So Much Struggle 😤 | Witch Book Vlog 1


I started doing daily vlogs to attempt keeping myself on track. And maybe I’ll finish another novel instead of just having a bunch of unfinished projects clogging up Google Docs. These videos will update every Friday and you can check out the playlist if you miss one. If I miss a week, remind me to get back to writing!

And of course I started a Spotify playlist for this project and if you’re interested in that, you can find that 👇🏾


The link is also in the highlight section of my Instagram page.

A summary: The Witch gets pulled into political upheaval by an old friend, a notorious pirate captain to save her daughter. And protect her from who/whatever wants to destroy the king.

Wolves of Summer – Epilogue

A Week Later


Jaeger studied the packed boxes outside of Adelita’s cafe. And the moving truck he’d parked behind. What he didn’t want to study was the feeling of disappointment making his chest tight. Finally he got out and walked by without looking at them. Adelita raised an eyebrow when he walked in, but didn’t say anything.


Jaeger struggled to find words. He knew why he was there, but that wasn’t so important anymore. 


“Another doll you need me to take care of?” Adelita sealed a box of glasses. “I think I’m out of that business. At least when it comes to wolves.”


Jaeger forced a smile. “Can you accept money from a wolf? To pay for the damages.” 


“Is that a real question?”


Jaeger approached the bar and pulled out an envelope. “You can call. If it’s not enough,” he added hurriedly. 


Adelita took the envelope. She didn’t answer right away. “Maybe.” 


Unsure of what else to say, Jaeger gave an awkward goodbye before running with his tail between his legs. 




Parking before a nondescript apartment building, Jaeger leaned against the hood of his SUV and waited. It wasn’t long before “Kit” exited her apartment on a false call for a job. One that no regular human witch should’ve taken. She was halfway down the stairs before she noticed him and her mad dash came to a halt. Jaeger saw the moment Kit realized the call was fake. 


“I just need some answers. And I want real answers this time.”


Kit reluctantly approached him. “I’m in trouble this time?”


Jaeger shrugged. “A lot of trouble.”


Kit grimaced.


“But, you helped me so I’ll give you a chance.”


Jaeger Kit’s relief felt palpable though she tried to appear neutral. 


“Let’s start with your real name.”


Kit hesitated and Jaeger thought she would lie again. She chewed her lip, glancing distrustfully at him. Jaeger crossed his arms casually to let her know he had no intention of going anywhere.


“Fine,” she said quietly. “It’s Samiyah. Samiyah Hayden.”


Jaeger gave a single, exaggerated clap. “Well, Samiyah, now we can have a conversation.”





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Wolves of Summer – Part 3

New York City

June 1935


Karl exited the drugstore with a cheap sandwich and a drink. It didn’t matter what kind. He’d grabbed whatever was closest to the door, did his best to avoid the lunch counter crowd and paid. After the day he’d had, Karl just wanted to make it back to the motel in one piece. The night was bringing the city to life but there was a cold feeling settled in Karl’s gut that told him to get inside. As he got closer to downtown he had to fight his way through the growing crowd; groups of young men and women filing down to whatever joint was the most popular this week. And tired workers like him just trying to get home or find a bar to drink away the night in. His ears caught the sound of a band just getting started as some poor sap walked into one of many clip joints lining the block. A woman clung off one arm and a friendly guy filled the other ear with dreams.


Some people you just can’t help. He thought of his own experience being lured into one and leaving with even less money than he had before. 


Instinctively he patted his pocket. It wasn’t much but Karl doubted William, the auto plant owner he’d been working for, would be sympathetic to even a cent going missing. If he lost money gambling it might even cost him desperately needed work. Karl’s already gloomy thoughts were interrupted by a scream that caused the cold feeling to fully blossom. His stomach clenched so hard, Karl thought he would start heaving. He was jostled as the other passerby’s either fled into nearby buildings, their cars, or flagged down taxis in a panic. Karl’s feet felt like they were glued to the ground even as his mind screamed at him to run. Another scream, this one higher pitched and closer, jolted him to move but at the same moment a bloodied man launched himself out the alley. 


His hand wrapped around Karl’s leg and a too familiar voice pleaded, “Help me…. Karl? Karl, you gotta help me.” 

Karl didn’t get a chance to speak any of the uncharitable thoughts he had about William. Light poured from a thrown open door, slowly revealing a monstrous shape as a wolf that stared him in the eyes stepped from the shadow. It’s intelligent eyes scoured him. And then it gave an approving huff that made the scraps of clothing hanging from its teeth flap like dancing ghosts. Without a second thought Karl turned to run. He wasn’t fast enough to avoid the sickening crunch as the creature rushed forward and William’s last terrified scream before it was cut off. 


Karl didn’t stop running until he was in the smoke filled lobby of the motel. He didn’t care about the laughter of couples going out dancing, or prancing up to a room for the night. All he heard was the sound of his breath rattling against his aching chest. Karl collapsed into one of the ratty chairs in the lounge and the leg cracking made his heart race again. He squeezed his eyes shut and willed his legs to stop shaking. Willed himself to forget William. That monster. 


I already know what’s out there.


His father’s words hit him like a sledgehammer. But he shook his head and shot out of his seat. Karl hurried up the stairwell to his room. He paused only to pat down his pockets. With shaking hands he pulled it from his coat pocket; too afraid to curse when it dropped. He felt hot breath on the back of his neck as he scrambled to pick it up. Multiple attempts later he managed to turn the lock and slam the door closed behind him. Karl didn’t care when the key fell from his hand this time. He turned and froze. Worn curtains swirled in a breeze coming through a window he hadn’t left open. Dark splotches covered the sill. Sounds of running water eventually broke through his haze. A fresh sweat broke out over his skin. 


A thin man stepped out of the bathroom wearing a loose pair of slacks. Dark hair was plastered against his forehead. “Smart to run. Smart to hide when you need to. You’ll need that instinct.” He nodded as if he were holding a casual conversation. “Karl, was it? Steffen Schmied.” 


The next moment Karl was coughing and struggling to breathe as Steffen held him in a vice grip against the wall. 


“I made a promise to leave you alone but eh.” Steffen shrugged. “We adapt.”




