The Black Cat

    I toiled over the crystal ball, waving my hands over it and murmuring the magic words. The fog within began to slowly show the shape of someone. The candles surrounding me were snuffed out by the heavily charged arcane air, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, my robes flared up as a gust of air blew beneath me and the curtains billowed. My heart pounded in anticipation, I had to calm myself down or the spell would be ruined and the components destroyed. As I controlled my breathing, the image became clearer. I held my breath, excitement coursing through me.  
    The door to the basement slammed open, the sound of quick stomping as someone coming down the stairs, “Maxine!” My mother screamed. 
    I shook, losing concentration on the spell. The  orb went dark, the candles came back and the room went still, “Damn!” I whispered. The expensive herbs and gems were gone. 
    She looked at me and sighed, “Are you scrying in here again, young lady?”  
    “I almost had it this time!” I told her, exasperated. 
    “Dinner is ready,” She growled, “You had better not come up dressed as that,” I hated her new rule about the entire family getting together for dinner. 
    “But--” I started to speak, cut off by her cold glare, “Yes, ma’am,” I stared down at the floor until she turned to leave. I watched her slam my door, shaking the candles in their stands. I took my wide brimmed pointed hat off and sat it aside. I took off my dark blue robes and threw it on my cluttered bed. I waved my staff above my head and muttered an easy spell, snuffing out the candles before setting it against the wall. I put on a dress as I knew that would make my mother happy. I hid my crystal ball in my dresser before hiding a wand on my person. 
    I trudged out of my room and through the immaculate hallways towards the dining room. My older sister was already sitting at the table. She stared at me with her icy eyes until I sat down, “Look who crawled out of her cave to join us,” Eliza said with a teasing grin, “Put down her arcane tomes to converse with the common folk!” 
I slumped down in my chair a little bit more. Her white tail raised in the air behind her back as she smiled at me. Eliza’s gorgeous white hair gracefully fell over her shoulders. Her elegant red dress draped over her body revealing her figure, “Turn anyone into ash with a fireball yet?” Eliza asked me. 
    “N-no. I don’t use that kind of magic,” I explained quietly, the ears on the top of my head flattened against my messy, short black hair.  
    “How much lead have you turned into gold?” 
    “I don’t use transmutation very often, Eliza.” 
    “Well, how am I supposed to know that, Maxine?” Eliza asked, “You never come out of that basement.” 
    “I-I have to practice and study, Eliza. If I want to get into a college, that is,” I lied. I had no plans on going to college and having my creativity stifled. I stared at my hands with bright green eyes. They were covered in scratches, burns and bruises. 
    Father walked into the room. My sister’s pose and smile changed to genuine happiness, “Hi, dad!” She called cheerfully. 
    “Hello, girls,” He looked at the two of us, stopping on me, “Maxine, what happened to your hands?” 
    I hid them underneath the table and looked away from him, “J-just spells gone awry. Nothing to worry about.” 
    “Alright, kiddo. Don’t get yourself killed, okay?” He ruffled my already messy hair. 
    I gave him a small smile. The door to the kitchen burst open as Svetlana brought out food on a tray. She slid the tray filled with bread, potatoes and cheese onto the table, “I apologize,” She gave a slight bow, “The potatoes took much longer than expected,” She glanced at me, giving me a small nod. 
    “That’s alright,” My father told her, “My wife isn’t even here yet,” My sister looked annoyed, eager to dish up.  
Svetlana’s mother entered the room from the kitchen shortly after her daughter. She wore a maid uniform that matched her daughter’s. Both kikimoras had grey hair on their head and grey feathers on their wrists and tail. The older kikimora sat another tray on the table, the aroma of the cooked chicken quickly covered the room. My stomach grumbled, “I would be surprised if you were not hungry, Maxine!” The older kikimora laughed. 
I just wanted to turn invisible, to get away from the constant teasing. I reached for the wand I had smuggled in as my mother entered the room. Her white dress and gold jewelry sparkled in the light. She brushed her white hair aside as she took her seat at the head of the table. Her cat ears twitched as she looked at me, “That dress fits you much better, Maxine,” She told me. I looked down on the blue dress I wore. 
My sister quickly started to dish up, the plate of delicious smelling chicken being right next to her, “Eliza, did you review last months reports?” My mother asked her. 
Eliza stopped, sitting at attention, “Y-yes ma’am.” 
“What do you think of week two where...” I stopped listening to them. 
I watched Father put side dishes onto his plate. He passed it to me as Mother and Eliza kept speaking of earning and reports. I dished up quickly. Father nudged me and made a hand signal. He wanted me to bring the chicken over to him. I did as he asked, waving my wand under the table, lifting the tray and slowly hovering it over to him. It reached him without a noise, he grabbed the tray out of the air as I ended my spell. Svetlana chuckled at me as she poured me a glass of chardonnay. My father finished filling his plate and slid the tray to me as my mother finished talking at my sister. She groaned quietly as she noticed the chicken wasn’t near them anymore.  
 
I headed quickly to my room after an otherwise uneventful dinner. The clacking behind me told me that Svetlana was close behind me. I made it to my room, unlocked the door and held it open for Svetlana to quickly stomp down the stairs. I followed her down into my dark room, “Wow, you have been busy, Maxine,” Svetlana noted as she looked around. 
“Mhm,” I nodded as I began to put my robes back on. 
“Did you sleep at all that week you shut yourself in here?” Svetlana asked, looking at the bed covered in magical paraphernalia. 
“Not really,” I told her bluntly, nodding at the corner where I had set a blanket and pillow that I slept on. I procured the crystal ball and set it on its pedestal once more. I did a quick practice spell, scrying Svetlana’s mother. The fog within the orb dissipated quickly as I waved my staff over head and mumbled the magic words.  She was cleaning the kitchen, humming a song. 
“Is this what you have been working on?” Svetlana asked as her eyes sparkled. 
“Somewhat. I have been attempting to peer into the other world, Svetlana. I am going to find the man of my dreams even if it kills me.” 
“You are starting to sound mad, Maxine,” Svetlana warned, “That place is only a myth, told to girls like us as the population of available human men gets lower and lower.” 
I took a deep breath, “I do not believe that, old friend. I refuse to believe it. There were tests done nearly five years ago that proved it was real! They have sent teams there already to prepare the way for the rest of us!” 
“Just tanuki trying to keep us under control,” She told me cynically. 
“Look,” I sighed, “I will scry him successfully to prove it to you. Would you be so kind as to get me a cup of tea as I get prepared? My throat is horribly parched.” 
“Your mother has forbidden me from bringing food to this room.” 
“Fantastic,” I rolled my eyes, “Get a pot going, please. I will take care of the rest.” 
“As you wish,” She left slowly. I took a bit of time to finish changing clothes and to go over my notes once more. 
I turned to the orb again and scryed Svetlana. She was in the kitchen speaking to her mother. I tuned out the conversation. I was merely trying to see when the pot was ready, not spy on her. She placed the pot on the stove and set a cup next to it. I changed my scrying target to the pot. Svetlana and her mother kept talking about what to make tomorrow. Sounded like they would go with steak. I salivated a little bit. They made fantastic steak. As the pot screamed, Svetlana quickly poured it into the cup and added the tea to it. I waved my staff and summoned the cup to me, catching it with my cat reflexes. Svetlana stood startled, staring at where the cup used to be. She shook her head and left the kitchen. 
I started to prepare the material components, yawning as I went. Svetlana returned to me, “I was unaware that you could do that,” She mumbled. 
“I have gotten very good and seeing and moving, friend,” I gave her a toothy grin. 
“Were you watching me? What were me and my mother talking about?” 
“You assume that I would abuse my magic to spy on you and listen in on a private conversation?” I feigned shock, “I only heard you both speak of steak towards the end.” 
“I a-apologize, Maxine. I didn't mean to offend you,” She hung her head in shame. 
“Don’t worry about it. Help me light these candles,” I told her as I sipped the tea. 
 
    I toiled over the crystal ball again, waving my hands over it and murmuring the magic words. The fog within began to slowly show the shape of him. Svetlana stood awkwardly in the corner, watching me. The candles surrounding me were snuffed out by the heavily charged arcane air, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, my robes flared up as a gust of air blew beneath me and the curtains billowed. Svetlana squeaked as her uniform was picked up by the wind. My heart pounded in anticipation, As I controlled my breathing, the image became clearer. I held my breath, waiting for the incantation to finish. The last bit of my arcane energy was drained as the fog completely vanished. I fell to my knees, exhausted.  
    Svetlana rushed to my side and helped me to my feet, “Maxine, look!”  
    I saw a young man. He was lying in bed, staring at a glowing item in his hand. He poked at the glowing rectangle on the front of the object with the fingers of his other hand. He had short black hair and dark brown eyes. I stared at him for half an hour as he tossed and turned in bed, waiting for sleep to take him. After that half hour, the fog returned to the crystal ball. I clawed at the ball, willing it to show me more to no avail.  
    “How did you do that?” Svetlana asked. 
    “A combination of one of the oldest spells in the book and a newer spell that my master developed, a ‘locate husband’ divination as well as a spell that allows the user to peer through realms and dimensions,” I explained proudly. 
    “But how?” She pestered me. 
    I groaned, “Svetlana, the complications of magic and especially scrying, cannot be explained so easily. It is magic! It just works! I had much help. I must publish this quickly. Others must see...” I started speaking to myself and scrawling notes down in my journal. Svetlana cleared off my bed as I slowly drifted to sleep while working. I finished my notes as my eyelids got heavy. 
    “Get some rest, Maxine,” Svetlana told me as she collected the dishes scattered around my room. 
    I was too exhausted to argue. I simply nodded and lie face down on my bed, robes and all. I could hear Svetlana sigh as my eyes shut tight. 
 
    I woke up late in the day, my energy had returned to me. I was under the covers in my nightgown. Svetlana must have helped me after I passed out. I slowly began to recall the previous night’s events. My heart began to pound as I remembered his face. I needed to see him again. I procured the various required ingredients to cast the scrying spell. I threw them into the basin below my crystal ball and picked up my staff. I draped a set of robes over me forgoing the hat. I casted the spell much faster this time after completing it once. The fog disappeared and I saw my man again. He was clean shaven, his eyebrows knitted together as he stared at another glowing object. This one was much larger and not held in his hand. He was moving an object with one hand and touching a slate covered in letters with the other.  
    It was obvious that as he pressed and moved the object on his right, he was changing things on the glowing glass. Numbers and letters were moved and changed as he stared blankly at the screen. He was so handsome, the way he looked determined at the screen, the dark blue collared shirt he wore and the tan pants he wore suited him perfectly. I dreamed about his arms wrapping around me gently, his hands running through my hair and his lips smiling at me. I hissed as the crystal ball began to fog again. I needed to cast the spell again. I needed to see that face. I needed to see him. I needed him. 
 
    He would be MINE. 
 
    I had cast the spell three times already in the short time I had been awake. I was exhausted, completely out of energy again. I heard the door to my room open and someone came down the stairs. My back was to them, “Maxine, it reeks of incense down here!” Father had entered my domain. 
    “I have been... practicing,” I told him, cleaning out my basin. I was going to cast it again. 
    “What have you been practicing?” He picked up the crystal ball and examined its smooth surface. I had to keep myself from hissing at him and darting for it. 
    “Scrying.” 
    “Your mother isn’t going to be happy about this smell, Maxine. Why not take a break and come into town with me?” 
    “What? Why?” 
    “You’ve been down here for a really long time. You need to go outside.” 
    “And if I refuse?” 
    “I’ll turn my offer into a demand,” He threatened. 
    “I will come into town with you,” I sighed, “I am wearing my robes, though.” 
    “Fine by me. Ten minutes,” He threw my window open before leaving.  
    I looked around my room. The small windows near the ceiling let a meager amount of sunlight in. I always wished they weren’t there. Too bad I was a witch, not a carpenter. This small distraction could hardly keep the thought of him from my mind. I spent all 10 minutes daydreaming about him before grabbing my hat and heading for the foyer. My father waited there for me, wearing a coat.  
    “We’ll take the carriage into town,” He told me as he grabbed his shoes. 
    “No need. I will teleport us there,” I replied as I brandished my staff. 
    He looked nervous, “Are you sure?” 
    “If you do not want to just say so,” I held my staff close to my chest protectively. 
    He sighed, “Don’t give me the sad kitty eyes, Maxine. We can do it your way.” 
    “Yes!” I was eager to show off. I didn’t go out much and Mother detested magic in the house. Father begrudgingly followed me outside as I prepared my spell. A simple teleportation into town. The magic seller in town had a teleportation circle set up so the travel would be easy. I had one set up here as well. I stood close to my father as the spell completed, sending the two of us to the backyard of the magic seller. I proudly turned around to my father with a smile on my face. 
    His eyes slowly opened. He breathed a sigh of relief as he checked for his limbs, “Hey, good job.” 
    I beamed from the praise, “What did you need to get?” I asked as I pulled him out of the garden of strange plants.  
    “Foodstuffs mostly. A dress for your mother... and a few potions,” His shaky voice slowly went back to normal, “I’ll go get the food, can you go pick up the dress yourself?” 
    “U-um, sure. I can do that,” I lied. 
    “Good. Here,” He handed me a slip of paper, “I’ll meet you by the fountain in an hour.” 
    I nodded and headed off to the seamstress’s. I walked quickly through the streets trying to avoid social interaction. I clutched my staff close to my chest and used my hat to conceal my face. Not like anyone could recognize me in this garb, I just wanted to be safe. I got to the seamstress’s without impediment, politely returning a ‘hello’ who offered me one. I pushed open the front door, a bell jingling as I entered, “Welcome!” The arachne behind the counter called as she came into the front room, “What can I door for you, dearie?” Without a word, I handed her the slip of paper my father had given me, “Ah, the second Hamilton child! A pleasure to meet you, dearie. I will gather the clothing for you, one moment please.” 
    Another person entered as the arachne went into the backroom, “Maxine Hamilton, it has been a long time,” A kind old voice said. 
    I turned around to see a familiar face, “Master, I didn’t expect to see you here!” I said to the old dark mage. She taught me everything I knew about magic. 
    “How have your studies been?” She asked me with a small smile on her face. 
    “Good! Good!” I smiled, “I put those spells you gave me to good use.” 
    “Did you scry a man for yourself, finally?”  
    “Well... here,” I presented her the notes I had taken on the spell I had created. She decoded the arcane script easily. She had developed the language I used afterall.  
    She gave a small laugh, “Well done! As expected from my top student. Here, a small gift for you,” She handed me a hand mirror in a silver frame. I could sense its arcane power, “You should be able to easily enchant this. Do with it as you will.” 
    “You’re just... giving it to me?” I asked warily. 
    “I am an old married woman, Maxine. You will put it to better use than I. Oh, your father ordered these, give them to him for me, will you?” She handed me a small rack of potions. I put the mirror and potions into my magic bag. The arache came back to the front and gave me the dresses. They went into my pouch as well. I thanked both of them, “I will see you around, Maxine. Farewell!” My master waved her staff and with a flash of light she teleported out of the room. I left, confused. 
 
    I didn’t have to wait very long for my father to arrive at the fountain. He carried two bags full of fruits, vegetables and spices as well as a third cold bag with meats and cheese in it, “Hey, hon. You got the dresses?” He asked. 
“Yes. As well as the potions,” I told him, patting my bag.  
“Huh. Good job,” he nodded. 
“Ready to go home?” 
“Yeah. Teleport me home,” he requested begrudgingly. 
“As you wish, sir,” I said with a smile before easily casting the spell. Father looked a bit green in the face as we arrived in the woods behind the estate. The blue glowing runes on the trees and stones slowly lost their shine as I started back towards the house. My father slowly followed me. I clutched the mirror excitedly. I knew EXACTLY what to do with it, “I have a small request, Father.” 
“Yes?” He asked weakly. 
“Keep Mother away from me for the rest of the day. I have a very costly spell that I am working on.” 
He thought it over for a few moments, “Sure. I have a secret weapon to immobilize her for a time. I can’t wait until you have a boyfriend so I can pass the technique down to him.” 
I didn’t like how excited he seemed about that, “A small price to pay, I suppose. Thank you.” 
 
I cast a long lasting illusion in the hallway covering where my door was before descending into the basement. I had told Svetlana that I was going to be busy. I stockpiled food and water in my room in preparation for my long solitude. I placed the herbs, precious metals and gems into my basin and mixed them together as I sat the mirror next to the dish. I downed a mana potion to give myself an extra boost. I stifled my gagging reflex as the viscous liquid oozed down my throat. I let out a small cough as the potion entered my stomach. I shook myself and got back to work. I pulled the curtains and windows closed. The only light came from my softly glowing staff and the candles scattered around the room. I started burning incense to keep myself focused. The scent hung heavy in the air, clouding the room.  
I began the long and arduous spell. I murmured the arcane words over one of my spellbooks, handed down to me by my master. I had only enchanted a magic item twice before. My staff and a necklace I enchanted to allow me to scry my mother more easily. She never wore the necklace. This would be difficult, the spell I was putting into the mirror was costly mana-wise, but I had created this specific version of the spell myself. I had more mana potions at the ready if needed. Despite the incense, I found it difficult to concentrate. I couldn’t keep the thought of his face out of my mind. 
 
21 hours later. I was finished. I held the mirror in my hands. I spoke the command phrase and touched the mirror, “Show me my love,” The mirror lit up, the fog dispersed and I saw his face again. He was sitting on a couch wearing shorts and a shirt that revealed his arms. Again, he was staring at that small glowing device. He looked around, confusion on his stubble covered face. He shook whatever feeling he had off and returned to his device. I took more notes on the spell and its effects as well as how the mirror works. I found it difficult to focus on anything that wasn’t the mirror for more than a few moments. My stomach growled. I opened my window to let the smell and haze of incense out. I got on my bed, staring at the mirror held above my head. My love was now staring at a larger glowing object on the wall. He was controlling the moving images on the screen with a small object being held in his hands. My heavy eyelids were shutting themselves. Most witches would have taken their time on enchanting and spread the work out over a week or even two, taking their time to prevent mistakes. I forced my way through the project, my desire to see this man clouding my judgement. 
I heard the door to the basement open. I rolled over, my back to the entrance of my dark room. I heard the familiar sound of a kikimora clacking down the stairs, “Maxine?” Svetlana called quietly. 
I rolled over to face her, clutching the mirror in my hands, “What can I--” I yawned slowly, my mouth opening wide, I stretched my arms high above my friend, “--do for you, friend?” 
“You look exhausted, Max,” She approached me, looking around my messy room, “I just cleaned in here...” 
I spoke the magic words to the mirror, “Look,” I held it out for Svetlana. 
She gently took it, “Is this what you have been doing?” I nodded in response, “Did you not sleep!?” 
“Sleep is for... for... I need to sleep,” I mewled. 
“Maxine! You’re going to kill yourself like this!” She started to undress me, “Your mother will be upset that you will not be partaking in lunch today,” She put me in my nightgown, “And for what? To see a man you will never meet?” 
I shot up and grabbed her shoulders, startling her, “I AM going to meet him! I am going to marry him and we’ll be happy and-- and--” Tears rolled down my face, “I just want to be happy...” I hugged my best friend. She was more of a sister to me than my actual sister. 
“Maxine...” She hugged me back, “You’re a powerful caster. You will figure it out, I’m sure.” 
“I’m going to get there and take you with me.” 
“Get some sleep, friend. I will bring you food despite your mother’s orders.” 
I yawned again, spreading it to Svetlana as well, “Thank you, Svetlana,” Svetlana made sure I laid down under the sheets before she began cleaning. I clutched the mirror, setting it on the pillow next to my own, imagining lying in bed with him and feeling his warm breath on my face. Touching his face and stubble and... I fell asleep despite my willpower to keep staring at him.

PT2

    I stared at the mirror under the table. He was eating a breakfast of eggs. I poked at my potatoes and bacon. I moved the food around, pretending to eat. I was more focused on him. I still didn’t know his name. He didn’t speak much to others, which was fine by me. The less women that spoke to him, the better. He seemed to have a few friends. He had met with four people last week, I wasn’t able to watch what they were doing as my mother had lectured me most of the night on my future role at her company. I hadn’t listened to much of what she said. My mind was constantly on him, the feeling I got when just looking at him was unlike anything else! Especially when he smiled! Unfortunately he didn’t smile often. He seemed quite sad usually, especially when he was at what I assumed was his job. He spent many hours in a drab cell staring at what I had learned was a computer. 
    I sighed as his frown deepened. I wanted nothing more than to make him smile. To lay my hands upon that head of hair, press my lips against his, his arms wrapped around me, then he undoes his-- “Maxine!” My mother shouted. 
    I was brought back into reality, the mirror fogging again, “Yes?” I quickly asked. 
    “Are you using magic at the table?” She demanded. 
    “I-I am not casting anything mother,” I was technically telling the truth. I held up the mirror, “Staring at myself. I am trying to decide how I should do my hair,” That was a lie, I suppose.  
    Her glare softened into something that could almost be happiness, “You should speak to your sister about that.” 
    I nodded in response and put the mirror away. I couldn’t let her see it, she would try to profit off it in some way. I ate a few potatoes before excusing myself from the table, eager to get back to my scrying. I ran into my father in the hallway, “Good morning,” I greeted politely, adjusting my clothes. 
    “Morning. How’s your practice been?” Father asked. 
    “G-good. I have mostly been taking notes on a magic item I have created.” 
    “What does it do?” 
    “It- it scrys into the other world. The one that monsters may take over soon. According to rumors that is.” 
    “Interesting. Are you alright?” He suddenly asked, “You have seemed... off recently.” 
    “Off?” I got nervous, protectively clutching the mirror in my bag. 
    “Mh. Probably nothing. Just me being strange. Talk to you later, dear,” He messed up my hair before heading into the dining room. 
    I breathed a sigh of relief as I hurried to my room. I quickly descended the stairs into my room. Svetlana was already there, cleaning my room, “Honestly, Maxine. Your room is always messy!” She laughed. 
    “Mmph,” I grumbled before diving onto my bed, mirror in hand. 
    “Two weeks later and you are still marvelling at that mirror, huh?” 
    “I need him, Svetlana,” I rolled over to face her, “Oh! Here, you try it,” I offered her the mirror. 
    “M-me? I will give it a try, Max,” She took it from me gently, “Show me my love,” She requested. She stared into the mirror as I changed into a purple set of robes along with hat. Svetlana was speechless as she looked wide-eyed in the mirror.  
    “May I see?” I asked. 
    She shook her head, “Please let me have this, Max,” She looked like she might cry. 
    I wanted to laugh, but I knew exactly what she was experiencing. I gently put a hand on her shoulder, “Take your time, friend.” 
    “Thank you,” Svetlana dried her eyes and smiled at me before going back to the mirror. I took up her job and began to clean up my magic related objects. 
 
    Svetlana whined as the mirror went dark, “Come back!” 
    “It is running out of energy, here,” I took the mirror from her and willed some of my energy into the item. She quickly snatched it away from me and said the words again. I took the short time of being pulled away from my man to work on my notes regarding the item. Svetlana fawned over whoever she saw through the mirror. She was lying on her stomach on my bed, her bird-like legs gently kicking in the air, “I wish I could do more than just see him,” Svetlana whispered.     
    “I am working on it, friend. I should try projecting an illusion of myself before him. No, no... he could see me but I would not be able to see him with my own eyes. That would also make communication difficult...” I mumbled to myself as I rummaged through notes and books. I moved some papers aside as I rummaged, my tail flicked back and forth and my ears twitched as I listened to the papers falling to the floor and the books slamming shut on my desk. I came across a book: Oneiromancy. Dream magic. My ears and perked up as I considered the possibilities. I could not recall ever purchasing it. I shrugged the strange confusion off as I pulled the tome open. A fine layer of purple dust fell off the cover as I moved the book. I skimmed the pages. Portions on explaining the intricacies of the dreamscape, the few beings who traverse the dreamscape and the details on entering others dreams. As I expected, most explanations boiled down to ‘The way this spell works is a secret kept by nightmares. Those few who know outside of nightmares have sworn an oath to keep these secrets hidden.’  
I groaned, another roadblock on my way to love? I could not just brute force this, dream magic is its own field entirely. I tossed the ideas around in my head, “A way to communicate with him through dreams. That could work, combine the spell that allows me to peer through realms and a spell to enter the dreamscape... That could work!” I exclaimed, startling Svetlana. 
“What? What could work?” She pestered setting the mirror down. 
I beckoned the mirror to me with a spell, it lazily drifted across the room and landed in my palm, “How to meet him; how to speak with him!” I shouted as I jumped to my feet. I looked at Svetlana, she had the usual wide-eyed mystified look on her face, “I am going to go through dreams to meet with him until I can teleport there!” I explained triumphantly. 
“How do you plan on doing that?” 
“I must track down a nightmare or another caster who has knowledge on the field and... CONVINCE her to teach me her magic.” 
“Uhm, why did you say ‘convince’ like that?” She looked concerned. 
“Don’t you have chores you should be attending to?” I changed the subject. 
“Ah! You’re right!” Svetlana quickly tidied up my room before dashing upstairs. 
I took a moment to collect myself. I sketched out a quick plan to find then talk to a nightmare. I estimated a week on that venture. Then crafting the spell, casting it successfully... a month, possibly longer. I picked up the mirror, “Show me my love,” I whispered. A feeling came to me, not one of joy, but sadness. I touched the mirror, longing to turn that frown on his face into a smile. I wanted to make him happy, to be there for him. I wanted him to be there for me, to make me happy as well.  
I looked back at my plans. I crossed off my time estimates, two days to get my hands on the information I required. Force will be used if necessary, though I doubted it would come to that. Two weeks for the spell. I could go without sleep, my own mental and physical condition be damned! I would finish this spell and speak to him in a timely manner! I needed to speak to another caster, one I could work with. I thought about contacting my master, but she was a busy woman. I knew another, more powerful caster who may be able to teach me the spells I was after.  
 
I hurried out the front door with my staff and tome in hand. I looked around at the trimmed trees and shrubs. I was searching for a quiet spot to teleport from. I headed to the side of the house and hid behind a hedge wall. I began to prepare my components in a small pot. This was not like the simple teleportation into town and back. I was headed to a very special place; a pocket dimension of a powerful lich. She was a good friend of my master. I prayed she remembered me from the few times I had met her before. I placed an old diamond necklace in the pot, lit some incense and began to burn some herbs.  
“Hello, Maxine,” A kind voice greeted me as I concentrated. 
I looked up to see the groundskeeper, Svetlana’s father, “Hello,” I greeted as I got off my knees and brushed my robes off. 
“Hiding your magic from your mother again?” He asked with a gentle smile. 
“Of course.” 
“I still remember when you were small and etching your first runes into the tree bark around here,” He chuckled. 
“I still feel bad about the one that exploded on you,” I told him as I looked at the ground. 
“You didn’t mean to, Maxine,” He laughed, “A bit of excitement in my usual dull day is fine by me. Besides, the apology liquor your father gave me made it all worth it.” 
I smiled at him, “I’m glad it was worth it to you, at least.” 
“Mhm. By the way, you dropped this,” He handed me a thin jade card with my name on it-- my library card. 
“Oh! Thank you!” I swiftly took the card from him and added it to my bowl. 
He looked at it with confusion before bidding me farewell, “Don’t burn down any more trees!” He called as he walked out of view, rake in hand. 
I sighed and opened my spell book, it floated in the air in front of me. I waved my hand and the pages turned. I tapped my staff on the ground and mixed the components with the end. The stench of the herbs stung my eyes. I waved my staff and shouted the vocal components, in a flash the components vanished. I waited a moment as the lich received my request for teleportation. I took a deep breath as I felt the teleportation begin.  
As I was torn from my dimension, I felt the air being ripped from my lungs. With a flash I was placed into a dark room. I caught my breath as my eyes quickly adjusted to the low light level. I panted and looked around, long rows of tall bookshelves that went in every direction were lit gently by purple burning candles. A woman behind me cleared her throat. I turned around quickly and held my staff to my chest defensively. The woman had purple-grey skin, dark purple eyes and wore a torn purple cloak with the hood up. She looked up from the desk, my library card in her hand, “Maxine Hamilton. It has been quite some time since you last set food in my library,” She spoke slowly in a monotone voice. She raised my card in the air, engulfing it in a purple flame. After a few moments, the fire went out revealing the card to be a dark red now. She offered it to me, “I have updated your card from apprentice to witch. Please do not lose it.” 
“Th-thank you ma’am,” I bowed to her. 
“Have you brought Oneiromancy back for your master? It is a few months overdue.” 
“Oh! I have it right here,” I produced it from my bag and set it on the desk. 
“I will have to speak to your master about returning borrowed materials on time. Again,” She frowned and sat the book behind the counter, “What can I do for you, child?” 
I should have thought this through beforehand. I activated the mirror and showed it to the lich. She took it in her hands before I started speaking, “I am trying to contact this man. I-- I have an idea on how to use dreams and I was hoping--” 
“Stop,” She silenced me. I stood up straight and looked at her anxiously, “I understand your plight. A young woman’s search for a husband is a difficult one,” She sighed and looked longingly off in the distance, “Child, you are asking me for knowledge I cannot give. I may be dead,  but I have my honor.” 
I looked at the floor, defeated, “I understand ma’am.” 
“That said, I do not wish for you to end up like me. A witch dying old and alone, coming back as a powerful undead... I will not allow you to suffer the same fate as me,” Her expression turned from soft and calm into almost angry, “You must do something for me, Maxine.” 
“Anything!” I shouted, losing my calm, composed exterior. 
“Allow me to use the mirror.” 
“Of course, the activation phrase is ‘show me my love.’” 
She quietly whispered the words and looked in the mirror. I heard her sniffle quietly and wipe her eyes before returning to her usual dark and moody expression. She suddenly picked up her staff and waved it around. Three tomes flew off the shelves and floated gently in front of her. They were opened with a wave of her hand. She flipped through all three of them quickly before stopping. As she began casting multiple spells at once, the room filled with arcane energy, it was suffocating. Our clothes billowed, papers flew off the table and books blew open as winds blew. I watched in awe as this powerful sorceress weaved a multitude of spells into each other. Arcane script poured out of the tomes and swirled in beautiful colors in the howling winds. I watched as most of the words formed a sigil in the air. I quickly determined it was a protection sigil of great power. As the lich snapped her fingers, the winds stopped.  
The sigil was gone, “It is done,” She informed me quietly, handing the mirror back to me. I took a quick look at the mirror before dispelling the divination. She had transferred the sigil to the back of his hand. He glanced at it, cocked his head slightly then went back to whatever he was working on. I looked up at the lich, she had a small smile on her face, “Now. Dream magic. Do not let anyone know that I gave this information to you. Do not share the information with others. Do not let anyone else see this information. Do you understand, child?” 
“Yes ma’am. I promise,” My heart pounded. I was so close to him now.  
“Good. Here are two tomes. Guard them well,” The two books were slammed in front of me, “Anything else you would like to borrow?” 
“Do you have any spells I can peer at that can aid me in higher level teleportations?” I knew this was pushing it, but I had to ask. 
“Usually I would not do this either. Your work on the mirror was very well done for a which of your level, especially having done it in less than a day. As well as your master pulling in a favor asking me to aid you where I can,” I was handed a heavy tome, “Be warned. This is the only spell you will be able to cast without the aid of another witch that can get you to your destination. I would aid you in the casting as well as your master but the two of us have had to swear to not enter or open portals to this other realm before everything is in place.” 
“What do you mean?” 
“The monster lord and her lilims are planning on taking over that world. Teams are already in place to remove leaders, politicians and other people in power to pave the way for the rest of us. I have played a major role in developing spells to get us there and disable their technology. Soon, orientation will begin to prepare the general populace for travel. I recommend you read this as well,” She handed me another tome: ‘The Human World and You! An Encyclopedia With Pictures.’ She paused for a few moments before speaking again, “Anyone you plan to take with you should read up on this as well. I will reclaim these from you on the other side, Maxine,” She turned to get back to her work before realization spread over her face, “You will need someone in that world to aid you in the teleportation process. They will need to set up a simple teleportation circle for you there. Good luck, child,” She gave me a small smile before unceremoniously teleporting me back into my parent’s garden.  
I landed on my back, the tomes landed on my stomach, knocking the wind out of me again. I groaned and lie still for a few moments before collecting myself and the tomes before hurrying to my room. I was overjoyed! Only one day for me to obtain the knowledge I required! I excitedly hurried down the stairs to my room. I threw the tomes down and opened them up. My heart sank. The arcane script that these spells were written in were not similar to my master’s or even her master. I groaned, this would be an arduous task. I took a deep breath and skimmed the pages. I found the spell I was looking for: ‘enter dreams.’ I noted down spells such as ‘induce sleep’ and ‘cause nightmare’ to transcribe later. A smile spread across my lips at the thought of the possibilities. I lit a stick of incense and began to transcribe. 
 
