Hey, S. M. Boyce here again. This is a continuation of the first 6 chapters of the Fairhaven Chronicles, a magical series inspired by west coast wilderness. If you haven’t read them already, be sure to check out the preceeding chapters first to understand what’s going on here!
Chapter 1: http://oriceran.com/glow-snippet-1/
Chapter 2: http://oriceran.com/glow-snippet-2/
Glow: The Revelations of Oriceran, The Fairhaven Chronicles, Book 1
By S. M. Boyce & Martha Carr
Several days after the fire Victoria stood in front of her parents’ closed caskets with a lump in her throat. Her hands hovered over the wood, and in the hushed funeral parlor, she felt eyes on the back of her neck. Dozens of people had turned out for her parents’ memorial service, but she didn’t care. She had been waiting for this moment, aching to be close to them again.
Her lips quivered, throat aching, but the tears didn’t come.
A picture of her mother smiling in her garden had been placed above the casket on the left, and above the casket on her right was a large portrait of her father writing at his desk. They beamed at the camera, full of life and joy Victoria hadn’t felt since the fire.
It wasn’t smart to be here. With Luak after her, she should have run away. She should have taken off to get her questions answered and never paused for even a moment’s rest.
But she hadn’t been able to.
Everything had hinged on the funeral, as it was her only chance to say goodbye. Evil murderer or no, she wouldn’t have missed this for the world. In the end, it wasn’t how Luak had destroyed her life that mattered; it was what he had taken from her.
These past few days, Victoria hadn’t left Audrey’s guest room. She had laid in bed, sometimes staring at the wall, sometimes tossing and turning as she had nightmares filled with magical fire, murderous elves, and her mother’s screams.
Suffice it to say, Victoria didn’t sleep well.
Thankfully, the coroner, fire department, and police department worked double-time to close the investigation and get her parents cleared for a funeral. The fire was deemed an accident, and Victoria never had to tell the truth to anyone but Audrey.
Her fingertips brushed the wood of her father’s casket, and a jolt of sadness rushed through her like lightning. Bit by bit, the numbness began to erode. She sniffled, aching to hug him again, to hear him call her his little girl one more time.
Her face contorted as the tears finally burned in her eyes.
She set her left palm against her mother’s casket, the chilly wood almost like cold skin. She imagined the woman lying beneath the lid, the woman who had nursed her through heartache and loss, who would run her fingers through Victoria’s hair to soothe her when she was sad.
How she longed for that now.
Victoria didn’t hold back. The sobs shook her body, and she surrendered to them. This wasn’t the closure she had been expecting. The pain only worsened with each tear. Her chest only ached more. Her anger only boiled hotter. Deep down, she had hoped that the goodbye would heal at least one aching part of her heart, but it had only ripped her to shreds—again.
She wished she were alone. She hated that the guests who had come to the funeral could see this, but none of them mattered anymore.
Well, none but Audrey.
Luak wanted Victoria dead, which meant Audrey was in danger too. Anyone near Victoria could die. Would die.
Victoria looked over her shoulder to find her friend sitting in the front row, biting her lip as dozens of attendees in dark colors pretended not to look. Audrey stood, hands clasped in front of her as a concerned expression crossed her face.
To the end.
A warm ray of gratitude snaked through Victoria’s all-consuming sadness. At least she had Audrey. She didn’t have to face this alone.
She knelt beside the caskets, trying her best to say goodbye. The word caught on her tongue for what felt like ages until she gave up trying to say it. The tears stopped, and her hatred flared again.
“I’ll kill him, I promise,” she whispered instead to the caskets. It was a vow she would keep, even if it cost her life.
The next day Audrey palmed the wheel as she pulled out of her suburb onto the freeway. Victoria sat in the passenger’s seat, shoulders slumped as she stared out the window.
Victoria usually had an appreciative grin on her face as she watched the city blur by. Between the ivy growing on the overpasses and the way light glimmered on the surface of Lake Washington, there was always something for her to love on their drives.
The gray overcast sky seemed to reflect Victoria’s mood. Almost no light could penetrate the cloud cover, which made it feel as if the sun would set any second even though it was only nine-thirty in the morning.
Victoria had continued to live in her friend’s guest room, borrowing Audrey’s clothes and mostly staying in bed.
“That’s it!” Audrey snapped. She moved into the far-right lane and took the first exit.
“What are you doing? The lawyer’s office is downtown,” Victoria said, voice still a bit hoarse.
“Yeah, and he can wait.”
“Audrey, this is important. When he pulled me aside after the funeral yesterday, he said he had to speak to me immediately. He said it was urgent, that Mom and Dad—” Her voice broke, and she stared once more out the window.
