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    Thread: Holding out for a Hero

    1. #1
      TXU Sr. Member kevin398's Avatar
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      Default Holding out for a Hero

      Not especially original but not a bad story


      The World that Surrounds Us

      We all know the Legends. ‘Don’t go out alone at night...’ “always carry a Cross for protection’...and many others. But why do we still believe in these things after hundreds of years? Because strange things still happen, and we need all the help we can get, or so we think. Carrying a Cross around your neck is heartwarming and makes us feel safe, and so its cheap protection from...whatever we think might be after us.

      But, what if all the things we worry about...were real... and always have been. People DO go missing by the hundreds, and always have.So maybe its not all Legends after all. Ghosts, Demons, Spirits that roam the Earth all have been blamed for these things over our History, but we might be surprised to see their side of it, since they exist beside Humans and have forever, like a separate yet, joined world of coexistence.


      Chapter 1: Bucking the Tide


      Rick Carter is a nice young man, his grades in high school are good and he has many friends. He lives with his family, his mother Larisa, and his Grandfather, Phillip in an old mansion and estate on the edge of town.

      His friends have never really seen inside the place, or if they have, they felt a strange forbidding and didn’t stay, and for good reason. Phillip was the Don for the local Spirit Region, and important Demons and Spirits came and went, usually at night, and paid tribute to him and his Family.

      To say they weren’t poor was an understatement, but they never mentioned it, just went on about their normal lives...or as normal as they could be at least.

      But things were getting anxious around the place, as Rick’s 16th birthday was rapidly approaching, and with it, his place as the new Don, since the Spirit World declares you an adult at 16. But Phillip had his hands full with him.

      Rick had grown up knowing his place, but with just 25% Demon blood, his feelings about the meetings and their drinking and boasting of dirty deeds towards Humans, made him angry and his Grandfather had to remind him that Humans were, and always had been, food for many that could not survive without them, and it had been this way since Time began.

      “It doesn’t make it any easier to hear..” Rick mentioned as his Grandfather looked serious at him and nodded.

      “But its normal here and always will be,” he mentioned as Rick nodded he knew that,” you’re standing on the edge of two worlds. One where Humans worry and fret and run blindly about trying to survive, and one where Demons and Spirits work and play and hunt Humans for food, and sometimes Sport. You know this is all true, and even if you hope to change it, only Death can stop it from happening, and our kind deserve to live just the same as them, don’t you think?” He mentioned as Rick was quick to say that he wasn’t one of ‘ Our Kind’ he was a Human, and as such could not be the next Don.

      “You know that’s not true, though,” The old man said, leaning in as Rick looked sad he mentioned it.” you changed into your Demon form once already, two years ago, if only for a few minutes. Many of your friends and bodyguards here saw it and gladly joined you when you called for them.” he added as Rick nodded sadly.

      He had been out with some friends, and a Demon that didn’t recognize him attacked them on a side street and nearly killed Karen, a girl he had known for years. But at that moment his blood boiled inside him and he stepped forward and changed, from the normal, wimpy 14 year old he was, to a tall and handsome Demon that looked very Human, except for his long white hair and big red eyes that shone like beacons in the night.

      “What is this??” Demanded the Demon as he jumped back and Rick gave him a big grin, as his friends all fell under his spell and went right to sleep.

      “You didn’t check your prey carefully enough, old Demon,” Rick said as the Demon growled and demanded to know who was interfering with his hunt. “You have openly attacked the Third Don and his friends...how do you plead?” He demanded as the big Demon looked shocked.

      “So, its true then, the Third Don is nothing but a simple child.” It said... laughing out loud as Rick smiled slowly... and the Demon felt less sure of himself.”If I kill you for interfering... then my reputation will jump immensely... maybe I’ll become the next Don instead of you!” It declared as it ran in, but at the last second a Katana appeared in Rick’s hand and the big Demon couldn’t stop his rush quickly enough, and was disemboweled in the spot, and he died screaming that it couldn’t be true, as his minions disappeared into the darkness, and Rick returned to his normal self, and made sure his friends made it home safely.

      “Its was an accident,” Rick mentioned, after remembering that night, as his Grandfather smiled in return.

      “You protected people you care about, and it was a fair fight with a much more experienced Demon, so no one even disagreed that he deserved it.” Phillip said as Rick nodded and said nothing. “Your abilities came forth when they were needed, and will again. Maybe its time you start training to control when you transform.” he hinted as Rick just walked away and the old man shook his head and looked tired, Rick just wasn’t ready yet, but his aura was getting stronger now by the day, and soon his position would be questioned again, and he would have no choice but to fight once more.

      But Rick would refuse it until the last second, and he knew it. He wanted to know all about both sides of this world, but only take part in the Human side. Sitting through meetings with his Grandfather where Demons bragged about eating children made him sick to his stomach, and he walked out of a meeting once to keep from screaming in their faces.

      But reputation was everything in the Demon World and some had formed a niche for themselves by attacking certain ages or types of Humans, and without that they would be nothing, and Rick knew it. It wasn’t a fair system, not for the Humans for sure, but they were massive in numbers...6.5 million in this city alone...and the Demon tribes were a small minority... in the entire Family they controlled... only 10,000 demons and their minions were registered... and thats a huge difference, so their attacks and feeding seldom even got noticed.

      Rick went to school the next day and felt much better being there with his old friends. His best friend was Frank, a rich kid that wanted more than anything to become a famous Paranormal Investigator, and Rick laughed at his attempts to gather information about Ghosts and Demons, much of which was nothing but old rumors and speculation online. But he wouldn’t give up, and soon they all were dragged along to see old buildings or areas where Ghosts had been seen regularly, and Rick laughed behind his back because his Family Area could be controlled, and one call... one demand... and not a single ghost or demon would appear, and he felt bad a few times for walking along with them while searching for demons he knew they would never find.

      After one such trip, to an old school building not far from the school they attended, Rick walked along smiling until he felt a strong aura and his senses told him they were not alone.

      His people had been told...don’t be seen here...but someone was here for sure, and he snuck away from the group saying he needed a ‘nature call’ and they laughed and told him to be careful.

      He walked into the old auditorium, a perfect place to be attacked from all sides, and when the many spirits there appeared around him he smiled and demanded to talk to their leader.

      “You can...see us?” One ask as he introduced himself and many there looked impressed.

      “You are living in my Territory, and without my Families permission.” Rick added as they got silent as a big female spider woman walked out of the darkness and demanded why they should bow down to him, and he smiled wider and agreed, to her surprise. “I don’t need to demand you leave, or that you need to bow down to anyone.” Rick went on as she seemed impressed.

      “But there are rules everywhere, as you all know. Either you need to join the group you’re living under, or move to an area where another group will take you in, without organization there will be chaos.” he added as she looked thoughtful about that. “You know the alternative.” He added as she looked a little scared for a second, without an organization to align with, they would be attacked as rogues and slowly eliminated by some that might want to feed on them.

      “This is our home...” She whispered as Rick nodded he understood,” will you ask the Don for permission for us to stay?” She asked as he said he would.

      “Give me a listing of your members and I’ll see what I can do, until then you are under our protection.” Rick added as a paper floated to him and he rolled it up and slid it under his shirt.”Now rest and be silent, and I will return with the decision later.” he said and walked right out through a wall of smaller spirits who all seemed impressed that he would help rogues like them.

      He went back and found his friends, still demanding that there had to be a ghost here somewhere, and he convinced them it was getting chilly and the 3 girls there weren’t hard to convince, since it was getting late, and soon they were walking home again, and Rick went back to report what he had found, to his Grandfathers surprise.

      “250 rogue demons and and spirits living right under our noses.” he said looking at the list as Rick agreed.” Its been a while since we missed something this big.”

      “Their leader is an Arachnid, a large female, but she seems intelligent enough to deal with.” Rick mentioned as Phillip got a big grin. As a scholar of both Humans and Demons Rick had a ‘unique perspective’ on things and in this case it had helped them all.

      “As the next Don this is quite the big deal, adding 250 new members will help shore up our defenses and keep trouble makers away.” Phillip added as Rick looked tired already.

      “I’m not the Don here you are, so if you agree then send someone to let them know.” Rick said and started away.

      “I will send you...you started the negotiations so its a good fit... and wither you like it or not, you’ll be the next Don someday so making new friends to assist you is never a bad thing.” Phillip added as Rick tried to talk his way out of it but failed, and before dawn a new group of Demons were members of the Carter Clan, and the Arachnid came back with Rick to meet the reining Don and thank him for being so kind to them.

      “In a few months my Grandson will replace me as Don,” The old man said as she looked impressed she met him at just the right time.” I expect your group to assist him whenever he demands it, and stand behind our Family as we will stand behind yours.” he demanded as she agreed and the treaty was done.

      “Then welcome, Lady Arachnid, and we hope you live a long and prosperous life with us.” He added as Rick shook her hand and she bowed and disappeared into the night.

      “I wish you wouldn’t tell everyone that,” Rick mentioned as Phillip just laughed.

      “Three months left, enjoy it while you can.” he added and walked away and Rick was still swearing that he’d not rule here, but for today he felt like he had done something good, and both Humans and Demons were better off because of it.



      Chapter 2: Monthly Meeting



      A week went by and the Monthly Meeting as at hand, and this time Rick was ordered to be there, as he grumped about the whole thing. To get all dressed up to sit and listen to these old fools bragging just wasn’t his style, but he knew he didn’t have much of a choice tonight.
      As the meeting got started a few smiled wide to see Rick sitting at the head of the room next to his Grandfather and as the meeting started a large and impressive looking Arachnid walked over and sat beside Rick and the room got silent.

      “This is Lady Arachnid...a new member that Rick brought into our Family just this past week. She is in charge of security on 3rd and 4th streets starting today.” Phillip added as a few whispered to themselves.

      “Thats the area around the schools...a prime spot for hunting many of us use from time to time.” one large Demon added as even Phillip agreed.

      “There’s plenty to go around, and many of her people are Spirit eaters, so any rogues coming in from outside will find it hard to cause trouble for the rest of us now.” Phillip added as a few nodded and looked pleased.

      “Will the Third stay and listen to our meeting today or run and throw up in the trash like last time?” One massive Demon asked and laughed as even Phillip’s eyes went into slits, but Rick stepped in to the surprise of all.

      “Will the great Baby Killer Demon tell stories of great battles with tough opponents, or about how someone so strong sneaks in at night and eats sleeping babies instead?” Rick asked as the room chuckled and even Phillip looked away. Basically he called a 500 year old demon a coward for attacking babies instead of a worthy prey, as the big demon’s eyes went wide that Rick dared to talk back to him.

      “There are more than enough Humans to go around, but respect is earned by good fights and hard won victories, not by sheer numbers anymore.” Rick added as many agreed and cheered and Phillip saw that Rick was practicing before he got here today, and was slowly turning the talk to security and tough battles instead of killing the helpless, and he saw where the next generation would focus their power.

      “Well...I...umm...” The big demon stammered as another pushed him to the side, and told his story of fighting a rogue army outside the city limits and having a feast on the bodies of the fallen, as Phillip applauded for him and Rick gave him a good cheer and many saw for the first time that the Third was in the room, even if not tranformed into his Demon self... he had reconciled himself with the reality that two worlds did indeed exist.

      “Well done...” Rick said after the tale was over,as the big snake smiled wider still,” thanks to you security on our boarder was restored and an enemy saw we will not allow such things here, thats a fine story and your people will get a bonus from the Family for their help in this matter.” he added as Phillip cleared his throat loudly and many got silent.

      “I believe thats my line, for now,” he added as Rick apologized for getting ahead of himself and the room laughed loudly, and Phillip did indeed give them a reward.

      But the writing was on the wall, and even tonight as the drinking and bragging went on Phillip saw that his retirement was well planned and closer than he first thought, and it pleased him.
      The meeting ended with many Demons and Spirits shaking Rick’s hand and introducing themselves to lady Arachnid personally. It was her first meeting and she sat back silently most of the time, but now everyone went their ways and a few gave Rick a big smile and even a hug or two as they showed they approved of him being there and taking part seriously for the first time.

      “The Third lives!” They heard as Rick waved it away and many either looked sad for his attitude or laughed to see him being just as silly as he always was, only now after a very important meeting where he gained respect for adding new people to the Family, something that hadn’t been done for years and years.

      “You did well...” Phillip said as they walked back into the house after everyone had gone.” You earned respect by standing up to those that belittled you, without getting violent, and many noticed, you have more friends on the Council now than you had yesterday by a good number.” he added as Rick just smiled and said he didn’t do anything for them or their needs, he said what he felt and he thought maybe it had changed a few of them towards a more honorable way of living, but even that wasn’t a sure thing.

      “Be true to yourself, and us all, through that.” Phillip added as he went inside,” Time will tell how things go from there.” Rick took a little time to think about that, and as he walked along through the garden a cool breeze seemed to follow him and as he whipped around to see...nothing was there.

