Sun Shattered

“GET TO THE SCHOOL!” Cora yelled backward over her shoulder. She strained with all her effort to keep the small crowd of skeletons at bay while the civilians fled. The skeletons struggled to get by Cora without acknowledging her as a threat. It seemed they considered her little more than a tree or fence to go around. Cora guessed her ability was to thank for whatever camouflage made her invisible to them.

Over the years she learned a good amount about her abilities. It worried her that the best power she could manifest in the situation was invisibility. Cora’s power gave her the ability to survive any situation. Her first thought was to try and master the individual skills that manifested; but, that proved impossible. Eventually, she learned to focus on the core ability. She learned to manifest offensive survival skills.

She tried to activate an offensive power to fight the skeletons that began raining on the city, but she only succeeded in hiding from them. As one was about to strike her down it paused in confusion. Then, it refocused its attention elsewhere and moved on. Now she was trying to corral a small group of them.

“Well that explains it,” Cora heard a woman’s voice at the same time she noticed the skeletons weren’t wriggling to get past her anymore.  She glanced up and noticed all skulls had their eye sockets trained on her. Cora jumped back from them, then whirled around to see where the voice came from.

A tall pale woman, made taller by a pair of bone-white horns, stood in front of Cora and stared. She was flanked by skeletons on both sides; all of them stared at Cora. She was positive her ability to be invisible to them was still active.

“Who are you?” Cora asked. “Why are you attacking the city?” She felt a tingling in her chest; now her temporary ability was gone. Cora immediately filled her mind with hopeful, violent thoughts. “She’s in charge, or close to it. I can beat her. I have to beat her to survive,” She expected the woman to threaten her life very soon and wanted to be ready. The woman smiled and laughed at Cora.

“City? My name is Ballisea, little Corazón. This entire Earth is mine now. But, you may leave; what kind of Earth would you like to flee to?”

“I’m not fleeing,” Cora said. She balled her fists tight. “I’m surviving!” It was a dangerous gamble; Cora hoped her powers would activate when Ballisea tried to defend herself. Ballisea didn’t so much as flinch at Cora’s tackle; no powers were activated. Cora flew through Ballisea as if the woman wasn’t even there. She landed on the blacktop road behind Ballisea and got some scrapes for her troubles. Cora’s ability was useless for minor injuries.

“You obviously haven’t heard my name before,” Ballisea sighed as she looked down on Cora. “The only way to survive me is to run,” Ballisea grinned. “Or, if I let you go. I’ve changed my mind about that, by the way,” she said. Cora successfully picked herself up from the floor and stood ready to face Ballisea. If nothing else, she finally threatened Cora properly. “Goodbye, Corazón,” Ballisea said. A black dot appeared on Cora’s neck; then, it instantly spread into a horizontal, dinner-plate sized portal that radiated from Cora’s neck.

Cora felt a tingling sensation around her neck, then, nothing. She lost all awareness of her neck; the hole moved upward intent on swallowing Cora’s head. Ballisea’s grin disappeared when the hole disappeared but Cora’s head still remained attached. Cora suddenly became aware of her neck again.

“God damn Corazónes,” Ballisea grumbled to herself. “Just leave,” Ballisea said. A black hole opened under Cora’s feet, but she remained standing, still seemingly on firm ground. Ballisea closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. She exhaled slowly, then opened her eyes.

“I don’t even want this Earth anymore,” Ballisea said. Cora noticed the skeletons behind her walking into black portals and disappearing. She risked a glance upward and confirmed the portals were gone from the sky.

“But, I do have a reputation to maintain,” Ballisea said. A wide, horizontal portal appeared next to her; a towering, pale woman with bright red hair fell out of the portal. She landed on her feet and stood taller than Ballisea’s horns. “I can’t let it be known that I was annoyed into giving up on an Earth,” she shrugged. “Shatter it,” Ballisea said. The redhead nodded then raised her fist into the air.

Before Cora could think about acting, the woman brought her fist down on street hard. The ground started shaking immediately and Cora no longer wondered what Ballisea wanted shattered. She watched Ballisea and the tall woman disappear into portals as the earth shook and cracked around her. Cora started to wonder if she’s survive without an Earth.

Date with a Dragon

“Hi, I’m Flutter,” the towering woman introduced herself to Marie with a broad smile. Flutter was easily the tallest person in the room, but Marie was the shortest if she didn’t count the caterer. She looked up at the redhead that she guessed was at least three feet taller than her, and introduced herself.

“Hi, Flutter. Marie,” she extended a tiny olive-skinned hand, it was enveloped completely by Flutter’s giant, milky-white grasp.

“Can I talk to you alone for a moment?” Flutter asked. She gestured at the open sliding door that led to the deck.

