muttered weakly. “Ah…I..forgot..” Eddie barely pushed the words past his lips as he stumbled back into the wall and slide down it to the floor. Burying his face into his palms the Darkling took a moment to reconcile what had happened with what he thought had happened. The cruel reflection of his delicate Clarity facing him for perhaps the first time since he’d come back.

On all fours he crawled to the door in the basement. Eddie knocked slowly as he trickled Glamour into the doorway and watched the space between this world and the real one outline in pale green light. He toppled through as a step become a tumble and the world gave way to some equally but differently broken. The dead man whimpered as the false images he was so sure of melted away in the dark. From one of the piles of debris he unburied a cell phone in a sandwich bag, something he tucked away for a smooth transition back into reality now that he had a little pocket money. “Morrison Investigations how may I help you?” Eddie could almost smell the afternoon scotch on the receiver from the tone he was greeted. “Yeah..I uh think I need to make an appointment..you guys do missing persons cases right?”.

View
Criminals in Darklight

Roland returned home to B-1 after departing from the boardwalk. He had a lot to think about. Kidnappings, the Red Witch, The Spring Queen and her lies and Roland had just joined a court. He felt like he was walking through a haze of madness. Not to long a ago he was another bum on the street trying to keep his head above water and find another meal. Now, he found himself wondering through a missing persons case that had multiple victims. His head was racing with the possibilities. In the back of his mind, Roland believed the girls were dead all ready. Roland had seen this before when he was a cop. The victims being in the last place he had thought to check..
The door to B-1 creaked open, the apartment was empty and dark. Roland turned on a light headed toward the bed. On the bed folded up was the black trench coat with the matching fedora on top. There was also a card:

“You’ve earned it”
-Dan

Roland cracked a smile. He opened up the filing cabinet closest to him and placed his gun in there. He hung the coat and hat up on Dan’s coat rack. He sat at Dan’s computer and thought about trying to find his family. Roland tried to find out where they moved after the fire. He searched his last name but nothing useful came up.

..Did she divorce my fetch…?…Maybe she knew it wasn’t me …

Roland tried his name looking through any public divorce files. He hit a block here, Dans computer didn’t have access to any of these files. He would have to go down to city hall for those. He let out a sigh and slumped down in his chair. It was already eleven o’clock and Roland didn’t feel like breaking into a city building. He looked toward the filing cabinet where Dan kept his booze.

..I wonder if he’d mind…

Roland open up the cabinet be all he found were empties

..Jesus, Dan..

Roland had realized he hadn’t had a drink since the pirates had offered him one back in the hedge. He was antsy, couldn’t sleep and haunted by his memories. He needed a drink. Roland remembered passing a bar on his way home from the Basin a few weeks back. He grabbed his things and decided to take a walk.

The night air was cold and sharp. The smell of wet gravel filled the air and the occasional passing car kick up dust as it drove by. Roland made his down the street for about twenty minutes, Until he found himself at his destination. A dive bar named: Randy’s Western World. It had a neon sign with a cartoon cowboy on it.

Roland walked into the bar. The whole place looked like a old western bar it had wooden bar stools that seemed to be falling apart. There was dust all over the bar there were a few patrons in the back drinking silently in the dark Roland could barely make out there faces but it didn’t matter he wasn’t here for that. He sat down at the bar. The dust shifted as sat down some got into his eyes. He rubbed them to clear his vision and when he re-opened them he saw a man in front him who seemed to be gathering the bottles behind the bar and putting them in a plastic container. Roland was about to open his mouth to order but the man spoke first.

“New in town, stranger?” The man staying fixed on his task not turning around at all. His accent sounded like it was from the 1930s

“Yeah, you could say that. Blew into town a few months ago” Roland shifted in his seat trying to get comfortable.

“Oh, Thats right I’ve seen you around with Daniel. You’re his new partner is that right?” Bottles clinking around as he gathered them up.

“Yeah, it actually just became official..tonight.” Roland looked down and his new coat.
The man behind the bar stood up. Roland felt a strange but familiar energy surround this man.

“Congratulations sir, I do believe libations are in order!”

..about time…

Roland finally ready to make his order as the man turned around to take it “I’ll have a Gin an-!”

Roland had to stop he was taken by surprise the man who he had be talking to all this time was a fellow lost. He wore a green striped vest hair combed with a part down the middle but his flesh was dead like Eddies.

“Ah..ha..New to town indeed. Allow me to introduced myself. My name is Harvey White and this is my Saloon. It has been a safe place for our kind to be ourselves without scrutiny of prying eyes that might draw unwanted attention.”

Roland took a quick look around the only two people in there were the men in the back and himself.

“Pretty sparse in here. Harv…”Roland nodded to the men in the back. One of the men raised his glass to Roland. When he did, Roland could see his hand was covered in fur in the light.

“It would appear that way, but your current surroundings deceive you as I’m sure your aware. On the outside, its just Randy’s Western Saloon. A dive bar and tourist attraction. Come. To the basement Mr..?”

Roland thought for a moment “Uh…Hansen, Arin Hansen..”

Hutus smiled at him “Come now sir, We are all lost here. Arin Hansen is the man on your drivers license…but who is the man before me?”

Roland felt a bit ashamed. He should have known. “..Roland DeMarco..” Harvey clasped his hands very loudly and was jubilant.

“Thats the spirt, my boy!”. Roland followed Harvey to the basement. It looked abandoned it had ton of memorabilia for the Saloon. All the merchandise had the same cartoon cowboy on it Roland assumed that was Randy. In the back was a broom closet, that Harvey was holding open.

“After you Mr. Demarco..”

Roland stepped inside the closet, only it wasn’t a closet anymore Roland found himself at the beginning of a long hallway and the end was green door and the words “Darklight Lounge” written in cursive. Roland looked behind him he saw Harvey grinning raising his eyebrows.

“Its very exciting..” Harvey gestured to the door “No need to knock just walk right in..”

The hallway was silent, the only sounds were Harvey and Rolands footsteps. Roland pressed on to the door and opened it. Once the door was opened, live music could be heard and the murmuring of large groups. There was a bar area and a main stage with tables set up. The place was very clean and the the waitstaff wore green vests and bow ties. There was a man at the door with the head of a Lion he saw Harvey and straightened up.

“Oh, Mr. White. welcome back”

“Thank you Leonard, Might I introduce to our new friend Roland. He just came into town. He’s a Private eye.”

Roland outstretched his hand to Leonard “Its a pleasure Leonard.”. Roland hand was engulfed by Leonard’s. “Pleasures all mine, I expect I’ll see be seeing you quite a bit in the future”

Roland nodded unsure of the beast man meant.
Roland continued with Harvey to the bar area. Harvey stepped behind the bar set the plastic container of bottles down and looked at Roland
“So..Gin and Tonic was it?”
Before Roland could respond the drink was made and it slid to him from across the bar. “I hope it’s to your liking” Roland sipped it, and it was in fact the best Gin and Tonic he had ever tasted. As he took another sip he began to really take in his surroundings. This place was alive with music. There was a dance floor near the main stage where all sorts of lost were dancing to tune Roland had never heard before. Some of the patrons just sat with their eyes fixed on the band, others seemed to pay them no mind.
There were green carpet walk ways with track lighting so people could see were they were going but other than that the lighting was very low otherwise. The bar that Roland was sitting at had a neon lights..so people could find another drink if they couldn’t find anything else.

“So..Mr. Demarco can I ask how you like the Darklight Lounge?”

Roland took another swig from his Gin and Tonic “You run a fine Bar Harv, And if I can get Gin and Tonics like this you’ll be seeing this bag of bones more often.”

God, I sound like Octavious….

“Glad to hear it, truth be told we could use someone like you around”

Always a catch…

“Well, I dont do sercurity Harv..”
Harvey was quick to explain “Not at all Mr. Demarco, Leonard is quite capable. However there have been…some other matters that someone of your expertise could assist with.”

Roland had heard this pitch before Harv seemed to be greasing the wheels to ask for a favor. But he didn’t sense any malicious intent. Maybe it was the drink, or maybe for the first time in a while Roland felt relaxed. Whatever the reason he decided to hear Harvey out on this.
“Ok Harv, I’m all ears” Once Roland spoke the crowd in front of the main stage began to cheer and clap.

Harvey looked up at the stage “Ah, your in for a treat Mr. Demarco.. A crowd favorite. If you’ll excuse me”

Roland looked to the stage to see Harvey standing on it with a microphone in hand.
“Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen. I trust we are enjoying ourselves.” The crowd let out an approving roar. “Splendid! Well, as you know we have a local celebrity here tonight. Who will get you hot under the collar” the crowd roared and wooed. “She’s has been known to steal hearts and return them to cinder. Look out fellas, She’ll set fire to marriage..and your checkbook.” The crowd got louder. “So lets give a warm welcome to our favorite performer Ivana Heat!”

Ivana’s Song

She was absolutely devastating. Wearing a Red dress that seemed to be engulfed in flames. The top of her head was fire that flowed naturally to appear like real hair. In fact, her whole body seemed to be made of fire. Now Roland understood all those puns in Harveys speech. The band started up and Ivana began to sway with the music. She had an incredible voice, and as she sang she moved through the crowd gently touching the faces of the patrons. Occasionally, she would sit on someones lap and play with their shirt or tie.

