Chapter 39 - Jason



The Orcs are still extorting business around here but they’ve packed up and moved to a different location. They didn’t have much choice, Kaiden shot a hole through their building. Nothing but dust and old crap left inside. I thought about bringing Kaiden a sword, but I don’t think Orcish swords were ever any good. Something about them always breaking, used more for smashing and hooking than cutting. Besides, he needs to learn how to use his fists first and figure out how to use magic without taking out a whole building. I had hoped going through this place would help me find out more about where they’re heading, but I got nothing. I’ll have to track down leads other ways.

For now, I’ll make my way back home. I’m supposed to head down to the basement. There’s supposed to be a drug lab. If it’s anything like the last drug lab, it’ll probably be more Dwarves down there making weapons. I’ve noticed the landlord has a habit of exaggerating things. Whatever, it works out better for me that way. Less work to do, and he thinks I did something amazing. Is this what city life is like? I could use a little more excitement.

Those Orcs beat the crap out of me, but I have to admit I loved every second of it. Not the beating or the pain. Just fighting against something, anything. I could actually see things happening every time I threw a punch or slammed an Orc. I don’t know what if it was adrenaline or I’m some kind of masochist. For the first time, I got that rush that I’ve been missing since I left the temple. I should look into some of the places that Dalia said I could find some more work. I’m a sick man, and I’m laughing at myself on the bus. I’ll just get off now and walk the extra two blocks. I don’t know why, but I’ve finally started feeling happy here in the city. The same way I did sneaking out here when I was younger.

I hear talking inside, Kaiden must be watching TV. I thought he was going to the park today. I open the door and nothing is what I expect. Kaiden is sitting on the couch, ripped shirt, black eye and dried blood around his lip. Next to him is the Dark Elf girl who called me a pervert on the bus a while back. She’s taken a beating too. I’m less concerned with why they know each other and more concerned about who put their hands on them.

“Hey Jason, this is Teranonu,” Kaiden says when he sees me.

“That’s my Elven name, humans usually just call me Tera,” she says.

“And you usually pervert on the bus,” I interrupt her before she can say more. “Kaiden, who beat you up?”

“Well, there were these Wood Elves. Tera stole some wallets from them, but they were stolen. She was trying to take them back when she ran into me. They beat us up and took the bag with the books you gave me. They’ve got a fort in the center of the park. The little forest part. We were hoping you could help us get them back.” Kaiden tells me everything right away.

“He didn’t need to know all of that,” Tera chastises Kaiden.

“Well, if we want him to help us, we should be honest,” Kaiden argues.

“He’s right. Let’s go,” Kaiden hops off the couch and follows me.

“Are you two serious? What’s wrong with you,” Tera argues, but follows.

“I like to take a proactive stance on problems,” I call the elevator. “If we’re fast we can make it to the bust stop before the next bus comes.”

“How can you live in a place like this with no car,” Tera asks.

“You don’t have a car either. Do you mind sharing an elevator with a pervert?”

“Do you two know each other or something,” Kaiden asks.

“Yeah, I saw her on the bus, all beat up with burnt sleeves. Like right now. I asked if she needed help. She called me a pervert. If she had said yes back then, this would have never happened.”

“I’m sorry about the pervert thing. I was having a rough day. Thanks for helping us out here,” Tera tries to be nice.

She gets me caught up on the situation during the bus ride. Young Wood Elves, teenagers. Maybe twenty of them. They’ve decided to go back and live the way they would have before the Wood Elves and High Elves aligned during the Elven Wars. Problem is, that was centuries ago and none of them have any clue what life would have been like back then. They think living in some stupid treehouse, fort or whatever and stealing from people is the way to go. They’ve got another thing coming.

“So why are a bunch of books so important any way,” Tera asks as we make our way through the park.

“Jason got them for me as a Christmas gift.”

“It was not a Christmas gift. We didn’t even celebrate Christmas,” I interject.

“Yeah, sure. Not a Christmas gift, that you gave me three days before Christmas. Whatever you say big bro,” Kaiden responds.

“You two are funny,” Terra laughs. “But get serious. We’re right in front of their gates. They’ve got a magic barrier up so it’s invisible to the naked eye. As soon as we go through this fallen tree, we’ll be right outside their front door.”

“You ready,” Kaiden asks.

“Don’t have to get ready if you stay ready,” I tell him before making my way through the tree first.

