Vampire Code: Ada Complex

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“Cowabunga!” yelled Rocket, after he ditched his clothes and ran naked towards the boardwalk in the Spice District.

“Oh, to be three and free!” said their ama. “Shall we join him?” And she made to take off her own shirt.

“No!” yelled Sparkroot and Florinda together, and everybody laughed. Everyone except their ada, that is, who looked on with a scowl and furrowed brows.

When Rocket turned and raced back towards them, their ama scooped him up in her arms and rustled him back into his otter t-shirt and orange dungarees. “That’s my wild child!” she said.

The family crossed the street to the square.

Their friend Semperviren’s grandpa was playing his fancy guitar, and Sparkroot and Florinda danced.

“Come dance, Rocket!” Sparkroot called to his little brother.

But before Rocket could join them, their ada hissed, “Where do you think you’re going, young man?”

Sparkroot ran towards his brother but was stopped when his ada yelled. “I’ll not have you dancing like a hooligan! You are still grounded for your antics, you renegade!”

Rocket looked up at their ada.

“I not bad! I good!”

“You’re bad if I say so, ” said their ada. He laughed, and looked down at his youngest son who stood glaring up at him.

Sparkroot thought their ada looked proud. But their ama looked sad, hurt, angry, and disappointed, all at the same time.

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Sparkroot felt the black slug twist and turn and squeeze his stomach, and the badger started gnawing his heart again.

He remembered how excited he’d felt yesterday when he asked Ama if the whole family, even Ada, could go together to the Spice District.

He’d thought out what he’d say so carefully. First, he’d say that it was most fun when they were all together. And then, he’d say that, really, it was good for them to spend more time with Ada, and it was really good when they all spent it together, and couldn’t they please go? Rocket would want to.

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After he said it all, just like he planned, Ama was quiet. She still looked at her book, but Sparkroot knew she was thinking.

“I’d be happy to take you kids myself,” she said at last.

“But what if we go as a family?” Sparkroot asked. “Can’t we?”

And she was quiet for a while, and Sparkroot could see his ama thinking it through, and at last, she said, quietly, “Ok. Let’s give it a try.”

“Oh, Ama!” Sparkroot said. “Thank you! We’ll have so much fun! I promise!”

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And now, they weren’t having fun, and his ama was sad and mad and all those things, and Rocket was glaring at their ada, and Ada just smiled like everything was OK, and Sparkroot had broken his promise, because they weren’t having fun at all.

“Sparkie, will you take Rocket over to the vendor’s stall to get a snack? Anything he wants. He’s hungry, and I want to talk to your ada alone.”

She gave him some money, and he and Rocket veered towards the vendor, but slowly, so that Sparkroot could hear what his ama said.

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“Brennan, I’m not happy with you yelling at our kids,” she said.

“That’s nothing!” said their ada. “Why! When I was a boy, that would’ve been a sign of affection, of caring.”

And then Rocket ran off towards the basketball court, and Sparkroot had to chase him, so he didn’t get to hear what else they said.

Their ada had left by the time Sparkroot and Rocket returned with their snack.

They didn’t see Ada for a while after that.

Then one afternoon, Ama took them all to Old Town to buy Florinda her first pair of ballet shoes, and when they went into the store to try them on, Rocket began racing around making a loud train noise.

“Do you want to play, Rocket?” Ama asked.

“Train late!” Rocket yelled. “Back on schedule! Woot!”

“I’ll take him out to the square!” Sparkroot volunteered. “We can play there while you buy Flor her slippers.”

Florinda stood transfixed by the display of pink, white, black, and red ballet slippers. “They’re so beautiful!” she sighed, stroking the leather of a sky-blue pair.

“OK, Sparkie,” Ama said. “Have fun and meet us by the café in half an hour, and we’ll have bread and chocolate!”

“Milky-tea!” shouted Rocket.

Sparkroot placed his hands on Rocket’s shoulders, and together they chug-chugged out of the shop and onto the sidewalk.

