Wren felt the bottoms of her shoes slide as she walked on the sawdust covered floors of the tavern. The scent of beer and bread swam around her head as she found a seat at a booth and sat down, exhausted. She laid her Warhammer gently on the floor, placing one foot up on the long handle. She leaned back into her seat, closing her striking blue eyes. It was a long day for her at the docks, but she was finally ready to get off her feet and have a pint of the Blue Cat’s watery Ale with its ruffian patronage.
Suddenly, the room got abnormally quiet for a tavern, and she sighed, feeling the rising tension in the air. It could only mean one of two things. Opening her arctic eyes, she looked to the entrance of the tavern to find four men standing in the doorway, eyeballing everyone. By their posture alone, Wren recognized that they came to The Blue Cat looking for a fight. The familiar stance of their legs spread an even distance apart, knees bent. She rumpled her short black hair and reached down to grab her war hammer before standing up herself. As she did this, a handful of patrons also got out of their seats with their weapons drawn but stepped no further towards the men in the doorway. Wren placed her hammer on her shoulder with ease.
“I didn’t know The Blue Cat served swine.” one of the four men prodded.
“They don’t, so you fellers may want to find somewhere else to wet yer beaks.” said a short, half-dwarf. The half-dwarf was one of the patrons furthest from the four men, but their amber eyes bore boldly, an unrelenting storm.
“Aw, that’s too bad.” one of the other men mocked. “I wanted to see if I could roll in the mud with one of you lil’ piggies.” The room was silent, lasting seconds that felt like thick hours until finally, a goblinoid-centaur stepped forward without saying anything. Wren took this moment to lean in towards him and whisper in his ear.
“I think that guy called you a pig.” She pointed at one of the Klan members.
“Oi, he what?” The just dwarven centaur then charged the four men with the full force of his little body, and with that, the rest of the patrons at The Blue Cat proceeded to gang up on the four men, dragging them out of the tavern. Wren sighed, disappointed that she didn’t get to step in. In all the chaos, one of the customers bumped into Wren and front kicked him away from her, sawdust being kicked up into the air. Wren decided it was time to go home. Sneaking out the back with her pint in her hand, she hopped onto her Warhammer. She chugged her beer and smashed the glass onto the ground before taking flight. The wind howled in her ears, and she kept her head low as she drifted down dirt roads and over green hills, recognizing the way to her childhood home, she yanked back on the handle of her hammer, causing it to halt to a stop before gliding the head of the hammer to the ground. She stepped off her hammer and called for Athica.
Athica was her half-brother who was a half-giant. They shared a mother, and that mother was a witch. Wren and Athica were, by default, was also half-witch. Her other half came from her father’s side as a mermaid, but she was born without a tail. She only had the ability to breathe under water. As all mixed mystical creatures and beings were, she was missing parts of her identity, not fully one or the other, but a mutated, sometimes evolved mix of the two or more backgrounds.
Wren Walked up the slate steppingstones to the front door before flinging it open. The house was in disarray, piles of paper all over the floor, and numerous spell books stacked on top of every surface available, from tables to chairs.
“Athica?” she called out. “Athica!”
“Oh, I didn’t even hear you come in.” Wren turned to where his voice was coming from and looked up at the ceiling to see her half-brother hanging upside down from the rafters of his house, reading a torn spell book with a missing back. The pale lanky man had red and black dyed curly hair, and deep red eyes. His glasses barely on his face as he hung from his position on the light fixture.
“Hey Athica…. What uh… what-cha-doing up there?” Wren asked, tilting her head to the side, her windblown hair poking out in tufts.
“So, you know that project I’m working on with those guys? The safe-house for mixed mystical beings?” Athica said without moving his head.
“Yeah?” Wren glazed over the dust coating their old home that now belonged to Athica ever since their mother moved out. The rooms were the same, but now everything was messy.
“Well I’m looking for a protection type spell for it. Maybe an Invisibility spell? I’m not sure, but I need… something for it.”
“Oh, speaking of which, guess who came to the tavern again!” Wren knocked over a stack of spell books off one of the nearby armchairs and sat down, feeling like a weird stranger in her childhood home. Everything was different know Athica groaned, rolling his eyes.
“Lemme guess, the fucking Segs.”