December 2014


Steffen made a show of stretching his legs before standing up. “It’s nice to see you again, Karl. Oh. Sorry, should I call you Jaeger now?” He choked on a laugh. “Think of that one a long time, did you?” 


There was a time when Jaeger wouldn’t have considered attacking Steffen. Not when he’d seen what happened to anyone who threatened the old man with outting him to the council. To anyone Steffen considered prey. 


“Kit, do not move.”


“I can hel—”


Jaeger was already moving. Steffen met his attack by swinging Jaeger into the bar. He slammed Jaeger’s head down.


“Greetings have changed in modern times.”


Jaeger grabbed the stool Steffen had been sitting on. He rammed it into the man’s stomach. His ears were ringing and he felt a wetness sliding down his face. 


“And underlings show no respect.” Steffen snarled each word.


It took all of Jaeger’s will not to flinch. Steffen had been bending, and breaking, wills stronger than his for a lot longer than he’d been alive. Steffen attacked in a flurry of flying fur and tearing clothes. His bulk knocked over tables. Or broke them in half as he chased after Jaeger. Who turned and, confident Kit was not in danger, wrapped his arms around Steffen’s neck. Jaeger flipped the giant wolf onto his back. He dug one knee into Steffen’s chest, but was struck by a flailing paw. 


Jaeger’s back throbbed almost to distraction. Through the burning pain, he said, “You left me.”


Jaeger tightened his hold on Steffen when he started to buck. 


“You thought they’d kill me in your place.” 


He made the mistake of letting go to grip Steffen’s throat. He squeezed. Letting decades of rage control his actions. Steffen’s massive jaw encased Jaeger’s arm; pierced his shoulder. The pain of his left shoulder shattering as he slammed against the opposite sent black spots dancing in Jaeger’s vision. He had to change.


Just as Karl felt the familiar sting and his bones shifted, Steffen howled in pain as fire exploded along his back.


“Holy shit it worked!”


Kit let out an excited yell before she had to throw herself away from Steffen’s lunge. She grabbed a fallen chair. She shoved it into his mouth just as his jaws closed in front of her face. Jaeger rushed through his change; yowling as he pushed his shoulder back into place. He charged into Steffen’s side. They tumbled down. Jaeger feeling like a gnat wrestling a bear. Breaking away. Biting and tearing. Wearing Steffen down.


Until Steffen swatted him away. He bore down on Jaeger. Steffen grasped Jaeger in his jaws and shook until Jaeger hung limp.


“Crap! Crap, where’d it go,” Kit whispered harshly.


Steffen’s head swung around. He let Jaeger fall to the ground. 


Jaeger begin to reach for his pack’s magic and felt another tug. Another source of strength. Fighting weariness he dragged himself to his feet in time to see Kit pick up a partially shattered doll.


“Seems like you need this.” She burned from remained of the doll. 


A comforting warmth rolled over him. Followed by a wave of loss. 


I could’ve known her.


Jaeger attacked with a new fury. Biting and tearing out chunks of flesh. Calling on the strength of his pack. The next time Steffen charged Jaeger met him head on. They crashed to the ground. Jaeger recovered first and closed his jaws on Steffen’s neck. Holding him long after Steffen stopped moving. Jaeger didn’t let Steffen drop until he heard scrambling above them.


With more adrenaline than caution coursing through him, Jaeger searched until he found stairs leading up to a bedroom. He wasted no time breaking the door off its hinges. Jaeger paused mid step when he saw a disheveled Adelita still laying on the floor. And pointing a pistol in his direction.  She swayed slightly as she tried to push herself up.


An indeterminable amount of time passed before Adelita blinked. Then blinked again, focused on him. “You don’t look like him.”


Jaeger shook his head. Slowly he sat, waiting for her to relax. Finally, Adelita let out a long sigh and put on the gun’s safety. Her arm dropped. 


“I think the owner’s going to be a little mad with you.” She let out a hoarse laugh.





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Wolves of Summer – Part 2

Adelita Jones was five foot five with a hard as stone poker face. She didn’t fiddle with the sleeves of her suit jacket though they were uneven; it had probably been thrown on in a hurry. She may not be an official partner, but Jaeger had no doubt she’d worked with werewolves before. 


“Follow me.” Jaeger turned and stalked through the living room, down the short hallway to his bedroom. Behind him, Adelita’s footsteps were quick and confident. “Brought in a young witch tonight. She’d been hired to take care of this.”


Adelita stepped around him. She glanced at him briefly before approaching the dresser. “Anything special about this doll? Any reason why it would attach to you?”


“Besides it’s monetary value and its…possession, or possible sentience? Nothing threatening.” Jaeger let the second question go unanswered. 


Adelita made a soft “hmm” under her breath. Her tawny eyes met his briefly. She wouldn’t push it but she’d noticed. She leaned over to examine it closer, brusquely pushing an errant strand of dark brown hair out of her face. “And this witch?”


“She’s around this tall,” Jaeger said, raising his hand to his shoulder. “Early twenties. A fresh face to me but—” The implication hung in the air.


“I don’t know her. If I did, I would’ve taught her a better binding spell.” Adelita touched the doll’s head. She grimaced as a burst of light enveloped the doll. “That one was decaying very quickly.” 


“A bad spell. Or an old one?”


Adelita’s mask fell for a moment and she looked shocked. Either that Jaeger knew enough to ask the question, or because she hadn’t. 


Before either of them could speak a surge of energy broke across them like a flood. The clash of wills made Jaeger’s hair stand on end. He wanted to tear apart an enemy he couldn’t see.


She cleared her throat and looked down to hide her shock. “You’re sure it’s not threatening? No responsible witch just throws around bindings.”


“Never mein kleiner Bär!” a tiny voice rasped. It sounded thick like someone who was finally waking up. But it was undeniably feminine. 




“Can you move it?” Jaeger snapped. He forced his shoulders to relax. It can’t be her. 


The doll had attached to him. It wasn’t so unbelievable that it would use the pain it had dredged up in the interrogation room.


Adelita jerked back but nodded. She pursed her lips but it was obvious she had a lot of questions. She gingerly touched the doll’s throat. Another wave of energy rippled through the room; struggling, lunging out to grasp at Jaeger like an ephemeral and malicious hand. 


Adelita’s eyes fluttered closed. When she turned back to Jaeger her stoney mask was back in place. 


