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
Agnes stood at the end of the driveway waiting for Cadence to come drive her to class. She had a morose look upon her face as she kicked some of the loose gravel around in front of her. After a few times swiping her foot she began to draw designs, flowers, birds, clouds, and more in the dirt under the rocks. It was an exercise in boredom.
Her wild hair blew in her face. She ignored it. Nothing about the moment captured her attention outside of the drawings. She didn’t want to go to school again. She wanted to see both Emily and David. She missed seeing them every day as she once had. Maybe in time, she convinced herself, it would happen.
Eventually the sound of the front door caught Agnes’ ears and she looked up to see Cadence making her way to the car. It was an older light blue hatchback. It was small, and as such Cadence usually parked it by squeezing it in between two large bushes that were off of the side of the driveway. Most people wouldn’t even notice it was there.
Agnes didn’t move. She knew that it would take some effort to get around the bush and into the car. Cadence barely ever left enough room to get in herself. It was fortunate that Cadence could easily defend herself. Had she needed to get into the car to get away from anything, she’d likely be slowed greatly in a rush by that blasted bush.
Agnes ran through those scenarios in her mind. Each time a thug would end up meeting his demise as Iliad ran through them. She imagined the blood spraying all over Cadence who would then stand over her victim victoriously. She thought the young girl to be even more invincible than Brandt. Cadence certainly would argue otherwise if she knew.
A smile crossed Agnes’ face as she was entertained by her imagination.
The car sputtered to start and just as soon as there was a steadiness to the engine, the white lights for reverse lit and the car pulled cautiously from its position.
It spun around before crunching its way up to Agnes who jumped into the car. “Excited?” Cadence asked.
Agnes shook her head in a definitive no. Her face remained forward and did not move. It held the determined face of discomfort.
“Well, I wish that I was back in school. I wanted to go to college, but they say that it would be pointless and interrupt my training.”
“It’s because they’re making you a warrior. My parents say the warriors don’t go to college. They stay training so that they can train other people.”
“True,” Cadence replied. “But that doesn’t take away from the point that I really wanted to go to college.”
“Eh,” Agnes shrugged.
The car pulled out of the driveway. “I don’t like school. I mean, I like seeing Emily and David, but I wish I didn’t have to go to school.”
A chuckle came out of Cadence. “I think that most think like you do. I am probably a bit weird that I liked school.”
Agnes certainly agreed.
Cadence wondered how to connect with the girl in this situation. She remembered her own initial adjustments to living with Brandt all of those years ago. The car began to drift as did Cadence into memory.
“Whatcha thinking about?” Agnes asked. The car suddenly jolted to one side as Cadence snapped back into reality.
“Sorry about that,” Cadence said. “What’d you say?”
Agnes needed the distraction from returning to school and now with the car jerking, it was exactly that. Her imagination followed with the thought of the car going right into one of the trees along the side of the road.
“What’d you ask?” Cadence repeated. This time Agnes was the one who was brought back from her imaginary school delay.
“Oh. I asked what you were thinking about. You looked like you were in a trance.”
“Like you right there?” Cadence mocked.
Agnes laughed. “Yeah, I guess.”
“My first day training with Brandt.”
“What was that like?” Agnes said. Though it was mentioned briefly, Cadence never spoke too in depth about her… their master.
Agnes let that sink in, soaking in all of the juices. “What do you mean?”
“Remember the other day he made you fight him?”
“Same thing for me.” The car jolted to a stop. “Sorry. Squirrel.”
Agnes laughed. “My dad used to try to run them over. He never could. I guess they sensed him or something. It was like a little game he had between them and him.”
“That’s mean,” Cadence said not sharing in Agnes laughter.
“He couldn’t catch them!” she tried to explain.
“Still isn’t nice.”
A smile grew on Agnes’ face as she allowed herself the joy of the memory of her father. She knew not to mention it again to Cadence, but it didn’t matter.
Agnes knew their arrival at the school was imminent. Nothing about it was exciting; rather it was all quite frightening. She wondered if anyone remembered her. Right behind that was a thought that crept in her mind whether anyone even remembered her at all from her class. (Well, except for Emily and David. She knew that they would remember her.)
When the car pulled up near the school Agnes watched quietly as the other students passed by. She was entranced by them, wondering what their morning was like.
“Brandt asked me to stay here. I am going to be here keeping an eye out for any demons that might want to come through near here.”
Agnes nodded. Though she felt that this as akin to being babysat, she couldn’t deny that she felt much safer knowing that Cadence would be nearby. “I’ll be fine,” she said defiantly.
“I’m not Brandt. I know you are ok. But either way, this is what I’ve been asked to do, and with what’s going on…”
“I’ll be fine,” Agnes urged. Cadence stared back unwavering. Anges huffed before opening up the door and stepping out.
She walked behind a small group of kids that were in a grade below her own. They laughed and spoke about things that she had no idea about. She never watched TV or plays video games. Even while David and Emily did such things, Agnes just never paid much attention to it. It only helped to further her feelings of isolation from others her age.