I sat at the dinner table. My hair was brushed, my dress was ironed and my eyes wandered underneath the table where I held the mirror. I was very intimate with his daily routine. Monday through Friday he woke up, ate, went to work where he spent most of his day. He then went home or went to exercise. His weekends were usually spent alone. He seemed to like to drink liquor and use the larger wall mounted computer for entertainment. I hadn’t had the chance to look through the book about his world. I heard a noise, my father was looking down at the mirror. He looked up at my face, “What are you doing?” He asked with a teasing smile. 
“N-nothing!” I slid the mirror into my bag. 
“Mhm. Who was that?” 
“Just someone I have my eyes on,” I gave a small, nervous laugh.  
“Aha! That’s why you’ve been so weird!” 
“Ssshh!” I tried to quiet him down. My sister and mother were talking loudly across the table and seemed to not hear us.  
“You know that your mother wishes to wed you off to some rich son of a merchant, right?” He asked turning serious. 
I recoiled in disgust, I had met the man she wanted me to marry a few years ago, “I am aware. I am not going to marry that-- that curr,” I hissed. 
Father looked at me and sighed as the food came out, “Do as you wish,” He shook his head as we began to dish up.  
 
Svetlana wandered into my room late at night. She was disobeying orders by bringing me tea. Mother and Father were already in bed so there was no worry about her finding out. I finished deciphering the arcane script from the tomes into my own as a cup of tea was sat in front of me. I thanked Svetlana quietly before taking a sip. She tried to sneak a glance at the arcane words. They writhed on the pages, eager to be set free and used as spells. I slammed the book closed before she could foolishly let them go, “What are you working on, Max?” She asked quickly. 
“I am going to begin creating the spell,” I told her nervously. 
“Really!?” Her eyes sparkled, “How did you learn it so quickly?” 
“I--” I remembered what the lich had made me promise, “I convinced a nightmare to teach me the basics,” I lied. 
“Wow, Maxine! You’re so powerful,” She bought it. I felt really guilty lying to my best friend, “What are you going to say to him once you create the spell?”  
“I... I am going to ask his name,” I replied simply, “I know how to talk to people, Svetlana,” I was lying again and feigning confidence. I had no idea how to talk to boys. I was telling the truth about wanting to know his name.  
“How are you going to introduce yourself? Maxine the powerful? The great?” She was very excited for me. 
“Should I introduce myself as something more grandiose than I really am?” I needed to decide soon. My man was preparing himself for bed now. 
    “More grandiose than you really are?” Svetlana looked taken aback, “Maxine you have much potential as a witch! This is not misplaced praise. I have overheard your master and your father speaking about you before. Maxine the magnificent!” She continued to suggest. 
    I sighed, “That one. I should--” The door to my room opened, my heart stopped. Light footsteps came down the steps. My mother walked into the dark candle lit room. I shoved the mirror under the covers before she could notice it. 
    “Svetlana, I am aware you are currently off duty, but could I have a moment alone with my daughter?” She asked uncharacteristically quietly. 
    “Of course, madam,” Svetlana collected herself and scurried out of the room. 
    “Maxine, is everything alright?” My mother asked me, stepping closer and gently placing a hand on my forehead. 
    “What do you mean?” I asked nervously. 
    “You have been so distant and distracted every time I see you. You refuse to speak unless spoken to. I am worried about my little girl,” She looked like she might cry. 
    I had forgotten about this side of her, I gave her a tight hug, “I am fine, Mother. Worry about your business, not me.” 
    “You know you can tell mommy anything, right baby?” She spoke to me in baby talk as she pinched my cheeks. 
    “Yes Mother.” 
    “Good,” She turned to leave. As she stood at the bottom of the stairs she looked back over her shoulder, “I know you dislike the idea of an arranged marriage. But please, just give him a chance for me. I have arranged a date between the two of you ,” She left. 
    I scowled at her and folded my arms childishly. I wanted nothing to do with that man. Svetlana came back down the stairs, “Is something the matter?” She asked.  
“No, nothing is wrong!” I snapped. Svetlana looked hurt, guilt washed over me, “I am sorry, friend,” I said quickly, “It has been a long day.” 
    “Good night, Maxine,” Svetlana said bluntly to me before turning heel quickly and leaving.      I could feel my heart hurt. I made an angry noise before  throwing my hat and robes across the room, “Whatever, I don’t need her,”  I growled, “I have everything I need right here,” I whispered as I  clutched the mirror in my hands and said the magic words for the final  time tonight. I lay the mirror next to me, it showed his handsome face  as he fell asleep, “Good night,” I whispered to the mirror with tears in  my eyes.

PT3

    I sat in my tower, staring out the window. The tall green trees swayed gently in the wind. The cobblestone path leading from the woods to my tower glistened in the sunlight. The blue sky held a few light, pillowy clouds. My elegant white gown draped over my body, my long white hair sat on my shoulders. I looked at myself in the mirror, my beautiful face smiled back at me with me with wonderfully blue eyes. I placed a gorgeous tiara atop my head. Oh, how I wished for a brave knight to come rescue me from the horrible woman that kept me captive: my mother. My heart skipped a beat as I heard the sound of horse hooves on the cobblestone outside. I rushed back to the window, praying to see my hero! My heart sank.  
It was the last person I wanted to see, Sir Oscar, “Lady Maxine!” A nasaly voice called from the base of my tower, “I am here to rescue you!” 
“Go away Oscar,” I told him, leaving the window. 
“But-- But don’t you want to be rescued?” His gaudy gold and white armor glowed in the sun. 
“Not by you!”  
“I am not leaving until you allow me to rescue you my princess!”  
Another set of hoof beats came thundering down the stone path. A knight in dark grey armor riding a black steed came into view. A brutal axe strapped to his back, a red glow under his mask, and spikes on his pauldrons. He was here, my hero. His horse came to a stop next to Oscar’s. Without a word he removed his helmet, the man of my dreams, the man I saw in my magic mirror. He waved at me. 
“You!” Oscar pointed a stubby, sausage finger at my hero, “I will duel you for the hand of Lady Maxine!” My hero grimace and slowly nodded. He replaced his helm upon his head and drew his softly glowing axe and held it with two hands. It glowed darkness, absorbing the light around it, “Beware, mongrel!” Oscar drew his rapier, “This sword has been passed down for generations! Each welder has slain countless--” My hero cut Oscar down while he monologued and waved his sword around. Oscar fell to the ground and my hero stowed his axe. He looked up at gave me a small wave before rushing inside the tower.  
Within minutes, my hero ascended the stairs and burst through the door to my chambers. He stared at me behind his mask. I slowly approached him and removed his helmet. He looked at me with hazel eyes, “Kiss me, hero,” I whispered with bated breath. He nodded gently and closed his eyes. I went in for the kiss, my heart pounding as I neared him. I closed my eyes and-- 
“Maxine!” A harsh voice shouted. 
“Huh?” I opened my eyes to see my mother standing angrily before me.  
“Maxine!” She said again. 
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
 
    I woke up from my dream with a yelp. I had been face down in my spellbook, “Maxine, you have a date in two hours!” My mother said from behind me. 
    “Eh?” I groaned as I rubbed my eyes. 
    “You need to get ready, Maxine!” She shook me awake. 
    I slowly got up, my robes were wrinkled and covered in soot from failed spell attempts, “Ready... ready for who?” I asked quietly. 
    “You have a date with Sir Oscar! I have been telling you for three days!” My mother was exasperated. 
    “Mmph. I’m going...” I got out of my chair and started waking myself up. 
    “Get ready quickly, please,” My mother walked out of my room. 
    “Yes, Mother,” I looked around and collected myself. I had fallen asleep at my desk, my head resting on a tome. I had books, notes, material components and other various items strewn about the room. I slowly remembered what I had been working on: an entering dreams spell. I had been struggling to combine it with the spell that would allow it to pierce through dimensions. The nuances of the dream related magicks made it difficult to combine it with another spell.  
I shook my head and turned my attention to getting ready for this dinner outing-- I refused to call it a date. My wrinkled, dark robes fit my lithe frame poorly.  I looked at myself in the mirror, my ugly face frowned back at me with green eyes. My disheveled, short black hair rest at the top of my head. I picked up my witch hat and placed it atop my head. I faked a smile at myself. Oh, how I wished for my life to change. I steeled my resolve, I would change my life for the better. 
 
 
    I sat in the bath staring at my hands. They were covered in cuts and burns. I had been trying at this spell for five days straight with almost no breaks. The soot easily washed off my skin thankfully. I was almost glad to be getting out of the house, Oscar would no doubt be taking me into town and closer to my master’s abode. I needed her help, I was nearly tearing my disheveled hair out. I poured a bucket of water over my head after scrubbing my usual soap into it. The soap stung the small cuts all over my hands. I sighed and closed my eyes.  
My imagination wandered to him again. I imagined him coming home from work, wrapping our arms around each other, he sighs as he sees my hands. He sits me down on a comfortable seat and gently applies a healing ointment to my hands. He smiles and speaks quietly to me as I wince and whimper as the ointment works its magic. When he’s done I give him a kiss and lay my head on his lap. He gently runs his fingers through my hair as we tell each other how much we love one another. I fall asleep on his lap and then he moves me to the bed and cuddles with me until we both fall asleep. 
I couldn’t help but smile as I thought about it. There was a pounding on my door, causing me to leave the world I had created within my day dream, “Hello?” I called. 
    “Ma’am do you require anything?” It was Svetlana poking the door open. 
    “A towel, please,” I called. Svetlana never called me ma’am. She was obviously still upset. Svetlana entered and placed a towel on the back of a chair. I wanted to apologize but I had no idea how. Svetlana left the room without so much as looking at me. I sighed and got out of the bath.  
 
    I entered the foyer wearing a dress. I didn’t like dresses very much, the fabric was usually itchy and the way they fit my body was suffocating. My mother was here, unfortunately, “Oh, my little girl looks beautiful!” She put her hands on my cheeks and gave me a large smile, “Makeup could use a little work, but you don’t look like a goth clown so it is an improvement.” 
    I had only done that once. The one time I had enjoyed wearing makeup, “I’m through that phase, Mother,” I lied. 
    “I’m so proud of you, dear. He’s waiting for you outside. Have fun with Sir Oscar, dear! Feel free not to come home tonight!” She waved at me as she pushed me out the door. 
    I faked a smile for her and walked towards Oscar’s horse drawn carriage, “Ah, lady Maxine! You are looking most lovely this evening! I could just kiss you, m’lady!” 
    “Try to kiss me and I will turn you into a frog,” I hissed as his face neared mine.  
    “Ah, playing hard to get again? It only further accentuates your dark beauty!” I said nothing, doing my best not to glare at him. I needed to keep this facade up to keep my mother happy and off my back as I worked to escape from this hell, “Come, madam, your chariot awaits!” He tried to take my hand and help me into the wagon. I yanked my hand away from him, and climbed in on my own. He joined me after motioning to the driver to take off. The wheels rattled on the gravel road, causing the carriage to bounce. Oscar’s awful body smell mixed with his foul spirit energy in this confined space made me want to vomit. I threw the window open and stuck my head out it. I would be teleporting home for sure. I fished around in my magic bag for the mirror, “Have I ever told you about my family heritage?” Oscar asked.  
It didn’t matter what I said next, he would tell me either way, “No,” I lied. 
“Well, I come from a long line of jewelers from the desert land of...” Oscar started rattling on about his family. Oscar cared about few things, his titles, his wealth, and his pedigree. I knew he saw me as nothing more than a trophy. A powerful witch from a powerful, wealthy family, I’m sure the thought of marrying someone of that status was all that drove him. 
While he was speaking, I whispered the magic words to the mirror. I wanted-- no, needed to see him, my future husband! Just seeing him and daydreaming about him helped keep me sane in less than desirable company. He was eating lunch by himself at that moment. Meat and cheese between two slices of bread. He held his small glowing device in one hand and the food in the other. I imagined sitting across from him at that small table, a feast before us, playing footsie under the table and enjoying each other's company 
“...do you think about that?” My ears perked up as Oscar asked me a question. 
“Oh, uh, very interesting,” I guessed where he was in the story. 
“I’m glad you think so! Anyways, that's when my great, great, great grandfather got ahold of a magic goldsmithing set and he...” I stopped listening to him again and acted like I was fixing my hair. 
“Where are we headed?” I interrupted him. 
“An outing to our favorite restaurant, of course! The Hungry Sea Bird!” Oscar told me proudly. It was an expensive sea-food restaurant. He only thought it was good as a way to flaunt his family’s wealth. The food was not very good, but I did enjoy the crab and stuffed salmon. 
 
We sat across from each other at the restaurant in a secluded corner. The table was lit with candles and a small band somewhere in the restaurant completed the hokey atmosphere. A waiter poured us both a glass of white wine as we looked over the simplistic menus. I already knew what I wanted, but I felt the need to humor Oscar. I took a sip of wine and set the menu down, “How are you feeling today?” Oscar asked. 
I had just shut my best friend out of my life. I was spending a dinner with a man I felt disdain for. I hated myself. The one thing that kept me going was in another world, “Fine.” 
“What have you been working on recently?” 
I had been killing myself trying to teleport myself to my true love, “Just the usual teleportation spells, illusion spells and divinations.” 
“Illusions?” He feigned interest. 
    You ask me about the most mundane of the three schools that I focus on? “Uhuh. Illusions. Oh, here’s the waiter,” I changed subjects quickly, I was not keen on discussing magic with him. 
    “What can I get for the two of you?” The harpy asked. 
    “I will have the halibut. M’lady here will have the scallops, please,” Oscar ordered for the two of us. 
    I coughed, “Actually, the crab and stuffed salmon for me, please.” 
    “Of course, ma’am. I’ll have that out for you both quickly,” The waiter left quickly. 
    I caught a small scowl from Oscar out of the corner of my eye. I ignored it and returned to staring at the mirror. We sat in silence for a time before he spoke up, “Is something wrong, my sweet? You seem very distracted this evening.” 
    I looked up at him, “I am a very busy woman. I have a lot on my mind,” I was thinking the dream spell over in my head. I needed to research sleep-aiding items.  
“Alright...” He looked annoyed. I pulled out a few sheets of parchment and wrote down a few notes in usual arcane script. Oscar was trying to sneak a peek at my writing without me noticing. I ignored him; a person who does not use magic would have no way of deciphering my script. As the food was delivered to our table I put the parchments away. Oscar immediately began eating, slurping and chomping loudly. It was sickening and made it very difficult for me to begin eating. I dug my claws into my knees to try and keep some semblance of composure. When he finally slowed down, I allowed myself to eat. The food was acceptable.  
 
We finished eating, “That was a wonderful meal!” Oscar said loudly. 
“Mhm,” I feigned agreement. 
“Lady Maxine, would you care to accompany me home?” He was trying to be seductive. I wanted to vomit. 
“No, I have some errands to take care of,” I quickly told him. 
“A-are you sure?” 
“Yes. Very sure.” I stood up and procured my wand from my bag.  
“Lady Maxine--” 
“Goodbye,” I quickly waved my wand and teleported away. 
 
I teleported into the backyard of the magic shop in town. I took my heels off and dashed across town in my dress. The cold air of the evening bit at my skin. Not many people were out, thankfully. I dodged guards and shoop keeps shutting down their stalls. There was only one person I wanted to talk to right now. I arrived at the tower on the outskirts of the city. I slowed down as I entered the garden, my feet were covered in cuts and bruises from my run. I looked at the familiar flowers and mushrooms as I hopped across the stone path. I reached out to use the knocker when the heavy door was suddenly thrown open. My master stood before me in her usual purple wizard garb. Her purple hair was down by her shoulders. I looked up at her, a disheveled, shivering mess. Without a word she pulled me inside and sat me down at a small table. A cup of tea was set before me as my master sat across from me with a cup in front of herself. 
“I don’t like him,” I told her quietly. 
    “Oscar?” She nodded as she stirred her tea.  
    “Yes.” 
    “I understand, Maxine,” She paused, “Do you think going against your mother’s wishes is wise?” 
    “No. That will not stop me,” I picked at my hands. 
    “And I cannot stop you either, I’m sure,” She laughed. She stopped and turned serious, “I have been very worried about you recently, Maxine. You have not been taking care of yourself.” 
    “I do not care about my health. I only care about him.” 
    “I know, dear,” She frowned at me, “Please look after yourself.” 
“I can sleep once I get the spell finished,” I grumbled.  
She sighed and set the stirring spoon down, “Weresheep wool.” 
“What?” 
“Add weresheep wool to your components. It was so disheartening watching you work missing just one component. If you hurry you might be able to get the spell finished tonight,” She produced a small tuft of wool from her robes.  
I had tears in my eyes as I took the wool from her, “Thank you.” 
“Finish your tea and I will teleport you home,” Her soothing voice helped calm me down, “You still have a lot to learn as a witch.” 
I nodded in agreement as I brought the cup to my lips, “I struggle to learn any spells outside of my specialty.” 
“Don’t beat yourself up about it. You almost had it!” She smiled at me before taking a sip of tea.  
“Almost doesn’t get results.” 
“Maxine, do you remember what I always told you during training?” 
“You really like the sunrise in the morning?” I joked. We both laughed quietly, “Good witches have a plan for everything.” 
“You need to have a plan for that almost, Maxine, and everything else in your life.” 
I thought for a few moments, “Do you have a plan for everything?” 
“Almost everything,” She laughed, “I don’t have a plan for you turning on me or the old monster lord returning.” 
“I pray neither of those happen,” I mumbled before taking a sip of tea. 
 
    As the teleportation ended, I found myself in my room. I kept forgetting how powerful my master was. I immediately got to work. I didn’t bother changing out of the dress and into my robes. I lit incense and took a deep breath. My heart raced as I began the process. I needed to calm down, being too emotional could mess up the spell. Any shakiness could cause a slip and ruin the spells hand motions. I worked slowly, trying to keep myself calm. I breathed in the incense, attempting to let the calming and focus enhancing effects take over. It didn’t work. I contemplated trying this tomorrow, taking a break and relaxing until tomorrow evening, “No,” I whispered to myself, “I need this,” I remembered what my master had told me. Have a plan. I ran out of the room and headed to my father’s office. I threw the door open. My father, startled, dropped his glasses and writing utensil. I panted, “H-how are you?” 
    He laughed, “Fine, fine. Are you alright?”  
    “Yes. Can you add weresheep wool onto tomorrow’s order?” 
    “When did I turn into the quartermaster around here?” He asked himself, “I can tell this is important to you, Maxine. I’ll send out a note immediately. Get some sleep, kid.” 
    “Thank you,” I closed the door and dashed back to my room. I threw the door open and took the stairs three at a time. I grabbed my staff from where it was leaning against the wall. I still could hardly contain my excitement. I lit another stick of incense. The smoke from both of them filled the room. I was rested, focused, and fed, this was the perfect time to try this. I began prepping material components. Magical herbs, gems, the carcass of an enchanted insect and the wool went into the pot. I waved my hand over the container as I whispered the magic words. I felt the usual arcane energy in the air pick up as I neared the end of the casting. It was not as exhilarating this evening, perhaps it was because I was not in my robes or I was more concentrated on speaking to him. I readied myself as I said the final words of the spell. I expected another explosion to tear my flesh and cover me in soot. I opened my eyes to watch the components burn up in their container. A grey, soft looking, puff of smoke rose out of the bowl. I quickly stuck my head into it and inhaled as much of the cloud as I could. I quickly jumped onto my bed and closed my eyes. As anxiety, happiness and a newfound exhaustion fought to take control of my body, I thought back to what Svetlana had asked me, how was I going to introduce myself? I didn’t have much time to think about it before the exhaustion overtook me. 
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
 
    I opened my eyes and looked down at myself. I was standing in my usual robes with my staff in hand. This was how I imagined myself, so this was how I appeared in the dreamscape. I was in a grassy field, the sky was a wonderful blue and the petals of the flowers were a bright yellow. I scanned the horizon, trying to find my man. I walked to the top of a nearby hill, the long grass tickling my legs. I found my target as I neared the top, a small wooden house on stilts stood atop a small mound about half a mile away. I waved my staff in the air, teleporting myself to the front door of this abode. I was thankful that magic could still be used in the dreamscape at no material cost. I used my staff to tap on the door producing a satisfyingly loud noise. I stood patiently, restraining myself from barging in and risking startling him. Telling time in the realm of dreams was incredibly difficult but after what I perceived as five minutes, I forced the door open with a spell. The door swung open slowly with a loud creaking noise. I slowly entered the sunlit building to see a one room arrangement. One side had kitchen amenities and a small table, there was a computer sitting alone at a desk, a couch staring at a wall computer and a bed along the wall close to me. He was lying on the bed, his eyes fixated on the wood of the ceiling. 
    I took my hat off an sat it on a small nearby table. Without hesitation, I climbed up onto the small bed with him, resting my head on his chest. He was a good half a foot taller than me, not that I minded. I had him, he was mine, mine forever! He hardly moved as he breathed steadily, his gaze still on the ceiling. I sat up and straddled him. My ears twitched as I remembered the instructions found within the tome; I had to figure out a command word to get him into a lucid state. I struggled to keep my hands from removing his handsome collared shirt and black dress pants. I ran my fingers through his short black hair, desperately wishing I could actually feel his warmth on my skin. As I tried to decide on what word to try first, I got distracted just by looking at him. Without a second thought, I rubbed my cheek against his, something I used to see Mother doing to Father. I sort of understood it, placing my natural mana upon him as a way of marking him as mine. I finished rubbing my face against him, a feeling of ecstasy washing over me. I purred loudly, a giant smile on my face. I looked down at my man, reaching to touch his handsome face. He blinked at me, hazel eyes fixated on my own.  
    He had a confused look on his face. I gave him a shy smile, “H-hello,” I wanted to slap myself. I had so much I wanted to say to him, and that was all I could stammer out? 
    “Hi,” He said quietly using his not often used voice. It was music to my ears.  
    “How... Are you today?” I had no idea what I was doing.  
    “I’m fine, thank you,” He was lying, “Who are you?” 
    I did have a plan for this question at least, I hopped off of him and put my hat upon my head once more, “I am Maxine the magnificent!” I told him, pounding my staff against the floor creating an illusion of a band of trumpets blare and a bucket of sparkling confetti rain from the ceiling. I gave him a slight bow. He stared at me, dumbfounded. I approached him and sat at the foot of the bed. 
    “You’re... a wizard?” He asked me suspiciously. 
    “I prefer the term ‘witch,’ thank you very much,” I removed my hat, held it in my hands and wrung the cloth nervously. Any semblance of confidence I had was entirely fabricated. He shook himself and pinched his arm. He frowned, “Is something amiss?” I asked. 
    “Well, Maxine, was it?” I nodded, “This isn’t real.” 
“We may be within a dream, but I     can assure you, I am as real as you are!” 
He shook his head, “Why would such a cute girl want to bother with me?” His tone turned dark and he looked down at the floor.  
After my original elation ceased from calling me cute, I felt a sadness within me. I moved quickly, dashing onto his lap. I sat face to face with him my legs and arms all wrapped around him. He looked up at me, sadness in his eyes, “I have had my eye on you for some time. I want to bother with you.” 
“What do you mean by that, having your eyes on me?” 
“I have used an item of my own creation to pierce through the walls between our realms and scry you, watching you as you go through your day.” 
“That sounds really stalker-like,” He mumbled, looking away from me.  
“I apologize, where I come from there are very few eligible bachelors. I hope you can forgive me.” 
“So, you’re from another world?” 
“Yes,” I silently begged him to believe me, unfortunately he didn’t, “Is there some way I can prove any of this to you?” He shrugged slowly, “I understand,” I sighed sadly before placing my head on his shoulder, “Can I know your name, at least?” 
“Uh, yeah, its Richard.” “Richard,” I repeated, “I like that name,” I turned around and  placed my back against his chest, my head resting under his chin, “Thank  you, Richard,” He said nothing, instead wrapping his arms around my  stomach. It was a bittersweet feeling, really. I looked up at Richard  sitting behind me, the sadness on his face made my heart ache. I wanted  to make him happy more than anything, but from our current situation, I  could do nothing. I closed my watery eyes and waited for the dream to  end in silence.

PT4

    I awoke in the morning before the rooster greeted the morning sun. I slowly remembered the previous night’s conversation with Richard and quickly remembered why I wanted to die. I sat up in bed put my head in my hands. Where had I gone so wrong in my life? All I wanted was to settle down with a man, a man who had just shrugged me off as merely a dream. Nothing was going right in my life. I changed to a seated position where I was hugging my knees under my chin. As I drifted off into dark thoughts, my door was slowly opened at the top of the stairs. I was quick to recognize the clack of her talons, Svetlana. Had she come to ridicule me, I wondered as I sulked. She stopped at the bottom of the stairs and looked at me, “You’re up early, ma’am,” She said curtly. 
    I had come up with plans to apologize to her in a clear concise manner. I threw all those ideas out the window in an instant as emotions overcame me, “I’m sorry,” I mewled. 
    “Hm?” Svetlana looked up at me, confusion on her face. 
    “I don’t want to be like my mother anymore and hurt those around me to get what I want!” I cried. 
    “Max,” Svetlana sighed, “I forgive you.” 
    I jumped up from bed, ran over to her and threw my arms around her, “Th-thank you,” I mumbled through tears. 
 “I ask you to recite the promise that you made years ago as to remind yourself,” She ordered. 
 “I, Maxine Emerald Hamilton, promise to you, my friend Svetlana, that I will do everything in my power as to not hurt those around me whether it be through my words, through my actions, or through my arcane powers.” I choked out, reciting a promise from over 12 years ago after I nearly blew up her father. Admittedly, it was a string of incidents, that one being the most major. This was also not the first time I had to recite it again. 
“Good. I pray that you will keep your word this time.” 
I nodded through the tears. When I finally calmed down, I decided to tell her everything, “I spoke to him last night, my future husband.” 
    Svetlana pulled away from me and looked at me with sparkles in her eyes, “You did!? How was it!?” She was nearly shouting. 
    I felt bad telling her the truth, “Awful.” 
    “What?” She looked at me in disbelief. 
    “He was as handsome as I expected him to be, but he could not believe that I was real.” 
    “Maxine, as I have said before, you will figure something out,” Her support despite me being an ass in the past made me smile. 
    “I think I should stop chasing him, Svetlana,” I admitted. 
    She gasped, “Who are you? That is not the Maxine I know. Giving up is not like you.” 
    “But--” 
    “I know no other person that would stay up for 48 hours to work on one task without eating, sleeping or any sort of break.” 
    I chuckled, “Thank you for believing in me, Svetlana.” 
    “Of course. You are my best friend after all,” She gave me a quick hug before returning to her work. 
    “Do you wish to borrow the mirror for today?” 
    “You mean, take it with me today?” She asked in disbelief. 
    “Yes. I do not want it to distract me today. Think of it as an extra apology from me. Soon I should have an item that will allow you to enter his dreams.” 
    She regained her composure and took the mirror from me gently, “Thank you, Maxine. I will take good care of it. Do you have any dishes or clothing hiding in your room for me to take upstairs?” 
    “You bet I do!” I laughed as I pulled clothes out from under my bed. 
 
