Tag Archive | Druids

When Tis Done – Part 94

When Tis Done cover smallUnfortunately, when Jordan and Elise were attacked, David was killed trying to protect them. The Texas and Louisiana members decide they want to go home.

Monday rolled around, but no one felt like celebrating. David’s wake was that evening and his funeral the following day. None of the children went to school on Tuesday. For the second time, Chase’s family got into the black limosine provided by the funeral home, and drove to the church together. This time, it was Neil who verfied that it was his father in the coffin, not Chase. They did the duty together, both keeping the other strong.

David had asked for a small, private ceremony, just family and close friends, but the public wouldn’t stay away. He’d been a part of the Miracle City Council, served on the Board of Education and been a member of the Lion’s Club as well as the VFW. Despite the announcement in the paper, everyone showed up to pay their respects. Rather than turning them away, the family agreed to allow them to join them.

Like at Cliff’s funeral, members of the family and close friends, were asked to come up and share their memories of David. Each of the men from the Center Circle came up and told stories about David, making everyone laugh. Chase and Neil also spoke, along with Dora and Cynthia. Even the mayor asked permission to speak. Because he and David had been close friends, Myra welcomed it.

“David and I came up together,” Mayor Farnsworth said. “Best friend a man could have, and the worst enemy. Didn’t pay to get on his bad side, let me tell you. We got along great until I made a play for Myra, who was the prettiest girl in town. Thought to my soul he was gonna tear me apart. Scared me so bad, I ran off to the woods and got myself lost. I wandered around in the wilderness I don’t know how many days, confused and disoriented. Just as I was about to give up and just let the Good Lord take me, when I heard someone calling my name. It was David. He came with his mated pair of Blue Tick Hounds. He found me less than five miles from home, wandering around in a circle. He fed me, gave me water and told me how to get home. He didn’t bring me in, let me show up to be brought in by the team. Never to this day did I tell a soul that it was him who saved me, showed me the way. He showed me the way on more than one occasion, and I’ll miss his silent strength.”

There was quiet in the church, except for sniffles and nose blowing.

“David Braxton, I’ll miss you, my friend.”

The choir started singing Amazing Grace and the mayor joined in, his booming bass nearly drowning out the entire choir. Everyone in the congregation joined in and continued singing as the coffin was put in the hearse.

Afterward, every headed to the fellowship hall for a reception. No one had planned on so many people, but the church ladies had pitched in and made a feast for them all.

“I feel like Jesus with the loaves and fishes,” Myra said, looking at the laden tables of food. “He’d be so embarrassed by all this fuss,” she whimpered.

Neil held her close. “No, Mama, he’d be proud. And he’d go over there and eat all the chicken.”

She giggled, nodding. Not to be outdone, Neil went over and helped himself to a heaping platter of fried chicken and fried green tomatoes, provided by a local restaurant.

Once the reception was over, and all the leftovers had been loaded up and distributed to the family, everyone went home. Leaving Chase’s family to grieve on their own, at their request, Brian and Jordan’s famlies gathered at Brian’s house. They changed into their comfy clothing and lounged around the family room, watching Elise play with her brother and Jordan.

“I never did get a clear picture of what happened at the river,” Maribelle said. “I know that Jordan was there, unconscious. Then Brian and Sweet arrived with Summer. But you were very vague on details.” Her penetrating gaze riveted her son. She might be legally blind, but she still could nail him with a guilt stare.

Brian gulped, appealing to Jordan and Scott.

“Don’t lie to me,” Maribelle said. “I know it’s on your mind, Brian Casey. I can see it in your aura. Yours too, Jordan.”

“It was Elise,” Brian said slowly, haltingly.

“What?” Maribelle tilted her head as if she hadn’t heard properly.

“She protected Jordan from Lien. I heard her yelling No and she smacked her around, hit her with water, air, earth. Only thing she didn’t wield was fire. It was like watching a miniature pitbull on the attack. She knocked the shit out of Lien.”

