Monthly Archives: July 2016

Dude That Smells Funky by Désirée Matlock

For Cal. Thank you for the great starter!

“Dude, that smells funky.”

Jake turned his head away from the scratch and sniff I was holding up toward him. His hands came up in a mock defensive posture. “What the fuck is that?”

“I know, right? And I didn’t even scratch at it.” I returned the scratch and sniff sticker on its yellowing waxy paper backing to the plastic baggie I had put it in when I found it.

Jake looked at me, “Dude, if you knew, why’d you make me smell it then?” The sound of the game as someone scored, and the pounding of feet on the bleachers above drowned out our voices for a moment.

“Just cause. It’s so nasty. Smells like maggots or something.”

Jake thought for a second, “Something between rotted old wine and meat… like a bad dumpster. Where’d you get it?”

Lynnette piped in. “Let me smell.” I handed her the baggie. She cracked it open slightly and then turned away, gagging slightly.

“Gross, right?” Jake smiled at her.

From where we were all sitting under the bleachers, Lynette’s hair caught a little ray of evening sunlight and glowed. A puff of Jake’s vapor cloud behind her whirled through the sunlight. She was so damn pretty. She thought deeply for a second, “Yeah, I smell the rotting smell. But I also smell something like when my folks took me to Hawaii, and we climbed a volcano… What’s that called?”

“Brimstone.” Saying the word reminded me of dozens of video games about hell. I think that’s where I’d learned the word.

“That’s it, brimstone! I smell brimstone. Maybe your scratch and sniff is about Hawaii… What’s the picture on it?”

We all peered at it through the baggie.

“The picture on it is so small.” I looked at it, “Looks like a goat?”

“Standing up like a person? Weird.” Lynette peered at it, too.

“So, where’d you get it?” Jake repeated his question, while he handed me the vape.

“That’s the weird part. My dad went to a police auction yesterday. Got himself a new desk. I was told to clean it up. He keeps trying to give me chores,” I paused to puff, “make a man out of me.”

Jake sniggered, and Lynette leaned over and put her head down on my shoulder for a moment. I passed her the vape we were all sharing, and reveled in watching her lips form an “o” around the device as she drew in a breath of pot. She stretched back and lay down for a second.

“So? What’s that have to do with the stinky-ass antique sticker?” Jake asked, pulling me from fascinatedly watching Lynette’s chest breathe in and out.

“The sticker was in the bottom drawer, tucked into an envelope under some kind of contractual legal papers and shit,” I finished. “I threw away everything else, but kept the sticker.”

Lynette snorted, “I mean, have they even made scratch and sniffs since our parents were kids?”

“What else was in the envelope?” Jake frowned.

“Nothing, man. Just this stupid sticker. You’d think there’d be guns and shit in those drawers, since the dude they belonged to was some kind of big wig dealer, but nah.”

“Weird. Man, that sticker is so schnasty, dude.”

“Let’s scratch it up good so it’s really stinky and leave it in Julie’s bag.” Julie, who Lynette had been frenemies with since grade school.

Jake chuckled. “Awesome! I’m in. How ‘bout you, man? It’s your sticker?”

“Whatever Lynette wants, man, she gets,” I said and was rewarded with a little smile and a peck on the cheek as Lynette sat back up. She stood, long legs stretching for a second, then started searching the bleachers above for where Julie was sitting.

We got up and followed her. Lynette eventually spotted Julie’s feet, almost out of reach, and her bag was on the row of bleacher right above that; we could see a little of the strap. Julie was so fond of that purse. It was some kind of ridiculously fancy one that came with a certificate of authenticity. Her mother had gotten it for her in Italy on business, as she would tell anyone who would listen.

Lynette took the sticker from me, pulled it out of the baggie, which fell to the ground, and the smell of rotting flesh and decadence and hellfire or whatever grew strong around us.

“Dude, it smells so nasty. This is gonna be great!” Lynette laughed. Another scoring play out on the field and then the cheerleaders must have come out because everyone started chanting. Lynette chose that moment, with feet pounding and everyone yelling along, to climb the bleacher supports, and I watched her from below. I could do that all day. She deftly climbed and giggled down at us. I puffed on the vape, breathed in deep. Life was good. The world was starting to really blur at the edges.

