Grantville

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·                Grantville: An Iona Beddau Adventure

·                By

·                Julie O

·                 

·                Features characters from The Julieverse & Forget-Me-Not

 

 Iona Beddau pays a visit to the small Midwestern town of Grantville to investigate the transformation of young men into women. This is the sequel to Forget-Me-Not.

Chapter 1

                  “So Iona, what’s the story about this place?” Michaela asked as we drove down an empty Midwestern road.

                  “Our Chicago office got a note stating that the town elders are changing boys into girls in order to maintain the town’s population,” I replied.

                  Michaela looked out the window at the rows of corn.

                  “You mean that people don’t want to stay around all this?” she asked sarcastically. “I mean there’s so much here!”

                  “What, you don’t like farming?” I asked.

                   “Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against people who work the land…but it’s never been in my people’s blood,” she replied.

                  I nodded. I knew so little about Michaela’s race, few people did. I mainly knew that they were an ancient race that had been around longer than humans. They had magical powers, including shape shifting and were quite formidable warriors. When I first met Michaela she was a guy, but that seemed like eons ago. Over the past few years we had become great friends and partners.

                  “Anyway, our initial report determined that they have been doing this for at least thirty years…probably much longer. Every year they select some boys from the senior high school class and transform them. As women they have strong maternal instincts and are usually married within months and pregnant a short time later,” I continued.

                  “So it gives the remaining men wives,” said Michaela.

                  “Yes and so any male who stays are pretty much guaranteed a perfect wife. Apparently the process affects the memories of not only the victims, but the rest of the town’s population.”

                  “So how did we find out about it?” she asked. “I doubt that one of your investigators would find this place on their own. I mean, is this place even on GPS?”

                  “Here’s where it gets even weirder, a seven-year-old girl sent a note to our Chicago office. She also sent drawings that explained what was going on. Apparently she was once a teenage boy, but when she was changed the memory aspect of the spell didn’t work. So the elders changed her into a five-year-old Chinese girl,” I explained.

                  “Okay, why Chinese and why five-years old?” asked Michaela.

                  “Just one of the mysteries,” I replied.

                  “And how did she fine out about us?” she asked.

                  “Another mystery,” I replied.

                  “And how did they change her?” she asked.

                  “From what I could tell from the drawings, they used crystals and a leather-bound book,” I answered. 

                  “So that would mean that these elders don’t have powers of their own,” she said.

                  “That’s my feeling,” I said.

                  “And that means someone…or something provided them with this source of magic,” continued Michaela.

                  “Exactly,” I replied. “It would have to be a very strong spell to affect the whole town...and beyond…those sorts of spells aren’t just given out…especially just to allow a small town to maintain its population.”

                  “And is that why you brought me along to this rural wonderland?” she asked.

                  I nodded.

                  “I intend to stop this,” I replied.

                  “Cool,” she said. “Now I feel better about being out here.”

                  I smiled back at her.

                  “So any ideas on who or what we might be facing?” I asked.

                  She shook her head.

                  “I’ll have to wait until I can sense the magic being used. It’s obviously not a succubus…they’re too selfish to share their powers,” she replied. “They also don’t stay in any one place for more than a year or so.”

                  “That’s good to hear…I don’t want to run into another one of them ever again,” I replied.

                  “You handled yourself pretty well if I remember correctly,” replied Michaela.

                  “Yes, but it was still a nightmare,” I said.

                  Michaela nodded.

                  I had been very lucky to defeat the succubus that had been posing as a high school student. It came very close to killing me.

                  “So what’s the plan?” she asked.                  

                  “Did you read the cover story?” I asked with a grin.

                  “I barely had time to catch the flight out here,” she replied. “Besides you know that I would rather have you explain it to me,” she countered.

“We’re doing a story on small towns of the Midwest…I’m the writer and you’re my photographer…you did bring your camera, right?” I asked.

She nodded.

 “Good, well it will allow us to snoop around. Right now this is strictly a recon mission. We’re to try and determine how many people have been changed, who’s behind it, and if possible interview the little girl.”

                  “And then?” she asked.

                  “That depends on what we find,” I replied.

                  Michaela nodded.

                  “So are we there yet?” she asked.

                  I grinned back.

                  “No, we’re stopping at a motel twenty miles away for the night. It will give us a chance to rest before we get there...also there’s no hotel in the town,” I replied.

 

Chapter 2

                  The best thing I can say about the motel was that it was clean. I still ran a spell over my bed prior to using it…just in case.

                  The motel was sparse but at least they had a small restaurant across the street specializing in meals that would be considered illegal in California. The menu was pretty much meat and potatoes and the house salad looked like it came out of a bag. The only other guests were a few truckers and a retired couple that were driving across the country.

                  After a filling, but bland dinner, Michaela and I went back to my room to discuss our plans. I opened the folder that held the drawings that the girl named Bree had drawn.

                  “Wow, these drawings are excellent,” said Michaela, “They’re very detailed.”

                  I nodded.

                  They showed frame by frame how she and four other boys were transformed. They also showed the elders using a different crystal on the girl to change her even further.

                  “So they’re using at least two different crystals…in addition to the ones that were in the necklaces,” noted Michaela. “They’re also different colors, in addition to the shapes…very interesting.”

                  I nodded as I looked at the other drawings. The next group of drawings showed her adjusting to her life as a five-year-old girl named Brianna or Bree as she signed the drawings. The only good thing was that she appeared to have a family that loved her. I was still curious about why the elders had made her Chinese.

                  The last group of drawings showed the other four transformed teens, getting married, getting pregnant and starting families. Bree had listed names of the four other girls.

                  “So just doing some rough math, if they do five girls a year that means that there could be over 150 transformed women in this town…assuming that this started thirty years ago,” said Michaela. “If they get pregnant when they’re teens, then some of them could be grandmothers by now.”

                  “I know,” I replied.

                  “You know what this means,” she continued.

                  I nodded. It meant that it would impossible to change them back…at best all we could do was stop it from happening again.

                  “They appear to transform them in the spring, so we have time to stop this from happening to anyone else,” I said.

                  “I agree…but what do we do about Bree?” she asked. “And, if we find any others that have their memories.”

                  I shrugged.

                  “I have no idea,” I replied. “But we have to stop this.”

                  After Michaela left I called Bill.

                  “How’re you doing?” he asked.

                  “I miss you badly,” I replied.

                  “I miss you too,” he replied.

                  I then told him that we would be arriving in Grantville the next day.

                  “Call me tomorrow,” he said.

                  “I will. So how’s the furball?” I asked referring to my black cat and familiar.

                  “Salem is in my lap as we speak…she misses you too,” he replied.

                  “Give the wee beastie a chin rub for me,” I replied.

                  “I will, see you soon…and be safe,” he replied.

                  “Always,” I replied.

                  Bill laughed.

                  “Well at least promise me that you’ll keep your clothes on this time,” he said.

                  “No promises,” I replied.

                  I had a nasty reputation in the department thanks to several times ending up naked during the prosecution of a case. I was as proud of my body as the next person, but it was a bit annoying how I often ended up in the buff.

 

Chapter 3

                  After a heavy breakfast of eggs and bacon we drove towards Grantville to snoop around. The plan was that we were posing as freelance reporters writing a story about small towns of the Midwest. I was the writer and Michaela was my photographer. We both had excellent fake IDs that would have fooled Homeland Security, which was where we got them in the first place.  If anyone checked up on us they would find several articles that we had done.

                  We had people with powers in most law enforcement agencies throughout the world. They worked along side humans and handled cases that involved beings who violated magical laws. Since I became Iona and developed powers I had learned about the dual world that most people were totally unaware of. I also learned that most beings with powers just wanted to live their lives without causing problems. However, just like in the human world there were those who violated the laws of both human and magic. My job was to catch them and then let the law prosecute them. Most magical beings were handled by a separate court system from those of humans. The gray area was when we caught humans violating the use of magic.

                  Sometimes humans misused a spell or a magical device without understanding the consequences of their actions. This usually ended up with them being stripped of their powers and having all knowledge of their actions swept from their memory.

                  The real problem was when we caught humans misusing powers on purpose. If the information provided to us by Bree was correct, the town elders would face trial in magical court as it was obvious that they knew what they were doing was wrong.

                  Initially this looked like an open and shut case in that all we would have to do is arrest the elders, but as Michaela had pointed out, the question remained, how they got these powers. The type of spell they were using was very powerful and not easy to cast. It was very unlikely that they would have just stumbled upon it on their own.

                  “How far are we from the town?” asked Michaela.

                  I looked at the GPS.

                  “Five miles, why?” I asked.

                  “Don’t you see it?” she asked.

                  “What?”

                  “Oh, I forgot, you have to concentrate to see auras…better pull over first,” she replied.

                  I pulled off the road and stepped out of the rental car. Michaela pointed down the road.

                  Most women with my kind of powers could see others auras, I had to think about it, I suppose it was due to my rather unique mixture of being heritages. At first I wasn’t sure what Michaela was talking about as there was no one else around us. But then I saw what she was referring to; there was a bright glow of blues and reds in the direction of the town of Grantville. It almost looked like the Northern Lights.

                  “Holy crap,” I exclaimed.

                  “Exactly,” replied Michaela. “The whole town is giving off a radiance of magic.”

                  “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” I said.

                  “It’s due to the memory aspect of the spell,” she said.

                  “Will it bother us?” I asked.

                  She shook her head.

                  “No, it would only affect humans,” she replied.

                  I nodded as I stared at the effect.

                  “This means that there’s no friendly beings in the area…they would have reported seeing this if there were,” she continued.

                  “Well, this is in the middle of nowhere,” I said.

                  “I’ve been to the middle of nowhere and I’ve always found others like us,” countered Michaela.

                  I absorbed what she was saying.

                  “There has to be someone else behind this…and they have been taking out anyone who is a threat,” she continued. “The good thing is that no one…not even my kind…can pick up on you…and I’m pretty invisible too.”

                  “That’s true,” I replied.

                  Even though I had very strong powers, I was undetectable by most others. My Aunt Kayla figures it’s due to the fact that my original family had powers and they were mutated when I underwent my body swap. It was a useful skill to have in my line of work.

                  “I suspect that Bree may have powers…and like you were…she’s unaware of them,” said Michaela.

                  “That would explain why her memory was unaffected,” I replied.

                  “There’s something else,” said Michaela in a very serious manner.

                  “You’re full of good news today,” I replied.

                  “Look over there…at the cattle,” she said as she pointed across the road.

                  I looked in the direction she was referring to and gasped.

                  “Two of those…were once human,” I exclaimed.

                  Michaela nodded.

                  “Can you get a read on them?” I asked.

                  “No…the spell has progressed too far…they have little of their minds left,” she replied.

                  “Were they human or magical?” I asked.

                  “One was a witch…I’m not sure about the other,” she replied.

                  “You sure?” I asked.

                  She nodded again.

                  “It’s probably the only reason why I was able to detect her aura,” replied Michaela.

                  I considered myself to be a sorceress. Witches were much rarer and usually had stronger powers due to their spiritual beliefs.

                  “Whatever changed her is powerful,” said Michaela.