“Sure,” Marie smiled. She came to the party planning to shmooze with as many wealthy investors as she could. But, she wasn’t about to ignore the chance of finding a date or three. She followed Flutter out to the deck while admiring the way her flowing red dress fit.

Outside, the sun was setting into the ocean. A cool breeze caressed Marie’s arms as she joined Flutter at the rail overlooking the beach.

“So, how’d you end up here?” Flutter started the conversation.

“You know the finance app, Dragon Hoard?” Marie had only been at the party for about an hour before Flutter introduced herself. In that time she managed to mingle with several people, all of which gave a polite chuckle when she mentioned the name of her app. One even referred to the name as, “very clever”. Marie was surprised when Flutter let out a loud guffaw. She noted some heads from the beach turned to see if everything was okay while Flutter continued to chortle loudly. Marie began to get the feeling Flutter, and maybe everyone else at the party, was laughing at her. It definitely soured Marie’s feelings toward her a bit.

“It’s not that funny,”  Marie said once Flutter seemed like she was calming down. Still giggling, Flutter nodded her head.

“It totally is, though.”

“Well, I hope you enjoyed the moment,” Marie gave Flutter a flat smile, then turned to head back inside.

“No, wait!” Flutter put a hand on Marie’s shoulder to stop her, but let go instantly. “I’m sorry, I’m not laughing at the name of your app. I’m laughing at those idiots in there,” she pointed at the party happening inside. Marie really wanted to like Flutter. She decided to give her a chance to explain.

“And, why is that?” she asked.

“I’m going to tell you a secret, but don’t freak out. Don’t panic, you’re safe with me,” Flutter said. Marie moved to the rail again.

“I’m listening,” she said.

“This little club is by invite only,” Flutter said.

“I got one,” Marie was quick to defend herself. Though, despite the reflex, she realized that Flutter didn’t seem to be the elitist type. Stuffy people tended to avoid guffawing so freely, lest they embarrass themselves.

“I know, listen. This is a private club with a very exclusive membership.” Marie shifted her weight toward the party; Flutter noticed and skipped to the point.

“Everyone here, except you, is a dragon. It looks like they thought you were one too.”

“Proof?” Marie crossed her arms and took a single step toward the party.

“I can do this…,” Flutter said. Her alabaster skin darkened. It shifted its color and texture. In moments her arms, chest and face were covered in brilliant golden scales. They gleamed in the setting sunlight and Marie was left speechless. Both in surprise, and awe at her beauty; the golden scales somehow made Flutter’s red dress look better. After several moments, Flutter relaxed and the scales receded into her skin.

“You’re not in any danger,” Flutter said when Marie didn’t say anything. “If and when they find out, they’ll just make you sign an NDA and kick you out of the club. The last thing they want is the police snooping around for a missing woman and taking a close look at their finances.”

“They’re really dragons?” Marie asked finally. It seemed like an unnecessary question, but it was the only sentence she could string together. Flutter nodded but didn’t say anything else. She smiled at Marie letting her sort through her thoughts. Marie walked to the railing and stared out at the sunset for several quiet minutes. Then, a thought struck her.

“Everyone’s a dragon?” she asked again.

“Yeah,” Flutter said.

“And they thought I was a dragon too?” she asked. Flutter nodded.

“How did you know I’m not?”  Flutter smiled.

“Donna told me,” she said.

“Donna..?” The name sounded familiar. “Donna Chang? The caterer?” Marie thought the food was delicious and was sure to introduce herself to the caterer and get a business card.

“That’s the one,” Flutter said.

“How did she know?” Marie had another realization. “Is she a dragon too!?”

“She is; she can see things most others can’t. Don’t worry though, she’s not going to tell anyone about you.”

“She told you,” Marie replied.

“She trusts me.”

“Should I trust you?” Marie asked. She took a half step closer to Flutter.

“I can’t tell you that,” Flutter said with a wink. “But, we should get dinner tomorrow night so you can decide for yourself.”

Infinite Void

Flora never wondered about her ability much before that Sunday morning. It took her the better part of her 37 years to get the hang of it. Initially, she didn’t even consider it an ‘ability’. It was more of a vague sensation that she knew someone’s parents. Then, her Earth discovered alternate universes and the AlterNet.

Things changed almost overnight. Suddenly, fairies, orcs, mermaids, and more walked among them. Flora could see through their AlterNet characters; most of the fantasy creatures she saw were still human on the inside. The first time she met the descendant of a lizard person surprised her, but even then, she took it in stride without thinking about how her power worked. He was there from an alternate universe. As she met more strangers from other universes her ability changed and matured. She learned she could identify beings she’d never met before, simply because she’d met someone that had. Her ability eventually became a simple family tree floating above everyone’s head. By default, it showed an individual’s parents; but, with focus trace it back to the beginning of their lineage.

