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Shadow-Blessed Ep. 14

Ice’s familiar magic waited for me on the other side of the door. Umbra reassured me that he was alone out there. I opened the door to see a nervous look on his face. I remembered him looking this anxious the first time he kissed me. Something told me that I wouldn’t be as happy with whatever was making him nervous this time. I stepped back so that he could come into the room. He stayed in the entryway instead of making himself more comfortable on the couch. My own face must have mirrored the nerves on his. My mind was flipping through possible worst-case scenarios. He wasn’t coming with us. He wanted me to go back to the Coven. His kiss was just a spontaneous mistake. He has someone else in his life he forgot to mention one his last visit. 

“I have to go. The Coven wants me to bring in Storm Ryder,” he said. 

“His little stunt wasn’t approved?” I asked. There were so many other questions I’d rather have the answer to, but I was scared to ask them. 

“Not in the slightest,” he said. A hint of amusement crossed his face before he met my eyes, and the nervousness was back. “How long will you be here?” 

“I’m not sure. We haven’t talked it through yet. I don’t know that it’s the best idea unless the rest of the Coven’s people are leaving with you,” I said. 

“They’re staying, but none of them should recognize you. They’re not hunters, and they all joined up after you were already gone. I didn’t put the ‘wanted’ list on their curriculum.” 

“So you’re going to come back here?” I asked. 

“If you want me to.” 

“Then what?” I asked. 

“I’m with you. I know there’s a lot we have to figure out, but I don’t want to lose you again,” he said. He pulled something out of his pocket with his right hand and held out his left hand in a silent request for one of my hands. I lifted my hand for him. He put a small metal object in mine. I looked down and nearly cried. “I’ve been holding on to it until I found you again. I had to clear your essence on it in case they figured out I had it, but I knew you’d want it back.” 

“Thank you.” I stared at the gold pocket watch in disbelief before pulling him into a hug. I didn’t think I’d ever see my mother’s watch again. I cried into his suit jacket. It was the only thing I had from my time before the Coven. I couldn’t bring much with me when Vincent took me in. 

“I should leave. My team has probably collected Ryder by now,” he said. 

“Wait,” I said. I took the clip off the end of the chain and slid it into place on his jacket pocket. “If we have to run, I won’t be able to leave directions for you.” 

He tilted my face up and leaned down to kiss me. It wasn’t hot like our last one. It was a promise, though. He would find me again. I kissed him back, hoping he felt a similar pledge on my lips. I’d wait for him. I didn’t have a chance to ask him if he was sure before he left me in the hotel room’s entryway. He’d built a life without me. He’d said he made the curriculum for his team downstairs. He’d become someone of value to the Coven. They wouldn’t take kindly to him abandoning his position. If he came with me, he couldn’t go back to that. Ruby already knew what she was getting into when we partnered up. She’d been on the run too. I didn’t feel like I was destroying her life when we left Orlando. If Ice joined us on the run, it would be my fault he couldn’t go back. 

“How far is the Coven from here?” Ruby asked me. 

“New York,” I said. 

“Kinda cliché, isn’t it?”

“Their compound isn’t in New York City. They own a building there, but their main base of operations is in Albion, NY.” 

“Never heard of it,” she said. 

“That’s kinda the point,” I said. “No one finds them if they don’t want to be found.” 

“So he’ll be back in a few days if all goes well?” 

“If everything goes well,” I said. 

“We need to work on your pessimism,” she said. 

“Do we?”

“Come on. You thought that we were screwed beyond belief, and instead, you got a hot make-out session,” she said. 

“We got exceptionally lucky,” I said. 

“That makes it sound like we wouldn’t have been able to handle things if they went differently. We had a plan. We would have gotten out of here just fine,” she said. 

“We can’t know that.” 

“We’re going out,” she said. 

“What?” 

“You’re reuniting with your ex, we didn’t get turned in, and the world has its first celebrity witch. That’s a lot to celebrate.” 

“You’re not gonna let this go, are you?” I asked. 

“You know me so well already,” she said with a smile. 

The “Bring Your Broomstick” ball was easy to dress for with our wardrobes. Because of my freak out in the vendor hall, we didn’t have any cosplay gear. There was a decent mix of people who went all out for their costumes and people who put in even less effort than Ruby and me. Within the first five minutes of being at the party, Ruby found two custom conical witch hats for us to wear. Their original owners looked happy to hand them over, so I assumed she gave them a financial incentive to part with them. The hotel’s ballroom didn’t quite pull off the club vibe that they were going for, but it was dark enough that I felt comfortable. Umbra vibrated under my feet. They were enjoying the music. I thought back to how they’d converted the sounds of Orlando’s streets into music for me when I first bought the cage that housed them. We shared that same joy again as the bass reverberated in the room. I took the hat Ruby offered me, and we went out on the dance floor. 

