Warning: Big chapter, with a few gifs and a video!
Also a HUGE THANK YOU to Livvivelove for several of the characters that show up in this chapter. (Though you won’t recognize them by name yet as I don’t mention most of them, it’s thanks to her that Elise, Dagan, Talae, Tunir, Kieran and Kit exist) (Keep a special eye out for that last one 😉 )
Some optional background music
No one’s POV
Ashlynn walked the streets with mixed feelings of fatigue, pride, and accomplishment. Walked was a weak term, wandered was more appropriate. Her feet didn’t need her mind, these were streets she knew well. This was the town she had prospered and grown in.
But maybe it was time to leave it behind.
She breathed in the fresh air, relishing in what had just happened. She’d been witness to Aleccas and a small group of powerful supernaturals be teleported to the Hans laboratory. She watched dozens of prisoners be released.
It’s true, the place had been scarily empty. A building with a storage capacity in the hundreds with only a dozen prisoners? The distinct absence of the decision makers? There was cause for worry. It was a hint that they’d seen it coming. That they’d already begun moving to another facility.
But Ashe wasn’t focusing on that. She was focusing on the people that were free now. On the employees who’d been caught. The war was far from won, but they’d taken this battle.
Now Ashe felt a little lost.
She was still terribly disgusted with her grandparents. She had no intention of going back there.
Her mother simply wasn’t an option. She hadn’t been in the lab, so she was most likely home, but Ashe felt no desire to make it hers as well.
She no longer had a home here in Cloverfield, and her attachment to the town felt nostalgic at most. She knew her father would love nothing more than to welcome her, and she loved the idea. Her grandmother had fought it for too long on the grounds of her safety.
She couldn’t leave just yet. There was something holding her back still. Jason.
He’d told her how his parents had gotten kidnapped by the Hans lab. He had no proof, but the lack of letters from them was more than enough for him. And he refused to believe they were dead.
Ashlynn had kept her eyes out, she’d searched for the people she’d seen in pictures, but she’d had no luck.
Her feet stopped in front of Jason’s house. It was only fair to let him know.
She knocked on the door and it opened to a beaming Jason. Overwhelmed, he reached over and grasped her in a tight hug.
“My parents escaped! You have to come meet them!” He exclaimed, catching her by surprise. He stepped back into his house, giving her the breathing space to step in.
On the other side of the room stood two strong presences. A man and a woman, still wearing the Hans colors and their dignities. She felt awed by their natural werewolf auras. Culturally, only alphas emitted this kind of strength.
The man stepped forwards extending a firm handshake. “My name is Hartly and this is Amelia.”
“We hear you helped the rest escape after the first wave.” Amelia noted.
“I-yes, it’s a pleasure to meet you! I’m glad you made it out, I feared the worst when I didn’t see you.” Ashlynn confessed. Jason’s beaming amplified.
“Jason’s told us a lot about you in the short time we’ve been back. Maybe you could help us?” Amelia began.
Her husband followed up in response to Ashe’s inquiring gaze. “Several of us have been locked up for many months if not years and haven’t had the opportunity to catch up on real time events. You may just be the best person under this roof to catch us all to speed. It would help us have a better idea of what to do next.”
Ashlynn almost couldn’t believe the faith they were placing in her already.
Amelia continued, “There’s no pressure if you don’t feel comfortable talking to a group.”
Ashlynn glanced at Jason who gestured at a slightly open door. She could glimpse figures clad in beige and white moving around. More escapees.
She grinned, pleased at the prospect of a willing audience. “It would be my pleasure.”
As you are all aware the globe is separated into two continents. Having had several government switch ups and name changes we just refer to them as the left and right continent. The Hans have facilities in both of these, however they only have two on the left continent and are purely for agricultural and geomorph purposes. Most of their bases are located on second continent – counting up to almost a hundred. They vary from research purposes to commercial and military buildings. A year ago, they offered a proposal to fix the supernatural issue – one that irrevocably gave them authority on all main governments. Very quickly they spread out as a tyrannical and oppressive group. Their facilities became outposts and prisons.