She was reaching out toward Julie’s bag now, other elbow hooked through the support beams, sticker in fingertips. Then she remembered, and pulled her hand back and scratched at the sticker hard for a second, and started reaching back out toward Julie’s bag.

That’s when a fireball erupted in the air between myself and Lynette, and vanished as fast as it appeared. Mid-air between us, a horned demon with cloven feet and a bright red tail appeared.  He thudded to the ground, and Lynette swung down to the ground beside him, having let go of the bleacher in shock.

Seeing her so close to the creature scared the crap out of me, so I snatched out toward Lynette, pulling her behind me out of some kind of instinct. My arm brushed against the demon for a split-second, and I felt my skin burn away in that spot. Hurt like a mother-fucker. Worse than the time my step-dad put out a cigarette on me when I was four. But then it stopped hurting completely and disappeared as Lynette handed me back the sticker.

“Woah,” Jake said.

“Dude!” I said, as my blood grew cold. I started to shake.

The smell of the scratch and sniff was suddenly incredibly stronger. I could hear someone up on the bleachers above ask who farted. The demon rolled his shoulders and stretched. “Ahhh. Room to breathe.” His voice sounded like a few voices at once heard through shifting gravel and sand. It sounded bad. Like, really bad. Like death come for you. I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

“Which of you holds my token?”

“What?” Lynette blurted out.

Jake dropped to the ground in a sudden case of uncontrollable giggles. “He means your scratch and sniff, assholes.” He started cackling, couldn’t seem to stop himself. The demon flicked a finger at Jake, and the laughter turned to quiet as Jake instantly fell asleep.

“Who holds my token?” the demon repeated. I held out the sticker toward him.

“What possessed you to summon me by daylight so close to a place of worship?” He pointed in the direction of the church steeple, barely visible in the fading evening light.

“We didn’t know, man, we didn’t know what the sticker could do. Look, take it, we didn’t know.”

The demon shuffled his cloven feet, and whipped his tail around a touch, as he approached me, ungainly, unbeautiful, and deadly. He placed his horned, black-eyed red and bony face within an inch of mine and said, “Do you mean it? I can have it?” The stink of him was overpowering. My eyes hurt from it.

“Sure, dude. It’s yours.” He snatched the sticker from my hands and whirled away from me. Out of nowhere, a fire conjured from the ground in front of us, and he danced around it in a swirl of cloven legs, whipping tail, and bowed horns. He threw the sticker into the fire, and immediately, the scent of brimstone and rotting anything disappeared with the sticker. The fire swallowed itself into the ground.

“Thank you, child. I treasure the freedom you have granted me. I shall use it wisely, pillaging and purging and destroying whatsoever I choose!” He spread his chest out, beat upon it briefly, and took a deep breath. Then his gaze returned to us, and Lynette hugged me from behind, scared. “I shall grant you the same power of my previous token holders, in granting your earthly desires, but summon me more wisely next time. No churches!” He pointed. “No crowds!” He pointed above. “And no daylight!”

He disappeared in a puff of smoke. Literally. Not like the wispy stuff you see on stage, but a cloud of black smoke that burned the nostrils when it hit and made the eyes water. As it wafted through the bleachers above, voices sounded upset. A few heads peeked through the holes in the bleachers and Julie’s voice shrilled out at them, “What the hell are you guys up to down there? Knock it off!”

Jake woke up, and Lynette spoke first. “Dude. What the hell?”

I looked at Lynette, “I get whatever wishes I want?”

Jake looked at me, “Where’s the sticker?”

Lynette came around in front of me and hugged me tightly, trying to comfort the fear out of me. I figured I still looked like I was about to crap my pants. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t.

“Yeah, you get whatever wishes you desire, sounded like he said.” Lynette looked at me sweetly, “That’s something, right?”

“Dude, how am I supposed to summon him without the sticker, though?”

Lynette and I sat back down next to Jake on the ground, and he pulled his vape back out of his pocket.  “Damned if I know,” Jake said, through a cloud of white vapor.

“Whatever,” Lynette said.

“Yeah, whatever,” I repeated.

