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rated PG-13

The crate was large, about as high as a sitting person and as wide, though that was not what made all of them pause. It stood in the middle of their current hideout. They had moved into the old mill less than a week ago. "It's too early for me to get mail again," Amaranthe said quietly in the stunned silence.
     "I didn't tell anybody." Maldynado hurried to point out. "Really. This time not even that nicely busted—" 
     "I don't want to know," Amaranthe interrupted him. "Akstyr?" He'd been the only member of their team, who'd been at camp all day. "Did you see, who brought it?" 
     "Dunno." The youth didn't bother to look up from the thick tome bound in pale leather. Amaranthe's hands itched to wipe the green mold off its cover every time she saw it, but Akstyr had insisted they shouldn't touch it. It would be a cure-all. Really. The moment he figured it out, everything would be alright. Forever. He grumbled. "It's just popped up," he said sullenly. "I read this line and—" 
     "You mean," Books blinked rapidly. "It took shape? Out of nothing?" 
     "Uh huh..." Akstyr nodded, his finger following the text on a yellowed page. He mumbled, trying to discern the words and a creaking sound arose from the crate. A crack opened along the lid, slowly widening. Pale, bluish light flickered inside. 
     "Stay back." Sicarius, black dagger drawn, cautiously moved closer. The flickering bluish light drew eerie shadows on his face when he peered inside. 
     He leaped back. Pale as a ghost, he whirled around, yelling "RUN!" 

Extended training sessions in the stadium at night and along the lakeside made sure that they could keep his breakneck pace for over an hour, before Books stumbled and, panting, fell to his knees. Maldynado staggered. Akstyr... was nowhere to be seen. Amaranthe stopped, even as Sicarius tried to pull her on. She frowned, met his eyes... 
...and found his mask gone. Naked fear stood on his face as he looked back at where they'd come from. She followed his line of sight, but the path between the high pines was empty. Peaceful. Almost... tranquil with humming insects in golden beams of evening sunlight. She reached out, trying to lay a calming hand on his arm, and instead found herself caressing his bare chest under a black shirt that was miraculously unbuttoned and wide open despite the leather straps holding his knives collection. 
     She blinked. How–? 
     A hen clucked. Beside them, Isabel led a dozen chicks towards a seemingly flustered Maldynado. And why was Books suddenly leering at Basilard? 
     Sicarius's hand closed painfully around her arm. She felt him trembling as he turned her away. Trembling? 
     "You have encountered something like this before, didn't you?" she inquired, shocked at his emoting. And his state of dress now involving skin-tight black leather pants, riding so low on his hips that there was no question about his lack of underwear left. 
     He nodded. His jaw working. "The entity defies logic. You can't defeat it." 
     "How do you think Admiral Starcrest became my father?" 
     "Well, I assume between him and your mother—" 
     He snorted. "No. I was lucky that the entity's fancy hit Starcrest, not me. I... survived. Barely," he stressed. 
     Amaranthe breathed heavily, breathed him in. She fought the fog in her head. Was that a tub next to them on the forest floor? With pink bubbles rising over its edge, filling the clearing with smells of strawberries and mints? She struggled to make sense of it. "But what is it?" she asked, fighting not to kiss him in all this madness. If she managed that, her scheming mind might work enough to find a solution, a— 
     Her mind blanked out as Sicarius's lips touched hers. 
     He said the answer with his last independent breath into her mouth: "A fanfic author." 

The End... 
...No, they won't be that lucky! 

This story was written in less than one hour today (after I spent the last two weeks in the Emperor's Edge fan forum and on Twitter, observing the fangirling reaching new spheres (I kid you not!). It is currently unbetaed, so if you spot any mistakes I missed in the hurry, please let me know. Otherwise... good luck! This story is CRACK. UTTER forum-induced CRACK. Consider yourself warned! 
The Emperor's Edge series, including Sicarius and Hollowcrest, are copyright Lindsay Buroker, who kindly allowed derivative fiction of her works. This story is licensed internationally under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0: CC BY-SA

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