Insights and Observations Part II, Plus My Theory on Credence’s Birth and the Timeline Inconsistency

****************SPOILERS AHEAD***************************

One of my favorite movie quotes is in Angels and Demons; “Religion is flawed, but only because man is flawed.” The same can be applied to the arts. Some art is praised because of its imperfections, while others are ripped to pieces. Criticism and critiques are a handy tool for any artist, and they can help the artist craft their work into something as close to perfection as is humanly possible.

However, there is a, sometimes thin, line between criticism and being cruel. There are artists who react poorly to their work being critiqued, just as there are people whose criticisms are nothing more than insults thinly wrapped in observations. Finding that middle ground, for artists and those who critique alike, isn’t always easy. 

That being said, it’s difficult for me to take people seriously when they insult the artist and their work, and even less so when they do it just to garner views. You can be polite and respectful, and still disagree with how they did something. Not to mention, it might just make them take you and your suggestions as helpful instead of rude.

At any rate, now that my PSA is over let’s get to the real reason for this post. I’ve had some time to think more on certain aspects of Crimes of Grindelwald, especially after a few questions were posed in regards to certain parts/concepts in the film. That’s why I decided to make a second post!

First post found here.

You know you’re all terribly excited for more of my rambling, so here we go!

 

1.       Why didn’t they use apparition, the floo, or a portkey to move Grindelwald from America to Britain?

Now, the first two are easy enough to answer. You can’t safely apparate long distances, as the further you try to go the more likely you’ll harm yourself, or Newt would have just popped over to France with Jacob. The fandom wiki for Harry Potter indicates there is a safe range, and that; “According to W.O.M.B.A.T., it is possible that Inter-Country Apparition has been outlawed due to extreme splinching.” Considering all this, and how dangerous they know Grindelwald to be, it wouldn’t be worth the risk to try and side-along apparate him from New York to Britain.

As for the floo network, it’s regulated by the individual countries, and doesn’t seem to connect internationally. Connection to the floo network requires the permission of the Ministry of Magic, but even if America and Britain came to some kind of agreement to connect a fireplace temporarily for transport, they might not be able to. This is where I’m getting more into theory than canon, but how exactly are all things powered in the wizarding world? Magic. Even with magic, there’s a limit to how much you can do based on how much power you have to work with.

Perhaps, like with apparating, there’s a range, and that’s why in America it’s divided into regions. I’d like to think it’s like WiFi, and the farther you get away from the source, the ‘weaker’ the magic gets, and that’s why countries like France and Britain aren’t connected. Or, at least, not that we’ve seen. For Europe it could also just be a control issue. All the countries like to do things their own way, or they wouldn’t have different ministries.

If you go with the WiFi theory, it would make sense that America would be divided into regions, not only for the number of people using the system, but because of sheer distance. I imagine they’d have to jump floos as they move through regions, instead of hopping in a fireplace in California and ending up in Virginia.

This also makes me wonder how individual states’ rights work in regards to the larger central government (MACUSA), but I digress.

Even if it’s a regional autonomy issue versus a WiFi-type issue, there’s nothing to indicate you could cross an ocean with the floo network.

The portkey explanation is a little more involved, and has to do with Grindelwald himself. The fandom page plays out the escape a little differently than what I picture. I believe the switch happened long before the escape, and not right before.

Let’s roll back a little before the escape and look at what’s gone down. We aren’t given an exact timeline within the six months Grindelwald is jailed, but Seraphina Picquery indicated that they’d had to change Grindelwald’s guards three times, because he’s; ‘Quite persuasive.’ This would indicate there are multiple guards willing to join Grindelwald’s cause.

It wouldn’t be terribly complicated for a sympathizer, in this case Abernathy who is an Acolyte, to brew up some Polyjuice for both of them. We don’t know the status of his early imprisonment, but it would indicate the measures they took against him were progressive, getting more severe with each infraction. Therefore, there was likely a period of time prior to his little force field where he could interact with people physically, giving Abernathy the opportunity to make Polyjuice. It was also likely that Abernathy got wind of Grindelwald’s impending de-tonguing, and they planned the switch before this happened, which is why Grindelwald had to re-grow Abernathy’s tongue.

It also stands to reason that, with Grindelwald on the outside as Abernathy, he could ensure that they both had a steady supply of Polyjuice.

Now, this means we don’t know exactly how long the two were swapped, but we know from experience that Grindelwald can play-act as another person quite well. While we also don’t know Abernathy’s exact position in MACUSA, his familiarity and greetings with President Picquery and Mr. Spielman outside of ‘Grindelwald’s’ cell would indicate he had some part in planning the transport.

If this is the case, and with how persuasive Grindelwald could be, it is likely he helped orchestrate how he wanted the transport to happen. He could have made arguments against direct portkey transportation as it would be expected by Grindelwald’s followers, but we also don’t know what enchantments are on the prison that might prevent portkeys. We also don’t know where they were transporting Grindelwald to. It’s unreasonable to think they’d take a thestral-drawn carriage across the Atlantic, flanked by people on broomsticks. The flyers and thestrals would get tired long before they reached their destination in Britain. This would indicate that they were probably taking him to a secret, secondary location, to likely take a portkey.

When is a group most vulnerable? When it’s in transport. It would make sense for Grindelwald to stage his escape between leaving the secure prison and before getting to the(theorized) portkey location. It is also dramatic, which Grindelwald has a penchant for. What better way to stir up his followers than to stage a daredevil escape right under the nose of both the American Ministry and representatives from the British Ministry. It’s a double insult, and undermines both ministries at once. What more could a dark wizard want?

 

2.       So, Credence is alive?

In New York, we basically see Credence explode when he’s attacked. This would lend some skepticism to the status of him being alive, so to see him in the new film was a bit of a curve ball for some people. However, Credence is already touted as being unique among an already rare occurrence, being an Obscurial, so is it such a stretch to believe he also has a greater measure of control due to his age? In fact, we see this later in the film where he utilizes his Obscurial form and then reforms once his attack is over without dying like other Obscurials. Given that we don’t know exactly how Obscurials reform, there’s nothing to say they have to do so right where they lose their form. They could move away from the perceived danger and reform somewhere safer.

3.       So, Credence is part of a circus, and Nagini is a side show?

There was some question as to how Credence got from New York and wound up in a circus in France. Now, I might be off base on this one, as I can’t totally recall from the film, but I’m almost certain the lead circus man was American based off his accent. Even if he’s not, (like I said, I can’t recall his accent totally), circuses travel, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that he encountered them in New York and followed them to France.

As for why Nagini is in a freak show, she’s a Maledictus. If she were an Animagus it wouldn’t be special, but she’s under a blood curse. This is like the wizarding version of a genetic defect, which a lot of freaks in real world circuses are. The only other ‘defect’ we see among wizards are squibs, but they aren’t very interesting, and they definitely can’t turn into animals. A Maledictus is rare, and therefore more interesting, if not somewhat scandalous. Remember, Skender called her an, ‘Underbeing’. A freak and oddity. 

4.       Why give Nagini a weird name if you’re not being a racist trying to prove you’re not racist?

Okay, that wasn’t the exact question posed, but people have attacked J.K. about this, stating she’s trying to prove she can be diverse with her characters when she hasn’t been diverse enough up to this point. To be fair, I don’t know what the statistics were like in the 90s in the UK, but right around now they’re sitting at about an 87% white demographic. When you go back to 2001, that number is 92%, and I don’t imagine it would fluctuate to such a degree in the early 90s to fault J.K. for having primarily white characters.

Given that it’s stated in the series that muggles far outnumber wizards, you’re looking at a very small percentage of the population, which makes the numbers of any other race also shrink proportionally. She’s not being racist and exclusive, she’s doing what most writers do: taking the world around them they are familiar with, and using it as a template for their story.

Now, can trying to be more inclusive come off as cringy and pandering, yes, but I don’t think that’s what we see here. People are angry that Nagini and Leta are the only women of color in the film we interact with quite a bit, and they’re both ‘bad’. Personally, that’s not what I got from the film.

Leta is a woman impacted heavily by guilt, tragedy, and a garbage father figure. She’s bullied at school not because she’s black, but because children can be terrible little crotch goblins, and will use any difference to single others out. Leta thinks she’s a monster for something she did as a child, but she’s not. If she’d drowned the kid herself, it’s be a different story. In all, she’s a complex character that goes beyond being black or white, and boiling her down to her skin color does a disservice to the character and the actress.

With Nagini, I covered some of that in the other post, but the same can be said about her. Her story is tragic, not bad. As for the name, wizards don’t exactly have common names in this world. I mean, the main guy’s name is Newt. How many Newts do you know?

Also, the president of MACUSA is a woman of color, and while we don’t interact with her much in the films, I want that to sink in. She’s a WoC, in the 1920s, and president of what’s probably one of the larger magical communities in the world. I’m not saying this to appease anyone, but given the time period you have to give mad props to a woman who must have guts and tenacity in spades.

5.       How about that hookah skull, and the visions of WWII?

Beyond the inscriptions on the skull and how he used it, not much is known about this. It’s postulated that Grindelwald is a seer, which would fit with some of the facts we know about him. Some of the bigger ones being Dumbledore, their relationship, and the blood pact. A young, arrogant Grindelwald would surely think he could sway Albus to his side, in more ways than one, and barring that he would make sure he they could never fight. Wouldn’t it be cool if the skull was of another seer, (I mean, not for the seer), and aided in the formation of the visions for others to see? Kind of like a seer’s version of a pensieve?

