Prompt Short Story: The Ancient Stranger (Lawkeepers 12)

1: I have gathered you all here today…

Jeremy waited for the elevator doors to close, having carefully checked and counted everyone getting on. The right number, so probably the right people.

He stood unobtrusively, but solidly stubborn, by the control panel. Those who tried to brush past, or nudge him farther in, quickly realised that he was not moveable.

When the lift was halfway up the building, he pushed the emergency stop button, quickly gaining the full attention of everyone present.

He gave them a short but perfectly crafted bow.

“Good afternoon. I do apologise for the disruption,” he began, the script unrolling in his head. “I believe that all here were invited by Kyra. I’m sure you’re all wondering why you’ve been summoned, and now you’re wondering why everyone else has been summoned, and what connects you all. Yes?”

There were some vague agreeable noises and Jeremy continued, following the script, trusting in Kyra’s promise that doing so would result in the desired outcome.

“And some of you are now, or will soon, be realising that the emergency stop button in a building like this will trigger an emergency response. Well in theory you’re correct,” Jeremy gave them a conspiratorial smile, “When I was 17, I was at a fancy party and I got to hooking up with this guy, Li Jei. So we’re going at it in the lift up to his room, and we’re feeling particularly drunk and horny and impatient. So I hit the emergency stop, and we went for it. By the time a team of security guards arrived we were…well let’s just say we were well past a PG rating. That was when I learned that those things are hooked up to something. And also that a lift in a fancy place has well-hidden CCTV.”

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Prompt Short Story: Found (Lawkeepers 11)

Justinia clenched her fists tightly behind her back, the only outward sign of her emotions. Her face calm, she continued to study the map on the wall, and the manuscript on the table, asking the occasional question of the gentleman who showed it to her so eagerly.

He wouldn’t be so eager if he knew what she was really about, but she didn’t care about that. Or him. Or most of what he was saying. What she cared about was his obsessive tracing of what he thought to be a line of powerful witches, descending down a line directly from Irving Napier.

She wondered what he’d say if she told him they were all the same person. Just Irving, under different names, pretending. Forging papers, moving around each time he needed to disappear and reappear as his younger self – constant glamours letting him age up and down at will.

But for the occasional slip-up, he had made his way smoothly through the decades. It was those slip-ups, however, that this eager young man had begun to pick up on in his studies of magical families; or rather, families supposedly magical. He hadn’t believed either, until he began to dig deeper into the Napier line.

Now, this man had an entire museum in his attic, filled with investigations and information about the Napiers.

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Prompt Short Story: Penance (Lawkeepers 10)

Content Warning: mild sexual assault, crude sexual language, drunkenness

Jeremy yawned and forced his eyes open, groggy with sleep. His head, full of cotton wool, hung heavily on his neck as he pushed the blanket back and planted his feet on the soft, warm carpet of the bedroom floor.

The bathroom was a few short, staggering, steps away and he hung for a moment on the doorframe, staring at the face in the mirror.

It was pale, aside from the redness around his eyes and the dried blood from where he had bitten his lip sometime last night. He hadn’t even noticed doing that. He had been far too busy drunkenly throwing things at his boyfriend.

Former boyfriend, he supposed, now.

His own fault. Everything that came next, he earned. Friends would turn away from him. Family, too. Even his job would be in danger, if Sammy decided to press charges.

He sat on the toilet lid and rested his head against the cool porcelain of the sink, helpless to stop the memories surfacing.

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Prompt Short Story: Memories (Lawkeepers 8)

Shia and Patterson poured blood-spiked coffee from the carafe – hers black, with plenty of sugar, theirs with cream and even more sugar.

“How are we doing this, then, boss?” Shia asked, leaning against the counter.

Patterson tilted their head in thought, “This dude’s a telepath – and by all accounts, a strong one. I think we persuade him to show, rather than tell.”

Shia nodded, “OK. You or me? Or can he do both?”

“That’s one of the things we need to find out. But first, we need to make him talk to us.”

The pair had run down yet another lead on the witch. On arrival, they found yet another almost abandoned house, the only person there a short, weedy man, tied to a chair with multiple bruises.

His relief at being freed made him open his mouth to begin with. Before his reticence had returned on the way to the Lawkeeper station, he had revealed that the witch – or her cronies, at least – had captured him some weeks ago, and were trying to get him to use his powers as a tracker. According to his rap sheet, this was his regular job, so quite why he required kidnapping for it, neither were sure, and at this question he had remembered himself enough to shut up.

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Prompt Short Story: Diet (Lawkeepers 7)

Shia kicked the door closed with one boot, hands full of grocery bags, keys in her mouth. She mumbled at Frankie as she poked her head out of the home office.

Frankie grinned, interpreting the grunts as the request for help that they were, “I can help, one sec.” She disappeared back into the room and returned in a few seconds, bare feet padding across the hardwood floor to the breakfast bar.

She began passing items to Shia, who placed them in their correct spots – cupboard, fridge, freezer, counter, “Good day?”