While we danced, I felt Umbra stretching out into the surrounding shadows. There were several other witches on the dance floor with us. There were other supernaturals too. With Umbra’s help, I sensed a couple werewolves, a vampire, and a succubus. I gave them all as much space as I could. They weren’t necessarily any more dangerous than us, but I was already less cautious than usual by being there. I wasn’t looking to take extra risks. Ruby wasn’t the best dancer, but she had fun and didn’t bump into anyone, so I saw no reason to try to adjust her style. I couldn’t say when but eventually, I stopped keeping track of the rest of the room and started enjoying the party. Right before midnight, the DJ said something I didn’t catch. The only words I did understand were “Storm Ryder.” The crowd cheered, and several of the witches on the dance floor imitated the actor’s magical flourish. The rest of the dancers cheered even louder as harmless sparks of magic flew through the air and fizzled out in different directions. It was a shame that the man of the hour wasn’t there to see the light show he inspired.

The Ladies of Country

I introduced a new character, in Shadow-Blessed Ep. 13, named Storm Ryder. His music taste inspires the playlist below. He is going to be the protagonist of his own spin-off. While Milo and his growing fam will show more of the magical community, I plan to explore how the mundane world’s reaction to learning about the supernatural in Storm’s story. If any of you are interested, I’ll be publishing Storm’s story as part of Amazon’s upcoming Kindle Vella program. It will be a publishing platform for serialized short stories between 600-5000 words in length from what I’ve read. (In the ballpark of what I’m already doing with Shadow-Blessed.) Unlike Shadow-Blessed, Kindle Vella stories won’t be completely free. According to the email they sent to existing KDP authors, the first three episodes will be free for users to get a sense of the story, and then there will be a payment system in place for updates past those initial episodes. They haven’t released a specific launch date yet for the new storytelling platform, but I’ll be sure to keep y’all updated about when the stories go live. Until then, I hope you enjoy this playlist inspired by Storm Ryder.

Shadow-Blessed Ep. 13

I didn’t get as much time with Ice as I wanted. He had to go back to his fellow Coven recruiters so they wouldn’t get suspicious. He took off with the excuse of getting coffee for the group. Insane lines caused by the conventioneers would excuse his absence for a decent amount of time. It wouldn’t excuse him never coming back. If I could have my way, I’d have him join Ruby and me. It wasn’t fair to expect him to run from the Coven like I had. He’d fit in with our classmates easily enough; it was hard to think he wouldn’t have connections worth holding onto despite the passion in his kiss. He promised to come back after he’d finished his shift at the power testing booth. I started thinking about all the questions I’d ask him when he came back. I alternated between fantasies of him coming with us and dreading that he’d decide to turn me in. My more practical side won out. Ruby and I stayed in the room ordering room service and watching videos of the conference panels that had attracted the most attention. 

“Do you think that he’d turn you in?” Ruby asked me while we were waiting for a new group of actors to filter onto the stage. 

“I’d rather be wrong, but I won’t take that chance,” I said. The room was dark except for the light of the television and Ruby’s computer. Our bags sat packed and waiting an arm’s length away. If the worst happened, all we would need to do was grab our bags and sink into the shadows. 

“It was a pretty hot kiss. I think you’re wrong,” she said. Her words were uncut by her glancing at her computer. She was keeping an eye on Ice and the rest of the Coven’s people. 

“That would be nice.” 

“What would happen if he did?” she asked. 

“They’d try to incapacitate me. If somehow they managed to keep me from shadow stepping away from them,” I said. 

“Can they do that?” 

“Almost all things are possible with the right application of magic. It isn’t likely, though,” I said. It might have sounded cocky, but it was true. It would take some extremely powerful spellwork to keep me from using shadow-based magic. 

“What would happen to me?” she asked. I tried not to let my nervousness show. I didn’t want to lie to her, but I didn’t want to risk losing her either. If Ice came back with a squad of Coven witches and they managed to capture me, Ruby could get a plea bargain by agreeing to work for them. She was very skilled in her affinity, and the Coven doesn’t like to waste talent. It was risky as hell to tell her that, though. We’d been traveling together for less than a week. Who wouldn’t turn their fugitive partner in for that kind of protection? 

