Andrew didn’t go far into the forest before he bent down onto his knees. He cleared off a small patch of dirt and began writing in it. He drew several elaborate symbols with a steady hand. When he was done, he lowered his open palm into the middle and recited a few words.
My eyes widened as the symbols began to glow a translucent light. The light continued to grow and shine until it encompassed an entire circle at Andrew’s feet. I covered my eyes, but Andrew stared directly into the light as if it didn’t affect him. He reached down into that light and pulled something large out. When he stood up, the light flickered out.
My eyes adjusted to the relative change in lighting, looking at what Andrew was holding. It was a white bow that seemed to glitter in the light of the day. He held it out to me.
“This is some kind of angelic bow?”
Andrew nodded, “It never runs out of ammo. Just pull back and an arrow will appear. I never learned how to use it. I’m sure father would be upset if he knew I was giving it to a human, but I trust you completely.”
I took the bow from his hands, looking it over. It really was beautiful. It looked perfectly shaped and carved from a single piece of white wood. Elaborate symbols much like the ones Andrew had written into the dirt were carved into the wood. The bowstring was made of a silver material that I didn’t even recognize. As I looked over the bow, it reminded me of a question I had been meaning to ask Andrew for some time.
“I wanted to ask you about your sword,” I spoke up.
Andrew smiled at me, swinging his arm in a low arc. For a second, the familiar orange sword flickered into and then out of existence.
“It’s one of a pair of holy swords called the Gemini. I inherited it from my grandfather.”
“Why does it only appear like that for only a second?”
“It’s a very powerful sword. It takes a very powerful Archangel to be able to summon it. No Archangel can bring it into this world for more than a second or two, at least not in recorded history.”
“Yeah, the Archangels of the past could draw the sword into this reality to wield them. It required what they described as a pure heart. Old lore used to say the holy swords were sheathed within our hearts. You’d have to jam it into your heart to return it to the holy realm.”
“Wow! That sounds painful.”
“Well, you can’t blame me for never trying. No, these swords don’t function like that. It’s willpower, mostly. You bring them into existence by willing them. Kind of like magic. If I concentrate hard enough, I can bring it into this world, but I certainly can’t use it in that state, giving all my mind to simply keeping it here.”
“Once, I thought I had summoned something like it.”
Andrew gave me a polite smile, “Human’s aren’t able to summon a holy sword. If you’re talking about that time… long ago… I was there too. You just threw some magic in the shape of a sword. I never really understood how you did it, but dad mentioned it had something to do with me.”
“Something like I projected the magic into you.”
When Andrew and I were locked in that closet, I had swung what I thought was a sword, striking Stine and saving the pair of us. It was the backlash from that event that nearly killed me. I remembered the fire being purple. Wasn’t that demonic? How would Andrew project demonic power into me? Andrew’s father wasn’t there to witness it, and Andrew was very young at the time, so perhaps I’d never get an answer.
“Is that something I can do again?”
“It’d dangerous,” Andrew’s face went serious, “I don’t want you to be hurt. Please, promise me you won’t try.”
His eyes held a bit of pleading within them. I gave him a single nod before he’d relax. I still thought the magic could come in handy. Although, I also remembered a giant hole in my chest right after doing it. Maybe I shouldn’t tinker with things I didn’t understand.
“You mentioned a second sword?” I asked to change the conversation.
“No one knows anything about it.” Andrew shook his head.
“What do you mean?”
“It’s been lost, for as long as history. There are a lot of stories about it. They say the two swords are two halves of the same coin. That whoever possesses the other sword is soul mates to the companion’s wielder. Other stories say that they have to be of the same blood, brothers at arms. There are even rumors that the twin isn’t a holy sword at all, but a demonic blade.”
“Demonic?” I asked.
“Angels and demons, two swords that couldn’t be more dissimilar. I seriously doubt that is true. It was probably just lost at the bottom of some ocean.”
I nodded, “Well, I don’t have any plans to go to the sea anytime soon.”
“Just haunted houses, the moon, back in time, and Triwerewolf tournaments.”
“I didn’t plan any of that,” I responded with a pout as Andrew laughed, “Those things just sort of happened.”
A crack in the woods caused Andrew to turn and I joined him. A nervous head poked out from behind one of the trees.
“Daltom? Do you step on every single stick in the forest?” I squinted at him.
“I’m sorry, big sister, Stephan sent me to bring you. He’s in the tent where they are preparing th… the… the body.”
“Why don’t you go with Daltom?” Andrew gestured, “I need to clean up my symbols. Don’t want someone accidentally opening a hole into my dimension.”
