Status

Recent Statuses

6 days ago
Current Yesterday, 80 degrees (Fahrenheit) outside. Today, a light dusting of snow. Go home, weather. You're drunk.
3 likes
7 days ago
Sleep schedule? What sleep schedule?
8 likes
4 mos ago
Anyone else ever have to try really hard to not push loved ones away because you're in an inexplicable mood where you feel like you don't want friends, no matter how much you know you love 'em? :-/
14 likes
10 mos ago
Fencing kinda looks somewhere between beautifully artistic and like two caffeinated praying mantises fighting.
11 likes
2 yrs ago
Dropped a jam jar on the floor, and it broke the floor. Smuckers must be taking notes from Nokia.
11 likes

Bio









Time Zone? Mountain Standard Time (GMT-6).
Country? United States.
Gender? Female.
Age? How rude. But if it matters to you, I'm well over 18.

First thing's first: feel free to call me Siaya! I'm a nocturnal girl for various reasons, and have a deep love and appreciation of the night and dark. I love reading, writing, and most things fantasy and paranormal. I have enough collections to make a dragon jealous, and more hobbies than I can keep track of, including crafting.

For a fair warning, in my experience, I'm a child's humor with a teenage personality wrapped in a body occasionally required to masquerade as the adult it's supposed to be. It's a mouthful. I know. Possibly because of that, I tend to gravitate toward the Children's and YA sections in media and even in my own writing. Which, however, isn't to say I don't like anything geared toward "adults." I'm a sucker for tastefully dark stories, but we'll save that for the "Preferences" section below.

I've been an ardent servant to writing for well over a decade. But I'm far from the best, and am always looking for ways to improve. I highly encourage constructive criticism, both receiving and giving it, if requested!

On the roleplaying front, I've been involved in some form it for nearly as long as I've been writing, including play-by-post prior to joining the Guild. So, I have a decent feel for what I'm doing here, though there's always room to learn and improve!

If you want to chat and/or roleplay (again, preferences below), message me! Promise I won't bite. Too hard.


Because they always make for interesting conversation starters.
Some I've had since gradeschool, others are just budding.

~ Bladed weapons
~ Button pins
~ Vampire themed stuff
~ Books
~ Dragon figurines
~Costumes/Garb
~ Masks
~ Artwork
~ Media paraphernalia
~ Enamel Pins


Would take a lot to convince me to roleplay a fandom.
Another good icebreaker, through.
List in no particular order, eternally incomplete,
and subject to change.

~ Rise of the Guardians
~ The Flash
~ Nightmare Before Christmas
~ Merlin (2008)
~ Warehouse 13
~ Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir
~ Spirited Away
~ Howl's Moving Castle
~ Voltron (2016)
~ Trollhunters (Tales of Arcadia)
~ Jackie Chan Adventures
~ Avatar: The Last Airbender
~ Teen Titans (2003-'06)
~ Death Note
~ My Hero Academia
~ The Promised Neverland
~ The Rising of the Shield Hero
~ Yona of the Dawn
~ Stranger Things

'Cause it'd be a crime to not have this as a section.
Especially considering the profile theme and all.
List is a WIP. 'Cause I'm lazy like that.

~ Kingdom Hearts
~ Persona 5
~ The World Ends with You
~ Final Fantasy
~ Spyro
~ The Legend of Dragoon
~ Bendy and the Ink Machine












1x1: Depends. How patient are you with waiting for posts right now?
Group: Not my cup of tea. So no thanks.
PMs: I don't roleplay this way, but am always up for chatting!



~ Could always do with participating in a good, dark vampire story.
~ Been feeling kinda piratey lately. Cutthroat fantasy/horror adventure, anyone?


As of 08/19/19:
Honestly, I just don't know anymore. Moving crap keeps getting delayed, and inspiration likes to vanish.
Expect me to randomly disappear every now and again, possibly for extended periods of time.



(Sorry, I know it's long. What can I say? I know what I like--and don't like.)

~ Character Gender: No preference. I'll gladly play a main male or female main character(s). No doubling necessary.

