DEAD WEIGHT: Paladin

DEAD WEIGHT: Paladin

NOT ALL FAERIE TALES HAVE HAPPY ENDINGS!

In this Second installment of the serialized novel DEAD WEIGHT, Cendrine South is on the run. While she evades agents of the King of Faerie, she must locate her father’s long-lost childhood friend and find a place to delve into her father’s journal. What secrets from the Faerie War does it hold? Will those secrets help stop the next conflict between Earth and Faerie?

*WARNING*: Contains language some might find offensive.

Cendrine picked up a piece of trash on the sidewalk that at least resembled something like paper. It was a discarded and empty cigarette package. Marlboros. Cendrine hated cowboy stuff and so smiled as the crumbled cardstock pack ignited in her palm. She kept the flame going as she followed the artist calling herself Picasso. When she reached the archway, the artist was gone.

The door to the building hung on one hinge. A cardboard tube, about a meter high and ten or so centimeters in diameter, propped the door open. As she got closer and made the fire in her hand brighter, Cendrine saw the tube was something you might use to carry a poster, painting, or map. A piece of paper had been tapped to the top of the tube. Cendrine snatched the paper with her left hand, making sure to keep the flame in her right hand well away from her prize.

She read the words written on the paper: Inside is your doorway to nowhere. Burn it upon entering, or they will find you. The way back is on the other side.

“Interesting,” Cendrine said, as she picked up the case.

Something clattered down the street. Was it metal on concrete? Sounded like metal on concrete, so odds are it wasn’t the wind, which was pretty much non-existent, pushing something over. It could have nothing to with anything…a cat…or dog…or any number of crazy random happenstances. One problem: Cendrine had seen enough movies and TV to know that when a woman by herself hears a strange noise off in the darkness, she only ignores it if she is an expendable extra. Cendrine did not, had never, nor would she ever, consider herself expendable.

After a few seconds, a plan formed. Yeah, and the plan worked like she hoped, it would surprise the crap out of whoever it was. She’d put good money it was that bloody wizard again, managed to figure out a way past all the precautions she’d taken to avoid bards being able to pinpoint her story.

Cendrine stepped through the door into the foyer of the apartment building, put the cardboard tube down, and after transferring the flame from her hand to a pile of garbage over by the stairs, she started working on getting the door closed. It wound up being trickier than she’d expected. With the door hanging from a single hinge, getting it into place took careful adjusting and just a bit of strength and leverage to bend the one working hinge so that she could shove it closed with her shoulder. As she finally got the door closed, she heard footsteps clacking on the sidewalk.

“Well, shit,” Cendrine muttered. Sometimes being right was a double-edged sword.

Cendrine whistled to the fire on the far side of the foyer. With the time it had taken getting the door set in the frame, the fire had grown bigger than she’d intended…but in this case, it wasn’t a bad thing. She condensed the flame into her hand and put it against the metal doorknob just as someone rattled it from the other side. Unable to suppress a grin, heat flowed from Cendrine’s palm into the metal making it glow a bright yellow in less than a second.

“God dammit,” someone shrieked on the other side of the door.

Keeping the heat rising for two seconds, Cendrine fused the inner workings of the doorknob together. Then she took the rest of the fire and wove it through the door, letting it build inside the wood but keeping it from the surface.

“Please wait,” Cendrine whispered to the flames. “If you come out when the door opens, then you can have the whole building…and…you’ll get to surprise the hell out of a first-class twatwaffle.”

In response, the flames smoldered quietly under the surface of the door. Of all the many tricks Cendrine knew for playing with fire, getting it to go against its nature and wait to consume was the hardest, the one thing she’d never managed to get fire to do by command. She still had to ask, and to give it something in return.
With the trap laid, Cendrine rushed to the poster case, pried the plastic lid off the thing, and pulled out the painting within. She unrolled it to show a sitting room with a comfortable chair, fire, and a table with a tea set, steam rising from the tea pot. Sniffing, Cendrine caught just a hint of mint. Of course it would be her favorite.
Urban legends spoken in hushed voices told of some of the great powers of bards of various mediums. Painted portals was one such legend. Holding the painting up with her left hand, Cendrine put her right hand up to the painting and pushed. She met no resistance, and her hand warmed from the heat of the fire within. Well, if any bard could create a wonder like this, the Artist would be that bard. This was how they found her. She doubted they could have hidden something this legendary from bardic magic, no matter what steps anyone took toward concealment.

As Cendrine turned, the door blasted inward off its hinges. She ducked as it flew over her and through the space her head had been a heartbeat before. She looked out of the doorway and wasn’t surprised when Oberon’s wizard who had usurped the name Taliesin locked gazes with her. He had a couple of brutish looking faeries behind him.

“Now,” Cendrine said.

She hadn’t needed to say anything. The fire would come anyway. But she wanted the wizard to know for certain who brought the flames. Behind her, the fire waiting inside the door exploded outward, filling the hallway with flames. And while momentarily impressive, not anything except a neat visual effect. However, with a thought, she could change that easily.

“Good night and joy be with you all,” Cendrine said, and put all her strength into increasing the heat and the flames.

Fire filled every empty space within ten or so meters of the door. The wizard shrieked as his coat caught fire.