However, we know his visions are not infallible, as evidenced by what he says to Credence in the first movie, and how he didn’t know that Credence was the Obscurial. Why did it not cross his mind that Credence was the Obscurial, despite what his vision showed him? Because of the perceived nature of Obscurials, therefore, his visions are limited by his interpretations and knowledge.

A question was also posed on why we wouldn’t want to let Grindelwald stop WWII and the Holocaust, and so on? However, he didn’t show his followers these visions to stop the Holocaust. It’s to illustrate how awful muggles are. That they need to be controlled before they destroy the world. Think of the Rocket and Peter quote in Guardians of the Galaxy; “Why do you want to save the universe?” “Because I’m one of the idiots that live here!” Or something like that.

There are repercussions to muggle wars, like nuclear fallout. I don’t know of any shields to keep out radiation poisoning, and not everywhere has wards like Hogwarts. It’s one of the things that makes the school unique: how protected it is versus everywhere else. Just because muggles can’t see Diagon Alley doesn’t mean they are unable to destroy it. They also can’t stop the wars without revealing themselves, which goes against the statute of secrecy. Plus, they want to stay away from muggles and their problems. I point this out in my first post that it’s one of the reasons why Grindelwald was more successful than Voldemort: his unification tactics against the muggles.

Once again, think about Men in Black, where Kay points out that a person is okay, but people are dumb, stupid, and panicky. If people find out about magic, they’ll try to destroy what they fear. We see this in X-Men, too. Nothing good ever comes from people revealing their powers to the normals.

6.       Asking Newt to the Ministry to join the Aurors is silly, right?

In that sense, yes, it was silly, and I covered that in the other post. However, the more I thought about it, and the way the ministry operates, the more something else came to mind. Asking Newt to the Ministry only makes sense in the context of his relationship to Dumbledore. They may not know all of his ‘spies’ in the ministry, but they know Newt is connected to him as an unwitting, and somewhat unwilling, participant in what they perceive as Dumbledore’s ‘resistance’ to the ministry.

I think it gave us a look into how Dumbledore’s relationship with the ministry came about in those earlier years, and why it was so easy for them to set themselves against him later on–they’ve done it before. He’s an element they can’t control, and they don’t care for that. In fact, it’s likely that in the eyes of some, Dumbledore and Grindelwald aren’t different. Especially not since the ministry knew about their relationship, in every sense.

Instead of them hearing; “I can’t move against Grindelwald,” they hear; “I won’t.” And in that sense, he’s offering a subtle sort of support to Grindelwald’s movement. “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” They are seeing his unwillingness to move against Grindelwald as him allowing Grindelwald to triumph.

They are seeking to stabilize and control their populace in light of Grindelwald’s upcoming rebellion, but like the mistakes of the Aurors at Grindelwald’s rally, all they’re really doing is alienating everyone.

7.       Well, that’s all well and good, but how about those timeline inconsistencies?

Alright, you got me there, Skippy. As far as McGonagall is concerned it’s going to take some major wizardry to explain that one. I don’t buy the Time-Turner theory, because there are far easier ways to get yourself a good transfiguration teacher, and from what we know about Time-Turners, they have a limit to how far back they can go. Given that Albus becomes the Transfiguration teacher after the ministry states he’s no longer allowed to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, what’s she teaching then?

It’s even less likely that someone with the exact same name just happens to be teaching transfiguration, when Minerva gets her last name from her muggle father.

The most likely explanation here is it’s going to be movie-based, canon-divergent fan service. It made me smile to see McGonagall in the movie, and it’s meant to hit all your nostalgia buttons: Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Hogwarts.

And Aurelius née Credence being a Dumbledore? My mind goes to the only other two men to ever escape Azkaban: Sirius and Barty Crouch, Jr. Hear me out.

We don’t know the exact date of Percival’s death, as it is stated as being sometime after 1890, and in all we don’t know much about Percival himself. It would be a stretch to assume that Aberforth played a role in his supposed break out in the years following Ariana’s death, since she died in 1899. A ten-year disparity in when he supposedly died in Azkaban is a bit much to accept.

However, think about that murkiness of his supposed death date and what we now know about Dumbledore family lore. Is it possible that we don’t know the exact date of his death, because the Dementors couldn’t give the family one? We also aren’t told anything about a burial of Percival, when we are specifically told that Mrs. Crouch posing as Barty Crouch, Jr. was buried on the grounds of Azkaban. What if we aren’t given a date or details of his burial because the Dementors can’t give us one. There wasn’t a death or a body.

What if Percival, in the last moments of his life, inadvertently summoned a phoenix who helped him escape? Remember, Dementors get muddled senses in regards to animals, and if Percival were close enough to death they could have perceived the flash of the phoenix taking him away as his life expiring. As for them not finding a body, it isn’t beyond the imagination to believe they didn’t care because he was so close to dying, anyway. They could no longer feed from him, so why bother looking? What angered them about Sirius Black escaping was likely that they could still feed from him, and they probably knew he was innocent and didn’t care. Wouldn’t an innocent person in Azkaban make a much better meal? Probably.

As for Percival, maybe the phoenix took him somewhere to heal, and, for whatever reason, the person healing him was a woman and he fell in love. If the woman were a muggle, it could explain a long recovery period, since magic isn’t being used, and more time to convince himself that his family was better off, and safer, without him. What good would it do them having an Azkaban-escapee around?

This could also explain the ship situation with Leta. If the woman he fell in love with was a muggle and they had a child, and after the birth he died and she wanted to start over in America, or even just visit family while he stayed in England (no travel for Azkaban-escapees), she’s be on that ship instead of using a portkey. It would also explain how two magical families just so happened to be traveling right across from one another: one is trying to move incognito, while the other simply has no other means for travel.

Unfortunately, it also means she had no magic to save what she thought was her baby and herself.

Anyway, that’s just my theory on the timeline thing with Credence’s birth.

 

In closing, just keep my modified quote in mind; “Art is flawed, but only because people are flawed.” Are there disparities in the canon and the new movies? Yes.

Should we vilify J.K., the production team, actors/actresses, and so on? No.

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, and if you want people to take your observations and criticisms seriously, a little politeness goes a long way.

Insights and Observations ~~ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Crimes of Grindelwald

********SPOILERS AHEAD*************

 

 

Whew, the next installment of Fantastic Beasts surely jumped into the plots and character development pool on the deep end. With how mixed the reviews have been, I really wanted to see the movie and get my own take on it. Sometimes, people are whining for no reason and nitpicking unnecessarily, and that’ll show in the overall reviews. However, when I sat down to write my own review, I realized I was leaning more toward an analysis than a review. I’m warning you: it’s long. However, you might enjoy some insights, and it might convince you the movie is not as bad as some people are making it out to be.

You be the judge.

 

Grindelwald

I’m not going to touch on Johnny Depp’s casting beyond this first sentence, that’s for the people involved and the courts. I will say, though, that I think he did a pretty good job of representing what we know of Gellert Grindelwald. He has quiet charisma in a way we don’t see from the Harry Potter villain, Voldemort. Yes, we don’t see Voldemort in the first war, only the second, when his mind is supposedly fractured from the Horcruxes and their destruction.

However, if we look at their goals, respective ages, and targeted groups, we can establish that Grindelwald has the more silver tongue of the two characters. They are also, possibly, two sides of the same coin. It’s said that psychopaths are cold-hearted (Grindelwald), and sociopaths are hot-headed (Voldemort). Of course, neither characters are purely one or the other. They are the yin and yang of the antisocial personality disorder: primarily one with a dollop of the other.

 

A common danger unites even the bitterest enemies.” – Aristotle

 

While Voldemort’s goal feels more attainable, ruling the magical world of Britain, that’s where he went wrong. Voldemort divided the British wizards with his goals, because they were a hard line in the sand not everyone was comfortable with. Blood purity with purebloods ruling over mudbloods, half-breeds, and beasts. If Dumbledore hadn’t been alive, he might have met with less resistance, but his views were too hard a pill to swallow.

What’s so amusing, is that if Voldemort had acted more like a Slytherin as opposed to a thinly veiled Gryffindor, he probably could have won. He went for might over subtlety, and focused more inward instead of outward. This is why he was more successful in the first war as opposed to the second one. The first one he drew people in with muggle baiting/attacks, and so on, before he succumbed to his own curse. In the second war we see him going for the magical society itself, as opposed to focusing more on the muggles and unifying people in that sense.

 

Fear the army of sheep led by a lion.

 

On the other hand, Grindelwald takes a fear almost all wizarding folks experience, world-wide, and plays on it. Look at how many people Grindelwald is able to sway to his side, because he unites them against their true enemy: the muggles. Muggles are reckless, violent, and nothing more than ‘beasts of burden’. We see the horror on the faces of the magical folk when he shows his visions of the upcoming WWII. He uses this to bring people in from all walks of life. He tailors his approach and promises to his audience, and we see this in his one-on-one interactions with Credence, Queenie, and others.

We didn’t get too much of Grindelwald’s behavior in the first movie, because he was pretending to be someone else. His most genuine interactions are with Credence, (a.k.a. Corvus, a.k.a. Aurelius), with his coaxing, which led up to his cruel dismissal of Credence in the face of his supposed uselessness. In that light, they needed to flesh Grindelwald out in this movie, and we get that.

We get insight into his true nature at various points: the pet he casually tosses from the coach after saying it was too needy, and his decision to let the muggle baby be killed by his follower. The former gives us a look at how he views interpersonal relationships. They are unnecessary beyond how they can help him accomplish his goals. Once those goals are achieved it is time to throw them away.