“Sit,” Elise said, grabbing her brother’s lips. “Sit, sit, shhh-it.”

Brian smacked himself in the face.

“My baby? How’s that possible?” she appealed to Jackie.

“I don’t know…. Heath did some research and found that in extreme circumstances, more than one member of the family can have special powers. She may never show them again,” she hastened to say. “It might have been extreme measures because Jordan was in danger.”

“My baby took on a fully grown Kitsune—and survived?”

“She not only survived, Mom. She kicked Lien’s ass.”

“As—ss asss.”

“Will you stop teaching your sister inappropriate words?” his mother’s temper flared.

“Sorry. I’ll try. But I’m an inappropriate kind of guy. But she did, seriously, kick it.”

“I can’t believe it.” Maribelle shook her head. “I need to go lie down. Can you watch Elise for us?”

“Sure, Mom. Go get some rest.”

Jackie and Heath headed home, leaving Jordan to help babysit. Once they were alone with the little girl, Jordan combed her fingers through Elise’s curls.

“Did she really do all that? You’re not exaggerating?”

“Not a lick. If anything, I toned it down. I didn’t think Mom could take all the details.”

“Do you really think she’s never going to use her powers again?”

Brian nodded at his sister, who was currently spinning her foam building blocks in the air. “I don’t know, Jordan. What do you think?”

Jordan stared at the baby, laughing softly. Elise grinned at her, giggling as she made the blocks spin and whirl higher and faster.

“Not a chance,” Jordan said.

“Shit,” Elise said as the blocks dropped suddenly. “Shit, shit, ass!”

“Well, one thing’s for sure. She’s my sister!”

Laughing, Brian set the blocks swirling for Elise, who clapped her hands and danced as the blocks floated around her. His eyes met Jordan’s and he imagined he saw their own daughter there, dancing around with blocks spinning in the air.

THE END

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 93

When Tis Done cover smallJian, Lien and their father have been captured. The housekeeper, Su, is their leader. Jian declares that she will come for them. John is for killing the Kitsune, but Brian is reluctant, since they weren’t killed in battle. If he kills them now, it will feel like murder.

“I understand. Simply laying the option out there.”

“Thank you. The question remains of where to put them.”

“Here,” Neil said, gesturing. “We can contain them in solidified air and disappear them. Simple enough to do.”

“Not for me,” Brian remarked, somewhat annoyed that he’d never been taught.

“Maybe it’s time you learned,” Neil replied. “I never saw anyone better at that than my old man. How is Dad?” he asked the group.

No one spoke, no one would meet his eyes.

“No,” he whispered. “Tell me…. Why are we standing around?”

“He tried to help me and Elise,” Jordan said softly. “He heard me scream and came up to find Lien in the room. I don’t know how she got in, but she trapped us up there and tried to take the baby from me. David—” Tears trickled down her face. “He saved us, got us out of the room, bound Lien, but he didn’t know to use air, he used earth. She must have gotten free and followed. He was watching her and…. There was nothing anyone could do. I’m so sorry, Neil. So very sorry.” She burst into tears.

Neil took her in his arms, holding her close, as he sobbed.

“He died saving us,” she wailed. “And I couldn’t stop her. He told me to run and I ran…. I ran with Elise. I tried to get away. But she caught up with us and knocked me out. Then Elise—oh, my God, the baby saved me!” She sobbed harder.

Brian took her in one arm, Neil in the other. They huddled in a small circle of grief. Gradually, the others joined them, holding one another close, as they sang. Hearing the voices, those in the house, who were mobile, came down the steps and added their voices to the song. Men, women and children mourned the passing of one of their own. He’d fought bravely, saving Jordan and Elise from sure death.

“Your dad was a hero,” Jordan told Neil. “I’m so sorry….”

“He died doing what he did best, protecting someone who needed him,” Neil replied. “I will miss him. Dad was a force of nature.”

