First Chapter: The Second Tail

My head rolled back and collided with the wooden edgework of Blake’s armchair’s strongly built wings. When I tried to sit up properly to clear my head my body was greeted with searing pain across my chest, thighs, stomach and shins, all forming long bands around me and holding me still. Blinking rapidly to get rid of the fog of death from my brain I assessed the situation as best I could, I focussed on the bonds that wound around me like peeved constrictors; they were white and red like the stripes of a candy cane and appeared to be made of silk.

 

“You stole the tiebacks!” It just sort of burst out, but I was right, my captors had violated my Library – somehow, I wasn’t even going to start to think about that – and taken the beautiful spider-silk-fine wraps and used them to tie me to the wrong chair. I was disproportionately offended to have been placed in Blake’s chair too, it felt belittling, which I suppose makes me a bad person for feeling like I was more important than he was. Naturally my half sister ruined my brief moment of introspection, what else are siblings for?

 

“They’ll grow back sister sweetheart, everything grows back in a Library.” She sounded like the cat that had gotten both the cream and the canary and was about to combine the two into a delicious pie.

I wriggled as best I could, ignoring the scorching heat that traced every point at which the ties came into contact with me. Whether there was some spell attached to them or that was just what pain felt like I didn’t know, I’d never been tied up before.

 

“I think she’s uncomfortable Sophie, maybe the ties are too tight, we could loosen them a little.” I didn’t recognize that voice; I struggled again and managed to get my sore head to turn far enough to see my half sister and her companion standing by the reading table. It was her mysterious male friend who had spoken, he was tall and reasonably good looking I suppose, though I wouldn’t have picked him out from a line-up as anything other than another second rate accomplice.

 

“Don’t be ridiculous, she’s going to stay right there until we get what we want, aren’t you Alice?” Now Sophie wanted me to chime in that or the question was rhetorical. I may have missed that class when I skipped school that time. I remember watching a show about cops and stuff while I was in Australia that first time, and I think what they were trying to achieve was the infamous ‘good cop bad cop’ routine perfected by actors and parents since at least the dawn of time.

 

“That depends on what you want, Hag.” Okay, so it was a little immature, but what was she going to do kill me again? Come on, it was worth it to see how she would react. And again, what were siblings for?

 

“Being polite would be the best option for you to go forward and be free dear sister of mine, I would hate to see you stuck here for ever with nothing and no one to keep you company.”

 

As a side note, given I own this Library there’s no way I could be locked in indefinitely. Either she was stupid or she was playing a stupid bluff.

 

“Sophie darling, I have forever, and I’m stronger than you. Try me.” Again, I wasn’t sure whether that was true or not, I knew I had forever, but strength versus strength I didn’t know how we stood, and she had her mystery fellow too. As if on cue, he added his two cents worth.

 

“Alice, we don’t want to keep you here forever, we really don’t, but you need to help us, otherwise this is going to get messy and the cleanup could take years. Please help.”

So he was good cop. I thought so.

 

“You’ll need to be more specific about what you need help on, I’m not a great cook, so if you’re looking for a good caterer I’ll have to refer you to someone else.” I was beginning to feel a bit delirious, this whole situation was more surreal than the usual situations I got into, and I couldn’t think straight. And they were now double teaming me, which is totally unfair, don’t you think?

 

“We want Blake’s Lore sister, the whole thing. I’ve got his key. I just need his book. Now where is it? I know you and Blake share everything in this stupid room.”

Interesting, she didn’t know where the Lore was or how to get a hold of it. Fascinating. I’m assuming she used her blood connections with me to enable her to use Blake’s key to get in here, meaning I could probably get rid of her too. Maybe even the same way she got in. Though to be honest that was a lot of guesswork. I’m not sure, even to this day, how the whole thing works.

“I demand the Lore, it’s my blood rite to demand such information and aid from you, and you’re my flesh and blood.”

That was a lot of blood in one sentence. A little too much if you ask me.

