Loading...
Menu

The Freya Snow Short Story Collection

Freya Snow Short Story Collection

L.C. Mawson

Shakespir Edition

Copyright 2015 L.C. Mawson

Thank you for downloading this ebook. This book remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be redistributed to others for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy from their favorite authorized retailer. Thank you for your support.

The Freya Snow Series

Trapped

Hunt

Short Story Collection

White

Wish – Coming Soon

Contents

Ghosts

Cold

Candles

Test

Ghosts

“Hey.”

Freya lifted her head from her phone to see Damon approaching. Ever since her encounter with the Demon, they had been meeting up in town at the weekend. Initially, it had been to practice their Shakespeare scene for English, but that had passed and yet they kept meeting up.

“Hey,” Freya greeted with a grin, doing her best not to wince as she twisted her arm wrong in an attempt to put her phone back in her pocket. Her wounds were taking their sweet time healing, though Amber seemed pleased with that development. She kept on using it as excuse for her to go slowly with Freya’s combat training. It frustrated Freya to no end, but there was nothing she could really do about it.

“Are you doing anything tonight?” Damon asked her excitedly.

Freya groaned. She had hoped he wouldn’t ask her that.

“I’m a little old for trick or treating,” she figured, hoping that he would drop it.

“Well, yeah, but Kevin has apparently set up a haunted house. A bunch of us were going to go tonight.”

Freya frowned. “How very American of him.”

Damon sighed, folding his arms.

“Is that a ‘no’? You don’t seem as excited about Halloween as everyone else.”

“Did you just use a contraction?”

“I am trying to be less stilted in my speech. Now stop changing the subject.”

Freya sighed. “I just don’t get the hype. Why are you so invested anyway? If this is your first Halloween, I’ve got to tell you, it’s not as exciting as everyone makes it out to be.”

“We do, in fact, celebrate All Hallows’ Eve back home.”

“I thought only people who practised Wicca called it that.”

Damon ignored that. “The point is that, while we did celebrate, you do it differently here.”

“Different? How?”

Damon shrugged. “We have these masquerade balls. Not that I ever got to attend one… But I hear they are nice. It’s said that the veil between the living and dead is thinner, and the dead are scared away if they recognise faces they once knew. Hence the masks.”

“Wait, so they deliberately try to attract the dead? Why?”

“Why wouldn’t they? If you got a chance to see a loved one who had died, wouldn’t you?”

Freya didn’t really have a response there. Not least because she spent a good deal of her time with a ghost. But Amber wasn’t a ghost ghost. She looked like a person.

“If I tell you something, will you promise you won’t laugh?” she asked him as she folded her arms.

“Of course.”

She sighed, bracing herself before admitting, “When I was little, I got really scared one Halloween.”

Damon raised an eyebrow. “Scared how?”

She shrugged, letting out an irritated groan. “I don’t know! I’m sure it was just some trick of the light, or I was just jumpy because I accidentally watched a really scary bit of Spirited Away. I just… I kept seeing eyes in mirrors. Or, you know, I thought I saw eyes in mirrors. Like someone was watching me. I know, I know, it’s really silly…”

“That’s not silly,” he assured her, though he was looking at her with a strange expression that she couldn’t place. “So, you won’t be coming with me tonight?”

“I… I’m being ridiculous. Of course I’ll go with you.”

“Do you have a costume?”

She paused at that before shaking her head. “Nope. And I bet the costume shop will be packed.”

“I walked by it on the way here. There was a line. And a bouncer.”

“A bouncer? Really?” She sighed, shaking her head. “You know, I think the jewelry place has masks and wigs, and it’s probably not as packed. I can string together a TV Black Canary costume with stuff from there and stuff at home.”

Freya returned home for an hour to put her costume on, and found that most of that time was taken applying black eye shadow around her eyes.

“I look like the Winter Soldier and Rocket Raccoon’s love child,” she complained to Amber as she placed her mask over her face, checking that she had covered all of the skin within the eye holes. She was no longer so worried about talking to her guardian in her room, as Amber had shown her how to make guards which would soundproof the room when the door was closed.

“I don’t know who they are,” Amber said simply. “It’ll look fine once you put the mask on properly.”

Freya gave a reluctant hum of agreement as she realised that she was done. The mask had thin ribbon for her to tie around her head, which she knew would be annoyingly fiddly.

“Hey Amber,” she said as she finally managed to get it tied in place. “Is Halloween really a thing? Like, with magic and stuff, I mean.”

Amber nodded. “Death is rather cagey about where you go when he takes your soul after you die, but wherever it is definitely gets closer to this realm on Halloween. Most Humans won’t know the difference, but magical beings, and even Sensitive Humans, can feel a change. It can be… unsettling.”

Freya gave a disgruntled hum. She’d never really given much thought to life after death. When you died, you died. That was it. Obviously, Amber being there should have told her differently, but Amber was different. Death let her linger. For everyone else, she assumed that Death taking them was it. The end of the line. She’d never really believed that she was jumpy on Halloween because of ghosts. Not real ghosts anyway. She had assumed they were just figments of her overactive imagination.

She wondered if she should just start attributing everything weird that ever happened to magic from now on.

“When I was little, I thought I saw eyes watching me in mirrors on Halloween,” Freya admitted as she pulled on her blonde wig.

“That’s not surprising. Mirrors are often used as portals or windows between realms.”

Freya pulled a face as she finished her outfit by putting on her leather jacket, inspecting herself in the mirror. “I’m not exactly happy about ghosts watching me.”

“You know that I’m technically a ghost, right?”

“Exactly.” Freya hadn’t exactly been quiet on the fact that Amber watching her before she came into her powers unsettled her. She knew that Amber hadn’t really had another option. She needed to keep an eye on her, and make sure she didn’t attract the attention of other magical beings, but she hadn’t been able to gather enough power to possess anyone until Freya was already a teenager, meaning that they couldn’t interact.

It still weirded her out, though.

“I’m not going to have to fight ghosts tonight, am I?” Freya asked as she put her phone into her pocket, ready to go out for the night.

“I doubt it,” Amber assured her. “They will be just as incorporeal as I am. They won’t be able to harm you.”

“Good to know.”

“Though, if they do start bleeding through to this world, you may not be able to call me. I’m technically supposed to be on that side and things can get… messy if I get too close to the wobbly bits.”

“Wobbly bits? That’s what it’s called? Wobbly bits in the veil between worlds?”

“Well, I’m not exactly well-versed in the correct vernacular on the topic,” Amber defended. “So yes, I shall refer to them as wobbly bits.”

Freya hurried to meet Damon, finding him on the street corner by Kevin’s house, looking at his phone. He was wearing a black onesie with a glow-in-the-dark skeleton pattern on it. On the wall next to him was a skull mask.

“Hey,” she called to get his attention.

He blinked at her for a few moments before recognising her.

“Well, I guess it’s confirmed that the mask and wig are good enough to hide your identity,” he joked.

She laughed. “Now we just need to find some crime to stop. I guess you could pass as a budget Ghost Rider.”

“I’m just here for the skeleton war,” he told her as he put the mask on.

“You came dressed as an old meme?”

“I came dressed as a skeleton, who can be considered part of an old meme in certain circumstances.”

“Nerd.”

“She said, while dressed as a comic book character.”

“I’m actually dressed as the TV iteration, I think you’ll find.”

“I rest my case.” He pointed down to the other side of the cul-de-sac. “Come on. Kevin’s house is the one with all the pumpkins and stuff.”

Freya looked down the street and indeed saw that one of the front gardens was filled with pumpkins and skeleton props.

“Okay, I can vaguely understand one person getting overexcited about Halloween, but why is everyone else playing along? This seems too… I don’t know… Childish for your friend group. Shouldn’t you all be on the town moor, smoking weed and being too cool for this?”

Damon rolled his eyes. “They are not like that, Freya.”

She made a disbelieving hum, folding her arms as he led her to Kevin’s.

“Also, Kevin’s parents aren’t here, and his brother bought a metric-ton of booze.”

She smirked as it finally made sense.

As they approached the front door, they were greeted by someone covered in a bedsheet, with poorly shaped eye holes cut out of it.

“Ooooooooohhhh, Iiiii’m aaa spoooooooky ghoooooooost,” she said, waving her arms under the sheet.

“Nice last minute costume,” Damon commented, pushing his mask up to the top of his head.

“Thaaaaaanks,” the ghost said before dropping the voice. “I couldn’t afford to splash out on a costume, so me mam let me have this old thing.” She turned to Freya. “And who are you meant to be?”

“Black Canary?”

“Who?”

“From Arrow. You know, the TV show…”

The ghost shook her head before turning back to Damon. “If you’re going to bring a date from another school, try to bring someone who knows the difference between Halloween and Comic Con.”

“She is not from another school,” Damon said, seemingly bewildered by the comment. “It is Freya.”

The ghost nodded. “Well, I guess that makes sense then.”

