“I’m home!” Love closed the front door behind her and shrugged off her school backpack and coat, then she jumped in fright as she noticed her parents standing five feet away, staring at her. “God, you scared me,” she said, adjusting her volume.
“Hello, Love,” her mother said, a worried frown clouding her usually perfect face.
“Hello, Love,” her dad said, looking equally worried. “We have some news.”
“Okay,” Love said. “Give me a sec, I need to plug in my phone; it ran out of battery.”
“This can’t wait. Let’s sit down,” her mom said, and she motioned to the adjacent sitting room.
“Oh-kaay…” Love had no idea what this was about, but she knew it was going to be bad from her parents’ expressions. She sat down in the closest armchair. “Alright. What’s up?”
Her parents sat in a lounge chair opposite of her. Her mom took a deep breath and said, “Love, honey … we’re moving.”
Love just stared at them, trying to determine if she really heard what she thought she’d heard.
“We’re so sorry about what this will do to you,” her dad started to say, and was joined with similar apologetic words by her mom, until Love finally found her voice.
“We’re moving out of Woodstock?”
Her mom frowned in anticipation of dropping possibly the most unwelcome news. “Darling, we’re moving out of the country.”
“Are you kidding me!” Love almost yelled in happiness. “This is the best news! I hate my life here. I hate my school. And the country currently sucks too. I’d rather be anywhere else. Anywhere!”
Again her parents exchanged a look. “You hate your life?” her mom asked.
Love shifted in her chair. “I mean, it’s not like I hate you guys … just my school and its stupid backwards mentality. I told the counselor I wanted to be an engineer and he said I should try a career more geared towards women. What the hell? And I also hate the idea that any one of my ignorant classmates could be a potential shooter and he could just walk into a store and buy whatever weapons he wanted, and nothing is being done about it. Oh, and I hate the stupid soda machine that never works. High school sucks.”
“That’s all … very …” her mom started to say, but didn’t finish.
“Awful, yeah. I know. So … moving is the best news I’ve heard all day. Where are we going? Why are we moving?”
Love could tell her parents were ill at ease; they were shifty-eyed and looking suspicious. They didn’t answer right away, so she became apprehensive. After another few seconds of silence she all but shouted, “What’s going on, guys?”
“Hold on, sweetheart,” her mom said. “This is very difficult for us to say. We haven’t been honest with you about our … parentage.”
Her dad tried to explain. “Our family … which we’ve always said were dead, they’re now really dead, and we have to go back home to take care of … it.”
“What!” Love asked, totally confused. “Who’s dead? Who’s not dead? Take care of what?” She flipped her hand palm up in sign of questioning. “Can you be any more cryptic? Please explain.”
Her mom looked at her dad, then back at Love. “Okay, we’ll tell you everything. It might be very upsetting to hear,” she warned.
“I don’t care. Just tell me.”
Her mom took a deep breath. “First of all, we are … not human. We are fae. Faeries.”
Love’s jaw dropped. No words came out, so her mom continued. “We came from another place, the faerie world, where we lived under the rule of our father …”
“Did you say faeries??”
“Yes. And I know it might be hard to substantiate that claim without some form of proof, so look.”
Her parents held an open palm toward the other and held them a few inches apart. Before Love’s very eyes, a ball of light appeared between their hands. They held it there for a few seconds, then, with a quick burst of light, it vanished.
Love’s jaw dropped. “What was that?”
“Our magic,” her mother said. “It works much better back in our world.”
There was a moment of silence while Love’s brain tried to make sense of what was happening. It sounded crazy, but it also seemed very true. And it was … kind of exciting. Actually, really exciting. Her favorite comic book had always been one about faeries—she had been captivated by them for years and years. And to learn that faeries were real? That there really was a magical faerie world … and her family was going back to it?!
Her mom looked anxious. “We know this might be difficult for you to grasp—”
“That’s where we’re moving to? The faerie world?” Despite her parents’ apprehension, Love could not contain the excitement in her voice.
“Yes,” her dad answered. “We just learned that our father passed away. He wasn’t a nice person, which is why we never wanted to talk about him and pretended he was dead, and why we were so eager to leave our home and live here amongst humans. But … he was the ruler of our kind back home, and now that he’s gone, we have to go back to take care of our family and our people.”
“Your father was a ruler?” Love asked. “You mean like … a king?”
Her dad nodded. “Yes, a king—”
“Oh my God.” They were royalty.
“—and now that he’s gone, we have to go back to take our place in the realm,” he finished.
“So you get to be king now?” Was she going to be a princess?
Her parents exchanged a worried look again. “Maybe,” her dad said. “Maybe I’ll just be a prince, and Aurelia will be the queen. We don’t know yet.”
She looked at her mom, Aurelia, who closed her eyes; and before Love could form a question in her head, her dad spoke again.
“This might be a little disturbing to you,” he warned, “but I’ll just go ahead and say it. Your mother and I are twins, firstborns of our royal parents, King Razel and Queen Ashelia. We hated the royal world and our father’s tyrannical rule. We always relied on each other for strength; we were inseparable. After our mother passed away, our father only got worse; he forced Aurelia to marry an awful prince of another kingdom without caring that he was a known sadist; so Aurelia fled the night before the wedding. In his arrogance our father never expected her breach of duty and obedience, so it was easy for her to escape. I went looking for her and a month later found her here, in the human world. We stayed hiding, and we never meant to go back. But as of this morning, we’re both feeling a strong magic pulling us back home, as though something inside us has been activated with the passing of our father. It seems we can’t escape our blood.”
“I know this is a lot to handle, my dear,” her mom said. “Ash and I never meant to return, and we thought it would be extremely dangerous for you, so we never wanted to tell you. But we didn’t know about this magic that would call us back home.”
“Oh God!!” Love didn’t know what to think. She could handle having a tyrannous grandfather in a magical kingdom that she’d never been told existed before … but her parents, twins? This was some incestuous Lannister shit. Oh God. She was afraid she might puke. “You … is this normal in the faerie world? Brother and sister … relations?” Gross.
Her parents looked at each other and immediately started talking at the same time.
“No! It’s not like that—”
“We’re not lovers, no!”
“We love each other, but not like that.”
“We’re just best friends …”
“Wait, what?” Love was confused. “But you sleep in the same bed,” she pointed out.
