Kyo

Hallowed - Private Kyo& Val

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Dark blood splattered across the leafy ground. Violet wiped a smattering of it off her face and tried to catch her breath. Several piles of ash and bone lay scattered across the clearing. Violet looked to check on James, and saw that his suit was undamaged, his hair was still pristine. She let out a long sigh and tried to straighten up.

"You make it look easy." She growled, cracking her knuckles. 

"I'm just a little more careful, is all." James replied, "I'd rather not get covered in blood, thank you very much. Suits are expensive."
Violet shook her head but smiled despite it, "Ok." She took a deep breath and let it out, gathering her thoughts. They'd killed all the dhampir that had been sent after them, there was likely only a skeleton crew guarding the civilians. She and James started back, moving quickly but quietly. She had half expected to find Vincent stood outside, tapping his foot impatiently, ready to deliver the clever quip he'd been pondering for the past few minutes. But as they approached, Violet's worst fears suddenly materialised. 

 

Blood dotted the ground. It was human blood, not dhampir. Violet signalled to James to freeze and they crouched down on the outer edge of the clearing, watching the hut in silence. She could see movement inside but couldn't make out what was going on. But the fact that Vincent wasn't outside with David, Meredith and the civilians could only mean one thing. They'd been captured or killed. Violet's face stretched into a tight snarl. She felt James' hand on her shoulder, reminding her to be calm. She glanced at him angrily but nodded all the same. Slowly, carefully, they crept from the forest. There was no birdsong, no insect chirp. The forest had grown silent. Like it was holding its breath, waiting for something to happen. And happen it did.

 

Violet was just a couple of steps from the open entrance to the hut when a huge body came hurtling out, startling her. She raised her dagger but was pulled from her feet and the blade fell from her grip along with all the air from her lungs. She choked as she felt the world tumbling past her as the huge body drove her into a tree. She slumped to the ground, tasting blood in her mouth. She tried to get up, using the trunk for support, but a foot collided with her face and she snapped back against the trunk of the tree again and collapsed. She heard the dhampir laugh and then roar as she heard another set of footsteps dart towards them. It had to have been James, she tried to look up but just opening her eyes made her head scream with pain. Her vision was blurry.

 

Large, unwieldy digits closed around her throat and lifted her from the trunk. She opened her eyes long enough to see a huge dhampir in front of her. Another was engaging James in melee combat. Neither one seemed to be getting the advantage. She'd seen James fight before, but nothing like this. She didn't even realise he could hold his own against a dhampir of that size and strength. She glanced back just in time to see the grotesque head of the dhampir holding her, glide past her eyes. She felt the crunch as it's maw full of fangs closed around her shoulder and she couldn't suppress her pain. Violet screamed at the top of her lungs and flailed in an attempt to break free, she heard James yelling but it was all white noise to her. She felt her own blood trickling down her body. Then the pain was replaced with something else.

At first, she felt shivers run through her body. Like an ice cube slid down her spine. She felt the hairs on the back of her neck raise, goosebumps spread across her body. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head as she felt an intense pleasure and sense of well-being. The pain was all but gone. Her arms went limp as her mind clouded. She felt a release of pressure on her neck and she slid down the tree to the ground. It meant nothing to her. She heard voices, yelling. Seconds passed, then she felt something grab her by the hair. She was being dragged, and she couldn't do a thing to resist. She wasn't even sure if she needed to. More voices. But she could hear them now. Sound started coming back to her, like air filling a vacuum. In a matter of seconds, the voices were clear. She opened her eyes just in time to see the light overhead disappear as she was pulled into the hut.

"--two of them." One of the dhampir grunted, throwing Violet into the hut. 

"Good." A voice cooed. "Then that's all of them, I believe." The voice went on. She could feel a strange energy wafting in front of her. It lowered itself until she saw a face close to her own. A smug smile spread from cheek to cheek. "What are you, exactly..." The man asked, his hand reaching out to stroke Violet's cheek. 

"Shapeshifter." One of the dhampir snarled, "Killed half of us in the forest with that," He nodded his head at James, "Another shifter." 

"Is she...?" The warlock asked, a mixture of curiosity and disbelief in his tone. "You bit her?" He asked, looking down at the wound on Violet's shoulder before grabbing Violet by her cheeks and shaking her limp head, her eyes seemed to be unable to focus on him. "Well I hope she remains whole, else--" 
Violet blinked, she wasn't sure where she'd been, or what had happened, but something was welling up inside her. A terrible pain, and a familiar hunger. It was like a heroin addict had gone cold turkey in fast forward. She groaned and tried to see what was in front of her. But as she started to feel the scales tip back to the centre, it was as though she had over-compensated and now they were leaning in the other direction. 

Where she was, who she was, who they were. It meant nothing to her. She saw a panicked expression on the warlock in front of her as her arm lashed out. Her fingers snapped shut on the man's throat and started to squeeze. She heard him let out a startled cry and choked out a half-plea, half-demand to the dhampir surrounding him. The dhampir however looked so surprised to see a bite victim lucid and strong that they hesitated - if only for a second. Then they descended on Violet and pried her fingers free of the warlock's throat. He stumbled back, gripping his neck and opened his mouth to issue an order when the dhampir holding Violet exploded in a flash of purple light. Blood, guts and bone flew everywhere, spraying everyone in the hut. Silence ensued.

 

"Master Logan?!" One of the dhampir took a step back in surprise and fear.

The warlock now identified as Logan grit his teeth and made a noise that sounded like a metal fork being pulled down a blackboard. Whatever the noise had been it seemed to resonate with Violet as her half-vacant gaze quickly focused on him, as though he'd called her by name. "I thought so..." He growled, "Kill her. NOW!!" He screamed, and pulled a small artifact from his pocket and started chanting over it, backing away as he did so. 

Violet started forwards, and levelled her hand at a target. A brilliant white and purple light thrummed from her hand. Her palm faced the nearest body in the room. Vincent. The light in her hand grew to the point that it looked ready to discharge at any moment. She could no longer distinguish between friend and foe. She was an avatar of rage.

 

As the magic in her hand discharged, something slammed into the side of her, knocking her arm up into the air. The blast of magic exploded the roof of the hut outwards in a incredible display of light and sound that dazed everyone inside. Violet struggled against the dhampir that had caught hold of her at their master's command, but it was too strong. It physically overwhelmed her almost instantly and pinned her to the side of the hut.

"Let go of her!" Logan roared. The dhampir ignored the demand, sure that if it let go of her they would be in danger once again. But he quickly regretted it. The dhampir snarled in surprise as Violet became hot to his touch, to the point that it was burning him. He let go of one of her arms for just a second, and then she snaked out and grabbed his face.

 

Violet's eyes and mouth alighted with brilliant white light and the dhampir croaked in agony as it's tight leathery skin became brittle and thin. It looked as though all the life was draining out of it and within seconds it turned to ash in Violet's hand. She stood up, the light still pouring out of her eyes as she refocused on Logan this time. She raised her hand to attack, words flowed from her lips without her knowledge, but when she tried to call upon her magic, it failed. Logan's expression shifted from fear and panic into surprise and glee. He quickly held out a small knife and pointed it at Violet.

"Pyre!" He shouted, and a jet of flame shot out of the blade and struck Violet squarely in the chest, knocking her to the ground in a single hit. She was motionless on the ground for a few, agonising moments. Then slowly, she began to stir. 

 

When she looked up, her eyes had returned to normal. Violet stared at her surroundings in confusion and silence. She looked around to see several dhampir with their backs pressed up against the walls of the hut, as though hoping to be absorbed by the building. The warlock stood on the far side. She saw Vincent lying on the ground, tied, beaten and bloody. As was David. Meredith was nowhere to be seen. James was pinned to the ground by a very large dhampir. "Welcome back..." The warlock growled. As Violet started to stand up he grabbed Vincent and lifted him to his feet, "Ah-ah-ah!" He cautioned, putting the blade to Vincent's throat. "That's enough."

"Vincent?" Violet asked, her tone even and calm, though she was confused.

"Violet..." Vincent managed to say, his voice dry and raspy. "...what are you... waiting for?" Logan recited several more words over the artifact he held in his other hand and tightened his grip on Vincent.

 

"I..." Violet stared at the blade at Vincent's throat.

"You have two options, Violet." Logan smiled warmly, like an old friend. "You can try and kill me, though you might not succeed. And I will most certainly kill your brother. Or you can take him, and your friends, and walk away. That is all you have to choose between."

A series of emotions washed over her, dominated by rage and frustration. She wanted to lash out at the warlock, leave a smouldering crater where he once stood. But she was at a great disadvantage. He had her brother. He had David. He had James. She didn't see Meredith anywhere. It was quite possible that when everything happened she had abandoned them to save herself.

"I can't trust your word that you would let any of us leave alive." She replied, rubbing her thumb and forefingers together impatiently. 

 

"We are in the Fae, no?" Logan said with a wry grin. "We can do as the locals do. I swear it, on my power, that I will set them free and allow you to leave this place unharmed, if you allow the same for me."
"Heh... hehe!" Vincent was chuckling, but it sounded raspy and painful. Logan's eyes flitted to Vincent for but a moment, and then back to Violet, saying nothing. Vincent's strange joviality both worried and excited her. Either he'd gone off the deep end, or he knew something Logan didn't. Hopefully the latter.
"You're afraid." Vincent said. Logan's face twisted into an amused sneer. "Afraid of you?" He asked mockingly. "Broken and beaten?" 
"No... You're afraid of her." Vincent said breathlessly. "Violet... he's scared of you. Desperate men make deals... Trust me. You... you can beat him." Vincent's eyelids dropped down as he finished the sentence, his head drooping on to the knife edge as he began falling away from consciousness.

 

"Dammit Vincent..." Violet cursed under her breath. She shook her head and laughed bitterly, "He's right. You are desperate." She spoke through tightly clenched teeth. Her anger felt like a bubbling mass fighting to overpower her, she had always had a temper, but right now she was struggling to control it. She was angry, and there was a part of her that liked that and wanted to do with it as it pleased. But she knew if she let that side of her take control, then everyone would die as a result of her flippant disregard. "So give him back to me." She said at last.

"Desperate, maybe..." Logan replied, a wicked grin forming across his lips. "But I am no fool. I will kill him before you reach me, but you will not let it come to that. You know it is the logical option but... your heart will not let you. Will it?" As if to make his point he pressed the knife in to Vincent's throat drawing a thin trickle of blood. Vincent's head shot up again as pain jolted him awake and his eyes became wild and intense.

 

"Let... him... GO!!" Violet roared, a crack spread across her face, a bright purple light shone out from underneath, illuminating the hut. Tears welled up in the corners of her eyes as she struggled to remain still. She could barely control herself, she wanted desperately to cast a spell but knew that Vincent would be killed in Logan's final moments.

"Ah... anger... a dangerous emotion." Logan said, sounding satisfied by Violet's outburst. "Such outbursts can get people hurt. I wonder... if you let your anger control you will you even care who lives and dies? Perhaps you are a greater monster than I."

"Don't call me that..." Violet growled, clenching her fists as she tried to think of a way out of this situation. She had to think of something and fast. There had to be a way to get everyone out alive, and stop the warlock at the same time.

 

"But you are." Logan said. "The first civilisations told stories of you to scare their children into behaving. Great men and women have feared your wrath throughout history. Well... perhaps not you, since you're a bit soft as these things go."

"What...?" Violet couldn't help herself. Her anger had taken precedence and yet these words disarmed her. "What am I?!" She demanded, taking a step forwards angrily but stopping herself as Logan reminded her of the knife at her brother's throat.

"You don't know?" Logan asked, genuinely disbelieving. "That is... well I'd laugh in a more appropriate situation. The Huntress doesn't even know what she is."

"Huntress?" Violet parroted, but before she could ask she felt a strange magic as something slipped over her, flowing down over her face and body. At first the sensation made her panic and she almost lashed out, but there was nothing hostile about this magic. It was defensive. The cool, sliding sensation covered her until she was wrapped inside it.

 

"You need to hurry." The voice was a squeak behind Violet. With Violet underneath her veil she was fully visible, crouching not far from Violet. "Please, before he notices the fake."

"Meredith?!" Violet snapped, but she calmed herself. Asking where Meredith had gone would have to wait for later. There were more important matters at hand, "You have to help me get everyone out of here!"

 

"I am helping you." Meredith replied. "He can't see you, so go! Save Vincent before he notices!"

Violet nodded to her and wasted no time. She rushed to Vincent's aid, she would have to be quick. She knew she could overpower a normal human, but she had to silence Logan, before he could cast a spell or do any more harm. Then there was also the two remaining dhampir and the big one that had James pinned to the ground. She leapt into the air and transformed.

 

Logan screamed in hysteria as a Siberian tiger flew at him from out of thin air. Unable to react in time, he and Vincent were knocked to the ground, the dagger along with them. Violet stalked over Vincent's body, and padded towards Logan who was scrambling to the back of the hut. The people in the centre of the hut recoiled from her, but she ignored them. Her gaze was focused on Logan. He dug at the ground at the foot of the wall at the back of the hut until he heard her behind him. He whirled around to see Violet just a stone's throw away.

"I didn't--" Logan started.

Violet shot across the hut in an instant, the people screamed and the two smaller dhampir dove out of the way as she reached Logan in an instant and fell upon him. His screams echoed through the hut as she mauled him, tearing at his arms as he tried to defend himself and once they were spent, she bit into his face and shook. His screams stopped with a jerk, and silence resumed.

Only the sound of her heavy, feline breathing remained. She turned, her face matted with blood. The two smaller dhampir fled from the hut but the larger one remained. He stood, releasing James and walked to the entrance of the hut and faced Violet defiantly. She turned to face him and charged.

 

Violet had shifted back into her human form, the crack in her face had been restored along with it, though blood still covered her face. She wiped much of it out of her eyes and mouth and cut loose those tied, including her brother, helping him to his feet. James ushered the group outside of the hut and together they left. Violet had a lot to say, to Meredith, to her brother. She had a lot of thoughts on what had happened, and on what Logan had said to her before she'd gleefully torn him apart, but there were other problems to deal with first. Second on that list was escaping the Fae, but first was dealing with the heavy fall of hooves she could hear surrounding them. Two of the dhampir had escaped, and it seemed their deadline was up. "Wake up, Vincent. Diplomacy is your strong suit, not mine." She muttered, a truth she normally found irritating, though this time, she had appreciated her own form of negotiation. Though Logan had not.

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Violet's voice filled Vincent's head, muffled and difficult to understand. It was like she was speaking to him from the other side of a brick wall. Something was banging repeatedly, over and over. So much that it sounded like an incoming thunderstorm. Vincent winced as he opened his eyes, pushing himself up from whoever was carrying him, and putting all of his will in to the simple task of moving one foot in front of the other. He staggered, the pain shooting through him, fresh and unrelenting. He hugged his own chest with one of his arms, he definitely had a couple of broken ribs. He swallowed, struggling, his throat was so dry. Slowly what Violet had said to him began to register. 

 

"Um..." He said as he caught his breath. He was in no state to run. He pushed the pain bank and focused on thinking. Steadying his breath he held out his arm, gesturing at the group around him. "Meredith..." He groaned. 

"Here." She said, her voice filled with nervous fear but also an eagerness to help. She stepped in front of Vincent so he could look at her. He swayed a little on his feet and looked down at her. "Make a circle." He said. She looked around as if hoping someone would suggest something to her. Vincent quickly clarified. "An illusion. Make a circle around us."

"Oh, right." She said quickly, before drawing a wand from her belt and moving it rhythmically like a conductor. A faint, glowing outline of a circle appeared around them on the floor. It was enough for him to do what he needed. With the image to help his focus he funnelled his will in to the circle, and there was a dull thrum of energy as the circle activated around them, designed to keep anything from getting inside. "Okay, that's bought us some time." He said. 

 

"I hope you have something else up your sleeve other than a magic circle, Vincent." James muttered, "We're not exactly in our element."

"Oh, sorry." Vincent said without the usual ethusiasm that came with his sass, "I'll just ask the internal bleeding to kindly stop for a while so I can think of a genius escape plan." He shook his head and turned to address everyone properly. "I'm tapped out, There's no way I can open a Way. I only barely managed to throw the circle up. I'm afraid I don't have much else to offer right about now."

"Meredith?" Violet asked, turning to face the most reticent of their group.

"Uh...I know the theory but..." Meredith scratched her head, "It's not as easy as that."

"She's right, it's not." Vincent said. "It's not just like opening a door, you have to feel it out, read the signs. It can take weeks just to learn the basics."

 

The conversation came short as the rumbling of hooves finally reached them, and Centaurs poured out from the woods, circling them with all manner of bows, nets and spears. They spread out, cutting off access from every direction. Finally their leader emerged from the trees and glanced at the group, raising a brow at the scene and giving a soft smirk. "Admirable though it is that you fight to the bitter end, this is a disappointing state to find you." He said. "You fought well hunters, but you have failed. Lower this barrier and face death gracefully, we will break it down soon any way. You are only delaying the inevitable."

 

"Well it's all I can do." Vincent replied with a half hearted shrug. "But with enough time anything could happen. I'll keep the barrier up if you don't mind."

"Very well." The Centaur said with a nod. "I will offer you one final chance to speak your last words."

"W-wait!" Meredith said nervously. "We could make another deal, right? You could take...this." Meredith took a crystalline orb from her pocket and held it up. It was the Chronoweaver, the crystal construct clearly of Faerie design. "This is pretty valuable. Is it worth our lives?" The Centaur replied without even a second thought. 

"It is of no worth to us. Time is only valuable to mortals." He said gravely. "Besides which, the Equinox is almost over, the trinket's power fades."

 

"So rule of the Fae has passed to Spring?" Vincent asked. 

"Indeed." The Centaur replied. "Also of no consequences. No kingdom of seasons can ever rule the Wyldfae. Face it, mortal. Your time is at an end." Vincent didn't bother arguing. He was tired, too tired to fight any longer. Hell, even standing was quickly becoming a chore to hard to bear. He rubbed his head, massaging his temples gently. No matter how much he wanted to have a way out, there simply wasn't one. They were done. 

 

"I...I have an idea." Meredith said hesitantly. "You won't like it, but...it's worth a try."

"I'll take anything at this point." Vincent said. "What have you got?"

"Gifts are frowned upon in The Fae, all favours must be returned in kind." Meredith said. "Spring is in power now. They cannot enter the Wylds of their own will, but if they were summoned..."

"That's sort of a 'out of the frying pan, into the fire' kind of deal, kid." Vincent replied. "A favour is never simply just a favour when it comes to the Sidhe. Besides we have nothing to offer."

"I do." Meredith said. "I'm sorry but...I'm doing it." She held out her hands and spoke. "First light, first life. Harbinger of Beginnings, Queen of Birth and Bloom..."

 

"Attack!" The Centaur leader yelled. Arrows rained through the air, whistling and crashing against the invisible barrier, causing ripple like effects across the air as they deflected, falling to the floor. More Centaurs charged forwards, driving their spears at the barrier with great force, causing it to ripple violently, beginning to tear at the seams. "...Queen of Spring, Shaylee...I summon thee!" Meredith called finally. As she spoke the final words there was an almighty rush of force from within the circle, shattering it from the inside out, but also blasting the centaur's back across the woodland ground. Everything afterwards became but a distant haze. At some point Vincent must have lost consciousness again. He struggled to remember. He was drifting away, falling deeper and deeper. He could rest now. 

 

 


 

 

He awoke to infinite darkness. He who could not remember his own name, stared out at the nothingness and felt empty. A scent of wild leaves and something sweet passed him by, even though there was no wind to carry it. He peered deeper in to the darkness, and found a growing light. A woman with red hair stood at the bottom of a spiralling staircase, her form illuminated in a spotlight. She glanced at him with eyes of hazel, and he felt something tug at his heart. She was the most beautiful thing in the world, and his thoughts became filled with desire. His feet moved underneath him, and he found himself running towards the woman. She smirked and began to walk quickly up the spiral staircase. 

 

He broke in to a run, and so too did she. Before long he was sprinting as fast as his legs would carry him. He ascended the staircase in pursuit, but the red haired woman did not seem any closer. Higher and higher he rose, running for hours, days, weeks, perhaps even years. No closer did she come. After an eternity of running he stopped, collapsing on the stairs in defeat. Misery followed. Crushing despair and pain at his loss. He clenched his fists so tightly that his knuckles cracked, and he became aware of how wet it felt around his eyes. The staircase faded and once again he was plunged into never ending darkness. Once again he was alone. He lay on his hands and knees, only the steady drip, drip, drip sound of water hitting the surface. And then, again, the smell of wild leaves and sweetness. 

 

"Hello, boy." A voice said to him, oozing with kindness and love. The man sprung to his feet and turned on his heel, eager to see his red haired love from where the voice had came. Instead he saw that he was stood in a grand crystalline throne room. And sat on a throne of coldest ice sat a woman with the snow white hair, and piercing green eyes. She was beautiful, powerful and all so terrifying. A narrow smile escaped her lips and she held her hand out, beckoning towards him. "Kneel." She commanded. The urge to do so was overwhelming. All his desires had simply vanished, replaced by the one, true desire to serve this porcelain skinned Goddess. He bent down to go on one knee, and found a hand on his shoulder, pulling him roughly back to his feet. He turned to face the figure, and found that the hand was reaching out from a tall mirror directly behind him. In the mirror he could see himself, a tall and skinny man with shoulder length, black hair, emerald green eyes, wearing a black shirt, black skinny jeans, red boots and a brown duster. 

 

The man in the mirror was quite different from him. This man was strong and confident. He had a dark and discerning stare as he stood with both of his hands now in his pockets. He looked unhappy, disappointed perhaps. "Who are you?" He asked the man in the mirror. 

"Did you really just ask yourself that question?" The man in the mirror replied. "Think about it. Come on, use your brain. It's the best tool you have."

"I..." The man replied, hesitant. "I am...Vin-"

"Vincent!" Another voice snapped, female and strong. Vincent turned to find another woman stood with the Ice Queen. This woman had darker skin, and dark hair like his own. "It's a trick, Vincent. Get away from that thing!"

 

"V..Violet?" Vincent said. "What...what's going on?"

"Vincent...trust me." Violet said as she held out her hand. "Come over here with me. You need to keep away from that thing."

"Oh come on!" The mirror Vincent protested. "Are you buying this? Look at who she is standing with! Come on, you know this." Vincent looked to the Ice Queen, and all he could feel was dread. 

"No..." He said as he shook his head. "Get the hell away from me!"

"That a boy!" His mirror self said encouragingly. 

 

"Violet, darling." The Ice Queen said softly, but her voice was cold. "You cannot convince him with words. You're strong, just take him."

"Vincent..." Violet growled. She began to stride towards him. He tried to step back, but there was nowhere he could go. He shook on the spot. He was terrified. 

"That's enough!" his mirror self said, and then he stepped out from the mirror and strode forwards to meet Violet, passing his other self by. He rose his hand, and a black cane materialised within it, pointed directly at Violet. "Ignus!" Vincent snarled, and a lance of brilliant white flame shot from the tip of the cane, crashing over Violet and engulfing her. 

"What are you doing!?" The other Vincent demanded in a panic. 

"Just look." His other self replied. 

 

Violet emerged from the flames, her skin had been burned away, along with her clothes and her hair. The form that strode forwards was glowing so brightly he could not truly make out it's form. It went at a sprint and the braver, stronger Vincent ran to meet it. As the glowing form closed in, it changed again, becoming another familiar face, like Vilets but more mature, with wicked, cruel eyes and a menacing grin. Her hand went thrust forward, flat like a blade, and penetrated straight through other Vincent's head. He was frozen in shock, unable to move. Vincent watched himself being violated by this woman, and it felt horrifyingly familiar. 

 

"It is at this point in which I managed to locate it." Another voice said from behind him. The scene had frozen, and Vincent turned to see a tall man with pale, white skin, and an endless darkness in his eyes. His hair was long, black and wirey, and he wore a cloak that seemed to stretch on forever and ever in to the darkness. The pale man inclined his head and it looked like he might have been glancing at Vincent, but with no eyes to speak of it was hard to tell. 

"This...happened before?" He asked the pale man. 

"Indeed." came the response. "This...old one. Vael. She invaded your mind, and made attempts to twist it."

"I...I remember." Vincent said with a nod. "Is...this about her?"

 

"Vael is but a catalyst to my being here." The pale man said. "Her assault on your mind forced the contagion to reveal itself."

"Contagion?" Vincent asked

"It has eluded me for a long time. The contagion is careful, silent and patient. But Vael forced it to act, and thus reveal itself to me. And so I have travelled here to remove it from my domain."

"Uh...your domain?" Vincent asked. "Who are you?"

"That is a complicated question, one that you would struggle to fathom." The pale one replied. "Do not concern yourself with my identity. All of this will be over in a moment."

 

The pale figure glided forward with an eerie grace. He moved past the still forms of Vael, and other Vincent. He moved instead to the Ice Queen. She smirked, eyeing his presence. 

"Took you long enough." She said

"Insolent witch." The pale one replied. "You have dared to meddle in my domain. There will be a heavy price."

"Hah!" She looked genuinely amused. "And what can you possibly do to me?"

"My hand cannot reach you, that is true." the pale one said with a single nod. "But I will guide another, who will unravel your plan. I will watch through this being, and that will be enough to satisfy me." The Ice Queen's glared at the pale one and her lips tightened. "You will not dare to meddle, old one. Interfering in mortal matters is against your rules."

 

"Our rules." The pale one corrected. "And yet I would not be the first to bend them. My eldest sister has made quite a habit of it. She is so fond of mortals."

"I am also quite fond of them." The Ice Queen said. "This one in particular is very dear to me."

"All the more reason to take him from you." the pale one said. "Now, begone from my domain. I tire of you." And with that the pale man lifted his hand and with a barest of gestures the Ice Queen shattered in to dust, cascading to the floor and disappearing altogether. The pale man glided back to Vincent and cocked his head slightly, as if curious. 

 

"I'm not entirely sure what just happened." Vncent said. "But I feel I owe you my gratitude."

"Unnecessary." The pale one replied. "Do not mistake my actions as a kindness Vincent Hallow. It may be a keen observation but it is still a wrong one. There is far more to this than appears. The contagion has twisted your memories, and completely hidden others away. Slowly they will return to you, and it will bring you a great deal of pain and suffering. I take no pleasure in that either. The reason for my action is quite a simple one."

"Which is?" Vincent asked. 

"This is my domain." The pale one said. "I will not tolerate any one who seeks to use it as their own."

"Well...it might not have been your intention but I have a feeling you just did me a massive favour all the same." Vincent said. "So, thanks."

"...You're welcome." The pale one said in resignation. "...And now your time here comes to an end. Good luck, Vincent Hallow."

 

 


 

 

Vincent shot up with a gasp, the clean air stinging his throat. Energy coursed through him as if he had just stuck his finger in an electrical outlet. His eyes darted around the room frantically, surveying it. Golden sunshine shone in from a window with a balcony. The entire room was made of marble, but all the edges had a layer of growing vines with colourful blossom. Even the bed he lay on was covered in vines, blossom and petals of various flowers. The air was sweet like perfume. He looked at his hand, and then his arm. His eyes moved over his body but there was no bruising or scars like he had expected. He got out of the bed to find it surprisingly easy to stand. He was wearing a pain of pure white jeans, and his feet and chest was bare with the exception of the pentacle amulet around his neck. "What the...fuck?" He said to himself. 

 

"Halt, prisoner!" A tiny, squeaky voice called out. A tiny ball of pink light zipped across the room. The little person had golden hair, and she was dressed in a crystalline armour, her little faerie wings buzzing like a bees'. She pointed a sword at him that was no bigger than a letter opener, but her eyes were focused and filled with a warriors resolve. 

"Uh...prisoner?" Vincent asked, looking around the room. "This is a prison? Really?"

"Of course!" The tiny faerie replied. "You are a prisoner of Queen Shaylee. You have been captured alongside your companions. The Holy man, The youngling and the darkling. Queen Shaylee has ordered that you do not leave this room, by penalty of death! And Queen Shaylee really doesn't like death! She would be so upset if she had to kill you. Do you really want to do that to her?"

"Do that to her?" Vincent looked completely baffled. "I don't want her to kill me. She could just not kill me."

 

"Orders are orders!" the pixie said. "Queen Shaylee has provided you with mortal comforts, she has provided you with mortal food and healed your wounds. She has saved you from the Wyldfae...all as was agreed. Now you are her dearest prisoners, and you will be kept here in the heart of Spring, to be cared for until the sentence is complete."

"This is a weird punishment..." Vincent said, rolling his eyes. "Faeries...you're totally weird. So when's the sentence over?"

"300 mortal years." The pixie replied, as if that was a fairly reasonable thing to say. 

"What!?" Vincent snapped. "But I need to return to L.A. Like, right now! We can't..." He sighed, it was pointless arguing with one of the wee folk, they had a one-track mind and were very forgetful. He'd figured it out by now. 

 

Spring Faeries were not quite so cruel as their Winter cousins. At least not in the same way. They celebrated life, after all. But it was all too easy to be sucked in to. So many mortals had been tempted to spend a night with the Sidhe of Spring, only to return to find hundreds of years had passed and all who they had loved were dead and gone. While he was here, if he behaved he would probably be treated very well. But if he objected...well they'd still kill him. They would also consider it a great insult to them that they were forced to end a life. He'd said it before, and he would say it again. Faeries were weird.

 

"I want to see my sister, and David." Vincent said. "Can that be arranged?"

"Of course." The pixie replied. "All prisoners are entitled to visitation, once every 10 years. You may see your friend in 9 years, 11 months, 2 weeks and a day."

"Uh..." Vincent didn't even know where to begin with that one. "Hang on...I've been here for nearly two weeks!?"

"Yes. You were badly wounded." The pixie said. "Queen Shaylee tended to you for a long time. You should consider it an honour."

"Uh, yeah...right." Vincent said. "Can I speak with Queen Shaylee? I have some things I'd like to clear up."

"Certainly...she is due to check on you in..." 

"Please don't say 10 years..."

"...an hour." The pixie finished. "You will have to wait until then. Please, do take a seat."

 

"Thanks..." Vincent grumbled and sat down on the bed again. He scratched his head and wondered how he had gotten in to this mess. And then he remembered. "Meredith..." he growled. 

 

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A cool morning breeze kissed her cheek and she felt a warmth that only the sun could impart. She was outside? Violet rolled over and felt soft, clean bed sheets. She yawned and stretched like a cat and sighed, when a distant voice started to pull her awake. It was light and feminine, yet melancholy.

"Life is a tragedy." She said.

Violet opened her eyes and realised she was in an unfamiliar room. What had she been doing? For a few seconds her brain hadn't realigned to the events of the previous night, but when it came rushing back to her, she sat bolt upright. She had been in the fae, the centaurs had attacked, and then... nothing? She couldn't remember. She looked down at the soft white sheets she was lying in and frowned. Did Vincent get them home somehow? Then she remembered the voice and twisted around in her bed until she saw a large glass-less window. It let a lot of light and warmth into the room from outside, but there were bars across it.

 

Sat on a chair beside the window, with what looked like a pair of high-heeled New Rock boots resting up on the table, was her friend Dee. She was reclined and staring out the window with a sombre expression on her face. Though, that was mostly how she always looked. She brushed a few strands of jet black hair out of her pale face and turned to look at Violet with a gentle smile. "Morning."
"What did you say?" Violet asked.
"Morning?" Dee repeated, frowning.
"No, before that." Violet grumbled, pulling herself up in bed. She noticed then that she had been bandaged where she had been wounded. She began removing the bandages, knowing that her accelerated healing would have taken care of a few fractured bones and bruises overnight.

"Life is a tragedy." Dee repeated.

 

"That's morbid. Even for you." Violet rubbed her forehead, she felt like she'd imbibed more than a half bottle of tequila. Or been hit by a bus. Maybe both. "Can you tell the birds to stop squawking. It's giving me a headache." She groaned, clutching at her face as she leant forwards.

"I think it's quite lovely. And i'm not being morbid..." Dee muttered, seemingly hurt by the comment, "I'm a realist." She added, thoughtfully.

"Real morbid." Violet grinned. "Anyway, how did you come to that conclusion then?" Violet asked.

Dee thought for a moment and then licked her lips before speaking, "It's like Shakespeare, right? You talk about his plays being comedies or tragedies."

"Right." Violet nodded slowly, letting Dee know she was listening. Her head was humming though, how had they escaped?

 

"Well, you classify them as a comedy, if it ends with a wedding. But a tragedy if it ends with a funeral." Dee paused as she crossed her arms and kicked her feet off the table to face Violet, "Well, its not like anything ends in a wedding in real life, is it?" She gave Violet a lop-sided smile.
"It's too early for an existential crisis, Dee." Violet groaned.

"She's right y'know." Another voice replied.

Violet loosed an uncharacteristic squeal and scrambled out of her bed, whirling back to look at what had made the noise. There sat on the pillow next to where her head had been just seconds before, was a strange animal. It was unlike anything she had ever seen before. But at the same time, she recognised it immediately. She had seen it once before, in the Void. But she had forgotten ever seeing it until she was staring at it right in front of her now. "What the hell are you?!" She barked, and then looked around the room, realising at last that she had never left the fae. "Son of a banshee..." She growled, looking around her room. There were indeed bars on the window, and the door looked solid. The room itself however was quite large and well-furnished. Food had been laid out on the table, and some water and wine beside it. Her clothes had been cleaned and placed in a neat pile, and she noticed she was wearing a sort of night gown. "I don't... am I a prisoner?" She asked, confused. Now would have been a good time to have Vincent there. She had never spent much time in the fae, not that she disliked it, she had just never had many reasons to remain in a place where you could be killed or become a slave for a thousand years at the drop of a hat. Or worse.

 

She looked at the little creature on her pillow. It looked like a red panda, and yet it looked like it was comprised of silvery light and mist. It left little wispy trails of something behind as it moved to the end of the bed and sat down. Violet glanced at Dee who sat there in silence, "You can see that." She said, more as a statement than a question.

"Yep." Dee grinned back at her. She hated her in that moment. Dee had a habit of withholding information from her, and at times like this, it really irked her, regardless of whether it was right or wrong. "I was wondering when you two were going to meet." She added. A smug grin spreading across her face.

"We've met before though..." Violet replied, frowning, "But you changed..."
"Yes." It replied, then after a long silence, "Do you remember what I said to you?" It asked.
"You said..." She tried to think back, "You said I'd know your name the next time we met..." Violet replied. She couldn't believe it. What she'd seen in the Void hadn't been some kind of delusion or fever dream, or even some kind of illusion. It had really happened. But the strange little creature was right. "Your name is Zeal."

 

"Yes." It replied, smiling at her. Then it stood and leapt onto the table, and up onto the windowsill. "The next time we meet, you will know what I am." It turned and started to leave, phasing through the bars as if they weren't even there.