~ Multiple Main and/or Side Characters? Yes to both! Side-characters are a must--worlds are filled with people, after all. But I can be quite content with playing only a single MC.

~ Character Age: Under and over 18. My MCs tend to be (or appear) between 15 and 19 since I feel like my own mentality best matches that age range, but I can and do play characters 20+, especially with side characters. Even if 20+ in an MC is rare (but not off the table!) for me.

~ Usual/Favored Genres: Fantasy, paranormal/supernatural, horror, Gothic, fairy tale, superhero. With a Side Of: Adventure, suspense, mystery, action, drama, magic. But Not: Solely slice-of-life, purely romance-driven, erotica.

~ I Like: Naturally occurring romance/love, light themes, darker themes, torturing characters (physically and mentally), extensive character profiles, original stories, detailed posts, OCs…

~ I Hate: IC txt tlk (unless the characters are texting), godmoding without permission, playing canon characters, following cannon story lines, invincible characters…

~ Swearing: In IC, I'd be good as long as it's kept semi-infrequent and at a PG-13 level. That said, you won't find any swear words in my writing. I don't like swearing, and ask that a partner respects that in OOC/PM. However, I recognize that's not the way of the entire world, and feel like I'd be a hypocrite considering the books/shows/movies I consume to ask a partner to maintain the same standard in their writing. Quick-Look Rating Preference: Don't use it myself, but nothing above PG-13 requested of a partner in IC.

~ Sex, Smut, or Whatever Else You Wanna Call It: No. Not gonna happen. So don't ask, and keep your weird fetishes to yourself. While I've written for and don't mind flirtatious characters, I don't write anything more intimate than kissing. Which means I won't even lead up to a "fade to black" scene. I hate sex-based anything. In all media and RL.

~ But, Romance? Love Interests?! I do enjoy the presence of a REALISTIC love interest, and romance without the, well... see above. But I don't need it to keep my interest; it's all about story for me. And none of that, *girl/boy sees guy, girl/boy falls instantly in love because of invisible connection/super hot bod* crap. I believe in lust at first sight, not love. Yes, even polar opposites can fall in love, but that actual love still takes time to develop beyond that initial interest/lust. Quick-Look Rating Preference: PG. Maybe low PG-13--I'm not entirely sure how the rating for this content works. Needless to say, I never watch genre-romance movies or read said books.

~ General Nudity: Don't do full-fledged nudity. My line's drawn at bare backsides and non-sex related undergarments. Again, PG-13.

~ Gore and Violence: BRING IT ON! I enjoy physically (and mentally) torturing characters more than what's probably healthy, and like reading about/writing for/RPing with cruel characters. So, needless to say, I have no issues with--and even encourage--characters getting hurt, blood, angst, and violence. But too much of it still becomes distasteful. I like my bloodshed to be realistic and/or story/character-enhancing, not violence and blood just for the sake of it being there. Quick-Look Rating Preference: Could probably reach into R. But am good with anything above G. Writing G-rated violence bores me.

~ Eras of Interest: Medieval, renaissance, Victorian, modern, mixed, made-up.

~ Romance Potential Pairings: MxF only. Just Friends: Any pairing.

~ Writing "Level": Advanced, with the occasional casual/high-casual. See "Recent Posts" below for writing samples.

~ Usual Post Length: Depends on the situation and inspiration. Usually no fewer than 150 words, to 1,500+. You can always expect long loner and plot posts from me. And I do mean long. In general, the more you give me to work with, the more I'll give back.

~ Requested Partner Post Length: Depends on the situation. Sometimes, IC circumstances don't leave much room before you have to wait for your partner. That said, I don't deal with one liners or otherwise painfully short posts that don't give me much to work with, add to the situation, or move the story forward in even a small way.

~ Grammar and Spelling: I won't yell at you for occasional mistakes (I make plenty), but if I feel like I'm having to decipher my partner's every post like an ancient tome written in a runic language, I'm likely to drop.

~ Preferred Roleplay Medium: Exclusively forum threads. NO EXCEPTIONS. Though, my partners will get an alternate contact method, just in case, and I backup all my roleplays.