“We’ve slept in the same bed since we were born, honey,” her mom said. “We’re like two halves of one soul, and we sometimes joke we’re the same person in two bodies, male and female … but that doesn’t mean we’re involved romantically.” She laughed awkwardly.
“But then … how did you have …” me, Love trailed off and couldn’t finish her question. Because all of a sudden a lot of little things that she’d noticed or questioned about her life, but always mostly ignored, started popping up in her head. First and foremost was that her parents were impossibly beautiful and she looked nothing like them. They both had fine blond hair that matched their bright golden eyes, and yet somehow had managed to produce a daughter with brown hair and brown eyes and average looks.
“You’re not my father?” Love asked, looking at the man that she called her dad. She was starting to question who her real father might be when her mom spoke.
“Our dear daughter,” Aurelia said with a deep sigh, “Ash and I are not your birth parents.”
“Whaaat …” Love started. She took a minute to let that sink in. So many signs pointed to it, yet it wouldn’t sink in. She was adopted? She knew a girl who was adopted. That girl knew she was adopted. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Her parents looked very uncomfortable and took a few moments to form an answer. Finally her mom spoke.
“We’re faeries, dear. I didn’t know what to do when I found you. You see, your birth mother—I was hiding in this world, living in the woods, learning to live on my own, when I heard a human shuffling around. I could tell it was a woman, but she didn’t say a word; she left as quickly as she came in, got in a car and drove off. I didn’t follow her; I didn’t think much of the odd, brief visit, until some short time later I heard a baby’s cry! I just rushed to the noise and found the most angelic thing I’d ever seen. I picked you up and decided to keep you safe. I joined human civilization for the first time. I stole infant formula to feed you and clothes to dress you and keep you warm. I left my crumbly shack in the woods and moved into an apartment in this small town. By the time Ash found me and told me I wasn’t supposed to just keep an abandoned baby, that I should’ve taken you to the human police, I loved you more than I could ever describe, and I couldn’t give you up. I had named you Love.”
“So naturally I stayed here with my sister, and we raised you together,” her dad concluded.
“So let me get this straight,” Love said. “You’re faeries, you can do magic, you’re royalty, and we have to go back to your faerie world for you to rule now that your father is dead?”
“Yes, Love, that is correct,” her mom said.
“But I’m just … a human someone abandoned in the woods?”
“Well, yes; but you’re not just any human; you’re our daughter and we love you so much—” her mother replied, not seeing the problem here.
Love burst into tears. “That is just the worst news ever!” And she ran up the stairs to hide in her room.
Most writers choose the endings to their stories . . . most writers are not Weavers.
Laney Holden is a freshman at Madison College whose life goes from normal to paranormal in a matter of seconds. When the antagonist in the book she’s writing shoves her down the stairs at the subway station, she learns she is a Weaver. Weavers bridge the narrow gap between fantasy and reality, bringing their words to life.
Laney soon meets William whom she also suspects is a character from her book—one she’s had a mad crush on since her pen hit the paper. But he’s in danger as her antagonist reveals a whole different ending planned for Laney’s book that involves killing William. Laney must use her writing to save the people closest to her by weaving the most difficult words she will ever write.
THE WEAVER is the first installment of The Weaver trilogy. It is an NA paranormal romance set in a small town on the north shore of Boston. It will leave you wanting more…
~a silly story about a great kingdom and the power of love~ aka: another tale of Luke and Laura
by Elizabeth L. Lemons
WORDS TO USE: Avalon lake crossbow comrade corruption enfold disgraceful grass orphan list
Once upon a time, in a groovy era filled with free love and flower power, Woodstock and presidential corruption, there existed a tiny yet lovely island known as Avalon. Surrounded by shining blue lake waters, this petite fantasy island was known by most households during the 1970’s due to the quotable declarations of a small man on television as he exclaimed, “The plane, the plane!” Anyway, known in the royal history books as “the age of Court Charles”, here on this wee island great meetings were held in the Mouse Castle, where the King’s knights would sit around a custom-created round table made entirely of driftwood and beaver boards. This particular legendary table had been built by one of the local area river rats’ finest artisans whose name was Lucky Charles. To commemorate its creator’s name, the legendary Court Charles Round Table gatherings were born. This fine table was a representation of the King’s intent to bar corruption as had been witnessed in previous disgraceful reigns. The extraordinary table’s design allowed that no one sat at the head of the table, that no one creature was head over another, that each voice garnered equal merit, and even the King himself included his own decisions to be discussed and voted on by his respected rodent Knights that sat round in advisement. This new-fangled practice allowed justice and fair treatment to all the mice of the land. The desire for a better kind of kingdom where every teeny voice could be heard was the brainstorm of the goodly mouse-king known as King Robert Scorpio.
The king was a jolly good and just mouse and was, (as an older, ordinary looking mouse-man with both idealistic and romantic plans), still filled with unfulfilled personal longing. King Robert had his visionary crossbow hairs focused on wooing and marrying the fairest maiden mouse in all of Avalon. When he found her, she was both wise and beautiful, with the softest of grey fur and a comely tail. Her name was Laura Vere. Laura Vere’s tiny mousine countenance was like the golden sun, her smile filled all the good people of Avalon with hope and cheer in the days that were plagued by war, tie-dyed clothing, music by Jimi, Janice and Jim, and bra-burning. Still, Lady Mouse Laura Vere knew a good opportunity for stability and loads of mouse munchies when she saw them, and so, despite the difference in their ages, and lack of any physical attraction, she consented to marry good King Robert. She did truly admire him, and they enjoyed the dancing and the music of the castle, as well as squirrel-back riding on warm days. They had fun and laughter and often exchanged wit and private ponderances, but these alone moments were not the kind of romantic escapades that Laura Vere had dreamed of as a young mousey girl.
It didn’t take very long before the Queen’s days in Court began to grow long, they became a total bore, and without any challenge whatsoever. Being Queen allowed Laura Vere and her maidenly mice maidens lots of room to roam, to venture across the island with complete freedom. It was on one of these daytime excursions that Queen Laura Vere took notice of a very charming and handsome knight. Luckily, on that day, longing for some Queenly solitude, she had decided to leave the ladies behind ashore for a quick solitary row for a bit of quiet. The mouse maidens constantly chattered too much and would eat all the cheeses that Cook had provided in the basket way before lunchtime. Queen Laura Vere found their unladylike greediness to be quite appalling, so on this day, she set them and a few provisions on the bank and paddled away. Her solitary adventure began as a fine sunny afternoon, filled with hopes of tranquility, until a westerly wind picked up suddenly, as a summer storm blew in. Laura Vere became frightened as she had floated a bit too far away from dry land and her leaf was teetering in the wavy water. She panicked. Just when she thought she might burst into mousey tears, Sir Luke-alot paddled up gallantly beside her on a large piece of whitish driftwood. Wearing a long forest green morning coat, he reached for her teeny ivory lace-shrouded mouse paw and helped her board his vessel. Sir Luke-alot had saved Queen Laura Vere!
