Authors: Cassandra Gannon
Parson raced into the mobile home, shaking the foundationless floor as he ran
forward. He spared Jacob a brief look and then he was on his knees next to his
grandson. “It’s okay. I gotcha, Sully. It’s okay.”
saw Parson’s mouth tighten as he took in Sullivan’s cheek. “Mel, go back to my
house and call an ambulance.” He yelled and Teja saw Melanie hovering in the
doorway. “Do it now, honey. Don’t come in here.”
hesitated for a beat and then took off again.
wrapped his arms around Sullivan and looked up at Jacob, again. “I fucking
you what I’d do if I ever saw you touch this boy.” His voice shook with
wrath. “Didn’t I?”
little awareness Sullivan had left seemed to fade with his grandfather there to
take command. His hands came up to hold onto Parson, tears rolling down his
face and mixing with the blood. Teja had no idea how Sullivan could have a
memory of this, since he was so out of it, but she very clearly watched Parson
break Council law and execute a human.
powers were so ancient that not even Teja could equal him. It was child’s play
for him to take control of Sullivan’s vines and use his own energy to
manipulate them. One second Jacob was screaming for Parson to cut him down.
The next, a gigantic vine snaked out and encircled his throat.
eyes went wide as he began to choke. He ineffectually tried to pry the vine
actually smiled as Parson yanked away all the plants holding Jacob up, so the
man dropped with nothing but the noose around his neck to break the fall. A
resounding crack echoed through the room as vertebrae snapped. Parson let
Jacob’s dead body tumble to the floor and hugged his grandson closer to his chest.
was why, virtuous White Hats or not, you didn’t screw with the Wood Phases.
They were relentless about justice. And protecting.
must’ve passed out completely at that point, because there was nothing but
blackness for a beat and then Teja heard the beeping of hospital equipment.
Through a foggy sort of filter, she realized that Sullivan was lying in the
bed, a huge bandage on his face. He was drugged and semi-conscious, but those
incredible powers of his had pulled this memory out of long term storage, too.
the other side of the small room, Parson stood next to a huge man with black
hair and familiar bushy eyebrows. “Grandfather?” Teja breathed, gaping at
Oberon. What was he doing in the human realm? She stared at him, marveling at
what a miracle it was to see him, again.
told you to stay away from here.” Parson whispered fiercely in Elemental.
“You draw too much attention and I need to keep a low profile.”
draw attention?” Oberon scoffed. “I wasn’t the one using powers with all the
subtlety of the D-Day invasion. That was you and your boy.” He shrugged.
“Not that I blame you, but you have to know that others will have noticed.
Others who are looking for the Tablets of Fate.”
wore a pinstriped suit and a black fedora. The outfit was obviously his way of
“blending-in” with the humans. As an added bonus, it made him look like
Fire Phases all loved Dillinger.
everything, Teja felt her mouth curve at how insanely
costume was. She’d missed her nutty grandfather
. Hearing his
voice again was such a gift. Sullivan had given her this moment. She would
never be able to repay him.
box is safe.” Parson assured him. “I have it hidden where no one will think
to look. As long as I have the Happiness Tablet and you have the Justice
Tablet, no one will be able to put them all together.”
because I like time just the way it is. For the present, anyway.” Oberon
moved to look down at Sullivan. “The mostly-humans glow so bright, don’t
they?” He murmured. “My granddaughter, Hope, is the same way.” He glanced at
Parson. “Elementals would stagnate without them. Get frozen and stuck in the
past. The human blood keeps us on our toes. Reminds us there’s magic.”
checked Sullivan’s medical chart, like he understood what the doctor jargon
said. Hell, he probably
understand it. There were very few things
her grandfather couldn’t do. “Seems like Sullivan will be okay.” He
diagnosed, flipping through pages.
say he’ll recover. He’ll always have the scar, though.”
a lucky break. Warriors’ marks can only help a guy, in the long run.” Oberon
smiled. “His Match will have her hands full, because the women will be
over this boy.”
made a face at her grandfather. “Thanks. That’s exactly what I needed to
didn’t look so thrilled, either. “I should’ve killed his son-of-a-bitch father
long ago.” He muttered. “Following the law endangered my grandson. I was
almost too late.”