~ Posting Speed: Usually fairly slow, even when I'm online to reply. Some days I can do one or more, others one a week if I'm lucky. But with that said...

~ Partner Posting Frequency: As long as I know you're still interested despite absences, I really don't care. I've had (and have) some partners who post once or more a day, and others who post once a month. Life sucks. I know. Take your time. This is for fun, and not something that should be stressed over! If I like our story, I'm won't bail on you for slow posting.

~ General Posting Availability: Unpredictable. See the top of this section for current availability updates. I do my best to keep it fairly up to date, but regrettably fall behind in updating it. The only thing commonly consistent is that I'm more likely to post after ten-ish in the evening, MST since I'm on a nocturnal schedule.

~ Other: Admittedly, I suck at giving notices of disappearances, but I'll do my best to give them for planned extended absences. Lastly for now, don't feel shy to give me pointers with my writing! I LOVE feedback and discovering areas I need to work at.


Dang, you're still here after all that? You deserve a cookie. Heck, have a plate of cookies. That was pretty darn long. *Hands you a plate of cookies.*
Thanks for sticking around! Hope to year from you!


Most Recent Posts

Not entirely sure yet. Have a couple places under consideration. All lower altitude. xD

That's great your husband is supportive! <3 And you have that support group there! A perk of being an extrovert?

Sorry for the IC delay! Should let you know my sleep schedule is more nonexistent than normal from various things. Been difficult for me to figure out when I can write without dozing off at the computer. Currently trying to get the sleep thing back to "normal," so hope to get to it soon, but don't want to give any false promises.
It's just a temporary place until we can move to a different state, so it should work nicely. Quirks and all.

Oh, dang! I'm sorry things have been stressful. Understandable, about not wanting to discuss it publicly. If you would like to talk/vent about it via PM, I would be happy to listen! Well, read, but same concept here. No, that doesn't concern me in the least. Even if it did affect that, I would be more than fine with waiting. I care about your well-being much more than getting frequent posts! Really. If you ever need to step back for a while for whatever reason, don't worry about me. I'll be here. No detailed explanation needed. Just take care of yourself, and know I'm here if you ever need and/or want to talk!
Pretty much settled in. And enjoying not living off the grid! xD No more generator problems! WOO! Thanks for asking. :-) How have things been on your end?
To the woman’s credit, she listened with surprising interest. Whether or not the hint of concern Arla thought she detected was for the girl’s sanity or the danger a vampire signified, she couldn’t say.
In the short silence that followed her word-spewing, she held her breath. Her gaze searched Frieda’s for any tell of her thoughts as the woman stared pensively at the photo. Arla braced herself for any number of disbelieving reactions. To be treated like a child with too much imagination. Even so, she squared her shoulders, trying to look as confident as she could.
But nothing could have prepared her for the ringmistress’ response.
“You… what?” She gawked at Frieda as the woman at last looked away from the camera.
For a second, she wondered if the ringmistress had decided the best course of action was to play along with the delusion, but she saw no misgiving in Frieda’s kind eyes. She was positive she meant it. Not only did the woman believe her, but she already knew. Which meant Arla wasn’t alone.
The girl eyed Frieda skeptically at her reassurances Rayth was harmless. She wanted to believe her, the calm composure in the woman’s accented voice slowly lulling her fear. She already doubted the woman would let anything into her circus she thought could be a danger.
Arla shifted her weight, fighting with herself over whether or not to accept the woman’s judgment. She glanced to her camera, inwardly shuddering at the thought of her last supernatural encounter.
When Frieda leaned forward, Arla couldn’t help but draw in close as well, unwilling to risk missing any part of whatever mystery the woman revealed.
Arla inhaled and shook her head, partially in answer to the question, and partially from her own surprised astonishment at the whole situation. “That’s… actually a thing?”
She shook her head again. More through habit than conscious thought, she turned the camera off and replaced it in its pouch.
She took a deep breath. “How can you be sure? That he’s not dangerous, I mean, not about his parents.”
The wait's always worth it for me here. ;-) His reactions were fantastic and quite believable! And enjoyable to read. Though, I got the vibe you maybe thought the creatures were huge? Could be wrong, but I better specified their size this post just in case. Heh. Sorry!

