index lists stories by character & setting


Latest shows the most recent Posts


Storylines group story arcs in recommended reading order

The Snitch

NOTE: This story is part of a series. For the recommended reading order, see Jackie's Storyline.


     Layla glanced anxiously over her shoulder, and, for a second, she was very still, as she listened for the sound of voices, or footsteps.

     Once she was certain that she was alone, she raised a small hand, and knocked on the closet door.

     “You in there?” the rattler asked.

     A moment passed in silence. Then a voice replied from inside.

     “Yeah,” it said.

     The rattler gathered her courage.

     “It’s me,” she said. “Layla.”

     “Yeah,” the voice said. “I know.”

     Layla glanced over her shoulder again.

     “Sister Harmony’s gone,” she said.

     “Yeah,” the voice said again. “I know.”

     Layla cleared her throat.

     “You… you want me to open the door?” she said.

     There was a beat of silence.

     “Yeah,” the voice said.

     Layla unlocked the bolt. Then, with her hand on the knob, she hesitated.

     “If I do open the door,” she said, “are you going to hit me?”

     Another beat of silence. Longer, this time.

     “No,” the voice said.

     Layla took a deep breath. She opened the closet door.

     In the dim light, she could just make out a single, small form, huddled in the far corner, between piles of old hymnals and mildewed vestments. From beneath heavy shadows, a pair of blood-red eyes stared out at her.

     Layla glanced down at the floor.

     “I’m sorry that I snitched on you,” she said.

     The red eyes blinked.

     “Yeah,” the girl in the closet said. “I know.”

     “Did Sister Harmony switch you for fighting?”

     “I think she wanted to,” the girl said. “Only, she couldn’t find any place to hit me where I didn’t already have a lump. So she locked me in here instead.”

     “You okay?” Layla said.

     The girl laughed.

     “I’ve had worse,” she said.

     Layla slithered into the closet, until she was close enough to see the girl’s face. The skin around her eyes was purple and swollen. Dried blood caked the remnants of a busted lip.

     Layla found a clean patch of shirt, and she brushed away the blood. It must have hurt, but the red-eyed girl didn’t flinch.

     As Layla worked, the girl said: “Why’d you tell on me?”

     Layla almost laughed.

     “I was afraid Am-Sam was going to kill you, if I didn’t get the Sisters.”

     The girl snorted. 

     “I could’ve taken Am-Sam,” she said.

     Layla sighed.

     “Sure you could.”

     “I had her right where I wanted her.”

     “I know. I saw the way you hit her fist with your face.”

     The girl was silent. Blood had started to trickle from her nose, which she wiped with the back of her fist.

     “Why in blazes did you pick a fight with Am-Sam?” Layla said. “Am-Sam’s got a head-and-a-half on you, easy.”

     The girl pushed Layla’s hand away, and, in the darkness, her red eyes glowed.

     “She stole my hat,” the girl said.

     That took Layla by surprise.

     “Am-Sam stole your hat?”

     “Yeah.”

     “The black one?”

     “Yeah.”

     “The one with all the holes?”

     “Yeah.”

     Layla let go of her shirt.

     “Why would Am-Sam want your hat?”

     “I don’t know,” the girl said. “Because it was mine, I guess. But it doesn’t matter. She can’t have it. I stole it first, fair-and-square.” The girl wiped her nose. “It doesn’t even fit her.”

     Layla offered her hand, which, after a second’s hesitation, the girl took.

     “But it’s barely even a hat,” the rattler said, as she helped the human to her feet. “It looks like a centaur trampled it.”

     “So?”

     “It’s got holes in the brim.”

     “So?”

     “So, why do you even care?” Layla shook her head. “Just let Am-Sam have it.”

     For a moment, the girl just stared at Layla. Then she spoke.

     “If I show you something,” the girl said, “do you promise not to tell anyone about it? And I mean anyone.”

     The rattler nodded.

     “Cross my heart,” Layla said. “Hope to die.”

     Taking Layla by the hand, the girl led her out of the closet, and over to the corridor. Then, after checking both ways, to make sure the coast was clear, she led her upstairs, into the bunkroom. 

     There, kneeling by the side of her bed, the girl reached up beneath the mattress, and extracted a thin, yellowing book.

     The girl offered the book to Layla, who took it. It was a pulpy serial – the kind you could buy for two bits. On the cover was a picture of two gunfighters, hard-faced, and set to draw. One was a fox with a ridder’s badge. The other was a woman in black.

     The woman on the cover was also wearing a hat which – Layla had to admit – was not totally unlike the one the red-eyed girl had once had, before Am-Sam stole it.

     “Where’d you get this?” Layla asked, her voice barely a whisper.

     “Sister Chastity confiscated it from one of the boys,” the girl said, “and I confiscated it from Sister Chastity.” The girl grinned. “All the stuff Sister Chastity doesn’t want the Supreme Mother to know about, she keeps in a drawer in her desk, under a false bottom.” The girl’s grin widened. “But I know about it.”

