Chapter 9

Polaris, New York

I held the mobile phone with an unsteady grip. “Call Sam,” I said.

Its screen remained dark and petulant.

“Call. Sam,” I repeated.


I glared at the phone, then moved my gaze toward the bottle of Scotch on my counter. I’d tried and hated this style of whisky once before. The clerk at the store had insisted I would like this one better. “Aged in a sherry cask,” she’d said. She had the right idea. I liked this one a lot better. I finished what remained in my mug, then picked up the phone again.


Sam’s photo appeared on the screen, lighting up my night-darkened apartment. His obnoxious ringtone played. I fumbled, nearly dropping the phone after that surprise, and answered coolly, “What.”

“I told you before; you can’t just tell it to do something unless you prompt it first.”

“Are you spying on me again?”

“A little, but only because I was already going to call you, and I wanted to make sure it was a good time.”

“I am unnerved by your uncanny ability to infiltrate my life on a whim.”

“I’m protecting you. We can talk about that now if you want. I’ll stop if you don’t want me to do this anymore. Sorry. Should’ve asked. It’s just how you and I used to—anyway.”

I shrugged, although he couldn’t see it. The Scotch made me remember what Sam referred to, how he and I had first met, and what we’d agreed constituted as his protection. I could believe his motivation for keeping such close tabs. He’d never given me a reason to doubt him, whereas I had given him plenty.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“You first.”

“No. I’m sad.”

He let out a surprised huff of laughter, then covered and said, “You’re…sad.”

I poured more Scotch into my mug. “Eleric hasn’t visited me yet.”

“Thought you were waiting for Jemier?”

“Who cares about Jemier? I’m telling you a story about Eleric.”

“A story,” he said flatly. “About why you’re sad.”

“Very sad.”

Close up of Scotch whisky getting poured from a glass container into an ordinary coffee mug. Image generated by DALL-E 2.
Scotch whisky is poured into a plain coffee mug.

“Very drunk’s more like it.”

I winked at him. He couldn’t see that either. “Very correct.”

“You should not be drinking if you’re sad. Also, I’m in town, so how about I drop by and we chat?”

“Aren’t you alive in this town?”

“Do you mean do I live here?”

Whatever. English wasn’t my first language. It wasn’t even in the first ten. “Yes, in this city.”

“I have a place here that I find myself at more often these days.”

“You have two places here.” I held up two fingers to the skylight.

“Uh, yeah. Try not to drink too much before I get there.”

“I’m running out of things to drink.”

“I’m not changing that for you.”

When he arrived at my door an agonizing few minutes later, he handed me a brown bag and said, “I might be changing that for you. I was already on my way. That’s why I was calling. Wanted to catch you up on some tech stuff, but I guess we’ll talk about El-rick or whatever.”

“Eleric,” I said.

“Okay, I still don’t know who that is. Want some takeout?”

Another bag appeared in his hand. Its contents smelled delicious, and I had to have them immediately. I snatched the bag and brought it to my kitchen where I haphazardly emptied it with the intent of loading whatever it contained onto a plate.

“You can just eat it out of the container,” Sam said, tossing his light-gray blazer over the back of my—or was it his?—sofa. “You can use these chopsticks or a fork. There’re no rules. Just make sure I get some of…that box, got it?”

“Yes sir.”

“Tell me about Eleric.”


“Because you made a point of mentioning him.”

I stuffed an adequate amount of delicious fried noodles into my mouth first. “Eleric’s an asshole.”

“For not visiting you?” He browsed the containers, then decided to take noodles from the one I held. I glared at him. “Has he ever been here before? What about that other guy? The dragon dude, Jemier. The one that showed up on my radar?”

“He’s not visiting either.” I snatched a hunk of noodles and tried to pry it from the hunk Sam was still pulling at. “How do you know he’s a dragon dude?”

“Same way I know you’re a dragon dude.”

“But how do you know specifically that he can become a dragon?”

“Because I used to work for the Alliance, remember? Who worked for the people who answered to yourpeople, specifically your dad, a dragon dude? You came to our headquarters a few years ago? That’s how we met? Any of this ring a bell?”

“I remember. You don’t have to be so condescending.” He didn’t get the question, and the obstinate noodle hunks were not separating from one another. “Let go.”

“What, you don’t want to Lady and the Tramp it?”


“Never mind.”

“I thought you still worked with the Alliance, and all of this—” I gestured with my noodles. “—was some sort of big secret.”

“Uh…no. That’s not what’s going on.”

“So what is going on?”

“Nothing that won’t piss me off to tell you. Hand me that box there?” I did so. He fed himself chicken while I greased my lips with noodles. “Anyway, so your best friend, Jemier, the dude that came here a few years ago just to bring you home, won’t come here to visit you now. Part of the exile deal?”

“Something like that.”

“But not that, so what is it?”

“What happened with you and the Alliance?”

“Another time. This is your time. Solin’s Ex-sad-a-ganza.”

“Never say that word again please.”


“Jemier is the heir to the throne of Heartwing.”

“Ah. Okay.” He nodded, then poked more chicken. “Heartwing. Cute name. Very fantasy. Thought you were the prince? Is Jemier your brother or cousin or something?”

“Yes, I am a prince, and no, he’s not family. We weren’t raised in the same household, and my brother is dead, and my father and everyone else thinks I did it, which I didn’t. Anyway, that’s why Jemier was named heir even though he’s outside of our house, and now I hate him because he said he did it to free me from jail, but I think he did it because he’s a little…a little sneak-a-sneak!”