With the baby we get an even better look at his casual disdain for life in general beyond his own. It’s my opinion that it probably didn’t even matter that the baby was a muggle. If you put a magical baby in front of him, with no followers there to witness his actions, would he kill the baby? Given what we know of his personality, I’d say that, unless it was proven to him that the baby would be of some use to him later, the likelihood is that he’d kill the baby no matter its lineage.

Which leads me into why it’s so important for him to have Queenie at his side. While he’s good at manipulating people on a broad scale, and can usually do okay in a couple of one-on-ones, he needs Queenie to help him navigate multiple interactions with people. As an example, he knows he doesn’t have the skill set to interact properly with Credence, as evidenced in the first movie when he blows it and sends Credence into a downward spiral, so he’s using Queenie to help him with that. She’s his Jiminy Cricket.

Do I think that having a different actor play the character in the first movie hurt the character? Not really, because he was playing a role while under Polyjuice. Barty Crouch Jr. did this with Mad-Eye Moody, and apparently well enough that it fooled everyone except his father, who only figured it out because of a very specific tic. So, with as much as the movie tried to do, (which was a lot and way too much), I think they did a great job giving Grindelwald a depth we don’t see in the first movie.

Not to mention, the first movie was setting up our main character: Newt. Putting too much emphasis on Grindelwald would have detracted from that.

In all, I think they handled Grindelwald well in the movie.

 

The Relationship of Albus & Grindelwald

I understand there was some concern that there wasn’t enough shown in regards to this, but I feel like they did the relationship aspect well. You don’t need a movie to hit you over the head with a frying pan. This wasn’t about avoiding pushing the relationship too much into the light in case they offended someone. Trust me, J.K. Rowling is rather unapologetic when she gives us her tidbits about characters and facts, and I remember the explosion from the Albus Dumbledore being gay bombshell.

The movie portrayed this in a bittersweet, tragic, and perfectly subtle way that did the relationship justice. The way they held hands when they did the blood pact; The overall scene with the mirror of Erised; The way he told people they were closer than brothers. You don’t need Albus to come out in a full-on, one-man-band style and go; “I’M GAY. I SCREWED GRINDEWALD. I LOVE MEN.” Trying too hard can be just as damaging as not doing it at all. One-man-banding it would be tacky, and do a disservice to the character and his personality. Albus was a private person, and he wouldn’t behave that way. Weaving the relationship in with the story so it flows with everything and contributes to the story, rather than detract and distract, is the right way to go. The movie title isn’t: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: My Love for Grindelwald.

And saying to Newt, or anyone, that his love was why he wouldn’t move against Grindelwald, when we find out in the end it’s because of the Blood Pact, would make him a liar and also not be in character. I don’t know if people remember how Dumbledore was in the Harry Potter series, but he almost never told anyone anything straight out. In fact, Harry has to find out quite a bit of information from a dying Snape because Dumbledore never tells him, and doesn’t leave a way to tell Harry, despite the fact he knew he was dying. He actively avoided Harry for an entire year, rather than tell him anything or why, in the Order of the Phoenix. Dumbledore didn’t become this way overnight. Stop trying to shoehorn a character into a situation that doesn’t match their personality.

 

Speaking of the Blood Pact…

Thank the cute baby nifflers that this was cleared up. For years fans have wondered why it took Dumbledore so long to confront Grindelwald. Yes, we had the theory that it was because of his love for Grindelwald, which might have been part of it, but to allow so many people to die? That was an uneasy thing to think about. Dumbledore isn’t the perfect hero, we know that, but to let Grindelwald build an army and get that far in his agenda? It made no sense to let that happen.

With the blood pact, Dumbledore has a legitimate reason for not moving directly against him. He can’t. So, what does he do? He builds an information network, and helps when he can. Like when he tells Theseus not to move against Grindelwald if he has a rally.

Of course, he could have told someone that was why, but that wouldn’t be in character, either. As established, Dumbledore doesn’t tell anyone, anything, unless it’s pried from the cold, dead lips of a Potions Master.

 

Nagini and Credence

I won’t spend too terribly much time here. Not because I don’t want to, but because there isn’t much to say. This is one of those situations where the story tried to do too much, and didn’t play out well. The actors did admirably with what they were given, but unfortunately, they weren’t given much. While Credence’s personality is established in the first film, his relationship with Nagini is almost as obscure as his Obscurial form.

It’s understandable how two people, forced into forms and powers they didn’t ask for, (Nagini’s being a Maledictus and Credence an Obscurial), would come together and form a bond. We see this when Nagini embraces Credence after he goes Obscurial and tries to kill a man, when most would shy away in horror and/or terror. However, with how little screen time and development the relationship gets, when Nagini tries to tell Credence not to go with Grindelwald, it comes off flat. The emotion isn’t there in the same way it is with Jacob and Queenie, which is a real shame. I was looking forward to getting a really good star-crossed lovers’ story from them, because we know she’s doomed for sure, and him most likely, but that isn’t what we received.

As for Nagini being a submissive pet to Voldemort, that seems a little unfair. Nagini is a ruthless, willing ally of Voldemort, which we get in her interactions with him, his followers and victims, and when she inhabits Bathilda Bagshot’s body to try and kill Harry. Submissive does not come into play here at all.

On the other hand, I want to know what drove her to join Voldemort. With her being adamant against Credence going with Grindelwald, what caused her to change her tune when Voldemort rises to power? Bitterness? Finally finding someone that could talk to her after years of loneliness and isolation of being a human in a snake’s body? Has she gone insane? Is the eventual loss of Credence, likely at the hands of ministry, what drives her over the edge? I want to know the in-between.

I guess my only observation of an inconsistency here is, what kind of cover-up is going to have to happen that we never hear about Credence in the Harry Potter books? I mean, if people were willing to speak with Skeeter about Ariana and Aberforth, there has to be someone alive and willing to talk about Credence, right?

 

Queenie and Jacob

This was probably one of the more interesting changes in character in the story, but on the way home from the movie I was able to explain an aspect of why this was possible to my husband.

Queenie is a natural Legilimens, which means she can hear thoughts. Basically, in Harry Potter speak, she’s a telepath. Now, when we think about another famous literary telepath, Sookie Stackhouse, we get some insight into why Queenie’s character is so flighty and ‘blond’. It’s exhausting hearing people’s thoughts, day in and day out, in your mind, and it can lead to some behavior associated with a person being ditzy.

Now, think about how overwhelming this can be. Combine that with the fact  she just had a major falling-out with Jacob, is in a foreign city where she can’t speak the language, can’t find her rock, Tina, and hence she’s stressed to the max. She has hit her limit, sitting on the curb in the rain, sobbing, when a woman comes and offers help.

People familiar with Harry Potter likely picked up on why there was a sudden silence when the woman touched her: the woman was Occluding. Someone who occludes, or an Occlumens, is shielding their thoughts. It would make a fair bit of sense that she was doing this. As a henchman of Grindelwald, she would need to shield her thoughts from anyone who tried to invade them as a way to get to Grindelwald and his plans.

We also see this in Queenie’s interaction with the woman when she says; “I can’t tell if you’re joking, or if you’re just French.” This is the second clue the woman is Occluding, because why wouldn’t Queenie know if she’s joking or not when she can read minds? I know she said it’s easier with some people more than others, but to be a complete blank? Unlikely. Using this train of thought, it would be safe to say that Grindelwald is also an Occlumens.

Keeping those things in mind, how would you feel if, after years of chatter in your head you could never turn off, you suddenly had peace and quiet in your own mind? It would be pure heaven. At first, anyway. Combine that with Grindelwald’s enticement that she could marry Jacob if he were in charge, the one thing she says she wants more than anything, why wouldn’t she join him?

As for her leaving Jacob, we see that she reacts quite strongly to being called crazy, and this is likely her way of proving she isn’t crazy. That she’s just trying to find the way that will enable them to have a normal life and family together.

It’s tragic when she screams at him to come with her, and for the first time he looks at her like he doesn’t know her, and refuses.

 

Tina and Newt:

Their relationship was kind of odd in the movie. We didn’t need the mistaken magazine article for the plot. Queenie could have just told Newt that Tina was off on an assignment, and when Newt shows up, they could have played on the same reactions in the first movie that Tina had when Newt interfered. It would have taken some pressure off the multiple sub-plots, and played into a more comfortable feel to their relationship. Newt doesn’t need the misunderstanding to be awkward with his interactions with her. He has that in spades without.

Speaking of him being awkward, my only complaint about the acting was the mumbling. Theatres are loud, and I still had a few moments where I couldn’t understand him. As for his mannerisms, they are just part of who he is, so I’m not sure why there are complaints in regards to it. I don’t personally feel it took attention away from the story, and it seems like a cop-out for people who just don’t like odd people. It makes them uncomfortable, and people don’t like being uncomfortable.

 

The Whole Lot of Lestranges

This was another one of the situations where there was too much going on. I understand that we were trying to prove or disprove Credence’s heritage, but this could have been streamlined. You already show one of Grindelwald’s henchman stealing the genealogy tree from the French Ministry, (which was beautifully pretentious, by the way. I loved its look, the super creepy lady guarding the vault area, and not to mention the spirit cats!), so why not have her poke and prod Credence and Leta into the situation?

If we’re being honest, Yusuf’s entire role can be boiled down to explaining why Leta was black and Credence was white. It wasn’t necessary, and added nothing to the plot. They could have just had Leta say, “My father was a terrible man. He imperiused my mother into marrying him, and she died giving birth to me. Then he remarried, not for love—he didn’t even love me, his daughter. But when Corvus was born…It was only then he felt love. I’m sorry, but you can’t be him, Credence, because I killed Corvus. [Lead into movie explanation].”

