Learning Phase, Chapter 1

  • Posted on December 6, 2020 at 3:43 pm

By Nuit du Loup

Note from JetBoy: Old acquaintances of the vintage Lesbian Lolita site will surely recall the exquisite stories of Nuit Du Loop. Through the years, we’ve had requests for more of his work to be posted here — but I always resisted, thinking of the lion’s share of his writing more as high-quality fantasy fiction than pure erotica, despite the lesbian content.

What changed my mind was the two Tequila Kid sagas that I had the good fortune to edit for Purple Les. These were high-quality Old West tales with lesbian content… and all of a sudden, Nuit’s stories seemed like a natural fit for Juicy Secrets.  So relax, settle in and enjoy, taking into account that it takes a while to get to the actual sex. The wait is worth it, I promise.

***

The warm summer sun was beautiful that day. The cloudless sky was a clear, azure strip seen through a break in the trees caused by the dry, dusty road that cut a narrow swath through the dense forest. As Isana cruised with reckless speed down that road in the red behemoth of her pickup truck, she considered how perfect the day seemed. Her lively, ice-blue eyes took in the world around her with open enjoyment because she loved the wildness of it.

She hit a particularly large pothole in the road, she bounced up in the seat and caught a bit of her reflection in the rearview mirror. Long, snow-white hair cascaded down from a small head and framed her almost childlike face. The sight made Isana smile wryly in amusement. Her face wasn’t the only thing childlike about her appearance.

She was twenty-five years old, as of her birthday two months past. Yet when people looked at her, their first impression often put her at least a decade less than that. This was mostly because she was incredibly short at about four and a half feet tall and her face was blessed with what her close friends called “dainty” features. Her nose was tiny, her lips were small and thin and her eyes, which turned up slightly on the outsides, usually held delighted amusement. Her body was lithe and skinny with small, handful-sized breasts and what she considered a pleasantly rounded backside.

She looked the way she did because she wasn’t human, or at least not entirely so. She wasn’t sure, because her mother hadn’t stuck around after she’d been born and the woman who had adopted her hadn’t known either. From what she knew, her mother was a bakeneko, a kind of feline shapeshifter, and her father’s identity was entirely unknown. From this uncertain parentage, Isana had been blessed with the white hair, the small, fully functional, and triangular cat ears that poked up from the top of her head, a long, fluffy white tail and a few other things. Isana didn’t really mind how she looked, but it sometimes made introductions with strangers more difficult.

Thankfully, most people were used to seeing the odd and the strange these days. A century ago, when magic had first exploded into the world during the event now called the Great Fall, new creatures and part humans like herself had begun appearing even as billions of people worldwide were dying from the collapse of technology and strange magical cataclysms. But humanity was resilient, and now if someone saw something strange, he just went about his business unless it represented a threat. There really were threats and dangers in this new world; many of them in fact, but the current population of the planet, all 1.1 billion, was determined to make it safe again.

A dark shape inside the dense trees ahead and to the right caught Isana’s attention. Seconds later the truck rumbled past the object, and Isana’s smile grew bigger. The shadow was the ruined remains of a large structure from before the Fall. There were a great many like it littered around, but this particular one meant that she was only a mile from the town of Willis. It was a small place with less than ten thousand people, but it, and the surrounding area, was her home territory.

A short time later, Isana slowed her magically powered mechanical beast as she approached a small white shack on the right side of the road. Tied to the shack at a sturdy post were three massive horses. When she came to a stop in front of the barricade sticking out from the shack, the nearest horse in the line eyed her aggressively and stomped a hoof hard enough into the dusty ground to get its threat across. Isana never got on well with horses. They didn’t like the way she smelled.

“Good morn’ ma’am.”