Every Sunday Flora ran a produce stall at the farmer’s market. Along with her ability to see someone’s heritage, she was blessed with a fantastic green thumb. She was stunned when she saw a giant woman with flaming red hair headed to look at her fruits. The woman was so tall that Flora needed to tilt her head up to see her family; but, the tree was incomplete.

The stranger’s father was a fairy, it would be the first time Flora met a fairy even though she recognized it. She knew she met someone that met fairies somewhere along the way. But there was only an empty space where the mother should have been. Flora wondered how a fairy got so big; once the woman reached her stall Flora realized she was at least eight feet tall.

“Whooa…,” the giant redhead picked up a cantaloupe and sniffed it, then grinned. It looked no bigger than a grapefruit in her large hand. “… nice melons,” the woman said as she picked up a second one and set them aside to buy them.

Flora was still puzzled by the woman’s missing parent and her size. She was distracted enough that her mind reacted on autopilot to the stranger’s comment.

“Thanks, you too,” Flora said. As soon as the words left her mouth, her brain decided to let her in on the joke. She clapped her hand over her mouth and turned beet red. The redhead threw her head back and let out a boisterous laugh. “Sorry! Sorry! I was thinking of something else!” Flora tried to apologize. The woman shook her head and smiled.

“No sweat, but I’m going to have to ask you what exactly you were thinking,” she winked at Flora.

“No no!” Flora shook her head frantically. “Nothing like that.” She realized honesty would give her the perfect opportunity to fill in the blank. “Uh, you probably won’t believe me, but I can see a person’s ancestry,…” she pointed above her own raven-colored hair. “…above their heads.”

“Oh,” she nodded. “I believe you, it’s a giant multi-verse out there, lots of weird things. So, what does mine say?” she asked.

“That’s the thing. You’re half-fairy, but I don’t know what the other half is. Something I’ve never met before, so I was kind of distracted. How are you so huge? You’re not half-giant, I’ve seen those before.” The woman smiled and reached out a large hand in greeting.  Flora shook it with both her hands.

“My name’s Flutter. I’m half-fairy and half…,” Flora felt the woman’s hand harden under her fingers. She watched as brilliant golden scales covered her entire body. “… dragon.” As she said it, the blank section filled in with the word Dragon.

“Wow!” Flora was genuinely impressed. “Thank you! That filled in the blank!”

“You know, that’s a pretty neat trick. Can you do me a favor? There’s someone I’ve always been curious about,” Flutter said. Flora nodded eagerly and released the hand as the scales retreated back under Flutter’s skin.

“Uh, she’s about this high,” Flutter brought her hand up to her own shoulder. “Pay attention because she won’t be here for long.” Flutter faced to her right as if she were having a conversation with someone in front of Flora’s stall.

“Can I get you here for a second, please?” She asked the empty space in front of her. It wasn’t empty for long; a tall, dark-haired woman with bone-white horns materialized from nowhere. The new woman sighed with deep annoyance, then turned to look at Flora.

“This better be long enough,” she said, then promptly disappeared again. The couple of seconds she was there was enough to make Flora wonder how much she didn’t understand about her ability. Even after the woman disappeared, Flora stared at the empty air where her ancestry was, slack-jawed and wide-eyed.

“Well,.. what’d you see?” Flutter asked. Flora slowly shook her head trying to understand what it meant.

“I.. I don’t…,” Flora stumbled over her words until she closed her eyes to try and calm down. She opened them again to see worry all over Flutter’s face.

“I’m sorry,” Flutter said. “I knew it wouldn’t be normal.. but-” Flora interrupted.

“Infinity,” she said.

“What?”

“No mother, no father,” Flora said, she used her finger to gesture an ‘infinity’ symbol in the air. “Just… infinity.

Romantic Flutters

“Your hair is like fire,” he cried.

The towering woman looked down at him and sighed.

“Your skin; like cream,” he smiled. “Please stay.”

The pale redhead turned to walk away.

The bard dashed around to block her;

his gait was loose and he wobbled.

“Your beauty is radiant like…” he fumbled.

“Fire!” his eyes roamed up and down her figure.

“Your body is like a dream.”

She placed a hand on his shoulder and pushed.

Like a little girl; he screamed.

He crashed through the Inn’s stone wall and hushed.

Vanilla Life

Billy followed Vanilla into a black stone castle and through the wide open hallways. She led him to an indoor swimming pool filled with crystal clear water. A tall pale woman floated on her back in the center of the pool with her eyes closed; strands of her vibrant red hair floated around her.

Her?” Billy asked. Vanilla nodded.

“She’s half fairy…,” the white-haired woman said. “…and a Calavera.” Vanilla shrugged. “If it weren’t for her bond with Ballisea, Flutter wouldn’t be as strong as she is.”

“She’s got great hearing though,” Flutter said from the center of the pool. She opened her eyes but continued to float and stare upward. “Hey, Vanilla. What’s the occasion?” she asked. Vanilla stepped into the pool room and walked along the outer edge to get closer; Billy followed.

