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Deirdre Evering

The perfect girl who is sick of the consquences of being "perfect"

0 · 645 views · located in New York City

a character in “The Once and Future King: Book One”, as played by SkullsandSlippers

Description

Image

Age:19
Nickname:D
Hair:Long, wavy and light brown. Worn in a bun for so many years that she now leaves it out almost exclusively.
Eyes:Blue
Height:5'8

Reincarnation-Guinevere


Physique/facial: Small nose, full lips and fair skinned. She has a traditional ballet dancer's build with slim frame and lean arms and legs.

Works part time at a lingerie store and is a student studying history.

Once quiet, proper and overly agreeable, Deirdre has taken to speaking her mind and testing the waters of the world around her. While not "sheltered" she is still just getting a feel for who she is and the things she likes.

Her days are spent in cafes with novels or in the occassional class. She works evenings and then goes out at night. Deirdre has discovered a love of fast food, though she doesn't eat too much.

She still keeps up a few habits from her years in ballet, like regular stretching.

Clubs have become her favourite hang out at night, the crowds and anonymity appealing to her.

She has a tiny room in the apartment she shares with three other people off campus. She has her clothes, her books, and the random things found in her room but nothing that she is overly attached to save her claddagh ring that was a gift when she turned 16. She wears it on her right hand ring finger facing out and has no intention of ever turning it around.

Deirdre was the perfect little girl, all ribbons and bows, ruffles and dresses. Her favourite colour was pink and she loved unicorns. At a young age she showed a natural ability in dance.

She grew up just outside of New York City in Port Washington. By the time she was 6 she was auditioning for the American Ballet School and by the time she was 8 her parents had sent their daughter off to the school to live. She lived there most of the year, only taking breaks to visit home for a week in the summer. She was a straight A student, a model dancer and the apple of her parent's eye. Deirdre never caused an trouble and was never a source of anything but pride.

When she turned 17 she began to feel worn now by the need to be perfect. being perfect meant never making a mistake. Never getting in trouble, never doing anything out of turn and never doing what you wanted. She spent her life pleasing everyone and no one had ever bothered to ask her what she, Deirdre wanted. Expectations were high for the girl and the pressure to meet them was overbearing.

One night she met a few people outside of the school and they convinced her to go to a movie. She knew it would be past curfew but they were new and exciting friends. It was the first time she had broken a rule and the backlash was terrible. Her parents railed on her irresponsibilyt, her teachers tsked and lectured her. Deirdre grew frustrated but fell in line. The anger and resentment grew. She began to wonder if beign perfect was worth it.

When she hit 18 she was given the choice to become part of the New York City Ballet Company or leave the school for University. Everyone expected the girl to go on to join the company, perhaps rise in the ranks as expected to become a star. She chose to leave.

There were arguments and discussions, tears and screaming but none from Deirdre herself. She was tired and fed up. She wanted out. Her intial thought was to not attend school, get a job and explore the world. Her parents threatened to bring her home by force. She compromised, attending school full time to appease them. Her grades are just barely good enough to pass and she has taken on the philosophy of "No consquences and no regrets."

For the first time in her life Deirdre wants to live without any "plan" or "expectations" in place.

So begins...

Deirdre Evering's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach

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Thirty minutes later, Marjorie sat in the relative seclusion of the back booth at Big Sal’s Famous Pizzeria. Shrouded in a dark hoodie, she seemed somehow smaller, and without the vibrant pink bangs peeking out, she might have been easily overlooked.

Arin and Deirdre stepped into the restaurant. Arin quickly picking Marjorie out while scanning the place. He nodded to Deirdre and lead her to the table.

“Hi. This is Deirdre. She’s not fae but she knows the story. We have changed our target. Kat was found by friends but another friend is missing. She’s an important friend of the fae. Please, we really need your help.”

Deirdre pulled out Arey’s soccer jersey. “Here, I brought this because she wore it a lot when she played.” She looked at the girl and then at Arin.

Marjorie scrutinized this Deirdre quickly, sensing nothing fae or glamored about her except a slight pulsing about her aura that denoted recent or prolonged contact with the fae, which based on the unconscious way those two there were standing with each other, did not particularly surprise her.

“Missing as in the same way Kat is missing, or missing to the fae?” The younger girl asked, not quite hostile, but a definite edge of suspicion in her eyes with the sudden change of target and newcomer. Helping them find an acquaintance kidnapped by a suspicious guy posing as a cop was one thing, but tracking down some girl the fae find important who may or may not wish to be found was a whole other kettle of fish that struck a particularly sensitive nerve.

“Missing from her previous location, a police station. She was supposed to stay there to be safe and now...she isn’t answering her phone and we are worried that the guy who took Kat might have her. They found Kat, our friends but Arey is missing now.” Deirdre looked at Arin and then back at the girl.

So similarly suspicious circumstances then, Marjie sighed to herself. “Alright then.” She replied holding out her hand for the jersey. “I should be able to get you at least on the right block, hopefully the building even with this, but we’re working on short notice, and if she hasn’t worn this in a while the magic might not be as potent. Emotional connections are good though.” She said offhandedly, pulling out same jars of variously odd looking plants and candles from her bag.

“Sal’s usually pretty cool about the hoodoo stuff as long as it doesn’t bug the customers, but you may have to run some interference with any hecklers.” She warned with a pointed look at Arin.

“I’m sure I can come up with something that might be more attention getting than what you’re doing. Hey D, wanna find a booth and make out?” Arin winked.

“Seriously though, whatever you can get us would be very appreciated,” Arin turned to take in all the current patrons. He liked the spot Marjorie had chosen. She’d implied this wasn’t her first time here so it should be relatively safe. He put on his most intimidating look to make people think twice about coming over.

Deirdre blushed a little and looked around. “We can…” She smiled. “I am not positive that was what she was referring to in terms of interference though.”

“Sure, but I’m thinking out of the box. Have fun, cause a distraction. Win-win if you ask me.”

Deirdre bit back a smile. “As long as we aren’t too involved that we miss someone bugging her right?”

“Yeah, that’s my worry. You’re way too distracting for me. I doubt I’ll be paying attention to anything but... Ah well, another time?” Arin grinned.

Deirdre blushed a bit more. “Another time. For now I think she wants you to play bodyguard.”

“Yeah, I can do that. Nothing wrong with keeping an eye on your body.”

Deirdre looked at the girl in the booth and then at Arin. She gave a slight nervous laugh. “Not me. Bodyguard for her.” She reached out to squeeze his hand. “You are doing an awfully good job of distracting me from my worry about Arey you know.”

Arin raised an eyebrow, “I am? I had no idea...” He winked at her again. “So, I’ll protect her while looking at you. Works for me.”

Deirdre smiled and held his hand a little tighter.

Geeze these two a pretty light hearted for having two friends kidnapped it one night. Majie thought, shooting the couple a weird look. Adults are weird…

“You can hold this.” The younger teen told Deirdre, handing her a small smoking bundle of herbs. “Just move your hand with it in small slow circles. We just want the sage to smoke, not catch fire.” She directed, before pulling out a weighted pendant with a narrow tip and a city map.

The map was laid out on the table, some of the ground mystery plants sprinkles around and a jar that looked like it had a pickled deer’s hoof inside was placed on the edge. “Ok, so what’s this missing friend’s full name?” Majie asked after tearing off a piece of the jersey to tie onto the pendant’s string and holding it over the map.

Deirdre waved the bundle the way the girl told her to. “Arianna. Arianna Trescott.”

Arin snuck a glance at the two girls before resuming his scan of the room. So far, nothing seemed threatening. That burning sage was going to get some attention though. He frowned, looking for a means to pull attention away from them.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Arianna Marie Trescott Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach

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Marjorie’s chanting seemed to speed up every time she said Arey’s name. If there was a purpose to that, or a reason she wasn’t speaking english, the young witch wasn’t sharing. After a few minute though, the crystal on the edge of the string fell with a heavy clank to a point on the map. Opening her eyes, the young witch spoke, looking drained.

“She was moving around too much to get a lock on her, but your friend seems to be staying in one area now. You guys know E-Z Self Storage Center? Kinda deserted. Lots of druggies hang out around there.” She asked showing them the map. “It’s like a ten minute drive from here. Maybe fewer if you’re willing to break some traffic laws.”

Arin nodded, “Harder to not break them on a bike. I can make it in 5. Thank you! I hate to get a favour and run but I hope to see you again. At least to give a proper thanks. D, let’s move.”