“I want to go home,” Summer said quietly. “Can we go home?”

“We need to do one more thing before we do,” Roy Curtis said. “We need to make your adoption official. Summer Sweet, I’d be very proud if you’d agree to be adopted by my family. I think you and Caleb would make a formidable pair for your Circle. What do you say?”

“Yes!” she agreed, smiling through her tears. “It would be an honor, Roy. Or should I call you Dad?”

He chuckled. “You’ve got your own father. But I’d be real happy if you’d call me Uncle Roy.”

“Yes, Uncle Roy.”

Before the Texas and Louisiana families left, they did a very short adoption and binding ceremony, formally allying thier Circles. Once that was complete, the Center Circles from Mississippi and Texas combined their strength to entrap the three prisoners in solidified air. When that was accomplished, they chose a secure location and disappeared them.

“That will hold them until we can find a better way,” Roy said. “I’ll check our library when I get home.”

“Thank you,” Neil said, shaking his hand.

“I’m real sorry about your daddy, Neil,” John said.

“Thank you.”

“When will you lay him to rest?”

Neil shook his head. “Depends on Mama. Daddy had some real specific instructions, so I’ll have to check with her.”

“My advice, you cremate his remains and you park him by those three heathens. If anyone can guard us all against them, it’s your father.”

Neil ducked his head. “Not a bad idea. I’ll surely suggest it.”

“You let us know. We’ll come back and pay our respects.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“You don’t owe me a sir, Sergeant. Just John will do fine. I’ve decided to fold up my uniform and retire. I’ve had enough of it, just like you. Got enough war here and I figure I can do more good on this front, than that one.”

“You’d be welcome here any time, sir…John.”

They embraced and John took his leave. The coronor’s van arrived shortly after the others left. Miles used his mind mojo to convince the coronor that David had simply died of a heart attack at a family gathering. There was no need for any other story to get out and about. There would be an autopsy, they couldn’t fake that, but the results were already assured.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 92

When Tis Done cover smallBrian realizes that the fight with Jian and his father was a distraction. Racing back to the house, he finds that Jordan and Elise are gone, taken to the river by Lien. Just as they take her out, they are greeted by Jordan’s brother, Scott.

“Good bind her well with ropes of air,” Scott said.

“Kinda harsh,” Caleb began.

Scott glared at him. “Kid, I don’t know you, but I assure you, it’s the only thing that will hold her. Brian.”

Doing as instructed, Brian lashed Lien with air. Lifting her to his shoulder, he carried her back to the house. She woke and tried to get free, but Caleb clunked her again, knocking her out once more. When they were back at the clearing, the found that Jian and Fēng were in the fire pit, also bound by air.

She hugged her brother almost fiercely. “Where is everyone?” she asked.

“I left most of them at the house before I came down to find Brian and you. Why don’t you go get them?”

“I’ll be right back.”

She trotted up the steps, searching for her mother and father. Those who could, came down to the fire pit where the prisoners were held. Some weren’t feeling well enough, so they waited in the house with Louisa, Andre, and Claude. They gathered around, battered and tattered, sitting on the benches and logs.

“Everyone, this is my brother, Scott. He’s got some information for us,” Jordan said, introducing her brother.

“I’ve had a hell of a time getting here, but I won’t go into that. What’s important is that somehow, these three were able to get loose. We’ll figure that out. When Jordan called me the other day, asking me for information, I had my suspicions, but I couldn’t be sure without doing extensive research. Unfortunately, it took longer than I intended and I apologize. Not the sort of thing I could do online, had to go to the source, a specialty library in Jackson.”

“My grandparents were there, too,” Brian interrupted.

“A few things Jordan said clued me in and I was pretty sure I knew what it was, but not how to stop it.”

“Well, what?” Jordan asked, threatening to hit him.

Scott laughed. “Kitsune—Japanese fox diety.”

“But they’re Chinese,” Jordan said, pertanent of nothing.