“I’ll need room to perform a full ritual. With your permission, I’ll take the doll and return it to the station when I’m done.” 


Jaeger nodded. He didn’t trust his control and only motioned for her to walk by. Adelita picked the doll up and held it carefully on her hip like a baby. She gave a quick nod before leaving as quickly as possible. As she passed Jaeger caught the barest hint of a floral scented perfume. But she was gone before he could be certain that he wasn’t still being manipulated. He was more unsettled than he should be. This went beyond most Weres discomfort with magic. Jaeger made sure he still had his cellphone in his pocket before leaving. It was a necessary inconvenience most of the time, but now it gave him something normal to grasp on to. Ignoring his SUV, Jaeger began to walk back to the station; hoping that the rest of the day would be uneventful.




A day passed without word from Adelita. Jaeger wrote off his discomfort by telling himself that anyone could tell her who and where the owner lived. It didn’t need to be him. So he shoved aside his disappointment and threw himself into his many mundane duties; crossing the bridge to attend charity events, gritting his teeth and forcing a smile, while taking note of what information had been released about magical creatures. When a third day, passed without hearing from Adelita that intuitive voice in his head began to shout. That voice that told him danger was coming and when to move out of the way, except this time he didn’t feel like listening. 


Jaeger flipped through the contacts book until he came to a few hastily clipped on notes. Adelita’s number was scribbled on the last one. Prepared to look like a fool, Jaeger dialed the number and waited. Until he heard the dial tone. He hit the off switch and tried again. When that attempt failed, Jaeger forced himself to calmly hang up the receiver. He tried to think of a logical excuse to find out Adelita’s address without any evidence she needed his help. There weren’t any solitary witches on Seven Bays that were human. That he knew of. Jaeger was still considering his options when there a knock on his office door. 


“Come in.” He couldn’t keep his annoyance out of his voice.


Demetrius stuck his head in, concern etched onto his face. He almost looked his age instead of the freshly turned thirty year old he’d been on thbye night he was changed. “That young lady is back. I think something’s happened to her.”




Kit sat in the reception area so tense Jaeger thought she might snap. She didn’t bounce her leg, pace, or shake uncontrollably but when she spoke her voice was raw. 


“I think you need to come with me.”


Jaeger casually crossed his arms. “Did you know what that doll was capable of, Kit?”


She flinched and wouldn’t meet his eyes.


She’s embarrassed. Good. He waited. 


“No. Even if this was a possession it shouldn’t be capable of, this.”


Jaeger motioned for her to continue despite the urge to hunt down whatever was at the root of this.


Kit waved her hands uselessly. “I had a…dream I suppose, where two women mentioned you. The second was very adamant that she was in this mess because of you”. Kit shrugged when Jaeger glared at her. “Her words.”


“And the first?” Jaeger kept his voice flat and professional. 


“Might be better if you see.”




Kit’s car came to a squealing stop before a cafe. Jaeger hopped out before she’d even turned the engine off, his ears ringing. The floor to ceiling windows revealed that nothing appeared out of place. But as he approached it became obvious there was a strong barrier surrounding the building. 


“Can you get passed it?”


“Can I? Yes. Do I want to want to? No.”


“Leave being a smartass out here.”


“Right.” Kit walked forward and pulled a short dagger from her jacket pocket. Before Jaeger could question her about the length, she knelt down and stuck the blade’s tip into the barrier; which now had a slight violet glow. 


Standing on her tiptoes, Kit then traced a doorway over the cafe’s physical door.  As she reached the bottom Jaeger was overcome by the feeling he wasn’t welcomed. Kit looked overwhelmed but he saw her fight it down. The barrier shuddered and fell. Kit looked at him with an expression of cautious pride. Jaeger didn’t need to be an expert on magic to know the barrier shouldn’t have broken that easily.


First pointing to Kit’s athame, and then the door, he said, “We have multiple things to discuss when this is over.” 


Kit only nodded and pushed the door open. The quiet inside felt deeper than it had any right to. It had probably opened the same day Adelita brought the doll home. The sudden claustrophobia made Jaeger growl. He had to grab Kit’s arm to stop her from bolting. Most of the chairs were still flipped over except for one at the bar. Fear uncoiled in his stomach, then anger made his teeth clench so tight Jaeger felt an ache starting at his temple. 


“Henriette, didn’t appreciate what I did to her little pup.” This was followed by rough laughter. “Took all she had to lock me in that damn doll of hers. But now I can teach you how to be a proper wolf.”





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Wolves of Summer – Part 1


July 1934




At first he considered ignoring his father, hand poised on the gate, but decided to turn around. Edwin strode towards him with that determined look Karl knew so well. He felt like a teenager asking to stay out late. Not a twenty-five year old man finally ready to head north for work. He felt his temper rising in place of that unexpected vulnerability. He should’ve made his own way in the world by now but his father had an uncanny ability of knowing where Karl was and keeping him close to home. Enough was enough. 


“Karl, listen. Just give me some time. I’ll find someone able to hire you.” 


Edwin tried to grab Karl’s arm but he just shook him off.


 “Plenty people here looking for a hard worker. Don’t go running off and do something stupid!”


“The same people who think I’ll put the ‘evil eye’ on them?”

 Karl gave a derisive snort. He hadn’t minded the rumors at first until even casual dates dried up and drunks usually too entranced with their bottles started to avoid him. 

“You should come with me. There’s not much left here, ‘cept this old house.”


He was aware at almost noon that nosey elderly neighbors were out on their porches in spite of the dry southern heat. Children were freely running up and down the street since most families couldn’t afford to keep them in school but Karl didn’t bother to lower his voice. What did it matter if the people he was leaving behind thought any worse of him?


Edwin pursed his lips. Karl could see an anger to match his own burning in his father’s eyes. 


“There’s a lot here. You’re just not wise enough to see it. I’m staying and so should you but,” Edwin said, swinging open the gate. “Since you’ve got it all figured out I can’t keep you here anymore.”


Karl just watched the open space for a moment. He half expected it to shut on its own. 


“Why now?” His voice was heavy with accusations.


“Because you’re right. I already know what’s out there, it’s time you find out for yourself.” 


