Note: I will be posting a chapter from The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle each day until the book has been fully posted. I am doing this as a way to entertain those who have been coping with the new life of social distancing, social isolation, and quarantine in the world right now in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once complete, I will hold the book on in full on my site until 1/1/2021. On that day, it’ll no longer be accessible for free.
I ask people to share links freely while the book is available, but please do not copy or do anything else without expressed permission from me, the copyright holder.
If you would like to skip ahead, you are always welcome to purchase a copy, just click the link HERE (or click up top at the menu bar) to go to the book’s page where there are links to where it is available in both print and ebook. Enjoy and I hope that you and your family are doing well!
The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle
by Jeremy C Kester
(c) Jeremy C Kester – All Rights Reserved
“Hey, wake up.”
Agnes cracked the lids of her eyes to see Cadence sitting on the edge of the bed. A totally unwelcoming sight. Better than Brandt for sure. He probably sent her up there. That would be just like him. “I don’t wanna. Go away!” she said. Exhaustion dripped from her teeth.
“Do you wanna come to practice with me?” Cadence asked.
Agnes peered up at the window in her room, her head scarcely moving on the pillow. Devoid of any blinds or curtains it hinted only at the dim light of dawn. “It’s too early. I don’t want to get up.”
“Come on,” Cadence urged. “It’ll be fun.” She did her best to sound cheerful. The attempt was lost on Agnes. Agnes rolled over and covered her face with the pillow.
“Go away,” Agnes mumbled trough the fabric and fill. “Just leave me alone.”
“You will be better to start with me than to start with Brandt.”
The answer was only silence. She ignored the intruder and fell back asleep. Cadence sighed. She felt foolish for believing that she would have had a chance to drag the young girl out so soon. Should have listened to Brandt. At least he wouldn’t have to know. Not knowing what else to do, she quietly left the room. When she stepped outside of the room she was met by Brandt standing solidly in the hallway. She didn’t expect him to be awake. Damn.
As quietly as was possible Cadence shut the door and awaited what was going to said.
“Leave her be today,” he instructed in a hushed voice. He turned towards the stairs. “We’ll give it a few days before we start training her.”
“She needs the distraction, Master,” Cadence replied, her tone matching the hushed whisper. “I think that it would be better that she train now.” She didn’t want to give up so easily. She could prove herself right.
“At least give her today. She’s been through a lot. It’ll take her a while before she is ready to even listen to us, let alone pick up a sword.” He started walking; she followed.
“I know that she’s been through a lot,” she argued. “She is better to get right into it sooner. I don’t think that she’ll want to do any of it whether we start today or wait until she’s 15.”
“Don’t argue with me about this.” A growl pierced through the quiet tone of Brandt’s words. Why was she being so obstinate? She was always the model of an apprentice: never questioning, unending drive for improvement. Now she battled him. If Agnes wasn’t enough to drive him insane, this new behavior in Cadence would.
“Just because you are afraid of her throwing another fit? Is that it?” The words spilled out before she was even aware of what she was saying.
Brandt glared over at his apprentice. His pace stopped with Cadence matching him. He started shaking his head. Great. It begins and yet the young girl hadn’t even started training yet. “I do not see where her tantrums make any difference here. She’s exhausted. She just had her parents’ funeral. Her home burned to the ground. She nearly died. She needs to be allowed to adjust.”
Cadence lowered her head as though she was going to submit to the argument but instead she then looked up and said “getting into training will help her more than being allowed to wallow in her misery, master. She should train.”
“Give her today, Cadence.”
“I don’t think it is wise, master.”
“Apprentice,” Brandt said, his tone showing his frustration, no longer worried about volume. He rarely called her apprentice. Such a word was only used when he was growing impatient with her, which usually meant that she was arguing something that either had no bearing on what was going on, or that she was arguing something that she was simply going to lose as his mind had been sealed with whatever verdict he had determined appropriate. “I am not sure why you are choosing to argue this, but you will give her the chance to rest today. This discussion is over. Do not test me on this.”
