Welcome to 2018!

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! Wishing you all an incredible 2018! 🥂

I hope you like my EmMay Champagne dolls! Patreon patrons can get a high-res text-free version of this image, plus the line art for colouring!

The Star and the Ocean is now on Goodreads!

I made a surprising discovery this past weekend, babes!

I don’t really remember how I stumbled across it, but apparently The Star and the Ocean has been listed as a title on Goodreads!

It seems the listing is connected to the Wattpad edition of the book. Even though I have no clue how it got up there (did Wattpad submit it? Does Goodreads comb the internet for web novels?) it’s still pretty cool to see my book up on a site used by so many readers.

Despite the fact that I still plan on publishing the Starborn Series in some capacity one day (once the web edition has been re-written and polished), this listing feels like a little victory. As a web-based author, I often feel – and openly bitch – that people don’t take web novels seriously. Forget the fact that many of us write full novels, take the time to proof and edit like trads and indies do, PLUS make our work as accessible as possible (which is to say, we give it away for free); our books are constantly relegated to the bottom of the reading hierarchy (if they’re considered at all!) Getting listed on Goodreads makes me feel like I’ve earned some sort of badge of legitimacy.

Hard work aside, I know I’ve been really fortunate with my online readership. I’ve seen some heartwarming successes since I started publishing online back in 2016. Because of this, I’m trying to pay it forward by advocating on behalf of other web-based authors to help change the perception that web novels “don’t count” as real books.

If you’re someone who has read TSATO: thank you! Your readership and support means the world to me! If you enjoyed the book, I would deeply appreciate it if you could take a minute to rate and/or review it on Goodreads so other readers can find it too!

Looking for other ways to help support your friendly neighbourhood web-author?

  • Those able to commit to monthly pledges will get early and exclusive access to writing and artwork (including future chapters of The Wind and the Horizon and other perks like contests and commission discounts) on my Patreon.
  • Not able to make monthly pledges? One-time donations can be made via my Ko-Fi account and are just as appreciated!
  • And if financial support is off the table (no judgement – I get it!) please consider sharing my work with others instead!

P.S. are you a fellow writer? The WIP Podcast updates with new episodes every weekend! This past Sunday we tackled a topic near and dear to our hearts: the New Adult age category in fiction. Find us on iTunes and Anchor!

The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty Four

[ Beginning | Previous Chapter ]

Content warning: Strong language


The party reached the town of Luxton by mid-afternoon the following day. As the one least likely to find her face on a wanted poster, May volunteered to source out accommodations, and came back with keys to a rented flat shortly before dinner.

After days in the woods, everyone was more than eager for access to clean running water and soft places to sleep. They took turns showering and crammed the washing machine to bursting with dirty clothes. After making a stealth grocery run, May dropped onto the plush living room couch and immediately declared it her favourite place in the world.

While Connor took to preparing dinner, the others explored the flat, calling dibs on different bedrooms and making themselves more comfortable than they had been in days.

“Hey, Maybe!” Em called from another room. “Guess what I found?”

Before May could venture a guess, Em sauntered into the living room holding a well-loved acoustic guitar. “Do you think you remember everything from the crash course that hippie gave you?”

Of course she remembered; it was a cheeky remark that May had to stop herself from chirping back at lest she accidentally mention her own special Wish ability. In only a couple of hours she had all but mastered the basics of strumming and fingerpicking. Em handed her the instrument and with a little bit of messing around she was able to recall the chords she had learned in that first and only lesson.

She strummed and plucked until the notes for a song Em often sang came back to her. With fingers as nimble as her feet when she danced, May strummed the familiar tune just to make Em smile. In return, Em curled at the floor at May’s feet and sang along in a voice she normally reserved for moments when she thought she was alone and – somewhat surprisingly – for drunken karaoke.

Rue and Priva applauded when they finished.

“You two have great harmony,” Rue said with a wink.

May blushed but Em was quick to accept the compliment. “Yeah, we’re pretty cute.”

From his seat across the room, Jeremy grumbled something beneath his breath. Just as Connor stepped into the room to announce that dinner was ready, Jeremy maneuvered passed him and disappeared into the flat.

Connor looked at Priva, who rolled her eyes.

“Anyway,” he drawled, gesturing toward the kitchen. “Who’s hungry?”