“Why should they tell even a modicum of the truth?” Scott asked. “Japan, China, Korea. The folklore is all mixed up and interconnected. The lines are blurry at best. Kitsune are shape shifters. Tricksters or down right evil.”

“So, who’s in charge?” Sweet asked. “Cause they all act like foot soldiers.”

“My guess is Su, the housekeeper,” Brian said. “She’s the only one who didn’t get into open conflict with us, but she sure tried her act on me in the parking lot. It almost worked, and it takes a lot to get around me.”

Lien glared at him, trying to talk around her gag. Brian smiled at her.

“You wanted to be in charge, didn’t you, Lien? What are you, Kitsune queen in training?”

“If it is Su, shouldn’t we be more afraid that she’ll come looking?” Summer asked, worried frown on her face. “Won’t she try to rescue them?”

“Doubtful. More likely she’ll cut her losses,” Brian said. “If I were and evil fox spirit, that’s what I’d do. Cut and run.”

“But that means she’s still out there,” Summer gasped.

“Yep.”

“Can’t we go after her?”

“How do you propose we do that? Sniff her out? If anything, we have to wait for her to come back—if she’s that stupid. She’s got to know by now that she can’t take us out.”

Jian looked ready to burst. He badly wanted to speak. Brian was interested enough to know what he had to say, so he released his mouth.

“She will come for us. Our mistress is strong. She’s not afraid of you!”

Jordan flickered her fingers, gagging him once more. “Boring.” She yawned, patting her mouth delicately.

“What do we do with these?” Brian asked. “Obviously, we can’t lock them up again, she’ll let them out.”

“They are creatures of earth, fire or water,” Scott said. “So we trap them and contain them with air. I feel sure our parents or grandparents know a way to imprison them—that’s if you don’t want to execute them.” He raised an eyebrow at Brian.

“It’s one thing to kill them in battle, it’s quite another to kill them now. Maybe it’s foolish of me to show mercy, because you can bet they wouldn’t do the same for us, but I can’t do it. And I can’t order someone else to either.”

“This is a war,” John Curtis said quietly.

“But they lost the battle, John. It doesn’t feel right. If I do that, I’m stooping to their level,” Brian said quietly.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 91

When Tis Done cover smallThe battle has begun in earnest, dividing their forces.

Sweet threw water on him and his flaming knives, using the wave to flatten him. Surprised, Brian grinned. Fēng took another run at him and met his own wall of water. Brian simply took Sweet’s and diverted it. Gasping and sodden, he stood his ground. Jian regrouped, but Caleb and Sweet lashed him with bands of fire and air, slowly dragging him to the ground. Earth rose once more, called by Brian. This time, he solidified it by baking it with fire.

Fēng stood there, panting and shivering. Sweet swirled water around him, pulling it into snug tendrils, then froze it. With the two of them subdued, the four youths took a moment to catch their breath. It took only a couple seconds for Brian to realize that they weren’t fighting on purpose. Had they wanted to, both were strong enough to escape.

“Jordan!” he gasped, turning quickly.

Racing back to the house, he barely registered the fact that someone was following him.

“Sweet and Summer have it. You need me,” Caleb said. “What?”

“Jordan. Elise. Oh, Jesus!”

They raced up the front steps, in the front door and up the stairs to the master bedroom, where Brian had left Jordan and his sister. They weren’t there. With a cry like a wounded animal, Brian stopped, casting out, looking for his sister. She was easier for him to locate than Jordan because his blood called to hers. Standing in silence, he gulped.

“River. She’s taken Elise to the river.”

“Who has?”

“Lien. She’s got my sister.”

“What about Jordan?”

“I don’t know. But she’s got Elise.”

He made a quick choice. Jordan was strong, trained. Elise was a baby. Chest aching with dread, he ran to the river, searching for the baby. He heard her before he saw them. Elise was screaming hysterically. He heard Lien’s voice, quietly cajoling.

