The Once and Future King: Book One

New York City

a part of The Once and Future King: Book One, by Kohananinja.

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Kohananinja holds sovereignty over New York City, giving them the ability to make limited changes.
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Setting

Default Location for The Once and Future King: Book One

Minimap

New York City is a part of The Once and Future King: Book One.

9 Characters Here

Eärendil Ablach [70] Friendly and charming bartender and biker.
Arianna Marie Trescott [67] The lonely London girl determinded to be in charge of her own destiny.
Deirdre Evering [64] The perfect girl who is sick of the consquences of being "perfect"
Timothy Matheson [54] Law Student
David Velazquez [8] Homicide detective
Wilhemina Ranthun [3] Harpist
Lukas [0] A troubled man of 23, lives alone in a big house with his experiments.

Start Character Here »


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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David collected the trace data from communications. They had narrowed it down to an apartment building but were hard pressed to pick the floor out. He planned to head there and hope they’d get more precise on the way. After gathering his gear he headed down to the main entrance and wasn’t really surprised to see Tim and Arey walking in.

“I have an address. Let’s move. Worse case we’ll do a floor by floor but I hope to know more by the time we get there.” David called out to them as he strode over.

Tim nodded. “Whatever it takes to find her.”

“Before we go, do you have a list of names for the officers who worked on Kat’s stalker case today and the people they interviewed? This guy called her Joanne in the message, so he knew about what happened here today.” Arey interjected quickly. She could look it over on the way, but she needed to start making suspect lists in case this floor sweep turned out to be a bust. Mordred had never been sloppy about this kind of thing before, she couldn’t imagine he would be now.

“O’Keefe and...and…” Tim was frustrated as names suddenly escaped him. “Mahoney!” He growled. “Has to be one of them.”

David frowned. The idea that there was an inside leak on this case really threw him but he tried not to show it, “O’Keefe and Mahoney are beat cops. They are good. There’s no way these guys had anything to do with this. They were random. You just got them because of the time you walked in.” David thought about who else might know about this case. However, he realized the hole in their strategy. Bringing the full force to bear on the ‘stalker’ only gave an insider easier access. “Shit. We fell right into his hands. If I’d thought there was a chance of an insider...” He trailed off, “Okay. They know I’m tracing Kat’s phone right now... That means we’re unlikely to find him with the phone. However, that is still our only lead. We need to track it down and hope Kat is still in the vicinity.”

Tim stared at David. “He will know we are tracking her down. He is going to...” Tim felt his stomach knot up. “Let’s go.” He could picture Mordred watching them get closer only to kill her just as they were so close to saving her. It was the sort of thing a sick bastard like him would do. He felt indignation and anger from both of his lives.

“No. This is different. He’s never teased his victim before. He’s breaking his typical pattern. It worries me, yes. But less for Kat and more that I’m missing something...” David could feel it. In his gut there was something that this sicko was hinting at. Never before had he advertised who he was after. Why start now, unless this wasn’t his target. “I think Kat will be okay, if we find her before he gets impatient. However, we all need to be cautious here. He’s breaking his pattern. Maybe he’s making a mistake, but I doubt it.”

“If he’s devolving, it could mean he’s more dangerous than usual.” Arey agreed, trying to turn over what they knew in her head. “Maybe we can cross reference the list of officers involved with officers who have been off duty in the last four hours?” Arey suggested after a moment. “If he grabbed Kat, he couldn’t have been at the station, and if he was on duty with a partner they would have noticed. So it’s likely we’re dealing with someone who’s off the clock if its a cop.” But then they still didn’t even know for sure if that was what they were dealing with. It could have just as easily been one of the people interviewed at Ambrose today who they’d inadvertently tipped off.

“Good direction to look at. We can spend time looking into that, or head to the address I have. What do you think is best for Kat?” David liked her reasoning but was a bit concerned about sending someone within the force to look into it. Who knows where the leak was and even an internal investigation might slip more information than they were willing to at this time.

Arey had to make a decision. If she was wrong, she didn’t want to endanger Kat by not pursuing their one real lead, but if they were dealing with a killer cop, they needed to know who to be looking at if all they managed to find in the building was an abandoned phone.

“If you can get me the case files, I can look through the information from here.” Arey volunteered, the most practical option for keeping their potential leak from knowing they’d caught a scent. “You both see what you find at the building. If there’s a chance Kat is there, we have to look into it, and I think she’ll need at least one of us there when we find her.” Arey reasoned. She also didn’t think Tim was up for sitting around looking through files in the state he was in right now.

Tim frowned. “Leave you here alone?” He looked torn. She was in a police station but he wouldn’t be here. What if something happened to her while he was looking for Kat? But if he didn’t go find Kat and Mordred...he didn’t even want to consider it.

Tim looked to David.

“Getting those files will take some time though... I can set you up here. There is someone I do trust in records. She can get you what you need...” David felt odd about leaving her here. Part of him felt like she would be more than capable of taking care of himself... herself. There was that odd, dual reality again. What he referred to as his normal self didn’t think it would be a good idea to let a civilian poke through records. Sheila would cover for him though. And he’d known her a long time, so he had no doubts she’d keep it under wraps. Yet... would Mordred know all this? Would he expect this play? David growled in frustration, “He’s got me second guessing myself. I can’t ask you to stay but I can’t force you to not.”

“Right now, this is our best option. If we’re going to keep what we suspect right now under wraps, then it’s got to stay between us and your friend maybe if you really trust her. Even if Mordred is a cop, he’s not going to be able to do anything to me in here with so many other cops around, especially since he’s probably still with Kat somewhere.” Arey reasoned firmly. “And once Arin and Deirdre finish up poking around the arcade, I’ll tell them to come straight here, so I won’t be alone for long anyway.”

