Broommates: Homeward Bound

Part 7 of the serial Broommates. Start from the beginning or read the previous episode or click the “Broommates” link at the top of the page to see the full list.

* * * *

“So the dragon was trying to get through the door in the basement?” Miranda asked sweetly.

She wiped sweat off her forehead and glanced sideways at Booker, who stared at the basket in his hands. She had persuaded him to come with her on an herb-gathering expedition under the pretense of making sure she didn’t step on any proverbial toes by taking what she shouldn’t. She was still getting to know proper boundaries, after all. Really, she had decided he was the weakest link and wanted to pump him for information in private.

“I’m not supposed to talk to you about it,” Booker mumbled.

“Well, Anthony already told me that much,” she said, clipping a rose in full bloom and dropping the creamy pink flower in the basket. “I’m just trying to figure out where the door leads.”

Booker was silent. Around them, birds chirped and sang, bees hummed, and the occasional squirrel scurried up a tree and chittered at them.

“We need to know what to expect,” she continued. With another sideways glance, she added, “Think of what could happen to Beatrice.”

He blushed. “She can take care of herself,” he replied.

“I don’t know, I’ve had to pull her out of trouble a few times,” Miranda said. “Once we were in Pompeii and–” She froze.


“Shh.” The sounds of nature had been replaced by an uneasy hush. A twig snapped behind them and they both spun around, Miranda with a spell ready and Booker raising the basket like a shield.

A young woman faced them, eyes wide with fear. Her t-shirt and faded jeans were grubby and stained, her face strangely pointed but definitely Asian. Her hair was black but with a reddish tinge that made it look dyed. A giant flawless pearl hung suspended from a leather thong around her neck. She dropped to the ground in an obsequious bow, her forehead touching the dry leaves underfoot.

“Please,” she said. “You must help me.”

“Who are you?” Miranda asked.

“I am Tamamo-no-Mae,” she said, raising her head to look Miranda in the eyes. Hers were black as coal and slightly too large.

Booker inhaled sharply. “The kitsune?” he asked.

The woman nodded and he took a few steps backward in alarm. She bowed her head to the floor again, rocking slightly.

“I am not yako!” she exclaimed. “Please, I know there are tales of my past, but they are not true!”

“What did she do?” Miranda whispered.

“Killed an emperor,” Booker replied. “Among other people.”

“It was not me!” Tears streamed down her face. “I was accused unjustly and my spirit confined to a stone for centuries. The doors were closed while I was imprisoned and–”

“Now you want to go home,” Booker said.

She nodded. “Please.”

“Forget it.”

Miranda watched in silence as the woman pleaded with Booker, who was uncharacteristically stony. The gears of her mind spun at full speed. A kitsune was a kind of were-fox spirit creature from Below. The doors to the lands Below had been closed at the end of the last great magic war almost a hundred years before. If she was trying to get home and she had come here…

“Where are your tails?” Miranda asked. Tamamo’s already pale skin turned almost white.

“That’s right… You can’t have fit them in those jeans,” Booker said. He gasped. “You’ve become a ninko!”

“It was the only way to get out of the stone!”

Kitsune-tsuki! Whose body are you possessing, then? Some poor girl from Nasu? Or maybe you got all the way to Tokyo before you–”

“I will leave her if you take me to the door, I swear it. If not…” Tamamo’s expression hardened. “I will stay in her until she withers, and then I will find a new host.” She rose to her feet gracefully and cocked her head to the side. “I have lived much longer than you, kōmōjin. I can be patient.”

Miranda slid her athame out and held it with the blade facing her elbow, concealed by her forearm. “Let’s be reasonable,” she said. “Booker, surely you’ve dealt with perfectly innocent stragglers such as our friend here? There are procedures in place?”

“Innocent?” he sputtered. “She’s possessed a–”

“Innocent until proven guilty. Which of you usually does the proving and how?”

Booker studied his feet. “It’s not just one of us. It’s sort of democratic, really.”