      “Is that you Leona? I can feel your frost powers even if you hide from sight you know.” he mentioned as a shadow appeared from behind some bushes and a thin young girl stepped out with long, bright blue hair and a long flowing white robe, and Rick looked surprised because this was not the woman he had thought was there.

      “That would be my mother, Master Carter.” She announced and gave him a deep bow and he thanked her for her courtesy.”I am Crisp...another ice demon of the Family.”

      “I don’t remember ever seeing you around here before.” Rick said as he sat down on a bench and she slid onto the other corner, trying carefully not to get too close and possibly upset him.

      “I was in training in the mountains for the last 10 years, and now that I have matured, my mother waits to see if I’ll join the Family like she did.” She mentioned as Rick smiled and nodded he understood.”But I want to decide that for myself. I need a reason to be here, a purpose to my life, so I waited to see you alone so we can talk.” She added as Rick looked very serious as he knew she was trying to be as well.

      “My mother served the Master for 50 years, and happily so. But now I need to know...as the Third, will you need me and my skills... or will I just be another of the thousands that serve you?” She asked as Rick saw that being a faceless member of the masses wasn’t her style at all.

      “Show me your skills...” He said as she nodded and stepped up and waved her hand and a chill settled over the path before him and a tree nearby was frozen solid...on a warm May night.He stepped up and touched it and his hand nearly stuck there as she chuckled and he got a big smile.

      “My grandfather tells me constantly that I shouldn’t be out walking the streets alone. He once even said I should carry a sword for protection...he’s a little out of touch with the times I think.” Rick added as Crisp got a good laugh at that.”If you wish...I might need a bodyguard that is willing to keep me out of trouble from time to time. She wouldn’t need to follow me everywhere, just be available when she might be needed.” he hinted as she saw her skills had truly gotten his attention.

      “If you will accept me... I promise... I will serve with Honor.” She said as he nodded, took her hand and kissed it, and it was a done deal.

      “I’ll look better walking along with a pretty girl instead of carrying a sword through the streets. I hear the Police frown on such things these days.” he hinted as they both laughed out loud and she gave him a short bow and backed away into the night.

      “You may never see me as you travel, but fear not, I will always be there when you need me.” She said and like a cool breeze she was gone.

      “Nicely done,” Rick whispered as a second breeze came floating in and he looked around to see Leona, his Grandfathers Personal Guard standing there all smiles. “You were listening in?” He asked as she smiled and agreed.”How very mischievous of you.” he added with a wink, as they both laughed.

      “Thank you, Master. My daughter had many reservations about living here and working for the Family. But you seemed to make her feel at home, and that is most important.” She hinted as Rick smiled and agreed.”May she serve you for as long and as well as I have served your Grandfather.” She said... like it was a Blessing...and her cool breeze disappeared as well, and Rick shivered after all that, and decided that it might be a warm night, but he didn’t need to catch a cold with school coming tomorrow, so he went back to the Main House and went to bed for the night, as many eyes watched him and many friends smiled that he was gathering his own Team so soon.


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      Chapter 3: Just a Normal Day


      The next day Rick walked into class as his friends waved and he sat down and talked back and forth for a few minutes while waiting on the teacher. Frank had been up all night, trying to trap a spirit he claimed was living in an old house down the road from his mansion, and Rick grimaced to think he might actually find one if he kept trying.

      “There’s no such thing as ghosts and demons you know that.” Karen added, as others agreed, but Frank demanded there were...because he had seen them in the past...and Rick looked sad as Frank went on about that night and the sudden feeling of a heavy hand that forced him to sleep even while a big fight went on right in front of him.

      “Demons and ghosts exist! And I’m going to be the one to prove it, you wait!” He demanded as the teacher walked in and heaved a big sigh and told him to keep it down so early, and the room laughed at him again, and Rick felt bad that even one of his friends remembered that night, much less made it his lifelong ambition.

      The teacher started where they left off yesterday and Rick just sat there day dreaming. He was several chapters ahead by now... so this wasn’t worth his time. But as he looked out the window, a green snake came out onto a limb of the tree next to the building and seemed to smile for him, and then went back down and disappeared from view.

      It was one of Lady Arachnid’s people out on patrol, and he smiled that they were doing a good job, and that Frank was sitting right here and didn’t have the abilities to see them even this close.

      That might be his savior after all. If he couldn’t see them then no matter where he went, he wouldn’t be able to get involved in things that he dared not mess with. But there were some that wouldn’t give a Human a chance no matter what, and Rick knew if Frank wasn’t careful he’d find a demon someday, and might never return from it.

      Class was over soon enough, and lunch time came. Their little group sat together and talked about things kids talk about, and Frank went on and on until everyone ignored him, as usual. It was just another day, and Rick loved it. This was the way he wanted to live his life, no fighting... no meetings with old fools... just a happy go lucky normal life, and he felt if he worked hard enough at it, then he might get things his way yet.

      But it might just be wishful thinking on his part...as a large brown bird swooped into the Family compound and screamed for an audience with the Third...and everyone told him Rick was still in school and wouldn’t be home for an hour yet.

      “He still thinks he’s a Human after all this time?” The big man screamed as Phillip walked out all smiles and offered him a drink after his long flight, and he agreed... as Lord Zed of the Birdmen Clan came for a call... and Rick got a message to get home fast, because his ‘older brother’ had come to see him.

      Rick came busting in a while later, as Zed and Phillip sat in a conference room talking and having drinks. They turned to see him come running in and Zed jumped up and grabbed him by the shirt and lifted him off the ground giving him a good shake and demanding to know when he was going to ‘grow up and take his rightful place’ as Rick laughed right out loud in his face, and Zed joined in, and stood him down and gave him a hug.

      “Should you be over exerting yourself like this Zed?” Rick asked as the big man smiled and sat back down next to him. The Birdmen were a small group and though they were immensely loyal,their bodies were frail compared to many others, no matter what they looked like.

      “It was a cool morning with a favorable breeze.” he stated as Rick nodded and left it go after that.

      “So, why did you come today?” Rick asked as Zed gave him a dirty look.

      “In a few weeks you’ll turn 16, and with that become the Third Don for real. I heard you have started early, and gathered new Family members to assist you, and your Grandfather told me the story, and it was most impressive.” he went on as Rick just waved it away like it was nothing.

      “They are good people and they fill in a hole in our security, thats what Grandfather says, so why not?” he added as Zed smiled wide and agreed again.

      “I can not wait to see you lead the Night Parade, it will be glorious!” Zed declared as Rick just laughed. The Night Parade was a rare occurrence, mainly in a time of war or skirmishes. The Leader gathered his people and they walked to the battlefield, forming a long parade of fighters, with their Commander at the head, much like the Legions of Old.

      “I hope we wont need that for a very long time.” Rick added as even Phillip nodded agreement and went back to his drink.

      But the idea wouldn’t die, and the second night Zed was there it rained and a heavy fog sat in because there was no breeze, and Rick stood there watching the 3/4 moon sliding between clouds as they drank tea and relaxed on the patio.

      “Looks like a nice night for a walk along the river,” Rick mentioned as Zed smiled and agreed, and when Rick stood up and smiled back at his Grandfather, his hair grew white and he got taller and Zed gushed to see his new form, as Phillip smiled wider than ever before.”Who will walk with the Third?” Rick asked as Zed stepped up beside him and they started towards the front gate. Demons and spirits from all over the estate saw and heard and soon Rick didn’t even look back anymore. Crisp was on his right hand, and Leona was on his left, and there was chuckling and cheering behind him as friends joined in.

      They walked slowly for several blocks and because they were spirit creatures the Humans they saw only felt a chill, and rushed home before learning why. It wasn’t a real Night Parade, but Zed was thrilled to be there, and as they stopped on a large bridge looking over the river, many humans were seen laying around and doing everything but propagating right there in the bushes along the river, as Rick got a huge grin and whispered something to Crisp and she disappeared for a minute, and a cold breeze floated up from the river, and a dozen couples got up and ran for their homes, as demons and spirits laughed loudly about it.

      “That was a dirty trick,” Leona mentioned as she got a good chuckle in there too, and Crisp returned, laughing herself.

      “No Humans were harmed in the making of this prank...” Rick added as many laughed along.”Besides, I didn’t do a thing.” he hinted with a wink, as Crisp gave him a dirty look.

      “Will I always be your scapegoat Master?” She asked with a grin, as Rick gave her a wink too, and she looked away.

      “Don’t want to?” He asked as even Leona looked over his shoulder to hear the answer.

      “We should be getting back it’ll be dawn soon.” She said and started back alone as Rick waved and everyone followed, and Leona got a big smile that Crisp hadn’t said she wouldn’t follow him, no matter what, and that was a good sign.


      Chapter 4: Grumps Galore


      It was a nice night, and cool, misty morning, and the many spirits and demons that took part in the first little Parade were happy beyond belief. Many had heard that Rick could change...it had happened once before...but few had seen it, and for many it was a hoax made by his Grandfather and friends to protect him and his position.

      But this was no hoax... as they saw for themselves... he walked along smiling wide, and even stopped to pull pranks on unsuspecting Humans, a sign he enjoyed being a demon from time to time too. He had a personal guard... only one... but she was nothing to laugh at, as many knew. And his reputation within the community went up greatly, as they entered the gate to the estate again, and he changed back into his normal self, and many there grumped that it was such a waste, that the tall handsome demon had to make way for the young Human from time to time.

      Phillip was there waiting, and a few of the members of the Council he ran watched as Rick’s first little group came home from their first patrol of the city, and some said he looked very happy being there and doing it, as Phillip agreed, while others demanded to know why he couldn’t stay in his demon form forever, and Phillip just laughed at them and said he could...when he felt like it...and they looked away still not happy with the answer they got.

      “How was it Zed, does this satisfy you?” Phillip asked as they walked up and Lord Zed gave Rick a little hug and smiled.

      “Its not a combat patrol, but it was very nice that I could be here for the Masters first official duty.” He answered and his face showed he was serious, as Rick thanked him for coming to visit.

      “You will always be welcome to stay here and participate, you know that.” Phillip hinted as Zed smiled and thanked him for saying so.

      “I am the representative of my clan, and I do miss a lot of meetings.” Zed hinted as Rick smiled and said they would always have a room for him, set up and ready, and he thanked him and went to rest after his long walk.

      And as Leona and Crisp went to get some rest as the sun came up, Leona smiled and asked which Master Crisp liked best, the Human one or the night time demon one, and she looked embarrassed she ask at all.

      “Human Master is a kind and gentle man,” Crisp hinted as Leona agreed,” But night time Master is truly one of us...and very handsome and a little mischievous...” She said with a big smile, and Leona mentioned that Rick was only 25% demon, and his grandfather was hoping he’d find a nice demon or spirit he could love, and so start returning the Family back towards a more pure demon blood line...as Crisp gave her mom a wide eyed look, and she chuckled and walked away and left her to think about that for a while.

      “Consort to the Master...or maybe Queen...” She whispered and shook her head and went to get some sleep. it was just too soon to think about that, and she smiled that her mom was thinking that far ahead.

      Leona smiled a lot and walked to her room and as she went in Phillip was there laughing at her surprise.

      “Aren’t you getting a little ahead of yourself? I mean, prodding your daughter towards Rick so soon?” He asked as she just chuckled, it was no surprise she hadn’t snuck that by him so easily.

      “It was just a thought, after all, he’ll date someone soon enough I’m sure.” She hinted as Phillip smiled and just shrugged. Rick liked girls for sure but certainly wasn’t in any hurry to date yet.

      “Lets let them decide these things on their own, no more pushing.” He said and turned to go.

      “You could stay a while..” Leona hinted softly as Phillip gave her a big smile.

      “I’m an old demon whose time has past.” he hinted as she laughed at him for saying so.

      “You’re a man of some repute, Master, I would be honored...” And so, Phillip agreed and they had lots more time to talk about the kids that day as the sun rose high and all the demons got their rest.

      But Rick still had school that day, and as he sat there yawning all afternoon one teacher gave him a dirty look and demanded he pay attention in class, and he snapped out of it for a little while.

      At lunch time he got harassed by his friends for looking so tired and he just said he was up late last night, and everyone had their own thoughts about what that meant. Marathon TV shows, long game sessions, and late night studying were all mentioned as Rick just laughed and said not to worry, he’d get some rest later, and they left it go and he was really sure he was going to sleep early tonight.

      But when he got home and went for dinner, even the staff that served him and the Family were gushing about him moving forward to take over from his grandfather, and just hearing it made him even more tired, as Phillip laughed at the look on his face.

      “How can you keep smiling and running the Family day and night? One good patrol and I’m dead on my feet.” Rick hinted as Phillip reminded him that as the Family Head he would need to run things from the estate, mostly as night, and that he slept during the day most times, as Rick agreed it had seemed that way.

      “Human schooling isn’t necessary for our business either.” Phillip hinted as Rick nodded he understood.” I suggest you start getting tutored at home, then you can get practice running the business and still finish your education.” he added as Rick demanded he could do them both, even as his eyes nearly fell shut during the meal, and his mom, and grandfather saw that only his stubbornness was keeping him going.

