23 Jun 2017

The Soul Blade - Chapter 39

"Larson, did you see what your girlfriend just did?"
"Yeah, that's going to just buff out."
"No one dies."
"Brenna can't answer you right now."
Grace crumpled on the ground, hands holding the sides of her head.  Her breathing came in ragged gasps.  Summer ran towards her blonde cousin.  "Grace, what happened?"

"Too.  Many.  Futures."  Each word came out through clenched teeth.  Grace forced herself to stand again.  "Whatever took Bren, we have to stop it right here."

"That bad?" Dawn asked.


Henderson raised his shotgun.  "Bullets worked."

Rae ran over to the officer.  She pulled the shotgun barrel down.  "No!  Brenna's still there!"

"Joni usually used the Blade on Brenna when she was possessed," Dawn said.  "Girls, any of you feel any different?  Who has the Blade?"

"You mean this?"  The Soul Blade grew from Brenna's hands.  Instead of the beam of pur white, the Blade was now a black so dark it drank in surrounding light.


Brenna cursed herself out.  Gettysburg all over again, and this time, the one person who could help her was her, trapped.  On the school trip, her mother had managed to separate the ghost from her.  The Blade hurt down to her own soul as it drove out the possessing spirit.  All Brenna could do was be a passenger in her own body, not even able to see what was happening.  This was her body, damnit.  She wanted her control back.  Brenna lashed out, trying to fight against the being controlling her.

How did you ever survive this long, Bladekeeper?

Ghosts like me.  Brenna hoped her glower could be felt by her possessor.  Who are you?

Don't worry about the details, Bladekeeper.  Worry about your family.  I have the Blade now.  For centuries, I have shared secrets amongst those of your kind who wanted power, preparing for this moment, my return to your realm.  Even that fool woman who tried to steal my power couldn't stop me.

Until she died.

I chose to let her die, Bladekeeper.  Turns out, you are a far better vessel than she could ever conceive.

Thanks.  Sarcasm oozed through the word.

My first sacrifice approaches.  I'll let you watch.  Pleased to meet you, Bladekeeper.


Grace picked up her baseball bat.  She approached her possessed sister, bat raised.  "Okay, asshole, I want my sister back!"

"What are you doing?"  Dawn raced to catch up to her neice.

"I know what I'm doing, Aunt Dawn.  Stay back."  Grace returned her attention to Brenna.  "Get out of her, now!"

"My first volunteer.  So good to see that there are people willing to sacrifice themselves for me."

Grace swung her bat, aiming for Brenna's legs.  The Soul Blade came down, cutting through the bat.  The end clanged on the ground, the aluminum glowing white hot.  Brenna reversed her swing, slicing through Grace's robes.  The blonde woman threw the remains of the bat at her sister, forcing her to duck.  Anger furled Brenna's brows.  She lashed out with the Blade, plunging it through Grace's shoulder.



She's important to you.  Perhaps I'll let her linger.

Leave her alone!

Or what, Bladekeeper?  You'll tell me to stop again?  A malevolent chuckle assailed Brenna.  I think I shall play with her more.

Leave her alone!  Brenna's frustration ate at her.  How could she let this happen to her yet again?  If she could just get some control back.

Summer's voice broke through her thoughts.  "Bren?  Bren, can you hear me?"

Keeping her voice low, Brenna answered.  Summer?  How?

"I'm piggy-backing on Rae's connection to you.  What's going on?"

I'm trapped.  I'd love to help Gracie, but I don't have any control.

"I'd love to help you out, Bren, but I think we need the Blade."

That's what I thought.  That's how Mom drive spirits out of me in the past.  Brenna sighed.  If only . . . I need a distraction.

"Gracie's trying."

I know.  But I need--  Of course!  Tell Matt to get closer.


It's still my body.  I'm used to the effect.

"But, oh, wait, Rae's disgusted.  Gotcha.  Think that will be enough?"

It better be.


Grace clutched her arm.  Smoke curled away in a wisp from the latest slash the Blade left on her.  "Come on, Bren!  Fight already!"