"Hey!" Violet snapped, stomping across to the window. "You can't just come and go as you please! I want answers out of you, you little rat bastard! Tell me what you are and why you're following me goddammit!" The creature responded with a toothy grin, then leapt out into the sunshine and disappeared. "... fucking... magical creatures..." She sighed, rubbing her forehead for a few seconds before remembering that Dee was still in the room. "You're no use!!" She shouted at her.

"What?" Dee raised an eyebrow in surprise.

"You know what that is!" She gestured at the window where the creature had been just a moment ago, "And you knew all along that I wasn't a Skinwalker, but you let me run off to that reservation and learn a bunch of lore that wasn't even about my culture!!" Violet was fuming, especially as Dee rarely lost her temper. Being mad at someone who just smiles at you just makes it all the more infuriating.

 

"And you know I couldn't tell you, whether I wanted to or not." 

"Cosmic unravelling of time and space blah blah blah," Violet grumbled as she started to take her night gown off, but mid-strip she stopped and looked at Dee, "Face the other way, then." Dee rolled her eyes but did so all the same. Once Violet had changed into her own clothes she walked over to the window and looked out. She was indeed still in the realm of the fae. So they had been captured. "Dammit..." She cursed, clenching her fist and thumping it on the sill. She heard a key turn in the door and turned to see a strange little pixie with brilliant blue wings buzz into the room, give it a once over and then looked at Violet.
"Greetings, darkling, I have--"
"What did you call me?!" Violet snapped, and stormed forwards. The pixie retreated just enough so that it was behind the open door, and Violet put her hand out to grab the spiteful little creature, but found an invisible barrier blocking her exit. Whether the door was open or not, it didn't seem to matter. 
"I have--" The pixie continued, now safe in the knowledge it was out of her reach, "-- a message for you. You are the prisoner of the Queen of Spring, life and rebirth - Queen Shaylee. You cannot leave this room, your sentence has been carried out. You have been found guilty of trespassing in her realm, of harming its citizens and breaking a dozen of our most cherished laws, chief among them--"

"I've had enough of this!" Violet snapped, and ran at the window.

"Don't." Dee muttered under her breath.

 

Violet leapt into the air, she had to turn into something small, like a mouse or shrew. Or maybe she should turn into small bird like a robin, so she could fly free into the skies once she was outside. She flew through the air, and started to shift. The most incredible pain Violet had ever experienced shot up through her spine and spread through every part of her body. She gasped as she collided with the wall and hit the ground. Panting, exhausted, her body still twitching from the memory of the pain she had experienced. "W-what... what was that?!" Her eyes were wide, "Jesus..."

"The Queen is well aware of your 'habits', darkling. You will be unable to change inside these walls. No beast, humanoid, or other such facsimile will be possible, if you attempt it, you will experience that pain once again. Your sentence is 300 years, and I am your jailer. You may call me Goshwomp."

"Charmed." Violet growled.
"Should you need anything, call my name. I will treat you with respect, as long as you abide by our rules." And then Goshwomp was gone, the door closed and locked behind him. Violet pulled herself up off the ground and shuffled over to the end of the bed and collapsed onto it.

"300 years...?" She sighed, closing her eyes. Then a moment later they shot open, "I'm not going to get the deposit back on my hotel room."

"You should take this seriously." Dee muttered, looking around the room with a curious expression on her face.

"I'm using humour to alleviate the gripping sense of dread, alright?" She replied in a snarky tone, and closed her eyes again.

"I could help with that." A male voice answered. She recognized it immediately.

"James?!" She sat upright and looked to the window to see a small black cat sat on the window sill. "How are you not captured as well?" 
"I'm rather clever." He replied, matter-of-factly. Unlike her, as a familiar, James was able to speak as an animal. Though, he could only transform into that cat, as technically he was shifting when he assumed a human form. His true form was the feline.

"Well i'm freaking glad you are." Violet grinned and looked to Dee, but she was gone. "Oh for..." She shook her head, "Y'know, for a prison cell, i've had a lot of visitors today." James gave her a strange look, unsure of what she meant, but moved past it.
"Well, i'd like to get you out of here but, why don't you just leave?" He asked, looking at the bars that were generously spaced apart.
"If I try and shift it hurts like hell. I can't." Violet replied, furrowing her brow as she thought of possible escape options.

"I overheard you speaking to someone," James remarked.
"Oh, you heard that?" Violet asked with a nervous smile.
"Goshwomp?" James confirmed to her. So, he hadn't heard her speaking to Dee or to the little silvery creature she now knew as Zeal. Typical. "I think if you're going to escape, you'll have to trick him. That's the only way. I might be able to get you out, if I had the time, but--" James stopped, his ears pricked up and he looked back outside, "--I have to go!" Speaking hurriedly, "I'm going to find your brother and help him escape, and then we'll be back for you. But don't rest on your laurels, hmm?" He smiled and then leapt off the window sill.

 

After a few minutes had passed, Violet let out a deep breath and rubbed her forehead. "Dee?" 
"I didn't go anywhere." She replied.

"What am I?" Violet asked again, and Dee shook her head. She nodded quietly in defeat and sat on the end of the bed, thoughts rushing through her mind. She tried to focus on the task at hand, but Violet couldn't help but be absorbed by the recent revelations in her life. As if Dee was on the same page, she suddenly sat upright and clicked her fingers together. A spark of inspiration.
"You already know!" Dee clapped her hands together excitedly. 

"Excuse me?" Violet raised an eyebrow in disbelief. 
"No, look--" Dee stood and crossed the room to sit close beside her, "I was thinking about your childhood, and you have a memory, it's not exactly the most vivid of memories, apparently. But it exists. When you were a child, your mother told you what you were before she left. Definitely." Dee nodded with a bright smile on her face, her eyes dancing with excitement, "Yep. Definitely. You know."

"So she told me what I was as a child?" Violet frowned, "I don't remember that..." 

"Well i've said enough, any more and y'know, cosmic blah blah blah." She grinned and kissed Violet on the forehead before standing up. "You're gonna be alright, Vi. Just take things one step at a time, don't force them. You'll remember, or you'll find out one way or another. Just remember that you're defined by your actions, not your heritage. Even..." Dee stopped herself and laughed, shrugging it off, "Anyway, see ya." And then she was gone, and Violet was alone in her gilded cage. At last. Violet shook her head and fell back onto her bed. She would have thought that the only upside of being a prisoner was you were generally left to your own devices. Unsurprising, then, that she had been incarcerated in the only prison in this dimension that gets regular visitors from another realm. She laughed at the absurdity of the situation she was in. It was laugh, or cry. But now she had to focus her attention on her jailer. The pixie called Goshwomp. If she was going to get out of here, she had to trick him into letting her out. But how could she do that? Wonderful as James was, she didn't want to rely on anything that made the conscious decision to lick their own hindquarters and call it 'cleaning'.

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When the door to Vincent's guest room/prison opened he was sat at the coffee table, with his feet up. He was casually reading over a leather bound book and sipping on a cup of black coffee. He lifted his head from the pages with only a cursory glance. The woman who had entered, much like all Sidhe he had encountered in his life, was a vision. She was slim and curvaceous with pinkish, smooth skin. She was dressed in a rather plain, cream coloured dress with a brown sash and dark brown boots that reminded Vincent of the type of clothes mortal women wore who were in to that whole "natural, hippie-chiq lifestyle." Her hair was long and styled in golden blonde dreadlocks, and her eyes were a pale blue. Despite her beauty, Vincent barely registered her and turned back to his book. "Queen Shaylee, is it?" He asked before taking another sip of the coffee. 

 

"It is." She replied, a warm smile on her face. She walked over to the coffee table and sat on the opposite side of the sofa from him. "I see you are comfortable, Vincent. Although I do not recall having coffee sent to you, or that book."

"I had Fidget get me it." Vincent replied. "And he picked the book up from my apartment for me."

"Fidget?" Shaylee said, still smiling but her eyebrows were raised. 

"Yeah, Fidget." Vincent said and the little pixie guard appeared on queue. 

"My Queen!" He said with a swift bow, his wings beating furiously. "I apologise if I have displeased you. Vincent...well...he's really nice when you get to know him. I didn't think it would do any harm."

 

"Fehjurtzhobaram, it's fine." Shaylee said, still smiling. "The mortal will need something to read if he is to be here for so long. You did a very nice thing, I assume you were rewarded?"

"Oh yes!" Fidget said in reply. "Firstly he gave me a really cool...um...what was it? a knack-name?"

"Nickname." Vincent corrected. 

"Right! A nickname!" Fidget nodded. "I really like it. I retrieved the coffee for that. And for the book he let me take one of the pots of ramen noodles from his fridge. They taste so good...mmm...salty!"

 

Shaylee gave a little giggle. This was a little surprising to Vincent. The only other Faerie Queen he had met was, well, a horrible person. Queen Shaylee seemed to delight in the happiness of her kind. "Well thank you for rewarding little Fidget, you know our customs so well." She said to Vincent, and she was genuinely appreciative. 

"Don't mention it." Vincent said before putting down his book and the coffee. He retrieved a pack of cigarettes and a lighter and lit one, puffing away for a moment. 

"For those he let me have his Iron Man bobble-head toy!" Fidget remarked. 

"The things I do for cancer." Vincent said with a smile. "Fidget, could you give me and Queen Shaylee some privacy please?"

"Oh, certainly." Fidget said with a nod, and then he zipped off and disappeared from sight. Vincent had always found it remarkable how quick pixies were. 

 

"So." He said, turning to Shaylee. "What do you want?"

"From you?" Shaylee asked. "Why, nothing at all. I just want you to be comfortable while you are here."

"Well you've put some sort of anti-magic field around this room." Vincent said. "That makes me a bit uncomfortable. Being a wizard and all."

"I'm sure you will get used to it." Shaylee said. 

"Well I'd rather not. I'd rather go home." Vincent said. "Nice as it is here, I have things to do. So why don't you tell me what I have to do to get me and my friends free. Right now."

 

"I'm afraid you have nothing I want." Shaylee said simply. "Meredith made a bargain with me that I transport you from the Wylds and that I cannot harm you or your friends while you are guests. I agreed, but of course the girl neglected to stipulate if I should let you leave. Of course my reign for the year had only just begun, and to summon me like that is very disrespectful. As such I have chosen to imprison you all for 300 years. It is not unreasonable. You will be allowed to leave with your lives when the sentence has been completed, and I promise your life here will be full and peaceful. Consider it as a very long vacation, if you will."

 

"Okay." Vincent said, exhaling smoke. "How about, instead, I fight you every step of the way? I will be the biggest pain in your ass and I will do everything within my power to escape."

"Ah, threats..." Shaylee looked a little disappointed. "You have no power, Vincent. I have saw to that." Vincent gave her a little smile, and then he flicked the cigarette in to the air and flexed his fingers towards it. The cigarette exploded in a small burst of fire, very controlled and doing no harm, but a bang echoed through the room. Shaylee's eyes narrowed at Vincent, and for the first time she stopped smiling. 

"How?" She asked. 

"This isn't the first time I've been held captive by a Faerie Queen, and let me tell you, the Winter Queen isn't all that lenient."

 

"How did you break the spell?" Shaylee asked, standing up and looming over him. This was much more how Vincent had expected a Sidhe to be. Power hungry predators who hated being undermined. Vincent stood up to meet her gaze, his expression confident and fierce. 

"I have lived in The Fae. I learned the Ways, I was taught them by the fucking Queen of Winter herself. I have laughed and cried with your kind, danced with them, fought with them, been tortured by them. I have even lay with one." As he spoke the anger in his voice grew and grew. "I have already lost the most important thing to me because of your kind. And when that happened they locked me up in the deepest dungeon of Arctaeros, the oldest stronghold within Winter. And I escaped that place. Now you have my friends, my family, and I promise you I will do everything within my power to free them from here. Do you understand?"

 

Shaylee broke from his gaze and strode across the room. She stopped by the door and turned back her head towards him. "I will not make the mistake Isoleth did. Pain gives a wizard great and terrible power. Here you will only experience pleasure, and before long you will come to accept it, even welcome it. I will eradicate all the fight within you, and I have plenty of time to do so."

"Not as much as you think." Vincent said, picking up the book he had been reading. "I'll grow stronger every day, and I will get free."

"You think your father's Grimoire will help you, child?" Shaylee said with a smile on her lips once more. "That book will bring you far more suffering than I ever could. It will destroy you, just as it did all the others who held it. Including your father." Vincent froze. He tried to remove the expression of shock from his face but Shaylee had seen it and made no effort to hide her satisfaction. "There is much you do not know, child. You have a terrible purpose, you and your sister. A cruel legacy that will unfold in time, should I let you leave. Keeping you here is perhaps a very generous gift in that respect, one that requires no payment in return. A rare thing to receive from one such as I."

 

"This doesn't change anything." Vincent said bitterly. "I'm going to get out of here, mark my words." Shaylee simply turned her back on him and left the room, having nothing more to say, leaving Vincent alone in his room. Except he wasn't alone, no sooner had Shaylee left had a cat appeared at his balcony, tilting it's head as it looked at him. Vincent stepped towards it, eyeing it cautiously. 

"...Violet?" He asked. He was surprised when the cat responded with a simple "Try again." and the voice was male. More importantly the cat spoke, like actually spoke with it's mouth moving and everything. He recognised the voice though, and as it did he sighed with relief, finally something was happening that could help them. 

 

"Okay, James." Vincent said with a wry smile. "I'm officially impressed."

"You should be. I'm rather impressive." James replied, then looked around the room before setting his feline eyes back upon Vincent, "Wish I could say the same about the great Vincent Hallow, given what Violet says about you you're kind of a let down."

"Yeah, well we'll see how you feel once I get us out of this place." Vincent replied. "I just need to figure out how."

"If you get out of there on your own, then I will have to re-evaluate Violet's assessment of you. I'm waiting." He sat down and licked his front right paw with a patient grin on his face.

"Notice there are no bars on the windows." Vincent pointed out. "I can walk out of here at any time. The real trouble comes after that. You ever fought a troll? They are mean."

"I don't have to fight a troll to show how great I am, I didn't get caught in the first place." He paused and looked down at the window sill, "You can't fight a troll?"

 

"Of course I can." Vincent said, before adding: "With my tools. My staff is gone, I don't have my charm bracelet, or my ring. Without a focus my evocation is a bit messy. So going out guns blazing is a fast way to die. Besides we're in the The Fae, so there could be a lot of trolls...and goblins, dryads, phobophages, ogres, pixies, and let's not forget the army of Sidhe."

"Oh please, that's every other Sunday." James rolled his eyes and thought, while his long tail swished behind him. "Why don't I bring you your little trinkets, and then we'll come out guns blazing, hmm?"

"You know where they're being kept?" Vincent asked

"I wouldn't offer if I didn't." James replied, "It's not like i've been basking in the sun for the past two weeks." He paused, "Well it's not the only thing i've done."

"Right, sorry." Vincent said. "And...I don't suppose they have my coat too?"

 

"Is that going to help you escape as well or are you a little chilly?" He raised an eyebrow quizically.

"No I just..." Vincent shrugged, "I like that coat." James stared at Vincent in silence, his tail swishing back and forth. "Look if you can get my coat then I'll owe you one, all right?"

"I can't wait." James replied sarcastically. Then he turned and disappeared from the window sill. Vincent turned back to his empty room and decided it was time to get to work. If they were going to do this then they'd need to be prepared. 

 

He sat himself down by the coffee table again and picked up the Grimoire. When he opened it he felt a peculiar presence that had, in his short time with the book, become quite familiar. An inhuman, bellowing voice spoke in his mind.

"Vincent Hallow, you have need of me?" It asked. 

"Oh yeah." Vincent replied to The Keeper. "I'm going to tell you what my situation is. Do you think you can give me suggestions based on that?"

"I can." The Keeper replied almost instantly. Vincent proceeded to tell him about where he was, who his captor was, and what he wanted to do. After a moment the book's pages flipped and ink began to appear on the pages. Vincent examined them for a moment, feeling a sense of momentary contentedness. Magic had a way of giving him focus. "This is..." He muttered to himself. "...Do you think I could do this spell right off the bat? I mean I'd need to practice."

"This spell was favoured by your father." The Keeper replied. "Read it carefully. It appears to be simple evocation, but it is not. It is something more aligned with your particular areas of skill."

 

"And how do you know what my area of skill is?" Vincent asked

"I have tasted your blood." The Keeper replied. "Once when you were a child, and once only a few weeks ago. Through it I see potential, and where that potential has been achieved."

"That is...creepy." Vincent said, shivering at the thought. He re-read the passage a few times, memorizing it so he could use it later. "This is useful in a fight, but what else do you have? Spells are useful but information would be better."

"I have no information on the Esperius Valley in which you reside." The Keeper said. "I would suggest you find a Way and escape. The Sidhe have no power over you in the mortal world."

"Well, duh." Vincent replied. "But it's getting out that's important. We need some serious power to take on the Faeries in their home turf. in Arctaeros I had to use magic that...that I'm not proud of. I can't do that again."

"The taint of dark magic lies within you Vincent Hallow." The Keeper said ominously. "If you harnessed it you could escape this place."

 

"That's not going to happen." Vincent said in but a whisper. "Give me something in this book that can help me. Please." There was no response from the Keeper, and a good minute passed before anything happened, but then the pages flipped again and ink spilled across the pages. Vincent read through what was written and his eyes widened with shock. "This...how does this help?"

"It will help her understand." The Keeper replied. "She will be stronger if she embraces it."

"...At what cost?" Vincent said, his nostrils flaring as he sighed a breath out of them. "I'm not showing her this. Not right now." Vincent snapped the book shut and shook his head. "Fat lot of good you were...I guess a suicide mission will have to do."

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Time was ticking by. Violet had no idea how long she'd been kept prisoner, but whether it was a day or a month it didn't matter. Any amount of time spent in this realm was dangerous, she could escape in an hour and find her way back to the human realm only to discover that a hundred years had passed. But she couldn't leave, not without Vincent and everyone. Even Meredith. Violet didn't really trust her, she was holding too much back from them. But equally, she'd put herself at risk to help them, and they likely wouldn't still be here without her.

 

A light ringing sound pulled Violet from her thoughts. She watched as her door slowly pushed open and there he was again. Goshwomp. The little pixie cautiously hovered in the doorway, assessing Violet with a suspicious eye. "Are you going to try attacking me again?" He asked, frowning.

"No." Violet replied, honestly. "I can't shift, and I feel terrible, and I couldn't get out of here even if I had you." Violet muttered, and leant back on her bed. "Goshwomp, how long have you been a guard here for?" She asked, gingerly looking in his direction. 
Goshwomp frowned and touched a finger to his lips in thought, "I dunno... a while." He smiled, but his eyes were sad. Alright, we have our opening, Violet thought to herself. She fell back onto the bed with a sigh and propped her head up with her hands. After a minute or so, Goshwomp floated into the room and landed on the table on the other side. 

"Have you ever thought about being more, Goshwomp?" Violet asked. 
"More what?"

"More powerful." Violet replied, studying him with a wry grin. "I mean, it seems to me you have all these great ideas, like how clever you were to wait on the other side of the door, to make sure I wasn't meaning you harm. How clever it was to bind magic to the doorway, rather than a removable door."

"I am clever..." Goshwomp mused, kicking his legs off the end of the table. 

"You most certainly are." Violet affirmed, and then waited a moment before casually saying, "Really, you could be a King if you wanted to."
"But i'm loyal to--"
"--I know! That is what makes you so special, Goshwomp. But just think, if you had all that power, you could do whatever you want. You just need someone to remove Queen Shaylee, is all. Right? And then you could rule this season, unopposed. What if I removed her from power?"

"You could do that?!" Goshwomp looked surprised.

"Well why else would the Queen keep me all locked up here?" Violet explained, and Goshwomp nodded his head slowly, realisation dawning on his face. He looked around, checking to see if anyone was listening, and then he leant forwards on the table and whispered. 

"If I let you out, you can... kill Queen Shaylee?" 
"That seems only fair, doesn't it? A life for a life?" Violet smiled.

 

Goshwomp wrung his hands together, the thought of power now filled his mind. He hesitated, but only for a moment, and then he gave in. Goshwomp flew from the table to the doorway and put his hand against the wall beside it. He spoke something quickly that Violet couldn't catch and then she felt a strange tingling sensation as the power of the room faded. Violet grinned to herself and slowly pulled herself off the bed and walked over to Goshwomp.

"Thanks, Goshwomp." Violet smiled to him and held up the palm of her hand for him to sit on. He flew over to her and landed and the two exchanged a look for a few seconds.

"So I have done my part, and now you are bound to--"
"I know, i'm sorry." Violet replied. She was about to cast a spell that would end his life quickly and painlessly - after all, she couldn't be indebted to the tune of one Aspect of the Seasons, that would just get her killed - but then she had that familiar hunger return to her. Here she held a little ball of magic energy. 

It was like she was holding a beating heart. She could feel the heat and light emanating from Goshwomp. She closed her hands around him as he let out a startled cry, but she couldn't hear him. Her eyes and mouth erupted in brilliant white light, as did her enclosed hands. She gasped as she felt the energy rush into her and then, in a matter of moments, it was over. 

The dessicated corpse of the pixie fell from her hands and as it touched the floor, it collapsed into a pile of ash. But she didn't care any more. Violet walked through the ash and strode through the door. She turned and started walking down the hallway, at the next corner she came face to face with a faerie but before it had a chance to react she reached out and cast a spell, silencing him. He turned and started to run but she grabbed the back of his head, and drew the energy from him as well. It was ecstasy. His body fell to the floor with a dull thump and she continued on. 

But something was wrong. Violet winced as something hurt her eyes, she instinctively touched the back of her palm to her eyelids and rubbed, but the pain was already gone. It was not the pain that now panicked her. Violet held her hand out in front of her and watched as darkness fell over it until she could no longer see the hand she knew she was still holding just a few inches from her face. Violet's breathing quickened. She reached out for the wall and couldn't find it. Stumbling over the faerie's body, Violet frantically held her hands out in front of her. There was no light, no form. Everything was black, she slowly reached out, testing the ground with each step. She found the cool stone of the wall and followed it until the wall fell in and she found an open window. She reached out into the fresh air and waited. She could hear the chirp of songbirds, the warmth of the sun. This wasn't a spell, or a sudden shift of light.

"I... I-I'm blind...!?" Violet gasped for air, she felt like she was going to pass out. She tried moving down the corridor but at that moment, she heard footsteps. She tried to turn and run, but she could no longer see. Violet tripped over the faerie's body and hit the ground roughly. Soon she would be back in her cell, or more likely, killed for her murder of Goshwomp and the faerie. Had they truly deserved their fate? She didn't know, and she didn't want to dwell on it, or her reasons for acting the way she did. She had to get out of here, but those footsteps were almost upon her...

 

 


 

 

A soft rustle, and a gentle collection of objects cluttering off one another alerted Vincent to something outside. A moment later James leapt up onto the window sill. Vincent's coat and a number of his other requested objects were all together in a little bundle, just behind James. The bundle was currently levitating through an unseen force. "So, what's next?" James asked, grinning widely.

"You look creepy when you do that." Vincent said, eyeing the grinning cat.

"Good, i'll keep that in mind." He replied, and lowered the bag down into the room.

Vincent collected his things one by one and inspected them carefully. He fastened his charm to his wrist and pulled his duster over his arms, adjusting his collar, and gripped his cane. With his effects back in his possession he felt instantly better. "Okay then... so where were we? Oh yeah... guns blazing, was it?"

 

In an instant James transformed back to his human alter ego, complete with well-tailored suit. He reached into his jacket pocket and as though pulling something from another dimension, withdrew a long, particularly nasty looking blade that looked as though it had been dipped in a dozen different materials. "Well, guns, knives, something like that." James replied. "After you?" He added, with a grin. "Oh, also I should say that we should go and get Violet, like yesterday, i'm bound to her and I can sense when she's... well, she's in trouble, Vincent."

"All right." Vincent said with a nod before striding across the room, making sure to collect the Grimoire on his way out. "Fair warning. When they realise what we are up to, and I reckon they'll realise pretty quickly, they're going to come down on us hard. We move quickly, we don't stop and we get out before The Queen decides to take us out Old Testament style."

 

"Well escape is up to you, Faerie man. We just need to get Violet, David and Meredith." James put one hand on Vincent's shoulder, "Something..." James shook his head and continued, "Something is very wrong, Vincent. I've never felt anything like this. Violet is... she's well... terrified. I've never felt this from her before. We have to hurry!" 

"Well you know where she is." Vincent said before he sent his foot forward and kicked down the door to the room. He advanced and stepped in to a long corridor with similar doors on each side of the walls, kind of like a hotel. He held his cane out to his right and turned to face a creature that seemed to spill out of the walls like a spectral wraith. It surged forwards with a howling screech, gunning for Vincent. "Ignus!" He snarled and the creature was engulfed by a white lance of flame. The spectre shrivelled away from the fire and disappeared back in to the walls from where it had came. "Phobophage." Vincent explained. "They feed on fears and can change their shape to become your worst nightmare. Keep moving, it'll be back and it'll bring friends."

 

James and Vincent sprinted down the corridor as fast as they could. As they ran, James whirled around and pulled a vial from his jacket pocket. As he threw it into the air he struck it with his blade and the purple contents splashed out in every direction behind them. Half a dozen creatures, pulling themselves out of the walls, recoiled in agony and vanished as though they had never existed. "Only got one more o' those!" James yelled, as they ran.

"I'd save the other for a bigger fish." Vincent replied as he sent another jet of fire soaring across the room ahead of them. "Which way ahead? Left or right?"

"Left, and then a right. Her room is right up ahead!" James turned on a dime and slashed out with barely a second to spare. The little creature that looked like a cross between a troll and a goblin toppled to the ground as it's grotesque head rolled off to one side. James quickly wiped the blood off his blade and ran after Vincent, barely losing a step. 
"Prisoners loose!!" Something cried, in the distance.
"Guns blazing, it is." James muttered.

 

Vincent took the left and immediately ducked as a large chunk of debris crashed in to the wall above his head. He looked up in time to see a creature whose mass was enough to fill the space of the corridor it stood in. The goliath of a man was a mess of raw, powerful muscle, with tusk-like teeth and beady, black eyes. "Ogre!" Vincent yelled behind him, before raising his free hand and summoning his barrier. The Ogre roared and charged straight at him. It's body collided with an invisible force, and Vincent found his feet sliding backwards along the floor from the sheer force of the ogre's strength. Eventually it recoiled and began to rear for another attack. Vincent saw his chance and dropped his barrier, driving his cane forward by it's handle. 
The talon-shape hand was made of cold iron, and as it touched the ogre it seared at his flesh, and the creature let out a blood curdling roar. Then with a whisper of power he sent unseen force through his cane and the ogre went crashing backwards through the hall, destroying the walls along the way, before stopping in a heap at the next corner. Then with his cane outstretched he focused his will again. "Ignus Magna!" He yelled, and this time the fire that shot from his cane went off like a cannon, and the explosion was so large that fire came crawling back down the corridor towards him. But as it reached him it was absorbed in to the tip of his staff. All that remained was smoke, debris, and a particularly large hole where a wall once was, leading out in to the world beyond.
 
"Boom. Headshot." James grinned, and charged past Vincent and what was left of the Ogre. They turned the final corner and realised at once that they needn't penetrate Violet's cell. She had already broken free. A body lay next to her, the smell of charred flesh lingered in the air. Violet was on the ground, huddled up, her head placed against her knees. James glanced at Vincent and took a step towards her, "Violet?"
"James?!" She yelled, and grabbed at the air in front of her. Her head lifted up, and James gasped. Her eyes were featureless, white orbs. "Help me!!" She cried, tears falling down her cheeks.

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James was a nimble and quick person, but on this occasion Vincent had beaten him to Violet. He was at his sister's side in an instant, on his knees on the floor beside her. "Violet!" He said frantically. "Violet, it's me. What happened? You have to tell me what happened!"

Violet jumped in surprise as she felt something come into contact with her, "Vincent?!" She called, searching with her hands, the tears still hot on her cheeks. "I don't know, I don't know! I can't see! I can't see!" She brought her hand back in and started touching at her face frantically. Vincent gently took her hand in his and removed it from her face. He placed it at his chest and held it there. 

"Violet...I know it's hard but please...you need to try to calm down." He said, his own voice shaky as he tried to control his own emotions. "Deep breaths...just focus on breathing." He added, taking a deep breath so she could feel his chest moving. "Me and James are right here...we're not going anywhere. We're going to help you."

"How are you going to help me Vincent?! I'm blind!!" Violet yanked her hand away from Vincent's grasp.

"Because the only thing I'm good at is magic." He replied. "This is magic, Violet. It's old, and strange and I don't understand it yet but you need to trust me. For once, please trust me to help you. I know it's weird, it's normally me who needs the help..." He gave a heavy sigh, closing his eyes. "I will help you with this, somehow. I promise."

"I can't see, I can't work... I can't... I'm never going to be able to work." Violet pushed her hands through her long raven hair, "Just get us out of here, Vincent."

 

"I can do that." Vincent said with a nod. He had more to say, he wanted to tell Violet that he would take care of her. He wanted to tell her that, while he didn't know what was happening to her, he knew the reason it was happening. He knew what she was, but he couldn't tell her, not right now. Most of all he wanted to reassure her, but that too was impossible. You can't force someone to digest things like this. She was going to suffer through it, no matter what he said. "James, can you carry Violet? I'm not doubting your skills but I think I might be the heavier hitter in this scenario, at least."

"I know my limits, Vincent." James walked past him and helped Violet to her feet. "So what are we doing?" James asked without looking at him.

"We're getting the rest of the team, and then we're getting out." Vincent said. "Queen Shaylee has rather cleverly and painstakingly hidden all the Ways as far as I can see. But the Ways cannot be closed or removed, even by a Faerie Queen. She can move them, slowly, and with a great deal of effort. I just have to find one and we'll make our escape. Luckily I was taught by an expert of the Ways, one just as clever as Queen Shaylee, perhaps more so."

 

"You could just say 'We're leaving', y'know?" James replied.

"And you could stick to licking your asshole like a real cat." Vincent said. "Got any more quips or do you want to tell me where David and Meredith are?"

James took a deep breath, keeping his temper in check and nodded down the hall. "At the far end, down the stairs first left."

"Let's go." Vincent said, and he moved forward a little more slowly than before, but made sure to keep a fair distance ahead of James and Violet. They were vulnerable with her, but he wouldn't let anything get past him. Even if it killed him. 

 

They made their way down the hall as James instructed. Fortunately they didn't face any creeps along the way. They descended the steps and went left through another corridor that looked much the same as the rest, probably to keep them from getting a good idea of where they were. There was no Faeries barring their path, which was alarming in it's own way. There should have been more. When Vincent passed a room James inclined his head to it and Vincent doubled back. He went for the door but it was locked. He heard something crash from within and fear shot up his spine. He turned it to anger, and used it to kick open the door, marching inside with his cane held in front of him. 

 

Inside the room there were two people. David lay on the floor, a shadow of what he was before. He was pale and for the first time in Vincent's presence he looked like the aged man he was. He trembled in fear, mouthing wordlessly at the other figure who had been slowly advancing on him. The Sidhe Faerie looked young and strong, with long blonde hair and pointed ears that, combined with the armour that was designed to resemble leaves, made him look like one of the Elven people of Tolkien's books. The Sidhe turned his gaze to Vincent and glared at him with cold, blue eyes. 

"Get away from him!" Vincent snarled. The Sidhe simply smirked at the threatening command. 

"Or what, Wizard?" He asked, his voice smooth and charming. "I assure you I won't fall as easily as one of my Ogre cousins. I am Sidhe, you do not stand a hope in...Hell, is it?"

"I'll show you Hell if you don't get out of my sight right now." Vincent replied. "To quote a famous physicist: You won't like me when I'm angry."

 

"Oh I'm afraid I don't much like you now, you uppity, foolish mortal." The Sidhe replied. "Let me show you how magic should be handled!" and with nothing more than a subtle gesture the Sidhe summoned green vines that snaked across the floor, lashing at Vincent, twisting to get at him. Vincent pointed his cane let out a wave of fire, but it's touch only made them grow and advance more quickly. Before he could raise his barrier they had coiled around his arms and legs and hoisted him off of his feet. He heard the Sidhe let out a cruel laugh, and then he advanced of David once more. The old man cowered before the Sidhe, and Vincent feared what horrible things the Faerie must have done to break his resolve. He didn't know anyone who had a stronger nerve than David. He felt the vines coil around his throat, tightening around his windpipe and slowly crushing it. As he felt his life slowly leaving him, Vincent cursed his own foolishness. He had just talked a big game to James and Violet, he had promised to protect his sister. Now he was here, powerless and about to completely fail in keeping that promise, not moments after making it. 

 

David, meanwhile, crawled hastily backwards along the floor, fearful but holding himself in front of the Sidhe. However he was not cowering despite what it might have seemed. He was afraid, of course. He was tired and felt more helpless than he had ever felt in all his years. Yet he still had his faith, and the Lord had charged him with protecting the innocent. And so there he was, stood in between the Sidhe, and the other figure who was hiding under the bed. Dark brown hair emerged from under the bed. The girl stood and raised her hands up, her hazel eyes filled with tears. "Leave him alone!" She screamed, and with the scream came power. Raw magical force surged across the room, causing every one to tremble in it's might. The Sidhe glared at her with venomous eyes, and he thrust his hand towards her. His vines snaked towards her but were barred from getting close by the power of the magical pulse emanating from her. Then the air suddenly shifted as the young woman's fear turned to anger. A dark and terrible dread filled the room and the magical force changed. Pain rattled through the Sidhe, sheer and undeniable agony that rocked him to his core. 

 

The vines holding Vincent loosened their grip and dropped him on the floor, as they began to wither away and die, turning to tiny, blackened and dried up twigs. Vincent choked for breath as he stood up, pointing his cane frantically at the young girl, ready to take her out. When he looked at her his heart nearly leapt out of his throat, and he let the cane fall to his side. "...Meredith?" He gasped. Her hair had darkened and become flatter, and her eye colour had changed. Her flawless skin has become a little pinker and there were a few freckles on her cheek. She had lost her Fae beauty, but underneath the changes it was undeniably the same girl. She fell to her knees, quietly weeping. Vincent surveyed the damage she had done. The Sidhe was collapsed on the floor, his eyes wide with agony and terror, but he lay still, trapped in an endless cycle of pain. 

 

"That was..." Vincent shuddered as he spoke. "Meredith...I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." He went to her and knelt down, wrapping his arms around her. She quivered in his embrace but he held her tight, knowing what she was going through. Meredith had saved him, saved them all for the second time since he had met her. He had began to realise what she had given up in order to have Queen Shaylee save them in the forest. The dark hair, the change in her eye colour, her skin. She ahd become human, entirely. She had given up her Faerie half and become a mortal wizard. That alone was enough for him to owe her a great debt. Not to mention how he had treated her before, he had shown her no trust whatsoever. And she had deserved all of his trust. Every scrap. And yet this was not the worst of it. Even as he held her he could feel the touch of darkness she had allowed to form inside her. The stain of dark magic was unmistakable. He knew it because he had one too, and he had went through similar feeling a long time ago. 

