The original plan was for the webserial to be the primary form of Tall Tales, with the books as supplemental material. However, due to a number of factors--not least of which my medical issues that have caused delays and the probably related lack of readership here--it has become apparent that the primary means people are engaging with the story is through the print books and that the effort involved in maintaining the webserial is too costly for the benefits of having it. As such, this concludes the webserial portion of Tall Tales. The posts that went up to date for Volume Three have been run as a preview of what's to come in the book, and I would encourage you to keep an eye out for the book as soon as it is released (and then Volumes Four and Five, the latter of which is the planned conclusion of Tall Tales).
I want to thank you for your support these past few years and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Please be aware that this choice was not made lightly, and was delayed until it was unavoidable. Please continue to join me as I explore this story further, with the print volumes, the audiobooks of those which are already in progress, and maybe even a planned narrative podcast that I hope to run after Volume Five is complete. I invite you to consider the following resources to maintain contact, learn about publishing dates and anything else new happening with Tall Tales, and keep track of all the characters and situations you have come to know here. Note that the wiki is in need of a lot of work; I am trying to get it up to date, but as a wiki, I would also like to remind you that any input you can contribute to flesh it out is not only welcome, but encouraged.
Thank you again, and I look forward to delivering Volume Three in the near future!
21 November 1986
“I never wanted this,” Henry said.
“You want me to think that matters?” Mary was leaning on a railing, looking out at the lights of the city as the sun went down. Henry had just arrived, stepping out of the shadows with his hands tucked into his jacket pockets.
“Why wouldn’t it?” he asked, stopping beside her.
“Because it didn’t change anything! It doesn’t matter whether or not you wanted me to leave, what matters is what you were willing to do about it. And in the end, it was nothing.”
“I made sure you’d be safe.” He pulled out a vial with a small amount of blood in it. “I made sure nothing was going to touch you.”
“Could you have done that this whole time?” She waited for a response, but none came. “Did you protect our child in the process?” Another silent pause. “Did you think I was leaving because I don’t feel safe?”
“You made it very clear you couldn’t stomach what I do.”
“What you do?!?” She spun and jabbed her finger into his chest as he started to back away. “I have, from the very beginning, been fine with what you do. With your involvement in the supernatural, your dealing with problems, even your endless fucking war against your dad. I was on board! I was by your side!”
“It’s John! I can’t be a part of what you’re doing to him! That’s why I took him, for that month, you know. To keep him away from you and your twisted little plans to make him a child soldier. But I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t keep him away from it all, I couldn’t protect him. But with you, there’s no compromise. I can’t stop you from turning him into what you’ve decided, you won’t hear any alternative, you won’t even let me treat him like the child he is!”
“He needs to be ready.”
“He needs a childhood!”
“And you think leaving is going to give him that?”
She slapped him across the face, hard enough to send him staggering for a moment. “I think there’s nothing I can do now to help him; but I sure as hell will not participate in what you’ll do to him.”
“I’m not the monster you think I am, Mary.”
“No. You’ve just got far more of your father in your than you’re willing to admit.” She turned and stormed off, leaving Henry holding his cheek in silence.
5 June 1986
“I told you not to bring none of this shit home with you, Henry!” Elizabeth yelled, reloading her revolver. As she did, a demon tore partway through the couch that had been blocking the doorway into the dining room. “You’re replacing that!”
“Let me focus, ma!” Henry shouted back, drawing sigils on the floor with salt.
“If I gotta die cause you wouldn’t listen to me, I’m damn well gonna go down telling you so!” She fired off two more shots, sending the demon scratching at its face.
“We’re not gonna die if you just let me focus!”
Behind them, Mary was holding John and trying to console him, but John was staring across the room. As she repeatedly promised everything would be alright and his daddy knew what he was doing, John started to wriggle and push. It took a moment of effort, but he slipped out of her arms and ran across the living room, kicking through salt as he went and ignoring the calls from both parents until he stood facing the demon.