Edwin let out a deep sigh and suddenly looked older than his years. His eyes followed a passing car. The silence stretched between them. Karl fought down his guilt. His life hadn’t been easy. They’d tried running a boarding house but rumours about Karl’s mother, and then him once she disappeared,  put an end to that quickly enough. They’d both had their share of doing under the table jobs for folks who didn’t want to take them on as employees, but still needed a strong back. Edwin was barely holding onto the house as it was. There wasn’t much else his father could protect him from as far as Karl was concerned. 


“I promised your mother I’d keep you safe that night.” 


Edwin’s voice wavered and Karl looked away, not wanting his father to know he’d seen the tears before they were blinked away. 


“I don’t know if I did the right thing.”


Instead of responding, Karl made himself walk forward. He wasn’t going to travel down that morose road with his father for fear that he might get talked into staying.


“Hey! They can try to take this from me but they won’t, so make sure you call if you can.”


Karl just gave a noncommittal wave. His mind already focused on where he was going next. Without knowing that he’d never get to make that phone call. Not knowing if that would’ve made a difference.


Seven Bays

December 2014 


Jaeger rolled his shoulders to fight any creeping stiffness. It was an old habit of his; always moving to stay warm in the winter before his body temperature rose high enough to kill him, if he’d been human. In these brief moments of silence he wondered about his choice to come forward. 


Let someone else be the human’s playthings.


That was still the general consensus of most supernatural creatures. Anyone unlucky enough to be dumped here, however, hadn’t been given much choice in the matter before Oanuen dredged up an island just off the coast of New York. Seven Bays, named for the seven remaining guardians, was a “safe haven for supernatural creatures and humans to learn to live together”. It was also a reminder of the guardian’s power. As if Jaeger needed the reminder. His life had been taken from him and just as he’d been learning to stand again, they’d sent a lapdog to drag him into the Otherworld. To protect him they’d said. From the humans who couldn’t be trusted with the knowledge of their existence. Maybe that’s why he jumped at any chance to be a part of the human world again. Even if that meant being the council’s front with his pack acting as a buffer for the media. Head of the Seven Bays Peacekeeping Task Force. Jaeger grimaced. It was a long, meaningless title. It only meant that he had to expend all of his efforts in making legislators believe monsters weren’t appearing on their doorsteps. Humans that lived on Seven Bays rarely called for a serious threat. They thought that meant the island was safe. Not that his pack, larger in size than most, constantly patrolled from the shadows. There were worse things than werewolves next door. As for the other creatures on the island? Jaeger was a puppy nipping at their heels. They knew who had the real authority. 


Just as he was thinking this an old car parked across the street. At six in the morning he’d expect someone to be leaving for work or school if they were driving onto the mainland. Instead a young girl stepped out bundled in clothing, but her movements were quick and steady. She quickly glanced to check for other cars.


Or to make sure she isn’t being watched. 


Her head turned in his direction and Jaeger shrank into the darkness cast by the building’s overhang. He felt his shoulders tense when her gaze swept over him. He allowed himself to relax when it became clear she was blindly searching. Human. And that meant Jaeger couldn’t touch her until he was sure she’d committed a crime. So he waited. No longer keeping up the pretense of his humanity, he stood completely still. After almost an hour the adrenaline began to fade and he felt foolish. Ready to blame his earlier longing for why he fixated on a nonexistent problem Jaeger almost missed when the young woman appeared again. Immediately he noticed the extra bulging in her jacket. With only streetlights to see, it would’ve been easy for anyone else to overlook. He stepped forward into the light. She didn’t notice him until he’d gotten closer, one foot in the street. Jaegar saw fear of a stranger make her eyes widen. She gave a soft gasp. Then recognition bloomed across her face but instead of the starry-eyed wonder most humans here got, she looked down and bowed her head slightly. If she’d been a wolf her ears would be flattened against her head. The young woman wanted him to think she was harmless. Her steady pace faltered and she awkwardly shuffled towards her car. 


She reached for the handle but her attention was still on him when she slipped out of sight. Jaeger heard her mutter, “Oh for fuck’s sake.” This was followed by a frantic shuffling.


Jaeger approached cautiously. The young woman had thrown open her coat, thoroughly inspecting an antique biscue doll. It took considerable scratch to own one.


Since he didn’t think she was sneaking out an heirloom, Jaeger said softly, “Take it back now and we’ll only hold you overnight.”


He didn’t know if he could hold her at all. Hopefully she wouldn’t know either. 


“I can’t.”


Her teeth chattered but she gave him a determined look.


Jaeger sighed. “Listen, kid. This isn’t worth freezing over.” He grabbed her by the elbow and pulled her up. “If you’re lucky the owner won’t press charges.”


“The owner hired me. And my name…. It’s…Kit.”


Even without the hesitation Jaeger knew “Kit” was lying. Innocent lying without any telltale signs of malice but still, that wasn’t her name.


Did someone expect her to meet me?


“Hired…you?” He didn’t try to hide his disbelief. 


“Yes, hired me.” 


“Why would they—” he asked reaching for it.


Before Kit could pull it away, Jaeger was overwhelmed with longing as soon as his fingers brushed the wooden body; a longing that was quickly swallowed by the finality of loss. A wave of dizziness washed over him when Kit pulled the doll away.  


“That’s why.”




“I haven’t done anything wrong!”


Jaeger shut the door to the interview room. Kit was skirting a very dangerous line. He had to make her realize that and walk away. 


“How did you know about that doll?”


“I told you. I was hired to find out why it was doing…whatever it did to you.”


Jaeger leaned back in his chair. He hoped it looked relaxed; hoping his expression was neutral. The doll sat between them. Unaware of the memories it dredged up. Of his mother pulling a similar doll, its flesh-like porcelain cracked, from an old dusty box when she thought no one was looking. Jaeger had no memory of ever meeting Henriette’s family. Had no idea why she would leave but keep so much of her childhood. Had she kept anything of her life with them?


He met the doll’s unblinking gaze with his own glare when he realized just how far his thoughts had strayed. Stay out.


Jaeger looked up just in time to see Kit had squeezed her eyes shut against her own memories. “Hey!” He curbed some of the sharpness in his voice. “What were you hired to do?”