Arin didn’t wait for her to respond. He assumed she’d follow back to the bike. He pulled his helmet on as he walked out the door.

When Deirdre hopped on the back of the bike, Arin took off. He took alleys, bike paths, even sidewalks at times in order to get to Arey as quick as he could. He was conscious of Deirdre being on the back but she’d been through some high speed rides before. He knew she’d be able to hang on.

As he approached the storage yards he killed the engine and coasted in neutral. He didn’t want to announce his presence that noisily. He found a dark corner and parked the bike. After they dismounted, he closed his eyes and concentrated. He tried to capture that sense of her that he had when she ran off the first time. Something to help guide him around the labyrinth of storage cubes.

“This way D. I think I know where she is.”

She put her helmet on the bike and unzipped her jacket. Deirdre was scared. What was Arey doing here? Why did she come to a place like this without telling anyone?

She hid her self doubt about what she was doing here...She followed Arin and trusting him when he said he thought he knew where Arey was. She didn’t know how he knew, maybe it was some connection between Arthur and Lancelot but she didn’t know anything.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Timothy Matheson Character Portrait: Arianna Marie Trescott Character Portrait: Katrina "Kat" Rivera Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach Character Portrait: David Velazquez

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Deirdre followed Arin as he led the way past the various units. She had a growing sense of dread. Arin and Arey had a warrior’s instinct. They had to as their pasts dictated it. She had also noticed in training while she could defend herself unlike them she was not a proficient attacker or even strategist. They knew how to pick their moments. She could talk, choose words and handle that but there was going to be no talking to a psychopath.

This sunk in more and more as they snuck around and she decided there was one thing she could do to help. Deirdre pulled out her phone and texted a group message to Kat, Tim and David.

Located Arey via scrying. Come to E-Z Self Storage Center. Come fast and be quiet.

Arin let the strange pull draw him into the maze of storage units. He had trusted that feeling once before and it led him to Arey, no reason to question it now. He also reviewed the lessons that Balthazar had run them through. Arin wasn’t going to miss his chance when it came, no matter what tricks Mordred might have planned. He tightened his grip on his ever present ‘brass’ knuckles wishing he’d brought a sword. With a dismissive chuckle he realized two things. One, it’s very hard to carry a sword on a bike. Two, he always was carrying a sword, just not one he could use. Shaking his head he resumed concentrating on the pull but now he could hear muffled voices. He turned to D, put a finger to his lips, then pointed to where the voices were coming from. He began to walk more carefully, quietly and balanced. He stood just outside unit 28, ducked low, where someone looking out wouldn’t expect to see anything, then peeked inside.

Deirdre, who was already being as quiet as she could be held her breath. She followed Arin blindly trusting him that he could find Arey. When he ducked down so did she, just behind him. She didn’t see anything but she could hear voices.

Arin saw the man holding the knife in Arey’s face. He saw the ripped open shirt. He saw the angry, yet helpless, look on Arey’s face. Then, something snapped. He didn’t so much see anymore as calculate. The scene almost took on the quality of a diagram. He sensed a sort of anger in himself, but this he directed toward the goal. The goal of destroying the threat to Arey. There was no other thought than complete termination. Arin felt, more than directed, his legs tensing. He sprinted forward, aiming low. Fully intent on driving Mordred into the wall. He wanted to leverage all the surprise he might have. He wanted to give Arey the opportunity to react without the feeling of helplessness. Even if all he did was pull Mordred’s focus, he would succeed.

Arey felt Arin’s presence before she saw him. It filled her with a sense of much needed reassurance in the moment right before she saw his body connect with Mordred’s. The blade whipped from her face, leaving behind a shallow cut as Mordred attempted to fend off Arin’s assault by sinking the blade into his shoulder. As the two men tussled, the chair Amanda was tied to toppled over, leaving her faced away from the scene as she struggled groggily with her binds.

“Ah if it isn’t the lion and his lover, come to join their king in death. How poetic.” Mordred hissed as he yanked back the blade and gave his attacker a shove, words dripping with acid. Oddly, he looked much more menacing with the small blade than he did the gun in his other hand. The modern weapon looked awkward in his grip, contrasting the rather expert way he wielded the knife. “You saved me the trouble of finding you Lancelot, I’d always regretted not slitting your throat. Though perhaps I should be more grateful. Without you I’d never have had the opportunity to split open my dear father. Would you like to see it?!” Mordred proclaimed with a maddening glint in his eyes.

Deirdre was still and tense, holding her breath as Arin rushed the crazed man. She watched them connect and forced herself to move.

“Arey!” She ran forward only then spotting the toppled chair and the woman in it. Deirdre looked at Arey and then back to the woman. “I have to-” Her eyes were soft and she reached out, grabbing Arey’s hand and pulling her lightly before running to the restrained woman.

Quickly her fingers worked at the ropes. She felt clumsy as she frantically tried to ignore the men fighting and focused on the ropes. Deirdre bit her lip and concentrated on her task.

Just undo the ropes. Arey is safe. Arin is fine.

Slowly the ropes began to let go. Deirdre left the girl there. She had no first aid training. She stood and ran back to Arey. “I need your help.” Her eyes were wide and she reached out for Arey. She tried to ignore the fighting, the nagging worry about Arin that was eating away at the pit of her stomach.

Arin grinned, the pain in his shoulder fading quickly with the rush of adrenaline, “If I knew you were looking I’d have introduced myself sooner. Maybe you remember this?”

With a swift motion Arin engaged his forearm with Mordred’s, blocking the movement of the knife. He grasped the wrist and rotated slightly. Now that the knife was controlled Arin drove from his waist, up and into Morderd’s chest and neck. Pushing him hard into the back wall. He heard the thud of Mordred’s head connect with the wall and saw his eyes glaze somewhat. With a harder turn on the wrist Arin heard the knife clatter to the ground. He shoved Mordred to the ground and reached to secure the knife.

It was like being pulled out of the mud, Arey thought in a daze as Deirdre pulled her gently from the hold of the rune circle. Her thoughts felt strangely muddled, but Arey didn’t have time to think about it as she heard D call out for her. She was with Amanda on the floor, trying to undo the ropes, and Arey rushed quickly to her side to help. This place, understandable, put Arey on edge. She wanted both her friends out of here and away from the imminent danger as quickly as possible.

“Arey, w-was goin’ on?” Amanda slurred out, eyes dilated and unfocused. Her friend was very obviously drugged Arey thought in dismay, which was going to make getting Amanda out of here more difficult. “Don’t worry, you’re safe now.” Arey tried to assure her and she undid the final knot tying her to the chair. “D, I want you to take her outside. Call an ambulance and David. Make sure they’re sending medical people.” God only knew what Mordred had put in Amanda’s system, but it nagged at her.

Deirdre looked at Arey. She didn’t want to leave. What if Arin needed help? What if Arey got hurt? She knew there was nothing more she could do here, that Arey was right and Amanda needed help.

Deirdre stood and started to come around Arey in order to help Amanda up.

As the knife dropped to the floor with a clatter, it became apparent to Mordred that he had lost the close up battle with Lance. For all his former brother in arms’ reputation for chivalry and virtue, he had never know Sir Lancelot to leave a threat with breath in their chest in the heat of battle. The little lion had the knife, and would undoubtedly go for the kill, but Mordred was going to take his prize with him. Instead of scrambling for the knife, Mordred raised a clumsy hand and leveled the gun at Arthur, pulling the trigger.

The sound of gunfire was deafening in the enclosed metal walls of the storage unit, and Arey’s ears rang as she whipped her head around to see Mordred down against the wall, smoking gun in hand as he laughed like a maniac. She looked down at herself, finding no new injuries before turning to D and Amanda, face falling.

“Yes, this is better!” Mordred cackled. “You both lose!”

It was like the wind was knocked out of her and a burning pain. Her eyes met Arin’s, confusion and pain shining in hers. Her lips parted but nothing came out. Deirdre fell sideways, partially on her knees. She had been trying to get to a better spot, someplace that would make helping the prone Amanda up easier but now she couldn’t move.

Her hands went to side where the pain was strongest. Her hands were wet. Deirdre laid down fully, collapsing to the floor. It felt as if she couldn’t take a proper breath and what little air went in sent pain through her body. Her eyes lifted to the ceiling, she couldn’t see Arin anymore.

It hurts! I can’t breathe! Her mind was a state of panic, confusion and fear.

Deirdre didn’t know what happened. She thought she had heard the bang. Now all she could hear was sound of her heart in her ears.

