To view earlier pieces of the round robin, here's the link: http://herebemagic.blogspot.com/p/round-robin-story.html
PART TWENTY EIGHT
By Veronica Scott, http://veronicascott.wordpress.com/
Landing on the beast’s left paw, the sparkling dust coated his long, curved claws with plum-colored polish and made the animal sneeze. Dash, in his altered form, sneezed as well, before chomping on the barghest’s neck. The combatants rolled across the floor, kicking and growling. Crushed to splinters, furniture went flying.
Stride had recovered the sword, yellow ichor still oozing from his hand onto the jeweled hilt. “Well, that was magnificently ineffective, pixie,” he yelled, watching for the opportunity to plunge his blade into the barghest without skewering his brother. “Try something else, quickly!”
Not knowing what else she could do, Delphie dipped her hand into the pouch for more powder. What’s that saying about only a fool keeps trying the same thing that isn’t working? That would be me.
Just as she threw the next handful, Dash and the barghest broke apart, snarling. The dust drifted onto both of them, converting the barghest to a kitten and Dash into a mouse. In the blink of an eye, the kitten seized the mouse by the tail and darted toward the front door to make its escape from the cottage.
“Don’t let him get away!” Stride shifted to block the exit, but the kitten, still carrying its loudly-squeaking prisoner, jumped onto a pile of debris, now eyeing the hole in the ceiling. “We’ll never see Dash again.”
“Don’t let him get away? How am I supposed to prevent that?” Delphie shrieked, nerves on edge.
“Whatever you do, don’t fling any more of that cursed defective dust.” Stride made an ineffectual swipe at the kitten with his sword. Hissing around the mouse tail clenched in its miniscule fangs, the transformed barghest retreated higher up the stack of broken furniture.
I’m running out of dust, defective or otherwise. Delphie put a hand to her hair and tugged at the purple ribbon threaded through her tousled locks. The freed strip of pixie cloth shimmered as it floated in the air. “Bind them, quickly,” she commanded.
Like purple lightning, the ribbon flew to entangle the kitten and the mouse, wrapping around their limbs in a display of snakelike efficiency. The captives tumbled off the furniture pile, rolling over and over until they came to rest at Stride’s feet.
“You can’t kill a kitten,” Delphie said as he raised the sword.
“By the druid’s rune, girl, this is a cursed barghest. You made it into a kitten.” Frowning, the djinn lowered his weapon and toed the neatly tied parcel of cat and mouse, quickly pulling his foot back as both creatures snarled at him. “What do you suggest we do then?”
Kneeling beside the captives, Delphie untied enough of her ribbon to allow the cat to slip loose. Foaming at the mouth, the animal went for the hole in the ceiling and disappeared. Paying no attention to its escape, the pixie gently untangled Dash the mouse, who squeaked once before collapsing limply in her hand. Drops of yellow ichor smeared her fingers.
Tears in her eyes, Delphie rose. “I think the barghest got the better of the fight.”
“Yes, after you turned a djinn warrior into a mouse. Whatever cruel trick of Fate brought my brother and me into your path this night?” With one finger Stride flicked the mouse’s ear gently.
“Do you have healers? Maybe at the monastery you spoke of?” Stomach churning with fear, Delphie watched as the little mouse’s breathing grew more labored. “How fast can we get there?”
Rubbing one hand across his eyes, Stride frowned. “He’ll never survive the journey in this state.”
“Can you change him back?”
“It was your cursed dust that made him a mouse, so, no, I’m powerless here.”
He’s getting really angry and I don’t blame him. Frantically Delphie looked around the destroyed cottage for something, anything that might be useful. Still carrying the mouse, she walked over to the cabinets, flinging them open one-handedly, retrieving a bottle full of
“Here, open this!” She tossed the bottle to Stride. “Cloves have antiseptic properties.”
“Now you’ve lost your mind, pixie.” But he opened the jar.
Carefully, Delphie set the mouse down, turning her attention to the bottle. She dumped out 2/3 of the cloves before shaking some of her dust into the container and closing it. She drifted more dust onto Dash. He squeaked and sneezed as the dust shrank him to the size of a postage stamp before he poofed out of view in a blaze of pink sparks.