Shia shrugged, “Quiet one. No sign of the witch, she’s gone to ground again and Patterson is getting antsy. Did manage to bust a couple of vamps trying to trick humans into being eaten, though, so that was good.”

Frankie steeled herself, “So when you find the witch. Like. What then? You go in with lots of backup and keep out of danger, right? You’ve told me how powerful she is, surely Patterson won’t let you in the way of her magic?”

Shia’s shoulders stiffened and she half-turned to Frankie, voice ever so slightly cold, “Patterson and I will decide together at that time, and if finally catching her means going into danger, then that’s what I’ll do.”

“And what about me? If you die, what do I do?” Frankie asked, handing over a packet of deli ham. “Your blood keeps me alive, it fights my leukaemia. Without it, I’m dead.”

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Prompt Short Story: Blood (Lawkeepers 6)

The first human to reach over 130 years old stared out of the car window as they passed through the neighbourhood he had grown up in.

“This was so different in my younger days,” he sighed, almost to himself.

The driver nodded politely and made an agreeing noise, unsure if the old man could even see or hear them through his reverie.

A medical marvel, he was. Not only the first human to reach 130 (and still that – 30 years later, nobody else had come close than 120), but also, apparently, regenerating. Aging downwards. Becoming younger by the year.

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Prompt Short Story: Messages (Lawkeepers 5)

Arriving home, Kyra locked the door to her flat, her shoulders visibly slumping as she let the weight of the day pass. She removed her coat and scarf, hanging them on an old-fashioned hat stand. She looked longingly for a moment at the soft sofa, then shook her head. Later. There was one more thing she had to do today.

Kyra entered the darkened room and closed the door behind her, activating the deadlock ward with one thumb. A light shimmer passed over the door, confirming that nobody else could enter.

She turned to the room itself. It was small, barely more than a cupboard.. A ball of light magic cast a soft glow over a desk and chair. On the desk, sat a black box.

Kyra pulled out the chair and sat down. She turned two sets of dials on the box to the right combination, and snapped open the double lock. The front and top opened, and she pushed the box towards the back of the desk as she reached inside.

Cradled carefully in her slender hands was an old, battered typewriter. The metal casing gave it weight, and the slight aura of magic gave it gravity, as she set it down within reach and laid her fingers on the keys.

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Prompt Short Story: The Boss (Lawkeepers 4)

Kyra folded her arms and sat back in her chair, “You want to do what, now?!”

Patterson looked over at Shia, who shrugged, and back at their boss, “I want to set a trap for Justinia.”

“Using yourself as bait.”

Patterson nodded.

“And me as a lure.”

Patterson nodded again. 

Kyra reached up to run her hands through her hair, then remembered she’d had it cut short last week in a moment of…self doubt? Madness? Need for change? Something. She already missed the hair that reached down to her tailbone. It would take years to grow back. She sighed. She knew why she’d done it, and it was too late now.

Patterson was patiently awaiting her attention. Their reaction to her haircut had been extreme, but then, they understood, at least a little. They’d known each other a long time, as friends, then lovers, then friends again. She had moved up the ranks while Patterson had chosen to remain in the field, determined to capture Justinia. She understood, but sometimes that meant saving them from themselves.

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Prompt Short Story: Remembering (Lawkeepers #3)

Patterson shifted in their sleep, the cot in the back of the van creaking as they sought a comfortable position. Shia looked back in concern as they gave a whimper. And then another.

With a sharp intake of breath, Patterson woke, one arm flailing to escape the blanket. They looked around, their soft brown eyes wide, taking deep breaths as they brought themselves back to the here and now.

In the apartment. Across from a large, empty, rundown building. Another stakeout, a long one this time, information gathering rather than taking action. It meant downtime, time to think, time to dream. Time to remember.

Losing the witch again had triggered a flood that Patterson had long been holding back. There had been no sign of her since, and the captive they’d taken was unable to tell them anything about her whereabouts, as he had only ever seen her as a projection. As far as Patterson was concerned, the other information he was spouting in hopes of making a deal could be dealt with by someone else. And yet, here they were, following up a lead from the guy.

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Prompt Short Story: Stakeout (Lawkeepers 2)

Patterson stretched in the back of the black van, their eyes never leaving the monitors showing feeds of the front and back of the house.

Shia yawned and slumped further down in her chair, I. Am. So. Bored!”

Patterson shrugged, “Sometimes that’s the job. You want be a Lawkeeper, you have to take the fun with the…less fun.”

“Sitting in a van, drinking coffee-laced blood, staring at screens where nothing is happening. Definitely the less fun.”

Patterson leaned back in their chair, “My first long stakeout was watching the entrance to a cave lair – there were more of those back then, houses were still the place where humans lived, only the fanciest of extranaturals dared join the natural world. We’d been tipped off that this was where a particularly nasty creature was taking young men from nearby towns. We didn’t know what creature it was, so we had to watch and find out. Anyway, me and my mentor, Xulien, sat for three days, in a hastily constructed tree blind, waiting for something to happen. Eventually, it came out to get its next meal. Turned out to be a rather large and especially ugly Manticore.”

“A what?”

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