Cadence didn’t know why she chose to argue it either. Nothing about any of it was making much sense to her, but there was something that was insisting that Agnes started as soon as possible despite her young age. A delay of one day felt as though it were to be an eternity. Why couldn’t her master see that though? Was he so steeped in tradition that training a 12-year-old girl was not only not the custom, but impossible? Did he not hear what she had done the previous night? She was sure that she saw the flames moving to Agnes’ whim. The reality of it seemed as implausible as did the training of someone who should have yet come into the abilities of a Sentry.
As quickly as she wanted to continue arguing though, she found herself relenting to the fact that Brandt might have been correct to let the girl rest. There would be no harm in allowing the girl to seek refuge in what was now her home. No demons would be able to seek her out under Brandt’s protection here. And the girl was worn from the grief of losing her parents. How could Cadence argue against these facts? How could she be so insensitive about the girl?
“I am sorry, master. You are right,” she said as she left her master’s presence towards the outside to practice. She needed the distraction anyway.
A few hours passed before Agnes finally woke up. With a beleaguered effort she pushed away the sheets. It felt like her skin being peeled away. They were tangled and disheveled from a night of restless sleep. Once her feet were free from the sheet’s entrapment, she sat up on the edge of the bed.
The air was unusually cool. It felt nice. She liked the cold mornings in particular. It was during those times, sitting with a cup of hot chocolate in the early autumn morning, she would watch her parents practice and she felt happy. The realization that those memories would be no more caused her to shudder.
Nothing about the room was familiar to her other than having the knowledge of where she was. The prior night, much like the prior week, appeared to her as though it were a bad dream. Scanning, she saw a room completely neglected of furniture and decoration. Typical of him. The emptiness only made her miss her family more. Besides the bed on which she sat, there was only a large wardrobe replacing the lack of a closet in the room. The walls were a pale, faded blue in color giving the observer only a vague guess to the last time the room was painted. Along the baseboards, the door, and around the window was white paint that was worn and in many places flaking off. The floor was hardwood and appeared as though it hadn’t been cared for in years.
Taking care to be as quiet as possible, she stood and walked over to the window. It was bright outside. Only a few sparse clouds broke up the midday sun. The window overlooked the rear of the house which held a large yard that faded into a thick wooded area. It had looked as though thickets of brush and thorn bushes had been allowed to overgrow along the boundaries. Trees grew at random throughout with one large oak tree in the center. It reminded Agnes of the manner to which her own yard had been set up. It helped to prevent trespassers and onlookers.
As she looked down, she saw Cadence standing in the shade. In her hand was a rapier. From the distance Agnes couldn’t make out many of the details of the blade. Practice. Endless practice. She knew that was her intended lot in life. There was no solace in it.
Cadence thrust quickly with the blade. The movement surprised Agnes making her jump. After the thrust the movements became fluid, beautiful. It was as though she were dancing and the blade was but an extension of her arm. As the movements progressed, Agnes saw her unsheathe a long dagger and twirl it into play with the sword. Everything that she saw appeared to be effortless. Cadence was flawless. At that moment, Agnes felt the pang of envy.
The feeling faded as she remembered that she was where she was once again: Brandt’s house. Her mood deteriorated. It reminded her of everything that had happened over the last few days and of the events of the night before. It wasn’t anger, although she certainly posited it as though it were.
A single tear began to pool under her eye before it slid down her cheek. A circle of moisture appeared on the floor beneath her.
Agnes sat back down on the bed with a whump. She didn’t know what she wanted to do. She was stuck there. Her body fell backwards until she was again lying on the bed. Emotion flooded her mind. Lying down didn’t calm them and thusly it didn’t last long. Steps echoed in the empty room as Agnes paced the room in frustration. She wanted everything back to normal. But that was impossible.
In a moment she suddenly knew what she had to do. At least it was what a young child who didn’t want to face things think is best to do. With fervent determination Agnes grabbed a few bags and tore out an old pair of khakis and a t-shirt. Quickly she threw off her pajamas and dressed herself. Beneath another pile of clothes, she found socks and a dirty, old pair of shoes. They would all suffice.