“It’s all right, baby. Your brother will be here soon. I’ll kill him and it will all be over.”

Elise’s screams turned from fear to anger. “No!” Barely a year old, she didn’t talk much, but that word came through loud and clear. “No!”

A gust of wind rattled the trees, making the grass dance. Earth shook, rattling the boys as they approached. “No!” The wind became a gale which, strangely, barely raised the hair on their heads. The trees shook, twisting in the wind as it crashed through their branches.

Brian crept closer, less affected by the wind than Caleb. Peering through a gap, he saw his sister, standing protectively by Jordan. She was down, a gash in her forehead. It oozed blood. Face pale, she was breathing, and Brian could see her struggling to rise.

“No!” Elise screeched again. “You! No!” Her little hand pointed at Lien, making a slashing motion. The wind sliced across the girl like a knife. A punch with the other tiny fist knocked the Asian girl flat on her ass.

Brian leaped through the gap, landing nearly on top of Lien. She tripped him, but he caught himself on a cloud of air. Snakelike tendrils of water slipped past him and he saw that Jordan was up. Earth shook, trying to knock her down, but Caleb slapped Lien with a wave of freezing water, taking some of the fight out of her.

Elise toddled over, pointing a finger at Lien. “No!” she said very softly, rather like her father when he was furious. The ground rose like ropes, slithering around Lien’s body, pulling tightly. She couldn’t move, but she could speak. Yelling curses—real ones—she tried to free herself. Tired of the noise, Jordan slapped a handful of dirt into her mouth, sealing it shut.

“Shut up, you bitch!” She picked up the baby, holding her close.

Elise touched Jordan’s lips, smiling, and fell unconcsious. Rather than worried, Jordan looked proud.

“Take out the garbage,” she told the boys. “I need to get her home.” Picking her way carefully through the woods, she made her way back to the house.

“Lady, I don’t know what you are,” Brian said. “But no!” He knocked her unconscious by drawing the air from her lungs. But something kept him from killing a downed warrior.

“What is she?” Caleb asked.

“No idea.”

“Maybe I can help,” a familiar voice said behind them. It was Scott.

“Where have you been? I thought you’d already be here.”

“Got hung up. Her doing, I imagine. I’ll explain later.”

“You’re okay?”

“Fine. You guys?”

“Been worse,” Brian said with a harsh laugh.

“Good bind her well with ropes of air.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 90

When Tis Done cover smallNot only is Chase attacked, Marissa’s mother, as well as Jackie and Maribelle, have been hit. Elise, cradled in her mother’s arms, doesn’t seem to be harmed, but Claude checks her anyway.

“She’s fine. Take her inside. Jordan, you stay with her. Neil, help Marissa get Chase in the shed. Brian, go get your father.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where is your father?” Claude looked around, realizing that there should be more people around. “Oh, sweet Jesus….”

Brian did as he was told. Jordan followed, taking the baby up to the master bedroom. She locked the door after Brian left. Terrified, she said every prayer she could think of, for Elise, herself and the others. There should have been more activity. The house was too quiet. Where were the others? She was anxious, wanting to know, but took her duty to care for Elise very seriously. After all, this was her future sister-in-law.

“It’s okay,” she said over and over, trying to assure herself. “It’s okay.”

They came from the swamp, wave after wave of dark spirits, slicing through the air with a singular hiss that set Brian’s nerves on edge, The hair on the back of his neck sprang to attention. Where were the others? Surely not all taken down with darts? Why hadn’t the wards stopped them? The spirits circled him, snatching at his hair, scratching his face, ears, any exposed skin. With a flick of his hand, he conjured a wind that scattered them like leaves. A thin, airy scree of distress accompanied them. The wind whirled, dragging them into the earth. The sand covered them, obliterating them as if they had never been.