     Layla flipped through the book’s yellow pages. There were more pictures on the inside, lithographed in black and white.

     “The woman in black,” Layla said. “You know she’s the bad guy, right?”

     The girl blushed.

     “Not in my book, she’s not,” the girl said, and, for a moment, her voice turned defensive. “What I mean is, I make up my own stories, to go along with the pictures.”

     Layla offered the book back to the girl. But the girl didn’t take it.

     Instead, the red-eyed girl asked her: “Can you read?”

     Layla nodded.

     “A little,” she said.

     “Then you keep it,” the girl said. “For now. But don’t let the Sisters catch you with it – I need it back when you’re done.”

     “Thanks,” Layla said, and she slipped the book inside her shirt.

     “Thing is,” the girl said, “I need you to do me a favor in return.”

     “Yeah?” Layla said. “Like what?”

     The red-eyed girl grinned.

     “I need you to snitch on me again.”

 

* * *

 

     From her place inside the rectory, Layla had a clear view into the yard, where Am-Sam and two of her centaur friends were standing beneath the cottonwood tree, and laughing about something. A tattered hat was perched precariously atop Am-Sam’s head, and, every so often, the tall girl had to reach up and steady it, so that it didn’t fall off. 

     The red-eyed girl had been right – the hat didn’t even fit.

     Beneath the tree, Am-Sam was laughing at another joke, when, suddenly, Layla saw the red-eyed girl come flying out the bunkhouse door like a bat out of the Seventh Hell. The red-eyed girl charged right up to Am-Sam and, before the bigger girl could do so much as blink, she hauled off and punched Am-Sam right in the face.

     The smaller girl had to stand on the tips of her toes to do it, but, even clear across the yard, Layla could hear the crunch.

     “Amanda Samantha,” the red-eyed girl shouted, as Am-Sam collapsed into a dazed heap, “if you ever touch my hat again, I will hit you so hard, I will knock your eyeballs out the back of your skull. You hear me?” 

     The girl reached down and snatched up her hat, which had fallen off Am-Sam’s head as she toppled over.

     Then, glancing in Layla’s direction, the red-eyed girl gave a furtive nod.

     Layla turned around and slithered back into the rectory, where Sister Harmony was sweeping between the pews.

     “Sister, Sister,” Layla called out, pointing frantically towards the yard as she did, “Jackie got out, and now Am-Sam’s friends are beating her bloody!”

     “Angels help me,” Sister Harmony muttered, as she dropped her broom and followed Layla through the open door. 

     Outside in the yard, Am-Sam was rolling on the ground and moaning, with her face in her hands, and blood streaming between her fingers. The red-eyed girl was lying next to her. She was curled into a ball, and clutching her battered hat with both hands, even as Am-Sam’s centaur friends kicked her with their iron-shoed hooves. 

     It took five Sisters to break up the fight, but Jackie DeCoeur never once let go of her hat.

 

* * *

 

     Layla glanced anxiously over her shoulder, and, for a second, she was very still, as she listened for the sound of voices, or footsteps.

     Once she was certain that she was alone, she raised a small hand, and knocked on the closet door.

     “You in there?” the rattler asked.

     A moment passed in silence. Then a voice replied from inside.

     “Yeah,” Jackie DeCoeur said.

     “You okay?” Layla said.

     “I’ve had worse,” Jackie said. “But I think I lost a tooth.”

     “Well, you broke Am-Sam’s nose,” Layla said. “If that’s any consolation.” 

     The rattler was quiet for a moment.

     “You want me to open the door?” she said.

     “Yeah,” Jackie said. “Just for a second.”

     Layla slid back the bolt and pulled open the door. Inside the closet, between piles of old hymnals and vestments, she saw a pair of blood-red eyes staring back at her from beneath the shadow of a broad-brimmed hat.

     “Thanks,” the red-eyed girl said. 

     “Don’t mention it,” Layla said.

     “Remember to lock me in,” the red-eyed girl said. “When you leave.” 

     The rattler was quiet.

     “Your book,” she eventually said. “The one you loaned me. When I’m done with it, you want me to tell you how the story really goes?”

     The red-eyed girl seemed to consider that for a second, before shaking her head.

     “No,” she said. “I think I like my version better.”

     “Me, too,” Layla said.

     The red-eyed girl was smiling as Layla closed the door.


"The Snitch" by OrcishLibrarian was originally published as part of the Expanded Multiverse project.

To learn more, and to read more Expanded Multiverse stories, please visit the Expanded Multiverse forum at No Goblins Allowed.


Magic: Expanded Multiverse is not associated with Wizards of the Coast. This is a transformative work of fanfiction, protected in the United States under the laws of Fair Use. 

All works copyright their respective creators.


The Mender

Beneath the Waves

Beneath the Waves