Hail Forever

Hail Forever 1 of 10

Corey stared at the screen in awe. Computers weren’t exactly new but their immediate resonance, their infiltration, and their subsequent social imperativeness scared him. Never in his many years had Corey seen anything so completely and quickly, change and alter the way humans communicate and behave. And this is compared to a plague or two. As if, the population on Earth had simply been waiting for the invention. The automobile was more scoffed at than these glowing squares. And now? Online banking?

The daily bread of humans, simply 0’s an 1’s shuffled through an interface? The idea appalled him. Disgusted him. Intrigued him. But Corey hadn’t survived so long without being adaptable. He could adapt to this. (He sure as Hades wasn’t giving up his secret strong box hidden in the Baltic filled with gems and gold but he would play along and see….) And this morning, with no trauma to treat, Corey was getting a “desperately needed upgrade” or so said Regency the super nerd.

“Type your password.” Regency turned his head away.
“You don’t have to look away,” Corey laughed, “My pass word is…”
“AHHHHH!” Regency screamed, “NEVER GIVE YOUR PASSWORD TO ANYONE!!!! Not even me! What if money went missing? I’d be the first person you’d ask?”
“I wouldn’t ask you, “ Corey explained confidently, “I’d put a truth spell on you and, if you did it, force you to comply and put the money back.”

“Yes,” Regency could not believe how short sided some people were, “BUT what if they overheard you telling me the password? Then how would you find them to put a spell on them?”
“Who is them?”
“THEM the always listening and watching them. We are never alone anymore Corey. They know every site you go to. Don’t give them more than they already have.”
“They know every site we go to?” Corey played.
“Yea.”
“Then they know how much porn you watch!?! Cause I gotta tell you, I went to your history the other day and you have some serious…”
“YOU WENT TO MY HISTORY!” Regency exploded! “That’s sacred space bitch! Never go to someone’s history!”

“Oh sorry.” Corey got sheepish, “I was looking for that site on ancient swords you showed me. I didn’t mean to offend? Sorry?”
“We’re just going to move on like you didn’t betray me cause then I’d have to kill you!” Regency huffed and forgave.
After a beat Corey asked cautiously, “So what exactly is plushy?”
“Not hearing you,” Regency blushed, “….google it.”

Corey typed in his password and a new screen popped up, “let me guess. I press the ‘send cash to someone’ button.”
“Yes,” Regency hated incorrect vernacular, “but click the tab please.”
“Ooppps I will commit that to memory,” Corey used bad Scotty voice, “Computer click da tab dammit! Aye Aye!”

Regency blushed and cleared his soon-to-be-dry mouth, “You just made a Star Trek joke. A bad one. But you made it and got the character right!”
“I adapt well.” Corey laughed, “Have I become a nerb?”
“Nerd.” Regency corrected, “almost…”
“Well you were bound to rub off on me.” Corey clicked on the computer and entered a number, “Is that what you want?”
“umm what?” Regency stared at Corey.
“The amount?”
Regency looked at the screen, “Oh! Yea! Cool did you add more?”
“A bit.” Core smiled, “I think being frozen by evil fog and having your ass handed to you by Gubbers gave some wiggle room for a bonus. If you can call this a bonus. I mean, imaginary money? Don’t get me wrong, barter wasn’t as hippie as everyone thinks. But no actual thing or object to represent your work effort…..Sorry. But yes, you deserved more imaginary money. Nicely done kid. ”
“Thanks Corey.” Regency was touched but also reminded of his place as Corey’s assistant. The bonus was bittersweet. Like so much.
“It’s nice to able to make someone happy. At least I got this part right.” Corey half laughed at a reference he knew Regency didn’t know.

An awkward silence fell. Just for a moment. Two men tossed into the throws of brain waves figuring, recalculating and speculating. What to say. If it should be said. How. Regency broke the silence while treading on unfamiliar ground, “Sorry. …sorry about Danny.”

“Oh,” Corey was caught, “I didn’t know you…Madame told you? Figures.”
“She was worried,” Regency lied and made note to kill Madame for not telling him!
“Well thank you for concern.” Now Corey lied, “it’s no biggie. I fell, after swearing I wouldn’t, fell harder, Danny un-fell or stopped himself….or…grew wings WOW this metaphor blows!” Corey laughed.
Regency comforted, “it still sucks. Still hurts.”

“Yes. Yes it does.” Corey added in his head, “You’d think at my age I’d be over it all. Like it’d be easier or not so….”
“Fall-y?” Regency added in Regency-ese.
“Yea. So fall-y. Aren’t I supposed to be too old for this shit or something?” Corey tried to keep laughing then added, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I wasn’t exactly keeping it from you…”

Regency hated the friend speech. So he beat Corey to the punch with a much easier we work together speech, “Hey. I get it. I work for you. Your private life is that. Private. Like my histories. I’m an assistant or apprentice or whatever the hell this freak show is. Low dude on the totem pole. I would never pry or over step my…role.”

“REGENCY!” Corey was wide-eyed, “how can you say that? I know we haven’t known each other very long, and you’re still new to the game, but I think you’re amazing.” Corey moved in really close to deliver, “I care about you Philip. A lot.”

Regency lost the ability to breathe. Every first kiss from every movie ever played through his mind. ‘Relax. Slightly open your mouth and close your eyes. He’ll do the rest.’ Regency commanded his body.

Regency jumped up off the couch. “Thanks. I appreciate that!” Regency crossed the room in a single bound. There was no way he was going to be Rebound Regency! Uh-uh. No way Jose. Not going to happen. Sure he’d almost kissed Corey but that would have been a comforting and concerned kiss not a Corey-Regency kiss which would be about Regency not about Corey not thinking about this Danny and using Regency. NO! All or nothing. Or so he thought…damn did he just miss an opportunity? It came a knocking and he ran! ‘What the hell!’

“Sorry.” Corey added to the silence, “Was that too corny? I know concern is looked down upon in this day and age.”
“No no. It was sweet Corey thank you.” Regency realized Corey hadn’t said anything because he knew how Regency felt. Corey knew, so surely he had opened a door, or rather his lips, to seal the deal that they were destined for each other and Regency fled. ‘OMG’ Regency thought, ‘Corey just tried to kiss me and I ran! Hell to the no!’ Regency took matters into his own hands, literally. He sat back down on the couch, almost on top of Corey. He ignored Corey stiffening his back in surprise. Regency held Corey’s face in his hands, “Why then didn’t you tell me.”

Corey met his gaze and then his eyes fell in defeat, ‘because Reg…I thought you’d make fun of me…..”
“Make fun?” Regency had been wrong again and worse. Corey thought him insensitive and mean. “Why would I make fun of you?”

“Regency you kind of make fun of everything.” Corey laughed, “It’s what I love about you. But Danny was new turf, or renewed turf, and I was insecure. Also I’m a lot older than him. Which doesn’t say much cause I’m older than almost anyone you know, but I thought you’d think I was having a mid life crisis dating a 30 year old….what?” Corey couldn’t read Regency gigantic smile.

Regency had heard it. Corey loved him. Corey loved him. It made him smile. Wide. ‘Say something back’ Regency thought, ‘tell him you love him too.’ Regency’s mouths curled around the whisper that would change everything……”I……

BAM! BAM! BAM!

The room shuddered and shook like a wrecking ball was beating at it from all directions! Corey pushed Regency off of him and jumped up ready to do….something, when a voice cried out in their heads “WITCH! Take down your guard and ward!”

Hail Forever 2 of 10

BAM! BAM! BAM!

The banging seemed impossibly louder. “REGENCY! DOWN!” Corey shouted. Regency fell to the ground wishing it were a trench. Corey held his hands in the air and then moved them counterclockwise and said something in a language that seemed to lack vowels.

BAM! BAM! BAM!

“GIVE ME A SECOND!” Corey yelled. Something must be really wrong or he would have had warning. He had to clear his mind, which is difficult when someone’s banging on the inside of your head. Corey took a giant breath. Held it. Saw the locks and knots of his guard and ward and, again, moved his hands counterclockwise and said “unlock to this knock granite un-rock and magick un-block. Doors to air. Drafts made fair. Keys remember the Earth. Guardians know your worth.” Then he fell to the ground on his knees in submission. Head bowed. Palms up.

That single act terrified Regency more than any monster, ghost or ghoul he had faced. Something was coming. Something more powerful than Corey. Corey looked slightly terrified as he caught Regency’s eye. Regency knew the look meant ‘shut up and bow stupid’ so Regency copied Corey’s position. Well, kind of. Corey did yoga.

Light filled the already bright room of Corey’s loft. A sound or noise, that was almost musical played, or created, or occurred at which Corey tensed while Regency cried at how lovely it sounded or made him feel. Then silence.

“Hail Forever!” said a strong male voice.
“Forever Hail!” returned Corey.
“Your guard and ward has strengthened. Well done,” continued the slow somber voice.
“Much thanks, gratitude and respect master of all three,” Corey choked. Regency’s tearful enjoyment at magical sounds of world’s barriers tearing was replaced by awe. This was some obi wan. Master of all three! WTF! Regency wanted to look at this guy but knew better. He would stand when told to. ‘I’m so a padawan!’ Regency smiled in spite of his fear.

“Stand and greet me as mortals do and we once did” the voice seemed less angry. Corey took a deep breath and stood up. Regency watched him against his better judgment. The way two people meet says everything about their power over one another. Regency had to see this.

“Greetings and merriment Sebastian.” Corey wasn’t sure how formal to be. Or how intimate. He wanted Sebastian to set the rules but Sebastian said greet him as ‘we once did’ which could mean almost anything. First Corey made himself smile. ‘Don’t look guilty or afraid.’ Corey told himself. Then he laughed aloud, “as we once did? I say thrice: meet with dagger, tongues or shield?”
“You suspect and court? Hmmm…. I see your guard is not just around your home but your heart as well.” Sebastian knew he was toying with Corey. You could just tell.
“Forgive again and always. Your entrance bodes difficulty and I do not yet know if that difficulty is mine or for another. Again I seek to greet you in a manner in accord with your purpose so as not to disrespect you or your authority.”
‘OH SNAP!’ regency thought, ‘Corey is GOOOOOOD!’
“Your respect for the Hail Forever…” Sebastian toyed again.
“Forever Hail and for you.”

Sebastian smiled, “I do come in haste but too in love Coriander.”
“Then receive my love.” And Corey went up and kissed him. Like really kissed him. Not quite French kissing in the USA but definitely a pda and maybe rounding first base.

