Leda’s Log. A behind-the-scenes, slice-of-life look into the Legion of Angels, hosted by Leda Pandora, the Angel of Chaos.

Warning: may include abnormally-large cats and adorable baby angels.

Magic changes people, often in unexpected ways. Join Leda and Nero as they explore an interesting twist of magic.

Leda’s Log

Part 16: Magical Changes

The tree had a full head of lush green leaves and big, red, juicy apples. Each of the apples was at least twice as large as any apple that I’d ever seen. Besides that, there wasn’t anything remarkable about the tree.

Well, except for the fact that it had spoken to us.

“Please, help me,” the tree said again.

I pressed my ear to its rough, rippled trunk, listening. Almost at once, I jumped away. “It has a heartbeat! It’s alive!”

“Most trees are,” Nero pointed out.

“You’re adorable when you’re being a smart-ass, Windstriker.” I blew him a kiss.

Angel slid past me, rubbing the side of her face against the bark. She looked at me and meowed.

“I think she’s trying to tell me something.”

“Yes,” Nero agreed.

I crouched down in front of my cat. “Ok, I’m listening,” I told her.

Angel meowed again, which, honestly, wasn’t all that helpful.

“Maybe you could act it out?” I suggested.

Angel turned her back on me, tail high in the air, which gave me a spectacular view of her rear end. Then she rose onto her hind legs, pressed her front paws to the tree, and sniffed it.

“I believe she wants us to smell the tree,” Nero said.

“Sure, why not?” I laughed. “That wouldn’t even be the craziest thing that we’ve done today.”

But after getting a whiff of the tree, I had to reassess that statement.

“It smells human.” I looked at Nero. “There’s someone inside the tree.”

“Actually, I don’t think there’s someone inside the tree.” He pressed his hand to the trunk and took another whiff. “I think this someone is the tree.”

My gaze slid down the tree trunk. My eyeballs might have popped out of my sockets when I saw a ripple of bark that looked just like a braid of human hair. And one of the tree’s branches was reaching upward, like an arm, complete with five fingers.

“A tree-human hybrid?” I asked.

Yep, that was weird. And saying it out loud made it feel even weirder.

“Tree people.” I chuckled. “Suddenly, interdimensional smoke animals seem totally normal by comparison.”

“I’m not a tree person,” the tree told me. The voice was distinctly feminine. “My name is Aspen.”

“That’s a pretty tree-y name,” I told her.

“Yes, well, I was not always a tree,” she replied. “I was once a person, just like you.”

“And when was that?” I asked.

“A few days ago? A week? I don’t know actually. I’ve lost track of time. It passes strangely here.”

“Where is here?” Nero asked her.

“A waypoint between dimensions,” she replied. “Everyone passes through this space when using the magic mirrors or teleporting. It just happens so quickly that normally you don’t even see it.”

“So how did you get here?” I wondered. “And, for that matter, how did we get here?”

“I got stuck while using the magic mirrors. A freak accident that should not have happened. Somehow, I materialized here, right inside of this tree, and the flowers and branches grew around me.” Aspen’s leaves rustled, like she was shaking out her skirts. “As for you, well…” Another leafy rustle. “Well, I asked my animal friends to bring you here.”

“Animal friends?” I looked at Angel.

She blinked at me, two eyes, very, very slowly.

“Yes, my animal friends,” said Aspen. “They live here, in this place. They found me here, stuck in this tree, and we quickly became friends. They couldn’t free me, but they could go look for help. They found you, Leda Pandora. They came back to tell me all about your exploits, your unique mindset that helps you solve unusual problems.” Aspen’s branches flittered. “My problem is unusual.”

“It definitely is,” I agreed.

“As soon as my friends told me about you, I knew you were the right person to help me.”

“These friends,” said Nero. “You’re speaking of the animals we encountered at Storm Castle. They are interdimensional beings.”


“And they brought us here?”

“Yes. But they didn’t mean any harm,” she added quickly.

“They attacked us at Storm Castle,” said Nero.

“They weren’t trying to hurt you. That strange machine drew them to your castle. They got scared. They were just looking for a way home. And then they saw her.” One of the branches pointed at me. “They realized she could help me get free.”

“So they ensnared us,” Nero said.