“This is Billy. The strongest Muerte I could find,” Vanilla said. Flutter straightened herself in the pool and stood up. She focused her attention on Billy and climbed out of the pool. Billy waved at her awkwardly.

“Can he do it?” Flutter asked Vanilla. Billy looked at the white-haired woman too; to see her reaction. She half-nodded.

“With more training. That’s why I brought him to meet you.”

“Do what?” Billy asked.

“I told you,” Vanilla said. She placed a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it gently. “If you can stop Flutter, you can stop Ballisea.” As soon as Vanilla said Ballisea’s name a tall black portal appeared next to Flutter. The giant woman sighed.

“She’s calling me,” Flutter said. She looked down at Billy and nodded at him with a smile. She extended her hand. “Find me anytime you want to test yourself.” Billy shook her hand and noted her frequency so he could find her again; it seemed like that’s why she offered him a handshake.

“Thanks,” Billy said. He did not know what else to say, or what was happening exactly, but he trusted Vanilla to explain it.

“So, he’s your pick?” Flutter turned her attention back to Vanilla. Vanilla nodded. Billy was surprised when Flutter stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Vanilla; the lean woman returned the hug.

“Goodbye, Vanilla.” Flutter said, then she disappeared into the portal without another word.

“I thought I was going to try and stop her?” Billy asked. Vanilla shook her head.

“You’re not ready yet, but I wanted you to meet her now. You asked about time feeling like sandpaper?”

“Yeah..?” Billy nodded but he was confused. He did not know what his question had to do with meeting Flutter. Vanilla lifted her orange dress slightly and stepped out of her white high heels. She walked to the edge of the pool and sat down with her feet in the water. She patted the stone floor next to her and looked up at Billy. He sat down, in jeans, cross-legged.

“I think of time like a river,” she said while staring at the water. “When you freeze time; the river stops flowing.” Vanilla leaned forward and scooped up a handful of pool water. “Hold your hand out.” Billy did; Vanilla turned and dropped a ball of water in his hand. It did not wobble or come apart.

“I’m going to let go; hold it,” she said. Billy nodded and concentrated on the ball of water.

“Ready…3…2…now.” When she said, “now” most of the water rolled off Billy’s hand; he was left with a round drop floating in the center of his hand. He immediately looked at Vanilla.

“What happened?” he asked. Vanilla smiled and scooped up another handful of water. She held the solid-liquid ball between her thumb and forefinger as if she were inspecting a large jewel.

“You’re good at moving around large chunks of time like rocks or people, but…,” She smiled and held the ball of water in front of him with one hand. With her other hand, she grabbed part of it and pulled them apart like an orange. She tossed one half back into the water, then grabbed the other part and broke it in half again. “…you need to remember that all the big pieces are made from smaller pieces.”

“Huh?” Billy asked. He kind of understood how to shape the water now, but didn’t see how it tied to his question.

“When you took in Steven’s soul, your ability grew stronger. You’re more sensitive to the smaller pieces of time.”

“So.. the sandpaper feeling is time?” he asked Vanilla giggled.

“No dummy,” she said playfully, then sighed. “Absorbing a Muerte soul like you did boosts your power. You can feel air molecules now because you’re powerful enough to control them,” she grabbed his shoulder again and squeezed. “You’re powerful enough to kill-,”

“Ballisea,” Billy said. Vanilla shook her head.

“Me.”

Expositional Service

“You didn’t need to close,” Flutter said. The giant red-headed woman bowed respectfully in front of the frail, elderly woman a quarter of her size. “But, I appreciate it. It’ll be nice to eat in peace for once.” Donna Chang, the old woman, gestured for Flutter to stand up and sit at the table.

“If I don’t close…,” Mrs. Chang smiled up at the pale woman. Even seated, the woman towered over the restaurant owner. “Takeru falls behind on his orders. He can’t keep up with your appetite and customers.” Flutter grinned.

“I hope he’s warmed up. I’m starving,” Mrs. Chang nodded, then faced the room’s exit. The two women were in a small, private section of Donna Chang’s restaurant. Flutter took up most of one side of the room behind a large-built table.

“Britt!” the old woman called out the opening. A dark skinned teenager with twin afro-puffs on her head jogged into the room. The girl froze when she saw Flutter.

“Whooa.. You’re huge!” She said. Flutter smiled.

“Wait for Takeru to finish a dish, then bring it here as soon as it’s ready,” Donna told the girl. “Then you’ll go back and wait for more.”

“Keep ’em coming!” Flutter added. Britt nodded and turned to leave. She stopped at the entrance then turned back around.

“Hey, did Dread really move you?” she asked with a skeptical voice.

“Flutter is here to eat not answer questions,” Donna reminded the girl. Flutter waved her hand at Donna dismissively.