Freya stalked off at that, not wanting to risk using her power to set the bedsheet aflame.

“Gemma is like that with everyone,” Damon assured her as he caught up with her. He hadn’t replaced his mask, seemingly forgetting about it. “Don’t let it get to you.”

Freya sighed. “I’m not. I actually couldn’t care less about her opinion of me. I just don’t have to stand there and listen to it.”

“Fair enough,” he agreed as they moved through the dark rooms of the house. Kevin had seemingly set up various spinning party lights in some of the rooms, with the other illuminated by lamps with paper decorations draped across them. The whole thing looked like a giant fire hazard to Freya.

That didn’t bother her, though. No, what bothered her was the loud, thumping music that was being pumped throughout the house. She was immediately struck by the thought that there had to be a spell or something that could dampen the noise, but she didn’t know it. She made a mental note to ask Amber about it later.

“Let’s get a drink,” Damon said after a moment, leading her through to the kitchen.

He pointed to the array of spirits. “What do you want?”

“Do they not just have beer?” she asked.

Damon spun around before yelling “Kevin!”

A guy in a black cloak with a scythe spun around. “Hey, Damon! You made it!”

“Yeah! Great party, dude.”

“Thanks. I can’t believe so many people showed up.” He turned to Freya. “Who’s your friend?”

Freya answered for herself. “It’s me. Freya. We have drama together.”

Kevin frowned at that, turning back to Damon. “You invited Freya?” he hissed.

“Oh my god, I am right here,” Freya said, her arms folded tightly across her chest. “But if I’m not welcome, I’ll go.”

“He didn’t mean-” Damon started, but Freya had already stormed off.

Freya headed through the first door, only to end up in what appeared to be the dining room. She faltered when she realised that there were no decorations and no other guests, telling Freya that this was probably a no-go zone. She didn’t care. She was storming out anyway.

She moved past the large mirror, only to stop dead. She caught sight of something out of the corner of her eye. Turning to look in the mirror, she saw that her own reflection had been replaced by that of a pale figure with messy black hair and a swirling black tattoo around her right eye. Her eyes were entirely white.

Help me,” the figure in the mirror rasped, causing Freya to jump backwards, into the dining table.

“Amber!” Freya called out, but there was no answer.

Freya spun around, intending to leave, only to see the woman from the mirror was now physically in the room. She looked as if the colour had been washed out of her, but she was solid. She was sitting in the corner of the room, her knees clutched to her chest as her jet back hair stuck out at odd angles. She had a black, spiralling tattoo across her left shoulder and the left side of her neck, seemingly spreading out from her heart, matching the one around her eye. All up and down her arms and legs were deep slashes, though no blood was spilling from them. Probably because she didn’t have any.

Freya finally found her voice, managing to say “You look like hell,” in a slightly strained voice.

The woman jerked her head up to look at Freya, her eyes an identical shade of green to her own.

And then she laughed. It was a little broken, but it was definitely a laugh, as she looked over her arms and legs.

“I can see that,” she said as she stood up, quickly looking distraught. “Oh, I really do, don’t I? I didn’t think of that… What if Lily is the one to find me?”

Freya’s mind honed in on her mother’s name, though she quickly told herself that Lily was a common enough name.

“Lily?” she asked.

“My daughter… Can you find her and make sure she’s not the one to find me? Please? Her full name is Lily Snow. I know it’s not a Reaper’s job, but please just find her…”

Freya frowned, deliberately focusing on anything but the fact that this was her grandmother in front of her.

“I’m not a Reaper.”

The woman blinked at her a few times.

“No, of course you’re not,” she said after a while, seemingly to herself. “He wouldn’t send a Reaper. Of course he wouldn’t send a Reaper… He didn’t. I remember now. He blamed himself… But he didn’t send a Reaper.”

She turned back to Freya with a frown. “How long?”

“How long what?”

“How long has it been?”

Freya shrugged. “A while, but I can’t be more specific since I don’t know when you died.”

“1988.”

Freya quickly worked it out in her head. “You’ve been dead for twenty seven years.”

The woman folded her arms with a frown. “If you’re not a Reaper, then how do you see me?”

“It’s Halloween.”

The woman raised an eyebrow. “I have corporeal form. After moving on. Even I was never that powerful. I don’t think…”

Freya shrugged sheepishly. “I don’t know for sure but… I have a hunch.”

“A hunch?”

“Shared blood,” Freya figured. “You said your daughter’s name was Lily Snow?”

The woman nodded. “What of it?”

“Well, that was my mother’s name.” She pulled her mother’s pendant from under her top, where she always kept it. “This was hers, apparently. And, I guess, yours. Amber said her mother gave it to her.”

She nodded, looking it over. “It belonged to my grandmother, who passed it down to my mother. Then she passed it down to me. I suppose Lily would have gotten it after I died… You said was when talking about her. Past tense. Where is she? And how does she have a fully grown daughter in so little time?”

“Well, I mean, I’m only fourteen. She died when I was born. That was back in 2001. She was nineteen.”

She looked Freya over before shaking her head. “She died at nineteen? From childbirth?”

“Well, no, they just coincide. She died stopping the war,” Freya explained, shifting her weight from foot to foot. She wasn’t sure how she could feel more uncomfortable.

“Of course she did,” the woman muttered, shaking her head. “You said Amber looks after you now?”

Freya frowned. “I guess. It’s complicated.”

She heard Damon shout “Freya!” at that point, distracting her slightly.

The woman grabbed her shoulders, bringing her attention back to her.

“Don’t trust Amber,” she warned. “She is probably the reason your mother died.”

She disappeared just as Damon entered the room.

“Are you okay?” Damon asked.

“I… I’m not sure,” Freya admitted, her eyes still glued to where her grandmother had been just a moment before.

“I know Kevin was an arse, but it wasn’t about you. Not really. He just thought you might tell about the booze.”

“It wasn’t what Kevin said,” Freya managed after a moment, realising that she was shaking. She tried to stop, but her efforts did nothing.

“Was it ghosts?” he asked, no judgement in his tone.

“Damon?”

“Yeah?”

“Let’s just stay in and watch Cabin in the Woods next year.”

Freya groaned, throwing her mask down onto her desk, as it occurred to her just how difficult it would be to take off all of the black eyeshadow she had on.

Amber appeared as she pulled a babywipe from the packet on her desk.

“You tried to call me before,” Amber said, a little hurriedly. “Was everything alright?”

Freya nodded. “Yeah. I just talked with a ghost.”

“You talked with one? How did it get through enough for that?”

“Shared blood. It was my grandmother.”

Amber seemed to pale at that, her eyes widening slightly.

“You talked with Hope? What did she say?”

Freya shrugged, turning her attention back to removing her makeup. “She wasn’t all that coherent at first. She hadn’t realised how long she’d been dead. She asked me to find her daughter and I recognised my mother’s name. Then she recognised my pendant when I showed it to her. She disappeared pretty quickly, though. But not after warning me not to trust you.”

She turned back to Amber. “She said that you were probably the reason my mother died.”

Amber nodded, her arms folded tightly across her chest.

“She was right. I’ve never hidden the fact that your mother died because of choices I made, Freya.”

Freya had to admit that she wasn’t wrong there as she leaned back against her desk.

“I know. It’s just… different to hear someone else say it. She seemed to really… She was adamant that I shouldn’t trust you.”

“And she has every reason to think that way,” Amber admitted. “After my husband and son died… I let the Ancient inside me take hold. I didn’t even realise I was doing at first, but I relied on her more and more. She is a being of power far beyond any left in this Creation, and she doesn’t really see people as people. They’re just tools. Just part of her equations.”

“And that’s why my grandmother hated you? Because you didn’t treat people as people?”

Amber sighed. “Because I didn’t treat her as a person. I could have helped her, and I didn’t. Not when it mattered. I just steered her power towards good use. In the end, I was the only one surprised when she killed herself.”

“She did that to herself?” Freya asked, remembering the deep gashes up and down Hope’s arms and legs.

“Yes. I realised what I had become after that, and I removed myself. I lived alone, with little contact with the outside world, until one of your mother’s teachers sought me out. I had hoped that I could help your mother in the way that I couldn’t help your grandmother, but I miscalculated. And we both know how well that turned out.”

Freya raised an eyebrow. “I mean, you died. I wouldn’t exactly call that a ‘miscalculation’.”

Amber nodded, though she in no way looked as if she believed Freya’s words. “Regardless, the Ancient is gone now, and I have no agenda beyond keeping you safe. If you trust nothing else, trust that.”

Freya mulled it over for a moment before deciding to trust Amber until she did something to betray that trust. She had certainly never tried to use her as a weapon in any war.

“Okay then,” Freya said simply before returning to removing her makeup.

“What else did she say?” Amber asked.

“Nothing I can think of. Why?”

Amber shrugged. “Just curious. It’s not every day you get to speak to a dead family member.”

“No, I guess not.”

