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Tome of Tubal-Cain: How to create a supernatural sword

Here we are at last! A third book launching into the world awaiting eager readers. Ever wonder how to create a supernatural sword? All you gotta do is read and find out. It's all explained, or is it? Nothing is straight forward. Not for Jamie Poole.

If you have not read the blogs (which include opening chapters!) of the first two books, have a read here and here.

For all of December, all books are on sale and can be purchased through curbside drop-off or through these fine stores. This Christmas it is essential to buy local and support local. By reading this, I believe you already do!

The staff of either store will be more than happy to assist you. If you would like books autographed, that can be arranged.

If you would like a sneak peek at this book--which I describe as Outlander meets Lord of the Rings--and as I've provided for the first two, this is it. Any questions, contact the stores listed above or contact me directly at

Chapter 3

Inverness, Scotland

October 31, Friday, Halloween.

Seven months before the Dino-dig.

Bruce Sutherland hopped out of the shower and toweled himself dry. It had been a long day. He enjoyed spending

Friday mornings with the priest, cleaning the building and discussing philosophy and theology. The priest made an

excellent cup of tea too.He’d awakened in the wee dark hours to ride his bicycle from the flat he shared with his parents, through the city center, and across the bridge spanning the River Ness, then left to St. Andrews. After a couple hours and a couple cups of tea, he’d pedaled seven miles out of town to the Inverness Airport northeast of the city where he worked as a custodian. Unfortunately no one there was as good a conversationalist as the priest. And no one made as good a cup of tea. After a day’s work, he pedaled the same seven miles home to where a shower and dinner awaited in an empty flat.

He rarely saw his parents who worked opposite shifts, but he didn’t mind the time alone. His da’ also worked at the airport as an air traffic controller. His da’ hoped he’d settle down and find a career at the airport, maybe as an air traffic controller. The pay was decent and he could support a family—if he ever decided to have one. But at twenty-five, Bruce hoped for more, but not more in context of money. He’d always enjoyed stimulating conversation. He also wanted to do something that made a difference. As a consequence, not only did he rise in the wee dark hours, but he also stayed up late, taking online university courses. He studied wildlife biology.

He inhaled the earthy familiarity of his favorite wool sweater as he pulled it over his head. His mother had knitted it for him a couple winters ago, saying she picked the wool to match his sea-green eyes—when they were that color. Wearing the sweater anchored them to one shade. His eye color tended to vacillate like a cat’s between deep greens and emerald. It was the perfect thing to pull on when the air outside was crisp. After carelessly dragging a comb through his short hair he hunted for supper. A quick inspection of the icebox revealed the plate his mother had prepared. He collected it and silverware next to a note in her handwriting. No matter that he was twenty-five, she always left a note with warming instructions. He read it, as he always did. Some days she treated him like an adult, only to turn around and warn him not to heat his food too long. His parents were old-fashioned, and he realized they would never change. Tossing the note in the rubbish bin, he moved to the front room to eat the chicken cold, the way he preferred it. He collected a magazine from the side table and settled in to eat, hoping to relax before heading off to bed early for a change.

Inevitably that was when the doorbell buzzed. He pondered the sound around a mouthful of chicken. He didn't have many friends. Perhaps the priest was his best friend, but he never visited. He considered ignoring it when the bell buzzed again. Something drew his eyes to the calendar hanging from a nail behind the late-model television.

“Oh,” he muttered. “Halloween.” Quickly swallowing the bite of chicken, he did a hasty survey of the kitchen and came up with nothing. He was searching his pockets when the doorbell buzzed a third time. He grabbed an apple from his plate and crossed the small room in three long strides. Opening the door, he expected to see miniature gargoyles or witches or comic book characters from this year's box office hit. He wasn't much of a moviegoer, and he couldn't remember what that had been.

Instead, there stood a short elderly man dressed in a brown jacket and dark pants. He held something obscure in front of him. “My name is Mshai Sebi,” he said with a slight bow at the waist. “We do not know each other, but I have been sent from Egypt to give you this.” He proffered a small package wrapped tightly with twine.

