Discordia - Short Stories from The Golden Apple of Discord, p.1Lauren Hodge
Short Stories from
The Golden Apple of Discord
Book I of The Discord Trilogy
Copyright © Lauren Hodge 2014
First Edition by CreateSpace
Lauren Hodge has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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This takes place during chapters one and two in The Golden Apple of Discord - Aggie of the Milunfran Toronto coven.
The dry erase boards at the front of the lecture hall are drenched with a litany of COS and SIN. They’d make more sense if the professor’s accent was English. Or French. Or American…anything but Chinese. Whoever thought having a Differential Equations instructor with a foreign accent was a good idea needs to be banished.
That has possibilities. A fire banishment sounds even better. The Yukon in the parking lot still has a set of element invocation elixirs Cora made months ago.
Thank Heaven it’s Friday.
My phone buzzes with a text…from Cora. “5+2X=13 what is X? Do I divide or subtract 5 from each side or what?”
Cora has an algebra class this semester, an algebra class. Not calculus, not statistics, just good old fashioned regular algebra, and she’s falling behind. How we’re twins I’ll never know.
As I start to type out a response, a prescient vision takes my sight. Seeing things before they happen is a magical blood power that immerses the senses. A wave of energy surges through my body, removing any visual reference I have to the present moment.
Standing in the middle of Wellesley Street, the morning sun shines down on my house. A floral delivery truck is parked next door in front of Mrs. Wong’s house. A run-down, windowless, blue van pulls up to the curb in front of my home and lurches to a stop out front. Two men in casual suits and one woman in an antique grey dress hop from the back, leaving the doors open.
One man and the woman go to my front door. The other man sneaks toward the back. Back in the idling van, another woman waits in the driver’s seat and another man in the passenger’s seat crouches to the floor.
With a simple twist the door knob completely breaks apart and the couple quickly enters the house.
My vision then shifts to the basement. Tara is under the stairs holding immolation elixirs. She’s cornered, wearing a bathrobe and up against three. The clock on the wall reads 10:24.
Without warning, the vision vanishes and I’m staring at equations. I look around and see no one is the wiser, but I need to record what I saw. The information in my visions is crucial to keeping my sisters safe and doing our job as Milunfran witches.
This is only a possible future, but it’s churning my stomach. I always get a sense of foreboding when a vision is of my sisters being attacked. Strange that it’s in our home. They must be daring creatures.
I pull a journal—kept there for exactly this reason—out of my pack and the details spill out.
Daytime, five creatures, all look human, Mrs. Wong’s Friday flowers being delivered next door, two in van, three break into the house, protective enchantments fail, Tara in bathrobe and wet hair, hiding under basement stairs with immolation elixirs, clock in basement reads 10:24.
I check my phone. The current time terrifies me.
The flowers come on Friday… Tara is in a robe with wet hair, fresh out of a shower, probably washing off our clubbing from last night…last night.
As I bolt from the lecture hall, my hands shakily dial Tara. No answer. I leave a voicemail to get out of the house now, and then I dial Cora. She’s in class, so it goes to voicemail as well. Running toward our car, I call her again. This time she answers, but I cut her off before she can speak.
“Tara is in trouble and there’s no answer on her end. She’s going to be pinned in the basement against three human-looking creatures. The enchantments I put around the house won’t work. The flower truck is out front, this is happening in minutes!”
Cora whispers, “Meet me by the car.”
I redial Tara’s cell and the house phone, but there’s still no answer. She was in a bathrobe in the vision. Is she in the shower right now? If she can’t hear the phone ring, she’s a sitting duck.
Cora bursts from the double doors at full speed. A group of students don’t move away fast enough and she doesn’t even slow down as they’re slammed to the side. Their shouts of protest don’t even register on Cora’s face as she sprints to the car and unlocks it.
She drives in case I get another vision.