“Well received brother” Sebastian held Corey in his arms, “I’ve missed you. I would have sent word but I didn’t expect such… resistance and the matter is grave.”
“Well greeted. Your judgment, as always, is honored in my house and heart.” Corey was still stiff backing it.
“Always?” Sebastian raised an eyebrow.
“Well…always, when you’re not trying to kill me?” Corey shrugged child-like. There followed a slight pause as the unasked question loomed. Was Sebastian here to kill Corey?

Finally Sebastian laughed. Corey joined and the formalities seemed to fall away. Any onlooker would have thought these were just old friends. One of whom worked at a renaissance faire. Corey was wearing sweat pants and ripped tank looking very every day Americana, at least the exercising kind (Cali-American). Sebastian however looked odd.

Later, much later, Regency would describe the man like this: So like “bang bang bang witch take down your guard and wards and stuff!” And Corey’s like down Regency and bows. Bright light magical harp like entrance music. No grrrl this guy made an entrance like Diana Ross. Well Diana Ross at Medieval Times Jousting Festival! He had a freaking sword on his belt! In his defense it was a really pretty sword. Bitch had flair I have to give him that! He’s in full garb. Flowing robes and chain freakin’ mail! It was like Diana Ross meets Gandalf meets Joan of Arc at Hogwarts but not in a good way. Except he’s hot. Like Disney Prince hot. Except being black. Does Disney have a black Prince? A real one? I said Diana Ross! But black as in black not as in African American. Like his skin glowed black and aubergine and coffee all swirling like…it was intense. He was intense. Oh and an asshole. A completely hot asshole.

When the men stopped laughing Corey added, “it’s good to see you.”
“You as well” Sebastian seemed truly pleased, “I’ve been too long on the Hail Forever.”
“Forever Hail.” Smiled Corey.
‘Wow that’s going to get annoying” thought Regency.

“Are we speaking English?” Sebastian’s face scowled.
“Yea…I mean yes. It makes my life easier.” Corey apologized.
“It’s so limiting.” Sebastian was about to speak in another language. You could just tell.
“I live in America now, “ Corey stood firm. Adaptation was hard work. “And it would be rude in front of Regency. Regency this is Sebastian. Sebastian may I present….”
“Please dismiss your concubine. Business presses.’ Sebastian cut him off.
“CONCUBINE!” Regency couldn’t believe he said that! ‘I must be having a great hair day!’ he thought.
“He’s not my concubine.” Cory corrected.
“Oh good,” Sebastian seemed relieved, “I thought maybe your taste or finances had dwindled.”
“Excuse me bitch?” Regency was not taking crap from some ren-faire wanna-be no matter how much fairy dust he sprinkled.
“He didn’t mean to be rude..” Corey made excuses, “the translation is kind of off putting.”
“Did I offend?” Sebastian seemed to know very well he had offended. You just knew.
“None taken” Regency took the high road. Then didn’t, “Frodo says you don’t know any better.”

“Regency! I think maybe you should go.” Corey came between the two men. “We’re going to catch up and…stuff”
“Ewww you’re going to bang him! HIM?! I mean he’s hot but Corey, he’s wearing a dress! Nice sword. Couldn’t find a clutch?” Regency dug.

“Am I to take twaddle from this fop?” Sebastian angered.
“NO!” Corey started to panic. “Guys! You’re both my friends. Ok? Sebastian. Regency is my assistant. He helps me adjust to modern times. He’s very important to me. I beseech you: Treat him as you would any representative of me. As he is an extension of my will.”
“Really?” Sebastian laughed.
“Now you’re staring to offend me in my home.” Corey squared off.
“Forgive.” Sebastian backed down immediately. Some ritual had been breached. A code of etiquette crossed. A line blurred. “A thousand pardons to you and yours Coriander. It was not my intent but this business I represent is harsh and immediate. If it gave heat to my words I am abundant in sorrow. And to you sir, I never meant to injure the servant of my host.”
“Servant?” Regency’s eye browns reached Olympian heights.
Sebastian sought a new word, “Slave?”

Corey whipped around to Regency, “Regency let it go. Please. This is a road you do not understand. For me? I’ll call you later.” Corey whispered, “and no I’m not going to bang with him…unless I have to”
“Have to?” Regency’s mouth dropped.
“Later? Please?” Corey begged. Regency brought it back a notch. For Corey.

“I’m sorry if we got off on the wrong foot. Welcome to America.” Regency stood erect, “I have to go now have sex with really hot guys. A lot of them. This fop is popular. You’ll know why as I walk away.” And with that Regency strutted out of the loft and got on Scruff.

Hail Forever 3 of 10

“What.” Demilla barked as she answered her cell.
“What a charming phone manner you have!” Corey mocked, “I must be calling Fancy Hotels Unlimited with 5 stars of customer service!”
“I’m about to give you 5 of something…” Demilla laughed, “Sorry. Tired.”
“You’re just waking up? Slacker cop!” Corey continued to play.
“No stupid up all night and before you start the porn music I was at a stakeout. Not sexy at all.” Demilla yawned.
“Well wake up. You’re back on the clock.” Corey got serious.
“SHIT!” Demilla knew Corey’s voice, “hold please…”

Corey heard Demilla put down her cell phone, cross the station, kick something metal, pour coffee into a cup, and walk back. She gulped hot coffee down like junkie finding a needle in the sewer. She growled as the burn went down her throat. “I’m up.”

Corey knew better than to laugh, “I have a lead…I think…”
“I just chugged black fire you better not think, know please.” She chided.
“Ok,” Corey didn’t mean to pause for dramatic effect but he wasn’t sure how she’d take this, “…on the Barnes case.”

“BARNES!” She gulped, barked and coughed al at once, “Are you shitting me? The Malibu Molester? Ahh I can’t believe I used that term. I hate the press!”
“I thought he was the Butcher of the Bluffs…”
“NO!” Demilla’s phone hand clenched, “he doesn’t get a cute name, or a title, we’re not going to honorific that bastard scum!”

Malibu, and the surrounding areas, had been plagued for the last 2 years by Barnes. He killed dozens of kids in horrible ways. Those were the lucky ones. The others, the ones that lived, were scarred mentally and physically. This guy was sick. Cruel. The kind hippies would burn and Mother Teresa roast marshmallows. Scum would have been offended by Demilla’s comparison.

The Feds, cops, some of the press, knew who he was. Heck, they found his home and cell phone. But never him. Just when you thought you might have a day when you didn’t think about what he did, or hoped he died, or maybe it was over, he’d strike. Like some horrific game where no one won.

The case was out of Demilla’s jurisdiction but all of LA and California were “eyes open.” Any lead would be followed. Corey had better be right. Demilla didn’t need or want the glory. She wanted this perp dead. That might be “wrong” for a detective to say but any human being would agree.

“Ok. Calm voice.” Demilla hushed and shut her door. “What do you know.”
“Turns out Barnes is a sorcerer of sorts,” He knew on one in LAPD but Demilla would have believed that. “These acts have been magical in nature. Like a feeding.”
“What is it with you guys and feeding on pain!” Demilla burst out.
“Hey I don’t feed on pain! And hello got a mirror you’re a witch too! Magical creature person!” Corey would not be associated with anything like Barnes. “Don’t you compare him to me!”

“Sorry.” Demilla checked her anger, “this guy gets me Corey. Have you seen the pics? Sorry just tell me what you know. I’ll shut up.”

Corey explained: It seems Barnes had been pulling evil double agent between worlds, which explains why no one could find him. When chsed he’d jump planes of existence. The horrible acts he had committed here had been even worse on other worlds. He was wanted by many forces not just LAPD. Wanted so badly, that deals had been made and magick forged. The Guardians of the Hail Forever had tracked him through worlds and now back to LA. The sorcerer was cornered.

“A tracking stone?” Demilla was confused. “I never heard..”
“They’re extremely rare and difficult to manage. I’ve never seen one either. It took some folks a lot more powerful than me to make this thing.” Corey looked at the small, everyday-looking rock sitting on his counter. It was hard to believe something so unimposing could be an incredibly powerful construct.
“Let’s track this animal. I can have SWAT and FBI all over it…wait…I can’t tell anyone can I?” Demilla knew the answer before Corey said no. Magick was for magick users. The normal people of this plane didn’t believe in it. And if they found this stone worked they would turn it around to say Corey had known all along and was probably complicit somehow. “Damn.”

“Not a great idea. But trust me when I say justice will be served.” Corey gulped.
“So why are you calling me? Just toying with me? Nothing better to do?” Demilla was getting riled again.
“I need his DNA.” Corey paused.

“Oh ok,” Demilla sarcasm was epic, “I’ll just mosey on over to the federal building, talk my way into the crime lab, tamper with evidence, and ahhh..I don’t know have sex with all the Lakers and then dance at strip club! Oh, I think my stripper name might be Areya…Are ya fucking kidding me?!?!?!?!””

“All the Lakers?” Corey knew this wasn’t going to be easy, “Way to over achieve.”
“Corey. I want this scumbag as much if not more than you do. But no way in HELL are we getting DNA!” Demilla was firm.
“You said you had tons of DNA on Barnes!” Corey corrected.
Demilla paused then explained, “that’s a relative term. We’re talking about DNA atoms and shit. A millimeter of pubic hair is tons of DNA!”
“I need less than a millimeter!” Corey begged.

“I’m going to go out on a ledge and assume you knew this would be my answer, and so I assume you have some sort of plan that doesn’t get me fired or Barnes out on a technical” Demilla waited.

“I just thought you could go over to the evidence lockers and say you had to see something and steal a piece…?” Sheepish does not begin to describe Corey’s voice.

“I refuse to believe a friend of mine is that stupid.” Demilla huffed.
“Well…I was could cast ‘unnoticed’ on you?”
Pause.
“I could cast unnoticed and comply?”
Pause.
“Unnoticed, comply and you could wear something low cut?”
Pause.
“Guys, well most guys, like when a woman wear s something low cut. You got it might as well display it?” Corey noticed Demilla found none of this funny. “Or I could just go in with magick a blaze and steal stuff….”

Demilla un-paused “display…Oh right…maybe..”
“What! You have something low cut?”

“Shut up. You know the DNA re-opening surge that has every lawyer in LA, well America, working doubles?” Demilla’s brain raced.
“Kind of..” Corey didn’t really follow laws let alone lawmakers.

