The Discord Trilogy

 
 

Golden Apple of Discord

 

   

 Book I   - The Golden Apple of Discord

(Scroll down for the first chapter)

Taralie Severin and her three sisters are a powerful coven of modern-day witches who banish mythical creatures in between classes and shifts at the police station. But when Taralie is kidnapped by vampires and converted into the undead, her sisters are ordered to execute her for crimes against the Milunfran order. Refusing, the sisters become fugitives from both their kind and vampires alike.

Ignorant and hunted, Taralie becomes entangled with unlikely allies, a band of vampires in hiding from the ruling vamperic government. With this new addition to their coven Taralie must balance duty with desire while learning not everything is as it seems, their enemies are worse than she knows, and she could be on the verge of ending a thousand-year-old civil war.

 

 

Chapter 1 – National Geographic Channel

 

The scratchy noise my gloves make when rubbing my hands together breaks the silence of the forest. Instead I stuff my hands under my arms in a vain attempt to warm myself up quietly. The night air is bitter and dry, freezing my sinuses. The colder it gets, the longer my breath lingers.

 

The forest north of Toronto is unforgiving this time of year. Our prey is equally unforgiving. With my head tilted towards the night sky, my breath looks like the smoke of an old steam train. My younger sisters are also in various stages of hypothermia, but we must stay put until this job is finished.

 

Aggie puts her hands in her armpits like me and stamps her feet to stay warm. Her teeth chatter behind shivering lips. “It’ll be here soon, I promise. I didn’t think it would take this long.”

 

I’ve never had doubts about her prescience; I’m not going to start now. Sometimes these things take a while. Peeking around the tree I’m hiding behind, I see nothing but the dark depths of the forest. She’s right; it’s not here yet.

 

Cora gripes with her own, more violent shivering. “Gah, I wish he’d hurry up and get here so we banish him already. Why couldn’t this thing eat people in July?”

 

I glance at Ann, the sister three years my junior, slumped against a tree, looking asleep. She’s not shivering. Ann isn’t even conscious and luckily can’t see me covet the heat packet in her gloves. If all is going according to plan, her stekie form is leading our target to where we can banish it.

 

“Speaking of banishing, whatever happened to your boyfriend?” I tease Cora, the youngest of my twin sisters. She doesn’t really have a boyfriend.

 

Cora sticks her tongue out. “Drunken sonnets from a frat boy on a park bench do not a boyfriend make.”

 

Pressing a hand over her mouth, Aggie chuckles. “It does if you’re up there with him, even if you were sober. You’re lucky Ann works for the cops or you’d have a public nuisance charge on your record.”

 

Cora nods emphatically, giving Aggie two thumbs up. “And I thank her for that.”

 

They’re loud, too loud for what we’re doing here. “Shut up or the grendel will bail before we can banish it. Then we’ll just be out here again next week.” Cora and Aggie nod but don’t bother to suppress their smiles.

 

I hear a twig snap, then a crunch of snow. Peeking around the tree I can barely make out something huge moving towards us. We are now both the hunters and the hunted. I don’t feel the cold anymore but get this pang of fear that twists in my gut each time my sisters are in danger. To get past it, I focus on what must be done to get us out unharmed.

 

Heavy rapid footfalls and harsh breathing disrupt the quiet forest. If this isn’t a grendel we should have brought an ax or one of Daddy’s shotguns, not glass vials filled with elixir. Peeking around the tree once more I see Ann gliding towards us in stekie form. Her ghost image passes through a tree and heads right where she’s supposed to. She’s faster as a stekie than in human form, but the grendel is huge. Around three meters tall his stride covers a lot of ground. The razor-sharp teeth protruding from his doggish snout are intimidating on their own but all that is eclipsed by the bulging muscles packed onto his furry frame. Gigantic arms swing like a long-clawed gorilla as he chases down what he thinks will be his next meal.

 

I crouch farther down and Aggie follows suit.

 

“Over here,” Ann’s apparition taunts. His footsteps thump even closer. He’s chasing her, just like we want. With only a few meters between us and the grendle, Cora moves to protectively hover over Ann’s actual, tranced-out body. Should anything try to injure Ann, Cora’s telekinesis will protect them both.

 

Ann says, “Come and get me.”