      “I’ll be fine...” he hinted as he got up and went to bed, and Phillip chuckled saying that he was his grandson after all, and Rick’s mom agreed as they went on eating and talking about Rick’s future.

      But as quiet as the place had seemed, there was always something going on somewhere. Phillip got a message from some crows he employed that more trouble was occurring on the North Side as a pair of Family owned restaurants were broken into and all the fresh fish and much of the other food was stollen.

      The culprits were easy to identify, since they ate a lot of whatever they liked on the spot, and even dropped feces all over the place, causing a huge cleanup.

      “Cats again...” Phillip grumped as they agreed.Cat spirits that moved constantly, and stole whatever they wanted without a second thought. They had entered the city through a hole in security, and made themselves at home here.How many there were or where they were living was still a mystery, but they had people watching everywhere, and when they found them then there was going to be a real meeting that they were not going to enjoy one bit.

      “Tell everyone, I want their lair found quickly, this is getting expensive.” Phillip said as the crows flew away and he sat back wondering when this thorn in his side would be removed. It had been weeks and they were amazingly hard to find... and he started wondering why as the search went on.


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      started something different, a story written in the first person, and hes a small time detective running a PI office out of his house. He has 'special skills' and a few people who he works with knows it, but not many. He has to keep them a secret and work to pay the bills while some organizations keep an eye on him making sure he doesn't abuse his powers, could be fun or funny sometimes, will see.


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      Chapter 5: A Rose by any other name..would still Have Thorns


      A couple days went by and as Rick got home from school a meeting was going on. Many of the Families ‘commanders’ were there, and Rick patiently waited and snuck in as they yelled about their losses.

      “Do you have any idea what fresh caught Tuna costs?” One man was screaming as Phillip agreed it was getting out of hand. “Two entire tunas, right out of the storeroom, thousands of dollars gone over night. These raiders are killing my business.” he screamed as many there nodded and looked angry.

      “Someone stealing fish?” Rick asked and actually chuckled a bit as many there gave him a dirty look.

      “Not just fish, but a lot of food and supplies all over the Northern area of the city.” Phillip mentioned as Rick nodded and listened some more. “There must be a large number of these cat spirits, because they are stealing hundreds of pounds of food almost every day now, and we still have no idea what they are doing or where they are hiding.” he added as many agreed.

      “What if...” Rick started as Phillip smiled and waved him to continue.” what if ...they aren’t eating it all, but stealing our supplies to run their own business?” He asked as mouths dropped all around the room.

      “Thats a thought I hadn’t considered.” Phillip admitted as Rick got a big smile. “Lets see if there are any new restaurants that just opened in that area, it’s possible we couldn’t see the forest for the trees in this case.” he added as people disappeared from the room instantly.

      In a day they had some idea what was happening. A new restaurant, run by a small local Family of cat spirits, was doing a booming business and had a great reputation around their area. They had the very best food, and sexiest looking waitresses around, and they were making a killing, and no one knew who they bought their food from, or when it ever got delivered.

      “We still cant prove it, but it looks like this is the problem.” Phillip added as they drove up out front and instantly a pretty little cat girl ran out to greet them.

      “Please...come in meow...we’re having a tuna special today!” She offered as Phillip looked upset, but Rick agreed as he got out of the car, and Phillip joined him. The driver took it away and the young girl led them inside, to see a nicely furnished place, with lots and lots of fine ladies offering them anything...and everything...they could possibly want.


      “You have a booming business it seems.” Phillip mentioned as the girl smiled and said they were doing ‘pretty well’ and he agreed, trying to smile.

      “How about some drinks and a nice seafood platter?” Rick asked and she ran to fetch it and Phillip looked sad he wasn’t screaming right now.

      “They don’t seem violent, so maybe this is just them running a business free from overhead.” Rick hinted as Phillip still felt that they should be demanding a lot of explanations, and throwing around threats right now.

      The meal was very good and Rick smiled the entire time, knowing they were being watched. When the meal was over he asked to speak to the owner, who was...no surprise...absent that day.

      So they got up and left and many faces brightened up when they got into their car and drove away, as a large female, black humanoid cat stepped out of the office and looked around, not very happy at all.

      “The Carters have found us...” She announced as many looked sad.” we need to move again, so lets make one more big score then move on.” She said as many agreed and set about making one more raid and then having a ‘moving sale’ to grab all they could from their loyal patrons.

      The raid hit many of the same stores again, stealing everything that wasn’t tied down, and as the truck loaded with supplies pulled in behind the store around midnight the store owner and her help walked out to start getting it all brought in.

      But an eery feeling fell over the place, and a dense fog that was settled in around them, as she looked shocked. In the distance there was the sound of hundreds of feet shuffling, and groans and growls that sent chills down her spine, and as the fog disappeared, her store, and everything nearby, was covered in demons and spirits, and she looked like she’d wet herself in fear.

      The wall of demons opened and out stepped a tall demon with long white hair and he smiled as she demanded to know who he was and why he was here.

      “I am Richard Carter...” he said as she looked frightened suddenly,” the Third Don of the Carter Family, and this is my Night Parade...be thankful, we came here to settle a small problem we seem to be having.” he said as she demanded he knew nothing, and that she and her people had done nothing wrong. And he nodded and several creatures rushed the truck and checked inside, and one stepped out with a scanner in his hand and declared all the food there stolen.

      “Demons using scanners?” She asked and laughed as Rick laughed along too.

      “Times change,” he announced as even she agreed to that.” The Carter Family has no problems with people running a business in our territory, we even accept them into our Family for protection...if they work with us and not against us.” he announced as many there laughed and cheered and the cats didn’t look too happy with it all.

      “I ate here just the other day, its a nice place, the kind of place you can be proud of, don’t mess up this chance. Run the place with dignity and honesty. I think we gave you more than enough of a free head start though.” he announced as she still refused to admit to stealing from them.”Give me a roster of your people, for the official records, and we’ll accept you as a Family Business. But steal from us again...and things wont turn out so well for you... that I can say for certain.” he said as she thought about it for a minute and a paper appeared and she handed it over.

      “I hope to ate here again...for free of course.” Rick said with a laugh, and as he walked back into the crowd, it seemed to implode, as creatures fell in behind him and the wall of demons turned inside out, and disappeared back into that dense fog, and when it disappeared they were all gone.

      “How dare he demand from us!” One male cat said as the older female gave him a hard stare and he backed away.

      “The Third Heir came here just to settle this and let us know we can stay...within reason...” She said as many nodded,” it wasn’t even an attack but a meeting, and he can muster a hundred or more demons at a nod of his head. We were very lucky.” She admitted and slowly smiled. But...to have the Families permission to stay and protection too...

      “It looks like we’re going to stay,” She said loudly as many cheered, “ now find me some supplies for tomorrow, and leave the Carters alone from this day forward.” She demanded as many there ran all directions in search of free supplies again.


      Chapter 6: Business as Usual

      The next day Rick gave his Grandfather the paper and he smiled and checked it out. A new business and 30 new members, and he smiled pretty wide too.

      “You did mention they pay taxes to the Family?” Phillip added as Rick got a serious look and stuck his nose in the air stubbornly.

      “It completely slipped my mind...” He said as Phillip and he both laughed out loud, and many others listening in got a silent chuckle too.

      “You are growing into a fine young demon, and I accept you as my replacement, so it looks like I can finally retire.” Phillip announced as Rick gave him a dirty look and said now he’d have all the time in the world to sneak around and get free meals..his trademark.

      “The dine and dash demon...” Rick added softly as Phillip laughed softly.” shame on you, its not like you cant afford to eat out.”

      “Its fun...” Phillip added as Rick looked tired just thinking of all the dozens of places his grandfather visited regularly...and they all left him come and go...some not as quietly as others.”dont worry, they know me well, and I have a lot of friends there.” He added as Rick agreed and that talk was over.

      “And now a new place to visit...hmmm...fresh fish and pretty girls, not bad at all.” he said as Rick just shook his head and went to get ready for his sword training, something his grandfather demanded, saying that he couldn’t rely on others forever, and in some battles its every man for himself.

      “They’re new, don’t upset them too badly so soon, OK?” Rick asked as Phillip just shrugged and smiled and Rick walked away.

      An hour of sword training, and an hour of hand to hand combat, and Rick was just laying there in the grass looking up at the blue sky, as the massive demon looked down on him.

      “You’re getting better.” It said as Rick laughed,” There’s no blood today.” And with that he walked away as Rick slowly got back to his feet.’What a way to spend a Saturday’ Rick thought and slowly went for a shower.

      “Dinner will be ready in 30 minutes, everyone please come to the dining room.” He heard and he smiled wide. His mom helped around the house where she could, but her skills were less than many that worked there, but she refused to sit back and do nothing. In some instances her ‘help’ slowed progress considerably, but the staff had learned long ago to slide her onto things that were less...destructive...and to get past this small distraction.

      Rick walked into the massive dining area as dozens of demons and spirits cheered for him, and his instructors announced his latest test results, as Phillip sat at the head of the table and Rick sat at his right hand.

      “I guess he’s safe to walk around the courtyard...” The big ogre announced as many laughed, and Phillip got a huge grin. Khan was the biggest and best demon in the Family when it came to combat. He didn’t even carry a weapon, his massive strength was all he ever required. But this man, twice the size of Rick, was saying good things about him...it was a good day.

      ‘I’ll feel better when I can kick your ass for all the bruises you gave me.” Rick said loudly as Khan laughed out loud, and many there looked surprised and even shocked Rick could say such a thing.

      “I’ll look forward to it then,” he said as many got a roaring laugh, and not a single one thought they’d ever see it.

      But if there was one thing Rick had learned was that teamwork is important, and the next day when he and Khan went to the practice field Rick danced all around as Khan laughed and demanded he either attack or stand still and take his beating. But after a few minutes the ground gave way, and Khan found himself standing in a hole...shoulder deep and with his arms out to stop himself from falling further, even though he was standing on the bottom now.

      “A pit fall? Surprising...but this cant hold me!” He exclaimed but before he could climb out Crisp appeared and poured ice into the hole, making it impossible for him to move at all.

      “Can you get out NOW?” Rick asked as the big ogre growled and fought to get free, and the best he could do was crack the ice barrier a few places, and finally he stood there, panting and looking sad about it all.

      “I submit...but this was a team afford on your part...you didn’t beat me personally Master remember that.” he announced as Phillip and a wall of friends appeared to taunt the big man who didn’t look well hearing it.

      “Actually, Master did...” Crisp added as Khan slowly got pulled from the hole and stood to listen.” Until a week ago, I never knew this type of ice existed. My mother says that she had heard of it, but never learned what it truly was or where it formed or how. Master found all that out for me and gave me this new power. Without him and his help, my people would not have a new and powerful weapon.” She announced as Khan looked shocked.

      “Ice 9...” Leona added as she stepped forward,” as Ice users we knew forever there was an ultimate Ice somewhere but didnt know the exact details, this is very, very strong as strong as steel, and hard to make. Crisp got the info from Master about it and spent days...and nights...perfecting its use. I’ve never seen her so serious about anything before.” She admitted as Crisp gave her a dirty look as Phillip laughed right along with everyone else.

      “Only something this strong could hold someone of your immense strength.” Leona added as Khan agreed that he was completely caught off guard by it.

      “So...you planned ahead and gathered a powerful new weapon to defeat me.” he said as Rick nodded agreement.” Then I submit to the Master, because its important to know HOW to defeat an enemy, and not let your ego rule your thoughts.” he announced as everyone cheered and Rick’s hand to hand training was over. “But for someone so small and thin to amass such power is itself incredible.” he said giving Crisp a quick look as Rick smiled and said she wasn’t as thin as her robes made it appear, and she gave him a shocked looked as her face went red and her mom called out...’oh ho,ho, really?’ and the friends there all laughed out loud, as Crisp glared at Rick for saying something totally unnecessary.

      “Maybe we should have a celebration, for more than one reason.” Phillip said as everyone cheered and Crisp was trying her best to let everyone know nothing happened, not really...or yet at least...and everyone got in a lot of teasing on her and Rick as the day went on, and she was mentioned as the Masters Woman, and she finally just hid away to avoid them any longer.

      “See what you did..” Rick said finally, as many there just smiled. “ I said we’re just friends and I know what I know because we trained together at the beach a few nights ago.” he added as many just smiled and said nothing.

      “An ice spirit at the beach, if that had been during the day, wouldn’t that be a suicide pact?” Phillip asked as Leona chuckled and refused to say, as Rick looked surprised. “Either way I feel this is an important day, so the feast will be planned for supper tonight, and the Family will see the new Don has learned to better himself yet again.” Phillip announced and the help around the Mansion went into high gear setting up for a sit down supper for a hundred.


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      Chapter 7: New Responsibility


      Rick’s birthday was rapidly approaching now, and everyone was happy for him, But he did his best not to show his worry about taking over the Clan after telling everyone for years he wouldn’t do it.

      But he had learned a lot lately and made new friends, and they weren’t the monsters that some he had met before had been. Now if he could just guide them towards a more fair and less violent life his job would have been useful at least. But he also knew that centuries of living would not change because he wished it would, and he had to understand that too.