Their main headquarters are located in Ridgevalley – for management and triage – in Polshore – purely political and judiciary in nature – and in Cloverfield as their main research unit. That’s where you were all being held and we can gladly cross that facility off the list now. All their other facilities are littered among the cities. During the last year they took advantage of their dispersion to set up borders and militia in every town. They began by blocking the routes and have upgraded to using a large portion of a city’s energy to generate a physical barrier. This is only true for large cities like Ridgevalley. Cloverfield as of yet only has road blockades.
A few cities further north do not have any major Hans influence. For example, Legacy Island II is relatively unaffected as they’re protected by a line of mountains. One of greater interest is Stonebridge. From the start they took a solid stance against the Hans and made themselves a safe haven. They overthrew their facilities and withstood several of their attacks. Currently anyone who wants to fight is regrouping there. The pure concentration of supernaturals is never before seen! It brings a lot of hope. Otherwise, some people are flying over to the next continent while they still can. The Hans monitor the airlines but are restricted as the left continent has an equal authority over the air and have no intention of blocking or limiting transport.
Some of you may be wondering about the Talent Troupe – Yes I thought as much. For the confused ones, the Talent Troupe appears as just a group of performers touring the world, but if you research them just a bit deeper you’ll find they’re an organization who have meddled in politics in the past. They originally postponed their tour through the continent by fear of making the tensions worse. The Talent Troupe are composed of only supernaturals deemed out of the ordinary. There’s strong suspicions that their performers double as undercover agents. For what? That’s unclear, but adding their magical forces to ours would only be a good thing. Their last known location is on the left continent near Hazelwood. Why they haven’t moved or done anything?
No one really knows.
My vision finally cleared and my hearing returned, freeing me from the white prison I’d been in for hours now.
It’s come to pass hasn’t it? The horrid thing I’ve been sensing coming for years now?
No, no I can still feel it. Somehow, there’s worse to come.
My eyes flittered across the room, landing on that witch and an old woman.
Who IS he? I’m the strongest witch. No one is supposed to even come close. Annaliese and my son are the next ones.
James scoured the world once trying to find any other witch that wasn’t me to try to help Catarina and he failed. Who is he?
I opened my mouth to shout my indignation, but my body responded so slowly it only emitted an unhappy groan. That’s when I realized I was tied up with a rope that seemed to be covered in some kind of goo, and one that stunk intensely.
“Leaving us so soon Keeper Prince? Am I just a guard to you?” The old woman croaked and the witch looked away from the creature on his shoulder.
“You know me?”
“I was a wee lass when the Witch war happened. You haven’t aged a bit.”
“Too bad you have.”
The Witch war? That was generations ago. What is going on?
I struggled against my rope, willing my magic to come forth. It did for a meek fizzle and a pop.
“Simmer down Whitelight. I’ll come to you in a sec. Need to let the spoiled prince know we are not a free service.”
“Two hundred years ago you were.”
She whacked him with her cane, making the creature on his shoulder take flight. She reached with her hand.
“Precious child. Born and a few moments later they whisked you into a war. Selfish Keepers they were.” She said as the creature came down to visit her.
“Let me go.” I managed to say, the slow affliction starting to wane.
They flat out ignored me.
“Do you know a lot about dragons? My parents had books but I doubt I can find them anymore. I think Atris is the reason we’ve jumped to here, 200 years in the future.”
“I don’t know a lick about dragons.” The old woman cooed. “I was six years old, but I do know about precious children. Oh come here little Atris, I will make you a quick concoction your lizard tongue should adore.”
“Yet you don’t know about dragons huh.”
I willed my magic out enough to cause the rope to take fire and I shook it off.
“Enough of this!” I declared, the slow spell finally off me. “Who are you? Where am I?”
The Keeper Prince cast an unimpressed glare in my direction. Magic sparked in my hands – I’m ready to fight if I need to.