A tall, unfamiliar blonde man in the crisp blue trousers, white shirt and crossed red bandoliers of the Town Patrol uniform exited the shack from the only door and rounded the vehicle. His weapon belt held both a large caliber handgun and a curved saber. All town patrolmen knew how to fight with blades, bullets and their own two hands. They kept the general peace, enforced the law and kept the nasty supernatural things from trying to take bites out of the town. This man looked confident and competent in his own strength. Exactly the type of guy they posted on the roads into town.

“Morning, officer,” Isana replied cheerfully. “Are you new to the Town Patrol?”

“Yes, I am,” the man smiled back, obviously proud of his accomplishment. “I finished my training last week. Can I ask your business in town and your name?”

“Isana Tyler,” she answered. “I’m here to deal with that little chicken problem you’re having.”

The officer looked at her dubiously.

“She’s not lying, Mark,” the second gruff, male voice came from another much larger and more muscular man coming out of the shack. He smiled and nodded at her in greeting. Isana nodded back, for she knew Sergeant Meyers well. “She may look like a fragile little thing, but Isana there can turn you or the entire town inside out with a flick of her finger if she cared to. Haven’t you heard of or seen our resident witch before?”

“Uh…no. I’m sorry, ma’am,” the younger man said in quick apology. “Headquarters mentioned you, but they didn’t give me a description.”

“That’s because Captain Keller likes his little jokes,” Meyers sighed. “Thanks for coming, Isana. Even those two pretty boys from the Magical Defense Unit haven’t been able to solve our little problem.”

Isana grinned; Meyers sure knew how to flatter a girl. Too bad for him she only liked women. “You should give them more credit, Meyers. They have learned some magic, and they were a lot of help when that creek flooded last year and washed out that bridge. Where do I need to go?”

“It’s down in the old industrial area. The rest of the boys have it holed up inside that big bottling plant,” Meyers sighed. “It’s a good thing they built that place with corrugated steel, or we’d have even bigger problems with fires. Just let me raise the barricade for you.”

Meyers walked toward the mount for the wooden spar, then levered it upwards and out of the way. At the same time, a hundred feet of roadway and grass ahead of her down the road rippled as massive wards and defensive spells were temporarily put to sleep. Those were the true barricades barring the road. If someone blew through or hopped the physical barrier, then the magic on the other side would tear them apart — or something equally final and unpleasant. Though neither patrolman knew it, Isana had been the one to lay those spells and she could have disabled them easily. Instead, Isana drove on down the road to the town.

The town of Willis was a bizarre hodgepodge of surviving pre-fall buildings with newer structures interspersed around them along brick-paved roads. It had never been very large, but it had the things necessary for a population center to survive and thrive. There was plenty of food, fresh water and a strong sense of community.  While most of the major cities were great, moldering mausoleums to their long dead residents, Willis had actually improved in the last hundred years. Isana loved the town and knew a large number of people here personally. Occasionally she regretted that her own home was fifteen miles to the west and deep inside the forested lands which Mother Nature was rapidly reclaiming as her own. But she loved her house too much to give it up, and she also liked the peace and quiet.

The industrial area she arrived at was a small clump of old factories and warehouses on the north edge of the town. It was largely abandoned, and the town had been planning for ages to tear it all down and reclaim any useful metals and glass. The smelter to melt down the metals was already being built. For now, it was an unsightly, rusting mess that attracted the occasional creature looking for a new den. The building Isana headed to had once been the bottling facility for a long-dead beverage company. Now it was an ugly hulk surrounded on all sides by a couple of dozen men and women wearing the Patrol uniform.

They watched her approach, and she saw relief on many of their faces. There was also a little resentment from a few of the younger ones, probably those who felt that they could handle this on their own. She ignored them all and drove around the perimeter until she saw an older, rough-hewn man wearing a wide-brimmed brown hat with the rest of the uniform. He and six other men stood in the weather broken expanse of the former parking lot. Their horses were tied up a good distance away in a small grassy clearing. It was cheaper, even for cops, to use horses instead of cars. When she brought the truck to a crunching halt and stepped out into the sunlight she understood why the horses were so far away. The air reeked of sulfur.