Or have a Grindelwald flunky, like Grimmson, taunt them toward revealing all this. Credence has tried to kill him, and you would have gotten a strong reaction from Credence if Grimmson said things like; “Your family must not have loved you,” or something like that.

(Hey, I’m not paid to write the script, I’m just here to poke holes in it in my free time.)

As it stands, this dude—Grimmson—that they made a huge deal out of, effectively vanishes into thin air. They could have used him more effectively, and slimmed down on how many characters they introduced as well as the number of sub-plots. Less is more.

 

A Few Random Questions:

Newt? Really? You want Newt to be an auror, go after Grindelwald, or hunt down Credence? Why? Have you met Newt? This just seemed silly to me. Maybe if Grindelwald had an injured Grindylow on his back he’d be helpful, otherwise, not so much.

What’s up with Abernathy? We don’t get his story, and he never speaks despite getting a cool, new tongue.

How many pureblood families will Credence go through? Is he really a Dumbledore? Does that mean the woman on the ship that drowned is the mother of Albus, Ariana, Aberforth, and Credence (Aurelius)? Does this mean his mother, Kendra, got pregnant right before Percival, their father, was carted off to Azkaban? Why was she on a ship to America without her other children? If that woman is the mom, why didn’t she use magic to not drown in the middle of the ocean? If that woman is not the mom, then what the bowtruckle is going on?

Why did Grindelwald let Spielman live when he made his escape? Seemed silly after he killed all those other guys.

Anyone else amused that the McClaggan family trait seems to be arrogance in the way the Weasley’s trait is red hair?

Young McGonagall? Yes!

Most importantly, though: When will someone come up with a way to detect this damnable Polyjuice potion? Honestly! The stuff seems to be the preferred dark wizard infiltration method, and yet, they are duped every time. Boggles the mind.

 

In closing, I don’t feel like the movie was as gutter trash horrible as people made it out to be, but it wasn’t as good as the first one. They simply tried to do way too much, and it came off as rushed and half-baked. Even if they’d made it half an hour longer, it probably wouldn’t have helped. They should have trimmed down on the sub-plots, and used that time to focus on other aspects of the story to strengthen them.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Insights and Observations Part Two found here.

World of Warcraft Micro-Stories: Demon Hunter

People make so many decisions on any given day, to keep track of such things would be to court insanity. Other times decisions are so monumental yet irrational, they are, by their very nature, insane.

Arlithria would go out on a limb and say that choosing the demon you’d eat the heart of, qualified as such. Of course, all choices leading up to the heart consuming were merely stepping stones on the path of madness she was now on. Without one stone, one single decision, the path would have crumbled. But with hindsight comes regret, and she would not entertain such weakness. A lack of conviction in this endeavor would surely lead to death.

So, she chose the demon. She drank the blood. She ate the heart.

Darkness took her.

Then came the visions. The whispers. The fire.

World after world. People after people.

Slaughtered. Burning as her blood burned now. Her screams of agony blended in with their cries of anguish, until the cacophony of it was almost enough to drive her mad. No matter how loud it became, though, she could still hear it. The voice. As though the demon she’d consumed exhaled its hot breath down the back of her mind, eating away at her thoughts just as the fel did the same to her body.

Your struggle is pointless. Your fear fuels us. This power is unending, unyielding, and it will consume you as surely as it has all those who came before, and all those who come after. None can stand against our might.

She slipped further into herself. Retreating. Trying to find some small spot of solace.

Here, another voice whispered.

She paused. This wasn’t the demon.

Here, it said again, the word like a cool breeze running over her, keeping the fire at bay.

Just for that reason alone, she followed, pursuing any kind of reprieve she might find.

There! In the deepest recess of her being, there was a tiny spot so small, she would have missed it if not for the voice. When she touched it, they began to speak, the words resonating in her soul like the beating of a drum.

Remember, nothing is forever. We Night Elves learned this harsh lesson when Nordrassil was sacrificed, trading our immortality for the defeat of Archimonde. So, in a way, the Burning Legion has shown us its demise is possible. They say they do not yield, but bending is not breaking. Sway with the power, but do not be swayed by it. Have faith, love. Some day they will fall.

The voice faded, and with it the reprieve from the fel.

This time, though, she was ready. She pulled the fel to her, wrapping it around her, around her soul, and accepting the flames as they burned almost everything that was her to ash. She let it take many things, but she moved with the power, directing it the way she would her nightsaber. As they moved, she slowly banked the flames. Containing them. Letting them cradle the two things she would never give up: that one, small spot, and her conviction to see the end of the Burning Legion.

As the last lick of fel settled into her, subsumed with her soul, the demon snarled.

No!

It was too late.

When she opened her eyes, with the demon’s howls echoing in her mind, she smiled triumphantly at the demon hunter standing over her.

“When you can stand, we will complete the ritual,” he said, and walked away to inform the others that she was awake.

Every bit of her ached, as though she’d been through a battle in the waking world and not just within herself. She went to move, but pain shot through her like lightning, and her hands clenched against the pain. One of them closed around something that bit into her skin. A fleeting moment of confusion raced through her mind, and she slowly raised her hand to her face. In it was a small pendant, the azure gem glowing like the deep lake waters near her old home. The home destroyed by the Burning Legion.

Her smile softened and she closed her eyes, brining the pendant to rest on her forehead. When she opened them again, for one of the last times before she would complete the ritual, determination glowed in them as surely as the fel.

“We will gift the Legion with their final deaths, love. Azeroth will not fall.”

Writing Prompt ~~ Legacy

It had been more than two weeks since the fire, but the stink of it was still in her hair, on her skin. She took long showers twice a day, but the smell lingered. When she closed her eyes at night, the images came back to her. Images of the flames, of the way the dark varnish on her grandmother’s cuckoo clock, brought over from Germany when she immigrated here, bubbled and popped.

Most of all, though, Amelie remembered the heat.

Each night, she’d woken in a sweat from both the memories and the fear of them. She’d screamed herself raw each time as she clawed her way out of her mind, the thick smoke choking her as her throat constricted, trying to protect itself. It was as though the flames had followed her into the realm of dreams, intent on licking along her body, their tongues burning and pulling all the moisture from her skin as it blistered.

When she woke, though, her skin was pristine if only a little tender. And with each wakening, she’d remember it wasn’t her who’d been swallowed by the flames. When the fog of nightmares lifted and the memories came flooding back, she’d weep. She’d sob until her body convulsed with them and her eyes went gritty and dry.

She’d promised herself fourteen days. A fortnight to grieve in her soul, recover in body, and strengthen her mind. Two weeks for a plan to churn in her subconscious, sitting at the back of her mind like a slowly simmering stew.

When the new moon rose, leaving more shadow than light stretched over the quiet landscape, she left the hideaway. It had been Quinn’s idea to build it, and though she’d been foolishly over-confident enough to scoff at him for such caution, she’d humored him. He’d gone to work on the very back end of their twenty-acre property, making what amounted to a doomsday bunker, though their concern was less apocalypse and far closer to home. What she wouldn’t give to hear him say, ‘I told you so.’

She clamped down on the sob that tried to break through her swollen throat, and swallowed against it. If she started crying now, she might not stop.

Though she didn’t expect anyone to still be at the house, she took her time moving through the familiar woods. She placed her hands on the rough bark of the trees, like touchstones, and with each caress she was more grounded and less insubstantial. Her hold on the world had been tenuous at best these last two weeks, with the loss of so much that was dear to her leaving her adrift. The trees brought some of what made her, her back, like an artist drawing an outline for a character. Amelie was solid again.

At just after midnight she made it back to the clearing just behind what was left of their house. The night was still, and so was she as she assessed the ruin. She hadn’t been in any condition to do so when she fled, and looking at it now, some of the comfort from the forest withered and left her hollow like a rotted tree trunk.

After a time, she made her way to the wreckage, careful to not disturb too much in case someone came snooping around. The single cabin hadn’t been what most folks would consider much, but it had been enough for her and Quinn.

When she came to the back of the house, she knelt and cleared away fire and autumn debris from a small section of otherwise normal looking ground. However, when she worked her fingers into the earth, a small seam appeared and a trapdoor lifted. Not wanting the remainder of the cabin to collapse on her, she pulled out a flashlight and shone it into the dark cellar. As far as she could see, everything was untouched, so she made her way down the steps into the darkness. Once inside, she lit the lamps around the room. They’d never wired electricity down here, just in case someone with more than half a brain had been involved with planning their demise.

When the soft glow illuminated the small work area, everything really was intact, and she let out a small, shaky sigh. Then, when her eyes strayed over to the bookshelf, her breath caught in her throat. Her feet carried her over to the ceiling-high shelves before she could think to do it, and shaking hands grabbed a picture frame.

Dark eyes with a wicked sense of humor and smile to match gazed back at her. His auburn hair was tousled from sweat and hard work while he helped build their cabin, and dirt streaked through his face and trimmed beard. It was her favorite picture of him, and an ache spread through her chest.

“I miss you,” she whispered, and ran a thumb across the picture’s cheek.

This time, instead of a sob, something hardened in her, and she had to put the frame down before she cracked it and the glass when her fists clenched. Her eyes scanned over the books along the shelves, though she knew exactly where the one she wanted was. On the top shelf, high enough that she had to stand on tiptoe to grab it, she pulled down the dusty, dark tome. A cuckoo clock was not the only thing her oma had brought from Germany.

Oma had never shied away from the darker side of their abilities, saying the dark was as much a part of anyone as the light. Amelie, on the other hand, had never been totally comfortable with such things, and after learning them never had cause to use them again. Oma respected her decision on this, saying some witches remained in the light, others steeped in darkness, while most walked in the grey. Amelie had been more than happy to remain on the light side, though she never thought less of her oma for walking a darker path than her. That was just Oma.