A bucket of disgusting goo dropped on me from above. Drowning out my magic instantly.
“Thank you Mouse. My ears are sensitive today. Here doll drink this.” The old woman said to her newfound pet.
I looked up to see a cot attached to the ceiling with a ladder down the side. And sitting in the ladder was a small child, bucket in hand.
The woman came back as I shook the goo off. What is this? Is she a witch too? Infused spells in…goo? She doesn’t sense like a witch. Neither does the child.
She handed the dragon back to the other witch.
“Pretty little thing. Brush his scales with saltwater.”
“You’re sure you don’t know anything about dragons?”
“We take in strays but this stray will not be kept forever. Do not leave him here forever.” She said, clearly referring to me.
“Or don’t leave me here at all! This is a kidnapping!” I exclaimed, trudging my way through the goo to reach them.
“Thank you.” He said.
“Yes yes I’m sure.” She said, and the dragon flapped its wings, my kidnappers disappearing into thin air.
“You are an impatient boy!” She said, smacking me with her cane as I stumbled into her personal space.
I pulled up one of my goo-free hands, gathering magic in it. She jammed her cane into my throat.
“You dumb child! You’d cast magic on an old unarmed weak woman?” She roared.
In my attempt to pull away, I flailed and slipped on the goo on the ground, falling harsh on my back.
“Mouse we need a mop.”
I let out a load groan and an angry shout.
“Yes yes,” She said, walking over me and suffocating me with her excessively layered dress. “I will answer your questions. We are the Talent Troupe.”
I deflated as she wandered over to the bookcase behind me. The boy called Mouse swept with the mop carelessly flicking goo at me.
“That’s not the only question I have.” I called out, gathering my strength again, but the woman ignored me, instead asking for some kind of ingredient from the boy.
The Talent Troupe…
I grimaced and got up – leaving the room with surprising ease.
I cast a spell to see where I was located, teleporting, I could be anywhere.
And apparently that was on the other side of the world entirely. A whole ocean away from home, from my husband, from my friends, from my children…from the trial.
I need to find the way out.
I sneaked through, avoiding the performers clad in flashy outfits, searching for a door that would lead me outside. Or at the very least a hole in this fabric.
I’m in Hazelwood, I just need to find the nearest airport which should just be a few hours away. I don’t have my phone, they took that off me for the trial. These people don’t seem to have electronics, so I’ll have to find a phone at the nearest town. I need to call my family, let them know I’m okay. They must be worried sick.
I stumbled out into the cold night, and I momentarily got hit by the gorgeous stars.
Nikolas, I suppose, must have rejoiced. Edmund must be a mess.
I took a step forwards – and fell flat on my face.
My feet had flown out from under me, pulled by some invisible force. I turned on my back only to have the old woman’s wrinkled face pull a surprised shout from me.
“Oh yes yes you’re part of us for now.” She tapped my ankles with her cane. “Can’t you see it? I heard you had a sixth sense.”
Now that she mentioned it, I could vaguely feel a string tied to my feet that I couldn’t see.
“That goo you keep drowning me in is messing with my senses.”
“I would hope so, it is its purpose.”
“What is this? What am I tied to?” I asked, grasping my ankles. I focused all my senses on this spell tying me down but – it’s not quite a spell? It doesn’t feel like magic? It’s not something I can counter with my abilities.
“You’re his now. And he does not like you, as that is a very ugly rope.”
“You can see the rope? How do I cut it?” I demanded.
“I can’t see it. Don’t be ridiculous. Now come inside, people are eager to put the new dishwasher to work.” She said heading in.
What the hell have I been kidnapped to?
Over a year ago minus a few weeks…
After the first few days of fruitlessly trying to escape, I switched to finding the source of my imprisonment.
I tried burning the place down, or threatening people to let me go, but Mouse is always around the corner with a bucket of goo, and these people…
They’re not normal. Neither natural nor supernatural. Yet they all have some kind of power or other that is annoyingly efficient at keeping me in check.
