Morning dawned on the Heisen manor, bathing the lush green lawns with light. A few statues in the yard watched over a family of ducks as they waddled towards the nearby pond. A cool breeze wafted over the property, making the cottonwood trees at the southern edge rustle. As the sun rose higher, it eventually found a window on the east side, four stories above the ground. The curtain had been drawn tight, but it still managed to find a single, tiny crack and let itself into the house through it— right onto the face of a sleeping sphinx.
Sarah squirmed, trying to ignore the sudden light that interrupted her dreams, but found it to be a losing battle. Finally, she raised her head, yawned, and then stood up. Her sheets had been wadded up around her into a nest, and she kicked them lethargically away and leaped down onto the floor.
“Good morning, sunshine,” she murmured, stretching her forepaws out in front of herself. A thick rug hung from the nearby wall, and she stood up on her back legs and ran her claws through it. Glancing at the mirror, she took a moment to groom the feathers on her wings back into place before pushing open her door and padding into the hallway.
The sweet smell of bacon and eggs wafted down the hall, making her mouth water. Mrs. Rasta must already be awake, then. She quickened her pace, her stomach already growling at the promise of breakfast.
“Good morning, dear,” the old banshee greeted her as she came into the kitchen. She hovered in front of the stove, her toes dangling exactly six inches above the floor.
“Morning, Mrs. R.,” Sarah replied. “Is breakfast almost ready?”
“Just a few more minutes, dear.” Mrs. Rasta turned to face her. “You should go speak to your parents, though. They’ll be ready to leave any minute now.”
“Leave?” Sarah echoed, looking at the maid in surprise. “Where are they going?”
“Oh dear,” the banshee said, turning back to her cooking, “they forgot to tell you again? If you hurry, you can catch them before they go out the door. I’m sure they’d like to give you a proper goodbye instead of leaving a note like last time.”
“Yeah, right,” Sarah growled, but turned and ran from the kitchen anyway. She knew her parents had a reason for wanting to leave without her noticing.
The young sphinx ran into the marble floored entryway, her claws scraping against the stone as she skidded to a halt. Her parents were already there, their hands loaded with suitcases and bags.
“Wait!” she called, halting them. They may have wanted to leave unnoticed, but they’d never just ignore her when she called to them.
“Sarah, honey,” her mother said, setting her bags down on the floor. “We were worried you wouldn’t be up in time to say goodbye again!”
Both of her parents were in their human forms, dressed in their best human clothes. That could only mean one thing…
“You’re going on another business trip, aren’t you?” Sarah demanded, stepping back to avoid her mother’s hug. “Can I come this time?”
“The answer is the same as it has always been,” her father answered, looking anxiously at the door. “You’re not old enough.”
“I’m sixteen!” she spat, glaring at him. “Most parents let their kids drive when they’re that old, but you’ve never even let me out of the house!”
“It’s dangerous out there,” her father insisted, reluctantly setting down his bags as well. “If anyone were to see you—”
“I can hide just as well as you two!”
Before either of her parents could argue, she recited the spell she’d known since birth. Her wings and fur shrank into her body and she stood up on two legs, clothes materializing to cover her.
“See?” she asked defiantly, putting her fists on her human hips.
“You still have a tail,” her father pointed out.
Sarah turned around to look, and groaned when she saw he was right. She released the spell, falling down on all fours again. “I want to go with you,” she pleaded. “I’m so sick of it here!”
“How can you be sick of it?” her mother asked. “You’ve never seen anything else.”
When both her daughter and husband gave her a flat stare, she looked away. “Perhaps that was the wrong thing to say,” she mumbled.
“Sarah,” Mr. Heisen said, getting down on one knee and putting a hand on Sarah’s shoulder, “we’re only doing this to protect you. All it takes is one slip up for the Slayers to be all over you.”
“You two have never had that problem,” Sarah grumped, using her wing to brush her father’s hand off.
“Neither of us were allowed out of the house until we were adults,” he reminded her sternly, “so don’t think we’re making you do anything we haven’t had to do ourselves.”
Sarah huffed and turned as if to leave. She had known it was pointless trying to convince them to bring her all along, but she’d had to do it. Mr. Heisen was CEO of a very successful lock making company, which meant that he and her mother were constantly leaving to conduct business. That was the source of the family’s wealth, which they insisted was solely to keep Sarah living in comfort. After sixteen years of never once getting to leave the mansion, though, Sarah found what she wanted more than anything else was to go with them.
“Sarah, please,” her mother said, “don’t be like that. We’ll bring you back something nice this time, all right?”
“Whatever,” she said, refusing to look at them again.
After a few seconds of silence, Mrs. Heisen asked, “Can we have a kiss goodbye?”
Sarah sighed, but turned around. She wanted to be angry at her parents for leaving her behind again, but she knew they were right. The Slayers were out there, and if one of them so much as glimpsed her true form, she was dead. The transformation spell was difficult to get right, even after sixteen years of practicing it, and it took even longer to be able to hold it for extended amounts of time.
“It’d better be something really cool,” she grumbled, putting her front paws on their shoulders so she could kiss their cheeks.
