(Opens the door)
Welcome to the official start of Volume 2 Arc 2
Warning: long chapter, and PG-16 for visual gore at the end of the chapter. As well as themes of murder and suicide.
No one’s POV
A strange tension was resting between Ashlynn and Nikolas as they stood a few feet apart. They’d never been physically this close – it shouldn’t be having the impact it was having on both now.
Yet both their hairs were on end. The kind associated to fear.
Ashe shook off the odd feeling and motioned for the four to come in.
“Come on in, we’ve got space in the living room.” She said, reaching for Niko’s shoulder to help him inside as he navigated through the doorway.
The moment her hand touched his shoulder, a jolt went through both – one that knocked Nikolas right out cold. He instantly fell to the ground, turning just enough so that Salandra fell on him instead of the other way around.
Ashe stood gaping as Alec quickly made his way through.
The vampire gently dropped his mother onto the couch and came back over to check on his nephew.
“What just happened?” Ashlynn asked bending down to check that the two were okay.
“I don’t know why, but he’s in a very very deep sleep state right now.” Alec said. He moved over to lift Salandra up. He was going to drop her on Philip’s favorite chair, when the latter stopped him.
“There’s not enough space, you can place them on our daughter’s old bed.” He rapidly interjected, leading Alec to the room in question.
Ashlynn checked in astral, but the curse was in a corner. It hadn’t moved – it couldn’t be the cause of this.
Whatever this was.
Nikolas woke up harshly in a dark place that felt eerily familiar.
A low rumble accompanied his awakening and he floated up to his feet. It only took him a few seconds to connect the dots. This was the dream scape Ashe kept talking about.
The one he vaguely remembered seeing after the explosion.
He looked up at the huge tree trunk that hadn’t been there then. Or maybe he just hadn’t seen it.
For something that looked positively dead, it felt like it was vibrating with energy.
What is this place?
“Hello?” Nikolas called out, but his voice didn’t even have an echo. The air swallowed it up, making him feel terribly isolated. The darkness seemed to go on forever.
There has to be a relation to astral.
Niko walked around the tree, secretly relishing in how light he felt. The heavy weight he’d been living with for…too long now…felt temporarily lifted.
There’s clearly a connection between how both him and Ashe had access to astral and this place.
Nikolas confirmed something else when he attempted to astral – and failed. As if he was already in astral.
He continued to float around the trunk, dragging his hand across the surprisingly smooth surface. It really did feel alive. As if thousands of things were coursing through it.
The floor shook underneath, only slightly, but enough to put him in alarm. He looked out into the darkness again. There’s something over there, he could feel it. A presence reaching out. It reminded him of the curse. Nikolas found himself sticking a little closer to the trunk.
That’s when he noticed Ashlynn, floating near the edge.
“You’re so sweet for having us! Do you need any help cooking? I’m really quite good. I make some mean salads.” Alec enthusiastically asked, smothering Crystal in thanks.
The vampire had tried to wake Nikolas up, but the young man was too far deep in a sleep state. As for Salandra, it was anesthetic drugs from the dart keeping her out. Once her system had flushed it out she’d wake up on her own.
Time and waiting was the only thing they could do right now.
Philip came out of the room with a pile of clothes in his hands. “Here, there’s a variety of choices to see what fits you. Feel free to take a shower.”
Alec stared dumbfounded, only to glance at his mother still emotionless on the sofa and then the door leading to the bedroom.
“I appreciate it, but it’s fine. We probably won’t be able to stay here long. The Hans are going to be looking for us we wouldn’t want to put you in jeopardy.”
“It’ll be easier to hide with different clothes. Take the time to yourself too. We’ll take care of them.” Crystal insisted with a smile, as Ashlynn exited her room.
Alec hesitated but gave in, grabbing the clothes with a thank you.
The black-haired teen adjusted her watch around her wrist. She hadn’t worn it in ages – hadn’t felt any need to. Nikolas had noticed a strange connection between their watches and they’d tested taking them off and had promptly forgotten about them. But now for some reason, Ashe was compelled to wear it again. For so long, her watch had served as a kind of safety blanket against her nightmares. The growing worry she’d gotten since Nikolas had passed out was making her yearn for that safety.