“What, you get together and vote people off the island?”

“That’s not fair! You make it sound like we’re some kind of… of…”

“Glorified bouncers?” Miranda approached Tamamo and clapped a hand on her shoulder. “Look at this poor creature. Go on, look.”

The kitsune contrived to seem more pale and helpless than before, shrinking in on herself and furrowing her brow.

“She’s come all the way from Japan,” Miranda continued. “She’s tired, dirty, probably starving, and you’re treating her like a criminal.”

Booker’s expression softened as doubt crept into his features.

“Go on. Look her in the eye and tell me that you think she’s evil.”

Tamamo and Booker locked eyes, black to sea green. A smile flickered on the woman’s face.

Quick as a snake, Miranda reached up and sliced the giant pearl from its thong around Tamamo’s neck. The kitsune screamed and collapsed to the ground. As Miranda and Booker watched, the girl’s features smoothed out, her eyes shrinking and narrowing and her hair losing its reddish tint.

Booker stared at the girl, then at Miranda. “Why did you do that? What if she was innocent, like you said?”

“What does it matter?” Miranda answered. “She possessed a girl. I voted her off the island. Her soul is stuck in her little rock here now, so we can decide what to do with her at our leisure.”

“How did you know to take her hoshi no tama?” Booker asked.

“Is that what this is called?” She held up the ball, which glowed softly. “I’d forgotten. We trained for this kind of thing in school. Weaknesses of magical creatures and all that.”

“What school?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know.” Slipping the ball into her pocket, she knelt down next to the unconscious woman. “Maybe I’ll tell you after we get this girl inside and figure out how to send her back where she came from.” She glanced up at him, smirking. “And then maybe you can tell me how the three of you fine gentlemen came to be in possession of the only remaining open door to the lands Below.”

* * * * *

Part 8: Passing Muster

Tags: , ,

13 Responses to “Broommates: Homeward Bound”

  1. Nicely done. Really like the little touch of holding the athame behind the elbow to hide it.

  2. I love all the mythological touches. Coming at it not having read the previous 6 parts, this still stands as a great scene.

  3. John Wiswell says:

    “to look Miranda in the eyes. Hers were black as coal and slightly too large.”

    An anime character! No wonder she’s a kitsune. But man, they don’t like those ‘foreign’ creatures.

  4. Valerie says:

    Thanks, you guys. Glad it works alone, Jen, but hope you’ll check out the rest.

    John: Acknowledging that the were-fox is an anime trope was the first in a 12-step process whereby I got in touch with my inner furry. Or maybe not. But the objection was to the character’s past and present indiscretions rather than her being a foreigner… hope I’m not coming across racist here! D:

  5. I like it when authors venture out from the traditional Western critters. This piece works alone but also gives good continuation of character development. Oh, and I want to go to that school!


  6. Gracie says:

    I love this series. The banter between characters is excellent, and the descriptions are wonderful and clean.

    Very deft handling of a lot of information in a short space. Very well done, Valerie! 🙂

  7. Great installment Valerie, you’ve got me wondering what will happen even though this piece stands alone very well too 🙂 Great job!

  8. Ohh, a fantasy story with Japanese mythology? Now I’ll have to check out both your serials! Great installment, by the way, you grabbed me the moment you mentioned the kitsune. 😉

  9. Sam says:

    Great installment. I don’t know much about Japanese mythology, though on the back of this story, I think I may have to go and find out more. Love the interaction between the characters BTW.

  10. Valerie says:

    Thanks so much, you guys, glad you’re enjoying it. The Japanese have an incredibly vast mythology, with a lot of regional variations on similar creatures, so there is a wealth of stuff there. I’m not going to rely on it exclusively, of course, but to leave it out would be such a waste!

  11. Another excellent installment. I, too, love the addition of the eastern mythology. Good story!

  12. ganymeder says:

    This series keeps getting better and better. Love the world and characters you’ve developed.

  13. Xanto says:

    A really good episode!

Leave a Reply