There’s a man who can grow a temporary extra limb. There’s a girl who moves as easily in water as we do air, and needs access to water to live. There’s a couple who can control each other like puppets – like they’re switching bodies.
I feel surrounded by freaks and it terrifies me.
The first few days I got shamed a lot. I’d get snorted at, I’d get headshakes, and when I tried to escape I’d get a few exasperated hits. I’d hear people talking about what I did to my son, but I’m too tired of justifying myself to correct them.
After a bit, I decided to play it cool and figure out who or what this Fenlarcy is so I can shut it off and go home. The only responses I’d gotten on the subject were snorts and rolling of the eyes. Wants to find Fenlarcy he does, haha!
I was going to find the source this time, and the 200 year old Hag wouldn’t be stopping me. She’d been going on and on about a family member of hers coming by. Daughter or niece? I can’t remember to care.
I finished my slave chores and peeked inside Hag’s area to make sure she was busy. As expected she was chatting away with her visitor, and Mouse was there, uncharacteristically energetic.
I focused on my feet and subsequently on everyone else’s limbs. Everyone has this Fenlarcy string in one form or the other. Pinning up their hair, on their pinky, on their belts. I couldn’t see them, but I could feel them. Like a gentle tug.
My string was a series of vicious circles around my ankles. It was a tight grip.
These people refer to Fenlarcy like he’s a kind of deity. I’m not surprised that there are beliefs outside of the Grim Reaper, but I’ve never heard that name before. And I’ve never seen this kind of magic.
Although that feels a little false. There’s definitely something I recognize about it.
I followed my string, and everyone else’s in an attempt to find the source. It was a long circular journey that almost always got interrupted, but this time…this time I reached an inner tent I’d never noticed before.
I reached for the fabric, eager to be home, eager to be far far-
A sharp unbearable pain went through my chest and overwhelmed my senses. I immediately dropped to my knees, clutching my chest, all oxygen gone from my lungs.
The feeling blasted through me in waves, and I could almost hear my sixth sense speak to me.
I’m imagining – something else – no NO
“There was an explosion.”
“They’ve gotten crazy over there.”
“So many people dying for nothing.”
I stared idly at the television, at the information. Edmund died. He dies every second I breathe.
And now, an explosion at his funeral had killed my children and all the friends and family I’ve ever had.
If James was there…he got what was coming to him.
It’s his fault. He let me get taken by the Keeper Witch. Why hadn’t he come looking for me yet? If he’d freed me I could’ve prevented this. If he’d done his job properly Edmund would be alive right now!
I let out a shout and a magic wave, setting the drapes on fire. “And it’s all your fault as well!” I shouted at the disturbed crowd. “If you weren’t so self-involved-”
My words were cut short by a sharp blow to the head.
Over a year ago minus a month or so…
I lay in my glorified gooed up cage sleeping the days away. They’d locked me up in here so I’d stop destroying their pretty tents. This suits me.
I’ve nothing left.
A vial appeared at my feet.
“Drink this up.” Haginda demanded, but I ignored her. “My taster won’t be back for weeks. Tell me if you die.”
What was the point anymore?
Everyone just kept dying.
James died the other day. The Hans apparently killed him, not the explosion.
My children survived as well.
But Edmund, but Erin, Annaliese, Xenia, Teo…so many people dead. And for what? Niki and Niko are doing fine without me. The sole survivors of a blood bath. Aleccas Keeper is being the witch everyone shamed me for not being.
I’m of better use here.
Wasting my life away in a cage covered in magic absorbing goo.
I lazily watched from the corner of my eye as one of the performers came to talk to the old woman, a mask on his face.
They still wear them sometimes. I close my eyes, remembering my days at university, when Traz had concocted a small terrorist group.
And I remembered how he was dead too.
Over a year ago minus a few months…
I woke up to something cold on my face.