“Phew, that is one hell of a stink!” she complained cheerily, wrinkling her cute, sensitive nose. “Good to see ya again, Captain Keller!”

“Isana!” the older man sighed. “I know I’ve told you this a dozen times, but you’ve done more than enough around here to call me by my first name.”

Isana waved her hand dismissively as she approached. Once she called someone by something enough times, it took a near act of god to make her change. “Are you sure of what you’ve got in there?”

“Definitely,” Keller responded firmly once they stood facing each other. He, of course, had to look down to meet her gaze. “Dan Crosswell smuggled the damn thing in from the Detroit wasteland, where he says he bought it from a weird dealer. He confirmed that it’s a basan. Claims it was nice and docile when he bought it here, and he has no idea why it decided to go nuts today.”

Isana snorted. “Did he say what he planned to do with a giant chicken that spits fire and has major territorial issues?”

“No, he didn’t,” Keller responded dryly. “Is it going to be a problem?”

“No way!” Isana laughed, propping her fists against her denim-clad hips. The pose made her loose tank top rise up a little to expose her toned belly. “Give me twenty minutes, max, and I’ll have it all wrapped up for you.”

“What if it makes a fuss?” asked a youngish brunette woman in her early thirties. Alisha Waters was Keller’s second in command.

“Then I’ll cook it and turn it into dinner for the lot of us,” Isana said confidently. “Do I need to know anything else before I head inside?”

Keller thought about it for a moment, and then he blinked and nodded. “Yes, but it’s unrelated to the current problem. There are two women from the Arbor City Council that have been asking how to contact you. They’re staying at the Heaven’s Rest hotel. I promised I’d pass on the word from them.”

Isana frowned and mulled it over. Arbor was the nearest city to Willis, and she couldn’t think of a reason why they would need her for anything. She knew that they had some social unrest issues, but they also had a strong police force, a battalion of MDU troops and at least five witches and mages comparable to herself. Still coming up blank, she shrugged and decided to go and see the two women when she was done here.

“Thanks for letting me know,” she said to the captain. “See you in a bit!”

She turned towards the building and saw that the front windows of the office section were long broken, and the only door on this side of the building hung open on corroded hinges. Isana made her way over and without pausing, entered inside. She studied a time-worn fire escape plan near the doorway on the wall, then ducked into the long hallway that would take her to the main production room.

Her eyes quickly adjusted to the gloomy light and she became aware of a rough scratching sound coming from ahead. After a short distance over moldy, rotted carpeting she came to another doorway and shoved it open. The metal door swung hard with a screech and slammed against the wall with a nearly deafening bang. Across a wide expanse of open concrete and a jumbled assortment of collapsed machinery, a feathery creature squawked in indignant surprise and pushed itself up onto the massive talons that were its feet.

It looked exactly like any other chicken you might see. This one just so happened to stand three feet tall at the head and probably weighed as much as she did or more. It was called a basan, a type of yokai from Japanese mythology. Its feathers were made from an asbestos-like material, and even from where she stood Isana could see that the talons were scoring long grooves into the concrete floor. It also spat flame and often consumed the burned flesh of its victims.

The large fowl twitched its head back and forth, looking at her through black, angry eyes. When Isana started to walk towards it, it began to rustle its wings in a physical display of warning. Isana continued forward unabated. At about fifty feet or so away the bird jerked its head, squawked again, and then spat liquid fire in her direction.

Like all fire, it expanded as it moved outward, and the white-hot gout became a fan of deadly heat. Not the least bit surprised at this action, Isana casually flicked out a finger on her right hand, and the oncoming flame broke like water on an invisible bow ten feet ahead of her. An inferno raged all around her but she continued walking calmly forward. When the first salvo ran down, the basan seemed indignant that the interloper in its midst hadn’t become a crispy critter for it to eat. Isana smiled at it and she knew a predatory light was in them. The feline in her saw weak prey.