“It’s okay. Tell ya what. Every plate you bring me gets you one answer. Sound good?”

“Yeah!” Britt dashed out of the room.

“Unique?” Flutter asked; she tilted her head at the room’s exit.

“An Estrella,” Donna nodded.

“Estrella?” Flutter’s eyes narrowed. “Are you-“

“Forget the first question. Did Dirge & Dread really knock you down?” Britt yelled from the door as she entered the room with a steaming plate of beef and vegetables.

“Tall girl with white hair and a short one with black hair right?” Britt nodded at Flutter as she placed the plate down. “They did, that Calavera’s a strong kid,” Flutter said. She grabbed the pair of chopsticks. “Although, I wasn’t logged in at the time,” she winked at Britt.

“Awesome!” Britt dashed out the door again. Flutter wasted no time and began shoveling food into her mouth.

“Yes, I’m teaching her,” Donna answered the question Britt interrupted. Flutter raised an eyebrow while cycling food into her mouth. She swallowed everything whole.

“As a favor for a friend,” Donna replied. “On the condition that I can stop any time she breaks the rules or reaches her limit. Right?” The old woman asked the doorway.

“Yes, Mrs. Chang.” Britt entered with a new plate of food, and a question, as Flutter finished the first one. “Are you really a dragon like her?” Britt gestured at the frail woman. Smooth golden scales grew out of Flutter’s pale, light skin and covered her entire body. She shook her head.

“I’m only half dragon,” Flutter said. Two sets of transparent, veiny insect wings extended out of her back. “Half fairy.” The wings retracted into her back and the golden scales retreated into her skin.   “I can’t shapeshift, the scales are my only trick.”

“Ohhhh,” Britt said. She bussed Flutter’s first plate out of the room. Flutter started inhaling food again.

“She has potential,” Mrs. Chang said. Flutter nodded but did not seem to have any more questions. After a few silent minutes, Britt came through the door again.

“You’re nice,” Britt said. She swapped out the empty plate for a new, full one. “Why do you work for Ballisea?”

“I don’t have a choice,” Flutter replied. “Donna can explain it to you later; it’s kind of long to get into now.” Flutter and Britt looked at Mrs. Chang for confirmation. The old woman nodded. Britt left and Flutter worked on the newest plate of food. Mrs. Chang remained silent while Flutter ate. After several minutes Britt walked in to change out the plates.

“Will you help me train?” She asked. “I wanna see if I can move you like Dread did.” Flutter looked at Mrs. Chang but the old woman did not seem to care what she answered.

“Yeah, that sounds fun,” she said.

“Thank you!” Britt yelled. She turned and headed out of the room.

“Wait, no more food,” Flutter said before Britt left. The girl turned around with a surprised look on her face.

“Mrs. Chang said you could eat for hours,” Britt said. She cast a sideways glance at Donna.  Flutter nodded.

“I can,” she stood from the table and looked down at the girl. “But I want to work up an appetite first, let’s go see what you can do.”

Dragon’s Wrath

“We’re the first ones here!” The paladin in black armor lifted his visor to peer out across the wide open meadow. The golden sun hanging in the clear, blue sky sparkled on the giant dragon’s emerald hide. “It’s huuuuuuge. That thing wouldn’t fit in a football stadium.”

“It’s worth your own server. I’d be disappointed if it was any smaller,” Buck replied. He turned to the giant, pale, red-headed woman next to him. “Go get it before someone else tags ‘im.” She nodded and walked forward. They stood at the entrance to the meadow: a rocky ledge that extended from a narrow mountain tunnel. The dragon slept several miles away. The woman stepped to the edge, but Buck stopped her. “You gotta log in, Flutter. It won’t count otherwise.” She waved a dismissive hand at him.

“When I get there,” Flutter replied. Two sets of long, transparent insect wings grew out of her back then she leaped into the air. She flew straight toward the sleeping dragon.

“I’m Buck, by the way,” he said to the paladin. “I never got your name.” The mustached paladin turned and smiled at Buck.

“I’m Fern. You Unique?” Fern asked. “I’m #52.”

“#45,” Buck nodded. The ground shook and a deafening roar filled the meadow. They turned to see the very awake dragon roaring at an armored Flutter. She wore blood red plate armor and carried two shields. One in each hand and both of them half her considerable size. The dragon’s tail whipped forward to swat her away, but it bounced harmlessly off her left shield. She did not move an inch.

The dragon tried again to knock her away with its tail, but again Flutter stood her ground. The beast grew angry and roared at the sky. Black ash erupted from its mouth and filled the sky. It blocked out the sun and covered the meadow in darkness. The sound of footsteps behind Buck drew his and Fern’s attention. They turned and saw two women and a kid walking toward them with a large group behind them.