“Lovely, isn’t she?” Roland spun around to see Harvey back behind the bar.
Roland had to be honest “She is. If I wasn’t married..” Harvey placed his hand on Rolands shoulder “Ah, yes the old ball and chain..Careful Mr. Demarco something wicked this way comes”

Roland looked back toward the stage and saw Ivana standing right in front of him. She was still singing her song as she sat on Rolands lap and began to run her finger along the buttons of his coat. Her eyes had flames in the iris’ and Roland saw himself looking back in those eyes. He turned away but Ivana turned his glance back at her with a finger on his chin. She then took his tie and pulled him in close as she sang her lyrics. Roland could feel the heat of her breath on his lips. Right before she got close enough for a kiss she jumped out of his lap took his hat and returned to the stage. The crowd roared at Roland, laughing at his misfortune. Roland rose to his feet to get his hat back. When he did he felt the familiar hand of Harvey on his shoulder.

“Don’t worry friend, you’ll get your belongings back in due time” Ivana finished her song and the curtains closed.

After the song was over, Harvey had invited Roland to his office where they might be able to talk in private. Once there Harvey went into detail about why he would like to see Roland a bit more. Roland took a seat in a upholstered chair while Harvey opened his mini bar.

“You see, Roland. I am the Proprietor, Head Mixologist and Master of Ceremonies here at Darklight and as such I hear about certain personal matters of the patrons of my establishment. These are matters that would best handled by someone of our own Ilk if you catch my meaning.” Roland sat up in his chair. He had a feeling his world was about to get a lot bigger. Harvey handed him a freshly made Gin and Tonic “There are certain atrocities that have transpired in the city, and for some of us we cant exactly go to the authorities for help” Roland let out a sigh “Sorry Harv, I’m not a cop anymore and not gonna chase down purse snatchers and burglers”

“Quite the contrary Roland, We have the means to protect ourselves from the occasional riff raff. But the deal-breakers and deceitful and the murderers who cover their tracks behind a clever face. Who will help the exploited or abandoned? The Summer court can’t be bothered with these matters but someone who has your skill set who could investigate these matters and bring the accused to justice or clear the name of an innocent.” Roland could see what Harvey was after. The lost needed a private eye like just like the waking world and just like the waking world, Roland was about see a very ugly side of this new life he had been thrust into. The thought of bringing justice to those who hid from it did excite Roland. However, he wasn’t doing this for thrills and free drinks

“If I do this, What will I get in return?”
Harvey gave him with a very serious look and seemed to look past the man and into Rolands soul

" I can help you find Samantha and Grace."

This was by far the fastest Roland had ever moved in his life. One moment he was sitting in a upholstered chair sipping a Gin and Tonic. The next he had Harvey against the wall holding him by his vest. Roland could swear he heard the drink hit floor after he grabbed Harvey.

“You wanna run that by me again, Harv?’

Harvey was completely still, He didn’t try to break free at all. He was calm when he spoke "I knew you may react this way such is your nature. Like, I said being here I hear many things and see many things I have eyes and ears all over this place but as I said before I am unable to act. I mean you and your family no harm. In fact, I plan on reuniting you. But you must help us and i assure you i will do whatever i can to help you. " Roland put Harvey down he knew that he was telling the truth. “Thank you, Roland…It’s alright Leonard”

Roland looked around the room and saw Leonard standing in the doorway. He pointed at his eyes, then at Roland and left.

“See, Leonard is quite capable of security. He could have torn you to pieces had i given the word.”
Roland didn’t doubt it.

“If you can make good on that promise Harvey, I’ll help you out”
OUTSTANDING!! I’m sure this will be the beginning of a beautiful partnership. Shall we shake on it?”
Roland remember what this meant from his dealings with Eddie. He knew that once he shook Harvey’s hand the deal was struck and there was no turning back. But Roland would do anything to see his family again.
Roland offered his hand and Harvey took it firmly with a huge grin while raising his eyebrows

“it is done then. Well I shant keep you any longer you have quite a busy day tomorrow. and you’ll want to be well rested I assure you. And you’ll hear from your first client sooner than you may expect.”

Roland made his way out of the Lounge. He followed the track lighting to the door where he saw Leonard holding the door for him

“No hard feelings, huh big guy?” Roland said playfully
“Don’t be a thorn in my paw, Mr. Demarco.” With that Leonard shoved Rolands hat into his chest and showed him the door. Roland walked down the long hallway back up to the saloon. When he got outside he went to put his hat back on it smelled like ash, but he noticed a folded up piece of paper inside.

906-868-6240 Don’t be a stranger…Call me
-Ivana

There was a lipstick mark by the number

View
Staples and Courts

Roland didn’t know how Bellahan got the case file, but he thought it better not ask. Once the group had the file no one but Roland was able to make sense of it. Roland got the names of all the victims and the details of the murders. One piece of info stuck out to the group: A symbol above the door, it resembled a hammer and sickle.

…Communists…?….What…?..So now communists are stealing childrem..? A KGB resurfacing Putin is in power in Russia..but why?…Brainwashing …?.sleeper agents..?I can’t make heads or tails of this…

Roland had no idea what this all meant. It matched no pattern they had encountered before. Then Eddie spoke up saying he thought he had seen the symbol before. Octavius confirmed that he has seen the symbol and it is associated with the King of Summer. This presented a new problem of finding him. Eddie suggested we check the summer commons, but the problem there is the summer commons are in a lighthouse surrounded by water. To make matters worse the lighthouse apparently has no real world location and they would need to swim through god knows what to get there. Since Octavius was by far the most adept at swimming he volunteered to swim to the Summer commons and find the door to the real world for them. This way the group could get to the commons a lot easier and stay dry. Octavuis set out on his journey while Roland Eddie and Leila stayed behind on the boardwalk. Leila went off to sing for some people for awhile and Roland and Eddie watched. Eddie looked at Roland and asked him a few questions. The most prominent being which court Roland would eventually join. Roland didn’t really care he just wanted to get back to the task at hand, all the standing around was making him anxious. Eddie looked at him

“At first, I thought you may join my court, The court of Autumn. but based on your current demeanor and body language. You may be a good fit for the summer court”

After a moment of talking Roland was convinced that Eddie’s decision would suit Roland better than any other. In Roland’s mind, the court of summer was the closest thing to a police force this world had. From there it was settled, they would wait for Octavius to return with the location of the door to the summer commons.
Octavius returned sometime later. He had decided to talk to the Summer king without us and found out the King is putting the symbols as a warning to whoever is stealing the children. Roland asked to where the door was so he could see the King and join his court. Octavius led them to one of the rides on the Boardwalk. They had to get on the ride and vacate at a certain time to approach the door to the commons. Once, at the commons Roland took a good look at the Lighthouse it was quite large and had a biog wooden door with a peephole on it. Octavius knocked on the door and Octavius said something to him and the man opened the door with a sigh. He directed the group to the top of the lighthouse where the Kings room was. King Czarikov was a large man covered in scars and constantly smoking. He didn’t seem to happy to see Octavius but welcomed them in all the same. He asked the group why they had come when they had received all the knowledge they needed from Octavius. Roland spoke up

“Your Majesty, I can see you’re a man that cuts straight to point so ill make this quick, I would like to join your court”
The King looked at Roland. Roland half expected there to be some trail or test of merit to prove he was worthy to be in the court. Then the king spoke:

“BY THE POWER VESTED IN ME BY MAGICS OF TIME AND..MAGICS..and…Bippity bobbity boo it’s done. Sit down”

…That was easy…

The group sat with the King of Summer and conversed with him awhile after he had discussed all he knew about the Red witch, Including that he was the one who put her in the forest in the first place, he told us to report our findings to the Queen of spring. Before leaving, The King stopped Roland

“Can you fight?”The King asked

“Yeah, I can”

“Good, You’ll be fighting a lot”
He slapped Roland on the back and sent him on his way.

The Queen of Spring was easy to find, she was in the commons surrounded by people. Roland Octavius and Leila went to visit her to inform her of everything we had found about the disappearing children and the Red Witch. They had requested a private audience with the Queen and Dudley her faithful man-servant showed them to her trailer. Dudley opened the door for them each one greeted Dudley except for Roland who just looked at him. Roland never liked Dudley because of their first meeting.

Once inside the group proceeded to them about the kidnappings and the Red Witch. The Queen tried to put them at ease by saying she had people looking into the incidents and her court was more than aware of the situation. Leila just watched the Queen as she spoke. After she had finished Leila had asked permission to sing a song to the populous to lighten the mood. The Queen permitted it and the Three stepped outside where Leila shared a bit of information about the Queen. The fact that she had been lying to us….

View
Walking Cliches

Roland exited the bus a short walk away from building where Danny’s office was. He headed back on foot, and he was tired. Still weary of his dreams, on his walk home he contemplated what it all meant.

My family….the precinct…and those eyes..

The grizzly image of Emmerson impaled on his hand still stuck in his mind. The streets were empty except for the occasional passerby. Roland pass a couple bars on his way. The smell of cigarettes and booze greeted him as he passed by. Roland thought about going in then realized he would get kicked out due to the way he is dressed and continued home or at least where he sleeps.