Cold

Freya was pretty sure that it hadn’t really snowed for years. Sleet, hail and ice? Sure. But no real snow. Not even out in the little village where she had been before, so she assumed that the city definitely hadn’t seen any.

But this year, on Christmas Eve no less, all she could see out of Damon’s window was a constant flurry of white.

Freya’s foster parents were up a height, so she had decided that being at home wasn’t the best plan. Margaret’s parents had come up to see them for Christmas (though they were arriving that night and staying in a hotel until Christmas Day) and Ryan’s sister was staying over with her daughter.

Thankfully, Damon didn’t celebrate Christmas, so there was no problem with her being round at his while Ryan fussed over any of the food prep he could do early and Margaret panicked about the tablecloth being the wrong colour.

“So, does this mean that you don’t get days off for your own holidays?” Freya had asked him when he had wondered what Christmas was.

He had simply shrugged in that evasive manner of his, saying that he “didn’t really celebrate any kind of holiday.”

Freya’s attention was drawn back to the TV as the credits started to roll. She had insisted that the watch Die Hard, given that it was Christmas. They had wrapped themselves up in blankets on the sofa and Freya couldn’t help but smile when she had learnt that Damon had very precise specifications when it came to hot chocolate.

“What next?” Freya asked. “Oh, I know! We should watch the Muppets’ Christmas Carol!”

Damon didn’t respond. He seemed too preoccupied with his phone. Though, after a moment, she noted how his knuckles were white – or, well, whiter than usual – as he clutched it.

Freya peeked over to the screen. He had been scrolling through a website she didn’t recognise, though it looked like some kind of joke/meme collection. She could see the beginning of a rage comic at the bottom of the screen.

The joke at the forefront of the screen just said “Trigger Warnings – Because I’m a special snowflake who needs to be babied.”

Freya seethed at the “joke”, though she was momentarily confused by Damon’s reaction. His friends regularly found that kind of thing funny, along with “get back in the kitchen” jokes. Damon had stopped using them only when his uncle had heard and scolded him. The scolding, much to Freya’s delight, had come with a reminder that Freya could disarm him in less than a minute when they sparred together.

“You okay?” Freya asked him.

He finally put the phone down, a little more forcefully than necessary, as he answered. “Hmm? Yeah, I’m fine.”

She raised an eyebrow to indicate that she didn’t believe him.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” he muttered, picking up the remote and returning to searching through the Netflix Christmas movie collection. After a moment, he gave a frustrated sigh, putting down the remote.

“Can we not watch Christmas stuff?” he asked.

Freya did her best not to flinch at the venom in his voice. She hated how sensitive she was to sharp tones. Especially given that she could take physical damage in battle with little complaint.

“Of course,” she replied. “We can watch whatever.”

He seemed to have realised how unnerved she was, despite her efforts to hide it, softening his expression a little.

“I just… First it was Halloween, and then Bonfire Night, and now this… This w- country is still so foreign to me. It reminds me that this isn’t home… But being away from there… From my father… It wasn’t home there, either.”

Freya didn’t really know what to say to that and so she did the only thing that made sense to her in the whirlwind of emotion, picking up her blanket from around her and wrapping it around him, giving him another layer.

He frowned a little, looking confused, but smiled after a moment.

“Thanks.”

She shrugged as she finally managed to figure out what she wanted to say.

“It takes time to make somewhere feel like home. Trust me on that. You’ve just got to be patient.”

He snorted. “Coming from you, that’s a little hypocritical.”

“What do you mean?”

“Freya, you are the least patient person I know.”

She gently punched the mound of blankets, knowing that he couldn’t feel it.

The action was quickly followed up, however, by a sneeze.

“Now I feel bad about taking your blanket,” Damon said as she sniffed a little.

“It’s fine,” she assured, though that was quickly followed by another sneeze.

“That doesn’t sound fine to me,” Damon said. “It sounds like a cold.”

Freya didn’t really have an argument for that. Her distaste for being ill wouldn’t be taken into account by the virus.

They were interrupted by Gregor storming through, the front of his festive jumper soaked. Freya had asked when she had arrived why he was wearing it, if they didn’t celebrate Christmas, and he had told her that it had been a gift from his boyfriend.

“Of course, the plumbing had to go haywire on Christmas. It’ll be impossible to get anyone out…”

“What happened?” Damon asked him.

“The tap exploded out of nowhere! I managed to get it off and then it did it again. It looks like it’s settled now, but we’ll have to call someone out if it does it again.”

He turned his attention to Freya.

“Though, on a different note, it’s getting pretty bad outside. If you want to get home tonight at all, I should probably take you now.”

Freya groaned, not really wanting to leave. She didn’t imagine that things would have calmed down at home in her absence.

“Are you sure it’s not a hassle to drive me back?” Freya asked.

Gregor raised an eyebrow. “In this weather? There’s no way I’m letting you walk home.”

Freya arrived home to her worst nightmare, as her foster parents scurried around the house, finding new things to fix or clean every five seconds.

“I picked out a dress for you to wear,” Margaret told her as soon as she walked through the door, barely looking up as she lit the candles on the mantle. “Go change into it now. Jessica will be here any minute.”

Freya raised an eyebrow. Jessica was Ryan’s sister, and all that she had heard from Margaret since Ryan had asked his sister join them for Christmas was that she was some kind of ‘hippie’ with a poor taste in men, who had been left pregnant without a partner. Her daughter, Nightingale, had just turned five last month.

From what she had heard, Freya doubted that Jessica would care what Freya was wearing when they met. Still, she was no mood to pick a fight with Margaret, so she acquiesced.

By the time Freya made it back downstairs in her lacy black skater dress, Margaret was opening the door to her sister-in-law.

Jessica mostly looked like Ryan, with his stocky build, tan skin, hazel eyes, and short, mousy-brown hair, though hers was streaked with purple. She was wearing jeans and a white t-shirt, with a black leather jacket and matching boots. She had several piercings that Freya could see, making her face sparkle.

“Auntie Mar!” the little girl at her side shouted as she saw Margaret. She looked little like her mother, with much paler skin and blood-red hair.

“Hello there, little one,” Margaret greeted with a grin, letting the girl jump into her arms, hoisting her up. “Haven’t you grown?”

“I’m not heavy!” the girl protested, out of fear that she might be put down.

“Of course you’re not,” Margaret agreed, taking the girl through to the living room.

Jessica picked up her bag, throwing it over into the corner before shutting the door.

“You must be Freya,” she greeted.

“Yeah,” Freya replied. “You’re Jessica, right?”

“Yup. So… How’s my brother dealing with the cooking stress?”

“He hasn’t left the kitchen since I got home. Though I think he’s finished with stuff for tomorrow and has switched to making mulled wine instead.”

“That sounds like exactly what I need after a three hour drive.”

Freya was sharing her room with Nightingale that night, which meant that they both had to be in bed at nine. Freya didn’t particularly mind, but she knew that she was going to be sitting up awake for a few hours. As she brushed her teeth, she wondered if there were any spells she could practice quietly without Nightingale noticing.

As she finished up, she found herself assaulted by another sneeze.

And, as if in response, water exploded out of the tap.

Freya quickly reached her left hand out, halting the spray of water before it coated everything. As she took in the sight around her, she groaned. Of course a cold would cause her magic to go haywire. She was no longer allowed anything as simple as a sniffle-y nose.

Before she managed to redirect the water to the sink, she was caught off-guard by another sneeze.

The water burst forth with even more explosive force than before, soaking her.

A third sneeze came before she had the time to even roll her eyes, and the shower sent water everywhere.

Freya clenched her fists, standing defiantly, as if daring another sneeze to try her.

A fourth sneeze was followed by a fifth, and Freya spent all of the control she had keeping the water from seeping out beneath the door.

Thankfully, that seemed to be the end of it, allowing Freya to direct the water down the drains and toilet, carefully wringing out her clothes and hair of every last drop.

Freya sighed once she was done, glaring at her reflection. There had to be an answer.

She sound-proofed the room before calling out for her guardian.

“What is it?” Amber asked as she appeared in her familiar, ghostly form. She had been distant over the past week, never appearing without being called upon.

“I have a cold,” Freya told her.

“And?”

“And every time I sneeze, the taps explode.”

“Ah.”

“Yeah, no shit, ah. There are already four other people in the house, and tomorrow it will be six. If I cause a mess in front of them, I don’t think I can wipe all of their memories fast enough.”

Amber nodded, frowning. “There are potions to soothe a cold, but I doubt you have all of the ingredients in the house. Has Human medicine not advanced to this point yet?”

Freya gave a frustrated sigh. “Ryan had half a pack of lozenges in a kitchen drawer. So far, they haven’t helped. Most places are closed now and, even if they weren’t, the roads are too bad to get anywhere.”

Amber shrugged. “Then there is little you can do, other than try to exercise better control.”

She disappeared before Freya demonstrated just how difficult exercising control was by reactivating the shower out of shear frustration.

