Seventeen: Tipping Point

Collie moved up the stairs from the great room and entered the dark hallway on the second floor of the White Hart. He shifted into the form of a mountain lion and padded quietly toward the meeting room ahead on the left. Collie had been in that room only a few minutes earlier, to shut and lock the two large shutters and their windows. When he heard Amelia scream downstairs, Collie had run out without closing the door. Now Collie’s ears pricked forward at a scuffling, scraping sound from the open door. As he looked around the left side of the door frame and into the dark room, the hair on his long cat spine stood up. Something was coming through the window. Even in the dark, Collie could see it clearly with his cat eyes, but he couldn’t make sense of what he saw squeezing past the splintered window frames and broken panes of glass. Two long, pale arms with bulging black veins reached into the room; skeletal fingers with pointed yellow nails reached out to grasp the window frames on either side. Collie moved silently around the table to the left, trying to get a better look at the thing without being spotted. As he peered around the leg of the big table, Collie saw the head of the thing searching the room. Its glittering black eyes stood in stark contrast to the bald white head, much like a vampire, but there were also pointed ears that curved back along the skull, almost like goat horns. One bare spade-foot came over the sill, attached to a naked white leg. The creature’s stilt-like limbs protruded from a black garment — a dark, shapeless bag that seemed to merge seamlessly with a ragged black cloak. Collie had never in his long life seen anything like this creature, and he couldn’t stop himself from letting out an angry hiss. The intruder instantly turned toward Collie. Below the onyx eyes, a great nose hooked down toward thin lips, which parted to display sharp, yellow, interlocking teeth. Beyond the teeth, a black maw, and from it came a long, gibbering laugh.

Collie roared back in challenge, and Laughing Jack drew himself up to his full eight feet, cloak billowing as though in the wind. Shifting directly from mountain lion into troll-form, Collie flipped the heavy table over, lifted it chest-high, and then rushed toward Laughing Jack. The wide table hit Laughing Jack in the midsection, pinning its arms against the window frames. Collie shoved hard, and the creature fell back, but started cackling. Then Collie noticed black tendrils extending from the cloak, snaking toward him around the table. The cloak began to wrap around Collie’s arms and legs like a black octopus, pulling Collie off-balance while Laughing Jack pushed back against the table at the same time. Troll-Collie pressed one shoulder against the table and reached down with this right hand to grab one of the tendrils. The tentacle was cold and fibrous, like an icy spiderweb. When Collie ripped the tendril off his leg and dropped it, the severed section slithered back and was absorbed into the cloak. Now Collie was ensnared up to his waist, and more tentacles were wrapping around his arms. From the other side of the table, he heard the creature giggling and whispering something he couldn’t understand. With a roar of frustration, the troll hit the table hard with both fists, and then Collie shifted, leaving the black tendrils holding empty air as he resumed his normal, much smaller form and jumped away, shaking the grasping tendrils from his feet as the table came crashing down behind him.

Everyone in the great room heard the loud thump upstairs. Amelia looked up at the second floor, and then over at Torvald, who was standing at the foot of the stairs, sword and shield held ready. The oil lamps were still burning in sconces along the walls, adding their illumination to the half dozen werelights in the great room. Everyone was watching the dark second floor landing — Nick and Hal were on her left, each man holding his sword tightly, Eleni and Salah on her right, standing behind the bar. Over his objections, Salah was holding his baby sister, who was chewing on a large wooden spoon Amelia found behind the bar. Little Cassia was looking up at the werelights floating over her head, which appeared as interesting to her young eyes as they were to Amelia.