She coughed, choking on something. A fresh wave of pain and panic rippled through her. No new air found its way in.

Around her blood was pooling. Her shirt soaked through, her right side where the wound lay showing darkest.

Knife in hand, Arin turned and saw Deirdre on the floor covered in blood. There was hardly a thought before the soldier in Lancelot took over. He had seen many battlefield wounds. He knew how to handle this situation and he didn’t give Arin a choice. As Arin’s control faded he almost was glad to give it up as he didn’t know what to do for Dierdre.

A swift, precise move with the knife into the cervical region of Mordred's spine and his laughter cut short. The injury would ensure Mordred would never move on his own again. A commanding, gruff voice came from Arin’s mouth, “You be still now. I’ll deal with you later.”

Immediate threat dealt with, Lancelot turned to the women, “My lord, you must summon a physician. This wound is grievous and requires immediate attention.” Tearing off his shirt, he then knelt beside Deirdre and covered the wound, stemming the bleed and sealing the puncture as much as he could.

“Easy now, try to take shallow breaths.”

The breath wasn’t coming and she wanted to cough. Her throat felt full again. Her eyes were full of fear and pain as Arin leaned over her. Blood trickled out from her parted lips and down her chin.

It seemed like blood was everywhere, all at once, and for a moment it was all Arey could see. ‘He shot her.’ a cool detached part of her mind recognized immediately. And the ringing laughter only seemed to make the situation seem more surreal. Then the laughter stopped, and there was more blood, and Arin was by her side, a rock. Only, it wasn’t Arin...it was Lancelot. Arey wasn’t sure how she knew for certain, but she did, and it was that realization that helped her to focus.

“This is bad…” Arey mumbled as she added her weight to the wound, and she watched the growing pool of blood. Hearing the gurgling sounds D was making set off another red flag, and Arey tried to gently lift her friend into a better position for breathing. The pool of blood only seemed to be getting larger as Arey reached for Deirdre’s phone, her bloody fingers fumbling with the buttons. They hadn’t even called 9-1-1 yet and she’d already lost so much blood.

“They’ll never make it here in time…” Arey thought aloud in dismay as shaking hands numbly dialed for help. The human body could only lose so much blood before organ function began failing. Two liters was the average number that marked critical blood loss, and they were reaching that amount far too quickly.

Deirdre’s eyes started to roll back a little. She was no longer looking at anyone or anything in particular. Dark. Why...can’t breathe… Eyelids closed slowly as her body struggled to remain functioning.

“9-1-1 what is your emergency?” A voice chimed out from the other end of the phone.

“We need an ambulance now! My friend’s been shot and she’s losing a lot of blood-D keep your eyes open!” Arey tried to inform the responder, but seeing Deirdre’s eyes and her body seizing up, Arey abandoned the phone to gently pull Deirdre’s head into her lap to protect it in case her body started to flail.

“We’re sending an ambulance to your location now please stay where you are.” The responder’s voice replied in a tone that was meant to be soothing.

“Your grace, there is magic afoot. Surely something can be done to buy time?” Lancelot was attempting to remain calm. However, both his and Arin’s concern was showing through.

“I don’t know how to use magic.” Arey snapped before reining herself back in. “For something like that we’d need Vivienne or Bal or…” The fae, Arey thought at once feeling stupid. They’d struck that deal with Maighdlin to visit the seelie court once a month at a time of their choosing. Arey had never inquired before how to get there or summon the fae, it hadn’t seemed important at the time. “Lancelot,” Arey asked the knight seriously, eyes locking as she tried to keep back her desperation. “If you call out to a fae you’ve struck a deal with, can they hear you?” Lancelot had lived in Arthur’s court and been raised by a fae, so if either of them knew the best way to get one’s attention, it was him.

“They are fae. If they are paying attention and are in the right mood, maybe?” Lancelot shrugged. The only thing predictable about fae, in his experience, was they could not be predicted.

“Then let’s hope they’re feeling nosy today.” Arey said gravely as she gazed worriedly at Deirdre. “Maighdlin! My escort and I are ready to visit your court!” Arey called out. The room was quiet, and nothing appeared to happen.

Deirdre went limp in Arey’s lap. Her colour was waxen, pale from blood loss. This is how my story ends…

“Maighdlin, bring us to fairy now! You made the deal with Deirdre, if she dies I swear to you now I’m through with the lot of you! Your whole damn court can burn and I won’t lift a finger to save you if you ignore us now!” Arey screamed as she felt Deirdre go limp in her arms, an anger building inside her she couldn’t quite control as tears began flowing down her face. Still, they were greeted only by silence.

“Come on you Seelie bastards! Save her!” Arey’s voice suddenly seemed to echo as the backdrop of the storage unit began to melt away and was replaced by that of a dark and almost oppressively ancient forest.

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Tim jumped as his phone vibrated. “We have to go now.”

Finally news. They had found her. He looked at David. “Arey, they know where she is but we need to go now.”

David nodded to the paramedics with Kat, “You sure you’re okay with leaving her here? Should one of us stay with her?”

Tim inhaled and looked at Kat. “She needs to come too. I am not comfortable with us being separated anymore.”

“Yeah yeah, let’s do it, let’s go.” Kat remarked quickly as she shooed off the paramedics. She didn’t like being talked about in the third person, and she liked being treated like she was fragile even less. There was a bad guy out there that needed beaten, and she could damn well bury thoughts about what the hell had just happened long enough to take care of business.

“So where are we headed?” Kat asked, getting up a bit shakier than she’d like, but her eyes demanded no comment.

Tim put out a hand to take Kat’s. “To get Arey. She was supposed to stay at the station but…” His voice trailed off.

He looked at her, trying to stay positive. She didn’t need more put on her. “Arin and D are there now. We are going to meet them and help. Some storage place.”

David sighed, “Yeah. That’s pretty much what I thought you’d say, Kat. Alright, I’ve seen enough to know I shouldn’t delay with an argument. Let’s go. I’ll drive. You navigate, Tim. Kat, please at least try to take some time for yourself while enroute.” He smiled gently at her. He knew she needed a lot more support than he could give at this point, but she seemed like a strong girl so he knew not to put kid gloves on.

Kat didn’t say anything as they drove to the address Tim has been texted, though anxiety churned in her gut. The first thing she could see was a swirl of red and blue lights and the drone of sirens. They were not the first on the scene it seemed, as virtually a dozen different police cars and an ambulance were there.

Tim was out of the vehicle and running towards the storage unit.

“Arey! Arey!” There were cops and paramedics everywhere. He felt sick and scared.

“Hey!” He watched them bring someone out on a stretcher. “Who is that?” Tim saw blonde hair and his stomach dropped. He turned to look at David. “Can you get in there and see?”

He was not moving. Police cars blocked the area off but his own sense of dread was holding him in place.

David stepped out and surveyed the scene. First responders in full action, someone was hurt and being worked on. Maybe a few. He sighed, “I’ll check it out Tim. Stay here a sec.”

He pulled out his ID and held it up as he approached the scene. In the chaos he got nothing more than the instant scan and nod. He wanted to see but he also didn’t want to get in the way, so he moved to the storage unit and poked his head around the corner. Seeing only two people he was confused, “Hey, hey you,” he flagged one of the uniforms over, “Who else was here and where were they taken?”

Disinterestedly, the uniformed officer barely glanced up, “No one else, just these two. One looks like he’ll never walk again. I don’t know how the girl did it, since she’s barely conscious, but she stuck him. Self defence for sure. Easy case here.”

David shook his head, “No, no, there were three others. Two women and a man. They should have been here too.”

“Not when we got here they weren’t.”

“You’re sure?”

“Look, you see what I saw. Only thing that was odd, we were told there was someone shot here. No gunshot wounds. Though we do have a gun that’s been fired.”

“Right, okay, thanks,” David wandered back over to Tim and filled him in.

“I’m not entirely sure what to make of that.”

The colour drained from Tim’s face. “What do you mean they aren’t there? Where are they? Who was shot?” He began to pace. “They can’t just disappear! What did he do to them?”

Tim wheeled around to face David. “Mordred. Why is he alive? Arin or Arey would have-he did something to them. We need to talk to him.”

He began to walk towards David, intent on getting to the ambulance.

“Sure, okay, let’s see if we can talk to him,” David went to the ambulance as well.

He approached the paramedics, “How is the perp? Can I ask him a few questions?”