Rocket followed the lines in the pavement, like a good engine, huffing and hooting. And then, he stopped, right outside of the pub.

“Ada!” he shouted. “Ada!”

He ran inside, and Sparkroot ran after him.

Their ada sat on a barstool, talking to Anderson, a friend of Semperviren’s mom.

“You really should take the Loogaroo Express,” their ada said to Anderson. “There are plenty there in Forgotten Hollow who’d like to see you. Plenty.”

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“Hi, Ada,” said Rocket.

“Oh, hello, son,” said their ada. “Hello, Sparkroot.”

Sparkroot waved, and Ada continued talking to Anderson.

“A young person like you, you’d find a warm welcome, that’s for sure! In fact, there are some unique opportunities there for someone like you.”

“Not Loogaroo,” said Rocket. “No Hollow. Loogaroo not good, Anderson. Loogabad.”

Ada turned and opened his mouth.

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“Come on, Rocket!” said Sparkroot. “No-face is here!”

They saw the hooded man that Rocket and Florinda had met before, sitting in a chair in the corner of the pub. He had been turned towards Ada and Anderson, as if he’d been listening in.

“No-face Guy!” Rocket said, and he ran towards him singing and clapping. “Dance, No-Face!”

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Sparkroot, Rocket, and No-Face danced until Sparkroot remembered the time.

“We gotta go, Rocket,” he said. “Bye, Ada!”

“Bye, No-Face,” said Rocket. “Bye, Ada!”

“Bye, sons,” said their Ada, turning back to Anderson.

“No Loogaroo, Anderson!” said Rocket, as the boys left the pub.

When they met their sister and ama at the café, Florinda cradled a white shoe box. “I got the blue pair,” she whispered to Sparkroot.

“Do you love them?” he asked her, and she nodded. “You’ll dance like a princess,” he whispered.

“Like a superhero,” she whispered back.

That evening, Miss Penguin dropped by their home for a visit. 

“Your husband has done the most amazing thing for this region,” she told their ama. “That Loogaroo Express is the best thing to happen in a long time! Why, I ride it three or four times a week! I just can’t get enough of Forgotten Hollow!”

“No Hollow!” said Rocket. “Loogabad!”

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Miss Penguin described the quaint architecture, the dark woods, the interesting people, the culture, but Rocket would have none of it.

“No go,” he said. “Loogabad.”

Sparkroot had to agree. The train itself was exciting, with the leather seats, zipping speeds, and, of course, the hot chocolate. But he’d be happy if he never set foot in Forgotten Hollow again.

Just thinking about it, connected to Windenburg by the line his ada had been in charge of constructing, was enough to get the badger biting.

He tried to forget about that dark valley, now a short ride away. Especially at night, when he lay down in the tiny room at the top of the stairs that he shared with Florinda, he tried to put the Loogaroo out of his mind.

When he had trouble banishing the image of the train and the valley it led to, he would imagine instead something he’d seen one day when he was walking back home after visiting Sempervirens.

At the bend in the road, he’d come upon his ama, playing on her fiddle a tune that Sugar taught her. He stopped to watch and listen.

It was a good song, full of old-fashioned riffs and turns, and it sounded like a cross between a jig and a promenade. And when he heard it, he felt brave inside and safe.

He asked his ama about the song that evening, when she tucked him in.

“It’s an old protection song,” she said.

“Will you play it often?” Sparkroot asked.

“I will,” she replied, “and I do.”

She kissed him on the forehead, and hummed the song as she walked back downstairs to tuck in Rocket, and while Sparkroot fell asleep, he imagined her standing at the bend of the road, playing with all her heart, to keep the bad things out.

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Vampire Code: Love in the Age of Monsters

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As toddlers grow, and stirrings within prompt them to share their inner worlds with those they trust and love, they reach for language, sometimes inventing a syntax and vocabulary to circumscribe their wild feelings. The more Cathy Tea listened to her son Rocket’s tales, the more she wondered at him. He was so different from her other children, Sparkroot and Florinda. They talked of flowers and monsters and space and trees and pirates and princes and faraway lands and tigers.