“You guys next?” The blonde knight asked. She wore silver chainmail armor and the paladin next to her wore thick, golden plate armor. The boy wore an elegant white and gold robe. Buck shook his head.

“There’s no ‘next’, he’s done for.”

“IS THAT FLUTTER!??” The female paladin yelled. She stepped to the edge while Buck answered the blonde’s question and saw the lone armored figure. Her armor glowed red in the darkness of the falling soot. Flutter stood still while the dragon tried everything it could to knock her away. Buck’s chest puffed out with pride and he nodded.

“That’s so cool! Totally unfair but so cool!”

“Raid disbanded,” the blonde yelled to the group behind her. “We’re not getting a shot.” A chorus of mumbles and murmurs ran through the crowd, but they turned to head back through the tunnel.

“I wanna watch!” the female paladin said. The blonde nodded.

“I know, me too.”

“Who’s Flutter?” the boy asked.

“She’s a fortress paladin that’s strong enough to solo a 20 person raid,” The blonde replied. The other three were watching the dragon assault Flutter.

“Whooaa. Can you do that, Rook?” The boy asked the female paladin. She shook her head, her dark dreadlocks wiggled on her head.

“She’s a Unique. Calavera,” she replied without taking her eyes off the action. The dragon’s swings were becoming slower, he appeared to be getting tired.

“Why’s she just standing there?” The boy asked. He approached the ledge to watch with the adults.

“Fortress paladins have a skill that lets them store up damage and dish it back out. Flutter can take a LOT of damage. Watch, I think shes’ going to use it. The dragon’s too tired already.”

In the center of the meadow, the dragon gave one final swipe with its claws then stopped. It supported itself with its front legs in order to rest a bit. The red glow on Flutter’s armor began to glow brighter.   She brought both shields in front of her and fit them together like two halves of a whole. Her glow flowed through her arms into the shield wall. A wide beam of red light fired from the towering shield and hit the dragon right in its face. The energy continued to flow until the glow left Flutter’s body entirely. Then the, now headless, dragon fell on its side.

Buck’s Bucks

Buck enjoyed the morning sun on his neck while he swept the shop’s front porch. He heard a commotion up the street and leaned over the wooden railing to take a look. A heavily armored paladin clanked toward’s Buck in black armor. His helmeted head swiveled left and right as he ran to check the shops on both sides of the street. Buck realized he was the only one open.

Ohhhh. That’s why I’m here early,” Buck thought. He forgot that it was the first day of the new season, which meant new quests. Buck waved to grab the paladin’s attention, then headed into the shop. He found his position behind the counter as the armored man ran into the shop.

“I need to purchase anything you have to kill a dragon with!” the paladin wheezed at the tall, sturdy man behind the counter. Even with his armor on, the paladin seemed to be a scrawny twig in front of the salesman. Buck smiled broadly. He’d always dreamed of being an adventurer, and now he saw a chance to make that dream come true. He nodded.

“100 Million,” he replied.

“What? That’s insane!” The paladin stepped back from the counter and crossed his arms, but did not leave. Buck shrugged.

“Yeah, I’m sure one of the other shops can help you out for cheaper. Whenever they open,” he leaned on the counter with a calm, bored look on his face. “So what’s the quest anyway?” Buck asked with genuine curiosity.

“The first guild to kill the God Dragon gets their own server.”

“Your own server?” Buck stood up straight and crossed his arms. The situation kept getting better. He knew he could be out of the shop within the next half hour. “Sorry, the price just went up. 100 million and my own continent, with my own settings.” Buck always wanted to be an adventurer because he saw it as a step on his path to being a great king. Now he had the opportunity to skip straight to the end.

“Man, you’re crazy. You’re open a couple of hours before everyone else, but that’s it.” The paladin pointed at a bright red two-handed sword hanging on the wall. “The price under that Dragon’s Blood sword says 20 thousand.” He turned to walk out of the store, but Buck spoke up.

“You asked for something to kill a dragon with, not something that gives you a chance of killing the dragon. I assumed with something as important as your own server, you’d want a ‘sure thing’.”

“What?” The paladin turned away from the door and approached Buck’s counter again. “It’s the God Dragon, there is no sure thing.”

Gotcha,” Buck grinned to himself. “There is if you’re willing to split the winnings three ways.”

“Three? So you and some mystery friend each get a third of an Earth while I split my third with the guild, AND we do all the work?” Buck shook his head.

“Why are you splitting it with your guild? Give me 100 million right now, and I promise you one dead God Dragon. You won’t even have to lift a finger.”

“If it’s that easy, why aren’t you doing it yourself?” Buck sighed.

“You don’t know any merchants do you?” the paladin’s helmets swiveled left and right.

“The epic quest for the merchant class is to make 100 million profit in transactions. I can’t take up any other major quests until I finish it. If you cover that, I can accept the quest to kill the God Dragon.”