Danny had given him a key so he could get back in after he had left. He opened the door and made his way to bed, he wouldn’t be sleeping on the floor this time.

Roland had time to make the bed before Danny came in. He had been up a for while long enough to hear the tenants of the building complain about their lives through the door. Apparently McCreedy was not very well liked around the building. When Danny came in he had a manila envelope and a paper bag.

“Here you are Mr Hansen. A new ID, Birth certificate and a permit to carry concealed weapon.”

The ID read Arin Hansen age 40 with a PO BOX under the address.

Roland looked at Dan “Geez Dan, 40? I look 40 to you?”

YOU look a mile bad road in the hot sun, Which is why there are new clothes in that bag, ones that fit.”

Roland looked in the bag. It had a white t-shirt, button up blue long sleeve shirt a pair of blue jeans and clean socks. Under that was a bar of soap and razor.

Roland let out a laugh “Half expected there to be a trench coat and Fedora in here?”

“What? No. Of course not…I keep a spare here.” Danny opened up a filing cabinet and wrapped in plastic was a Black Trench coat and matching Fedora.

…Walking cliches..

Roland grabbed the soap and razor out of the bag. “I didn’t exactly see a bathroom in here Dan. Where am I supposed to use these?”

Dan replied “There’s a bathroom down the hall, I’m sure you’re familiar with the term, Whore Bath?”

should have seen that coming..

“If were gonna work together, I need you to look respectable and not smell like a zoo”

Roland walked down the hall to the bathroom and got a clean as possible. He didn’t see anyone in the hallway. He changed into his new clothes and looked in the mirror. Roland couldn’t help but smile, He felt better about himself in that moment. As he made his way back down the hall he heard Danny talking to someone in B-1. Roland recognized the voice it was the one he heard last time he was here, McCreedy’s voice. Roland stood outside the door a moment then it flung open.

A mountain of a man stood before him. He must have been about 6ft 5in and looked strong enough to rip the arms off a rhino. He wore a brown derby and had a cigar hanging out of his mouth. He stared at Roland a moment.

MOVE MUGSY!” the voice came from behind this man. Then the lumbering giant opened his mouth. He had a deep uneducated voice

“I would Uncle Gary, but some wiseguy is standing in the way, like he dont know how doors work or sumthin’”

Roland stepped aside and Mugsy pushed past him

“See ya around, Slim”

After Mugsy, a man standing just under five feet dressed in a blue-pinstriped suit walked right up to Roland.

“Why, don’t you watch where your going?? WHO THE HELL JUST STANDS IN A DOORWAY!!” He shoved past Roland as well and went to catch up with Mugsy.

Roland looked at Dan. “Who’s Master Blaster?”

“Gary McCreedy and his nephew Mugsy. The biggest pains in my ass since some hobo started living here. Honestly, who the hell names there kid Mugsy?? But by the looks of it the hobo is gone and my new tenant Mr. Hansen has moved in.”

Roland was not amused in the slightest “What was that about Dan?”

THAT was about me telling McCreedy that I have a new employee and he will be staying here in the office for the time being until he can get his own place. Since this is a apartment and people CAN sleep here. He wanted to see some paperwork, so things seem legit”

Roland made his way toward the bed and sat down. “So Dan, What are we up to today? some house wife think her husband is cheating on her?”

Dan laughed “Thats cute kid. You think you’re ready for this kind of work? Well you’re not until I say you are. Today, you begin your two week probationary period and training.” Dan pulled a flask out of his jacket pocket

Roland sat up “I’ve been training for this for years, you think i cant handle it? I’ve seen some shit pal.”

Dan fired back “Yeah training…never heard you say you actually MADE detective-”

ouch Dan..

“- you already proved to me to have a knack for investigation, but there’s more to this job than that. Besides, in order to do this by the book there has to be at least a two week training period. State required.”

Roland let out a sigh and realized he wasn’t getting out of this. Danny opened up one of the filing cabinets and pulled out a fifth of whiskey and took long swig of it.

“Breakfast of champions kid, Now come on, we’re going to the firing range”Dan let out a burp “..and you’re driving” Dan threw him the keys “Oh and this..” Dan handed him a 9mm handgun, standard issue on the force. Roland walked toward the door “Should i grab my coat and hat?”

“Cute. No. Your not ready for those yet..”

Dear god….

Roland walked down the steps with Dan. Parked outside was a 1985 Buick Regal.

This just keeps getting better and better

Over the next couple of weeks Roland would shadow Dan on his cases just watching and driving him around. Roland would offer his insight to help Dan out in his cases and managed to solve one about a missing person. But during this time Danny hadn’t mentioned the possibiliy of Roland becoming his partner. Roland began to think that maybe Dan was using him to get ahead in his cases.

After about thirteen days Roland decided to head back to the boardwalk. He didn’t want anyone from his new life as Arin to recognize him just yet so he decided to put on his old hobo clothes, and ventured out to George’s. There Roland met up with Belahan and her friendly dog companion. George had informed them that their companions were at the goblin market. So Roland and Belahan set out to me them.

Upon arriving at the goblin market they saw it was packed with lost. Most of them appeared to be refugees. It was packed in there most people had sprung up little shantytowns for shelter. Octavius was able to gather some information on the matter. Appearantly, a war was coming and coming this way fast. A lost had summoned his keeper to destroy a rival faction and now things had gotten out of hand. Eddie decided it would be better for the group to get back on track of finding the missing girls to which the group agreed. Octavius had mentioned the papers and headlines of missing children. Parents with nowhere to turn, Danny had tried soliciting his services to some of the grieving parents but none seemed interested.

Better that way, can’t have him get involved in this

Eddie thought it would be good to get our hands on a case file. Roland was trying to deter them from using Danny as an outlet for this. Its true Dan could have gotten what they need but Roland thought it would be better to keep him as far away from this as possible. Instead, the motley decided they could have their new shapeshifting friend infiltrate the local police station by assuming the form of a local news anchor, Eddie and Octavius would get the credentials for her . Meanwhile, Roland, Lelia and Bellahan would go to the local library and get as much info as they could.

Roland, Belahan and Leila went to the Library, They were able to get in easy because of Leila’s library card. Since Roland had previously worked on cases he knew what info they would need. Roland sat at a local computer and began to look for key details of the cases. Mostly addresses names of detectives working the case and any reports of murder or injury. Roland was able to find the addresses. He would use these to try to find any correlation between locations and to see proximity. He would need the names of the detectives for Belahan, she would need to know who to talk to when she got inside the precinct. He would need the names of the families to cross reference any of the names they have come across so far in their journey.

Roland was discussing the info to his companions and they were carrying on pretty loudly. So loud in fact that they didn’t notice the other people staring at them. One patron was so upset about the topic of our conversation that she alerted the librarian. Roland began to look around and noticed people getting upset.

Great we’re about to get pegged for kidnapping…

Roland stood up and began to head for the door telling his companions to follow before really awful happens. Unfortunately, the librarian stopped them on their way out. Roland could see she was very upset.

“The other people have told me you people are talking about kidnapping children?”

Then they were all arrested for kidnapping…

Roland had to think of something quick.

“No ma’am, see i work with the Morrison detective agency we are gathering information from the local kidnappings for the case we’re working on.”

She looked Roland up and down not believing what he said

Shit! I changed into my hobo clothes…

“Well detective, next time you may want to be more discreet”

They got a map at the local gas station and headed back to the hotel.

Back at the hotel Roland started to try and find any correlation between the murders locations and the victims, Sadly he couldn’t find any, and in fact the only piece to reliable information was the head detective’s name: James Polk. Red Eddie and Belahan had come back the Hotel, only Belahan now looked like older black gentleman.

Never gonna get used to that…

Roland gave her the name of the detective. Then suggested they go.
The group hopped on Orvus Eddie’s mode of transportation. It resembled a horse to those who were lost, but to any human it appeared to be a ford mustang. They drove over to the house and Belahan went inside. She was inside for maybe 10mins before coming back out. She had told us that the detective we were looking for wasn’t there and in order to get the file we needed she would have to take one of the officers to lunch.

“This was almost the opposite of what we needed you to do!” Roland said.

In the end, the group had pull the resources they had to feed two people lunch. Unfortunately Roland hadn’t made much money from his probationary period with Dan, so he unable to contribute much. They scrounged up $40.50 and gave it to Belahan. Octavius suggested teaching Belahan the fine art of “Dine and Ditch” and Eddie suggested not to because we were ruining this mans life enough as it was.

Belahan waited outside the precinct for the other officer. Once he came out Roland, Eddie, Leila and Octavius tailed them in Orvus. They arrived at some resturant in downtown, Eddie pulled over and the group waited. Roland watched Belahan with the officer and hoped everything would go well

..Hope she doesn’t blow it…

After some time, Roland saw the cop storm out of the restaurant and thought the worst. However moments later Belahan emerged from the resturant as well, with a case file in hand.

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Above water
Pledges are important

     I close my eyes and take a deep breath of island air .  Its sweeter then Santa Cruz and so much warmer then home. Taking a few steps closer I wince at how sticky this uniform is in the humid weather. Its impossible to suppress the smile seeing myself in the reflection of the porthole dressed in the Navy whites Murray has dreamed us in. 