                  “Take a photo,” I said. “It will go with our cover story.”

                  Michaela reached into the car for her camera and took several shots. As she did I made a call to Connor, my supervisor.

                  I told him what we had learned so far.

                  “I still want to go into the town and look around…and I want to talk to Bree,” I said.

                  “Would it do any good if I told you no?” he asked.

                  “No,” I replied.

                  “I didn’t think it would. Call me as soon as you find anything else…oh, and give my thanks to Michaela,” he said.

                  “I will,” I replied. “Thanks.”

                  “Be safe,” he said.

                  “I will,” I replied.

 

Chapter 4

                  We drove into the center of Grantville and parked the car next to the town hall.

                  “Um, what are you doing?” asked Michaela.

                  “All part of the plan. We go in and tell them our cover story,” I said. “Make sure you bring your camera.”

                  We walked into the three-story brick building that served at the town hall. The police station was on the first floor, public works and utilities on the second floor and the mayor’s office was on the top floor. There was no elevator.

                  We checked in with the mayor’s receptionist, a kindly looking woman in her mid-fifties. We explained what we were doing and that we would like to talk to the mayor. She smiled and got up to speak to him.

                  The mayor’s name was Carl Johansson and he didn’t seem like a monster, even though I knew what he had been doing. I instantly recognized him from Bree’s drawings.

                  He smiled as he invited us into his office.

                  “So you’re doing a story on Grantville?” he asked.

                  “Actually, we’re doing it on several small towns in the Midwest,” I replied.

                  “And why did you pick us?” he asked pleasantly.

                  “We’re doing the article on towns that sprung up after the Civil War and how some have survived, others haven’t, and some have thrived,” I replied. “Obviously Grantville falls under the later.”

                  He grinned.

                  “We’ve managed to do quite well…if I do say so myself,” he replied.

                  “Can you tell me the secret of your town’s success?” I asked.

                  “Magic,” he replied and then he began laughing.

                  I spent the next hour interviewing him. While I hated what he had done to Bree and the others, it was obvious that he truly cared about the town and the residents.

                  “I will call Mary Olsen, she’s our town historian, and have her prepare a file for you on our town’s history,” he concluded.

                  “That would be very helpful,” I replied.

                  “Where are you staying?” he asked.

                  I told him. There was no reason to lie.

                  “Sorry about the lack of accommodations in our town…we don’t have much use for a hotel, most people when they visit stay with their families,” he replied.

                  “It’s no so bad, it’s a nice drive,” I replied.

                  “How long will you be here?” he asked.

                  “A few days,” I replied. “As I said I would like to do some interviews.”

                  “Anyone specific you’d like to meet?” he asked.

                  “We’d like to focus on regular people, but I would like to speak to someone at your high school,” I replied.

                  “Why?” he asked.

                  “Well, from we’ve learned in other towns, it’s difficult to keep the younger people in the community. We couldn’t help but notice several young married couples as we drove through downtown, so we’d like to know if your town has any special programs.”

                  He nodded.

                  “I will contact Fred Evans, he’s our high school principal and see if he has time to speak to you,” said Carl.

                  “That would be great,” I replied.

                  “I’ll also tell our town sheriff, about you. We don’t get a lot of visitors here,” continued the Mayor.

                  “I appreciate that,” I replied. “So, where are we heading first?”

                  “We’d like to wander around downtown first. Is there a place where we can meet people, a diner or a coffee shop?” I asked.

                  “Olaf’s Diner, it’s out the front door, to your left, you can’t miss it,” he said.

                  “Thank you,” I replied. “Do you mind if Michaela takes your photograph?”

                  He grinned and he reached up and ran his fingers over his short hair. “No not at all.”

 

Chapter 5

                  I knew that Michaela had been trying to get a read on Carl, but I would wait until the drive back to ask her about it.

                  We spent two hours in Olaf’s. The food was better than the restaurant by the motel, but it was still very heavy. We also conducted several interviews.

                  As expected and hoped, the word was out about us and we had no trouble taking to people.  We even managed to talk to a young pregnant woman who couldn’t say enough nice things about the town. I could tell from her aura that she had once been a male.

                  Next we explored the town. I was keeping an eye open for Bree. It wouldn’t be hard to spot her as most of the town was white.

                  I then spotted the town drug store and motioned for Michaela to follow me inside.

                  I remembered from the drawings that Bree’s father owned the town drug store.

                  As expected we were immediately greeted as soon as we entered.

                  “So you’re the people who are going to make Grantville famous?” asked the woman behind the counter. Her tone was cheerful, just like most of the people we had met.

                  “I don’t know about that, but I hope that someone reads the article,” I replied.

                  “Well you can count on everyone here reading it, this is the most exciting thing to happen here…well…ever,” she replied with a grin.

                  Just then a man walked out from behind the pharmacy counter.

                  “Dave, come here, these are the reporters!” announced the woman.

                  He smiled and walked over to us.

                  “I’m Dave Olson, pleased to meet you,” he said as he greeted us.

                  “I’m Iona and this is my photographer Michaela,” I replied.

                  “So how can I help you?” he asked.

                  “Do you own this store?” I asked.

                  He nodded proudly.

                  “Great, do you have time to talk?” I asked. “I would like to get an interview with a local business owner.”

                  He glanced at his watch.

                  “I’d love to, but I have an important appointment to attend,” he replied.

                  “His daughter is getting an award at school,” said the woman.

                  He smiled.

                  “She won a school art contest,” he replied proudly.

                  “Congratulations,” I replied. “Um would it be possible for us to tag along? It would be a nice human interest touch to the story.”

                  He shrugged.

                  “I don’t see why not,” he replied. “Of course, the school might say no, but I doubt it…I imagine they’ve heard about your being here too.”

 

Chapter 6

                  I couldn’t believe our good luck as we rode over to the elementary school with Dave Olson.

                  “So what do you think of our town?” he asked us.

                  “It seems nice,” I replied. “Everyone we’ve met is very nice.”

                  He nodded.

                  “It’s a bit quiet and not for everyone,” he said. “I’m just glad that we’re not just maintaining our population but we’ve seen a slight annual increase in population. Yes, I have business interests, but this is my hometown and I’m happy that my children will have a chance to grow up here.”

                  “Tell me about your family,” I asked. “Is your wife a local?”

                  He shook his head.

                  “No, Kristin is originally from California. We met at a convention and it was love at first sight,” he replied.

                  “How many children do you have?” I asked.

                  “Two and a third on the way,” he replied. “Bree is our oldest…and she’s adopted… as you will see.  Initially we thought we couldn’t have children. We now have a little boy, Brian Junior, and we’re expecting our third child in six weeks.”

                  “Why did you say that we’ll see that Bree is adopted?” I asked.

                  “She was born in China,” he replied. “Our church helps funds an orphanage there for little girls that have been abandoned. Bree was four when we adopted her.”

                  “Are there others like her here?” I asked.

                  He shook his head.

                  “Unfortunately  no. We were concerned at first that it might be difficult for her growing up here. You probably noticed that we’re not very ethnically diverse here…one of the few drawbacks of a small Midwestern town.”

                  “And has she had any problems?” I asked.

                  “No…not really. She has been fully accepted by her classmates and the other kids in the neighborhood,” he said.

                  “But there have been problems,” I interjected.

                  “The first couple of years were rough, she had a lot of nightmares, but as she’s grown older they’ve been less frequent,” he replied. “We think her nightmares were due to her being abandoned by her family. We’ve done everything possible to let her know that we love her.”

                  “That’s good to hear,” I replied. “Cultural changes can be difficult…especially at a young age.”

                  I knew that the nightmares were due to her transformation. I have met several people over the years that were changed against their will and the adjustment is difficult. I was fortunate that my adjustment was smooth.

                  He nodded.

                  “However I want to make one thing perfectly clear, Kristin and I love Bree completely. We can’t imagine life without her,” he said.

                  “That’s obvious,” I replied with a smile.

                  “Well we’re here,” he said.

                  We pulled into the parking lot of a one story modern school. I was slightly taken back by as the building looked out of place.

                  Dave must have seen my reaction.

                  “The school was built two years ago…we got a community grant to replace the old one. We no longer have to worry about the heating during the winter,” he explained.

                  We were greeted by a middle-aged man at the entrance of the school. He was very ordinary looking and smiled as he saw us walk towards him.

                  Dave introduced us to him. His name was Henry Hester and he was the principal.

                  “I’m very pleased that Dave brought you here,” said Henry. “When we heard you were in town we hoped that you would see our school.”

                  “It’s not what I expected,” I replied.

                  Michaela began to take photos.

                  “The old school was over one hundred years old and was a nightmare to maintain. We spent more in repairs than school supplies…the teachers use to have a pool every year on the first day of school as to when the old coal powered furnace would break down,” he replied with a chuckle.

                  “Dave mentioned that you got a grant to build the new school,” I said.

                  Henry nodded.

                  “Yes, it was quite unexpected, but with our population increasing it was necessary and long overdue,” he replied as he looked at his watch. “Well, we’d better head in; the award ceremony will be starting in a few minutes.”

                  We walked together into the school. It was just as modern inside and wouldn’t have looked out of place in any upscale community. The one thing I immediately noticed was that all the students were wearing uniforms. The boys were in blue plants and a white shirt and the girls were wearing blue skirts and white blouses.

                  “I’m a little surprised to see uniforms,” I commented.

                  Henry smiled back at me.

                  “It’s a cost saving measure,” he replied. “All the students wear uniforms and it saves the families money and allows for hand-me-downs. The parents love it.”

                  “What about the students?” I asked.

                  “They don’t seem to mind,” he replied in a nonchalant manner.

                  We were led to the auditorium. Henry motioned for a place for us to sit up front. He then walked up onto the stage.

                  Michaela and I watched and listened as he made a short speech and then brought up the winners of various awards. Michaela and I watched as Bree walked up to receive her award. She was very cute and seemed to be very happy, but as I had learned many times, looks can be deceiving.

Michaela gave me a nudge and I looked over at one of the teachers.  The woman was young, blonde and attractive…and it judging from her aura she had once been male. In fact I was soon aware that six other teachers had also been transformed. I had to push my rage down deep so that no one detected our real purpose for being there.

When Bree got her award I looked over at Dave and he was beaming. It was evident that he loved Bree and was very proud of her. I also noticed that he was sitting next to a beautiful blonde haired woman, who was very pregnant.

After the ceremony, he introduced us to his wife Kristin.

“So you’re really doing a story on Grantville?” she asked.

I nodded.

“That’s wonderful…they’ve done so much to make this a wonderful community,” replied Kristin.

“I was hoping that we could talk to you…and your daughter,” I said.

“Why?” she asked as she looked at her husband.

“We’d like to show that your community is open-minded,” I replied.

“I think it would be great,” said Dave.

“How long will you be in town?” she asked.

“A couple of days,” I replied.

“Well, why don’t you come over for dinner tomorrow night? I’d invite you this evening but we have a prior engagement,” said Kristin.

I looked at Michaela who nodded.

                  “We’d love to,” I replied.

                  “Great,” replied Kristin.