why I just ignore all the rules that I don’t write.” Oberon agreed easily. “Wood
Phases need to have some more fun with their powers. This one will, I’ll
bet.” He leaned over to tousle Sullivan’s hair. “He’s a powerful kid. You
should prepare him for what’s to come.”
will. When he’s old enough to understand, I’ll teach him everything.” Only
Parson had apparently died before telling Sullivan what he needed to know. The
Wood Phase was murdered by the Air House, sometime very soon.
do what needs to be done. The kid’s got guts.” Oberon gazed down at Sullivan
and grinned. “I have big plans for you, son.”
eyes narrowed. There was no way he could know that Sullivan was her Match. It
was impossible. Except, Oberon always had some trick up his sleeve and he was
looking pretty smug. “Grandfather, what are you…?”
scene shifted and Teja saw Sullivan as he grew into a warrior. Fighting in
human wars and doing his best to keep people safe. Shit. He’d been right. He
know how to use a gun. Clearly, she should have listened to him,
thoughts stopped short as she found herself in the Cold Kingdom.
memory had to be close to the present, because Sullivan looked exactly the same
as when she’d first met him. She glanced around, realizing that Sullivan was
locked in one of the Cold Palace’s icy cells. Jesus, her relatives just loved
tossing the poor guy into dungeons.
needs to explain what the fuck is going on.” He snapped at the nurse preparing
the needle. Teja recognized her as Lima, of the Cold House. “That Vandal guy
you’re so interested in appeared in front of me, back in Mayport. I didn’t
attack him, if that’s what you’re thinking. I was trying to
and he somehow zapped me here to Ice Station Zebra.” He paced around the small
room. “Now, I’m not sure why you freaks locked me up, but I think I’m entitled
to use the phone. I want to call a woman named Teja.
mood zoomed upward. When he was in trouble, Sullivan’s first instinct had been
to come to her. That was a hugely promising sign for the Match.
you’d called, I would’ve come for you.” She promised him. “Nothing could’ve
stopped me.” She would’ve melted the Cold Kingdom herself, if it meant freeing
one is blaming you for this, human.” Lima gave him a distant and professional
smile. “We know Chason, of the Magnet House attacked him. The shot will just
help you forget about meeting Commander Vandal. The past twelve hours will be
a blur. We can’t have word getting around that he’s here. He has too many
not injecting me with that shit.” Sullivan shook his head. “No way in hell.”
perfectly safe.” Lima assured him. “It’ll just erase your memory of all
this. You’re too valuable to harm.”
He scoffed. “To who?”
me.” Teja said, annoyed that he always thought so little of himself.
all Elementals.” Lima informed him at the same time. “Humans can pick their
own Matches. We’re aware that you’re infatuated with that turncoat Teja…”
right he is.”
kept talking, not hearing Teja’s interruption. “But, that’s only because you
haven’t met Doctor Freya, yet.”
sister.” Eian, of the Cold House stepped into the room. His aristocratic face
was set into frigid lines, a golden crown on his pale head. “I’d be lying if I
said I didn’t hope for a better Match for her. I mean a
good enough for a Cold Phase princess. But, you’re the best option available
and she certainly doesn’t seem to be rushing out to win you for herself. It’s
all up to me.” His expression grew darker. “And I’ll be damned if I see you
go to Teja and her gangster relatives.”
bad for you, Teja is the only woman I want, dickhead.” Sullivan retorted.
insides took a pleasurable dip. Her Match was always so delightfully
disagreeable when he was kidnapped. It just didn’t occur to him to be wary of
his abductors. Sullivan Pryce always said exactly what he thought and screw
any “mutants” who didn’t like it.
looked over at her cousin. “You can’t intimidate him, Eian. He’s way more
powerful than you are. And, by the way, it’s
see I was right about you being a total jackass.”