“What the devil’s going on up there?” said Nick, sounding nervous as he constantly changed his grip on the short sword he was holding. There was more bumping and banging, and then a long peal of chilling laughter that sounded closer, as though the fight had moved into the hallway. Cassia started to cry, and Salah rocked and shushed his little sister; Eleni told Salah to sit down on the floor against the back wall of the bar, and she stood in front of her children. Amelia wanted to drop her knife, put her hands over her ears and run away, not that it would help. Amelia noticed that Hal was watching her, but he looked away without making eye contact. When a huge, brown, furry shape fell or was thrown against the wooden railing at the top of the stairs, Amelia realized it must be Collie, in the shape of a bear. It was more like a man-bear, with a headful of scary-looking teeth and claws to match, but wide shoulders and human posture. Bear-Collie rolled out of the way as Laughing Jack emerged, still tangled in shadows, from the unlit hallway. Its white head seemed to hover like a ghost above Collie, who dodged a vicious downward blow from Laughing Jack’s spade-like hand. Amelia stared as the fear and panic that gripped her in the forest returned, only now the nightmare had a huge, grinning face. Collie’s huge paw hit Laughing Jack hard on side of the head, then the creature’s cloak enveloped them both like a cloud of oily smoke, and laughter mingled with a furious roar as Collie struggled free. Then the bear disappeared in a swirl of white mist, and Collie vaulted over the handrail and soared halfway across the great room before landing lightly on a table near Hal and Nick.

Impressive, Amelia said to herself, and then that horrible laughter filled the great room. Amelia was the only one close enough to hear Eleni shouting; Amelia looked where she was pointing and saw vampires entering the room from the dark hallway that led to Erik’s room. Amelia grabbed her knife and thought about jumping up onto the bar, but the vampires didn’t attack. There were three of them, holding what looked like sticks, and Amelia couldn’t understand what they were doing. “Torvald!” He looked at Amelia from where he was still standing near the foot of the stairs. Hal and Nick saw the vampires now and moved uncertainly toward the bar as Torvald rushed to Amelia’s side. Amelia breathed a sigh of relief, but the vampires were still ignoring everyone but Collie, and raising their sticks. No, those weren’t sticks. “Collie, look out!” Amelia shouted as the darts flew. Collie had already dropped to the floor, and the darts clattered on the stone fireplace behind him. Torvald said, “They’re only here for Collie!” When Amelia realized Torvald was torn between helping his friend and protecting her, she looked at Torvald, said, “Go!” and then ran for the bar. Torvald didn’t call for Nick or Hal to join him, but when he charged the group of vampires as they reloaded their blowguns, Nick yelled, shook his sword in the air, and followed Torvald. Hal stood still, and then Amelia saw him drop his sword on the table in front of him. What was the monk doing? Was he just afraid to fight?

No sooner had Laughing Jack clambered over the railing and dropped to the floor of the great room below, than three more vampires appeared on the landing behind him, all with blowguns lifted. The second volley of darts hit only a swirl of mist as an owl soared up toward the rafters of the great room. Torvald reached the first group of vampires as they were still reloading, but before he could land a blow, Laughing Jack was there, unfolding like an enormous white spider from his black cloak. The vampires ran like deer from a hunter, directly toward Torvald, who held up his shield and stood his ground as the vampires ran past him and then around Nick, was several steps behind. Laughing Jack strode past both of them, long legs gobbling up the floor in great strides and seized the hindmost of the fleeing vampires. The captive shrieked and convulsed briefly as Laughing Jack squeezed its torso in his two great hands until black smoke began to flow from the vampire’s mouth. Amelia gawked in horror as Laughing Jack leaned forward and sucked up the escaping spirit, inhaling it like a grotesque caricature of a man smelling a rose. The strands of vampiric essence that escaped Laughing Jack’s mouth were drawn down and absorbed into his cloak, which Amelia realized looked like it was made of the same stuff that had come out of the vampire. Amelia was astounded to realize Laughing Jack and the vampires weren’t on the same side at all; his presence here obviously wasn’t part of their plan.

As Laughing Jack finished feeding and tossed the vampire’s body aside, Amelia moved slowly toward the bar again to put more space between her and the creature. Laughing Jack spotted Amelia as soon as she moved, and stretched out its impossibly long fingers toward her. Torvald’s sword sliced off three of those fingers at the second knuckle, and black blood dripped to the floor. Laughing Jack howled, backhanded Torvald twelve feet into a table against the stairwell, and then went after him with a hiss. As Torvald struggled to regain his feet and his breath, Collie swooped down at Laughing Jack, the owl replaced by a golden griffin. Amelia saw griffin wings beat against Laughing Jack’s swirling cloak, and eagle talons tore at the creature’s shoulders. The three vampires on the landing and the two in the great room all launched a second volley of darts at the griffin’s back. Amelia saw the griffin shudder as the darts hit — then it all stopped dead.