 

It snarls and charges into a small clearing after my sister’s stekie. He doesn’t notice our trap and when he leaps across it to catch my sister, hits an invisible wall on the far end and staggers backwards. Our cardinal square is working. Aggie and I lock our focus on the gnarly beast. Ann rouses and she joins me on the edge of the clearing. The grendel is confused, angry, and looking to eat someone.

 

Charging again, the grizzly creature is stronger than we thought. He breaks right through the square, closing the distance between him and Ann’s real body. Cora repels him with an emphatic wave of her arm, sending him flying through the air. Grendles are beefy, but nothing can withstand Cora’s telekinesis.

 

The grendel lands with a thud, back in the square where we want him. In a unison developed over years of shared purpose and practice, my three sisters and I spring from our hiding places and throw our elixirs, shattering the glass vials on his chest. Grabbing the crystals at our necks we pronounce the banishment spell we’ve come to cast:

 

“Nail, claw, spur, and spike,

Obliterate with holy light.

Bring the evil to the slaughter,

Earth, Air, Fire, Water.”

 

The grotesque man-eating beast is overwhelmed. Judging by the wails, it’s a painful event. A banishment elixir starts the conversion of mass into energy and the spell directs enough energy to complete the transformation. Energy without corporeal form simply dissipates. Within seconds, the grendel’s body deconstructs into pure energy, melting away like sand pouring out of a cup. When the spell has done its work, the brute vanishes with an impressive shockwave. I feel the dark, cold blast on my face and my feet fall out from under me. The wind is forced out of my lungs as I hit the cold, hard snow. Coughing and sputtering, I pick myself up off the forest floor to check on everyone, worrying I did something wrong. I wasn’t fast enough or smart enough...and it has cost me a sister.

 

Cora gloats while picking herself up off the ground. “Dude, that thing was ugly.” Clearly, her tongue wasn’t injured.

 

Aggie looks to the square. “Mythological beasts tend to swing that way.”  The only trace of the grendel is some blown-away snow.

 

I chuckle at their banter and feel the tension leave me. My sisters are safe again. This is my favorite part. When I know our target has been banished and no one was lost in the process. That’s when I feel like it’s really over...until our next assignment.

 

I brush the snow off my pants. “Next!”

 

Cora laughs out loud and starts looking around.

 

Ann’s eyes follow Cora’s. “What are you looking for?”

 

“I’m still waiting for Beowulf to show up so Tara can get a date.”

 

Cora likes to tease me about my nonexistent dating life. Dating was something I gave up long ago. So long ago it’s more like a half remembered dream than something I miss.

 

Ann digs the heat pack out of her gloves. I dig up the cardinal square runes buried in the ground. “Time to call it in.”

 

Aggie and Cora groan.

 

Ann scoffs with more disgust than she had for the grendel and jiggles the heat packet for more warmth. “One-two-three not it!”

 

Sarah, our samanos, is our link to the twelve. They’re the governing body of the Milunfra, an ancient assembly of hereditary witches that protect humanity from supernatural threats. Sarah busts our chops, they bust hers. It’s one of those circle of life kind of things. She was a veteran who came begrudgingly out of retirement to babysit us. We are nothing but halflings – a pollution of the pure blood Milunfran genetic lines.

 

She never lets us forget it.

 

None of us like Sarah, and the feeling is mutual.

 

I gripe at my sisters. “I told her last time we banished something and all she did was complain about us taking too long. It’s your turn to let her call you names.”

 

Ann’s tone is prickly, just like my feet as they try to warm up. “She always calls me Arianna. Everyone calls me Ann. She doesn’t because she’s got a stick lodged up her a—” She pauses, — “somewhere uncomfortable.”

 

I try to laugh without opening my mouth. It’s freezing out here. “That’s nothing compared to what she calls Cora.”

 

Ann says, “You weren’t called Arrie-head in school all the time.”

 

I laugh again. “First, Cora was called Crackhead. Sarah doesn’t come up with stuff that funny. You got lucky. Second, Arrie-head isn’t that bad. And third, is there any heat left in that packet?”

 

Cora snickers. “First, my nickname in school was ‘Here she comes, get out of her way.’ Second, if it still had heat, I would have shanked her for it by now.”

