My seventeenth year went by in a weird way. Most my time was spent doing schoolwork with my sister, or training with Max. I learned how to use weapons of all kinds, even if I wouldn’t really need to use them–such as the bow and arrow. Which, as it turned out, became my favorite. But a huge bow and quiver of arrows were harder to haul around on my person than a couple of small daggers in my boots.
Still, even though Grams suggested not to spend so much time with it I continued improving on my archery ability. I became better and better at hitting that center dot. Each time I hit the mark I felt so proud of myself. Pa enjoyed watching this bit of training. He always enjoyed playing the archery types in his video games, so the fact his son could do this in real life just thrilled him to bits.
I continued my private lessons with Master Louie, though they weren’t exactly completely private. Max, naturally, hung around outside the studio and Dad came with me to each my lesson, watching me carefully and admiring my abilities. It felt incredible to have Dad and Pa be so proud and happy of me, especially for something I fully and completely enjoyed instead of just doing because I thought I should.
Lumie kept up her swinging-blunt-objects training well into spring and even when she stopped going out regularly, she did continue to go on occasion. I begged her constantly to stop. I told her, if we were ever in this situation for her to just run. But she ignored me, and nothing ever came up where she had to risk herself.
My time spent with the group–aka me, Clay, Trysh, and Lumes–felt reaaalllly weird sometimes. Whenever Trysh and I ended up by each other it felt like… well, almost like we were dating. Or should be dating. One time we even held hands. Well. We saw a horror movie and she grabbed my hand at one part, and continued to hold my hand for the rest of the movie. Did it mean anything? Maybe? How was I supposed to know?! I tried talking to Lumie about it but she continually told me to talk to Trysh. I just didn’t know how to, though. Until one day I finally decided to just ask her.
Unnnfortunately I didn’t go about it the best way. I sorta half-shouted at her that I knew she liked me. She snapped back that I knew no such thing and we got into this big argument that in a perfect world would’ve ended with us kissing but instead it ended with her stomping off and not talking to me for a while. Lumie smacked the back of my head after Trysh told her what happened. Trysh eventually talked to me again and I apologized but after that the subject of us being together seemed a bit awkward so neither of us brought it up again.
Then Trysh started seeing some other guy anyway so it didn’t matter. Clay, who had broken up with Trin ages ago, started seeing a girl too. Lumie and I felt on the outskirts of things especially when dances at the school happened. Clay offered to set me up with a girl and Lumie got a couple offers. I turned Clay’s help down, but Lumie accepted one of the guys. She told me she was nervous about the fact Saul would be at the dance but she felt she couldn’t just hide forever. It didn’t work out with the guy but Lumie still had a pretty good time, as did Clay and Trysh.
I didn’t feel completely left out, really. I mean… I dunno. I didn’t feel like dating should be the center of my world like the others felt? I did want to date. Only the possibility of my date trying to kill me instead of kiss me sorta turned me off. Just a bit.
In the summer we realized this would be out last year of school before college. Of course I started looking into colleges but I really had no idea how I’d go. Max would go with me, if I did go, but the main form of protection was Grams’s spells on the house so I really had no idea how I’d manage to go off to university. I found a college I really liked, though. Lumie wanted to go there too. It wasn’t the same one Presea and Gladdy attended but Lumes and I decided to shoot for it anyway when we could.
In the autumn Dad and Pa celebrated their 25th year anniversary. They had a renewal of vows and it made even me emotional.
We were all there, all of us–including Vilkas and his girlfriend. We hadn’t met her before so we all took the time to get to know her and tell her tons of embarrassing stories about Vilkas. I later told Vilkas I liked her but it surprised me on his choice of partner. He shrugged and said he really liked her, but the whole dating-marriage thing in his world didn’t ‘work’ the same way as it did in the normal world.
“Do you love her?” I asked after he told me all that.
Vilkas stared down at his champagne and gave an embarrassed nod. “Yeah, I do.”
“Ooooh, can’t wait for the wedding then–“
Throughout my seventeenth year, I had had five attempts on my life. Five. Four of which were golems. All from the same person who made it very clear that they wanted me dead. Each of the golems I helped fight off and the fourth one I even ‘killed’ myself. The golem and Max were locked on the ground, the golem pinning Max pretty well. I took Max’s sword and swung–chopping off the golem’s head. It came off easier than I figured it would but as the head formed into mud as it rolled I realized why. The rest of the body melted all over Max, who complained for weeks about getting so muddy while I felt smug that I beheaded a baddie. Aw yeah.