What do you know? The spell had worked. Dusting her hands, Delphie smiled. “There, he’ll be fine until we get him to the monastery.”
“Fine?!” Stride threw his arms out, waving the sword dangerously near her head. “You just disappeared him!”
“He’s safe. I put him in an infinity bottle. Which is kinda funny, when you think about it. All our myths about genies in bottles, and I’ve put the first genie--”
“Djinn,” Stride said with a growl. “Do not call us genies. That’s pop culture rubbish.”
“I’ve put the first djinn I meet into a bottle.” Delphie picked up the small glass container, from which angry squeaks could be heard, sticking it in her purse. The infinity spell could keep most living creatures in stasis, as well as function as a handy storage container for relocations and collections. It wouldn’t keep Dash alive forever, but it would give them more time.
“You’re a fool.” Stride snatched the dust from her and hurled it to the other side of the cabin. “You’ll not be using this again. There is nothing worse to a djinn than being confined.”
“Would he rather be dead?” Delphie asked.
“Pixie, it may not matter. I just don’t want to be around when you let him out.”
By Janni Nell, http://www.janninell.com
“Call me crazy,” said Delphie, “but I think Dash would prefer a short stay in a bottle to death from barghest-inflicted wounds. Now let’s get him to that monastery. We’re wasting time.”
Stride glanced through the hole in the roof at the starry sky. “We can’t leave until daylight. It’s too dangerous outside.”
“It’s not exactly safe inside. Or did you miss the bit where the barghest dropped in?”
“We’re not going anywhere until dawn.”
“Stay here if you want, but I’m out of here.” Delphie headed for the door.
He stopped her with a question. “How will you find the monastery?”
She turned to face him. “You’ll give me directions.”
“Not in this lifetime. You’re stuck here until I decided it’s time to leave.”
Delphie wondered whether she could find that fairy dust for a truth spell, but given the defective nature of the dust—sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t—a truth spell could make him lie, or worse, render him completely speechless. She was contemplating her next move when a loud knock sounded on the door of the cottage.
“Are you expecting company, Stride?”
“Maybe it’s a polite barghest,” Delphie quipped.
Stride ignored her comment and faced the closed door, tensed and ready to spring. “Open it, pixie. Nothing but monsters are about at this time of night. We cannot have another one availing itself of our rooftop entry.”
“I’ve got a better idea.” Delphie tiptoed to the door and yelled, “Who’s there?”
“Me.” A male voice, high and thin.
“What’s your name, stranger?” called Stride.
“Me. That’s my name. Me.”
“What do you want, Me?” Delphie asked. If the woods outside were full of barghests, what kind of fearsome creature could Me be?
“I’m here about a grievance registered about some fairy dust?”
“Is this a trick?” Delphie whispered to Stride. “Do barghests pretend to be customer service reps?”
Before Stride could answer, Me called, “I’m from the White Sands Discount Fairy Supply Shoppe. My location beacon says that the registrant of a complaint, one Delphinia Bathseba Slippery-Elm, is within this structure. I, Me, am your assigned customer service agent.”
Damn these new location beacons! So much for registering herself on the Do-No-Visit list.
Ignoring Stride’s look of dismay, Delphie wrenched open the door. “The dust is defective. It’s got me in a whole heap of trouble. I want a refund. And compensation for pain and suffering.”
The individual on the other side of the door was short, blue and officious-looking. Great—an imp. He turned up his long nose. “Our dust is never defective. We manufacture to the highest standards. You must’ve been using it incorrectly. Did you read the instructions?”
“Sure, I read them years ago when I purchased my very first fairy dust. And let me tell you, the dust from the Totally Serious Fairy Supply Shoppe works way better than White Sands Discount’s.”
The imp smirked. “You’ve always bought from Totally Serious in the past?”
“Yep,” said Delphie. “And I’ll be buying from them again.”
“You read Totally Serious’s instructions?”
“Did you read our instructions?” The imp pulled out a thick sheaf of papers. “Because they’re different. If you were using Totally Serious instructions on our product, I’m not surprised you were having problems.”
Oops! Delphie’s cheeks burned. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Stride’s lips twitching. Could things get any more embarrassing?
Stride moved past her and said to Me, “She’ll read the instructions.” He firmly closed the door. “Where were we?”