Mouse had a paintbrush in her-in his-Mouse had a paintbrush in hand. It was dipped in some bright blue paint. Mouse sat back, admiring whatever blue mess my face had become.
“Thank you. I’m sure I look absolutely handsome now.”
Mouse smiled, satisfied before scurrying off to the next area.
I got up and started my morning routine. Getting ready, reading Hag’s extra errands for the day, then setting about on my chores.
In the end, I’ve come to accept my fate. At the very least I can spend my days doing mindless work. I don’t need to think, I just need to do work for these people who are hiding just like I am.
They say they’re here for Fenlarcy, that he’s what’s important…but I don’t really care.
I stood still, wide-eyed at the rumors I was hearing. Did I hear right? Did they really say that name?
She’s in a box with the Dragons, dying over and over again why-
I burst through Hag’s area. The Keeper Prince was back, and between them, Assaria’s box.
A bucket of goo splashed in my face almost instantly.
“Don’t scare Mouse like that.” Hag reprimanded. I cast a glance at the child’s neutral face.
“One day I’ll find out how you mass produce this gunk.” I said, wiping it off my face.
“Why is he out and about?” Aleccas hissed.
“He helps relieve a few of Mouse’s duties.”
“Why did you bring Assaria here?” I demanded.
Aleccas continued. “I was thinking you could start a collection old woman. Of useless ex-witches.”
It was an obvious provocation, but my magic wasn’t as quick to flare up anymore. Whatever goo treatment I got subjected to on a daily basis had calmed my blood. I’d actually never felt as in control of my own magic as I do now.
“She may be a natural, but she’s still dangerous.” I said instead.
“I don’t have the time to watch this box anymore.”
“And I do?” She asked.
“I’m guessing you’re better equipped than I am. What with you being in one spot all day.”
Mouse tentatively offered me a rag as the two talked.
“I’ll take your box too, but in exchange you’ll pass me Atris. He needs a good bath!” She cooed reaching for the dragon, who immediately jumped down to snuggle her.
“Oh yes yes you did enjoy the treat from last time. I’ll make some more for you.”
“What am I supposed to do meanwhile? I’m a man with a busy schedule you know!”
“Yes yes, sounds like you need a break. Xavier show him around.” She said waving us both away as she hobbled away with her favorite pet.
We both exchanged quick surprised and cold stares.
A stray thought came to me, wondering if he might know anything about how my children were faring.
He let out a huff and walked out, saying he didn’t need a guide.
I stared at the cursed box.
“Your Fenlarcy hasn’t put a string on her.”
“There’s nothing to hold onto.”
I cast a few wards and extra locking spells on the chest for good measure before exiting the room.
I followed Aleccas, knowing the old woman would get on my case later if I didn’t. I can’t believe this child runs around dropping someone like Assaria Clavez wherever he feels is good. I watched as he headed for the training area, most likely drawn to the training ongoing.
“Xavier right?” One of the more muscular men asked. I don’t have the mind to remember their names. Doesn’t mean I don’t remember their faces.
“I’m not cleaning your trailer again.”
“That’s funny cause you still owe me for trashing it.” I might’ve torn a few things down during my first days. Or at least attempted to.
“At this point I’m just cleaning up after your own garbage.” I snapped, willing him to leave.
“It’s not like you have anything better to do.” He said, and I ignored him, glancing behind him where Aleccas had stubbornly sat on the sidelines to wait it out.
“Oh come on, I’ve been getting along well with Beth.” He dragged my attention back. “We’ve had a few dates and I may bring her back home tonight. There’s still a big black mark in front of my couch. I tried painting over it, it’s no use. That’s not how you impress a lady.”
I grit my teeth, feeling a wave of jealousy. That his Beth is still alive. That I’d take a big fat black mark if it meant bringing back Edmund.
I tried to stifle it, but it stayed underneath the surface, intoxicating me.
“Fine, I’ll get to it later.” It is my fault. I did throw bolts of magic at their homes.
He grinned and thanked me, and finally left me alone.