“You’re ill!” Nightingale announced after Freya’s third post-light-out sneeze.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” she replied sarcastically, rolling over to bury her face in her pillow, hoping that squashing her nose would solve the problem.

Thankfully, there were no liquids in her room. Nightingale had finished her mug of warm milk before Freya had finished in the bathroom, and Freya had been sure to take any half-finished glasses downstairs earlier. She hoped that would be enough for the night, but she wasn’t entirely confident that it would be. Both she and Nightingale were mostly made of water, after all.

That thought meant that she spent the next little while fending off a panic attack at the thought of potentially causing her kind-of cousin to explode or something.

You’re not that powerful, she tried to assure herself, but it rang hollow in face of the Demon she had blown a hole through.

Despite her best efforts, she sneezed again. This time, despite her managing to hide the sneeze in her pillow, it was accompanied by a large crashing noise.

Freya tensed for a moment before realising that it had probably just been the snow shifting off the roof.

“What was that?” Nightingale asked excitedly as she bounced upwards, going to the window.

Freya quickly followed her.

Well, she hadn’t been wrong about the snow, at least. It had indeed crashed to the ground. What she hadn’t been counting on were the intricate spirals of ice, that were very clearly not natural, budding from the snow mound.

“Wow,” Nightingale said softly before running to the door. “Come on! We have to go see!”

“No!” Freya protested, thankful that the soundproofing charms around her room would keep the adults from being disturbed. “We can’t!”

“Why not?” she asked.

Freya usually thought of herself a rather silver-tongued. It was a talent which had served her exceptionally well over the years, and her sister Alice had always said that it was the only reason anyone else was under the impression that she was neurotypical.

But this was far from her finest moment, she decided as she found herself hissing “Because Santa!

Nightingale thankfully stilled at that.

“Santa?”

Freya nodded. “He was the one who knocked the snow from the roof. But, if you see him, then he’ll leave, and you won’t get any presents.”

Nightingale seemed to think this over for a moment before shaking her head.

“I don’t believe you,” she announced as she folded her arms.

Freya held back an irritated groan just as inspiration struck. She focused her mind, sensing the snow still on the roof.

After a moment, they heard soft, rhythmic thudding noises. Almost as if reindeer were on the roof.

“Still think it’s not Santa?” Freya asked.

Nightingale seemed less sure.

Freya went for one last sound effect, making the snow make another, albeit softer, crashing sound.

“That’ll be him down the chimney. Do you really want to ruin Christmas by going downstairs?”

Nightingale hurried over to the mattress she was sleeping on without any more argument.

“Do you think he’s still there?” she asked, after what couldn’t have been longer than a minute.

“Shh!” Freya told her. “If he thinks you’re awake when he comes up to fill your stocking, he’ll leave it empty.”

That shut her up, and, thankfully, Freya’s nose seemed content to leave her alone as she finally got to sleep.

Freya wanted nothing more than to sleep. She was sure that she hadn’t been so tired since she had been almost beaten to death.

But Nightingale had no care for such things, a fact that Freya learnt as she awoken to something heavy landing on her as the young girl announced “It’s Christmas!”

Freya had to jam her lips shut with her teeth to stop herself from responding with the rest of the Slade song.

She sat up to inspect whatever it was that had been thrown at her, only to find a bright blue stocking, with a white snow man on it. On the top was a label that said “Freya.”

As Freya looked over, she saw that Nightingale had a similar red one.

Well. She hadn’t been expecting that. She had known that Nightingale would have one – Margaret had told her to distract Nightingale with it if she woke up too early – but she hadn’t expected to have one of her own.

It’s just because Nightingale has one, she told herself. If she wasn’t here, you wouldn’t have one either. You’re too old for them to bother.

Freya decided to ignore that thought in lieu of unwrapping a chocolate lolly she found.

“Is it time to go downstairs yet?” Nightingale asked excitedly, having already up-ended her own stocking to reveal a collection of chocolate coins, various hair accessories, and odd bits of stationary.

Freya checked her phone, finding that it had just gone eight, which was when Margaret had asked her to keep Nightingale entertained until.

“Yeah. But go wake everyone up first.”

Nightingale ran out of the room as Freya put on her dressing gown, coming back with a disgruntled Margaret.

“I should have said nine,” she muttered.

“I’ll put the coffee on,” Ryan told her as he passed them in the hall.

“Mmm, yes, coffee.”

Freya worried the edges of her dressing gown as Margaret looked as if she was about to follow her husband downstairs.

“Thank you,” Freya managed quietly. “For the stocking, I mean.”

Margaret just smirked as she rubbed her eyes. “Probably want to hold the thanks until you’ve seen downstairs. Ryan gets a little overexcited when it comes to Christmas shopping…”

Freya didn’t have a response to that as Margaret headed downstairs.

She managed to galvanise herself to follow her down after a few moments, though she was halted at the bottom of the stairs by a cup of coffee being branded in her face.

“Here,” Jessica offered. “I made one for you.”

“I thought Ryan was the one making the coffee.”

“My brother is terrible at it,” Jessica reasoned. “He said that you didn’t like coffee, but I think that’s just because nobody here makes it right.”

Freya swallowed her immanent protest, deciding that it would be only polite to humour Jessica.

And she was right. The coffee wasn’t as harsh as it had been before, and was far milkier. It was also sweet.

“It’s a caramel latte,” Jessica explained. “I always bring my own syrup when I’m staying with Ryan. I just wish I had remembered the cream and marshmallows…”

“Thank you,” Freya said.

“Are you going to open these or not?” Margaret called from the living room. “We’ve all got to get dressed and tidy before my parents get here.”

Jessica raised an eyebrow. “I hope you’re ready for that. Her parents are the best at making passive-aggressive comments.”

“I’m sure I’ll manage,” Freya replied with a smile as she made her way to the living room.

Her smile froze in place as her brain refused to believe what her eyes were telling her. Both of the sofas were covered with presents, so the point at which some had to be rested up against them.

Nightingale was already making her way through the red pile, all of which had a little “N” written on the corner in marker. The blue pile all had “F” written on them in a similar fashion.

Despite the “F” and the colour matching her stocking, Freya found herself hesitating.

She almost laughed at herself. Was she really so distrustful of good things?

The fact that her feet were as immovable as stone acted as a resounding “yes”.

“Yours is the blue pile,” Margaret told her, seemingly sensing her hesitation. “And you’d better hurry to catch up with Nightingale if you want to be showered and dressed before my parents arrive.”

Freya nodded mutely before heading to her own pile.

There wasn’t a moment where she didn’t feel self-conscious, spending every moment painstakingly analysing her expression to ensure that she was smiling enough and that it definitely reached her eyes, despite it not being particularly natural to her.

By the time she had finished, she was pleasantly exhausted, and glad that she hadn’t sneezed once.

Despite hurrying, Freya barely made it back downstairs as Margaret’s parents arrived. She was glad that she could use her magic to dry her hair almost instantly, rather than the hours it had taken mere months before.

Margaret’s mother looked exactly like her, with the same skinny build and bleach-blonde bob. Her father was taller and had an almost Italian look about him, with a strong nose, light olive skin, and only a few flecks of grey in his thick, black hair.

“So, this is the delinquent youth you have taken in,” Margaret’s mother said, her voice icy.

Freya had to exercise every ounce of control she had to stop an eyebrow from raising.

“We’ve been over this, dear,” Margaret’s father quickly interjected, “Freya is apparently a very nice, hard working girl.”

His wife snorted. “And yet she doesn’t have a real name.”

Freya was very tempted to make a comment about the fact that she was talked about as if she wasn’t there, but Jessica spoke up before she had the chance.

“I don’t know, I like Freya. It’s a strong name. Very Nordic.”

Margaret’s mother gave her a particularly withering look. “You’ll forgive me if I don’t put much stock in the opinion of a woman who named her child… What was it? Songbird?”

Jessica matched her expression with one of equal ferocity. “Nightingale. Her father chose it.”

“Ah yes, the man who left you pregnant and alone. I can see why you would give his opinion so much weight.”

Jessica clenched her fists, and Freya could have sworn she saw a few sparks dance around them.

“Who wants something to drink?” Ryan asked, finally interjecting. “Dinner should be ready in just a few minutes.”

As Freya looked over to her foster parents, she saw that Margaret was white as a sheet, moving stiffly as she led her parents through to the dining room.

“This going to fun,” Jessica said with a smirk.

Freya just returned the expression, deciding that she would spend most of the meal refusing to speak, in the hope that she would be ignored.

Freya’s plan, surprisingly, worked. Jessica seemed to find it fun to goad Margaret’s mother, which kept the attention firmly off Freya. Though, as she watched them more carefully, she realised that it was intentional. Whenever the older woman looked as if she was trying to steer the conversation back to Freya or Nightingale, Jessica offered her a different easy target.

It was masterful, Freya decided after the first half hour. There weren’t many she felt that she could learn from when it came to twisting words, but Jessica had definitely reached the top of the list.