One of the paramedics looked up, “Hi detective. I doubt you’ll get much from this guy. Until he gets a speech assistance device of some kind, he’s not communicating with anyone. He can barely breathe on his own. Completely severed spine, in the cervical region. If I didn’t know better I would say this was done by a surgeon and not a girl fighting for her life.”

David frowned, “So you don’t think the girl could have done this?”

The paramedic raised his hands, “Not saying that. Just saying, she has a real steady hand or a very lucky shot.”

David turned to Tim, “No go.”

“That’s it?” He looked lost. Tim moved back to the car and leaned against it. He put his face in his hands.

“Maybe they went home?” Kat suggested from behind them, though she had a hard time thinking why they would. Kat knew Arin’s work when she say it, and there was no doubt in her mind who’d wielded that blade. Why they would have left that girl behind though, Kat wasn’t sure, but she held onto the thought regardless.

“They shouldn’t have left him alive.” Kat muttered, shivering as she walked back to the car. She’d seen weirder things than a paralyzed man able to walk again due to magic, and she didn’t like those kind of loose ends.

“We should try and call Viv again…”


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“Aren’t you a demanding little shit.” A young sounding voice rang out around them, though Arey couldn’t see the figure. “Listen to me! Save her! Fix my problems! Whine whine whine, it’s all you mortals ever do.” It began to chide.

“You’ve got yourself that magic little toothpick so that brat of a queen rushes to please you, has the gall to try and order my compliance. It would almost be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.” It continued as mist began rolling in through the trees.

“I don’t know what your experience with that infant court of the seelie has been so far, but I’m as old as they come, and I bend to no little lordling of the fae. Make your case and begone. I’ve entertained your whims enough as it is.” The figure that emerged was that of a child, but her eyes were ancient, steeley, and altogether unfriendly. The pigtails in particular threw Arey off, the scene was just too bizarre, but so far she’d learned very little was ever as it appeared with the fae, so why should now be any different.

“Our friend’s been hurt, please, she’s not going to last much longer! If you need something from me I’ll do it, but we don’t have time to argue or throw insults! If you’re not going to help me then send me to someone who can!” Arey responded in kind, trying to keep her hostility in check. She had little love for the fae to begin with, and their newest acquaintance was doing little to improve her opinion.

“Time doesn’t move in this place child. It’s a living memory, separate from either your world or that of the seelie. That girl is a breath away from death. The moment she leaves this place she’ll die, as fate intended.” The fae in a child’s body replied matter of factly, as if she were explaining some menial task and not pronouncing a death sentence for her friend. For a moment, Arey was still, her insides cold.

“Maighdlin sent us to you for a reason. It means you can help her, we wouldn’t be here otherwise.” Arey argued, eyed hard as the figure of the child seemed to morph into that of a young woman.

“There are ways to bring back souls from the brink, but it is a damaging process, and not just for those who are brought back. When you trifle with the order of things, force life where there should be death, there are consequences. She didn’t send you to me so that I could help you. You’re here to have some reason knocked into your head and say your goodbyes. Be grateful I relented to that.” The woman replied with thinly veiled disapproval.

For a moment, Arey thought she’d forgotten to breath, it felt like something had a hold of her insides and was slowly squeezing. This...thing wanted to let Deirdre die, wanted her to relent, sit quietly like a good little human and just let it happen. The arrogance and conceit of the idea was maddening, and in that moment something in Arey snapped.

“Arin.” Arey said in a strained voice she hardly recognized. “Show me the tattoo.”

Lancelot had slowly faded away as they crossed into Fairy. The soldier was no longer required and Arin wanted control back. He’d been watching this exchange and holding his tongue. He knew better than to get involved with fae when his emotions were up. He looked over at Arey and shrugged, “Arey, the sword is why they need you. Don’t let them get you off your game.”

Arin finished tearing his shirt, since it was ruined already and turned so Arey could see the tattoo. He focused his breathing and closed his eyes. As he waited for Arey to draw he held Deirdre’s hand gently, steeling himself.

Normally, when Arey practised pulling the sword from Arin, there was a careful tentativeness on her part that bordered on self consciousness. In this moment however, Arey was too angry, too focus to be so painstakingly gentle as she plunged her hand in and gripped the hilt of the sword. At first, the fae woman looked vaguely perplexed by Arey’s actions, but slowly shifted to guarded discomfort as Arey pulled the sword, her eyes never leaving the blade.

“I don’t give a sodding shit who you answer to, Seelie, Unseelie, or anyone else. You’re still fae, and I’m willing to bet that if I stab you with this, you’ll die just as easily as anyone else.” Arey’s voice was strangely calm, but held a menace that was foreign and felt oddly out of place.

“So fix her. I don’t care what it takes, I don’t care what you think, just do it! Damn the bloody consequences!” Arey’s voice echoed with Arthur’s mirrored rage.

The figure of the young woman shifted once again, this time into that of a craggy and unkindly aged woman, which made her sneer all the more twisted. “An ant threatens a boot! You think to intimidate me into your service child and you will find me far less pleasant.”

“I might be an ant, but I’m an ant with bloody faery kryptonite, so I think I’ll take my chances.” Arey replied coldly, advancing on her. The smile the hag returned with was strained and mean, but she laid out her hands in a sign of surrender.

“Fine.” She said with a snap on her gnarled fingers, and from the mists emerged a simple dark caldron, roughly the size of a bath tub. Upon first glance there seemed almost nothing special about it, but the longer she stared at the caldron, the more strange and unnerving power she felt from it. In her hand, Excalibur seemed to resonate with a pulse, as if recognizing an old friend.

“Dip her into the waters.” The hag instructed curtly. “But once this is done, you leave. If you or your seelie queen call, I will not answer. Do not call on me or the caldron for help again ant, your good will is used up.”

Arin heard the instructions from the hag through the recovery of the sword withdrawal. He shook his head to clear it as much as he could and swept Deirdre up in his arms. There was a brief moment where the injury in his shoulder broke his movement. He shifted Deirdre’s weight and pushed through. He stepped toward the cauldron and looked in. He glanced back to Arey over his shoulder. “Gotta do it.”

He knelt and lowered Deirdre into the water, keeping her face above so she might breathe, in whatever way she could.

The water turned red around her. Cold. So cold… Deirdre could feel her body failing. She could feel her heart slowing and she was terrified.

Her body sunk, her head dipping under.

Heartbeats passed.

A hand reached out and clung to Arin’s arm. It pulled, using the contact as her head re-emerged and Deirdre hung onto Arin.

Blue eyes stared up at him.

Arin smiled, “Welcome back.”

He pulled her out of the water and as close into him as he could.

She clung to him, unsure and confused as to what was going on. Her face buried into his bare chest as her nails came just short of digging into skin. “Where am I?”

The last thought Deirdre had was that she was cold and she knew she was dying. Now Arin held her, though she was still cold. She remembered pain and her body curled up reflexively against him. “It hurt...what..?” Her mind was having a bit of trouble processing what was going on.

Arin stood up, drawing Deirdre with him, out of the water. He winced again and shifted her so she would stand while he still supported the majority of her weight, “Long story and not the place to tell stories, I’d think.”

“Arey? Where’s Arey?” Deirdre’s voice was a half sob muffled against his skin. “Mordred. He-” Memories were piecing together slowly. “Arin, we have to do something.”

Deirdre’s legs gave out a little as she stood, attempting to climb out of the cauldron. She stood with him, shaking and confused. “Arey? Where is she?”

“Arey’s here. Mordred... is having a little lie down right now. He won’t get far. We’ll find him right where we left him.” Arin turned so Arey was in Deirdre’s line of sight.

Deirdre looked at Arey, sword in hand. “Arey? Are you hurt?” She frowned lightly. “Where are we?” This was not where she remembered being. She also didn’t remember being wet and cold.

Arey had stayed back as Arin placed Deirdre into the water and brought her back out. Watching them together, she felt like an intruder, and she tried to give them as much privacy as possible given the situation. A phantom pang resonated in her chest, the longing Arthur felt to be the one holding her evident, and Arey ignored him resolutely.

“No D, I’m fine.” Arey reassured her friend, keeping the relief she felt out of her voice as much as possible. Deirdre didn’t need to know just how shaken they’d been, or just close they’d come to losing her. “Some fae place.” Arey tried to answer, though in truth she wasn’t really sure where they were either. Living memory was an odd description to begin with, but it was also unnervingly vague.