The fifth attacker was a vampire that nearly got me in the middle of spring. This one wasn’t affiliated with whomever sent the golems since the vampire actually did try to kill me right there on the spot. If his claws had connected with my chest… I knew I’d be dead. But despite his super strength and speed, my sim fu training really helped and I somehow dodged most his attacks and fought him off well enough until Max jammed a stake through his heart. Even then I had to go to the hospital because of a shattered bone in my arm. Well. Grams first, who managed to heal it well enough so I only needed a cast for a couple weeks instead of a couple months.
But then in the autumn things cooled down, thankfully–after the vow renewal the next couple months crept by quietly. Too quietly, in my opinion, but I couldn’t really do anything about it especially not complain. I mean, not having people trying to murder me wasn’t exactly something most (sane) people complained about. I continued training, reaching level six in sim fu. I worked hard for my first blue belt but knew I’d not be able to get my second one before I went off to college. If I went to college. I still couldn’t decide if it’d be a good thing or not…
But before I had to make any decisions my fourth ‘big’ birthday came upon me. Eighteen. Lumies and I were going to be adults. I wasn’t ready for this but I didn’t have any choice in the matter. Ugh.
Lumie blew the candles out first and soon sparkles engulfed her. I watched unhappily as my sister became a proper adult, and she looked right proud of herself. >ADULT!< she screeched happily in my head.
>Yeah, yeah,< I grumbled back. I didn’t want to blow out my candles. I’d rather adulthood take me kicking and screaming. But I leaned forward an dutifully blew out the candles on my cake, not ready for this, not wanting this, no, no, no!
Sparkles, and a spin, and bam. “Why does this have to happen?” I moaned, rubbing my face while everyone else cheered.
“You look so handsome,” Pa said, coming over to hug me.
“I look just like you,” I grumbled as he rubbed the top of my head. “Stoooop!” I whined, trying to fix my hair.
“We’ll take you both out shopping tomorrow,” Dad offered.
“Can I get a tattoo?” I asked excitedly. “I’m an adult now, soooo I can get a tat, right?”
“Get one of a cat,” Max suggested as he tried to poke my birthday cake and Pa expertly swatted Max’s hand away.
“Well, it’s your decision I guess,” Pa said, smacking Max’s hand a second time. “Stop that, we’ll have cake in a minute.”
“Get a black cat,” Max said, drawing his hand up against his body as he pouted. “A black cat riding a motorcycle.”
“Evil Catnievel?” I asked with a grin and Max began giggling. We had been getting along a lot better since we first met. Maybe because we had to spend almost 24/7 together but he had become as close a friend to me as Clay. Maybe even more so, since I could talk openly and honestly with Max whereas I couldn’t with Clay. We spent a lot of nights sitting up talking about things that had nothing to do with training. I found out a lot more about him, stuff I never expected. He told me stories of living through the 18th and 19th centuries, and then through the 20th and into the 21st although his memory had some weird spots in them. He often told me he knew time had stopped, he lived through so many changes and then suddenly things came to a grinding halt but even then he sometimes forgot.
Max tried to reach for the cake again so Pa decided to finally cut slices for everyone. I ate mine, pondering over what sort of tat to get. Not a black cat. NOT a black cat. But I did want a tattoo.
The next day Pa, Dad, Lumes, and I all went out shopping. New clothes, new hair, and a tattoo for me which I was more excited about than anything else. Dad seemed pretty stoked that I got one. He and I went into the parlor together and we got a bit of a discount since they knew Dad so well.
“Following in your father’s shoes,” the tattoo artist said as she engraved art onto the back of my shoulder.
I grinned at Dad. “Yep! And soon my beard will rival his.”
“Hah! I don’t think so, young man,” Dad laughed, rubbing his beard. “You will forever be an apprentice to the face fur. Never the master.”
I had been getting slight hair along my chin throughout my seventeenth year but now my hair really started growing out so within a month I had a pretty decent strip along my chin. I ignored Max’s suggestion of growing sideburns. They looked all right on him but definitely not for me.
In April we got a visit by some of Pa’s relatives. Aunt Mira and her family, and then my great-aunt that I supposedly met once or twice as a kid but I really couldn’t remember her very well. Though when she rolled up to our porch in a scooter decked out like a steampunk pirate ship I couldn’t figure out how the hell I ever forgot her.