“Well there was a whole…display…exhibit I guess the word is. They showed all these samples to a bunch of politicians and the like to make cases and prove points. They had, like petri dishes but square, containers of various DNA on display for effect, you know shock and awe…I guess…One of them has to be Barnes. I would use a killer at large that offends and terrifies the soul of every decent person to sway minds….They’ll still be at Holtz….”

“Who’s Holtz? Is he cool? Can we bribe him?” Corey grasped at hope.

“The Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center named for the first female lawyer on the West Coast?” Demilla said proudly even though she had only recently stopped to read the placard at county court. “It’ll be an easy swipe AND not tampering with evidence as it’s been on display…kind of…grey area.”

“So need any spells cast? Not that you can’t do it…kind of…Or to borrow a low cut blouse? I looked awesome last Halloween!” Corey laughed.
“You looked like a misogynist. Hooker dress no. Spells yes. You do it. Yours are better. Load me up.” Demilla hung up and sat lotus in the center of her office. In moments the magickal buzzing started to buzz.

Demilla relaxed as the feelings and colors came into her mind’s eyes. She knew she was about to go deep and loose consciousness for a minute. When she came back she’d have 3-4 hours to work spell enhanced. Just before she went out she sent a thought back to Corey, “If you try that boob enhancement spell I’ll kick your butt to where no tracking stone can find it.” The last thing she heard was Corey gulping. She passed out with a grin.

Hail Forever 4 of 10

Corey knew it would take Demilla most of the afternoon to get all stealthy and stolen with the DNA. He tried to play host but Sebastian was a truly annoying houseguest. He drilled him with questions, really really personal questions, and then started to attack and dismantle how Corey did everything. It was like Super-Mean-Mother come to berate every choice her son did and did not make. Including why Corey was single. Seriously.

Corey played along and hummed and hawed like a child and answered in round about ways, which just made him seem weaker and more child-like. This in turn made Sebastian more inquisitive and suspecting.

The problem, of course, is a matter of authority. Who is in charge and when? The answer is not an easy one. At one time Sebastian had been Corey’s mentor. At another Corey’s captor. At another Corey’s lover. And once Corey saved his ass. But now Sebastian not only belonged to the Hail Forever but was an elite guard. A guard which had no control over Corey but was to be respected. Corey did respect the guard and the Hail Forever and even Sebastian, basically, so what was the drill? Was it simply an overly inquisitive friend? Was it the presence of the almost divine in his apartment? That must be unnerving. If an angel sashayed into your abode and prattled on about heaven it might very well be unnerving. But Corey is Corey and The Hail Forever did not, should not intimidate him. He’d even applied once or twice in his youth. It always sounded so peaceful. Perfect. Lovely. Protected by guards, but still peaceful. Unfortunately, Corey had been turned down flat. Repeatedly. Did that make him so panicked? Jealous?

Corey knew the drill and spells and power as well, if not better, than most of the guard. What was different? Was it he? In this very urban American life-style had he changed? Had the republic rubbed off? The notion of all persons being equal actually meant something to him? He certainly he no longer bent knee every other minute to some noble or important person via someone else’s importance. The politics of court seem silly so removed in DTLA. The constant ranking and classifying and favor-granting is exhausting. Here in LA there was authority, sure, but no one was better than anyone else. Even criminals had rights and rules. Could Corey turn around and tell Sebastian off? He guessed he could but the thought made him nauseous. Like a fundamental opposition to his nature or a dismissal to all he had ever been. It was making him sick.

Goddess of Luck be praised, Corey’s cupboards were bare. (Actually luck had nothing to do with it, he’d been really busy and eating out a lot, but sometimes you have to thank the divine anyway. It makes you feel better.) Corey had persuaded Sebastian to hang out, then explained what “hang out” meant, and then went out to grab some grub and a bottle of descent wine….or five.

Corey wasn’t too worried about Sebastian snooping. He didn’t have a lot of secrets. Well, secrets lying about his apartment anyway. He doubted Sebastian knew how to turn on a computer let alone search his histories. ‘Let him’ thought Corey, ‘maybe he’ll toss off and re-to-the-lax as Regency would say! Oh Regency.’ Corey felt bad about that. He would make it up to him. Corey grabbed an extra bottle of wine for the kid.

Instead of being concerned with what was in the apartment, Corey should have been more concerned with what was arriving. Sebastian was sitting, half meditating half daydreaming, looking out of Corey’s large windows. Sebastian was always in awe at the sheer size of modern cities. LA was prettier than he remembered it. The door to the loft flung open and something entered!

“Corey??? COOOOREY??? Do you know your guard and ward is down? Not too wise. Anyone could just run in here and….”Madame stopped short of the man in the window, “hello?”

Madame stood as only Madame di Ogli could. Six feet and change crowned with a delicious, and enormous, purple wig. Today’s was a beehive complete with tiny bees. Her moo-moo puddled around her like a statue of pinks, crimsons, and violets. Her face was caked in make-up so severe you might look for a clown car. To say Madame is a drag queen would be like saying a banquet is a bowl of gruel. Her makeup was magickal as was the awesome power of this psychic two-spirit. In her mighty hand she loosely held a crooked wand.

“Hello.” Madame’s sweet voice flowed, “Are you a friend of Corey’s?” Madame thought quickly to hide the wand she was holding but then saw the sword on the robbed man and bowed her head. “Forgive me! I knew not to whom I spake sword bearer!” And with that Sebastian cast a spell on her.

Luckily, again not so much with the luck Madame had her wand out, she quickly, effortlessly, turned the spell to nothing, “Sir!?! I think you are mistaken. I am a friend or are you the foe?” Madame eyed the handsome man and tried to read him.

“Drop your weapon cow!” Sebastian hissed, “no guise of evil can stand against me! Submit and I will make your death quick!”
“Like hell!” Madame said some more words and her aura pulsed. “Where is Corey!” She mentally attacked the man to comply!
Sebastian dug his hands tight, clenched his teeth and then threw the spell to the window, which luckily was open. “Power. You have it. Not for long.” Sebastian threw a curse so vile it stank.

Madame coughed from the scent, but the wand of chaos she held was very powerful. She waved it thrice. The stank stenched, the curse collapsed.

“A fine wand witch,” Sebastian laughed, “I know it well. What corpse did you pry it from?”
“A gift from the long-living who dwells here. Your magick is strong but while I hold the Wand of Chaos no spell can hurt me.” Madame said with confidence.
“Then,” quietly spat Sebastian, “I will cut off your hand and let the wand fall.” He held out his sword on lighting speed.

Madame had barely seen a blur, ”Stand down!” She attempted to intimidate.
“No.” Sebastian ran forward to chop the wig from the torso.
Madame screamed and fell back.
Sebastian swung.
Corey spoke.
“No,” he whispered and Sebastian’s sword froze in mid-air. Sebastian tried to pry it or pull it. He hadn’t seen Corey come in and could not believe this creature-thing could stop his sword.

“You break the code of guest. You sword will not swing.” Corey said kindly. Setting down his grocery bag, “Now. What happened?”

Corey helped Madame to her feet as she said, “I came to return the Wand of Chaos and he attacked me. Your guard and ward is down and he attacked me!”
“Are you alright?” Corey’s concern was real. Corey gently took the wand from her.
“Yes dear,” Made straightened her wig, “Just a bit of pride…no worries. I’m glad you live.”
“Me too.”

Corey turned to see Sebastian still trying to free his mid-air-frozen sword. Corey smiled but not cruelly. “Sebastian this is my friend and co-worker Madame di Ogli…”
“You are deceived! So simple a guise has conjured you false! Coriander that is a man!” Sebastian yelled.
“Hey!” Madame snapped.
“I know,” Corey calmed.
“HEY!” Madame was angry now.
“Madame is a two-spirit. She is a very powerful..” Corey tried to explain.
“It. IT you mean!” Sebastian was furious, “Let my sword be, slave!”
“Oh no he didn’t” Madame normal amusement was long gone.
“Stand down Madame,” Corey walked over to Sebastian, “She is my friend you may not break the bounds of hospitality. I warn you. Take up the knife you will turn to strife.” Corey touched the sword and it fell back into control of Sebastian.

Corey touched Madame’s shoulder, “Madame this is Sebastian. He comes from the Hail Forever.”
“Forever Hail” Snapped Sebastian.
“Do you know what that….”
Madame interrupted, “Of course. I have many contacts from there. Most are usually very polite.”
“What naïve from the Hail Forever…
“Forever Hail” chimed in Corey out of reflex.
“…..would ever call on such as you?” Sebastian seethed.

Corey couldn’t understand Sebastian’s reaction. There were many two-spirits and multi-gender magickal creatures. Many thought of it as the first step into magick. He crossed the room kindly “Sebastian, what are you up to old friend? Why attack an innocent? Surely you have seen and even befriended many who’s path….”

“Do not trust them.” Sebastian was resolute. “Guise and glamour. Flattery and false. Yes false I call you!”
“I got an expression or two for you honey!” Madame had been in this quarrel before.
“Please deescalate. He won’t hurt you.” Corey hoped Madame would forgive him, “I need him right now.”
“Corey dear,” Madame laughed, “you don’t think this my first religious nutcase? Divine and devil tongued. Spiritual fascist? No dear. You know the stuff that makes me Madame!”

“Stuff?” laughed Sebastian, “nothing but toad droppings, yak spit and faerie farts! You’re nothing but a disgusting disguise to hide the nothing underneath!”

Corey wanted to kill Sebastian for that. The thoughts flittered through his teeth. His hands flexed and flickered with power. His mind ran the spells and ready to use them all….he inhaled and….

“No.” Madame put her hand on Corey’s arm. “No. Not in my name.”
Corey turned and caught her eye. He suddenly felt ashamed. Not for protecting a friend but for thinking violence in the name of love. It’s a difficult concept. Madame’s path was her own. She’d destroy a beast who tried to wound but would never lower herself to fight hatred with violence. That was her path.

“I’m sorry.” Corey relaxed. “I just wanted to…”
“I know. And it makes you dearer to me. But his prejudice is served by contempt.” Madame smiled, “do you need my help Corey?” And just like that Madame dropped all anger and fear away. Simply discarded. She had seen this too often to take any stock in it. Zealots are zealots and little could be done to sway. It was not cowardice but the very opposite. She would fight by being happy. More than once she had fought beside a hater and watched them question their resolve. So she would do now.

“No Madame I do not.” Corey smiled back, “your honor is dearer to me too. I apologize for my dim witted friend.”
“How dare you!” Sebastian fumed to the side completely ignored. Realizing no one was listening, Sebastian took a deep breath and sat.