Chapter 38 - Kaiden



Jason said he had to take care of a few more things on Dalia’s list and had some work to do for the landlord. He suggested I go out and sit in the park for a while to calm down and meditate. I don’t even think I’m hyper. He just way too calm about everything. Still, I guess I can sit here and read a book, but I’d rather go to an arcade or something. I haven’t been to an arcade for a long time. Jason got me some really cool books. Just need to find a place in the shade to chill out and read. I don’t remember there ever being 60-degree days in the middle of winter, but here we are.

Crap, I fall forward and barely get my hands out before landing on my face. I look back and see a girl. She must have run into me. She looks Elven, but not entirely. Her skin isn’t the usual pale white, it’s more Oh, she might be one of the Dark Elves. Her sleeves are kind of burnt. That means she’s using fire magic, she’s a Dark Elf for sure. She’s filling her bag with all these pocketbooks.

“Hey do you want help with that,” I ask.

“No, they’re going to catch me,” she says still stuffing her bag.

“Did you steal those?”

“I stole them from people who stole them,” she grabs her bag.

An arrow flies right through the bag before she can put it back on. Okay, there’s more going on here than I thought. Now would be a good time to take my leave. If another arrow didn’t block my tracks, I would have been out of here already.

“Stay down, I’ll make sure you’re safe,” she guards me.

“Don’t worry, I can protect myself,” I drop my bag and stand beside her.

I can’t really fight. I watched Jason practice some moves, but that’s it. I don’t know anything. But, I can’t look like a chump. She’s kind of cute. Besides, how bad can it be. Actually, it can be really bad. Who shoots arrows in the middle of a city? More Elves make their way up and surround us. Different than High Elves or Dark Elves. Copperish skin with some green hints. Bows and arrows, oh these are Wood Elves. I’m really wishing I had started with the book on different martial arts styles.

“Give back what you took from us, and we’ll let you go,” one of the Wood Elves yells.

“You’re a no-good thief Eradis. You stole these and I’m giving them back.”

“Last chance before we beat you senseless,” Eradis yells back at us.

“Good luck with that,” she threatens him.

They rush at us, can’t be more than six of them. They’re fast, really fast. Why are they so fast. I try to land a punch and miss. I don’t know how many times I got hit, but it was a lot. They didn’t hit me while I was on the ground, but they hit me while I was falling. I tried to blast off some magic from my left hand. I was better with the sparks with my right hand. I saw her blast off some flames, but it didn’t do much. Some kind of defense magic they had. I’m way out of my league here and all these kids look my age. The city has changed a lot in the last few years.

It’s over in a moment. They’ve laid out both of us with no problems. After the third or fourth time, I just decided to stay down. My ribs were hurting too much. I grabbed a few of the pocketbooks and stuffed them in my bag. It was the least I could do to help. She didn’t last much longer after I fell. My face is pounding, and I can tell I have a bloody nose without looking. Every time I try to breathe through my nose blood gets caught and chokes me.

“I told you to run,” the girl offers me her hand.

“I wasn’t going to let you get beat up.”

“Well, we both got beat up.”

“Yeah, but I snuck some of the pocketbooks in my bag, so that’s a start,” I reach for my bag.

“Well, they got that so tough luck.”

“No, I need that bag, where are they?”

“They’ve got a fort deeper in the center of the park. It’s their little hideout. A bunch of kids who think they’re living how the Wood Elves should.”

“Well, I’ve gotta get my bag back.”

“What’s so important.”

“I had some books in there, I really needed them.”

“Well, they’re lost, you can get new books.”

“We have to go,” I argue with her.

“We got beat by six of them, there’s way more at their fort.”

“Then we’ll get some help. C’mon let’s go.”

“What? I don’t know you like that. I’m not just following you.”

“Then you lead, and I’ll follow you. But, I’ve gotta get those books back.”

“Fine, where are we going?”

“We’re going to get my big brother.”

Chapter 37 - Jason



“You really shouldn’t be coming along. You don’t know how to fight,” I tell Kaiden.

“I’m a great fighter and I know magic too,” he argues.

“Do you? Because what you call magic blew up half a building last time you tried. A building that could have crushed me. Don’t need any repeats.”

“Whatever, that was just an accident,” he laughs.

“Yeah, whatever. I’m not going to the hospital if one of these guys breaks your jaw.”

“Nobody is going to break my jaw.”

“Are you going to follow me everywhere I go?”