Bruce was about to close the door in the old man's face, thinking him a member of a cult organization, when

something about the package struck him. Wordlessly, he swung the door open to allow Mshai Sebi to enter. Trying

further to be polite, he grabbed his half-eaten meal to put it by the kitchen sink.

Mshai chose a chair opposite to the one Bruce had occupied and took off his jacket before seating himself. “Thank you. I take mine black, please.”

He popped his head out of the kitchen. Mystified by the comment, he took the moment to examine his unexpected guest. Mshai Sebi was short by Scottish standards, built like a football player, and almost as wide as he was tall. Perhaps when he was younger he had played football—soccer, the Americans called it—or rugby. He dressed casually enough, in a white button-down shirt with a sweater zipped over the top. A wreath of thinning white hair crowned his head. His features were definitely Arabic. His nose was large and hooked. Most outstanding were large luminous eyes the color of warm honey. Such eyes on a woman would be extremely attractive. They gave him a pleasant, owlish appearance.

“You are making tea. Am I correct? And your mother makes wonderful chocolate biscuits. I shouldn't have one, but I'd like one if it is not too much bother. I believe they are in the canister next to the icebox. She baked some earlier today.”

Bruce's head appeared again. “You say we’ve never met. Do you know my mother?”

Mshai shook his head. “We will never meet, sadly. And what wonderful biscuits, I am told.”

“Who are you?” He couldn't stop staring at the little man, who looked ordinary in every way.

“Bring the tea and biscuits. It's nicer to talk over food. I-I must admit I had to hurry. I missed one of my trains, and to get here on time I missed my supper. I'm a trifle hungry.”

Bruce shook his head while he placed two of his mother’s favorite English tea cups on a tray, adding milk, sugar—he preferred his with both—and a plate of chocolate biscuits. Mshai had been right. His mother had apparently baked them while he was at work. He returned to his chair after giving his mysterious guest one of the cups.

Mshai drank deeply and savored two chocolate biscuits before he spoke again. “Thank your mother for me, please. I have never tasted such delightful biscuits.” Bruce offered to fill his cup again, but the Egyptian raised his hand. “In a moment. I am certain you are filled with questions.” He only nodded, so Mshai proceeded. “For more generations than I know, my family has been the guardian to this package.” He patted it as it perched upon one knee. “Do you know what it is? Of course you do not. I do not. I only know that my grandfather passed it to me upon his deathbed. I was only a boy. He gave me the name Mshai because it means “traveler ox.” He said that I would require the strength of an ox, and that I would be the chosen one entrusted to travel from my home in Alexandria to the village of Inverness to stand on your doorstep at precisely this time to deliver this package to the man with the red hair. That is you. And so I present it.” He presented the package to Bruce.

He accepted the small, curious package as the small Egyptian man bowed in surrender of his treasure. It was stained by time and showed signs of extreme wear. Mshai explained the mixture of twines upon it. “It has waited many centuries with my family. We never opened it. We did, however, tie it with new string each time it rotted.” Holding it closely to his face, Bruce read fading letters that marked one side. Mshai added with a glint in his owlish eye, “This package has not always been in Alexandria. My family—we have seen many wars—have been refugees. Always it is with us. Always weguarded it. I am told once it was in a fire. My ancestor risked his life to see it safely removed from the flames. He burned his hands badly, but it was a worthwhile sacrifice.”

Slowly Bruce turned the package sideways to examine it further. “Who told you to deliver it to me?”

“This note.” From his pocket, Mshai pulled a faded scrap of paper. Bruce scanned it, feeling more confused by the moment. His eyes flicked between it and the package. The note gave precise directions to his flat and included a simple map of Inverness. It also contained a brief description of him, including the color of sweater he was wearing. It closed by recommending the chocolate biscuits.

“This note came with the package, which your family has held for generations?” The Egyptian nodded. “Did anything else come with it?”

