The doorbell sent Trey and Rez scrambling for the knob, trying good-naturedly to knock each other aside with their elbows. They flung the door open so vigorously that the children outside drew back in surprise before screaming “Trick or treat!” at the top of their little lungs.
The kids were dressed in an assortment of costumes: a princess carrying a sword and wearing a wool cap in deference to the chilly air, a blue furry monster swiveling its head to see out of tiny eye holes, a mermaid with a sequined tail over her arm, two superheroes, and a knight.
“A tiny fellow knight!” Trey exclaimed in delight, and he and Rez both bowed respectfully.
The child knight looked like he was trying to decide if they were making fun of him.
“I’m Iron Man!” one of the other costumed children declared. The mermaid tried to hide behind her tail.
The two parties stood staring at each other until the blue monster asked, “Where’s the candy?” in a muffled voice.
Gwen, leaning just inside the door, held the bowl out to Trey and Rez with a grin. They took fistfuls of candy and emptied them into the offered bags and plastic pumpkins.
“Truly, I thought you were jesting,” Rez said, as the children tramped happily away down the walkway back to the quiet street. The unicorn shifter shook his head in wonder.
“It is a most puzzling custom,” Trey agreed.
“Are you sure that adults cannot also do this?” Rez asked wistfully, watching the kids comparing treats as they returned to their trek down the street.
“It’s the greatest tragedy of growing up,” Gwen said mournfully. “We’re going to need more candy at this rate! Where did it all go?”
Trey looked guilty. “The tiny sweets were very tempting.”
“I picked up another bag while I was out yesterday,” Ansel called from the kitchen. “Thank you, Ansel!” he joked.
“You’re an angel, Ansel!” Gwen hollered back.
“No, you’re the angel!”
Gwen was dressed in a flimsy white dress over leggings, a halo on her head and tiny pair of feathered wings held on with elastic.
“Beg to differ,” Gwen retorted.
Ansel worked some kind of highly variably technical computer job remotely, occasionally taking long business trips to consult. The second hand store that he owned in Wimberlette was clearly not something he required for solvency but seemed to be something he used as a way of emptying a cluttered old house that he’d inherited. Instead of complaining when a dragon broke a hole in the roof of his shop to fight horrible dark forces from another world and trashed his warehouse, he had offered a room in his home to Gwen, who had come through a portal from across the country without a wallet in her pocket and no way to get home. Heather and her unicorn-shifting fae knight, Rez, had followed from Georgia several months later. Daniella and Trey (who happened to be the dragon that had clawed through his shop roof) spent so much time at Ansel’s house that he finally suggested that they simply move in and save on rent.
He only asked that they keep the space clean and the fridge stocked, and calmly converted half of his gigantic garage into a sparring space.
Rez and Trey stood watching out of the window while Gwen took the bowl in to refill. “Another troop approaches!” Trey announced with great excitement.
Ansel and Gwen exchanged an amused look and Gwen hurried back to the living room with the coveted candy.
The knights greeted this group with a little more decorum and happily handed out brightly-decorated candy to the squealing kids wearing an array of handmade and store-bought costumes.
The next group was already scrambling up the stairs before the last ones were gone, and for a short while, the knights were kept busy filling pillowcases and tote bags.
“It is so delightful here,” Rez said, looking wistfully after the children. “So safe and happy.”
“Pray we keep it thus,” Trey said mournfully. The dragon shifter slung a casual arm around his shieldmate.
Gwen watched them exchange a look of sorrow and played with her sparkly tinsel halo.
Sometimes it was hard to remember the impending danger. The boundary between her world and theirs would become weaker and weaker towards the end of the year, and when it was thinnest, the darkness that had destroyed their land would try to do the same here. Gwen had already battled the forerunners of the attack, a terrible vicious bleak and the evil, mindless dours that it led.
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