Vandal has promised all of us a brighter future.” Eian went on, ignoring
Sullivan’s words. He glided further into the room. His blond hair was neatly
pressed, his white uniform as sterile as fresh snow. “All we have to do is
help hide him here and convince Freya he’s in a coma until he’s stronger. It’s
the least we can do for someone of his greatness. He’s the only one strong
enough to stand up to Job.”
plays favorites.” Lima piped up. “Everyone knows that. He’ll make sure the
Fire House comes out on top, so long as his reptilian nephew Kingu is Matched
with Hope. Getting rid of Job is the only way the Cold Phases will ever have
what we deserve.”
made a mental note to kill that bitch.
nodded. “Of course, my sister would never do what needs to be done. If it
were up to Freya, we would be spending every Gaianisha Day singing carols with
those bastards. But
see the truth. The Fire House
rolled his eyes, bored by this whole discussion. “I think
one who needs some medical intervention.” He told the nurse.
glowered at him. “Don’t you see? This is my chance for real power. My chance
to set things right.” He paused. “It will just require some sacrifice.”
demented asshole.” Teja breathed, pieces beginning to come together.
Sullivan’s tone clearly conveyed the word “psycho.” “So, can I go now or are
you not done talking?”
can be a part of Commander Vandal’s glory, human.” Eian persisted. “Phaze
with my sister and join my House. Renounce that traitor Teja and help the Cold
Phases beat the Fire House, once and for all. It’s your destiny.”
shook his head. “You’re out of your goddamn mind.” He decided calmly. “Fuck
you. Fuck Vandal. And fuck your stupid vendetta. Kill me or let me go.
Those are your only two options, because I’m not helping you do one fucking
thing to hurt Teja. Period.”
grinned. Sullivan was even beginning to
like a Fire Phase. “You
see how you belong with me?” She told him.
gave an icy smile. “You’ll change your mind. You’ll have to. If you resist
the inevitable, you’ll be Banished with the Fire Phases when the attack
Sullivan repeated, looking concerned for the first time. “Wait, you’re going
to attack Teja?”
Eian arched a brow. “She’s going to attack me.” He looked over at the nurse.
“Give him the shot and dump him back in the human realm. We’ll do this the
lips pressed together, finally realizing who’d bombed the Cold Palace.
lunatic king. Her cousin.
Djinn was going to have a field day with this…
elements have laughed… and an invincible army has trailed its banners in the snow,
cope with the rigors of the frost king.
Adams- “Wells Brothers”
Morning: Six Hours into the Investigation
don’t have to tell you anything! I have fucking
. This is
unlawful imprisonment and I don’t have to put up it!”
one’s arrested you, Djinn. Not yet, anyway.” Job wished to Gaia that somebody
else could take over the questioning of this maniac, but no one else in the
realm was dumb enough to lock themselves in a confined space with the Fire
King. Well, except for Sullivan’s cousin, Melanie, who’d loudly volunteered to
lead the interrogations with a Taser. “You called me during the attack to say that
this was all a set-up, remember? I
you to come here to the
Council so we could straighten it all out and you agreed. You’re here
if Djinn attempted to leave, half the realm would try to stop him. Job wasn’t
mentioning that part.
to call you.” Djinn informed him loftily. “Teja
me. This is all bullshit coercion tactics.”
leaned forward at the mention of Teja. “So, she was with you when the attack
began? Where is she now? Is Qadesh right? Were Teja and Sullivan in the Cold
Kingdom when the palace exploded?”
mouth thinned refusing to answer. Whenever he shut-up for more than two
seconds, it was sure to be bad news.
pushed down the sick feeling in his gut. He loved Teja like a younger sister.
Losing her was unthinkable. The Elementals needed her and --God knew-- they
needed Sullivan Pryce. The human was one of their few chances to stave off
where are they?
” He demanded.
don’t know!” He bellowed back. “You’ve got me locked up in here, remember?
For all I know, they’re playing catch with a Frisbee or whatever it is humans
do for fun. Running around some fucking park, barking at squirrels.”
isn’t a dog…” Job began, but Djinn cut him off.
don’t you go ask the bastards who set off the bomb where Teja is, huh? Go find
love to. Help me do it. Give me a suspect who wants to see you Banished.”