Of course, there was only so long it could have lasted, especially since all of the adults were drinking pretty heavily.

“So, Freya,” Margaret’s mother, who Freya had since found was called Barbara, said, finally addressing her directly, “how exactly did you come to be in foster care?”

Mother!” Margaret protested, finally reaching the point at which she drew the line.

“What?” Barbara replied with a wave of her hand. “It’s a legitimate question. I want to get to know this girl who is living in my daughter’s home.”

“I’m an orphan,” Freya replied quietly, her gaze fixed on her plate. “My mother died just after I was born.”

“And what of your father?”

“They were never able to find him.”

Barbara nodded, as if her suspicions had been confirmed. “Probably some benefits scrounger, like Jessica’s man. What was his name? It was something ridiculous as well…”

Before Jessica could respond, Freya sneezed again, the wine bottle on the table knocking over (well, if you looked closely, it had clearly jumped) so that it coated Barbara’s white shirt with a deep, blood red.

“Excuse me,” Freya squeaked as she felt another sneeze’s threatening presence, escaping to the kitchen.

Three more sneezes followed in quick succession, one causing the sink to explode, one blowing the fridge open, and the last causing a small snow cloud to form.

“I knew it!” she heard from behind her as she wiped her nose.

Freya stopped dead still, turning to see Jessica giving the room an impressed once-over.

“I knew I could sense magic around the house. You must have some particularly strong protections for me to not sense any from you.”

Freya was at a complete loss until Jessica pulled a wand from her boot, clearing up the mess she had caused.

“You’re a Witch,” Freya eventually said.

“Yeah, I am.”

“But Ryan…”

“Our father was Human. Our mother decided to keep her magic quiet once she realised that I had been the only one to inherit it. Ryan’s not even Sensitive.”

“And… Nightingale?”

Some of the light in Jessica’s expression dimmed. “I’m not sure. Her father was a Vampyre and she’s too young to show any inclination either way. Well, except her ability to get sunburn after the slightest exposure…”

“Was?”

Jessica gave a frustrated sigh. “He died. He was… He was part-Demon, okay? A group of Hunters came across him and… They didn’t care that he had never lived as anything but Neutral.”

“And you let people believe that he had left you?”

Jessica shrugged. “That level of clean-up is difficult, and no Light Witch wanted to help for someone with Demon blood. I didn’t really know any Dark Witches at the time.” She looked as if she was waiting for Freya to make a negative remark.

Freya shrugged. “I’m the last person to have a go at anyone for having a little Demon blood.”

Jessica regarded her carefully at that. “You identified me as a Witch. So, you have knowledge of magic? Despite not having a family?”

“I… Yeah.”

“You don’t look five pages into your grimoire.”

“My… what?”

“Your grimoire? The repository of your magic knowledge. Normally it’s passed down through family, but if you never knew yours…

“So, what? Friends of your parents told you what you are, but didn’t take you in or teach you beyond the basics?”

Freya shrugged. “It’s just one person. And Amber’s a unique case. She can’t take me in and sometimes she thinks that keeping me in the dark is the best way to protect me.”

Jessica took a moment to think before asking, “Amber? What’s her last name?”

It struck Freya at that point that she probably should have thought to ask Amber that before.

“I don’t know. She’s just Amber. Why?”

Jessica shrugged. “I was wondering if I knew an Amber, but I could only think of Amber Cohen, which would be silly.”

“Why? Who is Amber Cohen?”

Jessica raised an eyebrow. “The Second Holder of the Last Ancient? The Matriarch of Angels? The Saviour of Creation?”

“Yeah, that would be silly,” Freya said, deciding that those titles were impressive enough for her to not want to be anywhere near them, despite the fact that she was pretty sure that Amber had been the second person to bind with the last Ancient.

Jessica narrowed her eyes. “So, you’re just some lost kid, who no one in any kind of position of power kept track of, despite the fact that you have enough power to start a snow storm with a sneeze?”

“I don’t know that this would count as a storm,” Freya replied, a little sheepishly. It was strange to hear someone other than Amber comment on her magic. Especially when commenting on its strength. Amber was a fan of answering any questions on the subject with vague assurances that everything was fine.

Jessica responded by waving her wand at her.

Now. The truth. What secrets are you hiding?

To Freya’s horror, her mouth answered without her consent.

“I don’t know Amber’s surname, but your description of Amber Cohen’s titles makes me pretty sure it’s her,” Freya found herself saying. “She’s a ghost and I’m not always certain that I should trust her, but that’s mostly because the ghost of my grandmother told me not to on Halloween. She had black tattoos extending from her heart and she had killed herself pretty viciously, apparently because of Amber.”

Jessica seemed a little stunned at that information, but Freya’s mouth didn’t stop.

“Not that Amber has ever denied that, it was just disconcerting to hear it from someone else. I don’t know… The whole thing reminds me that I’m funny about who I trust. Sometimes I wish I could be as trusting as Damon, but then days like yesterday make me think that might just be an act on his behalf. Damon’s my best friend, though I really wish that he could be more than that. I’m pretty sure it’s just a childish crush, but sometimes I wonder if I might actually be in love with him. Not that I’m sure I’d know the difference. I’m not great with emotional stuff. I think it’s because I’m Autistic, but I spend most of my time in denial about that, because if I accepted it, I’m afraid that I would let my neurotypical mask slip and someone would realise and then I would never be fostered again…”

Jessica gave another wave of her wand at that, shutting Freya up.

“Sorry,” she said quickly. “I haven’t used that spell in a while. I guess I didn’t realise how much more powerful I’d gotten lately…”

Freya didn’t respond, her hands clamped over her mouth in an attempt to ensure that she truly had control over it again.

“What was that?” Freya eventually asked, still wary of her mouth.

“A truth spell.”

“But… how?”

Jessica shrugged. “The truth is that most secrets want to be heard. It doesn’t take much of a nudge to make it happen. I’m sorry, I just wanted to be sure that you had no ill intent towards my family. I didn’t mean for you to reveal anything that might embarrass you.”

Freya narrowed her eyes, but shook her head after a few moments. Arguing would get her nowhere.

“Can I trust you to keep my secrets?” Jessica asked.

“As long as I can trust you to keep mine.”

“Of course. I just wish that I could stay in town. Teach you what I know.”

“Why can’t you?”

“I’m going to find Nightingale’s grandparents. I don’t know the first thing about raising a Vampyre. I most likely won’t even be in this realm, never mind in town.”

Freya nodded in understanding.

“Though, do you want one piece of magical advice before I go?”

“I could use any I can get.”

“Regardless of what ghosts say, I would trust the woman who saved the world.”

Freya smirked. “I guess that makes about as much sense as anything.”

“And here.” Jessica reached over to the bench, where her handbag was, and brought out a small vial. “Drink this. It should stop the sneezing.”

“Thanks.”

“No problem. As much as I love to see Barbara inconvenienced, I don’t think outing the both of us is the way to do it.”

Candles

The fourteenth of February. Valentine’s Day. The most corporate of corporate holidays. And, also, to her annoyance, Freya’s birthday.

Well, estimated birthday. That had always annoyed her even more. If they were just guessing anyway, why the hell didn’t the hospital give her either the day before or after? Why choose to torture her so?

Though, she wasn’t sure if she had been more or less annoyed by Amber confirming that it was, indeed, her birthday.

“You don’t have to be all cheery,” Freya told her guardian after she had awoken to “happy birthday”.

Amber frowned at her as she got up and out of bed.

“What do you mean?”

Freya shrugged. “I mean that today might be my birthday, but tomorrow is the anniversary of my mother’s death. It never really bothered me, since I never knew her, but I get it if you don’t want to be cheery today.”

Amber gave her the look. She’d been on the receiving end of it a few too many times over the past few months. Freya knew that she had a habit of putting everyone ahead of herself, but it was a survival tactic. If she tried to claim something for herself, it could be challenged, and she could be hurt. Better to never try. Or, if she did, do it in such a way that no one else was the wiser.

Amber preferred to solve problems head-on, and so she would give Freya the look every time she thought that she was being too cautious.

Today we will be cheery,” Amber told her firmly. “And tomorrow… I’ll tell you anything you want to know about your mother.”

Freya didn’t really have a response to that. She’d not really asked Amber about her mother because she didn’t want to know. She had spent a long time angry at her mother for dying and leaving her without any other family. Freya had always been convinced that someone – her father or a grandparent or something – must exist out there for her. And now she had Amber, who had been exceptionally firm in telling Freya that her mother had no family, and that she shouldn’t look for her father under any circumstances.

Yeah, Freya had little interest in learning anything more about her mother.

Thankfully, Freya’s phone buzzed in her pocket, giving her an excuse to not answer Amber.

I’m outside, the text from Damon said. Freya couldn’t help grin. Usually she spent her birthday with her best friend, Alice, but Alice was currently living with her aunt in Tokyo, and it was a bit much to ask her to make the 15 hour flight.