I bid Andrew farewell and turned to follow Daltom. He nervously ran ahead of me, remaining silent as he moved. He almost seemed like a rabbit or a mouse, skittering around in an open field. He looked like he’d be far more comfortable hiding in one of the tents.
“How are you, Daltom? We haven’t talked too often.”
Daltom jumped, turning back to me.” It’s fine. The sight of another body…. Stephan’s so brave; it doesn’t even bother him a little.”
“Well, Stephan just got used to that kind of thing. I’m sure once you’ve gotten used to it you’ll be able to handle it too,” I frowned at the thought; if there was any luck in the world neither of us would have to see any more corpses.
“It’s just as bad when you become too used to seeing it…” Daltom responded lightly, as if talking to himself.
“Huh?” I frowned, looking over at the sad look on Daltom’s face.
“Ah, nothing… just thinking about the past. I mean, I guess it’s the future for all of you, right?”
After a few moments of quiet walking, I decide to ask. “You… staying with us in the past. It won’t cause any issues with time, right? I don’t want to find out time has been changed.”
“Would that be so bad?” Daltom said with a slight smile.
“Are you saying you are changing time?” I asked in a sudden panic, turning and grabbing Daltom’s shoulder. “Will the future now contain murderous robots? Daltom, I won’t be angry at you, just tell me what you changed!”
Daltom’s eyes widened and he holds up his hands to try to comfort me. “I was just joking, I’m sorry, sister, it was a joke! My presence is already part of the timeline. I can’t change anything, really!”
I realized I was shaking him and slowly let my arms fall back and relax. He took a deep breath, sighing for a moment.
“Are you really certain?” I muttered lightly, only feeling a little embarrassed over my overreaction. “When we were in space and Skyf was building a planet cracker, didn’t you say that the world was at risk. Had you not warned us, the Earth would have been in jeopardy! If you didn’t change anything, then that means the world was always safe!”
Daltom gave a sigh. “Time is… self-correcting. In a way, the Earth existed in a state where it could have not existed, or it could have existed. Nothing I did personally would have saved the Earth if the Earth was supposed to not exist, but it was ultimately our choices that dictated Earth’s survival. Do you understand?”
“No, not even a little.” I responded frankly, half expecting he was just making up a load of bull.
“Jane, can you just trust that it’s complicated time stuff and I’m on top of it? Just believe me.”
“Believe you? You mean, like that talk of us being fated to be together?” I shot back with a wry look.
Daltom turned towards me for a second, giving a smile that looked slightly pained. “Jane, when I was… born, the moment I set my eyes on you, you knew everything about me. You knew me better than I knew myself. The way you never gave up, the way you fought, you were someone larger than life. You and my uncles, it was like you could take on the universe itself. It should come as no surprise that I-“
Daltom suddenly stopped, so I leaned forward to egg him on a bit, my heart suddenly beating faster despite myself. “No surprise about what?”
Daltom’s expression didn’t change as he suddenly gestured to the side. “We’re here. Stephan’s inside.”
I turned towards the direction he was gesturing in surprise, it appeared like we had arrived at the tent much quicker than I would have expected. I gave Daltom a tight smile. It looked like he didn’t plan to finish his last thought, so I reached out a grabbed his hand, squeezing it once before turning and pushing passed the flap. He didn’t follow me, instead, standing just outside the tent flap. I didn’t blame him; the second I stepped inside I could feel that the mood inside the tent was very somber.
The elder that I had spoken to earlier stood just inside while Stephan stood near the body, staring at it intently. The young man who had been murdered was laid out on a small cot. He had a homemade blanket covering him, only leaving his lifeless face in view. There were several candles burning nearby, and a small altar at the foot of the cot. It was filled with fruits, berries, and a small bunny carcass in the middle.
The elder glanced over when I entered the tent, bowing his head slowly. Stephan glanced up, a tight smile forming on his face. He lowered his hands.
“Please tell me you’ve found something,” I pleaded with him.
Stephan shook his head sadly, “I haven’t found anything conclusive. I’m fairly convinced Daniel did not do this. I mean, apart from my trust for our werewolf friend, the motives just don’t add up.”
“What do you mean?” The elder interrupted.
“As I understand it, Daniel is one of the strongest werewolves in your clan. On top of that, he had no desire to bid for the Alpha. He had told Jane and Treena that very fact.”
“It is possible that he lied,” the elder suggested.
“Why was he out there, anyway? Did he tell you anything?” I asked.