      It was getting late one evening when a call for help came, just as Rick was getting settled into bed. Phillip took the call and yelled for assistance and everyone came running.

      “Whats going on?” Rick asked as he walked out, half asleep, and Phillip left him know that Lady Arachnid and her people were under attack and called for reinforcements, as Rick jumped to attention now. “ How many are there?” he asked the little spirit she had sent, and he said they were barely holding their own so any help would be appreciated, and Rick agreed and a minute later he was in full demon mode and started towards the front gate, as Crisp and Khan appeared beside him and he smiled as many others waited to see.

      “I need 2 dozen good fighters, form up!” He said as many rushed to help and as they stepped through the gate, the spirit fog engulfed them and they were gone instantly.

      Lady Arachnid was working hard to keep her people together. This was the biggest group of enemies she had yet seen and she was taking losses. But as she attacked a few more and drove them into the ground, that fog rolled in and she cheered as many there stopped to see.

      Out stepped Rick and his team and spirits and demons all around stopped to see this great sight, even enemies, as Rick screamed that they had attacked his people, and would not be forgiven, as many growled for a second and rushed the newcomers, giving the old guard a chance to rest for a second.

      Before they knew what was happening Khan ran in and with a bitch slap rolled a dozen demons for yards and yards, and some never got back up. A few more were frozen solid, and Lady Arachnid’s people jumped on the wounded and quickly finished them off.

      As a demon ran past them, Crisp screamed for Rick to watch out, but he slid a large knife with a bone handle in the shape of a skeleton from inside his robes and in a flick of his wrist the demon died instantly.

      This was a Spirit blade, especially made to battle ghosts and demons. Against Humans it was nothing but a club and would not cut them, but against creatures of the night, it was the ultimate weapon, and even a scratch would seal their fate.

      “I see your grandfather won...” Crisp said throwing a wall of ice out to stop enemies from escaping.

      “ Hey, its not a sword...” Rick added as he cut another that disappeared into dust.But just then a loud scream was heard, and one of Rick’s people went up in flames as everyone whipped around to see.

      “You dare defy me??” They all heard as a big demon, dressed in red robes and throwing balls of flame stepped into sight and Rick stepped forward and introduced himself.

      “I am the Third Don of Carter, and you have entered my domain illegally and attacked my people. How do you plead?” he demanded as the big animal gave him a hard stare and said he didn’t recognize the Carter Family at all, and attacked while Rick dove to the side. “Surrender and leave this place or die!” Rick declared as the big enemy went all out and fire rained down and many jumped back to keep from getting hurt.

      “How dare you attack our Master!” They heard and even then the massive demon was encased in ice and it took a second for even him to break through.

      “A little Ice Witch, I didn’t see you there for a minute.” It said as Crisp jumped into the area right in front of Rick to help protect him. “I might need to deal with you first.”

      “I can handle this Crisp, back away.” Rick said as even the big demon looked impressed, as Crisp looked less than sure, but disappeared back into the shadows as ordered.

      “You have spirit, I am impressed.” It said as Rick took a stance, blade in hand and rushed the big demon to be thrown back by fire and he got up and tried again.

      “This is my Families land, and you have not asked for permission to be here. As such, I will fight until your destruction... or my death.” Rick said loudly as the demon nodded he under stood, and the end results of this battle just jumped considerably.

      “To the death then.” It said as even Lady Arachnid looked shocked, and threw her entire force into helping to protect Rick during the battle, as his people ravaged the remaining enemies who in turn protected their leader.

      Rick rushed in and out and the demon attacked without mercy. Flames were everywhere, and Lady Arachnid was worried the building nearby might not stand much longer, and as Rick got back to his feet for the 10th time, all scraped and burned, the big demon made his move and rushed him as Rick stumbled to his feet and a wall of ice protected him from the massive attack, and Rick dropped back to his knees as the big demon stopped short and Crisp jumped back in.

      “I’m sorry Master, but I wont let you die.” She was sobbing as Rick smiled and whispered to back away, just for a second... and she looked sad and did as he asked... as the demon ran in to finish him and now he was finally close enough, and Rick flicked his wrist and the blade flew out and penetrated the demon’s shoulder and he screamed that he had been cut, but as he reached to pull it out, Rick raised one hand, palm out and declared he was ‘sacrificing this demon to the darkness... in the name of the Carter Clan’ and the big demon screamed in pain and a huge black hand came out of the ground and pulled him down and soon it disappeared and the little blade clattered to the ground as everyone cheered, and Rick finally passed out from the pain of his injuries.


      Chapter 8: New Passions


      Phillip appeared a second later and picked Rick up and rushed him home for treatment. He wasn’t hurt badly, but a broken rib, and a lot of little burns and scrapes made it look worse than it was. He was cleaned up and bandaged and given potions to help him heal, and finally just left to rest.

      Leona watched over him, but had a hard time making Crisp go get some sleep herself. She blamed herself for letting him get hurt. But the story being told from all the other fighters was he ordered her away, and it wasn’t her fault.

      “I accepted the contract to protect him, and I failed.” She said sadly as Leona made sure she realized that no one knew what Rick would be like in a battle, because until now he never had been. But now they knew...and she was sure he’d be back here again, all banged and beat up...because thats how he did things.

      “He’s a strong and serious young man.” Leona said as even Crisp admitted he surprised her.”If he thinks that his people are in danger, he’ll take it on himself to protect them, its who he is.” She mentioned as Crisp admitted that he just might, and she decided they needed to talk because his stubbornness was getting in the way of her job, as Leona laughed along with that.
      “Get some sleep, he wont be leaving the house for a few days.” She mentioned as Crisp finally agreed, and went to her room, as Leona sat there watching Rick sleep.

      “And you...” She whispered softly, so as not to disturb him,” need to rely more on your people.” She said and smiled and left it go for another day, and finally went for some sleep herself.

      After a few days with Rick not showing up at school the teacher pulled his friends to the side to ask if they had seen him at all.

      “Not for days, is something wrong?” Karen asked as Miss Sanders said his grandfather had reported Rick was in a car accident and might not be in for a couple weeks, as the group grimaced thinking it.

      “If he’ll be off that long we need to get his assignments and homework to him. So as his friends I thought you could drop it off for him after school.” She asked as they all looked sad but Karen decided that if it was an emergency they could do it, as a few others looked less sure.

      “His place gives me the creeps...” John, another of Rick’s friends hinted, but Karen and Frank agreed that they’d get it done, and Miss Sanders handed them a folder full of papers and said all his assignments and instructions were in there, and they agreed, so they left the school together and started that way.

      As they walked towards the huge gate Frank commented that it was a great old mansion, large and expensive, but very old fashioned, and Rick had said his grandfather liked it this way and wouldn’t change it.

      “Its not as big as my place but its nice sized...” Frank bragged as the rest just shook their heads at him and went on. They stopped by the open gate and looked in, and saw no one at all. Karen yelled a few times to get the Families attention, and it certainly did, in a way she would never have thought, as spirits and demons ran everywhere, trying not to be seen or noticed as she yelled they had Rick’s school assignments for him, and Phillip smiled and took on his Human form and walked out and waved and ask them in, as demons all over looked shocked.

      “They cant come here...they’ll be eaten!” One little demon said, as Phillip whispered that they were Rick’s friends...and would forever be protected...and the word got around instantly and everyone agreed, if they liked it or not.

      “So..did you come to visit Rick now that he’s laid up?” Phillip asked as they agreed saying the teacher gave them a folder full of school work for him, and Phillip nodded and waved them to follow. Rick was up and around, sort of... now he was allowed to sit up and walk around a bit... but nothing else. His broken rib had not healed completely yet and he still had some bandages on his forehead and chin from the scrapes and burns he got in the fight.But he was never happier to see his friends than now, and while all his subordinates hid from them, Crisp became human, or human looking, and refused to leave his side as Frank and the others walked in.

      “Wow you look awful,” Frank said as Karen slapped him for being rude and Rick chuckled and tried getting up, and got growled at for over doing it by Crisp, who got everyone’s attention.

      “Are you a relative of Rick’s?” Karen asked as Crisp just smiled and said she worked for the Family and it was her job to see that Rick didn’t get out of bed before his broken bones healed.

      “And you better listen too...” Frank added, shaking his finger, as Rick just smiled and said he was feeling a lot better today, and everyone looked pleased. “we were surprised when we heard you were in an auto accident, you could have been killed.” he added as Rick smiled wide and agreed, saying they were hit broadside by a drunk driver and his driver was hurt worse than him, as the story was being told.

      “Its the first time I’ve really been inside your house,” Karen mentioned as she looked out the door across the hall at the huge estate and even Crisp smiled that she would not be safe here on any other day, or certainly not at night. “Its huge.”

      “Hey mine is...” Frank started to be slapped from behind by John who got tired hearing it, and Frank gave him a dirty look.

      “I like old places...this estate has been in our Family for over a hundred years.” Phillip mentioned as even Frank looked impressed with that.” We take good care of the place, and I hope it’ll look this good a hundred years from now.” he added as everyone just smiled, it was clear he was old fashioned, and they were sure things would change when Rick ran the place.

      “Is there anything we can get you? Tea or soft drinks?” he asked as they all thanked him but refused.

      “Its getting late and I need to get home.” Karen said as Phillip agreed and he walked them back to the gate.

      “You’re welcome here anytime, please visit again.” he said and waved as they walked out and down the street.

      “You...are insane...” He heard as one of his attendants walked up along side him, and Phillip just smiled.

      “They are Rick’s closest friends... and day walkers...there’s little chance they’ll ever show up here at night, and besides, I personally guarantee their safety...make sure everyone knows it.” he said seriously and the demon nodded and the word was out. These humans were special and would be treated that way.


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      Chapter 9: Modernization


      Rick looked at all the lessons he was missing and looked sad about it, and when he went back to sleep for a while, Phillip got the papers and checked them over himself.

      They claimed that he’d have a hard time catching up when he got better if he didn’t work hard at home, and there was a computer link to the teacher saying he could send her copies of his homework and she’d treat it like a regular class, if he could do it. Phillip wasn’t as old fashioned as many thought, but he never had computers in the house, but Rick just might need one now, and if it worked out then Rick could stay home and do all his lessons this way, and be tutored more often in how to run the Family business.

      He was on the phone minutes later, and a truck pulled in and workers ran everywhere and by nightfall the house had a new computer line, and Rick had a nice laptop to do his lessons on, to his surprise.

      “I cant have you failing classes because of Family work.” Phillip mentioned softly as Rick gave him a big smile and agreed. With the new set up he could finish all these lessons in good time, and even get new information and send messages to the school, teacher and his friends, and he was pretty happy with that.

      “Thanks, Grandfather...” He said as Phillip just nodded like it was nothing, and left the room, and Rick showed his friends around the house his new toy and many there had no idea what it was or how it worked, but he taught them, and soon it was like computers had always been there and Rick could talk to his friends anytime too, and that made him a lot happier.

      “Grandfather Phillip is a nice guy.” Karen mentioned a few days later as the group had lunch and even Frank agreed.” the second he saw Rick needed a computer he ran out and got him one. But Rick says he’ll still be happy to get back to school.” She added as John asked why she got a call from Rick and no one else did.

      “I gave him my email address ages ago, and now he can use it...did you?” She asked as John admitted he didn’t,” then heres his new address, send him a message and say hi.” She added as everyone took it and made sure Rick knew Karen gave it to them.

      “While he’s laid up we can keep in touch and he wont get as lonely.” Karen added as Frank laughed and said he didn’t look too lonely when they were there, and she smiled and agreed.

      “ Crisp...” John said all smiles,” she was cute.” and everyone just smiled and said nothing.

      “But she just works there, her and her mother both. Its nice that Rick’s Family let people work for them for generations, and you can tell the way she was acting she likes being there.” Karen added as everyone agreed but the guys kept that big smile going, while the girls ignored them.

      “It might be a little more than that...” Frank hinted as John looked shocked and ask if he was serious, and the girls there smiled that John might have his own ideas, and that Rick’s house wasn’t as scarey as they had first thought. “I’m getting some heat sensing equipment for my hobby. I’d really like to scan Rick’s house, that place is sure to have a ghost or two.” he added as everyone laughed and said he was nuts, and surely there weren’t any there, but he declared it was a great place to look, and he’d ask Rick for permission when he got the equipment... and Karen and John decided they’d go too..if it was alright.

      “Heat sensing equipment...for what?” Phillip asked as Rick got a good chuckle from it.

      “He thinks seeing a difference in heat might show him ghosts.” Rick added laughing, but Phillip didn’t laugh. “ It cant, right?” he asked as Phillip looked less than thrilled.

      “There are many spirits that could be seen easily this way.” he answered as Rick looked surprised.” Leona and Crisp of course would make an image the exact opposite, showing no heat at all, only cold, so that would cause some trouble.” Phillip added as Rick looked tired thinking Frank might actually see something for once.