“No!” John yelled. He crossed his arms and stomped his foot. “You go!” The demon staggered back, and everyone else stopped and stared silently. As the demon regained its footing and took a step forward again, John balled his fists and stomped again. “Go!” he screamed, his eyes glowing as the room started to shake. The demon roared as it fought to keep its footing, and then launched backward and vanished. The room was silent and still for a minute, and then Henry stepped forward and knelt beside John.
As Henry tried (and failed) to get information out of John about how he did that, and Elizabeth began cleaning up from the encounter, Mary stepped out onto the porch for some fresh air. Two ravens were sitting on the railing of the porch, and Mary didn’t even take the time to register that they weren’t flying away before she sat down and started to vent.
“What the hell is going on here?” she demanded of the air. “Is Henry really going to keep bringing shit like this home? Am I going to be expected to keep letting our son deal with it?” She turned to the ravens, who struck her as seeming like they were listening. “Is there any escape from this path he’s chosen? Is John really going to be a weapon?”
“Yes,” one of the ravens answered in a masculine voice. “John cannot escape this life. It will find him, no matter where he is, no matter what you do.”
“This can’t be happening.”
“Henry can prepare him to handle it and survive.”
“What are you?”
“A witness.” The raven hopped down from the railing to stand on her lap, and she hesitantly brought her hand forward. The raven didn’t move, and gradually, she rested her hand on its head as if to pet it. When she made contact, a burst of images went off in her mind, all of them of John. Here he was being followed by a massive beast, there he was charging through flames at a man with a serpentine face, there he stood before the great world tree. She gasped and drew back from the raven, and the two stared at each other for a moment as tears began to form at the corners of her eyes.
“I can’t,” she said, softly, “I can’t be a part of this.”
“Please don’t make me choose!”
“It’s too late for that, Mary.” The raven flapped its wings and then, instead of taking off, simply vanished. She looked and saw the other was gone, as well.
15 September 2016
Ultimately, the decision had been reached to change the layout of the rooms upstairs. Madeline needed a larger closet space, Jackie needed a room for her meditations that could house her assorted supplies, and there was no need for three bedrooms. After months of planning and layout discussions and ensuring they had the legal issues covered and she knew what she was doing, Jackie set about taking down the master bedroom wall to expand into the room next to it. She had only managed to work for about twenty minutes, however, before she was stopped by the sight of something tucked inside the wall.
It was a metal case, locked closed with rust on the hinges. Jackie set it aside and spent some time digging around in the walls for anything else that didn’t belong, but came back empty handed. There were no keys in the wall, and none of the keys she had that went with the house worked in it. She fiddled with it for the better part of an hour before deciding to just force it and, one carefully-phrased spell later, she found a cache of envelopes and cards inside. The cards were loose, having apparently been opened at some point; their own envelopes must have been discarded, as the envelopes in the case were letter-sized and unopened. Everything was addressed to John Matteson, while the return addresses listed either a Mary Matteson or, in later cases, Mary Roemer. Most had been sent from Seattle. Jackie flipped through the cards, and found them also written out to John and signed “Mom,” with the last one bearing a large twelve on the front.
She set the case down in front of her and stared at it for a few minutes, processing what she was seeing. Who hid these? Why? Did Matteson know? Was it really her place to tell him if he didn’t? That last one was the easiest, she decided, so she picked up her phone and sent him a text.
“I found something in the wall while doing the remodel,” she said.
Matteson replied immediately. “What is it?”
“Letters for you.” She attached a picture. Her phone sat silent for nearly five minutes. She didn’t move or stop staring at it the whole time.
“I’m on my way,” he finally replied.
She nodded, picked up the case, and walked down to the dining room table. She knew she had time to get some more work before he got there, but she couldn’t bring herself to do anything but brace herself and wait.
16 June 2007
It had taken some effort to find it, but Jackie was sure she’d identified a promising site to reach across the hedge. According to the water spirits, there was a ley line that crossed the Shenango River outside a little town called Pulaski. She’d heard about it early after moving to the area, but didn’t have the means or a good reason to bother hunting it down before. But now, with the search for Rick in full swing, and since Matteson had basically given her Henry’s car once she had her license set up in PA and he wasn’t able to drive her around, she was finally prepared to go investigate.