“Only this.” Mshai reached into his pocket to withdraw fragile currency. It looked like it had been washed a hundred times then lay to dry in the sun.

“I-I don't understand,” Bruce said as he flipped over one of the bills. “This is modern currency, but it looks old.”

“It is.” Mshai nodded with a satisfied smile. His large eyes settled on Bruce's face. “And you gave me too much. This is the change. I am an honest man. I keep just enough to see me back to Alexandria. I return tonight.”

“Me?” he mouthed. Wordlessly he accepted the currency and placed it on the side table. His morning had started as usual. In fact, it started like any given day in his life. His life was not complicated. He got up and sometimes visited the priest. He always packed a lunch, and then he went to work. After that he came home, studied and went to bed. Always in that order. Always without interruption. It made him feel comfortable. He liked living in a way where nothing unusual happened. Why was this happening to him? He wished for his magazine and his cold chicken. But that was not to be, so without further comment, he turned to the package and, taking the knife he had used for dinner, gently broke the bonds to release the contents.

Into his lap rolled the contents: a scroll and several notes of heavy dark paper similar to the one Mshai had already shown him. Bruce read the notes, beginning with the one that said “read first” on the outside. Mshai chuckled as he snatched a third chocolate biscuit and helped himself to more tea. The note was in two hands: one familiar and another strangely archaic. He read the archaic script:

Greetings Bruce,

You have never met me, but I know you. What I am about to tell you will come as a surprise, but there is no time for

niceties, so I will come to the point. You know of the sword called Lumen and Eliyana, its Emissary. In each generation a woman is chosen as Lumen’s Emissary. She must bear the sword and use it for good. Lumen chooses its Emissary. At the same time it also selects an Advocate. An Advocate protects and serves the Emissary. I am Eliyana’s Advocate. You are Jamie Poole’s Advocate. She does not realize it yet, but very soon she will come into possession of Lumen. You must be there to protect her. The enclosed dated notes will give you instructions on what to do and when. You must follow them precisely. Christus will be with you. —Za’id

Six years earlier Bruce and his Uncle Tom and Aunt Mary, along with Brett and Jamie Poole had unintentionally resurrected Eliyana on the Isle of Osiris, north of Scotland. He missed the climactic moment when Eliyana confronted Clydus, the High Druid, who followed her through Time. But all that had finished long ago. That had been the one time in his orderly life that something had been out of order. Looking back, he admitted it had been exciting. He and Brett had been outdoors doing manual labor, restoring a circle of standing stones. It had felt rewarding to see results. A pang of regret stabbed his stomach. They had never finished restoring it. In the midst of the work, they had stumbled on Eliyana’s hidden tomb.

“What is Lumen?” Mshai brushed away a few crumbs as he barged into Bruce’s thoughts.

“It’s a silver sword,” he answered absently, as his eyes were drawn to his own signature beneath Za’id’s:

What Za’id says is true. I’m adding a post script, so you can see in your own writing that you’re not going crazy. It’s real. Everything in the notes is real. —Bruce

He had written a note together with Za’id? How could this be? And he was to be the Advocate for Jamie Poole? How old would she be now? Thirteen? Fourteen? He thought back to when he’d met her. After they’d resurrected Eliyana, things had been frantic around Uncle Tom’s home, and Jamie had looked lost, and he had felt sorry for her. He’d borrowed his uncle’s car and driven to Loch Ness. He remembered her childish enthusiasm. He’d told her the story of St. Columba and the kelpie. Her eyes had danced as she got into the story. He’d never had a younger sister, but he’d felt that day like she was his little sister. He’d forgotten until now how good it felt to tell a story that excited a young mind. He wished he had stayed in contact with her, but he was a quiet man. What would he say?

Eighteen. She would be eighteen. Almost as old has he had been when he’d met her. Briefly he wondered if she was still the strong-minded person who wasn’t afraid to challenge her dad. That had impressed him.