“Chancie baby!” she yelled, seeing Pa. “No, I can get up the stairs. I’m old not broken.” She pulled herself onto the porch and gave Pa a big hug. “Look at you, it’s been too many years. I should have visited sooner. Or you should have come to Sunset Valley. Emma would love to see you. Poor darling, she’s unfit to travel… still a babe though, hehe.”
Dad and Uncle Elijah got her scooter up on the porch but she ignored it, hobbling inside so she could give me and Lumie hugs too. “Last time I saw you two, you barely reached my waist. Now you’re both taller than me! Of course, I shrunk a bit since then. I think when people reach a certain age, you know that senior citizen discount they get? Well, it’s laced with the mushrooms from Alice in Wonderland. Shrinks us down. Only explanation.” She kissed Lumie’s cheek and then mine. “Zaid, you’ve gotten so tall. Look at that beard!” She pinched my chin. “You look a lot like your grandfather, you know that? He had a beard just like that. Illuminata! Darling, you’re so beautiful. We Danevbie women are sex goddesses, don’t you ever forget that.”
“Aunt Kaylee!” Mira shrieked.
“It’s true, and I’m sure your husband will agree with me,” Great-Aunt Kaylee cackled. “Now I need to sit my tush down.” She took hold of my arm and dragged me over to the couch under the pretense of needing aid. I figured she needed help walking as much as Yoda needed his cane. “Now tell me, how are my great-grandniece and nephew doing?”
Lumie took the seat next to Great-Aunt Kaylee and talked happily with her. I leaned against the couch not offering much to the conversation until it moved to college, and she found out I might not go. She asked for her cane and when Dad delivered it to her she hit me with a well-aimed smack to the head. “You are going to college, young man!”
“Owww!” I whined, rubbing the spot. “That hurt!”
“Not as much as not going to college will hurt,” Great-Aunt Kaylee said in a huff. “Unfortunately not a lot of Danevbies have gone to college. You won’t be one of them. You’re going to college, even if you just get a general associates degree.”
I glowered a bit. “I’d like to go to college but I can’t.”
Oops. “Erm, reasons.”
She rolled her eyes. “Sounds like a good one to me. Listen to me, college isn’t for everyone but you should at least give it a try. It will help you find jobs later. Chancie told me there’s enough money set aside so what are your reasons? A girl? Is it a girl?”
“N-no!” I protested. “No! Not–“
“It is,” she decided by the sound of my voice which just made me freak out more, which just convinced her more. “Long distance relationships are difficult but if you’ve got a girlfriend going to a different college, you might be able to make it work. If you’re meant to be it will certainly work out. I believe in love. And that’s very different from believing I can fly, because I can’t. As I discovered. But!” She poked the air with her finger. “You really should at least try college.”
“Look, I do want to go but I just can’t. It’s complicated.”
Great-Aunt Kaylee leaned in close, wrapping her hand around mine. “Then try to find a way to uncomplicate things and go.”
For a while I felt a bit angry at my Great-Aunt for acting like it might be a simple matter to just go when really it wasn’t. But then I got to thinking: what if I could? Maybe there could be some way to go. I doubted it as I knew Grams couldn’t put a protection spell around an entire college campus or even just dorm rooms. But when acceptance letters started coming in I had to talk to Grams.
“Isn’t there some way?” I asked, trying not to pout.
“You can go all you want, all I am saying is it will be dangerous,” Grams responded patiently. “Even with Max there to help take care of you. Whoever is sending the golems might realize you’re in a more vulnerable position, and put a heavier hand in trying to do what they’re doing with you.”
I pushed my bangs back, moaning loudly in impatience. “It’s not fair. I want to go to college. I should be able to go to college. I just want some normality in my life for just a little bit of time. Like I used to. Is that so much to ask?” I sank down in my seat, glowering at nothing in particular. “How will they even find me, if I’m at college? Heck, how are they even finding me now when I’m not at home?”
Grams went very silent at that. I kept grumbling on and on until Grams finally cut me off with, “You have a good point, Zaid. It is unusual that you are being found so easily. Max, bring me the spell book with the green binding and gold lettering, written in Latin?”
“I’m not a dog!” Max snapped. “I don’t fetch things!”
“Then perhaps I won’t fetch your dinner tonight and you’ll have to feed yourself,” Grams said in a threatening tone.
Max stuck his lip out. “That’s blackmail!” he complained but he moved to one of the bookcases and brought a book to Grams. “You are a horrible person.”
