Nine months later, just after the Bandit gang attacks Ash
Jade eyed the last bandit with satisfaction. It had been marvelous, slashing and killing them in the battle. She felt like she should have named her baby, born the next day, something fiercer than Zodiac. But the boy's birth had freed Jade to track down the escaped bandits and deal with them slowly and . . . lovingly. She also captured their mounts, and claimed to be finding them running loose. She was getting tired of this place, and beginning to think she'd keep the horses, travel far. The question was, would she go alone, or with someone else?
She looked down at the dead bandit. He was still in Goat form. That was her favorite. she sliced across the dirt and levitated out a wedge of dirt, kicked the body and rolled it into the hole.
"I thought you'd out grown that."
She spun around and found her mother standing there, arms wrapped around herself, face grim.
Jade sniffed. "Bandits. I'm doing the village a favor, killing them." She could feel her mother gathering power, and started to bring up her own shield. Ultra threw the death spell, and Jade crumpled, only partly deflecting the mental spell. I expected slice . . . Ultra was a Waning Half Moon, strong, experienced. Jade suddenly realized that only her reluctance to kill her own daughter had saved Jade's life. Ultra stepped closer, organizing another spell.
Jade rolled to her knees, and punched Ultra in the belly. And couldn't bring herself to kill her own mother. She put her hands on her mother's shoulders and pulled power. Ultra was still doubled over her stomach, gasping for air, and fumbled as she tried to pull power. She collapsed slowly. Jade kept her hands on her, drained her until only a flicker remained to the older witch.
"Sorry, Mother. I was always a quiet and obedient child, but never, ever, a good one." She staggered over to the bandit's horse and mounted. The other three horses were at home, with the accumulated loot of the other three bandits. She'd saddle them . . . Betelgeuse was five, she could ride on the saddle behind her. The baby? Someone else could raise him. She could always come back and get him, once she was settled somewhere. She'd go to Prairie Coast first, see if Ricardo wanted to come with her . . . Teri spotted her and veered to intercept.
"What's wrong? You look . . . odd."
"I'm leaving. Right now. If you want to come, go pack your clothes." She tied the horse to the fence behind the little garden. The other horses were staying near, a neat little spell she'd put on them. She saddled them first, then packed quickly. No one else was home, so she raided the pantry as well.
Teri hustled up, bundles in hand. "What about Ricardo?"
"We'll head there as soon as I pick Betelgeuse up from school."
The girl was outside, playing on the fenced grounds, so Jade just swooped her up and left without a word. They pushed the pace to the Wizard Tower, and Teri rode in alone to find Ricardo. She was back quickly.
Ricardo had apparently given birth. "And got that spell to return to male, and I'm never going back."
Jade didn't ask about the baby, just turned and rode through the corridor to Karista.
"I've got plenty of money to rent a house while we decide where to base our activities. And I've contacted the heads of two large gangs, we may get some work."
Ricardo nodded. He looked a bit pale, hunched over. Pulled a few muscles giving birth, Pretty Girl? He narrowed his eyes at her. "Don't call me that. I just jumped up a step in power. I think I can find customers without involving a middle man."
Indeed, he was glowing fiercely. Jade nodded. Perhaps he could.
"Teri and I can come and go. You'll need to stay hidden, stay away from the few places witches go to in the City."
She snorted. "I can change my appearance, either with illusions or physical morphing." The City. Plenty of hunting. I'm going to enjoy myself.
Late Fall 1392
"Corridors?" The witch set his venison in green peppercorn sauce down in front of Damien. "They're just bubbles, stretched out with two holes in them."
Damien sighed. She looked about twelve, which usually meant she was fourteen to sixteen.
"Sixteen and three quarters."
"Most witches can't read my mind."
"I'm pretty strong for my age. Quail Quicksilver. And you're Cordelia's Uncle Damien."
He nodded. "But what are bubbles?"
"Multi-dimensional phenomenon. Naturally occurring, quite common, actually. They don't exist in our normal spatial dimensions, but they do experience time, although not at the same rate as we do. Which is a very interesting phenomenon. Useful, too."
"Is how they experience time a constant degree from us?" The smart girl might be a mine of information.
"It's roughly ten thousand to one slower for the inside. It's odd how that doesn't change when you turn them inside out. Logically, you'd think the effect would reverse."
"Turn them inside out?"
"Yeah, like . . . " She broke off and grab a handful of nothing out of thin air. "This is a bubble. I poke a hole, and flip it inside out and over something, and . . . voila!"
The pepper pot was now bronze. Damien picked it up and looked at the holes. They were plugged with bronze, as if a stretched sheet of rubber coated the whole thing. "So, when they're inside out you can see them? Or rather, even I can?"
"Yeah." She reached and grab another nothing. "The right way out, when you put something in, it disappears." The salt shaker demonstrated.
Damien reached, and tried to feel. His fingers passed through the space, unimpeded. "No dimensions. Does it have mass? I mean weight?"
She shook her head. "No momentum or inertia, either. You can carry them anywhere."
"How much can you put in one? How about water, would it have to be in a container?"
She cocked her head, challenged. "I've never tried. I know they're air permeable. Things inside can breath – not that they much need to, but . . . " She trotted off and returned with a pitcher of water. She cheerfully poured the water in, but as she tried to close the bubble, it all tried to squirt out.
"There's pressure in there. I'll bet if I put a spigot in the hole I could carry gallons of water."
Another witch trotted over with a beer tap. Happy, a good looking middle-aged blonde. They were gaining a bit of an audience. The beer tap was a bit leaky, but they experimented and loaded the bubble with gallons of water, and they could still carry it around as if hefting nothing but the tap.
The experiment came to an abrupt end as a witch staggered through the door. "Jade. She's gone. She . . . killed a bandit."
"We've all been doing that." One of the older witches helped the woman to a seat, and touched her face with the back of her hand. "You're cold. Drained."
Slow tears leaked. "She almost drained me, like she did that man. After she'd played with him long enough."
Happy recoiled. "Are you saying she's a Black Widow. A real one, not an accident?"
Ultra nodded. "I should have ended her years ago. But it was only bandits."
Silence fell as they slowly realized that Answer had joined them.
"Sister? Have you been concealing her kills?"