May, Em, and Rue followed him but Priva hung back. The four hadn’t even finished dishing out when the sound of raised, angry voices erupted in another room.

“Oh shit,” Em said, casting a wide-eyed glance at the rest of the group. “Should we do something about that?”

Rue and Connor frowned at each other, but before either could respond, Jeremy stormed through the flat and out the door.

“Should we stop him?” May asked, unnerved.

“Let him go,” Priva growled as she stalked into the kitchen. “Can’t talk any sense into him right now anyway.”

Nobody asked what happened, nor did the press the issue. Together they settled in and ate their dinner in a silence reminiscent of their first day together.

When everyone had finished, Connor and Rue chased the others from the kitchen, swearing they hand clean-up under control. Priva retired to a bedroom, leaving May and Em alone to whisper.

“That was about us, wasn’t it?” May asked, eyeing the door to the hallway down which Priva had cloistered herself.

“Most definitely.”

“Do you think we should go talk to her?”

“And say what?”

May sighed. “I don’t know but personally, I’m kind of sick of everyone being cagey about Jeremy’s attitude problem. Let’s just see what she says. Even if she isn’t honest about anything at least we can say we tried.”

Em thought about it for a moment and nodded. “You know what? Yes, let’s. I want to hear what she has to say about all this.”

They crept down the hallway, pausing to listen at the door before knocking.

“I’m good,” Priva called.

May looked at Em.

Em’s expression was determined.

“Glad to hear it, P,” she replied. “But we’re not. Can we talk about what happened?

There was a groan, the sound of creaking bedsprings. Priva opened the door with a scowl.

“What’s wrong?”

“That’s what we were wondering.” Em raised an eyebrow, a sure sign that she wasn’t about to back down.

“That fight,” May said in a tone far less confrontational than Em’s. “Was it about us?”

Priva licked her lips and glanced between the pair. “Honestly, you don’t need to worry about it. It’s just J being J.”

Em wasn’t having it.

“Cut the bullshit, Priva.”

Emanthy,” May hissed.

“This isn’t the first time he’s gotten pissy at or because of us,” Em barrelled on. “And quite frankly, it’s making an already tense situations worse than it needs to be. What are we doing wrong?”

“You’re not…” Priva looked past them, brow furrowed and gaze unfocused. “It’s complicated.”

“It always is.” Em folded her arms. “But resentful members of this little family we may be, I think we deserve to know if we’re doing something to rock the boat.”

Priva gave a resigned sigh and retreated back into the bedroom, motioning for the girls to follow. She collapsed on the bed, miserable, and May and Em tentatively took posts on either side of her”

“Jeremy and I are dating,” Priva told the ceiling. She didn’t seem ready to look at either of the girls. “Sort of.”

“Sort of?” May questioned, careful to make sure her tone didn’t come across as judgemental.

“If I’m being honest, I think it’s pretty one-sided.” Priva twisted at one of the coils from the half of her hair that hadn’t been carefully braided into tight rows across her scalp. “Honestly, I don’t know why I’m still trying with that boy. He’s never going to love me back.”

“Why do you say that?” Em asked, trying to keep her expression neutral.

“For starters, I’m not fucking stupid.” Priva grumbled. “But also because he’s still in love with someone else.”

There it was; a massive truth dropped so casually that May almost wondered if Priva might have been talking about someone else.

“Who?” Em pushed, waiting for more.

Priva sat up. “This is the worst part – and honestly, just thinking about admitting this makes me feel like a bitch: he’s in love with a dead woman.”

Em nodded at the duvet she had been picking at to avoid looking Priva in the face. “That’s rough, buddy.”

“Ha, that’s putting it lightly.” Priva agreed.

“So, why are you with him then?” May asked. “Has he always been this angry?” And, when Priva raised an eyebrow at her, added, “Or, uh, maybe it’s just me.”

Priva massaged the back of her neck with both hands and sighed.

“No,” she admitted sadly. “He used to laugh. He’s smart and fun and even dangerous in a way that’s so hot. But… thing have changed.”

“Since we showed up.” Em wasn’t asking.

There was a moment when nobody spoke, though the air was heavy with words waiting to be said.

“What does all of this have to do with us, Priva?” May asked gently.

Priva looked at them each in turn, awkward discomfort colouring her expression.