Bruce ignored Mshai as he read the other notes, then looked up to see his own perplexity mirrored in the eyes of the elderly man who said, “Tell me, Bruce Sutherland, how is it you mailed a package to yourself from hundreds of years before you were born?”

“I-I haven’t any idea. This is my handwriting on the outside of the package and on these notes, but…” His voice died as he returned his attention to the scroll in his lap. Unrolling it, he held it up for both men to see. He recognized the handwriting. Za’id’s again. The scroll was painted with curling and swirling letters in delicate golds, reds, greens and blues.

“It is a family tree!” Mshai exclaimed through a mouthful of biscuit. “Yours?”

Bruce read the names. Penned side by side were the names Eliyana and Za'id. “Yes, a family tree, but not mine.” He continued reading. Below Eliyana's and Za'id's names was a list of children. “They married!”

“Yes, I see. Why is a family tree so important?”

Bruce ignored the question as he studied the handwriting. The names grew sparse a few generations after Eliyana. A webbing of branches and leaves wound to the end of the scroll, which looked to have been torn at the bottom. He puzzled over this as he bent closer. Then he gasped.

“What is it?” Mshai leaned closer as well. Bruce started when he came nose to nose with the Egyptian. “Pardon me.” He grabbed another biscuit.

“Jamie is a direct descendant of Eliyana and Za’id. ”

“Is that important?”

“It is very important. The note from Za’id explains why. I am to be her Advocate.” Quickly he summarized what that meant as best as he understood.

Mshai looked. “Too bad it’s torn. Someone removed the name of Jamie’s husband. That might’ve been you!”

“Hardly.” Then he shrugged. “I’m satisfied to be her Advocate.” He felt again like she was his little sister. “I guess it’s not safe to know too much of one's future. These notes,” he picked one up, “they reveal too much already.”

“What do the rest of the notes say?” Mshai dropped his half-eaten biscuit into his lap as he leaned forward.

Bruce scrambled to his feet. “I'm sorry. I really am. You have no idea how grateful I am to you and to your family for keeping this safe. But now, I must urge you to go, or you will be late. You are not the only one who must plan for a trip. Let me pack the rest of these chocolate biscuits.”

“It is an honor, sir, for this Za’id is my ancestor. Now I understand why my family has cared for this package.” Mshai Sebi stood and bowed before taking his leave. “May God switften your feet.”


Chapter 5

Bozeman, Montana

February 2, Monday.

Four months before the Dino-dig.

“What the—!” I jumped backward off the chair. It tumbled to the side with a whack! I nearly knocked off my glasses as panic gripped me, and I broke into a cold sweat. After six years, the Bloody Hound chose today to re-enter my life. Why had he chosen today to ruin a quiet afternoon? I should have seen this coming, but near-sighted fool that I was, I hadn’t considered he might one day return.

Why was he here, you ask? Years ago Eliyana made a promise: She would save her people. In this she had failed.

As a consequence I grew up haunted by Voices of the Dead, reminding me of her failure. When I’d been younger, it had been a one-way conversation: Them begging for help. I had helped. I’d saved Eliyana’s life after the Banshee’s warning. Despite that, the Voices persisted that I wasn’t finished. The Chorus of Displaced Voices, as I’d named them, was a multitude of voices joined to embody one thought. With a single mind they communicated on a wavelength mean just for me. They expected—demanded—I do something. I’d defended Eliyana’s actions, coming up with hypothetical ideas on what she might and might not have done. That only agitated them. They exploded into a primal, polyphonic chant for justice. She’d intended to help. I knew it in my heart. How could I help them from the distant future?

Help us! You come! We need you!

