"The Necromancer and the Clockwork Wheel"

By NormaJean Beausoleil

A/N: I'm at the point where I've worked for so long on this story, i'm done with it. Any and ALL constructive criticism is helpful! R&R please. reviewers will be given digital cookies!

A young woman and her brother lived in an Alameda housing complex. It was built in the 1980s housing boom, and currently held a new/old type of atmosphere. The architecture and planning of the units were built to fit the modern needs of the occupants, but those same occupants has used it thoroughly, causing premature age and wear on the hardwood hallways and warm, toape foyers. One could feel the structure was made recently, but the wear on the building gave it the rather too common American dichotomy of new but already almost used up. There were houses just down the bay that were built decades before it but were still better preserved/in better condition due to the care and preservation efforts of their owners.

As triumphant twilight stole over the city in unexpected glory, warm orange and light purple hues streamed through Venetian blinds, dimly lighting the room where the girl sat re-reading an old tome and the boy sat staring into his computer screen listlessly. A stranger knocked on the door. The pair exchanged a glance and a shrug. The girl stood slowly and answered.

The door was pulled open a crack, as much as the chain barring entry would allow.

"May I help you?" she asked the tall dark stranger.

He had pallid skin, dark eyes, and dark hair.

"I think I stand in a better situation to offer help to you two, actually." He stated. The girl bristled at his presumptuous, albeit accurate statement of their financial situation. The boy leaned forward with interest, tilting his head towards the conversation at the threshold.

"I would like to offer you and your brother a contractual employment. The hours would be flexible and the pay would be, he glanced over the girl's head into the shabby apartment, much exceeding your current one, to say the least."

"Why us? You don't even know us," she asked, completely suspicious.

"I know that your adopted parents died a year and a half ago. I know that you," he eyed the older sister, "Dropped out of high school to work multiple retail jobs to provide for yourself and your brother after what meager life insurance there was ate through the funeral expenses. But your personal story, no matter how heart wrenching, is of little significance to me." He straightened, looking over the pair. "You each have gifts…uncommon talents that would be apropos to this…job. I would like you to find an unusual object, but I would rather not discuss the details of it in the hallway."

Her eyes narrowed at the man, and then firmly shut the door in his face. She glanced back at her brother, and in a quick, wordless communication, gave into his desire to know more about this stranger.

"So what do you want us to track down?" She asked, reopening the door widely in invitation.

"A wheel of fortune."

"Are you kidding me? Do I look like Vanna White to you?"

"It's also known as a wheel of fate." He pulled out a smartphone, bringing up a photo of a small golden disc that sat on a golden chain as a pendant. The picture was pixilated, but one could discern that it was comprised of small gears encircling concentric plates of brass and silver. He slid the phone back into his blazer pocket. "Eons ago, the Fates created wheels of fate to guide the threads of existence of flora and fauna. Beyond that, you will have to find out."

"So there's more than one?"

His gaze was a suffering glare. "Yes, one for each species, I would imagine."

"Then…what's this one for?"

"We didn't get a chance to determine that before it disappeared. Yet another question you will be paid to answer in due time. I provide the resources, you give me answers." He pulled a small, metal card holder from his pocket. He handed one of the crisp, black business cards to the boy and headed to the door. "You have enough details now to decide whether or not you will take the job. Contact me with your answer, but don't delay. Recovery is a priority. Good evening."

The door snicked behind the man and his footsteps faded into the hallway. The boy ran the chain across the doorframe and turned the two deadbolts shut.

He sat next to his sister. "Well, we needed more money and you didn't want me to drop out—"

"You dropping out of high school is not an option. You are way too smart for that." She argued, but her tone was filled with exhaustion.

"How much do you think he knows about us?"

"I don't know." The girl's pupils expanded to encompass the green irises. "He's not different like us, but he is different. I couldn't get a good read on him."

"Hmm…" the boy murmured. The pale reflection of his screen shone on his eyes, giving them an unnatural gleam. He typed "Nocturnal Embers" into Google, and started his series of searches for that night.