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Dakota sat on her counter with her phone in hand, glancing at the message from her friend Amy.
"I'll be there. sounds delicious!" She replied with a thumbs up and heard the timer beside her go off. she slid off the counter and opened the oven, enjoying the heat that washed over her... but more so, the scent that heat carried. she reached for the casserole without oven mitts and yelped as her hands were scalded by the handles of the deep black pot. the molten cheese looked so good! still, she had been stupid to forget to cool it. she muttered a few words under her breath and the heat died, except in the center of the food.
She took it out and placed it atop the golden tablecloth. Yellow of joy. it had been forever since she and Amy had met face to face. she sprinkled on the breadcrumbs and sat back in satisfaction. then she muttered a few more words to keep it warm and sat by the window, watching for a blue car to drive up. she sipped some of the herbal tea she had made for them with a hiding place nearby to disguise the evidence.
she heard a couple pings and before she knew it it was pouring. she would hate to be driving in it. Fortunately, the car pulled up just fine. She hid the tea and a lemon scone shed been guiltily eating and went to the door to welcome Amy.
"Hey, Amy! It's really pouring, huh? How was the drive?" she asked.
"I had to use a spell to keep the water off the windshield, but before it rained pretty good."
"Anything to report?"
"You know I couldn't tell you."
"Why is it you get to be in the know? I'm an Evenia too."
"Having magic doesn't make you an agent. Besides, that's not your specialty area."
"I want to know the danger I'm in."
"And you have a right too. that's what I believe, anyways. I'm not alone, but as long as the Evenian Defensive Force of Secrets says you have to stay in the dark, we have to keep you in the dark. I'm not saying I follow every rule and guideline they give, but for disclosing information I could be discharged, and considering the secrets I work with I could be discharged from living. so for now, you don't get to know everything. Listen to some rumors, that's always helpful."
"Or harmful. But ok. By the way, are you under contractor or something to say the EDFS's full name? Why do you do it?" She tried to lighten the conversation.
"Naw, I just like to sound official. at work, of course, I use acronyms. We need to be fast with lives on the line."
"I thought you just worked with managing Evenias." when she had first cast a spell by accident, at 21, in the middle of her panic attack Amy showed up and got her trained and orientated. Then she got a house out in the woods away from the humans to keep the secret, for her safety and theirs. Of course she could visit whenever she wanted to, as long as she didn't tell anyone the truth. Amy had kept checking on her for a while after that anyways.
"I do, but I still have secrets to keep and I have to hurry to the new ones."
"Ok, you're the expert I guess. want to eat?"
"Yeah, I'm starving. Mmm, that smells good."
Dakota led Amy to the kitchen and served generous portions of the casserole. it was really just potatoes, covered by cheese, covered by potatoes, covered by cheese, covered by potatoes, covered by cheese, covered by bread crumbs, and soaked in milk so it didn't burn. 3 layers of perfection.
"So, I heard you got a job?" Amy broke the silence after a minute of eating.
"Tracking what? Animals or beasts?"
"both, but mostly beasts. there was a beast, a chimera, that was tough to track. problematic too." she launched into the story. "and there was a wolf I found... I was tracking a female wolf, animal not beast, but a human beat me to her... i found a cave, and in it..." she went to the other room and came out carrying a little white wolf puppy.
"Meet Alaska. She's almost weaned, so I have her on meat. isn't she so cute?"
Amy choked out an "Awwwwww!" around a mouthful of food. Dakota carried her over and Amy stroked the soft velvet ears. she set down Alaska and watched her run around for a moment when they were interrupted by a knock on the door.
"What? I'll get it, watch Alaska. I had her locked up she wouldn't follow me to the door and get lost outside."
Dakota walked to the door and opened it to find a man she'd never seen before drenched in tattered clothes.
"Sorry to intrude, but I'm lost, and very hungry. My name's Clyff. Can I call on you for help?"
"Um... Sure, come in. you ok?"
"Well I'm lost, so no."
"My friend and I were just having dinner, you want some?"
They walked into the kitchen and Dakota found a chair for him, completely missing Amys glare and his response. when she turned back Amy was all smiles.
"Amy, this is Clyff, he's lost. Clyff, this is my friend Amy. Whoop-" Alaska darted thru her legs to sniff and growl at the stranger. she smiled at Alaskas tough girl act. "and this is Alaska." Alaska turned and wagged her tail at her name, then scampered behind her leg.
"I don't trust him, he smells funny." she heard in her mind.
"he was lost." she silently replied. She sat back down.
"Where are you from, Clyff?"
"A town called Northton."
"Oh, that's only what, 10 miles south of here? Maybe when Amy leaves she can take you with her."
"Yeah. I'd be thrilled." Amy didn't look remotely thrilled.
“So how’d you get lost?”
“I was on a camping trip with my friends and got lost tracking a deer.”
“Oh really? I'm a tracker. Not a common profession, but I’m who you go to if you have an animal stirring up trouble. Thats how I met Alaska. Somebody less humane had got to her mom before I did, so I saved her. Do you know the ways to not get lost?”
“Yeah…” he looked ashamed.
“You must be anxious to get home. Are you done eating?”
“Yeah. Can you show me some of your trophies?”
“Oh I don't kill. I can get some pictures.”
“Please.” he followed her to the room where she kept pictures of her best exploits. She tried to sort out the beasts while distracting him with conversation over her shoulder. She didn't notice him watching carefully, though Amy did.
“So, Amy, what's your job?”
“I don't have one at the moment.”
“What do you do for money?”
“I do odd jobs here and there. Are you ready to go?”
“Oh, uh… I don't feel comfortable riding in strangers' cars.”
“She won't hurt you, it's only a few miles.”
“I can follow the road. Besides, you haven’t shown me the animals.”
She passed him a picture of her and a stunned cougar, and a picture of her with a grizzly bear. He mumbled some impressed words and glanced around the room.
“What's that picture?” he pointed at a framed picture on the wall of her with a phoenix.
“Oh, a friend of mine photoshopped that because I love phoenixes. It was just me and an elk.” she hadn't actually ever tracked an elk, they weren't dangerous enough. She dealt with beasts and sometimes bears or cats, occasionally a really problematic wolf.
“I’m really thirsty, mind if I run back to the kitchen while you find more pictures?”
“No, of course not.”
He walked out and hovered silently beside the door.
“I really have to go to work, as soon as possible. I just remembered something. He needs to come with me now, I can drop him off on the way.”
“He said no.”
“Dakota I’ve seen him before, I know he knows who and what I am and what you are. Get him to come with me.”
Dakota looked up. “He’s an Evenia?”
“No. I can't tell you more. Don’t give him any information and get him to come with me.”
They walked out to the kitchen to find him absent. Then he pounced from behind and Amy started fighting with magic and martial arts or something Dakota had never seen in her life. Alaska tried to bite his leg. But she just stood there, stunned and useless.
She couldn't process what was happening, who was fighting how, who was winning, the spells Amy used, or where they were. She also couldn't process the small black gun aimed at her, or hear the bang. She didn't feel herself fall or see her vision go dim. She didn't hear Alaskas’ terrified whimper or hear the desperate licks. She didn't see Amy win. All she felt was fear, until that too faded.