Grams smiled as she began flipping through the book. “Why don’t you two go do something while I do this research, it could take a while.”
So Max and I went upstairs to the living room, watching a movie and throwing popcorn at one another until Grams called us back into her magic room with her discovery. She explained to me that the chances I had a spell on me were very high. A tracking spell. She began doing work on some potion that could help break the spell but there really was only one was of assuring it couldn’t happen again.
“You see, there are two possible ways for this to be going on. The most powerful and most likely is when they take a bit of you–your hair or something… and use it along with some other ingredients,” Grams said as she worked. “Then they write down your name on a piece of paper and burn it. They mix the potion and the ash together, and drop it on a map. The blob will fall in your exact location and move along the map as you move for quite a while…” She stopped, shaking her head. “The easiest form of tracking someone, however, is a similar method. Your name is written down on a piece of paper and the paper is burned. A spell is used with the ashes, and it forms your coordinates. Now this one is easier and quicker to do, but takes a lot more effort if you move around. Either way, these two are the most likely methods being used to find you.”
“What do I do about it?” I asked, feeling sick that whoever sent the golems might have some of my hair or something.
“This potion I am making will break off any spells you have on you,” Grams said, bending over the small cauldron. “It will take a while to make but if you want to go to college, this will be done before then. However…”
“However what?” I pressed.
She looked up at me. “The only way to ensure they can’t do this again for some time, or use the crystal ball method… is to change your name, legally. Even by one letter. Then they will continue using Zaid Danevbie-Greyson with no results. Eventually they will figure out what has happened and most likely discover your changed name, but I suspect it will take a while. You could probably get through a couple years of college this way…”
I just stared at her in shock and horror. Change my name? No way! I couldn’t do that! That–that wasn’t even gonna be an option. “Is there any other way?” I asked hopefully.
Grams shook her head. “Those two spells are the ones they have to be using. No other tracking spell is as reliable, and anything else they’re doing to track you can be stopped with this potion and a change of your name. Names are very important for a lot of spells, you see. If they’re off by even one letter… it won’t work.”
I slumped down in the chair unhappily, putting my head in my hands. If I wanted to go to college without having probably a lot more life-threatening situations happening to me, this would be what I needed to do. But how could I even contemplate changing my name?
“But people will know my changed name,” I said. “The people at City Hall? Wouldn’t it be easy for whoever is doing this to me to find out my changed name?”
“Max and I can cover your tracks with spells,” Grams said. “The only thing I am worried is the possibility of them getting frustrated and trying to find out what happened by questioning your family.”
I stiffened then rose up, fury spreading noticeably on my face and in my voice. “They better fucking stay away from my family.”
“Language!” Grams snapped and smacked me upside the back of my head. “There are ways around this as well. I think we should have a discussion with your family.”
The night after all that happened, we had a big family meeting. Presea and Gladdy even came in. We tried to get Vilkas in but he couldn’t make it, but we managed to have him there on speakerphone so he could be part of the discussion. Everyone sat down except for me. I just couldn’t. I kept pacing around, feeling agitated and upset. You just cause messes, look at this. You’re causing problems for your family…
Grams explained to them everything she had told me, including the name change and the fact there might be the possibility they could be tracked down and used for information. She then told them the various ways to prevent this from happening.
“Presea, you are safe,” she said. “You don’t share the last name so I highly doubt they’ll be able to find you at all. Vilkas, I don’t think you’ll be hunted down either due to your notable wolf clan placement. As for the rest of you, I think I can summon enough magic to do loose protection spells to help slow or stop tracking/locating spells from getting to you,” Grams continued. “I’ll do those today which is why I wanted you to be here in person. The enemy that is causing the most problems is located close to Moonlight Falls. I don’t know who it is, or even what they are… but a lot of these spells are strengthened by proximity. So Glados living far away will help, and Lumie going to college far away will help. Zaid going far off to college as well will help him, of course. But Specter and Chance…”
“Do we have to move?” Pa asked, reaching down to take Dad’s hand.
“You can stay here,” Grams promised. “I will use a lot of my energy to amplify the protection spells, and other spells to help prevent you two from being found. However… a lot of this will also depend on you two staying close to home and I don’t know if that is a possibility.”
“I can continue my work at the Research and Guidance Facility via computer,” Dad said. “It won’t be a problem for me.”