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Walkabout by Alanna J. Rubin

For Darla

3 Storied.

That’s what the business card read and on the back an address. Cali couldn’t even remember where the card came from or how it got in the pocket of her dark purple leather jacket with fur trim.  The strange part was that as soon as she held it in her hand, she felt compelled to go the address. Now she stood in front of a dilapidated building, whose two stories were marred by disuse, its windows broken and walls sprayed with colorful graffiti. Her mind screamed at her to turn around, but her heart told her to move forward, and Cali was never one to listen to reason. Cautiously, she moved through the foreboding entrance way, whose powder black steel and glass door hung precariously by one tarnished brass hinge. The inside of the building looked no better than the outside. Trash was piled in the corners and strewn across the floor, the once white walls speckled black and gray with layers of grime.

Why am I here? She thought, but something was pushing her onward until she came face to face with the gold mirrored door of the elevator. Its surface was caked with dirt, but not enough to completely obscure her reflection, which caught her off guard. In it, she saw her dark denim skinny jeans, black calf high boots, and white turtleneck sweater go out of focus. A floor length silver gown that set off her long dark hair, chocolate eyes, and hugged her curves in all of the right places, replaced them. She squinted in an effort to make the hazy image sharper, but the strain seemed to push it further away until it disappeared, revealing her familiar appearance once more.

Without warning, as if they had a mind of their own, the elevator doors slid apart, beckoning her inside. Once again, the thought of turning back occurred to her, but how could she? Cali always loved a good mystery and here one was begging for her exploration, so she stepped inside, the doors closing behind her immediately, which set her heart racing. The interior of the elevator was lit only by one dim light that was recessed in the ceiling of the car. It was enough to show her a panel of buttons, one of which was labeled with the number of a nonexistent floor. Her stomach tied in knots due to a mixture of nerves and excitement, so with a shaking slender finger, she pushed the button with the number “three” written next to it. The motor screeched to life above her, the long disused cables straining from the effort of pulling the car up the shaft.

Cali’s heart pounded furiously until it was the only sound that filled her ears. That’s when the car abruptly came to a stop, causing her to stumble backward, and the dim light turned off, casting the car into darkness. The absence of light was oppressive and made it difficult for her to breathe. Keep calm, she chanted to herself while she felt around the walls for the buttons, hoping that pushing them would set her free. Cali had frantically pushed all of the buttons she could find when the doors opened of their own accord letting in a blinding light, as if they had opened onto the sun. Cali squinted and strained to see what lay beyond, but to no avail. She looked around, realizing that she couldn’t stay in the elevator and so, stepped forward. Crossing the threshold felt as if she were pushing through water, like crossing some kind of barrier.

Once through, Cali realized that she left behind the stale air of the elevator and breathed in deeply. The air here smelled as sweet as honey. She also found herself in a forest whose trees were as tall as skyscrapers and leaves so green they looked to have been painted. When her eyes adjusted to her new surroundings, a tall muscular man with cobalt blue hair and silver grey eyes stood in front of her. His full pink lips housed a smile that warmed Cali from head to toe.

“Calista,” he whispered, “thank the four winds that you found the beacon,” he said with relief as he pointed at the business card still clutched in her hand. Cali looked at it with surprise as it morphed into a smooth triangular wooden talisman. “You’ve been gone for so long, I was afraid it wasn’t strong enough to bring you back home.” Her lack of response caused the man’s smile to twist into an expression of worry. “Try to remember,” he urged. “You left one year ago for your walkabout among the humans.” Cali’s brow was still furrowed with confusion, so he continued. “You were gone longer than normal. Our memories begin to fade when we’re away from our world for extended periods of time.” Still, he saw no recognition on her face.  With a hint of desperation, he said, “Maybe a change of clothes will help,” and then snapped his fingers.

Her outfit was once again replaced by the silver dress she saw reflected in the elevator doors. It felt warm and familiar against her skin. She approached him, her heart pushing her forward, the soft grass cushioning her bare feet as she walked. Cali studied his every feature, the angles of his jaw, the endearingly crooked bend to his nose, and the beautiful way his dark eyelashes fanned out around his almond shaped eyes. He breathed in sharply as she ran her dainty hand through his thick hair revealing his pointed ears and then moved to caress his cheek. “Micah,” she said softly, recognition lighting her eyes.

Relief flashed across his features as he gently rested his forehead against hers. “Welcome home, my love.”

