Oh yes, I think it is definitely time for a peek into some of the upcoming That Ghoul Ava adventure. With a title like “That Ghoul Ava on a Roll!” it is not hard to picture Ava involved in some sort of Supernatural Roller Derby action. And that is exactly where we are going, so sit back and enjoy some (unedited) fun as we peek behind the curtain of the upcoming (release date is set for some time in February) That Ghoul Ava release.
“Is this Ava Birch?” the sultry voice purred through the phone.
“Umm…yeah?” It sort of came out like a question.
I simply was not used to my phone ringing. In fact, I was so out of the loop in this department that I still keep an actual physical phone mounted to the wall in my kitchen. I have a cell just like any other person (and Supernatural). The biggest difference between me and…say…you, would be the fact that mine can actually have its battery die, and until somebody tells me that I need to charge my phone so they can reach me, it can sit in my purse and be just as dead as I am.
“I understand you…well, gads, I don’t know how to put this.” The woman was beginning to sound like she wanted to crawl under a rock. Holy cow, just spit it out already! That was what I was about to say before she continued in a rush. “I have a friend who tells me you specialize in things that…normal people might not necessarily deal with.”
Now I was curious. However, she also sounded very much like a regular person. By that, I mean she sounded human…mortal…not Supernatural. If she was a human, then there might be a problem; the first would be how in the hell she got my number; a close second would be finding out who thought it was a good idea for her to call me.
“Listen…” I let that hang so that whoever this was would perhaps be so kind as to give me her name.
“Oh, sorry!” the woman purred.
Jeez, I was really not liking her already. Even sounding embarrassed came across as sexy in this woman’s voice that reminded me a lot of Kathleen Turner from her glory days.
“Okay, Brandy, I am going to ask a silly question.” I paused for dramatic effect, and then I asked, “What are you…exactly?”
“What am I?” She sounded confused. “Umm…well…I am a mom. I am also a nurse. But I am calling you because I am also a member of a roller derby team, the Hot-n-Steamy Rollers. That is why I am calling you.”
I hung up the phone.
Seconds later, it rang again and I did what most people do when their phone rings; I ignored it. I peeked out of my kitchen to see if anybody might be padding about at this ungodly hour of four in the morning and was happy to discover that I had the house to myself. Well, in a manner of speaking.
At last count, between the woods out back, the barn, the stables, and the house itself, there were currently one hundred and fifteen residents living (or some semblance thereof) on my property. I had been forced to sell my state-of-the-art house in luxurious Lake Oswego and now lived on an old Christmas tree farm in Estacada.
The last several days have been difficult for me and some of my housemates. We have lost some of our friends and loved ones in that last little encounter with a lamia. The one hit the hardest is the goblin, Nose Wart. He lost his mate in the battle to put down that particularly nasty monster. If I never see another lamia again, it will be too soon.
He is in the back yard, Ava, a voice said inside my head.
That voice belonged to Nose Wart’s mate, Butt Pimple. As is apparently the case, I keep the soul or whatever from most of Supernaturals that I consume in my head. Don’t ask me how it works. (Note from Ava: If this is the first of my adventures that you bothered to pick up, I’m gonna do my best to fill you in on stuff, but honestly, I am still learning all this crap for myself.)
I headed for the back door and paused when I reached it. With my hyper-sensitive hearing, I could detect some sort of sniffling. I did not need to be a genius to know that it was Nose Wart and that he was crying.
You must put an end to that nonsense, Ava, Butt Pimple growled in my head.
Jeez, give the poor guy a break. He just lost his wife and unborn goblin litter, I shot back.
He is the leader of our clan, he cannot be seen as weak or one of the others will challenge him for control.
Do I need to repeat the whole thing about losing his mate and unborn—
That does not matter to a goblin! Butt Pimple cut me off.
Interesting that she was almost antagonistic towards me now that she resided in my head with the others I had consumed which consisted of The Queen of the Zombies, an ancient creature called a gwyll, a boy who was versed in necromancy while likely not even knowing what that word means, and a wizardy sort of character that, as far as I know, is still securely walled up in a dark corner of my mind.
I would get into this with her later, but for now, I wanted to see if there might be anything that I could do for Nose Wart. I did my best to wall up all the current residents of my head and stepped out onto the back porch.
