Editor’s Note: This is the ninth chapter of The Lost Prentice, an online serial novel exclusively on the Baltimore Post-Examiner. If you missed the previous chapter, please read it before starting this latest installment. Every week we will be posting a new chapter.
“I have to do what?”
The man Gwen called her parents’ boss stood in the center of the family room in a white suit and tie. He was tall, taller than Miles and had a steady look in his brown eyes. Brown eyes that saw everything and knew how to take control of a situation with a mere glance. His name was Orpheus.
“You must stand before the assembly and declare your loyalties to the Subtles and the Fae,” Orpheus said.
“Why would I have to do that?” asked Miles, feeling his palms begin to sweat.
“So if you betrayed us, we won’t hesitate to annihilate you. We don’t waste time with traitors.”
Owen snickered. “Tell him we’ll make him fall on his own sword. That will really amp up the drama,” he joked from the chair in the corner.
Zelda shushed him loudly and then gave back her attention to Orpheus once more. She was standing beside the couch, her arms crossed. “Could there be any way he’s not Prentice?” she asked him.
Orpheus glanced back at the wall with the chalked word DEVIL still drawn on it and the canvas of the tarot card deception of the Devil on the floor. “If all that you tell me is true then I wouldn’t suspect so. And, my word Zelda look at him. How can you say he’s not Cordelia and Ivor’s son? You can see them both just in his eyes.”
“That being said, I don’t want to house a man who could possibly slaughter my entire family just because he was trying to make his daddy proud.”
“Well then you would know he was Prentice,” chimed Owen.
Everyone threw him a dirty look. Even Miles.
“You don’t have to house him, Zelda. We can put him up in a hotel, guarded by Piskies. Or I can take him.”
Gwen reached out for Zelda from the couch as she squeezed Miles’ hand. “Zelda, please. Don’t let anybody take him.”
Zelda met her sister’s eyes but didn’t respond.
“I’m sure you have nothing to worry about,” continued Orpheus. “You’ve found the lost apprentice. The fact that we got to him first is an excellent advantage. I would hate to think how Mr. Hunter would be swayed if
Ivor or any Vulgar had located him first,” said Orpheus.
Miles felt a little offended with all of them thinking he could be swayed. “It wouldn’t matter anyway,” Gwen said. “He’s chosen to be Subtle at heart. He’s a sorcerer now.”
“You may trust him with your life but I don’t trust him with mine, or especially yours,” said Zelda. “We have an assembly to attend early in the morning. All of you need to retire to your rooms and get some sleep. Now. I have a headache.”
Gwen threw Miles a look and then she took him upstairs to see her room. He was once again shocked by the winding staircase and the second floor. There were at least a dozen doors and it was just as colorful and cluttered as the first floor.
“Your house doesn’t look this big from the outside,” Miles said.
She laughed. “The trees around the side and the back of the house hide its real size. And not by much. The rooms are really small.”
“Why do you have so many rooms?”
“Our great grandparents hoped to have many kids when they married. They didn’t. But now the house is being put to good use anyway.”
“Where’s your room?”
“The fourth one on the left,” Gwen said leading him. She opened her door, pulled him in, and closed it behind him.
Miles had the opportunity to be shocked once more. The room was indeed tiny, no bigger than his walk in closet back at his parents’ house. The walls were a sunshine yellow and were a piece of artwork itself. Her sister Evie had painted sunflowers so realistically around the entire room, you swore Gwen was sleeping in the garden on a summer day as the sun was setting. Her small twin bed was just as yellow as the walls and the flowers. The wood floor was a honey oak but was covered with a leaf green plush carpet. She had one dresser which was painted green as well as if it were part of the grass. The closet doors were painted as if it was an iron gate to some magical world. Everywhere he looked there were pictures or flowers in small vases. The room was too much, there was too much to look at.
“This is your room?” asked Miles. “I thought your favorite flower was lavender.”
“It is. But I love the yellow of sunflowers.”
“How do you concentrate in here? How do you focus?”
“What do you mean?”
Miles walked forward to rub a finger along the grass dresser. It felt like wood, but it looked so much like a grassy field that he could feel his eyes crossing from the illusion. “It’s so bright. It’s just so much. How does your mind ever shut off?”
Gwen laughed, throwing her head back. “There’s no need to turn off my mind. I like it to be on. Now lie with me, Miles. If the color is too much, just focus on me.”
He allowed her to take his hand and lead her to the very small bed. “I don’t think we’re both going to fit.”
“We’ll make do.”