He thinks for a second, “Worked out pretty well so far. I got Christmas presents, my own bedroom in a vampire hunter’s lair and a new best friend. So yes,” he smiles at me.

“I’m not going to the hospital.”

“Whatever, they should be on this floor.”

The damage on this floor hasn’t been hidden by new paint or anything like that. I’ve noticed a lot of the place isn’t like that. The landlord is probably trying to sell this place by fixing up the things people look like. Sell the building as is make a lot of money and vanish before the shit hits the fan. I don’t really have any other living options, but I don’t want to live here any longer than I have to. Something is up with this place. Any place with drug dealers has something going on, but there’s more to this place than that.

“They should be right around this corner,” Kaiden points around the corner.

The music gets louder as we get closer. I’m still not good with identifying genres but I don’t like this music, and I recognize it. Dwarven music, a lot of chanting and heavy bass, almost all drums. It sucks, and most people don’t listen to it. There aren’t a lot of Dwarves around here. At least not that I’ve seen. I honestly can’t think of seeing a single Dwarf since I’ve come to the city. I reach the door where the music is playing.

“Last chance to turn around before you get hurt,” I say to Kaiden.

“Well, when you put it that way,” he turns and walks before rushing back and banging on the door.

“Who the hell is banging on my door like a mad man,” comes from the other side of the door before I can yell at Kaiden.

“We’re here on behalf of the landlord, we need to talk.”

“Then come in,” the door flies open.

We’re greeted by three elves in the hottest room I’ve ever stepped into. It looks like they’ve set up a makeshift forge in their apartment. The music comes from a small stereo opposite the stones circle they’ve got set up as a forge full of molten liquid. If I start a fight here, things could get dangerous for everyone. If it was just me, I’d take the risk, but Kaiden might get hurt. The main reason I’m not taking him to a hospital, is because I couldn’t find a hospital if I tried.

“What does that land slaver want,” one of the Dwarves asks.

“Well, he thinks you’re selling drugs, but clearly that isn’t the case,” I respond.

“No shit we’re not selling drugs. Dwarves don’t sell drugs. Merchants, blacksmiths, historians and warriors. That is who we are. Different clans, different goals, but none of us sell drugs,” one of the other Dwarves yells as he drops a hammer.

“Dwarves,” Kaiden interrupts in shock.

“Yes, Dwarves,” the other Dwarf in the back yells at him.

“Aren’t you supposed to be small? Like, short and fat,” Kaiden asks with no filter.

“No,” I respond.

“Fuck no, that is bullshit made up by some racist nutjob,” one of the Dwarves yells before the others calm him down.

“Basically, Dwarves are a race of Elves who don’t have the ability to use magic. Some other Elves feel like this disqualifies them from being Elves. Instead Dwarves decided to lead in a lot of other fields,” I whisper to Kaiden.

“Is that why they’re so buff?”

“Yeah, or they have killer workouts.”

“What about the living in caves thing,” he asks.

“Sorta, back a long time ago they used to live in mountains and caves. Now they live in cities, some of which still surround or go through mountains. They never just lived in caves. Did you learn anything at the temple?”

“No because I was getting beat up most of the time,” for the first time I believe Kaiden.

“I swear I need a Ragnarök part 2 to wipe out all of us,” one of the Orcs says.

He pulls a war axe out of the forge and jams the top cautiously stands it on an anvil as the other Orcs jam a stick of wood through a hole in the back of the blade. The three quickly dip it in water which fills the room with smoke. From the water they pull out a war axe. I have to say I’m kind of impressed that they could do something like that in this room. I’m not much of a blacksmith but I don’t think that’s the correct method for forging a war axe. Yet, they got it done. It looks like a good weapon to me.

“Here, give the axe to the landlord. Show him our work, tell him we don’t sell drugs. People come and buy weapons,” one of the Orcs hands me the axe.

“I don’t think that’ll work. He’s mostly concerned about people who don’t live here coming in and out,” I say as I grip the axe, it’s comfortable, and light.

“Well we have to make money to pay the rent. This is how we do it,” he argues.

“I have an idea,” Kaiden offers.

“If your idea involves us living in caves you can keep it to yourself little one,” the Orcs laugh at the joke. I get a few chuckles in as well.

“Laugh it up. Why don’t you just sell your stuff on the internet and mail it out. I’m sure you could make a lot more money that way too,” Kaiden offers up.

“Good idea but we aren’t much for the internet. We come from a clan of smiths, not merchants,” the Dwarf argues.