Tim inhaled slowly weighing his options. “Fine.” He spat out. He grabbed Arey and kissed her firmly. “You stay here. That’s the deal. You stay here and we find him then take care of him together.” He looked at her, one hand moving to her face.

“Okay.” Arey agreed easily with a small wary smile. “Trust me, I have no desire to try and face this guy alone. I’ve had a taste of that already and it's not particularly pleasant.” She replied gently holding the hand he brushed across her face. “See you soon okay?”

Tim let her go reluctantly. He turned to face David. “Let’s go.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Timothy Matheson Character Portrait: Katrina "Kat" Rivera Character Portrait: David Velazquez

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“Ah Jesus, you boys got a warrant for this right? Missin’ girl an all, I sympathize, but the tenants here can sue if I go lettin’ cops in without warrants.” The nervous looking building supervisor, a short balding man in his sixties, asked the cops on his front steps, fretting with the building keys.

“You heard of ‘probable cause’ and ‘life in danger’ exceptions to the rule, right? Trust me, I’ve my paperwork in order. I don’t lose cases on technicalities. If you feel that uncomfortable, just step away. You’ll have a lot more locks to repair, but you’ll be safe knowing you slowed down a cop trying to save a teenaged girl.” David snarled. He did understand that this guy was just doing his job, but he knew the type that sued when a cop entered a building. The fact that this building was full of them shouldn’t surprise him. Probably the best place for a dirty cop to hide out.

Tim was antsy. He wanted to get in there and look for Kat. He, being the law student he was knew that they needed to have the right to be there but it didn’t help his nerves one bit. Kat was in danger, Mordred had her and time was ticking.

“Alright alright, just don’t go smashing in my doors!” The supervisor placated nervously, unlocking the first door that led into the entryway of the aging building. “Where do ya boys need to go?”

Tim was in as soon as the door was unlocked for them. “Floor by floor?”

David nodded, tight lipped. He turned to the super, “Do any police officers live here or visit regularly? I plan to announce myself as an officer. We can save a lot of time and you won’t get a lot of questions later if we don’t have to knock on every door.” He stepped into the main foyer of the building and checked his phone. Either this super would help, or they were door to door as nothing more specific had come through yet.

“Ah well...there’s Johnny on the third floor. Good kid. Been living here since he started going to college. Used to work maintenance with his kid brother for me part time until he made the force last year. Still helps me out sometimes when I get swamped. You don’t think he’s got anything to do with this do you?” The supervisor offered reluctantly.

Tim looked at David. “I think we start with him.” He was itching to go but knew that he had no authority there and any action he took could jeopardize the investigation. His body was tight, his hands balled into fists.

"Sounds like a plan. Let's go," David headed toward the elevator. "I'm not sure if he has anything to do with this, but it's a good start."

They stepped out of the elevator and the super led them to the proper door. David stood so he wasn't positioned in front of the door and motioned Tim and the super to stand away as well. He knocked loudly, "Johnny, it's detective Velazquez. A couple quick questions."

He listened closely for any response, or noise at all.

None came. The room was deathly quiet, almost unnaturally so, and the door itself seemed to have an ominous feel to it that would have encouraged most passersby to unconsciously avert their eyes. With the looming threat and directed focus however, the strange tension only seemed suspicious. After a long moment, the old supervisor moved forward reluctantly with the keys, unlocking the door.

“Eh Johnny, its Benny alright, I’m comin’ in. These boys just wanna clear some things up.” He called out as he opened the eerily quiet door. The room was dark and Benny flicked on the lights before proceeding to vomit a moment later.

In a chair by the nightstand sat the body of Officer John Smith in his civilian clothes, a bullet hole between his eyes leaving trails of blood that looked unnervingly like tear streaks against his open eyes.There was a piece of paper visibly clutched in his left hand, the placement too obvious not to notice. Kat’s cell phone was in the other.

Tim stared. He didn’t move. The air felt like it had been knocked out of him. This wasn’t right. They were supposed to open the door, find Kat and the guy. Not this.

He stepped forward, seeing Kat’s phone and then stopped dead with a groan. He couldn’t touch anything. He wasn’t a cop and if he touched something then he would ruin the crime scene.

Tim looked at David with a pained expression. “That is Kat’s phone.”

As the door opened David quickly scanned the room. As he identified the body in the chair he drew his gun and stepped inside. He felt Tim brush past him and heard him identify the phone.

“Okay. Don’t touch anything.” He said the latter more to Benny than Tim, but it was a good reminder for all of them. “I have to call this in. Step back outside. We don’t know if the person who did this is still here.”

Or if Kat is here and in what condition. I don’t need Tim finding her if she’s not okay. Keeping his gun drawn and his back to the outside wall David dialed the station.

“Velazquez. Get forensics here. And back up. We might need paramedics too.” With that call out of the way he felt he could at least look around some. “Stay here you two. I need to know where you are so I don’t shoot you accidentally. I’m going to check the rest of the apartment.”

David quickly searched the small apartment. He found nothing out of the ordinary. He wasn’t sure if he should be relieved or disappointed. He came back to the others, “Nothing. This wasn’t where he had her. I want forensics to look at the phone before I dig around at it. However...”

He pulled a corner of his shirt out and pinched the paper that the corpse had in it’s hand. He pulled gently and read.

Basement.

“Benny, get me to the basement and you better have all the keys you need on you.” He strode through the door and headed down the stairs.

As they approached the basement door, David drew his gun again. Better to be prepared.

“Tim, Benny, no matter what, do not move in front of me. I don’t know what we’ll find but I need clear lines so you don’t get hurt,” He let Benny unlock the door and then moved them both out of the way. He opened the door slowly from the side.

Tim was tense. He wanted to go bolting in there to find Kat. He restrained himself, still able to keep his head. His hands moved, clenching and unclenching as he waited for David to go in.