    I sat down in the dining room with notes spread out in front of me. Svetlana brought me a bowl of stew and took a seat next to me, “I wish I could decipher your work.” 
    “Mhm. Thank you for the food, friend,” I took a break from my notes to eat, “Are you sure you have completed all of your work?” 
    “Yes, I just need to bring the laundry inside in a few hours.” 
    “Excellent. Any more ideas on how to prove we are real to our future husbands?” I asked between spoonfuls. 
    “Besides the risque paintings?” 
I laughed, “You really like the plan where we teleport lewd paintings of ourselves to them while they sleep. Any other ideas?” 
“Not really, Max. I know little of your magics. Besides, we don’t even know if my future husband will not believe me.” 
    “Perhaps your man will not have self esteem problems and will just fall right into your arms,” I sighed sadly, “I worry about him, Svetlana.” 
    “You will have him in your arms soon, Max,” Svetlana looked into the mirror. She swooned over her man silently as I wrote more notes. I was trying to decide what artist I should commision for the risque paintings of ourselves. It was so romantic! I believe that’s part of how my parents got together. I would bet good money that Father still has that painting mother painted herself stashed somewhere, I wouldn’t dare ask him about it. 
    “What are you two working on?” Eliza had snuck in and sat across from us at the table while we were distracted.  
    “How do you make a man love you?” I asked her before Svetlana could sell us out.  
    “Doesn’t Oscar already--” 
    “That SWINE does not love me,” I hissed, interrupting my big sister, “He has ulterior motives, sister, it is plain on his-- his fat face!” 
    “Maxine you don’t know why Mother and Father wish for you to marry Oscar, do you?” Eliza asked me. I shook my head, still fuming at just the thought of him, “Mother and Father were quite poor when they were young. Mother managed to pull herself and her childhood sweetheart out of poverty through hard work and sacrifices. As I am the one to inherit the business when she is ready to step down, she wishes for you to marry rich so you do not need to suffer like they did. Mother just wants what she considers the best for you,” She explained gently. 
    “What she considers best for me will only cause me suffering as Oscar gets what he wants from me and then casts me aside like last night’s meal,” I seethed. 
    “Where are you going to find another man, Maxine?” Eliza demanded. 
    I held out my hand to Svetlana who immediately handed me the mirror, “Show me my love,” I told the mirror. I took a look at Richard. He had not gotten up from his bed, he was lying on his back staring at the ceiling with a pained look on his face. I could not help but think I may have brought this upon him. 
    “What is it?” My sister asked with a smug look. I slid the mirror across the table for her to see. She picked it up and looked at Richard then at me. I stared at her with a guilt stricken face, “He looks perfect for you,” She told me gently. I returned the smile, feeling a little better. “Do you have a man in your sights as well, Svetlana?” 
    “Yes ma’am,” She nodded. 
    “I will be honest, I cannot help you two. I can see from your face that you do truly care for him, Maxine. You’ll figure something out, little sister,” She gave me another smile, “Can I get a little bit of whatever my sister is having, Svetlana?”  
    “Of course, one moment, ma’am,” Svetlana dashed into the kitchen. 
    “Are you going to teleport there before the official portals open?” My sister asked me. 
    “Yes, I am. Svetlana and I are working towards a personal portal,” I told her as I returned to my notes. 
    “I remember when you, Svetlana and I would get up to all kinds of trouble. Especially when you awoke to your magic! Pranking Mother and Father with illusions and setting runes to shower a passerby in flour. What happened to all of that, Maxine?” 
    “What do you mean?”  
    “Us spending time together, Maxine. All you do is study and all I do is work. I miss goofing off with you.” 
    I sighed and looked up at her, “Perhaps when we get to the other world we can go on triple dates with our new husbands?” She nodded and looked dreamily up towards the ceiling, “Do you wish to use the mirror to see your potential husband?” I asked her. 
    Surprisingly, she shook her head, “Searching for him is part of the adventure.” 
    “Easy for you to say, you could walk up to any single man you see and seduce him with a simple greeting,” I grumbled, “You would have such beautiful daughters.” 
    “What about a son?” She mused. I gave her a confused look and began to speak but not before Eliza talked over me, “When we go to the new world, we should be able to have human sons as well,” I was shocked, I had never heard anything about this, “How many children do you want?” 
    “I-- I had only dreamed of having one child, a daughter to pass my abilities onto. But a son? Could I teach him magic as well? Could he awaken to magical abilities?” My brain was running on overdrive at the sudden revelation. 
    “No idea, Maxine. You should have a son and find out,” she teased. 
    “Maybe you should have a son and he can be born with an affinity to magic. I could teach him.” 
    Svetlana returned with a fresh bowl of stew for my sister, “I apologize, that took longer than expected, Eliza.” 
    “Do not worry, Svetlana. I am not an impatient cat... unlike someone here,” She gave me a mischievous smile. 
    “Sometimes I forget you are years older than Maxine on account of your constant teasing,” Svetlana smiled and shook her head. 
    I rushed to change the subject, “Give us some ideas, Eliza. We wish to prove to our future husbands that despite only appearing in their dreams, we are real.” 
    “Our current plan is to use a weaker teleportation spell to send them risque paintings of ourselves,” Svetlana was quick to add proudly. 
    Eliza laughed, “I suppose that is one way. Allow me an evening or two to come up with ideas for you.” 
“Thank you, Eliza. If you require me, I shall be in my room. Come if you wish, friend,” I nodded to Svetlana as I collected my notes. 
“I will be there soon,” She replied as she collected the dishes. 
“Oh, Father told me that an item came in on today’s order for you, dear sister. He should be holding it in his office,” Eliza told me as she left. 
 
I did as she instructed and headed for my father’s office. Usually, my orders were simply sent to my room. I was curious what my father wished to speak to me about. I slowly opened the door to his office. My father was going over ledgers, truly an exhilarating life, “Father,” I greeted. 
“Good... afternoon? It is past noon, right?” He was genuinely confused. 
“Yes, it is past noon,” I confirmed, “I assume you are holding my order here as an excuse to speak to me.” 
“Astute as always, dear. Are you still chasing that mirror man?” He cut to the point. 
“Yes, I am. I spoke to him last night, Father.” 
“What do you plan to do about Sir Oscar?” He asked. 
I scoffed, “I want nothing to do with him. I do not care if it upsets Mother. Let her wrath come, my love will allow me to prevail.”  
My father smiled, “Alright, dear. I’ll continue to keep your secret from her. I know you said weresheep wool, but all I could obtain in such a short notice was a weresheep wool blanket. I hope it is suitable,” He told me regrettably. 
As I took the blanket from him my mind raced with how to enchant it with a sleep related spell, “Thank you, it is perfect. I will speak to you again at dinner,” I brought the wool close to me as I examined its cream colored surface. I suddenly sneezed violently causing a paper to fall off the desk. I shook myself, took a bow and left the office. 
 
Svetlana and I looked at the tome related to the human world that had been loaned to me by the lich. I had told her about the conversation I had with Eliza in private. Returning to the text, Svetlana and I were bewildered by the information contained within the text, “No monsters?” Svetlana breathed. 
“No humans using magic at all despite it being much easier to hold onto your natural mana for a third of your life. Very strange,” I thought aloud, “Perhaps they merely require training?” 
“I know nothing of magic, Max. Perhaps you should perform further study when we go there?” 
I shrugged, “I am not very interested in the topic, to be frank. I will most likely perform tests on my hubby and nothing more.” 
“Hubby? You have only spoken to him once!” She laughed at me. 
    “Don’t make fun of me,” I demanded, “Or should I bring up the baby noises you make into the mirror when you think I cannot hear you!” 
    “L-let us return to reading, Max. No need to dredge th-that up,” I gave her a smug grin before going back to reading. We read about the reliance on technology, powerful computers, entertainment focused televisions and handheld phones. The information was provided in ways we could understand with minimal jargon. All information that was skipped over or they did not have enough information on, the book stated, ‘ask your future husband!’ Not a terrible idea, who else to inform me on this ‘internet’ than someone who has actually used it before.  
We read about the dangers of this world, powerful vehicles and firearms specifically. Both will be disabled when monsters cross the threshold into the other world, but Svetlana and I going early will most likely deal with both in some capacity, “I am excited to ride in a car,” Svetlana told me. 
“Sounds nauseating. I would rather teleport,” I felt queasy just thinking about the intense speeds a car could reach, “Do you wish to enter his dreams tonight?” 
She shook her head, “I believe Eliza is right. The thrill of the hunt and meeting him in person is what I desire. Seeing him in my dream will most likely only increase my hunger and lust for him.” 
“Fair enough, friend. I will increase my pace on the creation of the teleportation spell. The only barrier in my way now is to get Richard to draw a teleportation circle for us in that world,” I explained.  
“Make sure you get enough rest and food,” Svetlana said with a stern tone. 
I laughed, “Hell no.” 
 
------------------------------------------------------------------------ 
 
    I returned to the dreamscape that night using the same spell. The spell was much easier once being casted once. I was able to trim down the casting time and cost by removing unnecessary words and components. I hadn’t had time to transfer the spell into the wool blanket, that was a project for the morning.  
    I hesitantly opened my eyes to take in the surrounding dreamscape, I was inside the house from last night judging from the walls and windows. I was lying on my side staring at the walls, trying to get up, I was forced back into that position. I looked behind me to see that Richard was holding me from behind in a spooning position. I managed to push his arms off of me for just long enough to face him. I reached up and wrapped my arms around his neck before rubbing my cheek against his. I purred loudly as he woke up, “Good evening,” I smiled.  
    “Hey!” He smiled back at me, causing my heart to flutter. 
    “How was work today?” I already knew the answer. 
    “I thought about you a lot today. Oh, I didn’t work today,” He took my hat off of me and set it aside, “Why don’t your cute cat ears poke through your hat? It would be adorable.” 
    “I-- I can change that! As soon as I wake up, I will ask Svetlana to do that.” 
    “Oh? Another dream woman?” He chuckled at himself. 
    “One of the kikimoras that live with my family. Ah, I forgot your world does not have monsters.” 
    “Wait, you’re a monster? Like, monster girl?” I was surprised to hear him say that. 
    “Y-yes, I am a monster girl. How do you know about that?” He looked like he was about to say something but stopped himself, “Richard? You can tell me anything, darling.” 
    “Nothing, nothing,” The sad look returned to his face. 
    “Please don’t be sad, Richard,” I squeezed him in a hug.  
    “I’ll try. The thing I was going to say earlier is that some women were changed into monster girls a while ago. At least that’s what they called themselves.” 
    “Ah, I read about the tests that were performed years prior when the sabbath tried to communicate with your world. Some demonic energy must have leaked through and monsterized them. Thank you for being willing to share with me, darling,” I climbed up on him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. 
    He looked at me with a smile before suddenly shifting to a frown, “I’m falling for someone that doesn’t exist,” He groaned sadly.  
    “I have already fallen for your handsome face.” 
    He gave me a weak smile before sitting up on the bed, “If you are real, Maxine, then why me? What do you see in me?” 
    I sat up next to him, “I see a smart, gentle, hardworking, handsome man that needs me just as much as I need him.” 
    “You like that I’m broken and hurting?” 
    “I’m just as broken and hurting,” I put a hand on his shoulder, “I love you and wish to help you in being happy.” 
    He looked like he wanted to cry, I probably did too, “Please, prove to me you’re real. Please,” he begged as he choked back tears. 
    “I will. I need a few days to prepare a spell to send an item to you. I promise I will visit you every night until then, alright?” I knew that tears were rolling down my face. 
    “O-okay. Don’t force yourself, okay?” 
“I will try, darling. You take care of yourself too,” I pointed at him. 
“I will,” We hugged each other tight for a time.  
We both calmed down enough to laugh at each other, laughing off how sad we both were and simply stared into the other’s eyes with smiles on our faces. He gently placed a hand on the top of my head. Instinctively, I pushed my head deeper into his palm, desperate to actually feel his hand upon me. He chuckled at me, placing his other hand under my chin, “Stop,” I moaned. Richard did as I asked, even if I hadn’t actually wanted to. I took a moment to collect myself and looked about the room, I realised that the home had expanded as we were on the second floor now. This room was populated only by bed and a desk with a chair, “Where are we, Richard?” 
“A house that I like to daydream about when I’m bored. I was daydreaming about us sharing a house together yesterday and had to make the house bigger to accommodate the two of us.” He explained as his face got red. 
I giggled, “You’re cute when you’re embarrassed,” Richard stammered and mumbled, unable to respond, “Anyways, I need a favor from you.” 
“What is it?” He was eager to help me. 
“I require your aid in my teleportation to your world. I should be able to send you a diagram of the runes you will need to place for me. Do you think you could do that for me?” 
“Sounds easy enough,” He nodded, “Should I do it inside my house or outback?”  
“Outside, rocks and trees take to runes very well. I will send you the chalk to write it in as well,” I made mental notes to myself. As I was deep in my own thoughts, Richard leaned over and placed his head in my lap. He looked up at me with his hazel eyes, the dark bags under his eyes showed me how tired he was. I ran my fingers through his hair as he smiled weakly at me, “Rest well, darling,” I whispered. 
 
------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
 
    I jumped up from bed with a smile on my face. I was making progress with Richard and I couldn’t wait to speak with him again. I pulled back the curtains to the outside world, the sun was not up yet. I needed a plan for the day, I had a lot to prepare for. It was too early for me to ask my mother to break out her old hobby, I needed a cuter set of robes for when I meet Richard in person. I had a teleportation spell to research as well as enchanting the wool blanket. I chuckled at myself, would my life completely revolve around my husband from now on? Perhaps I would finally be able to sell magic trinkets like I wanted to when I was young, a small shop where I put on an act and present myself as some grand wizard as I sell odd curiosities and magic items. My door opened and Svetlana came down the stairs, “Good morning, Maxine,” She carried a basket of freshly cleaned clothes with her, “You are looking quite chipper this morning.” 
    “I spoke to Richard again, we had a nice conversation,” I spun around, picked up my staff and struck a pose, “Do you think you could aid me with something?” 
    I presented one of my few wizard hats, “Do you need it washed?” Svetlana asked. 
    “Richard told me it would be cute if my ears poked through the sides of my hat.” 
    “I can try... you know, my mother is the one that is proficient in sowing.” 
    “Yes, yes, I know. I assumed she would be busy today tending to my mother.” 
    “You should speak our mothers about that anyways. Oh, let me take your sheets, they reek of incense.” 
    “Mmph, fine.” 
 
    I hesitated before walking to my mother’s office. I was not keen on seeing her in an unhappy mood, as she usually seemed to be in. The long, imposing hallway was lined with magic lights, doors, paintings of our family, ancient tapestries of various historical events and vases and busts sitting atop marble pillars. I slowly made my way down the silent hallway, the paintings and busts judging me and my dress as I went. My heart pounded louder and louder as I neared the door. I did not wander down this way often. I made it to the imposing oak doors and warily moved my hand towards the brass knob. I could hear nothing beyond the doors. I took a deep breath and turned the knob. I poked my head inside, she was in the middle of a meeting. A stuttering tanuki stood across from my mother at her heavy oaken desk, flanked by two of the estate guards. “You wish for our new business venture to take off, yes?” My mother asked in a cold, demanding tone. 
    “O-of course, Mrs. Hamilton,” The tanuki stammered. 
    “Then you will take the 30 percent cut.” 
    “B-but--” 
    My mother held up a hand silencing her, “The Hamilton family name means quality, remember? A quality that all buyers look for on any jewelry, weaponry, tools, clothing, food... The larger cut is so we can uphold the brand that will most definitely boost business in your new construction company. Do I make myself clear?” She hissed, her icey blue eyes staring daggers into the poor woman. Nothing on this side of the country would sell unless it bore the Hamilton family branding. This was simply another bullying session as my mother acquired another business venture. 
    “Yes ma’am,” The tanuki looked at the floor, defeated. 
    “Excellent!” My mother smiled and presented a sheet of parchment, “Sign here, please,” Her face was that of enthusiasm but her tone betrayed her devilish intent. Without a word the woman did as she demanded, signing most of her livelihood away to my family, “Good, good. Would you please escort our guest out?” She asked the guards as she filed away the parchment. They nodded to her and led the tearful tanuki out of the room. I ducked out of the way and hid behind a vase as to not get involved. As soon as they were halfway down the hall, I slipped into the room. 
“Mother?” I called as I entered apprehensively. 
    “Maxine?” She looked up from her work as I entered, “What do I owe the honor of my beloved daughter visiting me?” Her mood had completely changed, thankfully. 
    “Am I interrupting your work?” 
    “Of course not, dear, can I help you?” She smiled, the ears atop her gorgeous, curling white hair twitched as she spoke and her tail waved gently in the air behind her. 
    “I was wondering if you would be willing to delve into your old hobby,” I asked meekly. 
    “Oh? My designer days? Why do you wish for me to dredge that up?” She looked at me with an amused smile. 
    “I have need of a beautiful outfit that still evokes the spirit of the magic within me,” I explained. 
    “A cute witches outfit? Lord, I wish you would have asked sooner. I will ask my old partners in crime to aid me,” She was overjoyed. 
    I gave her a slight bow, “Thank you Mother. Please do not let this take priority over your duties.” 
    “All the trade deals in the world would not keep me from working on this. Do you require any touches that scream... ‘Maxine?’” 
“Only that the witch's hat have holes for my ears to poke through on the top,” She looked at me with a curious look, “It was specifically requested, he said it would look, uhm, cute,” I blushed. 
“Ah! This is a project requested by your courter! I will double my efforts, darling. Do not worry, it is in good hands,” Her eyes sparkled, keen on the idea of using her hands for something other than countless business ledgers. 
“Again, thank you. If you have any questions or require my aid, do not hesitate to summon me,” I gave her a bow and left the room. I took my heels off and moved quickly down the hallway, eager to get away from the prying eyes of the art pieces. 
 
It was late and I was ready to sleep. I had the blanket sat before me surrounded by magical candles burning in dark purple flames. I slowly spoke magic words as I attempted to enchant the blanket. Compared to the mirror project, this one’s time had only been four hours as it was a much easier spell to put into an item. Dream magic seemed to go well with enchantments and weresheep wool took to dream magic just as well. I paused my casting and inhaled the incense burning around me. I returned to moving my hands over the item, my spellbooks and the container of magical ingredients. My expensive components shimmered as the magical energy in the air flowed freely throughout the room. My hair blew gently in the arcane breeze, my loose robes billowed and the curtains shook as the spell neared completion.  As my calm magical words neared the finish, my heart began to beat  faster. I could hardly keep my thoughts from Richard. I was unprepared  to sneeze suddenly. My eyes shot open just in time to watch all of the  components burn up in a flash-- including the blanket, “No!” I shouted,  unable to bring the blanket back to me. I jumped up, grabbing my staff  as I hurried to act. I waved my staff above my head, praying the magic  shop was still open. As I began the casting, my body grew weary. I was  out of mana. I fell to my knees and caught my breath. I couldn’t  teleport, had no potions to aid me in my plight and could do nothing to  uphold my promise to Richard. I sat up, distressed at the fact I was  disappointing him, “Such a stupid mistake,” I growled wearily. I dragged  myself to my bed with tears in my eyes. I hugged my pillow to feel some  sort of fleeting comfort. While praying that I would be sent to the  dreamscape, I cried myself asleep slowly, distressed by the fact that I  had broken another promise to someone. This feeling worsened as I  thought of Richard and how disappointed with me he would be.

PT5

    I woke up in a field, similar to the one from Richard’s dreams. The grass was dying, the flowers were wilting and the sky was a dark grey from overhead clouds. I sprang up from where I lie in a patch of dirt, brushing off my robes. I picked up my hat and placed it on top of my head. I frowned as I scanned the black horizon. I spotted Richard’s dream house from where I stood. I waved my staff to teleport to the front door, anxious to see what was going on. After the winds of magic carried me to the front door, I quickly reached for the door handle with my heart pounding in my chest. As I turned the handle and twisted it, the weak, rotted wood finally let go of the dingy brass handle. I looked around, the paint was peeling off of every surface, the windows were smashed and the pillars holding up the house looked like they might snap at any moment. I threw myself at the door, attempting to bash it in. I bounced off and fell down the stairs before the door as the wooden door as it creaked and moaned along with the rest of the poorly maintained house. 
    I pushed myself out of the mud with a quick motion. I tore off my now dirty robes and stomped back up the stairs. My foot went straight through the rotted planks near the top. I groaned, thankful I could not feel pain within the dreamscape. Once again, I threw my shoulder into the door. This time I plowed straight through it. I fell to the grimey floor, a cloud of dust being blown around the room. I got up and dusted off my underclothes, “Richard?” I called. No response. I quickly looked around the first floor, the normal computer and the wall computer were both smashed. The kitchen was in disarray, the dining table was thrown to the side, the oven and fridge were both missing their doors and most of the cabinets were pulled off the wall. 
    Richard was not here. I ran to the other side of the house, throwing the door to the stairs open. I shouted again, “Richard!?” I was getting more anxious by the moment. I moved quickly and lightly up the stairs, praying to not fall through the stairs. I found myself in the upstairs bedroom, the bed was overturned and the nightstand had been thrown through the window. Richard sat in the middle of the room, “Richard?” I asked quietly, fearing the worst. 
    “Why, Maxine?” He wheezed. 
    “D-darling, I--” 
    “How could you do this to me?” 
    “I’m sorry! It was an accident!” I cried, falling to my knees. 
    He stood and faced me, his eyes replaced with dark void, “I am so disappointed you would break a promise to me so quickly.” 
    “Richard, please!” Tears poured from my eyes as he once again turned away from me. 
    “Leave me be, Maxine,” He demanded softly. 
    “I-- I--” I stammered, unsure of what to say. 
    Another softer voice called out to me, “Max! Max!” I blinked quickly, watching the nightmare around me disappear, “Wake up!” The voice called again. 
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
 
    I was shaken awake by a deeply concerned Svetlana, “Max? Max?” She shook me more vigorously. 
    “I’m sorry!” I screamed, weakly trying to push her off of me. 
    “Oh, thank the gods. Are you alright? What happened?” She sat me up on the bed and put an arm around me. 
    I dried my eyes with the sheets as I tried to recall what happened. As I remembered, the feeling of self loathing deep within my heart sprang forth bringing back dark emotions. I went limp and broke down into tears again, “I made a huge mistake!” I wailed. 
    “What? Did he hurt you!?” She seethed as she picked me back up, ready to take up a torch and pitchfork in my name. 
    “I hurt him,” I said quietly. 
    She paused, “Maxine, what happened?” Svetlana laid me back down, letting me get my tears out before I started to speak to her.  
    Once I had finally calmed down I looked up at Svetlana’s bright brown eyes, “You must be so tired of me crying, friend.” 
    “This is a difficult time of our lives, I would be lying if I did not admit to letting my nerves get the best of me and shedding tears myself,” She smiled at me. 
    “Thank you,” I sat up and gave her a quick hug. I cleared my throat dried my eyes before beginning my short story, “The previous night I entered Richard’s dream and we spoke, of course. He asked me to prove that I am real and I promised to visit him every night as I prepare a teleportation spell that will allow me to send him something to prove my existence,” I paused for a few moments, “Last night I was working on enchanting a weresheep wool blanket that would cast the entering dreams spell for me nightly. I-- I messed up the casting of the enchantment, destroying the blanket and all components to the spell. I didn’t have the energy to cast another spell and went to sleep,” I managed to hold back tears this time as Svetlana looked at me, taking in the explanation. 
    “It was a mistake, Maxine. I am sure he will understand,” She put a hand on my shoulder. 
    “Do you really think so? I broke a promise almost immediately after making it as well as breaking my promise to you.” 
    “You didn’t break the promise to me. ‘Do whatever is in your power to prevent hurting those around you.’ This was outside your power, as well as I doubt you have truly hurt him.” 
    “How are you so wise?” I asked in wonder. 
    “I get it from my father,” She laughed, “Now, get up! It is time for you to retry the spell, is it not?” She pulled me to my feet and quickly made my bed. 
    “I don’t know why you keep me as a friend, much less a best friend,” I wondered aloud. 
    “You have helped me many times in the past, friend. Remember when I had to remove that bees nest as my parents were on a honeymoon?” 
    I couldn’t help but laugh, “I taught myself simple abjuration in an hour to cast a bee ward on you.” 
    “Who has saved me from the ire of your mother when I made a mistake thus taking the scolding for me?” 
    “I did, turning you invisible and claiming that I broke the porcelain plate.” 
    “Who on our demon lord’s green earth is helping me meet the love of my life when a handful of months ago I surrendered to the fact I would die alone?” 
    “I am.” 
    “You have gone out of your way to help me in the past, Max. Why would I not do my best to support you in return?” 
    “Okay, okay, you win. I understand, Svetlana,” I was feeling better as I changed into my robes. 
    “How about we go into town together? I have not been there for many days,” Svetlana offered as she swept up the soot from my floor. 
    “It feels like you have been shirking your work recently, Svetlana,” I told her worriedly. 
    “My mother has been doing most of my work recently. She has been very nervous recently and doing mindless chores helps her stay calm.” 
    “Perhaps my mother and her have been talking about the travel to the new world,” I wondered aloud. 
    “She does hate change. I doubt we can take the whole estate with us to the other world when we go,” Svetlana joked.  
    I laughed nervously, “Probably not. Let me finish getting ready and I will teleport us into town.” 
    “As you wish, Max. Shall I meet you back here in an hour?” Svetlana asked. I nodded in response, “I will speak to you soon,” She smiled and left the room. 
    I took a few moments to think again. I missed Richard immensely already and my emotions had gotten the better of me. I took a deep breath and needed to make some plans for the future in regards to Svetlnana, Richard and even Oscar.  
 
    The teleportation into town was easy as always. Svetlana wrapped her scarf around her neck as she shivered from the biting cold air. She straightened out her maid uniform and pulled her coat around her. She always wore a maid uniform, I couldn’t recall a time where she wasn’t wearing a uniform. I could only infer that she came out of the womb in uniform with feather duster in hand. I was chuckling to myself when Svetlana suddenly spoke to me, “Is your only item today the blanket?” 
    “Blankets and loose wool,” I corrected her, “I will not have another mishap prevent me from seeing him tonight.” 
    “I wish to look at good pots and pans, I have never seen my future husband cook for himself so I have to assume he has none.” 
    “How kind of you. Is there anything else you want? Anything at all?” I asked her. 
    “Oh? Are you trying to do something for me?” She smiled. 
    I winced, “Am I that easy to read my friend? Yes, I am.” 
 “You don’t need to do anything for me, Max. The ability to meet my future husband is enough for me,” She smiled at me as we walked with purpose through the streets. The dark clouds threatened rain on this very cold day, “Too bad you didn’t specialize in weather magic, hm?” 
 “Let us hurry before the freezing rain comes, then!” People were starting to take shelter inside their homes as the rain clouds rolled in, “Hurry!” I laughed as I grabbed her arm and dragged her down the street. Svetlana smiled and picked up her pace to match mine. 
 
 “Here you are!” The dwarven metal worker behind the counter had neatly wrapped up the pans for us. Svetlana placed a small pouch of coins on the table in exchange. The experienced saleswoman tested the bag in her old, calloused hands, “Exact change,” As Svetlana and the dwarven woman chatted, I examined the utensils. Each one was proudly stamped with ‘HAMILTON.’ I frowned and quickly placed the pans in my magic bag, “You two ladies get home before the storm hits, alright?” 
 “We’ll try, ma’am,” Svetlana gave her a small curtsey before leaving the store with me in tow. The small brass bell above the door jingled as we stepped out into the freezing winds and light rain. I raised my staff above my head and cast a wind spell that fanned out from the top, pushing the rain away from us, “Thank you, Max.” 
 “No trouble at all, friend. Do you mind if I make one more stop? I should really pick up more herbs for the trip to the other world? I am unsure if Richard will be able to procure the leaves I need for spell casting,” I over explained to my best friend. 
 “Of course, Max. Take as much time in town as you need.” 
 I thanked her quietly as we walked to the magic shop I felt a shift in the wind. I scrunched my face as we were put down wind from a familiar, foul smell. I could not put my finger on what exactly it was on account of the wind dampening the smell. I shrugged it off and continued on my way, “Svetlana, are you sure you do not want anything from me?” I suddenly asked, trying to get my mind off the stench. 
 “I am sure, friend. Focus on your teleportation magics.” 
 “Alright,” I said sadly. 
 “Perhaps my husband will require the aid you are so desperate to give. For now, I will take a loan.” 
  As we neared the magic shop, another change in the wind brought the scent to me again, I gagged visibly as the odor reached my senses, “What is it?” Svetlana asked me as I struggled to maintain the wind spell. 
 “Do you not smell that god awful stench?” I asked as I regained my composure. 
 “No? What is it?” She pulled me along as the spell waned.  
 “It-- its...” I was horrified as I realized who was right around the corner, “Oscar.” 
 “Watch where you’re going!” Oscar barked at a servant as we rounded the corner, “You, pick up the pace! I want this all in the cart in five minutes!” He was ordering multiple servants to put heavy looking crates into the back of a horse drawn cart. They looked overworked. To my dismay, he noticed me, “Ah, Maxine! My love!” His tone shifted to that of feigned joy. He approached me with arms outstretched, I nearly tried to claw at his face while I was in shock at seeing him.  
 I took to standing behind Svetlana, using her to protect me from Oscar’s foul mana, “Oh, haha, I am not feeling well today, I would not recommend getting too close,” I said nervously.  
    “My sweet, what is the matter? Can I get anything for you?” He kept approaching me, ignoring the concerned Svetlana between us.  
    “No, no! I would suggest leaving me be, I was just about to go home.” 
    The wind howled and the thunder began as he stood a few feet away from me, “Have you not been sleeping well? You could always come to my estate I am sure I could comfort you there,” He offered with a greasy smile.  
I wanted to vomit, I was hardly able to stop myself, “I am quite busy as of late. My work is of the utmost importance, so I am unable to accept.” 
 “Are you sure? I have an extra room you could move your studies into!” 
Behind him, a servant carried a stack of boxes containing citrus fruit towards us, “It would be, um, too large of a move,” I lied as I struggled to keep my do no harm promise. 
 “I can easily acquire the aid of over 100 movers! Money is no--” Oscar was cut off as the servant behind him tripped in the mud causing the boxes to crash into the back of his head. Without a sound, Oscar fell face first into the deep mud ruining his gaudy clothes. I stared at Oscar as he slowly pulled himself out the mud, his red face glowing with embarrassment. 
Svetlana suddenly grabbed my arm and dragged me into a nearby alley, “I cannot fathom what your mother sees in that man,” She told me. 
 I laughed, “Neither can I! His mana smells all sorts of foul! I’m taking us home, I will gather the herbs later.” 
 “I could not smell his mana,” Svetlana told me with a confused frown. 
 “Really?” I thought for a few moments, unsure of what this could mean, “Nevermind that. Teleporting!” I shouted as I began the incantation. 
 