“We know a guy,” one of the Dwarves in the back says.

“Who,” the other asks.

“Madden, Mader or something like that. I’ll know it if I see it. The guy ordered a pair of war axes from us. Based on one of those digital games. He said he works on computers all day so they wouldn’t get bloody. We can make him do it. Promise him we’ll put a rush on the axes.”

“Would you too like a beer to celebrate? This could be a new world for us,” one of the Dwarves offers.

“I’ll take one, but he’s underage,” I accept the can.

“Nonsense, we start drinking young,” he tosses a beer to Kaiden.

Kaiden is the first to take a sip, and instantly spits it out. The rest of us laugh. Something about Dwarves, they’re supposedly born loving the taste of alcohol. The rest of us, not so much. I don’t even care for the taste now as an adult, but I finish both my beer and Kaiden’s. Only because I know that rejecting a drink from a Dwarf is like rejecting meat from an Orc. Just something you don’t do unless you want to fight.

“You said I was going to get my jaw broken in there,” Kaiden laughs as we make our way down the hall with the axe.

“I thought you were when you asked why they weren’t in caves or short.”

“Well, I didn’t. We make a great team. Even solved their problem.”

“We’re not a team.”

“I know,” he smiles at me. “We’re brothers.”

“I should pry open these doors and kick you down the elevator hole.”

“Elevator shaft, you country bumpkin,” he laughs at his own joke until snot comes from his nose as the door alerts us that elevator has arrived.

Chapter 36 - Jason



“You the landlord,” I ask an Elf waiting at the front door.

“You the killers? That one looks too small to be a killer,” he retorts.

“We’re not killers, but this doesn’t look like a luxury apartment building either. So I guess we were both lied to,” I match him as we stare each other down.

“So, let’s check out this apartment,” Kaiden breaks the silence.

The Elf leads us into the building. The building is in better shape than my current apartment for sure. But, I can tell it needs a lot of work. Drinking fountains that still drip, with a marble coffee table. Probably just a sticker to make it look nice. They’re trying to make this place look worth more than it is. Suddenly my expectations for this apartment are a lot lower. The longer it takes the elevator to get to the top floor, the lower my expectations are.

“So, here’s the deal. You get the discounted rent as long as you solve a couple problems. I’m trying to run a legitimate business here and I can’t do that with all this trash making my building look like a dump. I’ve got enough fighting these accusations that I’m a slum lord,” the Elf starts.

“We can handle anything,” Kaiden assures him.

“What are the problems,” I’m more interested in specifics.

“We got some drugs in the building. There’s some gangs in the area, you need to keep them away from the building. If they get in, make sure they want to get out ASAP. There’s some drug dealers in apartment 6B, you’ll need to evict them. That’s your first job. If you can’t get that done. You have to go. Come see me when it’s done and I’ll give you the keys.”

“Easy,” Kaiden answers excitedly.

We get to the top floor and there’s only one door. He opens the door and quickly takes the elevator down. Not sticking around means we’re not getting what we were sold on. Opening the door, and it isn’t as bad as I expected, but the place is a mess. There’re scuff marks all across the real floor. Sounds like a vampire hunter really did live here and get murdered here. There are way too many marks to just be from moving furniture. The kitchen looks untouched, but still has food inside that needs to go before it stinks up the place anymore. Multiple bedrooms was correct. There’s three and a nice size. One bathroom that really needs to be cleaned.

“This place is amazing,” Kaiden says.

“It isn’t so bad,” I try not to kill his joy.

“All the rooms have windows with nice views. Can I have the one with the view of the city,” he asks eagerly.

“Sure, I like the one looking over the park.”

“Great, we even have one to spare.”

“I’m not looking for more roommates. Did you see an armory while you were running around?”

“No, but I bet a hidden switch is somewhere in here, or one of those books on the shelf is fake.”

Kaiden brings up a good point. I help him search, he eagerly starts throwing books from the shelf hoping for a fake one. It’s a good place to start, if there’s a fake wall in here, it would be there. I start reaching under the remaining furniture searching for any buttons. When that fails, I trace the walls looking for a button.

“I got it,” Kaiden yells out. “It was the vampire book,” he pulls it down.

Slowly the bookcase moves back and reveals a wall of weapons. Kaiden is excited and in shock with all the items. I laugh and fall to the floor. I was hoping I could restock on weapons, but this whole armory is trash and useless junk. No wonder the previous owner got killed. I laugh until tears fall from my eyes. I just sit on the couch and keep laughing until I can contain myself.