“Queeeeeeeee-nie!” He said, much too familiarly. He held her delicate paw, as he simultaneously and suggestively used his masculine body to closely enfold her as he pretended to steady her stepping aboard.
She trusted him implicitly, because Laura Vere had heard a great many complimentary words spoken by King Robert in regards to his own admiration of this Knight. She knew Sir Luke-alot was her husband’s closest comrade and confidante as he performed his honor-sworn duties. Still, Sir Luke-alot was also known by all the ladies of the kingdom to be a bit of a rogue with a sullied, “ladies-man “reputation. Laura Vere generously allowed a coy smile at him as she said a silent goodbye to her rocking leaf. She decided to be lenient with him, for surely, he couldn’t help his lack of proper manners as her husband had told her that he was an orphan, and could call no other place other than this kingdom his home. That didn’t mean he was not beguiling. He was and he knew it, scoundrel or not. Overly-confident, he certainly was, but Laura Vere fell for it all… the looks, the laughter, the twinkle in his itty bitty mousey black eyes. And he smelled so good!
As Queen Laura Vere made herself comfortable upon the curved inside of his driftwood boat, she laid back in an enticing fashion as she watched him first roll and then smoke some grass with his right paw while his left paw guided them along in the lake. Sir Luke-alot was famous, seriously, he was Mouseketeer famous. Everyone knew him, everyone loved him. He was smart, quick, knew countless ways to avoid traps, water poisons, cats, and he could wield a thorn sword better than any other mouse in the land. He feared nothing and no one. It was this complete confidence that was Lady Laura Vere’s undoing.
Nature, of course, followed its destined course (as you knew it would!), and soon, the unexpected afternoon outing became a looked-forward-to daily pleasure that Lady Laura Vere and Sir Luke-alot partook of in great secrecy and lustful happiness. They were made for each other and Luke-alot (sadly) was everything that poor old King Robert was not. And you also know as well, that, now, just as it was then, there were sneaky spy rats (who were, for some unknown reason, called “Cassadines”) hiding everywhere on the riverbanks and amongst the tall weeds just waiting to uncover a tainted tidbit to tarnish the good Queen’s image and her honored place next to the King. Whether the motivation was just plain devilment or jealousy, a sordid rodent or two always seemed covetous of what someone else had, and Queen Laura Vere was blessed with all the riches of the kingdom and now, love. Soon, she and her secret lover were revealed!
Without going into all the sordid details of this long-tale extramarital affair, it is needless to say that King Robert felt betrayed when he was given the shocking news. It was quite a harsh blow of deception that brought him to his trembling old mousine knees. Yet, he could find no real fault with his beloved and kind Laura Vere. Being a wise old King, he contrived in his mousy mind a list of all the good qualities and traits that he admired about his gentle Queen and he determined in his heart that she ably fulfilled all her wifely and courtly duties to him but one, and it saddened him greatly that he was not physically able to fulfill hers. He knew he was too old to maintain her physical happiness and so he forgave her and also Sir Luke-alot. In fact, he felt a great deal of relief after the initial embarrassment of it all. Sir Luke-alot had assumed the role of lover, thereby letting the King off the hook, so to speak. But forever and ever, the betrayal and story of Sir Luke-alot and Queen Laura Vere and their tumultuous tryst would be told throughout history. King Robert actually felt quite proud of himself for being so gracious and accommodating.
And so, on a morning soon after the revelation of the affair, when interviewed by the daily newspaper, aka The Gouda Gazette, the good King seemed comfortable in trying to put the sordid incident completely behind him as he commented, “What’s done is done. I really don’t want to talk about it, actually, I’m pretty tired. Disappointments happen from time to time, but the truth is, you know… the kingdom will persevere…I’ve simply just had a bad knight.”
From the creators of the #1 bestseller The Box Under The Bed horror anthology and its #1 bestseller sequel Dark Visions, comes Nightmareland . . .
A horror anthology with 23 stories from 14 authors!
In a rundown shack deep in the woods, a high school girl dares herself to try the strange new drug all the kids are talking about. One injection of “Nightmareland” is all it takes to unleash a person’s biggest fears to them – and then they are on their own! But rebellious Jessica thinks she will prove herself to her peers and parents.
Tremble along as she is strapped into the chair and becomes a lost child on a Florida party island, an investigator looking into a circus’ bizarre side shows, an abused prisoner locked away in a desolate concrete cell, and much more as Jessica faces the most terrifying ride of her young life.
Compiled by USA Today bestselling author Dan Alatorre, this anthology of horror once again unites the minds and pens of more than a dozen amazing authors.
Nightmareland will send you into the foggy twilight of the eerie and macabre, with heart stopping stories from:
Trickles of murky water danced between shadows and fractures on the underground wall. Flickering candles twisted wilted blooms and innocent stone angels into a jungle of goblins.
“If you’re still fussing, you should have started earlier.” A redheaded vampire flashed through the arched doorway and scowled at his watch. “This space will never be anything but a tomb disguised as a fancy courtyard.”
“Like the desolate streets above us, masquerading as our city?” A man in a tuxedo slicked his mohawk straight up and adjusted his bow tie. “I thought you said rebirth was near, Mister Steven.”
“It’s so close, I can taste it. You’ve followed my instructions to the final detail?”
“Haven’t I always, sir?”
“As much as humanly possible, I guess.” Steven pointed to a steaming carafe. “Pour.”
The man’s shoulders slumped. “What am I now, your waiter?”
“I didn’t mean…that came out all wrong. Pour me a taste, Zachary. Pretty please.” Silence and a smirk followed his lingering sip. “Ah, silky smooth with a viper’s bite.”
“One coffee blunder was humiliating enough.” Zachary tipped his chin in the air. “That other swill tasted like it was blended with the ashes of the dead.”
“Sure wasn’t chicory.” Steven shuddered. “Ick.”