     Its a memory, probably one of the clearer ones he has left. His mind is all over the place lately and though its after we cut our deal I feel I should do my best to help him keep it together these last days. Right now I’m content to ride his dream basking in the warm Hawaiian weather strolling on the USS Oklahoma. He seems happy sitting with his friends, laughing and playing cards. Out of the corner of my eye their names ripple silently past on the threads of the dream.

   I brush up against the information like a cat as the name of the ship echoes in the back of my mind. Before I start trying to place where I know this from my thoughts are drowned out by the buzzing of planes and the whistle of bombs. The battleship shudders as I am blinded by the bright flash from the explosion of a neighboring vessel. I stagger back and I hear Murray’s mind grasping at the cohesion of the memories. “Is that how it happened?” his rumination rumbling through the scene like a peal of thunder. The screams of the living disappear and I can only hear the deafening wail of the dead. I desperately try to maintain some semblance of composure as the dreamscape twists into a terrible nightmare bucking us both wildly.

  Colors drain and the pacing of the dream speeds up with a panic. I can feel Murray’s heart struggling to keep beating. I refuse to let this be the old man’s goodbye…we both deserve better. As I will Murray’s world to slow I taste blood in my mouth. I bet I bit my lip struggling in the waking world. Its not easy to ignore as I brush away the battle into a hazy gray. Murray, young Murray that is sits on his knees staring at his hands straining to reconcile not being in the horrible place I just tore him from. 

   Pursing my lips I softly whistle, the crisp uniform blows away like smoke leaving behind a laughing figure in a gaudy floral print shirt. My shoulders drop as the smell of pine trees rushes up carrying us to a place after Pearl Harbor. I fall down on the soft grass watching Murray and the woman who pulled us both from the horror. I feel a tear roll down both our cheeks, a helpless smile taking ahold of our face. At the same time we mouth her name silently and she reaches out to brush her finger tips against our cheeks. Betty Ann Mcphearson.

  I pulled us apart retaking my place in the dream as a faceless observer. Powerful events sprung up and disappeared as if someone took Murray’s life and flipped through the events like a  cartoon. I watched their first date at the edge of the Montreal river in Wisconsin melt into the shimmering backdrop of a hospital where their daughter was born. I violently shook as I watch Murray follow the infant around the living room of their house outside of Madison, overwhelmed by the raw emotion this dying man had in these cherished moments. Somehow as Maggie grew older she looked closer at the hiding place I perched in to watch from and I swear when watched give her speech at the podium when she graduated she looked right at me and waved.

I felt that creeping fear start to creep up from the desperate part of his mind that understood what was happening now and braced against it. The scenes sped up their transitions and strayed off more at the bitter then just the bittersweet. His mind started to confuse memories which smashed against each other dangerously. Houses he lived in literally crashed into each throwing us around as he wrestled against the image of his dying wife. Murray screamed as the woman before flittered between Betty on her death bed or Maggie at the funeral. I tried to gain control but someone slammed into me just as the two images blurred together and Murray collapsed sobbing at the foot of the false of his dead daughter.

Whipping around my jaw dropped as I looked upon the nightmare recollection of the first man Murray killed in the war. Something I knew from our visits to be something to have haunted him for decades. The Japanese solider lurched forward, trench knife in hand ready to cut down the poor old man weeping in his handless, helpless against the rigors of his failing mind. I roared taking a step forward and buried my hand into the nightmare’s chest so I could crush its black heart. Murray gasped looking up at me, I think for the first time ever really seeing me for what I was.

  He reached forward at me and struggled to form words as his world literally crashed around him. Reaching up and pulled together the fractured pieces of his dying mind and condensed them into something solid. Something clear for him to hold onto. “Ar..are you…him?” he managed between choking tears. I shook my head and felt my eyes drift to my feet. I’m not am I? Just another ghost who won’t accept the grave…When I looked I wasn’t me anymore. I was her. All sunlight and hope I held Murray tightly in the tiny place. I wrapped him in a hug and kissed his brow and in her borrowed voice I whispered, “Its time to come home.”. I felt him nod as I floated up and away from the scene.

  Snapping out of the dream like that left my body feeling like pins and needles. I blinked a few times to clear my vision, focusing on the steady beep of the machine next to Murray’s bed. I clenched my eyes tightly and stepped forward to rest my hand on the old man’s cold chest. Biting my lip I patted him, whispering a thank you I closed his eyes. I only got steps into the hall before a nurse ran past me to his room. I felt my knee’s give way and just collapsed on the floor. My chest tightened and just started crying quietly there in the hall. As the rest of the staff met the nurse at the doorway I felt them all turn to look at me. Tears rolled out of my dead eyes onto the Mask and I could hear one of them whisper behind me, “Poor thing, I think its his first death.”.

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More bad Dreams...

Roland sat at his desk shifting through papers. His precinct smelled like stale cigarettes and broken dreams with a hint of antiseptic. Roland’s phone had a voicemail he needed to listen to indicated by the blinking red light. Roland heard shouting from all the inmates most of them being drunk. Roland looked over at one particular inmate. He was shouting like all rest but when Roland looked at him he knew something was terribly wrong…with everything. The man Roland was fixated on was the only thing in the precinct in color! Everything else from the walls to the very police officers were in Black and White. Everything seemed to blend together seamlessly until Roland saw this man. The Blues and Greens of his sweater were extremely vibrant as well and the cuts and bruises he had. Roland looked back at his desk as he was being led away, his phone rang. Roland answered and heard 3 distinct clicks a gasp of breath

“..daddy?” The voice is a scared whisper “Daddy are you there?”

Roland cleared his throat “Gracey?? Yes honey I’m here. Whats wrong? Where’s Mommy?”

Roland a sniff on the other of child crying. “Daddy, I dont know where I am.” She starts sobbing “Its too dark! Daddy I’m scared”

Just then everything in the precinct comes to a halt. Officers frozen in place, still. Roland feels cold sweat run down his neck. Sudden;y everything lurches out of place and everyone in the precinct is looking at Roland.

How did I not notice that before?…Their eyes!!!…

The eyes of everyone in the precinct were transformed into deep black pits. All except the man in color.

“Grace?..Daddy’s coming sweetheart Don’t worry. Are you hurt?”

“No..! I’m ju-ju-just scared” She was becoming more frightened by the moment

“Are you safe? Is there anywhere you can hide? I’ll find you honey. Do you remember where you were last?” Rolands eyes were still looking at the people in the precinct, and they were dead-set on him.

“I d-d-don’t knooow! I was in my bed sleeping…I woke up here and I can’t see, I can’t see, daddy!” The people in the precinct now being to stir.

“Okay..shh..honey. You’re gonna be okay. Im not gonna let anything happen to you. Take a deep breath and listen, okay. Do you hear anything?” The people began to get to their feet. Roland could feel it. They were coming for him and if they got to him he was dead. Roland tucked the phone under his ear and transformed his hand into a long blade

sniff uh…I hear the wind and the ocean..”

That narrows it down..

“..I hear whispers too…daddy, wait…I think there’s someone looking for me. They know my name, Daddy i think its okay.”

Roland immediately thinks back to the witch

GRACE, NO!” He shouts into the phone. When he does the men with no eyes jump onto their desks hunched like cats ready to strike. Roland put up his long blade in a defensive stance, eyes trained on the closest man.

“No Daddy, its okay!” Grace giggles and Roland’s eyes begin to well up with what she says next.“It’s okay, Its a lady, she smells nice. Like mints mommy used to keep in her purse, I’m going to go now, daddy, I love you!” Roland hears the phone drop but the line isn’t dead yet. Roland presses the phone up against his ear intent on trying to hear anything

Grace..no…

Roland hears muffled footsteps and a womans voice. Roland shuts his eyes to focus his hearing. Roland hears Grace laugh then gasp not unlike the creepers Roland had encountered in the Forest. Rolands blood runs cold. He hears Grace cry out and the line goes dead.

Roland opens his eyes.

He was staring into the eyes of Darren Emmerson his old partner. His eyes were empty and black. He begins to drool and it fails from his mouth and hits the desk with a satisfying plop. It lunges at Roland with malice. Roland puts up his blade as he is wrestled to the ground. Hot, sticky red blood pour out of him as he writhes in pain on Roland’s blade. Roland could feel the thing struggle and pulsing beat of it’s entrails on his blade hand. It’s mouth fell open and soft grey worms fell out of its eyes. nose and mouth. Roland is absolutely disgusted It’s the most horrifying thing he has ever seen, let alone been apart of. A worm falls on his face and Roland lets out a involuntary scream and shuts his eyes. When he opens them again he is back on the bus, hands clean…

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Baugh Way Out

Every peripheral and direct line of sight was consumed by what gods reign over Cold, Grey, and Empty. The voices of those whose company I thought were just so close seemed secondary to the dulling sound of silence.

“Breathe.” My Belahan’s warmth against me contrasted all else and his sense brought momentary clarity to decipher the group’s need to make haste before the mint candy spell elapsed.