Ash swore under his breath when he saw that he had been a fraction of a second too late. There were at least three darts in the griffin’s back. Ash had to work quickly, slowing down time this much put a huge strain on the pocketwatch; the fact that it took so long for the time dilation to start was a bad sign. Ash had promised himself after using this feature to get Edward and Amelia to Midhbar that he wouldn’t do it again except in extreme emergency. At least there was no doubt that this qualified. Ash couldn’t afford to lose Collie, or Torvald, for that matter.

It was hard not to stop and look around at how the watch had turned a scene of utter chaos into a fascinating still life, but Ash walked quickly across the room. This was only the third occasion Ash had slowed down time, but he didn’t think he’d ever get used to the strange prickly feeling all over his body, and the feeling of walking through something not as dense as water, but much thicker than air. Ash had to move a table and climb up onto it to pull three darts from the griffin’s back and flank. Each dart was tipped in something dark, which Ash assumed was poison. Shapeshifters were very resilient, and fast healers, but Ash tried to get as much of the poison out as he could, by squeezing the fur around the entry points until blood welled up in dark red beads, which Ash scraped away.

Through the pocket of his tunic, Ash could feel that the watch was getting warm — he didn’t have much time left. He could use Edward’s watch; two timepieces couldn’t be used in tandem, and in fact doing so stopped the time dilation from working. You could overlap two sessions, but Edward’s mission was too important to risk compromising the second watch. Ash jumped down from the table and cringed as he ducked under Laughing Jack’s claws and pulled Torvald safely out of reach. Ash ran for the stairs and took them two at a time; when he reached the vampires, he gave each of them a hard shove toward the railing. With luck, they would fall right into Laughing Jack’s lap, and provide enough of a distraction to give Collie, Torvald and the Westerings the upper hand. It was still a very bad situation, but Ash had to get over to the tower to look for Edward before Plan A went completely off the rails, if that hadn’t happened already. Ash bounded down the stairs and across the room, where pulled the table away from the door, unbolted it and made sure there were no vampires waiting on the other side.

There were two more things he could do before he left. Ash moved Amelia behind the bar, dragging her across the floor on her heels like a mannequin, and then positioned himself behind the two remaining vampires, their blowguns still lifted, almost touching their lips. The watch was almost too hot to touch now; Ash wrapped it in the tail of his tunic, then drew a small pistol from a shoulder holster and pointed it at the first vampire as he pressed the button to release the mainspring.

Amelia barely had time to process that she was somehow behind the bar when she heard two sharp pops to her left. She turned to see Hal lower a gun, two dead vampires at his feet, and then walk quickly through the now open door of the Hart and slam it shut again. She had no time to make sense of that — on the other side of the room, two vampires fell over the railing and almost onto Laughing Jack’s head, while a third clung to a banister and hauled himself up again. Collie flapped his wings and leapt awkwardly from Laughing Jack to the floor, while Torvald, somehow halfway across the room at the other end of the bar, rushed to help Collie again as he returned to his human form. Collie was staggering, and his face was flushed and sweating as Torvald helped him behind the bar. “What happened?” Torvald asked Amelia as they sat Collie down on the floor. Eleni and Salah looked worried, but the mother kept an eye on Laughing Jack as it fed on one of the two vampires that fell from the landing. Torvald said, “They must have hit him with a dart,” he crouched down beside his friend. “Collie, are you all right?”

“I’ll be fine,” Collie said, looking up at Torvald.

“You don’t look fine,” Amelia said, kneeling down beside him. “Where did they get you?”

“On the back, I think,” Collie said with a grimace, and they heard chairs being knocked over, the sound of splintering wood, and maniacal laughter over Cassia’s whimpering. “But never mind that, we have to get you all somewhere safe,” he said. “Down to the cellar.”