“Try that again,” she taunted playfully, laughing. “You’re not even making me work here.”

Another blast of fire raced out at her and again Isana shunted it aside with little effort. The factory around her, however, was another story. The machinery was drooping and sagging like soft wax and there were places where the metal glowed with heat. The concrete floor had shrugged the heat off except that any moisture had been vaporized away. Isana found the air was fast becoming dangerous to breathe from the fumes and the stench was almost overwhelming.

“My turn!” she laughed at the bird and took a deep breath.  Placing the first two finger over her mouth in a ‘v’ she blew out hard and this time a cone of fire exploded out away from her and towards the shocked basan. The giant bird dropped to the ground where it stood, over a tangled mess of old electrical cables and ducked its head under a wing just in time as the fire crashed over it.

While it was still hiding Isana reached up, plucked a single white hair from her head and worked a larger bit of magic. The strand of hair glowed golden and when she let go, it shot like a needle across the gap and right at the bird. Faster than a striking snake, the hair wrapped itself around the beak of the creature and tied it as tight as steel cables would have. Then the hair split, grew longer and shot out again to entangle and snare the legs and wings. When it was done, Isana had herself a giant trussed-up chicken.

“Just like I said,” Isana smiled. “Ten minutes.”

***

When Isana finally made it to the Heaven’s Rest Hotel, she was in a very good mood. It had taken nearly another thirty minutes to get the squirming basan loaded into the bed of a trailer. Even though she’d only been called in to deal with the capturing part, she’d stuck around to lend a hand with the rest of the grunt work because she never liked dumping things onto other people. Now she had the nice glow of accomplishment to keep her mood soaring.

The Heaven’s Rest Hotel was in what passed for a downtown district in the small town. It was nestled between the town hall building with its old Greek style columns and the public library. As far as Isana knew, it had always been a hotel, even before the Fall, and was a couple of centuries old. The current proprietor, Claire Renow, was a young woman not much older than Isana herself and she was well known in town for her odd sense of humor. She had inherited the building from her father, who had seen the niche for a hotel when all the franchise companies crashed with the rest of the world and vanished. Now it was the place to stay when you visited Willis. It was also a place Isana was intimately familiar with, because the bar and grill that occupied the ground floor of the six story structure was one of her favorite haunts. That, and she knew the owner quite well.

“Isana!”

Isana instinctively stopped at the familiar cry of her name on her way through a beautiful front entrance made of polished copper and glass. A second later a weight hit her and her arms encircled around the skinny body of Emi, Claire’s ten-year-old daughter, bringing her in for a fierce hug as a deep purring thrummed inside her chest. She’d known the child literally since birth, since she and the mother were close friends of old. Back then she’d still been an apprentice witch, but she still loved Emi dearly.

“One of these days I’m going to miss, you know,” she said laughingly in the girl’s ear. She then rubbed their cheeks together affectionately. “Then we’ll both go splat onto the floor.”

“You haven’t yet,” Emi giggled, pulling back. Today she was dressed in a navy dress with a small white smock over it. “Are you here to see Momma?”

“I’d never stop in and not talk to her,” Isana answered as she stood back. “But I was told that there were people staying here that want to talk to me.”

“The Arbor ladies?” Emi asked curiously. “They are the only ones staying with us right now.”

“Yep, I—”

“Emi, where did you get off to?!” Isana cut off as Claire came bustling into the foyer of the hotel from a side hall. It was a very plush room with comfortable chairs, warm lighting, and a big front desk where the desk clerk, Bill, sat in his dress black slacks and pressed white shirt. Claire’s eyes locked onto the two of them. “Oh, Isana! I see you’re the one making her slack off again.”

“Yeah, so don’t go blaming Emi,” Isana responded with a grin. Claire was a vibrant, energetic woman in her early thirties. She stood almost two feet taller than Isana and had long, naturally curly chestnut hair, just like her daughter. As always, she was dressed conservatively in a long skirt and a white sleeveless shirt. She was a somewhat well endowed woman and her chest cushioned their friendly hug when they came together.