      “I’ll tell Frank he cant use that here then.” Rick added as Phillip asked if that wouldn’t make him even more suspicious.”Then what can we do?” Rick asked as Phillip got a big grin.

      “Maybe its time your friend actually finds something.” Phillip said laughing, and Rick could see a master prank coming from a mile away.

      The evening they came over, Rick met them at the front gate, all smiles. Frank was all ready saying that he was sure he’d see something here, and Rick gave him full run to see for himself. They started at the gate and went inside, then out back to the garden and soon back inside again. Rick wasn’t sure what was going to happen but he knew that it was going to be a huge surprise for his friends, and as Frank walked on around the house, a spike hit the machine, and a huge shadow fell across the screen and it took the shape of a huge man, or demon, and Frank was frozen there as Karen and Rick asked what was happening.

      “I did it! I found a ghost!” He screamed as Phillip walked up and took a look himself.

      “Amazing...then the stories about this place are true!” He said as Frank asked to hear all about it, and Phillip took them back to the living room for a talk.

      “When we first bought this place there was a story about a bodyguard that worked for the original owners. His job was to protect them from raiders and political enemies and when they finally attacked, he died trying to protect the Family he was sworn to.” Phillip said as everyone thought that was so terrible.” It is said that he still works here, patrolling and protecting anyone who lives here, and will to the end of time.” He finished as Frank looked thrilled and Karen and John looked sad for him.

      “Even ghosts and spirits can be honorable people.” Phillip added as Rick saw the direction this was going in.” Please, now that you’ve seen him, let him be. He has a serious job to do, and even in death he stills does it.” he mentioned as Frank agreed right there and then, and Phillip thanked them.

      “I wanted to prove they exist my whole life and I’ve finally done it.” Frank said looking at the machine in his hands. “Now I’m ready! I’ll finally be the Paranormal Investigator I always wanted to be! Traveling the world and seeking ghosts everywhere, maybe start my own TV show!” He went on as Phillip’s mouth dropped and Rick looked away, chuckling, no way that story was going to satisfy Frank for long, and he walked out declaring that this was just the first day of his new career, and Phillip looked sick to think his plan failed.

      “Messed up a bit grandfather?” Rick asked after they were gone and Phillip agreed.

      “I thought actually seeing one and hearing its story would satisfy him somehow.” he added as he smiled and shook his head.

      “Frank has always wanted to become famous for hunting ghosts, and now he’s sure they exist...so he’ll never stop looking now.” He added as Phillip agreed. And sooner or later Frank would leave their protection, and the next huge shadow on his screen might not be Khan working in the garden.


      Chapter 10: Commendations...and Hurt Feelings



      In a few days Rick was ready to get back to his regular routine, but Phillip wasn’t quite ready for him to do it yet. As a matter of fact, he had contacted Miss Sanders and let her know he wanted Rick to tele-commute his lessons from home, saying that it was time Rick got tutored in how to run the Family business, and this way he could still do both, and she reluctantly agreed.

      “But why?” Rick demanded when they finally talked, and Phillip looked very serious about it.

      “Your training is far from finished. In that last battle you could have died, and pulled through by sheer force of will. I don’t want my heir to die before he even gets a chance to lead. This new system will still allow you to finish regular school, talk to all your friends and get better trained here at home. Its the best plan I could come up with that suited everyone.” Phillip said and Rick had to admit, he was trying at least.

      “And I can still see my friends when I want?” He asked giving Phillip a serious stare as he smiled wide and agreed, saying even he takes a day off from time to time.

      “In three weeks you’ll officially be 16 and a man by our standards, then you’ll be announced...officially...at the monthly meeting as the Third Heir, and the Family will belong to you. Of course I’ll be here to help you if need be, but day to day operations will become your responsibility after that.” He said as Rick looked tired already, and Phillip looked away, smiling. “And perhaps its time you thought about dating too...as the new Heir your blood line is very important... and I’d like to see you find a pretty little demon or spirit to bring our bloodline back up to a better level.” he added as Rick looked embarrassed even thinking it.

      “I’m too young to get married yet.” Rick said as Phillip just laughed.

      “We are demons...” He whispered,” marriage isn’t even worth mentioning until your older, but thats not the only way.” He whispered and walked away as Rick looked surprised, and a few listening in got a quick chuckle at the look on his face.

      With that talk over, Phillip went to his office and checked the days reports and as he sat there a black fog, almost a slice in space itself opened before him and even his mouth fell open to see it.

      He had only seen this one time before... and he knew to fall to his knees... as a messenger from the Underworld stepped through and, without a word, handed him a small scroll and disappeared the way it came.

      Phillip wasn’t sure he wanted to open it, but he had no choice, and when he did, the words there surprised him greatly.

      “Recently...a Assault Class, Fire Demon was sent to the Underworld as a sacrifice by the new leader of the Carter Clan.” It started, as he felt faint that someone noticed. “This Demon had been a member of another, famous Family who rebelled and broke his contract, a Sin among Sins! Richard Carter, though not even a full Man yet, sent him back to us for punishment, and we approve. He showed great leadership and forethought, and the Carter Clan’s name is being whispered here by many high level demons. Continue his training and leadership, we look forward to more great works in the Carter name.” It said, as Phillip nearly danced around the room after reading it.

      An official Commendation from the Underworld, and in Rick’s name, it was a good sign. Rick had done a great thing, and it got noticed, even by their superiors. It was a once in a lifetime occurrence, and Phillip called a special meeting to read it to everyone, and he decided that Rick was the new Don right that second, breaking with tradition, but he would wave the message in anyones face that asked, and he had it mounted behind glass and hung on his wall for safe keeping, and for generations to come to see.

      Even Rick was surprised, as well as nearly every member of the Family that heard about it. Of course he had fans that had liked him all along and they cheered for him and applauded when Phillip read it. But there were always a few that weren’t sure, but this all but wiped them out in a single shot. If the Great Leaders of the underworld approved, they dared not say anything now, no matter their personal feelings on the matter.

      “Our Clan has been noticed by the Great Ones...” Was heard as many there laughed and cheered, raising glasses in toast to the Family, and Rick especially.

      “We will be prosperous beyond measure after this, other Families will surely come and pay homage to our new Don.” Was mentioned, as Phillip agreed, saying things would only get better from here. But this did, of course, put a lot of pressure on Rick suddenly, and he looked sad that even doing a good deed, was pushing him further and further down this road he had tried to avoid.

      “Whats the matter Master? You look pale.” One little demon asked as Rick forced a smile and drank a toast with them all, but Phillip saw it too and he left everyone know that a Commendation was a big thing, and Rick was still in shock.

      “They all have faith in you, don’t worry so much just do what feels right at the time, and you’ll do fine.” Phillip whispered as Rick nodded sadly and he forced a smile and went on until the little party was over, and he went to his room to rest.

      “The Master doesn’t seem too happy.” Leona mentioned as Phillip nodded seriously.

      “It’s a lot to take in all at once,” He whispered as she agreed,” he’s young and thought for a long time he could avoid all this responsibility, but suddenly its been thrust upon him.” he added as she agreed. “We’ll have to watch and help him when we can.” he whispered and they too went about their normal lives, always watching Rick from close by.

      But as Rick settled in to get some work done, Crisp walked in with Khan at her side as Rick looked up and chuckled asking if they were dating now, as they both gave each other a dirty look and demanded they certainly were not, as he laughed along.

      “We are your personal guards, and will follow you forever.” Crisp added with a bow as Khan agreed.

      “Don’t let this all get you down Master, the higher ups have seen your work and approve, many Families never get an official message from their superiors, not in a hundred years, so smile more and continue to do things as you are now. I’m sure that things will work out for us all.” Khan added as Rick got a big smile and thanked them for coming to talk, and they all smiled and went back out and he sat back and realized he was not alone after all.


    7. #7
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      Chapter 11: Recognition


      It took no time at all for the word to get out, and soon meetings with other Families were on the schedule and Rick smiled a lot as his grandfather told his story, to many smiling faces.

      “An Assault Class Demon is nothing to sneeze at!” he heard more than once, and Rick agreed that it gave him a hard time, but he won in the end from sheer hard work and stubbornness.

      “I have great trainers...” Rick hinted as many agreed and they dropped off gifts, saying they wanted their Families to be friends forever, and Rick thanked them for saying so.

      One by one they came and one by one Rick smiled and thanked them for their kind words, even though a few were spoken through clenched teeth, and it was clear to see they weren’t happy that he had done this, while none of them had the chance.

      “There are some hard feelings.” Rick added as one Family member walked out and disappeared into thin air, as Phillip nodded, saying a Commendation was no small thing, and many wished it was their Family that had it hanging on the wall.

      “If they did something equally as hard they too might get noticed, but they haven’t, or haven’t had the chance yet, so they feel upset and left out. These things happen only once in a hundred years, and I’m proud that it was you that did it. It makes an old man feel his years were not wasted.” Phillip hinted as Rick laughed and said he heard that Phillip wasn’t acting as old as he left on, and he smiled and looked away. Leona and he had been seeing each other off and on for years but never as seriously as lately.

      “Do you not approve, Master?” He heard as Leona appeared beside Phillip who then took her hand and waited for the verdict.

      “I do...very much so...” Rick added as she looked very happy to hear it.” But please...no sudden surprises at your age...an Uncle or Aunt now would just give me too serious a shock.” he added as Leona’s face went red and Phillip got a good laugh about it.

      “I don’t think there’s much chance of that.” Phillip whispered as Rick laughed out loud and other voices chuckled in the background.

      “The younger generation needs to think more along those lines.” Leona added as a gasp was heard off in the distance and Rick chuckled saying that his chances at doing that were no better than Phillip’s ...but for different reasons.

      “Coward...” Leona whispered and then looked away as Rick growled at her for teasing him.

      “I have all the time in this world, so don’t rush me.” Rick said and walked away as Leona and Phillip laughed, and some unseen others grumbled that people just wouldn’t leave them alone, and that made them chuckle even more.

      “You’re taking too much for granted...” Leona heard in a whisper,” when the time comes, it might not be me at all. Master is kind and gentle, but has shown no interest in me what so ever.” Crisp hinted as Leona just smiled and said she just wasn’t trying hard enough, and no one answered after that.

      As Rick grabbed a quick cup of coffee, a shadow fell behind him and he smiled and waited to see what was really going on...as if he didn’t know already.

      “Permission to speak freely,Master?” He heard as he turned to see Crisp looking very embarrassed and he knew why.

      “Go on, get it out of your system,” Rick said as he sat down and waited.

      “Do you not like girls or what??” She demanded, and then apologized for getting loud as Rick laughed.

      “I like girls fine, and you’re really cute, so don’t feel bad.” He said as she smiled for a second at least.

      “Then...why have you not called for me... or someone else?” She asked as Rick reminded her as a demon he was a mature male, but as a human he was only 16 and he wasn’t in a hurry to start dating or having any relations because he had a long life ahead, and lots of time for those things.

      “If you don’t consider yourself ready, then consider your position, If the Elders think your not a real man they may look on you suspiciously, and your father waited until he was older and now you’re his only child.” She added and then apologized for mentioning the last Master, who had been assassinated by a close friend of the family.

      “I’m beginning to think this is more about you than me.” Rick mentioned slowly as Crisp looked away demanding it wasn’t true. “Of course I understand, in my Demon Form I am ravishingly handsome aren’t I?” He said and struck a pose as she all but choked out loud and disappeared without a trace a second later.

      “Cheap tricks wont work every time.” He heard as Leona stepped in and Rick stood to his full height and she saw maybe she stepped in it once too often.

      “YOU...” Rick said seriously as she stepped back for a second,” stop harassing people and go get pregnant yourself if you’re that worried, and let me alone for a while!” He said as she apologized and left suddenly, and Rick got a big smile and finally got a chance to finish his coffee and get back to work.


      Chapter 12: Offers and Counter offers


      It wasn’t hard to see the word getting out, and soon other Family members offered someone they had for him, and members of other Families altogether sent their representatives when they heard he was looking for females, as Rick all but screamed.

      Even his grandfather was surprised, and mentioned that as the youngest Don around he had caught the attention of many that wanted to forge new relations with their Family.

      “The Manning Family of California sent Clare, their youngest daughter to meet you...she is pretty don’t you think?” Phillip asked as Rick agreed she was.” The Lawson Family is sending a young woman too, named Angel, and she should arrive this week... she’s from East Asia... and even they want a chance to form a new Alliance.” he hinted as Rick nodded and looked lost.

      “Its an honor...don’t look like it’ll be the death of you, you’re young, take your time and give them a chance...or two...” He hinted and laughed as Rick felt like slapping him silly.

      Just then the gate opened and Rick was informed that the cats from the northeast area were coming in. They went to see them and as they sat down to talk, the older cat lady smiled and said she too had heard that Rick was looking for a mate, as he looked disgusted.

      “My granddaughter Sassy will be more than happy to represent our Family here, if thats alright with you, Master.” She added as a young cat girl stepped up, all smiles with pure white ears and tail, and bright blue eyes that said she was happy to be considered at all, as Rick smiled too, and Phillip saw that at least one got his attention.