“It’s done.” The hag was once again a little girl, eyes a heated amber as she spoke. “Remember this day in the future little ants. When the day comes that you realize what you’ve changed, what you’ve lost, and the consequences become clear, remember whom is to blame.”

Deirdre looked towards the little girl. She was confused. “What is she talking about? What is changed? What is lost?” Her eyes fell on the cauldron, on the fae then to Arey. She was still holding onto Arin though her legs were doing a slightly better job of holding her up. Water pooled at her feet, her clothes still clung to her but Deirdre couldn’t feel the chill anymore.

“What have we lost?” Things made so little sense. Her mind was trying to block her from remembering as if there was something it did not wish her to see.

She looked back at the fae. “What do you mean?”

“We’ll take our chances thanks.” Arey replied tersely, instinctively putting herself and the sword between the fae and her friends. She also wasn’t sure if telling Deirdre exactly what the hag had said was a good idea. Deirdre already had a tendency to blame herself for things that were out of her control. This would just be fuel for that self doubting fire she didn’t need.

Arey moved and Deirdre held her breath. Were they in danger from this fae? Were they here to hurt them? Her mind warred between memories of pain and cloudiness that comes with trying to block something bad out.

“I don’t understand what is going on.” She pulled away from Arin a little. Her eyes fell on the open wound on his shoulder. “Arin.”

Deirdre instinctively reached up to cover the wound. “Is it bad? Who-”

Fighting. Mordred. A knife. Fragments flashed.

“We need to get out of here.” Deirdre’s voice was shaky.

“It’s fine D. Just caught a bit of the wrong end of a blade. I’ll be okay. But yeah, let’s get moving. Probably best to get home, right Arey?” He started walking toward Arey, encouraging Deirdre to move with him.

“Agreed.” Arey said quietly, eyes still locked on the fae. “You said once it was done you wanted us gone, so send us back. We won’t bother you again.”

“Somehow I think you’ll try. Death is a part of your life little ant. You’d best learn to get used to it if you want to keep your mind.” The fae replied unimpressed, her eyes clouding over to a murky white. “Enjoy your new path, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

The world shifted around them once again. The fae and the cauldron were gone, and the oppressively ancient looking trees were replaced by the much friendlier and spaced out ones of Central Park. The sky was still dark, but light was creeping in the let them know it was the early hours of the morning. Recognizing the nearby path as a place she used to go for runs with teammates, Arey released a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding.

Deirdre had so many questions but right now she knew Arin was hurt and Arey...Arey looked angry and wild.

“Let’s go home.” Her tone was soothing, firm but not aggressive. Her own thoughts and confusion could wait.

Arin looked around, taking in their new location and huffed, “Right. Home. Yeah.” He winced again as he moved his arm to better position Deirdre, “Any chance either of you are good with stitches?”

“Yeah...god if it's morning already the guys must have been worried out of their minds.” Arey replied anxiously, thinking of Tim. “I’m a decent hand with a stitch. You have anything to use?” She asked Arin, shifting her attention there.

“Uh?” He looked down at himself, half naked and covered in the blood of three different people, “Can’t say that I do. Think they’d be okay if I went into the corner store and asked for some thread?”

“I think they might call the cops if they saw you walk in there honestly.” Arey replied. “I’ll go. right now I’m probably the least likely to draw attention.” She reasoned.

“We are not far from home. Let’s go there and Theo can do it?” Deirdre looked at them both. She didn’t want to argue but she also wasn’t feeling like herself. She wanted to get home, to find out what had happened and to have Arin looked after properly. She didn’t want to think about what the others, including Viv was going to say about all of this.

Arey looked down at Deirdre, quietly assessing her condition before looking around the clearing they’d wound up in to try and get her bearings. “It takes at least thirty minutes by foot to get to campus from here, but we can probably get to a main road pretty quickly. We can get a cab from there to take us back home.” Arey suggested, her eyes transfixed on the color of the leaves. Orange, yellow, and red hues dominated the landscape. Yesterday they’d been green.
-----------

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Timothy Matheson Character Portrait: Arianna Marie Trescott Character Portrait: Katrina "Kat" Rivera Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach Character Portrait: David Velazquez

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If the cabbie was put off by their disheveled state or the amount of blood they were covered in, he kept it to himself. Another time, Arey might have wondered what the man had seen in his time to be so desensitized. Right now however, all she could feel was exhaustion. Adrenaline from all the evening’s twists and terrors had long since worn off, leaving her feeling wary and drained. She didn’t imagine Arin or Deirdre were feeling much better, and she could only imagine how Amanda was holding up. Was she at the hospital, or had she gone back to the dorms? It was still early morning, so Arey hoped she could catch up to her, explain to Amanda what had happened as best she could. That wasn’t a conversation Arey felt up to in this moment though. They needed to get home. The last couple of hours couldn’t have been easy on the others, and it was safe to say the whole team needed to come together to regroup and recuperate.

Deirdre sat in the cab next to Arin, holding his hand, but she felt so distant. The world seemed strange. The colours felt off. Sounds were odd. Her hand tightened on Arin’s. She didn’t fully understand what had happened but she was more concerned about him right now. Deirdre watched as they passed parts of New York that she knew she knew but for some reason the names escaped her. They would be home soon. Home where Arin would get help and Arey would rest and they could see everyone and rest…

Yes. Rest.
Her hand went to her stomach. She felt different but could not pinpoint what the difference was.

The ride home to the Round Tablet was finished in relative quiet, with only the sounds of the city disturbing the weary silence. Arin paid the cabbie once they arrived, the only one apparently who’d managed to keep hold of his wallet in all the chaos. It was yet another thing Arey would need to call David to retrieve, but it could wait. Gently, she eased Deirdre out of the car and through the familiar set of doors, Arin soon in tow.

It was too early for the store to be open, their only greeting a silent one from racks electronics and gaming gear, so Arey locked the store back up behind them. Given the night they’d all had, she figured what remained of the group would either be cloistered in the Batcave, or still out in the city looking for them. Regardless, the cave had a phone they could use to call everyone together, so that’s where they were headed.

Arin took over helping Deirdre through the mirror, and Arey followed a respectful distance behind as he led her to the couch where she could rest better. Arin stayed with her, keeping a quiet, comfortable vigil that conveyed such obvious care and intimacy that Arey had to turn away. Standing there felt like intruding on a private moment between them, and Arey supposed she’d already done enough of that in her lives. Her own feelings of dejection at the sight quickly mixed with guilt. That’s not you, it’s him, Arey tried to rationalize to herself, but she looked away all the same.

Looking to occupy herself with something else, Arey reached over for the ancient looking rotary phone. She needed to start making calls, the only question was who to call first. Her fingers paused over the dial in silent debate, but the clamour of footsteps stopped Arey before she came to any decision.

“Where the hell have you guys been!” Kat hollered, her hazel eyes flashing almost green as she burst into the room in batman pajamas and serious bags under her eyes. Considering what Kat had just gone through in the last twenty four hours, the signs of stress weren’t surprising.

“Sorry, we got back as quickly as we could.” Arey replied weakly, her own exhaustion beginning to show. Her response was met by an incredulous look.

“Arey, do you have any idea how long you’ve been gone?” Kat asked slowly, a note of stress in her voice that felt out of place.

“A few hours.” Arey guessed tiredly with a mounting sense of unease.

“Arey, you three have been gone for weeks...no sign, no trace, nothing. Viv couldn’t even track Arin.” Kat plowed on, unloading her pent up stress and fear.

Tim was out of his room in a flash at the sound of Kat’s yell. “Arey? Arin? Arey!”
He looked tired, extremely tired. His skin was ashen. Since the three had gone missing he had not eaten or slept much. He spent a lot of time out looking for them or with Kat as she tried to find them. It was all they could do to stop from going crazy with worry.

Tim ran towards Arey. He pulled her in, squeezing her tightly. His body shook as he held her.

Arin stood from his seat on the couch. He watched Tim and Arey. He could read the tension and relief in both Kat and Tim’s face.

A hand slipped into his and he looked down at Deirdre. She smiled up at him tiredly.

“Weeks?” Arey parroted back numbly, her mind struggling to process how they could have been been gone so long. “But we were only there a few minutes, not even half an hour…” Arey’s shock was cut short as she was pulled into Tim’s hug. He looked a mess, thinner and gaunt in a way he hadn’t been the last time she’d seen him. For Arey, it felt like only a few hours ago at the police station, but for Tim the wait had been much worse. She returned the hug gently, trying to comfort him as best she could in her own mentally and emotionally exhausted state. “It’s alright, we’re ok now.”

