That hurt.

Another one like that and my shield wasn't going to hold. Firelight gleamed off its raw, inside­out flesh

as the demon took a step back and seemed to be catching its breath. Great; just great.

The boy whimpered, and then clutched at my leg. How ridiculous. If I didn't think the thing was going

to rip my face off if my focus slipped, I'd have thrown my head back and roared in laughter at the absurdity of

the image.

The demon flinched.

Had I really seen that?

It slunk back more and started to circle us.

Oh, that was just too perfect!

I let the shield slip just a little as I settled my shoulders and took a few deep breaths. Reaching out, I

gathered my magic. It flowed into me: clean and refreshing, lightening my spirits even more.

The demon came forward, suddenly unsure but unable to resist the weakening of my shield.

I could feel the magic bubbling up inside me, barely held in by my will. I lunged a step at the

advancing demon and gleefully shouted: "Boo!"

It shrieked. It actually shrieked and recoiled.

I was going to lose it. But I wasn't ready yet; there was more power there for the taking. It had been

so long since I'd tapped it this way, I had forgotten what it was like. I grabbed at it, pulling it in and holding it

back; feeling for my will to shape it, harness it.

There are a lot of ways to cast a spell, but they all really boil down to three important steps: gathering

power, focusing that power and then releasing it.

A teacher of mine had taught me that one of the best ways to release energy was laughter. Its not

always easy; in fact it can be down right hard, to find humor when a vampire or something less friendly is

getting ready to chew your face off. But when you can find it, when you can tap that river ­­ the results are,

ironically, dramatic.

I could feel the corners of my mouth twitching, wanting to crack into a smile. It was time. I let the smile

come and felt the laughter bubble up. Laughter, true laughter, is like no other rush. And what a rush it was as

the river of magic latched onto my laughter and came roaring up through the very core of my being to be

brayed out of my mouth. It struck the demon full­on, waves of clean, life bringing magic carried on my breath

and laughter. The spell hammered the demon's conjured flesh and threw it back a full ten feet, slamming it into

a wall.

And the laughter kept coming! It was one of those wonderful tides that just shook me to my roots,

taking with it all the rage, fear and frustration of the last several days, washing me clean. At the same time, it

pounded the demon's stolen flesh, pulverized its borrowed bones, drove it from its shell and forced it to flee

back to the realm that spawned it.

I was left weak in the knees; drained, but refreshed at the same time. I looked around at the flaming

ruin that had recently been a pleasant living room. We didn’t seem to be in any immediate danger from the fire

and I could hear sirens approaching. Probably best if we were not present when officialdom arrived....

The young man seemed to be regaining his wits, and some of his courage. He stood, with my

assistance, looked around as I did (not lingering too long on the steaming pile of ectoplasmic goo that had so

recently been a ravening, four armed thing bent on eating the him alive) but with a look of shock and despair

on his face that broke my heart.

“Mom,” he said in barely a whisper. “Dad!”

And then he was stumbling away from me towards the rear bedroom, just off the kitchen. I caught up

to him after a few steps, and grabbed his wrist. He turned to look at me, and attempted to shake free of my


I shook my head, and the look in his eyes took the pieces of my heart and shattered them into tinier

fragments. He pulled away, and just a few more feet had him in front of the bedroom door. It hung crookedly

from a single hinge; low flames, dancing over something, could be seen within the room.

“Don’t go in there,” I said to his back, knowing full well that he had to do just that.

He pushed the door open as far as he could, but barely crossed the threshold before he stopped.

I was there when he turned around, the firelight refracting through his tears. I did the only thing I could

do: I opened my arms to him. He came to me and I held him to my chest while the sobs began.

Guiding him, gently, towards the open front door and the street, he stumbled after just a few steps.

Tucking my staff under one arm, I knelt and scooped him up. He threw his arms around my neck as I stood up.

He rested his head against my chest. There was a shadowed shape standing in the open front door,

blocking the light from the street.

I hesitated for just a second, but from the casual posture and the way he stood there, one foot

tapping, I knew it was just Jason. I also knew he’d have that eyebrow arched... and sure enough, once I got

close, he was shaking his head, grinning that Jason grin, Spock eyebrow and all.

Jason came forward and took the boy from me, knowing that I had been mostly lucky to carry him that


“Another foundling,” Jason said softly, looking down at the boy.

I reached out and put my arm around my lover’s shoulders for just a second, squeezing him. “We

need to go.”

Then we were out the door, and heading for the car. We needed to get somewhere safe. No telling

what else might be after our little foundling. It had taken me far too much time and effort to find out who the

demon had been after. I still didn’t know why. And that bothered me.

A lot.


This tale first appeared in Renderosity's Annual Halloween Contest in 2009, where it didn't get a single vote.