The apartment building’s basement had a dank and musty feel to it that only structures over a hundred years old seemed able to achieve. With nooks and exposed pipes, there was was no open feel to the place that could make spotting an assailant easier. The space was naturally cluttered, with spare bits of this and that left over from tenants past with a fervor of an avid hoarder, but one bit of furniture in the room stood out. The dark oaken chest with its thick antique looking bronze lock was placed almost dead center within the open space of the basement, devoid of any surrounding clutter like the rest of the junk that had found its final resting place here. The placement was disturbingly like a present.

“Ah shit. Okay, we have to be careful on this. Who knows what he might have done with that chest. Tim, keep an eye on the surroundings. I really should do a sweep of this whole spot. If he’s still here, then we can’t let him out, or let him get the drop on us.”

David looked at Tim grimly, “You ever fire a gun before?”

Tim swallowed hard against the lump in his throat. He wanted to go open the chest but was terrified of what he might find. He looked at David and it took a moment for his attention to focus on what he said.

“Gun? No, no I haven’t…” He shook his head slowly. “I-”

He looked back at the chest and once more to David. His hands went up in a gesture of helplessness.

David nodded, “Okay. Just keep an eye out then.”

He walked over to the chest and slowly moved around it, looking for any sign that there was more to this than just the chest. He knelt in front of it and examined the latches and checked for any type of lock. Finally he knocked lightly on the side, “Kat? If you are in there and can hear me give me some indication.”

He was hoping she would be able to respond in some way. It would relieve a lot of his fears of this chest being trapped in some way if she could tell him.

The box jerked violently as something thrashed inside, kicking out with muffled screams.

Tim stifled the urge to lunge forward and open the chest. “Dav-” He was tense, his voice strained.

David nodded at Tim and held up a hand, “Okay Kat. You’ll be okay. Tim and I are here. I’m going to get this box opened for you but I have to be careful. I know you want to get out and we’ll get you out.”

While he talked he looked over the latches. They seemed simple enough. He was starting to get a bad feeling. This seemed too easy.

“Tim... this isn’t his M.O. Why is Kat in a box? And it’s not even a hard problem to solve. But he would know I would have to take time to evaluate...” David looked up at Tim. “This isn’t good.”

Tim felt sick to his stomach. He shook his head slowly. “But someone is in there..we have to help them.” It was like all the blood had left his body. He felt cold all over.

“That’s exactly it, isn’t it. I have to take care of this. I’ve called in backup. There’ll be a report and questions and he knows that. Tim, he has effectively taken me out of this game. And Arey is by herself.”

Tim shook his head. “But she is at the station. Not alone. She is waiting at the station.” His voice was strained as if begging David to reassure him that Arey was okay. “We need to find Kat. Arey is fine, she is fine.” This couldn’t be happening. They had made sure Arey was safe and she had promised to stay there. Kat was the one in trouble. And whoever was in that trunk.

“Yeah. Like he knew she would be. Call her. I’ll take care of Kat. You find Arin and Deirdre and get to Arey.” He returned his focus to the latches.

“Kat, I’m opening the latches. When you hear the click give me a sign you’re still okay.” He flipped open both latches simultaneously.

Tim pulled out his phone, his hands were shaking. He texted Arin and asked him to get to the station. Then he dialed Arey and let it ring.

She will pick up because she is waiting at the station. She is fine.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Arianna Marie Trescott

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Luckily, the police reports filled out today were pretty easy to follow. After shooting a quick updating text off to Deirdre, Arey compiled the names of men from there into two lists, one for witnesses, and one for cops, which she could also check against the off duty list she was going to make once Shelia got back with the time sheets. Focusing on a task helped her to keep the panic edged out of her mind, which was good, because the more she thought about Mordred having ahold of Kat, the more she felt like being swallowed whole by anxiety. She’d seen the things he’d done to his other victims, and part of her was terrified that they were looking for a mutilated corpse. Mordred taunting her was nothing new, but this was the first time he’d done it while the victim was still alive, and she had to wonder why? Was this just a new way to torture her? Before there had been nothing she could do for the girls who’d been tormented by him, there was only so far the guilt could go. But this, giving them a chance to save Kat only to show up too late...that would break them all.

But he’d given himself away. He’d left a clear trail for them to follow, and eventually, they were going to find him. Up until now, Mordred had been meticulously careful, calculated even. Why would he be so sloppy now? Arey couldn’t wrap her head around the reasoning.

“Here honey. I think some warm liquid will do you good.” Sheila said gently as she brought over the time sheets for the day and a styrofoam cup of warm coffee.

Arey thanked her with a small smile before diving in to cross analyze the time sheets, highlighting all correlating names between the two.

“Don’t worry honey, David’s really good at his job.” Sheila tried to comfort with kind brown eyes. “I’m sure he’ll be able to find your friend.” She left Arey with a soft pat of encouragement before heading back to her office to pretend like she hadn’t just given a civilian access to open police reports.

For the next ten minutes, Arey highlighted the names of all the cops that fit the timeline, and drew a star by those that also fit the general profile. That still left them with five names, and that didn’t even include the witness list. Arey was getting ready to text the names she had to Deirdre, when her phone began to ring. The caller ID said that it was Amanda.

“Amanda, I’m sorry to bail, but something came up. I have to raincheck tonight.” Arey replied gently to her friend. They were supposed to meet up at Galaxy for the customary bestfriend/boyfriend inspection, but obviously with everything that had happened, that was no longer on the table.

“Ah honey, you’re breaking my heart. And after all the trouble I went through to set up our date…” A chillingly familiar voice drawled from the other end of the phone. Arey’s hands were ice, caught in a brief moment of blind panic before shoving down her instinctual fear and trying to make her voice as steady as possible.