Amelie sent a silent prayer to her grandmother on the other side of the veil, asking for guidance. She took the book and the picture over to the small chair in the corner of the room and sat down to read.

Her thoughts were sharp as broken glass, and claws of rage raked through her as she poured over the spells.

It was sometime around dawn when she finally put the book down, her mind whirring with one possibility after another. As the cold, autumn wind shifted small amounts of rubble overhead, she looked at Quinn’s picture.

“They wanted an evil witch, and that’s just what they’ll get.”

World of Warcraft Class Micro-Stories: Hunter

A chill wind blew over the mountain, kicking up little flurries of snow in its wake, and Drekxan was never more aware of how very far from home he was. Or how much he hated the cold. Growing up in the Echo Isles, where the heat was like a living, breathing elemental, meant his appreciation for areas where winter was eternal left him shivering and grumbling.

Bodrer needled him endlessly about it, saying his blue skin was a sign Drekxan was doomed to forever be sent to the coldest regions of Azeroth. Drekxan said he was rather mouthy for someone who couldn’t reach the top shelf without help.

However, the weather wasn’t responsible for the ache deep in his bones or the icy fingers of sorrow clenched around his heart. He was crouched in front of one of the shrines around the back of the Trueshot Lodge. Its were candles perched on an old stump and magicked to remain alight no matter the weather. In front of the stump, within easy reach of his calloused fingers, was his weapon. He ran a hand lovingly over the wood, remembering how it had fashioned itself into a bow at the first moment he touched it. Titanstrike, vessel of the Thunderspark, and a weapon to harness the souls of storms.

Dead.

His hand stilled over the lifeless wood, and a sharp pain lanced through his chest. He grimaced, and curled his fingers into a fist and away from the weapon. A soft whine sounded from next to him, and he looked over to his wolf, Shanzin. His hand went to the animal’s head, running it over the course, white fur that matched Drekxan’s hair perfectly, and offering what comfort he could.

“I know, mon. I know,” Drekxan said, and sighed.

They’d done their part in the war to stop the Legion and the mad Titan, Sargeras, and what did they have to show for it? A big sword stuck right into the heart of their world, and wounds that would never heal that had nothing to do with Silithus.

Shanzin sighed back at him, and nudged the bow with his nose, whining again.

Drekxan was a hunter, and as such he acknowledged the cycle of life and death with the reverence it deserved. This wasn’t his first loss, and it wouldn’t be his last, but some bonds went so far into the soul, recovering seemed impossible beyond their loss.

When Hati had heeled to his hand, the lightning wolf’s sparks running over his arm with warm tingles, he’d been breathless with awe. Being the keeper of Thorim’s wolf was an honor Drekxan never dreamed in a thousand years he’d be bestowed with, and Shanzin had taken to the older, blue wolf like a surf crawler to water.

From one side of the Broken Isles to the other, and even to another world, the three of them had been through thick and thin, and survived. Then, Magni Bronzebeard had called for him once more, and with his words asked Drekxan for something more valuable than his own life: Hati’s.

It wasn’t so much Hati himself, but the power of the Thunderspark, which was needed to drain the death magic from the Titan’s sword before it killed their world. One life for thousands.

And still, he’d hesitated.

He was not ashamed to admit it. What were people he’d never met in comparison with a companion who’d kept him alive through the very worst the Burning Legion had to offer, and more?

In that moment of indecision, Hati had butted Drekxan’s hand with his head. Drekxan looked into the eyes of a creature who understood far beyond what any mortal one could, and realized Hati was telling him it was okay, and to let him do this one, final task.

So, he did. When Drekxan raised Titanstrike toward the sword, Hati faced the cursed blade and lifted his muzzle, howling his defiance toward the heavens. Shanzin followed suit on Drekxan’s right, and their cries intertwined and echoed out across the dunes.

And as the last spark of Hati drained away, leaving the Titankstrike empty in his hands, Shanzin’s howl carried on, alone, lamenting the loss of his friend.

They’d returned to the Trueshot Lodge after that, awaiting further orders from Magni on how to save Azeroth. Drekxan, who was by no means a young troll, was weary. Not only of the cold and endless wars, but of the never-ending death. The cycle was sacred, yes, but looking into Shanzin’s dull eyes that mirrored Drekxan’s feelings, perhaps it was time to leave the Hunt to those younger than him. Those not worn down by constant loss.

“Ach, there you are. Thought I might find you here.” Bodrer’s thick brogue broke through the haze of Drekxan’s thoughts.

Drekxan grunted. “Whatcha want, Bodrer?”

Instead of answering, the old Dwarf looked over Shanzin. “Still?” His question was not condescending, but quiet and pensive.

Drekxan merely nodded, at which Bodrer sighed. “I came to tell you that a message came from Orgrimmar for you, marked urgent.”

Drekxan snorted. “They always be thinkin’ dat their business is urgent.”

“It came directly from your Warchief,” Bodrer said, his voice going low.

At the Trueshot Lodge, there were no allegiances except to honoring the tenants of the Hunt, which the Huntmaster—currently Drekxan—was chosen to uphold. That Sylvanas was calling for him, specifically, did not bode well in Drekxan’s mind, and sat uneasily in his stomach.

There’d been some business Drekxan had stayed well away from, concerning a certain tree, but he knew it was only a matter of time before she’d demand to see him.

“I not be wantin’ ta get tangled in her web. I follow da Hunt. Nothin’ more,” Drekxan said.

Bodrer let out a barely perceptible sigh. “Still, it had news that might interest you,” he said, a small flash of mischief in his eyes.

“Oh? Ya been readin’ my mail again?” Drekxan asked.

Bodrer didn’t even have the grace to look abashed as he shrugged, and a smirk tugged the corner of his mouth. “You don’t read it, so someone should.”

Drekxan harrumphed. “I let ya be readin’ it for me, because gossipin’ makes ya happier than a boar in mud, dwarf,” Drekxan said, amicably.

Bodrer laughed his agreement, but he’d never admit to such out loud. “Any way, it spoke of a new land: Zandalar.”

Drekxan, whose attention had strayed from the dwarf as he pet Shanzin again, jerked his head over to lock on with Bodrer’s warm, brown eyes.

“Truly? Zandalar?”

“Aye, and I hear there’s plenty of land to be explored—warm land. A jungle, swamp, and desert, respectively,” Bodrer said, putting the emphasis on warm, as though he were trying to lure a wounded animal with the promise of something delicious. “Maybe even a few dinos,” he continued, doing his best to cheer his friend up.

It worked. Drekxan perked right up, his eyes shining with life for the first time since he’d come back from helping Magni.

“Dinos, ya say?”

Drekxan’s first pet was a raptor, like all other troll hunters, and though each beast was unique and worthy in their own right, Drekxan would always have a soft spot for dinosaurs. However, when he looked back at Shanzin, who hadn’t perked up one bit since Bodrer had shown up, his excited shriveled like seaweed left too long in the sun.

He sighed and his shoulders slumped, but before he could open his mouth to respond, a small, faint pulse raced along his awareness. His eyes snapped to Titanstrike.

“It cannot be,” he whispered. However, when he looked at Shanzin, he was even more surprised to find the wolf’s head up, ears forward, and eyes trained on the bow.

When Drekxan laid a hand on the weapon, there was still nothing. At first. Then he closed his eyes and focused all his senses until…There! It was distant, like trying to hear someone speak in the middle of a storm on the other side of an island, but it was there.

“What is it?” Bodrer asked, anxious and concerned.

When Drekxan turned back to look at the dwarf, he had a wide, fierce grin on his face.

“A promise from a friend.”

Writing Prompt ~~ Magic Isn’t Real

He had hunted and hiked and led backpacking trips through these woods for twenty years, and he had never seen an animal track like that. At first glance, it resembled wolf tracks, which was impossible given that there hadn’t been wolves in these parts since before Richard was born. One reason his mind had jumped to wolf and not dog, was because they formed a single track instead of staggered. The other reason was the shape, but even that wasn’t exactly correct. The pads were the wrong size and shape for any canid, and the claw marks were too thick. Richard wouldn’t claim to be an expert, but he knew these woods, and there was nothing in it that should make tracks like that. Least of all a wolf.

What he did know, though, was right next to those strange tracks were shoe prints, size 11 ½ youth, with little stars and hearts amidst the swirling tread pattern.

“What’d you find, Rick?” the quiet, rumbling voice of the Sheriff asked from behind him.

Most people tended to whisper or speak in hushed tones in the woods on instinct, but that was just the Sheriff. You wouldn’t catch him raising his voice to break up a bar fight, if it came down to it. Not that it ever did. Sheriff Evans had what folks referred to as presence. The large man moved like a force of nature: you either got out of his way or were taken down in the process.

“Girl’s tracks are here. We’re lucky it rained for a couple days the other day, or I might not have spotted this,” Richard said, and waved a black gloved hand at the muddy forest floor, littered with leaves. He’d never been fond of being called Rick, but people were set in their ways, especially around these parts.

“And?” Sheriff Evans prompted, hearing the unfinished words lingering on Richard’s tongue with the keen perception honed by years of experience.

Richard huffed out a frustrated breath. “And some tracks that don’t fit any animal I’ve ever come across,” he said, and pivoted on the balls of his heavy-booted feet to face the Sheriff.

The man’s ice blue eyes narrowed on Richard, who stilled under the scrutiny. Richard had never broken the law, let alone given police any trouble or reason to distrust him. But it was still there, hovering beneath the surface.