      “The ladies are being given rooms for their stay, my grandson will decide at his leasure, and believe me, he can be quite slow in deciding things sometimes.” Phillip added as everyone got a laugh, even Rick smiled, but not as wide as Phillip would have liked.

      “I look forward to my stay...” the girl said with a short bow as Phillip thanked her for saying so, and Rick nodded and welcomed her to the house.

      She was led away and the older lady gave Rick a big wink and then went home too, as Phillip chuckled as silently as he could.

      “Its not funny...” Rick said after they were alone, as Phillip disagreed.

      “Your face has this lost look to it, everyone can tell. Its true you have ...well...little experience...in these matters.” he whispered and watched to see Rick’s expression as he all but winced in pain at the sound of it. “but many of these young ladies are the same...if nothing else it’ll be a learning experience for all concerned.” Phillip added as Rick looked shocked he’d say that.

      “I don’t believe in using people for ‘experience’ “ Rick hinted as Phillip chuckled and mentioned that maybe he wouldn’t be the one doing the using, and Rick just shook his head and walked away.

      And later that evening a car stopped by the local airport terminal and a young woman wearing traditional Japanese clothing got in, and Angel arrived at the estate just a few minutes later and was given her room, and she too waited for her chance to be alone with the new Master.

      But breakfast the next morning was a thing to behold. As Rick walked in to see a table full of pretty girls and his Grandfather,Leona, and even Crisp sitting there waiting patiently.

      “You eating with us today too?” Rick whispered as he sat next to his grandfather, and Crisp made sure he knew she had every right to be there too, as he gave Leona a quick look that she ignored quite professionally.

      One by one they stood and were introduced, and each gave a little speech about how happy they were to be there, and Rick waited and then left them all know none of this was his idea, to their surprise.

      “You’re all very pretty and I welcome you.” he said as they all smiled,” but marriage is the furthest thing from my mind right now. Gaining the rule of my Family came suddenly and without warning...(not quite true)...but I am adjusting. My grandfather... being very old fashioned... feels this is necessary...so we will humor him for the moment.” Rick said as even a few there got a chuckle at that, as Phillip looked upset Rick dropped it all on him.

      “I will admit to having little experience with these things, and hope you all understand, and will be patient with me.” Rick said as they all agreed... some with huge grins... and even Phillip noticed he wasn’t sending anyone home yet, and so there was still a chance.

      “Family is very important,” They all heard as Angel got her comments in first, and even Rick agreed. “I’m sure your grandfather is only thinking whats best for you.” And Rick had to admit that he probably was.

      “What is your Families specialty then?” Leona asked as she got introduced as Phillip’s ‘partner’ and even Rick choked on that one for a second, while she gave him a dirty look out of the corner of her eyes.

      “We are users of potions and poisons, and have been for ages.My father is currently the leading expert in the field of healing medicinal potions.” Angel said proudly, as Rick looked most impressed as were a few others.

      “My Family are food specialists and run a restaurant here in the city.” Sassy added as Rick agreed he had eaten there and the food was excellent, as she gave him a big smile.

      “My Family are Hunters and day walkers.” Clare mentioned very seriously and everyone knew why. She was declaring that she came from a long line of soldiers, with the special ability to walk around during the heat of the day, something not everyone could do without some serious damage.

      “What is your chosen weapon?” Phillip asked as she made a lunge and crossed the table in a second...to be met by a short sword and a wall of ice, as she bounced back and Rick smiled and waved his knife around and it disappeared back into his jacket, as everyone looked shocked.

      “I heard you defeated a Assault Class Demon...and I just couldn’t wait to see for myself.” She added as she too put her sword away and Phillip drew a deep breath for a second.

      “Understood...but no more sword play at the table...it shows disrespect for the Family and those that are taking care of you. Rick has lessons each day at 9...I’m sure he’d be happy to play with you then.” Phillip said with a dirty look as she apologized and said she was looking forward to it, as she sat back down and the table got quiet, and finally the food was brought in and they had a fine meal together.

      But when 9 came everyone was there, and Rick was sure they would be. His skills were in question because of the job he did, and the Commendation hanging on the wall, and Clare was ready and willing to show she too could have done it if she got the chance.

      Rick’s usual teacher, a swordsman of great reputation, got his first try and Rick’s usual lesson and after watching for a while Clare asked for one too and it was allowed. Rick watched on and they went at it, and it was clear that she had good skills and only after quite a few minutes did the teacher win, and she thanked him for the lesson. But everyone knew thats not why she was here and now she turned and Rick just smiled and they both walked back out onto the grass and the garden started looking more like a battleground than usual.

      But she looked oddly at him and Rick knew why, she wore a belt with her sword hanging by her side...his...was out of sight most times and it was bothering her, as she stepped in close and apologized and opened his martial arts uniform and looked inside, as people gasped at her brash move.

      “See anything you like?” Phillip called from the sidelines and laughed, as her face grew red and even Crisp got a laugh at that.

      “Where is his weapon? Its gone... and I know I saw him put it in here a minute ago.” She declared as Rick looked towards Phillip and he nodded it was OK, and he told her to watch carefully, and Rick reached inside again, and the handle came right out of the cloth itself as her eyes popped and others looked shocked.

      “A Family skill...hidden space...Rick carries his weapon everywhere, in business suits, exercise uniforms, even bathrobes, because we can hide inside anything at any time. So no one sees our true self or our true weapons until WE decide.” Phillip explained and even Clare looked seriously impressed.

      “An amazing skill for sure...” Angel mentioned and she made a note to let her Family know about this new skill they had no idea about before today.

      “Now lets see you use it..” Clare declared and they went to it like two old soldiers testing each others skills. First her mad rush, Rick got pushed back, then his dash, and she barely escaped. It went on like this for a while, and they both were sweating pretty badly by now. Clare slammed him with her best attack, using her sword then a martial arts kick together, and Rick took the hit,sliding backwards and dropping to one knee. Now she dove on him looking like she would kill him if he left her, but a second later a soft ‘thump’ was heard and she dropped to the ground on her knees and Rick’s knife dropped loudly to the sidewalk where she stopped. The audience applauded as she looked down and checked for blood but found none, as Rick walked over all smiles and picked up his blade and it went back inside his robe again.

      “Did I mention?” Rick asked, as she was still in shock,” I throw knives sometimes.” He added as she was still looking for blood and found none.

      “This is a Spirit Blade it cuts only demons and spirits.” he added as she looked up and got back to her feet.

      “I’m 60% demon though.” She said opening her robe just enough to see a round bruise that felt worse than it was.

      “And that mark...” Rick said smiling,” was the handle.” And he patted her on the head like a small child and walked away, while many there smiled and his reputation went up a lot instantly.


    8. #8
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      Chapter 13: Fortifying your Position


      After that the lessons were over and Clare went to get a shower and called her father, who was eager to hear what she had learned.
      “I just came back from dueling the Third,” She mentioned as he smiled wide and asked if she taught him a thing or two, and she shook her head no and looked sad to admit it. “I lost...he hit me with a Spirit Blade... I was very lucky.” She added as he quickly asked if she needed medical help, and she smiled and told the entire story.

      “The young Don is a man of compassion as well as power it seems.” he hinted as she agreed but she declared she wouldn’t take this defeat laying down, as he smiled for her stubbornness.

      “Even if I don’t become his woman some day, I will stay and train here...there’s no one that I have ever faced that was so worthy of teaching me, both the instructor here and the Third Don.” She admitted as he looked surprised.

      “ You never were worried about that first part though were you?” He asked softly as she looked embarrassed and agreed.

      “But I might have been wrong...” She hinted as the call ended and he looked more than a little surprised. His daughter was not the kind to give away compliments easily, so he felt she was really getting serious now, and with that knowledge he went back to work and waited to get the next call.

      Business went as usual, and Rick got all his classes caught up and even got ahead a bit.He took a day to go to the Mall with his friends and they laughed and joked around like old times.He told them he had been working hard getting ready to help run the Family business, and they said they were proud of him, and Frank mentioned that he hoped his Family didn’t see this, because he had no interest in working for his father after school.

      “Your dad doesn’t have you all set up to work for him the second you graduate?” Karen asked as Frank rolled his eyes and said he had an older brother, and his dad had jumped on him for his second in command, and they worked well together.

      “Lucky you...” Rick whispered as everyone just smiled at that.

      “I’ve been meaning to ask...” Frank said a second later,” it’s obvious that your Family does very well, but what business are you in anyways?” He asked as everyone there turned to see Rick’s answer, as he looked shocked it came up.

      “Security...” Rick decided on, and everyone looked surprised.” my Family helps to protect a large part of the city, as private contractors.” he said, hoping he could keep that going if they asked any more questions.

      “It figures!” Frank added all smiles,” my dad pays up to $50,000 for security on just one business we have, Security is a very high paying job around here, no wonder you’re doing so well.”

      “We’ve been in the business for ages, grandfather says, Corporate Security, bodyguards, even Security for Special Events...” Rick added as they all smiled and nodded.” so now that he wants me to help run it I have a lot of training to do.” He said as his friends looked serious, wondering what training his grandfather was forcing on him.

      “Bah...you’re tough, you’ll be fine.” Frank added as Rick agreed and they went on about their day.

      A couple hours later Rick told his grandfather what he had said, and he got a laugh from it.

      “Very true,” Phillip mentioned as Rick looked surprised. “Our Family helps keep out the rif raf and keeps the city from being overrun by outsiders.You couldn’t have said anything better since we’ve done all those things.” He offered as Rick got a chuckle at that. Of course the way they did things was very different from Humans, but they got the job done.

      “So...hows the search coming along?” Phillip asked all smiles as Rick reminded him he was the only one searching for anything, as they both chuckled.”Come on now, surely you’ve seen one or two that got your attention.” Phillip added as Rick refused to say.

      “Honestly!” Phillip said shaking his head seriously,”I swear you’ll stretch this until the very end wont you?”

      “From what I’ve seen so far...there’s no end in sight.” Rick added as he walked away and Phillip got a big grin knowing that eventually he’d have to give in, if only to keep people from getting upset.

      But as these quiet times fell over the mansion, trouble was brewing.To the South, a small skirmish turned deadly as a large demon appeared leading his army, he didn’t appear to throw fire, or ice or other things, but his physical strength had not been seen in the city before, throwing a dozen demons and spirits around like so much trash, and as the defenders slowly fell, the call went out for help to the Family, and Rick rose to the occasion, and started gathering his team.

      “Sounds like an old OGRE, coming to town to cause trouble.” Phillip mentioned as everyone agreed.

      “I look forward to meeting him...” Khan whispered as Rick got a good chuckle at that.

      “Getting bored around the house Khan?” Rick asked as Khan himself got a big grin and agreed.”Sounds like there will be plenty to go around, so have as much fun as you like.” Rick added as they started towards the gate and a second later, Clare was walking right along side as Rick reminded her that they wouldn’t let a visitor be injured and he hoped she’d reconsider.

      “Dont baby me! I came here to learn and this looks like a good way to do it.” She demanded as Rick reminded her in the heat of battle they wouldn’t have time to watch over her, as she gave him an even dirtier look. “I’ll be fine...you’ll see.” She demanded and Rick gave up, as the Mystery Fog engulfed them and their entire Parade was at the battlefield instantly.

      Phillip set up rescue operations at the house, and Angel volunteered to help, and ran and got her kit of medical potions she thought they’d need. Phillip opened a window to the battle and everyone gathered around to watch.

      Khan was running wildly through dozens of enemies, and they flew like feathers in the wind. Clare was hacking and slashing her way along, and Rick was very calmly watching, and slashing anyone that came close.

      “He’s very calm, considering.” Angel added as Phillip just smiled, it was a waste of energy to rush around, just walking along like you weren’t the least bit worried got a lot of attention, and more than enough enemies to fight.

      “Its a good total so far, we caught them by surprise.” Phillip added as people cheered.

      But a minute later a booming voice was heard, and everyone turned that way as three ogres, all over 10 feet tall and very muscular came walking up, swinging their arms and doing a lot of damage.

      “Finally! Someone of worth to fight!” One said as he ran in and Rick jumped to the side, making a cut across his massive shoulder, that caught the monster completely flatfooted.

      “You have entered my city without permission, how do you plead?” Rick demanded as the lead Ogre stopped the fight right away.

      “ Wait! You are the Third?” It asked as Rick settled back down and smiled widely for them.

      “Richard Carter, the Third Don of Carter, stands before you, state a reason why we don’t destroy you for your insolence.” Rick declared, making it sound very serious indeed.

      “Wait, wait!” It screamed looking like it was really worried for a minute there, as his friend protected his slashed shoulder.”We lived in the forests for ages, but things are boring out there, then recently armies have been formed, dozens of them, and even we were forced from our homes. We are strong but few in number, but we seek someone to help us, a place where we can fight for a name and a cause, will you give us that, Master?” He asked with a bow as Rick slowly smiled widely.