“I need him for tracking spell in the Barnes case.” Corey confided.
“Barnes case? Oh my.” Madame gasped.
“Otherwise I’d…”
“Brother! Time presses.” Sebastian snapped. “Are you done with…..this…your friend?”
“Yes BROTHER. Your kindness and compassion overwhelm me. Have a bit of wine while we wait for the call to commence!” Corey bent down and threw the bottle to Sebastian, “Opener is in the kitchen. Drawer right of the sink.” Sebastian huffed out and into the kitchen area.

“I am sorry.” Corey smiled too tightlipped at Madame.

She laughed, threw back her head and said in a slightly raised voice, “in the road of righteous battles, sometime we must use power to win….and other times we must use assholes. Gods bless and protect. Both of you. Corey and the asshole.” And she sauntered out of the loft laughing.

Hail Forever 5 of 10

Demilla had a headache. Spells do that. Dizziness, sometimes a nice buzz, but usually headaches. For someone at Corey’s level the headaches would be minimal if any at all. Maybe like a dull reminder or an exhausted frontal lobe, but for Demilla: OW. She wasn’t some newbie witch, in fact she could hold her own against people of power, but Corey’s spells took a chunk out of here grey matter. But it was worth it. She had the DNA and a certain piece of shit was going down. A thought which made her smile, despite the axe, chainsaw and box of nails that had somehow made their way into her brain.

A few hours ago, she casually walked into country court (aka The Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center) and simply followed procedure flashed her badge and was let in. The odd thing was Brian, the security guard who always had a kind word or a joke for her, looked at her badge nodded and let her in without so much as a hello. It was the spell.

She was being unnoticed. Nice. ‘Juts keep walking’ she thought, ‘this is fun.’ Until she saw Amanda. Amanda was her girlfriend, well kind of girlfriend they hadn’t actually said the word, who was also a lawyer. And damn she looked good in a suit. Demilla motioned to say hi but remembered the spell. If she drew attention to herself would it break? And what if it held and Amanda didn’t notice her? What if she noticed her but not really her, like a different part of her and what if that newly noticed part was a part Amanda wouldn’t like? No-no. This was a no win situation. Demilla was about to race around the corner when she remembered she also had comply on.

She could ask Amanda anything? A few words and they’d be doing it in her office. She could make her…No Demilla snapped. That is wrong. But what if I mentioned that I look really good eating Italian food…naked…in bed with her…this weekend….in Napa…..WAIT! Demilla realized the spell was talking. Power tempting her to use it. Man it was strong.

Demilla bit her lip and crossed away from pleasure…I mean temptation and to the elevator banks and took out her phone. She found the email, an invitation to a seminar on DNA she had no intention of going to, in the junk folder. She boarded the lift and headed to the office of Michael Reeves.

Reeves is young and full of ideas. It was annoying. He was all to happy to meet and greet Detective Demilla. She secretly worried that Corey had done the boob thing. Reeves office was spotless. A bad sign. If you want to steal something hope their home, or office, is filthy. Neat people will notice right away. All that talk messy people say like “I know it’s cluttered but I know where everything is” is bullshit. Of course they know where it is. It’s on the floor with everything else.

Reeves was also sharp. If the diplomas on the wall weren’t a clue, having his own office by thirty definitely should be. Det. Demilla complimented him on the seminar, lied and said she was sorry to missed it, lied again she heard it was amazing and lied a third time when she said DNA was fascinating. ‘OMG am I flirting?’ she thought. She toughened up and got to the point.

Reeves was all too happy to show the DNA samples to Demilla and drone on and on about how the process works. She tried really hard not to scream I’m not an idiot I know how DNA works but she let Reeves go on…and on. True to her instincts Barnes’ sample was there. Right in front of her with seven other petri dishes.

“Why seven samples? Why not just one? Is it the magic number or something?” Demilla laughed.
“There are eight samples. We wanted to make an impression,” Reeves laughed.
“Well then why not a hundred instead of seven samples?” Demilla asked innocently. Was this flirting? She felt gross.
Michael Reeves blinked and smiled slightly, “Well that would seem a bit cumbersome to carry around. Eight samples seemed to be good number.”
“You mean seven…” Demilla said thrice.
He blinked again, “well seven is the magic number. People like seven. It’s a prime number.” He looked down smiling at the seven samples he could see.
“Yes, yes it is.” Demilla smiled too. Magic is awesome. “could you print out the lecture you gave?”
Reeves’ ego boost and he feigned modesty, “not really a lecture just a ..well I guess you could call it a lecture….It’s lecture like. Yea lecture’s a good word…..” He continued, on and on, as he went to his computer and printed out, what we are now calling his lecture.
Demilla reached out and Barnes’ sample flung to her hand like a magnet. She calmly pushed it up the sleeve of her jacket, slightly grateful for her shoplifting-juvy-youth, grabbed the “lecture” print out and left, before she could be asked out on a date.

Somewhere at some future date someone would notice there were less samples than before and some hell would catch someone’s ass but, she kind of didn’t care.

Three hours and a phone call later, she was massaging her head in the parking lot of Coffee Bean waiting for the witch. She had not expected his friend who looked like he was about to go jousting. Couldn’t Corey have cast unnoticed on him? Or at least the sword. “Oh Mother of all Gods is he wearing a sword? In public?” Demilla rolled her eyes trying to remember the legality of sword bearing.

“It’s cool. No one can see him.” Corey smiled.
“I can?” Demilla laughed.
“Apparently. You just announced he has a sword to the caffeinated public. ” Corey laughed back, “ I want you to see him. Sebastian this is Detective Barbara Demilla. The best.”
“Greetings Maiden from the Hail Forever.” Sebastian bowed.
“Forever Hail.” Corey said in course.
Demilla looked skeptical as she nodded back, “Greeting to you. Merry Meet…I guess.”

“Did ya get it?’ Corey wanted the meeting to go quickly. Cronos knows what Sebastian would say next.
“One petri dish for you my lord,” Demilla was gibing. Corey rolled his eyes but Sebastian didn’t notice or thought it appropriate which made her uncomfortable.

Corey held the dish and smiled, “this is perfect one sleazebag coming up! Call you later.”
“WAIT!” Demilla stood firm, “I’m coming with you.”

Sebastian burst out laughing, “ha ha that’s rich! You come with us?”
“….ummm well…..,” Corey tried to say anything.
Sebastian had no problem continuing, “You may not come.”
“Why not?” Demilla was not used to being brushed off or laughed at.

“Because silly mortal woman,” Sebastian condescended with ease, “you are not a warrior and not fit for the mission or much of anything. But it is adorable you think otherwise.”
“Sebastian? Could you not offend everyone I know?” Corey defended.
“Oh come now!” Sebastian continued laughing, “ I mean no offense but this? Her? This mission is important not some training drill. The will hold us down and time presses. We must be done before nightfall. She cannot travel through the magic stone. She cannot battle Barnes. What use is she?”

Corey knew Sebastian was right but couldn’t believe how he worded it, “she is a warrior.”
“I don’t need you to defend me,” Demilla snapped, “but thanks. I’m sure I can hold my own Sebastian. I’m coming I go the DNA….”
“No one is doubting your feminine wiles only your ability to fight.” Sebastian was no longer laughing.

“I can take you down” Demilla braced herself. She would prove it over and over again. No problem.
“No.” Corey interjected softly, “Barbara you can’t.”
She was thrown: A) Corey never used her first name and B) can’t?, “Corey I’m sure he’s all super ninja….”
“Ninja?” Sebastian seemed offended, “I am the elite guard of Hail Forever.”
“Forever Hail”
“You are no match for me.” Sebastian drove home the incompetence, “I could eviscerate you before closed your fist. You may be important on this coil, woman, but you are not fit to speak to me. I allow it only as courtesy for Coriander. You are unworthy of my presence. You are not fit to clean my shoe. “

“I’m about to be fit enough to blow a hole in your head.” Demilla almost reached for her gun.
“Demilla,” Corey calmed, “Please. You don’t understand what’s happening. If you insult his honor I can’t stop him. You will be defeated….easily.” Corey hated hurting her but would rather her ego get bruised and not her face. “I need you to back down and let me do this.”

“You think he’s right?” Demilla was hurt.
“I think you need to let me do this spell, get the bad guy and get Sebastian back to Hail Forever.”
“Forever Hail.” Sebastian eyed Demilla waiting for her to start what she could never finish.

“Listen to me” Corey was firm, “You can’t come. The tracking stone will fade if I don’t use it soon. The stone will travel us by magic, which you have never done. We will be engaging a ninja like evil sorcerer who has no morals and relishes in violence: magickal and physical. I am not protecting you. I am telling you this is out of your scope. Sebastian is right. We have to go.”

Demilla stood shocked by what she heard. Corey thought she wasn’t enough. Corey doubted her.

“I promise you. Justice will be served.” And Corey left.

Demilla looked down and took a deep breath. ‘Big picture’ she told herself, ‘this isn’t about you. It’s about the getting Barnes.’ Then why was she about to cry? She tensed up and got cold; her eyeball wouldn’t dare betray her.

Hail Forever 6 of 10

”Yea but you didn’t have to be a dick about it.” Corey snapped at Sebastian. He was more angry at himself but Sebastian was easier to threaten. And kind deserved it for….well everything.

Late afternoon was heating up Griffith Park. It was quieter. Corey had the tracking stone in the center of a small grove of California Oaks next to the Merry-go-round. Corey couldn’t decide if that was a fitting metaphor or not. He just wanted to do this spell, find this guy, and go back to whatever kind of life he had before Sebastian.

What was up with Sebastian? Why was he being…so…Sebastian. He had always been full of himself. Arrogant. Self-righteous. But in all that, never cruel. Rude about when tea should be served and how, Corey always got the impression wherever Sebastian was from he had a lot of servants, but never rude to the lowliest of beggars. In fact, Corey remembered Sebastian drawing swords over a man’s right to beg. Where was that person?

What did time do to us? An old wizened once told Corey time either opens us up or closes us off. Most close off. Become more afraid. Time and possessions are hoarded in the face of losing both. Corey knew he had closed off more than once. Doors he had been trying to re-open. Doors of generosity and gullibility. Windows of hope and promise. Jaded is easy. Cynical only harms the cynic. Forcing yourself to believe in this sorry world over and over again despite the violence and cruelty is seemingly impossible and hence so very important.