 The second bout of enchanting went much better. I only sneezed and destroyed a blanket once! As I completed the enchantment, the wool glowed from the imbued energy. I prepared my sleeping arrangement slowly, I was hesitant to use the blanket. I was afraid Richard may be mad at me despite what Svetlana had said. I put my nightgown on and stared at my bed. I had never been nervous to sleep before, I had never been wracked by horrible nightmares multiple nights in a row, thankfully. The nightmare last night had been the first in quite a white. As I blew out the last of my candles after pulling the curtains I looked again at the softly glowing blanket. I sighed, Svetlana would never let me hear the end of it if I did not go into the dreamscape tonight. I was more afraid of Svetlana’s anger than I was of Richard. I climbed into bed and pulled the wool over me. I fell asleep quickly as the sleep magic took hold of me. 
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
 
    I pushed myself off of Richard as I woke him up. I was nervous of what he would have to say to me. Before he could say anything I spoke up, “I am so sorry, Richard,” I grabbed his cheeks as he smiled at me. 
    “For what?” He laughed as I released him. 
    “I broke my promise to you, I didn’t visit you last night,” I mewled, my tail and ears drooping, “I was attempting to enchant a blanket to cast the spell that allows me to enter your dreams and I made a stupid mistake and could not go to you that night. I’m so stupid, I’m so sorry.” 
    He gave me a genuinely warm smile, “Don’t call yourself that. A mistake is a mistake, Maxy, don’t beat yourself up about it.” 
    “Maxy?” My heart fluttered, instantly casting out all dark feelings. 
    “Aw, shit. Did I say that out loud?” He broke eye contact as his face glowed red. 
    “Say it again,” I demanded, breathing a little heavily. 
    “Maxy.” 
    “Oooooh!” I flung myself towards him and wrapped my arms around him. I kissed his cheeks rapidly and without a second thought I pressed my lips against his for a deep kiss. I pulled myself away from him, the happiest I had been in a long time and stared at his tomato red face, “Where did you come up with... Maxy?” 
    He sighed, “I call you that sometimes in my daydreams. I don’t know why, to be honest,” He explained sheepishly, my lipstick staining his cheeks. 
    “I love it, Richard. Perhaps I should come up with something to call you.” 
    “I don’t really have a suggestion or anything for you. I got called Dick Head in highschool, you could go with that.” 
    “What!?” I exclaimed. 
    “My friends’ older brother was an asshat,” He stretched, got up from the bed and headed down the stairs, “So, what do you do with your time?” He sat on the couch and I sat on his lap. 
    “Mostly magic. I also spend time with my best friend, Svetlana, fend off the man my mother expects me to marry and I do a lot of reading.”  
    “You have an arranged marriage and you’re here flirting with me?” He asked me in disbelief, shock on his face. 
    “I do not love that man,” I hissed, angered at just the thought of him, “He is a disgusting excuse of a man that abuses his servants and probably kicks puppies for sport.” 
    “He has servants? Are you sure you don’t want to marry him instead? He must be rich!” 
    “That does not matter to me, my family is wealthy as well. The only thing that matters to me is love.” 
    Richard looked at me as if he could not believe what I was saying, “Let me get this straight,” His tone shifted to almost angry, “Your family is stinking rich, his family is stinking rich, and you want me, a broke-ass idiot who can hardly support himself? I have no servants, few friends and an ugly face. I don’t understand, Maxine.” 
I spoke softly, doing my best to not anger him further, “Richard, I created a spell to show me a man who would be perfect. He would be perfect for me and I would be perfect for him. It showed me you, Richard. I don’t care about money, I’m sick of money and clout. My mother is a vicious business woman who threw her friends, family and dreams away to become one of the richest women in the land. I just want to settle down in a small home with a handsome man and a child or two. I cannot envision that future without you, Richard. I just want you. I just want you and I to be happy together.” 
He slowly shook his head, “You really are from another world, huh, Maxy?” He chuckled. 
 “Money may buy happiness, but it cannot buy love, Richard.” 
 “You’d be surprised, if you’re really such a pure cinnamon roll, you’ll be disgusted by my world.” 
 I decided not to push on that comment. I changed the subject, “What do you do in your free time?” 
 “Oh, uh... video games, stupid internet stuff, some D and D with the boys,” He still seemed down. 
 “D and D?” I was trying to pull him out of whatever he was thinking about. 
 “Dungeons and Dragons. Ah, right, you don’t know what that is. Its a role playing game where you roll dice to do stuff.” 
 “You... ROLE PLAY with other men?” I gasped. 
 “Well, yeah. I don’t know why you’re so shocked-- Its not a sex thing,” He suddenly said, quelling my fears, “Its more like story telling as a group.” 
 “That sounds fun,” I thought aloud. I could feel the dreamscape waning, I was sadly running out of time, “Richard, I am going to send you instructions soon. Follow them to the best of your abilities for me.” 
 “I will,” He nodded, “See you soon. I hope,” He added that last bit with sadness in his eyes. 
 “See you tomorrow.” 
 He merely smiled and nodded at me as the dream ended. 
 
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
 
    I was already up and ready as Svetlana entered my room to perform her usual morning chores, “I assume last night went well.” She commented as I waved at her from behind a tome. 
    “Very much so!” I told her happily. 
    “That is excellent news! What shall you do now?” She asked as she tidied up the room. 
    “I plan on teleporting plans to him today. Finishing the spell should not take me too long, especially since I am purposely neglecting to take precautions that would prevent the spell from blowing up in my face.” 
    “Is that wise, Max?” 
    “Probably not. But when was I ever truly wise?” 
    “Fair point. Stay safe,” She left the room with dirty plates in hand. 
    “Same to you, friend,” I mumbled as I stuck my nose back into my research. 
 
    It turned out that the creation of the spell was the easy part, the hard part was the instructions that I needed to send to Richard. As I finished the first draft, I realised it wouldn’t do. I had written all of it in an arcane script. I chuckled to myself as I prepared another sheet of parchment. ‘In our common language this time,’ I told myself silently. Unfortunately, it was not so easy, I could not use any words that Richard would not be familiar with, I had to use mundane words to describe the arcane runes I drew on the sheet rather than their usual names. I set my ink pen down after I had completed the work. 10 hours on the spell, two hours on the instructions. I made a second copy just in case the first one was burnt up in the transfer. I opened my drawers and pulled out sticks of chalk. Each one had a specific arcane content that could be seen by the runes on either end. I gave each a label to aid Richard in his work. I placed those into a bag, quickly edited the instructions to include the labels. 
As I prepared to cast the spell, I had a thought. I grabbed another sheet of parchment and wrote a letter to Richard. I told him how excited I am to meet him in person, how my raging fire of desire to be with him pains me physically, I apologized for not having the time to get a risque painting of myself commissioned to send him and finally told him to take his time on the runes. Where I signed my name, I drew a small heart. I also sprayed it with my sweet-smelling perfume as I had been instructed before by my mother. I folded the papers, placed them within an envelope and sealed the letter with wax. I placed the letter and the bag in my usual container for magical ingredients. I quickly checked Richards location with the mirror as the teleportation was set to send the items directly to him. Thankfully, he was home alone, in bed and on his handheld device. I returned to my casting and in a few moments, the parchments and small bag were gone. I turned once more to the mirror to see Richard with confusion on his face, holding both items in his hands as he sat up in bed. He opened the letter and read through the contents of both letters. I could feel my heart beat faster as he read over my love letter. He smiled as he finished reading, quickly taking in the smell of the perfume. He set everything on the table next to him and quickly tried to sleep. I followed suit and headed to bed, wrapping myself in the wool blanket.  
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
 
    We woke up holding each other again. I was unable to pry myself away from Richard who was holding me in a vice like grip, “Richard?” I could hardly move. He said nothing, breathing quietly as he pressed his face against the top of my head, “Are you alright?” 
    “Yeah. I liked the letter you sent me, Maxy,” He mumbled. 
    “Did the instructions make sense?” 
    “I think so. I’m really nervous to attempt it. Once I finish that will you come here?” 
    “I still need to research portal magics. Shouldn’t be more than a week, darling. I need to get some materials for casting as I do not wish to strain your coffers with my expensive needs.” 
“Thank you. Can we just lie here tonight? I need to think,” Richard asked me as he loosened his grip on me. 
“Of course, darling. Please speak up if you need my input,” I gave him a kiss on the forehead before tucking my head under his chin. 
He spoke up after a few minutes, “I’m afraid you won’t like me.” 
I stopped myself from laughing, “Don’t say that. We’re going to be a wonderful family.” 
“If you say so, Maxy. Do you want me to set some space aside for your magic stuff?”  
“You seem very stressed out about this, Richard.” 
“I am! I’ve been living alone for years and I feel like I need to trash my nerd shit,” He exclaimed. 
I sighed, “Don’t move anything around until I get there, we will figure it out together,” I comforted him, “Just calm down and stay safe for me.” 
He took a deep breath, “Alright, alright... I’ll get on that rune stuff started tomorrow. What if I mess it up?.” 
“Then you try again. Take as much time as you need, darling. Feels like its time to wake soon. I’ll speak to you soon, if I don’t see you tomorrow night its because I didn’t go to sleep,” I explained as the dream ended. Richard looked at me in shock, thankfully he didn’t have the time to say anything. 
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------     
 
    I held my notes in my right hand while mixing ingredients with the other. It had been a week of exhausting experimentation on my way to developing this important spell. I had made good progress thanks to being locked in my room for a week and hardly sleeping. I had only slept because Richard had managed to complete the runes and I had wanted to congratulate him. I focused intently on my notes, flipping through them as I rubbed a foul smelling stone against my palm with my ring and middle finger. My palms burned from how much I had been performing this action. As I read through the notes again, drowsiness overtook me. I slipped up on the pronunciation of an important word, changing the effect from a teleportation into an explosion. It was a beginners mistake, really. The only reason anything happened was because I had opted to not use safety spells to prevent this from happening. The material components exploded out of the container with a loud bang. I shrieked as my flesh was torn by the shrapnel. I fell to the floor clutching my hand. My hand felt hot. I looked to see blood oozing out of small cuts. I felt the same wet heat on my left cheek. Someone threw my door open and ran down the stairs.  
    “Maxine!?” My older sister shouted. 
    I looked up slowly, “Eliza?” I retorted drowsily.  
    “You’re bleeding!” She shrieked, running over to where I lay on the floor. She picked me up, “What happened?” 
    “Nothing.” 
    “Up! Up!” She pulled me to my feet and dragged me out of my room. I was too exhausted to fight her, “Father! Father!” Eliza shouted as she struggled to move me. Admittedly, I was falling asleep. 
    He came running out of his office and scooped me up in his arms, “What happened?” He asked Eliza as they hurried down the hall. 
    “I don’t know! She wouldn’t tell me! I heard a bang and then a scream.” 
    “Spell mishap I assume,” My father sighed. 
    “Why is she falling asleep? Did she paralyze herself? Is she dying!?” Eliza panicked. 
    Father almost laughed, “She’s exhausted, Eliza. Calm down,” I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. 
    “Maxine? Maxine can you hear me?” Eliza shook me as my father came to as stop. 
    “Eugh,” I groaned and shook her hands off of me. 
    “Let her rest, Eliza,” My father pushed the door open, “Can you patch her up for us?” I was sat on a chair. 
    “Oh, poor, dear!” Svetlana’s mother wiped my face and hands with a cold, damp cloth, “Another mishap?” The cloth was black with soot. 
    “Yes,” I confirmed quietly with a nod. 
    “Let me patch you up, dear,” She produced the small medical kit that she always kept on her, “Looks like that nasty cut on your cheek won’t need stitches, thankfully. Hold still dear.” 
    “Is Maxine alright?” My mother stormed into the room, “Are you alright, Maxine?” She shook me a little bit. 
    “I’m fiiiiiiiiiiine,” I whined, “Let me rest.” 
    “Well, when you’re done resting, I have a surprise for you,” She said cheerfully. 
    I lazily opened my eyes to see her holding up stack of folding clothes topped by a hat. I stood up and took the clothes from her, my current set of robes had been charred by the mishap. I tried on the new clothes as my old robes were thrown out. The black hat was smaller than the average wizard hat, the holes for my ears were comfortable and were definitely cute, the very top of the cone also folded towards the floor. The robes themselves were black as well, had a hole for my tail to stick through and only came down to my knees, the rest of my legs were covered in black silk tights. The robes came down to my wrists, underneath I had silk gloves that came up to my elbows. The gloves only covered my middle finger and left the other four exposed. A dark green sash was the last accessory to the outfit. It felt like a loose fitting dress, “Well?” My mother beamed. 
    “I honestly expected something much more sexual from you. I really love it, thank you, Mother,” I gave her the best smile I could on account of my current condition. I took a closer look at the comfortable robes I saw small dark green stars that could only be seen in specific lighting. 
    “Good, good!” She smiled, “I am sure Sir Oscar will love it too!” 
    “Richard,” I corrected her without thinking, “Richard will love it.” 
    “Who?” I could feel the lighthearted conversation suddenly turn the atmosphere in the room to choking tension. The smile on my mother’s face was betrayed by the fire I saw in her eyes. 
    “The man I love,” I followed up, “I will not run from your rage anymore. I do not love Oscar, I refuse to marry him!” 
    “Maxine--” My father interjected. 
    My mother silenced him by holding up a perfectly manicured claw, “Maxine. Do not speak of this foolishness. You are marrying Oscar, it is what is best for you.” 
    “I don’t want to marry him!” 
    “The three of you, out,” She suddenly turned and spoke to her daughter, husband and maid in a harsh tone. 
    “Honey, please,” Father pleaded. 
    “We will speak later,” She ended the conversation, turning back to me, “It does not matter what you want. You do not know what you want,” Father was dragged out of the room by the maid and Eliza followed close behind. 
    I was speechless, “And you know what I want?” I hissed. 
    “You are my daughter, Maxine. I know what you SHOULD want and you will do as I command you,” She hissed back. 
    “If that command is to marry Oscar, then I will disobey it.” 
    “Why? He is the fifth son of a wealthy family! He could give you anything you could ever want!” 
    “He will not give me love. He will use me like a pawn in some twisted game of his and throw me aside when he is done. That man is a horrible person! Oscar is fat and smelly and all he talks about is his stupid family sword and brags about horse racing! I hate him!” 
 “Maxine, you are being irrational,” She suddenly spoke calmly, “I am sure you are just exaggerating.” 
 “I’m not.” 
 “I have already agreed to wed the two of you, Maxine. Please, it is for the best for you.” 
 Rage overtook me, “This is what’s best for you and your-- your empire! You don’t care about me! I HATE YOU!” I screamed as I ran out of the room. I threw the door open and ran down the hallway past my father. I looked back, my mother had fallen to her knees, crying.  
 I threw open the door to my room and stomped down the stairs. Svetlana was here, bringing in the freshly cleaned laundry, “Maxine? What is--” 
 “Go say goodbye to your mother. We are leaving,” I barked as I started loading clothes into a trunk. 
 “What? You finished the spell?” 
 “Close enough to done. Hurry. You have half an hour.” 
 Without a word, she nodded and left the room. I threw my magic paraphernalia into my magic bag and threw it over my shoulder. Anything else, makeup, trinkets and anything I could think of wanting was thrown into the trunk. I summoned a flat black circle that floated to carry the trunk for me. As I opened my door at the top of the stairs once more, Father and Eliza stopped me, “What do you want?” I asked. 
 “Maxine, where are you going?” Eliza asked. 
 “I’m going to him, my soon to be husband.” 
 “The mirror man? But you would need to teleport to his world,” Father commented, “How do you even know he will love you back?” 
 “I will make him love me if I have to,” I growled. 
 “How does that make you any better than Oscar?” Eliza hissed. 
 “Because I deserve to be happy! All I have ever wanted was to be happy! Why do I have to miserable while you get to choose any man you want!?” I shouted at her. She had no response. There was a long pause. 
 “Go,” Father told me, “Go find your happiness,” He gave me a quick hug before sending me on my way, “We love you. Don’t ever forget that,” He had tears leaking from his eyes. 
 “I love you too,” I sobbed, tears springing forth. Eliza cried silently too, “I will miss you both. Do visit when you get to the other world.” 
 “We will,” Father smiled through his pain. I waved at the two of them as I headed to the backyard. I found Svetlana hugging her parents goodbye, a large trunk being dragged behind her. 
 “Ready to depart?” I asked her. 
 She nodded, “I am,” Her face was wet with tears. 
 “Take care of her, Maxine. Please,” Her mother pleaded, putting a warm basket of bread in my hands. 
 “She’s the one who will be taking care of me,” I smiled, “We’ll watch out for each other,” I used my magic to place her trunk atop mine on the moving platform. 
 “Goodbye,” Svetlana said one final time. Her parents smiled and waved at us as we walked into the forest, the cold fall air biting at our skin, “Are you sure about this?” 
 I downed a mana potion, doing my best to prevent the foul liquid from touching my tongue, “Sure enough,” I told her quietly. I neared the teleportation circle I had prepared and readied my notes. I scanned through them quickly and began the incantation. The wind howled and the sky turned grey as I invoked powerful arcane rituals. A low rumble was heard in the distance. Lightning struck the earth around us and the ground shook as a dark purple rift split the air before us. I fell to my knees as I struggled to maintain it. I was under prepared. 
 Another voice joined mine in a chorus of arcane words. The weak portal suddenly opened wider. I looked behind me, ceasing my incantation. The lich I had met previously hovered above the cold earth behind me, staff in hand, “Go, Maxine. Pave the way for the rest of us!” She commanded. 
 I had no idea what she meant. I nodded, grabbed Svetlana and the trunks, pushing them into the purple void before turning around once more, “Thank you,” was all I could say before walking through. 
 
 Traveling through a portal was unlike my usual instantaneous teleportation. It felt like I was being stretched and bent at uncomfortable angles constantly. The process was obvious in how much time it took while teleporting bent your perception of time to feel instantaneous. It felt like I spent a lifetime as well as only a moment in the purple void, floating as the arcane energies ferried me to my destination. It was a once in a lifetime feeling as I felt myself torn apart and reconstructed numerous times. All it missed was a voice whispering dark secrets into my skull and I definitely would have gone mad. As I was unceremoniously dumped out the other side of the portal I hit the ground with a thud. I picked myself up and dusted off my outfit. Svetlana was sitting on the grass clutching her legs, “Rough trip?” I asked as I helped her up. 
 “Very,” She shuddered and brushed off her white and black uniform, “Where are we?” She looked up at the moon hanging in the warm air. 
 “His yard,” I told her, I looked towards the small white house. I moved towards a wooden door and tried the handle. Locked. I sighed and used a spell to unlock the door with a loud click. I pulled the door open and walked into his main room. I looked at the wall computer, its screen dark. I looked at the couch where Richard lie, a blanket lazily draped across him, his legs hanging off the end and an empty bottle on the table next to him. I got on my knees and shook him gently, “Wake up, my love,” I whispered. 
 “Mmh?” He groaned and opened his eyes, “Maxy?” He asked. “Its me, Richard,” I whispered as the tears began to flow once more, “I’m here.”

ACT2
PT1

    “Its me, Richard,” A soothing voice whispered to me, “I’m here.” 
    I pushed myself off of the couch where I lie, sitting up and rubbing my eyes. The figure before me slowly came into focus as my eyes adjusted to the dim light of the room. A very beautiful woman dressed in stylish, dark, black robes, a pointy wizard hat that folded over at the very top-- as well as large cat ears with little tufts of black fur on the ends sticking out the sides-- and large emerald green cat eyes staring into my own eyes, “That you, Maxy?” I asked groggily. 
    She nodded slowly choked out, “Y-yes. Oh, Richard,” She caressed my cheek. She tried to maintain a semblance of composure as she slowly removed her hat, revealing her short, disheveled, soft-looking, black hair. She tentatively climbed onto the couch and onto my lap, wrapping her arms around my neck and her legs around my waist. I placed a hand on the back of her head and stroked her soft hair gently. I could hear her start to whimper and then begin to softly cry. I placed my other hand on her back and reassuringly held her closer. She began to cry harder. I struggled to hold back tears as well. I could feel her tears drench my shoulder through my thin t-shirt. She clung to me like a frightened child to their mother, like the only source of comfort and safety they have could be torn from them at any moment. I would hold her as long as she needed me to. 
    A sudden, loud bang roused the two of us from our moment. The shock caused Maxine to stop crying but she dug her claws into my back, rending my flesh. I let out a small cry of shock and pain causing her to let go of me, “Pardon me, Sir Richard,” Another feminine voice called out to me, “Where may I place our luggage?” She slammed another heavy trunk onto my poor wooden floor. It was a woman in a frilly maid uniform with grey feathery hair atop her head and matching feathers on her forearms. 
    “Sir Richard...” I repeated slowly, unsure if I liked the sound of that title, “I’m no sir,” I laughed. 
    “My apologies, will it be lord, master, duke, count...” She trailed off as she expected an answer from me. 
    “Hubby Richard,” Maxine mumbled. 
    “Who are you?” I asked the maid. 
    “Ah! How terribly rude of me, I am Svetlana, at your service, master,” She paused for a few moments before correcting herself, “Temporary master. I am Maxine’s trusted servant, maid, advisor and best friend,” She gave me a small bow. 
    Maxine nodded to confirm these statements while sniffling and drying her eyes. I spoke up, “Well, Svetlana, I don’t have a title to my name. Just ‘Richard’ will do.” 
    “As you wish, Richard,” Svetlana returned to shuffling the trunks around and rifling through one of them. Maxine grew still, the physical, mental and emotional exhaustion were all plain on her adorable, gently breathing face. She had fallen asleep in my arms, “Poor dear,” Svetlana shook her head as she walked over to me, her shoes clacking loudly on the wooden flooring, “I shall take her to your chambers and help her change into sleep wear,” She plucked Maxine out of my arms and carried her to my bedroom. I stood up slowly, unsure of what to do now. I went to the closet and grabbed my old air mattress and some blankets. I began to pump the mattress by hand with a small pump.  
Within 10 minutes, the maid returned to the main room, “Miss Maxine has requested your presence,” She looked at me in confusion, “What is that?” 
    “This? Its an air mattress,” I continued pumping. 
“Ah, a mattress full of air. I pray you do not intend to sleep out here,” she said in a dark tone. 
“Huh?” 
“I am sure she intends for you to sleep with her.” 
“O-oh,” I couldn’t help but stammer. 
“I would not keep the young miss waiting if I were you~” She gave me a teasing smile. 
“Well, you can sleep on it, I guess,” I told her. 
“Thank you, Richard. Hurry now!” 
I took a deep breath and nervously walked into my own room. Maxine was lying on the bed with the covers and sheets pushed aside, “Hello, my--” Maxine let out a massive yawn and stretched her entire body, “darling,” She continued, “Come, lie down with me.” 
“Uh-- uh, I dunno...” 
“Hurry now, my sweet! I am very tired!” She pestered. 
“No funny business,” I demanded before slipping my shirt off, turning on my fan, and sliding into bed with her. 
“I cannot keep that promise~” As soon as I was lying next to her, Maxine rolled on top of me, resting her head on my chest right below my chin, “Sleep well, my dear.” 
“Yeah, you too,” I mumbled as I put a hand on her back and the other behind my head.     
 
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 
 
    I was lying on my back, looking up at a hazy white sky. A cold and blinding multicolored light washed over me. I glanced to the side, Maxine knelt over me, tears staining her cheeks. I looked down at myself to see a gash in my chest, blood covered most of me. Maxine wore the most wonderful white gown I had ever laid eyes upon, if only I could recall it! To my dismay the gown was coated in blood-- my blood. I reached up and touched her face. A feeling of satisfaction washed over me despite my poor condition and Maxine’s tears. I smiled at her, my Maxy, before the world went dark. 
 
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 
 
    I was violently awoken as Maxine got off of me. She sat at the edge of the bed, shaking violently, “Maxy?” I asked as I sat up in bed, “What’s wrong?” 
    “I-I had a dream,” She replied in a shaky, terrified voice, “You lay dying in my arms.” 
    “I had the same dream. It was oddly peaceful.” 
    “Peaceful!?” She shouted. I shrank away from her, “Sorry, sorry... Why do I have to start seeing the future in my dreams now of all times? Why did it have to spread to you as well?” She asked herself in distress. 
    “Is this something... normal?” I asked. 
    “Normal for a witch like me, I suppose. A heavy use of any school of magic can bring about changes. The use of divinations can make one see the future.” 
    I sat behind her and wrapped my arms around her, “The future can change, right?” 
    She nodded slowly, “Y-yes. I will MAKE it change,” She suddenly growled. I held her until her ragged breathing returned to normal, “Thank you,” She whimpered. 
    “Mhm. Want me to make you some breakfast?” 
    “Svetlana will make something, I’m sure.” 
    “Why would she? You’re both my guests,” I let Maxine go and got up. 
    She grabbed my arm and turned me around. She touched the sides of my stomach, feeling my ribs, “You’re so thin!” She laughed. I was thankful that her mood changed, “I’ll have to fatten you up, hm?” She teased. 
    “Planning on cooking me up, then, witch?”  
    “What?” She gave me a look of hurt. 
    “It’s a joke! There’s an old fairy tale where a witch fattens up a little boy to eat him,” I explained quickly. 
    “Oh!” The cute smile returned to her face, “I understand. I wish to learn more about your culture and technology, Richard. I will teach you anything you desire as well.” 
    “Can I learn magic!?” I asked quickly. 
    “How old are you? 20?” She guessed. 
    “...23,” I cursed my baby face. 
    “Well, in seven years, if you maintain your virginity, you could. But... I will not let that happen~” She gave me a devious smile. 
    “Uh, what about, divine magic? Nature magic? Like a cleric, paladin, ranger or druid?” I changed the subject quickly. 
    She shook her head, “You would have to become the champion of a god or goddess for that to happen,” She explained apologetically, “I thought you were joking about wanting magic, I apologize, Richard.” 
    “No, no, don’t apologize, its fine,” I tried to hide my disappointment.  
    Maxine tasted the air around us, “You do have strong spirit energy... perhaps some of my latent abilities for the arcane will rub off on you!” 
    I couldn’t tell if she was lying to me just to make me happy, “Oh, its fine,” I gave her a weak smile and put a shirt on, “Can’t all be born special.” 
    Maxine looked down at the floor, unsure of what to say. She looked around the room, trying to find something to talk about, “What is that?” She suddenly asked, her eyes fixated on a glowing corner of my room. 
    I groaned quietly in embarrassment, “A nightlight...” 
    “What is its technological purpose?” She procured a notebook from her book bad, ready to take notes. 
    “Its just a light.” 
    “JUST a light?” She pressed me further. 
    “I’m afraid of the dark, okay? Complete silence and complete darkness both terrify me,” I explained as I turned my small fan off. I glanced at Maxine, she stared at me, concern on her face, “Go ahead, call me a big stupid man baby.” 
    “I would never call you that, Richard,” She got up and walked close to me. She forcibly unfolded my crossed arms and pulled them around her. She reached up and cupped my cheeks with her hands, “Who hurt you?” 
    “Maxy, I’m fine. Just hate myself a little bit.” 
    “How about we hate ourselves together? Perhaps our budding love for our other halves will overtake that self-loathing.” 
    “Alright, Ma--” I was cut off as Maxine squeezed my cheeks. 
    “You look so funny like that! Haha!” She burst out laughing as she played with my face. I grabbed a hold of her face as well and stretched her cheeks out, “Eek!” She laughed more. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing as well. 
    There was a light knocking on my door before it was pushed open. Svetlana poked her head through the door, “Are you two ready to eat?” She asked. 
    “I think so,” Maxine’s speech was muffled by my hands. 
    “Well, I’ll start cooking lunch now. You two slept right through breakfast after I worked so hard on preparing the ingredients. You two are getting brunch,” She scolded. I couldn’t tell if she was actually upset or just joking with us. She left before I could ask. Maxine and I sat down together on the bed again, waiting to eat. I quickly checked my phone. 
    “Can you tell me about that device?” Maxine excitedly asked. 
    “My phone? Here,” I handed it to her, “It works by tapping the screen.” 
    She looked at it in wonder as she tapped at the screen and opened an app, “What is this sorcery?”  
    “Just technology, Maxy.” 
 
    I sat across from Maxine at my tiny dinner table. A plate of breakfast potatoes and eggs was placed in front of me. Maxine took a bite of the potatoes, “Wonderful cooking as always, friend,” She complemented.  
    Svetlana beamed at her before turning to me expectantly. I took a bite of the potatoes and stopped. They were the best damn potatoes I had ever eaten, “Damn, that’s good,” I whispered. 
    “Excellent! Please, let me know if you want more,” Svetlana was overjoyed at our compliments. 
    “Make sure you eat as well!” Maxine told her in a stern tone with a mouth full of food. 
    She rolled her eyes, “I know to eat, Max.” 
    “You say that but I know you have skipped eating before.” 
    “Funny that you would be the one lecturing me about eating when you yourself have gone multiple days without eating.” 
“Oh, why don’t you--” 
“Will you two stop arguing like an old married couple?” I interjected, getting annoyed as I finished scarfing down my food. 
“I agree. Maxine, you and Richard should be bickering like a married couple,” Svetlana’s relentless teasing continued.  
“Leave Richard out of it,” Maxine’s playful tone turned to venom in an instant. 
“Understood,” Svetlana bowed to her and took our empty plates to the sink. 
“You can just throw those in the dishwasher,” I told her. She nodded sullenly and got to cleaning the pans, “That was a little harsh, Maxy,” I whispered. 
“Mmph,” She huffed, unwilling to admit it. 
“You don’t need to protect me. Especially from just words.” 
“I am still shaken from that dream, I am sorry,” She looked at the floor. 
“Apologize to her, not me,” I felt like I was scolding a child. Maxine got up and trudged over to her friend I could hardly hear her tell Svetlana that she was sorry. The two of them talked quietly for a few moments, giving me a few moments to myself. I was already completely infatuated with her, the way she spoke, the way she smiled at me, the way she hugged me tightly... I had hardly spent a day with her and she seemed incredibly happy just to be around me. I found myself daydreaming about her, putting my head on her lap as she looks down and smiles at me and strokes my hair. 
“Richard,” Maxine pulled me out of the daydream, “Svetlana has... ‘convinced’ me to renew my promise in the presence of both of us as she will not be here to hold me to it all the time,” She told me quietly, staring at the floor. 
“Uh, alright. I’m listening,” I gave her an assuring smile. 
“I, Maxine Emerald Hamilton, promise to you, friend Svetlana and husband Richard, that I will do everything in my power as to not hurt those around me whether it be through my words, through my actions, or through my arcane powers,” Her face was beet red as she recited the promise to me. 
“Good,” Svetlana smiled, “I am sure you will have no trouble keeping to that around him,” Maxine made a low whining noise in response, “I will go ready a bath for you, Maxine. Richard, how do I heat the bathwater?”  
“Just turn the handle to the left, hot water will come out after a few moments,” I instructed. 
“Truly? Modern technology is amazing!” She hurried off to the bathroom. I could hear the water start to run. 
I turned back to a still flustered Maxine, “Are you okay?” 
She pressed herself up against me and wrapped her arms around my waist, “I did not want to have to recite it for you, preferring to keep it a secret between her and I.” 
I chuckled, “It was really cute. You’re really cute,” Her face got even more red. 
    “Maxine! The bath is ready!” Maxine’s savior called from the bathroom. She tried to scurry past me, hiding her shame, I grabbed a hold of her arm and pulled her close to me, planting a kiss on her cheek. I must have teased her too hard as when I let her go she stumbled and nearly fell to the floor as she dashed towards the bathroom. I felt bad chuckling at her, but the way she stuck her tail between her legs as she scurried away was too funny for me to hold it in. 
 