This year, she at least had Damon. She checked herself in her bedroom mirror before bounding downstairs to see him.

Damon refused to tell her where he was taking her for lunch, miming sealing his lips shut whenever she asked. She was about to ask him for perhaps the fifteenth time, when she heard his phone go off. Instead of checking it, he seemed to be deliberately ignoring it.

“You can check that, you know,” Freya said to him, feeling a little bad that he might be ignoring something important just for her.

Damon shook his head. “It’s nothing. It doesn’t matter.”

Freya narrowed her eyes at his suspicious demeanour. “Why? What is it?” All she could think was that it was perhaps his father, but if that were the case, she was sure that his uncle would have replaced his phone immediately.

Damon shook his head again as his phone rang once more. “It’s fine, I swear.”

“They will only keep ringing if you don’t answer.”

“She’s not even supposed to be ringing me anyway. She knows full well where I am.”

Freya frowned, wondering who ‘she’ was.

She could have almost hit herself a moment later, when she remembered what day it was. It was Valentine’s Day, and Damon had a girlfriend.

He had, of course, already assured her that Jamie didn’t mind the fact that he was going to spend Valentine’s Day with Freya. It was her birthday, after all, he had told her.

Freya hadn’t exactly been convinced of that at the time, but when the only other option was spending her birthday alone, she had pretended to believe him. If he had chosen to spend Valentine’s Day with her, after all, that was his choice.

But she wasn’t surprised that Jamie wouldn’t stop ringing.

Damon simply reached into his pocket and turned his phone to silent as they finally seem to have reached the place that he was taking her.

It definitely wasn’t anywhere fancy, but then Freya had never liked anywhere that wouldn’t serve her hefty enough portions, and Damon knew that. So, he had taken her to a burger restaurant and, from what she could see through the window, the burgers were as big as her head.

A tall woman, taller even than Freya, bounded over to them as they approached the “please wait here to be seated” sign. She was broad and buff beneath her flannel shirt, her biceps looking large enough for her to bench press five of Freya.

Freya tried not to blush as she smiled at her.

She didn’t like like women. She couldn’t. On top of having magic and being probably Autistic, she didn’t need to also be bisexual. It would be one too many things for her to deal with.

But she couldn’t ignore the fact that her face turned fire-engine red as the waitress showed them to a table.

“You okay?” Damon asked, as Freya tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her blush behind a menu.

“I’m fine,” Freya said, though even she didn’t believe it. “Just, you know, dealing with strangers makes me anxious.” She hoped that would explain away her blush.

“Uh-huh,” Damon said, his tone telling her that he didn’t believe her spiel.

“So, what do you think the biggest burger they sell here is?” she asked, in an attempt to change the subject.

As much as they couldn’t hear it, Freya was pretty sure that they were both aware that Damon’s phone hadn’t stopped ringing.

When he brought it out to check the time, as they finished eating, her suspicion was confirmed. Before he could change the screen, she saw that he had a few dozen missed calls. There were actually a few less than she would have expected, but maybe that was just her underestimating Jamie. Yes, Freya felt that she needed to calm down a bit, but then, Damon was spending his Valentine’s Day with another woman. Even if it was his best friend. Freya liked to think that, in Jamie’s position, she would be more relaxed about it, but then she had never been anywhere even near a romantic relationship, so who was she to judge?

“You can go and see her, you know,” Freya told him. “It’s been really nice hanging out with you today, but I do understand that it’s Valentine’s Day.”

Damon looked, honestly, a little relieved at that. “Are you sure you don’t mind?”

She did, in fact, mind, but that was neither here nor there. “Go,” she told him. “It’s fine, I swear.”

Damon grinned before hurrying out of the booth. They had already paid when they had ordered, so we left the restaurant with just a few words to their waitress. Freya assumed that he was tipping her.

Freya picked up her bag, deciding that she would pick up some ice cream on the way home. And maybe a birthday cake. If her foster parents had bought one for her, they hadn’t mentioned it.

Before she could leave, however, the waitress made her way over, though she was now without her apron or name-tag. Freya felt a little bad that she hadn’t been paying attention to the name on the tag before. It had felt too much like looking at her boobs.

“Hey,” the other woman greeted, as she swept her short, blue hair from her aqua eyes. “Your friend told me to bring these over.” She placed two plates of chocolate cake and ice cream down on the table. The one directly in front of Freya had a lit candle in it.

“Why two?” Freya asked. “Damon left.”

She blushed a little. “He, um… I told him that my shift was ending and he suggested that I should bring you some birthday cake. He also suggested that you might want to…” Her blush deepened. “You know, hang out and stuff. So I thought I would bring cake for me as well so that you weren’t eating alone…”

Freya had to close her eyes with embarrassment for a moment as she was sure that her face was bright red. Maybe even purple. “He told you that I liked you, didn’t he?”

“He said you thought I was cute.”

“Yep…” Freya managed, not sure what else to say.

The other girl shrugged, looking a little sheepish. “Well, I thought you were cute too.”

“I… Really?”

The girl grinned, sitting down opposite her. “I’m Chloe.”

“Freya.”

“So… I’m guessing it’s your birthday,” Chloe ventured as Freya blew out her candle and removed it from her cake. “How old?”

“Fifteen.”

“I just turned sixteen last week.”

“And you’re working in a restaurant? Don’t you guys serve alcohol here?”

“Yeah. I have to get someone else to pour it, if anyone orders any. My uncle runs the place and I’m just a temp until he finds someone older.”

“Must be nice to have the extra cash.”

She shrugged. “I’m not complaining.”

They lapsed into a comfortable silence as they focused on the cake.

“So, how come you’re here?” Chloe asked. “I mean, how come you’re with a friend, who isn’t your boyfriend, on your birthday? Didn’t your family want to spend the day with you?”

Freya shrugged. “What about you? Why are you alone on Valentine’s Day?”

“Being gay kind of limits my dating pool. I don’t know anyone who swings my way that I haven’t already dated. Well, except for the ones I can’t stand. I should probably get out more, but the thing about bars is that you can’t get in until you’re eighteen, gay bars included.”

“They should have, like, gay coffee shops.”

“I would actually love that.”

Freya laughed a little as she finished up her cake. To her surprise, Chloe had already finished hers.

“So, you didn’t answer my question. Why are you on your own for your birthday?”

“My foster mother had to leave town for work last minute. My foster father promised take away tonight, but I got the day to myself.”

“Foster parents?”

Freya sighed. “I’m an orphan. I know, I know, it’s terrible and sad, and I should probably start fighting bad guys in spandex, but it’s true.”

Chloe raised an eyebrow. “So, what, you’ve gotten over it?”

“Nothing to get over. My mother died just after I was born and my father was nowhere to be found.”

“You never tried to find him, or…?”

“Once. But it wasn’t a good idea.” Freya cleared her throat. The subject was getting way too close to magic for comfort. “What about you? What’s your family like?”

“Boring and nuclear.”

“Any siblings?”

“Just my little brother. He’s kind of an asshole, but I guess all twelve year old boys are.”

“Sounds nice.”

“Yeah, I gue-” Chloe was cut off by a yawn. “I’m sorry. I’ve been working all day.”

“We could get some coffee.”

“They have coffee here, but I could probably use some fresh air.”

“What about the cafe around the corner?”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Freya felt it the second they left the building. Like a prickling on the back of her neck.

“Are you okay?” Chloe asked her.

Freya nodded, realising that she had slowed. “Yeah, I’m fine.” She did her best to smile, despite the feeling of dread curling around her stomach.

The dark lightning struck out at her and she lost all sense to the pain.

Her muscles spasmed and she knew that she had lost.

He was going to kill her.

“You don’t look fine,” Chloe said. “You look like you’re about to be sick.”

Freya shook her head, trying to rid herself of the memories of her encounter with the Demon.

She focused on her sense of magic as she realised why that was.

She could sense another Demon.

She can see nothing but the sky and she can’t move.

She knows she’s going to die.

“I’m fine,” Freya repeated, doing her best to ignore the Demon.

It only took her another second to realise that wasn’t going to happen.

She pulled her phone out.

“Sorry, it’s important,” Freya said, pretending it was ringing before holding it to her ear. “Amber?”

Thankfully, her guardian appeared in front of her without hesitation.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Another one,” Freya told her, hoping that she would understand. She couldn’t exactly start throwing around words like Demon in front of Chloe.

“Don’t worry,” Amber said with a smile. “It won’t be after you.”

“How can you be sure?”

Amber looked uneasy, pausing for a few moments before answering. “Because this city is crawling with Demons. That’s why the crime rate is so high. There has always been a high concentration of magic in this area, and magical beings are drawn to it. But the Demons outnumber the Creatures of Light, simply because more of them survived the War.”

Freya nodded, though it didn’t help her uneasy stomach. “So, what? I just leave it be?”

“It’s not your fight, Freya.”

“But what will happen? What will they do?”