Rocket talked of love and monsters.

While the older kids were at school, she often took a book outside to be near him while he played. Every morning after snack and milky-tea with honey, he found his way to the dollhouse.

“You break my heart,” he said. “I love you–You don’t love me–I do. You break my heart–You mine. You hero. Marry me, Rose. Ring. Take ring.”

“What are you playing?” she asked him

“True love,” he said. “Ama and Ada. Hate you. Love me. Love heart. Kiss-kiss.”

“Is it fun?” she asked him.

“Yes. Much,” he said. “She loves him. He loves her. He leaves. He cries. She happy.”

Later that day, while they sat inside for afternoon story, she asked him, “Do you think all mommies and daddies live separately?”

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“No,” he said. “Only when love break heart.”

“Do you think my heart is broken?” she asked him.

“No,” he said. “Ada.”

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“Mmm,” she replied. “I don’t think your ada’s heart is broken.”

“Is,” he said. “He like it. He break it. Read story.”

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She read about a cat and a bunny.

“He love her,” Rocket said. “Bunny ask cat, ‘Marry me?’ Cat say, ‘Meow, poo-poo.’ That mean no. Bunny break heart. True love.”

“Sometimes, true love means being together,” Cathy said. “Like Semperviren’s parents. Or her uncles. Like me living with you and Sparkie and Flor!”

“Ada break heart,” Rocket said. “That true love.”

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For such a young child, he loved to talk. Sparkroot and Florinda spent hours chatting with him about their interests and his. When they brought friends home from school, Rocket hopped over to chat with them, too.

“Tell me monsters,” Cathy overheard him ask Mario Behr one day while she was watering the plants in the upstairs den where the boys sat together on the sofa.

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“I can’t,” Mario said. “You’re too little.”

“Not,” said Rocket. “I Monster Master.”

“Ok,” said Mario. “In that case, you must remember the time when all the zombies came out of the ground, and it was all foggy, like weird spooky cold, and they were saying all together, ‘Errrr, gahhhh, braiiins….'”

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“And then you jumped out and you said, ‘Back in the ground, zombie-doo-doos!’ And they all went back to the ground!”

“Yay!” shouted Rocket. “Zombie ground, doo-doo!”

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“Did you like that story?” Mario asked.

“Very much,” said Rocket. “I told you I not scared. I Zombie Master. I know kung fu.”

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Cathy guessed that Mario would tell all the kids at school about Sparkroot and Florinda’s baby brother and his mysterious monster-taming martial arts. He was that impressed.

A few days later, when Pierce Carey stopped by after school, Cathy heard him say to Florinda, “I don’t believe it. Not for a second. In the first place, there’s no such thing as monsters or zombies. Mud dragons, maybe. But even with them, kung fu doesn’t work. And even if it did, you’d have to be big. Like at least a fourth-grader. Otherwise. Squish. You’re mud dirt.”

Florinda looked at him. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said.

“Do I have to spell it out for you?” Pierce asked. “Your brother is not a monster killer. He’s a baby.

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Cathy thought she might ask her youngest son about monsters, taming them, and martial arts. She hadn’t even realized that he knew what kung fu was. What kind of movies did his ada let him watch?

While she was paying bills at the computer in the foyer outside the parlor, she heard Sparkroot laugh.

“You got them all scared now, Rocky!” he said.

“Who scared?” asked Rocket.

“The kids at school! They believed Mario about your super zombie-fighting powers!”

“That good,” said Rocket. “Zombie first. Then tigey-tooths.”

Sparkroot laughed. ” I guess we’re safe then!”

“That right,” said Rocket.

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Vampire Code: Rocket the Vampire Slayer

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Eyes store power. Even babies know this. Watch them track the gaze of an adult. They understand it’s through our eyes we shoot energy, and they haven’t forgotten that energy is pure light.