She crawled into the bed first and Miles finally got the chance to remember that she was still in his t-shirt and robe. The two of the them laid on their sides facing each other. Miles lifted his hand and wrapped his fingers around her neck.
“Do you have any idea how arousing it is to see you in my clothes?” asked Miles.
Her eyes glittered and a quick smile spread on her face. “Does it really?”
“Really. Although pretty much anything you wear arouses me.”
“I have it on good account that simply wearing nothing but my birthday suit arouses you as well,” she added with a giggle.
Miles leaned in to kiss her when the door was kicked open. Both Gwen and Miles sat up on the bed, their hearts leaping into their throats. Zelda was standing at the doorway, lowering her boot slowly to the floor.
There was ice in her eyes and running through her veins. She took one step into the room and Miles swore the floor could have frozen where she stood.
“In what universe is it okay for you to share a room with my little sister?” demanded Zelda.
“We’ve shared a bed before Zelda! Mind your own business!” snapped Gwen.
“Not the point,” hissed Zelda. “Get out,” she said in a tone that vibrated through Miles to his core. He had no choice but to step through the room and follow Zelda out. Gwen was quick to follow, shouting at her sister.
Miles, very smartly, decided to keep his mouth shut. He would have no problem agreeing with Gwen, but the look of ice Zelda was throwing at him had him frightened beyond all reason.
The very first door to the right opened and Owen leaned on the door frame. “Hey, there handsome. You know Zelda, I would be more than happy to keep an eye on the red headed Devil for you. And I’m sure I could find a use for him.”
Miles rolled his eyes. Zelda didn’t even give him a second glance. “Get back to bed Owen. You’re never going to turn a straight guy gay. No matter how hard you wish and no matter how intricate your spells.”
Owen laughed loudly and shut his door.
Zelda led him down the winding stairs and back to the red couch where it was prepared for the evening with a white sheet and pillow, and as well as a blue blanket.
“Owen can’t do that, can he?”
Zelda looked up into the emerald green eyes of her godmother. They were wide with fear and looked so much like hers, Zelda’s sad heart broke a little more.
“Do what?” she asked flatly, betraying nothing of her true feelings for the boy.
“Create a spell that will make me think I’m gay?”
If Miles didn’t know any better, he could have sworn he saw a smile in her cold brown eyes. “You have a problem with gay people?”
“No, not at all.”
“Good. But no. No spell can turn you gay. You’re either born gay or not. As for Owen, he can’t cast spells because he’s a fairy. Only Enchantress and Sorcerers can cast spells. Now he could try a love potion, but even then, you can’t fall in love with what you’re not attracted to. It’s impossible.”
“This is where you’ll be sleeping. Away from the tempting body of my sister.”
“Why can’t I go back to my apartment?”
“It’s not safe. You have no protection. But after I’m done with your parents’ house,” she said, frustrated that she was volunteered to cast a spell on the Hunter house, “I’ll head to your apartment and grab a few things if you give me a list.”
“Why can’t I go with you?” he asked, as he followed her into the kitchen.
“Because I said so. Now let me work.”
Miles watched as she rubbed oil on a black and white candle and inscribed a symbol on each with a white handled blade. She lit the incense and the candles with a match. Then she grabbed a few dried herbs from her pantry and put them into a red bag.
As she began to sew the small red pouch shut, she said, “Herbs and oil and iron strong; protect the Hunter house; that no harm come by day or night. In a quiet place is where you’ll lay, keep negativity far away, for as I will, so mote it be.”
She blew out the candles and then snipped the excess thread.
“Did you just cast a spell?”
“I created a charm. Spells have a direct effect on an object or being. A charm is when you bind magic to an object to carry out the goal. This is a home protection pouch which I’ll hide on the front porch of your parents’ house. Then I’ll place a spell on the house.”
“I’m going with you!” Miles said again, watching her grab her purse and keys.
“Not happening.” She reached into a nearby closet and pulled out a white raincoat. As she pulled it on she noticed he was putting back on his shoes. “What are you doing?”
“Putting on my shoes. I’m going with you.”
“No, you aren’t.”
“Wanna bet?” Miles looked up and realized she was only going to use her powers on him. So he held up a hand before she could open her mouth. “Zelda, I don’t want to fight with you-”
“It wouldn’t be much of a fight seeing how all I would have to do would be to tell you to stay.”
“It would be a draw.”
Zelda rolled her eyes. “Why am I wasting my time on you?”
“Look. I just don’t want to stay in your home and feel helpless. Besides, they’re my parents and I don’t feel comfortable with you rummaging through my drawers.”