Next, she grabbed what she could carry without any burden. The definition of burden would be a different thing were it a normal young kid. Things that would carry her at least for a few days were preferable over anything else. Everything needed to fit in one bag. Lastly she concerned herself with her short blades. They would defend her if she needed them and they were easier to conceal.
Once she was satisfied, she picked up the large bag and swung it onto her back. She grabbed her hair and pulled it from the straps then tied it into a pony tail. A few strands fell loose from the tie and onto her face. The red contrasted brightly against her pale, freckled skin.
She then opened the door taking care to ensure that her path was clear. Cadence was outside practicing and she was sure that Brandt had to be as well. Nonetheless she was careful to make as little sound as possible to not alert anyone, a difficult task with a heavy bag and a lack of knowledge where the creaks would be. Thankfully the stairs were in sight from her room. It should be a quick jump over to them to allow her escape. She was only hoping that the front door was as well.
Each step creaked as she went down the stairs. Her movements were excitedly cautious. She didn’t want to alert anyone that she was leaving. They would find out soon enough, but an unexpected creak would bring that about much sooner. It was best to move slowly.
Eventually the last step was reached. Outside, she suddenly heard the muffled barking of Brandt. He was instructing Cadence on whatever. She took the signal and ran straight to the front door. Unbolting it, she then slid easily outside careful to close the door behind her. Then she ran surefooted away from her new home.
She was unclear as to where she was going. Anywhere was better than where she was supposed to be. Perhaps Emily would take her in. Maybe David. Either would do.
Time passed. She continued moving until she realized where she was. Before her, a strip of caution tape separated her from the charred remains of her old home. She stood unsure of what to do, of what led her there. She was so certain that her feet would’ve taken her somewhere else that she hadn’t paid much attention to her direction.
Approaching the stone steps she sat on for most of the day before, her eyes remained focused on the house. Water had pooled all around from the attempts to extinguish the blaze. It had taken 3 companies to fight it not realizing that the difficulty was only due to it being fed by a supernatural source. Once the demon had destroyed the house to its satisfaction, the blaze disappeared. Many of the firefighters present simply shook their head at their sudden success, adding to whatever list of unexplainable events they’ve encountered before.
Pieces of the house were charred and strewn about. She stared at them in disbelief. Night would have failed to bring any more darkness to the area where her house once stood. Her eyes followed each corner, stepping over each fallen beam, each burnt clump of objects she couldn’t discern. She wanted to remember exactly how the house looked. Somehow her memory would not allow it. No matter how hard she tried, the image of the house wouldn’t appear before her.
“You should’ve known I’d find you here,” the familiar voice of Cadence sounded. She had expected it to be Brandt.
Agnes didn’t respond. Her eyes remained fixed forward. Indeed, she did know deep inside that she would end up returning… eventually.
“That’s OK,” Cadence continued as she sat on the stoop next to Agnes. “You don’t have to say anything, we can just sit here.” She tucked her legs up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her knees. Agnes glanced over to see a long elegant cloak that had mostly concealed the long rapier and dagger that Cadence carried. It was black with beautiful designs of gold and red sewn throughout the fabric.
The two girls sat there with only the sounds of birds to accompany them. A gentle breeze rustled through the leaves around them.
“I didn’t think it was real,” Agnes said. “Like it was just a dream.”
“How could you?” Cadence replied. Her tone was as-a-matter-of-fact. “Our life, this life we live isn’t normal. Not many girls had to find out their parents died and then get attacked by a fire demon. Even I have trouble believing it sometimes.”
Agnes nodded with only a small tear to accompany it. Again, the birds overtook the conversation. “I bet Brandt’s mad,” she said again finally.
Cadence laughed. “He’s always mad. It wouldn’t feel right if he wasn’t. You should’ve met his master, though. You’d appreciate Brandt a little more.”
“I guess. I just miss my mom and dad.”
Cadence didn’t reply. She knew there would be no reason to.
From behind them, Cadence heard a car nearby. She was aware of who it would be. She stood and walked over to greet the visitor. The door opened to a man of average height and size in an officer’s uniform. The man had thinning black hair cut short and deep indigo, nearly purple eyes. Cadence loved his eyes. “Hello, Filip,” she greeted.