    “Temporary master Richard,” Svetlana returned to the room I was in after about four hours of them talking. I was playing Super Nintendo games on an emulator, “Shall I make you and Maxine dinner before I am off?” 
    “You’re leaving?” I answered her question with a question. 
    “Sadly, yes. There is a husband out there for me and I intend to see him soon. Dinner?” She asked again. 
    “No, no. You’ve done more work around here than you needed to already, thank you. I’ll be able to feed me and her.” 
    “As you wish. Richard, please take good care of her,” Her usual polite and playful tone was replaced by a dark serious one as she eyed me, “If you hurt her, I will find you and there will be repercussions.” 
    “I’ll do my best, Svetlana,” I coughed nervously. 
    “Good, good!” Her polite tone returned. 
“By the way, what are you exactly?” My curiosity had overcome my manners. 
    Her initial look of confusion gave way to realization, “It is hard to remember that your world does not naturally have monsters. I suggest you refer any questions to Maxine about anything monster related, she seems incredibly excited to talk to you about such things.” 
    “Got it.”  
    Maxine walked into the room with us, she was wearing the same uniform as yesterday, “Have you already told him the news?” She asked as she pulled a long staff out of her bag. I realised it must be bigger on the inside, I immediately wondered if I could fit in it and how long it would take for me to suffocate. 
    “Yes, I have. He promised to take good care of you,” Svetlana smiled. 
    Maxine looked embarrassed again, “Svetlana, why must you embarrass me so?” 
    “I will not be able to for an unknown amount of time, I have to get it out of my system now.” 
    “You will not be very far away. We will see each other again, my friend.” 
    “Not close enough to come over and continue being your maid everyday,” Svetlana said sadly. 
    “You can still be my best friend every day, yes?” Maxine tried to hide her sadness with a smile. I watched the two of them get teary eyed in front of me, I stopped myself from saying something snarky to them, “S-shall we be off?” 
    “Max, don’t cry, please. You’ll make me cry as well.” 
    “I gave up my family and now I am losing my best friend,” Maxine started sobbing and hugged her friend. 
    “You said it yourself Max, we’re still friends! I just won’t be able to see you every day and help you with magic and... and... I am going to miss you, Max,” Despite her best efforts, Svetlana cried as well.  
    I quietly sat and watched two old friends have an emotional moment. Selfishly, my thoughts turned to myself, trying to empathise with the two of them. I had never been close enough to someone, like they obviously were, to know what they were going through. The closest feeling I could think of was when ol’ Sal died, a kitten my parents had found on my grandpa’s farm and adopted when my mom was eight months pregnant with me. It had been six years since we had to put him down and I still missed that damn cat. Now I had a new cat to take care of, in a way. I chuckled a little bit at that thought. 
    The two of them eventually calmed down, sniffling and clinging to each other. I got up and walked over to them. I placed a hand on each of their shoulders and smiled at them reassuringly, “You’ll see each other again, I promise,”  
    “He’s right,” Maxine shook herself and wiped her eyes, apparently all she needed was my reassurance, “We will see each other again.” 
    “Yes, yes,” Svetlana dried her tears. 
    “I’ll get Maxy a phone so you can call her every day, okay?” I patted Svetlana’s shoulder. I would have given her a head pat but I felt that meant something more in their culture. 
    “I am getting my own phone!?” Maxine got excited and any trace of sadness was gone from her eyes. 
    “Don’t get too excited, its not gonna be as good as mine.” 
    “But--” 
    “Maxine, lets not argue about this right now,” I cut her off. 
    She snapped back into reality and to the situation at hand, “You are right. Richard, how about you come with me to see Svetlana off? We may need your help.” 
    Svetlana laid her womanly charms on thick, “I would appreciate your help, Richard.” 
    “Yeah, I’ll tag along. Wanna take my car?” I asked.  
Maxine immediately got green in the face, she shook her head vigorously, “N-no need! I can get us there in an instant!” She brandished her staff.  
“Gimmie a second,” I quickly got ready, putting on more presentable clothes and grabbing my phone, wallet and keys.  
When I was prepared, Maxine prepared her casting, “I only know the vague area his home is in. We will have to continue on foot when we get there,” Svetlana and I nodded in response, undeterred by the prospect of walking. I was a little uneasy, I was going to teleport for real, a thing of only fantasy to me until a few short hours ago. Maxine must have sensed my apprehension, “Darling, you may hold onto me for reassurance if you wish,” She held out her hand for me. I grabbed it with my own, her soft hand firmly grasping mine. I was pulled close to her as she began to cast her spell, “Hold on,” She whispered as the teleportation commenced. 
The feeling I got was like when you slam on the breaks in a car, all your momentum comes to a nauseating halt. Even though it happened in an instant, it was one of the strangest feelings as the low hanging sun shone in my eyes. My vision was blurred, my stomach churned and my head hurt like hell, “Ugh,” I groaned as I clutched my head. 
“Interesting, your body is reacting negatively to the arcane energies...” Maxine trailed off, I could hardly hear her, “I will do further research on this at a later time,” I could hear her casting again, the trunk Svetlana had brought was lifted into the air atop a black oval surface, “Come now you two,” I still couldn’t see well. Maxine grabbed my hand again and dragged me into a building. An apartment complex, I assumed. The light from the overhead fluorescents burned my eyes. Maxine’s gentle grip pulled my past people without me bumping into them. Svetlana was uncharacteristically quiet as we meandered slowly through the halls, it was almost unsettling to go any period of time without her constant teasing of Maxine. As I slowly regained my vision, I looked at the tan hallways and dirty grey carpet underneath us. I felt like I had been here before.  
“How do you know where we’re going?” I asked. 
“Ah, are you feeling better, darling?” She smiled at me, I nodded in response, “Good! To answer your question, I used my powers of clairvoyance to view our path to the correct room! All I had to do was memorize our path. Are you well enough to climb stairs, darling?” 
    “I think so,” I tried to pull my hand away from Maxine, her grip turned to iron, refusing to let go as she blinked at me. I sweat a little bit as she cocked her head slightly to the side, “L-lets go,” I mumbled. 
    “Wonderful!” She gave me a warm smile as she pushed the door open to the stairs. Svetlana walked behind us nervously straightening out her uniform and glancing around. We headed to the third floor and started down the hall, “Here we are!” Maxine announced suddenly, “Room three one two!” 
    We looked expectantly at Svetlana. Sweat dripped off her brow, she trembled heavily and looked like she might throw up. She glanced at the two of us, “This was a mistake.” 
    “Svetlana,” Maxine put her hand-- that was not clutching mine-- on her hip, “You knock on that door and win that man over with your charms and cooking!” 
    “But, Max, what if he doesn’t like me or my cooking?” 
    “I have yet to meet a single person who has not fallen in love with your cooking!” 
    “Is it wrong that a little part of me hopes this doesn’t work out so you can cook more for me?” I joked. 
    “Richard!” Maxine scolded me. 
    Svetlana smiled a little bit at my joke, “You should have asked me to make dinner. I’ll be sure to cook for you again.”  
    “Knock, friend. Knock and enter the next part of your life,” Maxine urged her. Svetlana whimpered quietly as her nerves got the best of her again. I spaced out as Maxine began to encourage her again. I stared out the window at the parking lot below us. A sign read: White Creek Apartments. Brent and Corey live in an apartment complex of the same name, I remembered. I looked around more, that was definitely the street I drove down to get to work. I turned back to the door, room 312, a familiar russian door mat sat at the foot of the door and a hole in the nearby wall that I put in when I helped my friend move in. This was Corey’s apartment for sure. The witch and maid were still arguing quietly, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my keyring and fumbled with them for a few moments before finding my key labeled: 312. I used it to unlock the door and turned the knob.  
Maxine and Svetlana looked at me in horror as I strutted into my friend’s apartment. He was sitting on his couch, looking at me, “Oh, shit! Hey Richard, how’s it going?” He had longer brown hair and wore jeans and a plain white shirt. 
    “Pretty good, Corey. Got any liquor for me?” I asked. 
    “You know it. You brought friends?” He looked past me as he paused The Office.  
    “Yeah, get in here you two,” Maxine strode into the room pulling Svetlana behind her. The two of them were followed by the floating chest. Corey looked at the trunk in shock and then at the two girls, “Do you two wanna introduce yourselves?” 
    “I am Maxine, a pleasure to meet you,” She slowly waved her staff in a half circle above her head, showering herself in illusionary confetti that disappeared in roughly 20 seconds. 
    All eyes were on Svetlana. She nervously shifted, “S-Svetlana,” She whispered. 
    “Speak up, friend,” Maxine told her. 
    “Svetlana,” She repeated, staring at the floor and fidgeting with the brim of her outfit. Maxine waved her staff over her friend’s head and showered her in illusionary glitter. 
    “Corey. Well, I was just about to start dinner, you three want--” Corey headed for the kitchen. 
    “P-please, allow me,” Svetlana interrupted him, “To cook for you, I mean.” 
    Corey looked at me inn confusion, “She’s a great cook,” I told him. 
    “Alright, do your thing,” Corey told her. She excitedly nodded at him, “You two gonna stick around?” Svetlana grabbed some food out of her trunk and rushed to the kitchen. 
    Before I could speak, Maxine answered for us, “No thank you. I am sure Svetlana would like some time alone with you,” Maxine unsummoned the black object that was carrying the trunk. 
    “What are you?” He suddenly asked. 
    “A witch. Be good to my friend, Corey, or I may have to turn you into a frog,” Maxine said in a dark tone, “Or perhaps a potted plant, Richard has a window that could use a nice potted plant.” 
    Corey looked at me again, fear on his face, “These two came through a portal to meet the two of us,” I explained. 
    “What?” He only looked more confused and afraid. 
    Maxine began to explain. “I crafted a combination of spells which could look between worlds and scry the user’s perfect husband. I was shown Richard,” She grabbed my hand again, “and Svetlana was shown you. I honestly do not know exactly what the spell looks for when matching you with someone. The original spell has been around as long as monster girls have, the details have been lost. Perhaps it chose you two for us two so we can all go on double dates together,” Maxine squeezed my hand as she looked dreamily at the ceiling. 
    “We’ll have to wait till those fanatics calm down,” I grumbled. 
    “What do you mean?” Svetlana asked. She was washing produce in the kitchen. 
    “A lot of people are being fed information that monster girls are the purest evil,” Corey growled, “Humans are the real monsters.” 
    “Preach the truth, brother,” I nodded, “They’ve never hurt anyone.” 
    “Yeah, there was that huge spider lady who nearly demolished an entire town when her boyfriend was arrested on bull shit charges,” We both chuckled a little bit. 
    “An ushi-oni I presume. Any girl, including little Svetlana here, could fight a group of men off when their husband is threatened. I can only imagine the destruction an unhinged ushi could do,” Maxine added with her thoughts, “Alas, we should be off, darling. Let these two have a romantic evening together, hm?” 
    I was a little disappointed, I really wanted her cooking, “Yeah. You seem very chill with this Corey. A little too chill.” 
    He leaned towards me and whispered, “She’s really cute and I’m really really lonely.” 
    I nodded, that hit a little too close to home, “Fair enough.” 
    “Are you done chatting?” Maxine tugged on my arm, “Let them have their time together.” 
    “Call me if she wants to talk to Maxy here,” I told Corey before Maxine waved her staff once more and teleported us home. I didn’t reel as hard from the feeling this time. We were in my backyard in the magic circle I had created. 
    “How are you feeling?” Maxine asked. 
    “A little tired. I’ll get dinner going,” I told her as she dragged me inside. 
    “Oh, no, darling. I can--” She paused, “I have no idea how to cook,” She looked up at me in horror. 
    I smiled at her, “I can cook just fine, Maxy. Don’t worry--” 
    “Don’t worry? Don’t worry!?” She started panicking, “I am supposed to be your wife! What kind of wife am I if I cannot even cook for you!”  
    “Maxy--” 
    “I didn’t have time to ask Svetlana to teach me housekeeping before I got in that fight with my mother and in a fit of anger I teleported us here early and--” 
    I grabbed her shoulders suddenly, startling her out of her rant, “You’re exhausted. Let me cook quickly and then we can rest together.” 
    She blinked the tears out of her eyes, “Alright, darling.” 
    “Go sit at the table, Maxy, I won’t be long,” She nodded silently before sitting on the hardly comfortable wooden chair, “Wanna talk about your mom more?” I put a pot of water on the stove top. 
    She nodded again, “I hate her,” She read my mind or something as the water was immediately brought to a boil as she moved her staff. 
    “What did she do?” I started cooking ramen on the stove. 
    “She is trying to force me to marry a disgusting, fat, pig-bastard of a man.” 
    “Why is she doing that?” 
    “She says its good for me, but I know its for her business. I don’t want to see either of them ever again.” 
    “I can see why. I’m not a big fan of my mom either.” 
    “Why is that?” Maxine tilted her head. 
    “She fucked my dad over in divorce court. Abusive, manipulative, all around shitty person. I want nothing to do with her,” I added two eggs to the noodles. 
    “We are quite alike, you and I, hm?” Maxine suddenly chuckled, “Daydreamers, we both desire love, we both hate our mothers... both of us are childish...” She said the last one with regret, “I would not have it any other way.” 
    “Think that’s why that spell chose me?” I asked. 
    “I would assume so.” 
    “Food’s hot,” I placed a bowl in front of her. 
    “Thank you, darling,” she looked down at the noodles, “Are we not supposed to eat this with chopsticks?” 
    “I’m not a big enough weeb to know how to use those, nor to have any on hand,” I explained as I used a fork. 
    “Weeb?” She echoed. 
    “Sorry, ignore me. Let’s eat.” 
 
    “What kind of caster would you want to be?” Maxine asked me as we climbed into bed. I was still mildly uncomfortable sleeping with her, but she begged me to. 
    “Like, arcane versus divine?” I asked as I plugged in my phone to charge. I sent a quick text to Corey, ‘How are you two doing?’ I asked him. 
    “Like wizard, warlock, cleric...” Maxine explained. 
    “Oh, I don’t know...” I trailed off as I got a text back from Corey, ‘Good! You two?’ I responded with, ‘Really tired.’ 
“Give me something to work with, darling.” 
“Are you trying to teach me magic?” I prodded. 
“Perhaps,” She half admitted, “I have an idea.” 
“I don’t think I’m cut out for it, dear. I’ll leave that stuff to you.” 
“Hmph, we will see,” she rested her head on my chest, “Goodnight, my love.”     
“Goodnight, Maxy,” I yawned before closing my eyes.

PT2

I woke up to a bright light above me, I squeezed my eyes shut and rolled over. The lights turned off, I opened my eyes and looked at the light switch. Maxine was standing at the light switch, her tail flicking from side to side as she curiously flipped the lights on and off. She had a look of wonder on her face, “Maxine,” I grumbled as I flipped onto my stomach, hiding my eyes in the pillow. 
“Did I wake you up? Sorry, darling,” She turned the lights off and returned to the bed. She put her hands on my back, they were warm and soft as they gently touched my tense muscles, “How about you go back to sleep?”  
“Can’t, already awake,” I rubbed my eyes and sat up, Maxine smiled at me apologetically. I reached over and pet her head for a few moments before checking my phone. She purred loudly as I ran my fingers through her hair. I tried to look at my phone screen but was interrupted by Maxine, pushing me onto my back, wrapping her arms around my neck and rubbing her cheeks against mine. I pet her more as her purring reached peak volume, drowning out the sound of the fan in my room. She finally stopped the cuddling session with a kiss on my lips. She put her head on my stomach and I was finally able to check my phone.  
The group text had gone late into the night, Matt, Brent and Corey were debating whether or not to continue playing Dungeons and Dragons after losing our fifth member. Svetlana had said no to playing, apparently. When questioned, Corey merely said that Svetlana was a kikimora and refused to explain more. I turned to Maxine, “Hey, Maxy?” 
She looked up at me, “Yes?” 
“Would you want to hang out with my friends and play a game?” 
“That role play dungeon game?” She answered my question with her own and a sly smile on her face. 
“You make it sound really sexual like that,” I shook my head, “But yes, the role playing game.” 
“I will participate,” She immediately told me, “I need to be sure you are not doing anything sexual with other men. How do you play?” 
“Well, first everyone gets naked,” Maxine looked at me in horror. As I jokingly reached to pull my pants off she got excited, “Maxy, I’m just kidding. You act out a character and roll dice to do things,” I quickly texted the group and told them that Maxine would play and that I would host. I didn’t explain who Maxine was, of course. 
“Ah, like gambling.” 
“Sort of. Oh, maybe Svetlana will come over with Corey and cook for us,” I rubbed my chin and thought about those potatoes. 
“It will be nice to see her again,” She said in a dejected tone. 
“What’s wrong?” I asked. 
“The way you drool when you think of that kikimora,” Maxine growled at me. 
“I’m just thinking of those potatoes! They were much better than the crap I usually eat!” I quickly explained, her ire brought about a menacing aura. 
Maxine pouted at me, “I can tell you are not lying to me... I apologize for my irrational anger,” Her ears twitched as she frowned towards the window. 
“Are you really upset about that?” I asked rather callously. 
She turned to me, glaring, “I have always been the ugly runt, Richard. I am sick of it. My sister is the pretty one, Svetlana is the useful one, then there is me. Maxine the ugly witch, cursed with ugly, ratty, black fur and green eyes rather than my family’s trademark white fur and blue eyes. No matter how many illusions I use I cannot run from what I am: an UGLY... SMELLY, LITTLE--”  
I grabbed Maxine’s cheeks silencing her, “How did these ideas get into your head?” Her few tears ran down her cheeks and over my fingers. 
She pulled herself away from me, “I could always feel my mother’s disappointment in me. I was never the perfect daughter she wanted like Eliza. That fact was always plain on her face. I was born with an unnatural talent, magic. The only reason I have any training in the arcane is because my father pushed for it, seeing my potential as a mage,” I dried her eyes with my shirt, “I may have had everything I could ever want but I have never truly felt like I have my mother’s love. Now she wishes to sell me off to the highest bidder,” Her tone quickly turned to anger once more, “That will never happen, I will be sure of that much.” 
The murderous tone of that last part made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I wanted to cheer her up, I felt like I needed to. I reached towards her slowly, trying to figure out what to do. She suddenly snatched my hand with her own and held my palm against her cheek. She gave me a small smile that contradicted her sad eyes, “Come here,” I wrapped my arms around her.  
She rested her head on my shoulder and limply wrapped her arms around my neck, “At least I feel loved when in your arms.” 
“Good,” I gave her a tight hug, “Are you hungry? I can whip something up for you.” 
“Oh, I am sure Svet--” Maxine blinked as she remembered her friend was not here anymore, “I miss her already.” 
“I know, Maxy. Rest some more, I’ll get food going,” I peeled her off of me and headed to the kitchen. I dug through my pantry looking for food. I was out of almost everything, except for pancake mix. I wondered if Maxine had ever had pancakes before.  
 
    Maxine wandered out of the bedroom carrying her bag. She laid out four tomes and began to look over them. She mumbled to herself and wrote notes on papers as she went. I looked over her shoulder to watch her draw the same glyph over and over until she got it right. I couldn’t tell what she was noting or what the glyphs were for, “Studying?” I asked her. 
“Planning. As a witch, I need to have plans for almost every situation,” Maxine explained to me.  
“Interesting,” I replied as I fired up the griddle, “What are you planning for?” 
“Did you not hear me? Everything.” 
“Oh, right.” 
“Protection runes, that is what I am working on.” 
“Protection from what?” Maxine gave me an expectant look, “Everything, got it.” 
“What are you cooking?” She changed topics. 
“Everything,” I said in a mocking tone. 
    “Oh, come now,” Maxine groaned as I gave her a wide smile, “I am hungry.” 
    “Pancakes. I hope I get them right!” I flipped a pancake and examined the soft brown surface, “Aw, hell yeah, lookin’ good,” I let out a sigh of relief. 
    Maxine smiled and shook her head, “I am proud of you, darling. You are able to use a spatula effectively!” She gave me a teasing smile. 
    “Soon, I’ll be better than, Svetlana, eh?” 
    “I hope so!” She seemed to genuinely feel like that, “If you make me steak I will consider you a better chef than her. At least for a time,” She quickly added. 
    “What an honor.” 
    “Please? I love steak,” She begged, “With potatoes and bread as well,” I felt like she was demanding now. 
    “I’ll think about it. Steak’s expensive and I’m a little tight on funds.” 
    Maxine shifted into a panic, “Is there anywhere nearby that will take gold coins?” Maxine threw a big cloth sack onto the table. Coins and gems spilled out. 
    “Uh, no we use paper money.” 
    “Will we survive on your current funds?” She asked in a panicked tone. 
    “I can dip into my vacation savings, Maxy, don’t worry about it. Focus on your studies.” 
    She took a deep breath and relaxed, “Mayhaps I will finally be able to open that enchantment shop I always wanted to so I can help you with funds.” 
    “That could be really cool!” I finished cooking the pancakes and brought them to the table. Maxine cleared a space the table for me. I put some on a plate for myself and dumped syrup on them. Maxine watched me quizzically as I prepared my cakes, “Butter?” I offered. 
    “Yes, please,” She replied cautiously. She gently spread some butter on her cakes before pouring syrup on it. She carefully cut them with her knife and put it in her mouth. Her eyes lit up as she chewed. She didn’t speak until she finished chewing, “I like it! You are a good chef!” 
    “You’re too kind,” We finished eating in near silence. Maxine had excellent table manners. I didn’t know anything about fine dining and even I could tell. She kept gently and playfully rubbing her foot against my ankle while smiling at me. I knew what she was doing but I had no idea to reciprocate it.  
    As we finished eating the stack of pancakes, Maxine turned to me with bedroom eyes, “Do you wish to bathe with me?”  
    I went red in the face as she redoubled her footsies. I hardly managed to stammer out, “I-I-I’m not c-comfortable doing that, Ma-Maxy. I need to take this a bit slowly.” 
    “Ah, well, I shall comply with your wishes, Richard,” She looked disappointed, “I pray I can control my innate urges towards you. I am going to go bathe, try not to miss me too much.” 
    I watched Maxine go. I felt awful denying her like that, the way her tail drooped as she walked told me how sad she was. I sighed and leaned back in my chair. I could only imagine how she looked nude, she was a small woman with a shapely form. I couldn’t keep my thoughts from her as I moved to the couch. I found myself imagining what she looked like underneath those robes she always wore. Her sleep wear usually concealed her form, the only way I had any idea was because of how tightly she liked to press herself against me. My thoughts took a sharp turn as I wondered what the sides of her head, where a human’s ears would go, look like. I knew nothing about her, other than she hated her mom and this Oscar guy and she had proficiency in magic. I sighed at myself before trying to distract myself with video games. 
 
        I returned to the main room after showering to see Maxine sitting cross legged on the floor surrounded by her books. She was muttering to herself while taking in the heavy scent of incense. I quietly moved to the couch to watch her work. She waved her hand around a bowl with some plants and rocks in it, “Darling, come over here,” She commanded. I did as she said, sitting on the floor facing her as some books were moved aside by an unseen force, “Turn around and lift your shirt,” Again, I blindly did what she wanted, revealing my back to her. Her murmuring turned into speaking, as if she was commanding some unseen force. I felt a charge in the air as her voice increased in volume.  
My curtains rattled and I felt like my house was wobbling. I could feel the energy in my soul as my body vibrated more and more as Maxine’s speech turned to unintelligible shouting. She pressed the staff into my back. A burning sensation made me pant and writhe in pain. The staff was pushed deeper into my skin as Maxine screamed the last few words. I felt a flash of intense pain and then nothing. My breathing was ragged as I recovered from that experience. Maxine gently caressed the burning spot on my back, “Good job, darling,” She told me in a soothing, purring voice. I turned around to her and looked at her with confusion, “Just some protective runes. I would not do this to you unless I felt it was necessary.” 
“That dream really made you nervous, huh?” I asked in a ragged voice. 
She nodded, “I cannot stand the thought of harm coming to you. If I lost you I have no idea what I would do. Probably go insane, hopefully turn into a lich as raise you, and most likely cry a lot.” 
“Well, I’ll do my best to not die, Maxy,” I reached out and ran my fingers through her hair, causing her to purr loudly, “Hey, can I... do something?” 
“Of course, darling!” She didn’t even question what I wanted to do. 
She waved her staff in the air, causing every book to slam shut then neatly stack themselves to the side. She moved closer to me, inches from sitting on my lap. I reached my hand out and pushed her hair aside, there was nothing where a human’s ears would be. I grunted, “Weird.” 
“My ears are up here, darling.” 
“I was just curious. Is your tongue, like, rough?” My curiosity got the better of me once more. 
“How about you find out?” She puckered her lips and slightly stuck out her tongue. I tentatively reached up to touch it with an outstretched finger, “For the love of...” She lashed out with her claws, startling me. She grabbed my hands with her own and interlocked her fingers with mine, “Kiss me, foolish boy,” She stopped me from replying by pushing her lips against mine and assaulting my mouth with her tongue. It WAS rough, exactly like a cat’s. I felt like sandpaper was rubbing against my tongue. Maxine pulled away from me and panted slightly, “Is your curiosity satisfied, my darling?” 
My breathing was shaky, “Y-yes.” 
“Good, good. If you want me to... satisfy anything else, let me know~” She caressed my cheek before giving me another kiss. 
“I-I’ll be sure to,” I was still recovering after she assaulted me with her mouth. 
It was Maxine’s turn to be the curious one, “Could you show me how the wall computer works?” She pointed at the TV. 
I gave her a confused look, “Oh, the television. You wanna try video games?” 
“I like games!” She looked at me with excited eyes. 
I gave her a quick rundown on how to operate the remote control. Maxine was an incredibly fast learner. Within moments, she was turning the TV on and off, changing channels and raising volume. The entire time she was drawing diagrams of how the remote worked so she could reference it later. I handed her the controller I used for my emulator and booted up Tetris, something easy and simple enough. 
“What is the goal of this game?” Maxine asked me. 
“Blocks come down from the top and you arrange them into lines to score. Use those buttons to move them and those to rotate them,” I explained.  
Maxine bounced slightly along to the music as blocks began to rain down. She quickly began to get single clears. As the pace increased, she began to panic. She made a few mistakes as the blocks stacked higher and higher. Suddenly, she shoved the controller into my hands, “You do it!” She shouted. 
I was too shocked to recover for her, “Sorry,” I mumbled as the game over screen flashed on the TV. 
“It is alright, d-darling,” She was obviously shaken from the assault of blocks. 
“You want something more laid back?” 
“Not right now,” She gently climbed into my lap and pressed herself against me, her face being placed against my neck, “Hubby?” 
“Yeah?” 
    “I love you.” 
    Hearing her say those three words got me all choked up again. Hearing a woman say those words to me filled me with a strange feeling. I gave her some headpats, too afraid to say anything. Despite this, Maxine purred into my ear as she drifted to sleep. I sighed and closed my eyes as well. 
 
    I woke up as my stomach rumbled, Maxine’s did the same. We looked at eachother, “Lunch,” Maxine ordered. 
    “I think I have to go out for food,” I grumbled, “I don’t have a lot foodwise.” 
    “I shall accompany you,” Maxine pushed herself off of me. 
    “I can go myself, Maxy. You don’t--” 
    “I AM going to accompany you,” She reiterated. 
    I sighed, “Well, we have to disguise you then. Can you cast an illusion on yourself?” 
    “I would rather not focus on a spell for a very long time in case I need my mana for something else. May I wear one of your coats?” I looked at the rain as it splashed against the windows and nodded. 
    We moved the conversation into my room where I grabbed a jacket that was much too large for me. Maxine changed into a puffy pair of shorts and a sort of tank top. She put the coat on and I zipped it up for her. I covered my mouth with my hands, she looked absolutely adorable. The long sleeves of the jacket went down well past her hands, the collar came up over her nose and the brim went down to her knees. I put the hood up on her covering her ears. I could only see her piercing green eyes staring at me now, “What?” She put her hands on her hips and pouted at me. 
    “You’re just... really cute, ya know?” 
She pouted more, “Could we get going? I am hungry, Richard dear.” 
    My stomach growled once more, “Right, sorry, I forgot. You’ve never rode in a car before, huh?” 
    She looked nervous, “N-no, I have not,” I stopped myself from teasing her as her face turned to terror as she thought about it more. 
    “You can hold my hand for comfort, Maxy,” I put my hands on her shoulders. 
    She sighed, “Thank you, Richard. We should go before I can think too much about it, please,” Maxine pulled a pair of red cloth boots from her trunk, they looked too big for her. As she slipped them on, they shrunk down to perfect size.  
    “Neat,” I commented. 
    “Hm? Oh, these old things? Magic boots enchanted with water repellent. My mother hated the color of these. Most magic items will magically change size to the wearers preferred size,” Talking about magic seemed to calm her down. 
    “Tell me more about magic stuff,” I told her as I pulled her to the car. 
    “Uhm, my bag here is much larger on the inside so I can stow my staff as well as multiple books inside of it as well as...”  
 
    Maxine’s grip on my arm tightened as I pulled out of the driveway. She held my hand with one hand and my wrist with her other hand. It was only a five minute drive, but it was probably closer to five hours for Maxine. Every turn, she made a terrified squeaking noise. Every time I slowly came to a stop, her claw-like nails would dig into my wrist and palm. Maxine would gasp as other cars passed no matter how far away they were from us. When we pulled into the parking lot, Maxine’s eyes darted around warrily, “Are you going to be alright?” I grunted as she nervously rended my flesh with her nails. 
“Y-yes. I need to be,” She whispered. 
“Hey, you’re doing great, Maxy,” I smiled at her. She gave me a worried smile, “Hey, there’s a spot!” I quickly pulled into a spot, startling Maxine. I chuckled as she seethed at me, “Come on!” I told her as I hopped out of the car, the rain had picked up so we hurried into the store.  
Maxine gasped in wonder as she looked around the grocery store. Rows upon rows of foodstuffs lined shelves, “There’s so much... different stuff here! This place is huge!” She looked up at me with sparkles in her eyes.  
“C’mon, let’s get shopping,” I stared at my wrist and hand to see the marks that Maxine had left on my arm. The pain was all worth it for her. I would go to the ends of the earth if I needed to. I pulled my sleeve over my wrist as to not worry her, “Keep the hood up, I don’t want to have to deal with any heat today.” 
“As you wish,” She stared at me with her huge pupils. They turned to slits slowly as they adjusted to the lights. She waddled after me as I grabbed a cart and headed to the produce. I started picking through apples, looking for the good stuff, “Richard!” Maxine excited called out to me, “Look how big these potatoes are!” She held up a good sized potato.  
“Mhm. Grab two or three more and put them in one of those plastic bags then into the cart.” 
“Okay!” Maxine did as I told her, rolling up her sleeves and looking for big potatoes. Her tail swung side to side underneath the coat. She rocked from side to side as she hummed a tune that played on the radio on the way over. I couldn’t help but smile at her. She proudly presented the potatoes to me before placing them in the cart. I chuckled a little bit at her. She pouted, “What? I did as you asked!” 
“I know, I know. Thank you.” 
She beamed at me, “What do we get next?” 
“I wanna get some chicken and some steak. Bread... cheese... I’m  pretty low on food to be honest. I need a little bit of everything for this week,” I told her. 
“Steak!?” She drooled, “Is the steak for tonight?” She flapped the long sleeves of her coat at me. 
“Uhuh. I’ve never cooked one before but I’ll give it a go.” 
“Thank you!” Maxine wrapped her arms around me and stood on her tippy toes just to kiss me on the cheek, “Mashed potatoes and bread too?” 
“Anything for you.” 
 