“What did you do with Amanda?” Arey replied, voice hard as she focused on her anger over her friend being threatened. Anger was a far more empowering emotion after all. Fear only crippled, and Arey was tired of feeling like she was sinking in quicksand every time this monster made an appearance in her life. “And Kat, where the hell is she?”


“You’re more fun this way, so riled up and demanding. I should have set up this game sooner.” Arey could practically hear the smirk in his voice, and it grated. “Kitty Kat’s fine more or less for the time being. I left enough bread crumbs that even a half-wit like Velazquez could follow the trail.” He snickered.

“You should be more concerned about your little friend here. Granted she’s not really my type, but if you keep me waiting too long I’ll just have to think of a creative way for us to pass the time.” He threatened casually.

“How do I know she’s even still alive.” Arey gritted out her worst fear, and was met with a brief silence followed by a scream that sounded enough like Amanda to make her stomach roll. Arey paled, but refused to flinch back at the sound.

“You know I really like your hair like that. You should wear it down more often. Makes you seem softer and less like the distant damaged goods we both know you are.” He purred, too familiar and intimate to be comfortable.

“How do you-?” Arey began, bewildered by how he could possibly know how she was wearing her hair.

“Look at the desk across from you.” He instructed smugly. The glass paperweight on the desk that belonged to officer John Smith seemed to glow slightly for a moment, as if winking at her tauntingly. Was it that simple, some kind of magic looking glass that let him spy on them for all this time? No wonder this guy always seemed five steps ahead of the cops.


“Now listen very carefully, because I reeeally don’t like repeating myself. Once I finish giving you these directions, you’re going to leave your phone on this desk, go outside and head toward the payphone two blocks to the right of the station. If anyone asks any questions, you will tell them you’re just getting some air and need to be alone. From there, I will call you with directions to the location you are to go to. If you try to leave a note for your friends at the station, I’ll see it and I’ll kill your friend. If you are not at the next location in thirty minutes, I kill your friend. It’s a simple game with very simple rules, and I hate cheaters. Smile if you understand.” Mordred instructed almost clinically, and definitely rehearsed.

Arey forced a smile, and Mordred made a noise of approval. “Hurry along sweetheart, I promise you won’t like what happens if you keep me waiting.” And like that the line went dead, leaving Arey alone with her thoughts and a sinking feeling in her gut.

After a moment, Arey stood up on shaky legs and walked toward the exit with her phone firmly planted on the desk. Briefly, she thought about the promise she’d made to Tim, to stay here and safe. Arey really hoped the last thing she’d said to him wouldn’t be a lie.

Setting

Characters Present

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

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The call went through, but no one replied on the other end. Arey’s voice prompting Tim to leave a voicemail in her calm, primly accented voice.

The muffled voice from within the box only seems to get louder from David's attempts to placate. The kicking almost seems to follow a tempo, jerking the box around with especially violent movements.

Tim paled. “She isn’t answering David. Arey...she…”

He texted Arey. He texted Arin again telling him Arey was not answering her phone and that he needed Arin to pick him up and get to the station.

--
Arin moved back to the front of the arcade looking for Deirdre as the text from Tim arrived. He replied. Can’t. Meeting a witch about finding Kat. Dave can get you there.

Tim shook his head at the phone.

David is with Kat now. We need to find Arey. Left her at the station. NOT answering. Come get me.

Arin looked around as he stepped back inside and found Deirdre waiting by the door still. He walked over, “Why’d you wait here? Sounds like Dave and Tim found Kat but now Arey’s missing. I think Marjorie will still be able to help, but Tim’s panicking. I need to get something of Arey’s to help Marj. Do you want to meet up with her to find Arey while I go get Tim?”

Deirdre frowned. “I don’t have anything of Arey’s. What do you mean she is missing? I thought she was with Tim and David?”

“Yeah, so did I. Apparently they left her at the station. I get it, but still, we weren’t supposed to split up. Kinda why I don’t like that you hung out by the door here... Anyway, Arey’s not answering her phone but they have Kat. Good and bad, I guess.” Arin entered a quick text to Tim.

Why did you leave her? Okay, I will ask the witch to help find Arey instead. Why do you need a pickup?

Deirdre shrugged. “Your sort of people, not mine. No one here is going to talk to me and if I am with you they are less likely to talk to you. More important for you to get information than anything else.”

Tim wanted to shake the phone.

Had to. No time to explain, supposed to be fucking safer for her to stay. Need to get to Arey. Come get me and we can talk to this witch and then go get Arey.

Arin sighed, “You need to stop discounting yourself and stay involved. I would have been far less threatening with you when approaching a young girl than without you. Tim’s freaking out. We need to get moving. Can you text him and try and arrange a way to keep us all together while I talk to Marj and David takes care of Kat? He wants me to get him to talk to Marj, but I can’t leave you alone.” He started outside, typing on his phone again.

I can’t leave D. She will text you. I’m driving soon. Need to find something that belongs to Arey.

Deirdre bit her lip. “I-” She felt unsure. She followed Arin out of the arcade.

Tim was not impressed.

D isn’t the one in trouble, Arey is. Take her home and come and get me. We can go talk to the witch and find Arey.

Deirdre zipped her jacket. “I don’t know how to make this work with the bike. I mean we can’t both go with you.” She searched her pockets wishing desperately that she had something of Arey’s on her. “We need to go back home. Arey’s stuff is there.”

Arin nodded at Deirdre, “Exactly. That’s my plan. Tim isn’t seeing sense here. Sec.”

“He is worried about her. I mean Mordred is targeting her.” Deirdre felt a sense of worry building too. Had Mordred taken Arey? They had Kat but was she alright? There was too much they didn’t know yet and it was like Mordred was fifty steps ahead of them.

