Jen Air: Asterion – Returning Home
Another excerpt from the novel I’m currently working on. Tenley and Kaya earlier had a little argument resulting in Tenley running away. Jen and Kaya track the girl down to her old home.
Of course, this is not necessarily the final product, but if you want to give feeback, corrections, suggestions and all that feel free to do so.
By a country lane there stood
a house. An old cottage that was
constantly on the verge of being swallowed by the green that surrounded
it. But it been this way for years,
remaining in the world although not a part of it. The story spread among the local children was
that a witch lived here, but now, the witch was dead.
Still, most of them were
reluctant to approach and it was only after a full half hour of daring and
taunting that any of them did. One
intrepid trio, a girl and two boys, approached up the gravel filled drive. After tepidly skirting round the outside, occasionally
trying to steal a glance through a grimy window, they eventually discovered the
back door was open. Another round of
dares and taunts then followed until they all caved to mutual peer pressure and
A layer of dust covered
everything within. The children believed
it due to abandonment, but in fact could have been from where a section of the
wall had crumbled and fallen out.
Whatever had occurred had done so a long time ago. Now there was a quiet here unlike any these
children had ever felt. No voices or any
of the other noises whose absence was only ever felt once they were gone. This place was empty. Lifeless.
And yet despite the chill the
children were overcome by a morbid curiosity.
They made their way up the creaky stairs and found a sight more familiar
to them, but like everything else was also in an early stage of decay. Rows of toys, bears and horses and raggedy,
all stood up waiting for life to return.
In one corner was a neatly made bed, the other a dresser with pink cups
and teapots displayed on the shelves. It
looked like a girl’s room, but the girl had been gone for a while.
As the intruding children
stepped into the room, one of the boys felt a cold gust sweep over him and was
sure he heard a whisper but had no idea what it had said.
“W-we should go,” he told the
others, his curiosity suddenly satisfied.
But the girl with them insisted,
“just a minute…”
“Come on! All this stuff belongs to someone. What if they come back?”
“They’re not coming back,” she
said confidently. And she was right –
the owner of this stuff wasn’t going to come back because she was in fact
The other boy found a pile of
books and lifted the top one – some story about a wizard working undercover for
a space agency – announcing, “Cool. I’ve
not read this one.”
It was then he became aware of
someone behind him. He knew it wasn’t
one of his friends since he reasonably sure none of them were carrying knives. And if they were probably press the icy-cold
steel against the back of his neck. At
least not over a book.
A voice near his ear chided, “Didn’t
your mummy teach you not to take things that don’t belong to you?”
The boy found himself flung
round and sent spinning across the floor like a top. He came to rest close to his friends who
huddled around to face the newcomer.
Another girl, eleven or twelve years old, wearing black and blue as she
glared hard through her dark eyes.
“This is my house,” the girl
declared, flicking her black hair and folding her arms. “It’s not a library.”
“Who are you?” The children
found the courage to ask. “Are you the
“No,” the girl squiggled her
lips as pondered. “Even if I was a
witch, that wouldn’t mean I was the witch.
There can be more than one.”
“There’s more than one!” The
children gasped, huddling even closer as their eyes darted around every
possible hiding place in the room, even under the tables in the dollhouse.
The blue girl furrowed her
brow, but felt compelled to assure them, “N-no… there aren’t any witches. Not here, anyway.”
“So, what are you?”
The furrow deepened, it’s
wearer stepping forward saying, “I…” the children gasped, backing away. The girl seemed to then remember that she was
still holding the knife, so promptly hid it away in a pocket. “I don’t want to
“Stay back!” The intruding girl
screamed, grabbing hold of the nearest object, a chair, and flinging it at the
girl with black hair. She caught it with
ease but, somewhat disgruntled, held the other children with an unblinking gaze
as she pulled the chair’s legs apart. As
the pieces fell in a pile on the floor the children screamed again, and ran.
The girl in blue didn’t bother
to chase them. She could have. She could have caught them easily and ensured
they never returned to bother her again.
But it was hardly worth it.
Mostly, she was just disappointed.
She put the book back and
stared into the one eye of an old ragdoll that was still looking up, and she
sighed, “stupid thing wasn’t even that hard to break.”
Tych stayed in her room for hours, sat by the window reading and watching the
sun set. On a normal day, mother would
have been coming home about now. She
would have checked Ten had done all her chores then made her go outside to
train regardless of what the weather was like.
On this evening it happened to be nice, a flock of birds flying off into
the golden horizon as the stars began to shine.
But it didn’t matter. It hadn’t
been a normal day for a while. There
were no chores, no training. Mother wasn’t
coming home. It was just her, the quiet,
the rows of toys staring in whatever direction they happened to have been left
resting in. And Jennifer, who had just
come up the stairs.