“They threw us in a time-and-space dreamworld blender,” I pointed out. “Or at least they enchanted Nero’s pen to do it.”

“They just wanted to help me. That blender, as you call it, it was the best way to get you here.”

“Ok, so let’s say we believe you.” I looked away from a ripple in the bark that looked like a leg. It was all just so creepy. “What do you expect me to do about your situation?”

“Free me,” Aspen said serenely. “I know you can. You are a master at fixing weird problems.”

Maybe I should get a t-shirt that said just that: Leda Pandora, Angel of Chaos, a Master at Fixing Weird Problems.

“Well, I guess I could try to help you, as long as you promise you’re not evil.”

“Evil?” Aspen repeated, her trunk crinkling like a furrowed brow. “Why would you think that I’m evil?”

“Because evil people have a knack for finding me and causing all kinds of trouble.”

Nero nodded in agreement.

“I am not evil,” Aspen insisted.

She sounded so sincere that I couldn’t help but believe her.

“Well, ok, then,” I said. “I’ll help you.”

“You will?” Hope crept into her voice, and her apples jingled like bells. “Oh, thank you! Thank you!”

I lifted a warning finger. “Just don’t make me regret it.”

Her apples stopped jingling. Her voice grew quiet, serious. “I won’t. I promise.”

“Okie dokie, how about you tell me how you got stuck in that tree?”

“I already told you. I was taking a magic mirror—”

“Details. I need details,” I told her. “Paint a picture, play by play, and don’t leave anything out.”

“Oh, of course.” Aspen cleared her throat—or at least I thought that’s what she was doing. She was a tree, so it sounded different, kind of like the sound a woodpecker made drumming its beak against a trunk. “Well, you see, I am a princess. Or at least I’m supposed to be. The official list hasn’t been announced yet, but everyone expects me to be on it.”

“Official list?”

“Yes, on my world, the new monarch is decided by popular vote.”

“So anyone can be monarch?”

“No, of course not,” she giggled. “That’s where the official list comes in. In order to make the list, you must build up enough support. You must form alliances. If your alliances are strong enough, you are added to the official candidate list. The people on that list are named the princes and princesses of the Court. They’re the only ones eligible to become monarch at the next vote. Which will happen very soon, following a series of pageants and contests.”

Wow. And here I’d thought deity politics were complicated.

“I’d just about gathered all of my documentation to be signed by the royal notary when the accident happened,” Aspen continued. “I was bringing along a basket of apples.”

“Just in case you got hungry?”

“No, to bribe the notary, of course,” she tittered. “I’ve found that when I bring him apples, I’m always jumped straight to the front of the queue.”

“Because you give him apples? Really?”

I would have understood cookies or cupcakes, but apples?

“Apples are a rare delicacy on my world,” Aspen said. “They don’t grow there. So I went on a little shopping trip on Earth to pick them up. On my way home through the magic portal, I ended up here. Like this.” Her bough shook, raining down apples. “And every moment that passes, I become more and more a tree. Soon I won’t even be able to speak anymore.”

I picked up one of the apples she’d dropped, lifting it to my nose. “The apple smells like you, Aspen.” I inhaled again, more deeply this time. “And you smell like apples.”

“Yes, the apples and I seemed to, well, merge during transport. We combined into one being, an apple tree stuck here, at this waypoint. My friends and I have tried to separate the apples from me—”

“Why would you do that?” I cut in.

“Because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life as an apple tree.”

“I think you’re going about this all wrong,” I told her. “You shouldn’t try to separate the apples from the woman. You’ve already merged. You are one being now. There’s no way to separate you.”

“So I’m doomed to stay like this forever?” The tree sagged.

“No.” I gave the trunk a comforting pat. “Not if you stop fighting it.”

“Fighting what?”

“Fighting yourself,” I said. “Remember what I said? You and the apples are one now. But you haven’t accepted that. You’re fighting the transformation.”

“Of course I’m fighting it! I don’t want to be a tree!”

“But you are a tree now, or at least some part of you is. Denying that won’t change anything. You need to embrace the change.”