“Are you sure you will be fine on your own tomorrow?” I asked Maxine as I cooked.  
“Of course. I have magic I can work on, I know how to play video games and watch TV and there is more than enough food for the few hours I will be alone,” Maxine was putting on a smiling face but I could see some sadness in her eyes. 
“It should only be a half day,” I reminded her, or was it myself? I wasn’t even separated from her right now but I could feel a strange pre sadness in that moment. I wanted to spend every moment, awake or asleep with her, “I’m going to take the rest of the week off so I can keep helping you transition into life here.” 
“Why do you have to go to work tomorrow at all?”  
“I have to do a presentation on some financial data for some higher ups. Shouldn’t be hard, just something I need to do,” I explained. 
She looked disappointed, “Alright, darling.” 
“We still have each other for tonight, right? Let’s focus on now. The foods almost ready.” 
“You are right,” Maxine agreed, “I want to enjoy your company,” She gave me a wide smile. She was still wearing my blue coat. 
“Why are you still wearing that old thing?” 
“It smells like you!” 
I laughed, “Alright, alright. Here,” I set a plate of food in front of her. Some steak, mashed potatoes and butter covered rolls. I took a bite of the steak. Dry and tasteless. I tried the potatoes, over salted and chunky. The rolls were fine, but those were store bought. I sighed at myself, disappointed in myself, terrified of what Maxine would think of me now that she’s had my awful cooking. 
“I love it!” She shouted. 
I gave her a sideways glance, “Huh?” 
“Its all wonderful!” She restated. I blinked at her. She must have seen the confusion written on my face, “You did your best, Richard. Could I ask for anymore than that? I don’t care how the food tastes. You made it with love so I love it. I love you, Richard.” 
I laughed. I laughed at myself as I got teary eyed over a poorly made dinner and Maxine’s words, “Th-thank you, Maxine. I-I love you too.” 
She smiled at me as her ears twitched, “Eat up, darling. No crying  at the dinner table!” She purred as she reached over the table and  dried my eyes. I nodded and went back to eating. It tasted better, much  better.

PT3

    I woke up to my phone’s alarm. The vibrating increased until I turned it off. I sat up, yawned and rubbed my eyes. I looked over, Maxine was staring at me with huge, startled eyes. The fur on her tail stood on end, “What was that?” She asked meekly. 
    “My alarm. I have to go to work, remember?” I told her. 
    “Why did it have to make THAT noise?” She mewled. 
    I pat her head, “I’ll change it to playing music rather than vibrating.” 
    She calmed herself down by hugging me, “I had a dream about you again.” 
    I hugged her back, “What was it?” 
    “I have had a dream like this before, where I am being held against my will. Usually by my mother or even Oscar. Then you show up, wearing black armor and wielding a wicked axe and you rescue me!” She explained dreamily.  
    “If only I was really like that,” I sighed.  
    “I love you just how you are, darling. Fear of the dark and all.” 
    “Thanks, Maxy,” I said sarcastically, “I’m gonna get ready now, get some more rest.” 
    “I want to help you get ready, darling. Or at least spend time with you.” 
    I chuckled, “Do whatever you want, Maxy.” 
    “Want me to wash your back?” She asked excitedly. 
    “N-no-- no thanks,” I stammered before leaving the room. 
    “One of these days, darling!” Maxine called after me, “I WILL see you nude!” 
 
    I ventured into the kitchen looking for Maxine. She stood at the stove wearing a frilly pink apron over her usual sleep clothes. She turned around to me with a proud smile on her face. She had, surprisingly, prepared breakfast for me. Very simple breakfast potatoes, “Thank you,” I said as she placed a plate full of food in front of me. 
    “Eat up!” She demanded as she looked at me expectantly. Without looking up I stabbed a chunk of potato and shoved it in my mouth. It tasted burnt and under seasoned. 
    “Wow, Maxy, its really good!” I smiled at her as she beamed.  
    “I asked Svetlana last night for some lessons. Even if they were within a dream, they seemed to work,” I quietly ate the food she prepared for me after salting them a little bit more, “When do you want to get married?” Maxine stood behind me and gently rubbed my shoulders. 
    “I don’t know, Maxy. I’m still getting comfortable with my new life with you,” I explained slowly, “You mentioned more people-- monsters like you showing up, right?” 
    “Yup! Oh! We could get married at a new church of Eros!” She looked at me with wide eyes. 
    “Who?” 
    “Eros the goddess of love! Monsters wanted to create a marriage ceremony somewhat familiar to both worlds. Our goddess, and a ceremony similar to what yours is currently. The soon to be husband and wife stand at an altar with an officiator, friends and loved ones sitting behind them, warm sunlight filtering in through stained glass windows and once the vows are said, a statue of Eros herself blows some pink fog into the room as she gives her blessing... Oh, it sounds so lovely! When we get married we are doing that for sure,” Maxine got incredibly excited. 
    “Why does she blow pink fog into the room?” I finished eating the potatoes and took my plate to the sink. 
    “Doesn’t your god do that during a wedding?” Maxine was confused. 
    “N-no...?” I was confused now. 
    “Oh, well, her disciples have stated that this is how she wishes the weddings to proceed. Would you be alright with getting married like that?” 
    “If that’s what you want, Maxy. I gotta get going. I’ll bring you some lunch, alright?” I started to head for the door. 
    Maxine grabbed my arm and pulled me into a hug and a kiss, “Have a good day. I love you.” 
    “Love you too.” 
 
    I struggled to maintain any semblance of focus as I sat at my desk. I had already cleared my ‘emergency’ vacation time. Thankfully the boss didn’t have any big plans for me after this stuff. At least not for a while. I was currently reviewing my presentation, even if it was short, I needed to be ready. I couldn’t keep my mind off of Maxine. It was torture being away from her. I wanted nothing more than to just cuddle with her all day and night and let my worries melt away as she whispers to me in her soothing voice. I checked my watch, I had only been here for an hour. I collected what little of myself that I could and headed to the meeting room.  
I grabbed a doughnut as I sat down amongst others that were presenting today. I tuned out my coworkers as I thought more about Maxine. I was pulled from the darkest period of my life by her. I had cut ties with what little family I had, lost one of my best friends as he moved cross country and I had felt completely alone in the world. Then one night Maxine entered my dreams and claimed to be a real witch. She kept visiting me and eventually gave me instructions to construct a portal. Now Maxine and Svetlana were the first of many monsters to enter this world besides those woman that monsterized years ago. I wondered how the integration would go down. I hoped it would be peaceful. 
I quickly pushed all of that from my mind as I stood up to present, “Hi,” I began, “As you can see in this chart the Maxine account--” I coughed, “Sorry. As you can see from this chart...” 
 
    “I’m home!” I called as I pushed my front door open. No response, “Maxy?” I called again. With no response again I went into the kitchen, hoping to find a note or something. There was nothing. I put the pizza in the oven to keep it warm while I searched the rest of the house. The bathroom light was off so I checked my bedroom. The bed had been poorly made, but it still looked like someone had been laying on it. I walked back to the kitchen, worry filling my head. 
    “Welcome home!” A voice called. I looked up in surprise to see Maxine sitting at the dining room table. 
    “Where were you!?” I demanded, I let my emotions overtake me as I raised my voice, “I was really worried...” I quickly tried to recover. 
    “I am a grown woman, Richard. Do not worry about me,” Maxine retorted. She didn’t look grown up, she wore my oversized blue jacket, those red boots and a pointy, black witch hat, “But... I appreciate you worrying so much about me,” She got up and gave me a hug. She held out her hands for me to hold, “If you must know, I was visiting Svetlana. Her and Corey should be coming over tonight, you should invite your other friends as well! We want to meet them!” 
I looked down at her uplifted hands, she had light burns and cuts covering them, “What happened?” I gasped. 
“Oh, I didn’t have the spell components to apply safeties. I am fine,” Some of the cuts were still bleeding. 
I dragged her into the laundry room without a word. I grabbed some bandages and started applying them to her hands, “You’re gonna make me worry to death, Maxy,” She looked at me with teary eyes, “Maxy, I’m exaggerating.” 
“I used to daydream about my future husband doing this, darling,” She wiped her eyes with the sleeve of my coat. 
I smiled at her weakly, “Probably not as panicked as I am right now, huh?” 
“You are perfect just as you are,” She pouted.  
“Not as perfect as you.” 
“Richard!” She wagged a finger at me, “You ARE perfect. I refuse to eat until you admit it,” She looked at me smugly. I looked at her, unsure of what to do. I finished applying bandages to her hands and walked back to the kitchen. Maxine followed closely with the same smug expression on her face.  
“Do I have to?” I groaned. 
“Yes. Do it for me.” 
“I’m perfect,” I whispered. 
“Hm? Speak up!” 
“I’m perfect.” 
“Good!” She grabbed my shirt and pulled my face down to her level before kissing me on the cheek, “I have a gift for you, darling~” 
“Huh?” 
She reached into the sleeve of her coat and produced something, “Here you go!” 
She shoved it into my hands. I looked down. It was a massive stack of hundred dollar bills, “What!?” 
“I traded in some of my gems and gold to help you with funds!” Maxine gave me a massive smile, “We still have more than enough in case gold coins become the new standard currency in this world when monster girls invade. I am going to take you on an amazing vacation when that happens~” Her eyes sparkled at me. 
I quickly calmed myself down, I didn’t want a repeat of her pouting and refusing to eat, “Thank you, Maxy,” I gave her a hug, “Ready to eat now?” I pushed the money out of my mind, it didn’t matter to me as much as she did. 
“Yes! What are we eating? It smells really good!” 
“Pizza. I got one with a bunch of meat on it for you.” 
“You should have gotten something you like, darling,” She whined. 
“Maxy, I do like this kind of pizza.” 
“Oh. Excellent. Well, we should eat,” She said quickly. 
 
    A knock on the door caused Maxine to spring up off my lap. We had been cuddling on the couch while the TV played in the background. I turned the TV off and stretched my limbs. Maxine threw the door open and greeted our guests, “Max, what are you wearing?” Svetlana laughed at the huge coat Maxine was wearing. The two of them started laughing and talking loudly. Brent, Corey and Matt hurried past them to where I was sitting. 
    Matt eyed the two monsters warily, “Is she really a witch, Richard?” Matt asked in a hushed voice.  
    “Yep,” I confirmed bluntly. He blinked at me, unsure of what to say. 
    “Svetlana was telling us about how other monsters are gonna come pouring into this world soon. I hope I get a wife like you guys,” Brent chimed in.  
    “What are you looking for?” Corey asked. 
    Brent blushed, “H-huge, fit and dominant,” He stammered. 
    “Hellhound, dragon, jinko, oni... you have quite a few options beyond what I named,” Maxine told him as the two of them joined us in the living room. 
“Those are all huge, beautiful girls, right?” Brent was slowly learning what monster girls were all about. 
“That is correct,” Svetlana answered for Maxine, “Shall I start dinner soon?” She turned to Corey. 
“Whenever you’re ready,” He shrugged. Svetlana picked up a grocery bag and moved to the kitchen with Corey in tow. 
Matt brought his hand to his face, “What kind of girl do I want?” He wondered aloud. 
“I do not think you will get much of a choice,” Maxine told him. 
He looked at her, “What?” 
She pointed to the mark on his hand, “That warding glyph on your hand was put there by a very powerful caster. She is a nice woman, I am sure you will like her.” 
“What is she?” Matt asked nervously. 
“And ruin the surprise?” Maxine gave him a smug smile. Matt looked nervous as he started thinking and mumbling to himself, “She found you the same way I found Richard as did Svetlana with her husband. No need to be worried,” Matt slowly nodded and took a seat. 
“When are we playing D and D?” Brent changed subjects. 
“Hopefully soon,” Matt said quietly, “Maybe we can start this weekend?” 
I nodded, “Should be fun, right Maxy?” 
“I hope so. I have never played such a game so I do not know much of what to expect,” Maxine admitted, “Other than what little Richard has explained to me.” 
“What did he tell you?” Matt asked. 
Maxine was silent for a moment, then she laughed, “He said you get naked and gamble.” 
“Richard, why’d you tell her our secrets already?” Brent said with mock anger. 
“We only get naked sometimes!” Corey called from the kitchen, “Anyone else want a beer?” Pretty much everyone shouted ‘ME’ at once, including Maxine. The rest of the night continued like this. 
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
 
I found myself sitting in a boat drifting lazily down a river. A figure in a tattered purple cloak stood at the back and paddled the boat past rocks and fog shrouded trees. I looked down into the water at my murky reflection, the water was surprisingly clear for a spooky dream. I frowned, confused as to why I was so lucid. This had not happened since Maxine came into my reality. Besides, this wasn’t something I day dreamed about. I was not too keen on boats, especially on rocky rivers shrouded in heavy fog. I listened to the boat coast through the water, “Sleeping soundly, Richard?” The boat driver asked. Her calm, yet dark tone sent a shiver down my spine.  
“I think so?” I replied, hoping to wake up soon. 
She cackled, causing me to shiver again, “Good... Good... You should tell your... ‘Maxy,’ was it?” She eyed me underneath her shadow shrouded cloak. I nodded, “To sleep more. She is a young, living woman who needs her good nights sleep with her... ‘hubby,’ I believe she calls you,” The woman sighed, “I cannot wait to be held by my husband.” 
“Who are you?” I asked as she drifted off into thought. 
“That does not matter,” She said in a stern tone, “Give this to Maxine for me, would you, dear?” She reached into the sleeve of her cloak and produced a scroll, “She needs to pave the way for the rest of us.” 
I took it from her and looked at it. It was sealed with a wax seal depicting a skull with gems in its eyes, “Uh, sure?” 
“Thank you, dear. Keep an eye on Matt for me, would you? I would hate for something to happen to him when I am this close to him,” She returned to silence as she paddled the boat. I watched a light begin to rise from the horizon, the fog fell away and color returned to the trees and water. 
    I was alone in the boat.  
    I shook myself awake. 
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
 
    I woke up to a dim light in the room. I was lying on my stomach, which was odd as I slept on my back. I shifted, trying to push myself up, “Ack!” Maxine made a strange noise before snapping her fingers. Heavy chains wrapped around my wrists and pulled me against my bed. 
    I struggled against the magical binds, “Maxine,” I growled. 
    “Just a moment!” I could hear panic in her voice, “Lie very... VERY still for me. Please?” 
    “Mmmmgh,” I groaned, the only reason I complied was the true fear I heard in her voice. I also knew how disastrous her magic could be when something goes wrong. I lie still, waiting for this to be over. I could feel a sharp object being drawn across my back leaving behind a cold liquid. Maxine muttered to herself in her arcane language. 
    “You are doing such a good job, did you know that?” She ran fingers through my hair to calm me down. It kind of worked, “Just a few more strokes, my darling. You are such a good boy,” She cooed further, “Such a--” I felt a quick, intense pain as she pressed something cool onto my back. The fires from the candles went out all at once brought about with a loud crack in the room. All the air was sucked from my lungs and my strength was sapped, “good boy,” Maxine was out of breath, panting for air. She snapped her fingers again and the aetherial chains vanished from my wrists. I groaned, exhausted even though I had just woken up, “I apologize, darling. You were not supposed to awaken in the midst of that casting. I would have stopped as soon as you began grumbling in reality while in a dreaming state, but there was no going back once I began.” 
    “What were you doing, anyways?” 
    “D-don’t worry, darling,” She caressed my naked body, tracing my body with her fingers, “I love exploring your body,” She whispered, “Such a handsome man,” She sounded like she could pass out from exhaustion at any moment. I quickly got up and threw my underwear back on. Maxine had a massive smile on her face. She looked me in the eyes, “I SAW it,” She whispered in disbelief as delirium set in. 
    “Go to sleep, dammit,” I ordered as I climbed back into bed. I wrapped an arm around Maxine and held her against me. I checked the clock, five in the morning on a Thursday. I tried to get my mind off of what had just happened by thinking about anything else. We were supposed to go out for dinner today, but I knew this exhaustion would ruin all chances of going out today. Maxine had passed out quickly, thankfully. I noticed something out of place in my room, a scroll of parchment sat on my nightstand. That dream must have been like when Maxine appeared to me and gave me instructions. I could only guess what was on that scroll. I closed my eyes, trying to get some sleep. 
 
    “Richard?” Maxine suddenly woke up, “Where is that scroll?” I had no idea how long I had slept if any at all. 
    “Did you see the purple cloaked ferryman too?” I asked. 
    “Is that how she appeared to you?” Maxine chuckled, “She is a lich. Appears she has eyes for our friend, hm? Again, the scroll, darling?” 
    I reached over and grabbed it from the nightstand, undeterred by the fact that a real, honest to god, LICH took time out of her day to visit me in a dream. I checked the clock as well, it was eight now, “Here’s the scroll,” I grumbled. 
    She furiously unrolled it and read through it. She had a surprising amount of energy with only a few hours of sleep, “Ah, I see.” 
    “What is it?” 
    “Instructions on the creation of a massive portal. It will require a massive amount of mana. Unfortunately, I am spent for today because of that casting,” She sighed, “I suppose they have to wait one more day. But what is one more day in a plan that has been in creation for more than one hundred years?” 
    “Yeah,” I closed my eyes again.     
    “Why are you trying to go back to sleep? Its the beginning of a  new day!” She shook me until my eyes opened, “Get up! Get up!” She  leapt off of me and threw the curtains open, “I am making potatoes  again~” She tried to coax me again. I got up, just for her. Maxine  planted a kiss on my cheek before running out of the room and into the  kitchen. I decided I would just have to nap later.

PT4

    I stood in a grassy field staring at the sky. The long green grass came up to my knees as it swayed back and forth. Maxine was writing on nearby logs, trees, stumps with that same magic chalk like substance that she had me use to make glyphs in my backyard. Those glyphs were still there and I wondered if they could be used by other casters. I sat down on a rock that Maxine had already marked. As the winds picked up I could feel the cold air. Dark clouds rolled in with a chance of rain. Maxine frowned as she looked to the sky, “Did you bring an umbrella?” She asked in an echoing voice. 
    “No, I didn’t. I didn’t see rain today,” My mouth answered for me. 
    “I will just have to work through the rain, I suppose.” 
    “Sorry, Maxy.” 
    “It is not your fault, darling. We simply got tricked today,” Sure enough, rain started to fall around us. The magic chalk was fine, but Maxine and I were soon drenched. I sighed, feeling like I had let Maxine down in some way. 
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
 
    I yawned as I poked at the potatoes in front of me. Maxine had become obsessed with cooking for me. She usually used magic to cook them in the pan despite the stove being in full working order. I sighed at myself, shaking my head, “Is something wrong, darling?” Maxine asked as she sat across from me. She was in her full witch's garb again. It was Friday morning, the day where she was to construct the portal. 
    “I’m... nervous. Incredibly nervous,” I admitted. 
    “Afraid of bringing about a new age to your people?” She played footsie with me as she smiled. 
    “I wouldn’t call them ‘my people,’ but, yeah. I am. What if something goes wrong? Human militaries go into action and they use guns and missiles to fight against the monsters. Even if monster girls have pure intentions I cannot see this going well, Maxy.” 
    “Worry not, darling. Everything will go smoothly,” She put her hand on mine to comfort me. 
    “Even if I’m just driving you to some field, this is probably the most important thing I have ever done.” 
    She smiled at me, “Finish eating, darling. I am itching to get going.” 
    “I’m trying. I’m a little too anxious.” 
    “Then put it in a bag and bring it with you!” Maxine groaned. 
    “Okay, okay, I’ll eat when I get home. Lets go, Maxy.” 
    “Richard, you need to eat.” 
    “Make up your mind, Maxy.” 
    “Eat!” She demanded. I quickly finished eating, stuffing my mouth full of potatoes and hardly chewing, “You are going to choke, darling,” Worry rang in her voice as she frowned at me.  
    “Good!” I laughed with my mouth full of food. 
    “You are such a fool,” Maxine couldn’t stop herself from laughing at me, “Let us be off, darling,” Maxine headed to the garage. I moved to follow her but stopped myself as I remembered my dream. It had felt real, like that dream where I lie in Maxine’s arms. I went to the closet and grabbed my umbrella before catching up with her. 
 
    “You've gotten more comfortable in the car, Maxy. I’m proud of you,” I smiled at Maxine as she only held my arm with one hand. Her other hand clutched the handle on the ceiling.  
    “Y-yes... I am quite comfortable n-now,” She gave me a weary smile. We couldn’t have teleported as Maxine needed all the mana she could get. We sped down the interstate headed north and away from most of civilization and towards the near empty fields of the country sides. There apparently was a location that was sort of close that had a higher than normal amount of natural arcane energy in the area making it perfect for maintaining a massive portal for a few days, “I hope my master does not embarrass me too badly in front of you,” Maxine expressed her worry, “Our lich friend as well.” 
    “You’re cute when you worry, did you know that?” I teased. 
    “Richard! Please!” Her face glowed red. 
    “Even cuter when embarrassed.” 
    “Get off here!” Maxine suddenly ordered as she snapped back into reality. I did as she said, exiting where she told me. I had no idea how she knew where to go, probably a divination spell. She closed her eyes and muttered to herself quickly, “Take a left at that red thing.” 
    “That's a stop sign, Maxy,” I told her. 
    “I will remember that for next time,” Maxine rolled her eyes, “I have more important things to worry about, Richard. Left here.” 
    “Alright,” We were in the middle of nowhere as the roads turned from pavement to gravel.  
Maxine went silent as she tried to discern the location of her ritual. She took a deep breath and turned to me, “Still nervous?” 
“Very. I’m all for this happening, Maxy, if that’s what you’re wondering.” 
“Because of what your mother did to your father?” 
“That’s part of it. I just want things to change, if this doesn’t happen, guys like me who feel alone in the world will most likely never feel loved. Your kind will flood into this world and break down their doors and then force them to feel loved. I hope my dad finds someone, wherever he is.” 
“I’m sure he will, darling. Perhaps you will get the chance to rekindle a bond with him?” 
“Yeah, maybe.” 
“That clearing, there,” Maxine suddenly pointed off to the right at a grassy area flanked by trees. I carefully turned off the road and parked my car. It was exactly like my dream, “I shall get to work, rest or play on your phone, darling. I shan't be long--I hope,” I nodded and leaned against my car. I peeked into the back seat where the umbrella lie. I shook my head, the sun was shining brightly and there was no sign of rain. I wondered if what I had seen had just been my overactive imagination. Maxine must have seen the look on my face as I pondered my possible future sight, “Is the aetherial energy affecting you negatively, darling? One of those wards I put on your back was meant to prevent such things from happening as I know you can be affected by magic someone adversely.” 
“Is that what all that fascination with my back was about?” 
“Yes. How about you come rest on this boulder? I just finished writing on it and you could not possibly harm it,” She patted the rock she had been kneeling near. It was the same rock I sat on in my dreams. I hesitantly did as she said. I took a few moments to close my eyes as the wind picked up, I got a sense of dejavu as I opened my eyes to see the dark clouds rolling in.  
I leapt up as Maxine frowned, “Good thing I knew to bring an umbrella,” I said. 
Maxine looked at me in horror, “You... you KNEW?” She repeated. Unwittingly, I nodded, furthering the agony on her face, “To think that my mere presence has cursed you with a burden I was meant to shoulder alone,” Tears formed in my beloved’s eyes. 
“What do you mean?” I returned to her, umbrella in hand. I quickly dried her tears and held her close. 
“I am unsure if I have explained to you that a common side effect of vigorous use of divinations is the curse of unwarranted future sight.” 
“I don’t understand how that's bad, Maxy.” 
“Would you wish to see how those you come into contact will die? Knowing you will be unable to do anything to save them?” She hissed. 
“I-I see.” 
“Some of the glyphs I inscribed onto you were made to prevent this, as I can prevent it with enchantments on myself. The glyph on you was supposed to cast the same enchantment. I could not have made a mistake, all the care and effort I put into those runes... only to in the end hurt my one love?” She could not hold back her tears now. 
I grabbed her shoulders, “Maxine, look at me,” Out of surprise, her sniveling stopped, “I would endure any pain, no matter how great, for you. You have been in my life so such a little time but the impact you have had on my life has been tremendous. Inflict any pain or hardship on me that you must, I will endure it, for you.” 
Maxine looked me in the eyes and blinked softly. Her quivering lips spread into a wonderful smile, “What has gotten into you? This is not the Richard that I know. Perhaps my runes are affecting you in ways that not even I could have foreseen--even with my infinite wisdom and clairvoyance.” 
“I mean everything I have said, Maxy,” I smiled back at her, “I don’t know if I’ve ever properly thanked you.” 
“For what?” 
“Putting up with me and also being a part of my life.” 
“No need for thanks, darling. Everything you have expressed to me, I feel the same way,” Maxine took a deep breath and looked back down at her unfinished work as the rain began to come down. 
I held the umbrella over her, “Take your time. I’ll do my best to keep you dry.” 
“Thank you, hubby~” She gave me an enormous smile, “Be sure to keep yourself dry as well.” 
I nodded, it was a lie, of course. I had no intention of keeping myself dry when I could keep focusing on her. As the drizzle came down, a cold wind blew through me, causing me to shudder. I should have worn a thicker coat, I thought to myself. 
 
“That should do it!” Maxine announced proudly as she drew the last of the glyphs. With one final stroke, the area we were in lit up a brilliant green. There was a humming and crackling in the air. The weather got worse as Maxine pulled me away from the site, “They come.” 
“E-everyone?” I asked, holding her close under the umbrella. 
“I doubt it. Putting all monsters in this one location would limit our reach tremendously, even with teleportation magic.” 
I grunted in response as I watched the area that Maxine had been working on. The energy in the air was suffocating. I gasped as small branches and leaves were pulled into a small dark orb that had appeared hovering ominously over the field. As lightning cracked and the earth shook, the portal opened. A gaping purple tunnel had appeared, one that seemed to go on forever, deep into a black and purple abyss. A woman stepped out wearing a similar outfit to Maxine, her witches robes were dark purple and showed off a lot her cleavage. Her long purple hair billowed in the wind. 
“There she is!” The woman exclaimed as she set her eyes upon Maxine, “Ugh, this weather,” The woman raised her hands upwards, palms up. In one motion she moved her hands apart and the clouds were pulled apart as if she reached up and tore them herself. Warm sunlight beamed down upon us. She confidently strut over to us. 
“Hello, Master, a pleasure to see you again,” Maxine gave her a small bow. 
“Trying to play it cool in front of you husband? Where is my hug, Maxine Hamilton?” The witch demanded as she came to a stop in front of us. Maxine sighed and gave her master a hug, “And who is this?” She turned to me with piercing purple eyes, “Are you going to introduce us?” She asked Maxine expectantly. 
“How rude of me,” Maxine cleared her throat, “This is Richard, my soon-to-be husband. He is good with this worlds technology and works in finance. Richard, this is my master, the woman who taught me almost everything I know about magic.” 
“Nice to meet you,” I held out my hand to shake hers. 
“You are absolutely drenched, darling. Here,” She pointed her staff at me, a massive gust of warm air was blown at me from the staff, drying me in an instant. I blinked, in shock. The witch gave me a hug as well, “Oh, I am so excited for you two to get married!” Once she had squeezed all the air from my lungs, she let me go, “You don’t seem as low on mana as I expected you to, Maxine,” The witch said cautiously. 
“Oh, I put a glyph on Richard here that allows me to siphon some of his spirit energy and use it as mana,” Maxine explained. 
“What?” I exclaimed. 
“Its not like you were using it.” 
The witch laughed, “That’s my girl. Looks like everyone is through,” She turned back to the portal. There were numerous other older women in revealing robes as well as groups of little girls, Maxine later told me they were from the Sabbath. As the portal closed another woman walked up to us, a huge woman with red hair, cat ears on the top of her head, small wings folded against her back, red fur covering her paw-like hands and feet and white fur covering her neck like a mane. Her tail was thick and covered in a kind of leathery material, the bulb at the end was covered in spikes. Maxine later told me she is a manticore. She carried numerous bags and a trunk. She wore light weight armor and carried an axe, “Maxine, I am sure you remember Alison.” 
“A little bit. I remember you working for my mother for a time, I believe,” Maxine admitted. 
“Yeah, worked for the Hamilton estate for a few weeks and got bored. Set off in search of a family to call my own,” Alison frowned and looked up at the dark clouds. 
“You never found it, did you?” Maxine was apologetic in tone. The manticore shook her head slowly, “Oh! We know someone you might like!” Maxine suddenly exclaimed. 
“Brent?” I asked, reaching for my phone. Maxine nodded excitedly, “I’ll give him a call, he’d kill me if I didn’t introduce you two.” 
The manticore looked at us in shock, unsure whether to trust us or not, “Are men really that plentiful here?” Maxine nodded at her, “A-alright. I will meet this man,”  
“Excellent, Richard, if you would,” Maxine nodded to me. 
“On it,” I gave him a quick call and told him to head to my house whenever he could. I told him we had found his woman. He quickly agreed. 
“Wonderful,” The older witch smiled at us, “Maxine, if you would be so kind as to teleport us to your abode.” 
“We will need to take Richard’s car, I am too low on mana for four people,” Maxine said apologetically. The other groups vanished into nothingness as they teleported away. 
“Ah, I was not expecting to experience this world’s technology so soon,” The older witch said nervously. 
I helped Alison load everything into the back of my car before making sure all three nervous ladies were buckled in, “No screaming in my car,” I told them before getting back onto the road. 
 