Despite Isana’s preference for women and Claire’s obvious good looks, there had never been anything like that between them. Claire definitely knew what Isana’s interests were, and never made a big deal of it. They were good friends, and that was the way they liked it.

“You know, I blame all my troubles on you,” Claire grinned back. “At least one of those old stories about witches has to be true.”

“Well, if your milk curdles prematurely and your cows are born with two heads, we’ll know!” they shared another laugh and Isana nodded towards Emi. “What did I interrupt?”

“Oh! I’m supposed to be washing and folding the dinner linen!” Emi squeaked and looked apologetically at her mother.

“It’s all right,” Claire smiled. “Isana doesn’t visit us often enough, so I suppose it’s understandable that you’d want to talk to her. Just make sure your lunchtime chores are done.”

“They are,” Emi smiled joyously. “Isana said she came to see our guests.”

“I know,” Claire said, looking back to Isana. “Will you have lunch with us? They’ll probably be coming down for their own meal soon.”

“Sounds great,” she replied easily. “What am I eating today, Emi?”

Emi thought about the question for a moment. They had established a small tradition between them that whenever Isana ate at the hotel, Emi would choose for her. “The roast beef sandwich with broccoli and cheese soup?”

“Sounds excellent,” Isana agreed, feeling herself salivate at the mention of the meal. She let herself be led by Emi into the main dining room. It was a very comfortable space with scattered tables and booths, all with dark wood and red upholstery. The walls and pillars of the room were also made of naturally dark woods. Along one long wall was the bar and the doors into the kitchen. At the moment it was completely empty. After sitting at a barstool and nodding to Jenna, the bartender, Emi disappeared into the kitchen. Claire had already gone back to getting things ready for the day.

The food didn’t take long to make so only moments later she was slurping down the delicious soup and savoring every bite of the sandwich. Despite her young age, Emi was well on her way to becoming a first-class cook. Starting about a year ago, every meal that Isana ate at the hotel had been made by the girl, and each time it only got better. There had of course been the occasional miss or flop, but Emi always wanted to learn something new. When it became time, Isana had no doubts that Emi would take over the hotel and it would run better than ever.

“So, how is it?” Emi said, watching intently from her perch on the next stool. Isana knew her opinion carried great weight, so she made sure she knew her answer.

“The soup is great,” Isana said with complete honesty. “The cheese is perfect and the broccoli is nice and soft. Did you bake the bread for the sandwich?”

“No,” Emi held up her small hands. “I’m not strong enough to knead the dough. I get tired or cramped too soon.”

“But you made the rest of it?”

“Yep!” Emi was practically glowing from the accomplishment. “I made a whole batch of the soup last night, so there’s plenty more if you want it.”

“No, I think I’m good,” Isana smiled and patted her belly. “Unlike you, this is as tall as I’m getting, and I have no desire to become any rounder. Plus, I’d have to work for any more than this, and your mom had that look in her eye today that says that wouldn’t be any fun.”

Isana idly picked up a pristinely white linen napkin that sat at the seat next to her. When she saw Emi watching her still, she grinned and pulled a little magic together. While most witches and magic users in general needed spell words, arias, or incantations to make magic work, Isana had always been able to manipulate it with only her will. Now she crumpled the napkin inside one hand and then clapped it together with the other. Weaving the magic tighter, she locked onto Emi’s eyes for a moment and gestured towards her hands with her head. Emi’s eyes widened with delight.

Following the silent instruction, Emi reached out a hand and Isana lifted her hands apart just a crack. Emi’s little fingers probed inside and Isana’s smile widened when she heard the girl’s gasp.  When Emi pulled her hand back she had a long green stem between two fingers. When she felt it was right, Isana parted and withdrew her hands completely and Emi was left holding a real white chrysanthemum.