“I’ve never seen vampires from so close.” Crystal added as Ashe reached her side and Alec disappeared. She looked over her husband’s shoulder at one of their guests.
The elderly vampire slowly lifted her head up then, her golden eyes glowing creepily against her thin face.
“I hear they drink blood.” Philip muttered the obvious.
“I doubt Nikolas would’ve led people here with the intent to harm us. These are people that just got broken out of the lab. That place is horrible of course they look sketchy.” Ashe added.
Philip said nothing and Crystal simply added under her breath, “I can see them being Reds.”
Ashe’s grandparents jumped then as their granddaughter unexpectedly dozed off and fell to the ground with a thump
Ashlynn’s eyes snapped open to see Nikolas, who was gently shaking her shoulder.
She was in…without needing to fall asleep first?
She’d never gotten dragged here while she was wide awake before.
“Nikolas, did you bring me here?”
“What do you mean? I found you here.”
A large shake resonated this time, unbalancing both temporarily.
“I think somehow I sent you here when I touched your shoulder.” Ashe said as the shake subsided. “And you just did the same through here.”
“Yeah, but what is here?”
“I have no idea. This is the place of my nightmares.” Ashlynn explained as the air seemed to warm and get colder at the same time. “All I know is that usually that toxic fog that makes up the curse starts trying to attack me again after a while.” An insistent low rumble started to climb up in frequency from below. “I usually have more time than this, but we might as well put up some shields for good measure. Just like I do for the curse.”
Nikolas nodded, following Ashe’s lead in the creation of a white lined shield –
Except it wouldn’t hold.
The white lines rapidly dispersed as the rumbling grew louder, until they stopped being able to create any at all.
“Does this usually happen?” Nikolas asked.
“Oh no, oh no, we have to wake up.” Ashlynn insisted as fog started to build up from the hole.
“I – usually just thinking it does the trick, but I’m having some difficulty here.”
“Can this kill us?” Nikolas pressed as the fog rapidly accumulated.
“I don’t have all the answers Niko, I don’t know!” Ashe snapped.
Before either could react any further, the fog charged towards them in one scary mass.
The two teens closed their eyes, uselessly shielding themselves with their arms, expecting to be run down, but nothing happened.
When they opened their eyes again the fog had taken the semblance of a shape with a smoky hand reaching out.
The rumbling had stopped – there was only silence and a soft whisper coming from the form.
Nikolas tried to lean in as much as he dared to make out the words.
It was a painfully forced out sound, as if the fog was rediscovering its vocal cords and all it could manage was a wheeze.
And then he heard it, soft and clear.
The whisper lashed out, tearing at Niko and Ashe’s ear drums and making them slam their hands on their ears, but it didn’t block out the sound.
The whisper reached into their core and it tore at them like a grand anguish. Where they’d felt light before, they now felt the weight of everything and more on their shoulders dragging them down onto the bricks.
The warning, the threat, the demand silently spread across the world, resonated with everyone on different levels.
Fear and pain got universally spread out, hitting the more perceptive ones the strongest.
“I KNEW IT. Ha I KNEW IT, it’s the end and you all didn’t believe me…”
Nikolas blinked himself awake, the pounding in his head calming down. The fog hadn’t attacked them and they’d gotten thrown out of that place after the pain had started to subside.
Niko felt himself sinking into the bed with the weight of reality. But it was a good weight. It was a bed. A real one. And there was a smell in the air. One that wasn’t cleaning products. A kind of flowery scent. The room was pleasantly warm as well and he could hear…
He could hear slow and steady breathing.
Salandra was on the bed beside him, still knocked out, but free.
They both were.
He smiled, anxious to have her wake up. He’d been locked up for a few weeks and that was horrible. She’d been locked up for over a year. If the fake escape they’d gone through was anything to look forwards to, watching Sal relish in finally being free, truly free, wasn’t something he wanted to miss.
He painfully forced himself up, feeling the ache of his entire body down to the endless drain of his magic in his veins. He needed to find some last strength to cast another spell.
He’d led everyone to Ashe’s house, but they couldn’t stay here. They were sitting ducks, it was dangerous. They needed to get out of Cloverfield altogether, but until they could move Nikolas needed to cast a spell around the house.