Grams nodded. “I can bring you groceries and other things you–“
“No,” Pa said to everyone’s surprise. “N-no! You’re suggesting we–we stay here? In this house? As in… just… here? Not going anywhere?” He began to look a bit panicked, looking from Dad to Grams with big eyes. “Stuck here?”
Dad put a hand on his cheek. “We don’t need to decide right away, Chance. This is if Zaid goes off to college…”
“Of course he’s going off to college,” Pa said, pulling away from Dad and getting to his feet. “But I can’t just stay here in this house. I c-can’t be stuck here!”
Dad’s facial expression went from confusion to concern. He swiftly went to Pa’s side. “No. No, no. Of course not. No. We won’t have that happen. Don’t worry, Chance, I won’t let that happen to you again.” He wrapped his arms tightly around Pa who began crying into Dad’s chest, looking even more shaken up. Dad pulled Pa to the stairs, holding up one finger at us to indicate wait a minute. We all remained silent as Dad took Pa upstairs. We could hear them talking. Dad trying to reassure Pa, Pa sounding more and more panicked.
Presea, Glados, Lumie, and I all stared at each other, no idea what was going on. Finally Dad returned without Pa. “Is there any way to protect him without having him confined to the house?” Dad asked quietly when he reached the bottom stair.
“Not really,” Grams mumbled.
“What about the spells you’re using for the kids?”
“They will be easier to hide since they’ll be outside the enemy’s area,” Grams explained. “I can prevent the tracking and locating spells being used on them, mostly because they’ll be outside the radius of the spells. With you and Chance here, there is a higher likelihood of the spells being able to be used on you… not that it matters since the enemy already knows where this house is. I can put heavy protect spells on both of you, but it’s best if you two remain in the house as much as possible.”
Dad shook his head. “No. I cannot do that to Chance.”
“Then I won’t go to college,” I said, a mixture of bitterness and worry in my voice. “Because of him.” Okay that was completely unfair of me and I knew it.
Dad glared at me. “You don’t understand. Being… locked up… is something he cannot stand. It’s happened to him multiple times in his life, when he was a ghost. Not having freedom does something to him–it causes a lot of depression and I won’t have that happen to him again. But you will go to college.”
“How, then?” I asked, startled by this revelation about Pa. He stayed at home almost all the time anyway. How big of a difference would it really make? But I kept my mouth shut on that matter since we could all tell Dad wasn’t in the mood for backtalk.
Dad folded his arms and took in a deep breath. “Chance says he’ll agree to move.”
“Move?!” Lumie shrieked. “What?!”
“But this is our home,” Presea gasped.
“We grew up here!” Glados protested. All three of them began talking at once, only falling silent when Dad held up his hand in the Dad manner we all knew.
“What choice is there?” he asked. “Chance–“
“This is Zaid’s fault!” Lumie cried out loud and in my head. In addition, she psychically sent a lot of nasty words at me along with the blame. “Why can’t he just go to college through online courses?”
“You little–” I started but Dad shouted, “KIDS!” causing us both to fall silent. “Don’t blame Zaid,” Dad continued. “Even if he stayed here, eventually this would have to happen.” Dad looked at all of us. “This enemy, whoever they are, if they’re adamant about getting to Zaid… one day they’ll really pursue him into our home. It’s better to take steps now. Gretchen, how long do you think this will give us for safety?”
Grams thought about it for quite some time. “Several years. Between my magic, Zaid’s name change, you two moving… I reckon we won’t have to worry about this enemy for at least three to five years, depending on their resources.”
>Your fault we have to leave our childhood home!< Lumie growled in my head.
>Yeah, like I ASKED for this!< I snapped back.
“Have you thought about the name thing?” Glados inquired as Lumie and I were about to go into a psychic shouting match.
“Er. Actually, yes,” I said, as I had been thinking about it since the day before and came to a decision. Everyone waited for me but it felt weird to say it without Pa there, but I had the feeling he wouldn’t be downstairs for a while. “I just change one little thing about my name, right? And it will work?” I asked Grams to make sure. She nodded and I said, “I don’t want to change my first name at all. I love my name. And I figured since Presea dropped the Danevbie from her name… I think I’ll drop the Greyson from my name. Dad, you know I care about you and am proud to be a Greyson as much as I am a Danevbie but…”
Dad came over and put a hand on my shoulder. “I understand.”
I smiled, feeling relieved he wasn’t too upset about this. “Cool. So I guess from now on it’s just… Zaid Danevbie.”