The armory is full of items. A few guns that look like they’re from the 1800s. Round silver balls that are probably the bullets for them. Silver bullets were supposed to kill vampires and werewolves back in the day. It helps, but it isn’t going to do more than actually getting your gun engraved with runes and having some magic put on it. Mainly because regular bullets help too. A ton of hypodermic needles and “Dr. John Roger’s Vampire Prevention Serum,” whatever that is. They used to sell cures for vampirism like it was the flu and apparently this so-called hunter was sticking to it. Brimstone, I guess it can used as a distraction if needed. Gallons of Holy Water. Turns out, that does absolutely nothing. Sure, there’s real Holy Water, but 99% of the stuff out here is just regular water sold by grifters. There’s a ton of mirrors, disregarding the fact that some vampires can see their reflections. Magnifying glasses, which I can’t even figure out a use for. More garlic than anyone would ever need. Real Holy Water has uses, garlic has none. Yet here it is. Cloves, powdered, bleached, fresh plants and for nothing. Flashlights, okay useful. I guess some vampires do hide out in dark places. Did this guy needed 28 different crucifixes? I counted, who needs that many? Completely useless, was he hunting vampires or doing exorcisms? The real kicker, there’s boxes of stakes and rubber mallets. Wooden stakes, in this day and age? Who? Who does this?

“Are you okay? I’ve never seen you laugh. Maybe once or twice, but never this hard,” Kaiden sits next to me showing genuine concern.

“You really want to hunt vampires Kaiden?”

“Yeah, and now we’ve got all this gear.”

“First lesson right now. You ready?”

“I’m ready. What’s the first lesson?”

“All this shit is useless, and if you try to kill a vampire with a wooden stake, you deserve death” I start to laugh again when I see the confusion on his face.

Chapter 35 - Jason



“What kind of name is The Yelling Frog,” Kaiden jokes.

“What?”

“The Yelling Frog, right across the street,” he points to a dingy stone building with a wood plank over the door with the name painted followed by an exclamation point using the frog in place of a period.

This was the place Dalia had told me about. Supposedly it’s run by an elf who was excommunicated as well. She would take, souvenirs, from various missions and sell them on a black market she had created. The network touched every corner of the temple from what the stories say. I wasn’t around when that was happening, but I recognized the name Dalia’s letter gave and assumed it had to be the same Elf. I can’t imagine there’s a lot of folks running around with traditional Elven names like Sorinka. Nearly everyone no matter their race has a human name at this point in time. If you see a traditional name, it’s usually a middle name.

“This is the place we were looking for.”

“Really? We passed it twenty minutes ago.”

“Why didn’t you say anything,” I ask crossing the street.

“Well we were having a pretty intense conversation about how the world works and how the president is basically a pawn because there’s a council who uses magic to keep us all blind and dumb until they just can’t do it anymore. I thought that was more important,” he cocks his head and stares at me outside the door.

“You know Kaiden, you’re a real smart ass sometimes.”

“Takes one to know one,” he laughs and leaves me on the sidewalk as he enters the shop.

I imagine this is what most pawnshops look like. Merchandise all over the store, loosely categorized. I can’t imagine that all of them have such a wide assortment of weapons. Guns, swords, throwing knives, and just about everything else is here. I pick up a Bo staff and feel it in my hands. Well made, and frequently used. Time has take a toll on it, and it doesn’t seem to be well balanced. A metal tip on one end, but not the other explains why it’s off balance.

“Jason, look at these swords. I need to get one of these!” Kaiden calls out excited from the back of the store.

“You’ll cut your eye out kid,” a large bearded Elf tells him.

Something about the man was odd, as if he shouldn’t be here. I had rarely seen an Elf as large as him. It isn’t like he was all fat either, there was some fat, but he had a fair amount of muscle. His fashion sense was odd as well, ed and Green, I suppose he was getting in the Christmas mood.

“Alright Nick, here’s where you can find that Rupert. Sorry it took so long to find him, but he’s a tricky one.”

“No problem, you’ve been good as ever Sorinka. You’ll be on my nice list for sure,” The big Elf jokes. “You too, he says pointing at Kaiden. Not sure about you yet,” he stares me in the eye before making his way out of the shop.

“What can I get you boys,” Sorinka asks.

“I like that sword over there. The one with the orange handle,” Kaiden answers honestly.

