Family Goes, Trouble Stays: Part 2

We ran out of blankets first. Then firewood.

We were still two hours from dawn when the priestess finally showed up. The cars around the site where Ben was chained creaked and groaned from being near me. They finally moved them to the other side of the road, but I could still hear them.

“She’s strong.” The woman said.

“She’s pissed.” The Sheriff replied.

“I would be too. Can she move the chains?”

“Not without hurting herself.”

“Pity. She’d be a big help if she could.”

“I think whomever did this, knew about her and planned for it.”

“Might be. Can we move her away from him?”

“Never. They’re mated.”

“That complicates things.”

“You don’t know the half of it, Lady. Just fix it so I don’t have a heart-broken metalmancer on my hands if he dies.”

“Really? I smell the earth on her.”

“Earth?” I heard the Sheriff swear and smiled. “That’s all I fucking need. You’re sure?”

“I smell it wafting off of her like a stench. She’s the opposite of my air.”

“Could it be because she came here?”

“Yes. She probably wouldn’t have developed beyond metals if she had stayed away.”

“What about the dragon? Can you force him back?”

“No, but I can keep him alive, just as she’s doing.”

“Just help them. I need the both of them alive to keep this town sane.”

“Who’s the dragon to you?”

“The town Vet.”

I heard the woman swear.

“and her?”

“The only mechanic I’d trust my car with.”

“Well at least she was smart enough not to go against her nature.”

“Stupid is not a word I’d use to describe Marlowe. Stubborn, pig-headed and a little rash, but not stupid.”

“You like her.”

“She’s a good friend and I’d trust my kids with her.”

“You like her a lot, then. All right. Don’t worry. I’ll help her keep the dragon alive.”

I heard rustling and the smell of lilacs drifted under my nose. I smiled.

“You’re not my first Priestess, but you’re the strongest I’ve ever smelled.” I said over my shoulder as I rubbed Ben’s nose. He chuffed into my hand.

“What do I smell like to an Earth?”

“To me? Lilacs.”

“That’s a compliment, coming from my opposite.”

“I tend not to let a little thing like opposite signs get to me. Just because you’re an opposite, doesn’t mean you’re a jerk.”

“You’ve had good experiences, then.”

“College was good for me.”

“Ah. Lover?”

“Friend.”

“Even better.”

“I think so.” I looked down at Ben then and smiled.

“You love your dragon.”

“Yes.”

“You’ve ridden?”

“Not yet.”

“Pity. You should if he survives the night.”

“Will. He will survive or I’m tearing this town apart until I find out who did this to him.”

“You’ll do that anyway.”

“I’ll be nicer about it when he lives.”

“Oh, I like you.” She said with a laugh.

I smiled. “I’m starting to like you too.”

“I take it you don’t trust very many people?”

“Not many. I try to follow my instincts and my instincts right now are undecided about you.”

“Well considering my nature, I’ll take what I can get. You’re very honest.”

“Cuts down on bullshit.”

A startled laugh broke out and I found myself laughing with her. It would have been absurd, but I could feel her magic helping Ben while we talked. She never touched him, for that I was grateful, because if she had I would have lost my control. Ben was mine.  I wasn’t letting anyone else touch him until I knew he could take care of himself.

“Dawn comes soon. Will you help me remove his chain?”

“I can’t. It sends a spear through my mind like a hot poker.”

She swore. “The evil bitch who did this is clever.”

“You’re sure it’s a female?”

“Oh yes. Can’t you smell her? She smells of roses.”

“I only smell lilacs and day lilies.”

“Day lilies?”

I nodded and hummed to Ben who chuffed and rumbled back at me. I smiled and rubbed his nose, scratching under his chin and then up to his eye ridges. The Priestess watched us.

“So that’s what it looks like.” She said.

I smiled. “Yes. Feels better, too.”

“I wouldn’t know.” She said as she looked up and at the horizon. The first colors of dawn were peeking over the trees. “Here it comes.”

“Good. He’ll start the change soon. He always does after sunrise.” I said as I watched Ben closely.

“I hope that’s what happens. I’d hate to see him stuck like this.”

“If he is, I’m going to be mightily pissed.” I replied.

Ben gave a groan then and his head disappeared under the blankets. I got up and stepped back. I didn’t know what would happen.

“Is he supposed to be shrinking like that?” She asked as the blankets got progressively smaller.

“Yes. It’s fits and spurts sometimes.” I said.

We watched the pile shrink until you could only see the outline of the chain and collar. I sighed. The chains didn’t shrink with him. That was good. I made my way over to the pile and started digging through it until I found him at the bottom. He was cold, but nothing looked like it was touched with frost.