"I am impressed, girl.  You still stand."

"I won't let you win, whoever you are."

"You don't have a choice."

From the corner of her eye, Grace noticed Matt approaching.  "Stay back!"

"No, get closer!" Summer called.  "Trust me, Grace."

Rae nodded.  "Matt, get closer."

Matt took a few more steps towards Brenna.  "What's going on?"

"Your doom."  The Soul Blade swung to point at the young officer.  "If the Bladekeeper's kin can't stop me, what do you think you can do?"

"Whatever I need to."  Matt raised his pistol, taking aim.

"You'd shoot the Bladekeeper?"

"Worked on the other woman."  Matt took a few more steps towards Brenna.

Brenna laughed.  "I let that happen."

"And I know Brenna.  She's not going to let you hurt anyone."

"I control her body."  A spark of white flashed through the Soul Blade, escaping the black.

"It's still her body," Summer said.

Brenna's eyes widened.  "What's going on?"  She stomped towards Matt.  "What are you doing?"

Grace ran at her sister, tackling her from the side.  The two fell to the ground.  The younger Halliday grabbed the elder's wrists.  "Brenna, I hope you know what you're doing!"

The Soul Blade flickered.  "Grace, get back!"

"Bren?  Is that you?"

"Get off me, fluff."

Grace rolled away from her sister, getting up on her knees.

"Now, let me get rid of my visitor."  Brenna raised the Blade up over her head as she stood.

"No!  I control your body!"

Matt lowered his pistol.  "Come on, Bren!"

The Soul Blade glowed as light and dark fought for dominance.  Brenna's arm tensed.  Her wrist twisted, bringing the Soul Blade level with the ground.  With effort, Brenna pulled her arm down.  "Get out of my body!"  Perspiration rolled from Brenna's forehead and down her cheeks.  The Blade came down bit by bit to the level of Brenna's stomach.  Her wrist turned, pointing the Blade right at herself.  "You won't hurt anyone else!"  Pure white appeared at the tip of the Blade, chasing the dark to Brenna's hand.  The Blade plunged into Brenna.

The young woman fell to one knee.  She opened her mouth in agony.  Despite the pain, Brenna kept pushing the Blade deeper into her, then pulled the shaft of white light up towards her heart.  Amber smoke rolled out of her mouth.  The Soul Blade faded.  Brenna fell to her hands and knees, panting.

"Brenna?"  Grace hesitated before taking a step towards her sister.

"Stay back, Gracie."  Brenna raised her hand, willing the Soul Blade back into existence.  The white shaft turned red before Brenna slashed the Blade through the amber smoke.  Ash fell to the road.  Brenna stood up, still waving the Blade through the smoke, creating more ash.  She ground her foot on top of the amber ash.  "There."  She willed the Blade away.  Shifting to her second sight, Brenna looked over at Tricia.  The woman's aura was gone.  Brenna shook her head.

Grace enveloped her sister in a hug.  "Welcome back!"

"Oof, Grace."  Brenna returned the hug.  "Happy to see you, too, Gracie.  Are you hurt?"

"I'm good, Bren."

Rae snorted.  "Like hell.  I can feel your pain, Grace, and I don't normally feel anything from you."

Brenna let go of her sister.  "Aura, can you deal with her?"

"Sure."  Aurora ran over to Grace's side and helped the younger Halliday girl down to the road.

"And Matt?"  Brenna ran into the young officer's arms.  "Matt."  She gave him a hug, then balled her hand into a fist, hitting him on the chest with the heel of her hand.  "What part of 'No one dies,' did you not get?"

"She was trying to kill you, Bren."  Matt gave Brenna another squeeze.

Brenna sighed.  "We'll talk later."  She gave him a quick kiss, then slipped out of his arms.

Cruz laughed.  "She showed you, Larson."

Brenna ignored Cruz.  Instead, she walked over to Rae and pulled her young cousin into a hug.  "Thank you."

Rae blushed.  "I couldn't let Rory's favorite cousin go without a fight."

The Halliday home's front door opened.  Gary raced out with Keith on his heels.  "Brenna?  Grace?" Gary called.

