The following is a short that appears in At The Farm, the short story companion to the Maze Beset series. It takes place between Dragons In Pieces and Dragons In Chains. The stories in that companion are Day In The Life shorts, showing who some of the secondary characters are and how they think, and some of the unique challenges they face as a result of being superpowered while trying to have something resembling a ‘normal’ life. This particular story is the only one that has true bearing on the trilogy.
Will – William Randall – is Jasmine’s fiance, a veterinarian with no superpowers or unusual lineage. He’s a regular guy she met because of her affinity with squirrels.
Finally. Will hurried up the tree-lined drive on foot, wishing he could enjoy the sight. After everything he went through to get here, why did it have to be such a long driveway? Too tired to run and weighed down by the pack slung over his shoulder, he just walked as quickly as he could muster, hoping the guy that dropped him off just up the road would think absolutely nothing of it.
As soon as he caught his first sight of the actual grounds, he completely understood why the house being this far from the road was a good idea. It was huge, and Violet was flying down from the roof of the nearby barn. She wasn’t looking his way, so he didn’t try to catch her attention. Hopefully, someone else he knew would be easy to find since he didn’t have the free pass of the funky eyes like everyone else here would.
He stopped just behind the line of cars and vans, not sure where to go. The farmhouse had a front door, should he go knock? Would he be better off going around to where he saw Violet? Yes, that one. Confident no one would swipe his bag here, he set it down and hurried around the sprawling building. Oh, thank God. There was Jayce helping her get a handle on a long piece of wood.
“Jayce!” He had to sound relieved, because that was how he felt.
Both Jayce and Violet turned to look, and both smiled at him, beckoned him over. “Hey, you finally made it.” Jayce gave Violet a boost into the air and closed the distance to shake Will’s hand. As he got closer, though, his smile faded around the edges. “Are you okay?”
“No.” Now that he was here and someone could actually help him, he sagged and Jayce half-caught him. “They got Jasmine. It’s taken me forever to get here. I didn’t know what else to do.”
“Come on.” He pushed two fingers to his chest, pressing on something under his shirt, then his skin rippled into a silver sheen. Probably, he did that for the extra strength, because he lifted Will up like he was a rag doll, carrying him to the house. Just inside the door, he called out, “Hannah!”
“Kitchen,” the woman’s voice replied.
“When was the last time you ate?”
Will shook his head. Honestly, he had no idea. “Yesterday?”
Jayce took him down a hallway and into a large kitchen where a woman stood at the counter cutting up vegetables. Hannah, sitting at one of the three picnic tables, he knew. No one else was in here right now, and it looked so empty because of that. “Jasmine got taken, he’s been making his way here since.”
“Oh my God, Will, here.” Hannah grabbed a slice of bread and smeared some fruit something or other on it while Jayce set him down on one of the seats. “What happened?”
“Eat first,” Jayce commanded as he shimmered back to normal. Between the two of them and the other woman, they piled a plate high with more food than he could eat and set it in front of him. The cup of water was much more attractive at the moment, but he forced himself to eat the bread first.
When he’d gotten half the cup down and few more bites in his belly, he stopped to talk. “We went to Miami last, for Tony. Jasmine wanted to stop at Disney on the way back, I figured it might be our last chance for a while, so we went. That was fine, but I had to get more cash to do it. That night, we stayed at a motel. In the morning, we were all ready to go. Jasmine went to the car, I went to check out. When I got back, there was a black SUV, two guys in suits, and a tow truck. I couldn’t see Jasmine. On the chance she shapeshifted and ran off, and because I was scared to death, I hung back and waited for them to leave.”
He sighed and rubbed his face, his two weeks of beard still catching him a little off guard. He never wore a beard. Not only did his mother hate that, he looked terrible with one – something about being blonde and having curly hair. Anyway. “She wasn’t there. They left and must have taken her with them. I walked around the lot for probably an hour. If she was there, I would have found her. The phone was in the car, so I couldn’t call. All I had was my backpack, and that was only because I’d been carrying my wallet in it so I wasn’t sitting on it while I drove for hours and hours every day.”
Jayce nudged the plate and put a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry they got her.”
“That’s awful.” Hannah took his cup to refill it.
“I didn’t know what else to do. I’ve been making my way here since then. I’ve barely slept and hardly eaten, and all this time, they’ve been doing who knows what to her. Just thinking about the kinds of things you said they did to you-”
Jayce squeezed his shoulder. “Stop doing that right now. This wasn’t your fault. The most important thing to keep in mind is that they don’t really want to kill any of us.”
Nodding, Will picked up a carrot stick and crunched it. Her mother would be devastated if she knew. He gave Fakhri his word that her daughter would be taken care of, that she’d be happy. “I failed her.”
“You didn’t, not at all. If anyone failed there, it was the suits. They failed to be decent human beings. As we’ve seen them do, over and over again. Don’t get Bobby started on the subject, he’ll rant your ear off about it.” Jayce nudged the plate again.
That didn’t really make him feel any better, but Will nodded again and ate a forkful of food without paying attention to what it was. They let him chew in peace for a minute or so, he got the impression Jayce and Hannah were using looks and gestures to communicate behind his back. “I burned the list and directions that night before.”
“Good thinking.” Jayce patted him on the shoulder again and stood up, left the room with a purposeful stride.
“We’ll find her. There are ten others we didn’t get to in time, and we’ll find them all.”