 

And blood rite? I’d never heard of such nonsense, that’s not how the magic works, but I could use her error to my advantage I guess.

 

“I don’t know where Blake’s Lore is, it could be anywhere and I don’t know how to sort through this Library yet, it’s so difficult, Gwen was teaching me before I left, but we never finished our lessons.”

That got a rise in the male’s colour; maybe he didn’t know that I was associated with Gwen in any way, so Sophie wasn’t sharing everything. And it probably discredited Gwen to have been my tutor, the ‘enemy’s’ tutor.

 

“Well then, we’ll see about that sister.”

 

“Half sister.”

 

“What?” The male looked really confused now, he was looking between Sophie and I like we had suggested a wrestling match in jelly to solve our differences.

 

“She’s not my sister, she’s my half sister, we share a Father but not a Mother, didn’t she tell you that? Females can only have one offspring, for us to be sisters in the true sense we would have to be twins and then we would share a first name.” I took a breath and he looked at me with wide nervous eyes. “And we don’t.”

 

“Shut up Alice. Darrian, it doesn’t make a difference to the whole thing, we’re still related, and that’s how I got in here.” No, they used Blake’s key. Was she truly this stupid? Or maybe he was simple?

His name was Darrian. He must be her ‘friend’ whole lead us to finding Caul and getting me killed. Wow that took me back I was feeling almost nostalgic.

 

But I could use this to my advantage. I shook the past away and decided to spread discord in the present.

“Darrian, did you tell my dearest half sister where to find our Father by any chance? It would have been a long time ago now of course, but you would remember, wouldn’t you?” I wasn’t sure if he actually was or if Sophie had just used him as a scapegoat for luring me to my death, but it was worth a try.

 

Sophie rolled her eyes pettily but Darrian’s eyes got all serious.

“I delivered a message to Sophie Mailer many years ago from her father letting her know of his new residence, that’s true. I thought it was odd, because usually she’s the one who delivers the messages.” He sounded like he was having a major epiphany.

 

“Caul killed me when Sophie took me there Darrian. You’ve already been basically responsible for my death once, isn’t killing tiresome?” Okay, it was a stretch; but it got the reaction I was hoping for.

Sophie growled angrily and reached to grab Darrian’s arm. Darrian twisted away and stepped toward me, a frown growing on his lips and his eyes crinkling a little in confusion.

 

“Why would Caul kill you? He can’t kill anyone, he’s not allowed to. You’re lying.” Why did I get the feeling I was undoing some sort of brainwashing conditioning implemented by the Last Descendants? Or maybe he just had an IQ through the floor. Just because my Father’s name was ‘Peaceful’ didn’t mean he couldn’t kill; it just meant he couldn’t kill without a very good reason. I explained this and Sophie appeared out of no where right in front of me and slapped me, causing my ears to ring. Darrian turned to her angrily, to defend me or something I don’t know, but she didn’t give him a chance to do either because she smacked him in the head too, and used her magic, which was feeble at best in my Library, to throw him into my chair. My chair? Why mine? There was a perfectly good chaise lounge right there. He was tainting my beautiful chair!

 

“Shut up both of you. Listen to me.”

Okay bossy pants.

 

“Wow, a little attention seeking there sister, you can’t be the centre of everything you know.”

 

Wham! She hit me again. I’m not sure whether she hit me harder this time, but it hurt a lot more. Closed fist this time maybe.

 

“Give me your key you brat, if I can’t have Blake’s Lore I’ll have yours, and there’s nothing you can do about that, I have even more of a right to yours than his. Hand it over.”

She lost her temper quickly, for a messenger she had the patience of a teaspoon. What was that saying? Don’t shoot the messenger? Well this one deserved to be stabbed. Hard. An idea came to mind as I pondered the difficulties of ‘handing it over’ when I couldn’t so much as imagine thinking about moving a hair on my little finger; what if I gave her my Library key? She would turn it in a lock and fall out of the Library, wouldn’t she? I could conjure the key back to myself and she’d be stuck out there, with Darrian stuck in here because he couldn’t get out without me letting him out because he didn’t have a key. That felt like it would work. Assuming he didn’t still have Blake’s key… I decided it was worth the risk.