Djinn scoffed. “Everybody who was kicked out before the Fall is back again,
is walking around and nobody says nothin’ about
would you have us say to Akkadian?” The Crystal Phase was even crazier than
the Fire House. Very few people wanted to be within three realms of him, let
alone dictate what he could do. “If you’re insinuating that Akkadian was
somehow involved in this, I assure you he has an ironclad alibi. He’s in
Africa, traveling with elephants. I’ve seen the photos on his Facebook wall.”
An ounce of prevention told Job that it paid to keep up-to-date on Akkadian’s
bizarre activities, even if that meant reading countless daily updates on that
lunatic’s life among pachyderms.
ignored that. “The point is, I don’t think we even
anymore. We’re all --like-- ‘Welcome back, criminals! Repopulate our world!’
kept his voice as calm and reasonable as possible. “We still do Banishment,
Djinn. And someone hates you enough to want you gone. Who could that be?”
Actually, that wasn’t the best question, given the Fire Phases’ general
popularity. “I mean,
, who have you pissed off?” He
some stupid cow.”
eyes narrowed. “Fucking cow.” He hissed.
must be a motive for this attack,” Job pressed, “and whatever it is, I hope
it’s more compelling than the centuries long feud between the Cold and Fire
Houses. Because, presently? That’s all the reason anyone needs to convict
shook his head, pacing back and forth like a caged tiger. “Nobody’s convicting
me of anything. Fifty-four times I’ve been dragged before the Council for some
bogus trial and
convictions. You think that’s going to change now?”
one’s ever had the alleged crime on tape before.”
that video.” Djinn’s restless energy filled the room. “I don’t even know for
sure that the Cold Kingdom
attacked. Maybe it’s faked. Maybe that
tape is some kind of special effects moon landing bullshit.”
real. I’ve seen the Cold Kingdom and it’s in shambles.”
say, but you’re probably in on this new grassy knolled, Zapruder
filmed conspiracy.” Djinn arched a brow. “Or maybe the Cold Phases blew up
kingdom. Maybe Eian’s trying to frame us. Did you even think
I didn’t think of it, because it’s preposterous. Why would a king destroy his
he’s a lunatic.” Djinn diagnosed succinctly. “Eian has hated the Fire House
for years. Especially since Teja chose us over him. He’s never gotten passed
that.” He shook his head. “Cold Phases are so damn anal that they can’t just
fight it out and get over it. They let anger fester inside, until it rots them
through. If there was a chance to bring us down, he’d take it and worry about
the fallout later. You know it.”
stared at Djinn for a long moment. “I can’t believe that.” He finally
whispered. Eian was a cold man with a long memory, but still… “I just can’t
believe he’d go so far.
was in the Cold Kingdom. He’d never hurt
his sister. She’s his only family.”
his only family. She just the only one he hasn’t disowned.” Djinn
fixed him with a pointed look. “
the kind of guy Eian is. He
could have had Teja in his life, same as me, but he’d rather have
I recall, the Fire House wasn’t interested in compromising on Teja’s custody,
Teja. She wasn’t some prize to us. She’s my
Do you think I would’ve turned on her, if she’d wanted to live with Eian
instead of the Fire Kingdom?”
Job knew that wouldn’t have happened. Djinn was hostile and unpleasant, but he
loved with a fierce and unshakable devotion. He might have killed Eian to
steal Teja back again, but he
would have disowned her. It went
against everything their House stood for.
was why --for all their many, many,
faults-- Job always had a deep
affection for the Fire Phases.
behind this.” Djinn continued. “He’ll sacrifice
anything to win, because he doesn’t know what it is to have a family and a
place to belong.”
Morning: Seven Hours into the Investigation
Job folded his hands on the table and tried his most patient voice. “Sweetie,
can we please focus?”
hadn’t been to bed all night and, at this rate, he didn’t see a pillow in his
future for a
time. Truthfully, he couldn’t have slept, even if
he wanted to. Djinn’s theory about Eian kept going round and round in his
mind. …And it was making far too much sense.
the Fire King started making sense, you knew you had a serious problem.