“Afraid I might find something?”
Miles threw her a dirty look. “Yeah. I gotta flush my stash.”
“Fine. Grab one of Owen’s million coat wonder.”
Miles opened the closet and couldn’t tell which of the coats were female and which one were male. Because the only coats that weren’t white were the colors of the rainbow and by the look of it, all girl coats. “Ah, I’ll just take an umbrella if you have it.”
He thought he saw yet another hint of a smile, but it was gone before he could be sure. She moved him aside and pulled out a white umbrella from the back of the closet.
Miles took it and followed her quick steps through the house. He had a second to wonder how a woman in five-inch heels could move so swiftly and gracefully. “Why do you all wear white?”
“Because white deflects.”
It was still raining with a vengeance as Miles climbed into her little white hybrid car. Dangling from the rearview mirror was a large oval silver locket which had a goddess carved into the front. The locket was made of turquoise stones as well as the chain.
“Who is that on the locket?” asked Miles, too jittery to stay silent.
“Athena. The Greek Goddess of travel. Athena is said to protect female drivers, mostly the solo drivers.
Inside is a picture of my parents. I just like to think my parents are always watching.”
“You believe in that?” asked Miles. “Calling on the power of the goddesses and the gods?”
“No. But I believe in covering all the bases.”
As Miles continued to glance around the car, he saw a phrase carved on the dashboard. It said: May all those who chose to travel within this frame be granted a safe trip. The moment he finished reading it, he heard Zelda mutter under her breath.
“I call upon the energy of the universe to join me on my journey. May I be guided on the safe path. Please grant myself and those I chose to take with me on a peaceful trip,” she said, with her eyes closed.
“What was that? A prayer?”
“Of a sort. A mixture of a prayer and spell. I was putting out positive energy in the world and asking the energy to stay positive. Sort of cleansing it in a way.”
“I’m so lost.”
“You know, it’s pretty scientific if you want to look at it like that.”
“Why and how would I do that?”
“Why? Because you’re a man of science who clearly never thought to even once think out of the box. How? Everything is energy. If you think positive, the energy is positive. If you want to protect yourself, the energy protects you. We’re not Vulgars or barbarians. We would never try and turn a person into a mutt.”
“But you can make him think he was a dog.”
“If you piss us off enough. But you’ll learn it sooner or later. Or then again. Maybe not.”
She put the car into drive and drove through the blurry streets. She took his instructions perfectly to his parents house. She didn’t bother to wait for him as she stormed out of the car and across the grass. Before he could catch up to her quick pace, she tossed the pouch into the pot of the tree nearest to the door and was already taking out a white paint maker and uncapping it.
“Whoa, what are you going to do?”
“Write a spell on their door.”
“To protect them you idiot. Why else would I be here? And I thought they would be upset if I carved the spell with my bolline.”
“You’re vandalizing their home!”
Zelda glanced at Miles which chilled him to his bones. “You’re right. We should ask their permission.”
Miles opened his mouth to protest, but she was already ringing the doorbell dozens of times and pounding loudly on the door. Mr. Hunter threw the door open after a couple of minutes, his blue eyes dark with anger. They automatically soften when he saw Miles and a woman standing with him.
“Mr. Hunter, my name is Zelda Keridwen. My sister Gwen told you I would be coming I believe.”
“She did. But you can understand our concern and our distress for our son. Can you tell me anything?”
“No,” she said without hesitation.
Miles threw her a dirty look and Zelda rolled her eyes. “He’s staying with me, Mr. Hunter. I can offer him the most protection.”
“From his father?”
“From his birth father.” Miles saw her eyes warm for the first time he had known her. She reached out and gripped his hand. “Mr. Hunter—Richard—you will always be his father. This man who is after Miles has nothing to do with your son and how he was raised, except for the fact that he provided you his seed. Let me help you protect your son. Let me do what I do best.”
“Alright, Ms. Keridwen. Just make sure he comes back to me.”
“I’ll drag him by the hair if that’s what it takes. You and your wife should get some sleep now.”
“I really don’t think-”
“Go to bed Mr. Hunter and sleep,” she said.
Mr. Hunter blinked a couple of times and then nodded. “You’re right. Have a pleasant evening.”
The door closed and Zelda began to shake her paint marker.
“You used your headology on him, didn’t you?”
“He was wasting my time,” she said simply. Then she began to write the beautiful cursive he knew was her handwriting. She wrote: Protect the people who thrive within these walls from the black hearts who wish them harm.