“This magic,” I said, indicating the talking apple tree, “it’s unusual, yes, but at the end of the day, it seems to follow the same fundamental rules of magic. When magic touches you, it changes you, whether that’s Nectar, Venom, or mysterious interdimensional tree voodoo. To survive that change, you can’t fight it. You must accept it. You must welcome it with open arms and an open mind. Because this is who you are now.”

Silence descended on the orchard for a long while. Finally, Aspen spoke.

“You’re sure about this?” she asked me.

I shrugged. “As sure as I can be.”

“Ok.” A slow, thick wave rippled across the trunk, like Aspen was swallowing her fears. “I will do as you say, Leda Pandora.”

Puffy clouds and bursts of sunshine washed across the sky like watercolor streaks, twirling, swirling, dancing around each other. The apple tree began to sing. The song was joyous and sad, violent and calm—but most of all, it was beautiful. The conflicting notes and emotions clashed and collided at first, but they soon blended together into a smooth, seamless rhythm.

The tree canopy trembled, then completely disappeared. The apple tree was gone. In its place stood a young woman, tall and beautiful. Her hair, ash-colored, twisted into a braid, almost touched the ground. Apple blossoms grew between the strands. Her long gown was apple-red. And when Aspen lifted her hand, palm-up, tiny leaves sprinkled out of her fingertips. The leaves flitted up, up, up, moving through the air like a swarm of butterflies.

“Wow,” she gasped. She did a tight turn, laughing. “This is amazing!” She fluttered her fingers, and a new tree grew out of the ground in front of her.

“By embracing her new self, she has gained some new magic,” Nero observed. “A special affinity with plants.”

Aspen drew in a deep breath, closing her eyes. “Yes, I can feel them all. All the trees and flowers.”

A glowing white bunny hopped through the field of new flowers blooming all around us. My huntress cat crouched down into the tall grass, watching and waiting.

Aspen opened her eyes. “You’re here!” She dropped to her knees and petted the bunny on the head. “Say hello to my new friends, Leda Pandora and Nero Windstriker.”

The bunny took one look at us, then hopped away in fright. Angel let out a long, disappointed meow.

“Thank you!” Aspen clasped my hands. “You saved me.”

“You saved yourself,” I told her. “Once you accepted your magic.”

“Yes, I guess I…” She frowned.

“What is it?” I asked her.

“It’s so late,” she gasped. “So very late! I’ve lost so much time here. I have to go.”

I caught her hand as she turned to leave. “But not before you send us home.”

“Oh, right. Yes, of course. Of course.” Aspen waved, and the bunny came hopping back to us.

Angel’s ears perked up.

“Clover will show you the way home,” Aspen told us.

“So just follow the bunny?” I looked at Nero. “Sounds easy enough.”

It wasn’t easy at all, of course. That bunny was fast. Even Angel was having trouble keeping up with it, and she was very, very motivated to catch it. Eventually, just past the cherry trees, Clover the bunny did a little somersault in the air, revealing a glowing portal. Then it hopped away.

“No, not that way,” I told Angel, grabbing her by the scruff of her neck. Or at least trying to. It had been a lot easier back when she’d been a kitten. “We want to go home.”

Honestly, Angel looked like she wanted to keep on chasing bunnies, but between me and Nero, we convinced her that home was way better than an interdimensional orchard waypoint. We might have also bribed her with promises of cat treats and cake. My cat really liked cake.

The three of us tumbled through the portal and into our living room. Everything looked exactly as we’d left it.

“Are we sure we’re really home?” I asked aloud because someone had to.

“We’re home,” Nero told me. “I can feel it.”

We found Sierra asleep in our enormous bed. When Angel jumped up there, she muttered a sleepy ‘fluffy teddybear’, then snuggled up to the cat. Nero and I joined them and drifted off to sleep, happy and content.

Until our next adventure…

To be continued…

Two Ragdoll cats on a tree.

Cats and trees. That’s Savannah on the top perch and Nero chillin’ in the basket.

So this concludes the second story of Leda’s Log. Stories 1 & 2 are set between Phoenix’s Refrain and Demon’s Mark (Legion of Angels Books 10 and 11).

Story 3 of Leda’s Log takes place after Gods’ Battleground (Legion of Angels Book 12), so I’ll wait to post the next chapter until after that book releases.

The story continues soon in the next entry of Leda’s Log!