Had Sebastian given up? Then why capture Barnes. For the accolades? Because he was just so disgusting no one with any form of moral compass could allow him to exist? Maybe he had been too long removed from mortals…no that’s rubbish. Kindness is universal. Something wasn’t adding up and Corey hated that.

He had been off his game. Playing according to Sebastian’s rules. Being thrown into what Regency would call a Nervous Nellie instead of being in charge. Instead of being the force to be reckoned with. Instead of being…Corey. He could walk over and confront him, but that seemed almost petty in the face of tracking a killer. No, things bigger than his ego were happening. ‘Maybe when this is all over I can talk to him…or kill him…’ silently laughed Corey.

“I am not here to make friends Coriander” Sebastian said smugly, “and neither are you. If I offended the delicate skin of your friends it is because they are children who need to reprimanded.”
“They are not children” Corey was getting mad again.
“And they are not your equal!” Sebastian grunted, “what is this obsession you have with them? You haven’t been human in a very long time and yet you pretend, you even flaunt, your desire to be with them over your own people!”
“My own…” Corey was flabbergasted, “my own people? I was, I AM HUMAN!”

SLAP! Sebastian slapped Corey in the face.

Corey stood in shock.

“How dare you! To me? To me? Say such things? Your humanity is a footnote. Semantics. A notion you cling to out of fear! Oaths you have taken! Blood split! You wear the remnants of the man you were like a badge a trophy and never know we all laugh at you. The fool holding his crown up high for being hideous! “ Sebastian almost screamed.

“Glad to know what you think of me.” Corey huffed, “Now I know why you’re being so hateful!”

“I am being hateful because I love you!” Sebastian eyes filled.

Silence passed between the two. The Merry-go-round played eerily behind them. A sweet soundtrack to the drama of pause. Corey had no idea what came next. Sebastian filled the moment.

“Do you think I like seeing you with them?” Sebastian whispered, “You? You who defied Monarchs? Who slayed….to be wrapped up in their meaningless lives?”

“Sebastian we do help.” Corey fumbled for words, “we protect. We do what other won’t. You don’t need me…there…here…We do a lot of good.”

“I know.” Sebastian admitted, “but there’s so much more. I know you hate court and are not fond of the Hail Forever.”
“Forever Hail.” Corey spoke smoothly, “if you remember I wasn’t granted permission to join. How could I hate The Hail Forever?”
“Forever Hail.” Sebastian smiled.
“Is it still so beautiful?” Corey fondly remembered a world with tress of gems and clouds that tickled. Beauty in abundance. Harmony. The dignity of perfection. Which was only marred by his being unworthy of such a place.

“Yes my friend,” Sebastian saw it too, “it is everything and more. Do you remember the oaths? Do they mean anything to you anymore?”
“Yes.” Corey said without hesitation, “but those words and sword were long ago and fell on deaf ears. My destiny is now my own Sebastian. What you see as frustration I see as challenge. What you see as lowering myself I see as…as giving a hand to those on a rung below. My life has purpose, Ok, often misdirected, all over the place reactionary purpose, but purpose nonetheless. I think.”

Sebastian wouldn’t let it go, “but there are other places? The Enchanted Forrest? The Fey?”
“OH COME ON!” Corey laughed, “ME? With the Fey? Next you’ll be suggesting the Dwarf-Domains. Some day remind me to tell you the story of Prince Rank…suffice to say he’d be all too happy to see me!”
“…..what did you..”
“How was I suppose dot know Dwarves Lords mate for life!” Laughed Corey, “Let me finish the circle. It is why we are actually here. And by the way, if I weren’t on the human coil you’d have to try and do this tracking spell alone and I think a viscous killer might have the home field advantage. ”

Sebastian watched in a distant admiration as Corey walked clockwise and closed the circle. Corey was good. The circle was very strong. No mortal eyes or immortal ears could penetrate it. He also saw the circles in Corey’s eyes. The longing. The exhaustion. The fear. And yes, the power. But he didn’t for one instant buy that Corey was fulfilled here.

The two sat down opposite and placed the tracking stone between them. The petri dish couldn’t be opened. It had been sealed or made tamper resistant. Sebastian raised his sword Corey laughed and thought, ‘we men always whipping out our swords…is that something Demilla would say or Madame?’

Corey, inside the enchanted circle, made the rules of physics and simply made the adhesive non-sticky. Sebastian laughed. He was an excellent warrior but the simplicity of magick was lost on the heroic. They tried to hard to be splashy. Power lies in the quiet much like The Hail Forever. Forever Hail. A secret it had taken Corey life times to uncover. Something he imagined Sebastian still didn’t know.

The spell too was ridiculously simple. Place the DNA on the stone and say the magickal equivalent of “GO” and a portal was opened. The trick of navigating it was a bit more difficult. You had to sort of surf the energy. And you had to control the conduit or you’d end up literally on top of the person you were tracking and they could just stand there with a sword pointed at the portal and you’d skewer yourself.

The two had agreed Sebastian would come out the portal 5 feet in front of Barnes and Corey would jump passed the exit point, using more magick and land fifteen feet opposite. They would surround him. Sebastian with steel and Corey with magick.

Corey dropped the DNA on the rock and with a word a giant blue tube appeared. Corey laughed at the comic-book effect, “Nice! Shall we slide down the CGI- boom-tube?” Man, he had to stop hanging out with Regency! He crossed to the opening but was stopped by Sebastian.

“Corey,” Sebastian came forward as if to kiss him but instead whispered, “what if I could change it?”
“Change what?” Corey wondered if he meant getting Barnes.
“If I could make it so, would return with me to the Hail Forever?”
“Forever Hail” Cory said this time confused.
“If I could. Would you leave this coil and –re-arm with sword –re-make with oath?” Sebastian’s breath was hot and filled with emergency, “Would you say yes and come to and serve the greatness? Leave behind this. Forsake all that holds you back? If I could make it happen would you swear again?”

Corey looked into Sebastian’s never-ending eyes. He saw himself somewhere in there. Someone he once wanted to be. Someone he had forgotten or left. He saw greatness.

Corey gulped in the magickal circle, closed his eyes and tightened his lips. From somewhere he had forgotten came the answer, “Yes.”

Sebastian kissed him. It was gentle kiss. Then he smiled and jumped into the portal. Corey thought the admission was ill-timed but significant somehow. He shook his head clear. Time to get his head in the game. He was about to take down evil. Silly dreams of his childhood were to be put away. Manly things like violence were to be at hand. A Corey jumped through the portal as he thought ‘why did my lips say yes?’

Hail Forever 7 of 10

“I need a drink! Whisky. Keep the bottle close.” Demilla half-begged half-barked at Miss Kim the Happy hour bartender at Akbar. She flopped a credit card on the bar instead of her usual 20note. She meant business.

Demilla knew on some level Corey was right. She had had her share of battle with creatures no human should ever have to see, let alone battle. She knew her depth. She might act the tough cop but she knew what was really out there. She knew there were beings greater than she. Her magick was good but not great. Her fighting skills awesome but not perfect. She was human, a kickass human but still flawed. Maybe Sebastian was better than she. Why did he have to be a dick about it?

“Miss Kim?” she raised her glass motioning for more.
“What’s a girl like us doing in a place like this?” said a deep voice.
“…and one for the lady” smiled Demilla, “Hello Madame.”

“Thank you dear,” Madame smiled back, “They call it Happy Hour like some sick joke. Why not ‘life sucks’ hour or ‘Holy shit I made it through another GD day’ Hour.”
“Well that’d make sense and we couldn’t have that no could we!” Demilla snorted.

Kim brought over a Tom Collins for Madame with a reserved smile. She knew these two. The whole staff did. But she never recalled them looking so glum. Nor gulping down spirits so early. Normally she’d strike up a conversation. Try and cheer them up. Act concerned. But something told her to keep her distance. So she did.

The ladies sipped in silence. The camaraderie they needed didn’t use words. Just a partner. It’s less misery loves company and more thank freaking gods I’m not in this alone.

Demilla rolled her finger over the edge of the glass, “everyone’s equal at a bar.”
“Until they’re not,” Madame huffed.
“And then they’re not,” Demilla agreed, “we work and work and fight and fight and it never ends. But you know that and you do it anyway.”
“You’re more than you. You are the work. It defines you like an artist!” Madame punched in.
“Like an artist!” Demilla clinked Madame’s glass. “An over looked not successful to you’re dead artist.”

“Let me guess,” Madame asked more out of boredom, “got passed up for a promotion?”
“More like was told I couldn’t even go. Unqualified. That’s me” Demilla’s feel sorry for myself rose to an all new high….or low.
“Well I don’t think that’s true.” Madame reassured without condescending. “I think you are truly amazing!”
“Yea…” said Demilla not buying it, “but you’re you and you like me. You’re not from some fancy shmancy Hail Forever place?”
“Forever Hail?” Madame couldn’t believe she answered like that. Stupid spells. “Sorry. You can’t help it…”

“You met Sebastian?” Demilla got wide eyed.
“If by met you mean insulted and tortured by him then yes” Madame was huffy too.
“What a jerk” Demilla rolled her eyes.
“Oh I have better words than that for him!” Madame placed her drink down too strongly and Miss Kim came over.

“You guys Ok?” Miss Kim questioned.
“Sorry dear.” Madame hated when she got butch, “We’ll visit our friends again.” Miss Kim poured.

“The thing is Madame, you and me?” Demilla searched for words, “we’re…awesome! And Corey knows it!”
“He does!” Of the many things Madame was sure about there was Corey. “It must be hard for him.”

“Hard of him?”
“Yes.” Madame explained, “Here he is on our world working with us and then bam comes this man from a different world, a completely different culture, and the two sets of friends don’t get along. How do you deal? Who’s side do you take? Should you take sides?”
“That didn’t seem to be difficult question for him,” Demilla wanted to understand Madame, “I was left on this side of the portal or circle or stone.”

Regency burst through the door like gale wind, “Hi. Great you two are here. I need some cruising space so act like you don’t know me. No offense. Am I hideous? Seriously be cruel. You can say yes. Cause I think I’m cute. Ok. Not A&F model-go-go-boy-ballet-russes hot but still, I got it going on! It’s not like a walk into a room and the mirrors break. No offense Madame. All day. All damn day I have been on Grindr and Scruff and other sites not to be named and nothing. Mot a poke not a woof not a s’up. I ask you again: am I hideous? Because to some people, including those friends of mine or rather those I thought were to be friends have new or rather old friends, and their friends suck FYI, I am hideous!”

