Coal had helped bandage Star’s leg and they were in the progress of getting their last item on the list as dawn was about to break, the light shining in straight shapes through the decrypt windows of the cellar they were in.
“Great,” Coal said, spinning slowly as he glared at Star. “Just great.”
“Blaming me won’t get us out of this,” Star said, grateful the web she was in wasn’t spinning as much.
“It’ll me make feel better, though.” Coal said, struggling against the webs that held him tight “Gods, what are these things made of?” he muttered.
“Silk,” Star answered, which received another glare from Coal.
“What?” She said. “You asked.”
Coal ignored her as he focused on getting himself out.
“Even if you cut your way out,” Star said, “you’d fall. On your thick skull.”
Coal stopped and looked at her. “Oh, really? Wow, who would have thought,” he said and looked down at the floor. “We’re upside down! Oh no, no, no.”
“You’re such a drama queen,” she said, “and again, this one isn’t my fault. How was I supposed to know she was a daughter of Anansi?”
Coal fumed. “It says so right there on the list, literally right there. ‘Silk from a Daughter of Anansi’.”
“Aha,” Star said triumphantly, “and what are we covered in right now? Hmm? Webs that are made from silk from a Daughter of Anansi. You’re welcome.”
“You’re an idiot.”
“You look stupid upside down, you know. I mean, even more stupid than usual.”
Coal raised an eyebrow. “I refuse to engage in your petty insult match even though I would clearly win. We need a plan.”
Star would have shrugged if not for the thick layers of webbing that held her fast upside down in a spot beside Coal. Coal looked at the walls and said, “There’s no way out that I can see that doesn’t involve us falling to our deaths. But she said she was going to catch up on some show and then, come back for us.”
“Game of Thrones,” Star said, suddenly wishing she had been webbed up next to anyone, even the dry skeleton at the corner, instead of this, this man.
“Oh, oh,” Coal said, nodding his head. “That.”
“What do you mean, that?” Star asked, already dreading the answer she knew was coming. That didn’t stop her from praying to the gods nonetheless; she had been surprised before.
“I don’t know,” he said, trying and failing to shrug. “I don’t really watch it.”
Star’s mouth was open as the web spun her slowly in place. “You don’t watch Game of Thrones?”
“It’s really not that big of a — ”
“It’s the best show ever,” she chided, “how can you not watch it.”
“I don’t know,” he said, “I’ve had things to do, you know. Other things to catch up on.”
“I can’t believe this,” she said. “If I could move my arms, I’d be using them to cover my face in shame, for your sake.”
“That’s not very — ”
“It’s literally the best show in the world, have you ever even tried it?”
“Well…” said Coal, thinking, “I did try one episode a few years back but it was boring so I just left it.”
“See, that right there is the problem.”
Coal blinked at her. “What?”
“You can’t just watch one episode and give up on it, you have to really ride with it, you know?”
Coal nodded. “Thank you so much for the information. Now that we have this covered, can we get back to figuring a way out of this dangerous woman’s cellar?”
“Oh, the woman?” said Star, squinting at the shapes the light was making under the door. “She’s coming.”
“Quick,” Coal hissed, “we need to know what we’re — ”
The door was blast open and a young woman with a rough afro was crying, a pack of tissues in her hand.
“What season?” Star asked.
The woman held up seven fingers while she was still sobbing.
“Ah,” Star nodded in understanding. “Daenerys?”
“Daenerys,” the woman replied, launching a whole new crying fit.
Star nodded again. “It happens, you’ll get there. It gets better.” Then she looked at Coal and whispered, “It doesn’t.”
The daughter took a dusty chair next to the skeleton and sat down on it, looking up at Star. “So,” she said, “just like that?”
“Yes o,” Star answered, “just like that.”
“But Jon…” the woman was saying, “he’s so…”
“Annoying?” Star offered. “Stupid?”
The woman looked at Star strangely. “I was going to say beautiful.”
“Meh,” Star answered, “never really found the hype around the guy. Now, Arya, that’s who I like.”
Coal and the woman both looked at her strangely.
“What?” she said. “Dark hair, killer personality? She’s my spec.”
The daughter nodded and accepted this. “Jaime?” She offered.
Star smiled as she nodded slowly. “Jaime.”
“Can someone kill me now?” Coal said loudly. “Please, please, someone kill me.”
The daughter looked at Star conspiratorially. “One of them?”