 

“I can’t move with all these stupid ropes wrapped around me.”

 

“You don’t have a choice. Give me the key.” She was being remarkably confrontational. And stupid. She hadn’t thought this through at all. Clearly I was the smarter sister. I levitated the key out of my mind and into the air in front of me, causing her to grin like the Cheshire cat and snatch it from my control. She did a little, very undignified, dance and moved toward the standing mirror in the corner with the whole on one side. It was supposed to be used as a suppository for all things you wanted to keep hidden, and the inside could take any form it wanted. I hadn’t used it, preferring to lock my Lore away in a box somewhere on the shelves, but I don’t know if Blake had used it yet. Or indeed if he knew what it was for.

I must have had a sly and beguiling look on my face because Darrian was staring at me, his mouth opening to warn Sophie that something was up. I used my aura to seal his lips shut and watched him struggle to make any noise, and then give up and just focus on breathing.

 

Sophie slid the key into the hole and twisted, pulling open the mirror to find a dark place. Chuckling she stepped in, the door staying open behind her. That just wouldn’t do; my aura sprung behind her and slammed the door shut, whisking the key away and back to my waiting pocket. I heard an echo of Sophie’s surprised and inelegant screech from the other side before it shut decisively and I was left alone with a suddenly very worried looking Darrian.

I could feel the Library almost sigh with relief. Sophie felt so wrong in here.

“Do you know who I am Darrian?”

He nodded violently, the bones of his neck actually clicking together.

“How much has Sophie told you? I am her half sister; she lied to you about that. Caul is my Father, but my Mother is from an altogether different lineage. Have you heard of the Dartonian and Arthurian Dynasties by any chance?”

He grew very pale and nodded, but this time much more slowly, as if not sure where this was going. At least he looked scared; he knew something.

“Well, there’s a story going around, I’m sure you’ve heard it, about a red dragon and a white dragon who are going to destroy everything.”

He nodded neck poppingly again. I really had his attention. The bones were getting a serious work out.

“Well, I’m the Red one. And this place is a really bad place to confront me about anything.” I triggered the transformation and let my Draconis rip through my skin and into the light, growling as we melded and split again, becoming once again a single unsurmountable being. Why hadn’t I thought of this earlier? The ties around my body split catastrophically and Darrian stumbled backwards, knocking my chair over and landing hard on his back, his legs in the air and flailing like a beetle overturned. I shook the last strips of ravished silk from my back and legs and stretched my wings as far as they would go. The Library seemed to stretch to accommodate my new size.

Darrian hadn’t made any noise yet and I remembered I’d silenced him. I walked towards him and in a couple of strides I was towering over his bloodless shaking face; I removed the spell and he spluttered and gasped, saliva running down his cheek and his eyes rolled backwards and forwards looking for a way out. Briefly his aura pressed against my chest as if trying to push me off, but it gave up quickly, feeling the full weight of my strength holding against his. I could crush him and he knew it.

 

“It wasn’t my idea.” I bet he was glad none of his male friends heard him say that; his voice was high pitched and breathy as he tried to bargain for his life. “It was Sophie’s, I’m supposed to be her assistant but she always makes me do the stuff she doesn’t like doing, like stealing the key, she made me do that because she doesn’t like London, if she had any say in the matter she probably fell through that door and straight into Boulder, Colorado. She lives in the mountains there, on her own; she’s a real loner like that. Please don’t kill me.” It took him that long to get to the ‘don’t kill me’ part? I bet the ‘I can be useful, I’ll do whatever you want’ bit comes next. I was right.

“I know a lot more about the organisation than Sophie thinks Alice, I can tell you everything. I will tell you everything. I’ll do whatever you want.”