Sam laughed and cracked open a beer before leaning on the island and stuffing more chicken into his mouth. “I need to catch up to you.” He took a healthy sip of the beer I had a mild interest in trying. “So Jemier’s the rock star here, but you’re wanting this El-rick to come to rescue you?”

El-er-ric,” I said, feeling very fond of this tiny corn cob and its tiny little texture. “Who’s not even part of this story. Are you listening?”

“Yeah, a little too well, apparently.”

I stared unseeing at the kitchen sink. “We’re not friends, Sam.”

“But I’m all you’ve got, and you know it. Chicken?”

I eyed the orange-ish ball and the utensils that held it warily. “Those sticks were in your mouth.”

“Lots of things have been in my mouth, Solin.”

“Mine too.”

Sam snorted and dropped the chicken with a splat. “Oops.”

“Well, I’m definitely not eating that now.” I picked it up with my fingers and tossed it unsuccessfully into the garbage. It fell with another plop. “I might be a little drunk.”

Sam picked it up and placed it inside the trash. “You think?” He came back and picked up the box, offering me chicken in a more befitting manner than before. “So, you’re not the heir because they think you killed your brother for what, the crown? Like you were in some movie or something?”

“Yes! Yes, exactly like that!” I picked up what remained of my Scotch and downed it in a celebratory manner. “We fought before he died, and I don’t care that he’s dead. I didn’t kill him. But he’s dead, and I don’t care. I doubt we share DNA. I’m not worthy; did you know that?”

“You’re losing me.”

“Jemier was made heir because his dragon is strong and massive. How fucking phallic.”

“Honestly, I’m not sure you’re not talking about his dick.”

I grimaced and shook my head at him. “No, I’m talking about his dragon. It makes him a worthy heir. I am merely brilliant and have studied every facet of everything ever and have been the only Felwing to get anything done in millennia, and I get nothing.” I lifted another piece of chicken from the box. “Where is Eleric?”

“Now you want Eleric again?”

“I want what you’re drinking.”

“How about some water?” Sam said.


I awoke with a headache and the odd sense that I was not alone. The high-pitched hum of something electronic confirmed that. I groaned and rolled over. Sam sat on the sofa, watching a muted television. He turned around and looked at me with a smile.

“Hey, sunshine. You feeling good?”


“I didn’t let you get any more trashed. You just got tired, so I let you sleep.”

“I recall.” Vaguely. “Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me. It was the right thing to do. Anyway, I originally came here to talk about how I found you.”

I rubbed my head and waved my hand at him to hold that thought. After utilizing the bathroom and getting both a glass of water and a mug of coffee, I sat down on the opposite end of the couch and said, “Now go.”

“Oo, coffee.”

I sighed, set down my beverages, then stood to make him a cup. “What do you want in it?”

“Like half of it should be sugar.”

I shot him a look. “Why would you do that? What has coffee ever done to you?”

He shrugged and peered at my cup. “Fine. Do this to it.”


“Because I’m taking this one.”

“But that’s my favorite cup—” He sipped from it. “Fine.” I returned with a less adequate cup for myself and prompted him with a strong and very condescending brow shrug to continue his little technology story.

He set down my favorite mug. “As you know, I might’ve coded some software that analyzes certain readings from certain preexisting tech that exists because of a big-ass portal in Canada, and blah blah, jargon jargon, I can kind of pick up on your portals.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Well, seeing as I’m brilliant and innately curious about the organization I mistakenly worked for once upon a time, I—”

“Which you will explain to me.”

“Let’s just say I’m a consultant now. A contract worker.” He shook his hands. “Who cares about that stuff? What I’m saying is that I decided I would keep watch too. Because whenever a portal opened, they got that special blip—”

“I don’t care.”

“Well care now, because they can see your people coming, and they can haul ass to wherever that blip tells them. Unless someone like me deletes the data and keeps it from reaching the Alliance’s radar. Just saying.”

“You did the same thing to detect Jemier.”

“What about Eleric?”

“I’m not talking about Eleric; I’m talking about Jemier. You used that…radar blip thing and discovered he had arrived. And…subsequently left.”

“Yeah. Except his blips read differently than yours do. Well, not the one that dropped you here, but your…other…one. Ones. From a few years ago.”

“Because he is using technology. I use magick.” I scoffed. “Used magick.” I leaned my head all the way back, massaging my temples. “You’ll tell me when someone arrives? If they arrive?”

“I already have.”

“But in the future?”

“I’ll tell you, Solin. Don’t worry.”

“I’m not worrying.” I sank into the couch, attempting to mask my frustration, then winced when I remembered for the millionth time that this millennia-old habit needed to be curbed.

“Anyway,” Sam said, standing. “It was nice sleeping on the couch I bought you. I have good taste. See you.”

“Wait,” I said. “You came all this way to tell me that?”

“I didn’t exactly want to advertise that I’m…let’s say…scouting certain channels.”

“But we aren’t friends. Why did you stay with me?”

“Still got my own shit to work on, Solin. That’s why.” He snatched his blazer. “Later.”


He sighed and stopped. “Again?”


He turned around. “Fine.”

“Your technology. Has it detected any portals near a local abandoned hospital?”


“Or further back.”

His eyes darted to the side in thought. “Not that I know of. Why? Someone else you’re worried about?”

“No. Just wondering.”

“Yeah, no. I can run some checks if you want, but you’re gonna have to tell me what’s really going on.”

“No, that’s all. Just curious.”

He let out a puff of air. “Okay then. I’ll see you around, Solin.”


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The Fire of Felwing series and its novels, Flicker, Spark, and Blaze © Elizabeth Tybush. All rights reserved. Chapter images (“vibes images”) created using Canva, DALL-E 2, and/or other tools. (Read more)