Cathy returned from her conference with onezero’s one thousand mothers carrying the knowledge that her and Brennan’s son Rocket had come here for a reason. When worlds connect through rifts in oak and granite or lines forged from steel, sometimes an unexpected hero answers the call.

It would likely be years before he’d be pulled into action, this she understood, but nevertheless, it was time now to get him ready for what would come.

Cathy spent hours each day with him. While the twins formed their own universe of stories, jokes, and make-believe, Cathy taught Rocket to dance, sing, talk, count, name the birds, chase the crickets, and follow trails in the morning dew.

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He required extra sleep each day to absorb all he was taking in.

While Rocket napped, Cathy spent time individually with Sparkroot or Florinda. Even then, the conversation often turned towards Rocket.

“Can you guess what he do, Ama?” Sparkroot asked.

“He who, Sparkie?”

“He Rocket. Know what he did? He climbed the tree.”

“Mmm. I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.”

“Naw. It was fine! He climbed up and then he climbed down again, and then he climbed up and down.”

“Did you ask him what for?” Cathy asked.

“Yeah. He said ‘High’s good.’ He likes to go up.”

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Sparkroot took his big brother duties seriously. He read to Rocket from his homework book while Rocket slept, “so he’ll get a head start on history.”

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He held long, involved conversations with him, somehow managing to decipher Rocket’s invented language.

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One afternoon, when Cathy needed to take Sparkroot in to San Myshuno to pick out a new violin, Brennan offered to watch Florinda and Rocket.

“That would be great,” Cathy said. “Give you a chance to see your other kids.”

Brennan, who made no secret that Sparkroot was his favorite, spent little time with his daughter and youngest son.

“We’ll have a blast,” Brennan said. “I’ve got it all planned out.”

He didn’t tell Cathy he’d be taking his children to the Rattlesnake Lounge for Guys’ Night Out.

She got the story from Florinda the next day.

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“We had a blast, Ama!” Florinda said. “There was this guy with no face in the monk’s robe. And Jade was there! He’s got a cool hat. Do you think Rocket should get a hat like that?”

“He could if he wanted,” Cathy said. “So what did you do there?”

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“Oh, I told jokes. You know Little Green’s uncle J.P,? He was there!”

“And did they like your jokes?” Cathy asked her daughter.

“Oh, sure. I told the one about ‘How did the vampire die? He accidentally ordered stake and eggs for breakfast!'”

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“That’s not a bad joke, Flor.”

“Well, Jade thought it was stupid. ‘They don’t die by eating,’ he said. Then the no-face guy said the undead can’t become dead but they can become nothing, and J.P. said nothing is worse than death.”

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“He’s got a point,” Cathy said.

“Then, I asked the no-face guy how someone becomes undead, and he said, it wasn’t really the kind of question a little girl should be asking, but if I wanted to check back with him in ten years, he’d be glad to explain.”

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“And where was your ada during all this?” Cathy asked.

“Oh, he was at the bar, laughing with guys,” Florinda answered.

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“And where was Rocket all this time?”

“Oh, I didn’t see him when No-Face and I were talking. I think maybe he was outside running around. But No-Face told me something interesting. He said my little brother was the one who understood better about undead, dead, and nothing than anybody. And if I really wanted to know, I could ask him, once he learned how to talk. But when I asked him how he knew my little brother, he wouldn’t answer. He said some mysteries best stay mysterious. What do you think, Ama?”

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“I think I should call your ada and have a word or two. I’m not sure about Rocket running around unsupervised.”

“But he wasn’t unsupered all the time!” Florinda said. “He came inside and said, ‘Aba too kay’ to Ada, and Ada understood and got him milk in a sippy cup!”

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“Well, that’s something,” Cathy said.

“Then Rocket came and sat by me and Anderson–you know him, right? He’s a friend of Little Green’s mom from way back.”

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“Sure, Anderson, Wade, and Jade were the park boys,” Cathy said. “And did Rocket behave?”

