Chapter I Earth Bonded

Releases on March 23/21


It had been raining off and on all day, which Sage and Sahara considered a welcome change from the snow that had seemed reluctant to go away this year. Still some of the customers had complained about how the dampness went right through their coats and soaked into their bones. This meant sales were brisk in the Book Aerie, the store that Sage and Sahara had inherited from their parents. There had been other things that had come with the store, but those, they knew, were best not spoken of. On this day, however, it was one of their most dangerous secrets that was about to come to the forefront to haunt them and destroy their peaceful existence.

Amongst the people who had been meandering into Sage and Sahara’s bookstore was a man of middle age. He hadn’t looked suspicious or in any way unusual from the other customers. He was well-dressed in a distinguished way and roamed aimlessly checking out the many titles available on the shelves the way others had. When the store began to empty towards the end of the business day, he was the last one left. He approached Sage at the front desk, looking as if he intended to ask questions. Sage smiled invitingly, and then faltered as something ominous occurred to her about the aura surrounding the man. This person was dangerous, very, very dangerous. Sage was going to need to watch this one carefully.

Sage sent a signal to the back where Sahara was preparing to close up for the day to warn her about this person so she would stay back. Then Sage dealt with the customer. By the time Sage was finished talking with him, she was visibly shaking.

Sahara looked at Sage with concern the moment the customer left as she hissed at her from the back room. “What is wrong? What did that man want?” Sahara had seen a part of what had happened, but not all of it. There had been an ambience of wrongness about the man that Sahara hadn’t trusted, which fitted Sage’s thoughts about him.

Sage took a shaky breath as she watched the man walk away, and despite the urgency expressed in Sahara’s question, she ignored her until the man had finished leaving the building. Sage then replied. “We need to talk.”

Sahara didn’t like the timbre of Sage’s response. Something was seriously wrong, and she could tell. Sahara clenched her fists and vowed, if the man who had entered their establishment earlier had harmed her sister in any way, she would go after him. Sahara was certain she could make him regret any action he took to scare them.

Sahara and Sage had sensed something that was off about the man right from the beginning, but they had ignored their instincts. The man had given every impression of being a gentleman. He had a pleasant demeanor and was well-groomed. He had returned their smiles and had gone about looking through the shelves like hundreds of others had done before. However, several hours after he had come into the Book Aerie, the man was still looking through the shelves without making any choices and seemed to be getting agitated.

Eventually, the man had come forward to talk to Sage. Sahara had taken one look at his cold, reptilian eyes and deserted her sister. Well, maybe not quite deserted, more like slipped away to figure out some way to guard Sage’s back while Sage dealt with the stranger. Sahara’s instincts were screaming at her by this time, telling her that this person meant them harm. They were going to have to watch him closely.

By the time Sahara returned to the main store area of the building, the man was turning to leave. Sahara watched him walk out through the doorway and into the street, even as she checked to see how Sage was faring. Sahara was surprised to see Sage conjure a weave to lock the door the moment it closed, then run to turn the sign from open to closed. Sage then raced to the back room to join Sahara. Sage found her sister standing near the entrance to the store. She had a sword in either hand. Sahara was also wearing an expression that showed her intent to go into battle if it became necessary.

Sage immediately conjured a privacy spell over the building so their conversation would remain private. As soon as the weave had finished coming together, Sage ordered. “Put those weapons away. All they will do is get us in trouble. I am willing to wager that vile man would know how to use them better than either of us.”

Sahara paid close attention to what Sage was telling her as well as how she spoke. It often provided more information for her than anything else. She had witnessed what she thought was the larger part of what had gone on in the store and knew that Sage had been running for the protection of their home rooms for a reason. Sahara also was certain Sage had been smart for doing so. Still, Sahara figured that although the swords she held might not be much help they were better than nothing. The silver element that had been woven into the fabric of the metal would cause this man a lot of harm if it came in contact with his skin. The only problem would be getting close enough to touch him with them.

Sahara set the twin Elven blades on a table and bustled around as she made tea to calm them both down. As Sahara made herself useful in the kitchen, Sage shakily lowered herself into a chair and spoke. “The man says he knows what we are. He says we have books he wants, and he will find a way to get them. He told me that we know which ones he is talking about, and for us to think about what he said for a while. He will be back.”

Sahara frowned, not certain how to reply. Of course they had books. This was a bookstore. There were even tomes that were hidden from view because they were dangerous in the wrong hands. Sahara had a feeling this man’s hands fit that category. “Do you know what he is?”

Sage didn’t pause before answering. “The man is a throwback to times beyond reckoning. He has a touch of Shadrock Demon in his bloodline. I could also tell he practices the dark arts of wizardry. He is dangerous.”

Now it was Sahara’s turn to grow shaky, and it showed as she splashed boiling water into, as well as around the teapot. The only thing that saved Sahara from getting scalded was Sage’s quick action.

Sage snapped at Sahara as she snatched the water kettle from her hand and ordered. “Go and sit down before you fall down. I will get the tea.”

Sahara did as she was told. As brave as Sahara had always seemed to be in the past, Sage was the stronger of the two of them. Neither sister, however, needed to be told what the man wanted. They did have the types of books he wanted. They kept those volumes in the deepest, darkest corner of the vault. This storage area was meant only to keep the tomes they had been entrusted with, and it was hidden in the lower sections of the bowels of the building under a security weave. The question in both Sage and Sahara’s minds though, was how had the man found out about them?

As Sage set out cups of tea for her sister and herself, she sat across the table from Sahara and began to blow across the hot surface to cool the tea enough to drink. When the cup was half empty, Sage gave a sigh and noted. “I think we are going to have to find a way to strengthen the protection weaves on the lower section of the house. I am not sure how we will be able to do that. Neither you nor I have any Wizard Talents. It won’t be easy to fight off one who has.”

Sahara agreed. “Especially if he has Shadrock Demon blood in him.”

Sage nodded. “Even a drop is enough. I remember Mom telling us about the Hybrids, but I doubt if even she believed any really existed.”

Sahara remembered the tales they had listened to during their youth. There had been multiple stories of battles their ancestors had fought against the Demon Hordes of old, but their mother had said their people had killed every last one, as well as the Hybrids. Had their ancestors not thought to check to see if there had been crossbreeds amongst the Demons and Humans too? After seeing what they had, Sahara and Sage believed it was likely. After all, their people avoided contact with the Humans as much as possible for a reason.

In a case such as this, Sahara and Sage wished they knew of someone who could help them. Sure, there were groups of people who supposedly believed in the paranormal. But those were not only few and far between, but also their organizations were filled with wacky people. They were as apt to get killed approaching that group as they would the enemy. It was time they did a little research on their own to find out more about what they were facing, as well as how their enemy had located them.

The bookstore Sahara and Sage owned had stood in this part of old London for a couple of centuries, and it wasn’t the only one. Over the years, Sahara and Sage had kept a glamour over their appearances to show them aging before reappearing as younger versions of themselves once more. They made sure no one ever saw their real forms, and even went so far as to keep their features hidden from other staff members. It had been a long time since either had seen a true reflection of what they looked like, to the point where they doubted if they would even recognize each other anymore.

As the sisters finished their pot of tea, they settled down to plan how to solve their dilemma. They cooked dinner, cleaned, and then decided to retire to their apartments above the shop early. Tomorrow would be early enough to work on a solution while they studied ancient texts about their enemy.

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