“The woman he loved – the one he still loves – was one of us. She was one of the original members of WIND. Honestly, she was such a badass and I really don’t blame him for being hung up on her. But she was a Starborn, like you.” She gestured to Em, who pursed her lips to keep herself quiet.

“I don’t know why he thought this,” Priva continued, looking flustered. “And believe me, I know how nuts this is going to sound, but… he had it in his mind that you were her. Maybe he thought her death was a cover up or something but he was really convinced that that you were her.”

“But he knows that I’m not, right?” Em insisted. “I mean, I can appreciate his disappointment but why’s he mad at us?”

“Girl, I wish I knew,” Priva said, tossing her hands up in defeat. “I think maybe he built it up so much in his mind that he can’t seem to separate you from her now. And you -” she pointed to May. “- you’re just caught in the middle of all this bullshit and I’m sorry. That’s what we were arguing about; he needs to stop getting pissed off over you two. He needs to stop taking out the fact that he was wrong on you.”

“Maybe he just needs a bit more time?” May ventured.

Priva shook her head. “I don’t know. I think I’ve given him enough time. I feel like such a fool.”

May and Em exchanged sad looks.

“You’re not a fool.” Em put a hand on Priva’s shoulder. “You’re fucking brilliant. We couldn’t have asked for a better navigator. You just need to keep looking forward. Come on, let’s get the maps out and you can show us where we’re headed next.”

“Actually…” Priva glanced out the window with a frown. “I think I should go look for Jeremy. He’s been out there sulking for a while and it’s starting to get dark.”

“Let me go,” May said, earning equally befuddled looks from both Em and Priva. “What? Maybe he just needs to get to know me. I am determined to get this guy to like me. Besides, out of all of us, no one will really be looking for me, remember?”

Priva still seemed reluctant but couldn’t argue with May’s logic. “I guess so…”

Please be careful out there, love,” Em said with a pointed look. “If you’re not back in five minutes, I’m coming to get you.”

“Sure thing, mom,”

“Ew, stop.”

Dusk had settled by the time May got down to the streets. Jeremy wasn’t anywhere in view. Pulling her hat low, she set off, figuring she’d start by circling the block before getting more creative in her search.

Aside from an occasional vehicle passing, the streets were deserted. May shivered involuntarily and tried not to fixate on how alone she was.

“Maybe I should have let Priva go after all,” she mumbled, folding her arms and pinning them tightly against her body. “I have clue where Jeremy might -”

A voice, gruff and indistinct echoed down an alleyway. Another voice followed; it sounded threatening. May was immediately filled with a sense of dread. Self-preservation told her to keep walking but a third, familiar voice stopped her dead.

“I told you, we haven’t found anything yet. Why would I lie about this?”

It was Jeremy.

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

Holding her breath, May crept into the alley. Taking shelter behind a row of garbage bins, she carefully peered out to find Jeremy being interrogated by a pair of men. The bigger of the two had a tight grip around the collar of Jeremy’s shirt and used it to keep him pinned against the wall. The man’s other hand was raised in a first, and based on the bruises blooming across Jeremy’s cheek, it was clear he had already put it to use.

“We did some digging when you didn’t check in. Sounds like you went sniffing around some circus.”

“We were following up on a lead,” Jeremy spat, feisty even in the face of danger. “It was a dead end.”

The men gave one another knowing looks. One nodded, the other struck. His fist hit Jeremy’s face with a loud crack.

“Don’t fucking lie to us, Parker.”

“Why would I lie?” Jeremy shouted.

The man who held him in place rattled him, slamming his small frame back against the wall. “Keep your voice down, man.”

“Why don’t I believe you?” The other man growled.

Jeremy glared at him through swelling lids. “We’re not stupid, you fucking neanderthals; we know what’s at stake here.”

His captor leaned in. “Don’t you forget that.”

“I won’t.”

“Oh, I think we’re going to need a bit more assurance than that,” the other man said, giving another nod to his partner who took the cue and threw Jeremy down at their feet.

Jeremy winced. When his eyes opened again, his new vantage point revealed May, crouched and terrified in her hiding spot. Fear flashed quickly across his face.

The world slowed to a crawl.

May watched one of the men swing his foot, aiming for Jeremy’s stomach.

In the split-second before impact Jeremy held May’s eyes with his and mouthed one word.

Run.