Eleni had been peeking over the bar into the great room. “I think they’ve gone,” she said, hopefully, and took her baby from Salah’s arms. “The last vampire fled up the stairs, and that laughing thing went after it.”

Amelia let out a long, shuddering breath. “Thank God,” she said. And Hal, she thought, but decided not to bring that up now, when they still had to figure out how to help Collie. Amelia stood up, peered tentatively into the great room. When Nick shouted, Amelia had to stifle a scream. “They’re gone!” the tall man said as he crawled out from under a table. “Forgot all about us, looks like,” Nick said, walking toward the bar and dangling his short sword carelessly. Then he saw the two vampires that Hal, or whoever he was, had killed. “What happened to them?” Nick stopped when he saw Collie, pale and glistening with sweat as Torvald helped him to a chair.

Amelia looked at the two bodies by the door. She didn’t know much about guns, but she knew magic didn’t kill those vampires. She wished Edward were here to help her figure it out, and then she tried not to think about how much trouble he might be in right now. Wherever her brother was, Amelia hoped Laughing Jack didn’t pay him a visit, too.

~ ~ ~

Edward was afraid Giles was losing it. While Edward started exploring the sixth and uppermost floor of Herodotus Greenspun’s tower, Giles stood in front of the trapdoor, listening to the sound of the vampires on the other side, trying to get through. Edward was afraid, too, but standing there and waiting for the bloodsuckers to break in wasn’t helping anything. Edward started walking away from the trapdoor into the very dark room; the tower werelight, instead of following Edward, seemed to be leading him directly toward what looked like a large table, and Edward had to run to keep up.

The werelight stopped directly over a heavy table, six feet long by three feet wide, with a large version of what Edward recognized as a sunsphere. A really big sunsphere. Unlike the two Harry made for the Watch, which were about one foot in diameter, this orb was at least four feet across. Edward walked around it, and reached out his hand to touch the cool metal framework that supported the sphere in a rotating mount. There were several focusing mirrors on the workbench, but none in the sphere, and there was no shutter like the one used on the small sunspheres. Edward wondered if these differences were by design, or if Harry simply hadn’t finished this one yet. It seemed obvious that the two other devices were small, but useful prototypes for this whopper. Edward almost forgot that he could simply ask. “Is this finished?” he said, and the light glowed red. “No,” Edward said. “But is it working?” Maybe, the werelight flashed. Edward sighed. Obviously, this could get them out of their current predicament easily, but not if it was broken. He looked closely at the crystalline sphere, and the oval reservoir in the bottom, which held the swirling, multi-colored substance that powered the spheres. Nestor and Ralph called it aether, which didn’t help much. Edward was no physics wiz, but his guess was it was some kind of plasma in electromagnetic containment. There was loud banging from the trapdoor, and now Edward could smell wood burning. Giles stood with his back to Edward, motionless. “Well, nothing to lose,” Edward said to himself. “Fiat lux!” he said; this was how the sunspheres were activated, apparently as a way to keep them from activating every time someone wanted to call a werelight. Nothing, Not so much as a spark. Edward tried again, louder, and Giles began to moan, “No. No. No.”

“Giles!” Edward said, anger flaring. “Snap out of it!” Giles turned to face him, his eyes wide. “Are you going to do another magic trick, Edward?”

“Well, I’m trying!” Edward snapped. “At least I’m doing something!” he muttered, but loud enough for Giles to hear. The older boy let out a humorless laugh and walked toward the table. “Doing something? You don’t have to do anything, Edward — you just waltz in here out of nowhere, and everyone is fascinated with you, and your sister.”

Edward shook his head, now it was becoming clear. “Giles, I don’t think this is the time.”

“When else are we going to do it, Edward? In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re about to have company,” Giles said in an odd sing-song voice as he reached the table. “I’m not worried, though, I know you’ll save us at the last possible moment,” he sneered, and lifted one finger to point at Edward, “because you’re — so — special.”