 

Aggie says, “That’s still your nickname,” then bellows one of her horrible eighties’ songs in response.

 

“Oh-oh here she comes, watch out boy, she’ll chew you up, Oh-oh here she comes, she’s a man-eater.”

 

“Shuuut up!” Cora moans at Aggie. “Or at the very least, sing about something warm.”

 

I cheer and clap my hands like a preschool teacher. “How about everybody sing let’s get back to the car and go home?”  

 

“Driver!” Aggie shouts. Even as a child, she often resorted to subterfuge to get up front.

 

“Shotgun!” Ann calls quickly. Cora must really be freezing because it doesn’t look like she cares.

 

Despite the shouting, we quietly down to make our way to the SUV. It’s not a good idea to alert any deer hunters camping out this late. We’d be hard-pressed to come up with a viable excuse to explain why four women in their twenties are out in the forest in the January with no camping gear. I doubt they’d send us on our way if we said we were witches sent here to banish another mythological human-killing creature.

 

On the other hand, straitjackets are warm. It’s like giving yourself a hug for hours. I might like it at this point.

 

When we get closer to the car, Aggie hums a gentle version of the song she sang earlier. Once the car warms up, Cora sucks in an excited breath. “Speaking of man-eating, are we doing karaoke tomorrow night?”

 

I let out a sigh and try to hide my dread, but know resistance will be fruitless. “As much as I detest it, it is you and Aggie’s twenty-third birthday, and as such, you get to choose the family outing.”

 

“YAY!” Ann claps her hands rapidly. For being shy she likes karaoke way too much.

 

With the way Aggie drives it only takes us about an hour to get back into the city. She drives over a curb not once, but twice. Frightening as that sounds, Aggie is actually a better driver than Cora. She just points the car and goes while the rest of us pray for a quick death. I take out the braid that keeps my long straight hair out of my face as we roll up to our mother’s family home. I’m on another mission, and my quarry is the first hot shower. This time, I win.

 

The warm water heats up my chilly flesh but I finish quickly; everyone else needs hot water too. Even though my body is tired from the banishment and frosty midnight hike, my mind won’t shut off. Not only will tomorrow be the twins’ birthday, but it’s also the twenty-third anniversary of our mother’s death. I wish I could call Daddy but I know he doesn’t want to hear anything about it. He’s never even talked about it in any real detail.

 

When Mom was alive, I remember her being gone for days at a time. I was proud to be Daddy’s little helper and I loved taking care of Ann. Me and Daddy were so happy together.

 

Then she died and he wasn’t happy anymore.

 

He went through the motions of caring for the twin babies and I didn’t lack for anything. But, with my mother’s straight red hair and green eyes, I was no longer Daddy’s little helper—I was Daddy’s little reminder.

 

He keeps asking to visit when school breaks for holidays, but even though I miss him, I keep putting him off. I won’t be able to for much longer. Aggie and Cora are graduating in a few months and I’ll have to padlock the basement when he comes. He doesn’t know about us being witches. Sarah said he could never know and it’s not like I want to burden him with this...I don’t even want to know about us. But life goes on, and if there’s one thing Daddy taught me, it was to do the best you can with what you have. And tomorrow, I have to do karaoke.

 

-X-

 

With Cora done up the way she is, every straight man in the place will be gawking at us. When I say us, I mean her. My social ineptitude is legendary in its own right. Ann has dressed me in hot yet not slutty clothes. While I’m grateful for the coverage, I’m not looking forward to being trapped in an environment where youth is an asset. Clubbing is basically the human version of the National Geographic Channel, where everyone mindlessly looks for a mating partner.

 

Cora has no such problems finding or dumping said mates. At 178 centimeters tall, legs that go up to her face, long curly red hair, and a great rack, men part like the Red Sea for her. I’m a mere 169 centimeters with long straight red hair, a moderate rack, and a vocabulary consisting mostly of scientific units. Men tend to part company with me.

 

Saying Daddy had a hard time with boys Cora brought home is an understatement.

 

Waiting in line outside the karaoke bar for twenty minutes, we watch the more scantily clad girls freeze before finally getting in the door. Instantly my senses are assaulted by the oppressive sweat and sound of college students.

 

I shout over the country western karaoke music. “Where do you want to sit?”