“Yeah, exactly. Kinda why I asked that we all stick together. Look, I’m not leaving you alone to keep repeating this fucking hide and seek game. Tim made a choice. He’s going to have to live with the consequences.”

I’m not repeating this with D. I’m not leaving her. You’re with David and Kat now. That’s three. Stay together. I’m meeting Marj with D and I’ll let you know when we find something on Arey. Right now, me coming to get you is pointless and a waste of time. Unless you have a lead on Arey’s location that you’ve yet to share?

Tim stared at the screen. He looked up at David. “Well Arin is refusing to get me so there goes your whole get going to find Arey idea.” He was beyond angry and worried. He couldn’t even reply to the text. He had nothing. Arey was gone and his only chance to help her was not going to come get him.

“I don’t get it. What’s he doing that’s more important?” David was a bit confused.

“Sticking with D and talking to some witch who might be able to help. He won’t leave D to get me so we can track Arey down. Playing fucking knight in shining armour.” Tim bit out angrily. “D isn’t the one fucking missing.”

“No, but neither was Kat. I don’t think he’s overreacting here. We shouldn’t have left her alone. I thought Kat was in danger. We were played. I don’t want to be played again. Do you have a lead on Arey? Because it sounds like Arin might. I think he’s making the right call.”

Tim threw his hands up in the air. “I am fucking useless at this point is what I am I got fuck all but Kat in a box and Arey missing.” He was barely controlling the urge to yell. “That is my girlfriend who was the target, she is missing and all he cares about is fucking D and you-”

Tim turned his back and stormed away into the hall. Kat was still in the box. Arey was missing and all they wanted to do was talk. Meanwhile he was stuck. Not a cop so he couldn’t get Kat out without ruining evidence and not out there so he couldn’t find Arey.

David shouted over his shoulder, “No Tim. He cares about Arey or he’d be here with Kat. You think he’s happy that he can’t help her right now? Stop being so bloody selfish and get in here to help with Kat. Arin is Arey’s best hope right now and you being a suck isn’t going to help anyone. Once we get Kat out of this box she will need someone. I will have shit to do, officially. You won’t. You will be able to help if you get your head out of your ass.”

“Tim stepped back in, glaring at David. “I can’t do anything here without fucking up the evidence. So go ahead and tell me how I can be here for her.”

“I get her out of the box, check her out and hand her off. That’s how you can be here for her. Because I can’t be and sure as shit Arin would want someone to be.”

“Do you have any idea how many laws I’d be breaking? I am not a cop. You gonna take the fall for that? She has evidence on her you going to vouch for the fact that it isn’t contaminated? This guy’s lawyer will be all over you for it.” Tim hated this. He wanted nothing more to be useful but he also knew he didn’t want to be the reason Mordred got off if this somehow ended up in a court. “Just tell me it won’t matter.” His voice was low and tense. “I want to do something.”

The official tones disappeared from David’s voice and he spoke so only Tim would hear, “This will not get to any earthly court, unless I’m gravely mistaken. I really have less concern for laws than for Kat’s safety and comfort. I will do what I can to collect but the relevance of what we found here will only play because we need a reason to justify putting Mordred down.”

That was all Tim needed. He just wanted to know that Mordred wasn’t likely to see a trial. That in the end the evidence meant little. Now he didn’t have to worry about being so careful.

“Open it. I am not going anywhere.”

David nodded and flipped open the chest. He scanned inside quickly for anything that looked dangerous before reaching in to help.
***
“Kat dear, are you ready to accept the truth yet and come back to us? Continuing to cling to this delusion of yours will only prolong your suffering.” The chillingly smooth voice of Abigail Lawson sounded over Kat’s cramped and overly familiar prison. The tone was obviously meant to be comforting, but Kat shivered violently at the sound of it, and kicked upward at the lid in defiance. She was back in the box, the one she’d seen used on older children before who could no longer fit in the dog cage under Ms. Lawson’s desk. It was a place that had featured in her nightmares for over a decade, and being in it, even now, was paralyzing.

This isn’t real, it can’t be possible. Even Jax doesn’t have the mind fucking juice to pull something like this off. Half her life, the memories she’d made, people she’d met, that couldn’t all be some elaborate illusion designed to punish her for bad behavior. Kat couldn’t let herself believe that, wouldn’t believe that.

“Come now dear, let us be rational for a moment. This fantasy world you’ve constructed for yourself makes no sense.” Ms. Lawson continued in a patronizing tone. “You believe you were taken from us by a rebellious fairy princess, where she raised you like her own with her only son? A son who is in fact the reincarnation of the romantic literary hero Sir Lancelot, and together you’ve constructed a mismatched team of college students to help a girl who is King Arthur reborn fight other fairies? Don’t you think that’s all a little farfetched?” She laughed at the end to emphasize just how ridiculous it sounded.

“Kat dear, you’re confused. You were being punished for failing your mission remember?” She continued, attempting a soothing motherly tone as if she actually cared about the girl she’d just locked in a box. Images, a little boy with mocha colored skin and round innocent chocolate eyes, and a playground full of children flashed across her mind. “You’re like me…?” The boy had marveled up in bewilderment, too trusting and unsuspicious. It would have been easy to take his hand and walk him away to the extraction point, who would notice two children playing in a park?

“NO!” Her mind rebelled at the very thought. A recruiting mission, kidnap a child barely older than she’d been when Kat was taken. How could she ever do to that child what had been done to her? She wouldn’t, didn’t! The next series of images confirmed that she’d walked the boy back to his mother and told her to call the police. She’d made up some story about a creep trying to make off with her son. Kat wouldn’t stick around for the questioning, but bring enough eyes on the boy, and he’d be too inconvenient to try and take. Punishment was inevitable, and she knew what that looked like.