“Fairie realms rarely obey this world’s concept of time.” The smoothly accented voice of Vivienne rang out from the doorway, her amber eyes practically glowing from her perch in the shadow. “You’ve been to see the Cailleach…” Her gaze fixed on Deidre, her mood impermeable.

Deirdre froze under Viv’s gaze. “I-I don’t..”

Her eyes moved to Arin, then Arey.

Arin’s mind was working, processing the information. For them, they could measure the passed time in minutes, barely an hour. For those here it was weeks. There was no surprise on his face. There was concern though, in his eyes. Kat looked stressed. Tim appeared exhausted, his worry and stress visible in every inch of his body.

He glanced at Deirdre. They would add to the worry when they told them what had happened with Mordred, what had happened to Deirdre. He kept himself almost as unreadable as his mother. There was no time for emotion right now, the air was thick with it already.

Tim look confused. He kept Arey close, as if fearing she might disappear from his arms. “Caill-the what? What is that? Why were you in Fairie? Mordred-”

Tim inhaled slowly. “We went to the storage locker. We found him. He-he is alive.” There was venom in his words.

Tim shook his head and squeezed Arey. “What happened?”

On the couch Deirdre felt ill and a little off. She was the reason they were in Fairie. Everyone was going to be upset but it hadn’t been her choice. She remembered trying to get to Amanda, focusing on that and not the fighting. Arin and Arey were the fighters, the warriors- not her.

Then there was pain and confusion. Arin and Arey were looking down at her but she couldn’t do anything. Then water. So cold. She wasn’t entirely sure of what had gone on.

Deirdre closed her eyes. She could feel the cold around her and the stillness. Goosebumps formed on her skin as she sat there. The cold was so real that it almost felt as if she was there again.

Hearing Mordred’s name, learning that he was still alive, wracked a violent shiver down to Arey’s core. The movement was visceral and involuntary, and in that moment Arey hated herself for that weakness. Until this moment, she’d been able to shove aside the terror and violation that for her had only been hours ago. She’d had to be strong, there hadn’t been time to really react or really process just how vulnerable and unnerved she felt.

“He shot her...they were the only ones who could have helped...there was so much blood…” Arey rattled off, trying to make Tim understand. Arey wrapped her shredded shirt around herself more tightly, as if putting on armour that would help her hold on to her quickly fading strength. “I couldn’t think of another way.”

“The Cailleach is one of the ancient fae...archaic in fact.” Vivienne answered Tim, her voice strangely blank of it’s usual inflection. “Better known as the Crone. There was a time she was worshiped as a goddess by men and fae alike.”

“Okay...cryptic…” Kat intoned as she wrapped a blanket around Deirdre’s shoulders. All three of them had seemed exhausted coming in, but something with Deirdre was just off. Kat’s hand briefly touched Deirdre’s skin, and it was like ice. “Why do I get the feeling this old bat is a stone cold bitch?”


“That is...a surprisingly accurate description.” Vivienne replied without humor. “The Cailleach is many things, but she is first and foremost a force of nature onto herself. Her domain is the wild and winter’s chill, and the keeper of dead souls beyond the veil.” Vivienne’s hands were wringing in a sign of stress that was surprisingly human.

“She is also the guardian of the Cauldron, one of the four sacred treasures of the fae. You three are apparently now acquainted with it.” Her eyes shifted from Deirdre to Arey, closed briefly, and reopened after a deep and stabilizing breath.. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?” Her voice was quiet, but the reprimand was clear.

“It saved her, and you won’t make me sorry for it.” Arey bristled.

“Yes it did, for a price. What was it?” Vivienne retorted curtly, eyes intent and searching.

Arin straightened. “She said we cannot call on her or the cauldron again. She said we will one day know what we changed and lost and who is to blame.”

Deirdre looked down at her hands. Arin had let her hand go as he answered his mother and now she folded them in her lap. She shivered and hunched into the blanket Kat had placed on her. They had changed things- for her. Her eyes closed.

...and say your goodbyes

Deirdre could hear the voice talking but she couldn’t focus, couldn’t breathe and she had been scared. She was dying. She remembered now. The moment when she realized she was dying.

Her shoulders shook a little and she tried to stifle the fear that threatened once more. She wasn’t dead though. She was here and alive.

Arin stood stone still. “Arey did what she felt was right. Deirdre was dying in our arms.”

On the couch Deirdre bit back a small noise. Dying. In their arms. She remembered being lifted, carried and then the cold.

Tim looked from Arin to Deirdre and then to Viv. He hugged Arey tightly. “Keeper of dead souls? Cauldron?”

His brain worked trying to fit the pieces together. “So you found Mordred, left him pretty much a vegetable but he shot Deirdre. You went to see some Fae and she had a cauldron.”

“In a nutshell, yes. I called out to the Seelie queen first. Apparently she sent us there to that...she called it a living memory, but it looked like a forest. She, the hag, wasn’t going to help at first, so we had to...persuade her.” Arey elaborated a bit, remember the trees, and the mists, and her own rage in that moment.

“Dude! You totally went all gangster on her?” Kat crowed approvingly from her perch on the couch next to Deirdre. Kat had never been great with the whole emotional comfort thing when it came to traumatic situations, but she could offer her own supportive warmth and hope it was enough.

“You...threatened the Cailleach?” Vivienne repeated slowly, horrified disbelief playing clearly across her face. “That was an incredibly stupid and reckless thing to do.” Arey got the sense Viv had been thinking of another word to put in there, but had forcibly restrained herself.

“If I hadn’t then Deirdre would have died, and I wasn’t willing to let that happen.” Arey bit back, unwilling to budge or apologize for her actions on this issue.

“This is war Arey, people die. It’s the natural order of things, and you’ve tampered with it. You don’t get to throw a tantrum and reset the board every time you lose someone important to you, especially to assuage your own guilt over the circumstances!” Vivienne replied harshly, anger visibly spilling over.

“Do not mistake me, a part of me is glad to see Deirdre home and alive. Her loss would have been terrible for us all, but you have no idea what the repercussions of this will be. Those who tamper with fate rarely meet a good end, and the Cauldron never grants life without taking some for itself elsewhere.”

Arin frowned a little. “You mean to save Deirdre it has killed someone else? How does it decide who?”

Deirdre felt faint. She was supposed to die. Viv was angry because they had saved her, because it was not the order of things and someone, somewhere died because of her. What little colour there was in her face drained away.

“This wasn’t Arey’s fault.” Her voice was quiet. She didn’t want to interrupt Arin but she also didn’t like how Viv was blaming Arey.

“It is not nearly so simple as that.” Vivienne replied curtly. “You’ve created a ripple effect, an alternate chain of events from this point forward. Every person you help save, every decision she helps influence, it all has to be accounted for somewhere in the balance. How that will affect the world, or us, is unknowable.”

“Well, we’ll worry about that when we get there.” Kat chimed in, arms crossed with a tone of finality. “We know for sure that if they’d let D die, life would have been crappy. If there’s no way to tell which version of the timeline is better, then I’m betting my money on the one with her in it.”

Arin looked at Viv, his feelings on letting Deirdre die or not was clear in his eyes. “Arey did what she had to do and I supported the decision. We will have to face the consequences and I accept that.”

His voice was calm and level. The idea of letting Deirdre die hadn’t entered his mind. He would have done whatever it took. The sight of her had forced the soldier in him to the front because dealing with the idea that she was shot and bleeding out at his feet was not what he wanted to face.

Part of him couldn’t help but wonder, if Viv had been there would she have let Deirdre die.

Arin squashed that down. Now was not the time.

Tim tensed. He was tired, distraught and now relieved. The mix of emotions was not easy to control. He considered how he would have felt if Arey had been shot and a small guilty part of him was happy it had not been her.

“So you are saying from this point on anything Deirdre does changes the way things should have been and in the end there is a price for all that change.” He looked at Viv. “Am I understanding that correctly? That by being here and alive it changes the way things should have been and that might come back at us.”

Deirdre was feeling worse and worse the more they talked. Her heartbeat pounded in her ears, a heartbeat she shouldn’t have. Her shirt was stuck to her, a reminder of the blood and then water.

She covered her face, too exhausted now to cry, too confused and scared as to what her presence meant to say anything more than “I’m sorry. I am so sorry.”

Arin looked back at her. “You have nothing to be sorry for. We made the decision, we will face the consequences.”