“You were about to tell me where the monastery is so I—”
“No, little pixie, I was preparing to explain the best way to spend a long night. Come closer.”
By Nicole Luiken, http://www.nicoleluiken.com/
Fat chance, Delphie thought. She smiled sweetly. “I’ll just stay over here. For your own safety. If you get caught in my ‘lust spell’--” She used finger quotes to show what she thought of that convenient explanation for his attraction to her. “--again you could end up breaking your celibacy and end up with treasonous charges yourself. We wouldn’t want that.”
“Lust isn’t the only reason Dash is a condemned traitor.”
Delphie’s curiosity stirred. “Oh?”
“Enough. You know too much already, pixie.”
“Who did he tumble?” she asked casually, cocking a hip. “The king’s daughter?”
“He—” Stride’s lips clamped shut. He folded his muscular arms across his chest.
Delphie rolled her shoulders, suddenly uneasy. “So what will happen to Dash when we take him to the monastery to be healed? Will there be a trial?” She wandered back over to the Nutella and crackers.
Stride shook his head, expression somber. “An execution.”
She whirled. “He’s already been convicted?”
Stride frowned as if he didn’t understand the question. “By the king’s order, he is guilty of treason.”
Delphie started to pace, incensed. “That’s it? The king orders it, and he’s executed without a chance to defend himself?”
“His guilt was obvious,” Stride said stiffly. “And you’re one to speak of fairness when you were out influencing people to vote the way you wanted.”
Delphie’s chin came up. “Yes, on a ballot referendum to preserve a local park where many supernaturals live! You can’t exactly campaign on the basis of helping dryads and bandersnoots. Even hiding in your djinn dimension, you have to realize humans in the prime dimension can’t know about supes.”
Stride blinked his slitted eyes and had the decency to look chagrined. “My apologies. I misjudged you.”
“So how do you know you haven’t misjudged Dash if you haven’t listened to his side of the story? Huh?” She poked his chest. “You’ve spent all this time chasing him, and you don’t even know that he’s guilty.”
Stride didn’t speak, but his brows drew together in a stubborn frown. “You don’t even know what he’s accused of.”
She threw up her hands. “Because you refuse to tell me!”
“This discussion is pointless. In the morning I will take Dash to the monastery and turn him over to the king’s justice.”
Delphie felt wretched. Dash was going to be executed, and he wouldn’t even have a chance to run because of her. Because of her stupid mistakes with the fairy dust. Dash might be a player, but in all their hours together he hadn’t harmed her. And he had protected her from the barghest. She found it hard to believe he was so evil he deserved to be hung or beheaded or whatever.
She couldn’t let him be killed. But if they didn’t go to the monastery, Dash would die of his injuries. The infinity bottle wasn’t a heal-all.
While she tried to come up with a plan, she might as well keep working on Stride. He didn’t have the best poker face in the world.
“So who was the girl?” she asked again. “It couldn’t have been the Queen,” she mused.
Stride startled. “What makes you so certain?”
Delphie rolled her eyes. “Because Dash and I ran into the Queen on the road and she didn’t even recognize him.”
By Jody Wallace, www.jodywallace.com
Stride, moving almost as fast as his dying brother, caught her shoulders. “Dash didn’t say anything about meeting a queen today. This is of vital importance. Which queen?”
“There’s more than one?” Nearly every dimension she knew of with kings and queens only had a few, sprinkled amongst the commoners like bossy toadstools.
“Of course there’s more. Well, you wouldn’t know, would you? What clan did she head?”
Delphie thought about the tall, haughty woman. Her hair had been a garish, fake-looking hot pink, not a lovely candy shade like Delphie’s. It had clashed awfully with her yellow eyes and ruby crown. And her dress—shudder. “Is there a Tacky Clan?”
Speaking of hair, Stride’s long, dark hair slid forward like a silken curtain as he bent toward her attentively when she spoke. “No, of course there’s not a tacky clan. We are djinn. We are never…tacky. What did this queen look like?”
“Pink hair, yellow eyes, orange stars, green clovers,” Delphie said brightly.
“Orange stars and green clovers?” Stride frowned. It seemed to be his habitual expression. “That combination doesn’t sound like any queen I know.”
