Suggested by: Dayle O'Leary
An abandoned school
Jo Michaels ran for her life. The old schoolhouse loomed before her, a welcome shape in the darkness. The grunting and howling drew closer and closer as the monsters gained on her. At last, she threw herself up the steps and through the broken door. Turning this way and that, diving down any hall she saw, Jo attempted to lose herself before her enemies arrived.
No such luck.
They poured through the windows, and Jo realized she was in the gym as the grotesque slimy bodies poured in.
Drawing her machete, Jo repeated the longstanding objective: "Protect the Ecrivaine."
At this point, nobody knew who she was—or if she currently existed. They had traced the lineage to some British chick named Cordelia, but the woman herself confirmed that she was nothing of the kind.
The reason they knew that Alexander VanTussel hadn't found her yet was the same reason Jo Michaels stood in an abandoned school in the middle of nowhere with a machete, ready to do battle: an overabundance of Underworlders. Mostly goblins and ogres—the stupid ones with the keen sense of smell or hearing as their only benefit, like so many dogs except these could wield clubs with painful accuracy, too. Anyway, the fact that they were here in the real world served as proof that VanTussel still had not managed to get his hands on the Ecrivaine.
Jo smirked to herself as she imagined relieving the wicked man of his hands altogether.
She was distracted by this so she did not see the goblin close enough to frog-jump toward her head until it was airborne. Jo skidded back and swung her machete, sending the two half-goblin chunks a ways back from her. Slimy arms wrapped around her leg and her shoulder, and she smacked first over her shoulder with the hilt of her machete, then sent it sweeping down and behind to punish the lower one. Swinging the deadly blade in a wide arc, Jo kept the monsters at bay.
But goblins are not easily deterred. They are too stupid to realize impossible odds, and so remained convinced that they could overwhelm their prey with sheer numbers, no matter how many she killed.
"Get after her!" The leader croaked. "She will lead us to the Ecrivaine!"
"You toads!" Jo beat them back as the circle grew tighter and the goblins stacked higher. "I will do no such thing!"
Suddenly a terrible roar sounded from behind the mounds of goblins, and the squat, yellow-eyed monsters went flying. Jo had time to breathe in relief—till she saw that her "rescuer" was an ogre who only wanted a piece of her as well. It stood nearly ten feet tall, and its skin felt like rough sandpaper as it gripped her around the shoulders, lifting her in the air with her arms trapped at her sides.
Jo wriggled helplessly in the ogre's grasp.
The goblins scrambled up its gnarled back.
"You were saying?" Sneered the lead goblin.
Jo glared at him and stuck out her tongue.
The goblin only grinned wider and held up a photo of two little girls in school uniforms, standing with their teacher.
"Now that we have your attention," said the goblin, "we have reason to believe that six years ago, you were seen in the company of the Ecrivaine."
Jo grimaced in confusion. "Six years ago? I—mmff!"
She could not speak as the ogre—on a signal from the goblin—covered her mouth with its thumb.
"The Master has ways of traveling through time," he bragged.
"Yeah!" Shouted one eager goblin on the other shoulder. "We showed him the portals through the Underworld of Phantasm to get to any part of Earth's history!"
The ogre gave a shake of his shoulder and the goblin and a dozen others tumbled off.
"Back to business," said the lead goblin. "We know that you and the Ecrivaine were friends. Tell us where she is now, and Hoggbreth here won't crush your head like a berry."
The ogre growled menacingly at the mention of his name.
Jo's mind spun; she had expected the Ecrivaine to be some kind of seasoned warrior—but the girl in the picture wasn't any older than Jo herself. Jo didn't know if she could even remember her. Six years ago she lived on the other side of the country, in the Pacific Northwest...
Her eyes snapped back to the goblin standing on the ogre's arm before her. She used her fingers to ease her secret weapon out of her pocket.
"Any last words?" The goblin sneered.
Jo grinned back at him.
"Smell you later," she said, and let the vial of perfume drop eight feet and smash on the gym floor.
Instantly, the sensitive nose of the ogre filled with the heady scent of roses and sandalwood. Stench he could take, but the sweet was unbearable. He forgot about the goblins surrounding him and the importance of the girl in his hand as he loosened his grip to cover his nose with his impervious hands.
Jo landed on the floor and immediately took off running, while the goblins danced around the reeling ogre, trying to avoid getting crushed beneath him.
By the time the lead goblin shouted orders, Jo had reached the front door. She gasped as she burst into the open air. Free at last!
She dug her cellphone out of her pocket and dialed a London number.
"Darren? It's Jo!"
"Cousin Jo! Hey, how are you?"
"I'm fine now, just got a little held up. But that's beside the point: I found her!"
"Bear with me, it's six in the morning. Found who?"
Jo glanced around to make sure the goblins weren't sneaking up on her. She reached the safety of her neighborhood as she answered, "The Ecrivaine!"
"Really? Who is she?"
Jo sighed, "I don't know. Somebody I used to know, apparently."
"Oh hang on, Pierre just showed up."
Jo grinned as she heard muffled sounds of her cousin arguing with the irascible dwarf.
"Does the name Faith Dunmore mean anything to you?"
Jo stopped just two blocks from her house and squinted. "Faith—" she stopped as she recalled that school from the picture the goblin held. There had been someone there named Faith Dunmore. "Oh my gosh, Dare! That's the Ecrivaine!"
"Great! Because Pierre just pinched her notebook—"
"So she's there?"
"From the year 20-bloody-14!"
"Blast!" Jo stomped her foot. "That's what you get when you work with a time-traveling dwarf."
"Bloody idiot. Oh well, at least we know she'll still be alive in two years."
"True; I guess you'll be arranging to meet her in 2014, then."
"Yeah. Take care, Cousin."
"Good luck, Darren."