Kit’s eyes flew open but her voice was mostly steady when she answered. “To make it stop, appease it, whatever. Then bring it back if possible.” She wouldn’t look directly at Jaeger and didn’t look away from the doll for long.


Again, Jaeger was struck by how unbothered she was by him. Her distrust was aimed purely towards the enchanted doll. “And why, of all people who deal in enchantments, would someone come to you?”


Kit was young, even by human standards. Especially by human standards. And though Wolves couldn’t control any magic other than the change, if they lived long enough to learn, Jaeger couldn’t sense anything extraordinary about the young woman before him. 


She bristled under his dismissal. “It’s what I do. When someone has an issue but they’re too afraid of being eaten, they call me.”


Jaeger forced a grin that he hoped said “amused”, not “wolf in grandma’s clothing”. 


“That’s exactly why they call me,” said Kit, letting Jaeger know how much he’d succeeded.


He sat forward, leaning on the table. “Well, my final offer is you leave the doll here. You tell them it’s being handled and we don’t stick you with a vigilante charge.”


“I prefer freelancer,” Kit mumbled.


“And I prefer not scraping up humans from magical messes they aren’t equipped to handle.”


As soon as the words left his mouth Jaeger regretted them. A spark ignited in Kit’s eyes. Before any ideas could form in her head, Jaeger stood abruptly.


“Things are being handled,” he said, snatching the doll out of Kit’s reach. “Someone will see you out.” 




A gut wrenching sob bounced around in Jaeger’s mind. It became entwined with his own voice and he lost track of whether he was crying, or if someone was nearby. The thought jolted him awake, making him sit up in bed. He’d come home for a few hours of rest but hadn’t intended to fall into so deep a sleep that he wouldn’t hear someone come in. When he heard no sounds of anyone moving around, no more sounds of crying, the adrenaline began to fade. Jaeger lifted one hand to rub the sleep from his eyes, and paused. The bisque doll sat on the other side of the room, on his dresser. It sat slouched. Head hung low; dejected. Jaeger distinctly remembered handing it off to Demetrius to file away.


Jaeger cautiously stood up. Too many ideas of how to get rid of it ran through his head, but he knew that doll was getting out of his house. One way or another. He reached for the link to his pack only to find there was a pull towards the doll. 


“Need something boss?”


Zach was his second, so Jaeger allowed him to be less formal than the others. On most occasions. At the moment, it took all of Jaeger’s restraint not to snap.


“Whoever we have to handle magic, send them to me. Now.”


Zach didn’t immediately answer. “We don’t have anyone, officially.”


 Jaeger took a step forward before stopping himself. “Tell them to get here.” 


“Right away.”





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Ghosts of Sands & Time

Nariah Fletcher unzipped her guitar bag and reverently lifted the basswood guitar onto her lap. Jess had brought it home one night after work all those years ago.


“To replace the one I…uh…you know,” he said with a sheepish grin. He held it out and watched eagerly as Nariah strummed a few cords.


She gave him a pained smile.


He’d picked it up from some thrift stand on the side of the road. She didn’t have the heart to reject him, but kept the guitar stashed away while keeping an eye out for anything better.


Something went thunk against the window and Nariah’s head snapped up. The world was a different place now. With different worries and a different way to solve problems. Ears straining to catch any more sounds, she gently brushed her fingers over the strings before plucking the “D” string. The sound reverberated in the empty room; paint caking off its walls and door knocked off the hinges.


“Hey, you. It’s time to wake up.” Her words came out on a whispered breath.


When Jess spoke for the first time, that string vibrated first; matching the low timbre of his voice. Now she used it to summon him from the strange limbo she’d trapped him in. It had been a necessary evil at the time but not one she thought of easily.


Jess let out an exaggerated yawn. “So who are we  saving today?”


“Why don’t you come out and see for yourself.”


As Jess’s presence spread throughout Nariah’s guitar, it took on a blue glow that slowly lit up the room. Nariah could sense ghosts, always could, but she’d never been able to see them. Not like she could see the teenage girl sitting in the corner, staring at the floor and knowing she was stuck but no clue how to get out. These ghosts were easy to help. Listen to the story they’d been holding onto for days, weeks, years. Then watch them move on. By the time the sun rose Nariah would be back at camp collecting her reward.


The girl’s head lolled back. Nariah saw the flat, empty look in her eyes. It was a special desperation that appeared after monsters, supernatural and human alike, figured they’d done their waiting for the world.


“Who would leave someone like this. Why?” Jess’s voice shook, discordant notes the only evidence of his anger.


Nariah felt her stomach churn. The girl was thin. Not unnaturally so but neither was she well fed. Nariah made herself speak past the bile forming in her throat.


“Can you get through to her?”


Jess was silent for a long time. She began to think the connection had broken somehow.




He gave a frustrated grunt. “The field around her is too strong. She’s been here for a long time.”


Those words sent a chill down her spine. Ghost contracts weren’t made only because the living wanted them to move onto a peaceful afterlife. The longer spirit energy lingered, the more ghosts it drew. And that drew spirits that feasted on both the living and dead. A camp could be wiped out overnight before they had chance to call for help or send warning. This would cause the spiritual center to grow, pulling in bigger and bigger leeches.


“Jess, I can’t deal with that.” Nariah pushed herself awkwardly to her feet.


“We gotta get her out of here.”


“Contract’s for a recently dead girl.”


“Fine,” Jess snapped. “Just play something, help me talk to her.”


Nariah balanced her guitar on her knees and played. She let the mournful sound wash over her. Unconsciously her eyes closed as her magical sense opened.


A blur covered the room, distorting everything but the girl. The corner she sat in remained much as it was now. No mattress, or even a bed roll. No food or water. And no chains. There were brackets on the wall but if she had been restrained, the need for it had long past. Heavy, booted footsteps thundered in Nariah’s ears and then the shade of a man stood in front of her. He reached down and roughly grasped the girl by her arm.


There was another set of footsteps and then a woman’s voice saying, “Leave her. We have enough notes to make the next one last longer.”


“What are the chances we’ll find another orphan as strong as her. Look, you can barely tell she’s been used!”


“The world’s got an abundance of little Kailees. We’ll find one. Now let’s go, New Bay locks down at sunset.”