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Complete Dark by Erika Lance

For my friends Lisa and Tracy… Welcome to the Darkside!

Nothing could have prepared me for this… literally nothing!

She looked shocked. Maybe confused and possibly a little sick.

I would love to tell her that I warned her about what this was like, but I would be lying.

In truth, I am glad she is shocked.

Sometimes it takes a person truly seeing what man is capable of in order to value what they have in this life.

I don’t think this is one of those moments.

When she had told me what he had done to her, that part of me that we all hide or most times ignore came to the surface.

That part of me is complete darkness.

A plan, the plan, had come more quickly than I suppose it should. I knew what to do and how to do it.

I had to know she was sure of the choice she was making. Actually, I knew she couldn’t make that choice. She wasn’t capable… Most people were not.

It took me only a week and I had ensured every detail was taken care of. When you think about it, there are so many open areas in any state; for us, there were swamps with all manner of hungry creatures.

The only instruction I had given her was to not bring her cell phone. Actually, I had dropped mine and hers at a friend’s party we had stopped by for a little while to make sure plenty of people had seen us there. When we showed up later, the remaining party-goers would be so drunk the missing time will have evaporated.

As I unrolled the tarp containing the body, containing him, I handed her some gloves and I put some on myself as I picked up the hedge trimmers to begin the project of making him into bite size portions for the wildlife. Can’t have a gator dragging around an entire arm.

I didn’t give her any tools. Her job was scattering the pieces.

In under two hours we were done. We hadn’t spoken the entire time. The only noise she had made was when I used the hammer to mash his skull into little bits under the skin. Harder to piece together if it came to it.

After burning the clothes and tools, we got in the car and headed back to the party. She got out of the car and only said “I’m hungry” and entered the party.

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Author Spotlight: Nicole Dragonbeck

At least once a month, we here at Stories My Friends Started, are going to do an Author Spotlight so you can get to know a little more about the amazing authors who take the story starters you provide and bring them to life.

This month we want you to meet the amazing Nicole Dragonbeck. She lives in a world of elves, fairies, magyc and DRAGONS!

In addition to being one of contributing members of the Ink Slingers Guild, she has now two novels First Magyc and Ria’s Mark published in her Guardians of Path book series (which is rumored to be a 10 part story) but don’t tell her I told you that or a dragon might end up on my doorstep.

Nicole also brings to life her fantasy world and is featured in the many anthologies published by the Ink Slingers Guild. You can check out all of her stories available here.

You can also follow and connect up with Nicole at:

nicoledragonbeck.com

facebook.com/nicolebeckauthor

twitter.com/DragonBeck

And as always, you send in the start to a story, maybe Nicole will create some magyc words for you!

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You Must Try the Strawberry Tarts by Nicole DragonBeck

For Mariajose Lopez

I was late, as always.

Mary didn’t know this was going to save her life tonight.

Just for once I’d like to have everything go right when I go out, the young woman thought as she looked around the grand hall of King Robert in Hamfordshire. Huge silver tables piled high with food surrounded the dance floor. A dozen crystal chandeliers hung high above, shedding a glittering gold light on the room. The celebration was in full swing, the hall crowded with men in swallow tail jackets and women in tied and layered ball gowns in colors that had names like chartreuse, emerald, amaranth, and periwinkle.

So many people, Mary thought, trying to quell the nervous butterflies in her stomach, and hoped all the guests weren’t staring at her as King Robert’s majordomo announced her in a loud, imperious voice. “Mary of Isle, third daughter of the King James of Isle and his wife Lady Warrwood of Nearton.”

Mary made an awkward curtsy in her lavish gown which still could not compare with the others in the room. Isle was a small kingdom, nothing to compare with Hamfordshire, or the other kingdoms of the realm. The few guests who had turned to see who the newcomer was returned to their eating, dancing, and conversing as if she were no longer there. Mary made her way down the elegant stairway in a very inelegant manner due to the tight and awkward shoes required by the dress code, praying she didn’t trip and fall on her face. Her cheeks burned at the memory of the last party she had gone to. It had been a masquerade hosted by King Harry of Georgton, and the peacock mask Mary had been wearing obscured her vision. She hadn’t seen the servant with the tray of drinks come up behind her.