Audrey’s grip tightened on the wheel. “Your parents’ lawyer wants you in his office less than twenty-four hours after the funeral to talk about something urgent in their will. That’s not weird to you?”
“Don’t…” Victoria sniffled, and Audrey knew what her friend had meant to say.
Don’t talk about them. It’s still too raw.
Audrey didn’t know much about death or lawyers, but her parents had complained about how it had taken ages to get through the legal system after her grandmother died. The process took time. It didn’t happen overnight.
Between that and the dagger embedded in Victoria’s arm, something smelled rotten about this whole affair.
Victoria cleared her throat. “We have to—”
“He can wait. You need a break from death and lawyers and funerals and this magic bullshit that’s in your arm. We’re going to the bridge.”
Victoria frowned for a second, eyes shifting out of focus until it clicked for her. “What, the one we snuck underneath when we were kids?”
The car screeched a little as Audrey took a curve too fast, careening toward the overpass that would take them to their childhood haunt. It didn’t take long to get there. Soon enough she shifted into park and stepped onto the muddy embankment.
A light chill bit her skin, and she looked forward to the gray skies clearing up later in the day. It was summer, damn it. They deserved what little sun the Pacific Northwest could offer.
Audrey led the way down the muddy slope, skidding here and there. Following behind her, Victoria slipped in the mud and yelped as her ass landed hard on the ground.
For a second they simply stared at each other. Then, as if on cue, they burst out laughing. Victoria shook out her mud-covered hands. “I look like I fell in a pile of shit.”
“C’mon.” Audrey offered her hand, and Victoria took it. They inched down the rest of the bank, taking a bit more care this time. Below, the gentle river wandered underneath the bridge, gurgling and bubbling on occasion. Once at the bottom Audrey ran under the bridge and picked up a rock, barely taking a second to aim before she threw it toward a metal plate bolted to the top of the arch. It missed by inches.
Being down here always did a funny thing for Audrey: it softened her heart. Down here, she could laugh harder and relax more deeply. It was as if by merely walking under the bridge, she was eleven again. The world and its problems faded until there was nothing left but her, her best friend, and the kind of perfect happiness that came with being a kid.
“I had forgotten how much I loved this place,” Victoria said, grabbing a rock. She chucked it at the metal plate, and hers hit. A resounding metal hum reverberated through the underpass. The vibration struck Audrey deep in her core even as ripples formed on the water.
“Ha! First try!” Victoria did a muddy moon-dance across the pebbles.
“Phht. It’s because I’m amazing.”
Audrey chuckled and threw another rock, missing the plate by several yards.
“Nice throw,” Victoria said with a wink.
Victoria sighed happily. “What is it about this place? It’s just a bridge, but it’s perfect.”
Audrey shrugged and sat on the rocky embankment. “It’s our childhood. We had some of the best summers ever down here, throwing shit into the water.”
Victoria chuckled. “Remember when I accidentally pushed you in and you had to walk back home with your feet squishing on the pavement?”
Audrey rolled her eyes. “Yeah, ‘accidentally’ my ass.”
With a chuckle, Victoria settled in next to her, elbows on her knees as they surveyed the gentle river before them. “Maybe we should just stay down here.”
“Sure. We can live off bugs. You like the taste of raw beetles, right? Yum!”
“Shut up.” Victoria nudged Audrey’s shoulder.
“Sounds nice though, doesn’t it? Run away from everything to a place where we’re safe, no one’s dead, and life is perfect?”
Victoria’s smile fell and she stared into the water. “I don’t want to run away. I just want a minute of quiet to think.”
“Take as many as you need.”
They sat together in silence, only the burbling water keeping them company. Audrey stretched out on the bank, the rocks digging into her back like a shitty massage chair. Hands behind her head, she stared at the top of the bridge and let her mind wander to everything and nothing in particular.
“Thank you, Audrey,” Victoria eventually said.
“It was nothing.”
“It was. This helped me a lot. We should get going, but Audrey… Thank you.”
Audrey pulled her into a hug. “Any time.”
An hour and a change of clothes later Audrey sat in a lawyer’s lobby, twirling her thumbs as she and Victoria waited to be called into his office almost two hours after they had been scheduled to arrive. Audrey had lent Victoria some jeans and a tee, but they would need to go shopping since everything Victoria owned had been burnt to a crisp.