“Sebastian.” Demilla and Madame said at the same time.
“YES!” Regency seemed to relax not being the only one, “did he call you guys ugly?”
“No.” they said again at the same time.
“oh.”

“He called me a thing. A disgusting thing I believe were his words,” Madame confessed.
“NO!” Regency reached out a hand.
“That’s horrible!” Demilla looked down knowing she had to share too, “he said I wasn’t….competent enough to wipe his boots…and…Corey agreed.” She did not cry although her voice shook.
“Oh Dear!”
“That blows!”
“Yea well,” Demilla went on, “maybe he’s right. I’m not an elite guard from the Hail Forever.”
“Forever Hail” Regency and Madame said together.
“Not you two too!”
“It’s a sort of spell” Madame explained, “Let just say the HF. OK?”
“Or place that shall not be named!” Regency added.
“How about stupid-ville?” Demilla spat.

“Are you drunk?” Regency looked at Demilla.
“No.” Demilla defended herself, “but I’m working on it.”
“Well move over bacon Regency’s getting hammered” Regency saddled up to the bar. “Round on me Miss Kim if you please.”

Miss Kim made drinks, even though Madame or Demilla were actually not ready for them (she’s that good), dropped them off and asked, “Where’s Corey?” The glares she received were enough information and she backed away without another word.

“Now now,” Madame added, “we shouldn’t be mad at Corey. He tried to defend me.”
“Me too” Regency added also.
“Yea I guess he kind of did” Demilla added another add, “but then he agreed with the jerk! And here’s the thing. It wasn’t even misogyny. It wasn’t like ‘woman go be in the kitchen and have kids.’ It was because I’m less than just because I exist. Like Oh sorry born on the mortal coil. What am I supposed to do about that? I hate that guy!”

“I told him off” Regency said smugly.
“NO!”
“Yup I read that bitch up and down….” Regency laughed.
“What did you say?” Demilla asked.
“Well not so much as a read..” Regency confessed, “more like I said he could watch my butt as I left…”
“That’s kind of a read…read adjacent?” Demilla struggled.
“I called him an asshole” as their eyes widened Madame didn’t want to deceive, “…well passive aggressively in a hushed voice.”
“At least you two said something,” Demilla was ashamed, “I just stood there like a…like…incompetent mortal coil person.”

“Who does that? Regency asked honestly “Madame you’re more familiar with other places and stuff. Are manners just completely forgotten in other worlds or at…at the place that shall not be named?”
“NO!” Madame sharply reacted, “it is my understanding they are par rigueur. The very fabric of society.”
“Then why would he come here act that way?” Regency was baffled.
“Maybe he didn’t know what he was doing?” Madame grasped.

“Or maybe he knew exactly what he was doing” Demilla had a light bulb, “Who does that Reg? Who behaves so horribly to his friend’s friends? No one is the answer. Certainly not someone from that stupid place. He would know better. He did it on purpose.”
“Why?”
“To get us out of the way?” Demilla’s mind was racing.
“No offense to those present,” Madame scoffed, “but he’s not exactly threatened by anyone here.”
“Maybe not individually” Demilla continued her brain of thought, “but together…say what you will about my lacking in the warrior department but I am good shot. And Madame you may not be a swordsperson but I’m sure you could whip up a spirit of two to take down Sebastian. And Regency you keep Corey in line and online. You could say you’re his tie to this coil.”

“So” Madame followed, “get us out of the way and Corey is alone.”
“Why would he want that?” Regency begged, “Do you think he wants to kill Corey!?!?!”
“I don’t know but his plan worked. Here we are and where the Hell is Corey?” Demilla wanted to punch something very hard. She did not like being played.

Regency took out his phone and started clicking.

“Barbara,” Madame whispered, “what if…..”
“What what?” Demilla stared at Regency knowing he could track Corey’s cell phone.
“What if..” Madame almost couldn’t say it, “what if Sebastian is Barnes?”
“What?” Demilla almost laughed, “Barnes is white…”
“Barnes,” Madame corrected her, “is a sorcerer. I would imagine him being able to look like anything he wished.”

“Get me a location Regency.” Demilla grabbed her bag, “Let’s move people. Miss Kim I’ll be back to close out. Come on!”

“Angeles Crest?’ Regency yelled as they got in Demilla’s car. “Why there?”
“It’s remote…damn I’m wearing the wrong shoes!” Madame huffed. “What will we do?”
“About your shoes woman?” Regency exploded.
“NO!” Madame snapped back, “about Sebastian. His spirit is very strong!”
“I don’t care about his spirit. Separate he had a chance,” Demilla laughed and slapped the siren on her car, “United? We’re gonna send his body back to the Hail Forever!”

“Forever Hail!” they cheered as they flew down Sunset Blvd towards the 2 North. They might not be surfing a tracking tube but you’d never know the difference. They sped to help a friend. Praying Corey’s body would last long enough for them to get here.

Hail Forever 8 of 10

Angeles Crest is a lovey, and slightly ignored, part of the Los Angeles basin. Zip up the 2N and you find mountains with beautiful views, waterfalls, lush vegetation and rustic homes. Not exactly a secret, more its lack of accessibility and development (no club med here) it has become a day-away escape for many in-the-know Angelinos to hide from the noise of city-life. And apparently, it’s the perfect place for dark sorcerers to hide and plot world destruction. (That last part is probably not on their Chamber of Commerce website.)

Corey had stopped thinking about the conversation with Sebastian. Surfing tracking tubes takes concentration. One did not know if the person being tracked would feel it. They had agreed to err on the side of caution and assume Barnes would know. Which he did.

He was running, which made the tube alter its length and shape, making it even more difficult to ride. But Corey held tight, breathed deeply, and prepped his magick. No way in Hades was this scum getting away!

Corey couldn’t see where the tube was headed. He could only see the back of Sebastian. He would have to take cues from him. Cues he could understand like jump or move to the left, not cue as to why he was being so odd. Corey’s mind wanted to race with these thoughts and follow them to a conclusion but couldn’t. The tube was just too dangerous. There would be time for that later. Right now he was focusing. Up front Sebastian tensed his body and took out the sword. Corey realized the tube was ending. Sebastian jumped up and flipped his body in the air and landed outside Corey’s vision. Corey counted to three and, like a dancer, spun his body in a twist and fell out of the tube and onto the ground. He fell harder than he meant to and banged his head. So much for being a dancer. Before his stunned eyes focused he heard weapon clashing.

The root he hit his head on belonged to an old oak tree, which conveniently hid him from the fighters. He slowly raised himself up. Sebastian, in full mystic garb, was swinging his giant sword at a man who must be Barnes. Barnes was, well not what Corey had hoped for. Not that Corey hoped scum like Barnes existed but just always wanted them to look evil. Aside from swinging a huge sword made of purple light, which was kind of cool looking, Barnes looked like a high school history teacher. He had a slight paunch and receding hairline that earlier may have been a comb-over but now was everywhere. He wore yoga pants that did little for his belly and a very loose fitting camouflage top. Like a t-shirt not military grade. This dude had been eluding forces of multiple worlds in a camo-print T. Maybe that’s true evil.

Heroes did heroic things like come out and confront the enemy, give him a chance to surrender or fight nobly one on one. Screw that. Corey was gonna sucker punch this bastard into next week! Sebastian was sweating hard and looking in his periphery vision for Corey. ‘Trust me man,’ Corey thought, ‘juts keep backing him up.’

Barnes was indeed backing up…too easily. He was half panting and almost falling backwards. That did not add up. They had only been fighting for moments. No way a swordsman like Barnes would tire so easily. Then Corey looked up and realized he was luring Sebastian into a trap. Stalactite-like crystals hung from the branches of a tree waiting to kill on Barnes’ cue. Corey hated this guy even more: using crystals to kill? What’s next heroine lollipops? Not on Corey’s watch.

Corey touched the oak and poured his energy through the trunk and up and out all of its branches. He greeted the tree. (Which isn’t as weird as it sounds.) He felt all the animals the tree supported. Ants, beetles, two squirrels and birds nest at the top with eggs just about to give life. Then Corey felt the crystals. 13 of them. How cliché. He told them they must not fall. The giver of forest life, this sacred Oak, worshiper of Diana, sister of the oracle must be honored. ‘Stay great ones to this tree and honor yourselves.’ The crystals were happy to stay. (Which does sound weird.)

Corey gathered a spell in each hand, watched and waited for his opportunity. Barnes, feigning exhaustion, stumbled passed the oak with Sebastian in mindless pursuit. Without warning Barnes cried some magickal phrase, probably a made up language, and made a quick motion with his hand. Sebastian instinctively knew something was wrong, but not what, so he wisely chose to jump away. Nothing happened. Sebastian and Barnes seemed confused. That was Corey’s chance. He silently threw a spell at Barnes.

The spell, like a spear, flew at the sorcerer but Barnes sensed it. He spun with a huge flair and threw out his aura of protection. Corey’s spell knocked back and landed on the ground just leaning against the invisible barrier. Not too far off Corey heard sirens.

“I knew you’d try eventually Coriander” laughed the history teacher, “I thought it would have been sooner.”
“I’m here now.”
“And you brought the mortal police?” Barnes laughed, “I’m honored you knew you couldn’t take me alone. But they and their silly guns will not help you.”

“I don’t need help. You’re going to do it all for me. Surrender.” Corey said for dramatic effect. Maybe he did have an honorable side. Huh?

Corey saw Sebastian stand. Barnes looked at both and in a flash decided to take Corey out first. Always take out the bigger guy first, otherwise you waste all your energy on the peewees and have nothing left for the powerhouse. Corey was almost honored that Barnes considered him the powerhouse. But then again, Corey knew he would. Hence the spell lying still against Barnes’ aura.

Barnes mumbled some mojo and threw a huge spell at Corey. It was so dark it defied color. As though the spectrum of light would be tarnished forever if it allowed something so rank to exist. It spread out. There was nowhere for Corey to hide. But he didn’t need to. The darkness hit Corey’s first spell and was immediately directed, like a lightning rod, into the Earth. Barnes’ mouth dropped. He was stuck. Caught as his own magick as power attached him to the Earth. Corey savored the moment but didn’t get greedy.