Nothing like that is going to happen this time, Mary promised herself. I’m a little late, but I can do this. She hated parties. There were too many people, too many social “niceties” to follow, and added to the uncomfortable clothes, horrible music, and tedious waiting around from someone to ask her to dance even though she didn’t like dancing and wasn’t very good at it made for something close to hell.

Stepping into the middle of the room, she grabbed a glass off a tray just to have something in her hand and went to examine the buffet. Truly, she far preferred the company of canapés to that of people; canapés didn’t expect banal witty banter from her, nor did they mock her when she didn’t know the latest gossip about so-and-so.

“The fried shrimp are much better,” a voice behind her whispered as though sharing a great political secret that could topple empires or kingdoms.

“Oh,” was all Mary could think to say.

The man behind her was average-looking, boyishly round cheeks making him look younger than he probably was. A bit of hair trying to be a goatee failed to make him look dashing or distinguished. His warm brown eyes made one feel absurdly safe, as though he wouldn’t know where to start in causing mischief or doing something dangerous. He might even have a mild panic attack if someone even mentioned the idea of such to him. In short, Mary concluded, he was a perfectly typical attendee of parties such as these.

“The fried shrimp are much better,” he repeated, and looked at her expectantly.

“Um, thanks,” Mary said. “I’ll be sure to try one.”

He looked disappointed. “You’re supposed to tell me you’re allergic to shrimp.”

“I’m allergic to shrimp,” Mary stated, though it sounded more like a question. Maybe this is some new party game, she thought.

His safe brown eyes lit up. “Then you must try the strawberry tarts,” he announced.

He grabbed her arm and pulled her towards the dessert table. On the way, Mary managed to put the drink down without spilling it.

“I’m really not that hungry, Mr. Uh…”

“I know, I know,” he said. “I was briefed too. No names.” He paused. “That’s going to make it difficult to talk. You can call me…” he thought for a long time, “Tobias.”

Mary would have bet a carton of jewels, which she could hardly afford, Tobias was his real name, as he most likely lacked the imagination to come up with a pseudonym on the fly. He was looking at her, his eyebrows raised too high. She glanced at the party going on around her. A band was playing something to dance to. The sound of chatter and laughter surrounded her and made her feel very alone. Her only other option for the evening a boring time spent wandering around until her feet hurt too much to continue and leaving without telling a soul.

So she replied, “Call me Anastasia.”

He looked impressed. “That’s a really good name.”

“Thanks.” She batted her eyelashes at him.

He grabbed a round pastry covered with bright pink jam and held it out to her. She reached to take it, but he jerked it back.

“Wait, what’s your favorite fruit, Anastasia?” he said.

“Um,” she thought hard. “I really like peaches, especially when they’re fresh-”

“Perfect!” he beamed, and stood there, grinning at her.

“So do you have it?” he asked and crammed the strawberry tart into his mouth.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Mary said.

Tobias frowned, and waved his hand impatiently, sending crumbs everywhere. “I gave the password. Now you have to give me the package.”

Mary began to suspect this was not a party game at all. Suddenly, she wished she hadn’t come. She blinked, and left her eyes closed for longer than was necessary, hoping the darkness would comfort her.

“No, no,” a loud, slightly whiny voice insisted nearby. “You have to tell me I must try the strawberry tarts!”

Mary turned to see a thin, excitable looking woman standing in front of the canapés, lecturing a fellow with a tangle of gold curls and eyes desperately looking for any route to escape the hellish torture he had gotten himself into. He locked onto Mary’s gaze. Despite the desperation-edging-towards-panic, his eyes were very nice, on the blue side of green.

“Ah, my darling Beatrice!” he cried out, disentangling himself from the woman waiting to be told to try the strawberry tarts, and sprinted over. He grabbed Mary and planted an enthusiastic kiss that would have landed on her lips had she not turned her head. “I’ve been looking all over for you!”

His eyes begged her to play along. This has really gone too far already, she thought, but his eyes wouldn’t let her leave him stranded. She beamed at him.

“I’m sorry, my love, I’ve – I’ve just been talking to my new friend Tobias here.”

The man bowed to Tobias, who returned the theatrical yet expected gesture. The woman who had yet to be told to try the strawberry tarts wandered over. She gave Mary a disapproving look and fanned herself with an elaborate white lace fan studded with pearls. It matched her dress.