She arrived just after dusk, having gone home to change and grab a few final supplies after work. The main thing had been the blood. With Hecate’s magic not getting the results she needed, Jackie had turned her focus to the rituals passed down by her grandmother, which included animal blood. She was thankful the local butcher hadn’t asked too many questions about why she needed the blood, and knew she couldn’t risk the conversations that would happen if she tried to leave it at work during her shift. So it was in the fridge at the house, and once she had it in hand, she was ready to go.
It took about an hour and a half to set the ritual up, between making sure everything was in the right place and chanting the incantations over various elements. When everything was finally ready she took her place and pulled the ring Rick had been hiding out of her pocket. She stood silent for a moment, closing her eyes and holding the ring up to her forehead, thinking about him. About his face, her feelings for him, the moment she realized what he was about to do. The last words she ever heard him say.
“Walaya,” she whispered. “Ansarasa Richard?” The ring began to glow faintly as she kissed it and moved it away, holding it at arm’s length directly ahead. “Ansarasa kupia?” The air began to crackle and hiss as she poured her focus into the spell. She saw a road begin to form before her in her mind’s eye, a path through the hedge that led directly to the Crossroads. She tried to focus, to push farther, but she couldn’t get any more information than that. No paths from the Crossroads became clear, it was just a jumble of different roads and trails, a maze that had no end. She strained against the resistance, biting her lip until she drew blood, the ring glowing bright as day and burning her fingers as the blood dripped down her chin and fell to the markings at her feet. She could feel him there, just beyond where she was looking, if she could just identify a road. Her head started to throb as she pushed harder, but nothing came into focus. She pushed, and cried, and screamed, and repeated her incantations until she had no energy left.
As the vision suddenly departed and the ring fell from her hands, she fell to her knees and opened her eyes. Her head was spinning, her vision unclear, her body weak. She brought her burnt and shaking hands to her eyes as she cried, rocking back and forth as she battled to hold onto the last shreds of hope in her ability to find him. If this took everything she had, she reasoned, and it wasn’t enough…
“Impressive,” a male voice said. She looked up but couldn’t make out details of the man standing before her. He was dressed in a suit, and his hair looked long and dark, maybe with areas of gray, but it was hard to tell through the exhaustion and tears. “Jacqueline, was it? You’ve certainly made a name for yourself among the water spirits around here. Jacqueline the water witch, galavanting around with the Riverborn Anchor. Has he told you about me, young lady?” He knelt down before her, leaning his head close enough that she was finally able to make out some familiar features on his weathered face. “Have you heard about John’s dear old grandfather?”
Her eyes went wide as she realized this was Jeremiah, and she immediately reached out and began trying to utter a curse. But her voice was strained, and her body was weak, and she only got two syllables out before she fell over, coughing.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” he said, pulling away to dodge her hand and then standing. He looked her over as he brushed the dirt from his knee. “You have considerable skill, I’ll grant you that. But you’re far outside of your league, and made of an awful lot of water.” He raised his hand and she felt her body lift off the ground as she fought for air. “Don’t worry. It doesn’t serve my purposes to kill you right now. I just need you to be a message to John.”
She whimpered as she felt her body being pushed and pulled, her muscles being kneaded like dough. Her lungs struggled to hold what little oxygen she could get in through her gasping breath, and her heart strained against her chest as her vision started to fade.
“Sleep well, little witch,” he said, just before she blacked out.
18 June 1981
“You know,” Mary started, pushing aside a branch as she tried to keep up, “when you said you were investigating a haunted site, I kind of expected it to be a house.” Ahead of her was Henry, wearing a pack of camping gear on his back and looking through a crystal as he pressed into the woods. It was getting late in the day, but not yet late enough that they needed flashlights, and they were exploring a forest in western Connecticut.
“Well, there are houses here,” he said, stopping to look around, “but mostly they’re just foundations now.”