      “You will stop this battle, and then exchange cups of Loyalty with the Carter clan?” He asked as the bigger Ogre quickly agreed. “Then let us begin.” Rick said and sat right down as did his ‘guests’ and as everyone watched bottles of wine were brought and they shared a drink...and an pledge of Peace and Loyalty.

      “He tamed his enemy instead of killing them...” Angel mentioned, shocked, as Phillip got a big laugh at that.

      “Its his way...” He mentioned as she waited to hear.” he will always accept new members instead of killing a few radicals. Because of this, our boarders have never been so secure before.” He whispered as she looked impressed, as did many of the Council members that were watching too.

      “Do you have any idea what it’ll cost to feed a small army of Ogres?” One council member complained as Phillip looked slyly at him out of the corner of his eyes.

      “Not as much as keeping your group drunk and happy.” He hinted as the big demon looked away sourly as a few others laughed and it just might be true that a little more income was going to be needed.


      Chapter 14: The Way of the World


      One thing is undeniable...you cant keep an army for free. Its true many of the Carter people were self sufficient, but many others were not. People laughed when they sat and watched Khan at dinner time, but you wouldn’t laugh if you were paying the bills.

      Since they ran a ‘spirit business’... they got paid from things like coming to the rescue of the southern members, gifts helped keep the family going, and many times no one asked where they were found or by whom.

      But Humans can be troublesome too, and the Carters, under a long running deal with the local authorities, got bounties from any escaped convicts or gang members that had a price on their heads.There was even mention of ‘unclaimed assets’ they got to keep... and slowly... with Rick becoming the new Don, many of these jobs had been forgotten.

      “In other words...” Rick said giving a few dirty looks as they looked away.” You felt the Circus was in town and you could all take time off.” Rick hinted as one old man cleared his throat and said it certainly wasn’t like that for HIS Team as others saw him throwing them under the bus.

      “Dont blame me!” Another said as a argument broke out as Rick and Phillip watched on.

      “The truth is, nearly every cent brought in lately was done by or because of Rick’s work...don’t you think its time someone else gets back to work too?” Phillip asked sourly as many sadly agreed.

      “Many of you waited to see if he was worthy to be the new don, and now that he’s proven it...you’re sitting back and relaxing and doing nothing. I feel that your vacation was well earned, but even vacations have an end, and so this is it, everyone back to work, show us how well the Carter Clan can work together.” Phillip added as many agreed and the meeting was over.

      As everyone left, Rick went out to sit on the back patio, and got himself a drink. He sat there thinking about how things had been going, and Phillip joined him a few minutes later.

      “So, whats next?” He asked as Rick just laughed.

      “Give them time to get to work and see if they will truly work for me, and not just sit around for free. Then depending, maybe need to do some Hunting to help out later on.” Rick added while his grandfather got a good chuckle at that.

      “Don’t let my speech go to your head...” Phillip whispered,” This Family could stop working right this second and be solvent for years to come. But it was important to get them moving again, they were getting lazy.” He hinted as Rick smiled and agreed and they sat back to relax a while.

      They relaxed for a few minutes when chuckling and giggling was heard, and one by one the girls came walking by in their swimsuits, and one by one they gave Rick a wink and a wave, and disappeared through the fence into the pool area.

      “What a nice thing to see in the middle of the day..”Phillip hinted as even Rick agreed. “I notice you seem to be leaning towards Sassy...shes very pretty.” He hinted as Rick said he wasn’t really thinking like that yet.

      “Liar....” Phillip hinted as he sat back on his recliner and just smiled.

      “She is attractive, and has a great smile...” Rick admitted as his grandfather agreed.

      “Take her out some night, maybe go to see her grandmother and get a free meal...” Phillip hinted as Rick just laughed and finally agreed that it didn’t sound too bad.

      “You’ll need to start somewhere, and I think there are others who are considering it too.” Phillip added as Rick looked serious and said nothing.

      “We’ll see...” Was as close to agreement as they got, but they weren’t the only ones listening in, as Sassy seemed thrilled she had the inside track, and the other two saw maybe they were moving just a little too slowly so far.

      But shortly thereafter, as dark fell, one of the massive Orges came by and asked to talk. Phillip and Rick met him in the garden, and as they sat and drank together, he mentioned that his Leader sent him to give them a full report, as Phillip smiled and thanked him.

      “The area outside of your City was always a wild and crazy place. Many small villages have existed for ages, and we grew up there.” It started as Phillip nodded agreement.” But now, there are a dozen armies traveling everywhere, from your land to the land of the Tomoki Family. It is said the new Tomoki Clan Leader is setting out to test himself, and has been attacking towns and villages in the neutral regions for several years.” It went on as Phillip looked sad to think it.

      “We heard the Fire Demon was defeated here, and so we came to see.” It said as Phillip agreed it had fallen during a battle in the City.” Then we were right to come here. When these Warlords and Demons finish off the small towns, they too will come here, to avoid being attacked by the Family Tomoki, who slowly conquer everything in between, and so we will stand with you, instead of them.” It said as Phillip thanked him for the report, and it walked away.

      “I wish I could say that was impossible...” Phillip mentioned as Rick asked why.” I have known Thomas Tomoki for longer than you can possibly imagine. If he too is retiring then he has an Heir, and that person is causing a lot of trouble in the neutral territories. If they are looking for a war, then we must act now to confirm it. I’ll send scouts to see whats going on, and a message to my old friend, then we will see.” Phillip added and went to do as he said and Rick hoped that things were not going to be any worse for this, but his Grandfather didn’t look too happy thinking it, and Rick went to get some rest and wait and see.


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      Chapter 15: Old Friends


      A message returned a day later, as a big black crow dropped it into Phillip’s hands. He opened it and read and finally handed it to Rick who checked it out too. It said that Thomas Tomoki was asking for a meeting, and Phillip agreed. He called for a ride and a large flying worm like creature appeared, and off he went, traveling East out of the City and into the countryside.

      He traveled for hours and finally another City was seen. They were met by a flock of hawks, and Phillip told them they were expected, and they flew to a large high rise and landed on the roof, in a large garden, as a massive raccoon creature sat there smiling.

      “Its been too long...” He said and with a wave of his hand food and drink appeared and servant girls, as Phillip was given a chair to sit in comfortably and they drank and toasted their friendship.

      “I hear that you’re expanding into the Neutral territories now, we had an agreement about that for many years.” Phillip reminded him, as Thomas laughed right along.

      “A playground for the young and foolish.” He added as Phillip just smiled and had another drink. “My grandson leads a group of his own design, and plays warrior there. He has much to learn but he too has my blood flowing through him, and listens to no one.” Thomas added as Phillip nodded agreement.

      “In the past, there were no cities, but now we watch over millions. Even that isn’t enough for him and he demands more, a swear its like time has never passed and we once again are facing each other for dominion.” He added sadly as Phillip nodded he understood.

      “I can not allow him into my city, you understand that right?” Phillip asked as Thomas agreed. “I also have a grandson, who fights for Peace. If they clash, I can not guarantee his safety.” Phillip added as the big creature looked sad and nodded he understood.

      “As one last favor to a friend, I’ll tell you this...one of his allies has given Francis a new weapon, a War Sword, one of the old ones that gathers power with each kill. He feeds it spirits and demons he fights in the neutral territories, and it gains strength.” He added as Phillip looked shocked.

      “If you allow this, then I must do the same, Richard carries a Spirit Blade, but nothing like this...” He complained as the big raccoon nodded he understood.

      “I will continue to try and slow down my grandson. His ego is getting out of hand and soon he’ll be looking for a massive new enemy to fight against. I hope our Families stay friends forever, as we agreed, but be careful, his allies are as young and foolish as he.” Thomas said and Phillip thanked him for the warning and he finished his drink and shook hands with an old friend and left for home, and a meeting he hoped would not be necessary.

      A few hours later and Phillip made his way to the storage shed out back. He opened the door silently and went inside. There, behind boxes of gifts and memorabilia he found a large chest and inside it an oil cloth wrapped around something very special.

      He reached in and pulled it out, and smiled to see it was still in good shape after all this time. He unwrapped it and slid out a sword...thin and perfectly straight...in a small and totally undecorated brass sheath. He slid the blade out silently and waved it around a bit, and even today he was amazed at how light it felt compared to the size of it.

      Rick had a small dagger he used a lot, the Spirit Blade he gave him a while ago now. But this was the Other, the sword that completed the set, and he hoped he wouldn’t need it, but Fate seemed to conspire against him, and he knew in a major battle the little blade might not be enough. So he put the sword and sheath under his arm and walked out and closed the doors behind him, sealing away many decades of memories and treasures, and went to see Rick and let him know that War was indeed coming.

      “Nice!” Rick said, waving the blade around as his grandfather stepped back and smiled.” This is a Spirit Blade too then?” He asked as Phillip agreed.

      “You’ve done well so far, but this gives you 2 things the smaller blade doesn’t.” he said as Richard waited to hear. “Firstly...reach...its much longer and will let you stay back a bit and still reach your target, and secondly..fear...just seeing someone carrying a sword has a certain effect on enemies...they know that you wouldn’t be there unless you were ready to fight, and kill if necessary, and in a real war that IS necessary.” he said as Rick nodded sadly and went back to waving the blade around and smiling.

      It wasn’t like a Katana at all, this was thin and perfectly straight. The blade was less than 2 inches wide with a single cutting edge and a razor sharp tip and the weight of it seemed almost artificially light, and moving it seemed effortless even for him.

      “Starting today you’ll practice with this too, and we’ll monitor the situation in the neutral territories and see if things settle down.” Phillip said and went back inside as Rick showed his new toy to some others that came out to see.

      “So you’ve finally gotten a proper sword.” Clare said as she checked it out and even she was amazed at it.

      “My dagger and this are a set...” Rick said pulling out the dagger from inside his cloths and she saw they indeed were the same. They had the same brass sheaths and even the handles looked close to the same and the sword was as rod straight as the dagger, and she nodded and said a great weapon smith must have forged them long ago, and Rick agreed and everyone else smiled and left that comment go for now.

      “But you know...” Clare said all smiles..” we’ve got to test it now right?” She asked as Rick just laughed and she ran to get her sword and Rick met her in the garden and another, impromptu lesson was soon under way.


      Chapter 16: War Erupts


      There was clanging and banging for nearly an hour, as people all came out to see and watch the fun. Rick mentioned he just got the blade and was worried she might get hurt, and she told him in no uncertain terms not to worry because ‘I heal fast’ and they both laughed at that.

      Clare knew this wimp would not hurt her badly even now, and she felt really safe even throwing everything at him. They danced around and several times Rick nearly lost because he checked to make sure his sword was turning the sharp edge away, and she saw it and attacked right at that second.

      But he was as serious as her, and after a long time, the dance stopped abruptly as everyone saw him standing there in mid swing and over a foot of the blade was pressed into her stomach and she looked too afraid to even look down for a second. But look she did and sure enough, the sharp edge was turned away and the flat edge was against her skin, and as Rick put the sword back into it sheath she sighed and gave him a big smile.

      “Thank you for that...” She added as he just smiled and nodded.” How many other times did you pass up because you weren’t sure the blade was turned right?” She asked and waited to hear as Rick looked away and said he didn’t count, and she looked disgusted with herself.

      “I must be pretty pathetic then for you to show so much mercy to me.” She said looking disgusted as Rick gave her a quick little hug and said he didn’t kill friends, and someone called from the gallery that hugging was not allowed, and they both laughed.

      “No getting ahead...” Sassy called as Rick gave her a dirty little smile and opened his mouth to speak and Clare demanded he not be vile in front of everyone, and laughing was heard from everyone there as she chuckled too and walked away.

      “I didn’t even say anything...” He said as she walked past, and she just laughed and waved him away like a pest.

      “The girls are starting to get to know you and your joking around by now.” Phillip said as even Rick got a smile at that.

      “There’s a lot more we could learn too,” Was heard, as Sassy tried to look around like it wasn’t her who said it, as Phillip chuckled and even Rick got a big grin at that one.

      “So, I’m expected to give lessons then? Who’s going to teach me?” Rick asked as several faces got red and no one would volunteer at the moment, as he smiled and went inside for a drink and a shower.

      “Things are warming up,” Phillip whispered to himself and he felt it was about damned time, even Rick cant stay shy and silent forever, and he saw at least one girl who was more than ready to give that first lesson.

      But that nice and happy time was being overshadowed by a darker time that everyone knew was coming. The neutral territories were awash in blood, and the army was slowly advancing towards the city. Spies for both sides were hard at work, and the numbers for the approaching army keep going up, now over 800 and climbing.

      “It seems they are conscripting men as they go..” Phillip mentioned as Rick just nodded seriously. “They’ll have 1000 by the time they get to the edge of town, we might have to meet them out there instead.” He added and it made sense, keeping the City safe while cutting down the numbers of enemies in neutral territory.

      “Have we sent negotiators to talk and warn them away?” Rick asked as Phillip’s face fell and he nodded sadly.

      “They were killed and eaten...” He said softly as Rick started getting more upset by the minute.