With the success of the shield, Ghent would feel the impact of the monster with it. Wouldn’t be pleasant, but wouldn’t be completely debilitating. The shield will also be drawing on his own strength and willpower, as well on the world's magic. How much of his strength something like that saps/utilizes would depend on how well he can tame the magic. The greater his connection with magic, the heavier the burden it'll take before drawing on him in place of its own energy.

The sensation of the world's magic would fluctuate with his willpower and focus, too, and its strength will, of course, react to his emotions and overall focus on it. So, the shield could shatter from the one hit, or hold up for another. What happens there is entirely up to you, since you know him best! If you feel like he could maintain it longer than the single hit, have at it!

You're most welcome! Always glad to answer questions.
The vine-like tongue tensed reflexively around Ghent’s wrist as the boy tried to reach for his weapon. A satisfied clicking sound akin to pebbles tapping against each other rumbled from the rock beast as it flew through the air. But its success was short lived.
The rare sensation of magic rippled through the air as it reacted to Ghent's panic. In the instant before the creature collided with the boy, a translucent blueish-gold shield spread from the his outstretched hand.
The monster's Mastiff-sized body collided head-first with the shield with the crunch and rumble of a miniature landslide. Dust and rocks puffed into the air. The creature’s tongues tore from Ghent, flailing about for a surprised moment before retracting back to the beast's mouth.
The creature slid from the magic shield and pulled back. What bits of earth and stone it had lost followed after it, sucking back into its body. Slivers of crepuscular light glowed through its now deformed shoulders as if a dying sun lurked at its core. Its lost pieces quickly returned to their places, hiding the glow.
Quickly regaining its composure, with a grating snarl, the beast crouched down to dance around Ghent, its tongues moving quicker than the rest of it. They lashed out at his feet, trying to shepherd the boy away from the stream and his weapon. It eyed him with a mild intelligence, watching for further tricks.
Not far from him, Elayra jumped into a somersault from the path of her own stony assailant.
The monster skid to a heavy halt where she had stood. Its stubby toes dug into the ground, leaving trenches in the soft, damp earth in its wake.
She landed on her feet as the monster barked out its frustration at missing. It whirled back around to face her, its crystalline teeth bared.
She took a few quick steps backward, the monster’s tongues unfurling from its mouth. It hunkered down, readying itself for another lunge as she swiftly drew her dagger from her boot.
Elayra took a few more backward steps further from the stream.
The creature raced toward her. This time, Elayra met it head on. She ran toward it, using what bit of space she’d put between them to gather speed.
The beast leapt. She abandoned her sword and dropped to the ground. Using the damp, muddy earth to her advantage, she slid beneath the creature’s rocky underside. Heat radiated from its body, brushing over her as she thrust her dagger upward, both hands on its hilt.
The metal scraped against its underside before it found one of the cracks of dirt between mossy stones. It sunk into it near its hind leg. With a mix of her momentum and strength, she tore it through the creature. She nearly lost her hold on the dagger, but managed to keep the weapon.
The beast howled. Its partially torn hind leg gave way as it landed. It lurched toward the ground as the stones broke off from it. Away from its main body, they crumbled into a formless pile beside the off-balanced creature.
A'right. Sorry about the wait! Took me longer than I expected to get back to writing. Heh. As always, thanks so much for your patience!
Arla had scarcely counted to ten before her impatience got the best of her. With a huff, she zipped up her backpack. She straightened and reached for one of the straps to sling it over her shoulder.