Cora dials Ann on speakerphone. Ann picks up on the second ring. Cora shouts, “Tara’s in trouble and headed toward the basement. We’re on our way there but she’s not picking up the phone. You need to warn her the enchantments don’t work on the attackers. They’ll be there in—” she looks at me.
I check my watch and reply, “In, like, three minutes.”
Cora honks the horn at the cars sauntering through the parking lot. “Get out of the way!”
“Drive on the sidewalk,” I say.
Cora slams on the gas and rolls us onto the curb. Horns of other cars blare while we bounce around the cab, our tires squealing down the city street.
Ann whispers into the phone, “I’m at the station, but I’ll go hide in a bathroom stall to stekie.” Her astral projection like blood power will be much faster than waiting for Tara to pick up the phone.
Cora asks, “What should I do if a cop tries to pull us over? You said she had immolation elixirs?” The fear in her voice indicates she has more than police on her mind.
“Yes, but the vision cuts off. They must not have a power to mimic if she’s resorting to elixirs, but she can hold them off until we get there.”
An uneasy feeling creeps through my gut. When seconds count, the cops are just minutes away… We’re minutes away.
Over and over I dial and redial the house phone. Finally I hear a click. Someone picks up. Tara yells into the phone, “Whatever you’re selling, go away!”
“TARA, GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!”
“Where are they coming from?”
“The back and front door! We’re across town—I didn’t see anything until a few minutes ago.”
There’s a rustling on the other end, and then the line goes silent. She needs stealth now, so I can’t call back. Visions are never this close to the event; what was I supposed to do with ten minutes of warning?
Cora concentrates on not killing us at the speeds she’s driving. 10:24 comes and goes without a call from anyone. At 10:32 we screech around the last corner and Cora almost nails the brick retaining wall pulling into the driveway. The flower delivery truck is still next door, but our front door is wide open.
Running downstairs, the scene changes the uneasy feeling into panic. Ann’s stekie stands over a pile of ash…and Tara’s nowhere in sight.
Ann bites her lip. “She burned one of them, but they knew where she was. They even knew her name.”
Squatting down, I pick up a
Cora says, “Ann, come home, we have work to do.”
Cora calls our Samanos, Sarah, and reports what we know. Sarah is on the next flight from Ontario. I prepare a scrying bowl and two elixirs, one with the ash and another with Tara’s blood. Either should give us a location, but there are five hostiles. If enchantments don’t work on them, we must carefully make a banishment elixir that will. Ann says they called Tara “Lady Taralie,” which means they came for her in particular. If they have any offensive powers, they’re really stupid to take her, but she was holding elixirs in my vision. I don’t think they had anything she could use.
I pour the elixir with Tara’s blood into the scrying bowl, dip in the lead crystal on a string, then hover the crystal over a map. Something’s wrong; the crystal just hangs. She’s only been gone for under an hour. I won’t even consider the possibility she’s dead.
Ann is on the phone, calling in a favor from a friend at the police station, giving as little information as possible. It’s not like we can show them a pile of ash and say “This is what happens when you torch mythical creatures with an elixir.”
Ann asks, “Aggie, what’s the plate number on the blue van?”
“It didn’t have any. It was old and beat-up–looking.”
Her face falls, but eyes widen when she looks at the non-functioning scrying crystal. “Yeah, I have to go. Call me if you hear anything.”
Cora comes up from the basement with a sandwich baggie. “Do you need more ash?”
Ann prepares a fresh scrying bowl while I pry the top off the bottle of ash elixir. After I repeat the scrying process, the crystal again refuses to move.
Dropping the crystal on the map, I scrub my face. “I don’t get it. I can’t find Tara or the kidnappers.”
Ann sits on the couch across the coffee table from me. “Before they took her, they said they didn’t mean her any harm.”
Cora scoffs from the archway. “Funny way of showing it.”
Ann shakes her head. “They said she was going to free them, they were really polite. I don’t think they’re going to kill her.”