                  She then gave us directions and the time to show up.

                  “We’re looking forward to dinner,” I said.

                  “See you both tomorrow,” said Kristin.

 

Chapter 7

                  We spent another hour in town before going back to our car. As soon as we got in my security charm began to glow. Michaela saw it and nodded. She pointed to a small black box that was taped under the dashboard.

There would be no private conversations until we got back to the motel. I pulled out of the parking lot and headed out of town.

“What a nice community,” said Michaela. “This is definitely the highlight of this trip.”

“I agree,” I replied as I rolled my eyes.

We continued the charade until we reached the motel. Michaela checked the box before we got out of the car.

As we walked back to our rooms she whispered to me that it was both a tracking device and a bug, but she suspected that we were now out of range.

“So they do check out strangers,” I commented.

Michaela nodded.

As I opened the door to my room, the security charm began to glow again. Michaela’s room was also bugged.  There were several bugs in each room. Someone had tried to log onto my laptop, but they couldn’t get past my security system.

I was debating what to do next when Michaela solved our problem. She walked into the bathroom and cast a spell.

The motel manager apologized for the overflowing toilet and immediately gave Michaela a new room. So we had a safe room for at least one day.

 

Chapter 8

“Very interesting,” said Michaela.

“What are you talking about?” I asked as I turned on my laptop.

“Everything,” she replied. “The town is exceedingly normal…with the obvious exception of the transformed males. It’s a very typical small farming town.”

“I know...I was sort of hoping it would be more like a Stepford type community,” I replied.

“The mayor is definitely dirty…but I didn’t sense he did it out of being malicious…he just wants to keep the community alive,” said Michaela. “His aura is stained…but not evil.”

“I wish I had your skill in reading auras,” I replied.

“It comes with practice…after a few hundred years you know what to look for,” she said.

“Okay…did you detect anyone else?”

“The principal is clean,” she said. “We still need to talk to the high school principal…and the sheriff.”

“Did you sense anything else?” I asked.

She hesitated before answering.

“Not exactly…I felt something for a moment, but not enough to figure out what it was,” she replied.

“When did this happen?” I asked.

“In the city hall building as we walked up to the Mayor’s office,” she replied. “It was so brief that I almost missed it. I will concentrate the next time we’re there.” 

“Okay, and I will do some counter-espionage,” I replied.

“What are you going to do?” she asked.

“I have some toys that Connor gave me. Don’t worry, they’re human in origin and unless the person who bugged us works for the NSA they won’t find them…but I want to know who is doing this.”

“My aren’t you becoming a sneaky one,” she replied.

I laughed.

“I don’t see any reason to avoid manmade technology in my line of work…just like using my powers, they’re tools that aid me in doing my job,” I replied.

I then felt a wave of anger sweep through me.

“And what is happening here has to stop. The town looks as if they can survive without abusing others,” I stated.

“I agree. But you realize we have two options. The first one…and the easy one is to go in and confront the three men who we suspect are behind this…it shouldn’t take much to get the crystals from them,” she explained.

I just stared back.

“But that would be too easy…we know that someone…or something is behind this…and they are a bigger threat. If we bust the three men, without finding who’s really behind this then it will just start somewhere else,” she said.

“Maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll come out and confront us,” I said.

She shook her head. “No, I suspect that the being behind this won’t reveal them self. The fact that there are two magic beings out grazing in a field is a sign of this.”

“Okay, so who or what do you think is behind this?” I asked.

“I’ve been giving this a lot of thought…and I have no idea. I have vague memories of stories I was told when I was young…but I can’t remember the details. Do you want me to ask my kin?”

What little I knew of Michaela’s people was that they didn’t like to interact with most other beings with power. I was an exception. I suppose it was because I was different than most and they were curious about me. Being born human and male, then being trapped in the body of a sorceress, and later developing my own unique powers was very unusual in the magical world. They were also intrigued by the fact that I still had strong ties in the human world. Michaela’s kin had a strong fondness for humans and had often acted as their protectors.

“Absolutely,” I replied.

“Okay, I’ll call them after dinner,” she said.

“I also need to call Bill and also Connor,” I replied.

 

Chapter 9

That night the restaurant had a sausage special. I passed and went for the baked chicken, but Michaela was brave and ordered it.

The waitress brought out food and I was speechless when I saw Michaela’s meal.

“Um, is that it?” I asked.

There were three different types of sausage on the plate and some mashed potatoes.

“It is a bit sparse,” said Michaela.

My meal wasn’t much better. I asked for some vegetables and they put what looked like frozen peas with my chicken.

“This is farm country, haven’t they realized that you can also eat vegetables,” I commented.

“Actually this reminds me of the olden days,” she remarked as she took a bite of one of the sausages. “Not bad.”

I shook my head. Granted I was far from a health food nut, but this was bland even for me.

“Which olden days? The Middle Ages?” I asked as I cut my chicken.

“Actually you’re not that far off,” she replied as she tried one of the other sausages.

“I hope Kristin’s a better cook,” I said as I ate some more of the chicken.

After dinner I called Bill and then Connor.

Connor was pleased with what we had accomplished. He was even more excited about the help that Michaela was offering.  He was also worried about the electronic bugs.

“I want you to do a full sweep every time you get in the car or your room,” he said.

“We will,” I replied. “So do you have any idea about our mystery being?”

“No…but we are doing research as we speak,” he replied. “Be careful.”

“I will, thanks,” I replied.

 

Chapter 10

The next day we got a call from Mayor Johansson telling us that he had arranged an interview for us with Fred Evans, the high school principal for ten that morning. We thanked him for his help.

During the drive into Grantville we saw the two transformed cattle grazing in the field. I took this as a sign that we were still undetected.

We arrived at the high school and we were promptly led into Fred Evans’ office.

His office was what I had expected; it looked like a typical school administrator’s office. There was nothing out of the ordinary. There were photos and awards hanging on the walls marking his many years of service.

I didn’t need Michaela’s insight to see the darkest of his aura. All the pain and suffering he had caused had stained him forever. There was something else. I sensed that, unlike the Mayor, he enjoyed what he did.

“Thank you for seeing us,” I remarked as we sat down across from him.

“I should be the one thanking you,” he replied. “A national article will be great for our town. So how are you enjoying your stay?”

“Other than the problem with the motel room, it’s been fine,” said Michaela.

We figured someone would ask us about our stay and try to figure out why one of us changed rooms.

He looked concerned.

“Why, what happened?” he asked.

“One of the pipes in my room broke and flooded it out,” she replied. “Thankfully none of my clothing was damaged.”

“Sorry to hear that. We do lack a hotel close to town…maybe in a few years,” he said.

“I’m used to it. We spend so much time in hotels in this job,” she replied.

“You should settle down,” he said as he turned to me. “I see that you’re married, does your husband mind you travelling all the time?”

“He keeps bugging me about finding a more sedentary job,” I replied.

He smiled.

“I’m sorry, that was rude of me. It’s just that most women here devote themselves to raising families rather than having a career. Actually it’s one of the things we offer here…our cost of living is low enough that most families can get by on just one income,” he explained.

“Is that something your school stresses?” I asked politely.

“We don’t force anyone to be a housewife, but we do have a very strong home economics program. My uncle, the previous principal, determined that one way to maintain and then increase the population would be to stress that this is a great place to raise a family and part of that would be to convince young women to stay here…so that the young men would too.”

I nodded as I took notes.

“I know it might sound sexist, but it’s one of the town’s selling points. We had two families move here from Chicago this year. I’m on the economic development committee, along with the mayor, the police chief and my uncle, and we’re doing whatever it takes to keep the town growing. We’re in negotiations to bring in a small manufacturing plant, which would add over sixty jobs to the community.”

“The committee, is this the group responsible for the new elementary school?” I asked.

He nodded with pride.

“That’s right, you were there yesterday, what do you think?”

“It’s impressive,” I replied.

“We’re going to break ground on a new high school next year,” he admitted.

“Congratulations,” I replied.

He smiled.

“Yes, this town is going places…I hope that you come back in a few years and see us,” he said.

I nodded.

“Would it be possible for us to get a tour of the school…and maybe talk to some of the students?” I asked.

“Of course. Now I must warn you, not all the students here share our vision of the future of Grantville. Many will claim how boring it is and that they can’t wait to leave, but many stay and love it. Almost all our staff graduated from this high school…myself included.”

“If teenagers aren’t complaining then there’s something up,” I replied with a grin.

He laughed.

“How true,” he replied. “I will have one of our guidance counselors escort you around the school.

 

Chapter 11

I noticed at least three teachers who had been transformed. In a way I hoped that they had no memory of their previous lives as I couldn’t imagine the pain and humiliation of working for the man who was responsible.

It was fast becoming evident that even when we stopped any additional transformations it would be extremely difficult…if not impossible to undo what had happened here. There were too many lives involved and intertwined in the actions started so many years ago. As distasteful as the idea sounded the best solution might be to not try and undo what Evans and the others had done. Oh, we would see if those transformed into cattle could be returned to normal…but as for the others…well I’m glad that it wouldn’t be my decision. I knew from my own transformation how difficult and complicated things could get.

After we left the school we headed back to Olaf’s for lunch. As the car was still bugged, Michaela and I couldn’t talk openly. I really wanted to hear her insight on Evans and the high school, but that would have to wait until later.

I wondered if the transformation spell had any weight loss aspects to it as all the food we had been served was so heavy and yet so many of the women were of normal weight. We had only been there for a few days and I already felt as if I had put on a few pounds.

After lunch we left the car in the parking lot and worked our way around the city. I interviewed people, while Michaela took photos. I decided that I would actually try and write an article on the town. I did this partly because it would add to my cover story, but the other reason was that I enjoyed writing. I also felt that the regular people of Grantville…and the victims deserved to have their story told. Actually I would write two articles, one that I would try and get published in the mainstream press and the other in the magical press.

We slowly worked our way over to City Hall and we stopped in to talk to the Sheriff.

He wasn’t what I expected. I guess I thought I would see an overweight balding man with a dip of tobacco in his lip. Instead we were greeted by a rather handsome man who appeared to be in mid-thirties.  He was athletic looking and with his very short hair he could have passed for a solider.

His name was George Nielson.  

“I was hoping we’d get a chance to meet,” he greeted as he shook our hands. “I also have time to meet some beautiful women.

I smiled sweetly back as I held up my hand to show my wedding ring.

He shrugged his shoulders and looked at Michaela who shook her head.

“I’m engaged…well almost,” she replied.

“Oh well, just my luck,” he grinned. “So no hard feelings?”

We shook our heads.

“Great, so how can I help you?” he asked as he motioned for us to follow him into his office.

We sat down and scanned the room. There was a feeling of foreboding that hung over the room. Like Evans, George’s aura was also dark. I would look forward to seeing him arrested.

The wall behind his desk was covered with photos and awards. I noticed several US Army awards including several items that denoted service in the Special Forces. So George was no amateur…well neither were we.

“So how big is the sheriff’s department?” I asked.

“We have five full time employees and several auxiliary,” he replied.

“That seems a bit large for your town,” I replied. “Is there a reason why?”