I sighed and settled where I was. It was a good place as any to keep an eye on the Keeper boy.
He was watching one of the performers dance. That was the Talent Troupe’s most appreciated element: their dancing.
It’s a fluid and graceful style that has them gliding across the floor. It’s like they move along an invisible current. It’s hypnotizing almost. It’s easy to sit and stare as the dance makes everything else tune out.
There’s something magical that happens when it’s only two dancers. An extra layer gets added on. It may be my biased sense, but it’s like their strings get intertwined, joining in the spectacle.
There’s a newer dance the Talent Troupe are particularly proud of. Numerous members have told me at length how it’s inspired by their Fenlarcy. It’s a sad dance, portraying a lost love. It makes your heart ache as there’s no happy ending. Just an eternal hopeful wait.
As captivated as anyone would be, I watched Aleccas get up to go talk to the performer once the practice ended.
“Hi there, I’m Aleccas Keeper, the Prince, yes you’ve probably heard of me. I know a few tricks myself, maybe we could pair up for a performance sometime?”
I nearly choked as I overheard.
The performer wore a confused expression, before bringing her hands up in a series of fluid movements that seemed to indicate she was at once deaf and mute.
It wasn’t in any sign language I’d ever seen though.
She shrugged innocently and Aleccas’ demeanor changed.
“Oh that’s, you’re-“
“Kit!” A small stuffy voice suddenly called out, making me jump and cutting Aleccas off.
Mouse had come out from under the curtain and had talked. Something I hadn’t heard the child do yet…let alone shout.
Kit waved back with a grin. “Mouse! I’ll be right over!”
She replied, clearly hearing him, and clearly having the capacity to speak.
She walked by Aleccas, who obliviously watched her go.
It took a few seconds, but the witch’s attitude slowly shifted as the blatant rejection dawned on him.
Over a year ago minus six months…
“If it disturbs you that much, just open it.” Haginda said as she brewed more of her experimental potions.
“What!? No! No one is to open this.” I snapped.
I received a bottle of goo in my face. I should know better than to speak loudly by now.
“I’m not going to throw magic around. I have that under control.”
“It’s for your pores.” She waved me off.
No one is to open this. That woman needs to stay there. If my father ever did anything right this was it.
“Is there a deal I can strike with Fenlarcy to let me go? Aleccas is not coming back. He’s most likely completed forgotten about me.”
“He comes to visit several times. Not for you or I though. For a graceful fairy who is never here.” She added, almost nostalgically.
“Does he respond to money? Is that what Fenlarcy wants? An offering?”
“Nobody cleans the latrines like you do Xavier. Why would we let you leave? It’s not like you truly want to leave either way.”
I narrowed my eyes. “What do you mean when you said there’s nothing to grab onto? What makes Assaria so special?”
“You’re annoying me go away.”
I turned with a grunt, avoiding looking at the box. I stared out at the members of the Talent Troupe, obliviously going about their routines.
I’m tempted…but I don’t know why. What good would it bring?
But that’s the scary part, my sixth sense doesn’t warn me that it would be bad.
I walked around the tent again, heading for that isolated section that everyone seems to steer clear of. They leave gifts sometimes. It’s no joke, they really consider Fenlarcy their deity, and this is recent of a few years at most. From what I’ve heard, they were traveling when they fell on Fenlarcy by pure luck, and Hag was the only one who recognized him for what he is. She’s not talkative enough though.
My hands stroke the fabric, my insides shifting uncomfortably. For all the praise they give it, I can sense nothing good behind this. There’s a word that keeps coming up, but makes no sense to me here.
I let the fabric go.
Over a year ago minus ten months…
It’s deadly cold outside, but the tent is bustling with warmth. Everyone is out in the circle performing a show for a nearby town that traveled all the way here to see them.
And I’m here, alone, with the box.
It makes no sense to me. It didn’t bother me before the trial.