Richard was an outlier in the community. Someone who made his living off the vast woods that most were content to avoid. Sure, people hunted and hiked and so on, but Richard lived and breathed these woods, and there was a wildness about him. It didn’t help that he looked the typical part of someone who spent most of his time in the woods: bearded, rough around the edges, clothes worn and patched, and with his wild black hair usually contained under a knit cap.

That otherness meant he’d never quite moved beyond acquaintance-level with most people. In fact, if they got more than a nod of greeting from Richard it tended to shock the good folk of Pinebrook. Most avoided his ever-present scowl and dark, hooded eyes. Those wanting to traipse about the woods only put up with his standoff-ish demeanor because he was the best around, and those that didn’t want to found someone less qualified.

“Explain,” the Sheriff said, but his wary gaze left Richard’s and began scanning the surrounding trees.

Richard, too, looked around. Though Richard was not a small man himself in weight, he didn’t quite hit the same numbers as the Sheriff who was built like a wall of muscle. When Richard looked back at their walking tracks leading to this point, Richard’s weren’t quite as deep as the Sheriff’s, as was expected. What made Richard’s body tense was the fact the unknown tracks were a depth between the Sheriff and himself. It didn’t bode well.

“I thought at first they were wolf tracks,” Richard started.

The Sheriff snorted at that, though he didn’t stop his surveillance.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought, too. Plus, the shape isn’t exactly correct. It’s strange, though. What kind of animal would have the girl walking with it, instead of just, well, eating her?” Richard pondered out loud.

The Sheriff’s head jerked over at Richard’s statement, who just shrugged at the man’s distasteful look.

“Tell me I’m wrong,” Richard challenged, though as respectfully as he could manage. To be honest it wasn’t much, but it was the best Evans was going to get.

Sheriff Evans grunted, then considered the tracks again. “You’re sure they aren’t human?” he asked.

Richard shook his head. “Even if they were wearing something weird on their feet to try and confuse us, the impressions wouldn’t look right. When people are making fake tracks, they either press straight down or don’t walk naturally, and it shows in the tracks,” he said. Then he indicated the sides and depths of the footprints. “This has the natural gate of something that single tracks and walks on four paws, like a wolf.”

Sheriff Evans considered the tracks. “But it’s definitely not a wolf?” The lilt at the end of the sentence indicated the Sheriff was making it more of a question than a statement.

“No, not a wolf, but some kind of animal,” he said, his voice going soft. Whatever it was, he didn’t think it boded very well for the girl.

“Well, we can’t stand here and debate this anymore. You follow the tracks, and I’ll follow you,” Sheriff Evans said.

Richard nodded, and off they went.

They weren’t the only people out looking for Heather Turner, aged six, missing from her home on the edge of town. When her parents called her in from their backyard for lunch, they thought she was playing hide and seek with them. When they couldn’t find her, and instead discovered a place in the fence where the chain links had been pushed aside just enough for a small child to get through, they panicked.

When the initial search led them not far down the road and into the forest, they’d put out the call for volunteers and called in the SAR—Search and Rescue—dogs. They lived on the edge of enough wilderness that they had a couple of full-time trackers. The first real indication that things weren’t quite right was the dogs’ refusals to track. Not just a, ‘I can’t follow the scent/There is no scent,’ situation. This was a tail between their legs, one of them peed themselves, and they refused to budge, type of refusal. These dogs weren’t new, or scared of much of anything, but their behavior had put the SAR team on edge.

That’s when they went to get Richard.

He’d been gearing up to help with the search when the Sheriff himself had pulled up and explained the situation, and what had happened with the dogs. He’d been concerned about that, but not enough to put him off going into the woods to search for a little girl.

Now here they were, following the tracks of Richard didn’t know what, and they were headed to the lake. Not just any lake, but Arrowhead Lake. There were a few bodies of water in these parts, but the one that was the biggest and in the deepest part of the forest was the Arrowhead. Shaped like its namesake, it was where, to put it not-so-delicately, the crazies lived. Mostly they were an assortment of backwoodsman and survivalists, and they guarded their privacy and land jealously. If Richard was barely on the tolerated side of amicable for the townsfolk, the Arrowheaders were the scapegoats and go-to for every which thing that went wrong in these parts.

Richard looked back over his shoulder and locked eyes with the Sheriff. His lips had thinned out and his eyebrows were drawn down in a mighty frown. He knew where they were headed. He motioned for Richard to stop, and called his fellow lawmen over the walkie.

“We’re going to head to the main road and call in to Walt. I don’t want to start some kind of FUBARed fire fight with the Arrowheaders because someone gets pissy we’re on their land,” Sheriff Evans grumbled, and started to head west toward the only road to the lake.

By the time the two men managed to get there, there was a patrol car waiting, with a CB ready to go. No one up here had lines for phones, or likely the patience for them.

Sheriff Evans got Walt on the CB, and he agreed to come out. Probably twenty minutes later the old man came ‘round the bend in his beat up ’55 Chevy, expertly avoiding or going over potholes that were as familiar to him as his own land. Walt was the unofficial spokesperson of the Arrowheaders, which really meant he was the only one willing to talk before he pulled his gun.

By this point, the deputy and Sheriff were chomping at the bit to get moving again. There was a kid missing, and each minute that went by wasn’t doing her any good.

Walt got out of his truck and hobbled on over to the Sheriff, though Richard hung back. While the Arrowheaders weren’t as hostile toward him as they were to law enforcement, they weren’t exactly buddy-buddy, either. He was too wild for the townsfolk, and too tame for Arrowhead.

Walt was like a piece of chewed up old leather leftover from a saddle that was rode hard and put away wet. He’d survived WWII with his body mostly intact, but in mind not so much. Sometimes when people were talking to him, he gets a faraway look in his mud brown eyes. Richard had learned the hard way with a broken nose to never touch him when he’s like that. He had a shaggy white mane, and a beard to match that he could almost tuck into his belt.

“Whatchoo doin ‘round here, Evans?” Walt said with his usual ornery tone. His wild, bushy eyebrows were drawn down, and even in his late sixties the man was scrappy as ever.

“There’s a little girl missing, Walt. We’re just trying to find her and get her home,” Sheriff Evans said matter-of-factly, holding his hands out in front of him.

Walt’s eyes narrowed dangerously.

“You think we had somethin’ to do with that?” asked another voice from over by the truck as Walt opened his mouth.

The Sheriff’s head snapped over to a boy standing not far from the front-passenger side of the truck. He was your typical, surly teenager: whip-thin, like he’d have a hard time putting any muscle on him, and dark brown hair cut long enough that it fell in his eyes, which were the same brown as Walt’s.

“And you are?” Sheriff Evans asked, suspicion evident in the set of his shoulders and tone of his voice.

“That’s my grandson, Matthew. Now answer the boy’s question,” Walt said, still glaring at the Sheriff.

“We aren’t sure,” Sheriff Evans admitted honestly. “We followed some tracks to the edge of Arrowhead property and stopped to get ahold of you.”

“Whatchoo mean you ain’t sure?” Walt spat. “Either yer here to try and arrest one of us, or yer just causin’ hate and discontent.”

Sheriff Evans glanced back at Richard, who sighed.

“They pulled me in to track when the dogs refused to do it,” Richard said, leveling a significant look Walt’s way.

Walt’s eyebrows shot up. “You mean Tommy’s and Jerry’s dogs?”

Tommy and Jerry were the SAR guys. They didn’t just handle the SAR dogs, they were some of the best trainers around for them.

Richard nodded. “Pissed themselves scared.”

Walt and Matthew exchanged a worried glance. The silent communication after hearing such news might have been expected and natural to the two lawmen, but Richard didn’t miss the something extra that passed between them.

“Whatchoo think it was?” Walt asked, bringing a heavy scowl down on Richard.

“Can’t say; never seen tracks like that. Looked wolf, but wrong, and weighed somewhere between me and the Sheriff,” Richard said, and shrugged.

Though the motion was nonchalant and the words casual, (as though Richard spoke of man-sized beasts roaming their forests every day), his gaze was subtly sharp, watching Matthew. The old man could hide his guilt from St. Peter himself, but the boy was young. He hadn’t learned to hide that well, yet.

And there it was, the small twitch of the kid’s shoulders at the description of the tracks.

“Well, long as you ain’t sayin’ it were one of us, I’ll do the rounds with ya. Boy, you stay here,” Walt said, his words emphatic and brooking no argument.

The boy glowered, and Richard might have guessed it was part of an act if the kid hadn’t been a teenager. Angst came as naturally to them as breathing.

“Deputy, you’re with us. Richard, stay here in case anyone else shows up. Tell them we went to speak to the residents, and to fan out around the Arrowhead border to see if there are any tracks leading out. They are not to go into Arrowheader land. Got me?” Sheriff Evans asked.

The only reason Richard didn’t tell the man he could save his commands for his lawmen and stick his orders where the sun don’t shine, was because a little girl was in danger. Instead, he nodded, and the three of them headed to Walt’s truck. The deputy jumped in the back, and Sheriff Evans got in the front seat with Walt. As the truck was turning around on the narrow road, the boy and Walt exchanged one last, telling, worried look, before heading back toward the lakeside properties.

Once the truck was out of sight, Richard turned to the kid.

“Tell me what you know,” Richard said, his voice low and cutting to the chase.

“I—”

“Shut the hell up, and save your lies. I know you know something, and you’re going to tell me so I can save the little girl. That way her parents won’t have to lower a tiny coffin into the ground,” Richard growled out.

The boy’s eyes went wide at Richard’s morbid words, and he paled.

“It-it’s not what you think!” he blurted out, his hands clenched.