TWATH is currently on hiatus and will be returning to regular updates in early 2018.

Get access to new chapters a full month before the go public by pledging to my Patreon!

Ko-Fi May

Attention TSATO Readers: I Need Your Input!

Have you ever been so close to a project that you actually find it challenging to describe it to people? This is how I am with The Star and the Ocean; I’ve spent so much time completely engrossed in its world that, when I have to take a step back and present it as a simplified concept, I… can’t.

For the most part, my inability to sum TSATO up in a neat and tidy way hasn’t really been a problem. However, I’ve recently been asked to provide a bunch of information about the book and, needless to say: I. Am. STRUGGLING!

This may sound ridiculous but I’m kind of hoping you, dear reader, can help me out. Here’s what I need:

Comparative Titles

I always knew this day was coming: I’ve been asked to come up with a comparative set – some existing stories (books, movies, TV) that are similar to TSATO in some way – and I am drawing an absolute blank.

If you’ve read or watched something that reminded you of TSATO, what was it? And why would you compare the two?

Themes

Listen, I graduated from university ages ago; I thought I was through with analyzing literary themes when I completed my English minor!

What do you think some of the themes of the book are? I have a few thoughts, but I’d like to make sure my readers are on the same page (ha!) before I go making any wild claims.

 

THANK YOU!

The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty One

[ Start from the Beginning | Previous Chapter ]


By the time May, Em, and Priva returned to the campsite, Connor already had the fire blazing with a satisfying crackle. Rue busied herself with food prep while Jeremy had been tasked with creating small tin foil bowls for everyone. They took turns layering their bowls with meat, potatoes, and eggs, positioning them delicately on a camp grill once the coals were hot enough.

The snapping fire was the only sound as the group sat wordlessly, waiting for their meals to cook. May watched spits of ash pop from the flames and drift skyward into the darkening sky. The sherbet colours of twilight gave way to night by the time Connor inspected his bowl and deemed dinner to be ready.

May wondered if the tension around the fire had been in some part the result of empty stomachs. As she collected her meal, she felt the mood lighten as everyone tucked into their food, and decided now might be a good time for casual conversation.

“Back to camping,” she said with a sigh, dropping back down beside Em, the edges of her foil plate pinched between her fingers.

“Hey,” Em remarked, looking mildly scandalized. “I thought you liked camping.”

“I like some parts of camping more than others,” May replied with a wink.

Em rolled her eyes dramatically.

“Kids these days,” she grumbled, earning her playful kick in the ankle from May.

The comment raised curiosity in Rue.

“How old are you two, anyway?” she asked.

“Twenty-five,” May answered, distracted. She leaned over to survey what was in Em’s plate. “Yours is cooked better than mine.”

“That’s because I’m a pro,” Em teased. Then, turning her attention back to Rue, “I’m, uh, a bit older.”

At this, Priva laughed loudly.

“You saying you’re a cradle robber?” She grinned at Em who mirrored her expression.

“Ha! Not quite that bad.” Em scooped a hearty forkful from May’s plate and shoved it in her mouth. After swallowing, she continued, “Still, I almost passed out when I realized my girlfriend was just a wee babe.” She turned to look at May. “Yours is fine, by the way.”

“You’re not that much older than me,” May defended, digging her own fork into Em’s plate. The utensil pierced the foil bottom, catching in a way that May hadn’t expected. Her hand slipped, sending the plastic handle snapping backwards and striking Em’s breast with a sharp thwap.

“My boob!” Em cried, choking on laughter and clutching at her chest. “You got me right in the tit!”

May doubled over, breathless in a fit of gasping laughter and tears, unable to reply.

Everyone but Jeremy succumbed to the first true bout of laughter since the two groups met, a moment of pure weightlessness that made the night feel a little less dark and the stakes a little less dire.

“So, how’d you two meet, anyway?” Jeremy asked, his question stopping the laughter dead.

May’s heartbeat stumbled. When she and Em decided to lie, they hadn’t taken the time to fill in the blanks of their cover story. Hoping her own panic wasn’t showing, May glanced at Em and found her to be a picture of calm.

“Maybe’s a dancer,” Em said, a goofy lovesick smile on her face that left May flushing. “I was in the audience one night when she was performing and I was instantly smitten.” She gave May a wink. “I’ve been her biggest fan ever since.”