But now that I have her box in front of me every day, constantly…
It’s like it calls me. Open me. If only my sixth sense would tell me not to. It’d be so much simpler. Now instead I sit here and I doubt.
Doubt, doubt, doubt…
Fenlarcy has his strings on everyone, even the people who only come for a single performance. Whatever this godly creature is…it’s like it searches for something. Without fail everyone gets examined.
But not Assaria. It’s like it avoids her purposefully. As if there’s no way she could be it.
Why? And how do I replicate that for myself?
Would she even know?
She has amnesia. Well she had. Does she still?
This is tearing me apart!
What would be the harm?
The damn woman comes back to life as she pleases. She could share that. Could my Edmund come back to me?
Probably not, most definitely not, everything tells me no, but…wouldn’t that be perfect? The world would make sense again.
I magically flipped the latch and the spells off so fast I barely fully registered I’d done it.
I stared, a little fearfully at the unlocked box.
The humming of the crowd was in tune with my magic, ready at my fingertips.
I must’ve waited twenty minutes for the consequences of my actions. That’s how long it took before the lid rose just slightly…
And I heard a long intake of breath.
I readied a spell that would knock her off her feet if she tried anything.
What am I doing?
The lid slapped open then, and she lifted her body up with a wheeze.
I considered the fact that she’d been trapped in that box dying of asphyxiation again and again for over a year now. For someone in those conditions she still looks decent.
“Bastard.” She croaked in an ungodly voice. It sounded like a demon had just crawled out. I hadn’t heard that voice in so long…it brought a strange comforting sense of familiarity.
“I’m not a bug, I am NOT a bug,” She wailed sharply, rolling out of the box onto the ground. It was a disturbing sight. She wheezed in the dusty ground and I threw a blanket at her naked form.
She froze and lifted her head up to meet my eyes.
“Don’t get any ideas.”
“You freed me and you warn me about ideas?”
“You don’t scare me.” She groaned and slowly stood up.
“You’ve released the genie from the lamp Whitelight. What do you want?”
My shoulders slumped in one fell swoop. It was a good question. I don’t know what I expected anymore. A more dire consequence perhaps.
“For it to stop. For it all to stop.”
For him to come back.
She wandered to Hag’s shelves as I fought tears. What had I expected? She can’t bring Edmund back. She most certainly can’t bring my father back. And yet…I hate that she brings a comfort just by being something from my past. I’ve spent too much time here. Too much time away from everyone I knew and loved. All the people who died.
“I can’t even blame you for all that’s happened. You weren’t there.” I muttered realizing what I’d wanted in the end. Revenge. A desire to place the blame on someone that wasn’t me.
“Hm, was I not? I like to think I haunt everyone’s lives.”
“You’re calmer than I thought you’d be. You remember everything don’t you?”
“Dying over and over reboots a lot of brain cells. Where’s your father by the way?” She asked, obviously searching Hag’s shelves for a weapon of sorts.
“Alive.” I mumbled, hit with the disgusting thought that she’d rejoice if she knew. Her feud with James lasted for years. I didn’t want to be the one to let her know she’d outlived him.
“A peculiar specification.”
“He’s on standby, waiting for another opportunity to kill you.”
“Yes sounds like him. I’m sure your son Nikolas is with him as well.” She said, nonchalantly sniffing a potion.
My blood froze at the mention. “This was a mistake.” I said getting up. My sixth sense was still as quiet as Mouse on the subject, but my own judgement now was coming back.
“Yes it was. You’ve brought me to the Talent Troupe.” She declared just as Hag entered, unwarned.
“Out she comes.” Hag noticed. I avoided looking at her. She was the one who told me to open it. She can’t judge me. Even though I was the one to forbid opening it at all.
Recognition sparked in the ex-witch’s eyes.
“Haginda Allard, Assaria Clavez at your service. I’ve come to repay my debts.”
One day ago…
Assaria Clavez was disgustingly and unexpectedly worshipped. While Hag set her to work on various errands that seemed more attractive than mopping up the floors, most every other Talent Troupe member seemed in awe of her. My countings of her murders were quickly dismissed.