Movement at the back entrance made her release it and crouch back down, ready to flee if Rayth was the one who came through. Her hand went again to her knife’s handle, ready to draw it.
The girl blinked in surprise as her gaze settled on the ringmistress. Arla was starting to get the feeling Lady Luck was drunk and couldn’t decide whether it was for or against her.
Leaving her pack at her feet, Arla straightened and released her knife.
“Frieda,” she called as the woman’s gaze found her. A mix of relief and anticipation quivered in her voice.
Arla cast a few wary glances to the back entrance as the woman strode to her. But something about the woman’s presence slowly quelled her paranoid alertness. Perhaps the mix of kindness and confidence the woman exuded, as if there was nothing in this world she couldn’t handle. No threat too great for her to overcome.
Despite everything, she felt her muscles relax a fraction as the woman stopped at her side. Alas, she tensed again as Frieda’s question reminded her of why she was crouching in the deserted tent rather than taking a well-needed shower.
Arla inhaled slowly as Frieda sat on the bench near her. The woman’s voice and expression were filled with more caring warmth than she’d ever gotten from even her own parents.
“You…” she began, hesitating as she shifted her weight uneasily. The aura about the woman mixing with her own sense of urgency melted the stiffness in her words. A resoluteness replaced what timidity had warbled in her voice. “You’re troop, you’re in danger.” She met Frieda’s gaze.
“Rayth—he isn’t what he seems. He’s a monster,” she admitted before she could think through her words. “And I mean that in the literal sense, like, straight out of a horror movie kind of monster. The fangs and people-eating kind.”
Realizing what she’d said—and that she’d raised her bent fingers in a clawed, fang-like shape as she spoke—she cringed. So much for trying to not sound certifiable.
She shook her head and looked to the ground. She’d already started digging her grave, so she may as well roll with it.
“I know how crazy this sounds, but I swear I didn’t just escape the funny farm. There are… things out there.” Her voice quivered slightly. She glanced over to the back entrance. “Things that shouldn’t exist outside of myth, but do.” She raised her head to meet Frieda's gaze for a second. “I know you don’t have any reason to believe me, but I can prove it.”
She looked to the half unzipped pouch at her belt as she removed the smaller camera from it.
“Not Rayth, but about monsters.” She switched the camera’s mode to display her desired photo. Not bothering to change the camera’s brightness settings this time, she held the view screen toward Frieda.
Taya Turner sat in the passenger side of her partner’s Hyundai Accent.The silver-gray car idled at the curb as it waited for its driver to return. The gentle purring of the engine was lost on the woman inside.
What few rays of sun made it through the cloud cover shone in her shoulder-length hair. It caught on its artificial highlights in the otherwise brunette strands. Her soft, tan features gave her a slightly more youthful look than her actual twenty-four years.
She absently tapped her chin with the end of her favorite pen. She stared down at the papers and photos scattered in her lap, reviewing the file of one William Grant for the hundredth time.
No matter how many times she read through it, it still seemed more like a fantasy than an actual profile. Just like everything else since the start of the Werewolves Interpolation Reveal. Or, as everyone called it, W.I.R. Most people said it had to be a hoax. Some crazed group of maniacs who thought they were Lycans, and took it to the next level with impeccable special effects. Others clung to the belief of it like a lifeline.
All Taya knew for sure was that since its start, it’d caused nothing but trouble and no small mountain of paperwork and investigations. Fights had ensued. W.I.R. supporters had crawled out of the woodwork, while others made it feel like the Salem Witch trials on repeat, swapping witches for werewolves. Whatever these people—human or otherwise—had been expecting, it was mass chaos.