Scurrying around the side of the house, the shadow of a fox and crow charged Brian. He realized now why they weren’t affected by the wards, they weren’t real, merely shades. They could still hurt him, causing serious physical damage, but at least he knew. A blast of hot air drove these away, slowing him down. As he raced through them, they reached for him, snapping and clawing. Brian pushed on, looking for his father and the others. He heard the sound of battle at the front of the house. His friends were in a cluster, fighting more of the wraithlike shadow creatures and taking the worst of it.

“Air!” he bellowed. “Blast them with air! Smother them with earth!”

Rushing to them, he laid waste, expelling the shadows with a blast of air, hammering them to the ground.

“Where’s my dad? Mom’s hurt,” he asked Sweet.

The young man pointed to the woods. “He and Heath ran that way. I don’t know why.”

“Come with,” he commanded. “Andre, get the women inside. Jordan needs you.”

“We can fight….” Ginnifer stated angrily.

“And Jordan needs you more. Go! Some of you help Claude. Healers. Fast.”

Andre did as he was told without question. Caleb and Summer followed Sweet and Brian.

“He’s my brother. I’m coming,” she stated, chin firm.

“Do you know what you’re doing?”

“Os has been training me.”

“Good.”

He ducked into the woods, following his father’s path. It might not be obvious to others, but he could see the scent of his passing. He and Miles were chasing something.

“This way,” he pointed to the right.

The others followed without question. They heard sounds of battle a few yards ahead in a small clearing. Brian recognized it as the spot where they’d had their showdown with Mr. D and knew it wasn’t a coincidence. It had been chosen with the sole purpose of sapping his confidence. It hadn’t worked, quite the opposite feeling surged through him, especially when he saw his father figthing Mr. Fēng. Wondering how the man had gotten free, he dashed forward, sending a wave of dirt at the man’s legs.

Fēng toppled, trying to right himself. Restraints made of dirt wound up his legs. Jian leaped from the trees, screeching like a bird of prey. He slashed at Brian with huge claws where his hands should be. The talons sliced Brian’s clothing, stinging his skin. He faltered, knowing it was the same poison that had been used on Chase. Fighting it off, he used water from the air to wash his body, cleansing the pores, sealing them with a layer of moisture.

Balling his fist, Brian called forth earth and slammed it into Jian, knocking him down. Earthen fists pummled the downed teenager, pushing him deeply into the ground. It opened, closing over the boy.

With a roar, Fēng jumped at Brian, using earth against him. As the first clod rose, flying at him, Brian faced the onslaught, raising his hands like a shield. The clumps of earth fell to dust. Rocks shattered, their pieces racing back at Fēng, stinging him like dozens of needles. With a roar, he raised a boulder, slinging it at Brian.

With a twitch of his head, Brian halted the huge stone. It dropped to the ground. Fēng lifted it again, finding it heavier. It took precious seconds to realize that the ground held it, pulling it back down. Soon, it too was buried like his son. Suddenly, the grass exploded upward and Jian came out of the ground. Flames shot from his hands, whirling at Brian like knives of fire.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 89

When Tis Done cover smallAfter the Binding ceremonies, Chase and Marissa are talking. Suddenly, he senses movement behind him. Turning his back to it, he pushes Marissa down to protect her. Unfortunately, whatever it is, hits him and he goes down.

Brian and Jordan had very pointedly left their friends behind, delighted that they had made a committment to one another. Pleased with the outcome of the night, they were wrapped up in one another, kissing happily.

A scream ripped the happy silence.

“Marissa!” Jordan yelled, pushing away from Brian.

He followed, overtaking and passing her easily. He stopped a few feet from Chase, assessing the situation. He was face down on the ground, his skin an ugly, mottled color with dark lines following the pattern of his veins. Marissa squatted beside him, tugging at something in his left shoulder.

“Don’t touch it!” Brian said. “Get Claude,” he told Jordan.

Scanning the woods, he looked for clues, but saw nothing in the once over he gave it. Dropping to his knees, he took Chase’s pulse and checked his eyes. They had the same black lines as the rest of him. His gaze was fixed and stony.