He nodded.

“There’s not a lot of crime in town and what there is…well is minor,” he replied. “But we do have a large area to cover. Most of our crime occurs outside of town. Believe it or not, but cattle rustling is a real problem.”

That made sense. It was a pretty lucrative crime and if the rustlers were smart, it was very hard to track.

“I see your awards, how long did you serve?” I asked.

He grinned. “Ten years and then I got out. My father died and I came back to take over the family business…so to speak.”

“So your father was the Sheriff?” I asked.

He nodded. “So was my grandpa. But don’t get me wrong, I had to prove I could do this job.”

I nodded.

“So how has your stay been?” he asked.

“We have been treated very nicely,” I replied.

“I was sorry to hear about the problems with the hotel,” he interjected. 

“How’d you know about that?” I asked.

“Fred and I are old friends. We have been pushing for the town to get a hotel for years. That place you’re staying is the only place within fifty miles…and we have had many problems with it,” he explained. “We’ll never get bigger until we expand some more.”

“Well, I think that it could use some competition,” said Michaela.

“I agree,” he replied with a smile.

We talked for another twenty minutes before we left.

I was now sure that all three of the people listed by Bree were dirty. Still I wanted to talk to her; there were still some questions that needed to be answered.

 

Chapter 12

There was just enough time for us to go back to the hotel, shower, change, and talk a while before we were due at the Olsen’s for dinner.

To our surprise the bug in the car was gone. I couldn’t wait to check out my counter-bug and see who did it. The bugs in my room were also gone and Michaela’s new room was also clean. Still we were cautious and I did a sweep to check for spells. That search also came up empty. However, just to play it safe Michaela cast a spell that would allow us some privacy. I knew several spells that were just as effective, but Michaela’s magic was harder to detect.

As we suspected, the bugs had been placed by George.

Michaela and I talked about our day in Grantville.

“We have more than enough dirt on Evans, Johansson, and Nielson to arrest them right now,” she said.

“I agree…but what about the power behind the throne,” I said.

“True…I may have something,” she replied. “You know that vampires exist, right?”

I nodded. Unlike the monsters in the movies, they were not the undead. They did feed on blood and other bodily fluids, they had very long lives, and some powers like increased strength and speed, but they were not immortal, they didn’t sleep in coffins and they could walk around in sunlight.

“I’ve met a couple of them…they’re actually quite interesting,” I replied.

“And you remember our friend back in high school?” she asked.

“That creature was no friend,” I replied as I referred to the succubus that had almost killed both of us.

Michaela smiled.

“Well, there are creatures that are like those two…they feed off human emotions,” she said.

“What are they called?”

“I don’t know…we usually just called them demons. They are rare and not very social. They have existed by maintaining their secrecy,” she explained. “My kind has known about them…as they are almost as ancient as we are…but even our knowledge is limited. We know that they use humans to set events in motion…and then they sit back and feed off the emotions given off by the human created chaos.”

“Sounds complicated…I mean people cause chaos all the time,” I replied.

Michaela smiled. “True, but predicting where it will be…and the type of chaos…isn’t easy. The physical transformation must be very powerful emotionally…the creature could be harvesting this and living off it the rest of the year. Remember those crystals in the necklaces that Bree drew? They could be storing some of this energy.”

I nodded.

“Now imagine a dying town…and town leaders desperate to save it…all the creature had to do was to make a business deal and then sit back and feed,” said Michaela.

I rubbed my chin.

“Do they, the elders, know what this thing is?” I asked.

“No, as they usually move about in human form. It’s obvious that the three men who run this now know what they are doing…they’re not under any spell and being forced into it. I don’t think they care anymore. The fact that the elders seem to pass their position down to their sons is another sign that they know what they are doing…even if they don’t know about the creature.”

“Couldn’t the creature have told them the truth?”

Michaela shook her head.

“No…these demons are very protective of their secret…they will do everything possible not to be detected. They will use magic to protect themselves…hence the cattle…and they will kill if necessary.”

“So it would try and kill us?” I asked.

“Not just us,” she replied. “I have heard stories of them wiping out whole villages…killing everything…they can use the weather as a weapon. I imagine that if we did this wrong a tornado would wipe Grantville off the map.”

“So what do we do?” I asked.

“If we take out the elders, it will probably just slink off,” she said.

“And start this all over again in another town, right?”

Michaela nodded.

“What if we confront it, can it be defeated?” I asked.

She shrugged her shoulders.

“I have no idea…no one has ever tried it and survived,” she replied. “I don’t even know if they can be killed. The good thing is that there are only a few of them…we know of one that starts wars. It was responsible for World War I & II. It’s currently in Afghanistan.”

“Sounds like a step down,” I said.

“They’re rumored to be very intelligent…and this one realized how close it came to ending the world… so it has backed down.”

I sighed.

“So how strong are their powers…besides the whole weather thing?” I asked.

“Actually they’re rather primitive when it comes to casting spells. You’ve faced worse,” she said.

“Can they be reasoned with?” I asked. “I mean, if we find out what sort of emotion it needs maybe we can find a stable form that doesn’t require forcibly transforming people.”

“Anything is possible…but we don’t know who it is,” she replied. “I will ask my clan if they know of a way of detecting them.”

“Okay,” I replied. “I just don’t want to shift the problem to another place.”

“I understand,” said Michaela. “Well, we’d better get going, don’t want to keep the Olsens waiting.”

 

Chapter 13

As we drove back to Grantville my thoughts shifted to Bree. I remembered how disorienting it was when the original Iona swapped bodies with me and then the horror I felt when I realized that I was stuck as a woman. Of course, I adapted and adjusted to my new life, but I recalled that there were bad times. My change in age wasn’t as dramatic as what Bree underwent either. Yes I went from being an adult male to college age woman, but I still had personal freedom.

I also recalled when I was turned into a teenager. That was less traumatic as I knew it was temporary and that I was doing it as part of my job.

I could only imagine the rage and dread that Bree felt when she was forcibly transformed. She lost all ties to her self. Yes, she still had the same parents, but her age, her gender, and her race were imposed on her.

The loss of freedom is being transformed from a teenager to a five-year-old must have been awful. Added to that they made her different…so she would never quite fit in would also make life difficult. I was very curious why they made her Chinese. I had my suspicions, but I wanted to hear it from Bree. 

I also wondered how she was able to express herself through her art. From what we had seen and sensed, the others who had been changed had no memories of their old lives. While I hated the idea of identity theft, in a way, it might have been less painful to have no memory of a past life.

We arrived at The Olsen’s and were greeted warmly by them. To all appearances they looked like a perfect family.

“Are you really writing about our town?” asked Bree.

“Yes I am and Michaela is taking the photos,” I replied.

Bree smiled back at us.

“Since the weather is so nice we thought we’d barbecue some steaks,” said Dave. “Winter comes around here quickly and seems to last longer every year.”

“That sounds great,” I replied as we were led through the house to the back deck.

The backyard was fenced in and we were immediately greeted by a very friendly chocolate lab.

“That’s Mocha,” said Bree.”He’s my doggie!”

“They are inseparable,” said Kristin as she watched Bree and the dog play.

“He’s a beautiful dog,” said Michaela.

“Bree, is Mocha the dog in your drawing?” I asked.

She nodded. “Yes…I love drawing and I love drawing pictures of Mocha.”

I smiled back.

“Do you have other drawing of Mocha?” I asked.

Bree nodded.

“Mommy, can I take Iona up to my room to show her my drawings?”

Kristin looked at me and I nodded.

“Okay, but we’ll be eating soon…I will need some help setting the table,” said Kristin.

Bree was about to protest when Michaela stepped in.

“Kristin, I’ll help you,” said Michaela.

Kristin thanked Michaela as Bree grabbed my hand and led me back into the house.

Her room was on the second floor and the walls were covered with drawings. I was amazed how good they were, much better than you would expect for an eight-year-old.

“These are wonderful. I would like Michaela to take some photos of them for the story,” I said.

“Really?” she squealed excitedly.

I nodded.

“I love drawing,” she said.

I walked over and looked out the window and saw the Bree’s family was all down in the backyard with Michaela.

“Bree…I want to show you something,” I said as I took a small stone out of my pocket.

                  “That’s pretty,” she said.

                  I handed it to her and watched as she held it in both hands.

                  Her eyes suddenly opened wide and her jaw dropped a bit.

                  “You okay?” I asked cautiously.

                  She nodded.

                  “My memories…I can think of them without fighting…” she gasped. “There have been times in the past when I was able to bring memories of my old life up…but it was very hard…I had to concentrate very hard…it was very exhausting. When I did it I was able to record what happened.”

                  “I saw your other drawings,” I continued. “And I’m here to help…so is Michaela.”

                  Bree looked around as to make sure that no one else was around.

                  “They’re down in the yard…we won’t be interrupted, Michaela will see to that,” I replied softly.

                  “You’re really here to help…to stop this?” she asked.

                  I nodded.

                  She sat down on her bed clutching the stone.

                  “What do you want to know?” she asked.

                  She sounded more like a teenager than a little girl.

                  I sat down next to her.

                  “I saw the drawings you sent out and we know about the three men who did this to you…and all the others,” I said. “Tell me about the crystals.”

                  Bree nodded.

                  “Mr. Evans read from a book…the others just watched. I don’t think they know how to use the crystals without it,” she replied.

                  “Good. Now is there anyone else involved?” I asked.

                  “I think so…but it’s more like a feeling…I sense power behind them,” she said.

                  I was slightly taken back as this confirmed two things; one that there was a being behind this…and that Bree had some powers, it was the only explanation.

                  Many who are born without knowledge of their powers find ways for them to come out, often in art and music. My sister is a very gifted artist as our family had a magical lineage.

                  I decided not to spring this on Bree at this time. Our research department would investigate her family heritage and determine what levels of powers she was capable. Later we would contact her and work with her. I know this may sound cruel, but Bree had enough to deal with at the current time.

                  “So how did you know where to send the drawings?” I asked.

                  Bree pointed to her computer.

                  “Like I said earlier…sometimes…if I concentrate really hard I can remember the old me…and what happened…it’s very hard to do…and over time I have found it more difficult…but one night I did it and I wished for help…I then searched online…and found a website…I have tried to find it again, but have never found it,” she explained.

                  I nodded.

                  There were many websites run by and for beings with power. In fact, it wasn’t Al Gore who “invented” the internet but one of us as a way of spreading knowledge.

                  “That site has a safety feature that seeks out people in pain,” I explained.

                  “Is that what you do?” she asked.

                  “I’m sort of a special agent,” I answered. “My job is to find and arrest those who violate magic.”

                  She broke out in a huge smile.

                  “So you’re going to stop it? No more boys being changed into girls?” she asked.

                  I nodded. “That’s the plan.”

                  “Good…I have hoped and prayed that this would happen.”

                  “I need some more info Bree, how often do they do this?” I asked.

                  “Only in the spring…they pick some boys from the senior class and change them,” she said.

                  She then told me about the contest that the school had and was used as a cover to select the victims. Every spring boys were dressed up as girls as part of a school competition, a select few, those who planned on leaving the town upon graduation were picked and transformed.

