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                Chloe opened her eyes when the newcomer sat to her left. Without turning her head, Chloe addressed the Duchess. “Didn’t think you were going to come.”

                “You thought I would miss this?” Duchess Garnet chuckled and leaned across the circle. She cupped her hands around one of the white candles and gently blew. The candle lit from the will of her magic, burning indigo for a moment before shimmering into a normal flame. She leaned back and sat cross-legged like her companion.

                “Show off,” Chloe muttered, rolling her head.

                “Tell me you didn’t use magic to light yours.”

                Chloe pointed to the used match in the bronze bowl.

                “Starting the party, ladies?”

                Two more figures slid into the dim candlelight. Faith stopped and unbuckled her knife and sword before sitting down. Liana shimmied out of her heavy coat and folded it in half. Both women knelt; Liana struck a match and lit another candle, then passed it to Faith, who lit the last one.

                “Just the four of us tonight?” Liana asked, settling into a cross-legged position.

                Chloe nodded.

                “What are we here for?” Faith asked, nervously playing with her knife.


                Liana and Garnet nodded.

                The four women reached for one another’s hands, forming a circle. Faith lifted her face to the sky and took a deep breath. “We call upon powers beyond our ken.”

                “To reach out and part the veil,” Liana murmured.

                “To let in light and make darkness end.” Garnet’s hair stood on end.

                “And may creativity live again,” Chloe finished, squeezing Garnet and Faith’s hands.

                The candlelight flickered, illuminating their faces. For a flicker, an outsider would think the four were related; they shared similar facial features, eye shape, mouths, cheekbones. But blink and the likeness fades, for Chloe was pale with her green eyes and red hair. And while Garnet and Faith were both tan, Faith’s dark hair and blue eyes teased, while Garnet’s glowing indigo eyes intimidated. Liana had a coldness in her blue-green eyes and blonde hair that the other three lacked.

                Chloe smiled as they dropped hands and the candles flickered in the wind. “I think we’ll be fine.”

                Liana laughed as she swung her coat over her shoulders again. “I know we will be.” She swiftly buttoned up. “Now, my children are waiting to go tree hunting.” The candle in front of her sputtered out and her form slowly diminished.

                Faith stood up as Liana disappeared. She fastened her sword onto her belt again and fussed with the tops of her boots. “I’m about to make port in Port Royale. Good times!” Her candle died as she turned her back and walked away.

                Chloe turned to her last companion. “I know you don’t have much time and Timmy is waiting for you.”

                “And I know, like you, that time waits here,” Garnet kissed Chloe’s cheek. “Besides, I have more time than everyone assumes.”

                She blew out her candle and closed her eyes. Chloe felt her presence fade and sighed. She stared at her lonely candle, half melted down.

                “Been waiting long?”

                She looked up and smiled at her new companion. “I had company.”

                “I saw the lights go out.” Lucifer sat across from her and lit the new candle in front of him. Then he reached across and held Chloe’s hands. “What are we waiting for?”

                “I don’t know,” she admitted. “But I should be here.” She met his eyes. “It’s about to begin again.”

                “Even more exciting than before?” he teased.

                “It always is.”