 

"I didn't...I didn't mean to..." She whispered, sobbing. "I...cant control it any more. M-my...magic...I'm sorry!"

"Shh...it's okay." Vincent said softly. "It's going to be okay. I promise." He shuddered inwardly as he heard himself make another promise that he wasn't sure he could keep. 

"Vincent..." David's voice said from behind him. The old man had stood up but looked weary. "He tried to take her...something about using her as a bargaining tool."

"Shaylee..." Vincent said. "She was going to hold her ransom." That was the most reasonable conclusion he could make. But why Meredith? Why not Violet? Or David? He was closer to both of them. Perhaps Shaylee assumed he would consider the life of a child to be more valuable. If she did, then she was right on the money in that regard. "Come on, we need to move." Vincent said, and he helped Meredith to her feet. "We can sort this out when we get out of here. I'll take care of you. I know what comes next."

 

"You...you would do that?" Meredith asked, wiping her eyes with her sleeve. "Why?"

"Because I owe you my life, and the life of my friends, my family." Vincent said. "And because you will need someone with you for a time. Going the next few months alone would be very hard."

"Thank you..." Meredith whispered, more tears welling in her eyes as she gave a grateful and relieved smile. 

"Don't worry about it." Vincent said. "But no more magic." he added. "No more magic ever again, until I say so. Do you understand?" She hesitated for a moment, but then she nodded silently. Vincent moved away from her and left the room with everyone following behind. Now they were altogether. They were hurt and tired, but they were together. Now came the final push. 

 

"Okay...the gang's all here." Vincent said. "When we leave this building all hell is going to break loose. We need to move as quickly as possible. David, James, I'll take the front and take the brunt of it but I need you both to back me up if I miss something. Don't let anyone get to Violet or Meredith."

"No problem." James replied, "Well not literally but you get my meaning." He cleared his throat uncomfortably but smiled when he saw Violet's cheek twitch ever so slightly.

"All right." Vincent said, and then he took a deep breath, calming himself and focusing his will. "It's now or never...let's go."

 

 


 

 

The doors to the building exploded outwards, the ancient wood instantly charred to black as it shattered to pieces and crumbled on to the ground and crashed down the stone steps. Vincent emerged, with the rest of the team following closely behind him. He held his hand out in front of him, his charm bracelet creating a wide barrier around them, protecting them from a frontal assault. The building faced out on to a large valley. Buildings and streets were constructed in to the valley itself, their outer walls covered in vines that were blossoming in all manner of different petals. The valley itself was green and luscious, and the sky was pink and cloudless. The picturesque view would have been beautiful on any other day, but they had little time to take it in. This was the Esperius Valley, the heart of Spring. Vincent had to push down the sick feeling he had in his stomach. When he escaped Arctaeros all those years ago he had been told he had been the only mortal to do so in over a century. Now he was about to attempt to do the same in the Esperius Valey. He wasn't so sure he could achieve the impossible twice in one lifetime. 

 

However his mind became focused on the more immediate problem. The courtyard ahead of him was filled with all manner of Faerie creatures. A small army had amassed itself in front of their prison and was waiting for them to burst through the doors. Far back beyond the forces of Spring sat their Queen astride a golden furred stag. She was not smiling and beautiful as she had been in her meeting with Vincent earlier. Her eyes were ablaze with fury, the pupils thin and cat-like. The forces readied to advance, and with a flick of her wrist Queen Shaylee gave that order. There was a cacophony of shouting and roars as the Faerie creatures raised crystalline swords and axes, or simply charged forward. The sky darkened as arrows were loosed and magic arced overhead. Vincent grit his teeth and raised his barrier above them, and he charged down the steps. 

 

The arrows and bolts of magic crashed against his barrier, each strike hammering away at his will, but his fury drove him onwards in to the fray. The front lines came at him, all muscle and no brains. Goblins, Ogres, Trolls and Centaurs rushed the small group. Vincent held his cane forward and sent his will surging down it. "Ingus Magna!" he roared, and the white lance of flame thundered from his cane, carving through the forces like butter, parting them like Moses did the sea. They ran through the opening and the forces began to converge around them, cutting them off from all angles. Each one that came at him, he sent backwards with a blast of kinetic force from his cane, and they crashed in to the ones behind them. The rush of it all kept him going, but he could feel cold sweat dripping down his neck and forehead, and his head was pounding from exerting so much magic at one time. 

 

Before long it became too much and Vincent struggled to keep them from advancing any longer. He tapped his cane against the ground and focused on the spell he had been weaving since before he had left the building. The Grimoire has taught him a spell that his father had favoured. It wasn't an easy spell, it took a while to prepare. One had to establish a link with the earth beneath ones feet. Vincent had been pushing out his senses, navigating the ground with his magic and inspecting it thoroughly. He hadn't had as much time as he would have liked but he had to try it anyway. He channelled his will through his cane and in to the ground. Then he spoke the incantation that had been written in the Grimoire in his father's own handwriting. 

 

"Terram Exterriti!" He roared as the Faerie army closed in. There was a sudden pressure as his energy expelled outwards. Then the ground rumbled and shook, before exploding outwards, earth and rock spinning and crashing like a typhoon, the creatures ripped up along with it, with only a small stretch of ground around Vincent and his friends remaining untouched. He couldn't see far beyond that reach. The rest was pandemonium. The noise of crashing rocks, screaming and rumbling of the earth and the cries of their enemies was simply deafening. Then at last he felt the remains of the magic he had fed in to the spell dissipate, and the rocks and earth tumbled once more to the ground with a thunderous crash. 

 

He couldn't see through the dust that filled the air, but he was certain that he had just destroyed a large portion of the courtyard. "Come on!" He yelled at the group and he lead them in to the dust. Without sight to help him he focused on the parts of his senses he had learned to communicate with when he had studied the Ways. He clambered over the upturned rocks and felt his way through the dust, making sure not to stray too far from the group. The dust began to fade as they emerged in to the beginnings of a wood. He weaved through the trees, letting his sense guide him, following the subtle signs that showed a practitioner to a Way. Finally he arrived in a clearing, and he stopped with the group, and looked around. "It's here..." He said as he tried to pinpoint it. He paused for another moment of two, then he turned to a pile of moss-covered stones and pointed at it. "That's it." He said. He held his hand out, focused his will, and snapped his fingers. The Way opened with much less effort than the other one had. Peculiar, he thought. He felt pretty tapped out, had it always been that easy? 

 

With the familiar rushing, whispering screech followed by a silencing vacuum, the Way opened and showed them a mirror in to a completely different location. "Go." Vincent said, "You'll be in France, so try not to panic. I'll get us home soon."

"Alright, see you on the other side." James replied. 

"Be safe... " Violet added, but she was lost in her thoughts to give any real input. David and Meredith followed shortly afterwards. When they were all through Vincent went to follow afterwards. Before he could enter, however, he felt a terrible thrum of energy from behind him. He turned around to see Queen Shaylee stood at the far edge of the clearing, her eyes dark and filled with quiet rage. 

"You..." She hissed. 

 

"Me." Vincent replied darkly. "I don't suppose you've come to say goodbye?"

"You have brought death unto the realm of beginnings..." Shaylee said. "You have slaughtered my kin. You have ended the lives of the everlong, and I will not forgive you."

"I warned you." Vincent said simply. He was tired. "You immortals are all so...arrogant. You can't even entertain the idea that you might be beaten. If you weren't so damned sure of yourself then I probably wouldn't have managed it."

"You will not leave here." She said, her tone that of finality. 

"Are you going to stop me?" Vincent asked. "I'm, like, two feet away from this Way. I think I can get there before-"

 

The sensation washed over him immediately, and he was filled with dread. He had felt this kind of feeling before, only once. It was power. Power enough to move mountains and dry up entire seas. It was the kind of terror you would feel if you truly met your creator. It was the power that made the Queens of Faerie just that, Queens. Incalculable, unfathomable, mighty power, enough to shatter the heavens and the earth with the snap of a finger. At least it felt that way to him. The true extent of it was difficult for a mortal to comprehend. With power like this you couldn't be sure if you were grossly overestimating or underestimating it. It had frozen him in place. He tried to tell his feet to move, but they simply weren't listening. Shaylee advanced towards him, slowly and gracefully like a predator would an easy kill. She came so close that her skin was mere inches from his. She lifted her hand and gave him the faintest of touches on his cheek, and the sensation nearly brought him to his knees. 

 

"You are in my domain, and I will not permit you to leave." Shaylee said. "You are...mine!"

The words echoed through his head. Memories flooded back to him, ones that had always been there but right at the back, foggy and unclear. For some reason they seemed crystal clear now, and he began to relive every moment as if it were a very real dream. 

 

He was standing in a chamber made of crystalline ice. He was surrounded by creatures of the Fae, all stood in the distance as if spectators at a court hearing. Vincent was angry. He had been fooled and now the revelations had all come to him, which had led him to standing in this very room, seeking audience with the Queen of Winter, Isoleth. She was sat in her throne of ice, dressed in a shimmering, blue garment, her hair as white as snow and her eyes a piercing emerald. She was smiling at him, a cruel and confident grin. Her eyes were calm but intense, thin and cat-like as was the norm for her kind. Sat comfortably in her arms was a tiny little thing, wrapped in silk blankets, with only the hint of a pale pink head poking out. 

 

"Vincent, my darling." Isoleth said warmly. "Were you that desperate to see me."

"Stop it..." Vincent growled. "I don't want to talk. Just give her to me!"

"Why ever would I do that, boy?" Isoleth asked, and she glanced at the little baby in her arms. "A daughter should be with her mother, after all."

"No!" Vincent snarled. "I won't let that happen. You...you tricked me! You tricked me to get her and..." Tears welled in his eyes. "...Why? I..."

"You...what?" Isoleth asked, raising her brow in amusement. 

"I...loved you." Vincent whispered, and a single tear rolled down his cheek. "I loved you! But not as much as I love her! I won't let you take her from me!"

 

"My boy, you are welcome to stay here with her and I." Isoleth said. "I am a reasonable woman."

"If you stays here...she'll become a monster. Just like you." Vincent said. "Just like everything in this fucking realm!" At this Isoleth gave a soft chuckle, and shook her head the way grown ups do when arguing with a child. 

"You sought this realm out. You were fascinated by it. You still are, in fact." She said. 

"I was...tricked by you and your lies. Everything was just an illusion. I thought this realm was one of wonder but...it's just cruel and heartless."

Isoleth considered him for a moment, then she spoke. "What would you offer in return?"

 

"Anything." Vincent said immediately. "I'll give you anything. If you stay away from her then I will give you all that I have."

"And you have much, boy." Isoleth said with a short nod. "Very well. My daughter will live her life away from her mother, and in return I shall have you."

Isoleth got up from her throne and she practically glided to Vincent. When she reached him she held out the child in her arms, and placed her in his. He looked down at the little girl and for a moment he felt unfathomable joy. He reminded himself that he would not be able to be with her either, but she would have a better life without him. "Agreed." He said, and he felt something twinge inside him as the magical contract was set. And then he felt cold crawl up his arms and wash over the sleeping child. She did not stir as her form was completely frozen, her skin turning blue and a layer of frost coating her skin. Vincent choked in panic, he fell to his knees, clutching the poor child. Distantly he could hear screaming. It took him a moment to realise it was him. 

 

Isoleth leant down next to him and gave him a cruel smile. "I never said she would have a long life, boy." She said harshly. Vincent couldn't reply. He couldn't stop screaming. Then Isoleth leant in closer, her lips gently hovering next to his ear. She whispered to him, slowly and venomously: "Your are...mine!"

 

When Vincent opened his eyes again he realised the screaming wasn't coming from him after all. He realised immediately that his hand was clasped around the throat of Queen Shaylee. She was screaming in agony as a dark green energy pulsed through his arm, penetrating her flesh and scolding her. Her cat-like eyes were filled with panic as she gazed upon him. He had never seen fear on a Queen's face before. Startled he released his grip and Shaylee fell to the floor, her flesh still smoking from what had happened. Vincent could only stare down at her, completely terrified by what he had done. Whatever he had done, he had no idea what it was, or where it had came from. However he knew the feeling dark magic brought on it's wielder, and this was not that. It was...different. Yet the consequences of it's wrath were terrible. 

 

"Oh...shit." Vincent whispered, trembling. He turned and left through the Way, still trying to digest what he had just done. He had killed a Faerie Queen. He had killed an immortal, one that was more ancient than he could fathom. He had ended the life of the arbiter of Spring. The consequences of such an act...it just didn't bear thinking about. All he knew was...it was not good. 

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The first sound she heard was the gentle twinkling of piano keys. A saxophone followed suite and she heard a woman's singing. The song was 'Crazy He Calls Me', a classic 1940's jazz number. Violet hadn't heard that song in a long time. She tried to open her eyes but felt something pressed against her face. Cautiously, delicately, she touched her fingers to it. Rough, scratchy bandaging. She couldn't see anything, so she groped around. She could feel she was in a bed, she ran her hand along the covers until she reached the edge and felt cold metal. Was she in a hospital? She could hear voices in the next room and instinctively, she called out.
"Hello?!" Violet waited a moment, she heard the voices stop. A door opened, and she heard footsteps approaching her. There was a rustle of papers like someone was checking through files or a clipboard, and then a chair scraped across the floor and someone sat nearby. A man cleared his throat.

"How are you doing today, Mrs. Hallow? It's Doctor Tenenbaum."

"I'm sorry, who?" She asked, frowning. Violet felt dizzy, she pushed herself to the back of the bed and took a deep breath.

"Doctor Tenenbaum." The man repeated. She heard scratching. He was writing something.
"I... I can't see." She touched the bandages on her eyes.

"Ah..." The doctor cleared his throat as he shifted uncomfortably in his chair, "You don't remember?"

"Remember what god-dammit!?" Violet snapped, she heard a metal clatter as someone, likely a nurse, dropped a plate of instruments on their trolley.

"It's all right, nurse. Mrs. Hallow is going to stay calm, aren't you?"
"Should I be?!" Violet growled, she touched at the bandages on her face, but they felt like they were on pretty tight. She couldn't just pry them off with her bare hands. But she didn't care any more about who was around to see her shift. She had to get these bandages off.

 

A series of animals flashed through her mind, she could go big and tear the bandages off, or small and slip through them. Small would be less frightening, at least. Not by much, she supposed. She stretched and then she leant forwards in bed and... nothing happened. Frowning, Violet concentrated and tried a second time. Nothing happened.

"Mrs. Hallow?" The doctor asked.

"I... I can't shift." Violet muttered to herself.

"Is this anything to do with the portal?" The doctor asked, nonplussed. She seized up. Did this man just ask her about the portal? Her breathing quickened and she started thinking of ways of getting past him and finding a way out of the room she was in. But something else was bothering her, that she found her confusion replaced by curiosity. 

"What did you call me?" She asked.

"Mrs. Hallow?" The doctor asked, concern in his voice.
"I'm not married." Violet growled, then the thought lit up in her mind and she laughed. Neither Doctor Tenenbaum nor the nurse seemed to find the idea very funny. "You'd find it funny if you were me, doc. I'm not really a 'guy' kinda gal."

"I'm sorry?" The doctor replied, "Mrs. Hallow, I must be straight with you. This is not the first time we've had this conversation. We've spoken at length... many times." He paused as he considered his next words. "What i'm going to say I have said to you before, but it will still shock you."

"Get on with it, doc." Violet sighed, rubbing her forehead. She felt hot, dizzy. 

"You were in an accident." The doctor let the words sink in, then continued, "Your husband is fine, but you were badly injured, and... well, there has been damage to your head, your optical nerves have been badly impaired. We're unsure to the extent of your head injuries, but... you seem incapable of separating fact from fiction, you have fits of rage and confusion, you have strange fantasies and dreams in which you are a sorceress and you fight monsters."

"I'm dreaming..." Violet muttered, and she started to pull herself out of bed, all the while the doctor continued his explanation.

"You believe you were undergoing some kind of change that would explain your loss of sight, you mention several people who you know very well and yet you refer to them as fantastical characters in a play you have created to rationalise the loss... the loss of your child."
"What?!" Violet froze. "You don't know what you're talking about." She replied, frantically trying to pull the sheets off her legs so she could get free. As she did however, she felt the doctor's hands on her shoulders, pushing her gently back into bed.

"It's alright, I know it's a shock, but i'm here to get you through it."
"I don't have a child god-dammit you let me go!!" Violet screamed and shook against the doctor's grasp, but her usually supernatural strength had all but left her, she felt drained. "LET ME GO!!" She screamed at the top of her lungs and lashed out wherever she could. Then she felt a sharp scratch in her leg, and her head suddenly felt very heavy. 

 

 


 

 

Violet woke with a start. She tried to pull herself up in bed, but she could feel something restraining her. She thrashed against it, trying to break the straps binding her to the bed, but just as she was starting to think there was no way out of her bonds she heard a familiar voice. A voice that put her mind at ease. 

"--Alright, thank you." She heard a door open and close, footsteps, and then two large hands took her own in their palm, "Violet..."
"James?!" She had to say his name aloud because if she didn't she thought it might have been make believe. "I can't believe you're here, the doctor is insane, he thinks i've been in some kind of accident, and I have a kid and they won't let me take off my bandages." She took a breath once all that was out, "They drugged me!!" She snapped.

 

She waited in silence, feeling James' thumb stroking the back of her hand, "What are you doing, come on, get me out of here..." 

"We had a kid, Violet..." She could hear the pain in his voice, she felt a hot tear splash on her arm. "The doctors say you can't remember but you have to remember, you don't remember me? You don't remember Meredith?!" 
"I remember Meredith just fine, thank you very much. Faerie, maybe we can't trust her but she sort of saved our lives a few times."

"I can't keep...!!" James started loud and angry but he stopped himself, "I can't keep coming back here," He said calmly this time, "You don't remember me, you keep saying you've never been married, you think i'm some kind of... familiar, whatever that is. You call our daughter a faerie and you talk about all these strange things that make no sense. Doctor Tenenbaum said your lies are a coping mechanism, that you can't bring yourself to accept that you lost your sight, your daughter, and your brother all in one night."

"Vincent?!" Violet's voice cracked and she felt the tingling sensation of tears at her eyes, but no moisture on her face. "Vincent is fine, he's on the other side of the portal, I came back with you and Meredith and David and...." She trailed off, trying to think back to what had happened.

"Stop it!" James snapped, standing up and letting go of her hand. "Meredith is gone! Vincent is gone! We haven't seen David since he left for the war and I know we had this accident and you were hurt and i'm so, so sorry but you have to stop this!! I can't go on like this..." Violet opened her mouth to speak but James fled the room, slamming the door behind him on the way out. She heard James stop in the corridor outside, and he was speaking to someone, they were reassuring him, or convincing him. She wasn't sure. She heard muffled parts of a conversation, then a few seconds later the door opened once more, and Doctor Tenenbaum introduced himself to her.

"I know who you are..." Violet growled.
"Good, this will make it easier for you to understand, I am glad you are lucid, Mrs. Hallow." 
"Don't call me that."

"Alright, what would you have me call you instead?" The doctor asked.

She shook her head and rattled off a few suggestions, "Violet, Vi, Miss Hallow. Anything there take your fancy?"

"Very well, Violet." The doctor paused, she heard the rustling of papers again. "I must inform you that you are scheduled for a lobotomy next week. It's a fairly new procedure that--"
"--excuse me?!" Violet yelled, "You're not putting anything anywhere near my head!!"
"It's a simple procedure, and your husband, James, has given us consent. It's my belief that you will find a measure of peace after the surgery that you are incapable of maintaining now. Your husband cannot see you in pain any longer."

"Alright, wait! Wait!!" Violet snapped, panting. She tried to slow her breathing and swallowed, "Can I have some water, please?" She heard the flow of water being poured from a jug into a glass, which was pressed gently against her bottom lip and slowly raised. She took a few sips before speaking, unable to believe what she was going to ask, but more afraid of the answers she was going to be given, "How long has... when was the accident?" She heard nothing, the doctor seemed intent on not answering her. She opened her mouth to speak, but in so doing, he was prompted to reply.

"Four years."

 

Those two words boomed in her mind, deafening everything else. She had been in this hospital for four years? The more she thought about it the more she found herself confused. She could remember waking up in the hospital bed a great many times, but she couldn't remember why or how she had gotten there. She could remember talking to Doctor Tenenbaum many times, but about what she had no idea. It was like her life was a jigsaw puzzle and she was missing the last few pieces for it all to make sense, but nevertheless, there it was, all out in front of her to see, even if she couldn't see the whole picture. It still made sense. In some twisted, horrific way, it was starting to make sense.

"What year is it, Doctor?" 
He answered without a pause, as if he had been asked a hundred times before, "1946." Violet's shoulders relaxed and she sank into her bed in defeat. Everything she knew had been a lie. She felt like she'd been dreaming for a whole lifetime and woken to find everything she'd done was just some kind of sick joke. 

 

A loud screech made Violet jump in her restraints, "Christ!" She yelped, "Did you hear that?!"
"Mrs. Hallow?!" The doctor stood up and put his hand on her shoulder.
"You didn't hear that?!" She asked, listening for the noise. Sure enough, seconds later, she heard it again. It was a high-pitched screech, like someone dragging a metal nail down a blackboard. But the noise seemed to change as she listened. It wasn't just painful, white noise any more. It meant something to her.
"I don't hear anything..." Tenenbaum replied, "... you should get some rest, Mrs. Hallow." He pulled the covers up over her and fluffed up her pillow, "I'll be by in the morning to see how you're feeling, now don't go giving the nursing staff too much trouble tonight, alright?" He gave a light chuckle as he left the room, and then there was nothing but the sound of her own breathing to keep her company.

 

For a long time, Violet remained awake. She tried listening for the sounds at her door, but nobody came in to check on her. She occasionally heard footsteps or voices, sometimes those footsteps would pause at her door and move on. Was she in a hospital or some kind of mental institution? Was it really 1946 as the doctor had said? Everyone seemed to be going along with the joke, to her great expense. But the more she thought about it, the more it seemed like her vague memories of monsters and magic was the fantasy. It had to be. It just didn't make any sense. Would she have made it up to cope with the loss of her family? She couldn't remember, and the more she tried the more her head hurt. She resigned herself to getting some sleep, maybe in the morning if she could recognise the doctor and her husband, then they would know she was getting better, not worse. She laid her head against her pillow and let out a sigh. But she heard the noise again. 

A nail on a blackboard. But this time, the noise changed almost immediately. It changed into a word. One she had never heard before, and yet, it was still familiar to her. The screech shifted into a voice. It was distorted, uncomfortable to listen to, but recognizably still feminine. The word drifted into her thoughts and she searched for it's elusive meaning, as she faded into unconsciousness. It repeated about her mind like a broken record.

 

"Nagloshi."

 

 


 

 

"I don't know what to do, Vincent." James said at last, "Truth be told, i've looked for a solution to what's wrong with Violet for days and come up with nothing. There's no mention of it in any text books." James had spent the last hour explaining to Vincent what had happened. Once the group had gone through the portal, they had checked to make sure everyone had made it through. But Violet was nowhere to be seen. Seconds went by and James had told the others he was going back for her, but before he could step back through, Violet came through the portal and immediately collapsed. She was out cold, unresponsive. She was in some kind of coma.

 

Once they'd managed to get back in the country (getting a comatose Violet through French customs had been a challenging experience), James had brought her back to Vincent's apartment and laid her down on his bed. They'd cleared the place up a bit in their search through his text books - something he likely wouldn't appreciate. Messy people might be messy, but they also tend to have intention behind where they place things. Once he returned, James could tell, Vincent wasn't happy. But he'd likely filed that complaint away under 'to be dealt with later', his sister was the priority right now.

"I'm hoping you have something up your sleeve, Vincent, or maybe you know something about this, you can explain, because we're all stumped, and Violet can't stay like that forever. Her pulse is getting weaker and weaker. I think if we don't fix this, and soon, she's going to die..."

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"...I think if we don't fix this, and soon, she's going to die..."

 

The words cut through him like a knife. Vincent sat at the edge of his own bed, his gaze fixed on his sister as she slept, apparently quite peacefully from what he could tell. For a long time he had been silent. In fact he wasn't sure if he had spoken at all since he had returned home. He was processing. A lot had happened. They had been captured by the Faerie Queen of Spring, He had murdered that Queen with some kind of power he did not yet understand, He had burdened himself with the well being of a young warlock who didn't have any control of her magic, and he had recently discovered that his sister, Violet, was a Nagloshi. Thanks to his father's Grimoire, he now knew exactly what that was, and he had planned to explain it to Violet when they returned. And now she was in some kind of coma, slowly approaching death, and he had no idea why. 

 

"...How long do we have?" Vincent asked. 

"Hours, days, i've no idea." James replied, "This isn't exactly my speciality." He checked his attitude and continued with a sigh, "At the current rate, maybe a week? There's a war raging inside her right now. All we've been able to find thus far is sometimes she's giving out incredible amounts of magical energy, like off the chart... and at other times it's almost non-existent. It's like there's two sides to her, and one is definitely winning right now. Problem is, I don't know whether it's supposed to be or not. Maybe it is? Or maybe it's killing her."
"Short answer--" David added, "We just don't know."
 
"Then..." Vincent paused and exhaled, his nostrils flaring. "Then we don't have time to worry about being ethical, or being careful."
"Vincent..." David said cautiously. 
"I'm not talking about Dark Magic, David." Vincent said to him. "Right now...we need all the help we can get. I know a few people who can possibly shed some light. The first...well that's up to James." Vincent turned to the Familiar and gave him a grave expression "You're from the Void, right? So...do you know what Violet is?"
"Why do you say i'm from the Void, Vincent?" James asked, crossing his arms with a quizzical look on his face.
"I don't have time for your stupid fucking games!" Vincent snarled. "I know what you are. Now tell me right now...do you know that she is a...a Nagloshi." Vincent's stare was penetrating as he said the word. It was the first time he had said it out loud, even to himself. 
 
At the mention of the word, James recoiled as though he'd been stung. "Don't... don't say that word." James growled, anger replacing his usually cool expression, if only for a moment. "I couldn't be sure, she wasn't like anything i'd ever... I..." James trailed off as his words left him and completed his sentence with a feeble shrug of his shoulders. Vincent, however, did not let up. 
"James, if you want to protect her then you're going to have to grow some balls." He said. "I need you to go to the Void. You need to find one dangerous bitch called Vael. Whatever Violet is...Vael is the real deal. She's dangerous but...we need her."
"I won't." James replied simply, tightening his arms about his chest.
 
"You will." Vincent growled, standing up from the foot of the bed, his hand's clenching in to fists. "...This isn't a request...don't make me force you."
"Vincent!" David said, his tone that of concern and surprise. 
"David, back off." Vincent replied. "This is Violet we're talking about..."
"God-dammit, Vincent." James lowered his arms and started pacing, "There's a reason half the Void creatures left that dimension, even if most of them no longer remember." He started shaking his head, "I step into that place, and i'm as good as dead. Vael senses energy, and i'm tied to Violet. Soon as I step into that place the first thing to find me will be her, and I WON'T do that." His breathing was quickening, "You think faeries are bad? Faeries are like... dogs. They just maul something they take a fancy to. Nagloshi are like cats. You ever see a cat with a mouse? They toy with it, pull it apart, bit by bit. Let it go, just to see if they can catch it again." He let out a hollow laugh, "And I should know."
 
"Yeah..." Vincent nodded. "I've seen her in action. But her daughter is dying. She'll still be dangerous but...I think she'll help. Maybe I just hope she will. I'll try anything, James. You've helped us out, you've been Violet's friend, but I'll do whatever it takes. The Laws don't apply to demons, so don't think I won't make you do it."
"Fuck you, Vincent!" James hissed venomously, losing his cool entirely, "Don't you ask my help and then call me that name!" Then he said something in a language nobody in the room recognised. Seconds passed and then slowly James calmed himself and took a step back. "I have to, for Violet... whatever happens, is on you." He growled, "Tell Violet, I..." He shook his head. Between blinks, James was gone. Vanished without a trace.
 
"Vincent..." It mas Meredith. "Wh-what's...what's a Nagloshi."
"It's..." Vincent sighed and thought for a moment. "Nagloshi are an ancient race from the Void. They are immortal, and probably as old as the Faerie Queens. James wasn't overreacting, the one time I encountered Vael I think the only reason I left with my life was because she got bored. If he does find her then it will be trouble, but I think she'll at least try to help Violet. After that...well we can cross that bridge when we come to it."
"That doesn't sound like much of a plan." David said. "You're being irrational."
"Yeah...I know that." Vincent said, then he made for the door, stopping as he opened it. "I have someone else I think can help. I need to take a trip. Both of you stay here and watch Violet. Meredith, if you look in the stand by the bed you'll find an amulet that looks like the one Violet and I both wear. Put it on, and if you get in any trouble just speak in to it. I'll come back."
 
"Okay..." Meredith said, giving a soft nod. "Uh...is there anything I can do...for Violet?"
"Just stay with her." Vincent said. "I heard somewhere that people in comas can still hear people talking sometimes. It's worth a shot."
"Don't you think she'd rather hear your voice?" Meredith asked. 
"Maybe...but I have to take care of a few things. This is the best thing you can do for her, and for me." Vincent said. 
"Right...I'll do my best." Meredith said. 
 
With that Vincent left the apartment. David made the symbolic gesture of the cross over his body, and then he stepped out of the bed room. "I'll go make us something to eat. Stay with her child." He said, and he closed the door behind him. Meredith walked over to Violet cautiously, she held her hand out to touch her, but only moved it over her head, never touching her. She was shaking a little, and she looked scared. A single tear welled up in one of her eyes and she swallowed as she pulled her hand back. She leaned down to the bed and held her head above Violet's. "Please..." she whispered. "Please get better. I...I only just started getting to know you. I...don't want to lose you yet...Auntie Vi..."
 
 

 
 
Vincent appeared through the mirror-like Way and found himself standing on a long dirt path that went through a forest. The sky was growing dim as the afternoon became early evening, and he made his way down the dirt path with the confidence of knowing this particular trail. The path was away from the main roads and was a fairly steep climb up the moss-covered hill it was built on. Vincent had never much liked Missouri, but the Ozarks were quite a peaceful place all things said. As he climbed further up he spotted an old farmhouse in the distance. 
 
If memory served him this place wasn't far from Joplin, and yet it didn't get a lot of visitors. Even as he walked he could feel the magical incanations around this place. A series of subtle charms layered upon one another to keep mortals from coming near. There was nothing as barbaric as any actual traps that would cause harm, the person who lived here didn't operate like that. He didn't need to, Vincent thought, since the man himself was a force of nature. He also knew something else about this patch of land. It's owner had lived on it for years, and had made an effort to memorize every last part of it. When a person with magic does such a thing, they can declare sanctum over the land. In doing so they invoke powerful magic known as Intellectus. 
 
In short it gave them omniscient knowledge of the land. They knew how many leaves were on each tree, how many animals were nesting nearby. They knew when the first flower of spring had bloomed and when the last one had died. More importantly they also knew when foolish punks like Vincent were marching up the dirt path to knock on their door. Sure enough when he reached the tired, old house the front door was open and a man stood in the threshold. He was dressed in brown overcoat, blue jeans and brown, leather boots. His hair was grey, long and untidy, and he had an overgrown beard to match. His eyes were like steel, and were a glassy blue. He held a cigarette to his mouth and by simply cupping his palm over it he had lit it's end with magic. He looked at Vincent with wise and knowing eyes. He lifted his head up and adjusted the tip of the brown, leather "cowboy hat" he was wearing, and gave a heavy sigh. 
 
"Well, well, if it ain't that lil' boy from Iowa..." He said in a southern drawl. "Somethin' tells me this ain't a social call."
"Alphonse Regulus Blackmire...it's good to see you, well..." Vincent scratched his head. "It would be if it weren't such a bad time."
"Mmm...seems to always be a bad time when you're aroun', Hoss." Alphonse said. "So I take it yer lookin' for help from this old dog, then?"
"Yes, sir." Vincent said with a nod. "It's Violet...something is wrong with her. I need you to help me find out what."
"Well, shit." Al said before spitting at the ground. "What makes you think a' have all the answers? You're a grown man now, least you as tall as one any how. I did my part, I taught you everythin' tha a wizard needs to be taught. It's up to you to figure out what to do with it."
 
"Al...you left out a lot." Vincent said, his tone becoming tired. "Like the truth about my dad. About the Grimoire, the...the power I have. And Violet...I'm pretty sure you knew she was a Nagloshi. Hell you know it all, don't you, sir?" Vincent tried to glare at his mentor, but the old man had the ability to make him feel like a scared 10 year old all over again. 
"Well...guess you grown up after all, Hoss." Al said with a nod. "But I ain't givin' you the answers, not yet at least. I will help you with Lil' Vi, though. I can't stand by and watch that darlin' suffer. You know that."
"Good." Vincent said with a nod. "Because I've also sent for her mother to come see her."
"Boy..." There was a flicker of anger in his voice, and for a split second there was a burst of power that felt like it could engulf the entire forest. "...You jes like him...he was always askin' fer trouble too. C'mon Hoss...we're wastin' time."

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"Will you let me take these off you?"

 

Violet pulled herself from troubled dreams and tried to wake herself up enough to process the question. She had a moment of panic when she couldn't see, then she was brought back with gut-wrenching clarity, of where she was, and what her life had become. Violet tried to sit up in bed, but as she tried to move she felt resistance. Of course, she'd been bound to her bed with restraints. 

"Will you?" The woman asked again.

"Y-yeah." Violet replied, shakily. She felt the belts loosen, one by one. 

"Don't make me call the orderlies." The woman warned her, "I don't appreciate bites or scratches or spitting, or God knows what else."
"Alright." Violet replied, she wanted the woman to stop talking. She felt like she was a child that had been put in time out. Privileges revoked, tantrum brewing. She had to keep that in check though, else it meant a needle and an afternoon drooling into her pillow. She'd learnt that one early on. 

"Okay, there you are." The woman took a step back and Violet slowly pulled herself up and out of bed.

 

Something hurt. Violet reached over and touched her back. "Ouch..." She muttered. There were painful welts, bed sores. "How long was I...?"

"A few days..." The woman replied, who Violet assumed must be a nurse. She waited in silence, until at last she broke it with, "I'll let some air in." She strode across the room and heaved open a window. There were bars on that window. No escape there, she was sure of it. And it wasn't like she was going to turn into a sparrow and just fly out the window like her dreams told her she could. But she couldn't discuss that either, if she did, she got 'corrective surgery'. What the doctors liked to name when they take a couple of rods put them on either side of your temples and run dangerous electrical currents through them.