“Hey!” she heard behind her suddenly. It was David. She turned and smiled in the way that one would smile having not seen their friend in what seemed like years. His face was flush from running to catch up with her. “I saw you in the car when it passed by and started waving, I thought you didn’t see me.” His voice was struggling to keep his breath. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his inhaler. Taking a deep draw from the device, he calmed his breathing.
“Sorry, I didn’t see you.”
“Who’s that?” David asked as he pointed back towards Cadence. Agnes looked and saw that Cadence had pulled out a book and was reading.
“That’s Cadence,” she answered in a how-didn’t-you-know-that kind of way.
“Oh,” David said. He looked back at Cadence who waved. He waved in reply. “She’s really cool.”
“She is,” Agnes replied. “I like her a lot.”
Cadence watched the pair walk towards the school. Once she was satisfied that she sensed no danger around them, she drove to a nearby park to sit. At least she would be able to get some reading done.
“They wouldn’t attack her while she is still in school,” Cadence said matter-of-factly.
“Are you so sure? It is not normal for a demon to be concerned over anything other than causing pain.” Brandt was giving the standard look of disapproval with the argument. It frustrated Cadence.
“I just don’t think that it is necessary for me to babysit her while she is in school,” she argued. “I would rather continue my training.”
Brandt shook his head. “You are beyond a sufficient level to go off on your own, but I will not admit that any longer to anyone. We should stick together and watch out for each other. It won’t be safe for Agnes at her school. You will go and watch her. I am not going to give you a choice.”
Cadence carefully reviewed the brief conversation between Brandt and her several times. She knew that there was no way that she would have been able to turn Brandt’s instruction away, but she was determined to figure out an avenue. She didn’t.
She resumed reading her book.
A few hours passed before she snapped awake. Something was off. She threw the book off of her lap off to the side and leapt from the car. Around her the impulses were firing furiously. “Agnes!” she said aloud before grabbing Iliad and sprinting towards Agnes’ school.
Agnes, David, and Emily walked down the hall huddled together. They had just left the cafeteria and were heading back to class intertwined into the crowd. Agnes preferred to simply barrel through, but Emily and David were more inclined to hang at the exterior of the crowd.
“Can you hang out after class?” David asked Agnes over the sound of the other students running through the halls. “Emily and I are going to play Traveller.”
“What’s that?” Agnes asked.
“It’s a really cool game my brother showed me,” Emily said excitedly. “We’ve never played it before.”
“It’s the same type of game as D&D, only different,” David added.
Agnes thought for a moment that she could escape an evening of training to go with her friends. It was an exciting thought. Brandt wouldn’t approve. “I don’t think I can make it,” she answered timidly. As she spoke it, she already regretted the decision but knew that she must train.
“What do you do after school?” David asked curiously.
“I-I really can’t say,” Agnes replied trying to think of the best way to answer David. “I am in training,” she finally said coyly.
“What are you training for?” David rapid-fired another question. He was typically this way. It was one of the many traits that gave him such difficulty with his peers.
“Fighting,” Agnes replied not meaning to do so.
“What are you fighting for?” another question rambled out.
Agnes quickly began shuffling her friends over to the one side. She needed to be away from everyone. She really didn’t want to let them know, but she needed the time to think about what story she would give them.
“Yeah, what are you training for, Agnes?” Emily repeated, impatiently waiting for her friend’s answer.
Agnes froze. Before them stood a black figure. Each feature was as obscure as it appeared the figure was wearing a dark cloak. Agnes felt the rush of fear and evil swelling over her. She wanted to pull out Hyde, but she had left the blade in her bag. She was frozen. Her friends stared at her and then at the empty space that she was staring at. No one else seemed to notice.
The black figure stood like a shadow looming over Agnes. She felt a heavy pressure inside her head. A very low-pitched hum began to pulse in her ears. Her breathing became very heavy, and her heart started to pound through her chest.
“What’s wrong?” David asked.
“Agnes, are you ok?”
Both of her friends were becoming frightened when out of nowhere Cadence shuffled swiftly through the crowd and started to drag Agnes away. Still attached, David and Emily followed along. “What the hell is that thing?” Cadence said as she dragged them out of the school. “We gotta get out of here. Quick.”
Students all around watched the stranger pull their classmates away. No one chose to acknowledge how strange it was, nor did they find a need to call a teacher. For all they knew the young woman there was a student teacher.
Agnes was still heavily affected. She shut her eyes tight as she clenched her hands around her ears. “Please go away. Please go away,” she repeated.
They followed the hall, down the stairs, and out of the school. Cadence looked around frantically for a place to get them away from anyone seeing. Emily and David followed closely behind, somehow unnoticed by Cadence until she thought that they were safe.
“You kids have to get out of here,” Cadence commanded.
“What’s going on? Why are you taking Agnes?” Emily asked sternly to the girl guarding Agnes.