                  “And why did they treat you differently?” I asked.

                  “I was able to fight the…memory loss…and they changed me to make me into a little girl so I wouldn’t be a threat. Who would believe me if I told them what happened?” she asked.

                  “But why Chinese?” I asked.

                  “That was Mr. Evans again. He did it to punish me because I had complained that the town lacked diversity,” she said. “I’m glad he did… as it’s a reminder of what happened to me and makes me remember…I’ll always remember what he did.”

                  I hesitated before asking my next question.

                  “After we stop them…do you want to be changed back?”

                  “Is that possible?” she asked.

                  “I don’t know, but most magic can be reversed,” I said.

                  She shook her head.

                  “No…I want to be me…and this is who I am,” she replied.

                  I nodded.

                  “I understand…believe it or not, but I was once a man too. My change wasn’t my idea, but I have accepted who I am,” I replied.

                  “Really?” she asked.

                  I nodded and I gave her a short version of what had happened to me.

                  “So you do understand,” she said.

                  “Yes Bree I do,” I said. “I also need to know one more thing; do you want to keep your old memories?”

                   She nodded.

                  “I owe that to Brian,” she said.

                  I smiled.

                  “I feel the same way about Roger,” I replied. “I will leave you the stone…it will allow you to speak freely and to remember. It will only work for you… so guard it well and use it carefully. In fact, I don’t want you to use it again until I have arrested Mr. Evans and the others, okay?”

                  “Okay, Iona,” she replied. “I have one favor to ask…before I put it away, I want to confront Mr. Evans and the others when you have arrested them. Is that possible?”

                  “Yes…I will allow that…you are owed that,” I replied.

                  Bree hugged me and we embraced for several minutes.

                  “Thank you Iona…thank you so much,” she repeated as we hugged.

 

Chapter 14

                  With the car clean of bugs, I was able to tell Michaela what happened on the way back.

                  “She’s quite remarkable,” said Michaela.

                  I nodded.

                  “So what do we do next?” she asked.

                  “If it wasn’t for this demon or whatever it is we could wrap this up tomorrow,” I said. “I will have to wait and see what Connor says. I just know one thing…I’m going to enjoy this arrest.”

                  She nodded.

                  When we got back to the motel there was a package waiting for Michaela at the front desk.

                  “What is that?” I asked when we got to her room.

                  “It’s from my clan,” she replied as she opened the box.

Inside was an ancient looking iron charm that was attached to a leather cord. The charm was crudely cast and appeared to be a cloud with a lightning bolt coming out of it.

“Okay, what is it?” I asked.

Michaela picked up a blank piece of parchment. As soon as she held it in her hands writing similar to runes appeared.

“It’s a charm that will allow you to detect and parley with the demon,” she said as she handed it to me.

“Me?” I asked as I took the charm. “Why me?”

Michaela grinned. “Don’t you know? You’re special.”

“I’m different, but I wouldn’t say special,” I replied.

“No you are very special Iona. Your…unique lineage makes you very different and thus uniquely qualified to face this being,” she replied.

I stared back at her.

“Next you’ll be telling me that your people assigned you to study me,” I said.

“That’s not far from the truth, expect it was me who requested the honor…and to also be your friend and for you to know who I am,” she replied.

“What do you mean?”

“Your…uniqueness only comes along every few eons…and our kind acts to observe and guide from the shadows. With you I wanted to do it and be your friend and confidant. I can’t tell you everything, but you’re just starting to learn your powers. While your powers won’t get much stronger, your ability to work with other beings will become your biggest strength,” she explained.

“Um… and I guess what you just told me violates the rules?”

She nodded.

“I’m not much for following rules…as you probably already know,” she replied.

                  “So what do I do?” I asked.

                  “You’ll know when the time comes,” she said.

                  “Great…more riddles,” I replied.

                  “Hey, I may not like rules, but I can’t tell you everything,” she said.

                  I nodded.

                  “Oh, I suppose that this conversation stays between us, right?” I asked.

                  She nodded.

                  “In time there will be no reason to be secretive with your clan…in fact some in your clan already suspect the truth…but they too will allow nature to take it’s course. Of course you can tell Bill,” she said.

                  “Okay…but just don’t call me the chosen one or any crap like that,” I replied.

                  “Yes Your Majesty,” she replied as she bowed flamboyantly.

                  It took me a second to realize she was joking.

                  “Please don’t do that again!” I said. 

                  She just smiled back at me.

 

Chapter 15

                  After a few phone calls I went to bed. Connor said that he would get back to me soon as to what to do next. I also had a nice long chat with Bill, I would be glad when this case was over and we could be together again.

                  Around two in the morning I got a call from Michaela.

                  “You’d better come over to my room,” she said.

                  I quickly dressed and headed over to her room. She greeted me at the door and motioned me to come in. As I passed through the doorframe I felt the tingling sensation of a privacy spell. The spell would prevent anyone uninvited from entering the room. It also prevented any noise from inside the room from passing outside.

                  I was about to ask her what was going on when she pointed to the bed. There lying on his back was the Grantville Sheriff, George Nielson.  A large caliber handgun was lying unloaded next to him. 

                  I could also tell that she had him under an immobilization spell. He would not be able to move, although he could hear and see everything.

                  “What happened?” I whispered.

                  “You can talk in a normal voice, he’s not going anywhere. The bastard forced his way into my room and tried to rape me,” she replied. Her voice barely hid her rage. “I can wipe his memory clean when we get done…assuming I let him live…and even if I do…I may make him a gelding.”

                  I knew she was kidding, but George didn’t and I was more than willing to let him feel some of the fear that Bree and the other felt.

                  “So, do you want to question him?” asked Michaela.

                  I nodded.

                  “Tell me what happened first?” I asked.

                  “I was just about to go to bed when I heard him at the door. When I opened it up he was pointing his gun in my face. I let him come in and he told me to get undressed…that’s when I froze him,” she replied. “He’s lucky we need him…otherwise he’d be dead right now.”

                  I leaned over him.

                  “You’re lucky she didn’t kill you,” I said. “Tell me everything I want to know and I’ll ensure that you live. But if you give me any trouble I will leave you to her…and she will have you begging for death.”

                  I could see terror in his eyes.

                  “Now, it’s obvious that while you may play with magic…we are magical,” I continued. “And you have been a very bad boy.”

                  Michaela said some words in her language.

                  “Now you can speak, but only to answer our questions,” she said.

                  “Tell me everyone involved in the transformation of the teens into women,” I ordered.

                  He hesitated for a moment before giving us the names of Evans and Johansson.

                  “Who has the crystals?” I asked.

                  “Evans,” he replied.

                  “Where does he keep them?” I demanded.

                  “I don’t know the exact location, but they are kept at his house,” he replied.

                  “Where did he get them?” I asked.

                  “I don’t know,” he replied.

                  I turned to Michaela.

                  “Can he lie?” I asked.

                  She shook her head.

                  “Why does he need you and the Mayor?” I asked.

                  “The spell requires three of us to make it work,” he replied.

                  Michaela nodded.

                  “A good safety device when giving magical devices to humans…it prevents misuse by one of the group,” she said.

                  “Why did you bug our rooms and the car?” I asked.

                  “Fred told me to do it,” he replied. “We check out all strangers.”

                  “Is he in charge?” I asked.

                  “Yes,” he replied.

                  “Why did you try to rape Michaela?” I demanded.

                  “Fred won’t let me touch the girls…only he’s allowed,” he replied.

                  I glanced at Michaela and then glared at George.

                  “He has sex with them?” I demanded.

                  “Yes…he said that it is his right…he has raped all of them…except the little girl…the little Chinese brat…she was too young…but he plans on making her his slave when she gets older,” he admitted.

                  I turned to Michaela.

                  “I better call Connor and tell him what has happened,” I said.

                  “And then?” she asked.

                  “I have a plan, but I need to run it past Connor…I still have rules to follow.” I replied. “Don’t worry they will be punished.”

                  She smiled.

                  “Okay,” she replied. “We’ll do it your way.”

 

Chapter 16

                  After talking to Connor he agreed that we had to act now.

                  “Can you make him obey you?” I asked Michaela as I pointed towards George.

                  “Sure, what do you want me to do?” she asked.

                  “I want him to set up a meeting with the other two at Evans house,” I said. “Connor has a backup team flying in as we speak, but he’s giving us the chance to end this now.”

                  “And the other one?” she asked.

                  “I have authorization for you to use the same spell on the other two. I suspect Evans will let us know who is behind this,” I replied.

                  “Good…and what happens to them when this is over?”

                  “They will be arrested and charged with a long list of crimes,” I replied.

                  “Pity…we should just be allowed to kill them,” she said.

                  I nodded in agreement.

                  We had George call the other two and told them that he had to see them immediately.

                  As we approached the house both Michaela and I scanned for danger and spells. We didn’t detect any. I also sensed that both Evans and Johansson were there. I didn’t sense any other magical beings, but that didn’t mean that they were alone.

                  George walked behind us and appeared to be leading us up to the house. He had his gun pointed at us, but it was empty. He was also under Michaela’s control.

                  Evans stepped outside and glared at George.

                  “What the hell happened?” he demanded.

                  “I’ll tell you as soon as we get inside,” said George.

                  As soon as we were inside Evan closed and locked the door.

                  “What the hell is going on George?” demanded the Mayor.

                  Before he could reply Michaela cast a control spell over them.

                  “Don’t try and fight it, we have real powers,” she said.

                  “Why don’t we go into the living room and talk?” I said as I took the gun from George’s hand.

                  The three men sat down on the couch across from us.

                  “Is there anyone else here?” I demanded.

                  Evans shook his head.

                  “Did you tell anyone else about this meeting?” I continued.

                  Evans shook his head.

                  “Good boy,” I replied as I set the gun down. “We know what you’ve been doing and we’re putting a stop to it…it ends tonight.”

                  I could sense the fear in two of the men. Evans was furious, his rage burned deep in his eyes.

                  “You three have collectively hurt hundreds of lives and for those crimes you will be prosecuted and sent to trial,” I continued. “First things first, where are the crystals and the book of instructions?”

                  “I have them locked up in my safe,” said Evans.

                  I could see that he was unsuccessfully struggling to resist my questions.

                  “Very good,” I replied. “You will go get them. Michaela will go with you and ensure you don’t try anything stupid.”

                  He got up and left the room with Michaela. Five minutes later he returned with a leather pouch and a leather-bound book. He set them down on the table next to the gun.

                  Michaela picked up the pouch and emptied the contents on the table. In addition to the large spell casting crystals, there were five smaller crystals that were attached to silver chains. I recognized them as the ones given to the victims.

                  “Are they real?” I asked Michaela.

                  She nodded.

                  “They aren’t very old. I suspect they were created just for this town,” she said.

                  “Where did you get them?” I demanded.

                  “I… don’t… know. Please forgive us!” cried the Mayor.

                  He was terrified.

                  I looked at Evans.

                  “Tell me,” I ordered.

                  “My uncle gave them to me,” he replied.

                   “Who gave them to him?” I demanded.

