Authors: Victoria Danann
When she realized it wasn’t on her thumb, she scrambled out of bed and began rifling through the covers. It wasn’t in the bed. It had rolled under. Not wanting to take a chance on losing it again, she decided to wear it where she could feel it at all times. She slipped it onto the index finger of her right hand. It was several sizes too large, but she had a plan. She opened her jewelry box and found a small simple ring that fit her index finger. It would serve to hold the larger ring in place.
The sensation of wearing something new settled into her awareness as the ring seemed to mold to her body and spirit.
She sat back down on the side of her bed in rumpled clothes, with sleep in her eyes and a feeling of foreboding. Something was wrong. She knew with every fiber of her being that Brave would come if he could. Knowing that decision making always goes better with caffeine, she put the tea kettle on and used her kitchenette to make some dry toast to go with strong tea with honey. While the water heated and the bread toasted, she brushed her teeth, threw cold water in her face, and brushed her hair down. If Brave did show up, she didn’t want to look a fright.
She cut the toast into dainty squares, for no reason other than the fact that her mother had done it when she was a child and it made her feel comforted and cared for. As she nibbled, she listed possible options and came to the conclusion that, sometimes there’s only one option on the horizon.
Litha Liberty Brandywine Storm was becoming an Order of the Black Swan legend. She was the best tracker The Order had employed in its long history and, it was rumored, owed that talent to the fact that she was half witch, half demon. Even if the non-witch half was a
demon, the super human heritage still counted for something when it came to finding things or creatures that didn’t want to be found. Lana pulled up the directory, found her number and dialed.
“Hello.” It was a man’s voice. A sleepy man’s voice.
She had forgotten about the time difference. Doing a quick calculation she figured that it was two in the morning at Jefferson Unit.
“I’m so sorry. I’m in Scotia and I forgot about the time difference. I’ll call back later.”
“Who is this?”
“I’m, um, Lana Ravin. Calling for Mrs. Storm?”
“Is it an emergency?”
“Well… everything is relative? It feels urgent to me.”
There was a pause. “Just a minute.”
She heard a quiet exchange followed by a woman’s voice.
“This is Litha.”
“Hi, uh, this is Lana Ravin.”
Pause. “You’re the one who accidentally slipped dimensions.”
“Yeah. That’s me.”
“Okay. I’ll call you back in fifteen minutes.”
“Thank you. Sure. That would be great, but are you sure now is an okay time? It’s a long story.”
She heard a sigh on the other end. “They always are. I’m going to get up and make coffee then I’ll call you back.”
Lana sat at her little desk where her intelliphone rested in front of her and stared at the ring like it was the key to her future. Which it probably was.
At precisely fifteen minutes later, the phone rang.
With Litha’s questions interspersed, it took almost an hour to describe everything that had happened from the time she woke up in Brave’s movie set prison cell until she tried the ring and failed to conjure anything.
At the end of the story, when there was no more to tell, she said, “Obewan Kenobe, you’re my only hope.”
After a pause, Litha said, “I got the part about hope. The other thing escaped me.”
“Sorry. It was a stupid reference from my world of origin, meant to lighten the, um, mood.”
“So you think the ring is on the fritz and you want me to see if I can make it work?”
Lana got so excited at the suggestion of that possibility that she stood up without realizing she’d done it.
“Could you? That would be great!”
“I don’t know. Don’t end the phone connection.”
Lana held the phone and waited, following Litha’s instruction in the sense that she did not, in fact, hang up. At least not until she screamed and accidentally threw the phone when her body jerked involuntarily, as any body would do when its owner heard a voice right behind her in a room where she was certainly-and-absolutely-no-question-about-it alone.
Litha was very blasé about the display of excitability. She behaved as if she’d seen the same or similar performances before. Many times before.
Without changing expression, she held out her hand and said, “Let me see it.”
It became clear to Lana that no apology would be forthcoming. “I take it you’re Litha?”
Litha gave up a slight smile. “I’m not maid service.”
Lana raised her hand to show Litha the ring, but was reluctant to take it off. Litha seemed okay with that for the time being.
“Have you ever seen anything like it?” Lana asked as Litha examined the ring.
“Oh sure. It’s nice, but not uncommon.”
Lana jerked her hand back.
“I’m not pawning it! It’s
“You know, you’re strung a little tight. Try to remember that I’m not the source of that irritation you’ve got going. You’re leaking buckets of tude.”
“Sorry. You’re right.”
“Come with me.” Litha started for the door. “I have a place here where I work sometimes. I may be able to find your boy with the ring.”
“While I was waiting for you to call back, I called in sick.”
Litha barked out a laugh then took her own phone out of her backpack. “Simon? It’s Litha. You’ve got a grunt named Lana, just a minute…” she looked at Lana.