They need me. Focus, Nekez. Focus. Close your eyes…
‘What is your purpose?’ Irakasle voice was low and cutting.
‘To fulfill the will of yours and His,’ I would recite.
‘What is your will?’ He spoke it more of a command than question.
‘Power.’ As quickly as the words came from my lips, a pain struck across my ear to my chin, followed by an angered growl, ‘FOCUS!’

Universes around me scattered and swirled as every sound ever made rang in unison to no sense, rhythm, or direction until a screeching halt. A third eye sees a pathway, suggesting access out to the brighter lights. A fourth eye sees a hallow, lone above a hilltop. My first and second eyes opened as, “Hallow” escaped quietly. Everyone turned in anticipation for more. "There is a Hallow, " more loudly, motioning to a direction. The aroma of rotting meat spoke up, “Hallows typically have doors to get back out of the hedge,” before herding the rope-tied group towards my notion. Belahan bit the rope as I took my place in the back.

What is my purpose? What is my will? Your voice is engrained, Irakasle. Power.. Yours.. His..

As we turned, childlike giggles bedeviled through the trees beckoning for Mary and Noah. Though words were inviting to play, it was a consensus that the intention was not as light if our companies met face. We set foot quickly, bounding over the blood-stained vines lifting from the trees. The roots came up from the ground as if reaching for us, each having a malicious intention of its own. Every paw step had to be carefully calculated. Belahan bound so seamlessly as I’m sure my efforts to keep up did not look as graceful. Bones and Dark Lady were having a much harder time and went down, both quickly being wrapped in red. By the time we had caught up with the fallen, the Dark Lady had wiggled free and Bones was chopping away at the last grasp of vine. The calls for Mary and Noah grew louder and the chill felt like spikes in the spine.

Heart beats bursted as lungs expanded as much as they could in life-threatened adrenaline to keep running. A hill in the distance teased mortal eyes and all I could do was hope with everything in me that the visions were not defected. With each step closer, I could see the memory more clearly until at last it was a reality. The lawn spanned around the log cabin and there was no grey lingering in sight.

Could this haven be genuine? Surely not.

Thirteen smooth stones paved a footpath to the front porch. Bones pressed forward, unlike the rest of the party. He only made it to the third stone before CLICK! and a collective gasp fell around the grounds. The spoiled sausage inspected the stonework before abuptly shoving the bag of bones aside. Flames flared out around the flat piece and the odor of gasoline filled the air but the grass and rest of the area remained unlit before dying down moments later. Small bits of smoke rose from the tips of Bones’ clothes and Spoiled Sausage’s blanket.

“Most hallow wards are meant to distract those trying to break in so those inside can escape. Not usually meant to harm,” warned Spoiled Sausage. Still, there was no need to test the rest of the pavements so the roped-brigade trailed along the grass around the last ten stones. Stopping at the base of the three steps up to the porch, the collaboration seemed to warily pause before putting weight on the first step. As quick as they stopped, the Spoiled Sausage leapt upward and over all steps, heavy-dropping to a land. His weight broke through he floorboards and jerked the rope, with its attachments, down with him.

THIS BAFOON! What was he thinking?! Broke though? No, you led us right into a trap! We are so far down and it’s all your fault!

I bellowed silently before hearing a loud CLUNK as the trap door closed and barred. A deep chuckle was sent down into our dark holding followed by heavy steps walking away. Bones took the opportunity to use Belahan as a steady anchor to rise up to the door. He spent some time working with his blade hand. The Deep Chuckle returned and deterred his work before chuckling and thud, thud, thudding, away. The bunch take a second try and Belahan launched Bones right through the trap door. I sat stunned for a moment, wondering if it was best to stay in the prison.

A rope dropped down and the Dark Lady climbed up first. Spoiled Sausage tied Belahan next, and me after before making his way up. They tried to burst through the door but it was already opened. It was a very simple cabin that made very clear that we were not presently alone. The group spread out into e small space. There was a lone bookshelf, bed, table, and chair. A still-smoking pipe lay waiting on the table. I knew the Deep Chuckle was still near. I sniffed at a pantry door and inside, found simplicity: barrels, burlaps of food, mason jars… and one tea cup.

It’s him. Grrrr…

The teacup shivered. The room’s attention quickly drew to my stare. I growled again. The teacup shivered once more before dusting into into slumped, large man, too large for the cabin, with eyes filled with pain.

What have I done?

“Hello, I’m Baugh.” He introduced himself and questioned our intentions. I spoke of the laughter and how our hopes were to stray away from it. Baugh looked as if he did not know if trust was warranted for the group. Bones had stolen a book in which Baugh seemed grateful to have back and granted Bones forgiveness, yet sorrow still lingered in the air. Bones seized the opportunity of silence to inquire if Baugh heard of the red witch and girl crying in the thyme of morning dew. Baugh replies, “I have. That’s why I’m here,” but leaves it at that.

There’s more. I feel it.

We gathered around a hand-drafted long scroll that possessed an unfinished map. As Baugh began explaining it’s imperfection, it still noted Thyme of morning dew but it’s location was far from where he drew his too-tiny hallow.

The Spoiled Sausage offered a hospitality gift and the herd paced out the back door out into a cornfield. Without warning, the gifter stuck hand in ground, and caused one huge corn plant to bear the most beautiful multicolored mosaic form of artwork. I was sure it was too perfectly painted to eat.

He has magic, too? What if they all do? Is power what they seek as well?

I sat questioning all that I had witnessed and learned in such a short time while the others turned inside. Bones and Baugh have a moment of understanding silence before soft spoken words of Elenora seeped with saddened air. As we walked back into the cabin, I watched the Spoiled Sausage and Dark Lady pass through the gentle glow of the fridge back to the world from before. Bones took pause to hug the large and sad man, “I know what its like to lose your family. I had a daughter as well.” Baugh took his embrace and said farewell.

My words were lost. I took one last look around at the gloom, slumped large man in his small cabin, with only his small furniture as company. My heart mysteriously ached.

Why do I feel pain for him? I owe him nothing.

My thoughts and my words collided in battle and before I could process, “I’m sorry..” came apologetically spilling from my tongue. Baugh nodded but the pain didn’t lessen.

Through the door, I stepped outside to breathe a familiar air. To process the journey so far is no small feat. My mind flashed back between each inhale and exhale. A bus screeched to a halt and the gaggle all climbed aboard. The bus driver played a light tune that quickly lulled and quieted my thoughts as the sea of trees over water darkened into slumber.

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Cabin in the woods

The miasma started to creep in. Roland looked around and noticed that Octavius was missing.

the junkyard all over again

They needed to get out of this place or find the Thyme. The miasma started to creep in and the companions decided now was a good time to eat their candies. The forest moved all around them and there was no clear path to be seen behind them the giggling of children started to follow them calling out:

“Mary…Noah”

Roland tried to find some kind of path and was able to make out a faint path which led to nowhere. Chances of leaving this place were getting slimmer by the moment. Roland had almost lost all hope but then the pensive pup stared off into the trees. It was able to find two things a Hollow and a path. Eddie told the group that hollows usually have doors in and out of the hedge. The group began to move quickly but the laughter was getting louder and the sounds of footsteps were starting to draw closer to them. Vines started to block the way making it harder to run. One of the vines grabbed Roland by the ankle and dragged him down

NOT LIKE THISNOT LIKE THIS

Roland began to frantically chop away and the vines. They were stronger than he thought. Finally he was able to cut himself free and got to his feet. The group started running and eventually made it to a large lawn with a path leading to a small porch. On the path were 13 stones. Roland didn’t see the stones, he was still in an adrenaline fueled panic from almost being eaten by vines. He stepped on the 3rd stone it sunk down and there was a click.

….I’m having the worst day imaginable

Roland froze. So did the rest of the party. But not Eddie. Eddie approached Roland and looked and the stone he was standing on. Then back at Roland, then at the rock again and back at Roland. He then gave Roland a strange look…

_…dont you dare _

.and pushed him off the rock. Once Roland’s foot was off the rock fire burst out of the stone. Roland and Eddie got a little burnt but nothing to bad.

GODDAMNIT EDDIE!”

Eddie shrugged his shoulders and questioned Rolands constitution. He also made mention that most traps are meant to slow you down to give the person inside time to escape. The group made note of the stones and avoided them now. When they reached the porch they saw a three stairs leading up to it. Eddie examined the set of stairs and then leaped over them. Unfortunately, the people who designed these were smarter than he was because once he set foot on the porch the floor gave away and he fell 10 feet down. Everyone else fell down the hole as well because they were still tied together at this point. Each one of them hit the bottom of the hole and the door above them closed and a latch slid across locking them in.

“Eddie, I’d like to double down on my fuck you comment from earlier”

Eddie questioned Rolands gender now and suggested they find a way out. The walls were to slick to climb out of that was for sure and the only way out seemed to be the way they came in. Roland saw that the latch on the door was made of wood and he might be able to cut through it like the vines from earlier. The friendlier of the two dogs seemed to get what Roland was thinking and offered a boost up so Roland could reach the latch. Roland accepted and got on to his back, he was strong than he looked. Roland then began to saw away at the latch while the group waited patiently. About two thirds of the way through the latch Roland felt someone step down on his hand really hard. He cried out in pain and they heard a laugh from above them.