“Well, I can’t sell weapons to people under 18 but if your big brother here wants to buy it. I can get it all rung up,” she smiles with money on the mind.

“Not his brother, and not giving him a sword. I’m here because Dalia said you can help me,” killing her sale isn’t the best introduction.

“Dalia? I haven’t heard that name in ages. When she called me I was so glad to hear she hadn’t driven herself into an early grave looking at the damn crystal ball,” she jokes. “ You must be Jason, she said you’d be the bald grump and that means you’re Kaiden, the airhead.”

“Is that what she said,” I ask.

“Not in those words, but I picked up on it. She said you boys would need somewhere to live.”

“Yeah, my place isn’t big enough for two. Do you know someone?”

“Jason, I always know someone. It’s my job. Usually it costs, but for Dalia I’ve already got a place picked out for you. There’s an apartment owned by a former Vampire hunter. It’s tricked out with all kinds of nice things. Secret room for an armory, great furniture, top floor, thirty minutes from downtown, great view of a park. Three bedrooms. Usually costs $4000 each month. Best unit in the building, better than most homes in the area. It’s only so nice because of all the upgrades the previous renter put into it. But, the owner is willing to rent to you for just $1000 a month. $500 if you’re willing to do some extra work,” she pushes hard on this place, not giving me a chance to interrupt. “I can call him right now.”

“What’s the catch?”

“There’s no catch,” she smiles.

“There’s always a catch. If this place is as nice as you say it is,” I argue.

“Well, there’s some issues.”

“Such as.”

“Well, most of the tenants are Dark Elves, but some of the more expensive apartments are rented out by high elves. There’re a few squabbles here and there because High Elves, still don’t care for us after all these years. Also the last renter, may have died in a dark ritual because he was bored of hunting vampires and started messing with the dark arts. Nobody wants an apartment with a dead guy. The area has also been screwed pretty hard by the economic downturn. It’s a great park. But there’s drug dealers, there’s robbery. You’ll just be keeping that kind of thing out of the building. Police don’t really like Dark Elf neighborhoods. You’ll be an unofficial problem solver.”

“I’ll take it.”

“What? That’s it,” she looks shocked.

“Yeah, none of that scares me.”

“I’ll go give him a call,” she ducks off in the back.

“Hey Kaiden, go see if there’s a bus coming,” I yell out to the front of the store where he drifted off.

I take a look at the sword he wanted once he walks out the shop. I’m not against him having a sword. I just can’t afford a good one for him. Nobody wants to have a crappy sword break in a fight. This one isn’t exquisite, but the price doesn’t match the quality. A sword will have to wait for another day. I drift over to the books. One on different martial arts styles. If Kaiden is going to be tagging along with me, he should learn to fight. My fighting style probably wouldn’t work for him. I mostly use throws and a few styles of boxing. I hit hard and outlast opponents. He’ll need something else, something faster where he’ll dodge more. This could be a first step. The book is cheap, I can get this one. Another on basics of spellcasting. He’ll like that one.

“Alright, you’re all set. Here’s the address,” Sorkina comes from the back.

“Thank you,” I take the address. “Would you be able to wrap these up for me?”

“You don’t seem like the magic kind,” she laughs as she rings up my total.

“It’s for Kaiden. Christmas is coming up. I don’t really care for the holidays. We didn’t celebrate many of them at the temple. You know that. But, he’s not from the temple.”

“Dalia said you were a softy under the hard exterior. No charge,” she hands me the wrapped books. “Hold on, there’s one more he might need if he’s going to be hanging out with you,” she comes back with another book. “This one is a guidebook for different kinds of vampires, werewolves and other things that go bump in the night,” she hands the wrapped one to me.

“Thank you, you’ve been kinder to me than most people I’ve met in this city.”

“Just promise me, you’ll come back any time you need information, and you’ll pay,” she laughs.

“I promise,” I raise my hand to swear.

Kaiden is waiting on the bus stop when I leave the shop. He’s just smiling and humming to himself on a bench. I don’t know how the kid stays so happy and optimistic. I’ve never had much of either. Perhaps having him around to balance me out will work out. So far he hasn’t exactly been bad luck.

“What’s with the gifts,” he asks as I take a seat.

“They’re for you.”

“Why?”

“I figured you’d want Christmas presents? Isn’t that what happens on Christmas,” I’ve never celebrated it. I just know what I’ve seen on TV.

“Yeah, but usually on Christmas day.”