“So no beds or freshly-brewed coffee.”
“No, none of that out here.”
“What’s the deal with this place, anyway?”
“Dudleytown was a settlement founded by a British family who allegedly carried a curse with them when they came to the New World. Word has it the residents fell into madness and the site into disrepair until it was ultimately abandoned. The Warrens came by a few years ago and said it was definitely demon possessed.”
“And this is the type of thing you do? Go looking for demons and curses to expose yourself to?”
“I hunt them. The things that threaten mankind, the creatures that pose a danger to our safety, I track them down and I do what I can to protect people from them.”
“And this pays the bills somehow?”
“Well…no. Not really.”
“So when you asked me to marry you, how were you planning on keeping us fed and housed?”
Henry stopped and lowered the crystal before turning to her. “I suppose that is something we should talk about.”
“Yes. Yes, we should.” She closed the distance between them and wrapped her arms around him, leaning in as he returned the hug. “I believe you when you say you’ll keep me safe in situations like this, but there’s a whole rest of our lives to be concerned about.”
“I can’t exactly do this type of work with the hours the mills demand.”
“I know, and I get it. Didn’t you say that other couple makes a living doing paranormal investigations?”
“That’s rare, and they do work that’s more marketable than mine. I don’t really know what marketable skills I have that would give me the freedom to do what I need to do.”
Mary pulled away and took his hand. As they started walking again, she asking him to tell her more about the Dudleys. Over the next hour, as they searched through the woods, he explained their alleged tie to a man killed for treason, and the settlement of the region. He talked about the site and the local settlements, how Dudleytown fit into the region, the madness and the suicides that claimed so many of its residents. Mary got their campfire going while he set up the tent, and when he finally sat down and stopped talking she smiled over to him. “You should go to school.”
“You should enroll in classes when we get back,” she said, digging some dried meat out of the bag for both of them, “history classes. Get a degree as a history teacher.”
“And why do you think I should be a history teacher?”
“It’s your real passion. I mean, I get it, the supernatural stuff is something you feel you need to do, a calling you can’t ignore, and that’s fine. But your mind is always in the past. I constantly see you reading up on history, and you talk about it constantly. You love it, and you’re good at explaining it. There’s a real shot at a career there.”
“I…I don’t know.”
“Do you have any better ideas?”
“So give it a shot. Maybe while you’re there, you’ll find a different field more appealing, and we can sort that out. But at least you’ll have a track.”
“Okay, yeah. I’ll look into some schools as soon as we get home.”
They sat in silence for a moment, before Henry stopped and looked around. “Do you hear that?” he asked.
“I don’t hear anything.”
“Listen!” They both listened for a couple minutes. “It’s absolutely silent. No animals, no wind, nothing.”
“Is that normal?”
“I think it’s what we came looking for. Come on, let’s investigate.”
Mary rose, took his hand, and followed him into the trees.
12 August 1985
“What the fuck is a bob-cha?” Mary demanded, her hands on her hips, as Henry walked in the door. They were in Elizabeth’s house in Sharon, where they were staying while Henry focused on finishing his degree and Mary picked up hours down at Mike’s Corner Market.
“Hello dear, class was fine, thanks for asking, how were things here?” Henry answered, setting his briefcase by the door and hanging up his hat.
“Things here were fine until Johnny started throwing a fit because I had gotten him a drink when he apparently wanted some ‘bob-cha’ thing to do it!”
“Sounds like you’re trying to say ‘babcia.’”
“Is that not what I just said?”
Henry hummed, in the way Mary had learned meant he wanted to disagree but wasn’t going to start, as he slipped past her into the kitchen to grab a glass of water. “Yeah alright.”
“What the fuck is it, Henry?”
“It’s a Polish name for one’s grandma.”
“And where did our son learn a Polish name for a grandma? And why was he pointing at thin air as if someone was there?”
Henry stopped, stood silent for a moment, then set the glass down. “He did what?”
“What do you know, Henry? What aren’t you telling me here?”