It was the most stereotypical lobby she had ever seen in her life. A row of plush black chairs sat along the walls on either side of the door, and a stuffy middle-aged receptionist sat at her desk facing them. Her half-moon glasses were balanced on the end of her nose as she read a musty old novel with no dust jacket. Audrey could almost smell the moth balls from here. Classical music played softly overhead, and the secretary licked her fingers before turning a page in her book. Audrey grimaced.
Victoria sat quietly beside her, eyes out of focus and arms crossed as she stared at the floor with an expression bordering on hatred. This wasn’t like her at all. Audrey desperately wished she could help Victoria in some way, but the girl had barely spoken and hadn’t eaten anything since yesterday. “The Incident,” as Audrey had taken to calling it for the sake of their sanity, had all but shut Victoria up. Usually Victoria was the happy, bubbly one. In any other circumstances she would be chatting up the secretary and learning her favorite kind of cake, because that was just the kind of person Victoria liked to be. She cared about that stupid shit. Audrey was the quiet, brooding asshole who kept people from taking advantage of her friend. They balanced each other. Audrey wasn’t used to being the comforting one.
The lawyer’s office door opened, and he gestured Victoria in. He didn’t bother looking at Audrey, but that wasn’t uncommon. Next to Victoria, even a supermodel would look a little boring. Audrey didn’t love it, but she often played second fiddle. She stood anyway.
“Miss Brie only, please,” the lawyer said.
“Audrey comes,” Victoria said, voice firm.
The lawyer frowned, the wrinkles in his cheeks and chin doubling. “I’m afraid I must insist—”
Victoria shook her head. “Audrey is the only family I have left. She’s coming. Get on with it.”
Audrey smiled with gratitude. Victoria always had her back, no matter what, no matter who was involved. True, they weren’t related in any way, but they had been friends since kindergarten. Victoria really was family, as much as a friend could be. But she wasn’t used to hearing her friend be so curt and commanding. Being the pushy asshole was Audrey’s job.
He sighed, apparently resigned, and gestured for them to enter. As the door closed behind them, they sat in the two chairs in front of a painfully neat desk. Aside from a pen, only a dark green folder lay on its surface, Victoria’s name written in silver Sharpie on the front. Victoria gestured to it. “I don’t want what remains of the house. Sell the land, give it to charity—I don’t care. I’m never going back there.”
“Understandable,” the lawyer said with a nod. “First of all, I’m sorry for your loss, Miss Brie. I always enjoyed speaking with your parents, even outside the office.”
Victoria sat back in her seat, nodding once in thanks.
“Let me go ahead and break everything down. For starters, there was a sizable insurance policy on the house. We can collect that in lieu of rebuilding and sell the land to a developer. Will that work for you?”
“I assume you want to sign off on whomever I choose?”
“I don’t care at all.”
The lawyer huffed, taking off his glasses and cleaning them with a cloth as he spoke. “Miss Brie, this was your childhood home, wasn’t it? I would hate for you to make a choice you would regret. I know you’re in pain, and I know I’m putting you in a difficult position. I regret that we must do this so soon after your parents—”
Victoria cleared her throat, cutting him off. Audrey set a hand on Victoria’s long sleeve shirt as a sign of comfort, the hard metal of the magical dagger under her fingertips. Victoria tensed but allowed it. It was hot as hell today, a rare blessing in the Pacific Northwest, but Audrey didn’t blame Victoria for hiding that thing. Audrey couldn’t help herself; she shuddered at the thought of having something like that in her.
“The point is,” the lawyer continued, “there are options. We could always rebuild the house, sell it later if you decide that’s still what you want.”
Victoria narrowed her eyes. “You have kids?”
He squinted, apparently as confused as Audrey at the question. “Yes.”
“Could you set foot in a house again if the living room reminded you of the time you saw one of your children die in your arms?”
The lawyer’s jaw tensed. “No, I suppose not.”
“It’s not much different for me. Sell the house, the land, and everything that survived the fire.”
He nodded and rifled through more of the papers in the folder. “That said, your parents had several active insurance policies. Namely, life insurance. They named you as the beneficiary, of course, which leaves you with a net worth of over five million dollars.”
“Holy shit,” Audrey said under her breath.
The lawyer glared at her, but eventually nodded. “It’s a substantial amount, I agree.”
Victoria, however, didn’t bat an eye. She leaned back in her chair, her left thumb rubbing the shirt sleeve which covered the dagger embedded in her arm.
The lawyer skimmed the final papers in the stack. “Nearly all of your parents’ estate comes from the insurance policies. It may take a little while for us to collect them, but you will have more than enough to keep you comfortable for the rest of your life if you’re frugal with it.”