“The fucking Klan of Segs! I mean, you’d think a homophobe would avoid a gay bar, but here come the Segs to come to our tavern and try to pick a fight with us. You know how many that makes this month?” Wren asked, back to fuming.
“I guess that’ll make it about the third time?” Athica asked, his tone disinterested.
“Guess again nerd.”
“Five! The Fifth time this month! It’s ridiculous!”
“Hey, Wren, I think….” Athica paused. Wren looked up again to see her younger though given much taller brother reading intensely, his brows knit tightly together. “I… I think I found something.” Wren sat up, craning her neck to get a better look at the spell book he had been flipping through.
“Isn’t that mom’s?” Knowing before she even asked. Climbing down from wooden rafter he was hanging off, Athica’s eyebrows furrowed in concentration. Stepping around the piles of papers and stacks of books he made his way over to the worktable.
“No shit shepherd, but of course it’s missing the most important part–the fucking spell–but I think we have almost all of the ingredients already here.” Athica talked as he began rummaging around through the drawers and cabinets. Wren felt her stomach turn, knowing. Leaning back into the armchair, she stared out the open window at large fluffy clouds and the orange to blue ombre in the sky as the sun set.
“Wren go higher! Higher!” A red faced chubby cheeked young Athica giggled as his sister held him up on her training broom. They flew over the tops of the trees, next to some crows and pigeons. Athica reached out, trying to grab one of the birds from the air, but Wren pulled back on the handle of the broom slightly enough that they slowed down, and he missed his chance. “Aw!”
“Athica we can’t play in the air too long; mom wants us to deliver this stuff okay?”
“I hate deliveries! People are mean!” Athica said.
“I know buddy, but we gotta get this done or else you know what mom will do.” Wren felt her him shiver despite the warm weather and her heart broke. She looked over at his neon green arm cast, with the scribbled signatures and well wishes from his friends. They crash landed in front of a large Chalet with tall windows spilling yellow light onto green grass in front. Stepping forward, Wren knocked on the large timber door, and waited patiently. She tossed a long dark braid over her shoulder, and straightened her back. A gruff man opened the door, and his breath smelled strongly of the stench of scotch.
“Hi sir, our mom sent us to deliver your potions?” Wren held the bag towards the man. Inebriated, the man grabbed her arm roughly, pulling her inside his house before slamming the door shut, leaving Athica outside to scream and bang on the wooden frame.
“I want… a discounts.” the gruff man slurred. Wren’s whole body froze, the heat leaving her body everywhere but the back of her neck.
“I-I can’t do that, my mom wants her money, please.”
“That wench! You knows she stole from me? We were good together! And then she stole from… me! I should gets a discounts!” Wren could only think of one way to get out of this situation, but she knew the consequences would be dire if she returned home without the money. “You know… I’m sure we can works something out… pretty girl…” the man reached his large hands over to her, his dirt coated finders twisting her braid in his hand. “you know, you look an awful lot like your mommy…” Athica was still banging frantically on the door outside, yelling for Wren. The man began to inch closer to Wren, something nauseating in the way he looked at her, hungry eyes roaming.
“Hey, Wren?” Athica’s voice stabbed through.
“huh? Yeah?” Wren turned to see Athica with his shoes on, and his bag over his shoulder.
“Do you know where mom is? I really need the spell. We found the perfect house to start a new community in, and so far, that is the only spell mom has that might offer protection from the Klan of Segs.”
“Yeah, I got a few guesses. Let’s go.”
It took three days to locate their mom. They finally found her at the Stromboli volcano island in Italy, vacationing with her new lover for the week. She was, of course, barely any help, and absolutely trashed. Her lover, Kraus, had built a bar and a pool there, and stuffed their mother full of Pina Coladas and shellfish. In between swimming and eating she went into a long winded and heavily intoxicated story about how she got the rare spell book for sale, and had fought over it with a man, and in the scuffle the book had ripped and the both of them had run off with their separate halves. The three family members sat by the edge of the pool white Kraus practiced his diving skills.
“Do you know what the spell is? I really need it. Mom? Please.” Athica tried to beg her, but all she did was shrug and mumble that she didn’t know what he was talking about. Wren sighed and reached into her bag pulling out a tall vodka bottle. She stared down her mother, her jaw clenched. She kept a bottle ready in case she needed her mother to help them with something. She always came with a price.