That night in Omea’s community theatre – the night everything changed between them – flashed through May’s mind. She could still see Em standing in the wings, wide-eyed and marveling, watching her take the stage for her final performance of the night. Was this what Em was thinking of as she spun her tale? May had never asked Em what it was that pushed her over the delicate line between friends and lovers; that there might have been some truth to Em’s story made May giddy.

“Of course!” Rue’s face lit up. “We saw you dance at the circus. How long have you been performing?”

“Since I was in school,” May replied, delighted by Rue’s interest. “I’m self-taught though, so sometimes it feels like I’m making it up as I go.”

“She’s selling herself short,” Em insisted.

“Self-taught?” Connor look gob-smacked. “I’m impressed.”

“Me too,” Rue agreed brightly.

“Thank you,” May gushed. But elated as she was to have a chance to talk about one of her truest passions, she wanted to steer the conversation away from her and Em. “What about all of you? I’ve been so curious to know more about Wishes. I mean, I know what Wishes are but…” she shrugged, struggling to find the right words. “What does that mean for you? Is it different than being human?”

Sure, she was playing dumb to a certain extent. But this was the first time she had ever met other Wishes; she was curious about what she might have been missing. Em’s attempts at distancing herself from her past had often made her answers to May’s questions vague or indifferent. May figured this was a chance to learn more about herself as much as the others.

Connor rubbed his chin, mulling over her question. He looked to his friends. Priva shrugged.

“I guess for the most part it’s not that different,” he admitted. “We’re born to our mothers and, if we’re lucky, we live our lives and die when we’re old. The only difference we’ve noticed – aside from how we come to be, of course – is that every Wish has their own unique ability.”

May blinked in a way she hoped conveyed naive confusion. “What kind of abilities?”

“Something we’re naturally very good at,” Connor replied. “Think of it like a talent on steroids. Everyone’s is different. Mine is my strength.” He gestured back to the massive dead tree they were using as firewood and May picked up on the implication that he had felled it singlehandedly. “Nothing too fancy here.”

“Mine, on the other hand, is very fancy,” Priva said, sounding rather proud of herself. She leaned forward and grinned. “I don’t have to sleep.”

“That’s only partially true,” Rue quipped, giving Priva a cutting look. “She can live on very little sleep. One night’s worth for every three or four days awake.”

“Killjoy,” Priva pouted.

If this was a reason to be any less impressed, May didn’t see why.

She looked to Jeremy expectantly. “What’s your ability?”

Arms crossed, Jeremy studied her for a moment before answering.

“Perfect memory.” He tapped his temple, his expression impossible to read. “I don’t forget anything.”

“Oh.” May smiled. “I’ll bet that comes in handy.”

Jeremy didn’t reply.

“What about you, Rue?” Em cut in on the awkward silence filling the space between May and Jeremy.

Rue laughed. “Oh, I’m not a Wish.”

May looked at her in surprise. “Really?”

“Yep.” Rue set her bowl down and settled back beside Connor, leaning gently into his side. “My place in this little family is kind of different than the others. I come from an ancient line of astromantic druids.”

Now genuinely confused, May frowned. “What does that mean? Are you human?”

“For the most part. But way back, in the beginning of human history, my people came to be specifically because of the Stars.”

The firelight danced, reflected in Rue’s magnificent golden eyes. May’s breath caught as she remembered why they had seemed so familiar.

“Were they Wishes?” May asked.

“No.” Rue’s eyes – the same otherworldly gold as the Star called Welkin – creased in the corners as she smiled. “They were Starborn.”


[ Read Next Chapter ]

Ko-Fi May

TSATO Won a Watty! (Plus a Giveaway!)

Last Friday wound up being a truly awesome day.

Unfortunately for me, I also wound up coming down with a nasty bug on Friday and spent my entire weekend feeling like garbage, which is why I’m just getting around to writing this post now. But better late than never, right?

Here are three awesome things from last Friday:

Awesome thing #1: The Star and the Ocean won a Watty Award!

It’s already been a few days and I still haven’t found an eloquent way to express how unbelievably excited I am that The Star and the Ocean was chosen as a winning title in the 2017 Wattys in The Breakthroughs category! Over 250,000 titles were entered into this year’s contest and only 50 were named winners, so to say I’m flattered to have been selected is a huge understatement. Since the day I joined Wattpad I’ve hoped TSATO would one day win a Watty Award – the website’s version of the Oscars – and even though I know I shouldn’t let any award system speak to the value of my book but this one still means a lot to me.