The little goblin was sitting on the top step with his legs dangling over the edge. He had his head buried in his over-sized hands that were perhaps two or three sizes larger than something his size should sport. At first he did not appear to notice me, and I was about to speak when he made a disgusting snort that sounded like it sucked about a quart of phlegm back up his nostrils, followed by an equally repulsive gulping noise.
“Just Ava,” Nose Wart sniffed as he scrambled to his feet and turned to face me. “Please forgive my weakness. If you deem it necessary to punish me, I shall accept your sentence.”
“Umm…huh?” I sort of flopped down so that I was sitting beside the little creature and stared out into the dense woods of what had once been a Christmas tree farm.
I saw an occasional flit or flash of a faerie or their smaller cousins, the pixies. They loved having this little forest to themselves. And since I had promised to never allow it to be harvested as well as my open invitation for them to do whatever it is that those sorts of creatures do in the woods, there was a lot of activity in those woods at night.
“My behavior is not fitting as a clan leader. I am an embarrassment to all goblins,” Nose Wart sighed as he continued to stand at my side.
I turned and stared into his beady little eyes and tried to remember my initial disgust at first encountering goblins. It seemed impossible that I could have ever felt that way now that I was coming to know these creatures. I saw them more as puppies now. Sure, they are still so damned ugly; but they are ugly in that cute way.
Nose Wart immediately averted his gaze so that he was not looking me in the eyes. Of course my first thought was that he was simply showing his subservience, then I heard Butt Pimple snarl. Stop being so weak, you son of an infected boar’s testicle!
How did you get out? I asked inwardly.
For whatever reason, Nose Wart could actually see his beloved in my eyes, sort of like he was looking through a window into my head where I “stored” these special Supernaturals that I consumed. I am sure it is more complicated than that, but I have been told (and not always in a complimentary way) that I have a knack for simplifying things.
I want you to demand that he cease this mourning, Butt Pimple snapped, ignoring my question.
And I want to remind you that I am the one calling the shots here, not you, little goblin, I shot back, mentally boxing her up and locking her away once more.
“She spoke to you,” Nose Wart said. It wasn’t a question. I had a feeling that I have been drastically underestimating the intelligence of goblins up to this point; that would have to change.
“She wants you to stop being so sad about her death,” I replied, seeing no sense in telling him about how angry she seemed over his sorrow.
Nose Wart cocked his head and finally looked up at me. His large eyes were red and puffy from his crying. His lower lip quivered slightly for a moment and then he snapped his teeth together.
“I am Nose Wart, warlord and leader of the Goblin Vomit clan. This behavior will cease.” I was not sure if he was stating it in general or if he was simply giving himself a personal bit of a reminder. He stood and went rigid, arms pressed to his side, legs as close together as a goblin with all that dangling junk could manage. It took me a second to realize he was standing at attention. “I am the servant and chief guardian of Just Ava, the ghoul warrior.”
I was about to say something when I heard the jangling of my phone from inside. I decided that maybe now was as good a time as any to return inside and went in to answer the phone. I guess I had already forgotten about the call from just a few minutes earlier; at least that was the case until I answered it and heard the woman at the other end.
“Valkyries,” the female voice blurted in lieu of a greeting.
“Our league has been infiltrated by a group of renegade Valkyries, they are hurting the girls…and yesterday, one of my friends died in the hospital from her injuries,” the woman said with a speed that would make an auctioneer jealous.
Okay, at least now I was listening. I shifted the phone to my other ear and grabbed the marker that hung by a little red string from our Dry Erase board. I scribbled the word “Valkyrie” and a large question mark.
“Before you say another word, I want to know how you got my information.” That seemed like a logical way to get this started.
“My sister was the thrall of a vampire named Hector. Hector knows Belinda Yates.”
Okay, I guess that could eventually lead to me. Of course I thought it more than a little strange that Belinda would be tossing my name around, much less recommending me for a job. She and I were nothing close to friendly with each other on the best of days.
“You do realize how that sounds,” I said, trying my best to sound like a normal human might if they were told such things.