“Cadence,” he said. “Glad to see you are well. Fire demons are a sonofabitch. Took a while for it to let go and leave so that the fire would burn out. A little frustrating when you know what’s going on but can’t do anything about it. So how’s the girl?”
Like the others, Filip was a Sentry. Many of them were entrusted more to keep the mortal realm from understanding the supernatural world around them rather than to directly encounter threats as Brandt and Cadence were entrusted with, though they could if needed. Most often they were also those who dealt directly with the mortal threats.
Filip had worked himself to patrol the Pyle estate while the investigations into the fire were undertaken. He had made sure that the official documents read that Agnes had been picked up immediately following the funeral by her legal guardian, although the absolute timing was certainly differing in fact. Either way, she was safe. Details would only cause unnecessary speculation from those who wouldn’t understand what was going on.
“We got her, she’s right here,” Cadence waved off to the side.
Filip looked over to see the young girl. He felt a pang of relief seeing her, despite knowing that Agnes had survived the attack. “Glad to see it. How is she?”
“How you’d expect.”
“I guess that makes sense.”
Agnes remained facing forward, never turning to see the additional guest she should be entertaining. “Can I look closer?” Agnes asked. Her voice was strong, yet waivered some in its assuredness.
Filip looked at her directly. “She speaks!” he said jokingly. Cadence nudged him. Blushing, he said, “you can absolutely look through. There are a few things that made it. I already cleared out the all of the evidence we’d be concerned about.” Turning to Cadence, “and tell your master that I have all of her parents’ weapons and artifacts at my place now. When both he and Agnes are ready, they can pick them up.”
“I’ll let him know.”
Filip stood for a moment more before a memory from the night before struck him. Late nights did that, kept memories at bay for a little longer than was necessary. He shook his head. “Another thing,” he said.
“Two kids came by the scene last night looking for her.”
“Get her a phone. Let her call them to let them know she’s alright. Can’t imagine talking to them would be so bad, regardless of what the old man, Brandt thinks. Does he even have a phone?”
Cadence giggled at the joke. “Yes. Sure. I can do that.”
Agnes was at the very edge of the debris. She hesitated before stepping. Worry leached into her mind. Would she break something? Would she find something that she didn’t want to? Those and a thousand more concerns plagued her. Steadily she reached her foot into the mess and entered the debris.
There was give under her weight as some of the blackened wreckage crumbled beneath. It was not enough to frighten her any. She stepped again and again through it all with repeated results. She correctly assumed every area of the house that she stood over. Much of the remains were so badly damaged that she could only decipher what they were by location alone.
Shortly her feet and the bottom of her pants were saturated. That discomfort did little to deter her.
“There really wasn’t much left,” Filip said to Cadence. His tone was soft as though he were trying to protect Agnes’ ears. She was too far away though.
Cadence shrugged. “I think she needs to look. She might not find anything, but she still needs to look.”
After some time, Agnes began to get discouraged. It was discouragement not of failure to find anything, but rather the realization that truth was the only substance she could see. Truth was that her life was indeed what it was.
Before she was ready to give in and turn, a faint glint caught her eye. Excitedly she plunged her hand into the blackened tangle of what was once her parents’ room. As she gripped what felt like a small pendant on a chain, she slowly brought it up to the air to see what it was. Upon seeing it her gut wrenched. Before her was a small silver locket. She had never seen it before, but something about it struck her.
Her hands shaking, she gently placed the locket in her palm and let the chain drape between her fingers. She puzzled over it for a few moments. It was only slightly bigger in size than a nickel but oval in shape. The silver was polished, unblemished from the fire. All along the face of it was a simple engraving of a gladiolus. Turning it to the other side, the words To our greatest joy, Agnes struck her. Tears began to well up and the trembling became worse. Desperately she fumbled with the clasp to open it until finally it opened and she wept.
If you would like to skip ahead, you are always welcome to purchase a copy, just click the link HERE (or click up top at the menu bar) to go to the book’s page where there are links to where it is available in both print and ebook.