 

Violet took a deep breath, she could smell the fresh air. Could even hear a lawnmower outside, and a few birds twittering and singing to one another. It was calming. She felt much better for it, even if she was still trapped and confused. "What's your name?" Violet asked the nurse who had just finished fluffing her pillows and was making to leave. Violet heard her stop in the doorway.

"Nurse Winters." The nurse replied, and opened the door. "You can leave your room if you like, walk about, maybe talk to the other patients?" She walked out into the hall as Violet followed her to the doorway and stopped there, holding the frame for support and so she knew where she was.

"What's your first name though?" Violet asked.
The woman opened her mouth to speak, stopped herself and leant in, "We're not really supposed to give our first names to patients." She chuckled a little. 
"I won't tell anyone." Violet replied, with a smile. She couldn't see Nurse Winters, but she must have been sizing her up, as a few seconds later she cleared her throat and, "Dede, but, my friends just call me Dee, alright?"

 

Violet's smile dropped. She heard the sound of Nurse Dee Winters footsteps echoing quietly into nothing, "Wait!!" Violet yelled, and ran out into the corridor. She held her hands out in front of her and reached for a wall, trying to find something to hold onto. She found the wall on the other side and tried using it to move along the hall, but she only got a few steps before her probing fingers knocked into something, it felt like a cage of medical supplies. She tried to find her way around, but even as she did so someone asked her to step back as they brought a wheelchair-bound patient through the opening next to the cage. By the time they'd passed, Dee was long gone. Her voice had sounded strangely familiar and the name was the same. But then a horrifying realisation dawned on her. All the characters from her dreams seemed represented in the hospital. Had she overheard names, made acquaintances, been a part of group therapy sessions. Had she just collected this information, forgotten most of it, but somewhere in her subconscious she had used that information to supply her fantasies? Violet felt dizzy, her face was hot and she was having trouble breathing. She lowered herself down the wall of the corridor and sat on the floor with her knees pulled in, next to the cage and hoped nobody would find her for a little while.

 

 


 

 

The world changed around him, and suddenly James found himself in The Void. He was in a facsimile of Vincent's apartment. He had to leave immediately, he was likely already being tracked. As much as he hated to think about it, he had to stop the inhabitants of this place finding him before one of the nastier things here could get to him. Those that were close to this location would be here before her, but not by much. Vael would have sensed him enter The Void the moment he arrived, and she could likely travel almost instantaneously. That, combined with her ancient knowledge of this place meant it wasn't if she found him, but when. It wasn't her ability that dictated the speed with which she would find James. It was her interest, curiosity, perhaps she had other things going on. The Nagloshi could be too unpredictable, that was one of their most dangerous traits. That and magic laser beams.

 

James descended the stairs as the lifts weren't working, when he reached the ground floor, he found the lobby surprisingly empty. He breathed a sigh of relief. Usually monsters and other nasties congregate at the site of new arrivals. Soul-bearing mortals usually bring the biggest crowds, but he knew from experience that creatures bound to mortals were just as tasty. For monsters, that was like licking the inside of a chocolate bar wrapper. James crossed the lobby and started making plans. It was simple, more or less. Avoid the nasties, find Vael, and somehow get her to follow him back to the human realm, and aid Violet, without killing him, preferably. Though two out of three would do.

His plans fell apart. James pushed the doors open and stepped outside. The sky above was a dark, tumultuous green, riddled with darker clouds that rolled across the sky in great waves. It was raining heavily, and the pavement outside the apartment was semi-waterlogged. James walked down the couple of steps in front of him, leaving the apartment behind and stepping down into an inch of water. But this water wasn't clear, nor did it reflect the colour of the sky. It was a deep, crimson red. James opened his mouth to scream, but no sound came out as his eyes fell upon the scene in front of him. Dozens, if not hundreds of bodies lay in the inch-deep water. Their faces contorted in horror, burnt or partially turned to ash. There were so many that James could barely take another step without having to first push one of them aside. It was too late for plans.

 

"Found you." Vael sneered. James looked up and saw her. A body of dark purple energy, voluptuous and naked, yet featureless. The same could be said of her face, as pillowy lips framed a cruel grin, and almond-shaped eyes held nothing but white light. She floated down until she was just a few inches above the carnage and James tried to steel himself. 
"Vael, we need to talk, Vi--" A blast of purple energy collided with the ground beside him. Several bodies disintegrated and James ran without shame. His feet splashed through the water as he ran. Another energy blast struck right behind him, he could feel the heat on his back, and it burnt the hairs on his neck. He leapt towards the nearest object that looked like it might withstand a direct hit, but as he did so he was knocked aside. He crumpled to the ground and inhaled as white hot pain shot up his spine and he choked on the water he drew in with his first breath.

 

Pulling his head up from the water, James let out a retching cough as he tasted the blood of a dozen monsters and then looked down. half his right arm was missing. It stopped a few inches beneath his shoulder, at which point it turned to blackened, smoking flesh. James wailed and tears streamed down his face as he quickly pulled himself behind the car and tried to think. He couldn't think. Every time he called for a plan, his brain just came back with, 'MY ARM!!' and that wasn't much use to him right now. He winced as the immediate white hot pain turned to a mind-numbing ache that was far worse than he thought possible. 
"Would you like this back, James?!" Vael called out from across the courtyard. James risked a glance around the edge of the car and saw Vael bent over, her face hidden by her writhing light purple hair. As she straightened up and brushed the living hair out of her face, she held up his arm, or what was left of it. It stopped just a few inches after his wrist. "I don't suppose you do," Vael continued, musing. "Not much good to anyone now, really."

"BITCH!!" James screamed at the top of his lungs. 
"James." Vael clicked her tongue, then laughed. James yelped as his other arm touched the side of the car, it was so hot it had burnt him. He took that as his queue to flee. James pulled himself to his feet and started running just as a thin, focused beam of magic penetrated the other side of the car and shot through where he had been sat moments before, boiling the water where it pierced and leaving a long, smouldering hole in the pavement. He was running now, sprinting. He was fighting for his life, against an adversary that didn't care. Didn't plan. Didn't have emotion, at least as he knew it. Couldn't be bargained with. He had to run, or die. He was at her whim now. This was her game. He had spent his life being a cat, and now he was going to die a mouse.

James ducked as a blast of energy struck the edge of the apartment building as he ran from the courtyard and around the corner, as he ran the city fell away and soon he found the water beneath his feet turn to slush, and then snow. He couldn't run any more. The snow was almost at his waist now. He pushed ahead, but the buildings ahead of him warped into disrepair, as though they hadn't been used in ten thousand years. The rain turned into a blizzard, and James cried out for help, his voice lost in the howling wind, though he knew nobody could have heard him regardless. He was freezing, but he could feel a heat at his back. James realised then, as he heard her laughing, that the chase was over. She was behind him, watching him flail and push on, despite getting nowhere. Freezing, in terrible agony and terrified, James turned to face Vael. In the realisation that he was to perish here, he would do so facing her in defiance, cursing her in every language he knew. What Violet would call 'throwing everything and hoping something sticks'.

 

He opened his mouth to speak, but instead of a curse, James said two words as Vael raised her hand to strike him down. "It's Violet."

Vael's hand froze in the air, hesitated. Her grin fell into a snarl and James immediately wished he had remained quiet and let her disintegrate him, or whatever it was she had been going to do. Vael glided towards him, closing the gap between them. Her feet touched down on the snow, and weightlessly she stood upon it. Vael crouched down so she was face-to-face with James and studied his face for a few seconds, the heat and light in her hand was so hot and bright that James couldn't look at it, and recoiled when she brought it anywhere near him. She reached out with her other, empty hand, and touched him on the shoulder. James' whole body tensed, and then he began to shiver, but not from the cold. Vael shushed and cooed at James, trying to calm him, but it came across more like a cowboy calming her lame horse as she loaded her rifle. 

"'It's Violet', what, James?" Vael asked, in a calm, quiet voice. She brushed aside his tears with her thumb and smiled at him.

"Vi-Vi-Violet i-is h-hu-hurt..." He swallowed, trying to control his stuttering, "C-c-co-coma, s-she w-wuh-won't w-wake up."

 

A deep purple hand moved across his eyes and he closed them, hoping for release. He felt her hot palm press up against his forehead, and he felt a piercing pain and then strangely, all sorts of thoughts and memories came flooding to the surface, unbidden by him. He watched helplessly as they came, one after another, until everything that had happened in the last few weeks had passed by and then, the pain stopped and the memories faded once more and Vael stood up and took a step back from him. "Interesting..." She muttered, the light in her hand vanishing. Then she turned, and walked away with just her voice in the wind, "Go home - if you can." Her laugh was the last thing he heard before she vanished.

 

 


 

 

Vincent was sitting on the armchair in his apartment reading over the Grimoire. On the sofa Meredith was sitting with a pile of books from his bookcase and was reading through them for any chance of some answers. David was in the kitchen making more coffee for them, and Al was stood at the foot of the bed Violet lay on, just watching her. 
"This some ol' world shit, hoss." Al said, shaking his head. "I can't tell ye rightly what it is, but it's older than you or I..."
"You're not helping." Vincent said irritably, not looking up from the book. "I don't care what it is, we'll find a way to sto--" He lifted his head from the book and looked across his apartment blankly. "Something just passed my wards."
"Are you sure?" Al said, turning around. "I taught you those wards ma self, they ain't that flimsy."
"Positive." Vincent said as he stood up, finding his cane and picking it up. "Not just that, they've disabled them. Get ready... I think it's her."
 
A bright purple ball of light exploded into existence in the middle of the room. Anything that wasn't nailed down was swept up into the air. Books and papers flew everywhere, the furniture groaned across the floor, there was a huge thrumming vibration of light and sound that washed over the entire apartment, and then the ball of light was gone, and Vael had taken it's place. Levitating a few inches from the ground, she held out her arms and at the same time, opened her mouth. A terrible screeching filled the apartment as Vael spoke something in her native tongue, and everyone present instinctively clamped their hands over their ears in pain. A brilliant light filled the apartment, blinding everyone.
 
The screeching slowly fell away, echoing until there was nothing. The light receded, and Vael closed her light-filled mouth, and then there was stillness and silence. She looked out across the apartment. It was as though everyone was frozen in time. Meredith was frozen in shock on the sofa. Vincent had begun to reach for something in his jacket, but he too was stuck in time, a look of pained determination on his face. David held a pot of coffee in one hand, and a partially unsheathed blade in the other, droplets of coffee poured, floated up through the kitchen in slow motion, as though they were in space. Papers floated around, gently colliding with other light objects in the room. At last, Vael turned her grin upon the last figure in the room.
"Alphonse Regulus Blackmire." Vael purred, her grin widening as Al straightened up and let out a gruff sigh. Whatever he'd done, he'd stopped her magic from reaching him. Vael licked her lips and studied him for a little while, "You've gotten old, mortal."
 
"Maybe. But I'll never be as old as you." Al said calmly. "Now, if yer done with the light show would ye kindly tell me why yer here?"
"It's rude to comment on a lady's age." Vael retorted as though she were hurt, then her white eyes drifted in the direction of the next room, "I came for my daughter, you should give her to me and then we can be on our way." She held her hands behind her back and looked around the apartment with genuine curiosity. 
"Violet ain't goin' anywhere with you." Al said matter-of-factly. "If fer no reason than to uphold Eli's wishes."
"I have less right to my child than my husband?" Vael asked, floating over to Vincent and inspecting him thoughtfully, the way a collector might inspect their most prized item. She brushed a hand through his hair and picked a bit of fluff from his jacket before grinning and turning back to Al, "She's not human, you know." 
"Eli wished her free, and she'd ne'er be that s'long as she's with you." Al said. "Human or not, she's still a Hallow. She carries the same power Eli has, the same power that Vincent has awakened. A being like you would only exploit it."
 
"Oh please, I have no interest in exploiting anything - except maybe the forces of nature, but that's a discussion for another century." Vael raised her eyebrow in momentary irritation before returning to what she deemed a 'pleasant conversation'. "She is my daughter, and she has every right to reach her full potential." Vael paused and took a deep breath, "I can feel it happening now, what's left of that frail fleshy bag of water is evaporating as we speak." She sighed pleasantly, but quick as a bolt of lightning, her expression turned nasty and her tone became accusatory, "Why is she asleep?!" 
"Took you long enough." Al said, shaking his head. "Thas why her nitwit brother sent fer you. We don't know why she's sleepin', we were hopin' you did."
Vael hissed a word in her native tongue and crossed her arms irritably. After a few moments of stewing in her temper, she cast her gaze over the room, and released the hold she had over the room. Instantly, the papers and books and debris dropped to the ground. The coffee pot smashed as David released it to draw his sword and everyone surrounded her in an instant. "Touch me," She growled, "And that will be the last thing you touch," She paused as an image came to mind and she chuckled, "Just ask James..."
"You sure about that?" Vincent growled, and raised his cane to point it at her. "How about you ask what happened to the last Immortal that threatened me."
"Wh... what did you do to James?" Meredith asked, she was the furthest away and looked genuinely terrified by Vael's presence.
 
Her gaze turned to Meredith and Vael simply sneered, but then her eyes widened as she stared at Meredith. Her eyes lazily drifted back to Vincent and then she laughed, "You don't know..." She burst out laughing and lowered herself to the ground. "Oh, my... I haven't laughed like that in a thousand years, thank you." She shook her head in disbelief, and started towards the next room. 
"Enough." Vincent said. "I am tired of all the games you immortals play. Violet is dying, and I'll do anything to save her. Help us, or leave."
"Dying?" Vael parroted the word, her eyes narrowed in suspicion of Vincent. She carried on her way into the next room, unhindered. There, she saw Violet lying on the bed, asleep. She looked tired, and in discomfort, but what was most shocking to her was that she could see the magical energy inside her, and it was flickering like a dying candle. 
"Nooo...." Vael muttered, panicking. She crossed the room quickly and bent down beside Violet and placed her hand against her daughter's forehead, "No... I...." Vael shook her head, "Something's wrong... this shouldn't be happening....."

"No kidding." Vincent replied. "I hope you've got more to go on than that."

"BE SILENT!!" Vael roared at Vincent. She turned her attention back to Violet and stroked her hair in silence for a short while, when she spoke at last, her voice trembled, "To use your term..." She began, "We... 'Nagloshi' do not have children often, less so even with... mortals." She rolled the word off her tongue like she was choking up bile, "With mixed parentage, children are always born mortal, and not all become one of us, but," And with this, a prideful smile spread across Vael's face, "Then if you are strong enough, and the change takes hold... well, eventually a Nagloshi must fall into a deep sleep to let the process complete, it is the only way we can do this. But something ancient has invaded her dream state and taken control. It is trying to stop her from transforming."

 

"Like I said." Al piped up. "Ol' world magic. Problem is the ones who know 'bout this kind o' magic are long dead. Even the Wise don' have that kind o' knowledge."
"What about the Grimoire?" Vincent said. "I've been trying to find information, but it takes a long time. The Keeper needs to be asked specific questions to supply the information."
"Tha' book is the knowledge of a very particular family, hoss. Ye might not like what ye find."
"If it means saving Violet then it's worth it." Vincent said simply. He walked over to the Grimoire that he had placed on the table and picked it up, opening it. "So... what exactly am I asking it to look for?"
Standing, Vael crossed her arms and looked down at her daughter. She had no choice. "Ask your little book what a God would want with a living battery of magical energy." Then she held out her hand and an armchair from the next room slid across the floor and came to rest at Violet's bedside. Vael sat down in it and kept her eyes focused on her daughter.

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"This ain't a good idea, hoss." Al said as he watched Vincent re-arranging his apartment furniture, clearing a large space on the floor where he could place a magic circle. "Tha' book may have the answers but ye might not like the price ye pay."

"Well we're all out of options." Vincent replied as he threw down the wire circle he kept for such occasions. "It's for Violet."

"Thas the only reason I ain't forcin' ye to stop this with ma own hands, boy." Al said, shaking his head as he resigned himself to what had to happen. "Tha' book changed your father, y'know. He never let anyone know it's secrets an' it tore him up."

"Spare me another pity party for my old man." Vincent said with contempt. "If he'd stuck around then maybe we wouldn't be in this mess."

"Your father loved you, boy!" Al snapped. "Don' you ever think he didn't!"

 

"He had a funny way of showing it." Vincent said, and he turned away from Al, ending that particular discussion. He picked up the Grimoire and stepped inside the circle on the floor, as Meredith finished sweeping the floor with a broom, keeping the area as clear as possible. She looked at Vincent with a worried expression. 

"Are you sure this will work?" She asked. 

"Only one way to find out." Vincent replied. "Now get out of the circle. I'll be sealing it on both sides, nothing gets in or out."

"I'm comin' in with ye." Al said defiantly. 

"No." Vincent said, shaking his head. "If Vael tries anything you're the only one who can do something about it. I need you to look after David and Meredith."

 

"Then why don't I come in with you?" David offered. "Or am I just here to make tea now?" He folded his arms and looked expectantly at Vincent. 

"Not a bad idea. If there was ever a time for a Holy man to be by your side it's now, Vincent." Al said. 

"I don't think the G-man really has my best interests at heart." Vincent said, shaking his head.

"You'd do well not to snub the White God, hoss." Al said, his tone grave. "With the life ye live, ye should know such bein's are a powerful force." Vincent looked at Al for a moment and let out a heavy sigh.

"Fine, whatever." Vincent said, and he turned his head to David. "Inside the circle, then." David did as he was told, leaving Al and Meredith on the other side, looking concerned. Vincent lifted his hand up and pushed out his will, closing the circle. 

 

Then he knelt down on the wooden floor, with David standing at his side, and the Grimoire placed in front of him. He opened the book and began to take slow and deep breaths. As he did he gathered his will and allowed it to flow out of him, feeling across the space within the circle until, after a few minutes, it had filled the space with his aura. He could sense the gentle thrum of energy that came from David, as well as the strange aura that came from the Grimoire. Then Vincent gathered his thoughts and began to speak, allowing his will to channel out through his words to give them power. 

"Keeper of the Grimoire, I call upon thee." He said in a commanding voice. "Hear my voice and come forth, reveal thyself to me." The command was followed by a few moments of silence, and nothing seemed to happen. To the spectators, nothing had happened at all, but Vincent heard the Keeper's voice loud and clear within his mind. 

 

"You require knowledge, Vincent Gideon Hallow." The Keeper said. "What would you ask of me?" Vincent spoke only one word. 

"Intellectus." He said. For a moment the Keeper was silent, and when it spoke again it's tone was grave. 

"You wish to take my knowledge unto yourself, in it's entirety? No mortal has ever done such a thing. The experience is likely to end your life."

"I have no other choice at the moment." Vincent said. "Trying to browse the contents of the book through you is taking too much time. I don't know what questions I need to ask to find the answers. If I take all your knowledge then I can use it to save my sister."

"The knowledge contained within me would crush you, Vincent Hallow." The Keeper said. "However, there is another option available to you."

"Go on." Vincent said. 

 

"I am The Keeper of the knowledge contained within this book. I am a construct designed to provide information to the one who holds this book, the one who has given blood and name freely."

"I know that already." Vincent said irritably. "What other option are you talking about?"

"You may do as those before you have done. All bearers inevitably come to this conclusion. To gain the knowledge you seek you must become knowledge."

"Explain." Vincent said, his brow furrowing. 

"This Grimoire is the knowledge of all who have come before you. That knowledge was provided through an agreement with the bearers. If you wish to do this, then I will allow you to speak to them."

"Them?" Vincent said, his eyes wide with surprise at what he was hearing. "You contain the consciousness of each person who held this book?"

"Correct." The Keeper replied simply. 

 

Vincent didn't answer immediately. He reminded himself that the Keeper was not a person. It had no concept of morality, it did not understand emotion. What it had offered seemed simple and advantageous, but few things in life were that easy. There would be a cost, there always was. It was a fact so evident that it might very well have been a law of the universe. This was why summoning demons was frowned upon by the Wise. They would offer promises of great power, in exchange for something of the wizard's, and what they asked for was never good, and rarely a fair deal. Vincent felt like this was one of those situations. And yet, he had no other options available to him. He couldn't let Violet die. The cost was irrelevant. 

"Do it." Vincent said finally. And then, without warning, his world collapsed. Literally. 

 

The building began to crumble all around him, dispersing in to tiny particles. The walls, the floor, the tables, chairs, drawers, all of it crumbled. Even as the building disappeared, so too did the sky above him, and the ground beneath him. As far as the eye could see there was only a white, empty void. The sensation was frightening, but it was something distant, something fabricated. It's the kind of feeling you get when you realise you're dreaming, and that everything around you isn't quite right. He knew that the world hadn't really crumbled to nothingness, this was all just an illusion created through magic. He had entered a different consciousness, perhaps the one that resided within the book. 

 

Then, slowly, shapes began to form. Stone bricks formed around him, the kind that were used in the medieval ages to build castles. There was a fireplace with an eerie, green fire burning away, illuminating the room which had the qualities of an old dungeon. It was dark and damp, and smelled of mildew. There was a small desk in the corner, and across the far wall there was a row of large, glass cases, the contents shrouded in darkness. He stood up from his kneeling position and slowly took a few steps. When he did he heard something suffling, and turned around to see a figure emerge from the shadows. As he came in to the green light, the figure revealed himself to be a man in his 50's. He was dressed in dark robes and had long, jet black hair and a thin moustache. His eyes were a striking emerald, much like Vincent's own. Combined with his features, the man bore a striking resemblance to Vincent. 

 

"Let me guess...you're the ghost of Christmas past, right?" Vincent said. 

"I am decidedly more complex than a mere shade, Vincent." The man replied, his accent vaguely English.

"Ghosts usually don't think they're ghosts, y'know." Vincent said, walking around the man and looking him up and down. 

"I can assure you I am well aware of what I am." The man responded. "I am a consciousness. A replica of the real thing, constructed through complex magical systems that have long been lost to the sorcerers of your time."

"Neat." Vincent said, trying his best to sound unimpressed. "Look if you don't mind I came here to help my sister. Are you going to help or not?"

 

"All in good time." The man said. "Time, interestingly, is not a particularly relevant factor in this location. So you can be sure you have plenty of it to spare."

"Oh well in that case you better make us some tea and we can have a long chat." Vincent replied sarcastically. "The sooner we get this over with the sooner I can save my sister."

"Such a thing is not a guarantee. Knowledge can be provided, but it will not ensure victory." The man said. "Do you know who I am?"

"Nah." Vincent said. "Don't really care, either."

"I am Asher." The man said. "Or rather I am his consciousness. The man himself has been dead for...around 500 years I think."

 

"And why does this matter?" Vincent asked. 

"Well, I am the first. I am the one who created the Grimoire, by going through great lengths. The shared knowledge of all known as Hallowed rests within this Grimoire, knowledge that can be used in our battle against the adversary."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa." Vincent said, holding his hands up. "What do you mean 'adversary'? I think you skipped a few pages in your introduction there buddy."

"Apologies." Asher said with a curt nod. "It is something you will inevitably learn of, but perhaps now is not the time. I assumed, since you have awakened your power, that you were aware of the adversary."

"Yeah, well, that didn't happen on purpose." Vincent said. "And I didn't kill an adversary, I killed a Faerie Queen. Which is going to bite me in the ass one day, assuming I survive the current shitstorm."

"Yes, your power can end even immortal beings." Asher said with a knowing nod. "A dangerous power indeed. That is why it is only bestowed on the Hallowed."

 

"Hallowed?" Vincent said. "You mean Hallow, right? Like my family?"

"Dear boy..." Asher said, shaking his head. "It is true that at some point, perhaps to keep with the times, the Hallowed chose to take on the name as their own. Hallow is, I suppose, your surname as it is the one your father took for you. However, this is not a heritage born of bloodlines, I'm afraid."

"What do you-" Vincent shook his head. "Look! I don't want to deal with this right now! I need to know what is trying to kill my sister. I was told to ask, what would a God want with a living battery of magical energy."

 

Asher spoke a word, one that Vincent had heard before. It was something he couldn't even attempt to pronounce, but he had heard Vael say it before. The word for Nagloshi, in their own tongue. 

"Dangerous creatures." Asher said. "Though not as dangerous as Gods I should think."

"Are we talking about Gods as in, like, what? Greek Pantheon? Buddha? Ra?"

"Yes, all of them." Asher said with a nod. "It is quite likely that they all exist, although some have perished. At the hands of the Hallowed, actually."

"So...Gods are real?" Vincent said. "I mean...I knew it was possible, sorta, but..."

 

"The Gods of the past have faded, and so has their power. In order for a God to be powerful, it must be worshipped. If a God is preying upon a Nagloshi, then it seeks to reclaim it's power. If that is the case then it must be stopped. The Gods of old are great and terrible beings, if they came to power once more they could bring untold havoc. There was a time where they kept each other in check, but if one was to claim such great power again, there would be no one capable of defeating them."

"Right, so how do I stop it?" Vincent asked. 

"Hmm...well in order to know that I suppose you will have to do what you came here to do." Asher said. "You must join your knowledge with ours."

 

"Ours?" Vincent asked. Asher merely waved his hand, and the eerie, green light grew brighter and illuminated the room. Vincent's gaze fell upon the glass containers on the far wall, and they became wide with horror. In each of the glass cases, stood a full size person, each of them still as if sleeping peacefully. His eyes fell on the most closest occupied case, and he swallowed as he recognised the person within it. "...Dad!" He gasped. "What...what the fuck is going on!?"

"Please do not be alarmed." Asher said. "That is not your father. They are, like myself, merely replicas. They are a constructed consciousness."

"...Why are they locked up like that?" Vincent asked. 

"It is simply how your mind interprets it." Asher said. "I chose, on this occasion, to speak to you directly. If you so wish it you can seek advice from any of the other Hallowed, including Elias Wolfwood."

 

"So I could...speak to him right now?" Vincent asked. His body was shaking. He hadn't seen his father since he was a boy, and even with the knowledge that this wasn't his real father, the image in front of him felt hauntingly real. "I...I can't. I can't deal with this right now." He said, as if trying to assure himself more than Asher. "So...you want to make a replica of me, then? Is that it?"

"Yes." Asher said. "It is a simple and painless procedure. Your identity, all that you are, will be replicated and stored within the Grimoire. Nothing will be taken from you, it is simply a copy. However, there are risks."

"Such as?" Vincent said. 

"Intellectus." Asher said. "While you hold the book, all knowledge within it will be yours to access. There are a few restrictions in place. The knowledge will be buried until you require it. However, if you are not careful you may expose yourself to too much. If that happens...it could destroy your mind. By doing this you gain far greater access to the knowledge we hold, but you are more vulnerable in doing so. Do you understand?"

 

Vincent let out a heavy sigh, and took his gaze away from his father's body. "I do." He said with a hesitant nod. "Let's do it."

 

 


 

 

Vincent opened his eyes to see that he was on his back. He felt a warm energy wash over him, and then he noticed that David was knelt over him, his palms together in prayer. He could feel David's strange power coursing through him, giving him energy. He sat up and David stopped, and gave a sigh of relief. "Thank the Lord in heaven!" He said, closing his eyes for a moment. "You passed out, and your heartbeat slowed to a crawl. I...I was worried."

"I'm alright..." Vincent said, "Thanks, David. I mean it."

"I only did what you would do for me." David said, and he helped Vincent to his feet. Vincent realised he was still holding the Grimoire. He thought about what had happened, and about Violet's situation, and then, miraculously, he just knew. He dropped the book to the floor in a panic. Knowledge not of his own had entered his head as if it had been there all along. It had felt entirely overwhleming, and that had only been a portion of what lay within the Grimoire. He took a deep breath, and the turned to David. 

"Could you pick that up for me?" Vincent asked. "I really shouldn't be touching it any more."

"Yes, of course." David said, and he reached down and picked the book up. "Is everything alright?"

"Yeah." Vincent said. "I know what we need to do now. I'll need some time to prepare."

"I'll make some tea, then." David said, and he gave Vincent a knowing smile. 

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Silence had fallen upon the group. The only sound the occasional clink of glass touching glass as Vincent worked to prepare a sleeping potion in the next room. David and Meredith watched on, while in the bedroom Vael - a being of pure chaos and energy - stroked her daughter's head while Al stood over them. Vael looked over her shoulder, eyeing the old wizard. Eventually she spoke, her voice barely a whisper.

"I think now is a good time." Vael said simply, smiling down at her daughter, but addressing the old man.

"For?" Al asked, folding his arms as he waited for the response.
"You know what for, old man." Vael replied, pulling her hand back from her daughter's head and crossing her arms, she adjusted herself on the side of the bed and turned to look at him, "My daughter can become Nagloshi, or human. She won't be able to sit in limbo for much longer, and when the time comes, its only right she becomes all that she can be." Vael grinned mockingly, her tone vaguely dismissive.

"I agree." Al said. "Lil' Vi deserves as much. Although I'm feelin' we might not agree on which direction she should go."

 

"Hah!" Vael rolled her eyes, "Please," She held up one hand, "Immortal being of magical energy, sky's the limit--" Then she held up her other hand, "Flesh bag. Mini van. Pension." She shook her head, "I've experienced more in my life than in the lives of thousands of humans. Do you really think that can compare?"

"Perhaps." Al agreed. "But immortality has a cost. Vi would lose herself along the way, forget how to feel, how to love. An' the arrogance...it's like a curse on you lot. Such terrible arrogance..." He shook his head, and when he looked back at Vael his expression was one of pity.

"Rubbish!" Vael scoffed, "She would feel more than any human ever could. And love? Fleshy chemical nonsense. Arrogance born from certainty, old man." Vael chuckled but stopped herself and pointed at Al threateningly, "Let me lay it out for you in simple terms; Violet is in danger, whether you need my help or not, if I interfere it would almost certainly stop you from saving her. But if you agree to my terms, I will do everything in my power to help you."

 

"I don' make bargains with immortals, Vael." Al said with a flat expression. "You should know that by now. Frankly I'm disappointed to see Violet had gone got 'erself a familiar, I taught her better than that." Al shook his head again. "Ye ain't gon' shake me down, ye've tried before and ye've always failed. I ain't the fool Eli was."

Vael grinned and leant in and delicately touched Al on the forearm, "When you're right," She laughed, "Still, the fact remains. I will oppose you and everyone here, if you do not allow me to assist Violet in her ascension. Mother knows best, and all that. Do you think you can stop me?" Vael's eyes lit up, "Would you like to try?!" Her face twisted into mad excitement. "It would be something, wouldn't it?! Still, splash damage, and what not." She nudged her head in the direction of the others in the next room. Though she could have easily meant every living thing in the city. 

If Al was afraid, he certainly showed no sign of it. When his gaze cast over Vael it was clear he was unimpressed. "Like I said, terrible arrogance." He said, followed by a heavy sigh. "Ye know what mortals have that ye don't?" He didn't wait for an answer. "Choice. We have the choice to change or not. That is our power. Ye can't take tha' choice from her any more than I can." He adjusted his arms so that they were folded tighter around his chest. "Violet will decide."

 

"Alphonse!" Vael spat indignantly, "As if I would force my daughter to become anything she hasn't already chosen to become." Vael tutted and grinned with a knowing look, "As it happens, she's already chosen." Pride flushed over her face as clear as day, "But unlike her mother, who dotes on her and protects her and only wishes the best for her - her 'brother', Vincent, placed a crude seal on my daughter to try and stop her ascension, when its really none of his business. I've removed it, anyway. I was only putting the terms to you as a way of saying politely, something along the lines of, 'If he does it again, I won't ask you politely to inform Vincent not to stick his nose into my daughters rebirth, I will simply atomise him'." Vael held up her hands defensively, "I was just being polite, I was just being civilised, and what does it get me? Hmm?!" She rolled her eyes and let them fall back on Violet once more. "Is that idiot boy ready yet or not? I'm tired of talking to mortals..."

 

"Ye'd do well to keep outta that idiot boy's way." Al said as he went to leave the room and check on Vincent. "That damned power has awakened in him. An' he don't love ye like Eli did, one o' these days he might jes' be the end o' ye." Al made a point to exit the room as he finished his sentence. He had, funnily enough, grown just as tired of talking to an immortal.

She couldn't help but chuckle at that man. He was rather interesting, as far as mortals were concerned anyway. Vael turned and looked down at her daughter, quietly examining her. She reached out, stroking her daughter's head gingerly. She paused and once she was sure there were no prying eyes, she leant in and pressed her thumb to one of Violet's eyelids and pulled it back, revealing a gentle white light where there should have been a pupil. Vael let Violet's eye close once more and leant back with a satisfactory sigh and left the room to rejoin the others.
"While this is all fun and lovely, i'd really like to be back in my dimension by the turn of the century. Any luck, Vincent, darling?" Vael crossed the room and as David was passing a cup of tea to Meredith she intercepted it, "Thank you, i'm parched." She smiled at David and walked over and reclined on the nearby sofa, taking a sip of hot tea as she watched Vincent with a mixture of bored apathy and curiosity etched on her face.

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"Hoss', how's it comin'?" Al called as he walked towards Vincent, who was inspecting a vial of dark blue, opaque liquid, whisps of steam still escaping from the top of it. 
"Sleeping potion is done." Vincent replied. "Jus' need to make a circle around me and Violet, and complete the ritual before I go under."
"Dangerous, putting yerself out like tha'" Al said. 
"Yup." Vincent replied. "But there aren't any other options. I need to get in there and get Violet to snap herself out of it."
"So...aren't you entering her mind?" Meredith asked. "Isn't that a taboo?"
"It is." Vincent said with a nod. "But I'm no entering her mind, I'm entering her dream."
"Is there a difference?" Meredith asked, screwing up her face in confusion. 
 
"There is." Vincent said with a nod. "Dreams kind of...well when you dream it's like you make your own little pocket dimension, I suppose."
"More accurately...you enter the dimension of the Dream Aspect." Al said, raising an eyebrow to show his skepticism. "You make it seem simple, Hoss', but I've never heard o' anyone in my time doing such a thing. To be lucid in your own dream, thas one thing...but to enter the dream of another? I don't know..."
"It can be done." Vincent said. "I've done it before...or...well the book has. It's a long story."
"And one we don't have time for." David said. "My prayers will be with you, and I trust you. That is enough for me."
"Thanks, David." Vincent said with a nod. 
 
"Hang on." Meredith said as she waved her hands in front of her. "Dream Aspect?"
"Mm." Al nodded. "It's only a hypothesis, really. There are some things in life tha' even Gods and Immortals have no control over. Absolutes tha' have always existed, and will always exist until the end o' days. We call 'em Aspects, but we don't really know what they are. Like Death, for example."
"Yeah but death is just something that happens, it's not like a living being." Meredith said, shaking her head as if she was the only one speaking any sense. 
"It's different with mortals." Vincent explained. "We have souls. There's a significance there. I mean there isn't any way to truly know, but you've heard all the mythology behind angels of death, the grim reaper, shinigami. It's a prevalent notion in every culture, stretched all across time."
 