Amber sighed, folding her arms. “I honestly have no idea. I can’t read its mind.”

“But nothing good, right?”

“I…”

Freya could see her looking for a lie, but it was a search doomed to failure. Freya knew too much to believe her at this point.

“No, nothing good,” she eventually agreed.

“Will someone step in?”

“Doubtful. They’ll only target Humans and the higher-ups will make sure to cover it up. No one’s going to stick their neck out for that.”

Freya bit her lip, her sense of unease only growing.

He brings down his sword and Freya grips the charm Damon gave her.

Thinking of a friend.

Not of the sword, but of her friend.

She never wanted to be in that situation again. Doing her best to make her last thoughts happy ones… She didn’t have the strength to go through it again.

But if she didn’t step up, it would be somebody else.

Somebody else squeezing their eyes tight and making sure that their last thoughts are of the only person who ever made them feel like they belonged.

She couldn’t let that happen.

“I’ll do it,” Freya told her. “Tonight, I’ll do it.”

Amber gave her a disapproving glare. “You’ll be putting yourself in unnecessary danger.”

“I can’t just leave it.”

Amber looked as if she was going to argue, before thinking better of it with a sigh. “You’re going to go no matter what I say, aren’t you?”

“Yep.”

“Alright then. Tonight.”

She disappeared at that and Freya put her phone back in her bag.

“I’m sorry about that,” Freya said, turning back to Chloe.

“Everything okay?”

“It is now.”

Chloe smiled at her. “So, what questions have we yet to answer?”

“Almost all of them.”

“Well, we’d better get to it then.”

“Okay, you first.”

“Alright then. What abou-”

Chloe stopped in her tracks, seemingly distracted.

“What is it?” Freya asked.

“Do you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“That music…”

Freya frowned, but Chloe was already heading quickly down a side-alley.

“Hey, going down there isn’t a good idea!” Freya called before hurrying after her.

Quicker than Freya could see, someone jumped down in front of Chloe and hit her so hard that she flew into the wall.

Freya was next, her head hitting the wall painfully as the Demon swatted her away.

“I knew I could lure your friend, but I didn’t think you would be stupid enough to follow,” the Demon sneered as she loomed over Freya.

The world spun a little as Freya strained to get up. Her vision blurred and she assumed that the blow to her head had been bad. She tried to focus her magic in that area, hoping that it would somehow help with the healing.

She got a better look at the Demon and saw that, instead of the red eyes of the last one, this one was looking at her with eyes that were entirely black, except for a slight blue where the outline of her iris should have been.

“You were after me?” Freya managed to ask as she struggled up.

“Of course I was. There are competing bounties out for you. Nothing sanctioned, of course, but they’re there anyway.”

“What bounties? And what do you mean sanctioned?”

The Demon sighed, lifting Freya up by her hair, ignoring her cry of pain.

“Lord Uther will be glad to see you dead, but the counter offer wants you alive. I wonder which I should take…”

Freya clawed at the hands holding her hair, trying to pry herself free as the Demon pretended to consider it.

She dropped to the ground as something collided with the Demon. It took Freya a moment to realise that it was Chloe.

“Get away from her!” Chloe yelled, shortly before being lifted up by the Demon as if she was a scrap of paper.

The Demon sighed. “Fine. I’ll kill your friend and deliver you alive to the second party.”

“No!” Freya cried, launching herself forward with all of her might, causing the Demon to drop Chloe.

Her muscles refuse to move and she’s helpless.

Freya concentrated her magic into the muscles in her arms and shoulders, focusing her strength in her fists.

He slices across her back and her blood soaks her top.

She struck forward as hard as she could, as if she could punch away the memories.

She’s never been in so much pain…

Something cracked beneath her fists but she couldn’t concentrate on that.

She couldn’t let them get her.

She refused to be helpless again.

The next thing she knew, she was being hauled up from behind.

“Freya! Stop!”

Freya realised that Chloe had pulled her up. She spun around to make sure that the Demon hadn’t gotten back up, only to see that her skull was caved in.

She wasn’t getting up again.

“What the hell did you do?” Chloe whispered.

Freya wiped the blood from her hands before dragging Chloe out from the alley and concentrating her magic.

Auferbulum,” she said, putting all of her remaining strength behind the spell. It would take everything she had to erase the last few minutes.

Chloe’s eyes unfocused for a moment before blinking rapidly.

“What was I saying?”

Freya held back a relieved sigh before answering with a sad smile. “I was actually saying that I have to head off now.”

“Aw, really?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, how about we see each other again?”

“I… I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Freya said quickly, hurrying off before she would be expected to give an answer.

She shifted once she was around a corner, away from prying eyes.

As soon as she was out of the way, her chest started to seize up, her lungs forgetting how to gather air.

Amber appeared next to her, looking concerned.

“Breathe, Freya. Just concentrate on breathing.”

She nodded, but it was hard. She could feel the blood on her hands and it wouldn’t come off.

She started waving her hands up and down, as if it would help, as her eyes started streaming.

“She was trying to kill you,” Amber assured her. “You did nothing wrong.”

Freya had no words. Her mind couldn’t find them. She waved her hand, as if to indicate that she had bludgeoned someone to death with her fists.

“It was you or her. Or, worse, Chloe or her.”

She was right. Freya knew that she was right.

Her lungs remembered how to take in air.

“Freya, listen to me,” Amber said, her voice urgent as she placed ghostly hands on Freya’s shoulders. “Demons are foul creatures. She would have killed you, or worse. I don’t like you killing, I will admit that. I would prefer that you found another way but… That is out of concern for you, not them. The city is better with them dead.”

Freya nodded. “I’m alright,” she finally managed to say. “I promise, Amber… I’m alright now…”

Freya stood in front of the bathroom mirror, concentrating on covering her wounds with a glamour.

Her magic was getting easier to use, but she wondered if she would ever feel as if she was out of the magic equivalent of play group.

No more than five pages into your grimoire, is how Jessica had described her at Christmas, and she couldn’t help but agree.

Amber appeared next to her as she finished up.

“You’re getting better at that,” Amber told her.

Freya just nodded. She didn’t have the energy to say anything else.

Amber seemed to hesitate for a moment before saying, “She was one of the strongest people I’ve ever met.”

Freya frowned.

“Your mother, I mean. I promised to tell you about her.”

“Yeah, I remember,” Freya managed.

“She had an iron will. But she was always more likely to use it to defy authority than anything else. She always hated the idea of being controlled and fought against anything she perceived as boundaries.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Freya eventually asked. She was too tired for a heart-to-heart.

“I’m telling you because I want you to have some inkling of what it means when I tell you that she would be proud of you. You’re doing the best you can right now, Freya, and it’s better than most people in your position would be doing.”

Freya frowned, rubbing one of her hands over the knuckles of the other. “I just punched someone to death…”

“To protect someone you cared about. An innocent Human. I don’t like you putting yourself in danger, but it is so very much like something your mother would have done.”

Freya somehow managed to find it in herself to feign a smile before saying “Thanks. I feel much better now.”

Only she didn’t, she thought to herself as Amber disappeared.

Her mother’s example wasn’t exactly one she was looking to follow.

Test

Okay, next one,” Alice said on the other end of the line. “Sometimes I have to cover my ears to block out painful noises.

No, Amber taught me a spell for that, was Freya’s first thought as she fiddled with her bluetooth headset, unable to leave it alone. She didn’t usually use it for actually making calls. Usually it was just so that it didn’t look like she was talking to herself when Amber was in ghost-form.

“Yeah, I guess,” Freya replied as she made her way out of the car park. She was sure that she had sensed a Demon around there somewhere…

You used to get really upset whenever Janet got the hoover out.”

“I know, I said yes. ‘Now and when I was young’. Why am I doing this again? Didn’t I already take one of these quizzes? It said I was borderline.”

Yeah, but this one’s more accurate. Trust me.”

“Okay, fine. Next question.”

As soon as the words left her mouth, Freya felt the familiar presence of Demonic magic behind her. She quickly shifted to reposition herself behind the Demon that had tried to get the jump on her.

It can be very hard to read someone’s face, hand, and body movements when we are talking,” Alice continued, as Freya brought her sword down to the Demon’s back, completely unaware of what was happening on the other end of the phone.

“Same as the last one,” Freya said, holding back a curse as the Demon rolled out from under her blade.

Body language and facial expressions definitely weren’t her thing, she allowed herself to think before refocusing on the Demon making a renewed attempt at her.

The Demon reached to her side and Freya panicked, assuming that she was going for a source stone to augment her power.

She grabbed the water from the puddles surrounding them, readying it to block a surge of Energy.

Instead, a throwing knife whizzed right through the wall of water, catching Freya’s side and allowing the Demon to shift behind her.

The next thing Freya knew, she had been kicked forward and onto the ground, the skin of her chin scraped away by the tarmac.

I focus on details rather than the overall idea,” Alice said as Freya jumped to her feet in one, smooth motion. She thanked the five minutes of ballet lessons when she was six for teaching her that trick.