Brenna waved to her father.  "We're good, Daddy.  I might have hurt Gracie, though."

Grace rolled her eyes.  "Wasn't you, Bren.  And Rory's doing a good job here."

"Don't move."  Aurora pushed Grace back down to the road.  "It's difficult enough getting you to heal without you squirming."

Dawn shook her head.  "Mild case of possession, Gary.  Brenna should be her normal self now.  Rae?"

Rae nodded.  "Bren feels like Bren."  She pointed at Matt.  "Stay over there."

Brenna hugged her youngest cousin again.  "You are so cute."

A blast of a siren caught everyone's attention.  An unmarked police cruiser, its lights flashing, maneuvered around the burning husk of Matt's car before coming to a stop.  Detective McCoy jumped out of the passenger seat and looked around, taking in the bones scattered around before seeing Tricia's body.  He ran over to meet Matt, Cruz, and Henderson.  "I hope there's an explanation."

"There is, sir," Henderson said.

McCoy waited a moment, expecting the explanation.  "Well?"

Matt stepped forward.  "Sir, the suspect tried to kill the witness.  I shot the suspect."

"Is she dead?"

"The witness is over there, sir."  Matt pointed at Brenna.

Cruz punched Matt in the arm.  "The suspect?"

"She's dead," Brenna said as she joined the officers.

McCoy grimaced.  "I'll call the medical examiner.  Do you need an ambulance, Miss Halliday?"

"I'm good."  Brenna looked over at her sister.  "Grace?"

Aurora answered for the blonde woman.  "She'll be good.  I'll need a nap after this, though."

McCoy returned his attention to the young officers.  "Now, about the car."

Cruz raised her hands.  "Wasn't my idea, sir."

"Sir, which would look better on the report, that the suspect crushed both the witness' van and my cruiser," Matt began, "or that we tried to destroy one of the columns of skeletons by setting fire to the cruiser and it got out of hand?"

McCoy closed his eyes for a moment.  "In the paperwork, just say that the car was destroyed in the line of duty.  All three of you are on administrative duties until Internal Affairs completes its own investigation.  It'll give you plenty of time to finish the paperwork today is generating."

"Matt's not in trouble, is he?" Brenna asked.

"It's standard procedure," Matt said.  "Any time an officer fires his gun, there's an investigation."

"And the situation is so far from normal that Officer Larson should be cleared."  McCoy smiled.  "Just get the paperwork done."  He returned to his car.

Matt turned to pull Brenna into his arms again.  "I'm more worried about you, Bren."

Brenna looked up at Matt.  "You are?"  Her cheeks flushed red.

"You had . . . something in you, controlling you."

"I'm good, Matt.  Really."

"Oh, just make out with him already, Bren!" Grace called.

"Let's give Brenna some privacy, girls," Dawn said.  "Gary, Brenna and Grace are safe. Rory, let's get you some electrolytes.  Rae, be social.  And good work, all."  Dawn rounded up her daughters, shooing them into the house.

Brenna's cheeks grew warmer.  "We still need to talk, Matt."

"I know.  We will."  Matt gave Brenna another squeeze.

"Good.  Later."  Brenna stood on the tips of her toes and gave Matt a lingering kiss.