The images were vivid, like a memory but less focused, and a terrified niggling of doubt began to take root. What if she really had never left? A part of Kat had always felt like the rescue and her new family had been too good to be true. She’d gained rescuers, protectors, and a new family that day, all things she’d craved during her years of captivity. What if her mind really had just snapped from one too many sessions with Jax, and she’d created one for herself. Another image crossed her mind, one she knew was a memory. Her mother was reading the book Kat had picked out at the library on their last visit. The Tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, complete with large colored illustrations. The memory left her feeling cold at the implication.

“I know you’re angry with us right now, that’s why you’ve tried to replace us, your true family, with these fantasy figures in your mind, but that’s all they are, a fantasy. If you don’t accept that soon, I’ll have to let Jax try and piece your mind back together, and I’d hate to have to do that.”

Kat began to shake, phantom fear at the thought of Lawson’s dreaded enforcer rooting around in her head, breaking her mind over and over until she was nothing but a mindless drooling attack dog waiting on a word from its master. She’d seen it happen to people before, some tortured by Jax so often they’d never recovered. After the raid on the compound those too far gone had been put down to end their own misery and protect the general public. There’d been little of them left to save regardless.

Once the mere threat would have her cowering in the corner. These days, Kat’s knee jerk reaction to terror was a smart mouth and bravado, and this wasn’t an exception. “You’re d-dead.” Kat hissed as she shook, gaining courage as she went on. “I saw you get shot in the face you psychotic bitch, so you can go shove your fake compassion up your ass and eat a dick while you’re at it, ‘cause I’m not afraid of you!”

There was a tense pause before Ms. Lawson let out a theatrical sigh of regret. “It looks like it simply cannot be helped…” She drawled out, and the trunk began to open. The sudden light flooding her prison blinded her momentarily, and then there were large hands reaching in to grab her. Kat fought back as best she could with wrists and ankles bound, thrashing and screaming with all she had. If they were going to turn her into a vegetable, she wasn’t going to make it easy on them.
***
Kat was panicking. She thrashed and screamed as David reached in to help her, “Tim, get over here. She needs help to realize what’s going on. I don’t think she recognizes me.”

David managed to get Kat’s arms secured enough to pull her out of the box. He didn’t want to release the bonds until she was more herself. While he pulled her out he tried to reassure her as much as he could, “Kat, it’s David. Detective Velazquez. Tim’s here. You’re safe.”

Tim bolted over the moment David called for him. He was at his side and helping to pull Kat out. She looked wild and terrified.

“Kat, it is me... it’s Tim. I got you. We are here.” He tried to pull her in slowly despite her thrashing about. He took her arms from David. “Kat, hey it is okay, you are safe now.” He hated to see her like this. It tugged at his chest and all he wanted to do was pick her up and carry her to someplace else.

“I don’t want to keep her tied up but I think it’s safest for now, at least until she calms a little bit. I’ve got some cutters that’ll make short work of the ropes when you’re ready,” David pulled out a seatbelt cutter. He was in the habit of carrying one since his traffic days. He’d seen them used enough in collision responses.

Kat was hyperventilating as she was hauled out of the box, expecting to be laid out somewhere like a table or chair where her movement could be further restricted. Instead, she was in a pair of arms with familiar voices offering reassurances. The peeling green wallpaper of the room gave way to unfamiliar concrete walls as her vision seemed to shift, the earlier voices and images melting away as if made of sand.

As Kat tried to control her breathing, and looked up at Tim, she had to fight back the immediate relief at seeing him. She didn’t know what to believe at this point. Was any of this real, or had Jax already begun rooting around in her head, creating an illusion she wanted to keep her from fighting back? What kind of reality test could she even use here? Asking an illusion if it was real just seemed stupid, but playing along could just allow Jax in deeper. Kat stared at Tim’s face hard a moment, weighing options before speaking.

“Kiss me.” Kat demanded flatly, locking hazel eyes to Tim’s ultra blue ones.

Tim looked down at the suddenly non-struggling Kat. She was staring up at him. Her demand was clear, concise and it took him moment to react. “Uh.”

He was so relieved to see her. Tim leaned down and kissed her forehead, his arms wrapping about her tightly. “I am so glad we found you.”

He pulled back, holding her about the shoulders. “I think it is okay to cut her free.”

As Tim kissed her forehead in a completely chaste unromantic manner, Kat slumped forward in relief, releasing a breath she hadn’t even known she was holding. If this were some sort of fantasy illusion created to keep her happy and distracted while a hyper powered sociopath rearranged her head, she’d magically be getting to third base right now. But she wasn’t, and Kat had never been so happy to be in the friendzone in her entire life.

“You’re real. This is real. They were just in my head.” Kat mumbled into Tim’s shoulder, trying to convince herself of the reassurance.

He squeezed her in again, tighter this time.. “Of course we’re real. You’re safe. Hey David, can you cut those bonds now?” Tim let out a sigh of relief. He had been really worried and while he was trying to hold it all together and be calm, internally he was a mess. Kat was safe but Arey was still missing.

Shakily, Kat picked her head up, trying to ground herself in reality by taking in her surroundings. She didn’t recognize where she was, had no idea why her hands and feet were tied. “What happened?”

Tim frowned. “You don’t remember? What is the last thing you remember?”

Kat tried to mentally retrace her steps through the day. She remembered the police station, coming home to update her data sets, and heading out to the arcade. After that, things got fuzzy.

“Playing Star Wars pinball…” Kat groaned, her head feeling heavy and sore, as if someone had been rooting around in her skull.

David sighed, relieved that Kat seemed to be recovering well. He reached over, gently taking hold of Kat’s ankle, “Hold still a sec...”

He sliced the bonds and unwound them. Then reached for her wrist to do the same. He checked over her hands and feet for signs of damage from lack of circulation. He nodded, satisfied she didn’t seem to be physically hurt.