“He’s not breathing!” Marissa screeched. “Not breathing! Oh, my God! Don’t die. Please, don’t die! Chase. Honey!”

Brian gently pushed air into his lungs, helping them to expand and contract.

Neil arrived first, followed closely by Claude, John and Roy Curtis. The doctor had a bag with him and he dropped by Chase’s prone form.

“Is he breathing?”

“Barely, but I started pushing air in his lungs as soon as I got here. His pulse is weak. I don’t like how his eyes look.”

Claude was already looking at Chase’s eyes. “Here’s what we do,” he said, digging in his bag. “He’s been poisoned. It’s similar to what Brian was given last year.” He pulled out a flask, a silver spoon and a stick of iron. He poured liquid into a small cup, stirred with the silver and iron before handing it to Marissa. “Bathe the wound with that, after I pull out the dart. Try not to touch his skin with your hands.” He handed her a nitrile glove and a piece of sterile gauze.

“We’ve got this,” Neil said to the other men. “Y’all go up to the house and stay with the others.”

“I’m staying here,” Brian said.

Claude nodded. “Keep the air flowing. You’re doing great.”

His own gloves in place, Claude gingerly pulled at the dart and cut Chase’s shirt away. The wound was ugly, red and swollen, black lines traveling rapidly from the center. Gasping, Marissa did as instructed. When she had finished, Claude put his hands on either side of the wound and pushed hard. Black blood oozed out. Marissa mopped this away, burning the gauze in a small fire that Claude had started. They repeated the progress until the blood running from the wound was red.

Chase looked better. His color was returning to normal, but the black lines were still evident. Claude prepared another mixture, stirring it with the silver and iron.

“Help me turn him,” he told Neil. “Careful. Don’t touch his skin or shirt.”

Together, he and Neil carefully turned Chase over. Supporting him, Brian helped Marissa put the cup to slack lips. Using his powers, he forced the liquid to stay in his friend’s mouth. Chase swallowed automatically. Gradually, he drank everything in the cup. The black lines receded. Brian didn’t realize he’d been holding his breath, until forced to expel it.

“Brian!” Jordan’s cry startled him so, he nearly dropped Chase. “Brian!” The tone was emphatic, laced with shock and a modicum of fear.

Leaping up, he tripped over Chase’s arm. Neil helped him up.

“Stay here,” Neil ordered Andre and Marissa. He and Brian ran to see what was wrong with Jordan.

Dashing up the back steps, they saw what had her concerned before they got in the house. His mother, hers and Marissa’s were all struck with the same darts that had felled Chase. A tiny form lay very still under the downed body of Maribelle Casey.

A horrified wail escaped Brian. “Elise!” He sprang forward, approaching without caution. Neil grabbed his arm, holding him back.

“We don’t know what that poison is,” he said. “It hasn’t affected the baby, but it has your mom. You take Elise after I raise Maribelle off her. Jordan, get Claude.”

“Yes, sir.” She hurtled down the steps and across the yard, calling for the doctor.

With the greatest care, Brian checked his baby sister. He could tell that his mother had done her best to protect her as she fell, cradling the little body against hers. Elise was breathing and there were no signs of the poison. She was breathing and Brian thought she might simply be asleep. Unsure, he looked around for the doctor. Claude took the steps two at a time. He did a quick assessment of the baby.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 88

When Tis Done cover smallBrian and Jordan have their Binding ceremony. Claude also says he will do the ceremony for anyone who wants to participate. Part of the ceremony is a kiss. A little shyly, Brian kisses Jordan.

Their kiss lasted longer than either of them had intended. The clapping and cheering of their friends finally penetrated their cloud and they stepped apart, smiling. Their parents hugged them and they were pounded on the back by so many hands, they felt slightly bruised.

The other couples all wanted the Binding ceremony, so Jackie and Claude split the group and each took half. Jackie stayed at the altar and Claude led his couples to the meditation circle on the other side of the property. Brian and Jordan wandered to the treehouse and climbed up.