Edward swallowed hard. He was angry, and a little afraid of Giles, but mostly, he was hurt. There had been a few kids in his class last year who made fun of Edward, and his mother always said it was because they were jealous. Edward had resolved that next school year, he wasn’t going to let anyone who wasn’t really his friend copy his notes. That was why Giles’ betrayal now was so painful; despite the fact they had only met a few hours ago, and that Amelia and Torvald didn’t like him, Edward felt like he and Giles had something in common. Now it looked like that thing was that they were going to die together. “It’s not my fault, Giles!” Edward yelled, surprising both of them. The trapdoor exploded upward, scattering splinters and sparks in the air.

As the vampires entered the room, one after the other, Edward climbed onto the table and looked up. He could see a sliver of night sky directly above him, which must be the trapdoor to the roof that Giles mentioned earlier. It made sense that the table was here, so that sunlight could charge the sphere, but only around noon, when the sun was overhead. If Harry was as smart as he seemed, there was probably a way to raise and lower this table to take advantage of the sun all day long. Even without raising the table, there had to be another way to reach the trapdoor. He’d been stupid not to look for it earlier, on the other hand, escape to the roof was just delaying the inevitable. The werelight had dropped down to the level of the sphere, even with Edward’s waist. It was trying to be helpful, he supposed.

Giles had his back to the table as four vampires crossed the room, their bare feet slithering over the cool stones. “Now would be a good time, Edward,” Giles said with a grimace. “Fiat lux!” Edward’s voice echoed in the darkness from unseen stone walls outside the little circle of light that was their world. Edward’s eyes filled with tears of frustration.Why wouldn’t the gift or talent he had — the very one that Giles now despised in him — not work now? What was different about the sunsphere? The vampires had encircled Giles and now they closed in as he tried to climb onto the table. A vampire grabbed Giles’ leg, dragged him down and held him, screaming, while a second began to feed. With two vampires coming around the table for him, Edward looked around for anything he could use as a weapon, and the werelight circled the sunsphere frantically. “Yes, I know!” Edward said, swatting at the light, and then he noticed a small projection he hadn’t seen until the werelight got close enough. It was a small valve, a stopcock, like the kind on a flask in chemistry class. Edward twisted the valve open as a vampire grabbed his ankle and dragged him off the table. As Edward kicked and struggled, and the werelight buzzed the vampires frantically, a light began to grow on the table, and soon the vampires noticed this was not the annoying, but harmless glow of the werelight. Unlike the focused beam of the smaller versions, the large sphere was blazing like the sun in a bottle. One of the vampires who had been pulling Edward off the table made a run for the trapdoor and fell through it, screaming and burning. The one that had been holding his leg simply fell forward without a sound. The two vampires feeding on Giles tried to shield themselves with his body, and Giles sagged to the floor and into the ashes of his tormentors. Edward could see the glorious light through his closed eyelids, as it warmed his face, but the sphere began to fade after a few seconds of running wide open. Edward dusted the vampire ash from his arms, stood up and closed the stopcock.

As the sphere dimmed, Edward saw Giles lying on his back in the smoldering tatters of a vampire cloak. Edward rushed around the table and bent to look at Giles’ blood-smeared face. His breathing was very shallow, almost imperceptible. Edward put his ear to the older boy’s chest and listened to the slow, faint beats. Giles’ face was white; Edward had no idea how much blood he had lost, but he had to get help. What if there were more vampires in the lower levels of the tower? And who knew how many of them were lurking in the dark streets between here and the White Hart? The werelight was above him, hovering slowly now. “Hey, thanks again,” Edward said. “Can you show me to a window?” Yes. Edward followed the light across the room to a tall screen, covered with dark fabric. He pulled the screen back to reveal a tall rectangular window behind. Harry must be using the screens to keep light from escaping the tower during his experiments. Edward unlocked the casements and swung them inward, and then opened the shutters. The view of the town was incredible; Edward leaned out of the window; he could hear distant shouts from the street and the green beyond, where he saw werelights mingled with torches and open fires. Then, rising above the din, Edward shuddered at a sound he’d never forget, but hoped never to hear again. Laughing Jack, here? Could this get any worse? But he had to do something. For all Edward knew, no one in town even knew he and Giles were here — he couldn’t wait up here on the sixth floor to be rescued. Edward had to smile as he recalled his earlier attempt to assign everyone in Westering a traditional fairy tale role. I guess this makes me the damsel in distress, tower and all. Edward turned away from the window, working up his nerve to down the stairs when he heard a thump on the roof, then a sound at the trapdoor above the sunsphere. It wasn’t the sound of vampires trying to break in — it was a knock, plain and simple. Edward was heading for the table, the werelight over his head when he heard a voice. “Edward? Edward Lockheart, are you there?”