Actually, first, he needed to remember how to cast it.
He swung his legs over the bed, letting out a sigh. “I’ll be right back.” He muttered, getting up on his feet.
“You’re also awake good.” Ashe said, meeting up with him as he exited. “That- that’s never happened before.”
“I’m more confused than ever.” He shook his head. “I need to cast a spell around the house.”
“Nikolas, you’re up.” Alec said, joining him in the middle of the room.
“Yeah, it’s fine I-” Nikolas interrupted himself giving Ashe a look. He brought his arm up and she touched it. Thankfully nothing happened. “Yeah definitely, it’s all fine now.”
“The mystery goes further.” Ashe mumbled to herself.
Nikolas rubbed his hands together, scrounging up the last of his magic as he tried to remember the spell. Crystal got up to welcome him to the land of the awake. “Is Salandra awake too?”
“No grandma, she still has a while to go.” Ashlynn replied.
Philip walked over to gently tug his wife away – to let her know how okay it would be if the blue-haired one stayed asleep. He’d recognized her from the news. She was the one who’d caused the explosion over a year ago.
Crystal was starting to regret letting these people in. Not that she had. For all intents and purposes, they’d made their way in.
“Fuck.” Nikolas cursed. “I can’t remember the spell. I need to go back. Rewatch Aleccas teaching it to me.”
“Oh that sounds cool, can I join?”
Nikolas shrugged. “Sure.”
Alec sat beside his mother again, watching as the two kids drifted off for a few moments.
He rubbed Zyla’s back but got no response. She was starving he could feel it. It was a deep seated hunger that clouded her mind. He gently probed it, but worriedly got no response.
He was also hungry, and unfortunately that wasn’t something he could ask for. It also wasn’t something he wanted to ask for. Cloverfield had never seen vampires before, so the chances of it having specialized plasma banks were extremely unlikely. The place didn’t have a hospital either. The Hans Lab fulfilled that function.
They were going to have to wait till they left Cloverfield. Alec had no doubt he could last till then. Zyla on the other hand…
Nikolas was in the shower, with another pile of clothes generosity of Philip, when Ashlynn joined Alec at their chess table.
“Don’t mind them, they’re a little old fashioned.” Ashlynn said. Her grandparents had been increasingly dropping insensitive comments and she was finding it painfully ridiculous. They’d finally calmed down, with Philip heading outside to care for his plants.
“I won’t make a very worthy opponent.” Alec grinned as he placed the pieces.
“That makes two of us! It’s not my favorite hobby.” She smiled back.
“Are you the one who drew all of these?” Alec asked, gesturing at the various paintings hung on the walls.
“It’s impressive, I haven’t evolved from stick figure yet. You’d think the old man I am would be better at things by now.” He joked.
“I heard you four couldn’t have made it out without your help. Thank you, I know you probably don’t need to hear it from me, but thank you.”
Alec leaned forwards, gesturing vaguely at the house in general. “You were raised here?”
Ashlynn laughed, before she glanced at Zyla. “She’s been like that for a very long time. Is there anything we can do to help her?”
He shook his head sadly. “No. Not here.”
Ruffling in the bedroom caught both of their attentions.
“Ooh, I think she’s awake.” Ashlynn said with a friendly smile, getting up. “Earlier than expected.”
She knocked lightly on the door before opening it, hearing the slight ruckus happening inside.
Salandra had plucked one of the decorative swords from the wall and was brandishing it.
“You’re safe! I’m a friend of Niko’s. He brought you here to rest.” Ashlynn immediately replied, bringing her hands up to show she was friendly.
“My name’s Ashlynn.” She continued as she visibly saw the other girl lose the tension in her posture. “And it’s a nice thing, but those swords haven’t been sharpened in decades.” She lightly chuckled, gently extending her hand to retrieve the sword.
“Sharp or not, I could still bust your kneecaps with it.” Salandra replied, but she flipped the sword anyway to hand the hilt to Ashe.
With a relieved smile Ashlynn took it and propped it back on the wall. “You have really good instincts though. You never know anymore who would rat you out and who-” Ashe turned in time to see Sal on her knees, struggling against the pain coursing through her.
She rushed to her side and Sal grasped her arm tightly for support.