“It will be, I promise,” Mr. Heisen said, picking up his bags again. “Now come on, or we’ll miss our flight. Be good for Mrs. Rasta, Sarah.”
And with that, the door closed behind them, leaving Sarah alone in the huge house yet again.
Well, almost alone.
“I’m sorry, dearie,” Mrs. Rasta said, floating into the room. “Come on, I’ll make you something special for breakfast.”
Sarah walked in silence for a few seconds, staring at the floor, but finally she couldn’t stand it anymore.
“Why can’t I ever go with them?” she demanded. “It’s so boring around here!”
“I’m sure you could find something to do, dear,” Mrs. Rasta said, as she always did. “Why, it’s not every child who gets to grow up in a house this big!”
They reached the kitchen, and Sarah sat down while the maid began to get out the ingredients.
“Most children are allowed to go outside once in a while, though,” Sarah reminded her.
“It’s not that bad,” Mrs. Rasta insisted. “I stay here all the time too, you know.”
“Yeah, I know, but you weren’t born here. You actually got to see the world before my parents hired you.”
“That’s true,” she agreed reluctantly.
“What’s it like out there?” Sarah pressed her, coming to stand beside her. “What did you see?”
“I saw many things,” Mrs. Rasta said, grimly. “Some were incredible, others were incredibly horrible. In my opinion, the good things are not worth the pain the bad things bring.”
“Like what?” Sarah urged her.
“Mythics like us always have to look over their shoulder. Even ones that can disguise themselves like your parents aren’t safe. You end up not being able to trust anybody, because you don’t know who might be a Slayer. And then when they finally do find you, they…” She broke off, as if suddenly remembering where she was. The old banshee composed herself, and gave Sarah a gentle smile. “I think you’re much better off in here, dear.”
Sarah frowned and went back to the other end of the kitchen. She trusted Mrs. Rasta, but her warnings didn’t faze her one bit. Her parents had books— an entire library. Sarah had spent her whole life reading about the world outside her mansion. The buildings, the cities, the natural wonders that words and photographs just couldn’t describe. She was tired of reading about them. She wanted to see them with her own eyes!
Sarah sighed. There was no use dwelling on it. Until her parents decided otherwise, she was stuck here.
“I wish Misoki was still here,” she grumbled.
Mrs. Rasta started, and then turned to look at the young sphinx. “If I were you,” she said dryly, “I would not say such things when your father is around.”
“My father can go bite his own tail,” Sarah sneered. “Misoki was the only friend I’ve ever had. It’s his fault she’s gone.”
“Your father is a great Mythic,” Mrs. Rasta said sternly, waving her wooden spoon at Sarah. “That werewolf was putting dangerous ideas into your head. He did that for your own good.”
Sarah scowled and looked away. It had been more than two years since the young werewolf had left, and Sarah hadn’t gone a single day since without wishing her friend would come back. Not that she’d be welcome after…
No use dwelling on that either, she thought. There was always one thing that would cheer her up, though.
“Hey, Mrs. R,” she said with a bright, empty smile, “after I eat I’m going to go outside and practice flying.”
“You most certainly are not, young lady!” the banshee snapped. “You know you’re not allowed to do that!”
“I’m only two years away from being eighteen,” Sarah whined, stretching her wings out behind her. “I bet they’re strong enough.”
“A sphinx’s wings don’t mature enough to fly until they’re eighteen, and not a day sooner!” the banshee said. “You know that.”
“Oh come on,” Sarah wheedled, her spirits rising already. “How am I gonna be ready then if I can’t practice now?”
“For the last time, no!”
As the two Mythics argued, neither of them noticed the tree branches outside the window rustle. They shook again, and a figure in a dark coat dropped out. Making sure to keep out of sight of the window, the man hurried away until he was off the manor grounds completely. When he was safely in the woods, hidden by the shadows cast by the rising sun, he pulled a small mirror out of his pocket.
“Master Mortoph,” he spoke into it. Slowly, his reflection disappeared and was replaced by the image of the Master Slayer. “The scouts were right, sir. There are two monsters in that house. A sphinx and a banshee.”
“How old is the sphinx?” Mortoph asked.
“A teenager,” the Slayer answered. “About fifteen or sixteen, I think.”
“A banshee would not be raising a sphinx that young by itself,” Mortoph said, his voice confident. “That means there are more inside. Good work. I will inform the others, and assign someone to deal with them.”
“Who, sir?” the Slayer asked, curiously.
“There’s a boy named Porter,” Mortoph answered. “He’s the youngest Slayer to be promoted in years. I think a family of sphinxes would be the perfect challenge for him.”
NEXT TIME: And there’s our second hero, my dear readers! She, like Porter, seems to be benevolence incarnate, yes? But oh, snippety snap! Looks like out two textbook heroes are going to have a little run-in. I wonder how this will turn out… As always, if you like this story, SHARE IT! Seriously, it won’t get more popular-er if nobody ever hears about it! You guys are awesome kthxby, see you this Saturday for another Amber Silverblood chapter!