Brent was already there when we got back, sitting on the porch steps, “Oh, god. Is that him? I look terrible right now,” Alison looked at herself nervously. 
“You’ll be fine,” I tried to comfort her, “He’s a cool guy.” 
“A-alright,” What little color was in her face drained as we all climbed out of the car. Brent waved at us. The older witch, who I never caught the name of, rubbed her eyes trying to calm herself down. Alison shook herself and made her way over to where brent sat. 
“Did I look like that when I first started riding in the car?” Maxine whispered. I nodded and she made an upset face at me. 
“R-Richard,” The old witch stammered, “be a dear and help me carry my things inside. Alison is a bit occupied at the moment.” 
I nodded, “You got it,” I began to help her unload. I looked over at Alison and Brent, their body language had slowly shifted to something comfortable, “You two! Go inside and stop talking on my porch!” They both looked at me and gave awkward laughs. The two of them helped me carry bags inside. 
“Careful with that trunk, Alison! I need those supplies!” The witch instructed. 
“Why did your husband not come with you?” Maxine asked. 
“He will arrive with the rest. Two days, perhaps.” 
“Any word on what my mother is up to?” 
“Preparing. My friend, the lich, was employed by someone paying a very high price for something huge. She was unable to tell me what it is beyond that. I believe your mother has something planned.” 
“Hmph,” Maxine frowned, “I have ideas on how to avoid her, for a time at least. As well as Oscar.” 
“Hopefully him forever. I have not heard much on him, unfortunately. Or fortunately, depending on your view.” 
    “I fear what he might be up to.” 
    “Don’t worry about him, Maxy. What are the chances he’s gonna come here out of everywhere else on this world?” I chimed in. 
“I hope you are right, Richard,” Maxine contemplated further as we all moved to the living room. 
    “Oh, Maxy is such a cute nickname!” The witch gave us a huge smile, “Why don’t you have a nickname for him, Maxine?” 
    “Call him Dick! He loves that!” Brent told her. Alison had an arm draped around his shoulders.  
    Maxine looked at me quizzically. I sighed, “No, I do not,” I told her. 
    “Ma’am,” Alison spoke up, “Do you require my services further?” 
    The witch smirked, “I do not believe so, I will rely on Maxine and Richard for now. You two go have your fun, if I need you I will come find you.” 
    “Thank you, ma’am,” Alison sighed with relief as she pulled Brent onto her lap. 
    “Wanna go to my place?” Brent asked her. She nodded as she buried her face in Brent’s back and wrapped her arms around him, “We’ll get out of here in a bit,” I saw Alison whisper something to him. His face went beet red and he started to sweat. The tip of her tail opened a little bit revealing rows and rows of little tongues. I started to sweat as well. 
    Maxine eyed me, “You have no idea what that is for, do you?” She whispered. 
    I looked at her, “I can take a guess, Maxy,” I said nervously. 
    “Let us be off. I wish to change out of this armor,” Alison let Brent go. Hastily, she grabbed her bag and her man and stomped out the door. 
    “Ah, young love. I wish I could be young enough to shatter my husband’s pelvis again,” The older witch said sadly, “I hope you put a protection rune on him for that, Maxine.” 
    “N-no, not yet,” Maxine stammered, blushing. 
    The old witch waved her hands around, something akin to mage hands appeared and began to fill a kettle, turn on the stove, prepared some tea and placed the kettle on the heat, “So, how have you two been?” We all sat around the dining table. 
    “Good!” I smiled, “I’ve been trying to teach her about technology with varying success,” I cheerfully explained. 
    Maxine had a different idea, “Richard has been inflicted with future sight,” Maxine said in a deadpan tone, “I have no idea what to do.” 
    “Maxy, I told you--” 
    “Richard,” Maxine used a harsh tone, “I have inflicted you with a terrible curse. I NEED to help you.” 
    “Have you seen anyone’s death yet?” The witch asked. 
    “My own,” I told her. I quickly explained the dream I had the first night Maxine and I were together as well as last night’s dream. I looked at Maxine when I finished, she was staring at me with tears in her eyes. 
    The witch sighed, “May I see your back?” I nodded, stood up and let Maxine lift up the back of my shirt, “Those are some wonderful ink strokes, Maxine,” The witch gasped, “Why did you choose a rune for every school of magic and not a general magic protection rune?” 
“The protection is better. A spell can be tuned to pierce a general magic protection rune but it is incredibly difficult to tune to pierce a protection rune for a specific school of magic,” Maxine explained. 
“You put a lot of thought into this, Maxine. I am impressed. Most would assume you an abjuration specialist.” 
“Only the best for my hubby,” Maxine said proudly. 
“This rune here is the protection against future sight, yes?” I felt a cold finger poke my back. 
“Yes, I believe everything is right...” 
“It is definitely right. May I see your notes?” 
“Of course, master,” I heard a lot of papers being shuffled. 
“Can I sit down now?” I interjected. 
“Of course, darling,” Maxine pulled me back to my chair. 
Her master cleared her throat, “The first time he saw the future was with you, correct?” We nodded, “Then you crafted the glyph. Perhaps you are right and he reacted strangely to the magic as he felt nauseous after his first teleport. I will alert other casters that their new husbands might react strangely to our magic.” 
    “Thank you,” Maxine nodded, “I will keep up my research.” 
    “Good, good. Tea?” The kettle started to wail as the water came to a boil. 
    “Yes please,” Maxine looked relieved to have talked about her worries with her master. I held her hand under the table and gave her a smile. She gave me a worried smile, “Thank you, darling.” 
 
    “Richard! Richard! Wake up! Its happening!” Maxine shook me awake on a sunny Sunday morning, “Can you feel it? In the air?” Maxine rushed to the window and peered out, “Where are they?” 
    “Who?” I asked drowsily. 
    “The soldiers!” Maxine’s eyes were huge. 
    “Probably taking important military positions,” I grumbled. 
    “I-I suppose you are right,” She reached across me and grabbed my phone and put in a phone number, “No service?” She looked at me confused. 
    I looked around the room, we still had electricity. I checked my phone, cellular and internet were both knocked out, “Looks like communications are down,” I mourned. 
    “That would make sense. We have magic to communicate. I wonder how the conquest is going. We should check the TV!” Maxine shouted. 
    “Maxine, calm down, please. I’m waking up slowly. Very slowly. Go check yourself.” 
    Maxine grumbled something incoherently and dashed out of the room. I closed my eyes, ready to get some more sleep, “Richard! Richard! Get in here!” I groaned loudly, hoping she would hear. Despite my weariness, I got up and headed to the living room. Maxine pointed at the TV excitedly, “Look! Look!” 
    There was a woman lounging on a throne with a smug look on her face. A white haired succubus from the looks of it, “Greetings, new subjects!” She cackled. I shuddered as her eyes looked directly into mine, “This is your new ruler speaking, my forces have taken over your country. It would be wise for you to just stay indoors, lay down your arms and just relax. Things are changing, but you should relax! Teams will be going around and performing a census. Keep in mind they are armed and are not afraid to turn their weapons on my wonderful new citizens! Have a wonderful day! Oh, and one more tidbit, do stay indoors. Until next time!” She gave a somewhat saucy wink and the TV turned off.  
Maxine turned to me, “I am SO excited!”  
“I don’t like how she looked at me. It made me feel weird.” 
“She is one of the Demon Lord’s daughters, I would not be surprised if she managed to charm you with her looks alone.” 
“Mmhp, what do we do now?” I plopped on the couch. 
“The census should be here soon. I will do the talking for us, understood?” Maxine ordered. I nodded my head, willing to put my trust in my Maxy. We both quickly bathed separately and put on fine clothes. When I got back to the living room, I saw a woman who looked kind of like Maxine, she had long auburn hair and brown eyes. Her tail moved from side to side behind her as it poked out from underneath a pretty white dress. I looked at her in confusion. The ears on top of her head twitched, “Richard, its me, Maxine,” The voice that came out of her mouth that was exactly like hers.  
“Uh, okay,” I said nervously.  
 She sighed, “I do not want to be recognized by anyone. Oh, here. I need to cast a masking spell on you just in case they have a wizard or witch with them,” She leaned in towards me and gave me a kiss on the lips. Those were definitely Maxine’s lips. She pulled out her staff and cast a spell on me. I felt no different, “We should be ready now. Just let me speak unless they speak directly to you, okay?” 
“You’ve got it. What should I call you?” 
“Melissa Forester,” She winked at me, “Just use your name, darling.” 
“Got it.” 
 
We waited for about an hour sitting in each other's arms. A knock on the door roused us. Maxine sighed, “Here we go,” She opened the door. The group of four was preparing to knock my door down before Maxine opened it, “No need for that,” Maxine mused, “Come in.” 
The group of four filed in, the team was two huge monster girls in heavy armor, a man in lighter armor and a kind looking woman with fluffy tails who carried a staff and tome. All four of them were on edge, most likely from their previous meetings with my neighbors. The kitsune took a deep breath, “Thank you for the kind welcome. A much appreciated change of pace, at least for a time.” 
“One out of 1000 abodes, hm?” Maxine grinned.  
The kitsune smirked, “Indeed,” She turned to her armed entourage, “At ease you three. Take a break, I should be able to handle it from here,” The three of them sighed in unison and moved into my kitchen. I prayed their armor wouldn’t scratch up my table too badly. The kitsune turned back to us, “Now, I just have a few quesions for the two of you and we will be on our way.” 
“Go right ahead.” 
“Names?” Maxine quickly gave her fake name and my real name, “Dating or married?” 
“Dating. Hoping to get married soon.” 
“Good for you!” She looked between us and wrote a few more notes in her tome, “Miss Melissa, were you born in this world?” 
“No, I was born in our homeworld. A friend of mine helped us meet quickly.” 
“Well, I have no further questions,” She set her tome aside and sighed, “Now that we are off the record... Who are you really, Melissa?” 
Maxine was taken aback, “W-what?” 
“I can tell that there is an illusion cast on you. And your husband here absolutely REEKS of magic.” 
“B-but I used a masking spell!” Maxine exclaimed. 
“Aye, you did. But whatever is on your man is some powerful magic. Plus you are upkeeping three or more spells from the looks of it.” 
“I never was one for abjuration,” Maxine said sadly as she dropped whatever she had casted on me as well as the illusion on herself. She was sweating and shaking. 
“Ah! There we go! Now if you could just let me know why you lied to a government official, I can be on my way,” The fox woman gave us a smug look. 
Maxine stammered where she sat, unsure of what to say. She had tears in her eyes as she stared at her hands. I reached over and grabbed her hand firmly. I nodded at her when she looked at me, “Ma’am?” I started. 
“Oh? The man wishes to speak? What is it, dear?” She tilted her head. I saw a twinge of anger on Maxine’s face when the woman called me that. 
“I won’t stretch the truth on this, we are trying to avoid some very influential people,” From the look the kitsune gave me, that wasn’t enough for her, “My darling wife’s mother and an insane suiter. We just want to live a quiet life together without them bothering us,” I pleaded. 
The kitsune sighed and collected her things, “Thank you for humoring me. I apologize for upsetting you, but you must understand that this is a serious matter. A rogue witch or some other powerful being could be trouble down the line. Your secrets are safe with us, minus the fact you are a witch. Come now!” She called her armed guard. As quickly as they came, they were out the door.  
Maxine let out a sigh of relief and pressed herself up against me, “Thank you, darling.” 
“Anytime,” I cooed as I pat her head. 
“I am ready to rest for the remainder of today...” Maxine pushed my hand away and curled up on my lap, “Pamper me more,” She pouted. 
“Anything for you,” I sighed as I caved into her demands. 
After a long silence, I heard Maxine whimper, “I wish something could go completely right for once.” 
“We’re together still, right? That’s all that matters.” 
“You are correct, darling. We--” Maxine’s mournful speech was cut short as my door was thrown open. We both clung to each other as even more armed guards stormed into my small home, weapons in hand. Each wore matching shining platemail with a white elegant cat emblem on the front. Each of the guards was of a different size, most being hulking oni and the smallest being a diminutive goblins, “N-no,” Maxine wailed. Eight warriors stood before our frightened forms. The two in the middle parted to reveal a smaller form.  
A woman with long, curly white hair stood before us. Her cat tail slowly waved from side to side behind her as she smugly looked at us, “Hello, daughter.” 
“Aw, shit,” I muttered. 
“What do you want?” Maxine demanded, standing up. Her staff materialized in her hands. 
“To collect you,” Her mother said matter of factly, her goons stepped forward. 
“Like hell you will!” Maxine raised her staff over her head, a dark energy exploded out of it striking each of the guards. Each one fell to the floor, crashing into the hardwood. I winced for my poor floors. My initial thought was that Maxine had just killed eight people, but the goblin’s loud snoring told me otherwise. I breathed a sigh of relief. 
“Maxine Emerald Hamilton,” Her mother scolded, “Quit this childish game.” 
“No! I am NOT marrying that swine!” Maxine hissed. 
    Her mother sighed, “Maxine, you have a duty to fulfill.” 
    “A duty? What are you on about?” 
    “You need to marry Sir Oscar.” 
    “I will not! I have worked... so... hard... to get here, to be with him, this is all I want,” Tears fell down Maxine’s cheeks, “I just want ONE thing to go my way... Is that so much to ask for?” 
    “I see so much of my younger self in you, Maxine. A yearning, not for money or power, but one for love. Who might you be?” She looked past her daughter at me. 
    “Richard,” I answered as I took my place next to Maxine, “I love your daughter with all my heart. If you want to take her, you’ll have to go through me,” I stood defiantly between Maxine and her mother. 
    She chuckled at me, “Oh, relax,” Her commanding aura made me want to relax. I resisted it, “Keep her. I will not tell a soul where you hide, Maxine.” 
    “Why the sudden change of heart?” Maxine poked out from behind me. 
    “He reminds me of your father. He will take good care of you. Any fool with eyes could see that. As well as your determination to stay with him.” 
    “Ma’am, if I may,” I stepped forwards. 
    “Speak, child.” 
    “Why did you want to marry Maxine off to that man?” I asked the question on both of our minds. 
    She sighed, “If you two must know... I made a mistake on a transaction. I did business on land which I believed I had been sold, but, Sir Oscar owned that parcel of land. He demanded one of two reperands, a portion of my properties, or Maxine’s hand in marriage. He comes from a good, honest family, so I saw no problems in the arrangement. Before either of you chastise me, it was an exorbitant amount of my properties.” 
    “Could you not settle in court?” I asked. 
    “Nay, they would take his side for sure. On account of me being a monster and all,” She sighed.  
    “A mistake like this sounds very... uncharacteristic of you,” Maxine commented. 
“I am still unsure how it happened. I have no reason to not believe his family. As I stated they are honest people,” She sighed once more, “What is done, is done. Come visit me sometime, Maxine. Please. I have brought the entire estate with me in my travel here.” 
    “How!?” Maxine gasped. 
    “I paid a high price to a lich. I believe you know her,” Her guards began to stir, “I do want you to be happy Maxine. I apologize for how much this has escalated. I was fully prepared to tear you from the hands of some loon! I see nothing but kindness in his eyes, thankfully.” 
    “I believe that was a compliment,” Maxine whispered. 
    “I... Thank you?” I shrugged. 
    Mrs. Hamilton laughed, “You are most welcome,” Her guards awoke and began to rise, “What are you lot doing lying around? We are leaving!” She barked. Her soldiers saluted her and quickly marched out my door. Maxine’s mother turned to us once more, “I cannot protect you from Oscar, my darlings. In the laws of our land he has the right to Maxine’s hand in marriage. I will keep your location a secret, but cannot do more than that.” 
    “What if I marry her first?” I asked. 
    “He will most likely challenge you to a duel and then you pray he overlooked something in his rulings and you go into it stocked to the brim with magical enchantments. Goodbye for now, darlings!” She followed the last of her guards out the door. 
    Maxine and I stood together in the middle of the room, “Thank you,” She cried as tears flowed once more. I held her close to me, waiting for the tears to stop, “I have cried so much today. I am sleepy, may we go to bed?” 
    “Maxy, its only two,” I laughed. 
    She huffed, “Fine. Sit down then, I wish to nap,” I was roughly shoved onto the couch where Maxine placed her head on my lap, “Pet me.” 
    “Anything for you.” 
 
    I was awoken by a loud thump in the night. I shot up in bed and looked around my room, nothing. Maxine slept soundly, her purring filling my ears. I grabbed my flashlight and got out of bed. I checked all around my home to find no traces of any disturbance. There was a knock on the front door as I passed it. Out of curiosity, I opened it. I found myself shoved into the wall, shaking the foundation of my home. I was quickly flanked by armed guards wielding crossbows. As my vision cleared, I saw a man who stood before me, a short, portly man with thinning hair stood before me in expensive looking, overdesigned clothes. He opened his mouth and spoke in a nasaly voice with a lisp, “Where is she?” He demanded, glaring at me. He drew a sword-- a rapier in his left hand and pointed it at me, ready to pierce my heart if he was displeased with my answer. 
    “You would strike down an unarmed man?” I challenged, praying Maxine was awake and could flee before I goaded him into striking. 
    “I would and I have.” 
    “Then why bring guards? In case there is more than one person to murder?” I had no fear. I knew that I could not allow Maxine to fall into this man’s hands, even at the cost of my own life. I took a deep breath as the man’s-- Oscar’s face reddened. 
    “You speak hautily for a... CHILD at the end of a sword,” He seethed, “Why I should--” 
    “Enough!” A voice rang out. I looked towards the bedroom to see a tired looking Maxine standing in the hallway. 
    I stepped towards her, “Get out of here! Run while--” I was thrown to the ground by one of the guards. 
    “Lay another hand on him and I will see that you lose it!” Maxine threatened in commanding tone. The guard, frightened by her words took two great steps back, “I must pack, Oscar. Give me a few moments,” She explained sadly. 
    “Ah, take your time, my love!” His tone shifted to one of fake joy. Maxine turned and walked into the bedroom, “As for YOU,” I received a quick kick to the stomach, “If I so much as see you again, I will strike you down. Do I make myself clear?” I couldn’t do much more than whimper and grit my teeth at the pain of his steel toed boots.  
I was lying on the floor for a good ten minutes before Maxine returned, ‘Let us be off then,” She said wearily. 
“As you wish, my sweet! But first, I would have you relieve yourself of any magical staff or trinked to me. Can’t have any accidents, now can we?” 
“I suppose not,” Maxine handed over her magical bag. She flashed me a look beneath the brim of her hat, a look of sadness and regret. 
“Let us be away now. I am growing ill just from the drabness of this abode,” He roughly grabbed Maxine by the arm and pulled her out the door followed by his guards. They left my door open, the cold air of the night blew in. 
I rose to my knees, shaken by the events that had unfolded. It was all a dream, I told myself, I would return to the bedroom and wake up with Maxine in my arms. I shut the door then dragged myself to my room, hoping I would find something. I found a small bundle as well as a letter addressed to me. I read it, compelled by the elegant handwriting.  
It was from Maxine, hastily scribbled down in the few moments she had, ‘Richard, my sweet and caring, Richard. I apologize for everything that has happened. I have no idea how he found us so quickly, if I had only had a few more days, perhaps I could have stopped all of this. I could not at the moment as Oscar and his guards were equipped with magic wards. If either of us had tried anything he would have slain you, my love. I had no choice but to comply. Please, forget about me. Go and find yourself a new woman, one without the baggage of family or enemy. I have left behind the mirror I used to first spy you as well as the blankety I used to visit you in your dreams. Goodbye. I will not quickly forget the time we spent together. I pray my memories of you will keep me sane, at least until I take my own life. Thank you, for everything.’ 
I fell to the floor, choking back tears. 
I had no idea what to do. 
But I had to do something.

ACT3

    I pulled myself off the floor after having cried myself to sleep there. My home had lost its warmth and comforting feeling. I felt nothing but dread now as I wandered my halls, every piece of furniture and decoration reminded me of her. I sat in the dimly lit kitchen, hoping for something to pop out and tell me this was all a nightmare. I sat for hours, waiting for Maxine to walk into the room and laugh about how she pranked me. I had to keep myself from crying again. I heard a knock on the door, I ignored it. I was not willing to be assaulted again. The knock came again, louder this time. I groaned as I sat down in a dining chair and produced my phone, I needed a drink. I checked the cabinet and grabbed the bottle of whiskey. The pounding came from the door again. I poured myself a shot and headed for the front door, I threw it open, a glare on my face, “What?” I growled before seeing who was calling for me. 
    Svetlana stood in the doorway, her eyes puffy and red, “I-Is Max here?” She asked quietly. 
    I sighed, “No. She- She’s gone.” 
    Svetlana choked back tears, “I am so sorry, Richard. He-he threatened us at sword point. Demanded to know where Max was. I could only pray that you two had some sort of plan,” Tears rolled down her cheeks. 
    I shook my head, “I wish we had the time to prepare. One or two more days and we could have been ready,” I told her angrily, “Everything we did to be together and it all gets shit on in one night.” 
    Svetlana dried her eyes, “Please, do not beat yourself up. Stay strong for her.” 
    I downed the liquor and clenched my fists, “Right.” 
    “An invitation has been extended for you to visit the Hamilton manor from Lady Hamilton herself. I would highly encourage you to go,” She told me. 
    “And if I don’t?” 
    “She will most likely send an armed guard to collect you by force. The carriage they sent me to get you in is much more comfortable that the chains they will bind you in.” 
    “I will go with you,” I said apprehensively, “Can I get changed and shower first before we go?” 
    “Absolutely, take your time. Brunch will not begin without you.” 
    “Better be some mimosas there. I need the alcohol.” 
    “I will make sure there is, Richard.” 
 
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 
 
    I stared out the window mournfully, once more I tried to open it only to find it sealed shut. I looked around a bit more at the lavish room that would serve as my dungeon, at least until the wedding or I manage to take my life. Everything made me think of Richard, his face materialised in nearly anything I looked at. I perused a table with various nick-nacks and trophies on it. I found myself filled with rage at the very sight of Oscar. He plastered this room with his smug looking ugly face. I picked up the framed photo and hissed at it. I lobbed it across the room, shattering it against the wall. I heard noises outside my room as I slid to the floor down the wall, “Mistress?” A manservant called, “Is everything alright?” 
    “Go away!” I shouted. 
    “...As you wish” The servant walked away. I hugged my knees and buried my face in them. Tears flowed from my eyes. 
 
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 
 
    The wagon rocked down the road as my gloomy disposition continued. Svetlana and Corey sat across from me on velvet seats. Svetlana had calmed down and Corey was staring at me mournfully. I had never ridden in a horse drawn carriage before this, but I was not in the mood to take it in. Corey grunted, “If I ever see that guy again I’m gonna knock his lights out.” 
    I was silent, an uneasy feeling lingered over me as I thought about my dream the first night I was with Maxine. I felt like my death was fast approaching, that dress Maxine was wearing in that vision had to be a wedding dress. I blinked as Svetlana waved her hand in front of my face as she tried to get my attention, “Richard? Are you well?” 
    “No,” I told her bluntly.  
    She shook her head, embarrassed to have asked me such a question, “I can tell Lady Hamilton you are feeling unwell, if you wish.” 
    “I’ll be okay. I just gotta figure out what I’m gonna do.” 
    “We will figure it out, Richard, together,” Svetlana gave me a small smile. 
    “I have no idea what a glorified accountant and a maid are going to do to stop a power tripping noble.” 
    “And a chef!” Corey gave me a thumbs up. 
 
    Within moments of arriving at the Hamilton estate I was whisked away into a long dining hall. I was led past various priceless looking artifacts and portraits of humans and monsters alike. Most of what I saw depicted Lady Hamilton in various attire and scenes. She was sometimes accompanied by a man and two women, one being Maxine-- obvious to me based on her jet black hair and green eyes. The other was like an identical copy of her mother. Maxine had never mentioned having a sister. I was sat down towards the end of the table in a cushy chair. A single woman emerged from a room, she had long curly white hair and wore an elegant dress. She gave me a sad smile as she sat across from me. 
 
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 
 
I sat at the table across from Oscar, a fake smile plastered across his lips. I sat at the opposite end of the long table as food was placed in front of us. Oscar loaded his plate with whatever food his sausage fingers could grab a hold of. He stuffed his face with sweets and meats, alternating back and forth between them. He spoke up with his mouth still full of food, “For our... wedding,” He paused to chew a bit, “The local church should be ready within the week. We could be the first two to be wed there!” 
I stared at him from across the table, “Do whatever you want.” 
“But this is our wedding, it needs to be from both of us!” 
“OUR wedding? This is YOUR wedding,” I hissed. 
“Wh-what?”  
“I know you faked those papers claiming you had ownership of that land. My mother would not make that mistake.” 
“I know not of which you speak,” His tone turned from a faked cheerful one to an angry growl. 
“Hmph, say what you will. Richard will come for me and he will best you.” 
“I will kill that man!” Oscar screamed, “I will not allow common filth to defile my precious Maxine!” 
“He is more of a man than you will ever be,” I stood up and left the dining hall to return to my quarters. 
 
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 
 
    “Allow me to introduce myself, I am Eliza Sapphire Hamilton. A pleasure to meet you, Richard,” The woman introduced herself. 
    “Hello,” I nodded. A drink was placed before me by Svetlana. Another kikimora watched us from the kitchen, I assumed she was Svetlana’s mother.  
    “I was hoping to have a heartwarming reunion with my sister...” I gave her a sad look before I stared into my drink, “Svetlana told me what happened. I am sorry.” 
    “I wish I could have done something. That damn coward bringing goons with him,” I downed the drink. 
    She poked at her food, “Mother and Father left some time ago. I am unsure where they went, possibly business. Let us not be mournful right now, Richard. We have not lost this conflict yet.” 
    “Sure,” I slowly ate my pancakes. 
    “She spoke very highly of you, the few times she did speak of you.” 
    “Oh?” 
    “Madly in love with you before she even spoke to you all because her magic told her to.” 
    I nodded, “I was in love with her after our second encounter.” 
    “Its easy to see how much this has shaken you up by that look on you face, Richard. I am sure we will devise a plan to save her.” 
    “I just hope this plan can save me too,” I grumbled. 
    “What do you mean?” 
    “I-I have seen my death, Eliza. I have come to terms that this is probably my last week here. My life for Maxine’s,” I closed my eyes and sighed, calming my nerves. 
    “I will not let it come to that,” Eliza slammed her fist on the table, “You will live, Richard.” 
    I gave her a small smile, “I appreciate that.” 
    “We will get this wedding cancelled without violence. Besides, Maxine would be devastated if something horrible happened to you.” 
    “Yeah, she would,” I shook my head, “No matter what I do I can only think of her.” 
    “Understandable. I pray I can find a husband as dedicated as you one day,” She sighed. 
    “I’m sure you will,” I rubbed my face, “Do you have any sort of plan?” 
“Of course I do!” She told me proudly. She finished the ham she was eating, wiped her mouth and stood up, “But please, where are my manners, allow me to give you a tour of the estate and grounds.” 
“I don’t know, I’m hoping to get going on our plan.” 
“No, no. I would be a horrible host if I did not. Mother would never let me hear the end of it if I did not give my younger sister’s future husband a tour,” She pleaded, unable to force me into it but praying I would say yes. 
“Sure, give me the tour,” I stood up, defeated. 
 
    I was dragged through out the manor by a smiling Eliza. She didn’t seem to get out much and enjoyed the company of someone who wasn’t her mother, “What is it you do?” She asked me suddenly as I stared at a bust of an unknown woman.  
    “Huh? Oh, I just do finance stuff, nothing exciting,” I told her. 
    “So you know about the local markets?” 
    “Sort of, yeah. What’s that painting?” I asked before realising what the painting was depicting. 
    “Oh! This is a painting my mother picked up when abroad in Wonderland. The Rape of Lord Austin D’vries! His men were holed up in a small fortress fighting off the Monster Lord’s forces. They held for nearly 13 days until our Lord’s forces knocked down a wall and stormed inside, assaulting the soldiers. You can see Austin being assaulted by the monster commander there, an absolute mountain of a salamander. A legend!” 
    “And all the other men are being sexually assaulted as well... huh... Kinda sounds like the Alamo. Except those guys got slaughtered.” I chuckled nervously as I stared at the depictions of carnal depravity. 
    “It was painted by a very famous painter,” Eliza sighed as she stared at the painting, “I wish I could be as courageous and strong as that woman.” 
    “What do you mean?” I asked as we moved away from the gratuitus rape. 
    She gave me a glance, “I cannot even tell my mother how nervous I am to take up the mantle. Maxine is supposed to be my right hand, and the husband I find can be the left, but there is no way I can be as successful as her.” 
“Maxine doesn’t want to be apart of that, right?” 
“Correct. She never took to Mother’s teachings well either. Always too focused on her magical studies to work on ‘what’s important,’ as my mother would call it. Speaking of, here is a painting of our family, much younger. Perhaps twenty years ago?” 
I saw a young Maxine being held in her mother’s arms and a young Eliza standing nearby, “Cute,” I commented.  
“I suppose this is the end of the tour,” Eliza told me regrettably, “How about we head to my office to discuss our plans?” 
“Sure,” My feet were tired and I needed a drink. My buzz was dying. 
 
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 
 
    I wandered the halls of Oscar’s family manor. Most of his family was out doing whatever it is a family of snakes does. I searched high and low for a way out or any of my magic trinkets. Every entrance was guarded by human men who had orders to refuse me an exit, “Please, I just wish to go out and see the garden!” I pleaded with a man. 
    “I apologise, my lady. I cannot permit you to leave. Sir Oscar would have my head if I did,” He told me apologetically. 
    “I-I understand,” I sighed. I beat myself up mentally over not preparing a magic ring loaded with sleep magic. I had worked on the spell and had been ready to enchant a ring. I had all but run out of magical components in my last few days with Richard. Without more gems and herbs I could do nothing but the smallest of spells. I quickly checked a window, sealed. I groaned, contemplating smashing the window with a rock. I decided against it, a loud exit would only draw unwanted attention. Defeated, I headed back to my room-- my prison, to rest and plot my next course of action. 
 
>>>>>>>> 
 
    Eliza sipped on the whiskey that I had called for, “How do you drink this?” She asked, gagging. 
    “Eh, its not for taste. Its for getting buzzed and sometimes hammered. I’ve been pretty dry on alcohol since Maxy entered my life,” I explained. 
    “Maxy?” She repeated, “Is that what you call her?” She laughed, “That is an adorable pet name,” Her speech slurred slightly. 
    “Ah, yeah, I do,” I blushed, “Can we talk about your plan now?”   
    “Yes, yes,” She nodded vigorously, “Did Maxine leave you any tools?” 
    “A few magic items including a mirror and a wool blanket.” 
    “Ah! She left you her vision mirror, the exact same she used to spy on you, as well as the blanket she used to visit you!” Eliza told me excitedly, “This will make our infiltration much easier.” 
    “What do you mean?” 
    “If we can somehow show that his ownership of that land was fraudulent, that will end this entire ordeal!” Eliza’s eyes sparkled as she explained, “He must have SOME sort of record of a transaction related to it.” 
    “So we ask Maxine to do some digging and feed us some information,” I assumed. 
    “Exactly! I presume you do not have to items in question on you?” I shook my head at Eliza’s question, “Ah, a pity. Leave at your own leisure and spend the night wrapped in her blanket so you may visit her in your dreams.” 
    “Eliza?” I spoke up as my thoughts turned to darker ones. 
    “Yes?” 
    “If it does come down to me against Oscar in a fight... and I happen to die... take care of Maxine, okay?” I rubbed my eyes as I sat back in my chair. 
    “I promise to take care of her if it does end up like that,” Eliza nodded solemnly. 
 