“I…don’t know yet. We need to check something. Where’s the boy?”
“He’s in the back yard.”
“Please go get him. I need to find a book.”
Mary, John, and Elizabeth sat in the living room for close to five minutes before Henry walked in with a photo album. Elizabeth was watching television, and John was sitting on Mary’s lap focused on the screen. Mary’s eyes didn’t shift away from Henry as he made his way into the room and knelt in front of her. He opened it to a page with a number of images of a woman, all of them in black and white, but spanning various ages of her life.
“Johnny,” he said, tapping John on the arm. When John looked, he turned the book toward the boy. “Do you know her?”
John pointed to one of the pictures, when she looked to be in her forties. “Babcia!”
Henry sighed and closed the book. “And is Babcia here now?”
John looked around and shook his head.
“Who is that?” Mary asked.
“My paternal grandmother, Joanna.”
“You talked to him about that bastard’s family?” Elizabeth demanded. “I said his name was not to come up in this house!”
“No, I didn’t.” Henry stood and closed the book. “I think Joanna has.”
“I don’t want no haunting bullshit in my house! Can’t you do something about it? With all those books of yours?”
Henry watched John as the boy’s attention drifted back to the television. “I haven’t been able to do anything supernatural around Johnny since he was in the womb. I didn’t think much of it, but now…”
“Now what?” Mary asked, after he fell silent.
“If he’s seeing ghosts so easily, and blocking magic, I have to consider the possibility he’s something else.”
“Something inhuman?” Elizabeth asked. “Like that son of a bitch father of yours?”
“No. Not like him. But maybe useful against him. Something that can stop him.”
“This is our son,” Mary hissed, blocking John’s ears. “He isn’t a weapon, he’s a child!”
“He won’t be a child forever.”
“Oh my God!” Mary picked John up and stood. “I…I can’t even imagine what’s going through your head right now!”
“Mary, look, it’s just—”
“No! We’re going to go start on dinner. You wait here and think about what you’re suggesting. We can talk about this later.” She stormed off toward the kitchen, asking John if he wanted to help her make some food. As she left, Henry sat down and rubbed his hand over the album.
“You think he really poses some threat to your father?” Elizabeth asked, softly.
“Yeah, I do.”
“Like, a real threat? Able to end this?”
“Then train him.”
“You pick what’s important here, Henry. And you pay what it costs.”
Hecate had been very insightful. Jeremiah was unfamiliar with the concept of an Anchor before, but once it was explained to him, he understood why Henry had promised the boy would be more prepared to face Jeremiah than Henry had been. He’s assumed this whole time that was just an exaggeration, or possibly just hopeful arrogance about the way he’d raised John, but it sounded like he could be a real problem. Jeremiah was ecstatic.
Not at the prospect of having to fight an Anchor, of course, but rather the redemption of his bloodline. Jeremiah had spent decades believing his only surviving legacy in the world was a frail, albeit resourceful, mortal. That no matter what he managed to accomplish in his life, it would all go to dust the moment he died and his memory was held only by a human who hated him. It had affected his drive after a while. It almost seemed pointless to seek anything grand or magnificent, if there was no way to secure it long-term, while his own flesh and blood was constantly harassing him. But the knowledge that there was an Anchor out there, who didn’t yet know him, who might yet be turned to continue his purposes, that lit a fire in Jeremiah’s chest. It was time to step out of the shadows. To begin pulling on the threads he’d been weaving for so long, and make real changes to his fortunes. With Henry gone, and a grandson who could make real waves in both the physical and metaphysical realms, there was something approaching hope.
And, hey. If he refused, if he insisted on chasing his father’s folly, then Jeremiah would have something interesting to do with his time. And a true conquest over an Anchor was bound to improve his standing in the world of spirits. However this played out, Jeremiah intended to take the opportunity to get what he deserved. The tricky part, however, was knowing how to confront John.
He tried to go to the house, first, since it was listed as John’s inherited residence. To scout around and learn more about his grandson. Stop by some time when he wasn’t home, pop out of the metaphysical realm in the house, dig through some information, and leave to formulate a plan. His suspicions were verified when he tried; having an Anchor living in the house had completely destroyed the wards keeping him out for so long. What he hadn’t anticipated, though, was that having an Anchor living in the house also made it impossible for him to step sideways on the property. Or within a few dozen yards of the property. He could get in, of course. Locks and doors and windows were only so strong, after all. But that path would require damage, and damage was too much of a risk. He couldn’t show his hand that clearly just yet.
Then he saw the girl from the funeral come out of the house and head down the street.
Jackie, he had learned her name was. He watched her from the side of the road and considered a very short list of reasons she would be at the house when John wasn’t. The particulars didn’t matter, however; what mattered was that they were close, very close, and that gave him an opportunity.
So he tracked her for a couple days, forming a plan. It wasn’t difficult, ultimately. She was quickly shown to be a mage of some sort, one who was actively seeking out loci and trying hard to reach through to the spiritual realm. It seemed like she was looking for something. Jeremiah didn’t know what, and didn’t much care. He got his hands on a map of the local ley network, sorted out how she was searching, and which sites had the best chance of success. Some local spirits knew of a locus that was particularly weak, one she would surely be able to punch through, one she would spend time at. One where he would be very powerful. One where he could prepare to confront his grandson.
On June 16, she arrived at the site. And Jeremiah was already in the metaphysical realm, waiting for her.
18 May 2007
“You know, I’ve been tracking down experts on matters of the supernatural for a few decades now, which probably doesn’t sound long to you.” Jeremiah lifted the poker from the fire and watched as it started to cool. “But in that time, I’ve noticed that most beings who know a lot about human interactions with magic are eager to talk about it. So imagine my surprise when I go to find spirits who know about people that can degrade magic itself, and they don’t want to say a word!”
“Fuck off,” the naga growled. Jeremiah turned to face her, holding up the poker. The woman was hanging upside down, her arms bound behind her back, a metal stake stabbed through the fleshiest part of her tail and holding her to the ceiling.
“It’s amazing how people always find a way to get that one out, no matter how bad things are for them. Don’t you think?” The naga responded by spitting at him. Jeremiah stabbed the still-glowing poker into her side. The naga hissed but managed not to scream. “They really do train you well in Iravati. I’ll have to visit some time, learn some other stuff. But why all this effort? Why not just tell me what you know? Do you have some kind of arrangement to keep quiet about them?”
“I have nothing to say about them! They are a blight upon the world and that is all I care to know!” The naga gasped for air. These outbursts were growing more difficult.
“Now I doubt that very much.” He set the poker back in the fire and began testing his knives. “The rivers tell me your city has had notable dealings with beings like the ones I seek, and you’re a herald tasked with knowing what comes and goes. Are the rivers wrong?”
“None of their kind come to Iravati. Not in my lifetime.”
“Do you know the last time one did?”
“It was…centuries ago, I think. It severed Iravati…from the world of man.”
“How?” Jeremiah walked to the naga and grabbed her by the hair. She took a sharp breath, but said nothing as he pulled her face closer and showed her the knife in his other hand. “What do they do? Are they all the same?”
“You’re not going to get more than that from her,” a voice said from behind him. Jeremiah turned to find a dog sitting next to the fire.
“Are you the famous Hound?”
“I am a hound. Word has it you only speak English and Aquan, and The Hound considers both languages beneath him.”
“And why should I take the word of a knockoff dog, when all the rivers speak of Iravati and its connection to the magic destroyers?”
“Iravati is a victim, which the rivers know well. The Anchors, however, are the purview of my Mistress. You are dabbling in matters far beyond your ken.” The dog howled, and the room shook. The walls melted, and beyond them lay a great landscape of roads and trails, pathways marked in the very fabric of the world. He could make out hundreds of gates, some closed, and some open, each situated directly on a path. Jeremiah looked around in every direction. “We can give you the information you seek. For a price.”
“So this naga is no longer useful to me?”
“That naga was never useful to you.”