Job tried again when he saw she wasn’t paying attention. “
concentrate for me, okay? I’d like to talk.”
with Djinn and Pele’s youngest child was like trying to walk nitroglycerin
across the room in your bare hands. Missy had always radiated an uneasy
mixture of positivity and violence, but since the Fall she was basically the
Boston Strangler in a Barbie costume. She’d lost more than most and she’d
dealt with it by becoming crazy.
cuddly looking lunatic had a staggering body count and there was no one left
alive who could reason with her. Of all the Fire Phases, she was the most
dangerous, because she was the least predictable. She didn’t care what anyone
else said, or did, or thought. Not anymore. Missy lived in her own world and
it was a scary, bloody, pink sparkled place. Job needed to work gently if he
was going to get her to cooperate.
looked up from the shank she was making out of a polka dot nail file. “Sure,
Job. We can talk.” She shined a happy smile. “Even though Uncle Frankie’s
sure you’re an android, I still think you’re a cutie-pie.”
you. That’s very sweet.” For a Fire Phase, it actually was a nice sentiment.
Missy was always pleasant until the massacres started. “Now, if someone is
setting up your family, we need to find out who they are. You see that,
yes.” She nodded earnestly, her black curls bouncing around her innocent
face. “Whoever’s framing us needs to apologize… And once I find them, I think
they’re going to be
sorry.” She giggled, her not-quite-sane eyes
dancing around the perimeter of the room like she was measuring it.
wasn’t a doubt in Job’s mind that she’d already spotted three different escape
routes, a dozen possible weapons, and the perfect place to hang a shiny
portrait of a unicorn.
He said, because his possible responses to her insanity were limited. “So, if
you’re saying the Reflection Phases are involved, someone must have hired
them. We’re going to need some kind of evidence. So far, Yuan and the other
Reflection Phases are denying everything.”
betcha five dollars I could get them to talk. I have a whole collection of
if Reflection Phases were impersonating your family, they were blown to bits in
the Cold Kingdom.”
smart way to destroy the evidence, alright.” Missy rocked back in her chair so
it was balanced on two legs, already losing interest in the conversation.
“Hey, you got any gum?”
I do have this, though.” He slid a computer tablet across the table so she
could see a still image from the newscast.
was a calculated risk, but he was betting that the Fire Phase with the highest
IQ score was still lurking somewhere beneath all the ruffles and crazy. Even
partially lost in madness, Missy was a genius. The girl always seemed ditzy,
but Fire Phases were never what they seemed.
you see that?” He tapped the screen. “Any idea what it means?”
gave it a dismissive glance, all set to be bored. She did a double take as she
actually processed the words painted on the side of the Cold Palace. The huge
letters glowed with some bizarre iridescent paint, ensuring that no one could
possibly miss them.
Missy! Wanna trade?
Cinderella blue eyes narrowed with an intensity of focus that Job wouldn’t have
thought possible. For a moment, she almost looked like the Missy who’d existed
before the Fall. “Who wrote that?” She asked sharply.
don’t know. Maybe you should help me find out.”
rush of footsteps sounded in the hall, along with a chorus angry shouting.
Job’s head snapped towards the door, already knowing that this was going to be
bad. Clearly, the rest of the Elementals had grown impatient with his
law-and-order approach to the Fire House questioning.
sighed. People claimed that he was a control freak, but was it any wonder?
Left to their own devises, everybody else chose the stupidest possible path.
Why didn’t anyone ever just
to him? It was like they enjoyed
killing and chaos.
face was deadly calm as Phases began pounding on the door of the interrogation
room. “May I have a sword, please?” She requested politely.
don’t carry a sword. And even if I did, I wouldn’t hand it over to you.”
Missy could no doubt slaughter an army without breaking a glittery fingernail
and there had been enough violence for one day.
pouted at him. “Fine. Be a spoilsport.”
up, Job!” Eian bellowed. “We’re through with doing things your way! It’s
time to Banish the Fire Phases and make them pay for their crimes!”
were dozens of shouts of agreement.
jaw ticked. “I’m surrounded by idiots.” He got to his feet adjusting his suit
coat. “Just let me handle them, alright?” He glanced at Missy. “We’ll prove
you’re innocent at trial. I don’t want this to start a war.”
super nice.” Missy dropped her chair forward so all four feet were flat on the
floor. “But, Eian’s already started it.”