“Yes.” Vivienne intoned cryptically. “That is exactly what I’m getting at.” She looked more tired now than anything else, acceptance smoothing impassive neutrality back over her perfect fae features. “The damage is already done. All we can do now is prepare for the worst. Events are already progressing faster than I’d anticipated.”

“How do you mean?” Arey asked cautiously, guard still up from the previous topic of conversation.

“I mean Olivia Harris, one of the most powerful witches in North America was found mutilated in her Texas safe house last month. Among other things, she was a sitting council member of the Covenant, which has left a distinctively dangerous power vacuum in the realm of supernatural politics.” Viv continued as Kat looked up sharply.

“When were you going to tell me about this?!” Kat was up in a flash, pacing wildly as she tried to occupy her hands with something other than punching walls. “What about Drew, or Jenna? Are they ok, what happened to them?”

“We had other things to worry about without adding this to the pile.The girls are both fine given the circumstances.” Vivienne replied soothingly. “Jenna is Olivia’s obvious successor, but whether she’ll take up that responsibility has yet to be seen. She’s agree to try and help track the killer with her sister though, so that is a step in the right direction at least.”

Tim held Arey still. He was still worried that if he let her go that she might somehow disappear again. He was feeling so many things but right now he forced himself to listen to Viv.

“Okay...so witches. Clearly you both know them and this is important but what does this mean for us? Are they sure it wasn’t Mordred who did it? I mean before the Amanda...thing obviously.”

Arin crossed his arms. “Any idea of who or why?”

“It means in addition to dark fae, we may soon be dealing with war breaking out between local werewolves, vampires, and witches. The only thing that has kept any semblance of order and stability between the three factions for the last century has been motivated self interest in remaining hidden from humanity, and the power balance provided by the Covenant. Vampire covens operate in within a very complete power structure and hierarchy to begin with, but there are those with power in that structure who have always favored coming out and ruling over the human populace instead of discrete coexistence.” Vivienne tried to sum up three hundred years of complicated political workings and relationships as briefly as she could.

“Witches and werewolves are more wary of such bold moves, though there are some within their ranks who might agree. They remember the inquisitions and the witch trials that devastated their numbers in Europe, and anonymity has always been more appealing to witches in particular. They coexist with humans much more freely, some in their families are completely human as well. Without a strong and stable Covenant to keep the factions in check, or even a true balance of power within that group, we’re going to see violence breaking out all across North America, if not a complete coming out.”

Arin exhaled. Tim grunted.

“So all sorts of bad in the next little while. Where do we even start?” Tim asked. His one hand idly stroked Arey’s hair. He wanted nothing more than to take her to her room, let her shower and then hold her for a while. He knew this was more pressing at the moment though. He was tired too but again that would wait.

Deirdre was half listening. Her heart was still thudding in her ears. It was like a thumping reminder that she shouldn’t be alive.

Arin looked at Viv. “So what is our part in this? Help to find the killer? Help keep power in balance or just act as some sort of supernatural security?”

“We don’t have a claim to any kind of power within the council, or even an audience to the inner circle without an invitation. I’ve managed to keep our circle quiet amongst the supernatural community thus far, but with the kind of bold and public action we’ve been taking lately, that won’t be possible for much longer. Without a strong central power to keep them in check, you can be sure some of the more ambitious figures in the supernatural community will come after us, either to forge alliances or forcibly acquire our assets to enhance their own power.” Vivienne was clinical in her assessment, emotion gone as the master tactician emerged in its place.

“We need to prepare ourselves for these anticipated assaults, and consolidate our own base of power. With Balthazar in the fold, this will help, but we’ll need more. Recruitment needs to become the highest priority, along with training.”

Tim looked confused. “Who are we recruiting?”

Arin exhaled slowly, weariness appearing on his face for the first time. “Whoever it is we won’t be doing it right now, not like this.” He gestured to his shirt and injured arm. “We three need to clean up and we look like we could all use some food and rest.”

“The others like yourself for starters. Arthur’s court was vast, and I doubt that merely five of you would have been restored. From there...I have some ideas, however ill advised” Vivienne paused, looking over the group of children she charged herself with protecting. “Go, rest. There’s no telling when we’ll have a lull like this again, so use it to recoup wisely.”

Tim nodded and gently moved Arey towards her room. Others. Vampires, witches, werewolves. It could all wait.

“Come on..” He whispered as he turned her towards her door. “Shower will do you some good.”

Arin moved towards Viv. “We couldn’t let her die.”

He kept his voice low, not wanting Deirdre or Kat to hear. “Mordred shot her because he knew he was done. He was aiming towards Arey. He missed but in his twisted mind he thought she was a much better result. You know we couldn’t let her die.”

His mouth formed a straight line.

Vivienne’s eyes hardened as well. She understood her son’s attachment, his feelings on the matter, but there would come a day when this kind of test was posed to him again.

“You’ve made your opinion on the matter quite clear, but that won’t negate the consequences we all will have to live with, much less the nightmare she’ll be going through. Death is a part of mortal life Arin. Yours likely will be a highly extended one, so you’d best come to terms with that. History is littered with the names of men who turned themselves into monsters because they couldn’t come to grips with mortality, be cautious not to add yours to the list.”

Arin inhaled slowly. “It wasn’t just my call however...if it had been Arey he shot would the decision have been an acceptable one? Is it the decision or who was saved? If it had been Tim or Kat...Tell me what were we supposed to do? Arey made the call she thought was best.”

He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter though does it. In the end what’s done is done. I just wonder if the conversation would have been the same if it had been any one of the rest of us.”

Arin’s shoulders relaxed a little. “What do you mean by nightmare she is going to be going through?” There was concern in his eyes. “What happens to people who are brought back?”

He still kept his voice low. He didn’t want to upset Deirdre and he wanted to know what to be ready for, how to help her.

“Yes Arin, it would have. If Kat, or Tim, or even you had been the one dying, my response would have been the same. I might have raged, and mourned, and cursed every name I knew would hear me, but my answer would have been the same. I’ve had to make that decision numerous times, for lovers and family alike, your father included. My personal feelings don’t outweigh the potential damage such a selfish decision can lead to.” Vivienne responded with a note of bitterness in her voice.

“Had Arey died, there is no telling what might have happened, but the sword was free. Had she been destined to die, it may have been she had already fulfill her purpose. She is the presumed leader of mankind by the fae, but others could fill that role. Arey is the only one who can free the sword from the stone, and mankind stands the best chance of survival with it in her hands, but she is not the only one who can wield it.” Vivienne admitted grudgingly.

“It’s hard to say how bad things may get for her. Deirdre wasn’t dead when she was placed in the waters, so that may help her, but every soul responds differently. There are stories though, of souls brought back with the cauldron. They’re...different, shadows of their former selves that don’t really belong to this world. Depression, personality change, and suicide seem to be the most common responses according to the lore. She’ll need you, all of you, to get through this. Don’t leave her alone, ever. Not until we know the worst is behind her.”

“I wouldn’t leave her alone before and I wouldn’t now.” There was defiance in his tone. “You know, maybe if you had told us everything that is out there, all the things we may come into contact with or, how about you not leave things out, give us all the information instead of lecturing us after we make a decision. You tell us things after the fact as if you thought by not informing us it would keep it away from us. That is a little naive and you know that isn’t how it works. We have been unprepared and lacking all the pieces of knowledge we needed on many occasions. It isn’t fair.”

Arin looked over Viv’s shoulder for a moment as if collecting his thoughts. “I know they will likely all die in my lifetime. I know there was a chance I was going to lose Deirdre and if I had known it was going to leave her possibly...Why have you never told me about this before? That was part of my history? I might have been able to stop or persuade Arey but here I am, half fae and not told the things that I should know. I can’t train them or help as I should if I am not properly informed. Arey can’t make decisions without all the information and that is what happened. She acted on gut. I know there was a time when Arthur did too and it only tore Camelot apart more. Don’t you think we should be doing better this time around?”

“Arey acted out of anger and fear. Neither of you, in either life, have been able to make the hard choices when it comes to those you love. You said yourself the Cailleach warned you there would be consequences, refused you at first because of them, and her response was to threaten compliance from a being of immense power to achieve that end regardless. Arthur was a great man, but his emotions, his rage, is what led to the doom of his people.” Vivienne gently held his shoulders, trying to help him see what she was saying.