Roland had enough. He looked down at friendly dog and asked if he could throw him up through the door! Friendly dog looked Roland and nodded. Everyone untied themselves this time and Roland gathered up the rope. He then got on Friendly dogs back. Roland was focused the door hurling towards it would require concentration so he could hit it at the right time with enough force to break the latch. Friendly Dog then launched Roland at the door with immaculate precision. Roland busted right through the door ready to slice anyone around but there was no one. Roland acted quickly and tied the rope to the porch and threw it down so his companions could climb up. Roland decided to take a look around the porch seeing they weren’t alone here. The plan was to tie the rope to Friendly Dog and pull him up and Roland was the only one strong enough to do so. The front door was open now but there was no sign of anyone. The rest of the group made it out of the hole and everyone ventured inside the cabin.

It was small, with a twin bed, bookshelf and a table with a smoking pipe on it. The pipe was still smoking. There was also a fireplace and grate on the floor like in the Hotel. Eddie seemed intent on finding the door out of there, but Roland took a look at the bookshelf. The only book of merit were a Survival guide, Grimms Fairy tales and a journal. Roland read the journal there were only three entries. They read like letters all addressed to “April” They told the story of a man and wife and the loss of a child. Roland began to think about Grace and his dream

You’ll never find them…They’re better off without you

The last entry was the scribbling of a mad man lost in his search for what he had lost.

I should show this to Octavius or George. They might find it useful…

Just then Roland heard Pensive Pup growling from somewhere in the cabin. Roland looked around and found it snarling at a tea cup. Upon further inspection of the tea cup Roland saw that it moved when the dog got closer to it. Suddenly this very small cup became a very large man, too large in fact.

“Hello, I’m Bo” he said slowly. He spoke like a simpleton. Roland realized that Bo was most likely the owner of the journal. Roland felt like he was looking in a mirror of things to come. Bo had gone through and lost quite a bit in his search to find his family.

Will this be me..?

Roland knew the answer. It most definitely would be because he wouldn’t stop until he found them. Roland suddenly felt remorse full for taking the journal. Roland then asked Bo

“Were you the one who stepped on my hand?”

Bo was upset “This is my home, Why are you here? There is way out” Bo motioned toward the fireplace. Leila mentions the footsteps and laughing in the forest and how we came here to seek refuge. Eddie then make mention of the Journal he saw Roland pocket.

“You steal my things, too?” Roland felt awful and sincerely apologized for taking the journal. Bo just so happen to be the forgiving type. Which gave Roland some closure.

“Have you heard of the Red witch, Bo?”

“Thats why I’m here” Bo then pulled out a map it was very crude but it seemed to be of the surround forests. On the map the group notices that thyme of the morning dew is pretty far from where they are, but Bo does mention that things aren’t always in the same place. Eddie took a look around and then asked Bo about any crops he may grow. Bo replies that he is having some trouble with the crops out back. Eddie then bargains with Bo to make this a safe place for us he will help with Bo’s crops. Eddie sticks his hand in the soil and one corn plant grows out of the ground. It bears a large piece of corn and Bo seems satisfied with the gift and nods at Eddie. Eddie then decides to leave as do some of the others, but Roland stays behind and asks about Bo’s daughter in the journal. Bo gives a deep sigh and explains he’s been searching for her for a long time and doesn’t know where she is. Roland reaches out and hugs Bo.

“I also know what its like to lose your family, I have a daughter as well”

Roland then turned toward the fireplace and exited the cabin. The dogs were close behind him with Leila. It looked like Eddie had left already. The group was in a cabin identical to Bo’s. Everything was old and dusty no one had been here in awhile. Roland opened the front door and found they were in Big Basin in Santa Cruz in Wellington Cabin. Leila spotted a bus stop close by and as luck would have it there was a bus about to leave heading back to the boardwalk. The group jumped on before it left and took their seats. Once Roland sat down he realized how tired he was. The driver on the bus was listening to Patsy Kline and Leila decided to sing along. The sound was so relaxing Roland didn’t notice he was falling asleep on the bus..

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"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it"

Roland woke up curled up on floor in B-1, Danny’s Office. It was cold but better than sleeping under the boardwalk. The clock in B-1 read 3:45am. Roland had a hard time sleeping, the hard wood made his back sore. B-1 was equipped with a heater built into the wall. It looked a little old and didn’t look like it had been used in awhile. Roland twisted the knob on top. Nothing.

…Figures

Roland took a look around the office. It was filled with old filing cabinets and strange smell that Roland couldn’t quite place. The windows looked out into the open street. It was very still. The wind wasn’t even blowing. Across the street Roland saw two figures. One a little taller than the other. Roland looked closer, It was two women both were wearing plain clothes. Their faces unrecognizable in the night. Roland spent time wondering what they could be up to at this time of night. Roland let out a yawn, and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. The room was so cold Roland could see his breath now. When he looked back across the street the figures were gone. From the window Roland looked up and down the street and saw nothing. No trace of them. Roland began to shiver, the room was colder than ever now. He turned back towards the heater and saw something that made his blood run cold. The figures were in the office now staring right at him. Roland took a step back. The cold had made it hard to move the figures moved towards him but their legs didn’t move at all. Roland had his back up against the windows now with the figures creeping in. When the figures got close enough Roland could make out their facial features. His eyes welled up with tears, he hadn’t seen them in ten years but once he saw them he knew.

“…Sam ..? Gracey.?”

Roland’s voice cracked at the mention of their names. Tears ran down his face. Roland reached out for his daughter. Grace took a step back.

…Grace? It’s Daddy ..

The figures said nothing and only stared. Roland looked at Samantha.

“Sam, whats going on”

Silence.

PLEASE ANSWER ME!!!”

Roland put his hand on Samanthas’s shoulder and as soon as he made contact, she dissipated into smoke. Roland cried out in agony he looked at his daughter only to watch her do the same. Roland sank down to knees, He was alone again or so he thought.

You’ll never find them. No matter how hard to try…they’ll always be just out of reach.

Roland saw a man dressed in blue with a badge. Standing in the doorway. The door was open and hallway was shining from behind the man in blue

You’re pathetic Roland. You always were. That’s why they took you..That’s why you’ll never find them

Roland hated the sound of the man’s voice. Each word he spoke filled Roland with rage.

Don’t like hearing the truth, huh? Well, here’s another for you..They’re better off without you.

Roland jumped to his feet. His fist clenched. The man in blue stepped into B-1 and closed the door.

Always be aware of your surroundings…

Roland moved menacingly toward the man. The man took out a cigarette and a gold plated lighter. Roland stopped and realized he was a dead man. He couldn’t place it the smell earlier but now it painfully obvious. Roland looked toward the heater. The knob was still on. Gas had been pouring into the room this whole time. The man in blue lit his lighter and the flame grew engulfing the whole room. Roland screamed as the flames crawled up his skin. He could feel his skin start to blister and pop. His lungs were burning filled with smoke or fire Roland couldn’t tell. He heard the flames roar up the walls and he heard the man in blue. The man in blue was still standing looking at Roland. The muscles in Roland’s were burned so badly he couldn’t move. His skin had melted off and his muscles were burning away. The man in blue stepped over him and grabbed his shoulders.

HEY KID, WAKE UP!!”

Roland opened his eyes and saw Danny standing above him. It was morning now. The room was completely intact and Roland was still on the floor. Danny looked at him bewildered.

“You gonna keep me in suspense? or do you wanna tell what the hell that was all about?”

Roland got to his feet and stood up.

“Bad dreams”

Danny gave him a look “Well, that’s what you get for sleeping on the floor” Danny opened up a door next to one of his filing cabinets. A twin bed popped down and on the mattress were a pillow and blanket. “For next time, I guess.”

…god damn it

Roland was still shaken by his dream, still vivid in his mind. He needed to leave and clear his mind and his companions hadn’t seen him in awhile. Danny plopped down at his desk. Roland hadn’t noticed but Danny had brought in 2 coffee’s and paper brown bag. Danny gestured to the items.

“Brought you some breakfast. Figured you could use it, since you’re all skin and bones”

Roland thanked him and took the coffee and inside the bag were two cinnamon rolls. Roland took one and began to eat it while Danny sifted through the papers on his desk. Once Roland finished with his breakfast there was a knock at the door. Roland stood up to answer the door but Danny stopped him.

“Wait a minute, Arin! That’s most likely McCreedy my landlord. Probably here because of all that screaming you did last night. I’m not supposed to have people staying here overnight. I need you to vanish for the time being.”

Roland looked around the office, there was literally nowhere to go. The knock was a louder this time with a voice to accompany it

BANG.BANG.BANG.
MORRISON, OPEN UP!!!” it was a booming voice
Danny tried to stall him
“Who is it?”
YOU KNOW DAMN WELL WHO THIS IS. NOW OPEN THIS DOOR BEFORE I BREAK IT DOWN!!”

Danny looked at him anxiously “You gotta scram, kid”

“Where am I supposed to go Dan, out the window?” Dan shrugged

..great

Roland opened up the window and found a storm drain he could climb down. He was on the third floor of a four story building. He grabbed on to it and started to make his way down.