“Well, if you don’t want them I’ll just take them back.”

“No, I’ll take them,” he snatches them from my hands. “You need to learn when someone is joking with you,” he elbows me in the arm.

“I don’t get the holidays thing.”

“I’ll teach you, and the rest of the non-temple stuff too. I bet you don’t even know what the internet is.”

“Not a clue.”

“Told you I would be useful.”

“I guess you’ve found something to do besides eat all my food.”

“Jason, are you feeling okay,” he asks in a panic.

“Yeah, why?”

“Because you just gave me gifts, and I think you just made a joke. I’m worried about you.”

“Shutup.”

“Hey Jason,” Kaiden says.

“What?”

“Thank you.”

Chapter 34 - Jason



“There used to be this really cool ice cream shop around here. They had all kinds special flavors they made in the back. It was great. We should get ice cream,” Kaiden starts to ramble. He tends to do that.

“First off, it’s winter, and second if you know where this ice cream shop is, help me find this pawn shop,” I cut him off.

“Oh, I don’t know where it is. But, I recognize the buildings. I haven’t been in the city for three years. You know that. I can’t remember half of this stuff. You’ve been here a couple of months. Did you just not explore?”

“I explored for what I needed to.”

“Aren’t you cold? You should get a jacket.”

“You’re wearing my jacket. How did you get it anyway?”

“Mrs. Dalia gave it to me. She said I would grow into it. I’ve only grown a little since I drank that nasty stuff. Not even a full inch yet. Do you want it back?”

“No, you’re fine. It isn’t really that cold yet.”

“The weather said it would be forty-five today.”

“At least it isn’t twenty-five.”

I always wanted to visit the city when I was younger. I was just, always in trouble. I missed a lot of field trips here. I spent a lot of weekends at the temple all by myself. Now I’ve actually gotten to the city and can’t be bothered with leaving my apartment unless I have to. I had all these great ideas of what the city would be like, but all of that got corrected in the first couple of days. The apartment I lined up was a piece of shit. I fell for the pictures without ever visiting. I couldn’t find any jobs because I didn’t know anyone who was involved in the life. I couldn’t just walk up to a random Elf, blow their cover and ask if they needed something killed. Luckily Mother Dalia has given me a place to start, because otherwise I’d be screwed. Sometimes I wonder would I be better off in another country, one with less regulations on magic, creatures and all that. A place where everything isn’t to protect human eyes. A predominately Elven or Dwarven country, they’re pretty lax on their rules about who sees what. The Orcs and Goblins were locked in a civil War last I heard.

“Hey Jason, I’ve been meaning to ask you something.”

“What’s that?”

“Elsar told me that the reason I couldn’t see all this stuff before is because I wasn’t introduced to it. What does that mean?”

“What stuff?”

He pulls me close and whispers, “like vampires, werewolves, Elves, Orcs and Goblins. How do they hide that stuff?”

“Oh, that. Well there’s this thing called the Council of the Infinite that works in the shadows of this country. They’re made up of some elves and some humans. I think they’re required to have one Orc, one Goblin and one Dwarf. Anyway, through magic, and deception they basically hide the existence of non-human races. But, once the cat is out of the bag, sometimes it’s hard to put back in. I’ve heard of them doing magic brain wipes in cases where large groups have been exposed. But, for one or two folks they don’t care. They just roll with it. Now vampires and werewolves are a little different. They aren’t actually races, technically they’re cryptids. So, they don’t play by the rules. That’s how urban legends get started. The Council can’t really do anything about them.”

“Woah, slow down. Why can’t they just let everyone be seen? What harm would it do?”

“History, wars, things like that. It was better this way. If you’re human, you see everyone else as human. If you’re an Elf, you see other Elves. There’s still racism, but this keeps full blown race wars from kicking off. In the past Elves and Humans went to war. Dwarves and Elves have gone to war. Dark Elves vs all the other Elves. It’s crazy. But that’s basically how it works. That’s the basics as far as I know.”

“That’s crazy, a lot to take in. Basically, they’ve got some magic field around the whole country,” Kaiden actually seems shocked. “What if we go outside the magic field?”

“Well, each country is different and handles it different ways. I couldn’t tell you what would happen if a normal person walked into another country and finds and Elf.”