“Ugh,” Star said, rolling her eyes, “yes. They think they’re so cool. Coal, you can enjoy things, you know.”
“Yes, Coal,” the daughter said, “why don’t you want to be happy?”
Coal groaned. “Please, I’m begging now. I’ll even give you the knife to slit my throat with.”
The woman rolled her eyes. “What did you both break into my home for?”
“Some of your…” Star gestured with her eyes.
“Oh,” the woman said, “fine, no problem. I’ll let you both go and even give you some webbing.”
Coal could sense a ‘but…’ and said as much.
“The condition is simple,” she pointed at Coal. “You have to watch an episode with us.”
“I’d rather die,” Coal said through gritted teeth.
“Coal,” Star hissed.
Coal groaned and groaned and gave it up with a sigh at the end.
“Fine,” he said, “but I want plantain chips.”
The Daughter agreed.
“Bye, Ada,” Star said, waving back to the daughter as they left with a large paper bag filled with webbing.
“Come back whenever you like,” she called from the door.
“I will,” Star said as they entered the car, she still waving and Coal still glowering.
They drove in silence for a few wonderful beautiful moments before Star had to go ruin it.
“You can’t lie,” she said, “you loved it.”
“I did not,” Coal answered, his eyes on the road.
“I saw you cry when Daenerys died,” Star said, grinning at him.
“I was having an allergic reaction,” said Coal, his eyes on the road.
As they drove, the car rumbled on the road and Star looked at Coal. “What was that?”
Coal kept his eyes on the road, but he spared a look at the rear-view mirror. “It’s probably nothing,” he said, “maybe we hit a speed bump.”
The car shuddered again and this time Coal looked warily behind them.
“There’s nothing behind us,” Star whispered.
“It’s from the boot,” Coal said, undoing his seatbelt as he stopped the car in its tracks, skidding on the empty road.
Coal stepped out of the car in one fluid motion and gestured to Star to wait inside.
“But I can help.” Star protested.
“Yezulus are dangerous relentless hunters and when they’re young, they’re the worst,” he said. “And now our egg is clearly hatching.”
“How are you sure?” Star said.
A loud screech split through the air from the boot.
Star nodded. “Oh.”
“On the dashboard,” he said, staring at the boot, “my ring, throw it to me.”
Star fumbled for a while and found the ring as black as night and cold as ice, she shuddered as she held it, it’s match resting on her finger. There was something wrong with the ring, something unnatural. Something evil.
Star breathed as she looked at it.
“The ring,” Coal pressed on.
Star had to drag herself away from gaping at the ring and threw it at Coal who caught it without even looking.
He focused on it for a while, the strange tattoos on his arm glowing and ebbing, and he put the ring on, flicked his wrist and the dagger came up. It seemed to sing in his hands as he walked to the boot.
Coal used the edge of the dagger to open his boot carefully and the Yezulu flew out and bounced on the floor, it looked around and blew flames out of its mouth, shrieking. Coal took a step forward, and then another. Now while it was distracted would be the best time and so he rose his dagger above his head and brought it down on the Yezulu.
Or, he was about to when he heard her scream.
Coal turned to see her running in front of the creature, her hands outstretched.
“Move.” Coal said.
“You can’t do this,” Star said, not moving.
Coal took another step forward. “Move,” he said.
“It’s a baby,” she said.
“We needed the egg for the fluids of the Yezulu,” Coal said evenly, “fluids that are now in that,” he pointed, “but we can’t carry it while it’s alive, Star. Believe me: it will kill us. They are deadly, one minded killers.”
“But all this has done is cry,” Star said, looking at the bird. “It’s scared.”
“So, will you when it’s breathing fire on your neck.”
“You can’t kill it.” Star said.
“Yes, I can.”
“You can’t — ”
“Yes,” Coal cut in, “yes I can. Star, if we don’t deliver this alongside the other ingredients, Doreen won’t be able to perform the spell. Do you get that? Do you? Your mother, you will never see her again unless you…Why are you smiling?”
Star was indeed grinning. “You can’t kill it,” she said, stepping aside, “because it’s gone. It flew away while you were talking. I didn’t sign up to kill baby — ”
Coal was in front of her in a flash, his eyes blazing with a murderous fire and Star felt her spine shiver, her fingers freeze, and her throat close up. Coal looked at her for a moment, and then two, then walked slowly to his car.
When he didn’t drive away immediately, Star decided that was an invitation to enter.
She got into the car, glanced at Coal, then closed the door with shaking hands.
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