“And blue diamonds,” Delphie added with a smirk. Of course none of this was getting Dash to that monastery so he could receive healing, only to be put to death by the evil king.
Who was probably one of many evil kings, who sent naked, gorgeous djinn like Stride here out to do his bidding but forbid them from…you know. And put gorgeous djinn like Dash to death for doing…you know. Man, this dimension was as screwed up as any she’d ever visited.
“Would you be serious?” Stride exclaimed.
“I’m always serious about diamonds.” She noted, suddenly, that he’d been holding her shoulders this whole time. Originally he’d held her at arm’s length, but he wasn’t anymore.
“If you weren’t so incredibly alluring, I’d…” His gaze fell to her lips. “Taste you.”
Uh-oh. Perhaps when Dash had taken her blood, it hadn’t dissolved the spell on Stride after all. Either that or this poor guy had a bad case of pixielust.
Hey, it happened.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” She stepped back, but Stride followed her, intent on getting a lick. Several more steps brought Delphie up against the door, with nowhere else to go.
He bent his head and brushed his cheek against hers, inhaling her scent. “You’re driving me mad, woman. You smell divine.”
“It’s the Nutella,” she squeaked, although she did smell divine. All pixies did, and could she help it if she was more divine than most? “What was that you were saying about queens and clans and why it was important to tell you who Dash and I saw?”
“Lots of queens.” His lips moved across her neck, and his tongue flicked out to taste her pulse. Oooh, she was getting a little melty. “Dash seduced Queen Aurora, betrothed of King Ainmire, long may he reign, and stole away her precious crown. Mmmm. If the queen smelled like you, little pixie, Dash wouldn’t have been able to help himself.”
Delphie was afraid she might have to resort to her secret hidden pixie dust this time…before her little bit of melty turned into a lot of melty. “Stride, get a hold of yourself. This is the love spell talking. Step away…from the pixie.”
He nibbled her neck, his lips hot on her skin. “The first moment I saw you, I was enchanted with your beauty. I couldn’t focus on the mission the King had entrusted me with. I couldn’t focus on anything. I just knew I had to have you.”
That confirmed it. It was all a spell. When she’d met his amazing, naked self in that frat house closet where he’d apparently portaled in search of Dash, she’d been a warty old crone thanks to that damn malfunctioning fairy dust. “But I was ugly. And it was dark.”
“You smelled the same. And you tasted the same.”
“What about celibacy?” Her breathing sped up—not because she was scared, either. “Isn’t this treason?”
“I don’t care. I must know. Do you taste the same all over?”
“How about a cracker?” She shoved the last bite of Nutella-covered snack in Stride’s mouth.
“I don’t want a cracker.” He chewed it up anyway and licked his lips, never taking his gaze off her. “I want you.”
When he bent to nibble her ear, Delphie was almost a goner. His tongue and teeth sent delicious shivers down her spine. But Dash was depending on her. She could kick Stride with her spike heels or she could do something even more drastic.
Drastic. Definitely drastic. She raised her hand to her ear, searching out the secret glue dot of fairy dust behind her lobe, only to find it was gone!
Stride smiled at her, stuck out his tongue, and showed her the last hidden dot of fairy dust. Right before he swallowed it.
Goblin balls. If second-hand dust had made him want to kiss her…
Stride pulled her abruptly against him, leaving no doubt in her mind what HE had in mind. His big hands dropped from her shoulders to her back, possessive and—well, goodness! Very fresh.
"I've never done this before," he said, "but I know you'll be worth dying for."
That was when something big and hard thrust itself against her…heels.
Delphie looked down. It was the sheaf of instructions for the White Stands fairy dust, which Me had apparently just shoved under the door.
Why the heck was he still out there? Wasn’t he scared of the kittens?
Hooooo-boy, Miss Delphie's got herself in a fix now, hasn't she?
We'll try to get another entry up in two weeks but during the holiday season, it may not be as long as previous ones. Regardless, be sure to check back here on December 27 to see just what Delphie does with the fairy dust instructions, her amorous virginal djinn companion, her treasonous, dying djinn in the bottle, and the random imp outside who seems very determined to fix her customer complaints!
Author, Cat Person, Amigurumist