After years we’d developed two-way communication. This only increased their chanting, but they couldn’t see beyond the fact she’d failed, and they’d died too soon and unjustly. Come, they continued to implore, and I walked around seemingly wrangling with myself. It was amazing what you could get away with if you stuck a phone to your ear…

Five and a half years ago Eliyana had stood beside Za’id and declared, “We must return to our home—our own time. My destiny. To lead my people. If I can return to my time before the earthquake on the Eve of Imbolc I can make a difference. I will make a difference. Time can be rewritten. They’ll never know they died. There will be no Chorus of Displaced Voices. I know the future. I can prevent the unnecessary loss of so many lives. And you, Jamie, will no longer hear Voices.” She’d vanished, but nothing had returned to normal. After resurrecting a Druidess, how could I have imagined it would? I walked around talking to Voices. And now this. I righted the chair and drew closer to the window. How the Voices screamed upon seeing that bloody beast. How they begged me to intervene. The arrival of the Bloody Hound meant one thing: Someone would die. There was no means to stop him. Who would die? After all these years, what summoned him? Whose life would he claim? Mine or another’s? What a fool I’d been to imagine that my life would only be complicated by Voices of the Dead. With time, how quickly and easily I’d forgotten the otherworldly creatures which had plagued my childhood. Did I think I’d escaped when I’d moved to Montana?

Lazily, his head swung up, catching movement in the window I braced myself against. “You want me?” I gritted my teeth, so they wouldn’t chatter. My eyes tore from the blood-soaked specter to another figure strolling across campus. My university roommate and the Bloody Hound would soon come face to face. I fought a panic attack as I screamed, “Lenore, no!”

She walked on, unaware of death in the guise of a dog. If Lenore Taylor died today, it would be my fault.

Chapter 6

Bozeman, Montana

February 2, Monday.

Four months before the Dino-dig.

“I shouldn’t even be here,” I said to no one as I watched the Bloody Hound and Lenore draw closer to each other. This morning I’d awoken distracted and agitated. I’d felt off. Not sick. Just off. I’d skipped class. Instead of studying, I’d withdrawn a new diary from beneath my mattress. I’d sat before the window at my desk, hoping by writing I’d purge this agitation. I’d felt no compulsion to write. I’d adjusted my reading glasses—little round John Lennon ones not so different from Dad’s. They’d refused to stay in place. My mind had wandered, eyes fixed just above the accusingly blank pages. An hour into it, and I’d scribbled a few lines only to scratch them out. As I looked out the window I understood why I’d felt off. The wicked beast continued on a course set to collide with Lenore. Something wicked this way comes…

This morning I’d blamed my mood on the weather. Bozeman snuggled into a valley surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. A foot of snow had fallen in the night. Clouds hung heavily, enshrouding the mountains where a blizzard raged. All I saw was snow and more snow. It continued to accumulate with no sign of stopping. My feelings of unease grew with the snow, and I didn’t want to leave the warmth and security of my room. A guy operating a Bobcat plow down the sidewalk had momentarily distracted me. Then wind had buffeted the window, erasing all evidence of his existence. I’d glanced at the textbooks on the corner of the desk. I was supposed to be in Sociology. I couldn’t do Sociology right now.

“What’s wrong with me?” I’d asked the empty room. I’d tried to think of something positive to pull myself from this funk, like the Dino-dig, my first archaeological excavation. Dad’s university roommate and friend, Dr. Ethan Hamilton, would lead it. I had come to Montana State University, Dad’s alma mater, in hopes of figuring him out.

On my thirteenth birthday I’d realized the need to know who my formerly-estranged dad was. In understanding him, I’d understand myself. On that day I’d asked about my grandparents, and Dad had grown secretive. More than that. He’d struggled and stuttered, and his face had turned puce. He’d refused to give a straight answer. Some people could draw all sorts of conclusions from such evasiveness. “They’re…uh…dead,” he’d said, and he’d laughed hysterically. Or maybe he’d cried.

“I don’t mind,” I heard myself say while my mind screamed, He’s lying! And just like that everything I thought knew about myself shifted. Several generations of Mom’s family slept in the cemetery I saw from my bedroom window. With Dad’s statement I realized I knew nothing. If he hadn’t acted guilty, as if trying to cover up a murder or something equally horrible, I might have dropped it. Even today as I watched the Bloody Hound, I couldn’t help seeing some connection.

