The fire demon nodded, his gaze moving to the table. “Is that pancakes I smell? May I eat first?”

Madoc patted the chair where he was sitting and stood. “You can sit here, next to Delara. I’ve fixed your plate, so eat before it gets cold.”

Emilien’s gaze followed the coblynau as he walked with a slight limp toward the cabinet where a single plate sat and picked it up. His thoughts turned back to Hel, and a sinking feeling settled in his stomach. Anger quickly replaced his previous unease. He knew where the demon would find his ex-wife—with Shalendra at his house in Midgard. Exploding from his chair, he frantically paced the kitchen, uncaring that the others were staring at him.

“So help me, if that female said a word to her, I will kill her myself. Let the gods try to bring her back after I’ve dealt with her treachery,” he grumbled as his anger continued to rise.

Cattarix tilted his sleek head to one side in confusion. “Who said what to whom, and who are you going to kill?”

Émilien forced himself to stop. Closing his eyes, it took several minutes for him to get his fury under control. He knew Hel would never do anything to hurt their daughter, nor would she intentionally hurt him. Usually, the two of them were safe from her sarcastic barbs, but recently finding her so agitated on his front doorstep, all bets were off. As queen of the primordial land of the dead, she was not known for her gentleness or generosity.

His eyes popped open, and the red haze covering his vision had cleared. “I was speaking about Hel and Shalendra. Hel would be the one I’d kill.”

The panther let out a scoffing snort. “Ri-ight, like you could kill the queen of the dead.”

Émilien turned a cold glare on the large cat. “I can and I will if I find out she has interfered.” The panther lowered his belly to the floor, looking bemused, but had the decency to keep his mouth shut, his long tail slithering behind him.

Émilien glanced at Ostrik, who stared at something outside of the kitchen. “Ostrik, what’s wrong?”

The fire demon shook his head, which tilted slightly to one side, but his gaze never strayed from whatever held his attention. “Do you know a little girl with long, dark brown curls? There’s something next to her feet, but I can’t tell” He frowned, squinting at whatever he was trying to see. “It keeps flickering, but every few seconds, I get the impression of a small animal with brown hair as well.”

A bad feeling settled over Émilien. “Is she wearing a period dress, maybe around the 1940s on Midgard?”

The fire demon threw him a quick scowl. “How am I supposed to know something like that? I’ve never been to Midgard.”

A dull pain began pounding behind Émilien’s eyes. “Fine then, can you describe what she’s wearing?”

The fire demon shrugged. “She’s wearing a dirty white dress that goes down to her knees and has a ribbon in her hair. It’s red, I think, but it’s hard to tell. When she’s visible, I get a blip of color then she turns an insubstantial gray.” He shivered. “It’s creepy.”

Émilien moved to the doorway but didn’t have long to wait before the young girl appeared. Just like Ostrik described, she was dressed in a tattered white dress, reminiscent of the styles worn on Midgard during World War Two. The wide ruffle gracing her shoulders and neck had dark brown stains on it and there were several holes. Her hand rested on something he couldn’t see.

She pointed at him then leaned over and whispered something to her invisible companion. The girl blinked out then returned, and he saw the German Shepard puppy by her foot. Émilien smiled at the pup, and its tail wagged with excitement.

He stepped into the room, and their spirits brightened. “I wondered where the two of you had gotten off to.”

Trapped,the girl whispered in his mind.Can’t leave.

“Where are you, Sophie?”

Shadow Lands. Near the ravine where I met Charles.

Émilien nodded, remembering that night. He’d been scouting when he came upon a fissure between worlds and watched as the young ghost played with an American soldier who was trying to evade German soldiers during the war.

“Do you want me to come get you?”

She nodded.I’m scared—so is Merle. We don’t like it here right now.

“Okay, little one, I’m on my way. Sit tight?” With a sweet smile on her face, Sophie faded away. Émilien turned to the four faces staring at him. “What?”

Madoc frowned and smashed his fists on his hips. “Why did you promise her that? You have no idea if you even can leave, much less go to her.”

“She is only six. Sophie is a very brave little girl, especially after what happened to her in the war on Midgard, but I am the guardian, which means I must help her. I need you to stay here and rest. Keep an eye on the caverns and after I leave, seal the doorway like I taught you. Do you remember the spell and how to invoke it?” Madoc nodded but stayed silent.

He looked at his three other companions. “How would the three of you like to go on a small adventure? Something tells me we’re going to need each other before this is all said and done, so let’s stick together.”

“I can’t speak for Delara and Ostrik, but I’m in,” Cattarix said.

Delara nodded and unfolded one arm from under her wing and placed her hand in the fire demon’s. “We’re in too.”

Tags: Heidi Vanlandingham Fantasy
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