                  He hesitated.

                  “He knows,” said Michaela.

                  “Tell us,” I demanded.

                  For the first time I sensed fear in Evans.

                  Michaela noticed it too.

                  “He may not be afraid of us…but he fears the other one,” she said.  

                  “He’ll destroy you…and then he will destroy us,” warned Evans.

                  “We’ll see,” I replied. “Now tell me who it is?”

                  Evans spoke a name so softly that I barely heard it.

                  “So where does he live?” I demanded.

                  Evans was shaking with fear as he gave us the directions.

                  “He’ll destroy you…you have no idea of his powers,” he exclaimed.

                  “Don’t get your hopes up,” I replied.

                  Michaela then leaned close to Evans.

                  “How many of the girls did you rape?” she demanded.

                  “Most… of… them,” he replied meekly.

                  I could tell that it was taking all of her willpower not to strike him dead…and to be honest; if she had tried I wouldn’t have lifted a finger to stop her.

 

Chapter 17

                  The second team arrived to look after Evans and the others. They would also make a sweep and arrest the others who had been involved in the transformations.

                  However, it was now up to Michaela and me to face the being behind this. I had the charm, which Michaela’s clan had stated would give us parley rights with it. I only hoped it worked, otherwise a lot of people could get hurt.

                  I also had no idea what I was going to say or do, so much for having a plan.

                  We drove over to the house on the edge of town where Henry Hester lived.

                  “I can’t believe he’s a demon,” I said.

                  “They are very good at blending in…even better than my race,” she replied. “If it makes you feel any better I didn’t suspect him either.”

                  “Do you think that he’ll be willing to talk?” I asked.

                  “Yes. He will honor the charm…but that doesn’t mean that we can come to an agreement,” she replied. “I suspect that the best that we can hope for is to get him to leave.”

                  “That’s no solution,” I replied as I stared at the house.

                  “Is he there?” asked Michaela.

                  I nodded.

                  “I guess my ability to sense others even works with demons,” I replied.

                  As we walked up to the front door I slipped the charm around my neck and ensure that it was prominently displayed.

                  We knocked on the door and to my surprise Henry greeted us.

                  “Good morning,” he said cheerfully as he looked at the charm. “Please come inside and have some coffee and we’ll talk.”

                  “You know why we’re here,” I said.

                  He nodded.

                  “I will abide with the rules of the parley,” he replied. “To be honest I’m surprised that I was able to do this here so long. It’s not like the olden days…life is getting too complicated.”

                  We followed him into the kitchen. We sat down at a large oak table as he prepared the coffee.

                  “I had my suspicions about her,” he said as he pointed at Michaela. “But you are a different story…I can’t get a read on you.”

                  “If it makes you feel any better I can’t get a read on you either,” I replied.

                  He grinned.

                  “It does, thank you,” he replied as he poured the coffee into three ceramic mugs. “I made some corn muffins, they’re quite good.”

                  “So do you want to be called Henry or do you have another name?” I asked.

                  “That’s as good a name as any…my actual name is very difficult for most to pronounce correctly,” he replied as walked over to the table. “The coffee is safe; I think you will find it very tasty. The same applies to the muffins.”

                  He was right; it was very strong and rich. The muffins were also very good.

                  “So who are you?” he asked.

                  “I am Iona of The Clan Beddau,” I replied.

                  I hated declaring my official clan name, but magical beings had their rituals just like humans.

                  He looked confused for a moment.

                  “Now that we are closer, I sense you…but it is still difficult…you also carry more than one clan in your blood…including that of mortal man,” he replied. “I have never sensed that before.”

                  “It’s a long story,” I replied.

                  He sipped his coffee and looked at Michaela.

                  He then spoke to her in her native tongue and she replied.

                  “I suspected as much when I saw the charm…only your race would know about such things,” he said. “So, I take it that you are here to stop the transformations?”

                  “That is correct,” I replied.

                  “And what if I say no?” he asked.

                  “I hope that we can come to an agreement and avoid any conflicts,” I replied. “But this must stop…too many innocent people are being hurt…and abused.”

                  He took another sip of his coffee.

                  “I need the emotions given off by those chosen for transformation to live,” he replied in a matter-of- fact manner. “You can’t deny me the right to survive?”

                  “What exactly do you feed off of?” I asked.

                  “Do you know about my kind?” he asked.

                  “A little…you feed off emotions,” I replied.

                  “Yes, but not just any emotions…each of us…my kind… needs a specific emotion… I need the sensations given off when someone experiences great pain,” he explained.

                  “That shouldn’t be hard to get elsewhere…the world is filled with pain,” I replied as I picked up my muffin and broke off a small piece.

                  “Very true…humans seem to excel in producing pain, but I need a specific sort of emotional release…it can’t be that given off due to death…and it has to be done as part of something positive…life-giving…does that make sense?”

                  “Maybe,” I replied as I took a sip of the coffee.

                  “All creatures…magical and human… have a right to feed. I don’t kill…unlike my cousins…the humans who are transformed serve the community and the greater good,” he said.

                  “Not all of them have,” I countered.

                  He nodded.

                  “Yes, young Brianna. They were wrong to change her… she was different from the others. I have done everything in my power to help her adjust,” he said.

                  He then paused.

                  “She’s the one who tipped you off, correct?” he asked.

                  I nodded.

                  “I underestimated her,” he said.

                  “So you knew she has powers?” I asked.

                  He nodded.

                  “Of course,” he replied. “I cannot feed off emotions produced from…well… beings like you two. I didn’t think there were any here with powers. Oh, I have had to change others who wandered in, but she was so young and innocent. After she was transformed I didn’t see the threat…I underestimated her.”

                  “When you mean others, you mean the two who you changed into cows?” I asked.

                  He nodded.

                  “Can you change them back?” asked Michaela.

                  He nodded again.

                  “Will you?” I asked.

                  “That depends, I need something from you,” he replied. “I can leave here, but I will need to find a source of nourishment. And before you say it, your laws have no power over me and my kind…we were here before humans and your kind. Will you let me go…without harassment?”

                  “Have you tried other sources of…nourishment?” I asked.

                  “Like what? I am not like my cousin who starts wars,” he replied. “I need a specific form of emotion.”

                  I rubbed my chin and thought about it. Suddenly I had an idea.

                  “I may have an alternative source for you,” I said. “Are you willing to try it?”

                  He leaned back in his chair and laughed.

                  “Really? I have lived for millennia and a youngster like you is going to teach me something new? Oh, I eagerly await your next words,” he replied.

                  “You feed off the energy given off when someone undergoes great pain as part of rebirth, right?” I asked as I ignored his mocking of me.

                  He nodded.

                  “I assume you can change your form?” I asked.

                  “Of course…much like your friend,” he replied as he drank some coffee. “I can make myself young or old, male or female…whatever it takes to fit in.”

                  “And how fast can you learn?” I asked.

                  “Enough, what is it?” he demanded. “I have no time for riddles! You know what I can capable of!”

                  It was the first time I saw him show any annoyance.

                  “Fine, have you ever fed off the emotional pain given off when a woman gives birth?” I asked.

                  He was about to open his mouth when he stopped.

                  “While I haven’t experienced it yet, but I heard it’s very painful…especially in the underdeveloped parts of the world where women still give birth without the benefits of painkillers,” I continued.

                  He absorbed my words and then nodded slightly.

                  “That may work…pain given off while bring life,” he replied. “So you’re suggesting that I become a doctor.”

                  “A midwife would be better…they usually see more deliveries outside of hospitals…and away from painkillers,” I replied.

                  “It has been centuries since I have taken a female form,” he replied.

                  “You can figure it out…it’s not that bad,” I said as I emptied my coffee mug. “May I have some more?”

                  He nodded and got up to get the pot.

                  “I would have to taste…this emotion…and see if it’s comparable,” he replied.

                  “Well, there are plenty of pregnant women here in town…I’m sure that you could find one to be near when they give birth,” I replied.

                  “How close do you have to be?” asked Michaela.

                  “If I am there in person…within arms distance… if not I use the crystals…the ones on the necklaces capture the emotions for me,” he answered as he poured the coffee. “I am intrigued by your suggestion Iona of The Clan Beddau.”

                  “I’m pleased that a ‘youngster’ like me could come up with it,” I replied.

                  He laughed heartily.

                  “Very well, I will try it. If it doesn’t work then I will go back to what works…I have a right to feed.”

                  “And will you leave this town?” I asked.

                  “Yes…that is necessary…I doubt you will allow me peace if I stayed,” he replied. “So what will you do with the men who helped me?”

                  “Did you force them to help you?” I asked.

                  He shook his head.

                  “No, I approached them with a plan, but I didn’t need to force them into doing it,” he replied. “Some of them seemed to enjoy the pain they inflicted. So will they be punished?”

                  “They have hurt many innocent people and will face trial. Are you aware that Fred Evans has sexually abused many of the girls?” I asked.

                  He shook his head.

                  “I’m not surprised,” he said. “To be honest Iona of The Clan Beddau, I paid little attention to him… and the others. They served my needs…in exchange I let them do as they wish…as long as they didn’t put my existence here in jeopardy. You may do with them as you wish…they mean nothing to me.”

                  I should have been angrier with him, but there was a sense of logic to his actions. He was also right, our laws had little to do with him…and even if they did I doubt we could enforce them. I could sense that he was powerful and I wasn’t sure that Michaela and I could take him down. It was obvious that this would be an imperfect solution. I also couldn’t argue with his logic about needing the emotions to live. I only hoped that the alternative worked.

                  “Just one last question, why did you become the principal of the elementary school?” I asked.

                  “To help Bree…my kind is not without pity,” he replied.

 

Chapter 18

                  Connor arrived the following day to handle the arrests of the three town elders. All three confessed and were immediately sentenced to life. This was due to the combination of magical and human laws they had violated. All that was left was the actual sentencing and how they would serve it.

                  To cover up their arrests, it was reported that all three had died in a single car accident. A deer had run across the road and when they tried to avoid it the car went off the road, crashed and burst into flames.  The town was immediately thrown into shock over this, but it was a better than the truth. There was no way that they could know the actual crimes committed against their town. Yes, the transformations would end; it was up to the town people to keep the community going through legitimate means.

                  We also arrested the two previous surviving town elders. One died immediately from a heart attack and the other was suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s. It was determined that due to his diminished mental capacity that he would not be sentenced.

                  Henry Hester disappeared. I wasn’t surprised and all I could hope was that the alternative that I suggested worked.

                  They were also able to undo the spell that had converted the Wiccan into cows. They would need much therapy and assistance to adjust to being human again.

                  Needless to say it was a busy day.

                  However there was still one thing that had to be done.

 

Chapter 19

                  Connor was holding Fred, George, and Carl in a special mobile holding cell in Minneapolis as they awaited sentencing. It had been a week since we had arrested them.

                  He wasn’t pleased when I told him about the promise I had made to Bree.

                  “So how will we manage to get her here?” he asked.

                  “Part of the prize for winning the art contest is a trip here,” I replied.

                  He laughed.

                  “You’re a fast learner,” he replied.