“Then tell me what I should think,” Richard bit out, quickly losing patience. He didn’t have time for Arrowheader bullshit. He hadn’t thought they’d had anything to do with it, but after those looks, he knew they knew something. It was bad enough he was keeping this from the Sheriff, but he’d be damned if their secrecy was going to hurt a little girl.

“Not long ago, a woman moved into Derrick’s old cabin. She’s Russian, just off the boat, and with an accent so thick you can barely understand her on a good day, let alone when she’s riled,” Matthew said.

Richard made the ‘go-on’ gesture, urging the kid to get to the point.

“Well, not long after she moved in, we started noticing strange things. Things would go missing and turn up in weird places, and we’d find weird tracks around cabins after hearing noises at night. Stuff like that.”

“Okay, so you think this woman and this…whatever it is are connected?” Richard asked, just to get the boy to clarify. Because he’d bet his bippy she had something to do with it.

Matthew nodded. “It’s, well, like I said. Not what you think.” Then he looked around the deserted woods and bit his lip, indecision and guilt wringing the kid’s conscience like a wet rag.

“Take me to her,” Richard said.

The boy’s eyebrows shot high and went knotted, while his eyes grew wide as dinner plates. “She’d have my hide, sir! She’s meaner than a mess of hornets with a kicked over nest!”

It shocked him that the kid called him ‘sir’, which he most certainly wasn’t used to, but he didn’t have time for this.

“You’ll think she’s a day-old kitten compared to me if something happens to Heather Turner, boy.”

The kid’s shoulders slumped and he grimaced. “Alright, but I’m hanging you out to dry as sure as the sun rises.”

Richard nodded. “You help me save that little girl, I don’t care if you throw me to a whole pack of hacked off Russian biddies. Now, move,” Richard said, and gave the kid a nudge.

Richard knew, vaguely, the location of all the dwellings around Arrowhead, but he couldn’t remember exactly where Derrick’s place was. He’d died last year, too old to get through another harsh winter up in the woods with minimal supplies. While he wasn’t too keen on taking the kid with him, he needed him as a simultaneous guide and white flag. People would get riled if they saw just Richard, no matter how much more they tolerated him than they did the townsfolk. No, having the kid was like a hall pass in a place the teachers would shoot you if you were caught without one.

After a long walk and many worried glances at the sky from Richard as the sun made its inevitable trip toward the horizon, they finally made it to the cabin. It was in better repair than last he’d glimpsed of it, many years ago, but he didn’t have time to admire the scenery. Search and rescue never boded well in the dark, let alone when some unknown creature was involved, and time waited for no one. Not even missing little girls.

He stalked right up to the cabin and pounded on the door. Before a fourth knock could land, the door was yanked out from under his fist. A scowling, royally ticked-off woman stood there, her pale grey eyes flashing.

“Vat is the meaning of this?” she asked, her accent thick on her tongue like molasses. She had her hands on her generous hips, and the long, thick braid of her chocolate brown hair snaked down over her equally generous chest.

Not the time, he ground out, annoyed with himself.

She barely came up to Richard’s chin, and he met her glower with one of his own.

“We’re looking for a missing girl. Six. And I think you know something about it,” Richard said, his words clipped.

She reared back a bit at this, her eyebrows shooting up. “And vhy vould I know about this girl?”

“Because I found some incredibly strange tracks alongside hers, and I’ve been told that ever since you’ve moved here, people have been finding strange, unidentifiable tracks around their cabins.”

Panic flashed through her eyes like a shooting star: there and gone just as quick. But it had been there, and Richard latched onto that like a hound on a scent.

She’d gone quiet, and her eyes darted behind him to Matthew. When she saw the boy, shuffling his feet like all the guilt in the world had been placed on his shoulders, she sighed.

“You said leetle girl? Six?” she asked. At Richard’s nod, she shook her head and started muttering in Russian, clearly irritated. “It’s not vhat you think,” she said.

“So I’ve been told,” Richard ground out. “Now, take me to her.”

The woman—he realized he hadn’t even asked her name—grabbed her coat from by the door. Richard moved out of the way so she could close it. After doing so, she set off toward the woods on the opposite side from where they came in. Richard followed the sway of her braid down her back as she moved, and the boy brought up the rear. He wasn’t comfortable with two Arrowheaders flanking him, but it couldn’t be helped. There was no way the boy would leave him with one of their own, and he wouldn’t have listened to Richard if he’d tried to tell him to stay.

They weren’t long heading into the forest when the woman came to a halt, and Richard almost ran into her. He hadn’t realized he was following her so close. She inhaled deep, tilted her head to one side, as though listening for something, and changed her direction at a sharp westward angle, heading deeper in. After about the same amount of time she stopped, and this time Richard inhaled with her.

Forests always held smells of growing things, or of wet dirt like now, and sometimes rotting things, but this was a different smell. It was familiar, and not. Like the smell of a cut Christmas tree, even though there were no evergreens here, but it had a bitter edge, like tree sap on your tongue.

Then, she started speaking in Russian. “Vykhodi, Leshi! Vy znayete, chto ne mozhete derzhat’ devushku.”

He was about to tell her to stop, and speak English, when there was a rustling in the brush to their left. What walked through the brush was impossible for his eyes to reconcile with his brain. It looked like it was covered in green fur that wasn’t fur, but instead grass the color of olives. It was tall. Far taller than anyone Richard had met in his fifty years, and its head was decorated with a crown of autumn leaves. Its eyes were intense, and the black of fresh churned, deep forest earth. They bore into Richard as though it could see his very soul, and maybe it could.

“What—” he barely managed, the word strangled.

Before he could finish, though, the creature’s cradled arms moved forward, as though it was offering him something. When he looked down, it was the first time he noticed what the creature carried. It was Heather Turner, fast asleep, a peaceful, content smile on her face.

There was a noise like the groaning of trees and the rustling of leaves in the wind, and it was coming from the creature. Richard couldn’t move. Of all the things he expected, this wasn’t it.

“He says he’s very sorry. He vas lonely, and just looking for someone to play vith. In human years, they aren’t far apart in age,” the woman said, her voice soft and sad.

When Richard turned wide eyes to her, her face was haunted by some memory playing in her mind. It wasn’t too far off how Walt looked during those times it was a bad idea to touch him.

“Take her,” she said, her voice urgent.

Richard jerked at the words, and his arms automatically went forward to take the sleeping child from the—him. He rustled a bit, and where his grass-like fur touched Richard’s flesh, it was cool, but not so much so that the child would have taken chill in his arms.

Heather scrunched her face a bit as she moved between the two, but quickly settled down. Richard just held her there, still not sure what to say.

“He is the last of his kind—a Leshi. Something you might call a forest spirit, or fairy, that can shapeshift. They vere hunted to the very last. My family has alvays been vith them, protecting and being protected in turn. Ve came here for better life,” she said by way of explanation. “Now…” she trailed off.

Richard realized what she meant. There was almost no way to explain the situation away. Heather never would have made it up this far without some kind of help, and someone would have to take the blame. A thought slowly formed in Richard’s mind.

“Unless she wasn’t found here,” Richard said slowly, his first words to the two Arrowheaders since leaving the cabin.

After a moment, hope lit a joyful fire in her eyes so fierce, it almost made Richard take a step back.

“Of course, we’ll need your friends help,” he said. Richard looked over at the creature, who nodded once, and slow.

Da. Of course!”

It wasn’t too long after that Heather Turner was found, tucked away and asleep in a tricky little hole in her favorite tree in her backyard. Her parents hadn’t even known it was there. When they hugged and kissed and scolded her for not answering when they’d all called for her, she simply told them about the most wonderful dream she had. There was a large wolf in it who changed into a boy, whose skin was made of grass, and they played in the woods. Her parents merely shook their heads, and apologized profusely to all those involved in her search and rescue.

Everyone was just glad she was found safe. No one mentioned the behavior of the dogs. Or the strange tracks walking right next to those of a child who had the exact same shoe type and size as Heather, heading to Arrowhead Lake.

In fact, the only thing that changed was the frequency of Richard visiting Arrowhead. The townsfolk wrote it off as a simple case of a man wooing the first new face to grace the town in a couple of decades. It helped his case that Tatiana’s face was pretty as any to look at. Once you got past her temper, that is.

And if people sometimes spotted a large, green creature that sometimes looked like a man, and other times a wolf, walking in the woods that disappeared like magic in the blink of an eye? Well, it just wasn’t spoken of. They weren’t a town of gossip-mongers like those hippie-dippy types with their Bigfoot in the Pacific Northwest. No, they were a private folk, and they kept such things to themselves. And if lost hikers spoke of lights in the forest, like fairy lights in the stories of old, leading them out and to safety, well, they chalked it up to dehydration. Magic wasn’t real; everyone knew that.

 

 

********NOTE************
For anyone who speaks/reads Russian, I apologize ahead of time: I only had Google Translate at my disposal, and I did the best with conveying the accent that I could. This is what Tatiana said in the woods:

“Come out, Leshy! You know you cannot keep the girl.”

Tales of the Graveyard Shift: The Greasy Goblin ~~ Chapter Twelve

Chapter 12

I’d like to say the minute I left the room I realized I was being a terrible person, let alone sister, and turned around and went back in. But no. I made my way down to the kitchen, fully expecting it to be full of children who just took a hit for their sugar fix, gossipy moms, and harried catering staff. I was pleasantly surprised to find that wasn’t the case, and it was strangely quiet. The only noise was coming from the back yard, where the children sounded as though they were having a contest to see who could scream the loudest.

The kitchen was modern, with shiny appliances, and a white paint scheme that I imagined took a full-time staff to keep clean. It was large enough to fit most my apartment in, but that’s what my brother gets for being the best personal lawyer in the area, and from the money that was left over from what our parents gave us.