The man cursed under his breath but he let Kailee fall to the floor. His image shuddered as he passed through Nariah. There was a chilling silence before Kailee slowly turned her head to look at Nariah. And the past fell away to meet the present.


“They’re going to hurt those girls.” Her shoulders heaved as if she’d carried the words up from deep within.


Nariah tried to speak but her throat ached from the sudden dryness. She tried to lick her lips. As if that would fix the issue. She’d never heard the ghosts before. Kailee was much stronger than she was supposed to be.


“New Bay was overtaken,” she croaked. “Years ago.”  


Kailee’s expression didn’t change. “But they have not returned.”




“No. There’s no one else here”


A darkened mood fell on Nariah’s shoulders, hitting like a hammer.


“Tell her, not me.”


If they were killed their ghosts will be tied to their place of death.”


“As you are.” At least she hoped the girl was tied here.


Kailee took one hesitant step. And then another, until she was beyond her corner. She looked down at her feet. When she looked back up and met Nariah’s gaze, her eyes held a new emotion.


“Hey– Hey now!”


Kailee’s steps were steady now. “I will find them.” She was becoming more than a shade. Fire burned brightly in hazel eyes. “They thought draining our magic would put them beyond our retribution.”


Our? Oh shit.


There were rumors that ghosts could merge, but Nariah was not equipped to deal with an entity that strong. So she made a gamble.


“You might have company soon.”




Nariah pulled a charm out of her coat pocket, hanging it off one of the frets. She slid her hand over the body of her guitar, feeling the veil that kept Jess in weaken.


“Are you sure?”


“That’s up to Kailee.” Nariah started to strum a tune. One of those folk songs about going home. “You can travel with us until you find what you’re looking for.”


She didn’t mention the killers. It would only get the girl’s hopes up and turn her into a deadlier spirit later on.


“Or you can walk out, on your own. And hope you find what’s left of New Bay.”


“Before another spirit overtakes you.”


Nariah tapped her guitar. “But they won’t be able to sense you in here.” She couldn’t bear the thought that some ravenous spirit would take what was left of Jess from her.


Kailee glared at the guitar. Nariah didn’t blame the young girl for her distrust. What had she been lured with before?


“You’ll let me out if I change my mind?”


“I won’t bind you, but you will have to go once this is done.”


Kailee looked back at the door and studied it. She finally nodded. Nariah held out her hand, smiling when Kailee took it. Her hand tingled almost to the point of being painful but Nariah guided Kailee’s hand to the guitar. A glow spread up her arm until it covered her entire body. She began to sink into the guitar.


“It’s unnerving but she’s done this before,” Jess said when Kailee started to pull back. “And I’ll be a polite roommate. Promise.”


Kailee cast a furtive glance at Nariah before letting her sink completely. When she spoke again the “A” string vibrated. “Please help me.”


Nariah pushed her doubts aside when she answered. “We will.”


She slid her hand back over the guitar to reseal the veil and let out a relieved sigh. Finding two people in a near wasteland would be nigh on impossible. But separated from her place of power, Kailee would be easier to exorcise if necessary.


Time to collect that reward.




The sun was already approaching the horizon when Nariah finally approached the camp. A cool breeze swept over her, bringing a cloud of dust. She was stopped at the gate and searched like expected. She tried to keep her impatience in check as they searched her for weapons. When they saw her charms the men backed away. Refusing to meet her gaze as they waved her through. The camp was mostly quiet. Most of the ruckus came from what passed for a bar. Anyone not getting lost in a mug was turning in for the night. No one went out after dark if they could help it. The human monsters took advantage of the moonlight.


Nariah nudged open a door that was almost rusted shut. It opened and closed with a squeal that seemed to echo through the camp. Nariah barely suppressed an urge to wince as she pulled down the scarf over her nose. The room was covered in dirt and empty boxes but that passed for “official” in a world struggling to rebuild its structure.


“It’s done,” she called.


There was a commotion in the backroom as the man shuffled out. He had a limp and wore a mask. “So soon? Maybe I should’ve agreed to your price.”


Nariah felt a burning at her back. A confirmation of the disgust now roiling in her gut.


“…you can barely tell she’s been used.”

She forced a smile. “Let me make up the difference with a song.”


The man made a lazy motion towards a nearby stool. Nariah sat down, swinging the guitar onto her lap. Once again starting her ritual. Hooking one foot on the top rung, she balanced the guitar on her knee and strummed the “A” string.


She hummed a solemn tune. With a sad smile she said, “No child should be turned into a killer.”


The man slumped down into the chair behind his desk.


“Come out, Kailee.”




I hope you enjoyed “Ghosts of Sands & Time”! This was a short story I posted on Patreon awhile back and just got around to posting on here for everyone to read. I closed my Patreon but if you want to support my writing, I would appreciate any shares; of this story or any other short story you’ve enjoyed from me.

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Speakers – Part One


Alia lay on her back watching the night sky, her hands clasped on her chest. For a moment she could pretend all that existed in the world was the cushion of flowers and leaves beneath her. The forest grew thinner as one approached the center of Aelburn. Lush forests became small groves before turning into strategic clumps of trees near villages or cities to provide shelter as travelers passed through. Alia had grown up in a large port town, and then lived in solitude until Raffi’s men had forcibly drawn her out of isolation. The cloying heat was one of many new experiences since leaving Ravensea where constant sea winds kept the town cool. Even now, laying in the shade Alia’s loose gown stuck to her skin. She twirled one of the bodice strings in idyl motions.


That day played over in her head. She’d thought the path from her hut to the river was well concealed, walking it many times without incident. The first time Alia heard footsteps behind her she dismissed them. Denhollows was two weeks away and the trees were so thick here, no one could get by unless they already knew the way. Or followed someone who did. Heavier footsteps soon followed the first and Alia knew she was being followed. She quickened her pace, letting her fingers trail against the trees as she passed. They didn’t know the words for malicious or perverse but they could sense “wrongness”. They knew the metal that broke their bodies. And that’s how Alia knew to run. She’d been gathering stones for a protection spell, but they’d do no good for her in their current form so she let the basket fall from her hands. She thought she had been well ahead of her pursuers but as she came over the last hill, she saw the clearing filled with a ragtag band of mercenaries. Young, old, thin and hulking brutes all armed to the teeth. Alia turned, intending to skirt around her hut to an almost nonexistent path which would allow her to escape. Instead she saw a man standing in her way. There was a unnatural stillness to him. No twitching hands seeking a weapon. Only an unwavering patience. He made no move towards her until Alia’s shoulders slumped.