Cadence unsheathed Iliad and held it defensively in front of her. “You really need to get out of here.”
David sunk behind Emily who stood unusually firm against the girl with the sword. “You can’t scare us like that. You can’t take Agnes.”
“I am protecting her. You cannot see this, kids.”
The air around all of them began to get thick and hot. Even Emily and David felt it. “What’s going on?” a frightened David yelled.
“Dammit!” Cadence hollered in frustration that she couldn’t get rid of the kids. She grabbed Agnes and shook her to open her eyes. “Agnes, I need you to protect them!” she instructed. “Take this!” Cadence handed a small sword from a sheath on her belt. Agnes took it after slowly lowering her hands from her ears.
“They want me to die,” she began crying. “I don’t want to die!”
“And you won’t! Just take this and keep them safe!”
Agnes turned and grabbed her friends and ducked down holding a defensive stance in front of her. Tears flowed down her face as she trembled. She tried remembering the lessons that Brandt and Cadence each taught her, but the pulsing tone still echoed through her mind.
As Cadence spun around, she came face to face with the black shroud. Emily and David screamed as what they could not see came into their view. Cadence tried to raise Iliad and strike but was thrown back to the ground.
“CADENCE!” Agnes yelled.
The sky grew dark even as the sun still hung overhead. The air was stale, hot and overwhelmingly impressive.
Agnes ran forward and struck against the black shrouded figure. It raised its arm to block the blade but was shifted back. At that moment it then sank instantly into the ground.
Agnes looked astonished until two creatures appeared in its place, gnarling and thrashing at her. By then, Cadence had regained her stance and leapt into the fight. One of the creatures was immediately fell as Cadence channeled perfectly through her powerful weapon. It took only a single stab through the skull of the creature. It then laid there, a light grey mist leaking out of its wound, the soul vanquished and dissipating into the air.
The second creature lunged at Agnes but was intercepted by Cadence who grabbed the creature by the back of the neck throwing it to the side. It recovered and spun around. Cadence swung at it, graceful and poetic.
The creature was tall, very tall with two arms on each side of its body. Its skin appeared more like a cross between armor and lizard’s skin. It had a large mouth with short, but razor sharp teeth dripping with blood. Its eyes were large glowing green, spread far on its face below what appeared like a helmet.
The two engaged in battle with each adversary swinging, blocking, lunging, and striking each other. Cadence was beautiful appearing more like a dancer than the lethal weapon she was. The creature showed to be narrowly unmatched being as quick and agile as Cadence. Agnes watched the fight in amazement while shielding the two frightened kids behind her.
Lights scattered and loud sounds shattered as Iliad found flesh. Cadence was executing perfectly, somehow finding the way to balance her power through the blade. Cadence was able to make a few marks and knock the creature back, but she could not get any opening that allowed her the quick kill as she had the other creature.
“Agnes!” Cadence yelled. “I need your help!”
Agnes leapt at the creature with her blade high low across her face. Panic bellowed from her mouth as she charged. Catching the creature off-guard, she slipped and fell onto her knees while slicing the creature’s ankle. The slice nearly cut completely through. The move slowed the creature as it fell out of balance.
The move allowed Cadence to match an equal thrust through the skull that echoed the first creature’s wound. As the creature fell, Agnes looked up to see the black shroud standing behind Cadence. “CADENCE!” she yelled as Cadence stood confident over the two creatures she vanquished.
A small black blade went through Cadence’s stomach forcing blood to rise and spit out of her mouth.
Agnes screamed instinctively running at the black shroud ready to strike it down. Before she reached the shroud, an estoc was swung through the head as Brandt appeared behind it. The black shroud vanished again appearing to sink through the ground taking with it the black blade that pierced through Cadence.
Cadence fell to the ground convulsing and shivering. Behind her, Emily and David cried through the fear that they had just encountered. Brandt grabbed Agnes, “what happened?!” He let her go and began to look over his other pupil. Cadence was growing pale.
“That thing came after me,” her eyes were welling with tears and her voice was hoarse with emotion. She was frightened for Cadence. “Cadence saved me. I-I…” she rambled.
“We’re not safe here,” Brandt said. Agnes watched a worried expression on his face. She saw fear. “We have to get her to the conduits. Bring them!” he yelled pointing to Emily and David. Agnes stared at Cadence trembling. Brandt grabbed the girl by the shoulders. He yelled, “you have to snap out of it! We need to get Cadence to help before she is gone! Let’s go!”
Confused, scared, and unable to focus Agnes grabbed her friends before turning back to Brandt who had picked Cadence up and was carrying her swiftly away.
“What happened?!” David asked widely looking all around trying to find remnants of what he had just seen. All of the creatures had already dissipated as though they had not existed moments before.
Agnes didn’t respond. She only pulled her friends along. Emily clutched onto David’s arm squeezing entirely too tightly for any comfort to be had, a wild fear screaming in her eyes.
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.