“Okay, good... you’re good,” He sat back to let them talk it out. He grabbed his radio and reported the situation in.

Tim looked over at David called into the station. He was glad she was free and everyone was calm. Now the police would come. Still there was Arey to worry about and he had heard nothing from Arin. “Pinball? That’s it? Its okay. The police are going to want a statement though so try and remember as much as you can.”

“It’s the last thing I remember that I’m sure was real.” Kat replied carefully as she massaged her newly freed wrists. “He got in my head, I don’t know how he did it. For a minute there I thought…” Kat shivered violently remembering the park the little boy, and the box, all so vivid, so convincing. “It wasn’t real.” Kat repeated, as much to reassure herself as explain to them.

“What do I need to tell the cops.” Kat deadpanned after taking a moment to pull her shit together.

“Exactly what you remember. Especially try to remember what the person who grabbed you looks like,” David replied as he ended his call.

“They’ll want you to ID him. Maybe get a sketch artist to help you remember details. Paramedics will want to go over you, as well. Ensure you’re okay.”

Tim put his arm around Kat’s shoulder. “Let’s take you out to see them.”

He took out his phone and checked it. Nothing more. Nothing from Arey. No news at all. Tim felt his stomach clench. He had a bad feeling.

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: Arianna Marie Trescott

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The payphone, as it turned out, was a drop site. In an age where almost everyone had at least one cell phone, public payphones seemed pretty obsolete. They did however, make excellent landmarks, and Arey had the feeling that on another night, she would have had some unsavory company pulling the scrap piece of paper off the underside of the box. In almost painfully neat handwriting, was an address,directions to get there from her location, and at the bottom C28.

Not for the first time since she’d left the police station, Arey wondered how long this had been planned. It was all too elaborate to have just been thrown together in the last couple of hours, which meant Mordred had been planning this attack for a while. Scheming to hurt the people Arey cared about while she cowered in the corner and ran away feeling sorry for herself. Some protector of humanity she was turning out to be, she thought self deprecatingly for a moment before squashing the thought. Amanda didn’t have the time or luxury for Arey to wallow in self loathing, no matter how deserved, so she refocused.

She estimated it would take her about thirty minutes to get to that street from here on foot, and in that time she needed to find something, anything, to use as a weapon. It didn’t take someone with a keen intelligence to see what he’d done to his past victims and take a guess at what he had in mind for her. If she walked in there unarmed, there was a good chance she would end up as another front page story for the newspaper. Arin had trained her well for hand to hand combat situations, a fact this creep very likely wasn’t anticipating, which gave her one small advantage in this situation. Now she just needed something bladelike to give her a more lethal edge. On the way, the best she managed to find was a beer bottle, but it was the best she could do.

As Arey drew closer to the address, it became very apparent that C28 was referencing a storage unit. Rows upon rows of small shed looking buildings lay before her in an expansive lot. Almost maze like she thought, as Arey realized she’d have to go through there to find Amanda. Clutching the neck of the bottle, Arey fought back to rising anxiety she felt over the situation. Above everything else, she needed to find Amanda and make sure she was ok. Arey was all her friend had right now, so she couldn’t afford to be distracted by an emotion as crippling as fear. Cautiously, she headed into the maze of storage units, feeling very much like an Athenian youth about to face the Minotaur.

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: Arianna Marie Trescott

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The first thing Arey noticed as she entered the maze of storage units, was the silence. Arey had lived in a major city for the majority of her life, and if there was one thing she was used to, it was background noise. The one time she’d been sent for a summer to her father’s country estate, Arey had learned just how accustomed she’d become to the noise of the city, and how unsettling she found living without it. She hadn’t been able to sleep well all that summer in the quiet of the country. This quiet was different, almost oppressive as the sounds of the city were suddenly just...absent. Quite a convenient setup for a serial killer Arey thought grimly as she approached section C. As she drew closer, it became apparent that the door to unit 28 was left slightly ajar, beckoning her entrance. Arey was instantly wary of the clear invitation, but Mordred was all about mind games. Trap or not, if Amanda was in there, Arey was coming in after her.

The unit inside was dark, the only illumination coming from the moonlight streaming in from the doorway and what looked like a small lamp in the back that threw everything else in shadow. Carefully, she entered to the right, trying to keep her back to the wall and move as quietly as possible toward the light, urged on by sounds of whimpering in the back. With the piles of junk littering the unit, that was easier said than done.

“You know, maybe I will keep some of your hair. I normally have a very detailed criteria for my collection, but yours is just so springy. Almost like a toy.” Arey could hear the voices more clearly as she drew closer, and for the first time, was able to get a good look at the face that had been haunting her for weeks. Vaguely handsome and utterly average, his appearance might have been anti-climatic if not for the glinting of madness Arey could see in even this poor lighting. He was standing over Amanda, who was tied to a chair and clearly barely keeping it together, despite the resistant jut of her chin. Amanda had never been one to be cowed easily, and even in a situation such as this, it was not difficult to see her stronger nature shining through.

From this vantage, crouched behind some old boxes, Arey was still hidden from view. She wasn’t going to have a lot of time though before the monster finally noticed her, so she quickly scanned the area for anything better than her broken beer bottle to use as a weapon. Glass wasn’t going to do her much good against a guy who was physically bigger and wielding that wickedly curved knife. It was when scanning the floor to the right of Amanda that she saw it amid the discarded rope and plastic sheets. A hand gun, barrel glinting in the dim light as hope sparked in Arey’s chest. There was no telling if it was loaded or not, but based on the situation, she was willing to bet that it was. She was closer to it than Mordred too, if Arey was quick enough, she could get the gun. From there, instinct kicked it, the world moving too fast for her to really process. Leaping from her hiding spot, Arey lunged for the gun. Once her hands were on it she picked up the gun and aimed it at Mordred with the best imitation of form she’d seen from police on TV that she could muster, trying to be as convincing and intimidating as possible.