 

Aggie looks around, jumping a bit to see over the taller guys at the bar, then points to the balcony. “A place we can look at the livestock!”

 

Ann looks to where Aggie points and shakes her head. “They won’t let us in the VIP area. We have clothes on.”

 

Cora smirks. I know this look; it means she’s up to no good. “Challenge accepted!” She fluffs her hair and boobs, and then sashays over to the VIP bouncer. She flirts with him like a pro, working it while the rest of us watch.

 

A minute later, Cora motions discreetly with her hand for us to join her. Aggie strolls confidently, Ann trips in her knee-high boots; I follow like the social reject I am. He lets us in with far less trouble than I expected and offers to send over the song list.

 

When I walk past him he has a dopey smile on his face and can’t tear his eyes off Cora’s backside. We get situated at our table for a few minutes before someone who will bring us food and song binders appears.

 

Aggie kicks my chair. “Everyone is singing tonight. You know the deal.”

 

I start my futile resistance campaign for the evening. “I’ve sucked before and I’ll suck tonight. You don’t want me embarrassing you in front of your college buddies.”

 

Cora laughs out loud. “Since when do we have buddies?”

 

Ann adds, “Since when has embarrassment ever deterred college students?”

 

I look around the room at the people in various states of grinding and undress. She’s right. “Perhaps later.”

 

Everyone’s sizing up the man-candy and I have to admit, this is the fun part. There’s no one here that could handle my crazy life, let alone date me on a regular basis but looking never hurt anyone.

 

We tease each other and compare songs in the binder. Aggie giggles, shows a song to Cora, then writes it down on her list. There are some talented people here tonight, but more not-so-talented ones. Some think they’re rock stars, displaying desperation like dying gazelles on the Serengeti.

 

Song after song assaults my senses via the huge speakers. It doesn’t wind me up like it does the others, it makes me tired. I get punchy and start babbling about the hardships of public singing.

 

Cora puts her head on my shoulder. “Every party needs a pooper, that’s why we invited you—party pooper!” Aggie and I crack up. The music is booming, lights flash everywhere. The sweat of bar patrons hangs in the air making it hard to breathe—but I’m here with my sisters, so I’m having a good time.

 

“My butt fell asleep! Let’s go dance.” Aggie pulls on mine and Cora’s arms. Cora is all too happy to comply. We giggle and push each other as we make our way downstairs. The man-candy gets out of Cora’s way on their own and I try to squeeze through before the throng caves in again. After we turn in our song lists, Ann, Aggie, and Cora find not-so-fresh meat to dance with while awaiting their turn to sing.

 

I love seeing them having a good time. We’re all so busy; we rarely get the chance to go out like this. Ann works as a file clerk for the Toronto police department. I work from home as a scientific document review specialist. Cora is studying to be a high school history teacher, and Aggie will probably make more money than all of us combined. She’s quite talented in architectural engineering and already has two firms waiting for her to graduate. That’s what happens when you study hard and your dad is a philosophy professor turned high school math teacher.

 

Cora chooses diva songs to belt out while she works the microphone pole. Aggie goes for the slow ballads. Ann does rap, of all genres; it’s the only time she really listens to it. Her small frame looks hilarious imitating the pants-below-your-butt swagger and gangster signs. I’m watching Cora and Ann shake their stuff but when I see Aggie, she’s watching me from the bottom of the stairs, pointing slightly to my left. I turn to see a hot guy looking in my direction, possibly at me.

 

Well...this is different.

 

He’s a little too muscled for my tastes, but a fine blond specimen from the animalistic mating pool. He mouths. “Wanna dance?”

 

I look behind me for Cora. She’s not there.

 

Like a geek, I point to myself to clarify I am indeed the girl he’s looking at. He winks and nods slightly. I could do worse. He struts up to me, looking as cocky as everyone else here, and presses himself into me. “I’ve been watching you for a while.” He yells in my ear, trying to be both seductive and audible at the same time.

 

I shrug my shoulders. “You’ll do.”

 

The blaring music makes it feel like sound waves are rattling me when I close my eyes. It’s not really a good thing; too much bass makes me dizzy. It only takes three songs for him to try some groping. He doesn’t even ask my name. No-name-still-wet-behind-the-ears-groper asks, “You got a boyfriend?”