“Don’t worry. The tool who sold it to me, is at the bottom of the river.”
Steven planted one hand on his hip. “So, where did this brew come from?”
“Cross’ the lake.”
“Hope you’re taking my bodyguards when you leave the French Quarter.”
“So much gloom, even your soldiers can’t tell where the safe zone ends and enemy territory begins anymore. Sun hasn’t come out in years.”
“Yet, the dreadful humidity remains. Just to remind us we’re home.” Steven snapped the cuffs of his dress shirt. He inspected the linen tablecloths, uncovered serving dishes, smiled at the scent of peppermint and turned his nose up at licorice. “My chocolate?”
“All your favorites.” Zachary bowed in front of the dessert tower. “Amaretto, raspberry, almond hazelnut…but, the hazelnut still sucks.” He tapped the artery in his neck. “How bout’ a taste of this?”
“Later. Be available,” Steven said. “Eat a little cinnamon.”
“You…are damn bossy.”
Steven waggled his finger. “Leaders delegate, Zach.”
“Oh well, excuse me.” Zachary plucked a sugar cube from the pristine buffet and dropped it on his tongue. “Will it be the usual guest list tonight?”
“Yes, and I’m sure you’ll hate them all.”
“They turn the room frigid. Swear I can see my breath.” Zachary pointed to the fountain. “Your snooty, light-up water feature was frozen solid after last week’s festivities.”
“There’s a method to my madness. We’ll need the allegiance of all the coven leaders, from every corner of the globe—even the villains—to take back New Orleans.”
“Hmph.” Zachary crossed his arms. “Bastards do seem impressed. You’re still the king of decadence, like in the old days.”
“Just wait for the new days.” Steven leaned over the pastel bubbles and watched glittery fish spinning in circles. “When our family is back in power, all this melancholy will be a distant memory.”
“What about that man with the sapphire eyes?”
“You mean the warrior?” Steven sighed dramatically.
“He’s more than politics to you, isn’t he?”
“Is that a hint of green demon I hear in your voice?”
“After so many years of us…” Zachary shuffled his feet and stared at the fish. “Never mind.”
“His fire, his army—that blood.” Steven spun and pumped his fists. “The warrior is our savior. He holds the keys to an empire.”
Zachary stepped back, but not in time to avoid Steven patting his cheek as if he were a petulant child.
“My empire.” Steven flashed back through the arch. “All mine.”
October is just around the corner and all the coffee shops have already busted out all the fall flavors. Outside the air stirs, still warm but with the occasional chilly draft. The fall equinox is only a few days away. Alex is excited for the change and ready to let go of this dreadful summer haze.
The summer had been awful. Loneliness had been his constant companion; he’d been unemployed; a small-town wannabe actor freshly moved to the big city looking for acting work. He’d had a hell of a rough time, unable to join in with the rest of the city as everyone cherished those precious few weeks of perfect weather.
But then, right at the end of summer, last week, things finally improved: he got a job. Not just any job. He was finally invited to join one the most successful theater companies in the city, Elysium Theatre, and a role in their current award-winning production, The Last Victim.
Today is his first day. During his interview he already decided he loved the company. He’d met most of the actors and the stage crew, although of course he didn’t even lay eyes on the main actors. The big shots were just way too important and busy to ever hang out with the main company. They hardly come out to rehearsals, Alex learned to his disappointment, although he wasn’t surprised. He had especially wanted to meet Ben Morgan, the lead actor in the play, who had been Alex’s inspiration to become an actor, and his motivation to join this particular theater company. But Alex is thrilled nonetheless—he might not even see him, but he’s going to be in a freaking play with his hero!
Alex is the first one in. He came jogging from his studio apartment; he was too excited to sit still. He didn’t know what time everyone comes in to the rehearsals, so he chose to arrive an hour early, to be safe. Inside the designated auditorium, some lights are on but there’s no one around. He sits on a chair in the front row.
“Hello,” he hears a voice above him.
He looks up and sees—Ben Morgan? Holy crap!
“Hi, Mr. Morgan,” he stammers.
“Please, dude. Call me Ben.” Ben descends a metal ladder that’s propped against the lighting platform above the stage where he had apparently been, doing who knows what in solitude. About halfway down he jumps off and lands with uncanny grace on the stage. He sits on the ledge, right across from Alex’s chair.
“Right. Ben. I’m Alex. I’m new. I’m playing the banker, the smallest part, I know, barely two lines, but just the fact that I’m in this company, wow, I’m so excited and humbled. And to have my one scene be with you—well, the young version of Caleb, that’s, well, just, incredible.” Wow. Halfway through that logorrhea Alex knew he should stop talking, but he was so nervous that he just kept babbling on. He takes a breath to steady himself because he feels like he wants to talk some more to apologize, or to explain himself, or just to fill the silence, but he decides it might just be best to never speak again.
Ben is looking at him strangely. In his eyes there is a mixture of pity and humor. “Well, Alex, nice to meet you. But let me correct you, so you don’t go around spreading false statements.”
“Huh? What do y—”
“The banker. He’s not the smallest part. He may have only two lines, but he’s one of the most important characters in the story. He’s the pivotal person in Caleb’s life; the one who changes the course of Caleb’s whole life, when he says those two lines.”
Speechless, Alex can’t reply with words other than reciting the lines he’d already memorized, in a half whisper. “ ‘Young man, I’ve been watching you. I believe I know someone who might be quite excited to meet you.’ ”
“Aha.” Ben holds his index finger up and displays a dazzling smile. “And who did the banker mean by someone?”
“The benefactor. Mr. Lawrence.”
“Yes. And Lawrence changed Caleb’s life,” Ben reminds him. “Had it not been for the banker, Caleb wouldn’t have met Lawrence, and he wouldn’t have risen to where he did.”
“I guess,” Alex stammers.
Ben cocks his head to the side as if considering the young nobody before him. “Did you know that The Last Victim is based on a real-life story?”
“No, I didn’t,” Alex has to admit.
“My character, Caleb, is based on a young man who lived in the 50’s. His name was Charles, and he was an orphan. Just like in the play, Charles struggled in life, had many afflictions; and on one particularly bad day, having almost given up hope, he met the banker. The banker saw past the unfortunate circumstances that plagued Charles and saw only his beauty. He introduced him to his wealthy acquaintance, believing this acquaintance would be interested in Charles. And he was right. The wealthy friend took an instant liking to Charles and became his benefactor. We all know what happens next.” Ben pauses for effect, then he narrows his eyes and smiles that knowing smile of his. “But here is where the play differs drastically from the real story. In the play, Caleb goes back to his hometown as a wealthy man, and he purges the men who spurned him as an orphan, right? But in real life, Charles went back to his hometown, alright… but he killed those men.”