I’d never seen a picture of my grandparents. I didn’t know their names. I’d assumed they lived in New Hampshire where he lived. That was naïve. Just because Mom’s family lived around us didn’t mean the same was true of him. I’d wanted to know everything. If he wouldn’t be honest, I’d dig it up myself. In the last five years I’d grown up (hearing Voices of course!), and I’d become a student at Montana State University. This was the first step in unraveling Dad’s perplexing past. The desire to understand him had been the root of my obsession. This was why I’d felt off this morning. And this had conjured the Bloody Hound.

I’d attempted to write my thoughts in the diary. You’d think I could form a coherent sentence. Looking again at all the scratched out lines, you’d be wrong. Mom said Dad chose my name. Jamie Lane Poole. Unique. Why did I get that middle name? A relative’s? He wouldn’t say. I felt unbalanced. Off. And I had conjured the Bloody Hound which was even now about to make contact with my roommate.

Dr. Hamilton was the only person I knew of who’d been acquainted with Dad before Mom married him. Admittedly, I’d put a lot of stock in what he might know. He might not know my grandparents, but he might provide a unique slant—a clue I could use to unravel a next step. Dad didn’t want me to sort things. Instead, he reiterated nothing good would come from knowing. He was the most complicated, enigmatic, moody, and stubborn person I knew. Somewhere in his gut clenching, arm folding, and puce-faced denials, he must have realized he could either stop me or let me try. As if he could stop me!

I continued to watch the Bloody Hound…

I was exactly like Dad. He knew it. Mom knew it. Heck, even the neighbors knew it. He’d helped me get into Montana State University. Sometimes I wondered why. The obvious answer was that it gave him some control…

…From what?...

…Ghosts in his head. Dad didn’t believe in ghosts or anything he couldn’t he couldn’t dig up or dissect. I assumed he hoped I wouldn’t figure things out for whatever twisted, mixed up reason, while part of him hoped I was smart enough to do just that.

So here I was at the beginning of a journey that hopefully unraveled Dad’s secret. By some small miracle, maybe some family was alive, despite his claims. Regardless of what Dr. Hamilton might know, it was a double-bonus. I’d longed for this moment for years. What I knew about Dad I’d learned from the archaeology books he’d given me. I circled back to why I’d chosen this path. I’d cut my teeth on those books. To him they might have been a humble attempt at communicating with a daughter he didn’t know. For me, they molded me and made me want to become an archaeologist.

I watched the beast below. Whirlpools of snow scudded along the lonely side-street outside Hannon Hall. There would be no one to intercept Lenore and the Bloody Hound. Dad had been right. Unraveling his past had brought disaster.

Chapter 7

Bozeman, Montana

February 2, Monday.

Four months before the Dino-dig.

The Bloody Hound was only slightly impeded by the snow. He was big enough to step through deep drifts, bobbing up and down smoothly. From my dorm room I hadn’t initially recognized my foe. I’d checked for a collar and, upon seeing none, had felt sorry for him. No one should be homeless on a day like this. They didn’t permit dogs in the dorms, but I’d been tempted to sneak him in. I’d been a fool not to recognize him. He had loped clear of a tree, stopping directly under my window. A swirl of snow parted around him, revealing an upturned face. A small head with an irregularly long snout perched on a large, muscular body about the size of a calf, peered at me through red eyes. Around his muzzle, the fur was thin, allowing the blood-colored skin to bleed through. His jaws parted, and he grinned toothily. It was more of a leer really. I’d finally recognized him and thrown my chair backward. He’d paused as if hearing.

“Leave her alone,” I murmured, lips close to the window. The dog gazed boldly back, his blood-red ears and muzzle the only color in a white day. He closed his mouth and lifted his red nose higher, scenting my fear. I couldn’t see his paws buried in the snow, but I knew them to be bloody too.