“Do merchants get dragon hunting skills?” The paladin asked. He sounded confused, but held his hand out with the black iron palm pointed upward. Golden, glowing dust began to collect on his hand.

“I’m not gonna kill the dragon, our third member is.” After Buck clarified the paladin placed a softball-sized golden cube on the counter.

“100 million, but who’s the third member? If I don’t recognize their name they probably can’t solo the God Dragon.” The paladin’s hand remained on top of the golden cube. Buck grinned, he loved dropping the name.

“Flutter,” he said.

“You know Flutter?!” the paladin asked. He lifted his hand off the cube and pushed it toward Buck.

“Yeah, we used to date. She still owes me a favor, I think this counts.”  Buck touched the golden cube and it exploded into shining, sparkling, multi-colored confetti. Buck flinched as the celebratory fanfare played in his ears. The paladin did not hear a thing.

“Alright!” Buck cheered. “Don’t worry, I’ll go through my quest rewards later,” he said as he reached into his pocket. He pulled out a small black business card and tossed it at one of the walls. A tall black portal opened and he shouted into it. “Flutter! I’m calling in a favor!” A giant, pale woman with a long, bright red braid flowing down her back stepped out of the portal. Buck was tall, but Flutter towered over him by at least a head. She saw him and grinned.

“Hey Bucky, what’s the favor?”

“Will you kill the God Dragon for me?”

“Yeah, that sounds fun. Let’s go.”

Well, Dragon.

Charlie stopped lowering himself when he found the marked brick with his flashlight. He sprayed a green ‘X’ at the spot before the crossover, to help him keep his lunch. The early 30s man shined his flashlight down at the darkness. Instead of illuminating the depths of the well, he saw the now familiar black hole. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and dipped into the threshold.

Charlie felt nauseous. His stomach flipped when he crossed over as his body tried to re-orient itself. Charlie lowered himself feet first, however the new world felt different to him. Once his head cleared the portal he needed to climb upward again to get out of the hole. When he first discovered the portal he realized that he could “climb down” indefinitely; if he felt the urge. Each time he crossed the portal it appeared below him.

After taking a moment to get his bearings Charlie pulled himself upward. He looked up during the climb and noticed the sky was darker than usual with a deep red hue.

It’s too early for sunset,” he ran down possible reasons but kept climbing. He rushed to get out of the well and ended up winded. He fell to his knees on the small hill as he panted for his breath and took in the sight. Black smoke hovered in the red skin above his favorite town. He spotted a few small fires, but most of the damage had been done already. Animated skeletons wandered around the smoldering buildings.

“Scales!” A sudden realization struck Charlie. He did not see the dragon’s corpse anywhere, which meant it didn’t know about the trouble. He patted his pockets till he found the dragon whistle and pulled it out. He blew into the neck of the small, golden dragon head and a small spark came out of its mouth. The spark crackled and disappeared.

“How are you still alive?” Charlie heard a feminine voice behind him and jumped. The scare startled him forward, and he rolled down the hill for a couple of feet before he managed to stop himself. He stood up and eyed the source of the voice. “I’ve killed everyone else, where’d you come from?” A tall, pale woman said. Two bone-white, curling ram horns protruded from the top of her head. Long, straight black hair flowed down her back.

“You’d better leave!” Charlie tried to sound brave. He held up the whistle. “Scales is coming and he’s going to be really mad that you hurt his friends. He’s a dragon!” he yelled. A roar resounded through the sky as if to prove Charlie’s point. He smiled to himself and stood on his feet. “See?”

“A dragon?” the woman sighed. “Boring. I’m done here.” She lifted her right hand and waved different gestures at the air. A tall black portal, like the one in the well, opened next to her. Charlie hoped it meant she was leaving.

“Yeah, that’s right! Leave and don’t come back!” he yelled. The woman smirked and shook her head. She did not step into it as he expected. Instead, someone else stepped out. A giant woman, taller than the first woman’s horns, with fiery red hair stood next to the horned woman and stared at Charlie.

“Flutter…,” the first woman turned to the giant one. “…there’s a dragon coming. Deal with it.” Then she stepped through the black hole and disappeared. The portal closed behind her.

“If you’re smart, you won’t be here when it’s over,” Flutter advised Charlie, then she looked up to the sky. Charlie stood his ground and shook his head.

“No way! I’m going to enjoy watching Scales tear you apart for what you did!” Flutter shrugged. Her alabaster skin hardened. It became coarse, jagged, and layered as she covered her body with golden scales.

“Sorry to say it…,” Flutter said as she scanned the sky. She smiled when she saw a large silver dragon flying towards her. “…but, scales is out of his league.” Two sets of translucent dragonfly wings popped out of Flutter’s back. They began flapping as she leaped to the sky.