                  “I have had good teachers,” I said.

                  “Very well, if you think it will help her, I will arrange for her to see them,” he said.

                  “Thank you,” I replied.

                  “Now, what about Henry…or whatever his true name is?”

                  “He left town and no one is the wiser…it’s as if he was never there,” I replied.

                  “I’ve heard they can do that,” he said. “I read your report…it was very interesting. I think you may be the first one of us to actually talk to one of them…whatever they are.”

                  “It was an amazing experience. I was both frightened and excited about being that close to him,” I replied. “They’re very intelligent and ancient creatures. I don’t condone what he did in Grantville, but there’s a sense of logic to it. I don’t know what I would have done if I was in a similar situation. Even though he was calm and reasonable…I sensed great power in him…I would hate to see him angry.”

                  “You had every right to be afraid…their kind can be quite violent when they feel they are threatened. You handled it well…I’m very proud of you.”

                  “Thank you, but I don’t know if I ended the problem or just shifted it to another place.”

                  “Time will tell,” he replied. “So where is Michaela?”

                  “She’s still in town, she wants to be with us when Bree confronts the elders,” I replied. “As soon as that’s over she’s off to see Karen…they’re quite the couple now.”

                  “What about you? I’m sure you miss Bill,” he said.

                  “He’s on his way out here as we speak. We’re going to take a little vacation here. We’re going to see A Prairie Home Companion this weekend,” I replied.

                  “Enjoy the show…you do know that Garrison Keiller is one of us?”

                  “No, but I’m not that surprised either,” I replied.

                  “Call me when Bree is ready,” he said.

                  “I will,” I replied. 

 

Chapter 20

                  We came up with a story that we would take Bree to a museum and allow her parents some time alone. With the help of a little spell, they believed us.

                  “So, are you sure you want to do this?” I asked Bree.

                  She nodded as she held the stone.

                  “I promised that some day I would face those three…I owe it to Brian and to all the others who were abused and transformed. I understand that they wanted to keep the town alive…but the ends don’t justify what they did,” she replied.

                  It was strange hearing her talk as her words were much more mature than her physical age.

                  “Okay, that makes sense. Now, they will be restrained and will be unable to hurt you,” I explained.

                  “What will happen to them?” she asked.

                  I explained that they had already pled guilty and had been sentenced to life.

                  “The only thing that hasn’t been decided is the actual form of sentencing. Those who violate magic are not put into a cell, they are transformed to try and perform some sort of good to society. Does that make sense?” I asked.

                  She nodded.

                  “I have an idea…if that is allowed,” she said.

                  “Go on,” I said.

                  “The local 4 H club could always use some livestock,” she said.

                  I couldn’t help but smile when I heard her suggestion.

                  “I like it…I will let the counsel know about your idea,” I said.

                  She smiled back.

                  “I don’t want to be cruel…but they should live out their days in the community they helped create…they should always be aware of the people they hurt,” she continued.

                  “Okay, so let’s head in,” I said.

                  We walked into the interrogation room.

                  Michaela was already in the room, sitting across from the three men.

                  Bree glared at them as she walked in.

                  “Please sit down,” I said.

                  Bree nodded and sat down across from them. I sat down next to her.

                  “I just wanted you three to know that I’m the one responsible for you being caught,” she said. “I promised you that I would expose you…and you laughed at me…do you think it’s funny now?”

                  Carl lowered his head and wept. George just seemed in shock by what had happened. Only Fred seemed to show any resistance.

                  “I did it so you would have a nice town to grow up in,” he sneered at her.

                  “No, you did it because you loved the power you had. I don’t think you gave a damn about saving Grantville,” she said. “I’ll always remember the look on your face as you changed me…it was pure evil.”

                  “This doesn’t end here,” he said.

                  “Yes it does,” I interjected. “The power behind you has abandoned you and in a short time you will face final sentencing.”

                  “I hope you always remember the pain and suffering you caused the rest of your lives,” added Bree.

                  Carl mumbled something being sorry.

                  “Too late for that,” said Bree. “Do you remember what you said to me, just before I passed out?”

                  None of the men spoke.

                  “You wished me sweet dreams…well I wish you the same,” she said as she stood up and walked out of the room.

 

Chapter 21

                  The next day they were sentenced. Bree insisted on being there to watch.

                  Fred glared at us while the other two cowered.

                  “So what are you going to do, change us into women?” he asked with a sneer on his face.

                  “No, you won’t get off that easy,” I replied.

                  “You’re lucky that the law has assigned your sentence,” added Michaela

                  “How can we be punished by laws we never knew existed?” he countered.

                  “You hurt the innocent…with or without the use of magic that is a crime,” I snapped.

                  “You’re lucky that the law exists,” stated Michaela. “If it was up to me your punishment would be much more painful.”

                  A woman wearing a crimson colored hooded robe entered the room. She bowed in our direction. Next she pulled out a scroll and read the sentencing. She was a special sorceress who carried out the sentencing of those who violated the use of magic. As per tradition, she never spoke directly to us and we never learned her name.

                  The three men were standing in separate holding cells. The sorceress walked over and stood in front of Carl and began to chant her spell.

He quickly transformed into a female burro. Of the three, Carl was the only one I felt any pity for. Don’t get me wrong, he deserved to be punished, but at least he wasn’t a creep or a pervert like Fred or George. He actually believed he was helping the community.

                  Her name was now Carlotta and she was changed so that she would love having children ride her. I think I sensed a feeling of relief and acceptance in her.

                  The sorceress then moved down to George. He dropped down to his knees and began to beg for mercy.

                  It did no good and he was soon transformed into a lamb, actually a ewe and was named Georgette. She was changed so that she would very fertile and once she matured she would produce many lambs.

                  Once the transformation as complete she seemed frozen in place as if she was in shock by what had just happened. Michaela spoke to her and she began to bleat and run around.

                  “What did you say?” I asked.

                  “I reminded her to be nice… because people love lamp chops,” she replied.

                  The last to be changed was Fred. Part of his punishment was that he got to watch his co-conspirators changed first.

                  At first he didn’t show any fear. He glared at us and said that he wasn’t worried about being changed into a sheep or a donkey.

                  “You’re not going to be so lucky,” I replied. “We picked an animal fitting for your soul.”

                  The sorceress began to chant.

                  He opened his mouth to reply and all that came out was a high-pitched squeal.

                  His clothes then melted away as the spell slowly began to transform him. As he was the ringleader and had sexually abused so many of the girls, his transformation was very painful and took much longer than the others. He squealed in agony as he shrunk and changed into a sow piglet.

It was also determined that Fred would still be called Fred, and most importantly she would be very fertile once she matured.

                  Fred squealed and ran around her pen once the spell was complete.

                  The sorceress bowed and departed the room.

                  “So how do you like being a pig?” I asked.

                  “He’s always been a pig…now HER physical form just matches HER soul,” interjected Michaela.

                  Fred squealed loudly in protest.

                  Michaela then leaned over the enclosure wall and whispered to Fred.

                  “Just remember, this little piggy went to market,” said Michaela. “If you make any trouble you can become bacon.”

                  Fred ran to the opposite side of the pen squealing in fear.

                  “I still think they got off easy,” said Michaela as she continued to glare at the three animals.

                  “They will be in these forms for the rest of their human lives…it is an appropriate punishment,” I replied. “Especially when they are carrying their young…and that will happen many times.”   

                  “Will they remember who they were?” asked Bree.

                  I nodded. “That’s part of the punishment.”

                  “They won’t be able to hurt anyone, will they?” she asked.

                  I shook my head.

                  “No, they will be become very docile and friendly…it’s part of the spell,” I replied as I looked at Michaela who was still glaring at Fred.

                  “Good,” Bree replied as she reached over and petted Carlotta on the head.

The female burro seemed to enjoy it.

                  “So, are you okay with this Bree?” I asked.

                  Bree nodded.

                  “I accept who and what I am. Being a girl isn’t as bad I thought it was at first…granted I’m still worried about what it will be like when I grow up and all that…but I have time to adjust”

                  “You will,” I replied. “In a way I’m a bit envious of you as you’ll get to grow up and adjust to being a female.”

                  “That must have been awful for you,” she said.

                  “I adjusted to it…through the help of my new family,” I replied.

                  “You said that…the other person died…so you were really stuck,” she said.

                  “That’s true,” I answered.

                  “Do you miss your old family?” she asked.

                  “Yes, very much. Thankfully my sister knows about me…and she keeps me up on the family news, but it’s still difficult not being able to let them know that I’m still alive.”

                  “I know what you mean…in a way Brian was killed by those…monsters…and no one in my family knows…I’m the only one who knows that Brian existed and I mourn his loss,” she said.

                  I noticed how she referred to her old self as if he was a different person. I suspect it was her way of dealing with it.

                  “That’s why what you did here is so important. You avenged Brian and all the others and now I can move on. I will never forget…but I can move on,” she said as she wiped away her tears.

                  I pulled her close and gave her a hug.

                  “Iona, Michaela…can we stay friends?” she asked.

                  “Of course,” I replied.

                  “That goes for me too,” said Michaela as she handed Bree a tissue.

                  Bree wiped her eyes and blew her nose. The whole time she clutched the stone.

                  “Thanks,” she said.

 “Well, we better get you back to your parents,” said Michaela.

                  “You know, at first I hated my new body and my life…but I have a great family…I love them…and they really love me…and that’s not bad,” she said.

                  “No, no it isn’t,” I replied.

                  “Iona, I have one last question. Please tell me the truth…do I have powers like you two?” she asked.

                  “We think so,” I said. “We’re checking on your family history and we will let you know as soon as we do.”

                  “So I will be able to cast spells like you do?” asked Bree hopefully.

                  “Maybe…I can’t make any promises…your true powers might not develop until after you reach puberty…right now your artistic skills are an outlet, does that make sense?” I explained.

                  “A little,” she replied.

                  “We will be in touch with you as you grow up Bree…you won’t be alone,” I continued.

                  “Thank you both,” she replied. “I know you couldn’t undo all this…and I accept that…I also promise that if I get powers I will use them like you two do…for good. I have already seen what happens when they are misused. In fact, I would like to be like you two, is that possible?”

                  “Maybe, we’ll see,” I said.

                  “Cool,” she replied.

                  I knelt down and gave her a hug as did Michaela.

                  It wasn’t a perfect ending, but it did stop the abuse. I was optimistic that Bree would grow up to be a good person.

 

Chapter 22

                  A month later I was having lunch with Michaela at the Green Flash, a local San Diego restaurant over looking Pacific Beach. We were eating outside on the deck on a bright sunny afternoon. I showed her the published article.

                  “This isn’t bad,” she commented as she read it.

                  “It’s a nice cover story…I also like writing,” I replied. “By the way, you did a great job on the photos.”

                  She nodded. “So when does the ‘special version’ of this story come out?”

                  “Next week,” I replied. “I think you’ll enjoy it.”

                  “I know I will, I just hope they include the photos of the new additions to the Granville chapter of the 4H,” she replied. “I think they’ll love the photo of the kids chasing the little piggy.”

                  “I’m putting the money from the article into a college fund for Bree,” I continued.