“If they manage to take me down, you tell them I kidnapped you,” I said. As much as I didn’t want to say it, this was as good a leap of faith as I could ask for to test our partnership. 

“What?” she asked. 

“I kidnapped you because of your reputation for making new identities. You tell them that, and they let you go. If you tell them about your friends in Vegas, the Coven will probably even find a way to protect you from them.” I couldn’t guarantee that, but it made sense. If the Coven wasn’t already aware of the cerebremancer in Vegas, they’d appreciate the tip. 

“You’re kidding, right?” 

“Not at all. If you wanted their protection instead of mine, you could go to those booths downstairs. You’re a strong practitioner; they can always find a use for strong witches,” I said. 

“We’ll just have to make sure that they don’t get a chance to knock you out then.” 

I didn’t say anything. It was one thing for her to promise solidarity; it was another thing to live up to that promise. We went back to watching the panels. They were more entertaining than I thought they’d be. Ruby had been to a convention like this before, and apparently, the questions were going entirely off from what was typical for these events. She told me that the casts answered questions about their acting process most of the time, which scenes were their favorites, and what spoilers they could give out without getting in trouble. Not to mention, they got an abundance of praise from all the fans. But as the day progressed, there were more questions about if any of the actors had visited the “Test Your Magic” booth, who on set they think could be a secret supernatural, and if there were any plans to incorporate real magic into the film industry. I hadn’t given much thought to how supernaturals could change things for tv and movies. 

Some of the actors were either more prepared for this new line of questioning, or their improv classes were really paying off. There were a lot of guesses in their answers that showed that they didn’t know enough about magic to talk about it in this capacity. Magic absolutely has the potential to be very flashy, but there was no way that magic could replace CGI altogether. I made a note of which of them gave any accurate specifics about the magical world. By the time the last televised panel of the day was starting, I had a list of five people who I felt reasonably sure were supernaturals. I couldn’t say what exactly they were, but their answers were on point. I wondered how much more influence the supernatural groups on the Coven’s level had at this convention. Was there more to the convention than their little recruitment stunt in the vendor’s hall? 

The last panel didn’t look like it had quite the crowd that earlier ones drew. I imagined that many of the conventioneers needed time to prepare for the festivities that followed the day’s panels. There were limitless parties available to the attendees between the official parties on the schedule and the events that were going on off-site. Anyone who was in that hall or watching the panel like us witnessed history. Three actors walked onto the stage to polite applause. The third let off a flurry of magic as he stepped into the audience’s view. He wasn’t even using proper spells. It was just an attention-grabbing light show. That was all it needed to be. The crowd went crazy. The actor’s fellow cast members looked shocked. I guess they weren’t in on his plan. I wondered if he’d thought it through. Whether he had or not, he became the first-ever out magical actor. 

The room filled more and more as social media blew up with the news. The other actors settled into being irrelevant to the crowd. Every question was for Storm Ryder. Ruby had to confirm for me that that was the actor’s name rather than that of the character he played. I wonder if he’d changed it to make himself more memorable. He was about to become a household name that no one would forget, at least not until someone more famous announced their status as a supernatural. If it were me, I’d wait to see how things went for Storm before joining him in the spotlight. Maybe I’d spent too long on the run, but I didn’t envy him what was coming his way. At the very least, he was going back with some angry coworkers. At the end of the panel, the camera facing the crowd showed how packed the hall had become. Whatever show Storm starred in was going to get a considerable boost to their viewership. There was a knock on the door before the television cut the view of the convention hall. 

It’s Okay Not to Want Babies Y’all

Hey Fans, Friends, and Fellows,

So I’ve known for most of my life that I don’t want children. So often, when I express this opinion, people don’t want to accept it. They always feel the need to say, “You’ll feel different when it is your kids,” or “But what if your soulmate wants kids?” And responses are “No, I won’t because I won’t be having kids” and “If he wants kids, then he isn’t my soulmate.” When I found this video, I couldn’t help laughing. If you’re like me and you don’t want kids, I hope you’ll get the same enjoyment out of it. If you’re not like me and children are definitely part of your life plan, that’s awesome for you! My life choices are in no way an attack on your life choices.

Writing Prompt: Write a character who holds a desire that goes against the societal norm. What conflict does this bring into their life?

Shelfie Sunday Week Twelve

Hey Fans, Friends, and Fellows,

There’s an independent book store in my town that’s pretty new. I got really excited because there’s a surprising lack of independent book stores in the Orlando area. Like there are a few of them, but it’s not nearly as many as I’ve found in other cities. While I was walking through the new store, I found an adorable piece of art. I wanted to share it with y’all.