“Will that work?” asked Miles. Zelda only threw him a look and began walking back to her car.
She drove him to his apartment and was standing in the middle of his living room, inspecting every inch of it. “Are you afraid of color?”
Miles smiled as he stuffed his clothes into a bag. “If I hadn’t seen your house, I could ask the same as you.”
He could hear the clacking of her heels on his apartment floor. “I didn’t realize you had a thing for orchids,” she said.
“I’ve grown fond of them ever since your sister.”
“Do you even know what they mean?”
“That I’m always on her mind.” Miles grabbed the last of his things and then headed back into his living room. She was watching him carefully.
“Then you understand your responsibility. You hurt my sister, and I’ll break every bone in your body. I’ll make sure you never have the ability to speak to a girl again. Do I make myself clear?”
Miles rolled his eyes. “Crystal. Now can we-”
He was cut off when his doorknob began to turn. When the person realized the door was locked, it began to shake the knob more aggressively.
“You expecting somebody?” asked Zelda.
Zelda rushed to him, her raincoat catching in the air. She stood in front of him and pulled out a vial and a dagger from the inside of her coat. The door burst open, but Miles never got a chance to see who walked through. Zelda threw the vial to the ground, smashing it to pieces, and a thick white smoke erupted and filled the entire room. There was a loud squeal, Zelda’s command to hush, and the door slamming shut.
In a matter of seconds, the smoke suddenly disappeared and Miles was treated to the sight of Stacey being held by Zelda against the wall, her dagger pressing against her throat.
“Give me your name and purpose!” demanded Zelda.
Stacey only screamed and Miles rushed to her side. “Zelda stop! This is my best friend Stacey! You’re frightening her!”
“Frightening her?” she demanded. “She was the one coming to your apartment in the middle of the late night, forcing her way in!”
“Zelda! For God’s sake, let her go!” Miles shoved himself between the two girls.
She finally pulled herself away and allowed Miles to comfort his shaking friend. “Miles, what the hell?!”
screamed Stacey, her accent so thick he could barely understand her English. “She had a bloody knife at my neck!”
“You were trying to break in!” snapped Zelda.
“Ladies, please!” shouted Miles. “Stacey, what are you doing here this late in the evening?”
“I’ve been trying to call you since eight this evening when Charlie told me you were taking Gwen to meet your parents! You haven’t answered! I thought the worst! So I decided to come here and see what was going on!”
“She held me at knife point and filled the room with fog! Who is she?”
“This is Gwen’s sister.”
Stacey seemed to calm down and harden in a matter of seconds. She glared over Miles to Zelda. “I see. So you’re a Keridwen.”
“Got a problem with it?” demanded Zelda.
“Yeah, I got a big problem with people holding a knife to my throat!” snapped Stacey, taking a couple of steps forward so she was toe to toe with Miles.
Zelda took a couple of steps forward as well so she was pressed against Miles’ back. He was caught between the two in a sandwich, and the feelings weren’t at all pleasant.
“Where would you like me to hold it?” asked Zelda, her voice highly sarcastic.
“Screw you bitch!”
“I’m not into women.”
Miles knew one or the other was going to snap. So he very bravely pushed the two girls away from him and each other. Stacey even threw a swipe in there, but Miles easily caught it.
“Stacey stop. We’re a little on edge,” explained Miles.
“Ugh, we do not have time for this Miles!” snapped Zelda. “You have your clothes and things! Can we go already!”
“Go where?” asked Stacey.
“None of your business,” hissed Zelda.
“Miles!” shouted Stacey. “Are you going to let this woman talk to me like that?”
“STACEY!” screamed Miles. He grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her hard enough to have her teeth rattling. “RELAX!”
“How can I relax with all this imprinted on my mind?”
“Then forget it! Go home to John, crawl into bed, and forget everything that happened tonight because I’m not going to take the time to explain everything to you! Just forget it all!”
Stacey looked at him for a couple of seconds more and then spun around on her heel to walk out of the apartment. Miles closed the door behind her and swore loudly.
“Did you have to hold a dagger to her?” asked Miles.
“You weren’t expecting anybody and I assumed it to be my duty to protect you. If you don’t like my methods—then that’s just too bad. You should have found another Enchantress to fall in love with, with sweeter sisters.”
Miles sighed. “I don’t want to fight with you Zelda because you will always win. Can we please just go home?”
This time, Zelda really did smile. But it was cold and ruthless. “That’s the smartest thing you’ve said all day Devil.”