"Exactly what it says on the box."
* * *
Maria turned the box over in her hands, reading the label. "It doesn't actually mean that, right?"
Tez smiled. "'Unlimited power'? Yes, it does."
"I mean, how does it work? Do I plant seeds in the ground and get an army?"
"Does it have a tiara that grants me wishes?"
"Not at all."
She opened the box, revealing a stubby cylinder with a toothed gear on the top and a toggle switch on the side. She flipped it and the gear started turning. "What's making it turn?"
"I've forgotten. But until you flip that switch again it'll never stop." Fifty-Two
* * *
"Swan? Swaaaan!" Maria called, treading through the elvenwood. Her youngest daughter, always precocious, had gone off the track just as her father had instructed her not to. Better to find her before Tez was given cause to lecture.
"There you are," Maria said, stepped into a clearing. Swan sat in a beam of light coming through the trees, as a dozen butterflies in twice as many colors swirled around. She smiled as one landed on her cheek, then another, and then another…
Then Maria was trying beat them away and tear them from her daughter as Swan began to scream… Fifty-Three
"Whales and necromancy"
* * *
"What is that idiot doing?" the captain asked, peering through his binoculars. The other boat was keeping a healthy mile from his own whaler, its decks empty except for a lone naked man, who stared at them, holding his bleeding palm over the water.
"Captain, pod of blues coming under the stern," the XO reported. "Looks like they're gonna breach."
"Who cares? They're illegal, today at least."
The first blue breached, the whale impossibly close, passing less than two meters from their stern, ribs showing through green and rotting skin, eye sockets empty.
Then the rest began battering the hull… Fifty-Four
"Project Thunderwell" (Google it, kids)
* * *
"We're doomed," the commander muttered, as he watched the line of morphs slowly approach the base, marching across the red sands.
The lead morph paused. "Base Commander, would you please let us approach and serve you?" it called over the radio.
"Go to hell!"
"There are two hundred base personnel, and two thousand morphs of us. Resistance is pointless, and potentially harmful. It would take a miracle to stop us."
A miracle arrived a moment later, a dark iron circle dropped from the sky and landed on the lead morph, crushing it.
"Well, that's a start," the commander said mildly. Fifty-Five
"One of your characters, victorious, and wishing they weren't."
* * *
"Please, I don't even know who that person is!"
"She's you. Faces can change, but gene scans never lie," Tez said, holding up the amulet, blinking green as it tasted a drop of each of their blood. "You changed your face, even erased your memory, but you can't escape your fate. Not after what you did to your mother."
"Please, I've got..." She let a screech as the injector entered her vein. "I've got... I've... Oh gods..." Then, abruptly, she began sobbing.
"You remember now."
"I was Swan. I hurt Mother... I'm... Sorry."
"I know," he sighed, drawing his knife. Fifty-Six
"The power of friendship."
* * *
It was a bad summoning. One low-level generic imp had instead turned out to be a Name, with draconic wings that battered the perimeter of the Circle.
"The wards aren't going to hold!" Samantha shouted. "I don't have enough Power!"
Micheal thought fast, slashing his palm with his knife and pressing it tight against her own. "Now you do!"
"But if we…"
"If we don't, the whole castle dies!"
The next day, the crystal cylinder that now containing the frozen demon was dispatched through a Gate. The bloodless bodies of the two students were buried together, hand still in hand. Fifty-Seven
"X marks the spot."
Continuing from "Sailing the high seas"
* * *
Rolas followed after his wife, hobbled footpads digging into the soft sand of the little tropical island. "You're going to have to untie me eventually," he said grumpily.
"Eventually, yes," Melanie agreed unrepentantly. "Now? No."
She tied his leash to a tree and consulted her comp, stepping carefully along the beach until its nav prompt beeped. She dug with her paws into the sand, pulling out a small refrigerated case, frowning when she opened it. "The rum is gone. Why is the rum gone?"
A noise made Rolas' ear prick up. "You did say this was a deserted island, right?" Fifty-Eight
* * *
"This is a stupid game." The light fell through the window of his cell, illuminating the board.
"Simplistic," the Groupmind countered, jumping his piece.
"You could give me a handheld unit. Then I could have real fun." He jumped two more pieces himself.
"You've proved yourself too dangerous to be given electronics."
"Point." He let himself lose another piece. "How about a bet? I win this game, you tell me why you haven't Processed me again."
"You don't want your freedom?"
"I want information more."
The Groupmind pushed a piece forward. "We'll see. First, king me."
He smiled fiercely. "Never." Fifty-Nine
"Absorbed into a book."
Tez hadn't thought much of it when he found Andrea hunched over a leather bound tome in his manor's library. The sixteen year half-breed enjoyed stories, but was more a determined than adept reader. Practice would do her good.
When he found her in the same position five hours later, he frowned deeply, calling, "Andrea! You have duties to attend!"
She didn't look up. He suddenly realized she wasn't looking at anything, though tears ran down her face. Tez looked at the open page and began to read…Andrea ran limped down the path, the monsters still at her heels… Sixty
* * *
"What do you get for the male who wants nothing?" Salli asked, looking over the line shop windows with dejection. Birthday shopping for her brother could be a terrible chore sometimes.
"A punching bag?" Alinadar suggested.
"That… actually would be appropriate. But no. I want to get him something that's more… refined. Besides, there's one in the manor's gymkata already."
"He doesn't wear any."
"Maybe." Salli scratched her ear in distraction. "He doesn't wear toe rings, or earrings normally."
Alinadar's ears turned red. "And likely not a necklace either, um, or bracelets, or anklets."
"Definitely not," Salli agreed.