“Don’t touch her.” Arey growled, weeks of pent up fear and anger finally finding an outlet. When he didn’t immediately respond she cocked it to emphasize her point. “Back away now, or I will shoot you.”

“Well, I was wondering when you’d join the party, I was starting to get bored.” He said far too casually for a man with a gun trained on him before slowly raising his hands and backing up to the far left. As he moved to a safer distance, Arey moved toward Amanda, trying to put herself between her friend and the monster who’d tried to hurt her.

As she drew closer however, Arey tried to take a step, only to realize suddenly she couldn’t. It was like her entire body had locked in position, leaving her unable to move. “Ahhhh, looks like someone finally tripped that binding circle!” Mordred declared, clapping his hands together in barely concealed glee. “Bit much? I thought it was a nice touch, seeing as they're the mouse traps of my magical repertoire.”

Arey tried to move something, anything. She couldn’t so much as make her pinkie twitch. Terror rose up in her like she’d never known before. Complete helplessness, it was Arey’s worst nightmare, and with a sinking feeling of dread, she was beginning to suspect he knew that. “You know, you really should clean out that locker of yours at the sport center, it is ridiculously easy to break into. Cooking up that little curse for you would have been much more fun if you’d actually made me work to get ahold of your hair.” The rune circle on the ceiling was glowing now, and with only a small bit of relief found she could at least move her eyes to view his handy work.

“When you were here before
Couldn't look you in the eye
You're just like an angel
Your skin makes me cry”


The music shifted Arey’s attention back to Mordred, who had moved to the table. The i-Pod in his hand was the source of the music, and Arey had to wonder if the Radiohead classic was just a random selection from his playlist or a purposeful choice.

“I have been waiting so long for this…” Mordred whispered almost reverently as he reached out to stroke her face. His presence was still menacing, but different somehow, as if the air had shifted slightly. The caress suddenly turned into a harsh grip, hands surely bruising as he broke out into rough laughter.

“But the irony. Brought back as nothing but a weak fragile woman! How does it feel father, to be reduced to a form such as this?” Mordred sneered. Arey felt Arthur stir, but wouldn’t allow him to surface.

“No no no! You don’t get to have all the fun! This is my game not yours!” The hand on Arey’s face was suddenly gone as Mordred cradled his own head, shaking it violently.

“You ungrateful little cur! Go back to sleep and do not disturb me in this matter. You will have plenty of opportunities to indulge your urges later!” He growled back at himself.

“I did all the work, I get to play first!” He insisted back, and Arey had a sinking feeling as she realized what was happening. His mind was split, the walls and filter keeping his past life at bay gone as they wrestled for control of his body. In a word, it was horrifying to watch.

His attention was suddenly back on Arey, though she couldn’t tell which of the two she was dealing with yet. His hands moved to her hair, undoing the ponytail and began stroking the strands.

“But I'm a creep
I'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here!”


“You know I’ve always loved this song? It’s about this girl, who's so bright and beautiful that no one could touch her, too special to exist in this world. The guy though, he just fights himself, his feelings for her, his instincts. Everyone always thinks it’s some kind of love song, but I know better. I hear his soul in this song, what it’s really about.” The front of her shirt was suddenly ripped open, and Arey’s mind detached, seeing, observing, desperately trying not to process.

“He wants this bright beautiful girl who he feels too dirty to touch, but he knows once he does she’ll be dirty too, just like him, so he fights it, until he can’t anymore. The only way to keep her bright and beautiful, is to have her once, and preserve the things that make her special after. I figured out what that song really meant a long time ago…” She’s in shock, Arey realizes. Her mind of trying to shield her from what she knows is coming, what she’s seen him do before. Images of eyes in jars, chopped bunches of hair, and various pieces of preserved skin flit across her mind. It’s a future she sees shining back at her his his cold brown eyes...

“I will not be cheated from my revenge having come this close!” He roared suddenly, hands gone as the two personalities once again wrestled for control. Maybe it was the shock, the detached out of body feeling that was attempting to shield her mind, that was to blame as she heard herself speak.

“Why...why have you always hated him so much?” It was hard to think, it felt like her mouth was five steps ahead of her brain. It was a question Arey had always wondered, but what was the point in asking it now? “Arthur I mean. What did he do to you?”

As Mordred’s eyes locked with her own, eyes filled with rage and pain, the eyes of the man she had killed in a past life, Arey knew why she’d asked the question. She knew what the other guy was capable of, had seen his work first hand. She was taking her chances with this one.

“Everything.” He replied simply, cold like a well aged and long suffering rage. “My entire life, every choice made for me, ever sacrifice I undertook, my very reason for being was not my own. It’s a fate I’m sure you understand well, your only reason for existing to fulfill his purpose yet again.” His hand reached over to the table to get the knife. “Ending you and your shadow life now would almost be a mercy.”

“Then why do it? If you think living that kind of life would make me suffer so much, why put me out of my misery?” Arey probed as she managed to make one of her fingers flex. Maybe the spell had a time limit, or maybe it just weakened while he was distracted, but Arey could feel herself less restricted than before, if only slightly. If she could just keep him distracted, and get her trigger finger to work, she just might have a shot…

“Whoo-hoo! You sly little bitch!” Mordred crooned as he swiped the gun out of her hand. “You got him monologuing on his sad little story about how daddy never loved him. You’re smarter than I gave you credit!” His laughter was almost normal sounding, like any other twenty year old sharing a joke with his friends, and somehow it just made it worse. The blade was near her face now, hesitating slightly like he couldn’t quite decide where to cut first, and Arey was out of ideas.

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.
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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.