Chosen One, 122

When the door opened again later in the day, it wasn’t Bernie or Blair, but another boy who was around the same age. He was a southerner, though. “Come on,” he said, standing in the doorway. “Out here.”

Isaac spent a second trying to decide whether it was worth being a pain in the ass, and stood up. “Sure. Where are we going?”

“Don’t waste your time, please. I’m not a horny idiot like my brothers.”

Considering he was looking at Isaac’s dick, Isaac doubted at least half of that. “Sure.” He held his hands behind his head and followed him out of the room, trying not to fully let out the breath he was holding. He’d managed to restrain himself enough that he could touch it without it totally filling him, but he wasn’t totally sure yet what that would mean if he had to try and use it.

Slavery, 102

“Cannot believe you made me go to the wedding,” Daniel grumbled, as he and Theodore filed into the First Church of the Blessed.

“Now, Daniel,” said Theodore, patting Daniel’s shoulder. “There is no need to be frustrated. The guards were only doing their jobs. They were trained to be thorough.”

“I’m not mad about the guards,” Daniel insisted. There had been people patting everyone down before they could come into the church.

Theodore made a vague noise, which made Daniel scowl. “Shut up.”

“I said nothing.”

Others, 32

“You’re an exceptionally hard woman to track down,” Helena said to Jocelyn.

“You would be too,” Jocelyn snapped, glaring at Helena. “If the people who were after me were after you.”

“Indeed. You’re very lucky that Samson Arkhewer doesn’t have the resources I do. Tell me,” Helena said. “What in the world possessed you to betray him?”

“Perhaps I’d be inclined to answer you,” Jocelyn said. She took one of Helena’s cookies, bit into it, and then glared at it. Helena had never understood people who didn’t like her cookies; she made them herself. “If I knew who the fuck you were.”

Helena sipped her tea. “I believe I already told you, I’m Helena of House Quate. I’m the king’s primary advisor on matters of domestic import.”

Renegade, 10

“None of you are to speak,” said Mom, as they prepared to leave the island. John wished he could be as excited as he normally was about leaving the island. Normally it felt like escaping a prison. This time his jailers were coming with him. “The Sorcerer King is volatile and easily angered, and I won’t have any of you setting him off with your idiocy.”

John didn’t need to imagine that she was directing that comment at him. She looked right at him as she spoke. John just made himself look fully at her, trying not to be afraid. Of Sorcerer King, of James, of her. And it worked. She rolled her eyes and shifted her glare to Dad. She wouldn’t hurt him. She needed him. John had stayed up all night last night, long after Dad had fallen asleep in his bed, writing spells. Combat spells, to give them an advantage over James, over someone who was way more powerful than any of them were, even together.

Mom said it wasn’t supposed to come down to a fight, that the Sorcerer King was going to trap him. But John would rather feel silly for wasting a night of sleep than be dead for being unprepared.

“You’re the one with the relationship with him,” said Dad, stressing the word ‘relationship’ just a little. Was mom having sex with the Sorcerer King? “We’re not interested in getting in your way.”

“Good,” said Mom with a brusque nod. She was shorter of temper than usual today, seeming just on the edge of yelling already. Dad said she was nervous. “Let’s go, then.”

Renegade, 8

John sighed, tapping his dry quill against his paper. He’d decided to try working on something, because he was in a good mood and he always thought better when he was in a good mood. But his good mood was fading a little the longer he sat here looking at his notes and circles and getting nowhere with them. He’d been right the first time, there was no way around using his own soul as a catalyst for the artificial ones.

At least not without replacing it with a different catalyst, John thought, for the hundredth time. But animal souls didn’t cut it, and another person would work just fine, but there was no point in making an artificial soul if he had to kill a real person for every two he made.

“You okay?” Dad asked. He was sitting nearby, doing his own work. It was quiet in the shed, and John was enjoying the companionship. Dad seemed to be writing a lot, though, which kind of made John feel bad for not really doing anything.

“Yeah,” John said, not looking up from his work. “Just thinking.”

Renegade, 5

John lay in bed, panting, staring at the ceiling with tears in his eyes, waiting for the pain to subside.

It would, he knew it would in a few minutes. But he always forgot how much it hurt. It hurt so much, so much that he was worried he’d done it wrong, that he’d broken his dick, that it was always going to hurt like this forever now.

“Fuck,” John whispered, looking down, then cringing. It wasn’t that bad, objectively. There was hardly any blood at all. But there was a little bit of blood, and it was his blood, and it was on his dick. “Fuck.”

Renegade, 4

Salt stung John’s eyes as the wind and waves kicked everything, including him, around. It was a bad day, windy with a lot of waves, making being in the water miserable. He stood as still as he could in the water, spear in his hand, watching the fish move back and forth, letting them get used to his being there.

When it felt right, John stabbed down with the spear, smiling to himself as he managed to get two fish at once. He held them up and took in a deep breath. The life force of the fish bled down through his spear, into his hand. And out his other hand, flat on the surface of the water. Four more fish floated to the surface as John exhaled, grabbing them by the tails. It was easier when they didn’t move. His dad had taught him that.

He turned back to the shore, his smile fading when he saw his sister. He’d forgotten for a second that she was there instead of his dad.

The Life of A Renegade Is Hard, But Not for the Reasons You’ve Been Led to Believe

John was in a pissy mood, and he knew it. He’d been snapping at his sister and snarking at his parents for a few days now, enough that they were mostly leaving him alone. He knew he was being childish, he really did. But he was also pissed off.

He’d made two artificial souls. Literally made them from nothing but power and ideas, in a shed. He’d had to anchor them to his own, but he’d done it. That was so hard it was basically impossible, and John had done it. And he’d put them into two corpses that he’d had lying around, and John had created life. Artificial life.

And then it had been stolen from him. Some creature called the Sea King had shown up out of nowhere, ruined the nice piracy gig John had had going on, and stolen Hammerhead and Alanna. Broken his control over them, made off with them, and turned them into his servants instead of John’s.

John had made the necromantic breakthrough of a lifetime and it had been stolen from him by some asshole with nice teeth. And he’d gone there. He’d followed the thread that connected him to Hammerhead and Alanna, and he’d gone there to negotiate to get them back. And he’d been met with an offer to work for the Sea King. As a servant.