Ashe put her hand on her back to offer her more support, and she blinked in surprise when her hand temporarily went through the other girl’s back. She’d brought back her hand in surprise, but when she attempted the move again her hand followed the laws of physics.
“I’m fine.” Salandra muttered. She muttered it three times before the pain receded and it finally became true.
“Do you need anything?” Ashlynn asked as Sal stubbornly got back up.
“Where’s Niko?” Salandra asked, anxious to have a clearer picture of the situation.
“He’s in the shower. Everybody’s gotten a turn. It’s yours next if you want it.” Ashe smiled. “Meanwhile do you want anything to drink or eat? I can lend you some of my clothes if you want to get out of the Hans issued uniform.”
Sal cast another look around the room, absorbing it a little more – the fact that it wasn’t white, that she had space to breathe and move…
“I’d like that, thanks.”
Alec leaned on the counter anxiously as the phone rang. The two elderly – which well to be fair, they were as old as Alec he’d just aged better – had been kind enough to lend him their phone.
He’d already used it to call his father to warn him that Zyla and him were on their way home. He’d called his niece Catarina to make sure she was fine and to warn her of the impending danger, and now it was his nephew’s turn.
“Hello, I’m at the clinic right now so I only have 5 minutes to give you.”
“Benjamin! Good you’re safe.” Alec slumped a little more on the counter, relieved.
“Uncle! They let you out?”
“I escaped with Nikolas. We’re not out of the woods yet, we might be stuck in Cloverfield, but that’s not why I called.”
“Oh uncle you know I’d help! I’d teleport you guys out of there if I could, but I lost my amulet. I haven’t been able to find it for over a year now, and well it probably wouldn’t-”
“That’s fine, I was just calling to warn you. The Hans sent out the task force to get you and your sister. Please be careful.”
“Oh. Okay thanks.”
The conversation ended there and Alec hung up, thanking Crystal again. She silently took the phone and took his place, awkwardly forcing him to move around the counter.
She eyed Alec carefully with a few glances at Zyla.
The starving vampire was clutching the edge of the sofa, her gaze seemingly fixed on Crystal.
“I’ll go lay her down on the bed.” Alec said moving away. He bent down to help his mother up, when she clutched his arm and spoke for the first time in months.
“Kill me.” She muttered in a strangled voice into his ear.
Alec grimaced. “I know it hurts, we’re going to get back on the move soon. We’ll get you some plasma.” He whispered to her, forcing her to her feet.
Nikolas exited the bathroom feeling refreshingly clean. The people at the lab always made sure they kept up their hygiene, but… They’d wake up and be clean with no memory of having been scrubbed. Taking your own shower was a luxury Niko didn’t think he’d ever have to appreciate.
Ashlynn and Salandra exited the bedroom around the same time.
“It’s pathetic that you have to step up.” Sal continued. “You can’t be the only sane one in this shithole.”
“Everybody’s too scared to do something about it.”
Salandra scowled. “Cowards.”
She made her way for the bathroom, inevitably crossing paths with Nikolas as she did.
“Ah Niko, can we talk?” Alec asked, and Niko nodded both sitting on the couch.
Crystal had reached the limit to her nervousness. She went outside to ask Philip to stop caring for his plants and to come supervise with her.
“Zyla and I both need to eat. There aren’t any hospitals here or plasma banks. The closest one is in Ridgevalley-”
“If I may interject.” Ashe said, sitting down on the ground. Both her pets jumped on the opportunity to join her.
Nikolas felt a small pang at the sight. He missed Nato.
“We know someone who could teleport you all to safety, right Niko?”
Nikolas winced. “I don’t think Zac wants to see my face right now.”
Alec frowned slightly, trying to follow.
“It’s my fault they lost people and that they had to flee to Stonebridge.” Nikolas added.
“I really doubt Zac blames you for that. I’m also pretty sure he’d be more than willing to help you out. You’re family to him.”
Nikolas could only grimace. Yeah, family that screwed him over.
“Is it because he lost his mother?” Ashe tempted, subtly wondering if Sal might be why Niko was hesitating.
“No I’d…I’d forgotten about that.”
“You forgot that-”
“No no, I just forgot how that could cause a problem.” Nikolas said, crossing his arms.