Registration

Lupe sat atop a green pleather examination table in a cramped waiting room. Flutter, an eight-foot-tall pale woman with bright red hair that matched Lupe’s, sat in a wooden seat across from her. A sudden knock at the door called their attention, but a nurse walked in before either of them could answer. The blonde nurse carried in a clipboard and paused when she stepped in the room. She looked at Flutter, then at Lupe. After a moment she looked back at Flutter through squinted eyes.

“I give up,’ she tossed her arms up with mock exasperation and smiled. “Who am I here to see?” she asked. Flutter pointed at Lupe and the nurse nodded. She walked to the girl and introduced herself.

“I’m Fernie,” the nurse offered Lupe a hand and Lupe shook it with a smile.

“I’m Lupe.” Fernie nodded and smiled. She clicked her pen and started reading from the clipboard.

“How long have you been a lycanthrope?” Fernie asked.

“As far back as I can remember,” Lupe replied. Fernie looked surprised.

“Really? I guess you won’t be able to recall who bit you, right?” Fernie asked. She drew an ‘X’ by the next question, then drew several more ‘X’s on the next few questions. “Those are all about your symptoms when you turned, but if you don’t remember…” Fernie paused then she looked at Lupe with wide eyes.

“Wait, were you born a werewolf?” she asked. Lupe nodded. Fernie sighed. “Oh, that doesn’t happen here. You’re not from this Earth are you?” Fernie turned and gave Flutter a long look up and down. Then, she turned her attention back to Lupe.

“No,” Lupe said.

“I need a different set of forms.” Fernie headed to the door. “Be right back,” she smiled and walked out.

“Does she know what you are?” Lupe asked Flutter. The woman shook her head.

“She can see I’m Fae, but she can’t tell what,” she smiled at Lupe. In less than a minute Fernie entered the room carrying a different clipboard and a small black case. She set the case down and clicked her pen again.

“Okay, let’s restart the interview. Are werewolves common on your Earth?” Lupe shook her head.

“I think I’m the only one.” Fernie nodded.

“Are you a Unique?” Lupe glanced at Flutter, but the tall woman’s only response was an encouraging head nod.

“#47, La Corona.”

“Perfect! This’ll be easy,” Fernie said. She opened the black case and pulled out a white, lemon-sized stress ball. “Have you ever knowingly, or un-knowingly turned anyone?”

“No, I’ve never bitten anyone.” Fernie handed the ball to Lupe.

“Bite this, please.” Lupe put the squishy ball in her mouth and bit as hard as she could. “That’s enough,” Fernie said. Lupe released her jaw and looked at the ball that Fernie held. Instead of the white stress ball she expected, red fur covered the surface of the ball. The nurse shook the ball until all the red strands fell out and it became smooth and white again.

“Well, you’re definitely infectious,” Fernie began to explain. Lupe’s heart pumped faster. Her fists tensed up into balls, she worried about what Fernie might say next. She looked at Flutter, but the woman seemed perfectly relaxed. “But that’s easy enough to manage with a prescription,” she scribbled something on the form. “How do you change?” Fernie asked. Lupe shrugged.

“I dunno, I just do it,” she replied.

“Oh, you can change any time?” Fernie wrote something on the form. “How does the moon affect you?”

“It doesn’t,” Lupe said. Fernie reached into the black case and pulled out another white ball. This one glowed with soft blue light when she squeezed it.

“Focus on the light,” Fernie moved the ball slowly in different directions to watch Lupe’s reaction. After several movements, Fernie turned the ball of light off with a squeeze, then put it away.

“You’re right about moonlight. No effect. What’s your experience with silver?” Fernie asked. She reached into her case again.

“Never noticed anything,” Lupe said. Fernie pulled out a large silver coin and showed it to Lupe.

“Hold your hand out,” Fernie said. Lupe extended her hand and held it palm facing up. “I’m going to drop a silver coin in your hand. If it hurts, drop it.” Lupe nodded. “Three,” Fernie began a countdown.

“Two. One.” She dropped the coin. Lupe yelped the moment it touched her skin. She felt intense burning pain eating at the palm of her hand. Lupe jerked her hand away to let the coin fall to the ground, and she massaged her wounded hand. “Major silver allergy,” Fernie commented to herself as she wrote on the form.

“Okay that covers all the important stuff,” Fernie said. “You’ll be registered in our multi-verse system if that’s okay?” She asked Lupe. “It helps us keep track of the werewolves that travel through universes.” The girl nodded.

“Yes, please. I was going to ask about that,” Lupe smiled with excitement.

“Really?” Fernie’s eyes grew. “Wow, you’re the first, ‘yes’ I’ve ever gotten,” Fernie shrugged then gave Lupe a sly smile. “We have to add you either way, but we’re also required to inform you. And you want to be added? Why’s that?” Fernie asked.

“I can’t enroll in school unless I’m registered,” Lupe smiled.