“I’m sorry you felt ill prepared for that encounter. I’m sorry that several thousand years worth of knowledge has yet to be fully imparted upon you. I’m simply trying to make you understand the ramification of this decision, not to lecture you, but because I know you will face decisions like these in the future. I know you, and I knew Arthur, and I’m afraid what you both might do to yourselves if you continue on this path. You both love fiercely and too deeply, and while those traits are admirable, they can lead to ruin for those in positions such as ours.”

Arin shook his head a little. “It isn’t about imparting years of wisdom but even things that are a part of my heritage, my fae side that I know nothing about. If this crone was so important why have you never spoken of her before? Why now do you expect that we should know what we are dealing with when we had no idea at all?” He waved a hand. “It doesn’t matter. What’s done is done. Arthur and Lancelot may have been that way but it doesn’t mean we are exactly like them. I think anyone facing the death of a friend would have tried anything in the world to save them. That is what Arey did. I didn’t stop her. Maybe I should have fought harder but how was I to know what the end consequence might be? We can’t take it back but I-”

He looked back at Deirdre. “I won’t leave her alone and I worry now that you will be more cautious to let D do anything or go places with us for fear of what it may alter. She is still a part of this team. She- I won’t isolate her and I won’t argue that with you or Tim again. I know what he is thinking, just based on what you said he is already trying to find a way to leave D out or maybe he will blame her for the disappearance or for Arey’s decision and that isn’t going to go down well. I am putting it out there now.” His face showed his determination.
--------------
Tim said nothing as they walked. He couldn’t, not yet. There was too much on his mind and he needed the quiet of the room to really be able to get things across.

He opened the door and guided her in. “How about you go shower? I won’t go anywhere and then we can talk and stuff…”

A poor conversation starter he knew but Tim found himself suddenly unsure how to express himself and the sight of Arey, dried blood and torn shirt made it even harder to focus.

Arey nodded numbly, too tired to do anything else. The confrontation with Viv left her feeling defensive and anxious, and now that the immediate danger had passed, memories of the night before were beginning to take a toll.

The hot water helped wash away the grime and blood, and while it couldn’t undo the damage of recent events or take away the gnawing feeling of stress churning in her stomach, it helped Arey block some of it out. She stayed under the spray until her skin was pruny, before admitting defeat and leaving the warm comforting heat.

She left the torn clothing in a small heap in the corner, determined to burn them on a later date, before pulling on a pair of clean shorts and a gray cotton tank. She stared in the mirror a moment, wiping a streak clean on the steam covered surface. The face that gazed back looked older somehow, with harder eyes than she remembered. Was it just from the stress of the past couple days, or was it him staring back? Was Arthur peaking through right now, biding his time, ready to take control when he felt it necessary? Would she be strong enough to stop him if it happened? She hadn’t any time before. Would she end up like Mordred, mind fractured between two people until it turned her into a raving lunatic? The question haunted her, but it was a fear she refused to speak aloud. So Arey walked away.

The room was quiet when she entered, and Arey made a beeline for the bed that beckoned her with the dual comfort of inviting warmth, and her boyfriend. “So what happened while we were gone?” Arey asked quietly, dreading the answer, but hating the silence between them more.

Tim was sitting on the bed, his back against the wall when Arey came out. He was glad the clothes she had been wearing were nowhere in sight. He didn’t want a reminder of what had gone on. He beckoned to her to come sit with him.

“Well...There was a lot of questions, police and ambulance. Amanda got to a hospital and she is home now. You likely want to see her. We can maybe do that tomorrow.”

Tim opened his arm, hoping Arey would come in and snuggle in close. Weeks she had been missing and now he wanted her to stay by his side. “Worry. There was a lot of worrying and looking. No one could find you, not even Viv. Kat tried her voodoo-nothing. We had an inkling you had gone into Fairie but no way to find you. Wasn’t a whole lot else we could do. So we waited and hoped you would find a way home.”

“I’m sorry you worried.” Arey spoke softly laying her head on his shoulder. “If we’d known how long it would take on this side, we might have done things differently. There just wasn’t time...everything happened so fast.” Dark eyes and the glint of a knife cutting through her shirt flashed across her mind. Arey curled into herself, as much to prove to her limbs they were no longer held paralyzed in that dark room, as it was to comfort herself.

“How’s Kat? Where did you find her?” Arey changed the subject as she tried to get her mind off the events that, for her, had taken place meer hours ago.

Tim inhaled slowly. He understood her apology but he was a mix of emotions and now was not the time to let it all out. She was back, they were all back together. That is what mattered.

“We found her in a chest, a trunk. She is fine now but it was hard when we first found her. She insisted on coming to the storage unit. We saw him. Saw Amanda and then the blood.”

Tim squeezed Arey a little. “We were scared. The blood...we didn’t know whose it was or what had happened. It is okay now. You are here. Arin is back and Deirdre is back.”

So many questions, so many thoughts rolled through his mind but he stifled them all. Arey didn’t need them, not right now. Viv had already put her through the ringer. It would all come out eventually.

His hand stroked her hair. “Are you okay? Did you get hurt?”

“No, not really. I’ll be alright, I’m just a bit shaken up is all. That freezing spell was a right terror, but my shirt got the worst of it.” Arey confided, through skirting around the worst of the details. Arey was usually honest enough with herself to admit she could be a control freak, and not having the personal control to move her own body had been a deeply disturbing experience.

“Wait, a box? She was in it?” Arey remembered the dog cage used to torment a young Kat from Balthazar’s training. The residual fear and anxiety that radiated off the young teen from the memory. Arey had no doubt the box was chosen for that very horrific dramatic effect.

“How did he know..?” It’s like he could see into their minds and pick up on the things that would terrify them the most. No one was that gifted, if one could call it that. The triggers were too specific, his knowledge of them too coincidental. Magic had to be involved somehow, yet he hadn’t used any outward power during their fight. If he were some kind of warlock with the kind of power to pull off complicated rune magic and binding spells that even threw Viv for a loop, why did he fight with them over the knife? Why not attack them directly with magic? The question left a bad taste in her mouth, but landed on only one conclusion.

“He couldn’t have been working alone…”

Tim laid back, pulling Arey to lay on his chest. He kept his arm around her, holding her near. “I hadn’t thought about it...I was too busy in the moment, then worrying about you.”

He closed his eyes. “Why did he try to kill D? If he was after you I mean? And Kat was in the box and I don’t know how he knew. She isn’t one of us so it isn’t as if he has the past to pull from.”

Tim rubbed Arey’s back. “And why didn’t he use magic? You said he froze you? I think we are going to need to go over everything from the beginning, but I think you might be right.”

He kissed the top of her head. “Tomorrow though okay? Tonight let’s just lay here.”

“Yeah.” Arey agreed softly, wishing it was that easy to banish those thoughts from her mind.
--------------------
Arin helped Deirdre up, mostly carrying her to his apartment. She was quiet as they moved. Arin gently helped her change from her damp, stained clothes. They were a reminder that she had been on the brink of death. He didn’t want to think about looking into her eyes and watching the life fading away.

Deirdre sat, only moving when Arin needed her to. She felt strange still. Something was off but perhaps sleep would help. She watched Arin move, watched him take her clothes away. Her hand went to her stomach and Deirdre looked down.

There was nothing. Nothing to show what had happened but she knew. She had been dying. She hadn’t been able to breathe. She remember how warm the blood was and then how cold the water had been.

Deirdre shivered.

Arin looked at Deirdre, sitting on his bed. He was holding himself in check. He needed to be strong for her. Lancelot was angry but Arin wouldn’t give in to the feeling. He didn’t want Deirdre to see that.

He stared at her, dark hair falling about her face. Her skin was pale and she seemed somehow small and fragile in this moment.

They had almost lost her. He had almost lost her. He had held her in his arms as the blood coursed out of her. He had put her in the water, watching the light fade from her eyes. They hadn’t known each other very long but the idea of losing her, of Lance losing Guin was more than he cared to think about.

His hands balled into fists. She was here now though, and that was what mattered.

Arin frowned a little. Had they really done the wrong thing though? Had he still lost her as Viv said he might have? A shell, a ghost of her former self…

He vowed not to let that be the case.

His shirt fell to the floor, his pants too. They both contained proof of the events that had happened. He would get rid of them tomorrow. Arin grabbed a clean t-shirt from his drawer and helped Deirdre put it on.

Gentle, strong hands moved to pull her into bed. Deirdre let him guide her until she was laying with him.

As she curled up against Arin she shook and he held her closer. “I have you.”

Arin’s words were whispered and soft but held so much feeling behind them. He wouldn’t leave her side, it was his silent vow to her.