"There's usually a level o' truth to myths like that." Al said.
"Never heard of a Dream Aspect, or whatever, though." Meredith replied, clearly not convinced. 
"Mr Sandman...bring me a dream!" Vincent sang with a soft smirk. 
"Bum, bum, bum, bum!" David chimed in. The pair chuckled at each other, and it felt entirely surreal to do so. Sometimes you just laughed when it was least appropriate. 
"Dream, Death, Nature, Time..." Vael listed names between a sip of tea as casually as listing ice cream flavours. She stared into the contents of her cup and swilled it around irritably, "Needs sugar..."
 
"I don't get it." Meredith said, looking a little bemused. 
"Don't worry about it." Vincent said. "All you need to know is I'm going to go to sleep, and when I wake up, so will Violet."
"Cocky." Al said. "Thas' the boy I know."
"Yeah, well, I've been kind of a bad ass of late." Vincent said with a soft smirk. 
"Well what are you waiting for?" David said. "Go save your sister."
"Yeah..." Vincent said, nodding, and for a moment his false confidence faltered, and he looked fragile. He made his way to the bedroom where Violet was before anyone had any time to comment on it. 
 
In only a few minutes he had drawn a circle around the bed where Violet was lying. Vincent lay next to her, and had bound his right wrist to hers with a length of thread. Just another symbolic gesture to strengthen his purpose. Thaumaturgy was his specialty, but this was no time to be throwing out the techniques he had held true to his entire life. Everyone was stood quietly around the room, silent either out of respect, or perhaps they were just unsure of what to say. He gave each of them a nod, and dutifully downed the contents of the vial in his free hand, and placed the empty vial on the bed next to him. He quickly projected some of his will in to the circle, sealing the area with his magic. He lay down and immediately began to focus on what he had to do. Already he could feel the effect of the potion. His body felt warm, and numb. Moving felt like a bothersome prospect, but lying still had the added advantage of helping him focus his mind. He thought of Violet, and focused on his desire to be close to her, and after a while he began to forget where he was, or what he was even doing. There was a deep haze, and then finally, a fade to black. 
 
 
======
 
 
When he opened his eyes again Vincent felt suddenly, almost painfully alert. He was stood on the edge of a cliff face, the rocks beneath him as black as ink, and the sky a deep red. Beneath the cliff was a sea that stretched as far as the eye could see, it's waters violentally crashing against the rocks. The ocean was so black and mursky, but tinged in the red sky it looked like blood as it frothed and swayed down below. "This...is definitely not Kansas..." He said to himself. Was this Violet's dream? He couldn't see her anywhere. Had he failed? Wherever he was, he was certainly dreaming. There was no place on earth that looked quite like this. 
"Disappointing, Vincent Hallow." A deep voice said, coming from his left. He turned his head in shock, but the voice was familiar to him. A tall and pale faced man, with blackened eyes and black, untamed hair was stood next to him, dressed head to toe in a robe that looked like it was a living entity, shimmering like the stars in the sky. "You know I do not allow others within my domain." He continued. "I would suspect you have a death wish, but then again, it would be my dear sister you would have to seek out."
 
"Sorry." Vincent said. "I guess I took a wrong turn. I wanted to go to my sister's dream."
"Our meeting is no accident." The entity reponded, his empty eyes staring ever forward in to the abyss before them. "Again an arrogant old one invades my domain, and again you can be of good use, fortunately for you."
"Is that your way of saying we're buddies?" Vincent said with a smirk. 
"I told you once before, do not mistake my actions as an effort to help you in any way." the entity said. "I have brought you before me to inform you that what you have done, in any other situation, would not be tolerated. If you enter my domain again, under any circumstance, then you will not leave it. Do you understand?"
"Uh...yeah." Vincent said, feeling his smart-assedness withering away. "So...can you take me where I need to go?"
"I can." the entity said, and he turned his empty gaze on Vincent. "And I will."
 
There was a flash of light, and Vincent winced, holding his hands up in front of him. After a moment he realised that there hadn't been a flash at all. His eyes began to adjust to the brightly lit room he was now standing in. He could smell antiseptic in the air, and as he examined the interior he realised that he was in some kind of hospital. He looked around to see if he could see anyone, but aside from a few hospital staff, the place seemed quite empty. He looked down at his feet, and examined the clothes he was wearing. He was dressed in his usual black jeans, black boots and an old band t-shirt, and to his relief he was wearing his trusty old coat. Missing, however, were his magical effects. No staff, no charm, no nothing. He tried to channel his will, and quickly confirmed his suspicions. "No magic..." He said to himself, "Well...that sucks."
 
He walked down the corridor, trying to see if he could see any sign of Violet. This was her dream, though. She could be anything, she might not even look how she normally does. For all Vincent knew, she might be dreaming that she was a handsome, male surgeon from one of those cheesy hospital soaps on daytime TV. He noticed a nurse walking down the hall towards him, and he wondered if he could even interact with a dream character. Well, there was no harm in trying, he supposed. "Excuse me." He called to the nurse. "I'm...I'm looking for Violet Hallow?"
The nurse looked at Vincent quizzically, as if trying to understand him, more than what he had asked. Then after a moment's pause she smiled and asked, "You must mean Mrs. Hallow?" She turned and pointed down the corridor, "Keep going straight and take a right, past the nurse's reception desk. Room 112." The nurse nodded to Vincent and carried on down the hallway.
 
Vincent followed the nurse's directions, swinging a righ after walking down the hall. He found his pace turning in to a swift jog as the thought of finding Violet became more real in his mind. By the time he passed the reception desk he had to almost skid to a halt outside Room 112. He paused for a moment, swallowed, and leaned in to the small window on the door. He couldn't see very clearly, but the room looked empty of other people, aside from the woman lying on the bed. Violet looked almost like a ghost, but he was certain it was her. "What's happened to you?" He whispered quietly. He paused for another moment, before reaching for the door handle. 
"Hello, Vincent." A soft voice called. When he turned, there stood a nurse. She was short, with a mop of raven hair and pale skin. She was beautiful, though petite, and she had a mischievousness about her face. Her lips and eyes were touched by black make-up, and stranger still, the colour of her 1940's nurses uniform was inverted. It was entirely black, and yet, the other nurses didn't seem perturbed by this at all. "Its rare I meet most more than once," She smiled, "But I think this was coming for some time now." She added, her smile broadening and her eyes glistening like diamonds.
 
"And...you are?" Vincent asked, looking mildly irritated at being interrupted. Everything about this woman seemed a little off to him. Her clothing, her demeanor, and how she knew who he was. Even if she was something conjured up from Violet's subconscious, there was something about her that just seemed to break the mold of this carefully constructed little fabrication. 
"You can call me Dee, if you like." She replied.
"Right." Vincent said, a touch of wariness in his voice. "It's nice to meet you but...I'm going in here to see Vi...I mean Mrs Hallow."
"I know." Dee nodded, "And you can call her Vi, if you like. But doing so to anyone but myself would be a mistake. Also, I would advise caution in revealing your name to anyone but Violet." Dee smiled and reached out, touching Vincent on the side of his upper arm, "You have to be careful here, Vincent. Your enemy is all around you." Even as she said this, a nurse walked past them and Dee stopped talking and smiled at the passing nurse, who smiled back, her gaze lingering on Vincent with a strange expression on her face, but then she had passed them and moved on down the corridor.
 
Vincent stared at Dee quizzically. She didn't seem to be a threat, but equally he hadn't expected any allies in this place. He wasn't quite sure what to make of her. The thought of hitting her with a kinetic blast and asking questions later had crossed his mind, but he had almost immediately remembered that he had no magic in this place. "Alright...I just want to get Violet and get out of here, so that's what I'm going to do." He said finally. He turned around and carefully opened the door, and stepped inside the room, allowing Dee to come in behind him. He turned to his sister, and it made his stomach turn to see her looking so frail and vulnerable. "Violet." He said, his voice a hushed whisper. "Violet...it's me."
"Vincent." Dee stepped around the bed to the other side of Violet so that she was facing him, "For you, it might only have been days. But for Violet, she's been here for weeks. In this world, she believes you to be dead." She paused, watching Vincent, "You must tread carefully." She urged.
 
"I don't have time for careful." Vincent growled. "She's dying, the real her is dying. She needs to wake up now, she just needs to see that this is a dream." Vincent placed his hand on Violet's. "Vi...can you hear me? Speak to me."
"She's been drugged." Dee turned her gaze to the drip beside Violet's bed, and the little coil of tubing that led into her arm. "I can't stay much longer, Vincent. You have to steel yourself. In here, there are only two absolutes, the Doctor and--" Before she could finish, the door handle turned and Dee vanished. In stepped a man in a white lab coat that looked two sizes too big for him. He had a chiselled jaw, and bright blonde hair slicked back. His name badge read, 'Tenenbaum, L. - M.D'. The doctor looked around the room, frowning as though he was expecting to see something but was disappointed with what he was presented, then his disappointment passed and his gaze fell upon Vincent. "Hello, can I help you, Mr....?" His question hung in the air, as he held out his hand to shake.
 
Vincent reached out and grasped the Doctor's hand purely out of reflex. His mouth was opening to speak before he could think of what to say. "Uh...Jimmy." He said finally. His thoughts had somehow fallen on that slimeball vampire who ran a night club in L.A. That was the first time he had seen Violet in nearly 10 years. "I'm an acquaintance. Mrs Hallow used to uh...pop in to my bar from time to time."
"You're a bar owner?" The doctor asked, frowning but still smiling. "Excuse me," He asked politely, stepping past Vincent and checking Violet's pulse, and a number of other things. He pulled out a small pad and wrote something on it and then replaced it in his lab coat, "So tell me about yourself Jimmy, how did you get to know Mrs. Hallow? Are you telling me she was a patron of your bar? A housewife and mother?" The doctor looked over his shoulder and gave a wry smile, "I think you two were maybe...." He raised an eyebrow to imply 'something more, something that maybe Mr. Hallow never knew about'. One of the nurses entered the room and fluffed Violet's pillow.
 
"Hardly." Vincent said, forcing a short laugh. "Actually she used to come in from time to time to get Mr Hallow, you know, when he'd had a few too many."
"Ah," The doctor nodded, smiling a smile that said that wasn't the first time he'd heard this. "Well Jimmy, i'm sure Violet would have appreciated your coming here, unfortunately, she needs her rest so i'll have to ask you to leave. Miss Hallow has a surgery in the morning, and its vital we let her rest. You can come by and see her in the morning if you like? Nurse."
"Of course, doctor. Sir?" The nurse put her palm to Vincent's back and gently pressed. Vincent wanted so desperately to fight her gentle pressing, he didn't want to leave Violet. But he relented and with a nod he stepped out of the room with the nurse. He thanked her and made his way back down the corridor, shuddering as the door to Violet's room clicked closed once more. He made his way to the exit of the hospital and found himself standing in the end of a sunet, light only just disappearing from over the horizon. 
 
He let out a heavy sigh as he shoved his hands in his coat pocket, feeling the urge for a cigarette. How very like Violet's subconscious to not allow them to be on his person. He shook his head gently as he tried to think of what he could do. Time was running out and he had none of his usual magical tricks at his disposal. There was no way he could storm in all shock and barrel this time. For the moment, he wasn't a wizard, he had to accept that. So what was he then? Dead, apparently. That didn't really help him though. He had done as Dee had instructed, but he didn't even know if he could trust her. She might have been trying to fool him. Perhaps she was the enemy after all. There was something about her though, something unnerving, and dangerous, but at the same time very gentle. Something told him that he could trust her. 
 
"Miss..." He whispered to himself, as he came to a fairly sudden realization. Doctor Tenenbaum had called Violet "Miss", and yet beforehand he had mentioned her husband. Normally he might have thought this an easy mistake for a person to make, but this wasn't real. It was a fantasy. That tiny slip showed a flaw in Tenenbaum's personality, something that he felt shouldn't happen to a dream entity. Dee had said something about Tenenbaum being an absolute, along with another she hadn't managed to say. "Violet." He said to himself. She was, of course, the absolute of her own dreamscape. If Tenenbaum was the same then that could only mean he was the one pulling the strings. But if that was true, then Vincent could do nothing to stop the man. It was just as the Grimoire had informed him, only Violet could get herself out of this. "Guess I have to wait." Vincent said to himself. Then he walked away from the hospital and in to the night. 
 
 
======
 
 
Vincent returned just after midnight. The hospital had become even quieter at night, if that was even possible. Vincent moved swiftly but carefully through the wards, being carefully not to be spotted. He couldn't risk a nurse catching him and potentially thwarting his last chance at saving Violet. As he moved round every corner, the pressure was mounting inside him. He felt so useless without his magic. Even his fairly rudimentary attempts at veiling would have been enough to make this a relatively simple mission, but without even that, he felt terrifyingly normal, a feeling he hadn't really had since he was about ten years old. However, it was Violet's life on the line, and somehow he managed to summon enough care and attention to avoid being detected. When he reached Room 112 again he reached for the handle carefully, and gave it a soft tug, opening the door with a click. 
 
The room was dark now, but Violet was still lying sedated on the bed. He rushed over to her and inspected the IV that was fed in to her arm. With a precise tug he removed the needles from her arm, and hoped to hell that dream drugs wore off quickly. He waited a moment or two, but Violet did not stir. He began to feel incredibly anxious, turning his head constantly to check nobody was at the door. Finally, desperation gave over, and he grabbed Violet firmly by her shoulders, and shook her frantically. "Violet!" He hissed in a sharp whisper. "Violet! Come on...come on! Wake up Vi...please!"

 

Her mind felt sluggish. It took time for her thoughts to bubble up to the surface. Before she could gather herself, however, Violet could hear her name being whispered, in a frantic, urgent tone. By someone she knew to be dead. She couldn't see his face, for her vision had not, and might never return, but she knew his voice anywhere. She could smell the stink of his brand of cigarettes. But he was dead. Violet opened her mouth to scream but a hand pressed firmly against her mouth. Nevertheless, she tried. When all the air had escaped her lungs, and she had tired herself from thrashing, she pulled free of her assailant and stumbled out of bed, falling backwards into the hospital wall and scrambling into the nearest corner where she coiled up into a ball, and sat there shivering in fear and confusion.

 

"Violet!" Vincent cried, edging carefully towards her. "Violet...listen to me. It's Vincent...you need to believe me." He edged closer still. "Violet...you're dreaming. You need to wake up." He said, turning his head as he heard the sounds of footsteps coming down the hall. "We don't have much time."

"No! No! No no no..." Violet kept repeating, "You're dead. You're not here. I have to get better. I have to get better. Have to get better. Have to get better. Better and better and I will I will. No no no no." She shook her head and started crying as Vincent's voice insisted, Violet covered her face with her hands.

"Violet!" Vincent said as his hands gripped her shoulders firmly, but not so hard as to hurt her. "Listen to yourself...this isn't you. You're stronger than this. I know you are..." Vincent took a breath and went to continue pleading, when the door opened behind him, and he whirled around on his feet. Tenenbaum stood in the doorway. "Back the fuck off!" Vincent roared at him. He was done with pretending. He couldn't take it any longer. He couldn't stay calm when looking at the man who had utterly broken his sister. "Violet!" He yelled back at her. "Get up! Come on!"

 

"Calm down, Vincent." The doctor had his hands stuffed into his coat pockets. He was backed by large orderlies on either side of him. "We don't have to do this."
"I'm better, i'm better. You're not here..." Violet muttered, grabbing hold of her bedsheets and clinging to them.
"You're much better, Mrs. Hallow, I think maybe we don't even need to do the surgery now, hmm? Just come with me, and i'll make this phantom go away."
"Don't listen to him, Violet! He's killing you!" Vincent snapped. "You have to believe me...believe me, even just for a moment, and I can show you." Vincent raised his hand towards Tenenbaum, hilm palm open towards the doctor. "This is your dream, Violet, only you can change it. Remember what it feels like to use magic! Remember the first time you used it!"

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"This is your dream, Violet, only you can change it. Remember what it feels like to use magic! Remember the first time you used it!"

 

 

The words bled away along with the walls of the hospital, and 14-year-old Violet was sat at the top of the staircase in her home in Iowa, all thoughts and feelings lost to her past self. A scrawny girl, too slim and tall for her age, as yet to grow into her womanly frame, sporting a black eye and a swollen lip with a cut in the centre. She listened intently, as she heard the hushed voice of her adoptive mother, Martha, in the kitchen, talking on the phone. She didn't need to hear the woman on the other end of the line to know who it was. She'd started high school just a few weeks ago, but already she was in serious trouble.

"Good morning Mrs Hallow, it's Principal Brown, i'm calling again because your daughter has been in another fight."

Martha Hallow gave a heavy sigh as she gripped the phone to her ear. She was a peach-faced woman with blonde, curly hair, and was wearing a blue cardigan and black leggings. Her lips tightened in annoyance, but her eyes betrayed her true feelings of worry and a little sadness. "What happened this time?" She asked Principal Brown down the phone.

 

"Violet got into an altercation with a boy in her grade. John Mattheu. I don't know the specifics of it because neither of them will talk about it to me, but suffice to say i've been told they were talking one minute, and the next Violet was beating the boy mercilessly. We can't have this kind of behaviour, Mrs. Hallow."

"Shit..." Violet muttered, listening carefully.

"Yes, of course, I completely agree." Martha said with a slight nod, "But...if you don't know what happened, I mean... she could be getting bullied? You know she hasn't had an easy life..."

"I appreciate that, but it's no excuse. Violet has a history of aggression at past schools, I have the notes here. We won't tolerate it. As far as bullying goes, your daughter might look like she's been through the wars, but young John has two missing teeth and a broken finger. If it happens again, we will suspend Violet, pending an investigation, and possible expulsion. I'm sorry, Martha." The line went dead.

 

Violet watched as the phone lowered from Martha's ear, and that was her cue. Violet quickly turned and started back up the stairs.

"Don't even try it young lady!" Martha barked, one that didn't really carry the tone of a true disciplinarian. Martha was, after all, a bit of a soft touch ultimately. "Get down here, right now."

Violet hesitated, she thought if she could just reach the top of the stairs, she could get to the window, and from there she was a free bird. But, she'd also learnt what would be waiting for her when she got home. She retracted her foot and slowly descended and walked into the kitchen, hands shoved into her jacket pockets. "What?" She asked with an angry undertone.

"Fighting? Again?" Martha said as she pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration. "What happened this time?"

"It wasn't my fault!" Violet snapped, pulling her hands out of her pockets and flailing them about as if it would help demonstrate her innocence, "Johnny Mattheu wouldn't shut up... I don't want to talk about it!" She bunched her fists up.

 

"Violet..." Martha mouthed wordlessly for a moment as she held her hands up, gesturing how helpless she felt. Finally she let them fall to her side and let out another heavy sigh. "...I can't do this any more. I'm trying so hard just to keep you in a good school and you keep doing things like this. I thought Vinnie was bad but..." The edges of her eyes became wet as she blinked. She shook her head and remained silent.

"I'm sorry." Violet replied, staring at the floor. But she didn't feel sorry for doing it. Not really. She just felt bad for having upset Martha. Her emotions were so strong sometimes. When she was happy, she was ecstatic. When she was sad, she was inconsolable. When she was angry, she was furious. She found it so difficult to control, and sometimes she felt like she wasn't supposed to at all. But she was trying. She didn't know what else to say, she just felt feeble being stood there in the kitchen. In truth, she didn't even have a good excuse for why it had happened. It just had. 

 

A faint, tinny noise filtered in to the kitchen, coming from the pair of headphones sat around the head of a skinny, young boy with jet black hair that was cut straight at his shoulders, and was impeccably straight. The young man was wearing a Nirvana T-shirt, a pair of torn jeans, and a pair of dirty socks. At first he didn't seem to pay attention to either of them, more concerned with his goal of reaching the fridge and raiding it of its contents. He glanced at them as he passed, and his piercing emerald eyes caught sight of Martha's tears, and he pulled the headphones from his head. He looked from Martha, then to Violet, and then back to Martha. "What did she do this time?" He asked
"Vincent, Just go back to your room, please." Martha said
"A fight then." Vincent said, a little smirk forming on his face. He turned to Violet. "Did he deserve it?"
"Vincent!" Martha hissed. 
"What?" Vincent replied, holding his hands up in protest. "Don't look at me, I didn't do anything!"
 
"Leave me alone, Vince." Violet muttered, walking past Martha and opening the fridge. She pulled out a small pot of chocolate pudding and walked over to a nearby drawer and pulled out a spoon. Then she sat on one of the stools beside the kitchen counter and opened the pot, licking the lid and then casting it aside before she took a large spoon of pudding and ate it hungrily with an irritable sigh. Finally, she looked up at Vincent and sniffed, "Are you walking to school?" She asked. 
"Yeah, still haven't managed to make the broom fly." Vincent said in a tone that suggested he was quite serious. 
"Vincent I told you... ugh..." Martha shook her head. "I'll talk to you about that later. I don't have time!"
"Later's good." Vincent said, and he opened the fridge and removed a bottle of Dr Pepper from it, twisting the cap with a hiss and guzzling the contents, finishing up with a particularly potent belch. "Whoa, good one." He said. 
"Ugh!" Martha turned away from her son in disgust. "School, both of you, now! And this conversation isn't over young lady!"
"You know I'm a boy, right?" Vincent said
"Vincent!" Martha screeched, and Vincent made haste to exit the room, flashing Violet another sly grin. Despite her melancholy, Violet couldn't help but smile a little at Vincent. She apologised one last time to Martha, hugged her and followed her brother out. They started walking down the street, with Violet unusually quiet. Normally she was quite chatty, as she knew once they arrived Vincent would likely hang out with teens of his own age and Violet would be on her own for the day. But she wasn't in the mood to talk, she was picturing the follow-up conversation with Martha.
 
"Ah," Loki clapped his hands together as the street appeared before him. His guise as a doctor had been lost, and now he was dressed in a well-tailored dark green suit. Though his hair was just as slick and groomed as before. "Found you at last." He muttered irritably, and took a few steps forward when he heard a noise and looked over his shoulder to see the current day Vincent, "Oh, wonderful." He sighed, "Leave me alone, won't you? I have more important matters to attend to." And he followed the 14-year-old Violet a few feet behind, the two young Hallows seemingly unaware of the intruder. 
The older Vincent followed Loki step for step, but he couldn't help but focus his attention on his younger self. His own memories of this event were hazy at best, but clearly this particular memory was important to Violet. 
"So." His younger self said, turning his head to Violet. "As fun as it was making mom blow a gasket, she has a point. Or, well sort of. I'm not gonna lecture you for fighting but... you could at least try not to get caught."
 

"Martha said no shifting outside the house. What was I going to do, punch him and then turn into a sparrow in front of half the school?" Violet bit back. Loki rolled his eyes and sighed, clearly bored with the conversation. He looked around the street with vague curiosity.

"Modern suburbia." Loki muttered, chuckling, "Not what you expect to see connected with a wizard and a shapeshifter - sorry, Nagloshi - I do try to keep up with the terminology but quite frankly i'm in a losing game. Heck, maybe you're not even a wizard, maybe you're actually a genie. I can't keep track these days."

"Shut the hell up." Vincent grumbled, before turning his attention back to his younger self. 
"Yeah, mom also told you to stop fighting." Younger Vincent said, rolling his eyes. "If you don't get caught then nobody is any the wiser. You know how Al is about using magic outside of our lessons, but if I did as he told me then I'd still be learning how to light candles."
 
"At least you can actually use magic." Violet growled.
"Touched a sore spot there, big brother." Loki's contemptuous smirk stretched further.
"Shut. Up." Vincent snarled
"Fair point." Younger Vincent said with a nod. "But I can't turn in to a squirrel so, hey, at least you have that going for you. Plus, you've got me, so next time you're in a bind just let me know and I'll help you out. Less stress for mom, okay?"

"Yeah, yeah." Violet muttered, though she was thankful for her brother's concern.
"Not going to be there next time though, are you?" Loki corrected, with a tone of 'I know something you don't know'. 

"I'm starting to see why nobody believes in you any more." Vincent said.

"You believe in me though, don't you? Got ya there, hm?" Loki pointed at Vincent with a wry smile, "Oh Vincent, i'm not such a bad guy really. If Violet wasn't involved in all this I think we'd be friends. Best friends, I should think. You'd like me more than i'd like you, but who's keeping track, really? Oh look, there they go." And as he said this, Violet and her young brother entered the school as the bell rang. "So, what's next on the agenda? How about a detention? That would keep you occupied, I should think." Then Loki walked on at a brisk pace. 

"...Dick." Vincent grumbled, inwardly far too worried to come up with anything wittier. He didn't like how confident Loki was. He should be worried, but he wasn't, at all.

 

As they walked towards the school, there was a sudden surge and they were inside. Loki looked up at the clock on the wall, it said one minute to 12pm. "Oh, okay." He raised an eyebrow, "Well, I suppose it is a dream." He looked around and noticed something on the wall. The bell rang, and the students started filing out of their classrooms. Within seconds, hundreds of children swarmed all around them, passing through them as though they were phantoms. "Tell me something, Vincent. What will you do once Violet is a brain dead living magic battery?" He spoke without malice, despite his choice of words, "I should think you would want revenge, the only problem is at that point, if I hold up my hands, see," And he did so, "Scales. On one hand, wizard. On the other, God. Mmmm," He weighed them and then made a crashing sound as the hand representing Vincent plummeted. "Best see you, before I do." He added, grinning and holding his hand up in the air, as though he was about to hail a cab.

"Ask the dead Fairy Queen how that went for her." Vincent growled, "And she only tried to imprison my sister."

"God trumps Queen, kid." Loki replied, and then, "A-ha!" And he whipped his hand back down and grabbed a child passing them. It was the young Vincent, with a rough push, Loki propelled Vincent into the wall and lifted a single forefinger. Suddenly, the fire alarm beside the young Vincent switched on and alarms blared. The children panicked and ran in every direction as teachers emptied into the halls to try and control them. One of them saw the young incarnation of Vincent and grabbed him.

"For goodness sake, Vincent. Now you're taking up my lunch time." And the teacher marched Vincent into the nearby classroom and slammed the door shut. Loki whirled around to face the present day Vincent and bowed.

"Game, Set and Match, old boy." Loki quipped, and then once more, the world shifted around them.

Loki looked around, they were now behind the school. A couple of old garbage cans and some long-forgotten sports equipment was all that framed the scene before them. A young Violet stood defiantly against four boys bearing down on her. One of them leading the pack was a boy with a comical gap in the middle of his front teeth - John Mattheu.
"What do you want?!" Violet yelled at John who curled his nose in anger.

"You're some kind of freak, ya know that?" Johnny spat with a toothless lisp. 
"Don't call me that..." Violet started tearing up, she looked around, there was nobody in sight, but even so, there was four of them. She couldn't just transform and claim that all four of the boys were making it up, could she? She wished Vincent was here, why wasn't he? He was always outside for lunch but she hadn't seen him at all.

"Such a shame, Vincent. She won't hear you, but you can say your goodbyes none the less, if it will make you feel any better." Loki leant against the wall and crossed his arms as he watched the boys close the gap on Vincent's sister. 

"What have you done!?" Vincent snarled. "This...this isn't how it happened!" Vincent's hands balled in to fists as he turned to Loki. "This is her memory, you can't just change it like that!"

 

"Who says I can't?" Loki replied, "We're past the point of no return, old boy. The fat lady has sung, and now I have my battery, thank you very much."

"Get back!!" Violet yelled at Johnny and the other boys as she raised her fists in self defence. She knew she could take on anyone in her year, maybe even anyone in the school, thanks to her inhuman strength. But four against one? She looked over her shoulder one last time, but Vincent was nowhere in sight. "Vincent!!" Violet screamed, as John Mattheu launched himself at her, his cronies flanking her on either side.

"Violet..." Vincent whispered. What could he do? He didn't have his magic here. If he had this wouldn't be a problem. He didn't have any problem with roasting a bunch of dream figments, even if they were children. If only his younger self could have been there. That was how it had really happened. He remembered this part clearly, it was an important memory for him, just as it was for Violet. Vincent's head sank, he felt helpless. "Please... let her go. I'll do anything you want... please."

"You'll do anything I want?" Loki grinned, "Vincent, if I could, I would! But you can't just give me back my old vim and vigour the way your sister can. She's just..." Loki licked his lips and thought for a moment, "She's a chocolate swirl double scoop with sprinkles." Loki watched as Violet desperately tried to fight off the boys. She got a few good hits in, but then one of them managed to grab her right arm, then another boy grabbed her left, and that was that, she was trapped. John Mattheu punched her in the stomach, winding her. She fell to her knees but was lifted back up. "You're just a... vanilla... something, I don't know, i've lost my love for this ice cream analogy, can we just focus on the show?" He nodded at the fight with smug pride.

 

"Fine..." Vincent said as he stepped forward. "If there is really no hope then the least I can do is try. If I fail... well then you best keep your eyes peeled, because I'm coming for you."
With that Vincent stepped in to the scene. He was careful in how he moved. He tried to remember how this moment had played out in real life. Fortunately, Violet had chosen a memory that was quite fresh for both of them. He remembered that he was young at the time, and impulsive. He didn't have the magical knowledge that he did in later life, but when he had awakened his magic many years earlier, he had summoned an element that he had since become a master of. 
He felt the warmth build up in his chest, letting all his fury well up until he felt like it was going to burst forth from him. Then he pushed out his arm and allowed that heat to funnel down it, and then he spoke. "Ingus!" He snarled. At the time he was still a novice wizard, and he remembered what had actually happened. His fire sparked across the ground, searing the gravel of the playground, and he dragged his foot across it, spraying hot gravel across the boy's backs. 
"Touch my sister again, and you'll find yourself suddenly sans eyebrows, Johnny boy." He said with a sly grin, but his eyes were filled with rage.
 
The boys scattered in pain and surprise as they quickly slipped out of their jackets and leapt back from them, unsure what had happened. They turned to see Vincent, and as they did so too did Violet. Her face was covered in fresh wounds, and her cheeks were flushed with tears, but her eyes beamed with joy upon seeing her older brother. But that joy instantly turned to despair, "VINCENT!!" She screamed, but it was too late. Another boy grabbed Vincent from behind, choking him, pulling him down to the ground. Violet pulled herself to her feet and tried to run to her brother's aid, but she was grabbed by Johnny. Turning on the boy, Violet grabbed him by his shirt and threw him with all her strength. Johnny flew through the air until he hit the wire fencing at the edge of the grounds and collapsed in a heap. She turned to see all the colour draining out of Vincent's face, and suddenly she felt something she'd never felt before. Something powerful, rising up inside her. Her rage made physical, she lifted her hand to face the boy who noticed her but seemed unconcerned. His mistake. "LET GO OF MY BROTHER!!" Violet yelled at the top of her lungs, and a deafening bang echoed across the ground as a wave of air and sound buffeted them, passing through Vincent with little effect, and yet crashing into the boy behind him like a ton of bricks. The boy flew back like a rag doll and crashed into the garbage cans, crumpling them like paper cups. 
"Well, never mind then..." Loki muttered.
 
At the sound of his voice, Violet turned, her gaze falling upon Loki for the first time. She looked straight at him and he looked back at her. She was no longer the 14-year-old child. She was the woman, the sister, the wizard, the shapeshifter and now something more. He slowly began to step back, slowly and carefully, as Violet's skin began to fall away like ash peeling from the bark of a tree. Within seconds Violet's skin and clothes had burnt away, revealing a deep purple body made of magical energies. Her eyes and mouth a source of brilliant white light while her hair was formed of a writhing pink mass of living magic, cascading down her shoulders and flying behind her much the way hair floats freely when submerged. Violet lifted off from the ground and floated towards Loki. "You should not be here." She said, her voice demanding and authoritative. She pointed a finger at Loki accusingly, "Get out! You don't belong!" 
"Bugger." Loki growled, licking the inside of his cheeks. He turned to look at Vincent, "You're on my shit-list, kid." Loki snapped angrily, but before he could leave Violet lifted her hand and a blast of energy shot towards Loki and enveloped him. He screamed and curled up and suddenly he was a ball of white light trying to escape the power of Violet's magic. At last the little orb of light broke free and the world turned dark.
 
 

 
 
Suddenly Violet rose from the bed, and Vael yelped in surprise and joy. "Oh, yes!!" She cried, leaping up from Violet's side and taking a step back to give her room. Violet slowly rose until she was upright, her eyes still closed as though she was sleeping. Then her hair lifted up into the air with a surge and her entire body exploded like a bomb inside a glass ornament. What was left was a Nagloshi, physically almost indistinguishable from Vael's body, though Violet's hair was not as long and she still retained enough of her facial features that it was clear Vael and Violet were not the same being. Her eyes opened, shining a brilliant white light into the room and she looked around, seeing everything for the first time all over again. "I can see..." She laughed, her lips parting to show light shining from within. "... so much light..." Her eyes squinted as though she could have been crying, but no tears could exist. Her gaze fell upon the others in the room, and she saw Vincent in a whole new light. He stood there before her, wreathed in a brilliant flame. She would never be able to see him quite like he was before, but now she could see everything through it's magical energies and he was like a beacon. While many things were muddy or indistinct, Vincent was like looking through crystal. She saw him, all of him, and it was overwhelming, and yet beautiful. She lowered down until her formless feet touched the ground and the light from her eyes and mouth diminished until they were just soft white lights. "Vince..." She said simply, laughing uncontrollably.
 
"Holy... shit!" Was all Vincent could say, but there was a slight smirk hidden within his awestuck expression. 
"Looks like lil' Violet made her choice." Al said, folding his arms, and looking at her warily, but he seemed to be accepting of it. 
"Good Lord above..." David said, not sure of what to make of the scene. Meredith was just staring at Violet, truly stunned by her appearance.

Violet looked out across her friends, she saw Vael and knew that they were the same, on an instinctual level. Yet at the same time, that made her naturally wary of her mother. Maybe more so than when she had been human. She saw David, and saw a powerful light thrumming from within him, untouched by anything around them. She saw a darkness in Meredith, and yet it had not taken hold of her. She looked to Vincent and hoped that he would be able to help her somehow, and then something at the back of her mind touched her. She had heard something. Something while she was dreaming. "Auntie Vi..." She said, almost soundlessly to herself, then looked back at Meredith with a keen, realising smile. Then she tried to look at Al, but winced, "Ah!" The light coming from Al was so strong that she was unable to look upon him.
"You'll get used to it, sweetie." Vael added, knowing what had made Violet uncomfortable. Violet smiled at her friends and family, the rag-tag group that they were. She had never felt so loved or welcome than she did now. She could feel her power, access it now, and she felt like she had found her place in the world. She had become who she was meant to be. But then, something struck her. Violet looked through her friends and family, and frowned. Her confusion quickly turned to disbelief, and it took only a moment to sense it from the group. Her disbelief turned to an all-encompassing rage and the light exploded from her eyes and mouth as she lifted from the ground and thrust her palm towards them threateningly, "WHERE. IS. JAMES?!" She screamed, her voice booming through the apartment as a dangerous beam of energy formed in her palm.