Since the ‘reveal,’ she had hoped to land a case involving the so-called wolves, to discover the truth behind the matter for herself. And now, she had one. Well, it was more that he had an assignment and she just happened to be his partner, but still. It was her case by proxy.
But it wasn’t the kind of intel gathering case she’d hoped for. No. This was a homicide case. Her first murder case as an official FBI agent. And William Grant, acclaimed werewolf, was to join them in the investigation.
Her partner had muttered it being something about solidifying the blurry lines between truth and fiction in the public eye. If the government could work with and validate the werewolves’ existence, then maybe the citizens could, too. Or, better yet in his opinion, realize it was as fake as alien crop circles and return to their normal lives.
Regardless, what mattered most, was that they solved the string of homicides and disappearances as quick as possible. The sooner they found the killer—or killers—the better.
Taya’s hazel gaze strayed to the outdoors. She glanced to the café they had stopped at.
Gray, contaminated snow huddled against the building as if it feared someone would come shovel it away. Frost lurked at the edges of the storefront window. Inside, she could just make out the back of her partner’s head towering at the front of the line. His black trilby hat added a couple inches to his height. Beyond him, a flustered barista hurried about behind the counter.
Thankful he was almost done—and feeling a bit sorry for the barista—Taya returned her attention to the file.
If none of it was fabricated, then, by all accounts, William Grant should be dead. Or, at the very least, bedridden in a home for senior citizens. Yet, somehow, he looked even younger in his recent, out-of-state driver’s license photo than he did in the ones supposedly dated from nearly eighty years ago.
The sleeves of her burgundy coat rustled lightly as she picked up the photocopy of the old, black-and-white picture.
A family all dressed in their Sunday best posed in front of a park’s statue. A forty-three-year-old William Grant stood beside a rather pleasant-looking woman trying to keep her bonnet from flying away. Their children, three boys between the ages eleven and sixteen, each looked bored and ready to get on with the day. A normal, happy family. A family destined for tragedy, if the reports were to be believed.
She swapped it for the more recent photo. Besides being in color, it looked as if someone had Photoshopped the black-and-white one, cleaning up the signs of aging. He looked somewhere around his late twenties, give or take. And unlike in the family photo, his eyes looked haunted instead of happy. Like they’d seen more than their fair share of sorrow, the weight of seemingly existing outside of time making his smile drawn. No matter what way you looked at it, though, he looked completely human.
Though she trusted tests had been run to rule out tampering with the original from the 1900s, there was every chance the similar appearance and name was simply a biological coincidence. Like another Nicolas Cage conspiracy.
Still staring at the pictures as if she could spot some kind of tell he was a werewolf, she reached for her travel mug from the cupholders in front of the center console. She brought it to her lips.
She paused, taking a grateful moment to inhale the rich aroma of sugar-afied coffee. Anything was better than the earthy yet minty scent of sage filling the car. Sage and cinnamon. She’d started to think of it as her partner’s signature scent, so had expected it the first time she rode with him. What she hadn’t anticipated was its intensity in such a condensed space.
The sage, she figured, had something to do with dispelling evil spirits. But the cinnamon? It was too natural smelling to be a cologne. She’d even done a quick search for a spice ball or something under the seats when her partner wasn’t looking, but hadn’t found anything. She’d resigned to the suspicion he bathed in it.
She slowly sipped at her coffee. Her attention shifted back to the file.
As much trouble as W.I.R. had caused, her curiosity and excitement threatened to get the best of her. She smiled around her mug’s lid. The detective side of her wanted to know the truth about the whole thing. Though she wished it was under different circumstances, the opportunity had still dropped right into her lap.
