Caddy Lombardi-Williams was most definitely not pleased.
She and her elder brother Felis and her twin sister Adaryn had been dragged along with their superstar mother to the shitty, run-down mountain town for South Park after her mother's retirement.
Her mother was quite literally rolling in money. She was a Welsh super-stuntsperson, and had appeared – not directly, of course – in thousands of Hollywood blockbusters around the globe. With absolutely no technical help. She could crash cars, fall out of helicopters without a parachute, be shot, punched, kicked, smashed up, drowned, attacked by wild animals, and – one of her most horrifying and astounding stunts – be set on fire. And walk out of the onslaught unharmed, whilst paramedics rushed to her side.
Caddy knew the truth, of course. Her mother – and her also, and possibly her sister – were pagan witches, worshippers of the Dragon Circle.
Not that anyone believed in that anymore.
Caddy's mother – Rhiannon Williams – wasn't really retired, of course. The press just loved to mess about with her many adoring fans (pffff yeah). No – Caddy knew that in less than a year's time she'd be on that set again, letting her body be mutilated in the most non-emo way earthly possible.
Rhiannon was young, too – in her mid-thirties, possibly. She'd had Caddy and Adaryn, the twins, at a relatively young age, before her career kicked off. Not so soon afterwards she married the slightly older Ferrari Lombardi, an Italian actor, who had a son (Felis) from an earlier marriage which had broken up over legal affairs. The two were well and truly taken with each other, even if Felis was a bit of a dick.
And this was all led up to the fact a very pissed off Caddy Lombardi-Williams was sitting in the back of their beat-up, everyday people carrier, listening to her stepdad's rowdy singing, staring out at the dismal mountain town of South Park.
"Alright." Rhiannon sat cross-legged on the bottom of Caddy and Adaryn's bedroom floor, her face a state of tranquil calm. "Deep breaths, girls. Tonight's the night, I know it!"
The smell of incense was heavy in the air as Caddy closed her own eyes, trying to ignore Adaryn's fidgeting. "Ey-up, there's that glow again, mam. I walk into it, right?"
"Yes. Now there should be a mountain in front of you."
"Yeah. There are little green and red flowers, too, and a lot of mist."
"Just walk up through it, sweetie. Your totem should be waiting at the top – but you've got to find it first."
A few minutes silence.
Adaryn giggled suddenly, and Caddy heard the sound of her mother shifting and frowned, struggling desperately to keep concentrating on walking through that infuriating pinky-purple mist.
"What is it, Adaryn?"
"I found it!"
"Oh? Good girl!"
"What is it, then?"
"It's a dolphin!" Adaryn giggled, but her voice was strangely distant. In her meditative state, drifting through that stupid pink mist, Caddy found her outstretched hand come in contact with something hard and rough. She tapped it, just to make sure it was there.
Caddy was half-dreaming, but the thing, whatever it was, felt so real she was half-inclined to open her eyes and see whether she was tapping something made out of stone in front of her. But she fought the urge. This weird stone formation was warm and slightly soft around the edges – and was attached to another, roughly triangular shape. Caddy frowned and leant through the mist.
Scales. Her hand had come into contact with scales.
She jumped, squeaked, made Adaryn and her mother lean over, just as two glowing eyes descended from the mist and a spiky muzzle came close to her face, the massive nose-spike almost gouging her eye out.
"Oi!" she said, almost irritated with the creature's careless movement.
The great scaly creature looked at her, and then gurgled. Its tail – long and flexible with a pointed, arrowhead tip – wrapped around one of her legs. Its big mouth seemed to curve in a vague grin, before it slowly began to vanish, the tail around her leg becoming insubstantial as the pink mist swallowed it up.
Caddy opened her eyes, the incense making her head hurt as she inhaled sharply, and she saw her mother – and behind her, the great shadowy figure that was her totem animal, a dog – and her little sister, faces wide and curious.
Caddy swallowed. "A dragon," she said. "I saw a dragon."
Felis and Ferrari, the two rowdy Italian boys in the pagan Welsh family, didn't understand one thing about the Dragon Circle, so they evidently were confused about the great fuss Rhiannon was asserting over Caddy the next day, as she, Adaryn and Felis prepared for their first day at school.
"Leave the poor child alone, Rhia," said Ferrari sweetly, his voice slightly muffled by the half-bitten piece of toast he held in his mouth as he adjusted Felis' collar. "I don't know what you get up to in that mystical little room of yours, but it isn't that important. She'll be fine!"
Rhiannon went to chide her husband, stopped, thought better of it and planted a kiss on the three childrens' cheeks. "You be good, you little rascals. Especially you, Felis. Having the totem animal of a coyote won't get you very far if you misuse it."
Ferrari rolled his eyes whilst Felis just grinned. The three half-siblings were booted out of the door rather unceremoniously after a glance at the clock proved they were a little bit too late for safety, and they made their way down the school bus stop, Felis, being the less used to cold weather than Adaryn and Caddy, bundled up in the warmest clothes he could find.
There were four other kids there two – a tall, wiry blonde in an orange parka, a muscly black-haired boy with a blue and red hat, a fierce-looking kid with curly red hair and a fatass whom Caddy immediately took a disliking to, as, when they walked up, he was mouthing off in a foul way to the fierce-looking redhead, who just seemed used to standing there and taking it.
Caddy scratched her shoulder as quietly as she possibly could. Engraved forever into her flesh in black ink was the curved, spiked head of a dragon, as the dolphin was now also tattooed onto Adaryn's shoulder. Her mother had done it for her – the tail of the dragon started above the middle-left point of her chest, where her heart was, its wing went across her collarbone, and her head rested on her shoulder, its claws stretched out as if clutching her skin. Adaryn's dolphin was in a similar position. Caddy remembered when Felis – two years ago, now, when she and Adaryn were only seven and just learning about paganism – found his coyote totem and walked around the house topless for hours, proudly showing off his black tattoo and screeching whenever Caddy or Adaryn tried to touch it.
It was illegal, of course, but Rhiannon had a big tradition fetish, and the tattoos had been in the Williams family for centuries. All Caddy had to do was keep it covered up – and, judging by its location, that wasn't going to be too hard.
But damn, it still itched.
Felis gave a sudden yell and leapt backwards in fright as a wildly swinging yellow schoolbus rounded the corner, almost slamming into the unlucky thirteen-year-old. The doors swung open with a horrible, rusty creak and the cankerous-looking woman sitting in the driver's seat screeched: "GET IN AND SIT DOWN!" at the top of her horrible, grating voice.
Adaryn and Caddy shared shocked glances between themselves and a hyperventilating Felis, and then the three stepsiblings reluctantly clambered onto the bus and found the only free collection of seats near the back, as far away from the madwoman as they possibly could.