“Look Arin, im sorry about this but I can’t have you here before your paperwork is finalized. Come back tonight, I should have it taken care of” with that Danny closed the window and Roland made it down the storm drain just fine and miraculously no one saw him.
Back on the street Roland decided to head back to the boardwalk to meet up with his companions. Roland found his companions in the place that Octavius called home. Up to this point Roland and his companions had been searching for a Red Witch who may tie in very closely with some child disappearances in the area. Once all had gathered: Octavius, Red Eddie and Leila, They came to the decision to head to Georges shop for some information that could shed light on this witch mystery while obtaining some of the candies that would protect us from the creeping miasma

They had made it to George’s shop and entered the smell of breakfast food filled the air. George welcomed us in and made us aware of the presence of someone like us, another Lost. A Black and White dog made his way out of the back room and greeted the group. Roland made note of this dog being one of the most well-mannered and loving dogs he had ever met. George then gestured to the back room and another Dog started to make its way out of back room but stopped. Roland could see the how pensive the creature was. How suspicious it was of its surroundings. Roland remembered a time not so long ago where he felt the same. Octavius asked George about his book, while Eddie began to steal anything he could get his decomposing hands on.

Goddamnit Eddie……

George was to distracted by the book to notice Roland gesturing to Eddie to put things back. After George looked at the book they began to make their way outside. The friendly dog jumped up and followed us to the door while the pensive dog kept its distance. Roland decided to share a bit with the more weary dog. Roland spoke to it.

“I was new too, Not to long ago in fact and trust me, you don’t want to go through this world alone.” The pensive dog seemed to hear the words but still kept its distance.

Their journey would take them to Big Basin, The best way to get there was taking the Dreadnaught. Before we left there were some items on Georges porch that the gang helped themselves to. Roland took a small pocket knife and some rope as it could prove being useful. Eddie took an ax that he could barely wield. They arrive at the dock and called for the Dreadnaught. Once it had arrived, they all got inside except for the pensive canine. Roland decided to talk to it.

“Hey, I know its scary and weird but you can trust us. Unless you would rather stay here..alone.” The dog seemed to understand and stepped aboard
.
The Dreadnaught sprang to life as Octavius pressed the buttons. As the Dreadnaught started to move Roland felt sick

…Ugh…never gonna get used to this

Finally the Dreadnaught came to it’s destination. Roland couldn’t be happier to be off the thing. Everyone stepped off the Dreadnaught except for the Pensive pooch. Roland stopped and gestured to the pup to follow. After some kind words the dog followed still keeping its distance. The trees were huge with red vines coiling up the sides. Eddie made a point to call them “creepers”. The group decided to use the rope to fasten themselves to each other with our dog companions biting each end to stay close. They ventured into the forest as they moved Roland looked up and could not see the sky. The trees were tall and thick at the top not letting in any light. Once they entered the forest they realized the way they came had been covered by the trees and the vines.

…well fuck….

The group decided to follow the one path they could see. There was also the sound of children laughing in the distance and footprints on the ground. Upon further inspection of the footprints we found that they were filled with blood and too small to be that of a full grown adult but instead a child. Octavius being the curious creature he is, decided now was a good time for a science experiment of sorts.

He had 3 vials of liquid, one containing his own blood. He handed the vials to Leila and she hurled them at the creepers. Each time the vials shattered and the liquid was absorbed. The vines were carnivorous and they had now tasted blood. Roland decided to cut part of the vine that had absorbed the liquids and one that had not. Roland felt remorse as he did this because the vines seemed to squeal in pain.

Why did i volunteer for this? I’ll be lucky to make it out of here alive. Hopefully they think I’m all bone marrow ….

Roland gave the pieces to Octavius who of course tasted them almost immediately. He said they tasted like candy of some kind. They continued down the path and came to a wooden bridge. It looked sturdy enough. However below the bridge were the skeletons of past adventurers.

I got a bad feeling about this….

Rolands bad feeling was right because the bridge started to crack and break apart then eventually fall but not behind them but in front of them. Eddie suggested that they climb down but just then both dogs lept across the gap to safety. The rest of them followed and we able to make it across. When they looked back the bridge was completely intact. Roland was not happy to say the least.

“OH, THAT IS UTTER GARBAGE

The group decided to travel on in search of this Witch

We’re all gonna die in here…..

The group wandered around until octavius had the idea to bring the witch to us instead of trying to find her. Octavius thought we could make an offering to the witch in hopes of her appearring. Octavius revealed to us that he had an extra candy and the idea was to carve the witch’s symbol into the candy as an offering. Unforunately, none of us was capable of carving on such a small surface. None except our new companion the pensive pup. Octavius asked if they were able to carve the symbol into the candy. They nodded. This was something Roland had to see, but it was more than he had barganed for. The pensive pup then transformed into Roland! Everyone let out a gasp. But Roland had a bit of a breakdown.

THIS IS IT! IM FUCKING DONE MAN. WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK!

The pensive pup was able to make the carving, it was almost perfect. Octavius pricked his finger and filled the carving with blood and held it up. Moments later we had our Witch. Roland wacthed in awe as the witch seemed to float above them almost swimming in the air. Octavius made a inquiry to the book he was carrying. The witch seemed upset at the mention of this book.

THE BOOK? THE BOOK!! HAVE YOU USED IT!!

…and this is when they all died…

Roland was on edge and prepared himself for a fight but waited for the Witch to make the first move. Octavius shifted the conversation to the missing girl they were after. The witch told them that she was not safe but at the same time not hurt.

“She is in the thyme of the morning dew,Bury the candy in the ground. Go to the Thyme in the morning dew. She will be there at noon, crying pitiful things. She will be her, but not her.”

The witch then vanished. The group was alone and Miasma started to creep in.

EDITORS NOTE: HAD TO FINISH BEFORE 5PM BUT I HAVE MY MOST CURRENT ADVENTURE LOG COMING SOON :)

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Culture Shock

I awoke. Eyes, though not threatening, loomed over me. My heartbeats began to frenzy from the tips of my ears to the end of my tucked-under tail.

He can see me. He can see me truly.

Any exclaim I thought I could make was paralyzed. All I could hear for long moments were my own rapid pulse stampeding through every sensory. My eyes locked with the looming eyes.

Where was my Belahan? He did leave me? Had this been all a ruse?

Though presence jarring, his words were softly spoken and his body hunched less intimidatingly than of a warrior. He introduced himself. He reached down to his side, gliding his hand unhurriedly atop my Belahan’s head, stopping momentarily to scratch him behind the ear. He pushed his head against the hand, urging the ear massage on.

Have I been betrayed? No, not my Belahan. But how could I truly know? Have I been ever MORE foolish? One wrong step after another.

The man of soft words broke the internal interrogation when he made note that he had felt something amiss on the rocks when I had first encountered him. The words were still stolen from my mouth and I tensely froze, only able to continue staring right at him in anticipation for every movement that may or not happen. The lack of my response didn’t deter him. His delicate words continued, pasting truth on my facade. He knew my presence was fresh, as many were before me. He spoke of the radiantly blossoming redhead who he said to be the Queen.

No wonder her florals were more fierce than this melodious speaking to me now.

He spoke of the many lights I must have noticed. Before I could stop myself, “Many lights,” came tumbling out with an awed breath. Immediately regretting speaking, his words melted into my ears as I could only begin to panic again wondering if my words could make any depth. Completely lost in my own horrors, I checked back in as he held out an emerald. I took a sniff, seeing if I could sense any ill-tampering, but it was no emerald. This smelled of earth and mint. The mild-toned man must have seen the confusion on my canine facade for he explained its purpose. The Grey my Belahan had guided me away from before was said to be a force not to be tempted. The mint was said to become a form of short-lived cloaking when ingested.

How bad could the Grey be? I must trust in Belahan. But is the trust given back false? They both must sense the callow and naive stench. How do I learn to tell the difference? The only being I’ve ever known was my Irakasle, Maisu during rituals, and he raised me to know that pain is love and love is pain.. But when you have true power, both are only means to gain more. Irakasle said that was why I must perform all duties. My purpose was special. My vitality was promised and destined, which is why my keeping had always been secluded. He said it would help me stay focu-

Knock knock

followed by the sounds of chimes raced down the hallway. Someone else began to enter the domain. The clement character’s attention, along with mine and Belahan, went to the door. He had offered breakfast and began making it but he made no mention of guests. I peeked out the bedroom, peering at the opening door as if it were prey. First to walk in was a long coat, adorned with a hat and no face easily visible. The room’s aroma of food immediately was consumed by the smell of a sea’s adventure out where no land could be seen. The salt in the air was palpable. The second to enter was a configuration of bones in a coat that was no match for his size. I had a strange sensation to chew on him, but I pushed the thoughts quickly aside as soon as the next appeared. She was so dark and stunning beautiful that chills of fear went sparking down my spine right through my tail. The last… I smell blood, booth fresh and rotting. He stalked and stumbled in, unlike the rest, peering over each shoulder under his dirty blanket. A peculiar gang seeming on a mission as they quickly greeted “George.” My head was so flooded with thoughts the first time, I didn’t catch his name.