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Light rock music sounded from the carefully positioned speakers dotted around the small independent music store, the sign outside reading the word Harmonix. Inside the shelves were lined with CDs categorised first by genre, and then alphabetically. A few large tables in the center of the room housed rows of boxes, each filled to the brim with old vinyl records. Any spare space on the walls were lined with T-shirts, pinned up in display, depicting the logos of various bands like The Ramones, Nirvana and Foo Fighters. Harmonix was not particularly busy, especially considering most people listened to music online these days, and so much of their regular patrons were purists. A couple of them were sifting through the boxes of vinyl while two girls sat chatting behind the cash register. 

 

"-So then Brian, totally wasted, just straight up punched the guy. Can you believe that?" One of them said in the very definition of a monotonous tone. The young woman was currently picking at her pink and black painted nails. She had platinum blonde hair that looked a little dry and damaged from years of peroxide abuse. She was dressed in a little, red tartan skirt, with fishnet stockings and a pair of black boots, and a tightly fitted black T-shirt with the image of a pair of bright led lips, and a red tongue licking the teeth. "...Merry, are you even listening?"

"Hm?" the other girl replied, only now managing to peel her gaze away from the book she was reading. Meredith had made more than a few drastic changes in the past year. The flat, brown hair she had received on becoming mortal had been dyed half bubblegum pink, and half baby blue. She had a small, silver stud in her nose, and a silver hoop through her bottom lip. She had her hair shaved on one side, and the exposed ear was covered in piercings, and a large black spike through her lobe. 

 

She was wearing a sleeveless, black T-shirt with an exposed midriff, and a pair of tight-fitting leggings depicting a black and white Rorschach design, and a pair of Converse sneakers, one depicting an image of The Batman, while the other depicted his arch nemesis, The Joker. "Sorry." She said finally, "I'm just a little tired today."

"Engrossed in that book, more like." Her friend said. "I can't believe you're 20 years old and you haven't read Catcher In The Rye."

"I just never got around to it." Meredith said with an awkward shrug. "There's a lot of stuff I never got around to."

"Well it's okay, I'll let you off this time." Her friend said with a smirk. 

"Thanks, Kate." Meredith said with a nod. 

 

"So are you free after work?" Kate asked. "I know you're not old enough but my friend can get you a fake ID and a bunch of us were-"

"I'm busy tonight, sorry." Meredith interrupted.

"Well can't you reschedule? You never come out with us!" Kate protested. 

"Because I'm not old enough, Kate." Meredith replied, "Besides...I have something to do tonight. Family stuff."

"Bummer." Kate said, clearly unimpressed. "Sounds boring."

"Far from it." Meredith replied, and she couldn't help but give a little smirk. 

 

 

======

 

 

It was dark outside when Meredith left the store to make her way home. She had put on a black, leather jacket, that had a tailed section that went down to the back of her knees. It had been a gift from Vincent a few months prior, apparently he considered it of utmost importance to have a cool signature coat. She smiled to herself at the thought of the conversation they'd had at the time, it was a somewhat fond memory. Such things were precious to her these days. It had been almost a full year since they had rescued Violet from her dream state, and since that day things had become increasingly hard for her. On the news of what had happened to James, Violet had flew in to a rage and had went to attack them. Quite unexpectedly, it was Vael who had saved them. She had grabbed Violet, and spirited her away in to the Void before anyone could argue against it. Nobody had seen either of them since. 

 

For the next few weeks afterward Vincent and Al had spent every waking minute searching The Void for her, but they never came up with anything. David stayed with her as long as he could, but eventually he had to go back to his home in Iowa. He had made a point of visiting them throughout the year, however. Al also left after they had given up looking for Violet. Thereafter it had just been her and Vincent. She had thought he might have taken things a little harder, but ultimately he said he knew Violet was alive, and that was all that mattered. Besides, he had a promise to keep to her. As soon as things got quiet Vincent had began to spend a lot of time with her, teaching her the fundamentals of magic. The process had been particularly difficult for her, as long as she could remember magic had been as easy to her as breathing. 

 

Then the nightmares started. Vincent said they were a result of the taint within her, brought on by using dark magic. He had explained to her that the term "dark magic" was a poor term in the first place. It was used to describe incredibly powerful magic, magic born of raw will and desire. Vincent said it was easy magic, and that was why it was risky. Everything had a cost to it, and if we used magic without cost, it would corrupt us on the inside. The nightmares hadn't really ceased, and according to Vincent, they never would. However, he said she would eventually learn to live with them. She wasn't entirely convinced of that, after all Vincent wasn't exactly a healthy minded individual, and he had been going through this for years. Still, she supposed things could be worse. She had managed to get herself a job, and with the extra income coming in, Vincent decided it was time that they moved out of his apartment. They had moved in to a two bedroom apartment in the downtown area, and she was pleasantly surprised at how much better her life felt when she had a bed to sleep in instead of an old sofa.

 

Also, throughout her training, it became quickly apparent that her abilities were intrinsically different from Vincent's. He had called her a "sensitive", explaining that she seemed to have a strong sense of magical energies, and how they flowed in the environment around her. This made her much more adept at delicate forms of magic, such as veils and illusions. However, offensive magic like evocation was difficult for her. She knew how to do it, of course, but her sensitivity also meant she could truly feel the intent behind magic. Magic born of anger and aggression made her feel sick to her stomach, and so she avoided using it at all costs. Finally, and this was something Vincent seemed to find the most annoying, was that she had no need of a focus. Staffs, wands and trinkets were of no use to her, and she'd found that in fact they were more of a detriment. Vincent looked at magic like a science, he used tools to help him visualize and understand it, whereas Meredith simply, well, felt it. It was as simple as that. 

 

Looking up from her daydream, Meredith realized that she had been walking for a while now. She was now standing in an eerily quiet part of the city. This hadn't exactly been an accident, though. She wasn't lying to Kate when she said she was busy tonight. Working in a record store was what she did during the day, but at night, well at night she defended the city against the forces of evil, of course. She allowed her will to reach out in to the empty streets ahead of her. Her magical sense for oddities was apparently, far greater than her mentor's, and she had managed to hone in on this location with relative ease. Something dangerous was lurking nearby, and the more she analysed the situation, the more she realized that she was, in fact, being stalked. "Fantastic." She said flatly to herself. Then she took a step forward as she allowed her will to form a thin bubble around her. 

 

Meredith's Veil was so delicately woven, that she experienced very little dulling of her senses while she stood within it. What's more, as she turned her head around, she could see that she had left an almost perfect replica of herself standing behind her. Veiling was a great way to hide from potential dangers, but if you wanted to take control of the situation, then you had to lay a trap of your own. She made sure to adjust her veil to account for the sound of her footsteps as she crossed the road and stood on the other side. It was just one of the many calculations you had to make, as well as considering the changes in lighting and shadow, although veiling at night was significantly easier. She waited on the opposite side of the road, watching her copy stand on the street corner, looking nervous and checking her phone periodically, making it appear like she was waiting for someone. 

 

Her stalker was quick to make a move. In such a quiet area, she supposed that opportunity was bound to arise more quickly. A large shape moved in the shadows, she tried to follow it but it moved swiftly despite it's bulk. She frowned, when after quite a while, the creature had not bothered to strike what she felt was an easy target. In fact it hadn't allowed itself to be seen at all, and the movements she had seen looked like it was moving away from her illusion. That didn't make a lot of sense to her. Unless her stalker had noticed her illusion. The thought made her heart leap from her chest for a moment. How would that even be possible. She had been so careful when constructing it, allowing it to stand perfectly in place as she threw up her veil. Where had she slipped up? 

 

Then it dawned on her. Whatever was following her, was moving like an animal, not a human. Animals didn't use their eyes very much when stalking their prey. Most of all they used their sense of smell. She hadn't accounted for that. Her replica would have no scent to it at all. She quietly cursed to herself, and then froze as she felt a creeping sensation crawl up her spine. If the creature was using it's sense of smell to track her, then that would mean...

 

Meredith spun on her heel in time to see the large beast burst out from the shadows behind her, bounding towards her with bright, yellow eyes and dark grey fur, and powerful teeth bared to rip her to shreds. Instinctively she threw her hands up in front of her, and summoned a dazzling array of light and sparks, like someone had set off some fireworks in between her and her foe. The bright flashing and the noise startled the enormous wolf, causing him to back off momentarily, snarling viciously. Meredith saw her moment and went off at a sprint, abandoning her useless veil and tore off down the street as fast as her legs could carry her. She heard the scratching of paws beating against the pavement behind her, growing steadily louder. She knew enough about werewolves to know that running from them was an essentially pointless endeavor. 

 

She turned down a thin alleyway, and hastily threw up another veil, this time making sure to mask not only her sight and sound, but also her scent. The wolf turned down the alleyway after her and paused for a moment, slowing it's pace as it sniffed at the air. Realising that her scent trail had disappeared, it let out a low growl of annoyance. Meredith had ducked down behind a dumpster, and it was all she could do to stop herself from shaking in fear. Calm down, she told herself, You need to think! She thought about what she had read in Vincent's bestiaries. Werewolf was a bit of a catch all term, after all. The thing that was following her was an over sized wolf, but a wolf in every aspect of it's form. Lycanthropes, she remembered, were actually human in form, but only had the strength and senses of a wolf. Loup Garou, on the other hand, were bipedal wolf men that only transformed on the full moon. Neither fitted the creature currently hunting her. That meant this wolf was a shapeshifter. Shapeshifter wolves usually moved in packs, and this one was alone. This seemed quite odd. 

 

Unfortunately her inquiry was answered, as another large, grey wolf came padding down the other side of the alleyway. Meredith cursed inwardly. She was hidden, for now, but she was cut off on both sides. Eventually they would find her, even if she tightened the radius of her veil, eventually they would step in to it and break the spell. It was at a time like this where she wished Vincent had been with her. This was the sort of situation where his loud tactics were actually useful. She had to think about her enemy, and figure out their weaknesses. Shapeshifters were human, after all, and in a sense their abilities were just a very particular branch of wizardry. So they could be bound by the same means, presumably. She thought about forming a barrier around herself. At the very least that would stop them from reaching her, but then again they would probably just wait for her magic to weaken, and take her out when it dropped. But what if she could trap them in a barrier. 

 

She had to perform the next few steps quickly, and with perfect timing, or else she was done for. She got up from her hiding spot and stood facing the first wolf she had encountered. Unlike Vincent, she had no need to draw a circle. She could envision it clearly, using her magic to create an illusion only she could see, and as she raised her hand she saw a faint blue glow form the shape of a circle around the wolf. She released her will, and in doing so her veil dropped. The wolf lunged at her, but slammed against an invisible barrier, it was trapped within her magic circle. One down, but she could already hear the second one bounding towards her. She raised her arms to repeat the process, but as she turned she gasped as the beast was already upon her. She had miscalculated it's speed, and as fear gripped her she fell backwards to the floor and closed her eyes, waiting for her imminent end. But it didn't come. 

 

"You need a hand up, miss?" A strong male voice said to her. She opened her eyes to see the form of a well toned and very naked young man, who had an impish grin on his face. 

"Oh...OH!" She said as she covered her eyes with her hands. The young man laughed at her reaction, and she heard another laugh coming from behind her, from inside the circle she had created. Then there was a third laugh, one that she recognised instantly. 

"Vincent!" She hissed, removing her hands away from her eyes and staring past the naked young man. Behind him stood Vincent, dressed in his stupid, old duster, his messy, black hair now a little past his shoulders and in desperate need of a cut. "What the hell!?" She fumed. 

"You no like way I teach, hmm, Grasshoppa?" Vincent said in a stupid accent, grinning from ear to ear. 

 

"Teach? You mean this was training?" Meredith said as she got to her feet. "I could have been killed."

"Nah." Vincent replied. "Eddie and Jake are old pals of mine. They're a local pack."

"Yeah, We owed Vincent a favour so...sorry, miss." One of the werewolves said. "Can you forgive us?"

"I..." Meredith glanced over the young man again, and then turned herself to face the wall. "Will you put some clothes on already!"

 

 

=

 

 

"Here." Vincent said as he handed Meredith an ice cream cone. She was standing by their car outside an ice cream shop in the city. Meredith snatched the ice cream from him and proceeded to scowl at him as she took a lick. 

"Don't go thinking this let's you off the hook." She said. "I expect...at least 5 more ice cream cones!"

"Hehe...fair enough." Vincent said with a smirk. "Look, I couldn't very well warn you. I needed to make sure you could react to a dangerous situation."

"Why?" Meredith asked. 

"Because..." Vincent looked down the street as he spoke, and he inclined his head so that Meredith would look as well. At the bottom of the street, under a streetlamp, sat a big black dog, it's tongue sticking out as it panted away with a doggy grin. Meredith raised her eyebrow. 

"So? It's just a dog." Meredith said with a shrug. 

"That dog has been everywhere I go for the last two weeks." Vincent explained. "And I mean everywhere, I took a Way to London and the damn thing met me on the other side."

 

"So...is that a bad thing?" Meredith asked. "He looks friendly, maybe he just wants to be pals."

"The dog is a big old softy." Vincent explained. "He's simply called 'The Black Dog' by most. His owner, however, is Acherus Draven, The Dragon."

"...Why do I think that isn't just a nickname?" Meredith said in a worried tone. 

"Because it isn't." Vincent replied simply. "Acherus is one of the last of his kind, and he's also an incredibly powerful wizard. More importantly, however, is that he's holds one of the five seats of the council."

"...You mean that council?" Meredith asked

"The Council of The Wise, yes." Vincent said with a nod. "In a sense, he's my boss, kinda."

"Right, so what's with the dog?" said Meredith. 

 

"The Black Dog is how Acherus tells you he's watching you, and in particularly, that your presence is required at a meeting with the Council." Vincent explained. "You were Fae once, don't you think it's a little cold, I mean Spring started a few weeks ago."

"I guess...but..." Meredith dropped her ice cream on the floor. "You killed Queen Shaylee..."

"Yep." Vincent said with a nod. "And I'm guessing that means nobody was there to contest Winter when the seasons were supposed to change. Which...is pretty bad, all things considered."

"Vincent...are we in trouble?" Meredith asked. 

"Oh yeah...big time." Vincent said with a heavy sigh. 

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Two men were stood outside a bar, the neon sign read, 'O'Reilly's'. It was a bar like many in L.A. A place for those down on their luck to hide. Whether that meant they were hiding from their partner, their debt or their life, it didn't matter. Not to the barman, and not to the patrons. A third man stepped out into the fresh air, took a few lungfuls and promptly vented the contents of his stomach. He was dressed in a dark grey suit, his tie pulled loosely from his crumpled white shirt. He pulled himself up slowly and wiped the corner of his mouth and took another swig from his bottle.

"'Ey man, you okay?" Asked one of the two men, a biker with a large beard, belly and a sleeveless leather jacket.

"I'm fine, yeah." The man muttered in response, taking another swig from the bottle. He sighed and waited for a lull in the traffic before he half-stumbled across the road. The two bikers looked at one another and shrugged, going back to their conversation. The suit's name was Michael. In the grand scheme of things, he'd had a shitty day. He'd gone home early, after being laid off at his shitty job. He came home to a shitty apartment, to find his shitty girlfriend fucking his shitty neighbour. Suffice to say - it was a shitty day. 

 

So that was why he was getting drunk. Tomorrow, he'd find a new apartment, a new job and move on. Fuck 'em, right? But not tonight, tonight he was going to let himself have this. He needed it. He crossed to the other side of the road and fumbled in his pockets for a key to his motel room. He pulled the jingling keyring free from his pocket but it slipped through his fingers and clattered off the ground. Or more accurately, off the side of a grate. He stared at the keys hanging precariously part-way down into the grate, and focused on his breathing. He had to lean down slowly, and pick up the keys. Pick up the keys, Michael. Don't fuck up. He bent down, and put his foot forwards to steady himself. His foot promptly kicked the keys into the storm drain. It took a moment for the realisation to dawn on him, but when it did, he lost it. Michael grabbed the neck of his bottle and threw it with a scream that released all the demons of the day.

 

"'Ey man?!" One of the bikers yelled from across the road.
"I'M FINE!!" He barked back at them angrily, "Fucking... mind your own business..." He muttered, and started down the alley. It was dark, he could barely see. He hadn't yet gotten his night sight. He'd barely made it a few erratic steps when he heard the two bikers again.
"Oh my God man would you look at that!!" One of them whistled. 
"I'm fucking--!!" Michael started, whirling around and almost vomiting as a result. But what he saw made him pause. He saw O'Reilly's neon sign get brighter and brighter until it was uncomfortable to look at directly and then the fuse went with a pop. Sparks crackled and spat out and the two bikers took a step away from the sign, and just then, dozens of the cars parked along the curb lit up. Their alarms triggered in tandem, blaring warning sounds of varying hoots and howls, while their lights flashed and flickered. Then suddenly as one, their lights and horns went dead.

The sign was one thing. But all the cars too? Then Michael noticed the street was going dark, and he looked up just in time to see the last street lamp go dead with a spark and a hiss. "Fuckin' gov'ment... Obama..." He muttered, turning back down the alley. Michael brought his hand up to his face and then realised he'd thrown his bottle and now had nothing to drink. He shook his head and carried on down the alley, passing a large dumpster. He was only a few steps into the alley however, when he noticed something else that was unusual. A strange purple light coming from a side alley. He looked over his shoulder to see the owner of O'Reilly's coming outside to inspect his sign and the bikers talking to him about the cars. Then Michael decided to satisfy his curiosity, and follow the purple light. After all, he had no booze, no job, no girlfriend, and now he couldn't even get into his motel room. There goes the deposit, he thought, bitterly. 

 

As he neared the purple light, Michael felt his ears pop uncomfortably, and he swallowed to try and fix the problem. He turned the corner, and saw something he had never expected to see tonight. A naked woman. She was huddled against a wall, naked as the day she was born. He couldn't gauge her height as she was now, but she was slim with pleasant curves, her skin was tan and unmarked by blemishes, scars or tattoos giving her an almost doll-like quality. She had long black hair past her shoulders and she looked as though she might have been of native american descent. But to Michael's surprise, it wasn't seeing her naked that shocked him most. It was the fact she was glowing. This woman was the source of the bright purple light.

"M-Miss, are you alright?" He asked, frowning. She looked like she was in a trance, her eyes were rolled into the back of her head giving her an unnerving sightless gaze. Despite how strange this all was, she didn't look threatening. He felt sorry for her. Suddenly however bad a day he'd been having it surely couldn't have been as bad as hers? "Miss?" He asked again, taking a few steps forward. 

Cautiously, he reached out. Touching her bare shoulder with the tip of his finger. "Oh..." He muttered. Her skin was hot. Very hot, like she'd just gotten out of the shower, or something. He felt concern for her, but was unsure what to do. As he stood over her, however, darker thoughts entered his mind. He knelt down beside her and waited patiently. She still wasn't moving. "Miss?" He asked again, waving his hand in front of her vacant eyes. Nothing. What was wrong with her? "Miss, are you okay?" He asked, letting his finger and then his whole hand rest on her shoulder. His hand was shaking.
"What's goin' on down there?!" He heard a voice. 
Michael quickly retracted his hand and looked over his shoulder, one of the bikers striking up a cigarette had noticed the purple light.
"It's just me!" Michael replied feebly, "I... I'm fine!" 
"Weirdo." The biker muttered, taking a drag of his cigarette. Then he turned and went back inside the bar. Michael let out a breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding and then looked back at the naked woman. 

Something about her was entrancing. Otherworldly. She could make everything better. He reached forwards and stroked her cheek and stepped around to her front and tried to move one of her arms out of the way. That was when he realised what was giving off the purple light. Half of the woman's face and body was missing. Well, not missing exactly. The shape was there, but there was no features. It just looked like solid purple light. Michael opened his mouth to scream but choked as the woman turned her gaze on him. Her eyes weren't rolled into the back of her head, they were simply not there. He watched in horror as she stood up, bringing him with her and lifting him clear off the ground and then he felt something awful. Something he'd never felt before. He felt so bad that nothing that had happened tonight had come quite close to how he was feeling now. He tried to grasp at the woman, push her away but she was too strong. And then he noticed his hand, it was wrinkled like an old man's. At last, he closed his eyes and Michael was no more. His body turned to ash, and the woman's skin finished knitting over the purple light in the shape of her body. She closed her eyes, and when they opened again, they looked normal. The dark brown eyes of any normal woman. 

Violet looked down at the pile of ash laid before her and let a sigh escape her nose. She brushed the ash from her palm and strolled out of the alley. However, by the time she reached the main road, she was clothed in a pair of black jeans with a white tank top, black leather jacket and a pair of boots. She pulled her long hair out from under her new jacket and looked around. "Close enough." She sighed, then looked back down the alley. She wondered who the man had been, why he was there when he was. She wondered if he had kids, a family. She wondered if he was a good man or not. It didn't matter now, she couldn't take it back. She'd needed the energy, and unfortunately, he had gotten too close. Violet crossed the road and saw a lone biker stood leaning beside a bar door. 
"Hey there, girl. I ain't seen you before." He grinned. He was missing one of his front teeth.
Violet rolled her eyes at him, "Let me borrow your phone." 
The man obediently pulled it out - his phone, that is, "Say please." He teased. 
Violet grabbed the man and slammed his head against the bar wall, knocking him to the floor, then prised the phone from his hand, "Please." She growled irritably, "Humans..." Violet sighed, then flicked the phone open. She called his apartment. No response. "What the hell are you doing, Vincent..." She muttered, pushed the phone into her jean pocket and started walking.

 

 


 

 

Violet knocked on the door three times. She was irritable to say the least. She had gone to Vincent's apartment only to find it with new tenants - tenants that don't answer the phone, no less, who could have saved her the trip. Nevertheless, the landlord gave her Vincent's new address. She knocked again. Violet could tell that someone was inside the room, she could feel their energy. And yet, she didn't recognise them. Was it an intruder? Or did Vincent have a 'friend' over. Impatiently, Violet knocked on the door once more, and waited. Finally, after another minute or so, the door opened, and Violet found herself surprised at who was standing there. Though, she imagined she didn't look as surprised as they did. 

"Oh, Meredith..." Violet raised an eyebrow, looking her over. 

Meredith took a few moments to register who she was looking at, but as she came to recognition her mouth hung open slightly. Eventually she managed to whisper "Vi...Violet?" And no sooner had she said the words she had grabbed Violet in an excited embrace, before quickly recoiling as she got a hold of herself. "Um... s-sorry!"

 

"Oh...!" Violet gasped as Meredith clung to her, but smiled. Once released, Violet stood in silence for a moment, looking at Meredith until at last she spoke, "I'm sorry." She paused, looking as though she might cry, though her eyes showed no signs of tears. "I'm sorry for how I acted, i'm sorry for being gone so long."

"Uh..." Was all Meredith could manage. She was entirely unsure of how to respond to that. After all,  she didn't really feel it was her place to be mad in the first place. She scratched her shoulder nervously, looking down at her feet, before she stepped aside and gestured towards the room with her hand. "You should come in..."

Violet stepped inside and looked around, but with apologies out of the way, she whirled back on Meredith with a mischievous smile and a raised eyebrow, "So..." She began, looking at Meredith, "Vincent doesn't know that you're..." She trailed off, with a grin. 

"Huh?" Meredith said, raising her brow.

"His daughter?" Violet replied, frowning with a smile. 

Meredith froze as she heard the words. For a moment she looked like she might fall over, and her chest began to beat rapidly with panicked breath. She clutched her head, running her fingers tightly through her bubblegum coloured hair, and tears began to form at the edge of her fearful eyes. "You...you... Oh no...no, no, no, no..."

"I like what you did with your hair." Violet replied, ignoring Meredith's meltdown. "Pink is my new favourite colour." She added with a knowing grin, then she let out a quick sigh and looked around the apartment, "Still, this place could do with a bit of a clean. Preferably with fire..."

 

Meredith fell to her knees, her hands pressed on the floor in front of her, and she looked up at Violet like a hopeless beggar. "Please... please, you can't tell him." She sobbed, her eye-liner starting to streak down her face. "You can't..." She whispered, her head falling to the floor, resting on her hands. "You can't..." She whispered again.

"W-Would you stop that?!" Violet shook her head in surprise, "Why would I tell Vincent anything? First off, its none of my business. But more importantly, this is far more entertaining than just telling him." She chuckled to herself and sat down on a sofa.

Meredith lifted her head again, sniffing and rubbing at her eyes. "... I'm sorry it's just... He can't ever know." She said, trying to keep her voice steady. "I'm not just being a scared little girl, I mean... I want him to know. So bad, y'know? I... I'd really like to have a real family. But if he finds out... Then he'll remember what happened, what really happened."

"Oh I like the sound of this." Violet's eyes lit up and she lifted her palm out and from the kitchen floated in a cup of hot tea, followed by a biscuit. Both of the floating objects found their way into Violet's hands and she took a bite of her biscuit, a sip of her tea, and then leant back, letting go of them so they remained floating in front of her. "Tell me all about it then." She beamed at Meredith. 

 

"I..." Meredith started but paused for a moment. "Well what do you know?"
"Just start from the beginning, I like a good story." Violet winked at her.

Meredith got up and sat herself down next to Violet, taking a moment to wipe the tears from her eyes, and took a deep breath before beginning. "Well, I was told that... Almost six years ago now, Vincent was in love with the Winter Queen, Isoleth, my... My mother. Except he knew her as Claire. That's who she was, before she became a true Sidhe, when she was a changeling like me. As far as Vincent knows, Isoleth tricked him in order to conceive a child, and when he tried to stop her, she tricked him in to a bargain, and then killed me to torture him." Meredith fidgeted with her fingers uncomfortably, she'd never told anyone this before. "Obviously, that didn't happen. The truth was I was hidden away in the Wylds, in a place where time moves differently. That's why I'm a lot older than I should be."

"Wonderful! It has magic, and romance and betrayal and a twist!" Violet laughed and clapped her hands together, then reached forwards and plucked her tea cup from out of the air and took a sip, holding it. "So, where's Vincent then?"

 

"Uh... That wasn't..." Meredith started to say, but thought better of it. She wasn't sure that it was a good idea to tell Violet everything, not right now. "Vincent um... He got summoned by the Wise. He said... That he could be in a lot of trouble. I don't know when he'll be back."

"Oh those old farts," Violet scowled, and took another sip of tea. "I'd like to teach them a lesson." Violet's expression turned quite dark as she finished her biscuit and contemplated, "Anyway!" She raised her eyebrows, and returned to a light-hearted tone, "Are you ready?"

"For what?" Meredith asked.

"To go see the 'Wise' of course." Violet scoffed, "Honestly, who calls themselves the 'Wise', puffed-up arrogant little..." She trailed off and then shook off her irritation, "Nevermind!" She added with a smile, and stood up. "I'm not leaving my brother in the care of those doddering old fools."

"Vincent said it would be better if I stayed away." Meredith said. "I have the taint, and he said they won't care that I used to be a changeling. He said most young wizards are sentenced to execution if the Wise discover them. With only a few exceptions."

"Taint? Rubbish. Magic is magic." Violet growled, and grabbed hold of Meredith's hand, "Anyway, Vincent and I will be there to protect you, and you can't spend your whole life in hiding," Violet smiled at Meredith's panicked objections, "And besides, it'll be boring without you."

"But... We don't even know where they are." Meredith replied, looking a little nervous at the prospect.
"Don't we?" Violet's eyes lit up with excitement, "Let's go get your father!"

"Vi!!" 
"Sorry, 'dad'." Violet corrected with a playful grin.

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"You know, I always wanted a dog." Vincent said casually as he sat next to the large black dog, who had was simply staring off in to space with his tongue hanging out, yet again. Once Vincent had approached him willingly, the dog began to lead him to where they were, apparently, supposed to go. It was safe to say that The Wise took secrecy to the next level. He had only been to meet their Council once before, and it had been a pretty unpleasant experience. Aside from that he wasn't even sure if he would be returning to the same place as last time. However the dog had taken him, after a particularly long walk, to Santa Monica Pier, and more specifically, to the large ferris wheel. "I didn't think they'd let a dog on a ferris wheel." He said as he took a cigarette out of his pocket and lit it, staring out through the cage bars of the small car they shared, that was now at the highest point of the wheel. "What'd you do, bribe the guy with some scoobie snacks?" he asked. The dog kept staring out at the ocean. 

 

"You're an awful good listener." He said as he continued smoking. "It's almost like I'm talking to myself, but that's crazy, right? I mean what's not normal about a man taking a stray dog for a ride on a ferris wheel? I do this every Tuesday." Vincent eyed the dog expectantly, but still got nothing. He sighed and took another drag on the cigarette, trying to keep his fingers from quivering. While it was quite a cold night, the shaking was more likely to be because he was absolutely terrified. It seemed odd to him, after all he was just sitting next to a harmless, dopey-looking dog. But he knew the people this dog served, and he hated them even more for making him wait like this. Granted, he'd been dodging this particular trip for a fortnight, but he was a undependable but lovable rogue, and these guys were supposed to be, essentially, the wizard government. "Perhaps that explains it." He said to the dog. "You ever had to go down to tax offices? Those queues are horrendous."

 

"Has anyone ever told you that your attempts at humor are quite childish, Vincent?" The dog said, much to Vincent's surprise. It's voice was deep, calm and quite eloquently spoken. There was a hint of a British accent but it was difficult to discern where from. Vincent froze for a moment as he heard it, for he knew that voice very well. 

"Acherus..." Vincent said, his nostrils flaring. "That's a neat trick. Most people just settle for teaching their dogs to fetch, you know."

"Do you really think it wise to test my patience?" The dog turned to Vincent, and it's eyes had become a pair of amber orbs, with sharp reptilian slits. They considered him like a hungry wolf would consider a baby rabbit. Suddenly the black dog did not seem quite so harmless, as he bared his teeth, pawing towards Vincent, forcing him to press up against the steel cage behind him. "I thought perhaps you had become a man, but alas, I still see a boy stood before me." Acherus' voice sneered. "So be it, little boy, it is time that you face up to your misdeeds." And with that, the cage was suddenly engulfed in golden embers and black soot. 

 

Suddenly Vincent felt like he was falling, tumbling through darkness, hurtling towards a ground that could have been miles below him. He had experienced this horrible sensation before. This was Acherus' magic, the great power of dragon's fire, sending him hurtling through the nether, his destination unknown. He fell for what seemed like hours, until finally, he found himself stood on his feet, and everything had become suddenly and incredibly still. The ground beneath him was flat, and smooth like marble. The room was dark, but he could see a few shapes in the darkness. He was not alone. He remembered that he was holding his cane, and in an instant he had channeled his will through it, creating an eerie, blue glow of wizard's light. He stepped forward, holding his cane in front of him to light the way. But he had only gotten 5 steps before the entire room was illuminated, as torches ignited themselves with golden fire. 

 

He was standing in what was, at some point, probably an ancient cavern beneath the surface of the earth. However the great cavern had been reconstructed, with supporting pillars, and a smooth floor, and a short series of steps that lead up to 5 throne-like chairs. All of it, in it's entirety, made of pure obsidian. Sitting in each of the thrones were faces he instantly recognized. The far most left chair was sat upon by a decidedly short and frail looking man, his wrinkled, leathery skin was covered in liver spots and deep, blue veins. His fingernails were long and black with decay. The man had barely a hair left on his head, but did sport a long and thin mustache. Vincent knew this man as Lao, one of the greatest alchemists to currently live. If the legends were true, Lao had managed to prolong his life by several hundred years. 

 

One to the right from him was a little boy, no older than 12, with shock white hair and pale skin. He was playing a handheld video game console, and otherwise seemed oblivious to what was going on around him. Vincent didn't recognize this one, clearly a new addition to the council. However, he bore an uncanny resemblance to the man who had once held his place, right down to the white hair. In the central chair was a very plain looking man, dressed in a sharp, if slightly dated, suit. His silvery hair was swept back, and he had a thin beard, and pale blue eyes. Deacon Swan, he was the only American on the Council, and he was the sort of man who was firm, but fair, if a little strict. 

 

To his right was a an Indian woman, dressed in a beautiful red and gold dress, her long hair was a very dark brown, her skin the colour of caramel. Her name was Prama, and despite her beauty, she was the type who did not suffer fools lightly. Unfortunately, she considered Vincent to be something like the Prince of Fools. She eyed him with little to hide her contempt, but said nothing. And on the far right next to her was a tan skinned man, who looked like he was possibly of Italian descent, with lightly tanned skin and black hair with a distinct widows peaked, dressed entirely in black. However he was certainly no Italian, not even human. Acherus Draven's amber, reptilian eyes gazed at him with that same predatory shine. His nostrils flared and smoke plumed from them, a trick only a dragon could pull off without a cigarette. 

 

"So, you have decided to grace us with your presence, Mr Hallow." Deacon said, clasping his hands together in front of him. "Do you think we have nothing better to do than wait around for you?"

"More like I was just shit scared, truth be told. Still am, actually." Vincent said, struggling to channel his usual childish mannerisms. 

"Perhaps the boy holds a modicum of wisdow after all." Lao commented, looking highly amused. 

"Perhaps." Deacon agreed with a soft nod. "Let's not waste any more time though, Vincent, do you know why you have been summoned."

"Well." Vincent began, "I have a pretty good idea at least. Is it because I murderer Queen Shaylee, Sidhe of Spring?"

 

"Indeed." Deacon said. "Perhaps you are not aware of the ramifications of such an act. Suring the equinox this year, there was no Queen to contest the Winter. Queen Isoleth's rule has continued past it's due, and if something is not done about it quickly, then it could spell catastrophe all over the world. If Winter's power cotninues to grow, then even Summer will be unable to contest it."

"I understand." Vincent said. "Eternal Winter, doesn't sound very nice. So I suppose we better stop it."

"And how would you propose to do that?" Prama asked, her tone entirely unimpressed. 

"Take the fight to Winter. Summer has every interest to help us on this occasion. With a few badass wizards on her side, she could put a stop to Isoleth's reign." Vincent replied. 

"Even if such an attempt were successful, what then?" Prama asked. "Do we just rinse and repeat year after year? This will only happen again as long as there is no Queen to rule Spring."

 

"So then Spring need a new Queen...how do we do that?" Vincent asked. 

"We dont know." Deacon said irritably. 

"Um..." The young man with white hair raised his hand, like a child with a question in school. 

"Yes, Jeremy?" Deacon said. 

"Well...the simplest solution would be to kill all the Queens." He said, as if this was the simplest thing to do in the world. "Just have the Hallowed one kill them all. Things should fall in to the natural order of things that way."

 

"Uh...first of all, fuck that." Vincent said, shaking his head. "I'm not even sure how I killed Shaylee. It was an accident, and if I'd know how to control it I'd never have done it. You think I want this mess?"