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The Breakthroughs: On the rise talent deserves to be discovered, and this award is for the up-and-comers in storytelling who delighted readers and caused a stir on Wattpad.

Awesome thing #2: Friday was May’s birthday!

That’s right! September 29th is canonically May’s birthday and, even though I was sick I insisted on celebrating in style.

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May’s 2017 birthday art ❤

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A pink cupcake and champagne – the perfect way to celebrate May!

Awesome thing #3: You could win May’s birthday print!

To celebrate May’s birthday – as well as TSATO’s Watty win – I’m giving away one signed print of May’s 2017 birthday artwork over on Twitter!

How to enter: Follow me @MaggieDerrick and re-tweet this tweet by Friday, October 6th.

The contest is open internationally!

Thanks for the love and support, everyone! I always hesitate to admit just how much this story means to me because it makes me feel vulnerable, but it’s true: TSATO is incredibly close to my heart. To see it so well received by everyone is one of the greatest things I could have hoped for!


Ko-Fi May

The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Sixteen

[ Start from the Beginning | Previous Chapter ]


“This is easier said than done, but don’t take it personally.” Dom was trying to make the best of Em’s sudden and very unexpected departure. “She probably has no idea she hurt you.”

May turned to him with an icy stare. He winced accordingly.

“I know you think that’s supposed to help, but it’s really not working,” she said.

“Noted.” Dom raised his hands in surrender.

“Yes, she has every right to be freaked out and upset.” May could hear the octave of her voice rising. She didn’t care. “But this affects both of us. We should be working this out together. And if she doesn’t realize that taking off like this would hurt me-”

“Maybs,” Dom placed a hand on each of her shoulders and exhaled. “I know you don’t want to hear this but I don’t think this is the time to make this about you. Em loves you but she needs a bit of space. She’ll come back to you when she’s ready.”

He was right – she didn’t want to hear it. But with every second that passed, it sank in that he might have a point. With a heavy sigh she stepped away until she backed into the cool metal side of the trailer. She slumped against it miserably.

They were outside, watching the sky, waiting to see if Em would return. Every time a star flickered May’s heart skipped, but it was never her. Dom dropped himself onto the steps and together they let the moments slip by in silence.

“What happened to her hair?” Dom asked eventually, intruding on the stillness of the night.

When Em had tumbled into May’s arms, her ballcap fell to the floor to reveal her once long, shimmering locks had been chopped short.

“It’s easier to hide under hats and wigs this way,” May answered absently, gesturing at her own head. “We tried colouring it but it wouldn’t take. Her body just rejects stuff like that. Wouldn’t even take a tattoo.”

“A tattoo?” Dom raised a quizzical eyebrow.

“We were supposed to match.”

“Are you telling me you got a tattoo?”

May shot him a mischievous look. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

Chuckling softly, Dom looked skyward.

“I really fucked up, didn’t I?” he asked, his voice heavy with defeat. “If it’s worth anything at all, I really did think I was doing the right thing. But I guess the road to ruin is paved with good intentions.”

May smiled sadly.

“Don’t beat yourself up over it, Dom,” she said. “I think I would have done the same thing.”

Dom groaned in reply, dropping his head into his hands.

“Are you alright?” May shot upright in alarm.

Fast as a blink his form appeared to flicker.

“I’m sorry to do this to you now, Maybe.” Dom grunted as he pulled himself to his feet. “But it’s been awhile since I’ve spent time in the forest. My magic is getting weak.”

“Oh no.” May watched as he flickered again, revealing a flash of roots and foliage. “Your glamour is slipping.”

It was so easy to forget what he really was. In a way it was the same with Em.

If someone told me a a couple years ago I would one day be surrounded by magical creatures and not be phased by it, I would have laughed in their faces, she thought as she reached a hand out for Dom.

“Come on.” She motioned for him to follow. “I’ll take you to the woods.”

The walk to the outskirts of town took some time and by the time they arrived, Dom’s human form had been replaced by the hulking silhouette of his true self. May could just make out the points of elk-like antlers reaching from his crown of lush greenery and vines, and the glint of his inky eyes reflecting the moonlight.