“What?” Alex’s face puckers in disbelief. “Just for mocking him?” In the play, one of the things young Caleb struggles with is being bullied by a few older boys that he works with. Later after he’s rich, he has them convicted and put in jail.
“They did more than mock him,” Ben explains. “They beat him up so bad, he couldn’t defend himself. He couldn’t even beg for his life. They left him for dead in the marsh where they worked. But he lived, he healed, and he persisted. He quit that job, went to a bank to borrow money to start a business. He met the banker. His life changed. And later when he was powerful, he went back and got his revenge.”
“Is that true?” Alex asks, unease creeping up his spine. “And he killed them?”
“Yes,” is Ben’s smart reply.
“But how did he do it?” Alex doesn’t really want to believe the supposed real version of the story, so his words are partially laced with disbelief. He doesn’t know where Ben is going with this, but it sounds like the guy wants to tell this story, so might as well ask him.
“I mean, how did he manage it? There were three of them and one of him.”
“There were eight of them and one of him.” Ben drops that in a deadpan voice. “In real life,” he adds.
Alex begins to get a weird vibe. Is Ben messing with him, or what? “So he paid people to do it, or…?”
“Alex, what the popular version of the story which we act out every night fails to mention is… the so-called benefactor, Lawrence, who in real life was named Lehmann, was actually a powerful vampire who fell in love with his intended victim, the little orphan boy that his banker friend brought to him as a gift. The vampire bestowed the gift of immortality on the young Charles. Not right away. Lehmann saw young Charles as a little pet; well, a pet that you have an intimate relationship with. But after some time he turned him into a vampire. And just like Caleb returns to his hometown as an adult in the play, Charles returned as an adult, albeit a vampire one, and had fun getting his revenge.”
Alex realizes his mouth is hanging open and quickly closes it. Ben is obviously joking, but he sounds so serious, Alex doesn’t know how best to reply. He looks at Ben expecting the face to reveal the butt end of the joke, or some clue as to why he’s hearing this fictional story from one of the most renowned actors in modern theater, but the man remains as serious as if he was retelling a news story from last week. Alex decides to play along. He never dreamed he’d converse like this with Ben Morgan on his first day; might as well roll with it.
“Wow, um. So, how do you know all this?”
“I play Caleb. It’s my job to know his character well, inside and out; what is written in the play, and what is not written.”
“Okay,” Alex says, frustrated with the lack of answers and not exactly knowing how he should react to Ben’s story. “Well, if Charles was a vampire, did he even die, like Caleb?”
The Last Victim is named so in reference to the main character, Caleb. After becoming rich and using his power and influence to get his revenge, his decisions gradually cross into the gray area of questionable judgment. Not being particularly trained in morality or ethics, and being quite young, he chooses to bestow assistance to people or deal punishment as his whims dictate. In the end, one particular bad decision puts the life of another young boy in peril; and Caleb, finally seeing his folly, dies tragically in a fire to save the boy, who reminds him of his former innocent self, in a gallant attempt to redeem himself. Thus, he is his own “last victim”.
“A vampire would’ve survived that fire,” Alex challenges. “He would’ve been fast enough to save the boy and save himself.”
Ben’s expression changes and his voice fills with sorrow. “He did perish in the fire. He started it, and both him and the innocent boy died in it. The boy never made it out. Charles didn’t save him. He watched as the smoke claimed the boy and had no remorse. It was Lehmann who killed Charles, finally realizing he had lost control of his little pet. So you see, Charles didn’t die in the fire like Caleb did in the play, but he equally died because of it.”
Alex, temporarily forgetting this story can’t possibly be real, feels awful for the little boy who didn’t make it out of the fire. The play, despite being a tragedy, is generally liked because this one sweet innocent unnamed kid is saved.
“So it was all a lie?” he demands. “Saving the boy, Caleb’s sacrifice?”
Ben shrugs dejectedly. “The writer didn’t like the ending, so he wrote a different one.”
“Well, he shouldn’t have,” Alex says a bit angrily. “Everyone thinks Caleb was this great tragic hero. They all applaud him, and he was an asshole.”
“He was an asshole, but Lehmann loved him. He had turned Charles into a vampire because he wanted to spend an eternity with him. Lehmann felt guilty, thinking he should’ve taught Charles better, guided him better.” He sighs. “It was Lehmann who wrote the story.”
“Wait, what? Lehmann—Lawrence? He’s the author?” Alex tries to remember the writer’s name. He can think of the playwright, but not the original author.
“Wait.” The author of a real play and the vampire in a fictional story clashing in his confused brain is too much for Alex at the moment. He covers his eyes with a hand, trying to reassess. Of all the things that don’t make sense, the one question that comes out is, “How do you know all this?”
He asked the same question earlier, but in a whole different frame of mind. Disbelief back then, mostly. This time, he wants to know. This time is different.
This time, Ben replies honestly.
He looks into Alex’s eyes, deep into his soul, it feels like. And Alex immediately knows. It’s all true.
“Would you like to know … more?” Ben Morgan hops off the stage and extends his hand down to Alex.
” They don’t pay to see you, Chuck! No one who comes to the circus pays to see some rinky dink clown!” Paul said as saliva flew from his lips nearly landing on Chuck’s face paint. “It’s all about the danger, getting their hearts pumping, not some sad freak spraying with a seltzer water at people.” He continued.
Lauren, the featured trapeze artist stepped in between the two men to end the confrontation. “Leave Chuck alone!” She barked. “If only you knew what it took to make an entire arena laugh and to keep them entertained.”
“If it isn’t little Lauren, the professional tumbler no one asked for. I wish I had the time to tell you how much you weren’t needed, but the show is starting.” With that, Paul brushed passed them both exiting the curtain tightening the grip on his leather whip.
“Don’t worry about him, babe. The people love you, you’re naturally clumsy so that helps. The show needs you.”
“Thanks for that coach. I’ll see you after the show.” Chuck said, his voice low from the encounter.