“Cool,” Emi breathed out, marveling at the flower in her hands.

“Isana! How many times must I tell you that my supplies are not for you to be magicing with?” Claire was striding into the room as both Isana and the woman’s daughter turned toward the doorway. Behind the stern-faced Claire were two women. One was a tallish redhead with short cropped hair, in her late twenties or so. Her partner was at least a decade older, a petite brunette. She held a finger-thick folder. Both were dressed professionally. Behind them walked a man that Isana knew well, the Willis town councilman Tony Reffit. He was an older, balding man with many laugh lines on his face. Neither of the women seemed surprised by her appearance, so Isana assumed Claire must have warned them.

“I can change it back,” Isana said, trying to reassure her friend.

“That’s not what I’m worried about,” Claire sighed. “I can still remember that little mess you made at Emi’s birthday party three months ago. It took hours to round up all those little birds.”

“They were so pretty, though!” Emi giggled, ignoring the slightly cross look her mother passed her way. She raised the flower back up. “I like the flower, but we need the napkin more.”

“See? Emi is most definitely your daughter,” Isana replied jovially. She took the flower, held it by the end of the stem, and flicked her wrist. In the next instant the napkin drooped back down and then Emi expertly folded it and put it back in its place. Isana then stood to her full, unimpressive height and acknowledged the others with an inclination of her head.

“Good afternoon,” she said in polite greeting. “I hear that you have a need to speak to me?”

“Yes, we do indeed,” smiled the older of the women. Her voice sounded dreadfully tired. “I am Councilwoman Rebecca, and my companion is Maya Detwiler, the current head of the Arbor Coven of Magic, which is the body that governs the magic users in our city under the oversight of the Council. Would you be willing to join us at a table so that we can sit and discuss something?”

“Sure,” Isana responded amiably. “I’ve already eaten so feel free to order something. I won’t think it to be rude.”

“Thank god!” Councilman Reffit chuckled as Claire cleared a circular table in the center of the room near one of the support pillars.  The table had four ladder-back chairs with comfortable wine-colored cushions on the seats. A matching tablecloth draped low and on it were clear glass salt and pepper shakers. At each place were more of the linen napkins, except these were black. Isana allowed the others to be seated first, then took her place and tucked her tail between the chair slats.

“What can I get you?” Claire asked in renewed perkiness. Isana’s friend loved running the hotel and restaurant, and it showed in her manner.

“That soup smelled wonderful,” Reffit smiled. “I’ll have a large bowl of it and some bread.”

“I’ll have a plate of the spaghetti.” Detwiler said, speaking for the first time. Her voice had a clipped harshness to it, yet it didn’t seem at all unkind. “Is the sauce very meaty?”

“It can be,” Claire shrugged. “We’re more than happy to make it the way you like it.”

“Oh!” Detwiler thought for a moment. “Then I’ll have it thick with some garlic toast on the side.”

“I’ll have what she had,” Rebecca smiled, pointing toward Isana. “She seemed to like it a great deal.”

“That’s because Emi made it,” Isana grinned, speaking loud enough for the girl to hear the compliment and giggle happily on her stool. “Got any pie, Claire?”

“When don’t we have pie when you’re here?” Claire laughed. “I’ll have all your food out to you in a bit.”

“Well, while we’re waiting for the food, can you tell me how I can help you?” Isana asked pleasantly. She saw that Maya was watching her twitching tail curiously.

Rebecca grimaced. “It’s a complicated matter that we wish we could deal with ourselves. Unfortunately, current events have forced us to seek outside help. When we made inquiries, Councilmen Reffit responded to us and let us know to approach you with this.”

“I see,” Isana responded pleasantly. “But that doesn’t tell me much.”

“No,” Rebecca agreed. “But have you heard of the unrest that has been building in our city?”

“Only a little,” Isana admitted. “I confess that I haven’t given much attention to the rumors of events outside of Willis lately.”