“Cold.” Ben mumbled. “So cold.”

“I know. There’s an ambulance. They’re going to take you to the hospital.” I said.

“Kay. Go with?” Ben mumbled as he shivered.

“Yes.” I said.

“Kay.” Ben passed out cold then and I waved the paramedics to come get him.

“She probably didn’t expect him to last the night, that’s why the chains didn’t shrink with him. Dead dragons don’t change back.”

“She’s in for a world of hurt if I get my hands on her first.”

“I’m sure she would be, but you’re going to stay out of this.”

“This is the third attack on my family.” I said.

“Three? I thought there had been only two?”

“I consider Max family. He died in October.”

“Oh. That. Yes I can see why it would be three, then.”

“Find her. Kill her or bind her. I’m going to the hospital with Ben.” I stormed off and left her there with the Sheriff.

As I climbed in to the ambulance, I knew this wouldn’t be over. I just prayed it was over for now.

We all needed a breather.

-Marlowe

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Halloween, Part 2

So Ben and I had gotten to the fun with the soap part of our shower when I noticed that his skin was starting to get a little, well, scaly on his back.

“Ben?”

“Yes, Lowe?”

“You have scales. Yellow ones.”

“You sure? It’s the wrong time of the month for my scales.”

I ran my hand over his back and felt the scales forming. “Oh yeah, these are scales.”

Ben swore. “I never shift out of cycle, what the hell Marlowe?”

“I don’t know, but your tail is showing.” I watched as it grew out of the base of his spine. My eyes widened when it turned green.

Ben was swearing as he shut the taps off. I stepped out of the shower and grabbed a towel and dried off as fast as I could. I was wrapping my towel around myself when Ben stared out of the bathroom, naked and tail wagging. I pushed my thumbs in to the upper corners of my eyes because I could feel a headache forming as I ran to the closet and pulled on clothes as fast as I could. I ran out of the closet in jeans and a vintage concert t-shirt that my father had been to before I was born. I took the steps down two at a time and ran by Miles who was standing in the hallway, stunned.

“Was he-?”

“Yes!” I shouted over my shoulder.

Miles ran after me. “He was naked. I saw everything. No wonder you’re so happy.”

I snorted. Miles missed the tail, figures. “You missed the tail.”

“No, I did not, but I’ve been dying to see that man in his natural state for years and he just ran by me.”

I laughed. “Mine. No touchy.”

“Like I could get him interested in me.”

We made it to the great hall and found a half-formed Ben on the floor.

“He’s not going to make it to the dungeon. He’s too big to fit down the steps now.” I panicked a little and looked around the great hall for something to keep him locked in the hall.

“Marlowe, ask the house for gates.”

“What?”

“Ask the house for gates! Hurry! He’s almost done and he’s grumpy when he’s fresh from the change before he can gain control of his other form.”

I would have done anything for Ben at the moment. I looked over at him, never taking my eyes off of him. “I need gates on the great hall to keep him in there, please.”

The house shuddered and bucked under my feet. I took my eyes off Ben for a minute and watched the gates form along the inside and the outside walls, over the glass. A small, human sized gate that I didn’t asked for appeared in the main doorway.

“Thank you.” I said and felt the house rumble under my feet in appreciation.

“Hmmm.. the houses really like you.”

“They’d better, after the mess they’ve made combining themselves together this morning.” I said as I moved to the gate to watch Ben.

He was shaking his head, using one paw to scratch at something on his face. I couldn’t see anything but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t there. I was tempted to call out to him, to see if he was okay, but I held back. I wasn’t sure how he’d react. I couldn’t watch him anymore and stand there helpless. I turned and searched for my bag that I remembered tossing at the base of the steps before I went upstairs to my bedroom the evening before. I could only hope that the houses left it where I put it when they combined.

“What are you doing?”

“Looking for my purse. I need my cell. Gotta call the Sheriff. This isn’t normal.”

“Oh. I saw it on the chair in the hall.”

I let my head rest on the wall in front of me and sighed. “Which hall?”

Miles shifted his feet. “Uh, the great hall?”

I hit my forehead against the wall gently. This was not going well. I heard Ben roar in the great hall and remembered his cell phone is always on the kitchen counter and took off running through the maze of hallways to the kitchen. I mentally cursed the fact that there was no land line in the castle. I entered the kitchen and groaned at the mess I saw. The house had tried to combine her Gothic cottage with his hardwood castle. Paint was everywhere on the walls like someone had thrown water balloons at the walls to paint instead of using a brush. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, reminding myself why I was there. I was there for Ben’s phone.

“Where are you, little thing?” I said to myself as I searched for it on the counters. They were piled with stuff from both kitchens and I finally found it under a bag of rice in the pantry. I dialed the Sheriff’s line and waited until he picked up.