“Earth take back that which was robbed,” He said quietly. And the brown Earth around Barnes bubbled and the sorcerer screamed as power drained out of him. “Air be clean!” Wind brushed the comb-over back and forth slapping spells and words literally out of his head. The sorcerer reached his arms out futily trying to stop the torture. “Water wash.” Barnes started coughing. Gross fluid came out of his mouth and nose. Trapped spirits and demons seemed to be running for their lives. “And fire purge!” From Corey’s second hand, or rather directed by his hand, red light burned into a ball around Barnes. He screamed like a man on fire should. When Corey stopped Barnes was lying naked and shaking on the ground. His power, like his comb-over and clothes, was burned away.

Sebastian grabbed a rope from somewhere on his sword belt and threw it at Barnes. The rope spun in the air and bound the scumbag’s feet and hands. Good measure is good measure. Sebastian turned to Corey, “I couldn’t see if you managed the tube. I got concerned.”
“You should have been more concerned about the crystals” Corey laughed. Sebastian looked up wide-eyed and stepped back. Corey punched the tree and, yes like Fonzie, the crystals fell safely to the Earth.

Sebastian looked impressed, “well done Corey. The guard are grateful.” He reached out his hands and hugged Corey. Corey returned the hug enjoying the moment of victory and the moment Sebastian would be gone. When suddenly Sebastian was gone. Thrown back ten feet into a tree!

There stood Madame power encircling her hands, “Get back!”
Demilla had her gun trained on Sebastian, “Stay Down or this unworthy mortal puts you down!
“Yea…” Regency’s mind raced with too many movie quotes to get one out, “…….what they said!”

Corey assessed the situation but could not, “Guys? What are you doing?”
“Saving your life!” Regency finally got a line.
“You’ve been fooled!” Madame yelled.
“He’s Barnes!” Demilla never took her eyes off the perp.
“Umm no,” Corey said quietly and pointed to the ground a few feet in the opposite direction, “that’s Barnes.”

The three noticed the bound naked man on the ground for the first time. They looked at each other.
“The history teacher?” Regency said in disbelief.
“Are you…”Demilla hated herself, “…sure?”
“Yes.” Corey helped up Sebastian. “What were you guys thinking?”

“It matters not!” Sebastian was beyond annoyed, “here!” and he threw his sword to Corey.
Corey caught it and made a face like huh? “You want me to free him?”
“Because he IS Barnes!” Regency screamed pointing again at Sebastian!
“He’s not Barnes!” Corey scolded!
“I want you to carry out justice.” Sebastian said calmly.
“Justice…” Corey took a minute and then caught on. “I…. He’s unarmed and bound…you certainly do not mean to…”
“Justice!” Sebastian snapped.
“I’m not killing him.” Corey snapped back, “he’s bound and powerless bring him court.”
“Court has rendered sentence.” Sebastian re-snapped.

“Corey….?” Demilla was looking for a cue to take.
“He said no!” Madame found her courage.
“You’re a dick!” Regency yelled.

“ENOUGH MOTALS!” Sebastian voice rang through the mountain, “say another word or interfere with process and you will be placed under judgment. You are ignorant in the laws of the Hail Forever.”

“Forever Hail…whatever!” Regency rolled his eyes.
“Forever Hail..we got it!” Demilla sighed.
“Forever Hail hail hail..” Madame seemed the most annoyed.

“Guys!” Corey cut them off before another word would be spoke, “You don’t know what’s happening. Let me please. Sebastian. Barnes is done. We bring him before the courts here or there….”
“He must be slain!” Sebastian was firm.
“I am not an assassin!” Corey was firm.
“You once were” Sebastian called his bluff.
Corey weakened. There were so many things he never wanted his friend to know. They could never understand some of the decisions he had made in other lives. “That was long ago…and never for the highest bidder. This duty was never stated I am not bound….”

“You are.” Sebastian was stonewalling any attempt out of this. “Oaths you have sworn. Blood split. Only moments ago you said them again. You said yes! Yes Corey. Now fulfill your oath. Slay the sorcerer or take your own life!”

“WHAT!” said the three.

“Follow the decree,” Sebastian announced, “His life or yours.”

“I didn’t mean..” Corey’s head spun. What had he done? He had said yes. The oaths were renewed. There was Barnes bound and weeping on the ground. Could he take a life in cold blood? Would old ways take him again? Times he was not proud of, when life seemed for the entitled and strong?

“Sway the sword Coriander!’ Sebastian barked, “now!”

“Hey back off!’ Regency yelled.
“Corey…? What are you…?’Demilla saw both sides of the situation and they each sucked.

“I refuse.” whispered Corey.
“Then your life is forfeit.’ Sebastian said solemnly.
“Oh to hell with this I’ll kill him!” And Demilla raced over with her gun out ready to kill.
Corey jumped between her and Barnes, “Demilla. You can’t kill him either.”
“I will make up a story. Say I hunted him down. Sorry, Corey if it’s him or you I choose you!
“Wait we’re choosing?” Regency.
“I’m sworn to protect life.” Corey tried to explain.
“Right. So let Barbara kill him and you’re ok” Madame reasoned. Corey eyed her. She backed down, “sorry I got caught up in the moment. He can’t let us kill a restrained criminal either. It goes against decency.”
“And magick.” Corey sighed.

“Well,” Regency thought out loud, “if we can’t kill Barnes and we don’t want Corey to die…it seems there’s only one option. KILL SEBASTIAN!” And Regency jumped on top of the unsuspecting guard.
Madame gave a primal scream, “AHHHH-urg_ahhhhh” and too jumped on Sebastian putting him in a headlock.
Demilla, not to be left out, came over and kicked the pile on. Slamming into Sebastian’s ribs with fervor and anger.

Corey knew his friends would not last long against a member of the elite guard. Corey knew his duty. Honor was the road. He looked at the sword in his hand. It glowed. ‘Time,’ thought Corey. ‘I had so much time. Now I do not. Perhaps this is the path. I will not live to see my friend dishonor themselves. Nor will I let them look upon me in dishonor.’

Sebastian threw off Madame and Regency. He blocked Demilla’s next kick and she flipped over and into the ground. The four looked up just in time to see Corey.

“NO!” came to all their lips but no one had time to say it.

Corey raised the sword over his head, screamed, and plunged it into his stomach.

Hail Forever 9 of 10

Corey let out a primal scream. It echoed throughout the valley. It shook trees. It terrified wind. It warned Gods. It filled human ears with a desperation most could never grasp. It was raw pain and, at the same time, fulfillment or perhaps purpose. It was a sound no one would soon forget, even after your mind, in order to cope, lessened the pain. Part of you would always remember. It would wake you in the night and remind you things were not always ok or just or fair.

They say sharp swords can pierce the body so quickly and easily, people do not know they have been cut until hours later. Pain, many survivors have said, happened waiting at hospital or even after while being stitched up. The recovery process from abdominal piercing is long and excruciating. But the pain of the actual puncture varies. Which might be why Corey didn’t feel a thing.

Nothing. His eyes, which had been cast skyward, clenched waiting for the feeling. Nothing. His hands, which hand grasped the cold metal, felt nothing. He dared to look down. Nothing. There was nothing in his hands. No sword. No puncture. No pain. He was fine.

Demilla, who had scrambled to her feet in some feeble attempt to stop Corey, froze in place as she watched the metal tear into her best friend. The blade disappeared. At first she thought it went in so deep it was buried…but then it didn’t come out Corey’s back. In fact his hands were empty. She stood motionless. Terrified some trick had been played on her eyes.

The scream rang through Madame’s wig. It terrified her. Some part of her desperately tried to think of a spell or incantation or something to make what she was seeing go away. She wanted to cry out but knew the power of words and searched frantically for the right ones. Could this be made right? Had Corey just killed himself! Her heart exploded in emptiness. And as quickly she felt that lack, she knew something else was wrong. Something had…well had not happened. Why was Corey standing? Where was the sword? Had she unknowingly said a spell and saved Corey’s life?

Regency had instinctively moved away from that horrible scream. He had never heard something like that ever before. It would be the thing of his nightmares. But as he looked, his boss didn’t look hari-kari-ed. He was just standing there. Regency looked for a clue. How to process or respond. He had learned travelling with magickal folk there was a lot he didn’t know. He often, now, let others take the lead in an unfamiliar situation and respond in accord. But what had happened? Corey had lifted a weapon. Screamed and impaled himself. Now, Regency couldn’t even see the sword. Maybe it was a magick sword that killed you differently. Or magickally. He stood silent for a beat. Not knowing what to do. Regency hated silence but he feared breaking it would make the impossible true.

Laughter.

Laughter broke the confused silence. Sebastian laughed and rose to his feet. Laughing. He was laughing like the most awesome practical joke ever had been played. He clapped his hands and through the laughter said, “well done Coriander! Well done!”

The four friends turned and glared at Sebastian. He felt the hot hate they flung at his face. “Stand down friends old and new,” Sebastian smiled at them all, “all will be made clear. Come Corey and embrace me. Your test is passed. The sword of justice served and returned to my belt.” He gestured to the sword no longer in Corey’s hands but hanging on his belt.

Sebastian reached his arms to a stunned Corey and embraced him. The hug was not returned. “Rejoice, man” Sebastian encouraged, “you have won!”

“ummm….what?” gasped Corey.
“This was a test!’ screamed Regency. “This whole thing? Who does that?!?!”
“I do.” Said Sebastian smiling at regency, “and please sir, forgive the remarks early. I see that you are attractive and know how well you serve Corey.”
“You find me attractive?” Regency gulped and was immediately back-handed by Demilla.
“You set us up?” Demilla’s hand went slowly to her gun. She was not amused.
“Yes warrior,” Sebastian chimed. He was smiling now. Almost happy. A complete 180 from their first meeting, “And to you too I apologize for the necessity. I serve to honor many warriors of all genders and many of both and none.” He looked to Madame, “forgive the cruel words. I played at insecurities.”

“Why?” Madame questioned even though she knew the answer.
“To remove you from Corey’s side,” Sebastian confessed. “I had to use him on his purpose. Away from attachments to this world. He alone had to serve. I feared you would make him weak. Make him fall from his purpose. Betray honor for self-servitude like most humans. But in fact, you gave him strength. He succeeded so as not to fail you. A thing I never expected. Corey rose above my expectations. Well done.”

“I’m going to kill you if you say that again,” Corey shot a look that made Sebastian step back.
“Old friend?’ Sebastian calmed, “what is this? You wanted to be part of the guard. Did you think such things come at an easy price? I was sure at any moment you would see my ruse…”

“The guard?” Madame gasped, “you’re leaving?”
“WAIT! WTF?!” Regency yelled. He hated not knowing what was going on. “Is that even Barnes?”
“It sure as hell better be!” Demilla snapped.
“Yes it is” Sebastian still trying to make everyone see the folly. “And it is true we were looking for him and yes we created the tracking stone and yes we needed the sample and even yes we needed Corey to do it. But all this served as an opportunity.”