“I feel like I actually said wedding vows,” Jordan said.

“Yeah, me too. I know this all came at us kind of fast, but if I’d known about this ceremony, I would have done it ages ago. I love you with all my heart. So much, sometimes, it aches.”

“Right down to your balls?” she teased.

“I’m being serious here.”

“I know. Believe me, I feel the same way. Even more than my parents, you’re the center of my world.”

They leaned toward each other to kiss, but someone called from below.

“Dude, we’re about to do our thing. I want you by my side, brother.” It was Chase.

“On our way down,” Jordan called.

They hurried down the tree and were greeted by Marissa and Chase. The four of them walked over to Jackie’s group and waited until it was their turn. Jordan stood up with Marissa and Brian stood behind Chase. Nervously, the young couple stood together and recited the vows Jackie read to them. Holding hands, they exchanged their senior class rings. Marissa had to put Chase’s on her thumb and he put hers on his pinky, but all that mattered was the exchange. When it came time for them to kiss, she didn’t hesitate. Stepping close, she took his face in her hands and kissed him.

The women sighed, the men cheered loudly and they all clapped excitedly as the troubled pair sealed their Binding. Afterward, Chase held her waist and Marissa cupped his cheeks as they gazed into one another’s eyes. The other couples disperesed quietly.

“I wish we’d done this a year ago,” Chase whispered. “I knew I loved you then. I’ve loved you my whole life, it feels like. You’re a part of me like no other. I’m sorry I’ve been such a complete tool about all this.”

Marissa put her finger on his lips, following it with a kiss. “I love you, too. And I’m sorry I’ve been so difficult. Let’s put all that aside now.”

They kissed again and hugged, content with one another for the first time in years. Brian and Jordan watched from a short distance, spying unrepentently on their friends. They were so happy to see them together, they didn’t care if it was rude or not.

“Y’all want a picture?” Chase asked, barely turning his head.

“Yes, I do,” Jordan said. “Of all four of us. This is a big occasion!” She lined them up and had Brian take pictures with each of their phones.

“Why do I always get that duty?” he teasingly complained.

“You’re the tallest and have arms like a selfie stick,” Chase said with a sneer.

“Oh, well….” Brian chuckled, rubbing his nails on his shirt. “If that’s the case, I’ll just grow a few more inches. I always wanted to be six foot eight.”

“You won’t!” Jordan squeaked, smacking him. “I won’t have you be a foot and four inches taller than me!”

“True. Six foot ten,” Brian said. “Then it’s a foot and a half.”

“You’re impossible,” Jordan said. “Such a putz.”

“But I’m your putz,” he said, nibbling her earlobe. “So be nice to me.”

Chase put his arm around Marissa, pulling her close. He chanced a kiss on her throat and she didn’t stiffen up and pull away. Instead, she tilted her head so he could do it again.

“Thank you,” he whispered. “It’s the little things….” He didn’t finish the remark, merely kissed her again.

Brian and Jordan kept walking, but Chase and Marissa stopped.

“You never made a committment before,” she murmured. “You said you loved me, but everything you did made it a lie. I still can’t give you—everything, Chase. I’m not wired like that. But now I know that it’s true. Thank you.” She sniffled, tears brimming in her eyes.

Chase wiped them gently away, kissing the tip of her nose. “I’ve been a selfish fool and I’m sorry. I’ll wait as long as you want. Even if it means I give myself carpel tunnel.”

Marissa burst out laughing, shoving against his chest. “You’re such a goof!”

“But I’m your goof—body and soul.”

Behind them, to the left, from the edge of the woods, Chase sensed movement. Before he could call out or react, something flew at them. He was able to register a small projectile, but not what it was or from where. Turning so his back was to it, he pushed Marissa to the ground. Too late, he realized whatever it was had struck him. The last thing he heard was Marissa screaming his name.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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