Turns out, back in the day, before the Witch War, Assaria Clavez was extremely well known and reputed. She was the most powerful witch alive and often worked in close relation with the Talent Troupe – who at the time played neutral party between the Keeper family and the Whitelight family.
Somehow only good things were said about her, and being once the most powerful witch alive made her a bit of a legend. Members were constantly asking for a sit down with her to hear random tales and she happily obliged as she gained back her strength.
Only a handful of people truly distrusted her. Haginda, though she seems wary of everyone, Mouse, who doesn’t seem to have a solid opinion on anyone except the boy Kieran and…well the third one, Haginda’s unofficial daughter. The one who only comes by every few months or so.
I can’t remember her name. Or more, the one time I asked for it I nearly got assaulted and flipped off. She’s…something else. And seems to hate and judge me more than most.
She’s also a bit of a black sheep among the Talent Troupe. Haginda is the leader and she has a clear favorite in her. But that’s not the only reason everyone tends to steer away from her. She’s loud and opinionated. She butts in on people’s performances if she feels they could do better. And in general she’s a nuisance, telling people things they’d rather not hear.
So when she voiced her disagreement with Assaria as well as supported what I’d said with rumors of her murdering tendencies, they all turned on her. Consequentially hammering me down further into the dislike category by association.
Assaria tried to charm her into staying, since she’s a formidable fighter as well as performer, but she led herself officially out the door under everyone’s gazes.
I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut. I don’t have the luxury of leaving. If anything Fenlarcy had most likely tightened his grip on me, to fix the problem I had created.
But that was the worrying part. There was no problem.
She fit in perfectly with the Talent Troupe, seemingly without a care or other evil plan in mind. Hell, when she found out James died she didn’t jump for joy. On the contrary she oddly seemed annoyed?
She wasn’t doing anything suspicious and with Assaria that’s about as worrying as it gets.
That’s until she headed for Fenlarcy’s corner. I’d steered clear of her as much as I could, but when I noticed her heading there, I had to step in.
“I must’ve found something interesting.” She said, noticing me approach.
“I won’t let you hurt these people.”
She scoffed. “You really do hold me in high esteem. Me? Against a supposed God? Call it curiosity.”
“Just leave it alone.”
“I hear it’s the source of you being kept here. Don’t you want to be free?” She grinned slightly. “Oh what am I saying. You’d spend the rest of your days here if you could.”
“I want nothing more than to go back to my children.” I said with as much conviction as I could muster.
“Mhm, and I’m very happy someone else killed James.” She said grabbing onto the fabric.
“Just-don’t! I can’t sense anything good back there.” I urged in a hushed voice.
“You feel it too? It smells like cursed magic.” She grinned, tearing the door open.
I braced myself – casting a protection spell – but nothing happened. The fabric settled to a still and we stared at an orb sitting on a stand. From it, it felt like a cobweb of strings was spreading out, losing in strength the further they got.
As we stood, staring at the strange object, it began to pulsate. Quiet at first, like a low hum. When it began to rise in volume and frequency, we got curious visitors.
“What did you do?” I was asked.
“She’s the one that opened it!”
“Oh yes blame me.”
“Have we angered it? Is this normal behavior?”
“Someone get Haginda! Fenlarcy is trying to say something.”
I frowned, staring at the glistening orb as it hummed louder and louder.
“Vaguely makes me think of a bomb.” Assaria remarked, taking several steps backwards. I started to do the same, eyeing the orb cautiously as the humming rose exponentially.
My heart sped up in tune, until an image flashed behind my eyes.
For just two seconds I was seeing something else, a black area with what seemed to be my son. How is he involved? Is he the cause of this? I wondered, just before I got viciously torn back.
I coughed, struggling to sit up from the wave that had just hit us.
When I looked up, the whispers behind me began to make more sense.
“Well that’s peculiar.”