“Oh, yeah! He told us a story about something. I could only understand ‘Quacker doo-doo’ and ‘puffer stuffy.'”

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“It must have been a troll story,” Cathy said.

“Yeah, that’s what I figure,” said Flor. “So Ada came with his coffee and I told the story about the troll under the bridge, and everybody loved it!”

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“Did you have fun, though, Flor? It sounds like kind of a weird evening.”

“Oh, Ama!” replied Flor. “I had so much fun! I never had funner! And Rocket had fun, too, even though he was outside running around half the time. I told Ada that I want me and Rocket to come to every Guys’ Night Out, and next time, you and Sparkie can come, too, and we can have the Stuckey-Tea Family Night at Guys’ Night!”

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“Well, that could be our new tradition, I suppose,” Cathy said.

“And maybe No-Face and J.P. will be there,” said Flor, “and all the guys. And it’ll be just as great as it was last night.”

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Vampire Code: Nuptial Babysitters

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After the conclusion of  Jaclyn and Davion’s wedding, a beam of light shone on the cynda.

“Will you watch the kids?” Cathy called to Jaclyn as the light pulled her up into a space craft belonging to the thousand mommies of her best friend, onezero.

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“Where are you going?” Jaclyn called. “When will you be back?”

“Shan’t be gone long!” Cathy shouted back. “It’s onezero’s thousand! I guess they need an update!”

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“Let them know we’ve got it covered!” Jaclyn shouted. “And pick up any strategy tips they might offer!”

“Will do!” came Cathy’s reply, barely audible.

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“I’m faira certain they nae had got the toothfanged ones up in that far away place,” Davion mumbled.

“Don’t be so sure, Davi,” replied Jaclyn. “At any rate, they’ve stronger rune than we and ancient-old ways to draw from!”

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When the disc ascended out of sight, Jaclyn headed in to check the little ones.

Rocket lay curled at the head of his bed, like a pea seed, waiting to sprout.

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“You have got the menë, little seedling. What a big sprout you will grow to be!”

She knew the prophecy, sure enough, as did all who came from her land–Davion knew it, too.

When comes the time that light and dark
are topped and turn,
and he whose name is formed of light
sends the man of dark on the
wisp of the wish

Then the crack shall grow and spread
And all will feel the reach of dread.

The Cynda sees and brings to bred
the wisher and the wishing seed.

From this union,
now come three.
But keep apart the
strong of heart
Until the wish is heard again

And then we find
The merry men.

The line is formed.
Red flows free.
And only one can stop
the spree.

The only one
is Number Three.

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Rocket stirred.

“Ama?” he called.

“Ama will be back soon, little Pea,” said Jaclyn. “Let your Ama’s cynda read to you.”

“Who she?” asked Rocket.

“She is me!” replied Jaclyn.

She found a book of hobbit lullabies tucked in the bookshelf.

“Born of moon,
Little Silver,

“Rest until
Returns the chilver.

“Little lamb,
Little man. 

“With sleep grow strong
Then rights the wrong.

It won’t be long.
It won’t be long.”

Soon he was fast asleep.

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“Do you think Ama will bring back a moon rock?” Florinda was asking Davion when Jaclyn joined them in the living room.

“She’s not going to the moon, though, eh?” replied Davion.

“But she must!” said Florinda. “I saw the moon, and I saw the ship, and then the ship was gone, and now all that’s there is the moon!”

“It’s a very fast ship, henig,” said Jaclyn. “Once it speeds to going, it travels faster than we can see with our eyes.”

“But she always comes back soon,” replied Florinda, “every time she goes with them.”

“It’s the funny time,” said Davion. “Fast for you and me, eh? But for the ones up and away, it’s a very long time. Nae, not to worry. She’ll be back before ye rise with the morning light.”

“That she will,” said Jaclyn.