“Ahh.” His exhale sounded like the wind passing through mountain pines as they ambled into the forest’s edge. “Better… al…ready.”

“I’ve never seen you like this.” May squinted through the darkness. Even in the shadows he was an impressive thing to behold. “Not properly anyway.”

Dom held out his hand and let her run her fingers over what were previously his fingers.

“I can’t believe I spent most of my life thinking magic only existed in myths and legends,” she mused. Dom grunted in what she realized was supposed to be a laugh; his capacity for human speech was now as gone as his glamour.

“Will you come back before we have to meet them tomorrow?” she asked.

He nodded before turning slowly.

May watched wordlessly as he disappeared into the trees. She stood for a while, letting the breeze send goosebumps racing along her flesh. The sound of crickets distracted her from how very strange it felt to be completely alone for the first time in ages.

Eventually the chill of nighttime made her shiver and she decided she had no business lurking in the dark any longer. She took a meandering route back to the circus grounds, shuffling her feet down a quiet road. Aside from the crickets and the occasional passing car, the world was peaceful and still, which is why, when the sound of weeping drifted from somewhere ahead, May paused to listen.

The sorrowful sound came from the lit parking lot in front of the building she was coming up to. She hesitated before continuing, unnerved by what she might find. The cries sounded more heartbroken than distressed and May didn’t want to intrude.

Stepping lightly, she crept along in the shadows of the building, peering around the corner into the lot. She gasped. Sitting on the curb, her knees drawn to her chest, was Rue. Her shoulders shook with each sob.

May glanced up at a poorly lit sign that read Willows Court.

“Shoot,” she hissed under her breath.

The door to one of the motel rooms creaked open. May ducked low and watched as Jeremy stepped over the threshold and closed it behind him with a quiet click.

“I’m sorry, J,” Rue sniffed. “I was being too loud, wasn’t I?”

Jeremy took a seat on the concrete beside her, giving her shoulder a nudge with his own.

“Nah, I just couldn’t sleep.”

Rue mumbled and the pair fell into distracted silence. From their expressions May could tell their thoughts were taking them to complicated places.

“I’m really sorry, Jeremy,” Rue said, snapping him out of his daze.

“For what?” he asked.

“That she’s, you know…” she shifted awkwardly. “That she’s not her.”

Jeremy went stiff.

“It’s fine,” he muttered, staring off into the darkness so he didn’t have to meet her pitying eyes. May shrunk back, worried the intensity of his gaze might allow him to spot her in the shadows. “It was stupid of me to think she was somehow still alive.”

“Not stupid.” Rue leaned her head on his shoulder. “Just hopeful.”

Giving his head a small shake, Jeremy tried to loosen up. He peeked down at his friend and took her hand in his own. “Speaking of hopeful, how are you holding up?”

Rue’s mouth puckered and for a moment May thought she might start to cry again. Instead she let out a slow, shaky exhale and closed her eyes.

“Do you think they’ll say yes?” she asked quietly. “Do you think they’ll help us?”

Jeremy frowned. “I wish I could say yes, Rue. Audrey would have. But-”

“She’s not Audrey,” Rue finished, sitting back up and pretending to fuss with her hair so she could wipe discretely at a stray tear. “And they don’t know us and they don’t know Gaten.” Her voice cracked, her breath fluttered. Now she let the tears slide. “It was so dumb to think they would they ever agree-”

“Hey,” Jeremy stopped her, draping a long arm around her quivering shoulders. “Don’t do that. She might not be Audrey but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a good heart, right? Who knows, they could still surprise us.”

May pulled back. As quietly as she could she backtracked and found a sidestreet to take instead. Before she knew it she was running, pumping her legs as fast as they would carry her until her lungs seared with the effort.

But it didn’t matter how far or how fast she went – she couldn’t outrun the memory of Rue’s sadness. Her mind flashed between the image of Gaten in the locket to every mental photograph she held dear of Omi. If it were him, she’d be just as devastated.

If it were him, she wouldn’t think twice about doing whatever it took.

She didn’t stop until she reached the circus gates. Breathless, she doubled over and let the weight of the truth crash down over her.

It was stupid.

It was dangerous.

May peered up at the sky with all its winking stars and wondered what her own would say when she told her what she was thinking.

They had to do it.

They had to save Gaten.


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Ko-Fi May