Edward hesitated, then answered. “Who are you?”

“I’m here to help you,” the voice answered. It was stern, but it was a female voice.

“I have a friend who was attacked by vampires — he needs help, right away!”

“Can you open this door?”

“Sorry, I can’t reach it — there’s no way to get up there.”

“There’s another door, some fifty feet north of this one — are there stairs?” Edward wasn’t positive which way was north. “Can you show me the way up to the roof?” he said to the werelight. It glowed green, then moved behind Edward and waited for him to turn around and jump down from the table, before leading him across the room to a tall screen, covered with dark fabric, that was obscuring most of the stairwell. As Edward went around the screen and started up the step, he noticed this screen had large holes burned in it.

At the top, Edward knocked on the trapdoor, and immediately heard the voice above him say, “Stand clear.” Edward retreated halfway down the stairs, and a few seconds later, he heard the door groan, and saw it jerk upward as the bolt gave way. A cascade of silver hair flowed down from the open trapdoor, followed by a woman’s face. She looked at Edward, then around the room before she disappeared. Edward watched her bare feet and legs appear, and hair flowing down over both shoulders, almost to her waist, but she was otherwise naked. Edward looked down quickly and pressed himself against the wall. “Rava is my name,” the woman said as she passed Edward and continued down. Edward tried not to stare; it helped the room was very dark except for the tower light that followed him. Clothed or otherwise, Edward was sure he had never seen Rava before, but something about her seemed familiar. Rava didn’t seem to need her own light; her silver hair hovered like a ghost as she crossed quickly to where Giles was lying on the floor beside the sunsphere. “He’s lost a lot of blood,” Edward said as he kneeled beside Giles and felt the shallow rise and fall of his chest.“Who is this?” she said, looking at Giles, but not bending to examine him. “His name is Giles Cozen,” Edward answered. What if Giles died? How many other people had already died tonight, and what was happening to Amelia?

“We’ll take him to safety,” Rava said simply. “How are we going to –” Edward didn’t need to finish his sentence; Rava scooped Giles up from the floor, heedless of the blood that smeared her hair when his head rolled against shoulder. Rava carried Giles easily across the room and back up through the trapdoor. Edward followed quickly, and he welcomed the fresh, cool air outside as he stepped out onto the roof. A silver sphinx, twice the size of a real lioness, with Rava’s proportional head was crouched and waiting for Edward. Rava held Giles in her arms, which looked like those of a lion, but ended in fingers instead of claws. Rava was the silver monkey. She stole my watch. Edward felt a little dizzy, and when Rava told him to climb onto her back, he stood there, staring, until she prompted him with a growl. Edward hurried over, and noticed that the tower werelight didn’t follow him now. Rava’s large, glittering green cat eyes followed Edward as he climbed onto her back, in front of the black and silver barred wings, and gingerly wrapped his arms around her neck.