This creature appeared in folklore of every culture in some variation: He had mangled black or white fur, depending on the legend. He was a giant beast, often similar to a dragon. If you heard him bark, you’re gonna die. He looked you in the eye, you’re gonna die. His eyes glowed blood red. He guarded graveyards. No, he guarded the entrance to Hell. No, no, he came from Hell and hunted lost souls. A howl may be an omen or even cause death. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about the Hounds of the Baskervilles. The Welsh had Cŵn Annwn. The list continued… This Bloody Hound was white. In Celtic lore the color white was significant. White animals were rarer and thus had special attributes. In this variation the Bloody Hound came to take someone to the Otherworld or hell or whatever you wanted to call it. I’d never heard him bark. Instead he silently stalked his victim. Before you knew it, you were singled out by a casual glance. What business had he here?

“Not me,” I repeated to the empty room. I forced my voice to remain low, in control. Unlike my pulse or my shaking hands. I tried to dismiss the fear when his head swung Lenore’s direction. She looked up and waved. “Not her either.” I waved frantically at my roommate. Since she couldn’t hear me, she didn’t know I was screaming her name at the top of my lungs.

She hated her name. For an unknown reason, her mother named her after Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven. I should add that Lenore was both my roommate and an echo from my youth. While we’d never met, I had a well-read book written by her grandmother, Dorothy Davis, better known as the Oracle of the Goddess and Mother Venus. If you read my last diary, you’ll remember her. She was nothing like her grandmother, but maybe I’d change my mind over time. She’d arrived on campus with a chip on her shoulder the size of Illinois, her home state. Trying to break the ice, I’d asked about her hometown. “What’s in Effingham?”

She’d snorted, “Not an Effing thing. Just like the name.” Lenore was artsy and dramatic, bordering on manic, with a big heart hiding behind a sarcastic mouth. And like me, she had a soft spot for animals.

“It’s a hell hound!” I screamed in vain.

A puff of air blew past my cheek. A voice rumbled in my head. “Jamie!” This was not one of the Voices that normally vexed me. This was a new, yet somehow familiar voice.

I flicked my ear. Real or a manifestation conceived by my brain zinging on adrenaline, I didn’t care. Six years ago the Voices had foretold, “Be wary of that one—Freddie. Your paths will cross again. Ready yourself. Help the boy Dalton and the girl named for Poe.” Meeting Lenore had awakened the prophecy that I’d pushed from my mind. I’d wanted my head clear to figure out Dad. Now the Bloody Hound threatened to take my roommate, and the prophecy resounded louder. How could I have ever thought any of this could remain hidden?

The voice shot back, “Can’t the two be one desire? They are one.” I looked down at the Bloody Hound as if he possessed the answer. The voice continued, serpent smooth, blowing in my ear. “Soooooon.”

And then the Chorus of Displaced Voices drowned out the other, “Time’s hands clasp. Ready yourself. Help Lenore. Fear not only the Bloody Hound. Other events are in motion you know not of. The sapphire was purchased with Nephilim blood. Know its origin!”

I flicked my ear again. Magical swords, Druids, creatures from the Otherworld. And now Nephilim? “Can’t I pretend to be a normal student? Even for one semester?”

“No!” the first voice growled. “If you want to know Brett Poole, so begins your journey. With him.” The voice all but gestured with its non-existent hand.

My eyes returned to Lenore. “Not this way. It wasn’t to begin this way.”

“As if you had a choice.” The serpent voice crooned, and a slight ripple of air slithered past my face. “You chose this path. You don’t dictate what happens along the way.”

The Bloody Hound was attracted by Lenore’s waving. Pretending to be just a dog, he hunkered with cold, cleverly

tucking his tail between his legs. She looked to have a treat in her hand. There wasn’t time to run downstairs. After looking in vain for the spring to unlock the window, I pounded and yelled her name again. She was less than two feet from the Bloody Hound. He did such a remarkable job of looking like an ordinary dog that he missed a one-eared cat that scurried between Lenore and him. The gray tabby stopped inches from the otherworldly hound and arched its back. The cat must have hissed because Lenore jumped back. Having only one ear, he certainly wasn’t afraid of a fight, but he would be no worthy adversary.