I walked around the island to the large window overlooking the backyard. My nephew had opted for some kind of pirate theme, and was currently running around with his fellow buccaneers in their personal backyard playground. There was even a bouncy house. My other nieces and nephew were now dressed up, too, and my heart clenched. There was pure joy on their faces as they ran around, searching for treasure at the command of Jason, who was the spitting image of my brother. I couldn’t hold that against him, though—he was a pretty cool kid.

“Don’t feel like joining the party?”

I spun around to see a well-dressed man on the other side of the island, a small smile quirking the corner of his mouth. He was impossibly handsome, with features that toed the line between too rugged and romance novel cover model. His hair was a dark bronze, cut short on the sides and just long enough on the top to come off as devil-may-care. Like there just might be a bad boy lurking beneath the expensive, tailored, and designed-just-for-him conservative clothing.

But it was the expression in his honey brown eyes that reminded me of my brother at first glance: lawyer-ish and falsely concerned. My brother was a natural at his profession—a born and bred shark. For survival reasons, I’d learned early on to identify the surface emotions he used to manipulate people into opening up, or doing what he wanted.

However, if my brother was a shark, this man was something more. Something prehistoric that glided through the ocean with deadly grace, and put the fear of god in sharks of old if they’d been capable of the emotion. Something that sent a chill down my spine and made my bones ache with dread.

So, instead of answering his question, I decided to play on my apparent knack of irritating supernatural beings with my insulting questions. And if this guy wasn’t some kind of preternatural bugaboo, I’d eat my tongue.

If you keep irritating things that can murder you with a flick of their pinky finger, they just might make you eat it, Rational Brain grumbled.

Primal Brain was, once again, silent in its terror.

“What are you?” I asked, going straight for the offensive jugular of questions.

He blinked at me, once, long and slow. “I see no one has taught you how to speak to your betters,” he said with a faint hiss, his voice going from pleasant to dangerous as easily as flipping a switch.

I grit my teeth against the sudden surge of adrenaline from my flight response, and stubbornly jutted my chin up at him. “If I come across one maybe I’d be obliged. As it is, I don’t see the point.”

Why are you picking a fight with something that could murder us with less effort than it takes to open his eyes? Rational Brain groaned.

That was a good question. Why was I picking this fight? Maybe it had something to do with needing to lash out after discovering my brother was married to a demon and my nieces and nephews were half-demon? Nah. I was probably just this dysfunctional.

“You know, for someone with little to no standing, protection, or anything worthwhile, you’re quite mouthy,” he crooned, and moved slowly around the island separating us.

“So I’ve been told,” I said, and stupidly stood my ground.

He came right up to me, with barely half a foot separating us. I’ve always been short, so it’s no surprise when someone is taller than me. In fact, I expect most people to be taller than me more often than not. But there is almost a visceral shock that goes through you when someone quite a bit taller than you invades your personal space. You’re left staring at their chest at best, or the bottom of their sternum at worst, and breathing in their subtle, expensive cologne.

When I looked up at him, his eyes had flashed to the same indigo as Candy’s, though his seemed more blue than purple. A thrill of…not exactly fear went through me, and my eyes widened.

His nostrils flared, and a small smirk played across his lips. Then he leaned over until his mouth was right next to my ear.

“You know, I’ve heard you’re trying to help the goblins find whoever killed their wayward heir,” he said, his voice going low and smooth as silk.

At his pause I swallowed and nodded, the motion jerky and tense.

“The goblins are incredibly important clients of ours, and I’d hate to disappoint them with your amateurish—at best—detective skills.”

A flash of annoyance furrowed my brows. “I told them I wasn’t the person for the job, and they didn’t listen. Plus, they’ve already threatened my brother and myself. This seems a bit like overkill.”

His throaty chuckle raised the hairs on the back of my neck. “No, they threatened your brother’s reputation, but my brethren and myself will do more than threaten. And take more than just his reputation,” he said, and leaned back.

That statement dumped a bucket of ice water on whatever hormones had, however briefly, reared their atrociously timed heads. When I met his eyes, the cold-blooded malice that pooled in their depths held a promise of agony in my future. One that might not even be contingent on whether or not I succeeded at finding Stribs’ murderer.

Whatever he saw in my face must have pleased him to no end, because a huge grin broke out across his face and he laughed a full-throated laugh.

“Oh, human. Your kind is a source of endless amusement,” he said once the laugh had died down into a series of staggered chuckles.

Well, at least he didn’t call you an Ord, Primal Brain reasoned.

That pales somewhat in the face of him threatening Joel’s life, Rational Brain replied scathingly.

“What I find amusing,” I said, my voice taking on a slight growl, “is how pathetic all you supposed ‘better’ beings must be to rely so heavily on humans to do everything for you.”

His expression didn’t change, but he did quirk an eyebrow. “All good leaders know how to delegate tasks appropriately. You don’t see the farmer pulling the plow, but the ox,” he said.

I won’t react to him calling me a cow. I won’t, I thought, and grit my teeth.

“And what good does it do the farmer to abuse or kill the one pulling the plow?” I asked. “Sounds like nothing more than an excuse to be cruel for no reason other than pathetic self-amusement,” I spat.

Though his smile hadn’t died during our back-and-forth, it went gentle. His eyes softened, and his head tilted slightly as he leaned in close, our noses almost touching.

“There might be one more thing you should consider before you mouth off to someone less genial than myself,” he said, his breath tickling across my skin, and smelling subtly of mint.

“What’s that?” I bit out.

“We aren’t the only ones who know about your familial connections, and what do you think will happen to Candace—” I couldn’t help the brief moment of satisfaction I got from the fact that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to call her Candy, “—and the children should something happen to Joel?”

Whatever vindication I’d felt for that short second died at his words. I sucked in a shocked breath, and my chest tightened so painfully it hurt to breathe.

“Aunty Holly!” a familiar voice shrieked from the doorway leading out to the backyard.

I jerked backward from the demon just in time to catch a tiny, adorable, armful of pirate. He had an eyepatch and everything. I ignored the scream of protest from my hand, though I did let out a small, pained noise inaudible over the commotion the little one was making. I nearly inhaled the white-blond curls of my youngest nephew, Owen, who still sported that baby fine hair of younger children just like Evelyn Rose.

“Missed you, Aunty!” he proclaimed as he squeezed my neck with all the force of a python, despite the fact he’d seen me barely more than half an hour ago.

His breath smelled of sugar, and I gave him a suspicious glance. “You haven’t been sneaking frosting from your brother’s cake, have you?” I asked.

“No!” he proclaimed far too quickly.

I laughed. “Well, if you say so, I believe you.”

He grinned in triumph. Who was I to rain on his parade? I was the indulgent aunt who didn’t have to scold him about his brother’s cake if I didn’t want to. I’d leave that to my brother and sister-in-law.

“Were you and Uncle Dizzy going to kiss?” he asked, in all his youthful innocence.

I let out a strangled, inarticulate noise of surprise. I wasn’t sure which shocked me more. The fact he called him uncle, that his name was Dizzy, or if he thought we were going to kiss.

“What made you think we were going to kiss?” I asked, trying to keep the utter panic from my words.

‘Dizzy’ broke out into an amused, truly affectionate grin aimed at Owen.

“He was close to you like Daddy when he’s going to kiss Mommy,” he proclaimed, and bounced in my arms. After a moment, he tilted his head and narrowed his eyes. “You know kisses are yucky, right?”

“Absolutely, which is why Uncle Dizzy—” I just managed not to choke on the name that didn’t fit the demon at all, “—and I certainly weren’t going to kiss,” I reassured him.

He pursed his lips as though he didn’t quite believe me, but then he started to wiggle, an indication he’d had enough of being held. I let him down, and he grabbed my uninjured hand and started tugging me toward the backyard.

“Come on; you’re missing the party!” he said, and tried to drag me away.

I planted my feet to keep from falling forward. “I’ll be out in a minute, Handsome. I need to ask your dad something,” I said.

He pouted and dropped my hand, then crossed his arms over his chest. “I want you to come now!”

“Don’t worry, dear heart, she’ll be out soon enough,” Dizzy said.

Owen looked between the two of us a couple of times before shouting, “Okay!” He ran back through the door, slamming it behind him and making me cringe as the glass fairly rattled.

There was a long moment of silence before he turned to consider me once again.

“Dizzy, huh?” I asked.

“It’s Dezanoth, actually, but try getting a five-year-old to say that,” he said with a shrug.

Well, he wasn’t wrong.

“And Uncle?”

He rolled his eyes. “You ask far too many questions, but in a roundabout, distant way you could say Candace and myself are related.”

I didn’t want to touch that with a ten-foot pole. The thought of having this…man for a brother-in-law gave me the heebie-jeebies. Now that I’d interacted with a demon far closer to what I expected, I could certainly appreciate Candace in a way I hadn’t before. Now I really needed to ask the two of them some questions.

“I really do need to speak with my brother, so, try not to murder any ‘amusing humans’ if you can manage it,” I said scathingly. With a glare, I turned and went to head back to my brother’s office.

“Holly,” he said, his voice soft, the words caressing my spine and making the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up again.

I turned back to look at him, and he was still on the other side of the kitchen. With how quick and silent supernaturals moved, I half expected to come face-to-face with him, and was relieved to find that wasn’t true.

When I met his eyes, though, I stiffened and my breath froze. The wicked look there promised all the imagined torments of hell would come to my doorstep one day, and the alluring smile gracing his lips indicated I might just beg for it to happen.

“Don’t forget: the farmer isn’t nearly as replaceable as the ox.”

 

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