Maybe there really was something to the whole, ‘beginner’s luck’ thing.
She glanced up as her partner strode past the windshield. His black, wool overcoat only enhanced his rather ominous appearance, its tails flaring out slightly behind him.
He hastily entered the car. The chill of the outdoors chased out the warmth inside, making Taya shiver. She reached to turn up the car’s heat.
“Blasted winter,” he growled. He scowled as he tapped off bits of slush from his shiny, cap toe shoes. Satisfied he wouldn’t dirty the pristine interior, he fully settling into the driver’s seat.
Everything about Eli Archer’s features was pointed. His high, prominent cheekbones. His long, thin face and slender chin. His beak-like nose that looked like it could easily take out someone’s eye if he turned too fast. Taya couldn’t help but wonder if he was a distant cousin of a crow.
He took a long swig of his warm drink as if trying to drown his frustrations of winter in it. Years of practice kept his nose from poking a hole in the lid.
“Long line?” Taya asked absently, refocusing again on the file. Whatever he’d gotten, the new scent of something citrusy joined the array of smells in the car. The strange mix threatened to make her stomach churn.
Eli grunted. He placed his cup in the holder closest to him. His icy blue eyes narrowed as he noticed the file. His scowl seemed to deepen, but it was hard to be certain; his resting face itself was always either a frown or a scowl. Taya wasn’t sure if his facial muscles even knew how to make a smile.
“What, don’t have those memorized yet?” he snapped. He took hold of the wheel, black leather gloves covering his hands.
Taya shrugged, doing her best to brush off his tone. In the nearly two weeks she’d been his partner, she’d started to think of that as his normal, neutral attitude. She’d heard that she was the senior agent's twelfth partner in half as many months, and was determined to show it would take more than his attitude to scare her off. She might be a newbie, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t handle bad manners from an arrogant senior.
Besides. The man needed someone who could actually deal with people without sending them off in tears just from introducing himself. Which, according to the stories, had actually happened a few times. Once to one of his now transferred partners.
“What can I say? I like to be prepared.” She sat the photo down and straightened the papers beneath it. “Current circumstances aside, this whole W.I.R. thing is interesting.”
Archer snorted derisively as he adjusted his rear-view mirror. A couple crystalline pendulums hanging from it glittered dully in the gray light. A four-leaf clover preserved in resin hung roughly around their center.
“What do these people stand to gain from this?” she mused more to herself. She tapped her pen against her chin again. She took a last look at the pictures at the top of the thick stack of papers behind them. “Is it the publicity? A desire for chaos?”
“Whatever they want,” Archer interjected bitterly, “they can all drown in the River Styx for all I care.”
Taya closed the file and clipped her pen onto the folder. “I don’t get you.” She returned her travel mug to the holder and popped open the glove compartment. “You’ll give Styx the benefit of the doubt, but you won’t consider that maybe these people aren’t entirely malignant?”
He glared at Taya, the piercing effect enough to make the strongest of men wither beneath it. Somehow, his eyes always grew steelier when he was upset. Which, really, was 90% of the time from what Taya could tell.
She shoved the file into the glove compartment, carefully avoiding looking at him.
“You’ve seen the mess these idiots have caused,” he growled. He flicked on his blinker to rejoin the stream of cars on the road. “Trust me, Turner. It can only get worse from here. I guarantee those murders are just the start. The sooner this whole werewolf mess blows over as an elaborate prank, the better. For everyone.”
“Plus less paperwork to deal with?” Taya’s brows rose.
Archer snorted. The side of his mouth and nose raised with the noise, forming the closest thing to a smile Taya figured he could manage. “That too.”