By now I was trying to raise the window by sheer will-power. The cat fluffed its fur, doubling its size. I think it swatted at the Bloody Hound because the he fell into hot pursuit of the cat, which took off like a rocket, heedless of the snow. Lenore looked up and shrugged. She would be here in a couple minutes, so I tried to settle my racing heart. I picked up stray text books, and stashed the diary as an explosion in the form of Lenore burst through the door.

“Hey, Huckleberry Jam! What’s wrong? Been exercising again? You’re dripping sweat all over my side of the room. Keep that crap on your side.” I stuttered nonsensical stuff, trying not to go into a full-blown panic attack, and she tripped on, blind to my irrational behavior. “Skipping class I see! Guess I’m wearing off on you! What didja think of that dog? He looked super cold. Too bad he ran off.” She reminded me of an Inuit with her huge green coat. She shook snow out of her flip flops.

Yes, I said flip flops.

Lenore caught me staring. She rolled her eyes at my favorite red Converse shoes, propped in a corner, and said, for the umpteenth time. “Shoes are so overrated. Take yours. I know you love them. But who names shoes? Converse or Chuck Taylors. Heh. Like the shoes and I are distant cousins. We look nothing alike. Look, my toes aren’t even blue!”

My mouth continued to flounder helplessly. Normally I had a retort for that, but my mind was otherwise occupied. I continued to sweat freely. I sneaked a glance out the window. I thought I saw the Bloody Hound emerge deliberately across the street, but when I blinked, I realized it was my overly-revved imagination. I wasn’t sure which comment to respond to, so I opted for the safer subject. Maybe she’d forget the Bloody Hound. “You're skipping class, too.”

“I know, but people expect it of me. Not you.” She shook the snow from her hair and flopped on the bed with a dramatic huff. “Maybe we should go out together and find that dog. He looked pretty cold, Huck.”

Lenore had nicknamed me Huckleberry Jam. Huck for short. It was a twist on the Mark Twain character who, like me, got himself into sticky spots. “Jam” was both an abbreviation of “Jamie” and a joke about how I’d once worn jam on my favorite shirt. All day. And she’d “forgotten” to tell me. She nicknamed everyone, even though she hated being called anything besides her own name.

“I dunno.” I tried to sound skeptical. “He looked kinda mean. You’re lucky he didn’t bite you.”

“Aw, you’re such a baby.”

“He could be halfway to the interstate by now.” I wished that were true.

“If you find a Doggie Popsicle later, don’t come crying to me!” Dropping the subject, she flipped through something on her phone. I was still trying to get my heart rate to return to something resembling normal as I slumped onto my bed, reminding myself not to rock in a fetal position. Lenore rolled onto her back. Her hair, a shade lighter brown than mine, dangled over the side of the bed. She looked so carefree with her squinty eyes and turned up nose, while I had to look like a disaster with sweaty tendrils plastered across my forehead.

“Hey,” I blurted the first thing that came to mind. “Did you notice that cat was missing an ear?”

She waved her hand dramatically. “By all means, let’s rescue the cat, too. That should be great fun to watch them chase each other around the room! Not to sound harsh, and you know I love you, but you live in the slow lane. Someday you’re gonna have to learn to live outside the slow lane. Life’s gonna pass you by. Skipping class. Make that your first step to recovery.”

You chose this path. You don’t dictate what happens along the way, the voice echoed.

I rolled my eyes and flopped back. The Bloody Hound was in town. What next? Should I be wary of that one—Freddie? How should I ready myself? And what were Nephilim? So many questions. I’d forgotten Dad. As his name crossed my mind, I knew one thing was certain. There was no way I’d tell him who was back. This was my problem, and I’d solve it before anyone died. Him, or Lenore, or anyone else.


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