Lauren, sensing that her boyfriend was upset, tugged him by his checkered handkerchief scarf, pulling him toward her face, planting a deep, intense kiss across Chuck’s red colored lips. “Hey, is that my lipstick you’re wearing?” Lauren asked.
“Would you look at the time , I have to go on stage now. ” Chuck said while running through the curtain.
The show had started like it had done a million times before. Chuck mingling with the crowd, soaking some poor kids with his bottle of seltzer water. Lauren performed her high wire act to an standing ovation. The elephants marched in a circle dancing around the center ring of the three ring circus. To the left of the elephants the jugglers were flinging flaming torches at one another in a frenzy.
A thunderous roar shortly accompanied by sharp cries halted all of the action. Chuck glanced to the third ring and saw Paul lying on his back as the giant lion had him pinned to the ground. Chuck zoomed to the third ring clutching his seltzer bottle. Paul eyed the clown while wrestling with the lion, the lion’s teeth inches from his face. Chuck was afraid, but he couldn’t let Paul die.
“Hey, Mister lion didn’t you know that eating coworkers is bad for digestion, I’m going to write a stern letter to human resources about this.” Chuck said nervously. He sprayed his bottle, nearly emptying it unto the beasts back causing the mighty feline to remove himself from on top of Paul and rest his sights on the clown that wet him. Chuck dashed on to the platform behind him as the lion gave chase. Near the edge of the ring Chuck saw familiar highlighted marks in shape of a large rectangle on the ground near his feet which were inside of it.
He then turned to see the lion several feet away. Chuck raised both of his hands. That was the cue. As he raised his arms, the lion launched towards Chuck as he rolled out of the way. What the animal didn’t see was an iron cage falling from above him lining up with the highlighted marks on the floor. The beast was captured. Paul glared at the bewildered clown for a moment before starting the slow clap. The entire arena joined in. Chuck took a well deserved bow.
Most writers choose the endings to their stories . . . most writers are not Weavers. Laney Holden is a freshman at Madison College whose life goes from normal to paranormal in a matter of seconds. When the antagonist in the book she’s writing shoves her down the stairs at the subway station, she learns she is a Weaver. Weavers bridge the narrow gap between fantasy and reality, bringing their words to life.
Laney soon meets William whom she also suspects is a character from her book—one she’s had a mad crush on since her pen hit the paper. But he’s in danger as her antagonist reveals a whole different ending planned for Laney’s book that involves killing William. Laney must use her writing to save the people closest to her by weaving the most difficult words she will ever write.
THE WEAVER is the first installment of The Weaver trilogy. It is an NA paranormal romance set in a small town on the north shore of Boston. It will leave you wanting more…
The Weaver was the first book I wrote. I put my heart and soul into it. I had just finished my Master’s degree in Education and realized I must be a pretty good writer because I’d do really well on the projects I had due every week. At the same time, I was reading the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers. The books had me hooked. I was up well into the night reading. I’ve since to find a book that has hooked me as much as those. She inspired me to create my own world. I wasn’t interested in writing about vampires, but about real people. I completed the Weaver in 2008.
Tell us about your latest work? What is special about it?
Like I said above, it has my heart and soul. The Weaver is about a college student named Laney Holden who loves to write about history because she’s been around antiques her whole life in her parents’ antique store. She finds out in the course of the book that her characters, the good and the bad, come out of the book and into her world. It is the first book in a trilogy that will be published through Parliament House Press. The first book introduces the reader to the world of the Weavers and starts the world building. I’m super excited about the places the trilogy takes the reader in the second two books.
How long have you been writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was in sixth grade, I was asked by my teacher to be in the writer’s club. It’s funny because I still have the book we created at Derry Village School. My writing is terrible! I’m a fourth grade teacher, so I love reading my writing to my students so they can see how far I’ve come. As far as writing books, I started in 2008. In the course of two years, I wrote The Weaver and Ruby Slips and Poker Chips. I worked a little on The Watcher, the second book in the trilogy, but I didn’t get serious until I published Ruby Slips. Now, I have three more books ready for editing and to be published after The Weaver.
Tell us about your writing process. What is the journey from idea to a published piece?
When I think of an idea, I start a folder inside my writing folder on my computer. That way, if I think of things related to that idea, I can add them. Right now, I’m working on a series that I thought would be a children’s book series, but I decided to go YA/NA with it. That folder was sitting there for a while. Beyond that series, I have at least three other ideas waiting to be written.
When I start my writing, I think about who the main characters are going to be and their personalities, but these also develop over the course of the book. My husband would love for me to plot out my entire book before I write, but I don’t. Sometimes, I take a step back and ask myself, “Heather, where are you going with this?” But for the most part, I let my characters drive my story and hope they don’t lead me too far off track.
After the drafting is done, I send it to my editor and I check over it many times as well.
Where do you do your writing?
About two years ago, my husband surprised me for Christmas by renovating the office area in our house. Before, it was kind of the catch all room. Now, it is gorgeous. A year ago, he bought me one of those standing desks to put in there. The sad thing is, I’m more comfortable writing in bed, on the couch, on the back porch, and in the comfy chair in the office. I think if I wrote full time, I’d have to be more official about it.
Do you have a writing goal you want to achieve?
YES! I want to do this full time. I’m part of a Facebook group called 20 books to 50k. The inspiration I get from that group is mind blowing. I know to get to the point that some self-published authors have attained. I have to publish more books. So, right now my goal is to write, write, and write.
What helps you most when it comes to writing?
Quiet. Some authors like to listen to music, but it distracts me. Sometimes, I’ll take a personal day from work to write so I can have the house to myself all day.
What are you working on now?
Right now I am working on a YA fantasy series called The Green Door. It’s a cross between the Hunger Games and the Chronicles of Narnia. The fun part about the series is that each book is a whole different world with the common thread of the main characters interacting within that new world. The first book is complete and I’m currently working on the second book The Red Door. I’m hoping to publish in early 2020.
Who, or what inspired you to be a writer?
I wanted to write a story. I’ve always loved books … Narnia, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games. I get lost in the worlds. I wanted to do that for others—give people a world to get lost in. So, I guess you’d say that my future readers inspired me to be a writer.
How do you feel about critiques? Eh, or bring them on!
I like critiques with backbone. If you are going to give me one star, tell me why so I can get better. I had one person say that Ruby Slips had too many plot holes. That confused me, so I asked her what she meant. She said that the term was the wrong one to use. Her husband was a teacher and she couldn’t imagine a principal acting that way. Well, she hasn’t been part of my life. So, yes, critiques with backbone I will definitely take.