“Well, unfortunately ‘unrest’ is now an understatement for what is going on back home,” the older woman said in a sour, displeased tone. “The main problem is an explosively growing dislike and outright hatred towards non-humans and magic users in general. We don’t know what or who is fueling this, and there haven’t been any signs indicating it will settle down.”

“But you guys have many times more of both than we do,” Isana said, feeling shocked. “Hell, I think I might be one of the few trained magic users in Willis. I know the MDU boys have a decent punch, but most of the others are just folks with one-trick talents or self-taught things.”

“That does about sum things up,” Reffit confirmed. “There are one or two others, maybe.”

“Yes, and that is all part of what we want to discuss,” Detwiler nodded.

“What she means,” Rebecca continued, “is that we would like to help add to your local talent pool while also doing a great humanitarian service.”

“That sounds a bit ominous,” Isana frowned.

“I suppose it was,” Rebecca replied, not smiling at all. “That is because we want to ask a great deal of you. Because of our social problems, we have another new one as a result. That problem has to do with three young girls.”

“How are these girls a problem?” Isana asked. “What have they done?”

“Nothing,” Rebecca said with a sad smile. “The problem lies in the fact that none of them are human and two of them visibly so. This is further exacerbated because two of those are natural witches…” Isana winced mentally at that. “…and the third has innate magical abilities. All three have been living in an orphanage in Arbor, but now there’s a lot of stink rising up about them. For some reason the mob had focused a large amount of their hatred on them.”

“That… that’s so flipping stupid!” Isana hissed, bearing her teeth in a very feline manner.

“It is,” Rebecca agreed, showing her own displeasure. “But also unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to keep the crime down and also post constant guards to keep the girls safe when the other kids around them are starting to pick up on the hatred of the adults.  There have already been several incidents.”

“Kids can be crueler sometimes when they ape their elders,” Isana said. “I’m guessing that you’d like to move them here?”

“That’s exactly what we want to do,” Rebecca agreed readily.  “But specifically we’d like you to take them in.”

“Me!” Isana jerked upright in her chair. She could feel her upper cat ears twitching along with her tail from her growing agitation.

“Yes, you,” Reffit answered amiably. “Isana, you just said it yourself. You are the only true magic user in this town, and like you, two of these girls are natural witches. You are the only one who can train them and show them how to use their magic safely, and we see no reason to separate them from each other. Also, you live in that great big house out in the forest by yourself. Doesn’t that get lonely?”

“I like having my solitude and peace,” Isana retorted confusedly, not knowing what to object to first. Her voice notched up higher in panic. “Why couldn’t we just make it like school or something? The girls could live with someone else and I can teach them there.”

“Isana,” Maya said in a soothing tone. “I too am a witch, just like you. So I ask this: how did you learn your magic?”

Grimacing in reluctance, Isana answered. “I lived with the woman who raised me, and at the same time I was her apprentice. I lived and learned from her until she died five years ago.”

“I learned the same way, through a live-in apprenticeship,” Maya agreed knowingly. “Learning magic means living with it and constantly being around a master. One of these girls has already had her magic awaken, and it is causing her a great deal of stress and unpleasantness.”

“But I am not a mother figure,” Isana argued. “Wouldn’t you want someone a little older? You know what inevitably happens when witches live together.”

“We do,” Maya agreed again, this time with a wide smile. “But we’ve been told that you have never done anything to harm anyone who doesn’t try to harm you, and you’ve always been kind and generous. We all agree that you are the perfect person. We trust you implicitly.”

“You’ve always been great with kids!” Claire added as she walked over with a tray filled with food. Isana’s nose and eyes quickly found the generous slice of blueberry pie topped with a sizable scoop of ice cream. Claire gave her a knowing smirk, then passed her the pie last. “Isana, you’ve always been willing to watch other peoples’ kids before. I know I’d trust you with Emi in a heartbeat, and she loves you so much.”

“Yeah!” Emi cheered, obviously still listening in.