“Who’s this?” she demanded of the blond man, nodding at Mary.

“My sun, my moon, and my stars,” the man declared proudly. “This is Beatrice.”

Mary curtsied, and almost fell over. The man caught her and righted her so smoothly, Mary hardly noticed. The others noticed not at all.

“Yes, well, she’s very lovely, if a bit plain, but we have more important things to be seeing to,” the woman sniffed at him. “The fate of the realm is in our hands!”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the man said, a hint of pleading leaking into his voice. “I’ve never seen you before in my life. I don’t know who you are, and I don’t know anything about the fate of the realm being in my hands. If it was, I’m sure I would know about it! And I don’t know anything about the strawberry tarts!”

After his impassioned speech, he fell silent, his chest rising and falling rapidly as he caught his breath. Mary wondered why everyone was so enamored with the strawberry tarts, then something occurred to her. She toyed with the idea, playing with it in her mind, turning it over and around again. Yes, I think I’m right, she decided.

“Excuse me,” Mary said to the other woman. “Have you tried the canapés?”

The woman blinked at her sharply. “Yes. I have eaten so many canapés tonight, I never want to see another one. I was waiting for…”

She stopped suddenly, and looked as if she wished she hadn’t said anything. Mary kicked the man called Tobias in the ankle, and smiled sweetly into the air when he yelped.

“And which did you like best?” Mary prompted the woman.

“The salmon wasn’t bad,” she said. “Though, I confess, the ham and avocado was my favorite.”

“The fried shrimp are better,” Tobias muttered. “Much better.”

“I’m allergic to shrimp,” the woman said automatically.

His eyes widened, and her jaw dropped. They locked gazes.

“Then you must try the strawberry tarts,” Tobias said, very nervously, his hands moving to his waist, then under chin, then straight at his side.

The woman brightened up. She almost looked beautiful. She reached into the bodice of her dress and pulled out a small velvet sack tied with gold string and handed it to Tobias.

“My favorite fruit is peaches,” she said.

“I’m afraid there’s only strawberry,” he replied, looking down at the package he had been hoping Mary would give him.

The two went off, arm in arm, walking on clouds. Mary pulled away from the strange man.

“My name is actually Mary,” she told him.

“And my name is Henry,” he said. “I do profusely apologize for my unforgivably forward behavior.”

“No need,” Mary smiled. “I think you did me a favor as much as I did you.”

He smiled back, and his whole face lit up. They stood there awkwardly for a moment. The band stopped playing and in the silence, she groped for words, something sensible to say. Then music started up again, a lively waltz that moved one’s feet without consent.

“Would you care to dance?” Henry asked, holding out his hand.

Habit made Mary smile and nod, then she frowned and stepped back. “No, actually. I hate dancing. It seems quite pointless, and I’m not any good at it.”

She thought he was going to be put off. Instead he laughed. “I thought I was the only one.”

He looked at her, genuinely interested. “Would you like to see the gardens then? I’ve heard King Robert has the most fantastic collection of nymphs in his pool.”

“I’d like that,” Mary smiled.

She took the arm he offered her and they made their way through the crowd of happy, overly dressed, and slightly drunk people. The pair ascended the stairs and passed under the huge arching doorway into the crisp night air.

Mary turned and looked back for a brief second. She found Tobias and his mystery contact easily. They were standing by the champagne fountain, engrossed in the little velvet pouch. Mary wondered what was in it, then decided she didn’t need to know. It was probably some stupid party favor, like a silly hat or a top that wouldn’t spin properly.

“Something the matter?” Henry inquired.

“No,” Mary said, then laughed. “I’m very pleased to have an excuse to go.”

“Me too,” Henry agreed. “I think the pool is this way.”

They headed down the brick path into the darkness. They were just about to step onto the grass when an explosion made them spin and gape. The stream of purple and sliver sparks that shot out of the windows lit up the night, and then the place began to crumble, the stone falling in silent waves and disappearing in a hazy shimmer. In a moment, nothing was left to show King Robert of Hamfordshire had ever had a home here.

“What just happened?” Mary said, her voice eerie in the still and empty night.

“Maybe it was the strawberry tarts?” Henry suggested.

 

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