Jeremiah considered these words for a moment before swinging the blade and slicing open her throat. He let go of her hair and walked away as she sputtered and gasped, the ichor flowing over her face and dropping in loud plops on the ground. He wiped the blade clean on his pant leg as he approached the dog.
“What is this price?”
“There was a mishap. Some beings useful to the Mistress have wandered off. Simply retrieve them and bring them to the Crossroads, and she will tell you more about the Anchors.”
“That sounds like work suited for you more than I.”
“There is very little separating us in the eyes of gods. Do you want your information or not, Riverborn?”
“Very well. Tell me about these lost beings.”
25 August 1979
Jeremiah knew a few things for certain. First, Elizabeth was going to be no help in getting Henry off his back, as she seemed perfectly content with the path Henry had chosen. Second, the oath Jeremiah had taken when Henry was born was somehow reflecting any damage he did to Henry back to him. Third, the books he’d inherited from his mother, which may have contained information he could use to circumvent that oath but which certainly contained information on hunting and killing supernatural creatures, was missing from where he had left it stored. Fourth, Jeremiah had never actually bothered reading any of those books, and therefore was woefully unprepared for how to handle someone who had. And finally, when Jeremiah returned to the house after seeking some healing magic and finding his books missing, it was warded against him; this seemed to indicate that either Elizabeth or Henry, or possibly both, were actively reading and using the books.
It wasn’t quite powerlessness that Jeremiah felt in the wake of these realizations, but it was a hell of a lot closer to it than he ever wanted to be. He found himself inching even closer to that point when he felt a bullet rip through his shoulder.
He was in Cincinnati by that point, considering his options and finding that he didn’t like any of them. There was nothing for it, he’d decided; like it or not, he was going to have to learn more about his nature and the world of magic. Thus far he’d only bothered with the stuff that was immediately useful to him, like his control of water and ability to sidestep reality. But now he didn’t know. Could he be killed so easily? If so, was it possible that the simpering little bastard he’d left behind, with no power to call on and no will to wield it, had now claimed the upper hand over him?
Is that all it took?
He was willing, albeit hesitantly, to explore that notion further, but suddenly found himself busy scrambling off a park bench and grasping the surprise wound. He frantically looked for the source of the shot, and found it when another was fired. This one just missed him, but more importantly, Jeremiah was watching where it had come from when the muzzle flashed. In one step he was out of the physical realm; then it was a mad dash aided by some water spirits hanging around for the river, and another step out to catch Henry turning to leave the roof.
Jeremiah threw a punch with the uninjured arm, sending Henry crashing to the ground. He felt the blow resonate across his own face, causing him to stumble backward. Before he regained his footing Henry was up again and landed a blow where the blood was starting to stain Jeremiah’s shirt. The pain shot through Jeremiah’s arm and chest, and he barely managed to focus his vision enough to dodge the kick from his son. He pushed, not directly against Henry, but willing the water in Henry’s body to throw him backward. It worked, and Henry crashed into the door of the roof access stairs. He felt the impact on his own back, but Jeremiah noted that he wasn’t also thrown. There were limits. He could work with limits.
Henry was trying to catch his breath from the shock of the impact when Jeremiah produced a knife and lunged. He tried to pull himself away, but Jeremiah was faster than him. Jeremiah grabbed him by the neck and slammed his head against the door again. Henry’s vision was blurred from the impact, and Jeremiah pulled him close enough to smell his breath.
“How do you think this ends, boy?” Jeremiah hissed.
“You can’t kill me. Anything you do to me comes back on you. You’re marked.”
“And you think you can use my curse against me? You think you can use my mark to benefit yourself?” Jeremiah brought the blade in, slowly, and carefully cut a line down Henry’s face. Henry screamed, but Jeremiah pushed through the feeling of the same cut opening on himself. “Your mom may be right, Henry. I may be some kind of Cain. But you? You are no Lamech.”
Henry felt the knife pull away from his face and closed his eyes, focusing on setting the pain aside long enough to finish the task. When he opened them again, however, Jeremiah was gone.