I hadn’t thought about that so much in a long time. I’ll give the kid credit, he makes me think about things I haven’t thought about since leaving the temple or even longer than that. If Dalia’s tip about getting work is accurate I’ll need everything he’s asking at the top of my mind. In some ways, I’ll be starting all over again. I can’t imagine it’ll be mostly vampires and werewolves causing issues around here. I’ll probably have to start from the bottom. Small personal feuds and all that. But, it’ll be work that I’m good at. I imagine that working in the city might be a little different now.

“This is a lot to take in.”

“Yeah, if you’re going to hang out with me, get used it.”

“There’s so much I don’t understand.”

“Welcome to my world.”

Chapter 33 - Jason



Who knew running from Orcs, eating all my food, a hot shower and a pillow fight was enough to put a kid down for the count? I didn’t. I don’t know anything about raising kids. After Kaiden was asleep I made my way up the roof. I come up here to think at night sometimes. Mostly about what to do next.

I can get a view of the whole city. I’m not sure if I hate the city or not. Things haven’t gone great for me since I’ve been here. I’ve been working regular jobs with no success and my skills are being wasted. The one time I get some work in my wheelhouse, I get my ass handed to me by an Orc out of history. I somehow get a kid in the process and Mother Dalia thinks I’m the perfect person to raise this kid. There’s been nothing good here. I’ve decided, I hate the city. Unfortunately, I’m trapped her for the moment. Being trapped with a kid isn’t an option.

Cell phones are wonderful, we only had land lines in various locations throughout the temple. I’ll admit, I do enjoy some joys of the city, mostly technology that’s easy to access. I still hate the city. Despite cell phones being the easiest way to contact people, I can’t get Dalia on the phone. She gave me a list of places in the letter, but that doesn’t really help me.

“You know, if you really want your bed, I could sleep on the couch,” somehow Kaiden found me on the roof.

“How did you find me up here?”

“You left the window to the fire escape open.”

He takes a seat next to me on the ledge and looks out at the city. He looks at it the complete opposite way as I do. He’s almost mesmerized by it. He seems mesmerized by everything. Dalia said we’re a lot alike, but I don’t see it all. He’s got nothing but optimism for the world. Me, well sometimes I wonder if there’s a point to any of this.

“Where are your parents,” I ask him. Maybe I can drop him off with them.

“Where are yours,” he responds without missing a beat. Okay, maybe we are a little alike. I’d respond the same way.

“Dead. Now you.”

“Oh. Sorry about that. I ran away about three years ago.”

“So, when you were eleven you just ran away?”

“I was thirteen and yeah and yes, I ran away.”

“Did the vampire pick you up right after that?”

“Nah, this old couple took me in. Mr. and Mrs. Harris were really good to me. He taught me how to use magic and she taught me how to cook and some basic first aid. They were really good people. Better than my actual parents.”

“You got any idea where to find them?”

“Probably a cemetery. When the vampire took me, they tried to stop him. I blacked out, but it wasn’t going well before that. I know your apartment is small, but I won’t take up much space and I’ll stay out of your way.”

“It’s not about the apartment. I hate it too.”

“Just say you don’t me around. I’m used to it. I left my parents. I left the temple. I’ll leave you too. I don’t stay where I’m not wanted. I’ll get my stuff and leave in the morning.”

Okay, Dalia was right. We might be a lot alike. He’s got my smart mouth for sure. The feelings of alienation and isolation, I know them all too well. He doesn’t even know how to word it, but that’s what it is. He’s a puzzle piece, that hasn’t fit any of the puzzles he’s tried yet. I thought about running away a lot as a kid, he actually did it, twice. I’ll give her credit, Mother Dalia has always been good at reading people.

“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know what I’m going to do with you. I don’t know what I’m doing with myself most days. I’m not going to kick you to the curb. But, I’m just letting you know, life with me will probably suck.”

“Hmm…I’m cool with that. None of us really know what we’re doing.”

“True. You go get some sleep. Dalia gave me a list of stuff to do tomorrow. There’s supposed to be a green potion in your bag. Drink it.”

“A step ahead of you. My letter said to drink it.”

“What else did your letter say?”

“Said you would try to get rid of me, but not to let you. You needed me as much as I need you and that you’re not as mean as you try to seem.”

“Sounds like Dalia.”

“Yeah, she’s great.”

“Yeah she really is.”

“Hey, could you tell me a story before I go to sleep?”

“A story, are you serious,” I can’t help but laugh.

“I like stories. If you can’t tell stories just say it. I think you had some books. I’m sure one of those has a good story.”

“I can tell stories.”

“Then tell me a story.”