 

I don’t bother containing my laughter. Like I could ever be a witch and have a boyfriend at the same time. Not only that, I may be geeky, but I’m not desperate. “Isn’t it a little late to be asking that?”

 

He nuzzles my neck. “Don’t be like that, baby.”

 

The throbbing music drowns out my snicker. “Nice try, junior. I’ll save you the trouble. I’m too old and busy for you.”

 

Leaving him on the dance floor I go to rejoin my sisters upstairs, who have all been watching my exchange with Three-Dance Vance. I giggle at his new nickname and push my way through hot, sweaty people. The voices of my laughing sisters win out over the music as I near.

 

Just as I get to our table, strong arms wrap around me from behind in an unsolicited grope. I whip around to see that my dance partner hasn’t given up yet.

 

“Why’d you run off, baby? The night is still young.”

 

“But I’m noooot,” I say in my Grandpa Simpson voice. “I’m almost thirty years old. I’m a fooogieee! Ann, get my walker!”

 

Ann falls out of her chair laughing.

 

“You know you wanna dance some more.” He presses a kiss on my neck. Even the grendel knew when to give up and die, making it smarter than this guy.

 

“No, not really. I think I’m giving you the wrong idea about my commitment levels. You may go now.” Aggie and Cora are huddled, talking into each other’s ears. They look at me and put five dollars each on the table. Cora pulls it out of her bra.

 

Three-Dance Vance tightens his hold on me and I squirm a little. Cora once said defying guys makes them want you more. I thought she was full of crap. I was wrong.

 

“Last chance to get your hands off me.”

 

“You know it’ll be fun, baby. It’ll be so goo—”

 

That’s my cue.

 

I spin around, grab his middle finger, bend it back, and force him to the floor while kicking him in the crotch. Feeling my foot connect with Three-Dance Vance’s assumptions, I can’t make myself any clearer.

 

“That’s what judo is for, baby.”

 

Aggie picks up the money on the table. “And that’s the signal to leave.” We grab our things and make for the exit, cracking up the whole way. I take one last glance at Cocky on the floor before we leave. He’s not getting up.

 

Walking past the line of people outside waiting to join the National Geographic dance floor; I take the opportunity to make a public service announcement.

 

“If anybody wants, there’s a hot guy on the balcony!”

 

Cora snorts. “On the balcony floor.”

 

A few people look confused, if they bother to look up at all. We walk the few blocks to our house, laughing the entire way.

 

-X-

 

How everyone else managed getting to class and work the next morning is beyond me. I’m not as resilient as Cora and Aggie but a long hot bath always works. When I feel conscious enough that play dough isn’t a hazardous substance, I wash, scrub, and shave everything. The landline rings repeatedly while I soak away the last vestiges of clubbing.

 

Reaching the kitchen in my bathrobe, I see Cora has attempted to leave me breakfast. Not even my biology degree can help me determine what this is. The problem with Cora’s cooking is that it’s not edible. Her idea of seasoning is a good shaker of salt. While she sucks in the regular kitchen, she’s talented in the elixir kitchen. Those recipes are supposed to kill you.

 

At the breakfast table, I savor a nice quiet cup of coffee until the phone starts ringing again.

 

“Whatever you’re selling, go away!”

 

“TARA, GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!” Aggie yells through a crackling cell phone. I hear Cora’s Yukon rev in the background and the horn honk. My gut lurches in panic.

 

I run towards the back door with the phone still to my ear. “Where are they coming from?”

 

“The back and front door! We’re across town—I didn’t see anything until a few minutes ago.”

 

I didn’t expect this; we rarely get attacked at the house. Normally we’re the hunters.

 

A shadow moves underneath the back door while a human-looking arm breaks the glass to the side of it. I sprint towards the front door but the doorknob wiggles. Two shadowy figures are visible through the opaque glass.

 

The back door creaks open slowly; I only have a few seconds before I’m caught.

 

I run to our fortress, the basement. The elixir stockpiles are my best hope. Normally I fight alongside my sisters, but when the twelve first returned our powers, Sarah trained us on what to do should we be found alone.

 

Run till you’re ready, hide if you can, fight if you have to, help is on the way.


-X-

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