“Yes, but I have been dealing with your type—” Brandy stopped speaking so abruptly that I heard her teeth snap together. There was a brief pause where all I heard was her trying not to breathe. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by that, I just meant…”
“I let her squirm in uncomfortable silence for a moment after she trailed off. When I felt she had waited long enough, I finally spoke. “Listen, I don’t know what you know, and I am not going to ask. How about you simply tell me what it is that has prompted you to call me.”
“It started about three weeks ago. The new season just started and everybody was really excited because there were two new squads taking to the floor. We knew about one of the teams because the manager was a lady we have all skated with or against for years. The second team was a total mystery and nobody knew any of them. That is sort of strange because most of us know each other in some way or another. They called themselves The Valkyries and had roster names like Arifra, Arda Ovif and Rodmadra, which most of us agreed was sort of strange.”
“Why would that be strange? I mean, those are some funky names, but how about you tell me your reason for thinking that.”
“You don’t know much about roller derby, do you?” Brandy snorted.
“No,” I admitted. Actually, until this phone call, I thought that roller derby had gone by the wayside back in the 80s.
“Our names have meaning. Some are plays on our personality, or they have a bit of a naughty double meaning.”
“I don’t follow.”
“Well, for instance, my derby name is Meg Abbitch.” It took me a second to actually hear it the way she intended. Naturally, I initially heard Mega-bitch, but then she spelled it out for me. “My friend…the one who just died? Her name was Claire Lee Insane.” Once more she spelled it out to me for clarification.
“Okay, let’s get to the part about these women being Valkyries. I guess the first thing I want to know is how the hell you would come to such a conclusion.” That seemed like a logical first question.
“Google.” She said that single word like it explained everything. After a few seconds, I pressed for more details. “I googled the names on a whim trying to figure out what sort of meaning they were trying to hint at and came up with Valkyries. I actually thought that I would discover that the words had some sort of meaning in a language like Norwegian or something.”
“And these names they are using, all of them are the names of Valkyries?”
“It took some searching, but their manager and captain who goes by the name Gunnr was what helped the most. She is mentioned in some sort of famous poem about the Valkyries,” Brandy answered.
“Okay, so you have a few possible Valkyries in your roller derby thingy,” I offered, pinching the bridge of my nose as if that might stave off the headache that was trying to gain a foothold. “What does that have to do with me? Why do I care?”
“Did you get the part about one of our ladies dying in the hospital from the internal injuries she received at the elbows and shoulders of these bitches?” Brandy’s sweet voice suddenly became hostile and angry. “They aren’t human! When my sister Claire died the other day, Hector showed up at my house and I had to explain what happened. He vanished before I finished speaking, but he came back about an hour later. He seemed…drunk, which is weird because I did not think vampires could get drunk. Any way, he showed up spewing something about Valkyries and kept saying that he needed to get ahold of Belinda since she apparently knew somebody that could deal with…and I am quoting him here, “whacked out Supernaturals who don’t have the sense to follow the fucking rules.” Then the sun came up and I had to shut him away in my basement.”
“Wait, so he is at your place now?”
“Yeah, but it’s okay, there are no windows in my basement, so he is safe.”
That really wasn’t my point. This woman was talking about having an actual vampire in her basement like she might be talking about a stray dog. I may not be all that tuned in to the whole Supernatural community, but I did know that I was speaking to a regular human who was blabbering on about vampires and Valkyries to a ghoul like we were just two girlfriends catching up on old times. She did not seem the least bit taken aback by any of this other than the part about how possible Valkyries killed her sister playing roller derby.
“So what exactly do you want me to do about this?” I finally asked when I realized that we had been in silence for several heartbeats.
“I want you to come down here and take those bitches out,” she said with venomous anger. “I want you to make them hurt…make them pay.”
All of a sudden, Brandy was not sounding anything like the sweet soccer mom. Her tone was cold and she meant every word she was saying. She was not using the word “kill” in a figurative manner; nope, she wanted me to literally kill them.
“Okay. First off, it does not quite work like that,” I started.
“I already spoke to Belinda. Some woman named Morgan called me ten minutes later and said that you could do the job,” Brandy insisted.
Okay, that was interesting. I was about to say so when a knock came at my door. I already knew from the way the person knocking had simply touched the door a few times in such a way that it is likely I am the only person who heard.