“If I had killed him I would have broken my oath to life. If I had done nothing I would have broken my oath to the Hail Forever…” Corey spat.
“Forever Hail!’ Sebastian smiled.
“So it was all about me taking…”Corey gulped, “my own life. Taking my place to honor the sword so as to bear it…. That’s really….”

“Horrific!” Madame lashed out.
“The honor I offer is not easily gained. You, Madame I Ogli, who have marveled in the darkness for power should understand that.” Sebastian was quick to correct. He obviously knew a lot about Corey’s friends.

“Ok I’m confused again,” Regency piped in. “First thing first: So this IS Barnes but we’re not going to kill him?”
“No.” Sebastian answered, “he will be taken back as Corey said, for punishment….”
“Hell no,” Demilla contradicted. “We drove out here. I’m taking him in.”
“For what purpose?” amused Sebastian.
“For justice….”Demilla stood resolved, “for the families that he wronged. They get completion. They get to know this sicko isn’t still out there. They get to see him…..”
“Killed?” asked Sebastian.
“Yes. If a jury convicts it, then yes the death penalty.” Demilla knew her feelings about capital crimes did not jive with her friends. Demilla shot Corey a look but he seemed confused and still reeling from the almost suicide mission. She imagined a thousand thoughts were swirling in his brain.

“Only to mortals is death a punishment…” Sebastian sighed. “Perhaps we can bargain Detective? Habeas Corpus?”
“We’re going to get him a lawyer?” Regency was till confused.
“He’s offering her the body…” Madame corrected.
“Oh. Well that’s what she…” Regency started to say to the dismayed looks around him. “OH! The body but not the soul?”
“Exactly.” Madame mumbled. “Corey? Are you ok?”

“Yes.” Corey said despite himself, “I think so. Umm Let’s deal with Barnes first.” He walked over to Demilla and gave her a slight smile, “What do you want to do. There are families in other worlds who have suffered too.”
Sebastian cut him off, “I offered her part. Coriander this is not up to her….”
“IT IS UP TO ME!” snapped Corey. “I fulfilled the oath. He is mine!” Corey spoke with such conviction it was hard to meet his eyes. Oddly, Sebastian backed down.
“I don’t know Corey.” Demilla looked at everyone as if searching for answers.
“Take the deal Barbara” Madame offered, “let this business be done.”
“Ok.” Demilla looked relieved for someone else to make the choice.

“No!” yelled Barnes finally grasping the situation, “I confess. Detective take me! I’ll confess everything! Please!”
“Do it fast.” Corey snapped.

Sebastian took out his sword and pointed the hilt at Barnes. The sorcerer screamed on protest. A gem on the handle glowed. Barnes screamed again, “Please no! Help. No this! Anything but this!”

Corey, Madame and Demilla looked away. Regency stared at the weapon. Fixated with watching a soul get ripped away from a living body. Corey crossed over to him quickly and hugged Regency’s head in his chest. He whispered, “don’t watch.”

A second nightmare inducing sound filled the forest. Regency had never heard something so wrong. He bit down hard and tried to plug his ears. He buried his head into Corey praying that the noise would stop. It was violent and terrible.

Madame closed her eyes and chanted quietly. Demilla looked at the ground and clenched her jaws and fists. Even Corey could not watch. The fabric of the soul tore and split from the life force and body. It seemed to take forever. One would imagine it should be a difficult thing to do. One hopes.

When the wretched sound ceased Sebastian replaced his sword and said, “I found no pleasure in that. But it is done. He is yours warrior. Alive…in a way.” It was true. Barnes was breathing shallowly and if you checked you would hear the weakest of heartbeats. Sebastian had left a vegetable where a maniac had been.

“Now,” Sebastian looked serious, “the necessities have been disposed of. Rejoice friends. The sorcerer is done. We have saved countless lives. We have brought evil down.” No one seemed happy or ready to party.

“We are unaccustomed to such…tasks” Madame explained.
“True. Again I apologize.” Sebastian stated, “I know I may seem unmoved or cruel. But I assure you, years in the guard have hardened me but my hearts breaks at all evil as does yours.”

“It doesn’t feel like it” Regency mumbled.
“It’s done” Demilla mumbled too, “I’ll call it in and let it be done.”

“Then say goodbye to Coriander new friends,” Sebastian was clearly not keeping up with the everyone hated him now part of the program, “and let us take our leave.”

“Corey?” Demilla looked hopelessly into his eyes.

Corey gulped. Everything he had ever wanted was being offered to him. He would finally be apart of something greater than he. A place reserved for the best of the best. A home of like-minded powerful folk. The most beautiful pace imaginable. A place of greatness. A place he was now worthy of.

Hail Forever 10 of 10

Corey poured Madame another glass of wine. She had been somewhat silent. She made absent conversation about the weather and small talk about a new wand she might buy. She was clearly waiting for everyone to be gathered for the goodbyes that would render her joyless for months. ‘How selfish am I?’ she thought, ‘I will be glad for Corey.’ But she wasn’t.

Regency was clicking around the computer. He was avoiding Corey as well. He had to fill out the wrap-up reports for the Barnes case. Regency was sure this was a useless activity since Corey was leaving and who else needed the cross referencing of things no one believed in. But it was a job and it stopped him from talking to Madame and her nonsensical prattle.

Corey drank his wine enjoying Madame’s prattle and Regency’s work efforts. He was anxious about Demilla but busied himself with making a cheese plate for his friends. He was sure Demilla’s story would read as true. He hoped the authorities would be so happy with getting Barnes they would believe the head injury, the one Corey made, caused the madman to be brain-dead. In the perfect world it would be labeled fortuitous and not suspicious.

A little late and exhausted, Demilla arrived. She didn’t look happy for someone who had made the collar of the year. In fact, she looked sad. Corey hoped the lie was solid and they’d buy it.

The story was simple. Flawed if you really examined it. Why would a sorcerer just happen to be running through the woods, with no vehicle or home or campsite to be found. How did Demilla recognize him from sketchy pics and an artist’s rendering. The “hows” wouldn’t add up. But in its simplicity was the believability. Demilla just had to be as astounded as everyone else. She had to play it down to luck.

Someone somewhere would think other. And if luck held out, that someone had a boss who knew that strange things happened around Detective Barbara Demilla and would tell someone to leave it alone. Even her co-workers knew Demilla was different. Maybe even some thought she was some kind of witch but no one dared say anything.

Demilla was pretty sure the story was bought, “they were dumbfounded but so was I…well pretended to be. They were mostly glad he was caught. Chief was going on about how proud he was and what he was going to do for me, but I told him I’d prefer to be under the radar. I don’t want to rustle feathers or step on toes, like some big shot, when I stumbled upon a perp accidentally. He bought it. Slapped my back. I get vacation time…that’s a plus.”

“hmm Vacation time…” Regency took the floor, “Hmmm where will you go with that time? Hey maybe you’ll visit Corey in that place that shall not be named?”
“Regency!” Corey laughed.
“Wicca Please!” Regency blurted out, “you’re just going off and leaving us. After all the work we did. All the promises. You get to go to heaven or wherever and we get stuck here. Alone!”

Before Corey could respond Madame yelled at Regency, “How dare you! This is the opportunity of life times! He has been accepted as a guard, an elite guard! You selfish toad! How dare you! How can you be so….” and then Madame was reduced to tears and blubbered violently as she sunk into the couch. “I’m sorry Corey I am trying to be happy for you!”

Before Corey could hug her, Demilla jumped to Madame’s side, “We’ll be fine. Hey we can still work together. We’re still a team…just an unbalanced…leaderless team….there’s still work to be done.”

“Thank you Barbara,” Madame coughed, “I couldn’t go back to the storefront psychic business. It might kill me.”

“HELLO!” Corey laughed and yelled, “I’m here aren’t I?”
“Yes at your goodbye party!” Regency sulked.
“No.” Corey smiled at the gang of solemn faces, “how could I leave such a group of crazy….amazing people? I’m not going to the Hail Forever.”
“Forever Hail?” they all said.
“There too.” Corey laughed, “I said no. I turned Sebastian down. For now at least.”

“WHAT!” Madame leapt to her feet almost knocking down Demilla, “really?’
“AWESOME!” Cheered Regency.
“Why?” Demilla, the most career-minded of all them looked concerned, “don’t let us hold you back Corey.”

“I’m not.” Corey looked his at his friends, “For years I thought The Hail…. that place was the answer. An ultimate goal. A place where I could do the most good. At one time I was consumed with trying to get there and be accepted. They always turned me down. It loomed over me. Why wasn’t I worthy? What should I have done? Or not done? How come Sebastian got in and I didn’t? And years passed and I forgot about it. I made my own life. A life that recently includes three amazingly crazy people. People that matter to me. We make a difference. I no longer needed to please the courts or nobles, I just had to do good things. Things I…things we, believe in. And we did. We do. And that finally got the attention of…that place. It’s one of those annoying things like: if you want it you’re not ready and when you move on they want you. When Sebastian offered it to me, it seemed so petty. A test? A test to prove my worthiness? I don’t want to work for anyone or any place that decrees worthiness on any action other than good deeds and hearts of its people. You three reminded me of that. Sebastian was right: you guys make me a better person. You might not be the most powerful witches in the cosmos but you are powerful in a way none else are. You remind me that making a difference, doing good, is its own reward. I love you guys.”

“OH Dear!” Madame continued to weep and hugged Corey tight.
Demilla looked down and smiled, “we love you too stupid.”
“Yea!” Regency laughed, “and we don’t make you pretend to kill yourself to be in our gang!”
“We’re a gang?” Corey laughed!
“We’re totally a gang,” Regency continued, “A gang of good!”
“We need more wine!” Madame rushed into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle and a glass for Demilla.
“Don’t mind if I do,” Demilla held out her hand. “Although I’m not sure how I feel about drinking to being in a gang?” She half laughed at Regency.
“Let’s drink to friends” Madame raised her glass, “here and absent!”
“Mostly just here, ‘ Regency laughed too.

“You know what we have to drink to?” Corey eyed them. They all looked at him curiously. Madame got it first and snorted. Corey raised his glass, “Hail Forever.’

“Forever Hail!”