Audrey frowned, her mind wandering to the dagger in Victoria’s arm. Apparently, it had first been embedded in her father, which meant Victoria’s parents must have gone down one hell of a deep rabbit hole to find it. They had found something dark, something that could get them killed. From the looks of these insurance policies, they probably knew they wouldn’t survive.
But if that were the case, it didn’t make sense for Victoria’s father to pass the torch to Victoria, his only child. If it had been Audrey, she would’ve hidden it, done anything to keep Victoria from being connected to something that might kill her. That was what family was supposed to do—protect each other. She gritted her teeth, brimming with resentment on her friend’s behalf.
The lawyer rifled through his desk drawer. “There’s also this—the key to a safe deposit box at the bank four blocks down. They didn’t tell me what’s in it. I’m simply supposed to give this to you last.”
Victoria took the key, examining it in silence. As it twirled in Victoria’s hand, Audrey caught a number in black writing on its flat, round face:
Audrey bit her lip, waiting for her friend to say something, anything, but it didn’t seem like that would happen.
“Thank you,” Audrey said, standing.
The lawyer nodded and gestured to the door. “If you have any questions, Victoria, you have only to give me a call. You ladies have a nice day.”
A humorless chuckle escaped Victoria. “Yeah, right.”
As they walked through the lobby and out into the hall of the shared office building, they passed a row of windows facing the street below. Several shops squeezed together along the historic road, their signs swinging in the gentle breeze of the summer day. A tailor. A hardware store. A diner.
Victoria paused, her gaze lingering out the window. “Mom used to take me to that diner. We would get a hot fudge sundae and share it.”
Audrey set a hand on Victoria’s shoulder. “Good, because I could go for some ice cream right now.”
“You hate ice cream. You used to say it’s what weak people eat when they can’t handle whiskey.”
“True, but I’m worried about you, and ice cream usually cheers you up. Let’s go.”
Audrey munched on a fry while she watched the brooding Victoria stab her spoon into the sundae as it melted from neglect. She hadn’t even taken a bite yet. Plates clinked and coffee was poured in the bustling diner. The mumble of two dozen conversations filled the air.
“I think I’m broken, Audrey,” Victoria said.
Audrey tossed her half-eaten french fry onto her plate and leaned her elbows on the table, doing her best to give Victoria an encouraging look. It probably wasn’t working, but she didn’t care. She was really worried about her friend. “Victoria, stop this shit. Right now.”
“What?” Victoria snapped her head up, eyes wide with apparent surprise. Good. At least Audrey had her attention.
“I’m the asshole. You’re the fun one. That’s how this works. And come on, girl. You’re not broken. You’re hurt. You’re grieving. It’s called being normal.”
Victoria pointed to the dagger hidden by her long-sleeved shirt. Her voice came out in a harsh whisper. “This isn’t normal!”
“I—granted, no, that’s weird as hell.”
“And I can’t cry. Not since I saw their bodies.”
“I know, but—”
“No, you don’t understand. Not even a little. All I can think about is killing that guy. Slitting his throat and ripping him open with my bare hands. This isn’t like me. I don’t even recognize myself.”
The man behind her stiffened and looked over his shoulder, a combination of bewilderment and fear on his face.
“Not your convo, buddy,” Audrey said.
He caught her eye and turned sharply back to his food.
Audrey leaned toward Victoria and pushed the melting ice cream aside. Honestly, she didn’t know what to say. “You just need time, V.”
“Maybe,” Victoria muttered.
“Time,” Audrey continued, “and revenge.”
Victoria leaned in, face stoic and intense, her voice a whisper. “I’ve never killed anyone before, but I’m not kidding when I say I’ll kill this man. He murdered my mother and father. He took everything from me. I don’t care if I’m only eighteen. I will not hesitate to obliterate this guy. Are you sure you want to see that?”
Audrey nodded, slowly at first. “I know you’re hurt, and I know you’re serious. I don’t blame you. This bastard killed your parents right in front of you. I would want justice, too.”
Victoria scoffed. “Me saying all this doesn’t freak you out?”
Audrey shrugged. “I love you, idiot. Of course I’m going to help you through this.”
That got a small smile out of Victoria, at least. “We just need someone to point us in the right direction, as Dad would say.”
“I think someone already did,” Audrey said, pointing to the key in Victoria’s pocket.
Victoria nodded. “You think they left me answers? Some idea of what we’re really up against?”
“If I know your parents? All that and more.”
Victoria pulled the key out of her pocket, studying it once more in the sunlight coming into the diner window. “Let’s not waste any time, then.”
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Then read Chapter 4: http://oriceran.com/glow-snippet-4/