                  “Cool. I want to help too,” she replied.

                  “She deserves to go to college after everything she has been through,” I said.

                  “Agreed,” said Michaela.

                  “Oh, I got a message from Henry last night,” I said. “He’s down in Central America.”

                  “Hiding in Honduras, he’s a desperate man,” said Michaela with a wink. “Did he ask you to send lawyers, guns, and money?”

                  I cocked my head and grinned.

                  “Did you just quote ‘Lawyers, Guns, and Money’?” I asked.

                  She nodded as she took a sip of her Coke.

                  “I didn’t know you liked Warren Zevon,” I said. “Too bad he died, I love his music.”

                  “He’s not dead…he’s like me and had moved on,” she said. “Not my clan, but a distant cousin.”

                  “Why am I not shocked by that,” I replied. “Anyway, do you want to hear about Henry?”

                  She nodded.

                  “He’s acting as a doctor, working with local tribes in the rain forest. He said that he couldn’t do the female thing,” I said.

                  “And?”

                  “It works…he said that the sensations he gets from childbirth are more powerful and concentrated than the ones he caused with the transformations. He suspected that the use of magic diluted them,” I said. “He thanked me for my suggestion.”

                  “So, it’s over then,” she said.

                  “I guess so,” I replied.

                  “You did the right thing,” said Michaela. “Henry isn’t bound by our rules…and if you hadn’t thought of a way out then a lot of innocent people would have died.”

                  “You’re right,” I replied.

                  “I think it’s cool that you were able to make a deal with him…my clan elders are very impressed. In fact they told me that should there be any issues they can’t handle they want to bring you in to help,” she said. “It is a great honor…we don’t usually bring in outsiders to help us.”

                  “I’m just glad we’re friends,” I replied.

                  “I can’t wait until our next adventure,” she added.

                  “I hope it can wait a few weeks, I need a break,” I said.

                  “Nonsense, you’ll be bored in a week,” she said.

                  “Not with Bill I won’t,” I replied with a wink.

                  Michaela grinned and held up her glass.

                  I picked up mine and we touched glasses.

                  My life will never be normal and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

·                The End

·                For Now

·                 

·                Main Characters

·                 

Iona Beddau - Originally a man called Roger Lyons; after a short tour in the navy, Roger began a defense contractor. It was on a flight back to San Diego that Roger met Iona, a young sorceress who swapped bodies with him. The switch became permanent when an accident killed "Roger". Now forced to live out her life as Iona, she also discovered that she had magical powers. Iona currently lives in San Diego with her Aunt Kayla. Her mother is Fiona Beddau, who works as a prosecutor for those who violate magical law. Iona is engaged to Bill Somers, who works as an Assistant DA in San Diego. Iona works as detective or runner to arrest those who violate magical laws. Her supervisor is Connor Locksley (who is dating Kayla).  Iona also maintains contact with her sister, Jenny Lyons. Jenny is an artist who works in Columbus Ohio and has also discovered that she has magical powers. She is the only member of Iona's original family who knows the truth about Roger. (Turbulence & Coeds Series)

 

Mick/Michaela- A magical being that refers to themselves as a traveler. They have magical powers, but rely on guile and secrecy to live along side humans, who they find fascinating.  She is currently living as a woman and is involved with Karen Miller, a young woman who is a friend of Iona. (Turbulence)

·                Brianna Olsen- Bree was once Brian Anderson. In his senior year of high school his mother remarried and they moved to Granville, a small town in the Midwest. Brian was transformed into teenage girl as part of a plan to maintain the town’s population. However, the memory aspect of the spell didn’t work on Brian and the elders transformed her into a five-year-old Chinese girl to keep her quiet. (Forget-Me-Not)

·                 

                 

                 

                 

 

                 

 

                 

                 

 

 

                 

 

   

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YES!

Love this story! Love it! Love it! Love it! Like somebody commented at FM, "Now I remember why I love Julie O's work." Not that I myself had ever forgotten, but this one does stand out as a recent favorite. A great conclusion to the events of FORGET ME NOT, and I like how it employed a solution more intelligent and nuanced than some big magical smackdown between them and the demon guy...

I'm a fan of the first person format, and so am glad you decided to use it once again for one of Iona's tales. Hearing this in her own words really ads flavor to it.

Well it's off to Bigcloset, where I'm gonna make a pest of myself, twisting some arms to get folks to come over here & read this one.
~~hugs, Laika

(Dunno why it made me sign in as guest reader)

I was always curious about

I was always curious about what had happened to Brian Anderson, and this wrapped up that story well. I also liked Michaela's hints about more to come as I also hope for more. Another wonderful tale from a great author.

Thank you very much.

Thank you JulieO

Thank you for a new story from the JulieVerse. Your stories are allways a delight to read. And I love how you are weaving the characters from the different plot lines together.

Jessica

Nice!

Amazing, not even a single death.  Very tastefully done.  I don't know if I would have transformed him into a pig though.  Pigs are actually very nice animals.

 

I always like Iona stories.  A pity her powers are not going to get any stronger.  OTOH, if she gains an artifact of some kind, maybe she can enhance her powers *shrug* in circumstances where she needs a temporary boost.

 

I thoroughly hate the idea of forced transformations and I agree that those three got off too lightly.

 

Kim

format hard to read

I don't know why, but this document refused to be viewed at a narrow width.

I was forced to view it at all most all of my 1680 width. I find this uncomfortable to read.

I copy pasted it to Notepad.exe and I can read it now.

Dayna.

Grantville

I am so thrilled to have closure to Bree's story. Forget Me Not was one of those tales that just stuck with me, and of course it literally cried out for a sequel. Julie has delivered an excellent conclusion to the original piece, and it is rather bittersweet in the end. Even with magic it isn't always possible to simply make everything right, and in this case to make such an attempt would have only destroyed the lives of more innocent people. Iona's handling of the matter shows how much she has grown since her own world was turned upside down, and hints at even more amazing things in the future.

On a side note, congratulations to Julie! Grantville marks her 100th story and I believe we should all feel very privileged that she has shared her wonderful creative talent with us, and introduced us to so many incredible characters. I can't wait for the next 100 stories in the Julieverse!

Sincerely,

Scott

Calvin: You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.
Hobbes: What mood is that?
Calvin: Last-minute panic.

Word Syntax

Just a few suggestions on word usage;

"special mobile holding cell"


Mobile, place in Alabama
moble, something portable


"will let the counsel know about your"


council, as in a body of governance
counsel, as in a legal representative

 

As with all of the Julie O stories the writing is excellent and the editing is great. A few minor word misuses come up here and again.

 

thanks for the story,


 

t's my own design
It's my own remorse
Help me to decide
Help me make the most
Of freedom and of pleasure

Wasn't one of Julie_O's stories titled Revenge is Bittersweet?

I had hoped she would get her male life back or maybe that of her female self but in the end she seemed happy enough in her life as she did get a longer one and with the compulsions removed she should do fine. The scope of the damage the magic did to so many lives would have made even her relatively recent -- three years before? -- transformation hard to explain on its reversal.

In a way she willingly bit the bullet but appears happy. And apparently the entity behind the *crystals* had done some things to help her - it felt sorry for the harm done to him/her -- so she likely will now have a wonderful future.

Mildly disappointed we didn't see the almost girlfriend he lost but then the nasty people doing the transformations , the power behind it and the bravery of the victim were far more important to the story. that and how Iona and friends would fix things. Plus she has a considerable talent for magic so I agree she  may pop up in a future story. The plucky young girl deserves no less. How much you want to bet the entity has boosted that ability in her as well? Although it was a creature beyond good and evil it did seem to feel remorse over how the teen boy, now seven year old Asian girl had been abused. I wonder what else it did to make amends to her? She may well be something very special when she reaches adulthood.

 

That Iona and co found a creative and ultimately better/peaceful way for the entity to feed has gained them another possible ally and brownie points with other such powerful creatures I would imagine.

 

The punishments of the nasties were in keeping with what happened to Kerr WAY back in the first Iona tale and to some of the other villains in Julie's tales.

 

Personally I would have seen them become precisely that which they denigrated/despised most. IE the one most behind the second transformation that made him into a very young oriental child should have been made into one, memories fully intact but only consciously so when certain people were around. The rapist become a prostitute under a cruel pimp and so on. But then it likely would not have fit into the Julieverse. As for the old man, now with Alzheimer's....he got off lucky.

Let's face it, I have a nasty imagination when it comes to bad people *getting their due*. Julie was far kinder than I might have been and  I applaud her for it. Sometimes restraint is needed in a story and it was needed here. As much as these victims needed justice the town needed healing, not more and bitter wounds in the name of justice.

 

Short, sweet, justice served and compensation/healing gained but with a certain sadness that comes from the limitations of real life. The magical aspects in a way are here mostly to bring these truths into sharper focus.

 

So good to hear another Jirra tale is underway.

 

John in Wauwatosa

 

P.S. I loved your fictitious Wisconsin's towns name. Could easily picture it in some quiet valley in SW Wisconsin or somewhere say in central northern Wisconsin, IE some fertile but out of the way, bypassed, half forgotten small farming town. I could almost imagine living there, despairing of my communities slow death and then being corrupted by the promise of a way to save the town ...  for a modest price.

But you're not a scientist. Surely you believe in all this superstitious nonsense. (MAD Magazine) Could be worse, could be raining. (Young Frankenstein)

Grantville

A most satisfactory conclusion to a wonderful story.
Can't help but think we haven't heard the last of Bree though.
Here's hoping anyway.

Thankyou (WebDeb:)

To Not Forget Grantville

Dear JulieO,

 

I am so excited that you are as careful with your natural resources as you are.

 

I have to admit that despite the title I had forgotten "Forget - Me - Not"  until "Grantville"  came out.

 

I am so happy to see that you do not waste your talent or your stories.  Do you write all your stories with the idea of adding them to other stories or do they call out to you; "Hey, you left a loose end dangaling here, how about you find a new story to finish me up?"

 

That and your characters live and breath in your stories.  I want to know what type of  kitten Jill / Princes Pain (in the ass) adopted.

 

What does the Director do  on his day off?  Does he take one?

 

What trouble has Jirra gotten into?

 

Has Celeste and Spirit found a good man to settle down with?

 

Where are we in Erika's timeline? Is she still dating her football player friends?

 

I am not crazy staulker person, it is your skill that makes thes people so real to me.

 

Please continue as long as you can and want too.

 

Rose02     

If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice

You'll just have to keep reading

I will let you know that I will be starting a new Jirra story soon.

   Julie O

another good one

Always good to see another good story. Iona's story is a lot of fun too read and its good to see that it continues.

Forget Me Not

Of all the stories I have read it is good to see a conclusion to this one. I was left empty when Forget Me Not concluded. Grantville did that admirably. I like to see justice done. I know justice sometimes never sees it's day in reality, but it is good in fiction to see justice.

 

It is also good to see Iona again.

 

Thank you Julie O

 

Paula

Great story!

I really like your Iona stories. She is just so. . . brilliant, but not like some science fiction & fantasy characters who always have all the answers.