Alia didn’t use her magic to fight. She’d left Ravensea all those years ago for that very reason. Every magic user could manipulate the elements; not all could speak their language of emotions. Most sought these witches to keep their people safe on expeditions. It was nearly impossible to sneak up on someone who could hear the wind and “see” the number of attackers. Or listen to the trees as Alia did. Raffi wanted to keep himself safe from consequences. That meant keeping his men alive, though the individual themselves was unimportant, and stealing whatever would help achieve this goal. But knowing why Raffi wanted her didn’t tell Alia who was willing to sell her out. She was considering this when she was yanked to her feet. Cuthfre wasn’t much taller than her but his small frame and hanging clothing hid wiry muscles. Alia rubbed her sore shoulder and glared at him.


“He needs you to look ahead.”


“I can’t.” Her voice wavered.


She’d already explained to Raffi that unless each oasis was connected she couldn’t learn what they knew until they reached each one. A wind witch had been sighted in Sunmount but it was a riskier venture than catching her; isolated in her woods. If anyone within the town suspected they were coming the witch could flee. If the witch fought and they drew too much attention to Sunmount, reinforcements could arrive in little over an hour from Norcourt. Which wouldn’t deter an army but could be disastrous for a band of twenty that would be down one if Alia couldn’t make herself useful. Alia’s mind desperately sought a solution as Cuthfre dragged  her towards the largest of their three wagons. She’d tried sneaking away once, now everyone watched her and hoped she’d try again so they could earn an extra cut by bringing her back. Cuthfre pushed Alia forward and quickly moved away before he became the subject of Raffi’s anger.


Raffi wore a fine linen shirt that draped elegantly over wide shoulders and wider chest; stretching it to its limits. He sat on a bench with one foot up on a stool with curling feet while he carved up a statue. Alia watched each flick of that knife with her heart pounding in her ears.


“I need to know what I’m walking into.”


The only danger I’ll be warned of is you. Alia looked away, hoping he hadn’t seen defiance in her eyes.  “I won’t know until we’re closer.” She was almost whispering. All of her bravado disappearing instantly.


Raffi crept closer. Alia kept her face turned away, but the space seemed suddenly tiny. She tried to keep her breath steady but it caught in her throat when he helped her to her feet.


“It will do me no good to walk into a town so large without knowing this information beforehand.” Raffi held Alia’s hands gently in his while massaging them as if it were cold.


Alia had to fight a shiver despite the heat. “If we approach as traders maybe we won’t draw suspicion.”


“And who would have anything worthy of trade?”


Raffi spoke in a casual tone. Alia almost answered him but hastily clamped her lips shut. His lips turned up briefly in a smile. Raffi tipped Alia’s head up, making her strain to not look him in the eyes. He hadn’t forbidden it but they were a blue so light they almost seemed silver. Even knowing that the hidden warmth in them was false, Alia had found herself staring more often than she should. And she needed all of her wits about her.


“They fancy themselves scholars, I say we take advantage of their soft hearts.”


Raffi finally let Alia’s hands drop and he moved over to a gilded chest. As he unlatched it, she felt the urge to curl up far away from Raffi and will him to forget her. He pulled out a small paper bird that could be mistaken as a kite.


“When you know where the witch is and how the size of their guards, send word.” Raffi handed the paper bird to Alia, who took it in shaking hands. “You have until nightfall. Now run.”




Alia stumbled and she clutched the bird to her chest. Then, fear coursing through her, checked to make sure the paper wasn’t crumpled. That would break the spell on it and the men Raffi set after her would cut her down. Without looking over her shoulder, Alia kept going though this time she moved at a slower pace. She didn’t know if the guards would let her in and after awhile she only thought of the sweat dripping into her eyes. Alia licked her lips as if that would help the dryness. She ignored the aching in her throat, hoping the city was close. The thin slippers Raffi allowed her to wear were no match for the heated sand. There was a road but Raffi had kept well away from it and Alia didn’t know in which direction it lay. She wished for the thick hide boots she’d purchased on her last trip into a small town, but Raffi had had them destroyed. How long ago had that been? Months ago? A year? Had she’d really been a captive that long? The thought made Alia want to lay down where she was. She couldn’t consign someone else to this life.


Alia chanced a glance behind her to see two men on horseback in the distance. They could easily overtake her if they suspected what she was about to do. Alia turned away and walked as quickly as she could without losing her footing. She reached out to the wind though it was voiceless to her.




Silence answered her. Alia wanted to shout it out but she didn’t. Instead pouring all her hopelessness into that word, so the wind would carry her message to the witch who could hear it.


Please run!


A cool breeze blew and Alia laughed softly in relief. She’d never spoken to wind, at least not intentionally, but she took that as its answer. “Thank you.”


A harder wind pushed her forward, urging her until she began to run. This time she didn’t care about Raffi’s bird. There was shouting but it was covered by a howling gust. Alia looked to see sand blowing around her pursuers. She hesitated, wondering who she was running towards before deciding the unknown was the better option. Any way the wind pushed her, she ran; adrenaline kept her going for now.  But too soon her vision wavered. When Alia saw someone running towards her she tried to run but strong hands gripped her.


“I heard you call. There’s no need to worry.”


Alia tried to fight the tears that sprang to her eyes. “No. You were supposed to run,” she croaked. She looked into a gentle face, their eyes were full of concern.


They shook their head and untied the flask at their waist. “Here, drink this. You don’t have to worry about those two anymore.”


Alia tried to explain but she was sobbing and exhausted. Her words barely made sense to herself.


“Ki!” A second person approached with his sword drawn. “Is this why you ran off into the desert? He looked Alia over, decided she was harmless, and sheathed his weapon.


“Yes, Andriet. This is why.” Ki wrapped their arm around Alia and tried to move her but she resisted.


“You have to leave.” Alia pulled away from them. “He took me. Please run.”


Andriet shared a look with Ki. “Look around. He’s not here.” His voice became softer, like she was about to break. “You got away.”