“Thanks, Emi,” Isana smiled wryly. Then, after relishing a mouthful of pie, she addressed the visitors. “There’s no other option?”

“None that wouldn’t carry a far higher price and would force us to split the girls up, which would be painfully disruptive to them.  You have both the ability and the resources to make this possible.”

Isana frowned unhappily under the hopeful looks from the visitors from Arbor, the Willis Councilman and even Claire and Emi. She felt like she was being emotionally and morally blackmailed. But she also couldn’t fault them for coming to the conclusion they had.  Her home was indeed a very large one, with many empty bedrooms, and her own gardens produced more than enough produce to feed at least half a dozen people. But she didn’t like the idea of taking on such a substantial commitment out of nowhere.

Her adult life so far had mostly been one of easy living and freedom. She’d never before been fully responsible for the lives of others, especially young people. The thought of having kids herself was something she had seen as far into her future. Now she was looking at three girls who would depend on her for almost everything. It frightened her more than anything had in years.

“Isana, you can’t tell me to my face that you aren’t lonely,” Claire said, smiling. “Every time something calls you into town, you come speeding in as fast as you can. Then you spend as long a time as possible here before you head back. Emi and I love when you visit, you know that, but with these girls, you can have your own family. It would be both a challenge and a joy, I think.”

“Hmmm,” Isana propped her head into her hands and really thought about it. Her eyes strayed over towards Emi, and the girl gave her an eager thumbs-up gesture. That enthusiasm made her snort a laugh. If Emi approved, how could she not?

Sighing deeply, Isana ate a few more bites of the wonderful pie before saying another word. If she was going to possibly doom herself, she wanted to at least enjoy dessert first. She knew the others were watching her closely the entire time. Then Claire cracked a happy grin.

“You’re being stubborn, Isana,” she laughed jubilantly.

“I just think there has to be a better alternative,” Isana insisted, trying not to let her friend get so much satisfaction out of this. Then she nodded her head towards the other two women. “I suppose, if this is the best way, then I will agree to do this for the girls and take them in. You sure there’s no alternative?”

“Not without major sacrifices, like we said,” Rebecca answered, smiling widely. “Thank you so much for doing this. They really are wonderful girls.”

“I guess that’s some comfort,” Isana said, smiling in resignation and defeat. She really was a sucker for charity. Her brain was already whirling with thoughts on everything she’d have to change and do. It was a lot. “When were you planning on bringing them?”

Now Rebecca looked sheepish. “Well, we’d originally planned on having to wear you down over several days,” she said unapologetically. “But it seems that was unnecessary.”

Isana didn’t know how to respond to that, so she kept safely silent and Rebecca went on.

“I know their bags are already packed and ready to go, so how about we…” She gestured toward the door.

On to Chapter Two!

 

7 Comments on Learning Phase, Chapter 1

  1. kacey says:

    Thank you, Jetboy, a thousand ” Thank You” ‘s!!! Having read this story through at least five times, I can attest to Jetboy’s note, it does get better!!

  2. sue says:

    Well it’s very different. We’ll stick it out to see what happens. Sort of like this half human.

    Kim & Sue

  3. David says:

    Well written first chapter and very intriguing and looking forward to see where this goes. Interested in seeing where this magic takes us.

  4. Lakeisha says:

    Love it! Looking forward to the second chapter!

    Lakeisha

  5. SugoiiKacey says:

    I have always loved Nuit du Loup’s work and frequently go to it on the other site. Very full imagery does place these into more of an outright novel. The fullness of the worlds described are amazing. Definitely makes one wish the world was like these. Like others probably, would’ve loved to see more stories following up further on some he did as 1-3 pieces.

  6. john says:

    It gets hotter than a furnace in the coming chapters

  7. Catman2k says:

    I’ve always loved his work. He stopped posting on LesLolita back when they went down for several months a few years ago. Does anyone know if he’s ever posted stories anywhere else? I would love to read some fresh stories from him.

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