“Oh, now I think I remember where he lives” As they watched their mother pour another glass of devils water, she gave them the address of where she thought he last lived, somewhere in the west mountains. Wren recognized the location, and her stomach grew feet and ran off. She had always made sure they avoided it in their deliveries.
“Mom can’t you call him and ask for it?” Athica asked, unaware.
“She can’t.” Wren said. “Because she probably stole it.”
“I did not! Wren why do you assume the worst of me–”
“Lydia Nightshade you know damn well you stole it.”
“I did not, he bought it for me and when I left him, he said I couldn’t have it so we faught over it, but it was a gift! So, it was mine!” Lydia tied her long hair up into a loose top knot, before reaching a pale hand over to grab her drink. “I don’t know why you guys even need that stupid Isolation spell.”
“Because mom, I’m creating a safe house. A place for mixed mystical to live in peace away from the Klan of Segs, without threat of harm from them or anyone else. Please mom, we just want peace for us, and people like us. It’s so they won’t be able to find the house unless we allow them to. This is the best type of spell for the job!”
“Ugh! Fine! Whatever! Just tell him Lydia sent you, I’m sure he’s probably still hung up on me.” Lydia got out of her pool chair to get into the pool. “Now get outta here, you guys are ruining my vacation with Kraus!”
As the two siblings flew, Athica studied Wren’s face. He had seen how it changed back on Stromboli after their mother had named the location of the spell book, but he didn’t know why. Just before landing, he recognized the large Chalet, and the surrounding trees. They hadn’t been back to this awful place since the day Wren was molested.
“This is…?” Athica’s words trailed off as he watched his sister march to the front door before knocking. Her face was stone. Her short black hair seemed to swallow the light that touched it. Athica would make sure that this time, he wouldn’t leave her side. He was much bigger now than he was when he was little, and he wouldn’t let that gruff man do anything like the stunt he pulled when they were kids. His chest tightened and suddenly everything felt hot.
The man who opened the door, looked nothing at all like the man they had seen when they were younger. He was older–much older, his skin was full of folds and wrinkles like a crumpled receipt being spread out flat on a table. His skin was pigmented, much darker and covered in spot. He was wheelchair bound, with a blanket in his lap.
“Ah, hullo gentlemen. Are you boys here to deliver my food?” said the man. Wren said nothing and swallowed.
“Er, no sir.” Athica stepped in to clarify. “We came here, looking for the other half of this spellbook. Our mother said you’d have it.”
“What? Who’s your mother?”
“Her name’s Lydia Nightshade? She said you guys fought over it many years ago and it tore in half? I really just need the one spell if you have it–”
“Ah! I remember Lydia. That wench. Yes, yes. I have it here.” lifting one boney, shaky hand to hold up the other half of the spell book. Wren snatched it from him, but not before noticing how thin the skin on his hand was. Athica glanced over at his sister with her short black hair and turned to stare into the man’s yellow and brown eyes, searching for some type of recognition or remorse for the atrocity he tried to commit many years ago. Instead the man smiled. “Man, I don’t remember her having two kids. Though she had that one delivery girl. Two fine young men here though, hope you’re taking good care of your mom. She’s a lovely woman despite what she did.” Athica only nodded silently, confused. The midday light reflected off the bottles on the floor behind him. Wren refused to make eye contact, choosing to instead stare at the man’s swollen calves and feet. She knew he was no threat to her in this state, but she couldn’t bring herself to give more than a glance to his face, covered in lines but still horrible and recognizable, even after all this time.
“Thank you, sir. We’ll be going now.” Athica said, gently grabbing his sister’s shoulder to lead her away.
When they made it home, Athica began the preparations for the spell, and began to create a map on where and how he would hunt down the locations for his last two ingredients. Wren decided she needed a night-cap alone at the Blue Cat, with its shitty watery ale and sawdust covered floors. She craved normalcy, an outlet. As she landed outside the doors of the tavern, she could hear the familiar yelling and rowdiness from the mixed mystical patron ruffians of the town. Maybe the Klan of Segs would stop by for the sixth time this month and give her that gift of closure only a fight could give.