“So how do we reach this Zac?” Alec asked.
“Astral would be the easiest way.” Ashe said, keeping her gaze on Niko.
“I’m sure we can manage it without him.” He clumsily supplied.
“Ridgevalley is over an hour away Niko, by car. Even if you got past the borders, you’d make everyone walk that? After everything you’ve all already been through?”
“No, no, not when you put it like that.” He muttered.
“Do you want me to come with you? Would that help things?”
“No.” Nikolas immediately replied, but then took a few seconds to think about it. “Right ok. Good idea.” He sighed.
With that both closed their eyes and stopped moving.
“Astral huh,” Alec said, staring at both. “Reminds me of dragon-dreaming.”
He let out a sigh, appreciating the quiet.
The Hans had always been bustling and moving and testing – and the quiet times weren’t really quiet.
This place had a cozy atmosphere, it was warm and-
He looked up then to see both Crystal and Philip staring at him. There was silence in the room, with only the muffled sound of the shower in the background.
“Are you related to the vampire who died?” Crystal asked.
“James Whitelight.” Philip supplied.
“Yes, he was my brother.” Alec replied.
“He was the serial killer one.” Crystal said.
“I read he killed vampires as well as naturals.” Philip supplied again.
Alec disliked the atmosphere.
“Do you have the same…hobbies?” Crystal attempted to be polite.
“No.” Alec shook his head, trying to give off a non-threatening aura.
“And her…” Crystal gestured to Candice’s old bedroom.
“She’s our mother.”
“Does she have similar hobbies?”
Philip spoke again. “You can control people right? Your particular strain of vampire?”
Both of them looked pointedly at Alec, as if he were a dangerous animal they were wondering when to put down. Alec wasn’t sure there was a proper answer. His eyes drifted to the phone beside them.
The Hans had given the task force an easy number. Calling them would take three seconds for the Credants.
A loud crash resounded from the bathroom, the shower still clearly on. A few seconds later a crash came from the bedroom.
The trio glanced from one to the other before looking at each other again.
Whatever had happened, had tensed the room up even more.
Salandra lay on the floor various cuts bleeding on her wet skin from the broken shower shards. The water was continuing to rain down on her legs as she stared ahead feeling a wave of nothing.
A spasm had overtaken her, but that’s not what did her in. That had only angered her and she’d gone to punch the glass wall of her shower – only for her hand to pass right through. Growing more angry she’d kicked it instead. This time her foot connected with the glass – once, twice, thrice – shattering it into pieces.
The force had made her slip and she’d fallen into the pile of shards.
Now she lay in the middle of a floor smudged with her blood, water and glass shards. The clothing she’d been too lazy to remove, clinging to her skin.
And all she could do was smile.
The pain was self-inflicted. There was a strange happiness to be had from it, despite the fact that it was her own stupidity that had caused it, it was her. And her alone.
Alec anxiously knocked on the bathroom door.
“Salandra? Are you okay?”
He waited, extending his mind enough to confirm she was at least alive.
He knocked again.
“I’m fine.” She responded levelly, the shower still running. She almost sounded content.
Alec rushed to the next room then, opening it to find Zyla frantically ripping at books.
He got to her side gently pulling her away – terribly aware of the judging looks in the doorway.
Zyla instinctively bit into his shoulder, only to pull away, the vampire blood repulsing her. She whimpered and Alec rubbed her back.
“I know, I know. Soon, we’re almost ready to leave.”
“When is that going to be?” Crystal asked, staring glumly at her destroyed books. She’d settled in the doorway, phone receiver in hand.
“As soon as your granddaughter and Nikolas come back.” He replied. He was terribly tempted to influence her, convince her all was fine so she’d stop clinging to his back waiting for him to slip up.
He wasn’t James however. He couldn’t control more than one person, and one person was already challenging enough at times. The fact that they were two intimidated him.
It was just a passing fancy. He was used to people waiting for him to fail anyway.
“Is it necessary that you wait for them in the house?” Crystal asked sharply as Alec stood up with his mother at her side. “I’m sure you could wait outside with your mother.”
Alec grimaced. “Sun and vampires don’t really mix. If we could, we’d rather stay in.”