Cora says, “Yeah, but for how long? It’s not like she’s going to enlist with kidnappers.”
Ann scrubs her face. “If I had just seen inside that van, I could stekie there. They left so fast, it was hard to see them.”
Cora suggests, “Telepathy bridge elixir?”
I point to the crystal lying useless on the map. “A blood scrying just failed. Telepathy only works in a certain range.”
Ann says, “Different dimension? It’d explain why the scrying didn’t work.”
There’s really no way we can check for that. The room falls silent. Tara would have an idea of what to do. She always has an idea.
“Why didn’t I get a vision in time to save her? Why can’t I see her?”
Cora pulls an elixir vial from her back pocket and holds it out towards me. “There’s another way to see her.”
My stomach rolls at the sight of it. There is only one concoction with that dark green color. “You want me to force a vision? That’s only ever worked once.”
Cora places the vial on the map in front of me. “You only ever tried it once.”
“That’s because it’s poison and I have to vomit before it kills me!”
“If you have another way to find her, I’m all ears, but Sarah won’t be here for another six hours.”
Ann says, “If you’re gonna do it, do it before she gets here. There’s less griping that way.”
Forcing the bile down my throat, I snatch the vial from the table. Ann fetches a mixing bowl for me to wretch into. It’s nearly impossible to calm myself down when the picture of Tara cornered in the basement wearing a bathrobe is burned into the back of my eyelids.
Sitting cross-legged in front of the coffee table, I adjust the mixing bowl in my lap. Cora pries the stopper off the small bottle and I slam it like a 5-hour Energy. Horrible nausea washes over me as the poison settles in my gut. It takes all my concentration to keep it there, but water is my element and bodies have plenty of it. I will the elemental energy flowing through me to encase the elixir as much as it can, but that only buys me seconds.
The reaction of the elixir is so violent it attracts a massive amount of energy and forces my prescience into action.
My vision changes to the inside of a moving van. Tara is being held like a child by the man I saw in the basement. She’s convulsing, very pale, blindfolded; her mouth is taped shut, and her wrists are bound. Golden liquid is smeared on her chin and staining the neck of her robe. As much as I want to tell her we’re coming for her, she can’t see me. This is the future.
The creature who was crouching in the front passenger’s seat now slumps against another one of the intruders. He appears fatigued or injured.
When I look through the metal gate separating the cargo and cabin, the only thing visible is forest on either side of a two-lane road. There are no street signs, but there are power lines, which means this isn’t terribly remote. Without any markers, there’s no way to see where the van is heading.
They’re still moving, so I can wait this vision out until they pass something useful.
Tara continues to writhe and whimper. A kilometer of road passes with nothing but potholes. Then the vision begins to slow. The poison elixir is getting to me. It’s beginning to seep into my blood, having defeated my body’s attempt to encase it. The van is turning, and I see what could be a road sign up ahead, but everything is blurry and fading.
Distant screaming echoes in my ears. “Aggie, you’re out of time!”
“Just a little longer.”
Ann’s voice replies. “She’s slurring.”
A slapping noise cracks and my face burns. Lurching forward, I vomit into the mixing bowl. A combination of stomach acid and elixir replaces Tara’s cage in my sight as I continue to heave. After ridding myself of the elixir, I slump to the floor. Ann wipes sweat from my forehead while Cora disposes of the bowl’s contents.
Ann helps me to the couch; I’m too weak to get there myself. Tara probably would have been able to hold out longer. She’s made of steel.
I shiver and ask, “Now what? There was nothing useful in the vision.”
No one has an answer for me.
This horrible sense of foreboding won’t go away. After picking up a replacement doorknob, Ann makes me some raspberry tea, trying to get my stomach to settle down. Cora is fetching Sarah from the airport. With any luck she’ll beat evening rush hour.
There’s no way I can force another vision; I wouldn’t survive it. Ann and I try to make a list of potential creatures. They look human, though, so that rules out most of the usual suspects.