“He told us that he wanted to discuss being Alpha with Jorgan. He wouldn’t explain exactly what for. It’s not too hard to imagine he asked his competition to quit. Jorgan refused, they fought, and this man died. Daniel certainly had motivation there.”
“True, but look at the murder itself.” Stephan interjected, “He was stabbed with a knife. Daniel could easily turn into werewolf form this close to the full moon. He would have attacked with his claws and teeth, not a knife.”
The elder shrugged, “That means nothing. Perhaps, he wanted no evidence of his deed. You can trace back claw marks and teeth marks to the original owner.”
“Speaking of which,” Stephan put his hand through his hair as he looked down at the body again, “Whose knife was it?”
The elder shrugged, “We are not the CSI. We don’t have the ability to tell things like that.”
“You’re telling me not one of you can smell the knife and trace it back to the people who have held it?”
“It smells mostly of blood.” The elder put on a look of aggravation, but after exchanging a look with Stephan for a brief moment, he relaxed his shoulders, “Fine, I suppose I can go check again. Do not touch anything while I am gone.”
The elder turned, throwing the tent flaps back and moving out. There was a squeak from Daltom’s surprise. Then the flap shut, leaving me alone with Stephan. Stephan shook his head with a strange look on his face as I approached him.
“What is it?” I asked.
“It’s just that the elder… no, all of the werewolves are being very difficult about this investigation. It’s almost like they don’t want to know who did the murder. They all seem perfectly happy pinning it on Daniel, even though when you really press them, no one actually believes he did it.”
“It was Bran,” I spoke up, staring at the body.
“Bran?” Stephan turned back to me.
“His grandfather was Stine. The werewolf who attacked me, in the past.”
Stephan nodded, “He would certainly have the motivation to remove both Daniel and Jorgan from the running, but not necessarily the means. I understand that Bran is one of the weakest in the pack. I really need to talk to a witness. Daniel’s the only one who saw anything, but they won’t let me near him.”
“Then I guess we’ll just have to depend on me winning the Triwerewolf Tournament is all.”
Stephan smiled sadly, looking over the dead body in front of him. It was so weird to imagine that Stephan was also dead. If it wasn’t for the magic coursing through his veins, he’d be just as motionless as the boy in front of him.
“Hold on,” Stephan stated, leaning forward, “He has some hair in his nails. He might have grabbed the killer’s hair before being stabbed.
Stephan put his hand on the dead body, turning the stiff palm over to examine his nails. Jorgan’s eyes popped open. Stephan jerked back, his eyes wide as he stared down at the dead werewolf. The boy was very pale, paralleling Stephan’s dead look in a lot of ways.
“What?” The man asked groggily as if he had just woken from a long sleep.
“See?” I stammered, “That’s what it’s like when you guys keep doing that to me!”
Stephan gave me an exasperated look before turning to the boy. “Are you… okay?”
Jorgan stared blankly, his mouth moved, but the words came out in barely a whisper.
“What is that? I can’t hear you.” Stephan asked, moving his ear closer to Jorgan’s mouth.
The boy’s lips moved slowly as if he was in pain. As he spoke, Stephan’s eyes grew wider.
“What is this?” The elder asked incredulously, the flap closing behind him.
Stephan stood up as if he had been goosed, putting his hands to his sides. Jorgan flopped back down on the cot, his eyes closed, his body motionless. For a second, I wondered if I had ever witnessed him moving in the first place.
The elder glanced at the dead body and Stephan a few times before asking cautiously, “What did he say?”
“He told me to tell Daniel he approves of his plan.”
“What does that mean?” the elder frowned, then put up his hand, “Never mind, what is done cannot be undone, but I would ask that you leave. My people would not be happy to have a Necromancer in their midst. Werewolves find that kind of work an abomination.”
“Necromancer?” Stephan asked in surprise, looking down at his hands, “I’m not a necromancer. Just an undead zombie.”
The elder shrugged, looking suspiciously, “Whatever you are, I’d rather you not defile the corpse any farther, for the family’s sake.”
The elder waited for Stephan to nod before turning to me, “You don’t have much longer, you might want to stop wasting time chasing after ghosts and prepare for the event.”
He immediately shoed the both of us out of the tent. We grabbed Daltom and started walking away, but he continued to glare at us from the tent flap for a minute until we were nearly out of sight. Stephan had been staring at his own hand in confusion, but he finally shook his head and looked over at me.
“Jane, do you have something on your mind?’ He asked.
“It’s just… the elder just said something now that got me thinking.”
“What’s that?” Daltom asked.
I gave a little smirk. “I think I know how we can get in to speak with Daniel.”