      “Then its a real war they’re looking for...how stupid and arrogant of them.” He said softly as even Phillip agreed. “I’ll lead the attacks on the main force, you get ready here to receive the wounded.” Rick said as Phillip agreed, and Rick left the meeting to start gathering his forces, as Phillip hoped that his old friend was finally getting through to his wayward grandson.

      Rick got a dozen ‘Commanders’ and had a meeting. He pointed out the path the enemy was using, and they would leave the city to fight them out there, as many agreed.

      “This looks like a good spot for our main camp.” he said pointing to a large grassy area on the map, within a few miles of the city itself.” close to roads and fresh water, lots of room for tents or whatever we need. Then our wounded can come back here and if they are too badly injured, we’ll have transportation back to the estate, where Grandfather is setting up to receive them.”

      He said as the door opened and Angel stepped in and ask for his forgiveness for interrupting, and he just waved it away.

      “I am making potions and medicine for you to take along too...they should be ready by morning,” She said as Rick thanked her for the help. “And several members of the Family will assist you out there, for emergency medics, then they will see first hand who needs to come home right away.” She finished as Rick agreed to it all.

      “You’re too kind, and I thank you.” He said seriously as she gave him a quick hug and ran back out the door, whispering, ‘don’t die...’ and he looked shocked but smiled anyways.

      “You have people who would miss you it seems...” One man said as many laughed and Rick agreed.

      “We all do,” He whispered and many silently nodded at that comment.” lets make sure we all come home then.” And his planning went on until he had to stop to get something to eat, and some rest and they decided that they’d set up camp the next day, and then see what enemy units were in the area that night, and Rick had to adjust to sleeping during the day...when he’d get the chance...and fighting all night.


    10. #10
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      Chapter 17: Protection for the weak...and Strong


      Rick had a few serious issues to handle before morning, and one was more serious than the others. Clare, as his dueling partner, was sure to be the first in line to go out with them tomorrow, but he didn’t want her in harms way. This was no little skirmish where she’d get to practice her skills...this was life and death...on a massive scale.

      He mentioned it to his grandfather who didn’t look too surprised he asked...but he too said that it was up to her...and even Rick didn’t have the right to ignore someone else’s feelings and desires.So it came down to a meeting between Rick and Clare, late that night as his troops gathered and supplies were loaded for transfer, and she wasn’t happy one bit that he felt she wasn’t ready for combat...or that he felt he needed to protect her.

      “I thought we settled this foolishness a long time ago!” She declared as Rick apologized but insisted that he needed her to stay behind and help protect the estate, and she didn’t believe a word of it. “Richard... I appreciate your worrying for me, really I do, but this is what I’ve trained for for a long time. And you need me out there wither you agree or not, and so I’m going, with or without your approval.” She said and stomped away to join a group she had signed up with, as Rick heaved a huge sigh and went to get something to eat before starting their march to the new campsite.

      “You think you’re protecting her...” Phillip whispered as Rick jumped, not seeing him walk up.” but she thinks she’s protecting you instead.” He added and chuckled, as Rick sadly agreed that was probably it.

      Just then Angel walked up and handed Rick a belt with a small pouch on it, and he opened the flap to see a dozen or more small vials inside, both red liquid and purple, and she explained that the red gave them a burst of energy, maybe lasting an hour, and the purple was a healing potion and would heal a lot of injuries, over a short period of time. And Rick gave her a big smile and she gave him a big hug and a small kiss, that surprised everyone nearby.

      “That is just for you...” She insisted as he looked shocked,” my team made a whole case of those and they’re on the supply wagon ready to go, and another batch is being made right now, so don’t worry about giving them away, you’ll need those.” She insisted as Rick thanked her a lot and she walked swiftly away looking sad.

      “You’re becoming quite the ladies man.” Rick heard as Crisp appeared beside him.

      “ya...like I’m trying so hard...” He whispered as she got a chuckle at that.”are you ready for the trip?” He asked as she agreed she was, and he made the announcement that they were leaving in an hour, and people started lining up to go.

      This was not going to be a little trip, so they had enchanters ready by the gate, so as they walked forward the fog thickened and the group disappeared, and another moved in. Soon they were all standing in knee high grass out on the plains and tents and supply wagons were unloaded and a medical tent was set up and supplies were loaded into tents for safe keeping.

      Rick had security set up instantly and made sure that day walkers were ready to stand guard during the day. If some normal person found their camp by accident, then they had a reason it was there, and security to keep them away.

      It was well planned and executed, and while some hid inside and slept during the day, others worked and soon the camp was up and running, and they had enough power for lights and equipment and wood for camp fires and even cooking. 500 warriors and medics arrived that first day, and things would only get worse from here, as spies sent word back to the Tomoki camp that the Carters had arrived.

      “How many?” Tobias Tomoki asked and his spy said ‘at least 500‘ and he smiled wider, now that was more like it! His army had been fighting skirmishes with 50 here and a hundred there for weeks now. But 500 at once...that was what he was looking for...a real battle...and he sent a special unit to prepare a surprise for them, and his generals smiled that he had learned so much so soon in his young life.

      Rick got word by nightfall that a enemy camp was spotted just 5 miles away. It was a small one with maybe 50 soldiers there, and Rick asked why they hadn’t seen it before.

      “It wasn’t there when we first got here.” He heard and he smiled wide. They knew they were here and this was their response, setting up a camp close by, and he saw that they planned on fighting right here, and not waiting for him to move forward into their new territory.

      “But only 50? That ridiculous! Its almost an insult!” One Commander demanded as Richard laughed out loud and another man there joined him.

      “Oh... there are more than that there...” he said as Rick agreed, it was clearly a trap, and they sat down to talk it out, and a plan was hatched and set in motion. The camp was right against the forest, and thick brush and trees were on 2 sides. It was way too obvious that they chose that spot for cover, and as Rick gathered his team for the frontal assault, other teams waited and did nothing...yet.

      Rick started his march with 100 men and women, and the spies ran or flew to announce they were coming...and then the other units snuck away and encircled the camp... and gave it a wide birth to make sure they didn’t give it away. When the first shots were fired and fireballs and ice flew everywhere.. another hundred soldiers ran in from their hiding places, and for a minute it looked bad for the Carter Team. But just then another 2 hundred men and women came running in and they caught the enemy by surprise, and after 2 hours of fighting, the battle was won, and Rick took control of this new camp, and declared it his ‘forward camp site’ as many cheered and prisoners and the wounded were quickly evacuated from the site back to the main camp.

      He knew this victory would only force Tomoki to try even bigger things and his second string people arrived back at camp, and his numbers swelled to 750 and there were still others waiting in the wings if they were needed.

      But Tobias was not happy, he liked winning and had been up until now. Every serious amount of competition he had ever encountered was smashed in short order...by sheer numbers if nothing else... but he just lost 150 people, and some were taken prisoner, and he knew some would talk and his plans were changed accordingly. He had nearly 900 soldiers, before today, now a lot less, and he swore that the Carters weren’t as gullible as he had hoped. They saw through his plan instantly, and he screamed for more troops, and men and women ran out to conscript every person they could find, and the War just got a little more dangerous...for everyone involved.


      Chapter 18: Victory


      Everyone fell back to camp, and Rick had a special unit watching the little forward base now. Tomoki would want that back for sure, and he was waiting to see how many more people he’d throw into the blender of war. He knew Tobias had around 900 people before the last battle so that hurt him. But he had forced people to join him before and probably was again. But it would take time. Time to gather more and time to train them, and Rick’s people were well trained from the start, and he personally led them and that made a huge difference in moral to the troops while Tobias sat back and played General, and his people felt used and abused by him.

      That night , late, Rick had a feast for their first victory and everyone cheered and ate their fill. He treated his people like friends and because of that they fought like tigers when needed. They ate and drank and when the sun came up, they all got some sleep and waited for nightfall again to attack some more. By then Tomoki would have made a decision, and Rick couldn’t wait to see what it might be and because of that he barely got any sleep himself.

      But Tobias was having a hard time now. His people tried to force others to join them, and now many were willing to fight to stay out of it. He dared not start a war on two fronts, and so he backed off many villages that heard he had a serious fight on his hands now. With this new group fighting and winning against him, he had to keep his focus on them, and so he couldn’t take the time to send troops to gather more help, especially if they fought to stay free of him.

      It began to look like the 900 he had started with would be his largest army, and his spies said that Rick had around 750-800 in his camp now. It would be close for sure, but Tobias would force his army into the City...if he had to carry the last ones across the boarder himself. Once inside he’d declare himself their King, and the Carter Clan would fall. Of course they’d have something to say about that, but they sent all their best to the battlefield and once they were gone a few hundred housekeepers and accountants weren’t going to stop him.

      That was his plan...as strange and childish as it was. He felt the world owed him something and with enough force he would just take it. His grandfather had been a great warrior once too, but had gotten old and weak. Now he talked about friends and Peace, and Tobias saw the truth. That friends were just people that were afraid of you, and Peace was an old mans daydreams.

      It was time their Family were great warriors again, and the taking of Central City would prove it, and Tobias wouldn’t stop until he had done it, and the Carters were history.

      Of course Richard thought there was some deep meaning to Tobias trying to take the city, making it his Kingdom was surely part of it, but he strained to see what else he had in mind. But try as he might, Rick saw only conquest here, and that meant that Tobias was not the Leader he had worried about. 12 year olds fight for territory, whoever is in charge of playgrounds, or who controls family gatherings and even their own yards when friends come over. Its a childish and barbaric way of thinking, and Rick was sad to think thats all Tobias had in mind...just fighting for the sake of it.

      But if that was true then losing enough men, or getting himself hurt badly, would end his ambitions, and one thing was for sure...Tobias like many other Generals like him...didn’t want involved or to put himself in harms way. One day of fighting, one cut or nick on his body, and his mind would change, after all money and power mean nothing if you’r dead, and that would be Rick’s job, to make Tobias saw that he was NOT safe sitting behind the scenes, and he sent out a few special people to sneak around and challenge the idea that Tobias was safe from harm, and as Rick planned on his next attack, spirits drifted over Tobias’s camp and waited for the chance to show him that mortality was a thin and delicate veil.

      Another small skirmish and they got their chance, Tobias had enormous security around his camp, but taking steady losses made him send more people to the front. Now there was a small window of opportunity between patrols, and one small spirit ran in and saw Tobias sleeping soundly just a few meters away. She started to approach, but his sword lay there beside him and as she got closer it vibrated and started to make a whining noise, and he almost awoke before she was ready. This changed things, so from across the room she breathed a black cloud that drifted in and settled around him, and as he coughed for the first time she escaped back out the way she came and ran to report to Richard what had happened.

      “Its not enough to kill him though, right?” Richard asked as she shook her head no.

      “Doubtful...” She whispered as he smiled and nodded and she knew she wasn’t in trouble for it.

      “Now we’ll get to see how his army works without a leader for a while.” he said and thanked her, as she flew out to get something to eat and some rest. Rick sent a message back to Phillip explaining what happened and he got a good laugh out of it. Tobias was right now thinking he was dying, and rightfully so, and he sent another message, this time to Thomas saying his grandson’s life was in their hands, and he knew what his reaction would be. He was against the war from the start and seeing it had gone this far he might step in and end it, and Phillip left him know that they would gladly cure him for the end of this war...and his promise not to start another.

      And within a day, the huge racoon was standing in Tobias’s camp and demanded to see him, as his aids tried everything to stop him from it. But it was no use, and he literally lifted the tent off the ground to see him laying there, coughing and smelling like he had dirtied himself more than once, and Thomas declared the war over, and took his grandson home for treatment, as the camp got rolled up and everyone left that night for home.

      Rick sent the cure by courier, and Thomas smiled, that even though he had a powerful advantage Rick was as good as his word. And a week later Tobias was screaming that he could have won...and his grandfather laughed in his face and asked if he wanted to die in battle, or a slow and painful death of sickness and pestilence.

      “Not all weapons are so easily seen and avoided, the Carters know this. They could have killed you at any time but didn’t.” he said as Tobias screamed it proved they were weak...as his grandfather put a huge hand on his shoulder and slammed him into a seat.

      “People who are truly powerful don’t need to do anything to prove it...” he started as Tobias just couldn’t see how.” Let me tell you a story,” And this time Tobias listened, and when it was over he saw that fighting was but one way to win a war, and that he had a lot more to learn from his grandfather yet.

      “They have always been like this,” Thomas said as even Tobias nodded he now understood,” they are strategists and warriors and when many of us thought we were powerful they showed us the foolishness of our ways, but always with Mercy. I might never have married if not for the Mercy of Phillip, and you would never have been born. They are fearsome enemies and good friends, so in the future you’ll need to make up your mind which you want them to be.” The old man said and it was all but settled right there.

      “The power of the Mind against the power of the sword...” Tobias whispered as his grandfather nodded agreement.” I have much to learn it seems.” And he walked away looking sad, as Thomas sent a message thanking Phillip for sparing him and he sent one back saying it was Rick’s choice and he hoped they would learn to be friends, and they both agreed.


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