“Uh-huh. Atalanta Ravin.” She looked at Lana for confirmation and Lana nodded. “I need her to help me with a special project until further notice. Can you clear it with her supervisor?” Pause. “Yes.” Pause. “Yes.” Pause. “Yes. I’ll tell him.” She ended the call and looked up at Lana. “No worries. All taken care of.”
“Wow. Must be nice to be you.”
Litha’s expression registered surprise, but after looking at Lana for a few seconds, her face spread into a crooked, but beautiful smile.
“Yeah. I’ll cop to that. But there’s always a price. You know?” Lana didn’t know the price Litha referenced, but did agree that some unseen force – whether called by the name of gods or fate or cosmos - always extracts payment. She simply nodded agreement. “So let’s go.”
As they neared the rooms that Litha called her “lair”, she decided a little more explanation was in order.
“They built out this space according to my specifications, to maximize my chances of being able to find what’s either lost or trying to hide. Not a handful of people have ever been down here so you’re about to become part of an elite club.” Lana shelved her tendency toward sarcasm, spoken and not, because she was, in fact, honored. “I have a strong preference that you keep what you see to yourself. Do you agree?”
Lana nodded again. “Of course. Mum mum mum.”
Litha looked at her. “I don’t know what that means, Lana. You know you’re beginning to remind me of somebody else.”
“Someone you like a lot, right?”
Litha chuckled but said no more on the subject.
Lana was thinking it would be easier to get into Fort Knox than Lana’s “lair”. After disengaging a series of physical locks and invisible wards, she was ushered into a space that felt holy in the way she’d always imagined a place of holiness might feel. The room was circular, the center being marked by a six-foot statue of a dragon sitting on his haunches with folded wings. In his paws he held a black glass plate with cobalt blue markings.
The statue was so compelling she wanted to throw her arms around it and soak up the energy emanating from it.
As if on cue Litha said, “Don’t touch the dragon no matter how much you want to. You’re not prepared.”
Litha took a large square cushion and invited Lana to sit in a place where she would be able to see
be out of the way.
Litha held her palm out. “I’m going to need the ring.” Lana’s other hand went toward the ring protectively. “I’m not going to harm the ring or abscond with it, Lana. The only reason I’m here is because you asked for help.”
“Of course. I didn’t mean…”
Litha waited patiently while Lana took off the rings.
When Litha reached out and took the demon ring her head jerked slightly to the side. Then she said, “Oh,” in a matter of fact tone.
After a series of rituals that were foreign but fascinating, Litha did something to make the cobalt blue markings in the glass plate light up. She used a pendulum she’d taken from around her neck, letting it dangle by its chain until it came to rest of its own accord on a particular symbol.
“Got him,” Litha said. The black glass went dark as she returned the pendulum necklace to its place around her neck. “So the ring won’t bring him to you. We’ll have to bring the ring to him. Or rather I will have to bring the ring to him. You can’t go, obviously.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re human, right?”
Lana nodded. “Far as I know. Why?”
“Because I can’t take you through the passes if you’re human.” Litha stopped what she was doing as if she’d just had an epiphany. She turned toward Lana and cocked her head to the side. “Come to think of it. How did the Callii take you through the passes?”
“Oh. They just gave me the same injection they give Brave. It’s basically, um, demon blood so far as I know. Lasts for a few hours at a time. Until you sweat it away or pee it away, I guess.”
Litha gaped. “So simple.” She shook her head. “So why in the world didn’t we think of that? Not that I’m willing to become foremost benefactor for a blood bank. But it could be useful. And profitable.” She grinned. “We could name it ‘Ride’.”
“Yeah. Great name.”
Litha turned and slowly eyed Lana. “Did you have any adverse reaction?”
Lana shook her head. “No.”
“So how much did they give you?”
“I didn’t see. The demon who gave it to me just stabbed me in the thigh when I wasn’t expecting it and then laughed. I asked him why he hadn’t given me anything when they transported us from the cave. He said something like it isn’t necessary unless you’re leaving the dimension.”
Litha seemed to mull that over. At length she said, “So it didn’t need to go into a vein.”
Lana shook her head. “Guess not.”
“Okay. Here’s what we’re going to do.”
At the clinic, Litha had the nurse on duty draw a syringe of her blood then instructed the nurse to inject Lana with it. The nurse went wide eyed and dumbfounded as she looked between Litha and Lana and back again.
“If you’ve forgotten how to do it, then give it to me,” said Litha as she was beginning to show her more impatient side. When the nurse still hesitated, Litha took the needle from her. “Congratulations,” Litha said as Lana lowered her jeans to expose her thigh. “You’re a very grand experiment. I wish we knew how much was just right. Since I’m only half demon it might take…”
Litha paused on that thought, remembering that she knew someone who was full demon. “Hold on,” she said to Lana, as she pulled out her phone, pressed a fav contact and returned the phone to the leg pocket in her jeangoes.
“Um. What are we doing?” Lana asked after a few seconds.
“Waiting for someone.”