Which character in your book are you most like? Unlike?
I am most like Laney from The Weaver. She’s an introvert and unsure of herself around others. She’s also loyal and stands up for the people she loves. I am least like Dottie from Ruby Slips and Poker Chips, other than we’re both teachers. Unlike, Laney she’s an extrovert and not afraid to speak her mind. I could also never wear heels!
How often do you write? Do you have another job besides being a writer?
I try to write everyday. Right now it’s the summer, so I’m not teaching. I’ve been trying to write at least 1,000 words a day. During the school year, I shoot for 10,000 words every twelve or so days.
Do you plot out your entire story, or have the characters drive it?
My characters rule my stories. Once in a while to please my husband, I’ll stop and write out a few things I think might happen in the story, but if a character takes me a different direction, then that’s where I’ll go.
Which book that you have read has had the most impact on you? Why?
I have to say the Twilight series. It has had the most impact because it started my writing career. Other than that the Bible. My faith is very important to me and is the foundation for everything I do in my life.
What’s the best piece of writing advice that someone has given you?
Don’t stop writing. I think authors get discouraged when they receive rejection letters or don’t sell a lot of books. They give up. I know, because I did ten years ago. Both of my books sat on my computer for a lot of years. It was funny because I had to update them with things like cell phones. I finally entered a contest and won. My book was indie published with help. After that, I found a publisher for my other book and since that time (2017), I’ve written three more books and have another one in the works.
Do you have a favorite review of your book? Can you share why you liked it?
My favorite review said that Ruby Slips and Poker Chips is worth more than five stars, but that’s just my ego talking. I love that a lot of the reviews talk about my no-holds barred characters and how funny and twisted they can be.
What else do you like to do besides writing?
I love to travel with my family. One of our favorite places is Disney World. We’ve also been to Europe a couple of times and traveled in our car around the United States. I also love to read, hike, and play with our golden retriever puppy, Maggie.
Who is your favorite “secondary” character to write?
In Ruby Slips and Poker Chips I enjoyed writing all the secondary characters – the witch, the scarecrow, the tin woman, and the lion. It was so much fun thinking about how their character traits could play out in real life. Out of them, I think the lion was my favorite. He literally shows up at the door with dishwashing gloves on because he’s afraid of germs—think Howie Mandel.
In the Weaver, my favorite secondary character is Missy. She reminds me a lot of my roommate in college and she’s just plain fun.
What is you most interesting writing quirk?
Hmm … I’m not sure if I have one of these. There’s a twenty-one year old avid reader in the basement who I hash out ideas with. We’ll sit and talk for an hour or so about where the books might go. He REALLY wanted me to kill off a character, and it may or may not happen.
What common pitfalls trip up aspiring writers?
Don’t go cheap on your cover. Make sure it is genre specific and eye-catching at thumbnail view. Hire an editor. If you are not publishing traditionally, make sure you have multiple eyes on your manuscript. You can’t catch everything, and you might glance over things since you know the story so well. Keep growing. You are never an expert. I’ve learned this in teaching, if you’re not growing, you’re stagnant.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading a fiction book called The Fall of Lilith by Vashti Quiroz Vega. It’s about the angels Lilith and Lucifer and their fall from grace. I’m also reading Write to Market by Chris Fox. Even though I love weaving tales, I’m not the best at marketing them to others. It’s an area I’m trying to improve.
Heather Kindt grew up in Derry, New Hampshire, but now resides in the mountains of Colorado with her husband and two children. She loves writing YA fantasy and humorous fiction. Her debut novel, Ruby Slips and Poker Chips, won the Dan Alatorre Word Weaver Writing Contest. The first book in her NA paranormal romance trilogy, The Weaver will be released in August. To learn more about her and the great things that are coming in her writing world, visit her website at
Rudy is literally a fish. Rudy wants people to know that because when he implies that he is a metaphorical fish, most people are confused. Rudy is a fish and lives in a saltwater tank at a fancy restaurant on the west side of a big city. He only knows this because he can see a sign outside the tank that says “Welcome to the West Side” and beyond that he can see the tall and pointy skyscrapers of a huge city. In his tank is a miniature version of the city with little cubby holes he can pop out of. Before his time in the tank the little miniature had the name of the city printed on the side, but the salt water of the tank had long since worn it away all that was left were the letters R U D and Y. His name.
Rudy is literally in love with the owner of the restaurant. Rudy wants people to know that because metaphorical love is meant for poetry and Rudy is not a poet. The restaurant owner is a man named Finny. Finny is a part time chef, part time sea captain, and full time love of Rudy’s life. Finny comes to Rudy’s tank and feeds him every morning before the restaurant opens and every evening before the nighttime rush. But most importantly of all Finny tells Rudy stories about the outside world. The last story Finny told Rudy was about the time he was thrown into the “drink” (this is a term that Rudy has come to understand as a place called the ocean which from what he can gather is a very large fish tank somewhere out there in the world) and had to swim back to shore with nothing but his wits and the clothes on his back.
Rudy was born in a tank in a pet store on some other end of the city, the only thing he remembers about the pet store is the ceiling fan above the tank clacking noisily, he doens’t remember his siblings, they all looked the same honestly, and he doesn’t really remember his parents. What he does remember is the moment Finny’s face appeared before his tank and he said to the shop owner, “I want that one.”
Rudy was in love the moment he was lifted out of the tank and his second sight of Finny literally took his breath away. Though, if Rudy was being totally honest with himself, fish can’t breathe out of water so it might have just been a coincidence.
On a particular Tuesday morning, and Rudy only knows it’s Tuesday because his tank is right next to the flip calendar the wait staff use to mark special requests from customers, Finny came with a gift at the same time he came with breakfast. Finny reached down halfway into the tank, where Rudy took great fun in swimming back and forth through Finny’s very long arm hair, and dropped something in an open space in the tank.
The little ceramic piano settled to the bottom and Rudy thought his whole world was about to change again. He loved music. The piano player at the fancy restaurant could always play the most delightful tunes and now he had one of his very own. Rudy swam a couple circles around the tiny piano.
“Oh Finny!” Rudy sang enthusiastically. “You make my world so spinny!”
Fish can’t sing, but don’t tell Rudy that.
Finny grinned down into the tank. The tattoos on his very wrinkled neck stretched happily as he smiled. “Lookie here Rudy, happy birthday! It’s been a year since I got you!”