“Marlowe? Is this important because I have a mess on my hands.”

“Ben changed out of cycle. He’s one unhappy dragon. Do you still have the tranquilizers?”

I heard the Sheriff sigh on the other end of the line. “Damn it, he’s the fifth one today. All the dragons were forced to change. Did you manage to keep him in the house?”

“The house helped me lock in him the great hall. Bars on all the windows.”

“Good. Keep him there. I can’t get there because Violet changed and she was outside with her children, at Milton’s Market. We can’t find her.”

“Okay. I’ll do my best.”

“Marlowe?”

“Yes, Sheriff?”

“Sing to him. He likes that damn lullaby from Lady and the Tramp.”

I was startled for a second and blurted out the first song that came in to my head. “La La Lu?”

The Sheriff laughed. “Yeah, that’s the one. Damnedest thing, too. When we figured it out it startled the hell out of all of us. Miss Maggie started singing it to him.”

“Okay. I’ll try it. Thanks Sheriff.”

“You’re welcome, Marlowe. Bye.”

I bid him goodbye and rang off the line. I tucked the phone into my back pocket and jogged down the hallway. I met Miles who was standing at the gate and clinching his fists.

“That stupid dragon just ate my 200-year old footstool!”

I smacked the back of his head. “Watch it. That’s my boyfriend you’re talking about.”

“Well I hope you plan on replacing that ottoman.”

“Nope, sure don’t.” I said as I pushed past him and walked up to the gate. I started singing the song the Sheriff suggested and the damned dragon that was my boyfriend threw a chair at the bars. Annoyed, I kept singing softly.

“Is that going to work?” Miles whispered as Ben threw more furniture.

“The Sheriff said it would.” I replied and went back to singing. On the ninth round through the song, Ben finally settled down and was nodding his head along with the song.

“That’s the freakiest thing I’ve seen.”

“You live in Blueville, I know that’s a lie.” I said as I opened the gate and walked in to the room. Now that I knew he was calm, I wasn’t going to worry about him eating me.

“Marlowe, you’re going to catch death if you go in there.”

“I already know him like a friend. We’ll have tea.” I shot back as I walked over to Ben. He picked up his head and made rumbling  noises at me. I assumed that he was happy to see me. It was confirmed when Ben picked me up and tucked me in between his front legs again. I reached up and scratched his chin after I settled in and made myself comfortable.

“I take it back. That’s the freakiest thing I’ve ever seen.”

“Lie. You live in Blueville.” Mark said as he came down the steps and walked over to where Miles was standing at the gate. “When did that happen?”

“About an hour ago.”

“And the house?”

“Last night. You slept like the dead.” Miles tossed off the joke without realizing it, but I heard it and sucked in a breath.

I looked from Miles to Mark and watched carefully as Mark felt the words hit him and then something weird happened- he smiled.

“I was tired. I spent time over at my place yesterday. I guess it wore on me harder that I expected.”

I let out the breath that I had sucked in and Ben made what sounded like a comforting noise. I went back to scratching his chin.

“Marlowe? Do I have a safe place if I change like he did?” Mark asked as he looked over Ben. I could see the worry on his face.

“Yeah, the dungeon in the basement has a damn good sturdy door. I don’t think you will change though. It seems to be affecting only dragons.” I said as I scratched Ben. I looked over at Mark. “The Sheriff told me when I called to report Ben’s change. I figured he would know what to do.”

“Good idea. I feel better though, knowing I won’t change though.” Mark said as he watched us from the gate. “Are you going to be comfortable there?”

“I could use a pillow, blanket and maybe the book from my bedside table.”

Mark nodded and trotted off to get the things. Miles stayed behind and looked over at me.

“So, is this how you crazy kids do the whole romance thing now?”

I threw a pillow at him.

-Marlowe

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Theater

So this post was going to be about the day I moved to Blueville. It was going to have Miles falling down the steps of my front stoop. It was going to be about when I met Ben, my neighbor. However, when I went out to the movies on my day off, I was involved in a car accident.

I’m fine. I promise. The cast comes off in six weeks. I chose the red one, because I was angry. When I calmed down, I broke out the paints and painted it, with Miles’s help, to look like one of Iron Man’s repulsor gauntlets. I’m not going to lie, I stole the idea from Tumblr.

Yeah, I’m that awesome though.

What happened? Oh, like any night I figured I’d catch the latest blockbuster down at the Cinematic Climatic. I got in to my car and drove downtown to walk around for a bit before seeing the movie. It was a nice night so I had all the windows down. I was a little disappointed that Ben was working late at the clinic, but all of those animals couldn’t help themselves.