Ann asks, “What about Furies? They look human and have the speed we saw.”
I answer, “Furies are only women. Three men are involved with this. Well, two now.”
“When Tara cast the immolation spell, he lit up really fast. Not just his clothes; the whole body turned to ash. What does that?”
If only I had some of their blood, a banishment elixir would be easy. “Perhaps it’s intentionally designed to destroy their remnants. Like a kind of supernatural self-destruct.”
Ann asks, “Who needs a witch to free them?”
I have no idea.
By the time we get the front lock repaired, Ann phone buzzes with a text from Cora, who is still driving “1 min out.”
A quick sweep through the living room removes all evidence of vision-forcing. Sarah is old, rigid, and she thinks us halflings are inferior. In her mind we’ll screw up if she’s not guiding our every move.
She pronounces griping wrong.
The Yukon bounces, squeaks, and lurches into the driveway. We can thank Cora for Sarah’s incoming “shaken, not stirred” mood. She, not Cora, opens the fron
“How long has Taralie been gone?”
My twin is staring daggers at our link to the Twelve. Sarah is lucky Samanos-cide isn’t Cora’s pressing desire at the moment.
Ann scurries to take her coat. Cora says, “Thank you for your heartfelt sympathy concerning the abduction of our sister.”
Sarah shakes out of her bulky coat. “Sympathy will not get your coven leader back. Augusta, anything new?”
It burns that she’s right.
“Only her in a van bound and gagged. No location references to go by. She’s been gone almost nine hours.”
Sarah glances at the scrying crystal on the table and nods. “Have you received any ransom demands?”
I ask, “Err, how would that work? It’s not like Furies leave a note with their Gorgon asking for a few meals in return for Tara.”
“They would know where to find the Twelve.”
What do the Twelve have to do with this?
Cora replies, “So they would, but we don’t?”
“Halflings cannot be trusted with that knowledge.”
Cora’s hands ball into fists. Does Sarah even know how close she is to an injury-induced hip replacement?
“Sarah,” I reply, “we know how you feel about us being bastard halflings, but can you please, for the sake of a Milunfran coven leader, get a handle on your contempt? Sympathy won’t get our coven leader back, but neither will rude comments.”
She makes that face some people do when they’re out of Metamucil, but she nods and sits down on the couch.
Ann says, “When I stekied into the basement, they said Tara was going to free them. Do you know of any race being enslaved by another who would think a Milunfran witch would help them?”
Sarah replies, “We do get requests for protection. Non-aggressive creatures like muses, nymphs, faeries, but they would never kidnap a witch to make a point.”
Cora grumbles, “Why don’t we ever get those easy assignments?”
“Halfling… Other covens are not as…combat-capable as you are.”
Cora rolls her eyes and mouths to me silently, “Expendable.”
Ann asks, “Do you have any idea what took her?”
“Where is the ash Coralia told me about?”
Cora hands her the bag and she takes a pinch, smells it, and rolls it between her fingers. “It doesn’t smell familiar. Show me the scene.”
Everyone moves downstairs, stepping over the busted door. Sarah clings to the railing, her age showing as she makes her way down the stairs. She bends over, slowly brushes some ash away with her fingers, and scratches at the burn marks on the linoleum floor.
She asks Ann, “How long did it take him to burn after the immolation elixir?”
“Not long, only seconds.”
“Failed banishment,” she says.
I ask, “How do you know?”
“Intensity of the fire. The burn marks on the floor are deep but not wide. It had to be a hot fire to cause them, much hotter than an immolation elixir is capable of on its own and Taralie doesn't have the power for a banishment on her own.”
There’s nothing more in the basement for Sarah to inspect, so we pick up the remaining immolation elixirs and head upstairs. We’re all tired, so Cora makes nocturnal
Discordia - Short Stories from The Golden Apple of Discord by Lauren Hodge / Fantasy have rating 3.1 out of 5 / Based on34 votes