“Same,” Freya replied, the Demon in front of her frowning in confusion.

Freya concentrated on the water once more. Her muscles still needed work, but her elemental magic was coming along faster than she could have hoped.

I take things too literally, so I often miss what people are trying to say,” Alice continued.

Freya sent a cascade of water at the Demon, using it to pin her to the wall before replying.

“I actually don’t think I’m that bad for that.”

What about insults?

“What do you mean?”

You always used to take insults literally when you were little. You honestly believed that the kids in your maths class thought you were ‘stupid’, despite you being the top of the class, because they called you it.

“Okay, I get your point, but I don’t do that now.”

All right then,” Alice allowed as Freya made her way over to where she had trapped the Demon.

The Demon spat at her, and Freya was a little impressed with herself to see blood in it.

“The House of Javon will have their revenge,” the Demon yelled at her.

“Hang on a sec,” Freya told Alice, muting her mic before turning back to the Demon. “Yeah, I don’t know what that is.”

Amber appeared at that, seemingly sensing Freya’s questions.

“If I had to take a guess, I would say that the Demon from Valentine’s was from the House of Javon,” Amber figured.

“Oh…” She turned to the Demon, a little sheepish. “Sorry?”

“You will pay for killing my love!”

“She tried to kill me,” Freya defended, but she could see that she was going to get nowhere. “If I release you, will you leave?”

“I’ve been watching you. You killed my love, and I’ll kill yours!”

“Who the hell are you talking about?”

The Demon sneered. “I’ve seen you fawn over him. Damon, I believe his name is.”

“Oh, for the love of- We‘re not together! Why do people keep thinking that we are?”

Amber just gave her a pointed look.

“Actually, don’t answer that,” Freya muttered before turning back to the Demon. “If I let you go, you’ll kill Damon, is that the gist of this conversation?”

“I will flay him ali-”

Freya had her sword through the Demon’s chest before she could finish.

Amber had that look. The I don’t like it when you kill look, but Freya was going to continue ignoring it until Amber could actually offer up a viable alternative.

“Damon’s a target for them now?” Freya asked her guardian as she let the water that had been holding the Demon disperse.

“Potentially. It may be prudent to change your route so that you patrol closer to his house,” Amber told her before fading.

Freya let out a groan before unmuting her mic.

“I’m back.”

Okay, last one. I get extremely upset when the way I like to do things is suddenly changed.”

Freya sighed before answering with “Yeah. Now and when I was a kid.”

Okay, that was it.

“What did I get?”

40.”

“What’s the lower threshold for Autistic?”

31.”

“Yeah… That sounds about right…”

Freya’s story will continue in Book Two: White.

Here, have a preview:

Freya couldn’t help but grin as she headed out of school, knowing that she wouldn’t have to return until September. Provided that she decided to come back here for sixth form. Her last GCSE exam (which had, annoyingly, been French listening, which always tripped her up) was over and done with.

Her grin was mostly down to the fact that this marked the end of her frumpy uniform and having to take subjects she hated. Goodbye all language-based subjects. From now on, she would only focus on what she was good at. Not to mention the freedom to leave during lunch and free periods.

Of course, Freya should have known that such things never last long. Just as she was leaving the building, a rat-faced girl with shoulder-length, dark hair approached. Freya recognised her as Jamie, Damon’s girlfriend. Jamie hated Freya and made no effort to hide it. She seemed convinced that Freya was trying to steal Damon from her and dealt with it by spreading nasty rumours about Freya around school.

Not that anyone believed them. Freya was known for having no friends, doing well in school, and being a “teacher’s pet.” No one was ready to believe that at night she headed into town in tight leather outfits and screwed anyone who looked at her.

Though, Freya did suppose that her armour for demon-hunting was mostly leather. She wondered if she had been sloppy with her glamours and Jamie had seen her one night. It might go towards explaining the basis for the strange rumour she had generated, despite the usual ones being “crazy.”

“You bitch!” Jamie screamed, before slapping her across the face.

Freya instinctively clenched her fist, but managed to stop herself from igniting it in flame, or using it to remove some of Jamie’s teeth.

“You bloody boyfriend stealer!” Jamie continued, still screaming through tears.

Freya put all of her effort into clamping down on her anger as a crowd began to form. The last thing she needed was to reveal her magic over something as trivial as getting back at Jamie. Also, it would be wrong, but that thought alone probably wouldn’t have stopped her from at least setting the screeching girl’s hair alight.

“I hope you two are happy together, you bloody slut! What nasty little tricks did you use to seduce him, huh? Bloody tramp!”

Freya actually let herself laugh aloud at that. Damon had no filter, and had never really twigged that his best friend being a girl would make talking about his sex life awkward. She knew exactly what Jamie had done with him, and the hypocrisy was hilarious to her.

Oh, grow the hell up, Jamie,” Freya told her, not noticing the low vibration beneath her cold words that had Jamie staring at her like a deer in the headlights.

Freya quickly headed to the front gate where Damon, as always, was waiting for her. He hadn’t had an exam today, so he wasn’t in his uniform. Instead, he was wearing his usual black jeans and black t-shirt, despite the warm weather. Not that Freya could talk, since her own aversion to colour only made an exception for blood red. Plus, any t-shirt that fit Damon like that was nothing to complain about. The tight fabric showed off the wiry muscles beneath his skin, all across his lanky frame.

Okay, so maybe Jamie’s accusations weren’t completely unfounded. Freya had always been attracted to her best friend, but it had been made clear to her over the years that he didn’t feel the same way. So, she buried those feelings and focused on just being his friend. Especially since his friendship wasn’t something she was willing to lose.

He grinned as he noticed her approaching, a few strands of his long, jet-black hair escaping his ponytail to fall across his dark, almost-red eyes. She might have blushed, if her approach hadn’t resulted in her inhaling a sudden waft of cigarette smoke. She choked back a cough, as she always did. As much as she hated the smell of cigarettes, she was also kind of glad that Damon had started, since the smell was such a turn-off for her. It made it much easier to not act the fool in his presence.

“What did you do to Jamie?” Freya asked with a raised eyebrow as he tossed his tab to the floor before falling in-step with her as they headed towards his place.

He shrugged. “I broke up with her.”

“Why?” She could think of several reasons, but she didn’t understand why it had taken so long.

“She told me that I had to stop talking to you. I told her to shove it.”

Freya couldn’t help but snort. “That might explain why she slapped me.”

“Sorry,” Damon told her, his tone completely genuine. “So, did somebody call her an ambulance already, or…?”

Freya rolled her eyes. “I held myself back. Barely. I swear, I don’t know what you saw in her.”

He shrugged, which pretty much answered her question. He was a teenage boy and she was a willing girl he didn’t find questionable. A pretty low bar, which made Freya feel all the worse about him ignoring her. Not that it had been such a bad plan in the past. Freya had mostly been indifferent to all of Damon’s other girlfriends. Much like the rest of his friend group, Freya didn’t know them too well, and they had made it clear that, while they wouldn’t actively bully her, she wasn’t welcome to hang out with them. The problem with Jamie was that she had been the only recurring girlfriend, and she was the only one with an active hatred of Freya.

“So…” Damon started once more. “This means I no longer have a date for prom tomorrow.”

Freya rolled her eyes, feeling little sympathy. “Join the club.” She wouldn’t have even agreed to go if her foster mother, Margaret, hadn’t found out about it and bought her a new dress, assuming that she wanted to go.

“Well, why don’t we go together?” Damon asked and Freya’s heart skipped a beat. “You know, as friends.”

She almost sighed at herself before replying. “Sure, why not?”

Click here for more information on Book Two.

Hope you enjoyed the book!


The Freya Snow Short Story Collection

Follow Freya Snow's adventures between the first and second book. GHOSTS Freya never liked Halloween. Every year on Halloween, Freya could swear that she was being watched. Of course, now she knows that she has been, by a ghost no less, since she was born, but her unease refuses to fade. Maybe Amber’s not the only thing that goes bump in the night… COLD With the whole family over for Christmas, it’s perhaps the worst time for Freya’s powers to go on the fritz. It’s been a few months since she learned about magic, and Freya finally feels that she has a handle on her powers. At least, until she gets a cold. With every sneeze causing an explosion, keeping her secret throughout the holiday seems impossible. Whoever said Christmas wasn’t stressful for the kids? CANDLES Freya always hated that her birthday was on Valentine’s. With Damon entertaining his new girlfriend, Amber distracted by the anniversary of her mother’s death, and her sister in Japan, Freya predicts a lousy day of eating cake alone. She doesn’t predict the Demon looking for revenge. TEST Freya tries to multi-task by catching up with her sister while hunting Demons. Probably not her smartest plan...

  • Author: L.C. Mawson
  • Published: 2015-12-01 00:20:09
  • Words: 14380
The Freya Snow Short Story Collection The Freya Snow Short Story Collection