I tried to stay as breathlessly quiet as I could but “George” made full aware of my presence to the entire assembly.

BETRAYAL! BELAHAN, WE MUST GO! BELAHAN? NO, WHERE ARE YOU G-

He happily greeted the party as if they were old friends. His tail swung side to side and he nuzzled into each of their hands, or at least, what could be labeled “hands.” George called out to me, beckoning me out of the room. I didn’t want to but I found my paws moving forward nonetheless. I stopped part way down the hallway, just shy of the kitchen doorway where the conglomerates gathered. They had begun talking about some hunt and presented a book. I was watching what seemed to be a pig in a blanket move around as the others stood attentively around the book. Suddenly, George pierced his finger!

Sacrifice? Already? Oh, no.

Red drew larger on his fingertip, but much less sacrifice than I imagined. He then only released a few drops of blood on a page. The entire group marveled at what seemed to be parchments of occultism. I made note that this band of misfits found joy in rambling. I had only known to speak when spoken and to only speak words you mean to use. I am intrigued by their freely engaging interactions. Enchanting as they were, I could smell whatever George had been prepping and I began to slightly panic as the scent turned to stench. I stared blankly at George who didn’t seem to notice. The rotting one began to steal items and made a ruckus. He reach out to scratch my ear as he did my Belahan’s, and before I could think of what to do, I growled. This brought boney one’s attention to us and he scolded the decomposing meat.

The gaggle give their appreciation to George before asking if each could obtain a magic mint, just as the one George had given me before. Belahan moves for the door and George suggests that I follow the herd. Again, my initial instincts tell me to not trust in any of the shenanigans but I found myself gravitating towards the door after them nonetheless. I motioned, asking for another mint, and George nodded graciously. I hurriedly catch the trails of the dubious platoon and follow from a distance.

They traveled down to the many dancing lights and made their winding way to the pier, and eventually under the pier. The lights and energy were radiant. The smells of sweet and salty were just as intoxicating the first time. Had Irakasle not told me, “Without focus, you will achieve only weakness,” day after beating day, I may have easily lost the group’s scent and sight.

Perhaps Irakasle had been right…

The crew stops at a grand post, one of many holding up the wide plank stretching into the unforgiving sea. The Post before us spat 3 times. Before I could begin to conclude what or why, the world seemed to turn. I felt as if my feet were to be where my head was and my head to the floor, but instead, as the world recollected itself, the dancing lights I came to adore were no more. Bulbs were broken and walls holding up mostly shattered memories. A silver spire looms on the beach and red light pulsed atop. A small mobile building sat seemingly waiting for travelers. One by one, each member passed through the sliding doors, including Belahan.

Where are we going now? I don’t want to go.

The skeleton-like stood at the entrance, lulling me with promises of safety and trust. I didn’t want to go, but I didn’t want to be left at the beach of the distorted festival either, which the skull spoke could be my alternative. Paw in front of the next, I crossed the threshold.

The contraption whirls to life as loudly as it could roar. There were many lights again, some soft. Some loud. The room began to jerk and spin in chaotic order. The collection of bones began to look green. My stomach lurched and I instantaneously understood why. When the contraption finally came to a halt, my head took a minute to follow. The doors breathed open, releasing tension as the cold air seeped in. Slowly, the crew hobbled, stumbled, and leaped out. The crew, but not me.

I know where we are. I spent time trying to get out of here, only to come back? For what? A bloody book?

I could hear the group call out “Big Basin” but it didn’t look large enough to warrant the title. It smelled of dust and death. The trees were dark and daunting. Chilling red vines snaked their way up some of them. There was no grey as far as the eye could see. The bones lingered back and kindly gestured for me to take foot.

_He keeps turning kind words at me. He seems compassionate. Is it a strength or a weakness?
_
The company each tied themselves to the rope. I bit the end to stay back and flee if needed. Belahan romped up front, against my internal howls of objection. The rope reminded me of the ones Irakasle used for binding. His seemed to be twined with gold and had minds of their own biding their own magic, while the lifeless one I clenched tasted of dust and worn plastic.

In the distance, young laugher echoed through the trees. The head of the rope turned to follow the sounds And masses of prints heading down a wide path. They became louder, as if we were getting closer, but then they began to deaden, laugher coming from every direction but getting softer with each giggle. I begin to feel very disoriented. The lines of the ash-covered surroundings and dead underbrush bled together for moments at a time.

The red creepers fined and twisted on more and more until a majority of the trees had red bases. The shapes in the ground, like the smaller fleshies, seemed to cover the path before, but as we allowed them to guide us, the route never branched but the shapes became fewer. It lessened to only one linear marking left to follow… Until we came to a fork. The the tender fleshie prints pranced down a dark, menacing without reason path while the other, not as touched by magic, good or bad. The group bickers as to where to go, though they seemed to all agree to follow the shapes. (The rotting meat want “spanx?”) As soon we we turn the trail, the shapes disappear from our path. My forwards stop to investigate but only the ones that smells of deepest sea sees what I already had been smelling, a puddle rich copper lingering in the perimeter, much father away than a step should be considering it’s singularity. As we closed around it, the aroma hit my snout frighteningly, as I fix my eyes on the puddle. The imprint of little fleshie was filled to the brim with blood.

Further down the path, a trail of blood invites curiosity, not for the weak-hearted. It proved true, leading to a fight of blood – smear and wrought, but the struggle clearly ended there. The stop was where a row of consistent and linear red-vined trees began. The group cautioned moving forward, rightfully so. Deep Sea hands the dark lady a vile, she throws and upon impact, the the glass shatters and blood splatters. The trees immediately start soaking up the liquids and chiming as they feasted. The tried this with two other files and two other trees. All three times, the same thing happens. Bones opted to cut a piece of the vines that had been impacted. He also cut meat off of one that had not been fed and according to Deep Sea, oddly enough, both tastes of childhood sweets.

They continued forward. I couldn’t not fathom why. I felt eyes all around us. I whimpered but no one noticed. I glanced back at my tail but the pathway we had taken her was no more each time. My paws made no impression on floor behind us, neither did anyone else’s, as if we never traveled.

The company comes to a seemingly wooden bridge but when struck, a metal clang rang and bellowed. There was no beneath, but the sea of forgotten souls and bones was as vast as the once rapid rivers, I’m sure of it. Yet they seem determined to press forward. I whimper in warning, nit again, go unanswered. As we crossed the bridge, each of our steps helped to make a deadly musical number. The bridge began to break, but not behind us or below us, only in front of us. They begin to bicker again about what to do.

NOW?! NOW YOU THINK IS THE TIME?!

I drop the rope and dash past them. I nudge Belahan before leaping. As I land, I feel his paw steps land briefly behind me. I recollect myself as the rest make their vaults to safety. In awe, we all stood staring at the bridge. Not because it was broken ad in shambles, but simply because it was not. The bridge was completely intact, as if our misery had all bee a game. Bones exclaims in anger of the trickery.

I’ve seen this magic before.

We come to a clearing. The forward move forward but I stand next to the dark beauty. I wonder if she mistrusts the openness of the field as I do. She scapes the perimeter as the forwards make fools of themselves, making their presence known by calling out to the unknown. The dark beauty announces what we both immediately feared. The grey.

The group huddles together and begin speaking of a summoning. I’ve summoned before with Irakasle, but his use for me was that of his vessel.

Was that why I was here? Did they need a vessel? Perhaps Irakasle was again, right all along..

Deep Sea inquires as to who can craft. They seem to need something etched. I spent many hours carving wood and molding metal before. But before, they were for curses. I place my paw forward and Bones eyes me closely, asking “Can you etch this image into this candy?” I nod. He told forth a mint from George and his knife. Belahan’s form had no thumbs so I could not help. I mirrored Bones as he stood before me a a gasp escaped each party member, except Bones. He exclaimed in shock and threw up his one hand and one knee-hand. Wordlessly, knowing there was not much time before the grey drew closer, I etch the mint sweet. It is almost perfect. Deep sea offers his blood within the carvings. The world darkened even more.

“So, it’s you…” A tinkling terror of a voice rang through the trees. Deep sea, being the blood giver and keeper of blood book, spoke to the voice first. They converse about the missing girl they sought. The voice offered only vague responses. Bones adds his own inquiries as he doesn’t realize that what was just summoned is exactly what they had come to uncover. The tinkling terror directs her words to Bones and continues to speak of past and future, both unclear. Deep sea held up the blood book and the voice hissed. “HAVE YOU USED THE BOOK.” – she asked repeatedly and demandingly. Unsatified with Deep Sea’s response, she put the attention back to the girl they were so keen on recovering.

“She is not safe but she is not hurt.” "
“She is in the woods.”
“Morning dew time is when she is present.”

Help to find the girl? Lead them to her? Why is she important? None of these words mean anything to me.

“Bury the candy in the ground. Go to the Thyme in the morning dew. She will be there at noon, crying pitiful things. She will be her, but not her.”

The grey sets in, around our feet. I realize it’s quickly rising, more quickly than anyone else seems to be reacting to. In a panicked reach, I offer Belahan an unetched mint sweet from my bone-like fingers and be bit, swallowing in a moment and eyes locked with mine pleading, “Now yours.”

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