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 
 
    I woke up in a dream, a feeling that was almost alien to me at this point. A comfortable floating feeling that softly reminded me what it was like to enjoy myself. I stretched and tried to sit up. I was being restrained by the bed I was lying on. Once my vision cleared and I got a second look at my sleeping arrangements I noticed it was not my bed that held me down, but two loving and comforting arms. Richard’s softly smiling face looked down at me from above the arms, “Richard,” I murmured, unsure of how lucid this dream was. 
    “Hi, Maxy,” He replied softly. 
    I quickly looked around trying to assess where I was. It was Richard’s dream house from the multiple times I visited him before. This was no ordinary dream, “Richard,” I repeated, sternly this time, “I told you to find yourself a new woman.” 
    “Did you honestly expect me to listen?” He laughed, “Maxine, I love you. I can’t think of anyone or anything I would rather be with.” 
    “Just get with my sister, she is so much better than me at everything you could want,” I grumbled. 
    “I met with her today.” 
    “You did?” I asked in disbelief. 
    “Yeah. She's nice, though I like you better. How have you been feeling?” 
    I sighed, “I cried myself to sleep tonight. I miss you immensely,” I admitted, not only to him but myself. 
    “I miss you too,” He hugged me tightly, “Listen, me and Eliza are working on a way to get you out of there. Can you try to gather some information?” 
    “Of course! What do you need?” 
    “Find any sort of incriminating documents. He has to have some sort of bill from getting that contract forged. We just need something to give us some kind of edge.” 
    “I will search high and low, darling. Will you visit me tomorrow night?” 
    “Of course,” He lie back down and closed his eyes.  
I wanted to say so much to him, but being with him even in this realm that did not exist, was enough for me. I spent a moment staring at his face before placing my head on his chest again. I closed my eyes and felt his heartbeat and his chest move as he breathed. I could feel myself being torn from the dream as tears flowed from my eyes. Richard put his hand on my head and gently ran his fingers through my hair. I didn’t have the heart to tell him Oscar’s wedding was in three days. 
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
 
    Night came and I ventured into Oscar’s room. I held a bottle of wine in my hand that I had... altered. I had only been in his room once or twice but I knew he kept paperwork in his closet. I pushed the door open without knocking. Oscar sat at his desk under a lamp, “Maxine?” He gave me a confused look. 
    “I thought you could use a drink,” I placed a glass before him and poured some wine into it. A slight purple fog came off the liquid. 
    “I suppose I could...” He scooped up the glass and brought it to his lips. The high alcohol made him wince, “Ugh, what is that?” 
    “A popular wine from my father’s homeland! All the men drink it!” 
    “I... am a man,” He took the bait and kept downing it. As soon as he was finished, I poured him another glass, “I--” 
    I interrupted him, “You have to drink a glass for every year old you are! The only way to prove you are a man in my father’s eyes.” 
    He swallowed, “I suppose I must.” 
    Three glasses in, he passed out from the alcohol, “Sleep well,” I giggled. I immediately went for the closet. I turned the handle and pulled the door open. I was assaulted by a foul odor as I entered the closet. Oscar had unwashed clothes piled up at the far side by his file storage. I took a deep breath of semi fresh air and pressed forwards. I was surprised by how easy Oscar made it for me to find it, he had a folder labeled ‘SECRET FILES.’ I grinned as I went through it, wondering what incriminating files I could find here. I would have taken the whole folder but that would have been too noticeable. I flipped through them, disappointed that there were only about twenty of them and not upwards of 100. I found a bill for a ‘forged document’ done by Molly Martin. I stowed that document on my persona and continued browsing through them. A curious bill for a magic item, a small pink pearl that when an activation phrase is spoken, will let off a cloud of pink mist. I grabbed that as well having a feeling in my gut telling me that it was related to the wedding. 
    As I turned to leave, a familiar brown bag caught my eye. It was my enchanted bag! I quickly rummaged through the near infinite space contained within and found my wand. I could escape now! The mere thought of teleporting into Richard’s arms was enough to make me grin ear to ear. I stashed that on my person as well before quietly ducking out of the room. I breathed a sigh of relief as SOMETHING had gone right for once. 
 
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 
 
    I woke up in my dream home complete with Maxine. She was excitedly smiling at me, “Good evening, hubby,” Her cheerful mood was refreshing. 
    “Hello, Maxy. What news do you bring?” 
    “Lucky for you, I was able to scrounge up enough components to transfer these to you within the dream,” She handed two rolled up sheets of paper to me, “A damning bill of sale and another bill of sale for a curious magic item. I believe he commissioned an item to fake the pink fog that is flooded into the chapel at the end of a wedding overseen by Eros and her flock.” 
    “You think she wouldn’t give her blessing to a guy like him?” 
    “There is no love in this marriage! He has ulterior motives!” Maxine snapped at me. 
    I stared at her for a few moments as her expression turned from anger to regret, “How long until the wedding?” 
    “Two days.” 
    “Two!? Your mother hasn’t heard ANYTHING about it yet!” I sighed heavily, “Whatever, we have proof, all we need is to bust into the wedding where I’ll shout ‘I object’ when the lady asks if anyone objects to the wedding.” 
    Maxine laughed, “It would seem you are a fan of romance novels. I would not have suspected that,” She sounded impressed. 
    “Haha,” I chuckled nervously. I just thought that part in Shrek was kinda funny. 
    “Also, if worse comes to worse, I found my wand! I can teleport home now!” 
    “Maxine, you’re going to hate me for saying this, but you should stay.” 
    “What?” She looked like she was going to cry. 
    “He’s just going to keep coming after us! We can’t run forever!” 
    “You are right,” She sighed, “Embarrassing him in front of his family and whatever other influential people is the only way to make him stop.” 
“Thank you, Maxy. I love you.” 
She smiled at me, “I love you too. Now go, gather more evidence against him. Let that hero’s seal on your back do its work.” 
“My what?” 
I woke up. 
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
 
    I was let into the foyer by Svetlana, “Good morning, Sir Richard. You have a meeting with the Young Lady Hamilton today?” 
    “I believe so,” I shrugged. 
    “Wait one moment,” She walked off on those built in heels of hers. I had gotten out of bed to find a carriage waiting to whisk me away to the Hamilton estate. I carried both papers that Maxine had given me, “This way, Richard,” Svetlana waved me through a door. I was led into Eliza’s office once more and sat down in an ornate wooden chair.  
    “Good morning,” I gave Eliza a small smile as she looked up from her paperwork.  
    “Good morning to you as well, Richard. I pray you have good news for me,” Eliza returned the smile. 
    “Good and bad,” I handed her the two sheets of paper, “A bill for the forged document including who did the forgery and another bill for a magic item that will probably be used in the wedding.” 
    She silently read both documents, “The bad news?” 
    “The wedding is tomorrow.” 
    Eliza looked up at me, her ears twitching, “We need to move quickly. We will get in contact with Maxine’s master as well to see if she can help us with this pink orb.” 
    “I could contact... I don’t even know her name, but she’s a lich and helped Maxine in the past. I think she’s banging my friend, Matt.” 
    Eliza looked a little bit nervous, “T-that should not be necessary. She helped us move the entire estate into this realm and I would rather not ask for her help once more.” 
    I nodded, “Alright. Let’s get this going.” 
 
    Maxine’s master did not arrive until after lunch. She rode on horseback by herself. Eliza and I met her in the fields in front of the manor, “Forgive my tardiness,” The old witch gave a slight bow, “I was having a wonderful lunch with my husband when I received your summons.” 
    “That is quite alright, I trust you have the same guess as us as to what the object in question does,” Eliza spoke for the two of us. 
    “Of course, and I have already determined its location as well. It is currently within the chapel that the wedding will take place.” 
    “So we can just go in there and snag it, right?” I asked. 
    “Oscar has guards placed at the chapel, does he not?” Eliza turned to me. 
    “You’re probably right...” I turned back to the witch to see her shoving her arm into a void in the air. As she pulled her arm out, forcefully, she had a small pink orb in her hand. 
    “What an amateur!” The witch cackled, “There were no protections against other magics on it!” She cackled more. She wiped tears from her eyes, “I have not laughed this hard in a very long time... I will have to thank Oscar when I see him in person.” 
    “Is that it?” I asked like an idiot as I reached for the pink orb. 
    The witch snatched it away from me, “We cannot have you activating it now,” She placed it into a messenger bag and handed the bag to me, “A gift for you.” 
    “Huh? Is it like that bottomless bag Maxine has?” I took it from her. 
    “How observant of you! I enchanted both of these bags. To get what you want, just think of the item and reach your hand in. Try thinking of sword and shoving your hand in there!” 
    Despite my hesitation, I went for it. I made the mistake of staring into the void that was the opening of the bag. I shuddered as the inky blackness stared back. I turned away and shoved my hand into the bag while envisioning a sword in my mind. I felt something move into my hand. I grabbed it and attempted to pull. Without any sort of resistance, I pulled the sword out of the bag. It was indeed a sword, complete with sheath. I looked at her in confusion, “I don’t know how to swordfight.” 
    “Yes you do,” The witch told me as a strange gust of wind blew over me. 
    “I... do know how to sword fight...” I pulled it out of the sheath and swung it around a bit, “How...?” 
    “I would have had my husband train you the old fashioned way, but time is short.” 
    “Am I expected to fight Oscar?” 
    “If it comes to that. I will be honest, it most likely will,” Eliza told me apologetically, “I asked her to implant swordsmanship into your mind. I apologize if you feel used or tricked.” 
    I shook my head, “Its fine,” I chopped the air before putting the sword back into its sheath and mounting it on my belt, “Can I ask you something, witch?” 
    “Of course,” She gave me a small smile. 
    “Maxine mentioned something to me in a dream last night, something about a hero’s seal. Can you tell me about that?” 
    The witch cackled again, “Where does my student keep getting her hands on these ancient spells? Its an old sigil to--” She stopped for a few seconds, “I will let Maxine tell you.” 
    “What is with you witches and your mysterious bull shit?” I groaned. 
    She cackled again, “Do not take it personally, she would want it this way. You are a smart kid, I am sure you will figure out what it does.” 
    “I know NOTHING about magic, ma’am.” 
    “You will figure it ouuuut~” She sang as she climbed back onto her horse, “I will leave the rest to you two for now. Good luck!” She gently pulled the reins of the horse and trotted off.   
    “Are you nervous?” Eliza suddenly asked me. 
    “Not at all,” I replied, confusing myself. 
    “The courage of a hero, perhaps?” 
    “I... guess so.” 
 
    Eliza and I returned to her office to relax a bit before the big day tomorrow. Eliza made a noise of surprise as she entered the room before me. A bottle of wine sat on the table with a note attached. Eliza quickly read it and smiled, “Young Lord Luke...” She fawned over the note before moving onto the bottle.  
    “Who is that?” I asked. 
    “He is the eldest son of the Corbelt house. He sent me a bottle of his family's wine!” She pulled out a cork remover and pulled the top off. She smelled the liquid with a smile on her face before pouring a glass for herself, “Would you like some?” I shook my head, I wasn’t a big fan of wine. She shrugged at me like I was missing out. As she lifted the glass to her lips, I was pulled into the recesses of my mind. 
 
    I had a quick vision of Eliza downing the liquid. In moments an expression of pain spread across her face as she began to convulse. I could only watch in horror as she vomited mostly blood, looking at me with pleading eyes to help her in some way. I rushed to her side, not knowing what to do only watching as Eliza died before me. 
 
    I came back to reality and without a second thought, I slapped the glass out of Eliza’s hand. With a yelp of surprise from Eliza and a crash of glass as the wineglass hit the floor, the room went deathly silent. I slowly turned to Eliza, unsure of how to explain what had happened to her. She looked at me in confusion, unsure of what to say as well. The door to her office burst open and an armoured guard entered, “Is everything alright?” The tiger woman barked. She quickly looked at the glass shattered on the floor and then at us, “What happened?” 
    “Yes, Richard. What happened?” Eliza asked me, a little annoyed. 
    “I-I had a vision of you drinking that wine... th-then dying and I’ve seen the future come true before and I panicked and- and--” I stammered. 
    Eliza turned to the guard, “Please fetch our poisons expert. As well as a maid to clean this mess up,” The guard nodded and dashed away, “Are you alright, Richard? You look like you have seen a dead--” She stopped herself, “You seem very shaken.” 
    “I had a realistic vision of you DYING, Eliza,” I snapped at her. She looked hurt, “Sorry, sorry. I... I need to rest,” I sat back down and clutched my forehead.  
    Three people entered the room, Svetlana, the same tiger woman and a snake woman with pale skin, a scale pattern on her snake body like a rattlesnake and dark red hair wearing the same uniform as the rest of the staff, “Lady Eliza,” The snake woman bowed a little bit, “Is thisss the wine sussspected to be poisssoned?” She spoke very slowly with a somewhat texan accent. Svetlana began mopping up the floor. 
“Yes, it is,” Eliza nodded.     
    The woman slowly slithered up to the desk, poured some of the wine into a cup and sniffed it. I looked at her in shock as she poured the wine into her mouth. She swished it around and spat it back into the cup, “It is indeed poisssoned,” She turned to me and smiled, “Excellent work, Lord Richard.” 
“Uh, thank you,” I returned the smile. I didn’t like how my name sounded with the prefix of ‘Lord.’ 
The snake woman took the bottle with her and left the room with the tiger woman. Svetlana turned to me, “How did you manage to detect the poison!?” She asked excitedly. 
“I had a vision of Eliza dying to it,” I told her bluntly, still a little shaken. 
The smile dropped off her face, “O-oh... I will take my leave now,” She gave us a curtsey before dashing out of the room. 
Eliza picked up the note that was attached to the wine originally, “Richard, look at this,” She held it out for me to examine, “These letters are smudged.” 
I took it from her and took a look, “Someone left handed wrote this,” I told her. 
“How do you know?” 
“I’m left handed, Eliza. My writing looks like this as well,” Something clicked inside my mind, “Oscar’s left handed.” 
“Are you sure?” 
I started putting the pieces together as I looked at the bills he had written, “This writing matches that writing!” I exclaimed. 
“Oscar... tried to poison me?” Eliza shook herself, “Why?” 
“He’s not the oldest child, right?” 
“No, he is not,” It clicked in her mind as well, “He wants to marry into the family and get rid of me so he can get at the Hamilton family fortune!”  
“Exactly!” We both sat down and looked at eachother, somewhat relieved, “This is the most cliche plan I can think of. How the shit did he get this far?” 
    “He has done a decent job covering his tracks. This plan has been going on for years as well. We have to stop him, Richard.” 
 
    The day had come, I rode in a carriage with the Hamiltons down a wooded path to the chapel. The carriage was flanked by guards on horseback. I was wearing a nice suit as was Lord Hamilton. Both Ladies were in gorgeous ornate dresses. Lady Hamilton looked like she was about to tear someone's head off, she had not received word of the wedding until just this morning when Oscar sent a messenger to let her know the wedding was today. I felt like that man was lucky to leave with his life. No one spoke as we all anxiously waited to arrive. I watched Eliza’s ears twitch nervously to pass the time. The carriage suddenly stopped as a large crash was heard. Lady Hamilton growled, “What is it now!?” 
    “I’ll check,” I volunteered. I stepped outside as the caravan was set upon by dark robed figures, weapons at the ready. The guards lept into action, easily fighting off the assailants, “I don’t have time for this!” I looked to the front of the caravan to see a tree downed blocking our path. 
    “Richard!” Eliza dashed out of the carriage and hopped onto a horse, “Come on!” I was pulled onto the saddle as Eliza pulled the reins and the horse took off. The horse jumped the downed tree and continued down the road. As we neared the chapel, Eliza slowed down, “Where is she?” 
    “Psst!” A voice called to us from the bushes. 
    Eliza and I dismounted the horse and stepped into the woods. There were three women here in revealing pink nun outfits. A small angelic looking girl with small pink wings, a taller angel looking woman with a bow and quiver full of arrows the third woman was a kind of harpy with orange wings. She had an instrument that she strummed absentmindedly, “Richard, these three servants of Eros are going to help us save Maxine.” 
    “Hello,” I exchanged quick pleasantries with them. 
    “Eliza, we can smuggle you in easily enough. Richard, you will need to take the tunnel to get in,” The tanned woman with a bow explained.  
    “The tunnel?” 
    I was ignored, “Excellent. Has the wedding started?” Eliza asked. 
    “Yes,” The harpy nodded, “We must hurry. Come with me, Richard!” I was quickly led to a wooden hatch surrounded by trees, “In! In!” She demanded. 
    Without a second thought, I lifted the hatch and started climbing down. I looked back up at the harpy who gave me an encouraging smile before closing the hatch above me. I stood still as I realized I was in complete darkness. I could hardly see in front of me. I took a deep breath and started walking. I had my left hand on the damp wall as I walked down the claustrophobic, dark tunnel. My heart pounded in my chest as I slowly trudged down in the darkness. The silence was maddening, the only sound was my heartbeat in my ears and the occasional drop of water. I Pushed forwards, just praying for it to be over. I started speaking aloud to myself, “Do it for Maxy, Richard... Do it for--” I hit my head on something wooden. A ladder, I breathed a sigh of relief as I scurried up the ladder. I pushed the hatch open and scrambled into the well lit room. I sat up and calmed myself down. I was in a small storage room, alone.   
    I heard the wedding going on. I poked my head out of the door and looked for any of those nuns of Eliza. As I stepped into the hallway, the harpy woman strode up to me, “Richard, the wedding is almost over, you need to hurry!” 
    “Where is Eliza?” I asked. 
    “They were stopped by the guards outside despite being women of the church here. I had to fly in through a window!” 
    “W-what should I do?” 
    “Get out there and... You have a plan, right?” She was freaking out more than I was. 
    “I think Eliza did, but its just me now,” I shook my head. 
    “Good luck, Eros guide you.” 
    “Thank you,” I found myself standing at the far end of the aisle staring to the other side of the building. Sunlight streamed through stained glass windows depicting a figure I assumed was Eros. I took a deep breath and started walking towards the altar where Maxine and Oscar stood. A murmuring broke out in the crowd as I walked past. I looked up to see cameras set up near the altar. This was being broadcasted. I shook my head as I got near the altar. The woman officiating the wedding, another taller angelic woman-- this one seemed much older, looked up from the text in front of her and directly at me, “Is this when I say ‘I object?” I asked. 
    Maxine turned around quickly, “Richard!” She cried. She was wearing a wonderful wedding gown. 
She took one step towards me before Oscar grabbed her arm, “This is when I get wed to my beloved Maxine!” He told me smugly, “And I will not have you ruin our day.” 
“By all means, go right ahead and ask Eros for her blessing,” I shrugged. 
Maxine looked at me with fear as the officiater slowly began talking once more, “Um,” She skipped to the end of her book, “As the congregation here comes to an end,” She looked to the ceiling nervously, “We ask you, o Eros, to bestow this young couple your blessing! Let this wedding be blessed by thee!”  
We stood in silence as nothing happened. The smug look dropped off of Oscar’s face as he nervously began looking around the room. His grip on Maxine’s arm tightened as fear overcame him. He looked directly at me, “You,” He murmered. 
    Maxine bit his arm, causing him to yell and let go of her, “Richard!” She ran down the short set of stairs and leapt into my arms. I spun her around in my arms for a moment before returning my attention to Oscar. He looked like a man whose entire world was crashing down. 
    “Looking for this?” I reached into my bag and pulled out the pink orb. 
    “How did you get that!?” Oscar shrieked.  
    I produced the papers that Maxine had stolen, “As this bill of sale, signed by Oscar,” I showed it to the cameras that were fixated on me, “This orb is made to fake Eros’s blessing at the end of the wedding. When the words ‘let this wedding be blessed by thee’ are spoken--” The orb shattered in my hands and a pink mist flowed out and into the room, “This happens.” 
    The murmuring of the crowd increased as people realized what was going on, “How? How did you get that paper!?” Oscar demanded. 
    “Perhaps you should not label your questionable files ‘secret files,’ Oscar. For someone who seems to have it all together you ruin all of it with one action,” Maxine mused. 
    “I also have this paper that shows you forged that document that claims you owned that land. You have no right to Maxine’s hand in marriage, Oscar,” I pulled out the forgery document and showed it to the cameras, “This document, also signed by Oscar, pertains to--” 
 
    I was cut short as I was stabbed through the chest. 
 
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 
 
    I screamed as Richard fell to the floor. I ran to him as the room devolved into chaos, putting his head on my lap. Sunlight beat down on us from a window. He looked up at me, tears in his eyes and blood in his mouth, “I-I’m sorry, Maxy.” 
    “Stop talking. I-I can fix this,” I pulled out my wand and tried to cast something. I failed twice to cast anything as my voice shook horribly as I choked back tears. 
    “I- I got blood on your dress,” He told me, “You look great, though.” 
    “Stop talking! Save-save your strength!” I clutched his hand. 
    He squeezed my hand weakly, “I saved you, right?” 
    “Yes. Y-you did great. Th-thank you,” I told him as tears rolled down my cheeks.  
    “Good,” He closed his eyes and slowly went limp in my arms, he looked so peaceful with a small smile on his face. 
    I sat in shock, my tears falling onto Richard’s face. I looked around as people quickly left and guards attempted to restrain Oscar, “I will have order!” He screamed, “Let me go!” The officiator looked on in horror at the blood spilled in her holy church.  
I hissed as someone came to my side. Eliza knelt next to me, ignoring the fact that I had just lashed out at her, “Dammit, Richard...” She mumbled in disbelief. 
    I touched Richard’s face gently while holding his hand. The sunlight around me got much warmer. I felt a small twitch and a groaned reached my ears. I saw a soft pink glow on Richard’s chest wound, “Come back to me, Richard, please,” I begged. 
    His eyes shot open as he gripped my hand. He breathed heavily trying to refill his lungs with air. He stared at me, covered in his own blood and smiled at me, “Sword,” He told me. 
    “On it,” Eliza reached into his bag and pulled out a sword. 
    “Thank you,” He took it in his hands and tried to stand. 
    “Richard, you need to rest,” I tried to hold him down. 
    “I have to,” He struggled against my grip. 
    “What?” 
    “Eros told me so,” I was so confused he managed to get off of me. 
He stepped towards Oscar, sword in hand. I stood up and grabbed my wand, I only had one spell I could currently cast, aetherial chains, but only enough links of chain to maybe restrict one arm. Richard pushed himself past the guards and stood before Oscar, “You cannot even die correctly, can you!?” Oscar shouted, “I challenge you to a duel--” 
“Shut up,” Richard groaned, “I don’t care what you want. I’m gonna kick your ass. And enjoy it.” 
“Fine, if its death you desire its--” Richard lunged forwards, attempting to stab into his foe’s chest. I cast my spell as Oscar dodged backwards before slashing at Richard who easily deflected the blow. A few moments passed as both of them eyed each other. I attached an aetherial chain to Oscar’s leg and the other to the ground, Richard notice and went for the same attack lunging forwards, as Oscar attempted to jump backwards, the chains catching him and knocking him onto his back. Richard stood above him, a blank look on his face, “Ch-cheater!” Oscar wailed, “You--” 
Richard brought the sword down into his chest, as Oscar cried out in pain, Richard looked confused, “Demon silver,” I explained, “No blood, just energy loss,” I approached Richard as he stabbed Oscar twice more in the chest. He fell unconscious. 
I leapt into Richard’s arms again. He hugged me weakly, “I’m so tired,” He mumbled. 
I sat on the floor and offered my lap as a pillow, “Rest dear, you have earned it,” He nodded and got on the tiles, putting his head on my lap. I gently ran my fingers through his hair. I watched as the police showed up and took Oscar away. They asked me a few questions before they left. I declined to press charges against the person who had forged the document that had gotten me here in the first place. I was sure they had a reason to; if they had not, I would not be here with Richard. I could not be too mad. 
“Max!” A voice cried out in the almost empty chapel. Svetlana came running down the aisle towards me. She stopped as she looked at the two of us, “Is-Is he...?” 
“He is fine. He needs his rest.” 
“This has been an interesting day,” The officiating cupid scratched her hair and took a seat on one of the pews. 
“Do you need us to leave?” I asked. 
“No, you people have the chapel rented all day. Take your time.” 
“Could you do another wedding?” Richard spoke up. 
“Of course! I would be honored to wed a man blessed by Eros to his lover!” The woman shot up with renewed energy. 
“We should get you cleaned up first. Both of you,” Svetlana sighed. 
“I pray we are not too late!” The doors burst open once more as multiple people filed into the chapel. My master gave a grand bow before she walked down the aisle followed by Richard’s and my friends. My mother and father were close behind them along with her personal guard. 
“Off the floor you two,” My mother scolded as our friends took seats in the pews talking amongst each other.  
Richard was pulled up off the floor by my father who then helped me up, “That was one of my better suit,” He frowned as he poked at Richard’s chest. 
“I will get it cleaned and patched up, sir,” Svetlana’s mother approached, mini sewing kit in hand, “Give us an hour and we will have the two of them ready for a proper wedding!” 
 
Within an hour, we both stood at the altar, hand in hand. The officiator was going through the words rather excitedly. Before when I had been standing here with Oscar she knew something was wrong and spoke rather slowly and nervously. Now she almost sang the words of her sermon, “Unless someone in the audience has an objection, we will move onto the ending of this wedding,” She waited half a moment, “Good! Do you two have any words you wish to share before we send you out of here as a married couple?” 
We turned to face each other, I spoke first, “It has been a long road, has it not? From visiting you in your dreams to quite actually teleporting into your life.  Even how hard this has been, I would do it all over again. Thank you for everything you have done, Richard. I love you deeply.” 
He smiled at me, “I wish I had a bit more time for this. Thank you for coming into my life, Maxine. This has been the best period of my life, probably ever. I love you too,” He gave me an apologetic smile. 
“You did great,” I whispered. 
“Without further delay,” The officiator continued, “As the congregation here comes to an end,” She raised her palms to the sky, “We ask you, o Eros, to bestow this young couple your blessing! Let this wedding be blessed by thee!” A sweet smelling aroma filled the room as a pink fog gently swirled around us, “Wonderful!” The cupid laughed, “With that, Maxine, you may now kiss your husband,” Before she had finished that sentence I had already grabbed Richard and pulled him into a deep kiss. 
 
    As the festivities drew to an end and most of our friends had left, Richard and I sat leaning on one another. Exhaustion had overtaken him and I just wanted to have physical contact with him. The last few people at the wedding walked up to us, “You two can rest when you go home,” My mother pestered, “We have much to discuss!” 
    “Mother--” I started. 
    “Richard,” She continued, “Young Lord Richard Hamilton,” She grinned, “Oh, the son I always wanted! You two will be coming home tonight, yes?” 
    “We will be going to Richard’s home,” I stated. 
    “Nonsense, your place is within the Hamilton estate!” I glared at her, “This whole event has shaken me, Maxine. I would prefer to keep both of you close.” 
    “How about we move in tomorrow or the next?” Richard asked, “I would like some alone time with my wife if you don’t mind.” 
    “As you wish,” My mother sighed in defeat, “Maxine, you will be resuming your training soon, yes?” 
    “Mother,” I said sternly, “Your control freak attitude is what got me to run away in the first place.” 
    “Y-yes, you are right. My apologies,” She turned her gaze to Richard, “You will take her place, will you not?” Richard gave her a confused glance, “I hear you work in economics currently, I would love to hire you.” 
    “Sure,” He shrugged, unknowingly signing himself to a fate of being constantly lectured. As much as I loved him, better him than me. 
    “Excellent! Would you like a carriage ride home? A private one?”  
    “That would be wonderful, thank you,” I nodded to my mother. 
 
    I sat in the bath with my new husband, soaking in the hot water. He sat in front of me so I could examine his back, “What’s that heroes seal anyways?” He asked as he finished telling me the tale of his adventures without me. 
    “An old sigil meant to inspire courage in those who are marked with it. It is based on a birth mark that the demon lord’s husband has. It only has a limited amount of uses, so I expect that--” I found the seal to be completely intact. I had a grin on my face. 
    “What is it?” He asked nervously. 
    “Nothing! Everything is in order, now tell me where it hurts, husband.” 
    “I’m fine, I swear,” He grumbled. 
    “Alright, alright,” I pressed myself up against him, “You are going to give me children, right?” 
    “If that’s what you want.” 
    “I just want three... maybe five at most.” 
    “Anything for you.” 
    There was a long pause, “What... Happened when you died?” I asked quietly. 
    “I... I was in a dark space, and I think a woman was there. She asked me if I loved you, I said of course I do! She then asked me why I refused to pick up arms... I think I said I didn’t want to be like him and I felt like I had done my duty showing Oscar to be a horrible person. She asked if I was okay with dying. I think I said yes and she called me a liar,” He paused for a few moments. 
    “Then what?” 
“I think she told me I had to fight him, despite my hesitation. So I did.” 
“Huh. I am glad to have you back, Richard.”     
 
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 
 
    I sat in my office and stared out the window, it was nearly time for my lunch. There was a flash of light in the middle of the room. I turned and smiled, happy to see my family. My wife Maxine wore her usual witch’s garments but this outfit was a little larger to account for her pregnant belly. In one hand she held her staff and in the other she carried a small child. At her feet stood two more children, the eldest wore a dress made by her grandmother and the middle child wore a uniform nearly identical to her mother’s. All three of my daughters ran from their mother over to me, “Daddy!” They shouted as they leapt onto my chair. 
    “There they are!”  l laughed. 
    “How is work, daddy?” The eldest asked. 
    “Better now that I have you four here.” 
    “Where should we go for lunch, darlings?” Maxine asked as she strutted over. 
    “Beach!” The second child cried. 
    “Any objections? No?” Maxine raised her staff in preparation. I got up and pulled the children close to me. With a few words, Maxine teleported us to a private beach half a world away. The three kids started running around and playing in the sand. Maxine laid out a blanket and produced a basket containing our lunch, “This is the life, hm?” 
    “Yeah. Teleporting anywhere we want to go is great,” I smiled. 
    “I mean being together as a family,” She pouted. 
    I laughed a bit, “I know what you meant. I just like to mess with you.” 
    “And I love you anyway.”     
“I love you too.”

One response to “The Black Cat”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: