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Page 298[]

Inappropriately Determined Guy: You have such a beautiful accent. Let me guess, you're from somewhere down south, right? I can tell because I have a friend from Atlanta. Where are you from?
Charlene: I'm from the moon.
Inappropriately Determined Guy: Cool, cool, cool. Hey do you think I could get you rnumber? Maybe we could go get dinner sometim?
Charlene: I can't. I'm a nun.
Inappropriately Determined Guy: A nun? But you... work at a coffee shop?
Charlene: Yes, where I serve coffee for our lord and savior.
Inappropriately Determined Guy: Oh, okay...
Malaya: Excuse me sir, this moon nun and I have to help the next customers.
Inappropriately Determined Guy: Y-yeah! Um, I'll see you around!
Charlene: I need you to pay me more so I can afford to live on the moon.
Malaya: If I raise the price of a latte to sixty-million dollars, maybe we can both go.

Page 299[]

Charlene: Hi, what can I get for you?
Elias: Um, the guy in the kitchen said I put this together okay?
Malaya: His name's Miguel. Looks like a good sandwich to me! It's for table three.
Charlene: Your friend is back.
Malaya: What?
Malaya: Oh.
Elias: Table three. Table three.
Charlene: Front left, next to the window!
Elias: Oh! Thanks!

Page 300[]

Malaya: Hey, are you all right?
Charlene: Yeah, there're just some real weird vibes comin' off that mug.
Malaya: It's from the witch in the woods. I thought maybe yo uoculd use the mug to have a vision. If we understand more about her, then we can resolve this situation.
Charlene: Peacefully?
Malaya: That's a good question.

Page 301[]

Charlene: I think I'll wait to tap that mug's secrets 'til the crowd clears out a little.
Malaya: You don't have to, you know. We can find another solution if your vision thingy is too big of an ask.
Charlene: Nah, I'll do it. This is only a mid-grade favor.
Malaya: Can I do a favor for you and make it even?
Charlene: Well, I need to buy a couch for my apartment, but I'm on the second floor and delivery is kinda expensive...
Malaya: My dad's got a truck and I've got werewolf muscles! I'll drag Elias with me and you won't have to move a finger.
Charlene: You got a deal.

Page 302[]

Elias: Uh, I've got a roast beef with no mayo on wheat... A turkey sandwich with everything.
Malaya: Medium soy latte! Large chai!
Charlene: Three dollars and seventy-five cents is your change.
Charlene: Tuna sandwich and an americano... I'll be back in a sec with the rest of your order.
Charlene: Crowd's gone and I can't keep ignoring this evil coffee mug...
Malaya: Are you sure?
Charlene: Yeah, give me twenty minutes. Maybe a half hour, we'll see.

Page 303[]

Charlene: Hey, Miguel
Miguel: Charlene, whatcha up to?
Charlene: Takin' a break.
Miguel: In the broom closet?
Charlene: It's a religious break. Gotta have quiet for... meditation.
Miguel: Sure, I can dig that.
Charlene: Huh. Pretty sure this jacket has been here since the shop opened.
Charlene: Okay, mug... ...tell me what you know.
Charlene: Holy shit.

Page 304[]

Elias: I don't get how working here doesn't give you mad anxiety. It's only my second day, and I feel like I've run a marathon. A werewolf marathon
Malaya: Well, for you, the cafe is new and you don't know how stuff works yet, so it's overwhelming. For me, I'm in my safe place.
Malaya: I've been here almost every day of my life, even before I was bitten. I'm behind the counter I call all the shots, so I have control...
Elias: I just figured all this running around would make your werewolf issues way worse.
Malaya: I feel safe here, so the chaos is fine. You don't get to choose what gives you anxiety, I guess.
Elias: Are you still worried about hurting someone?

Page 305[]

Malaya: Sort of. The werewolf part of me feels calmer and more... dormant, I guess, but... some part of me doesn't believe that it's safe to let my guard down yet.
Elias: We should do training! Real training!
Malaya: Uh...
Elias: You, me, Marin... We'll go to the woods and beat the shit out of each other!
Malaya: ...Sure? That might help, maybe. Fighting practice might be... useful.

Page 306[]

Malaya: Hey, are you still following my brother to his classes?
Elias: Uh, I mean not the classes he has when I'm working. Why did he say something?
Malaya: No, but Mom thinks it's cute. I think Vince appreciates the company, though he'll never admit it.
Elias: Oh. Good. Because his classes are interesting. Mostly. And I like hanging out with him.
Malaya: Do you think of him as a friend?
Elias: Yeah, of course. Though I don't know what Vincent thinks.
Malaya: Well, he lets you follow him to his classes. He buys you lunch sometimes.
Malaya: He shares his stupid, dry sense of humor with you. My brother doesn't do any of those things for people he doesn't consider friends.

Page 307[]

Elias: I guess you would know. Do you think Vincent would ever be interested in being more than friends? Like, with me, in a... gay manner.
Malaya: I have no idea. Is it okay if he isn't?
Elias: Well, I have a massive, super-obvious crush on your brother and if he's not into guys, I'd like to work on getting over him so I can move on. I'd rather just be Vincent's friend instead of a creep pursuing someone who's not into me.
Malaya: Well... I don't know if he's ever dated anyone. He mostly focuses on plants and endangered frogs and stuff. He's got the same interest in biology as my mom, but multiplied by like, ten.
Elias: Okay, plants and frogs don't give me any clues. Who did he take to prom?
Malaya: Vince escorted a lesbian couple so they wouldn't be harassed by anyone.
Elias: Wow, that's adorable. Still doesn't help me guess if he likes dudes... What are you doing?
Malaya: Texting my brother to ask him.
Elias: What?! You can't just ask him!
Malaya: Don't worry about it.

Page 308[]

Malaya (text): Hey, are you attracted to guys?
Vincent (text): I don't know
Vincent (text): why? Malaya (text): Just wondering
Elias: That was not helpful.
Malaya: No, it was.
Malaya: I guarantee you that Vince is sitting at home trying to figure out why he can't answer my question.
Elias: I don't get it. Who hasn't spared a thought about their sexuality into adulthood?
Malaya: Vincent.
Elias: Your brother is weird.
Malaya: Yeah, the "staying away from people due to werewolf issues" thing didn't work out well for either of us.
Malaya: Like I said, Vince has a one-track mind, and it's mostly focused on saving bees or whatever. You have to be direct with him. Trust me, I know my brother.

Page 309[]

Malaya: Wow, you look rough.
Charlene: I'll be fine after I throw back a few cups of coffee.
Charlene: After we close, you need to get your people here to talk about the crazy stuff this mug put into my brain, 'cause I'm only going to recount this nonsense once.
Elias: Uh, okay. I can do that.
Charlene: Then, I'm gonna go home and get very drunk and forget all of this.
Elias: I'll text Marin and Marisa. I don't think my mom can make it, though. She's in detroit at a landscaping conference.
Malaya: Coffee.
Charlene: Merci bien.

Page 310[]

Charlene: Okay, so...
Charlene: Mal already explained to us what she learned from Aubrey, but that is definitely not the whole story.
Charlene: Once upon a time, there were two very messed-up people in very messed-up love...

Page 311[]

Flora: Thomas, please let me explain!
Thomas: We broke up months ago! What the hell is this, Flora?
Flora: We weren't broken up!
Thomas: You disappeared! I figured that was a pretty clear sign!
Flora: Don't be mad at me! I didn't know what to do!
Thomas: I thought you said you took... precautions.
Flora: I did.
Thomas: You did. Really.

Page 312[]

Flora: I did, Tom. I used the right spell to keep from getting pregnant.
Flora: But you seemed like you were pulling away from me, and I thought you were going to leave...
Thomas: Let me make sure I understand: You did this on purpose.
Thomas: You got pregnant on purpose, even though you know how dangerous it is for a witch to have a werewolf's child, and you're blaming me. Then you disappeared for months.
Flora: I left because I knew you'd be mad, and I don't like when you're mad.

Page 313[]

Thomas: Yeah! Of course I'm mad! I didn't want this and you lied to me. We agreed that having a kid wasn't an option!
Thomas: That baby needs all the energy it can get, or you'll both die.
Thomas: My pack is gonna have to give you enough magic or this baby will suck you dry.
Flora: No! I refuse to beg your pack for help! I won't be humiliated that way! I made it this far without them.
Thomas: You look terrible. A witch can't raise a werewolf alone, let alone be pregnant with one. You don't have access to enough magic for this.
Flora: I do! It's all around us.
Thomas: So you're just gonna drain the magic from every goddamn tree in Michigan without consequences?!
Flora: It'll be fine.

Page 314[]

Thomas: You won't be fine. You wouldn't have even called me if you weren't having problems gettin' the magic you need. You can't just decide what reality to live in. You'll both die.
Flora: I called you because I love you, and I missed you, and I need you!
Flora: And now you're mad at me! I knew you'd be mad at me! I just didn't want to lose you. I'd do anything to keep you with me, Thomas.
Flora: I need you and our baby needs you...

Page 315[]

Thomas: Damn it. Just... you didn't have to leave, Flor. Come back with me. Stay with my pack and you can be healthy again.
Flora: No, Tom. Only you. I don't want your pack, I only want the two of us...
Thomas: That's not how this works, sugar. I'll do anything for you, but baby werewolves need a pack.
Flora: We only need you, though...

Page 316[]

Thomas: What is this?! What were you doing to me?!
Flora: Ah!
Thomas: That's why I felt better when you left. I felt stronger than I have in years! You've been sucking energy from me since we met!
Flora: This baby needs it. Please, Tom.
Flora: All I need is you and this baby can be safe and happy... We don't need your pack! We were stronger together!
Flora: AI was a better witch when I was with you!

Page 317[]

Thomas: Flora! You can't just take my energy!
Flora: You said you'd do anything for me. That you'd give me whatever I wanted. What I want is to be the best damn witch on this planet, and I was with you by my side.
Thomas: Using me like a battery doesn't make you a more powerful witch... It just means you've been cheating.
Flora: I need you, Tom! The baby will die without you! I'll die without you!
Thomas: God, I honestly don't want anything to do with you. Just come visit my pack with me. We'll think of something.

Page 318[]

Flora: No. Just you and me.
Thomas: That's not an option. We're going back to my pack, they'll help you through the pregnancy, and my pack can raise the baby as one of their own.
Flora: I wasn't asking.
Thomas: Flora! Flora! You gotta stop this!
Flora: It'll be just you and me, and our little werewolf.
Thomas: If you even survive this pregnancy, I'm taking that baby the hell away from you.
Flora: I'll never let you.
Thomas: You can't just do whatever you want without consequences, Flora.

Page 320[]

Flora: I won't let you leave me, Tom. You think I'd be afraid of a werewolf? You know I can heal myself as well as you can, even with this baby.
Thomas: You're delusional!
Flora: You're mine, Tom.

Page 322[]

Flora: Get back here! You're just leaving me here to die, you coward!
Charlene: Unfortunately Flora was so used to lying to herself about Thomas, her ability with magic, her pregnancy... everything... that reality catching up to her was a big surprise.
Flora: Damn it.
Flora: I need to heal. Just a little more magic and it'll all be fine...

Page 323[]

Flora: Nothing!
Flora: No, you can't deny me...
Flora: I swear... I only took what I needed! It was for the baby!
Flora: Surrounded by magic and I'm being denied. I'm so tired...
Flora: It's not enough. Like a door's just been closed...<br

Page 324[]

Flora: Baby...
Flora: He left us, baby.
Flora: I don't understand.
Flora: I'm cold.
Flora: Tom?
Flora: You're not Tom.

Page 325[]

Flora: A wolf... No, a werewolf.
Flora: Where did you come from? No one in Thomas's pack is able to shift as far as you.
Flora: Can you help me? Please? My baby is going to die if you don't help me... You have so much magic in you... I can feel it from here.
Flora: You feel like sunshine. I'm so cold.

Page 326[]

325]== Flora: Thank you... for finding me.
Flora: I don't know where you came from but you came and found me... I think you were meant to find me.

Page 327[]

Elias: So, Grandma retires, spends a few years running around the woods all wolfy, and then... what? Just finds a random dying pregnant lady and saves her life?
Marin: Well, if she was already in the woods nearby, you're grandma probably heard the fight and wanted to see what was happening...
Charlene: She was an alpha werewolf who saw Flora as just a person in trouble... and did what any good alpha would do.
Elias: Protected the weak...
Charlene: Yeah.
Marisa: Yuck, my witch crush was a total asshole! Flora Conradine turns out to be the creep int he woods using werewolves for batteries, and here I thought magic is supposed to be give and take.
Marisa: Emphasis on "give."
Charlene: I guess I get that you can borrow magic from a werewolf, but I don't know how you could just... take it. I'm gonna ask my mom, because Flora was definitely stealing magic from Tom.
Malaya: I feel creeped out right now.
Charlene: You totally should.

Page 328[]

Charlene: There's more, just... I still have a lot to explain. I'm gonna keep going.
Charlene: Anyway, Aubrey was born and things seemed fine... they took up squatting in that creepy house...
Charlene: Your grandmother stuck around. Why didn't she just leave?
Elias: Her instincts wouldn't have let her leave a baby werewolf alone... without another alpha to challenge her, she didn't have a reason to leave right away.
Charlene: Makes sense.<br Charlene: The pregnancy totally drained Flora of magic, and her wounds from Thomas weren't healing...
Charlene: She kept adding wards to the house to keep Tom from finding them... so she was running on less than fumes at that point.

Page 329[]

Charlene: Flora had taken so much magic out of the earth for her pregnancy and never given any of it back... that the earth started repossessing the magic by force to square up. The magic she got from grandma werewolf wasn't enough to pay this debt, ward the house and keep Flora alive.
Charlene: So, you grandmother...
Elias: Oh, her name is Ziva.<br Charlene: Makes sense.<br Charlene: Okay, so Ziva was still hangin' out.
Charlene: Gotta protect that werewolf baby... and she was too wolfy to really be aware or concerned that Flora was an asshole...
Charlene: And they... merged.<br

Page 330[]

Elias: Merged?!
Charlene: Yeah, that's what the stupid mug showed me... Flora was directly jacked into Ziva as a power source, permanently. It seemed like they were actually tethered together somehow.
Elias: Hm...
Marisa: Flora's main skill seems to involve manipulating plants, but maybe that extends to organic matter in general.
Marisa: So if she's already in a magic deficit, Flora might have reached too far and formed a permanent connection.
Marin: Is that... a thing?
Charlene: Not that I've heard. But this is somebody who's not great with boundaries, and I can't tell how much of this merger was by choice.
Charlene: Once she's got an old, powerful alpha werewolf as her magic battery, as long as Flora doesn't drain off more magic than she needs, she would be set for life.
Charlene: But this scenario is like giving a shopping addict a credit card with a super high limit...
Malaya: Magic is... weird.

Page 331[]

Charlene: Yeah, so, Flora had an alpha werewolf as her personal nuclear reactor...
Charlene: The influx of magic was enough to keep her wounds from returning...
Charlene: But flora was getting more paranoid, changed her name, added even more wards to the house...
Charlene: After a few years, Ziva was running outta juice to power all these wards and spells running 24/7... she couldn't regenerate magic fast enough to keep up with demand.
Charlene: Flora's injuries returned... Well, at this point, she's Connie Greensmith.
Charlene: So, Connie started looking for alternatives...

Page 332[]

Malaya: She swiped magic from a toddler?!
Charlene: Once you've decided to ignore the autonomy of one werewolf, why not just keep going?
Marisa: I'm sorry this woman's life is in your brain now.
Charlene: Thank you. It's not great.
Elias: So... she's off the grid this whole time? Hunting her own food and stuff...
Charlene: Oh, no. Connie was a trust fund baby. She blew through more magic to get power to the house... ...then did what any rich sociopath would have done in the mid-90s... got into day trading and made bank on the dot-com boom.
Malaya: Is there some reason her wounds kept coming back?
Elias: Tom was clearly super pissed off. If he was angry enough when he attacked Connie, the trace amounts of magic his claws left behind could have reopened the wounds out of spite. Magic can interact with a person's emotions and have different effects. Even if, in this case, Tom didn't transfer enough magic to transform her into a werewolf.
Charlene: Plus, most witches ward ourselves from being transformed without our consent.
Charlene: But yeah, lie to yourself often enough, and I guess a person can justify anything after awhile. ....Like stealing magic from a toddler.
Charlene: Pauvre 'tit-chou.

Page 333[]

Charlene: Ziva was not okay with Connie siphoning magic from Aubrey...
Connie: You can't do anything. Aubrey's magic is already attached to mine. If you kill me, she'll die too. And so will you.
Charlene: To make matters worse for Ziva, the extra boost of magic from Aubrey was what Connie needed to realize her ability to manipulate organic matter... ....extended to the werewolves she was already connected with.
Charlene: And from there, the gloves were off.

Page 334[]

Charlene: Things at the creepy house were pretty tense after Connie's discovery.
Charlene: I mean, Ziva had a witch trying to invade her brain over and over, but she couldn't leave.
Charlene: It took Connie a few years to actually figure out how to control Ziva... All that new power gave her some real messed up ideas.
Charlene: Mal, became the first test case...
Charlene: Only, unfortunately for Connie... ...she wasn't as good at enthralling a little kid as Ziva would have been...
Maria: Malaya!!

Page 335[]

Charlene: Mal's love for her parents, plus Connie's poor control over Ziva, was enough to break through the enthrall.
Charlene: Connie was too shocked at being punched by a little kid to stick around. She wasn't sure Mal even survived the bite.
Charlene: So, like anyone who was foiled by a five-year-old, she kept trying! Connie just, ya know... attacked random, unattended toddlers for a few years. (By the time she got to Tim, the transformations weren't quite working, though.)
Charlene: Turning all those werewolves didn't help the whole magical debt situation at all.
Marisa: Like I explained before, making a werewolf is like turning milk into yogurt! The magic that initiates the transformation will multiply over time, but it takes tons of magic initially to turn someone. Plus, Ziva is old! Her magical reserves can't take being drained over and over.

Page 336[]

Charlene: The biggest problem is that, in the present, Connie's gotten way more desperate.
Charlene: As they grew up, Connie's werewolves helped keep all the wards and spells going that she kept casting, but she was using up all that werewolf magic quicker than they could generate more.
Charlene: Those magical debts kept coming back to haunt her... and Connie wanted to take advantage of still having some ability to control Ziva.
Charlene: If she could turn one more person, literally anyone, maybe she'd be able to keep going...

Page 337[]

Malaya: Oh. Damn.
Elias: I came to Crescent Lake because an article in the newspaper said rabid coyotes were killing people, and that's like a big neon sign that says "werwolf?" But I never thought the real answers would end up so twisted.
Elias: There wasn't much to go on, but my research turned up a bit more info. Connie's wards made sniffing out physical evidence impossible. The first victim was Kiley Seeger, twenty-four. She was bitten while jogging near the creepy house.
Elias: The second victim was Eric Fazekas, thirty-two. He was bitten while hunting in the woods near Connie. She must've been desperate to go after a guy with a rifle.
Marin: From what I overheard in my ward, the causes of death were listed as sepsis. The patients were unconscious when they arrived at the hospital and died the same day. When the transformations didn't take, I guess Connie called for help anonymously?
Charlene: My visions got pretty vague after the victim's died. Since then Connie's been hiding and just... going off the rails. Um, more than usual.
Elias: This lady has been hurting people under our noses for years, using my own grandma. God, this sucks.
Marin: Maybe now we can get some justice for all of her victims, though.

Page 338[]

Malaya: There has to be a way to get Aubrey and her pack away from Connie. I don't think she'll hesitate to take the pack down with her, and we don't have much time.
Elias: Grandma turned those werewolves, so the Ross pack is technically responsible for them. Mom's gonna need to decide how to resolve this issue, but we'll need a freaking legion to take Connie on.
Malaya: What about a non-violent solution? Maybe it sounds naive, but can't Connie just... pay back all the magic she owes?
Charlene: Being pregnant with a werewolf is like gestating a magical black hole. Who knows how much magic Connie went through before the forest cut her off, but when the earth itself hates you, it's gonna charge interest.
Malaya: Hm.
Elias: We need the werewolf council on our side for real this time, or we'll piss off our main source of potential backup. Hopefully they'll make decisions quick so the council can get back to complaining about their regular shit. In the meantime, we should all do some training together.
Malaya: Yeah, I guess I can't just do nothing or the wait will make me crazy.
Malaya: Cool. We'll give Mal a crash course in werewolfing, and that'll give us a much better chance of being ready for our next move. I don't have high hopes for diplomacy as a solution here.

Page 339[]

Malaya: Was there anything else you got from the... mug-induced visions?
Charlene: Don't know about y'all, but I need to call it a night. I'm going home and getting very drunk so I can forget today ever happened.
Elias: Um, we need to have a very long weird phone call with my mom.
Marin: Tonight, if possible.
Elias: She'll need to wrangle the werewolf council for a conference call tomorrow. Short notice makes them grumpier than usual.
Charlene: I can give you a ride home, Mal.
Malaya: Oh, thanks! I just have to lock up.
Malaya: Bye! See you tomorrow, Elias!
Charlene: Hello again, Alphonsus.

Page 340[]

Malaya: Hey, um, I just wanted to thank you. You've done a ton to help me, and make me feel better about this whole werewolf thing.
Malaya: I know there's not really anything in it for you, but we'd all be totally screwed if you weren't here.
Charlene: You're welcome. There's something in it for me, though.
Charlene: I had a very different life before I came up here to find you.

Page 341[]

Malaya: Um, were things that bad in New Orleans?
Charlene: Nah, New Orleans was great. I worked at a major local TV news station doing research. I got my degree in journalism, so it was an okay fit.
Malaya: Whaaaaaaat?! You gave up a real adult job to make coffee with me? In a state that's cold half the year?
Charlene: I mean, yeah. Things were good, but I always felt like I was trying to shove myself into a mold that didn't fit. At the news station, I was this buttoned-up, no-nonsense person who kept her head down and did fact-checking all day...
Charlene: And after work, well... New Orleans is crammed full of witches.
Charlene: That many witches don't always get along, which meant all these damn meetings to work out interpersonal issues and read poetry and shit. That wasn't really my thing.

Page 342[]

Charlene: I needed to figure out who I was away from all that. When you popped up in a vision one day, moving to Michigan in the middle of winter felt right. And cold. Really cold. But it was a good excuse.
Charlene: Who knows, maybe I'll go back to that life eventually. For right now, I just like having my witch-side and my Charlene-side be one person for awhile.
Malaya: That's really brave of you, to just pack up your life and move to a totally different place. I can't imagine ever being able to do that.
Charlene: Thanks, but bravery is overrated.
Charlene: Sometimes, you gotta look at your life and realize something isn't working, and when the chance to make a big change comes along, you just take it.
Charlene: You don't have to be brave, you just have to get past that first part where you think you've made a stupid decision. After you've been on the road ten hours, turning around stops being appealing.
Malaya: That's very similar to something my mom said.
Malaya: Thanks for the ride!
Charlene: No prob. Don't call me in tomorrow, I'll be hungover!
Malaya: Understandable!

Page 343[]

Vincent: You're pitching too low.
Joy: Vince, there's a reason I joined band. Throwing things isn't involved in playing the french horn.
Joy: Oh, thank god. Your shadow is here!
Joy: Can you throw this at him? Vince gets sad when he's left alone lately.
Elias: Sure?
Elias: Uh, what?
Vince: I'm not sad, Joy!
Joy: Whatever, your face gets weird. I only agreed to practice with you so your face wouldn't get weird.

Page 344[]

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