Rava leapt into the air, leaving Edward’s stomach behind on the roof, but when he opened his eyes, they were soaring over the flagstone path that led from Harry’s front door back to main street. Edward let out a whoop of joy despite himself as they swooped over the rooftops lining the main street, and then over the green, where half a dozens fires were burning, and toward the White Hart. Without warning, Rava suddenly spiraled down, and Edward’s hands clenched her silver fur. Rava’s long hair billowed as she landed on the grass a hundred yards from the Hart. Edward heard shouts, some of them seemed close, and he saw werelights moving singly and in groups, but none close by. Then Edward heard a man’s voice. He leaned to look around Rava’s head and saw a dark-haired man in a cloak with no werelight. “Vampires,” Rava said with contempt, “but he seems unharmed.” Edward assumed she meant him. The man looked at Edward. “My name is Ash. I’ll take care of Giles,” he said, as Rava lay the his still, pale body on the grass. Edward wanted to climb down, though Rava was still standing. “Wait,” Ash said. He checked Giles’ pulse, then came closer to Edward and looked up at him on Rava’s back. “Edward, did the door to Harry’s tower open for you?” Edward nodded, “Yes. How did you know that?” Ash had another question instead. “And what did you find on the sixth floor?”

“A sunsphere — a big one,” Edward replied, trying to recall where he’d seen this man before. “Mr. Ash, listen, I need to get to the White Hart,” he looked toward the tavern, a few hundred yards away. It was shuttered and dark. “My sister is going to be worried sick about me.” “Amelia is safe; she’s with Torvald,” Ash said. “How do you –” Ash cut him off, “Edward We don’t have much time. Now, you got this sunsphere to work? Is that how you saved yourself, and Giles?” Edward nodded again. Ash smiled, and reached up to pat Edward on the knee. “Good work, son,” he said. Ash reached into his tunic, pulled out a silver pocketwatch and placed it in Edward’s hand. “I put it on a chain for you. Don’t lose it this time,” Ash said with barely enough of a smile for Edward to know he was having a dig at him. “Read this,” he said, pressing a silver tube the size of a small cigar into Edward’s hand. “And good luck.” Before Edward could ask what he meant, Rava stood up and Edward felt the powerful flexing of muscles beneath him as Rava’s wings carried them up over the Hart and past the Wall. “Hey! Where are we going?” Edward yelled. He put the pocket watch around his neck, then stowed the silver tube in a pockets of his cargo shorts and buttoned it. Rava didn’t answer as she leaned right, soaring over the rolling hills that bordered Westering to the north. “Hey!” Edward pounded on the sphinx’s back with both hands. “Where are you taking me?”

“Do you ever want to see your sister again? Or your father?”

“Yes,” Edward said, his voice sounded small in the current of cool night air rushing past him. “Then be still, and be quiet,” Rava growled. “Or I might accidentally drop you in the river.” Edward looked down at the dark ribbon of water below, and wondered where vampires had gone into it. He thought of Giles, and how deathly pale he was in the tower. Edward looked back over his shoulder; he could still see Westering, and the Wall. “Can you at least tell me where we’re going?” he asked, holding tightly with his arms and his legs, in case Rava was serious. “You probably can’t see it yet,” she said disdainfully, “but it’s straight ahead. I’m taking you to Hollow Mountain.”

End of Book I


7 thoughts on “Seventeen: Tipping Point

  1. Brilliant! Straight into it with that suspenseful opening; then action all the way. Particularly liked the way you used the vulnerable children to up the jeopardy. And not letting on who was the silver sphinx. Though I believe that Ash is beginning to subtlely reveal himself. Next episode please. 🙂

    • Yes, those poor kids keep ending up in harm’s way — their parents really should be more responsible. Lots more to come on Ash and his agenda, via an unexpected detour. And I haven’t forgotten about Erik & co., and Harry. And the Vampire King is waiting in the wings (ha ha). Oy vey. A few more irons in the fire, anyone?

  2. Tipping or turning point indeed. And finally a mystery or two revealed! But that doesn’t mean you’re letting up on introducing more mysteries. I’m finding Laughing Jack more attractive all the time. (That’s attractive as a story device, by the way; he sounds a bit too clingy for a friend.)

    • Yes, I’m trying to loosen my grip on the bag of secrets and let a few more slip out. Glad you are enjoying Laughing Jack. It has taken me a while to figure him out; I completely rewrote his scenes in this chapter, but now I feel like we’re all old friends. Too clingy, indeed 🙂 LJ does have problems recognizing personal boundaries, I’ll grant you, but he makes up for it with his dry wit.

  3. Pingback: Magpie Monday | Robert E. Stutts

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