“You just came from outside a few hours ago. You can withstand some more.” Crystal shot back.
Alec’s skin still felt sensitive from their short time outside. They were in the middle of summer. The sun was intense, especially on a vampire.
“Not really.” Alec tensely replied, holding onto the bookcase as his mother gripped his arm.
Crystal stepped back to let him out, not ready to drop the idea however. “We have a sun roof outside. It’ll shield you both.”
“I understand that we make you uncomfortable, but-”
“Uncomfortable?” Philip cut in. “The room is a mess and she’s been eyeing us like pieces of meat from the moment you got here.”
“I’m going to have to ask you to go outside to wait.” Crystal sternly added.
Ashlynn shot to her feet then. “Grandma! Grandpa!” Nikolas and Ashe had just gotten back from their astral trip, in the middle of the conversation. “They’re our guests! We’re the hosts! We don’t send them outside, especially not vampires in broad daylight.”
Crystal’s face hardened. “No Ashlynn. They’re your guests. This is our house. You imposed these dangerous strangers on us-”
“They’re not dangerous. They’re victims – refugees from the Hans lab-”
Philip bristled. “Three of them are closely related to a murderer.”
“Look,” Nikolas cut in, but the usually quiet man spoke even louder.
“Two of them are vampires that can control us on whatever whim they feel. One is a starving vampire. Your friend is a reckless child who attracts a lot of dangerous events. One of those being an explosion caused by the last one. An explosion that killed a lot of people – all of which who were this boy’s family.”
“You don’t know-” Nikolas tried to cut in again, but his word meant nothing to conversation.
“None of your guests inspire any kind of comfort, sanity or safety and we want them out of our home.” Philip finished.
“Right now before I call the task force on them.” Crystal added, this time looking at the guests in question.
It was out or nothing.
Nikolas, seeing that talking to people who were speaking out of fear would be a daunting task (if not potentially a physical one), headed straight for the bathroom.
“If you’re kicking them out, you’re kicking me out too.” Ashe shot back.
“Ashlynn don’t be ridiculous!”
“Ridiculous? You’re threatening to call the task force. This is the enemy we’re fighting! By turning these people in to them you’re giving that power, that authority to the Hans!”
Nikolas knocked on the door. “Sal?”
“They’re the only ones right now who can handle people like this.” Crystal shouted.
“Sal?” Niko asked louder this time, in case she couldn’t hear him over the shower.
“No they aren’t, dad and the police-”
Crystal burst out laughing, joined by Philip, effectively cutting off Ashe. She sighed, turning momentarily to see what Niko was doing.
Niko’s eyes drifted down to see the diluted puddle of blood beginning to pool out from under the door.
“Niko wait!” Ashe cut in, rapidly walking over to hold him back. His hand had grasped the handle, ready to open it. “Let me check.” She said, keeping her calm after spotting the blood.
She opened the door, slid in, keeping partially closed to preserve Sal’s privacy.
“She’s injured! She needs a doctor.” Ashlynn informed as she bent down. She tried not to touch anything – for fear of making it worse.
“She broke our bathroom?” Crystal asked with indignation, attempt to peer in.
“Hey can it!” Nikolas snapped in the old woman’s face, blocking the access. “We’re about to leave give it a fucking rest. So a hospital, Ridgevalley is our destination right?”
“If you go to a hospital you’ll be caught Niko.” Ashe warned from the bathroom, shutting off the shower.
“Nikolas, your uncle Benjamin.” Alec said, joining in.
“Yes, he’s a doctor!”
“And I just talked to him on the phone. He’s in a clinic right now. Pretty sure he won’t turn us in. Can Zac get us there?”
“I’ll go ask him right now.” Niko nodded rapidly before zoning out.
“Do you need help?” Alec asked, picking up the phone Crystal was hesitantly handing him to call his nephew.
“I’ve done all I can for now.” Ashe said as Sal breathed levelly. She’d been laying out towels gently around her, to try and absorb the surrounding water.
A few moments later Nikolas had opened his eyes again and Zac had appeared beside him.
Crystal and Philip watched as the new red head gathered everyone, including their granddaughter, and in a fraction of a second everyone had disappeared.
Crystal cast a look at their bloody bathroom and sighed – leaning into her husband’s arms.