“Tell ya what, Brandy,” I motioned for Nose Wart to go open the door as I unwound myself from my receiver phone cord that I always seemed to coil around myself when I spoke on the phone, “how about you call me in ten minutes and I will give you my answer.” I didn’t wait for her to reply; I simply hung up and turned just as Morgan drifted into my kitchen.
“I take it you heard about the Valkyries,” she said with no more emotion than if she was telling me about the weather.
“Yeah, what the hell is that all about?” I took a seat at my kitchen table.
“Looks like another trip to Texas for you.” Morgan sat down and produced a small tea infuser that she quickly uncapped and sipped from.
She might act like she was fine, but that beating that she had taken not too long ago was still taking its toll on her. Her normally lustrous hair had no shine to it and her smooth facial features looked like they might be threatening to reveal an honest-to-God wrinkle. If I really stared, I was almost certain that I could make out the slightest hint of crow’s feet at the corners of her eyes.
I knew that Betty was dosing her with something on a regular basis, and from the smell of the tea, I would have to guess that this was more of her herbal treatment.
“Why would you want me to go to Texas?” I asked.
“I think that you may need to put that entire situation to rest,” Morgan replied with her usual lack of emotion. “And if you can do so, then I think I know somebody who would step in and assume the role of the regional Psychic.”
“And I am guessing that this person would be a friend or ally of yours.” It was not a question.
I knew Morgan well enough to be certain that she was always thinking two or three moves ahead. With Templars wanting me gone and the Psychic Council trying to push Morgan out, things had all the feelings of an encroaching war. Only, I had no idea what that would actually mean in the Supernatural realm.
Sure, I was confident that there would not be large battles fought in the streets since the Supernatural community liked to stay under the radar of mortals, but I was willing to bet that it was at least as unpleasant, if not more so when it came to the levels of violence that would be exhibited.
“Your guess is correct, but I will need you to ensure her safety and eliminate the current Psychic. Afterwards, you will have to assume the title and then lose in battle so that you forfeit the region.”
That statement hung in the air for a moment, and at first, I was not entirely sure that I heard her correct. The whimper from Nose Wart snapped me back to the situation and confirmed that I had not suddenly had my super-seeker hearing go on the fritz.
“Which part are you unclear about?” Morgan said, sounding as cool as the other side of the pillow.
“Well, I am guessing that I have to kill the current Psychic to assume his role, we already had that talk. My confusion sort of lies in the part about me losing in battle so that I forfeit the region and this little pal of yours takes over.”
Well, isn’t that interesting, Blodwen sniffed.
Jeez, can’t you people stay where I put you? I huffed inwardly.
Blodwen was some sort of ancient creature known as a Gwyll. Her full name is Blodwen Cadwallader, Queen of the Celtic Mulingar Gwyllion, Holder of the Blue Sphere, Cosantóir of the Ten Sidhe, but her friends can just call her Muffy. She is some relation to faeries, and having her rambling around in my mind is proving to be more helpful than any of the other residents. She actually takes the time to talk and explain things to me when they fly over my head, which, if you are just joining the party and have missed my previous exploits, happens quite often.
“If I lose to this friend of yours, then I seem to miss the part about how this helps me considering the fact that I would be dead,” I sniped at Morgan. Seriously, who did she think she was dealing with? I know I am often the last one to arrive at the solution party, but that does not mean I am a complete idiot.
“Who said anything about you having to die?” Morgan replied, her emotions pegging zero on the meter as always.
“Well, since I have to kill Claude to take him out and assume his position, then I am assuming—” I began, but Morgan cut me off.
“You are not too far removed from your time as a human to remember that old saying about when you assume things.” Morgan sipped her tea and continued to gaze at me with that creepy way she has where you just know her eyes are going to dry up and turn to raisins if she doesn’t blink. Yet…she never does!
“Okay, then would you mind telling me how I avoid being killed? Am I supposed to stage my death and go into some sort of Supernatural witness protection program?”
“That is just silly.” Morgan gave me a dismissive wave. “Why would you have to fight to the death? And as much confidence as I have in Kari to handle things as the new Dallas Psychic, I doubt she would fare well if she went up against you in a fight.”
“Okay…” I let that word drag for a few beats and gave my hands a roll to encourage her to please explain.
Morgan explained and I actually smiled.