“But you need to come back into town with us.”


Alia reluctantly let Ki lead her, all the while insisting they run.




Sunmount was impressive in size if not presentation. The shops were of a practical size and pressed against one another. It passed in a blur. Though Sunmount was not far from Norcourt, it was a quiet town compared to the busier city and there wasn’t much traffic to force their way through. By now Ki and Andriet were nearly dragging Alia, arms tightly around her waist with her arms hanging around their necks. With the height difference, Ki the shortest and Andriet the tallest, it was an awkward and slow crawl to their destination. There were questions about who she was along the way but she couldn’t hold onto the words, and Ki didn’t answer.


Ki shouldered open the door to a shop . “It’s not much but it’s home.”


Alia could only let out a moan in response. Ki frowned and swung Alia into their arms. Her head lolled against their shoulder, enjoying the coolness of their linen shirt against her cheek.


“I’ll see if I can cook something up for her,” Andriet said as he made his way to the kitchen.


Ki bounded up the steps and Alia had to squeeze her eyes closed against a growing headache. She let out a gasp and held desperately onto Ki when they laid her down on something soft. She looked wildly around the room.


“Deep breaths,” Ki repeated until Alia finally relaxed. They brushed hair out her face. “Just focus on getting some rest.” They opened the shutters, gave her a sympathetic smile, and then left.


Alia ran her hands over the cotton quilts. She didn’t want to trust this. Afraid that this would disappear, some illusion, and she’d find herself back in Ranafre’s caravan. She glanced at the open window. Her breathing quickened.


You have until nightfall.


Alia shuffled backwards until her back hit the headboard. She curled into a ball, arms wrapped around her chest and forehead pressed against her knees.




When someone shook her, Alia awoke with a start. She drew in a breath. She expected a hit that never came. When she finally peeked over her hand she saw Andriet waiting patiently standing by the bed. His black hair was short but messy waves were starting to fall into his eyes.


“Kia had to close the shop, but we’ll make it up tomorrow. You don’t make enemies with one who talks to the wind,” he grinned as if they were old friends. But he moved slowly when he turned and reached for a bowl on a nearby table. “Had to learn how to cook early, so it may not be a meal fit for a noble table but it’s good.”


Alia clutched it with shaking hands. Her appetite hit with sudden force when the smell of beef stew reached her nose. She shovelled it down before Andriet could change his mind. When she finished she started to lick the spoon before  remembering Andriet was there. Self conscious, Alia let the spoon drop into the bowl. “Thank you.” She took a shuddering breath. “Thank you, but I can’t stay.”


“You don’t have to stay here. You also don’t have to run, from anyone.” Before Alia could protest, he continued. “You can take my old clothing. I’ve… I’ve been trying to get rid of them.” Andriet tried to give a dismissive shrug despite his somber expression.


Alia remained quiet. She watched him closely as he moved casually to the small closet.


“My mother made these when I young, trying to get used to suddenly towering over the other children.” He pulled out more stuff than Alia thought the closet could hold. “They’ll be a little… short but it’ll do until Ki can make you a better dress.”


Andriet suddenly fell silent, pausing for such a long time Alia thought he’d reconsidered.


“This is fine! Really!” She tried ignoring the fact that her gown was so dirty its original dark green color had been long hidden and holes were patched when she could scrounge together the material.


Andriet squared his shoulders. “I never really got to wear these. The Ghosts took our town.” He turned with a pair of dresses over his arms.


In some stories the Ghosts were a group of spirits that wandered the wilds, seeking to avenge a city lost to time. In others, they left the wilds on a whim to roam the surrounding lands as corporeal spirits; rushing over cities and villages like a flood and leaving little behind.


When Andriet spoke again, it was more to himself than Alia. “One for every day, the other for celebrations.”


“I’m, so sorry.”


“I don’t know who made it or who didn’t.” A sad smile crossed his face, but he didn’t meet her gaze. “There’s a part of me that still hopes I’ll meet my parents again.”


Homesickness and disappointment warred within Alia. Her  parents were safe, of that she was sure. Her mother was born into one of the wealthiest trading families. They lacked for nothing. “They wanted to use me. Just as Raffi does.” Alia stared down into the empty bowl, almost forgetting Andriet was still in the room until he gently laid the dresses on the bed. The ends would barely pass her knees and the sleeves would need to be cut off entirely. Guilt flooded Alia at the thought.


“Raffi’s the one after you?”


“He’s after Ki.” She barely suppressed the trembling threatening to overwhelm her. “If he suspects I warned you he’ll kill me.” Her voice was a harsh whisper.


Andriet only folded his arms and let out a snort. “Let him come. We’ve dealt with his kind before.”


At that moment the door opened and Ki stuck their head in. “Is she awake — Ah, there we go.” Then they noticed Andriet’s expression, growing serious. “What’s happened?”


“Someone’s after you, again.”


Ki sighed and rubbed his head as if being hunted for his powers was just another frustration to deal with. “When will they get here?”


Alia was incredulous. “But there are only two of you. You’ll be overrun!”


Ki came close enough to lay a comforting hand on Alia’s shoulder, but quickly stepped back to give her space. “We’ll be okay.”


“I’ll protect you. As usual.” Andriet rolled his eyes but a smirk tugged at his lips.


Alia looked desperately between them before finally saying, “Nightfall. Raffi has a band of twenty and they will enter the city as soon as the sun sets.”


“He’d never get that many people in without….” Andriet looked Alia over again. He sat on the stool again, his voice weary. “Who are you?”


Ki shot him a warning glare but Andriet ignored them.


So Alia told them of how she’d been used; what Raffi planned for Ki. He was prepared for a harder fight. He had a enspelled brand crafted that would bind Ki’s will and tie their spirits together. For the first time Ki looked worried but if he was panicked, he hid it well.


Andriet stood abruptly and strode from the room.


Ki gave a heavy sigh, looking towards the window. A breeze swirled around the room. They cocked their head. When the wind finally died down Ki said, “We’ll be ready.”




This is the second story in my collaborative fiction project Worlds of Zumeria. You can read the first story, Twin Fates, here. Anyone can participate and use whatever medium or language they’re most comfortable with. Just read the “rules” at the end of the post and use the hashtag #worldsofzumeria so everyone can find your work.

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