A year? A year was like forever! Had it really been that long? Rudy desperately wanted to give Finny a hug but was again irritated that he didn’t have legs.
“Alright, Rudy. Behave yourself!” Finny said as the last bit of fish kibble floated down from the surface of the water.
Rudy didn’t know how he could possibly misbehave, he was a fish!
Other than apparently being his birthday, Rudy didn’t expect a Tuesday to be anything more than a normal day, but Rudy and Finny, and most of the city that Rudy had pulled his name from was about to get a very interesting surprise.
Rudy is a small fish, a yellow tang about three inches long, so it should come as no surprise that it was small thing that changed Rudy’s life. It wasn’t the new piano, it wasn’t the little kid who found his tank halfway through the day and decided that a fun game was letting Rudy follow his finger across the surface of the glass (as fun as that was), but instead it was the arrival of a magician. Not one of those run of the mill illusionists, but an actual wand and magic word magician. The guy showed up outside the restaurant and stared at Rudy through the glass. He looked more like a hobo than a magician but when he waved his hand across the glass Rudy was captivated. The man came inside, requested a glass of water and then stood above the tank looking down at Rudy with a thoughtful look on his face. There was glitter coming off his fingers and his wand was a bent metal straw. When the maitre d’ gave the man a cup of water the magician dropped his wand into it and sucked loudly at the straw. His eyes never left Rudy and Rudy didn’t look away either.
“You’ll do,” the magician said and when his cup of water was drained he tapped the metal straw on the glass tank. It was a small event in the scheme of things, a tiny tap on the glass, a little glitter magic falling to the floor beneath his tank. But that’s all it was. The magician left, the restaurant went about its business, and when the restaurant closed for the night Rudy felt the change begin. He started to grow, and at first he didn’t notice but when he was as big as the miniature city in his tank he knew something was wrong. WHen he was so big that the tank broke under him he knew he was in trouble.
Or so he thought. Instead, he found himself on the floor, and he had HANDS. Rudy stared at the hands like they were tumors. They were tumors, fish don’t have hands!
More than that, he was breathing IN THE AIR. Rudy stood up and stared around the closed restaurant. He was as big as a human person now.
There was something wiggling at the back of his mind. An urge to walk out into the street and just destroy everything around him. But that didn’t make sense to him. He was very fond of all the sights and things around him. He didn’t want to destroy anything, especially not this restaurant. It belonged to Finny, the love of his life… FINNY! Rudy looked around the restaurant and tried to get a sense of where Finny might be. He usually only saw Finny in the restaurant but he knew Finny had a home somewhere with his wife and three children.
Rudy didn’t want to break anything more so he found a seat in the restaurant and waited. He would wait for Finny to arrive.
Finny, short for Finnegan, had worked really hard to building his restaurant, his brand, and his life. And he didn’t realize just how lucky he was that a tiny fish named Rudy, his favorite yellow tang, loved him as much as anyone could. When he arrived at his restaurant to open up that Wednesday morning he was startled and shocked to find Rudy’s tank demolished and a tall yellow man sitting in a booth drawing on the back of a menu with some crayons. When the man saw him, he stood and grinned crookedly.
“Finny!” The young man yelled.
“Uh… Who’re you?”
“Rudy,” the man said.
“Rudy,” Finny said, and stared at the man. He was as yellow as his Tang, but he was a MAN. He looked between the destroyed tank and the yellow man. It was impossible. But there was no way he could have gotten in here without breaking anything and the only thing broken was Rudy’s tank.
Finny blinked a few times, then wandered to the back where the security cameras could tell him the real story. And the real story was just as the yellow man said. In the camera he could see Rudy growing and bursting open the tank and slowly transforming into a human-like creature. He turned to see that Rudy the former fish was standing behind him, naked as a jaybird.
Finny sighed and wondered what he had done to deserve this oddity. He pulled out the lost and found and retrieved a sweatshirt and an apron from the kitchen.
“Oh! Clothes! I’ve always wanted clothes! Thank you, Finny.”
“You’re welcome Rudy.” Finny helped Rudy get sort of presentable and started to clean up the mess from the broken fish tank. A shadow crossed the window outside and Finny looked up to see the old hobo from the night before staring into the restaurant. His face was a mask of anger and confusion.
Finny poked his head out of the door. “Can I help you? Do you need another glass of water?”
The man pointed past Finny at Rudy and shook. “You! Where have you been? What have you been doing all night?”
Rudy blinked and then pointed to the table where he had sat all night. “I was drawing a picture for Finny. Who are you? Where were you all night?”
The old man balked. “What… why… I am a chaos magician! You’re supposed to be wrecking chaos!”
Rudy just stared perplexed at the magician. “But that would destroy things. I don’t want to do that. Also, Finny told me to behave, I think that falls into the territory of misbehaving.”
The magician stared at Rudy incredulously. “What is wrong with you!”
Rudy frowned at the old man. “I’m a fish that is now a human person, what isn’t wrong with me?”
The old man made an angry squeak and turned on his heel. He limped down the street and shouted nonsense into the air.
Finny glanced back at Rudy and laughed. “You know, I knew I picked well when I saw you at the pet store. You are a special fish, Rudy.”
“Oh, thank you. I’m sorry about the tank.”
“I don’t have to go back to the pet store do I?”
“No, I don’t think they have a tank big enough for you. Besides I think you deserve to be family.”
“Can we go fishing? Can I meet your family? Your kids?”
“Of course. I think they’d love you just as much as I do.”
Rudy is a literal fish. But he has the heart of a human, and the soul of someone who loves the people who love him. Things could have been different, and for another unfortunate fish in another part of the city they were. Because not a few days later, a huge, hulking puffer fish the size of a barge wrecked up the east side of the city and shouted angrily at everyone “how about I puff you up!”
Recorded church bells sounded at the end of the gated community, muffled by the siren sounds from an emergency medical team approaching the street. Animals, pets and wild alike, cried out into the cacophony of noise, announcing that the reign of Amanduwilla had come to an end.
Refuse and one lone shirt were all that remained of it’s subpar existence. It’d even snatched the lone orchid straight from its neighbor’s kitchen. Amanduwilla had gone, leaving terror in its wake.
Throughout the tree-lined streets of suburbia, the remaining residents grinned in silent cheers, happily emancipated from Amanduwilla’s nasty sneers.