Well, the ones that did not have hands at least. The satyrs annoyed me. They always got hands-y with Ben.

Anyway, I was going down Gold Avenue and about to make the turn on to Rose Lane to make the parking garage entrance when I was hit by Steve Miller in that stupid truck of his.

Seriously, who has a black pick up jacked up that high and doesn’t go off-roading? Useless people with more money than sense, that’s who.

There’s a reason why I won’t do customizations like that at my shop.

So I sit in the car, stunned. My head is ringing, my arms feel both weak and strong at the same time, I’m shaking and I’m having trouble finding the door handle. My head feels floppy, yes that’s a word and the feeling is not pleasant, but I have just enough of my brain working that registers pain. My left wrist is painful. Cradling it, I finally managed to locate the door handle and push it open with my feet because it’s stuck.

Meanwhile, Steve has gotten out of that idiot truck of his and is complaining loudly that women shouldn’t be allowed to drive if they can’t pay attention. That’s when my hero arrived on the scene in a cloud of lilac perfume and a scolding so terse, I cried later. It was beautiful.

My hero was Miss Maggie from Indulgence Bakery. I’ll never forget the stream of expletives she called Steve, raging loudly that his mother was a hamster. That’s right. Miss Maggie quoted Monty Python.

I love that woman.

When the police arrived, Miss Maggie had Steve by the ear and was chewing him out for driving that truck through a red light. Sheriff Stiers walked right past where Miss Maggie was chewing out Steve and sat on the bench I’d been moved to by the EMTs.

“Damn shame about that car, Marlowe. I loved seeing that roadster through town.”

“I’ll have it fixed up soon enough. I just need Junior to get it back to my garage after you’re done with it.”

“I can see to it that Steve over there pays Junior for the tow. Boy always did have more money than sense because of his daddy.”

That’s when I remembered that Steve was the Mayor’s son. I thought I was screwed. The Sheriff just laughed and patted my shoulder.

“It’s fine, Marlowe. Miss Maggie will go to bat for you. I’m pretty sure that you’re more popular around here than Steve and that truck. I’ve lost track of the tickets I’ve written for him in the last month.”

“Can’t you do anything about him? He’s a danger. Look at my Nash!” I wailed. I was getting to the tears point of my shock. James, the EMT working on my wrist, wisely kept his mouth shut. I could see his lips crook a smile though. I must have been proceeding along to the recovery portion of the accident on schedule.

“Now that he’s hit you? Yep. I’ll get Judge May to pull his license.”

I smiled at that. I liked Judge May. He drove an older hearse from the 1960’s and gave ghost tours on his weekends off. He was also a half giant. At over seven feet tall, that hearse was practically the only thing that he could drive.

“I like him even more than when he comes into my shop with that hearse of his.”

“That hearse is now less of a nuisance now that you’re in town to work on it; the Mackey twins refuse to work on older cars.”

“The Mackey twins are morons who couldn’t handle the restoration on a 2013 pickup, much less a 1960’s hearse.”

I made James and the Sheriff laugh at that statement. They know it’s true. Sheriff patted my shoulder again and got up to go rescue Steve from where he was still being dressed down by Miss Maggie. He let Hank, the other EMT, look over Steve before putting the cuffs on him and putting him in the back of his SUV.

I will not deny that I gloated a little over the look of disbelief on his face.

Miss Maggie went with me to the hospital where I was poked and prodded for nearly fourteen hours before the let me go when Ben got there. Miss Maggie stayed with me the whole time. I do love that woman and her pastries. Her blueberry pie is the best I’ve ever tasted.

Ben arrived just after they finished wrapping my arm in a bright red cast. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that brown face of his more terrified. I will not lie and say that it did not feel nice to have someone who is that worried about me. I definitely will not lie and say that I enjoyed the fact that he refused to leave me alone that night. I will say that car accidents are probably harder on the ones who love us.

As I write this, nearly one-handed, I have my current keeper laying across my legs. His face is fuzzy, his hair golden and his brown eyes keep looking at me. He’s willing me to get out of this bed to go outside so he can play.

Winston is a stray that Ben has been pestering me  to adopt for a week now. I think he may be right that we’re suited for each other. I’ve never had a golden retriever before, so I wasn’t too sure.

Since I’ve had my nap – the pain killers are hell on my system – I think I’ll give in to the pleading brown eyes and go throw the ball from my chair on the back porch. Maybe next post I’ll write about my moving day. For now, the fairies are starting to sing as the sun goes down, Winston needs to run and I’m hoping that Ben brings dinner with him when he comes to check on us later. Winston and I would love to have dinner from The Great Wall.

-Marlowe