"Ah, so the Hallowed does not even know..." Jeremy said. "Perhaps that is for the best."

"So...you all know about this...power, that I have?" Vincent asked

"Of course." Deacon said. "We have always known."

"And...none of you thought it would be a good idea to let me know?" 

 

"Vincent, you are quite fortunate we have not decided to execute you on the spot." Deacon said. "A power like that, the power to kill immortal beings, it is far too dangerous."

"So...this might be the most stupid thing I've ever said, but, why haven't you killed me?" Vincent asked. 

"Hahaha..." Acherus' laughter seemed to echo through the room, he had been quiet this whole time but had been watching with open amusement. "You really are quite a dull creature, Vincent. My colleagues may be one for holding a pretense of decency, but let me be clear. You are a dangerous weapon, one which we would like to keep on our side, so we may point you wherever we desire."

"But...Deacon just said my power is too dangerous." Vincent said

"Oh it really is." Acherus agreed. "I suppose it is rather the same as why mortals keep nuclear weapons. We all know nothing good can come of it, however, better to have something and not need it, hm?"

 

Vincent's fists clenched at his side, and he glared at Acherus. "I'm not your fucking weapon, let me be perfectly clear about that." He snarled. 

"That's quite enough of that." Deacon said, his tone that of finality. "Vincent, your abilities are not something I wish to address today. Nor are you to concern yourself with the mess you have brought upon us. We are hear to hold trial."

"Trial?" Vincent parroted. "I haven't broken any laws."

"You killed with magic!" Prama snapped. 

"Not anything with a soul, though." Vincent said. "Check your rulebook, I think you'll find I've managed to skirt that one quite successfully."

 

"He is also training a young wizard who is tainted." Jeremy said flatly without looking away from his video game. "It's his duty to report such things, and yet he has not come forward."

"Ah, yes." Deacon said with a nod. "I notice you chose not to bring the young girl. Why would you do that, unless you suspect her guilt?"

"All I suspect is you wouldn't even hear her out." Vincent bit back. "Nobody ever get's away with it, you know that."

"You did." Prama said simply. "Saved by one vote, which I feel was a grave error."

"That was different. I did that to survive and escape captors. I came to you straight away. I knew what I had done, and I came to you for help." Vincent said. "And all I got for it was persecution, and to yet again fear for my life. It was Alphonse who helped me through that time in my life, and I'm helping Meredith in the same way."

"She is still required to stand trial." Prama said. "You cannot ignore our rules."

"She used her magic on a Sidhe who was trying to kill us!" Vincent snapped. "She has never harmed a mortal."

 

"A technicality." Prama said, shaking her head. "She is tainted, it will only be a matter of time before she breaks the laws. And then she will stand trial, rest assured."

"Well until that happens you better pull another one out of your ass if you want to keep me here." Vincent snapped. 

"Point." Jeremy said, raising his finger. "The death of Queen Shaylee will no doubt result in the death of countless mortals. You are the catalyst of this problem, one could even say you have committed in act of war. We would be well within out right to imprison you at the very least."

"Well then what are you waiting for!?" Vincent yelled, holding his hands up at his side. "Go ahead, lock me up, kill me. I don't give a shit any more. What you should be doing is finding a solution! I am standing here, willing to help, and all you want to do is knock me down. Fine, do what you want. What I say doesn't matter."

 

There was an uncomfortable silence for minutes afterwards. It was Deacon who finally spoke. "Shall we put it to vote, then?" He said. "All in favour of the incarceration of Vincent Gideon Hallow, for his negligent actions, please raise your hand." Prama raised hers immediately. Soon afterward Lao raised his. Jeremy thought for a moment, and then went back to his video game. 

"I still think we should just kill all the Queens. It's the most logical choice." He said. 

"It is not an option." Deacon said firmly. He turned his head to Acherus, who was staring down at the darkness at the other end of the hall. "Acherus, what say you?"

"I say that we must postpone this." Acherus said, and he scowled in to the darkness. "Something comes."

"What do you mean?" Prama asked. 

"An intruder." Acherus said. "They are coming. I am keen to see what creature dares breach my domain uninvited..."

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There was a crackling in the air. Everyone could feel it. An electricity that made the hairs on the back of their arms and necks stand on end. Seconds later there was a loud rushing noise like air escaping a vacuum and then suddenly, two bodies stood in the centre of the chamber. Violet looked around and tutted to herself, "Well this is underwhelming..." She muttered, looking at the bare floor, walls and cavern ceiling. She examined it for a moment longer and then turned around and saw Vincent, and sat beyond him a bevy of magical beings. "Oh... hello." She added, with a lop-sided grin, "Am I late?" She asked, raising an eyebrow.

"You are unwelcome." Acherus said confidently, locked on Violet as if she were a particularly upstart mouse, and he the cat.
"Violet!" Vincent spoke in genuine surprise, but his expression was cross. "What are you doing here!?"
"Hello, Vincent!" Violet waved at her brother using her fingers. She squinted at the young boy on the council with a wry smile, "It's past your bedtime, isn't it? And you--" She pointed at Lao, "Don't look a day over 600." She added, blowing a kiss to the old man.
 
"What is going on!?" Deacon demanded
"Nagloshi... Should I kill it?" Jeremy asked, in his usual apathetic tone. 
"I'm afraid there is a line, young one." Acherus said. "But first I have questions. Why are you here, Nagloshi?"
"Because I felt like it, Scales." Violet pointed at Jeremy while addressing Acherus, "Charming, isn't he? I haven't so much as harmed a fly and all I get are death threats, accusations and frowny faces all 'round." Violet paused, looking them over, "Look, I know somewhere at the back of my mind, it's screaming that I should be terrified, but I just can't. You're a bunch of old farts, in your basement, with a 12-year old child, playing magic. I don't know whether to play Dungeons and Dragons with you, or call Chris Hansen and tell him the Super Adventure Club is hiding under Mount Doom." She paused again, looking at their faces, "Did you get all those references? I can draw a diagram?"
 

"Violet!" Vincent snapped. "What the hell are you doing here and..." He trailed off for a moment as he noticed the signature bubblegum hair of his apprentice. "...Meredith...Violet why did you bring her here?"

"Ah, so we meet the sister at last." Prama said with a smile, and her smile was never a good thing as far as Vincent was concerned. "And the tainted one. My, my, Vincent, you do seem to be in a spot of bother."

"I didn't bring her here." Violet replied, "Well, technically I did. But you see, Meredith wanted to talk to the Wise and assure them that she's no danger, she's all clean and above board, she wasn't planning on hiding from them. Y'know, even though Vincent wanted her to hide." She held her hand up to her mouth as though to hide her lips from Vincent, but then said aloud, "Watch that one." She grinned.

"Who do you think you are!?" Vincent snarled. "Clearly you've spent a bit too much time with your mother, I'm already seeing your bitch meter has went up a few notches." 
"I think this interruption has went on long enough." Deacon said calmly
"You abandoned us!" Vincent roared, ignoring the council member. "How dare you come strolling back in to my life, talking like you know best!"
 
"Don't be such a drama queen, Vincent. I didn't abandon you. I was taken. For good reason, as I understand it. I was trying to kill you. I'm glad my mother saved me from hurting my family, if I had then I would never have been able to forgive myself." She sniffed.
Deacon didn't say another word, but his patience had clearly grown thin. With a flick of his wrist he sent out his will, and when Vincent went to retort to Violet he found that no sound came out. He touched his throat, then turned back to Deacon, scowling, but otherwise silent. "There." Deacon said. "Much better."
"Well done, Deacon, this nonsense has gone on long enough." Prama said with another satisfied smile. "Now then miss... Violet? Clearly you do not quite understand the situation, and so let me explain it to you. You are Nagloshi, and your kind have a reputation among ours. I strongly recommend you take measures to contain yourself, or we will be forced to take more.... drastic measures."
 

"Spooky scary." Violet raised an eyebrow at the woman, "Look, you ask me to contain myself - do you see me raising so much as a finger towards any of you? So really, who has a reputation? And honestly, judging a person by their race? Someone should pull you kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, dear." Violet clapped her hands together with relish, "So!" She added, with a smile, "Who do I see about taking my brother home now, hm?!"

"You are somewhat lacking the authority to do so, dear." Prama said. "This is not a democracy. We enforce, and those in our purview, such as your brother, obey, or suffer the consequences. Whatever you once were, you are now, as far as I can see, an immortal creature of The Void. As such, this is none of your concern, and you are not welcome here."
"That being said, Prama, I would like to know how she managed it." Acherus said. "Make no mistake, what you have done has impressed me. However, you have also dented my pride. Pride is as valuable as gold to my kin, and so I find myself very much desiring to reclaim it."
"And that would matter, in your own private time, Acherus." Deacon interrupted. "This is official Council business, and as such you will respect the Accords."
"Do not lecture me on the Accords, Deacon." Acherus snarled. "I bloody well wrote them. This Darkling is uninvited, and so she is offered no Guest Rights."
 
"Children, children!" Violet chimed in, "Can't we all be civil to one another? Me, most of all?" She smiled pleasantly at each of them, "I don't dislike any of you, you've not wronged me, i've not wronged you. Prama, you're right, a democracy is something chosen by the people, for the people. You're all dictators, or 'dicks' for short. But you can still help people, right? Now..." She looked at Jeremy, "You're incredibly powerful for your age, so well done, you. I've got a box of Jaffa cakes at home that i'll send your way just as soon as i'm back, as I can't imagine you get groceries. Deacon, you'e alright. Lao, you're beautiful, don't change a thing. Acherus, we'll go out drinking some time, if you can drink me under the table, you'll get your pride back. If you can all just un-bunch your panties and see that Vincent, Meredith and myself are all here because we chose to be. You didn't force any one of us here, and we're still here because we want to be. Aren't we all on the same side?" Violet smiled warmly, "More or less." She added, muttering.
 
"I'm not sure if she is exceptionally clever, or a complete idiot." Jeremy said, finally switching off his video game. "She says a lot of words, but doesn't drive much of a point. Typical of immortals, I find." Jeremy stood up from his chair and stepped forward, turning to address his fellow Council members. "I extend my invitation to Violet and Meredith. They now have Guest Rights as long as they are here, and as their host I am duty bound to protect them should any harm come to them, even with my life if it comes to that. There. Does that make things easier?"
"Why would you do that?" Prama asked, clearly annoyed by her colleagues actions. 
"Because it is the course of action that allows us to proceed to the conclusion more quickly, and is also the path with the least violence, senseless violence, I might add. I did offer to kill them, of course, but none of you seemed harmonious with that idea."
"I wouldn't bother even asking, Prama." Acherus said. "You know how his mind works, or rather, you don't. You never will. None of us will."
"Right, well, should we get back to the matter at hand?" Prama said. "I believe we were voting on whether Vincent should be imprisoned for his actions. Shall we continue the vote. As you will recall, I voted for Vincent to be imprisoned, and my opinion still stands."
Violet raised her hand, "I vote for Vincent to be given freedom. Don't look at me like that, Prama. I'm a guest, and it's important to consider the opinion of your guest as much as it is for a guest to be polite. Don't forget that." Violet smiled, but her eyes held something else.
 
"I am inclined to agree with Prama on this." Deacon said, ignoring Violet. "I vote for Vincent to be incarcerated."
"I vote we use him." Acherus said. "When you have lived as long as I you can smell a war coming a mile away. The Romans knew the importance of a good fight. Their council meetings were a bit more interesting as well, though not quite as much sex as the television shows would have you believe. Vincent is, and I must stress this, a complete and utter waste of existence, however, he has power. Not power that he's earned in any way, but it's there. We would be fools not to use it."
Vincent folded his arms and had an expression of purest rage and frustration across his face. If he had full use of his vocal chords right now he would have had a few choice words for Acherus at that moment. Jeremy took a few moments, and seemed to make a point of showing he was thinking quite hard on this. "If you don't mind, Deacon, I would like to ask one question of each of our guests. Vincent as well. How they answer will allow me to decide. Would you oblige?"
"...Fine." Deacon said, and with another flick of his wrist, Vincent's voice had been restored. Jeremy walked down the steps between them, until he was only a few yards from Vincent, which only emphasized how short the small boy was. 
"Vincent. Please answer this next question honestly." Jeremy said. "...Do you know?" 
Vincent paused for a moment. Did he know what? He had a feeling Jeremy had phrased it that way in an attempt to catch him out. Although, if there was anything to know, then by the very phrasing it would mean that it was important that Vincent did know. He gave a heavy sigh and nodded his head in the affirmative. 
"Yeah..." He said quietly. "...I've known for a while. My... memories have been altered. I don't know who by, or for what reason, but... I know it's there. There are cracks beginning to show, little things."
"I see." Jeremy said, showing no indication whether this was the answer he was looking for or not. He then turned and walked quietly towards Meredith. 
"Once again, I ask that you answer honestly." He said. "Meredith, you were a changeling, it still lingers on you. What was your lineage?"
"Winter." Meredith answered, looking nervous as she did. 
"A follow up question." Jeremy said. "Do you know of the Tranquil Vale?"
"I..." Meredith said, and her eyes were filled with shock at the question. "I do." She said finally with a nod. Jeremy turned and looked back at Vincent, and then to Meredith again, and then he gave her a little nod. 
 
Finally Jeremy came to Violet, and he took a long moment to examine her. He seemed to toil over something for a moment, an internal struggle. Then he looked her in the eyes. "You are... quite the terrifying entity. It is... difficult. Your paths are not clear, and are filled with pain. To find the right path... I'm not even sure if there is one for you. Will you answer me with honesty?"

"What reason do I have to lie, when telling the truth is far more fun?" Violet replied, quite honestly.

Jeremy nodded and paused for a moment. "Truthfully, has the process started? Do you think you are losing the qualities that make you who you are?"

"Process?" Violet shrugged, "I am who I was supposed to be. I was less of who I was, when I was human. It's not easy for people to hear that," Violet looked at Vincent and then back to Jeremy, "But its how it is. I know what I am, who I am, and I embrace it. I'm not perfect, as my mother would no doubt point out... But... I'm not like her, either." Violet paused in thought for a long while, "When you see a flower that has yet to bloom, is it a weed? A tree? It's still a flower, it just hasn't shown its petals." Then she paused again and smiled, "I like you." She added, putting one hand on her hip and staring down at Jeremy, "Less so, when you suggest killing me." She growled.

 

"There are paths where I also like you." Jeremy said. "And there are paths where I do not. Like I said it... is difficult." Jeremy turned away from her and walked back up the steps and sat himself back down on his chair. "I vote that Vincent be released." He said. "The paths ahead may lead to wonderful, or terrible things. However, the path where Vincent is imprisoned, is one that leads only to terrible things."
"So it is tied." Deacon said with a nod. "Lao, what is your decision?" He turned to his colleague, and Lao took a moment, clasping his wrinkled old hands together. Minutes passed in silence. Vincent supposed there wasn't much need for rush when you had already passed your shelf life date several lifetimes ago. Finally Lao cleared his throat. 
"Let us see what he can do." Lao said. "Release the boy."
"This guy!" Violet pointed at Lao with a cheeky grin, "I love this guy! Lao?! We're going out on the town one night soon, alright?" She gave him a knowing wink and then walked over to Vincent and put her hand on his shoulder, "Ready to go then? I'm really quite bored."
 
"We're not done yet." Vincent said, and shrugged her hand from his shoulder. "Just shut up a while longer."
"Excellent." Acherus said with a toothy grin. "I am glad you have been allowed to walk, boy. Rest assured I will be putting you to work. No more running around chasing monsters for desperate mortals with too much cash."
"Hooray." Vincent said with the least amount of enthusiasm.
"I have decided to run a little recruitment campaign. The Wise will need support, but we cannot openly look for it in places considered... unsavoury. Fortunately we have a somewhat disliked member, that would be you by the way, who has a bit of a rapport with Countess Lucia."
"I'd like to know what your definition of rapport is..." Vincent grumbled.
"The Midnight Court have almost as much influence as The Wise. If we combine our connections then we might just have enough manpower to fix this mess. If you can gain her support, then perhaps you might see a little gratitude from us."
"There'll be a price." Vincent said. "And it won't be cheap."
"I'm sure it will not." Acherus replied. "And I am sure it will not be our debt to pay. I will let you deal with your own problems in that regard, Vincent."
"Peaches." Vincent said. "Anything else?"
"Yes, just one more thing." Acherus said with a wolfish grin. "Summer are looking for you, so have fun with that." And before Vincent could ask anything else, Acherus let out a deep breath, and the room was filled with soot and embers, and he was falling, once more, in the darkness. And then, when the darkness cleared, he was sat atop a ferris wheel once more, with Meredith and Violet sitting across from him.
"He wouldn't lose anything by flossing every now and then." Violet shuddered and then stretched, "Well..." She looked from Meredith to Vincent with a wide grin, "Hello again! Hows things? I mean, hows things besides being roped into coercing a clan of bloodthirsty vampires to join a group of socially maladjusted self-installed wizard overlords to stop a seasonal apocalypse."

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A few minutes later the group strolled out of the fairground on Santa Monica Pier with Vincent leading the way. He took his phone from his pocket and scrolled through the contacts list until he found a phone number under the name "Vampirella" and hit the dial icon. The phone rang three times, before there was a long pause of silence, before a voice purred "Vincent, you do have excellent timing, child. I am in need of your assistance."

"That's my line, Lucia." Vincent said. "We need to talk. Now."

"Still haven't managed to muster any patience, have you?" Lucia replied, sounding quite amused. "No matter, it so happens that I need to put you to work quite urgently. I'll be more than happy to quadruple your usual fee, of course."

"Look, you can keep your money. I don't have time to run an errand for you, there are more pressing matters." Vincent said.

"Yes, I was expecting a call from you." Lucia replied. "Your kind are not the only ones who are aware of the current...climate. While our kind don't fear the cold very much, it would be unfortunate if our primary food source was to plummet in stock. How about this? Do this task for me and my brood will be at your disposal for as long as it takes to get your affairs in order. See? Am I not reasonable?"

 

"Yeah, right, sure you are." Vincent said, rolling his eyes. "Look, let's talk this out in person."

"Oh, I would really love to but..." Lucia drew in her breath dramatically, she seemed to be enjoying making this dramatic. "I'm in my estate in Italy. Deep within my Court's territory. I'm afraid that is why I need your assistance. Sort of a little spat going on inside the Midnight Court, a dispute over territory. It turns out my colleague didn't much like it when I decided to...mmm...well, de-throne him."

"So you planned a coup and it backfired...great." Vincent said, shaking his head. 

"Oh it hasn't backfired, just a little hiccup." Lucia assured. "As is the way with feuds, I have chosen to seclude myself where I cannot be reached by those who are not loyal to me. Rest assured, I have my best operative on the job. I want you to meet her, and she'll discuss your objective."

 

"Which is?" Vincent asked. 

"To assasinate Count Silas Lassiter." She said simply. Vincent pinched the bridge of his nose, his nostrils flaring as he did. Silas Lassiter, Count of the Midnight Court, was the current head honcho in charge of all the Sanguinarian Vampires in the Southern states of the USA. Lucia was his counterpart, controlling the Northern states. If she wanted to take him out, then it would mean her taking control of all of the vamps in the USA, minus Alaska which, apparently, the Midnight Court had decided was basically Canadian. 

"Yeah, sure, no problem." Vincent said sarcastically. "So how does that work? Do I get to meet Bill Compton?"

"Ah, jokes. There's the Vincent I know and love." Lucia said. "2127 Prytania, New Orleans. Tomorrow night, you will be expected and Guest Rights have been extended for yourself an no other."

"So I can't bring a date?" Vincent asked with a smirk. 

 

"Oh, finally ready to let little Merry come on a mission with you?" Lucia asked, before quickly adding, "and don't act so surprised, you know I have my eyes on you, child. I will extend the rights to her as well."

"And...what about Violet?" Vincent asked. 

"Oh...so you've heard from her...wait..." Lucia gave a little chuckle. "She's there, isn't she?"

"Are you literally watching me right now?" Vincent asked. 

"Oh no, us girls simply have our ways." Lucia said. "I'm afraid the Accords only apply to those races who have signed the treaty. Violet is a darkling, she consorts with my kind at her own risk."

"...Great." Vincent said with a sigh. "Fine, I'll speak to you later."

"Goodbye, child...and safe travels." Lucia said, and then there was a click as she hung up. 

 

Vincent turned around to face Meredith and Violet, and gave the back of his head an awkward scratch. "Well...of course, this day just had to get worse." He said with a frown. 

"I can do a lot these days, Vincent. Mind reading is not among them." Violet raised an eyebrow at her brother and grinned impishly, "So...?"  She asked.

"So...in order to get support from the Midnight Court we need to assasinate the Count in control of the entire South region of the USA. Oh, and you might want to pack. We're going to Louisiana." Vincent said. 

"W-wait, what!?" Meredith gasped. "What do you mean assassinate? We can't...can we?" 

"I guess we're going to find out." Vincent said. "I'd rather go alone, but with something like this I have a feeling I'm going to need your veils, Meredith." Vincent glanced at his sister. "And I get the impression you wouldn't stay even if I wanted you to."

 

"I've never listened to you before. It would be out of character for me to start now." Violet replied.

"Figures." Vincent said with a nod. "Well Lucia has provided Meredith and I Guest Rights, which means we'll be safe from harm with her brood, but no such luxury for you I'm afraid. Nagloshi didn't sign the treaty, so your safety isn't guaranteed."

"When is it ever." Violet muttered, "Speaking of which, we have uninvited guests."

Vincent slowly glanced around the streets, but he didn't see anything. Then he did so again, this time using his Sight. The city was a grim, almost eldritch nightmare when looked upon with the Sight, but this wasn't unusual. And still, he so no creatures hiding behind veils. "Are you sure?" He asked. "I don't see anything."

"I feel..." Meredith said, closing her eyes in concentrating. "Malice...pure malice. It's faint but...it's getting closer."

"Two out of three..." Vincent said, raising his brow. "I can't fight what I can't see. Meredith, veil us."

 

There was a trickling sensation that washed over him as Meredith's will formed a veil, obscuring them from view. "You made sure to mask our scent as well this time?"

"Mhm." Meredith said with a nod. "I...I think we should get moving, though."

"If we wait around then we might catch a glimpse of our stalker." Vincent said. 

"No...it's like...it's like they're pleased." Meredith said. "We need to run."

"Rubbish." Violet scoffed and stormed out into the middle of the quiet street. "I am not in the mood!" She growled, her feet lifted from the road and she raised her hands, purple light forming around them. "There!" She yelled, and thrust one arm out sending a blast of magical energy. The beam struck something and it howled mercilessly but even as a smile touched Violet's lips she suddenly found herself falling, a heavy weight on her chest. Why hadn't she sensed it? How could they possibly hide from her? Fire engulfed the invisible creature atop her and she quickly scrambled up and sprinted back to Vincent, "Changed my mind, run!"  She yelled, silently thanking Vincent for his quick reflexes as she passed him at speed.

 

Vincent and Meredith went off after her at a sprint. Whatever was chasing them, he had no way of seeing them. He considered opening a Way to escape them, but he had no way of knowing if they had snuck in with them. It was too risky. They turned and made their way up a narrow street heading back in to the City itself. He turned to check Meredith was still following her, but as he turned he felt his steps slow, and instantly realised his mistake. He raised his arm up to his face, his shield charm creating a cool sensation on his arm as it activated. There was a crackle of magical energy, creating ripples along the invisible barrier, and as it flashed he caught a brief glimpse of a tortoiseshell fur, and a pair of deep, yellow cat-like eyes, and a maddening, toothed grin. The creature bounced off of his barrier and instantly disappeared again, as if it had been nothing but an illusion. He wasted no time in grabbing Meredith by her arm and taking off again at a run. 

 

"Siths!" He snarled. He knew exactly what was chasing them now, but it didn't make him feel any better about facing them. Cait Sith were the personal assassins of the Sidhe. They were ruthless feline hunters, powerful and deadly. They wielded only one kind of magic that he knew of, a strange and unique method of disappearing from reality, far more effective and useful than any veil. He'd never heard of one being killed, let alone how anyone would even go about doing it. They were a fae creature shrouded in mystery, their only claim to fame being the inspiration behind the creature in Lewis Caroll's tale, known as the Cheshire Cat. Unfortunately, they were not impish, mad little creatures. They were the quickest and most effective killers in The Fae. "Violet! We can't out run them! They are way too fast!"

 

"What did you do?!" Violet yelled, as she ran.

"Killed a Faerie Queen, if you'll recall!" Vincent yelled back. "Although you were kind of blind at the time so I'll forgive you!"

"Oh my... No!" She yelled back at him in frustration, "I saw it, didn't you? What magic did you use that made it appear?!"

"Magic? What-Oh!" Vincent called. "I get you now! Here's a hint!" Vincent stopped at the top of the street and turned, holding his shield charm in front of him for protection, and his cane aloft. He channeled his will along his arm and up his cane, imagining the sensation of fast, crackling energy. "Fulgur!" He yelled, and suddenly the sky lit up at white bolts of lightning crackled through the air, lancing chaotically from the tip of his cane. With each spark, came images of creatures moving in the darkness, and with each flash they drew closer and closer. Vincent saw four, perhaps five. 

 

"Electricity?!" Violet grinned, "Now that I can do! Let's play a game Vincent!" Violet lifted into the air and grabbed hold of one of the cables overhead, "It's called target practice!" Then she reached out and grabbed the next cable over, creating a circuit. Electricity passed through her body, frying her human 'layer'. Burnt away, only her dark purple form remained and she began to glow brighter and brighter. "I think..." Violet winced, "That's enough!" She yelled out and channeled the stored electricity outwards. Bolts spat and crackled as they skipped across the road, catching on anything and everything they could, held at bay only by Violet's magic. But revealing them meant she couldn't attack, "Any time now, fleshies!" Violet yelled with what little mirth she had left.

 

"Do you remember when you were the subtle one?" Vincent called back with a smirk. "Let's go with an old favourite. Ignis!" Vincent roared and flame shot out of the end of his cane like a bullet from a gun, and crashed in to a nearby Cait Sith, sending him hurtling back down the street. Two more came bounding towards them and he shot another flame at one, but the other was too close, and leapt for his throat. He held out his wrist with the shield bracelet once more, and focused his will. In the last year he had spent a great deal of time training Meredith in the fundamentals of magic. In doing so, he had found that teaching the very skills he had acquired, allowed him to evaluate them in an entirely new way. In the last year he hadn't become much stronger, but he had learned a few new tricks. There was a crackle as his shield began to force his shield to change shape. The dome began to collapse in on itself, and extend forward in to a sharp lance, which the poor Cait Sith managed to impale itself on, letting out a horrible, high-pitched mewling noise. 

 

The fourth Cait Sith descended from above them, and it was Meredith who had noticed. She raised her arms in the air, and sent up a dazzling display of light and sound, that reached the Cait Sith and suddenly exploded like fireworks, the bright flashing and loud noise disorientating it as it fell to the floor, jumping and flitting about like a mad kitten. Vincent raised his cane again and sent another bolt of flame, and the Cait Sith ran around, screeching as it's fur burnt away, until it finally collapsed on the floor. "Well then..." Vincent said with a sigh. "I guess that's the las-"

A black furred cat three times the size as any normal one materialised from the air in front of him, diving hard at his chest and knocking him back on the floor. The creature leapt on to his chest and calmly placed it's claws at his throat in an openly threatening gesture. "You fight well, Wizzzard!" It mewled, it's vocal chords clearly not built for human speech. "You have murrrrdered my kin! Fortunately for you, I am not the kind to hold grrrrudges!"

 

"Vincent!" Meredith cried, but as she went to move the Cait Sith's claws dug sharply in to Vincent's neck. "Your kin would do well to be still." The Cait Sith mewled. "If you comply then I may not end your life this day."

"Pussy!" Violet barked at the top of her lungs - in a manner of speaking. "Do you know what happens to a cat when it's struck by a bolt of lightning?!"

"Your previous attempts didn't work too well, did they, Hunter?" The Cait Sith replied confidently. "I am not kit, not like the others. I am Eldest, and my lap is that of Aurrrora herself. You would do well to heed that inforrrmation."

"Th-that..would be the Queen of Summer...just FYI." Vincent coughed under the cat's paw. 

 

"Fine." Violet scowled, and let go of the cables, "But I don't make deals with pets." At her last word, Violet held out her arms and without need for the words, Eldest was suddenly airborne. It didn't matter if she couldn't hurt the creature, as long as she could hold it there long enough for Vincent to get out from underneath it. "Take your time, Vincent. No rush." She bit sarcastically. Vincent shuffled out from under Eldest and stood up, picking up his cane and pointing it at the creature. 

"I bet fire works just fine." He said with a smirk. 

"If it reaches me..." Eldest said, and then with a flicker he disappeared, and then reappeared on the ground, licking his front paw with the utmost disinterest. "I grow tired of playing." Eldest continued. "My Queen wishes to test you, Wizzzard. You have passed the first."

"I don't have time to play Aurora's stupid games. I'm trying to fix this whole mess." Vincent replied. 

"A mess you created." Eldest said flatly. "My Queen cares not for the needs of a morrrtal. She deems you ill prepared for what is to come."

 

"And what is to come?" Vincent asked. "I'm busting my ass to wrangle an army to take on Winter, I'd expect Aurora to help me, not make things more difficult."

"The trial ahead is difficult." Eldest said. "My Queen thinks you may be strrrong enough to do what is rrrequired. Yet she must be surrre."

"I can see why someone would have to take copious amounts of opium to make any bit of sense of the utter nonsense cascading from that orifice, let alone transcribe it into a book." Eldest gave Violet a cursory glance, and flicked his tail indifferently at her. 

 

"So what do you want, Eldest?" Vincent said. "If the test is over then why don't you just get lost?"

"My Queen offers her assistance." Eldest said. "It loathes me to say...but I am yourrrs to command, until the deed is done."

"You're kidding, right?" Vincent asked

"Fae cannot lie, or have you forrrgotten?" Eldest said. "Consider me your ally, until a new Queen has been crowned."

"And how do I do that?" Vincent asked

"A Corrronation cannot be forced, Wizzzard." Eldest explained. "It will happen when it happens."

 

"So you expect me to walk around with a giant cat at my heels?" Vincent asked. 

"Not quite..." Eldest said with a grin, and as he said it only his grin and his feline eyes became visibe, apparently floating in the air. "I will prowl the shadows. You may only speak my name, and I shall come forth. Until then, Wizzzard." And then Eldest disappeared from sight altogether, leaving the three of them alone in the midst of the devastation they had wrought on the street, with sirens blaring in the distance, and drawing ever closer. 

"It's just one thing after another." Vincet growled. "Alright, back to the apartment for some supplies, then we take a Way to Lousiana." 

 

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An uncomfortable air permeated the room. Bodies shuffled in their seats, throats cleared and fingers tapped the top of an ancient oak table large enough to accommodate more than a dozen seats, of which each were hand-crafted with high backs and ornate detailing. For such a humble exterior, the insides were lavish. Violet looked around, judging the faces of those on the other side of the table, then she looked over at Vincent for a moment before returning her gaze to the vampires. 
"So... you're a charming lot." Violet grinned at each of them in turn.

"Were you expecting wine and canapes?" Asked the woman at the head of the table. She had a slim, athletic build one might expect of a gymnast. She was dressed in form fitting leathers, and her black hair was cut in to a short bob just below her chin level. "It might benefit you to understand that you are not dealing with the aristocracy here." She swept her hand around the other four individuals in the room, all men, all of them looking confident and tough in their own way. "This isn't a party Miss Hallow, it's a war council."

 

"Oh well, I suppose I can pick up some olives on the way there, so." Violet replied, leaning back in her chair and looking mildly dejected. 

"Enough with the pleasantries." Vincent said, drumming his fingers rhythmically over the table, repeating the pattern twice before coming to a stop. "We're here to do a job. What is it?"
"Hmm... I like you." The female vampire said with a grin that exposed her sharp canines. "Straight and to the point, you'll fit in well here." She leaned forward and rested her hands on the table, looking at each of them in turn before speaking again. "The four men sitting with me are Rook, Velvet, Sly and Fix. They are my men, and they serve me loyally and without question. You will do the same while this operation is underway, is that clear?"
"Sure, we didn't come all this way to be uncooperative." Vincent said, eyeing Violet in the hope she wouldn't choose to comment. "So... we know your boys, but who are you?"
"Call me Ivy." She said, and flashed Vincent another grin.
"Oh just kiss and get it over with." Violet rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. As she put her feet up on the table, she asked, "So, how are we going to do this? Why can't I just do what Nagloshi are supposed to do and kill this thing? What's stopping me from just teleporting us into his bathroom and popping him like a balloon while he's on the toilet?"
 
Ivy didn't reply immediately, instead she took a sharp and purposeful intake of breath, and composed herself for a moment. "For a moment, Miss Hallow, let's just assume that the most powerful vampire in the southern states is probably taking a great deal of measures to ensure he is quite safe from overconfident darklings like yourself. With all due respect, this operation has been underway for a great deal of time, my team and I have done our homework. We have a plan. A plan that did not involve you, by the way."
"Well aren't we lucky? You've done your homework. As school's in session, might I point out, having killed more vampires than i've had hot dinners, do you think you would be better off without myself - a Nagloshi and experienced hunter, my dear brother who has killed an immortal and is a wizard of the highest calibre, even if his credit score says otherwise, and his--" Violet stopped herself, "--apprentice, who was once Fae, and has intimate knowledge of many things you can't begin to imagine. Factor those in, won't you, on top of your... vampire power rangers." Violet paused and looked over each of them, "So what do each of you actually bring to this plan? And what is this plan?"
 
"Well, miss Hallow, I was only referring to you." Ivy said without skipping a beat. "We very much need Vincent, and Meredith has worked for Lucia before, and is held in high regard. There really isn't much need for a baby Nagloshi. But, if you're willing to behave, I'm sure you will come in very useful." A grin formed in the corner of Violet's mouth, and she opened her mouth to speak, when Vincent interrupted her.
"She can throw quips all night, you're probably best moving along." Vincent said and made a point of looking at an imaginary watch on his wrist. She scowled at her brother for ruining her fun, but he was right, and so she let the matter drop, for now.
"Quite." Ivy said with a soft smile. "So there are a number of reasons why we cannot locate Count Lassiter. Much like Lucia he has made the very smart move of putting himself in hiding. Nobody has been able to find him using any conventional methods, and even tracking him through The Void has come up short. We have managed to work out the most likely reason for this."
"The Count's went and got himself a wizard, correct?" Vincent asked. 
"Why, yes. Hence Countess Lucia has responded in kind by hiring you." Ivy explained. "We believe Count Lassiter is in hiding somewhere in Louisiana. We've had strange reports coming in from some of the backwater areas. Humans disappearing in droves. Then, sometime later, returning. Although not quite as they were."
"Oh, a Necromancer, yaaaayyy." Vincent said, waving his hands in mock joy.
"Strange reports of humans disappearing in droves and coming back changed?" Violet locked gaze with Ivy and raised an eyebrow with a smile. "Isn't that your modus operandi? Or would you like to be a little more specific, because lacking a pulse and a sense of humour doesn't do much to separate the two yet."