“It’s odd,” Ten sighed, not
bothering to turn or look up. “It used
to be I’d watch those birds and I’d want to fly away with them. But now I just want to stay here.”
The blonde woman lowered her
head, her blue eyes flicking back to Kaya coming through the door behind her,
then back to Tenley. “When my parents,”
she said softly, “I didn’t want to leave my home either. I was afraid that I… that I would miss
them. That any second they would return
and things would be back to normal.”
The girl turned her head to
them, although her eyes were fixed on the floorboards. “So you’ve never been back?”
“Well, n-not for a few years,
anyway. Another family lives there now. Other people will come here too. You can’t stay. I know change can be hard and even a little
frightening, but it can’t be helped…”
“I’m not frightened!” Ten
protested, suddenly wincing at the blonde.
Jen held up her palms and stepped back.
“Of course not. I-I’m sorry.”
The girl stood straight, one
foot slightly in front of the other as she shrugged. “I just have things to do, is all.”
“Sure. Maybe we can help?” Jen suggested, and encouraged Kaya to nod
enthusiastically by nudging her in the ribs.
Tenley squinted at them, considered it a moment, then told them to wait
here as she stomped out of the room and down the stairs.
Kaya shook her head and whispered
urgently to her friend, “she is going to murder us one day. You know that, don’t you?”
Jen countered, “I don’t
consider that a certainty and neither should you.”
“How do I know she hasn’t
somehow been controlling you ever since you did that Vulcan mind-meld thing
“What else would I have
done? I couldn’t just let her be alone
after all that. Trust me – being alone
sucks. And all the other alternatives I
can think are much worse.”
“Okay, but what are you going
to do Jen? How are you going to teach
her? You going to send her to school?”
The blonde shook her head. “No,” she sighed. “That would be a bad idea. I know how cruel children can be. Can you imagine someone like Candace, or you,
trying to pick on her? They’d have the
life expectancy of Mayflies.”
“Exactly. She’s got a temper.”
“So have you.”
“Yeah, but I can’t make paper swans
out of sheet metal and just my hands.”
“So we just have to help her
to control it…”
Tenley gently coughed,
standing just outside the door. The two
women gawked at her in surprise, then at each other with their cheeks
flushed. “Follow me,” the girl said.
She led them down the stairs
and then under them into a cellar that had been turned into a gym, with weights
and a punching bag, benches, and several large metal cabinets. Tenley went to the far, produced a bunch of
keys and opened another door to a room with more of the same. She unlocked the cabinets in here and inside
them were guns. Lots of guns. And knives, swords, maces… just about every
conceivable type of weapon.
“Wow,” Kaya blinked in
astonishment at the arsenal all around her.
“So, this is where you got that dynamite…”
“Obviously,” Ten snorted.
“You know how to use all of
“Well,” the girl shrugged
nonchalantly, “it’s hardly rocket science.
Pointy things stab. Heavy things
hit. Sharp things cut.”
“Oh,” Kaya nodded, taking a
few steps to one side and picking up a pistol.
“And shooty things?”
Tenley shot a glare at her before
snatching away the weapon. “Don’t play
with that.” With an aporetic sigh, she
turned to Jennifer. “We have to move all
of this. Before other people come and
“Yeah,” the blonde nodded, and
fished a pad out from inside her coat. “I’ll
have Hull send another van, along with a few hands.”
“So,” Kay said, still
seemingly in awe of her surroundings. “All
this was your mothers?”
“I guess,” Tenley shrugged.
“Was your mother Rambo? Why’d she need all this?”
“I don’t know,” the girl
shrugged again. “She just… she needed me
to be strong. She said I had to be
ready, but never really said what for,” Tenley squinted as if trying to focus
on something in the air in front of her.
“She was afraid I was weak.”
Jen also seemed to be concentrating
not physically around her at this moment.
“You said you thought she was in an army… do you remember any marks she
had? Like a tattoo?”
“On her arm. It was a sea monster and a ship.”
The blonde tightened her eyes,
trying to picture it herself. “A kraken…”
“Mean anything?” Kaya asked.
“Could mean all sorts of
things. I could have Hull do a search for
any military or paramilitary organisations that use it as a symbol…”
But the girl shook her head
and sighed exasperatedly. “Does it
matter? Mother’s dead. I thought you wanted me to leave all that
“Well, I-I didn’t mean you
should just forget everything. Don’t you
want to know where you came from?”
“Here,” the blonde shrank back
under the girl’s glare. “I came from here.
Nothing before it matters.”
“Alright,” Jen squeaked. “If… if that’s what you want.”
Ten shook her head disgustedly
and stomped out, allowing Jen to breathe while Kaya sidled up and whispered, “good
job controlling her temper there.”
“Well, she didn’t murder us so
I’d say we’re doing very well.”