***

If there was one word to describe Eli Archer’s driving, it was ‘insanity.’ The man knew how to weave between traffic in the perfect way to make cardiac arrest a real danger to his passengers. But at least it got them to their destination on time.
He parked a couple blocks away from Central Square. Killing the engine, he heaved a sigh.
Taya unbuckled, thankful to have finally come to a stop. There was no way she’d ever get used to his driving.
Archer pulled the keys from the ignition. A gray rabbit’s foot swayed from the keychain before he shoved them in a pocket of his overcoat.
As Taya sipped on a pair of knitted gloves, their red a shade brighter than her coat, Eli finished off his drink in a single long swig. He tossed the empty cup into a small trash container in the back seat. He swapped it out for a briefcase, then opened his door.
Taya grabbed her mug, and the two left the warmth of the car. Eli paused to pick off a piece of lint from his overcoat, then joined Taya at the sidewalk. He carefully avoided the snow bank, scowling down at it as if his ire alone would be enough to prevent it from soiling his gray suit trousers. For the sake of the snow bank, Taya hoped it worked.
The two headed toward the cobbled square. Archer’s shoes tapped sharply against the sidewalk, his long steps measured just right to avoid stepping on the intentional cracks in the cement.
Taya rushed to keep up. Each of his long strides equaled nearly two of hers, his head rising almost six inches above her own. The bells of a church rang faintly in the distance, chiming out eleven o’ clock.
As always, Central Square was packed. Voices rose into the air by the dozens. People came and went, hurrying about on break or changing shifts. The two agents scanned the area, searching for a stationary face matching William Grant’s photo.
An extra splash of color amidst the sea of darker and neutral colors caught Taya’s attention. A man with a blue stocking cap stood near a fountain at the center of the square. His gaze searched the crowd. Though his side faced them, she felt certain he was the one they were here for.
“Archer,” she nudged him lightly and nodded to the familiar man.
Eli followed her gesture. Without a word, he headed toward the splash of blue, Taya at his heels.
“William Grant?” Archer asked as they neared, his voice flat and as chilly as the wintry outdoors.
Taya suppressed a groan at his tone as the agents stopped in front of the blue-capped William. Contrasting her partner’s expression, she offered William a smile in silent greeting. Side-by-side, the two agents looked like the living version of the Comedy and Tragedy Masks.
Archer pulled his badge wallet out from an inside coat pocket. “I’m Agent Archer,” he said, opening the wallet to show proof of the statement.
Taya mimicked him, showing her own credentials with her free hand before replacing them in her coat.
“And this,” he nodded to Taya, “is—”
“Agent Taya Turner,” she introduced herself, her voice light.
Archer glared down at her for her interruption, but she ignored him. A skill she found she was getting rather good at.
She smiled warmly as she offered William her hand to shake. “Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Grant! Though, I wish it was under better circumstances.” Her smile faltered, gaining a hint of sadness.
Arla slid to a halt at the second booth just long enough to check she had still gone unnoticed. A smug smile pulled at her lips. Though a small success compared to her overall mission, it gave her an extra boost of confidence.
Think ninja. With that, she hurried into the tent. She stumbled once, the motion around her making her head throb a bit harder, but righted herself with a couple quick steps.
She glanced around the now deserted arena. Everything still stood mostly as it had before. Only a few strands of lights had been unplugged, and now the music pulsed from outside the back of the tent rather than inside it. She could almost see the ghosts of the performers still in the ring.
Alas, even the bouncers had abandoned their posts. Which left no one for her to ask to find the ringmistress. But someone, she figured, would have to come out this way at some point. She stopped at the end of the folding bleacher. She shifted her weight. She hated the thought of having to wait, but her only other option was to return to the back yard herself and risk being spotted by the vampire.
With a heavy sigh, she went to the bleacher closest to the back exit. She scanned the area around her, looking for anything pointed and wooden as she went. She shrugged out of her backpack and knelt down beside the stands.
Constantly glancing to the back exit, she took her precious camera from around her neck and returned it to its padded bag. She’d rather it not end up a casualty of war. She frowned, inwardly scolding herself for not thinking to attempt getting a decent picture as proof.
The thought made her pause. She glanced to the back entrance again, then dug inside her backpack for the case with her smaller, point-and-shoot camera. Finding it, she pulled it out. She clipped it to her belt, then pulled the silvery camera from the case.
She stared at its black screen for a moment, then turned it on. She looked away as it started up before the screen automatically adjusted its brightness to her set preferences.
Her thumb hovered over the playback button. She glanced to the entrance to the afterparty again, but no one had yet to come out. She took a deep breath, then hit the button. The last photo she’d taken popped up on the screen.
The light of the flash glinted harshly off the dusty green scales of a lizard man, his body half outside the picture and tilted from the low, hasty camera angle. The picture froze the shock on his snarling, blood-stained maul from the sudden flash that had blinded him. Further behind the scaly creature, a bright smudge in the darkness caught the light. The lizard’s pale, spidery companion.
She draped her hand over her side, the shallow scrapes of a narrow miss hidden beneath her shirt. The picture wasn’t of a vampire, but if Frieda needed proof Arla wasn’t insane, that might work. Plus, the camera's flash had already helped her once. It wasn’t a stake, but maybe she could get lucky a second time. Desperate times and all that.
She tapped the shutter-release button to ready it to take pictures. The battery was nearly depleted, but she estimated it would last her for what she needed it to. She set it to not turn itself off after being idle, then slipped it into its pouch at her hip. She zipped it up only halfway, giving her quick access to it.
One minute. She’d wait one more minute for someone to come into the arena before hunting someone down herself.
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