I raised my paw above his head and he stopped talking, his sore back preventing him from assuming the foetal position, and his legs were so tangled in the legs of my chair that all he could do was shield his face from the blow he thought was coming. I wasn’t that stupid though; we might have Gemma, but someone truly willing to give up the Last Descendents’ plans would be invaluable.

We just had to remember that he would be just as willing to divulge our secrets.

 

“Okay then.” I dropped my paw and slid it under his bent and fragile spine, lifting him up and fixing it at the same time. The look of unadulterated relief on his face was almost comical.

“So, Boulder huh?” I expected to see something like fear or panic cross his face because of his obvious betrayal of trust, but instead he just nodded, nearly ruining my healing work with his vigorous agreement.

 

“Yes, she lives on the mountain side just above the edge of town, she says it’s really peaceful up there and there is a small tight-knit community of Spooks there that she can talk to and organize things with if she wants, they don’t know it, but they’re doing a lot for the Descendents.” I put him down and rocked back onto my hindquarters to used two paws to right my chair. He nervously paced around the backs of the reading table and study desk, not wanting to sit down but at the same time wanting to be as useful as possible to avoid being killed. I didn’t even know if I could kill him in a Library, Libraries are fixed zones after all, time doesn’t move.

I shifted back into my considerably less imposing self and settled my behind into my chair, feeling the leather mould perfectly to my shape, I looked at Darrian expectantly and he hurried over, kneeling in front of my chair and bowing his head as if this was a medieval court and I was the queen.

“I’ll do whatever you want, anything you need, every member of the Last Descendents are nuts, off their collective rocker so to speak. I know a bit about everyone, I’ve been their busy body for about a hundred and ninety years now. My full name is Darrian Bow, I live to serve, and it’s all I have.” He finished his little speech with a bowed heard and shaking shoulders, awaiting my judgment.

His seriousness bemused me, but I suppose considering the circumstances I could allow him some solemn expressions.

I could certainly do worse. Though it made me pause for thought that he was so fast to give up his masters’ secrets.

“Well then Darrian Bow, tell me, what do you know of Blake and I?”

 

“Caul Peaceful wants to kill you, well, he wants to kill one or both of you, preferably both of course to avert any disasters. You’re the only one who can carry the Red line anywhere, Myrrdin has already had her single offspring.” Like I didn’t know that.

 

I needed to ask something specific, like a test, something that might prove what he knew and how serious he was about giving up his former masters. I didn’t know exactly how to solve the second quandary but the first one would be easy enough.

 

“Why does he want us dead?”

 

“He believes, Caul that is, assuming that’s who you mean, that you two will end the world. I know that’s not what the prophecy says word for word, but I did say they were all nuts. Caul has taken it upon himself like some sort of public service.”

 

“I know he’s insane, he’s my Father. It doesn’t bother him that the person he’s trying to kill is his daughter?”

 

“He seems more adamant about killing you than he does Blake actually, I’m sorry to say it, but he’s almost fanatical about destroying you.”

That didn’t explain why he was so comfortable with killing me, his own daughter, but at least it helped me understand where he and I stood in the father-daughter relationship.

 

“I see.” I thought about it for a few minutes, pondering the potential fallout from bringing someone like this back to the rest of my group. Coming to my decision I stood up and dusted myself off.

“I’m going to leave you in here Darrian Bow, and I’m going to consult with the Spooks on my side, and then we’ll go from there. I don’t know whether to trust you, but hopefully they will.”

He was nodding before I finished talking.

The sound of his neck cracking nauseated me, I was happy to leave him here.

 

“Yes of course, that only makes sense, leave me here as long as you need to. Thank you Alice, thank you.”

I just nodded and stood up, smoothing the front of my dress and adjusting my belt. I drew the key from my pocket and turned it in the grain beside the mirror, stepping through the door and into the snowy waste in the mountains surrounding the cave we’d had before I’d died.

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