“And will you and Davi stay with us?” asked Flor. “It’s not like we haven’t been alone before, because usually when she goes with them, me and Sparkie stay. But this is the first time that she’s gone since Rocket was here. And what if he wakes up and misses her?”

“We shall stay,” said Davion.

It wasn’t how Jaclyn had imagined spending her wedding night, but it was right, after all.

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Vampire Code: Kinnish Smile

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Jaclyn found a spot at the tables near the performance area, where Cathy was playing Irish ballads on an old guitar. She waited for Davion to finish his stint at the grill and join her.

She caught the whiff of tubers sprinkled with calendula pollen.

“My favorite,” she said, moving to sit beside her boyfriend.

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They’d gotten together so quickly, all those years before. She’d known, the instant she saw this twinkly-eyed gnome that they were bound to be together. The same rune had pulled them both.

She hadn’t wanted more than what they had–kisses snuck in when no one looked; cheerful banter; an unspoken promise. Separate homes suited her just fine, especially when his perched on the island across the bay.

As a wee girl, she’d never nursed dreams of husband, home, and family. Her dreams were always of the wide oak and meadow. Sometimes, she bristled at the closeness–she loved the feel of freedom more. But still, once or twice a moon, she and Davion came together, and it felt as right as kin.

Tonight, Davion’s presence carried strength. If it was true, as she was beginning to suspect, that she’d been pulled here for this campaign that she and Sugar were about to marshal, then maybe Davion had come for that same reason. She could use a Sargent at Arms by her side.

He would make a fine husband, this jovial, hale fellow. She would feel strengthened, to be able to call him mate.

“Will you spend the day with me tomorrow?” she asked before returning home.

“Sure as the dew on the meadow!” he replied.

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The next morning, she waited in the garden, staking the hollyhocks. She greeted him with a kiss, and one led to another, and soon they stumbled into a bush, and by the time they emerged, Jaclyn had made up her mind. She would ask him.

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But not right at that moment.

For at that moment, it was time for elevenses, and after elevenses, time for a pot of Darjeeling tea, and after tea, time for scones and more tea, followed by scones with strawberries and Devon cream, followed by strawberries with coffee and chocolate, and soon, Jaclyn remembered that she had promised Sugar to run up the hill to see if it was true what Sugar suspected about Cathy Tea and Brennan Stuckey’s youngest son, Rocket, so it looked like afternoon tea–and any possible question that might or might not be popped–would have to wait.

“Come with me, eh?” she asked Davion. “I need your keen eyes, too.”

When they arrived at Cathy Tea’s, they found Rocket first, dancing with a wild look in his eyes.

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“Aye, he’s got the rune,” Davion whispered. “This one. He’ll do!”

Jaclyn nodded.

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She would call Sugar later. For now, they soaked in the good feelings of this bustling family.

Cathy invited them to stay for afternoon tea, and Davion and Jaclyn joined the family on the patio for green tea with veggie wraps.

Towards evening, Jaclyn and Davi found themselves upstairs, alone.

“I like the kinnish smile here,” Davion said.

“Yeah, it feels like home,” said Jaclyn.

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She wanted to keep that homey warmth.

“Davion,” she whispered, as she kissed him on the cheek.

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“Oak in the meadow
Acorn on the tree.

“Ring on the collared dove,
Marry me.”

She pulled a fairy quartz ring from her pocket and handed it to Davion.

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“It fits,” he said. “I never thought and yet I always dreamt that I would have a bonny elvish bess!”

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“I’m hobbit, too,” she said, as she kissed him full on the lips.

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“What will our bairn be?” he laughed. “Elvish-hobbit gnomish bae!”

She giggled. “I hadn’t thought of that!”

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The sun was about to set, and Jaclyn wanted to catch its last rays on this day of promise.

As she walked though the living room, on her way to the edge of the hill, she heard the laughter of Sparkroot and Flor, and the songs and coos of Cathy and Rocket. She knew what wish she would make as the sun’s gold faded: the warmth of kin would bolster any heart, no matter what trials waited in the nights to come.

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