-- END --


  1. It has an end! ;) Lots to like here.
    -I'd forgotten about Grace's future sight being blocked. Good callback.
    -Interesting that Dawn thinks the Blade will shift, I wonder if she meant permanently or not. Might have been a way for Brenna to live a normal life.
    -"Ghosts like me" made me think some ghosts were "like her" somehow, and providing an assist. Finally parsed as 'I get along well with ghosts'.
    -Confirmation of Tricia's death, and what turns out to be Ashen's only real speech about how cool he is. It's a bit underwhelming. "For centuries" he's been keen on returning, but no talk of how he'll build an empire, or start a world war, or usher in a new era of magic... just imma kill your family and let you watch, har har.
    -I feel like Grace doesn't really know what she's doing.
    -"Keeping her voice low"... uh? (Her thoughts muted? Is she actually talking?)
    -The Summer/Rae connection was nice. Good that Brenna was the one with the idea. And the whole "medication for heir suppression" angle being used here was very clever, I never saw it as a plot point for this.
    -"Whatever I need to" is a great line for Matt.
    -The Blade dominance, including the white at the tip chasing the black away, that was really nice imagery. Also, the red, slashing at the smoke before it could find another vessel, good stuff. *applauds*
    -I feel like both sisters should be more 'ow ow ow' during that hug.
    -Hitting Matt feels genuine... if he hadn't done it, Brenna wouldn't have been possessed. (Granted, she might have died...)
    -I feel like Gary should say something to the effect of Piper and the others being safe, it feels a little like he was hiding in the house, peeking out the window until it was over.
    -McCoy gets to close the case file, that was a good addition to wrap up the police angle in general.
    -The ending does feel a little sketchy. I like that it ends with Brenna and Matt (which is sort of how things started), but everyone else feels like, "we're good now". There's skeletons in the road, Brenna still hasn't really explained about the witness protection thing, and they don't know who Ashen truly was (as in maybe he was only a henchman, or he was the Big Bad but had other henchmen elsewhere in town). I'd have expected some sort of "we'll want to talk later" or a debrief or something (a bit like how Brenna and Matt want to have a talk later).

    In the end, I guess I feel it's a shame that the stakes didn't really get higher than Brenna's family, and even then Grace didn't seem that hurt at all. I think the scene that points to the trouble is the one where Tricia was out testing her powers. Because they never really went up against that, only the police did (and lost badly).

    Still, the imagery we have works well, the solutions come from elements that were set up in advance, and there's a sense that Brenna's grown in terms of accepting her relationship issues and is stronger than she thinks (also without a van, she may need to settle down... maybe at Matt's place? ;) ).

    Bearing in mind with all this that I'm only one opinion. The story has an end! Was it harder than you thought to get these last parts out? Easier?

    1. - Grace's precognition and its blockage had a purpose that didn't get fleshed out here.
      - Dawn thought Brenna was gone and that someone was about to manifest the Blade as a result.
      - Brenna was a bit petulant there. It also catches me and I wrote the line.
      - Yeah, he didn't get all that much time. And Tricia's body almost got forgotten. ^_^;;
      - Grace's goal was to get Brenna to resist somehow. And she saw other possibilities that she's just skipping past.
      - Her thoughts muted. Speech gets weird inside one's own head.
      - My main goal with the end was to make sure that Brenna was the one who came up with the plan. She's the heroine here.
      - It seemed to fit with the genera flow there, but Matt's going to help Brenna any way he can.
      - Oh, good - that was the one main thing I wanted to have going there. And Brenna knew the danger the Ashen Man would be if he could find someone else.
      - They should, but they're also happy to see each other again.
      - Brenna hitting Matt just came from the flow of the scene and the characters. She's not happy with him.
      - He should. The ending threatened to get away from me with everyone making one last curtain call.
      - The case was a major part of the story, so closing it helps get the work feel finished.
      - I think I need an epilogue, where Brenna and Matt talk, just to close off the loose ends. Grace has information to pass on, Brenna has feelings to work out, and family have issues to deal with. The clean up is going to be a pain, especially for the Medical Examiner. There's more about this in the commentary.

      For Brenna, the stakes were more personal than anything else. Her friends and family were in harm's way. The Ashen Man had bigger goals, but they never really came out. Tricia also crushed Brenna's van and was about to do the same to Grace in the previous chapter.

      With the end, I wanted to pull back some items that I had introduced earlier. The call back to Grace being fluff was a late addition, but it at least gave Brenna a way to show who was speaking. (Brenna can still live at home, though she's not going to get out to small shows for a while. Moving in with Matt may come later, but it's a bit soon for her right now. ;)

      The previous chapter was easier. It was all about setting up the twist at the end of it. This one, it took three attempts at finding the proper starting point, then once the fight was done, getting the loose bits to knot themselves or hide under a rug somewhere. I think I got most of what I wanted out there, though.