 

"Vincent seemed to understand but I suppose I'll spell it out for you. There are reports of zombies coming in. Also reports of various nasty curses and hexes. Whoever Lassiter has under his employ, he's certainly someone who more than dabbles in the dark arts." Violet nodded to herself - clearly, a lack of humour. 
"Not the best news." Vincent said. "Dark wizards are stronger in a fight. That's just a fact. If you want to take them out you need to play a long game, trap them."
"Well I'm no expert. Which is why you're here." Ivy said. "It's your job to locate Lassiter in whatever way you can. Also, you need to make sure we don't get caught in a trap ourselves. Lassiter is almost certainly aware of our presence in Louisiana, and he'll be making moves to take us out as we speak."
"Politics." Violet sighed, "So, Vincent... what do you want us to do?"
"Well, we need to find out more about our enemy, the dark wizard specifically." Vincent said, nestling his fingers together. "Necromancy is pretty advanced. You need a drum to keep the corpses moving, but if these zombies are moving on their own they aren't as organised, but they'll just attack anything. It seems like a pretty poor tactic to me. Probably a diversion." 
"A drum?" Meredith asked. 
"Yeah." Vincent said with a nod. "When you reanimate a corpse, you need to provide a steady rhythm to mimic their heartbeat. It's what allows you to command them. If you don't have a drum they'll just go on a rampage."
"So does it only work on humans?" Meredith asked. 
"Nah, anything really. The older the corpse the harder it is to bring back. I mean, if the Necromancer was strong enough...well let's just say we should be glad there aren't many fully intact T-rex skeletons around."
"There's one in the Natural History Museum in Chicago." Meredith said. 
"Yeah, well, luckily we're not in Chicago." Vincent said. "So, Ivy, if we can't locate Lassiter then I'll need to find out what kind of spell this dark wizard is weaving. I can't do anything to disrupt it until then. Was there any patterns in these incidents? If I can find this guy then maybe I can get something from him."
"We thought about triangulating the incident patterns, but it looks like he gets around quite quickly. He could be using Ways, or travelling through the void, or perhaps some other means I don't yet know."
"Well if he's a Necromancer then he definitely knows Ectomancy as well. Ghosts are creatures of the Void, so I bet that's where he likes to hang out. Violet, do you think you can go scope the place out?"
 

"I can, but..." Violet paused, she looked uncomfortable for the first time since coming back, "I haven't ironed out all the kinks yet... so to speak."

"Meaning?" Vincent asked.

"Meaning..." Violet scowled at having to explain, "... i've gained a lot of power, and lost a few of the more technical abilities." She paused for a long while, but the look on Vincent's face said he wasn't satisfied, "I can sense magic, but far less so in the void, it just becomes white noise to me, except for other Nagloshi. I can't yet manipulate magic in the same way I used to, and... I can't shift." Those final words fell from her mouth like stones.

"Okay..." Vincent said, and for the first time since she had returned, he seemed to be showing her some patience and understanding. "Well then I guess I'll have to come with you." Vincent turned to Meredith. "You stay here. I want you to ward this entire house, just like I taught you. Then you dive in to the books I told you to bring. I want you to look specifically for Loa. They're a kind of spirit Hatian Witch Doctors used to mess with. If this guy is local, and playing it morally loose with the old magic, then he might be working with a Loa spirit. They make pacts, a bit like a demon, but that's about as much as I know."

 

 


 

 

Violet stepped into the Void with Vincent right behind her, as she did so she couldn't help but lose her human façade. She turned around, the living light that formed her hair cascading behind her, floating unaided. Her white gaze caught Vincent's and she saw something in his expression that made her profoundly uncomfortable. The area of the Void they had stumbled into mirrored parts of New Orleans, and yet looked as though it had had a nuclear bomb dropped on it. Eyes peered out from dark corners, and yet feared leaving them. Violet looked down at her hands.
"Sorry..." She said, smiling, "I can't really hide it when i'm here, yet." 

"Not a problem." Vincent said, but he struggled to meet his sister's gaze. "Well I'm going to need you to show me the way here, sis. We're looking for a specific Loa family called the Ghede. They are spirits of the undead."

"The Void is difficult to pin down, you have to feel it out." Violet replied, "Its not like the Fae dimension where if you walk down the same path it will always take you to the same place, more or less. You have to focus on what you need and what is associated with it. Usually, a stroll helps, if you're not in any rush."

"As long as we don't stroll into your mother this time I think I can handle that." Vincent said.

"She already knows we're here, but..." Violet smiled, "I think she'll leave us be for the moment."

"Super." Vincent said, rolling his eyes. "Alright, so let's go see if we can find anything weird... in the land of weird stuff."

 

They had been walking for a while now, Violet could feel the watchful eyes of the creatures waiting in the dark. It was like sensing movement from the corner of your eye at all times. They had moved in silence for a long time. Violet kept opening her mouth to speak, but every time she did so she faltered and remained quiet. As they walked down a road, it began to incline towards a highway, and then suddenly Violet grabbed hold of Vincent and a second later the world around them shifted and they were no longer in the centre of the city. They looked as though they were in a swamp, and yet despite how deep the water looked underfoot, they did not sink, they walked on the surface of the water like it was solid.
"Is this freaking you out yet?" Violet asked cautiously.

"Violet, I wasn't done being freaked out from the last time I was in The Void." Vincent said. "I... can't stand this place."

"Like you can't stand me." Violet added, keeping her eyes locked ahead.

"Don't put words in my mouth." Vincent said, frowning. "You've been gone for a long time. Maybe it doesn't seem that way to you, but a lot has happened. I'm mad at you. That doesn't mean I can't stand you."

 

At least that made one of them, she thought. "I'm glad." Violet replied, smiling weakly. "But," She shook her head, "I'm angrier at myself more than you could ever be, Vincent." 

"Oh good, that makes it all better." Vincent said sarcastically.

"Oh would you give it a break!" Violet suddenly turned angry and whirled on Vincent, "So I left for a year, so I didn't contact you, so what?! Do you have any idea what its been like for me?! Isolated with nobody to talk to but my insane mother and her weird friends, with nothing but the thought that my last actions were to try and kill the people that matter most to me?!" She bunched up her fists, "I couldn't shift, I couldn't leave! I had nothing and no-one! It was like being born and the first day you open your eyes you've hurt everyone who cares about you, abandoned them and you don't even know what you are or why you're like that and everything you do is wrong..." She trailed off as her anger turned to sorrow. 

"I didn't know where you were, Violet!" Vincent bit back. "I didn't know if you were ever coming back, and to be honest, I was even more scared that you would come back and you'd be... just like Vael. She told us you had a choice. You chose to be what you are. And that's fine, you've always been different. I always knew you weren't just a human, deep down. But... I mourned you, Violet. I had to go home and tell Martha that... she might never see you again. You devastated us!" Vincent took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. "You're back, and I'm happy that you're back. But it doesn't heal the wounds, okay? You have to take responsibility, and you have to deal with me being salty for a while. I deserve to feel that way."

"Then I deserve a little..." Violet trailed off as something caught her eye, "Can we move along?"

"Sure." Vincent said, shoving his free hand in his jacket pocket. "Spidey sense tingling?"

"No, I just don't want... look, can we just go before it coalesces?" Violet seemed impatient, and took a few steps forwards, urging her brother.

"Fine, I didn't start the conversation anyway." Vincent replied. "One more thing though. When you get a chance, go see mom. Our mom." He paused for a minute and smirked. "Have to admit it's kind of satisfying to have me telling you that for a change."

"Vincent!!" Violet growled, but it was too late. A small white light formed just above Violet's left shoulder and came to settle on it, it grew in intensity until the light formed a shape. Within seconds, it took form. The creature looked like a small cat, and yet it's ears were closer to that of a hare and it had a tail that was far too long for it's body.
"Hello, brother." It purred, with a smile that beamed from ear to ear.

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Vincent observed the strange creature that had appeared on Violet's shoulder. His instincts had urged him to react, to blast the thing with magic. Fortunately, he'd become a little too overexposed to such things, and had learned to still his actions, if only a little. Violet's reaction was a little tense, but she didn't seem to be alarmed by the creature's presence. And the creature itself, while quite unnerving, did not seem particularly dangerous. Still, there was no harm in checking. "Violet, would you like me to torch this thing or what?" He asked, making sure he had a firm grip on his cane. 

"It won't do you any good." Violet crossed her arms irritably.
"It won't." It repeated, chuckling. "Unless it would make you feel better. In which case, it would."
"Willing to take one for the team..." Vincent said with a smirk. "I like this guy...or girl? It?"
"I am a..." The creature pondered for a moment, "I am a thing. But you may refer to me as whichever sex you wish, or none at all."
 
"Violet, can you translate for this Jim Henson reject, please?" Vincent asked. 
"That..." Violet scowled at the creature as it beamed back at her, "Is... well...." There was no other way of explaining it, "My soul."
"Your..." Vincent said, as he squinted at the creature, examining it carefully. "...hmm, neat." He managed to say finally. "So, Violet's soul, can you tell me all her secrets?"
"I'm right here, Vincent." Violet bit at her brother.
"He's curious." It suggested.
"Pfft," Violet rolled her eyes, "Can we just do what we came here to do?"
 
"Nooo...this is way more fun." Vincent said with a devilish grin. "So, Violet's soul, you got a name? Any hobbies?"
"I would bare myself to you," It replied.
"You can't tell him your name directly, he would have too much power over us." Violet warned.
"My name is--"
"--Zeal." Violet finished.
 
"Zeal, huh?" Vincent said, and he eyed Violet suspiciously. "A little jumpy there, sis. Do you really think I'd perform magic on your soul?"
"I think it's my soul." Violet retorted. 
"She has a point." Zeal added. Violet jabbed her thumb at Zeal as though to say, 'See?!'
"Come on, Vi." Vincent said. "You can see my soul whenever you like, you just have to look me in the eye." 
"He has a point." Zeal added, smiling.
"It's not the same, Vincent!" Violet started pacing uncomfortably, "I don't know..." She rubbed her forehead as though she was getting a headache, "We're both different, but the same. We're both part of the same being, but we're different, too. It's symbiosis."
"Two minds, two hearts." Zeal said quietly.
 
"Right...seems to me like the cat-rabbit is making more sense than you at this point." Vincent said, and he rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "So, Zeal, would I be correct in saying you are entirely true to yourself, right? Humans, we're conflicted, we don't even know who or what we are most of the time. You know who you are, yeah?"

"I am. I do." Zeal replied, nodding.

"Great, so..." Vincent paced around them, gesticulating with his hand to get his point across. "So Violet is a mess, sorry sis. But Zeal, you're clear. You know who you are, and you're part of The Void. So, by any chance, do you know how to navigate this place better than Violet?"

"We are joined. Two voices in one form. Violet can traverse the Void, because I can traverse the Void." Zeal looked at Violet and the two looked as though they had held a conversation before both of them faced Vincent once more, barely a second later.

 

"Alright you're losing brownie points now." Vincent said. "Enough of the Jedi bullshit. I am looking for a big, bad local spirit, who's been getting plenty of worship lately. This shouldn't be hard. I'm looking for the fattest dude at the buffet table. Let me think...if I recall, the one I'm looking for, he loves tobacco, and rum. Y'know? Spooky skeleton dude, big top hat, tail coat? Probably rude as hell."

"I remember what you do not." Zeal nodded.
"Excuse me?" Violet raised her eyebrow at him.
"But it is not safe, I do not wish harm upon myself, Violet, or my brother."
"Charming." Violet sighed and started walking, "I have vague memories of when I had privacy in my own mind..." She mused.
 
"Sadly we don't have much of a choice." Vincent said. "But I did come prepared." He took a pouch from inside his pocket. "A little bit of Ghost Dust. Cold iron shavings, salt, basil...and a few other things, like depleted uranium, and don't ask how I got it." He wiggled the pouch in his hand for effect. "Actually...you probably shouldn't touch this either. It's pretty much a catch all for most Void creatures, no idea what it would do to you."
"Uranium would be beneficial... the rest...." Violet frowned.
"I would rather it remain a mystery to us." Zeal added, eyeing the pouch.
"Sure, no problem." Vincent said as he put the pouch away again. "Alright, well lead the way then."
"We're already here." Violet replied, nodding at Vincent. Or rather, what was behind him. The swamp was broken up - if only momentarily - by a small shack. It was run down and looked like it could fall to pieces at any moment, and yet there was something strange about it. Disturbing, even. "If we're doing anything, we should go in guns blazing while we have the upper hand."
"I advise caution." Zeal warned, Violet scowled at him.
 
"I'm with Zeal on this one." Vincent said. "Always best to be careful with spirits. They're fickle, and their loyalty can be swayed. If we do it right then we might come out on top. Just follow me, I'll do the talking. Oh, and Violet, do not sass the ancient spirit demon. I mean it."
"Oh please, I--" Violet stopped mid-sentence and gave Zeal an incredulous look before falling to silence. Then Zeal disappeared and Violet licked her lips and finally nodded.
 
They made their way cautiously through the swamp, until eventually they reached the shack. Vincent took a deep breath and stepped up on to the porch, moving slowly, the wood creaking under his weight. No sooner had he reached the top step, the doorway to the shack was filled with a dark, flowing, black smoke, that seemed to dance around as it moved forward, like a living entity. Vincent forced himself not to take a step back, he couldn't show fear, not now. The smoke began to take shape, and before their eyes a being dressed in a black tailcoat, and black trousers appeared. His face was a white skull, and on his head was a large, black top hat. The spirit leered at Vincent for a moment, but said nothing. 
"Baron Samedi." Vincent spoke the spirit's name, and it seemed to darken in response. 
"Who are you to tread so carelessly in to my domain?" Samedi asked, and it was impossible to read it's expression, it's face was just a skull after all. 
"Vincent Hallow." Vincent replied. "And I come...with a gift." He reached in to his pocket and produced a packet of cigarettes. He retrieved one and tossed it at Samedi, who snatched it hungrily from the air, tearing away the filter on the end and sticking the cigarette between his teeth, It lit of its own accord and he took a deep, hungry drag. In one pull he'd burned halfway down the cigarette, and when he exhaled he blew a large plume of obnoxious smoke in their face. 

"Baron Samedi, I humbly come to you seeking information." Vincent said respectfully. 
"And who says I give a rat's ass?" Samedi replied, before letting out an arrogant chuckle. "Who says I want to speak to you, hm?"
"Well if you keep talking to me, I'll keep the smokes coming." Vincent said, and he shook the carton in his hand. Samedi eyed it hungrily, and grumbled, muttering to himself for a moment. He took another drag and burned away the rest of his cigarette, and held his hand out pleadingly for another. Vincent tossed one to him. "I need to know if another wizard has been visiting you recently."
"Hm? Oh....yesss." Samedi replied as he tore in to the next cigarette. "Oh yes, very often. A very generous soul, a very obedient soul."
"That must be nice." Violet muttered, then piped up, "Name him."
"Why should I?" Samedi replied. "Why should I do anything for you? I have never seen you before. You are not loyal...you know...nothing of voodoo."
"But I am more powerful." Vincent said confidently. "I would be able to do so much more, with your support." 
"Hmm...how do I know what you say is true?" Samedi asked. "Will you let me drink from you?"
"I..." Vincent hesitated, but Samedi did not wait for approval. In a sudden motion he inhaled from the air, and Vincent felt like his soul was being ripped from his body. He fell down on one knee, and instantly held his hand up to stop Violet from charging in. "Wait..." He pleaded. Samedi gave another obnoxious chuckle, and inhaled again, and Vincent found himself down on all fours. His world was spinning. He just had to hold on a little longer. If he could gain this spirit's trust, then he would find the dark wizard. 
 
"You...are most powerful." Samedi affirmed. "But you are a fool!" He snapped, and Vincent realised he had made a terrible mistake. "The Loa do not serve, it is your kind who serve us! The Witch Doctor is my servant! He moves as I demand! And you...are meddling. Yes...I see it. The home where the death cheaters reside. The one with the little girl...she has darkness in her. Now I know..."
"Violet!" Vincent coughed. "Violet...help!"
Violet took a step forwards but before she could do anything she stopped and her expression fell neutral, "Let him go." She said calmly.
"Hmm...let's see..." Samedi said in an amused tone, "I don't think I will. I should think you should flee, before I decide to have you as well, brethren."
"Then I am sorry." Violet replied, and then suddenly her expression changed, and she was full of rage, "LET GO!!" She screamed and flew at Samedi, crashing into him. Her hands grasped his face and she drew from him. She felt his power surging into her and her eyes went wild, "Not so fun?!" She asked, pushing her fingers into his skull. But even as she did so, she could feel his power surging up from deep within him. Violet's reaction was not unlike a human who drops a dish having not realised it had been in the oven a moment before. She recoiled and leapt back, floating into the air and threw her hands forwards and released every bit of energy she could, including the energy she had absorbed from Samedi. The light and heat from the blast enveloped the shack and in that moment, Violet whirled around and grabbed hold of Vincent, and suddenly they were back in New Orleans, standing a stone's throw from the war council. Violet handed Vincent to Meredith, and then fell to her knees and slumped over. The light from her body dulled, and her hair stopped hovering and sank until it barely levitated above her shoulders. She looked over at her brother and smiled, "See? Was that so bad?" She muttered, looking as though she was falling asleep.
 
"Violet..." Vincent gasped through deep breaths, as if he had just emerged from water. His skin was pale, and his eyes had become dark and his expression heavy. "...They know where we are...they're coming!" He managed to choke, before trying to stand up. But no sooner has he got up, he fell back down with a crash, and Meredith pulled him up, taking his weight awkwardly in her sleight frame. 
"What happened!?" Ivy demanded. 
"...No time." Vincent said. "Ready your men...they're coming."
"What did you do!?" Ivy snapped, but she quickly calmed herself, and her expression became that of steely resolve. "Everyone, to your positions! This is not a drill!" The vampires around the house began moving quickly, gearing themselves in combat overalls, and loading magazines into military grade assault rifles. "Civilians were evacuated days ago, and we've made sure the local law enforcement won't interfere. We go at them with a full assault!"
 
"Meredith..." Vincent whispered. "I need you...to help me do this next bit." He stood up, finally managing to stand on his own two feet. "I'm not at my best, I need you to stay with me, okay?"
"Of course." Meredith said with a nod. "Vincent, is Violet okay?" Vincent looked down at his sister, he looked worse for the wear, but he knew she would live through it. "Hey Vincent..." Meredith said with unease, "...Do you hear drumming?"

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Slowly, carefully, Violet rose to her feet. She took a deep breath and listened to the beat of the drums. They were coming.

"I'm going outside." Violet said simply, and opened the front door. It was worse than she realised. The zombies poured down the side alleys and streets and converged on the main road. Cars groaned as they were pushed aside by the force of the mob. "Disgusting..." She muttered, staring at the zombies. There was something she'd never fully grasped as a human, that looking upon the zombies as a Nagloshi now revealed to her. She was deeply disturbed by them. As a human, they were foul, they were monstrous, and dangerous. But they were alive, somehow. Even if they were puppets. They existed. But looking at them now, she only saw silhouettes with a faint magical aura around them, the influence of their master. These things were not dead, or alive. Even rocks have a faint magical energy. But these were nothing, less than nothing. Violet hesitated in the doorway. 

 

Vincent pushed past her, apparently unfazed by the undead horde coming for them, but as he stood on the porch his stance faltered for a moment, and he wobbled to regain his balance, revealing how weak he was. "Take no prisoners." He said simply. They didn't have the luxury of restraint. "Meredith, follow me."
"Right." Meredith said, and she carefully squeezed past Violet and hurried to catch up with Vincent who was already making his way to the gate at the end of the garden. Zombies shrieked as they clambered on top of each other to scale the gate. With a thrust of his staff Vincent sent unseen force forward, and blew the large gate straight off its hinge and crashing on to the road, the zombies flying off with it.
 
The crashing gate pulled Violet from her moment of hesitation. She steeled herself for what was to come, and strode towards the zombie hordes. As she did so, she held out her left hand and drew from the parked cars she passed, draining their batteries. Then she lifted into the air and brought her hands together so that light began to form between them.
"Something flashy?" Violet asked aloud, as if she needed to. Zeal must have answered, because a wide grin spread across her face and she brought back her arm and the light in her palm grew and grew until it spread out from the confines of her hand and stretched thin until it looked like an enormous pane of purple glass. Then with a sudden jerk Violet threw the condensed energy with all her force. The projectile screeched as it cut the air in front of it, howling as Violet redirected it, controlling it's descent. Violet quickly clicked her fingers as the disc reached Vincent and Meredith's backs and it almost immediately turned on it's side and rushed through the middle of them and then with a second click of her fingers, it returned to a horizontal disc. The projectile roared into the zombies at neck level and decapitated dozens of them instantly, slicing through them like warm butter until at last the energy fizzled out, imploded and then a secondary explosion sent dozens more zombies flying into the air, little more than guts and mulch now. "Oh, that feels better. I feel like i've been holding that in for hours." She smiled to herself and landed on the ground behind Vincent. 
 
There was a rattling sound in the distance, the distinctive noise of short-burst gunfire. Ivy and her brood had moved ahead and were cutting through the onslaught with careful precision, moving as one. Vincent knew his destination, all he had to do was follow the sound of the drum. "We have to cut through them." He explained. "He'll be keeping himself well protected behind his army, so we have to be tougher."
"I'll veil us." Meredith said, and lifted her hands up to do so, but Vincent shook his head. "Veil magic works on the minds of those around you. Zombies don't have a mind, and so illusions won't work. As far as armies go, the undead are quite a useful one, unfortunately."
"They don't seem all that tough." Meredith said as she sent out a blast of telekinetic force, about the only offensive piece of magic she could do. The receiving Zombie tumbled backwards across the asphalt road, scraping rotting flesh from his hands and face, but he almost immediately began to rise up again. 
"See?" Vincent said. "There's only one sure fire way to get rid of a Zombie."
Something whipped through the air with a momentary screech, and one of the undead's heads decided to explode spontaneously. Another two whistling objects cut through the air and two more heads exploded. Vincent turned his attention further up the road where Ivy was staring down the sight of her rifle. 
"This isn't a tea party, wizard! Get a move on!" She yelled.

 

"Excuse me," Violet stepped forwards and held out her hands in front of her. Concentrating, a sheet of purple magic pulled itself into being in front of them. The transparent wall rose up above their heads, skated the ground and then arced around the front of them until they were contained on three sides. "If you can watched our back, I think we can just plough through these shapeless monsters." As she said this, the zombies crashed against the front of her barrier making a sonorous, ringing 'thud' but went no further. As more and more pressed up behind them they became trapped, scratching up against the barrier.

"I knew I kept you around for something." Vincent said with his best attempt at a smile. They moved forward and Vincent watched their rear, sending out bolts of fire from his cane whenever an unfortunate undead creature decided to come at them from behind. He kept Meredith in between him and Violet, to keep her safe, and also so that neither of his companions could see the beads of sweat making their way down his face. Each time he summoned fire, and sent it channelling through his cane, he felt like another pound was being added to an invisible weight pressing down on him.

 

"I knew I kept you around for something." Vincent said with his best attempt at a smile. They moved forward and Vincent watched their rear, sending out bolts of fire from his cane whenever an unfortunate undead creature decided to come at them from behind. He kept Meredith in between him and Violet, to keep her safe, and also so that neither of his companions could see the beads of sweat making their way down his face. Each time he summoned fire, and sent it chanelling through his cane, he felt like another pound was being added to an invisible weight pressing down on him.

"Vincent?" Violet asked, but her tone seemed strangely neutral. 

"Later." Vincent said with a groan, cursing his sister's intuition. "We don't have time to go in to it."

"Later...?" She asked, as they moved forward through the drummer's throngs, "That is not soon enough. You are too weak. Violet has a suggestion, but before I offer it, I must state that I am against this idea." 

"I'm fine." Vincent replied irritably. "Just running a little low."
"Don't be like that." Meredith said in a scolding tone. "If you're weak then we stand more chance of dying."
"Fine." Vincent said through clenched teeth, as a another jet of flame shot violently from his cane.
 
As they moved through the horde, Violet cleared her throat, "So, you know how I can absorb magical energy to fuel myself?" She paused but nobody filled the silence, "Well, it can go the other way, too. I'll give you some extra juice." She looked over her shoulder and smiled at Vincent.
"And the catch?" Vincent asked. "Zeal has reservations, and I'm quickly realizing that it cares a little more about your wellbeing than you do."
"We're not worried about us," Violet replied, "He is worried about you. We don't know if there are long-term complications or not, but in the short term? It shares similarities with drugs. Withdrawal for one, your whole body will be in pain, and your magic might come up a little erratic. I think you can handle it, and look... I know i'm not..." Violet licked the inside of her bottom lip, "I know i'm not exactly like you remember me, but... i'm still your sister, I wouldn't suggest it if I thought it'd get you killed... I mean, besides this whole scenario."
"I know." Vincent said with a resigned nod. "It's risky though. It could put us in more danger than we-"
"Vincent!" Meredith gasped. Three zombies came rushing towards them from behind. Vincent held out his cane, gripping it so tightly his hand was shaking. He went to fire another bolt, but he felt no familiar rush of warmth. No sense of elation, or of power. There was nothing. He panicked for a moment. There was nothing he could do.
"Eldest!" Meredith screamed suddenly. 
A black mass of fur and claw appeared from the unknown ether, it moved swiftly, slicing through the throats of the slow, dull-witted undead. Even though they would not die, the creature continued, menacing them until they were nothing but flesh and bone. And when it was done it bounded effortlessly towards Meredith's feet, with an expression of satisfaction. 
"Why didn't you come sooner!?" Vincent snarled
"You never called." Eldest replied, holding his nose in the air, as if he had been asked the most stupid question in the world.

 

"Scat, cat. I've enough talking creatures in my life already." Violet muttered, but then had to redouble her efforts on her barrier. A section at the front cracked under the pressure and she quickly pushed more magic into the cracks to seal them up. 

"I will pick them off since you seem too... slow." Eldest said with a hint of amusement, and then he scampered off, tearing at each zombie he passed in another frenzy, before disappearing back in to the ether leaving behind only torn flesh. 
"Quick thinking on your part, kid." Vincent said to Meredith. "We need to move faster. Violet... do whatever you need to do."
"I've had enough of defence." Violet growled, and closed her fists. The barrier shattered into tiny shards and for a moment it looked as though the zombies would overwhelm them, then the shards fired like bullets from a gun, spreading in every direction with the vast majority shooting out in front of them. Waves of zombies crumpled to the ground, giving them ample space. But it wasn't enough. Violet took a step forwards and then raised her other foot as though she was going to step onto a staircase, and as she did so, a small purple glass barrier erupted beneath her foot.
"Well hurry up, then!" Violet growled, hurrying them onto the panel. Once Meredith and Vincent were both on the barrier, Violet lifted them into the air far above the zombies and then stepped up to Vincent.
"You ready?" She asked. 
"As much as I could be." Vincent replied, "What do I do?"
"Just let it happen." Violet replied, and slammed her palm into Vincent's chest. Despite the force of her strike, Vincent was trapped against her hand. Light shone brighter from Violet's eyes as the light in her palm expanded and suddenly a light exploded from Vincent's eyes and mouth. A few seconds passed and Violet withdrew. She watched her brother trying to push through a fraction of the feelings and sensations that she experienced when feeding. "Ready to go?" Violet asked, with a smile. Suddenly, something occurred to her that she hadn't considered until that very moment, as Vincent looked back at her. She had fed upon and killed humans, and now that very same energy moved through Vincent's body. Could he ever forgive her if he knew?

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When Violet had planted her hand in his chest, Vincent felt an enormous pressure building in his head. He felt like screaming, but no noise came out. His vision blurred, and then was washed away to an endless, blinding white. Time seemed irrelevant, had he been like this for minutes? Hours? Day, even? All he could see was white, and all noise was drowned out by a high pitched whining noise that reminded him of the few times he'd experienced tinnitus. And then, as quickly as it had happened, it was all over. Violet and Meredith were looking at him expectedly. "Ready to go?" Violet asked with a smile. Vincent blinked twice, and then held his free hand up to his face, flexing his fingers. He felt a strange tingling sensation all over his body, and when he pushed out his will he felt the thrum of magic had returned to him. He also felt decidedly lighter, but also quite odd. 

 

"Let's go." He said finally, and the platform they were standing on began to move on it's own, apparently at Violet's command. Vincent sat himself down on the moving platform with his legs crossed, and looked up at Meredith. "Circle, please." He said. Meredith nodded, and began to cast her magic. A blue ring of light appeared on the platform around him, an illusion conjured by Meredith's magic. Vincent sent his will in to the circle, and began to concentrate. 

"What are you doing?" Meredith asked. 

"Running interference." Vincent said. "Actually, you can help. Get in the circle." Meredith increased the range of the circle illusion so it covered her as well, and allowed Vincent time to re-apply his will. She sat down on her knees and sent her own will in to the circle, and felt the familiar sensation that she could only describe as a link being activated. She waited quietly for Vincent to instruct her. "Just focus on your own breathing, and my voice." Vincent said. She took slow, methodical breaths, regulating her breathing as she had done so many times before, although never whilst hovering above a sea of zombies. 

 

"Now let your will extend outwards." Vincent said. "Sense with your will, let it just wander, allow it to take in everything around you."

"Okay..." Meredith said uncertainly. Vincent waited for a moment. 

"Can you sense that?" He asked her

"Yeah...I think...oh...Vincent, no!" Meredith said with a gasp, holding her hand to her mouth. "You can't!"

"Meredith...their just shades, not the real thing." Vincent explained. "You know this."

"But...I can feel them." Meredith said, her eyes tearing up. "They're in so much pain. You're hurting them."

 

"Don't get upset, Meredith. They're not people, they're not even alive, they're just..." Violet rolled her hand around on her wrist as if cycling for the end of her thought, "I don't know, but spilled milk and all that." She rolled her eyes, but then suddenly her demeanour changed and she knelt down besides Meredith and put her hand on the girl's shoulder, "We understand." She added, "But it is necessary."

"Meredith, I need you for this." Vincent said patiently. "All my attention is on calling them forth. I'm essentially ringing a big bell, getting them to look through the void and focus on us. I need you to help them cross. Let them see their corpses. They have to see what you can see."

"I..." Meredith said tearfully. "I don't think I can."

"Meredith...you can." Vincent said, and he looked her in the eyes for a moment. He felt something pull at him, something otherworldly, and he looked away at the last moment, before he was trapped in a soulgaze with the young girl. That was the last thing he needed right now, for Meredith to be carrying all his baggage around in her head, or him carrying hers for that matter.

 

"I'll try." Meredith said finally, and the anger in her words felt like someone had felt like a knife in his gut. He hadn't quite realised until that point, that somewhere down the line he had began to care for Meredith a great deal. The thought of her hating him, well, it didn't bear thinking about. He continued with his spell, and allowed Meredith to do her part. As they continued, a tension began to build in the air. When spirits were present there was always an odd sensation, even ordinary mortals could feel it somewhat. This was the very same feeling, but turned up by an order of magnitudes. There was a buzz in the air like static, and slowly a cosmic wind began to blow, as spirits manifested en masse, tearing apart the barrier between this world, and The Void. A horrendous, screeching, cacophany of noise filled the air, as wisps and shades materialized, and swarmed around in the air, appearing and disappearing through The Void, their skin and clothes transluscent. 

 

Men and women in clothing of ages passed took to the battlefield, outraged by the forms of corpses rising again. They swarmed each of them with menace, their cold ectoplasmic forms passing through the creatures, tearing at the magical bindings that tied them to their master. The gunfire became much more frequent, the vampires no doubt confused and startled by the emergence of ghosts as well. The spell complete, Vincent stood up and went to help Meredith, but she would not move. She sat on her knees, tears streaming from her eyes. The knife in his gut twisted. "Violet, you can let us down now." He said. Slowly they descended to the ground, and the platform disappeared. All around them, zombies had began dropping to the floor like flies, the magical bonds holding them upright torn away by the terrifying power of angry and vengeful spirits. 

"Meredith, you have to get up, we need to keep moving." Vincent said. 

"No, you can't just leave it a mess like that." Meredith bit back. "You can't just leave this mess in your wake. I'll stay here, and settle them."

"It's not safe." Vincent said with a frown. 

"No, where you're going isn't safe." Meredith replied. "Just go."

 

"Okay." Vincent said with a nod. He looked out in to the emptiness. "Eldest." He called out. The black cat appeared from nothingness and looked around at the remaining spirits that were swooping and shrieking overhead. 

"Quite the display, Wizzzard." Eldest mewled. 

"Guard Meredith with your life, understand?" Vincent ordered. 

"A poor use of my talents." Eldest said indignantly. "But it shall be done,"

"Good." Vincent said with a nod. Then he and Violet pressed on through the street, now littered with corpses. 

 

As they moved through the dark street Vincent had realised the drumming had stopped. He supposed continuing would be quite pointless if there were no zombies to control. But it had only been a temporary measure. If he was given enough time, he would most assuredly be able to enthrall the corpses once more, and have them rise again. As they pressed ahead Vincent flexed his fingers and turned to Violet. "I feel...weird." He said. "I guess it's like when you put the wrong type of oil in your car. I mean it's magic but...it's not mine."

"It's yours now. Just give it time to settle in." Violet replied, "Once I get the hang of it, i'm hoping to reduce possible side-effects. It worked a lot better this time, I was pretty sure on what went wrong last time."

"Last time?" Vincent asked. 

"Yeah." Violet replied, with a sheepish smile. "Last time I tried to do that, it didn't go to plan. But I'm pretty much 100% sure on what happened, so don't worry."

 

"Who was it last time, Violet?" Vincent clarified.

"I don't know. I didn't get the chance to find out. They were hurt and I tried to help them, is all." Violet replied, slightly annoyed at Vincent's accusatory tone.

"So you didn't just come straight back to see your dear old brother when you returned then?" Vincent pressed further, but he quickly shook his head. "Now's not the time. Your business is your business. Sorry, I'm just tired. Truth be told I've been tired for about a year."

"Actually, I did. More or less. I was trying to help someone in the Void, but that doesn't matter now... look, I know i'm not perfect, and i'm pretty much a vampire for all intents and purposes, and... I share my body with another part of myself, which is a cat rabbit something... but despite all the weirdness... i'm also more confident in who I am. I'm happier... for the most part. I feel like i've been stumbling through life with blinkers on until now, so maybe just be happy for me."

 

"You're right." Vincent said with a nod. "I'm just deflecting. It's myself I'm mad at. All this bad shit keeps happening, and every time it does I make another compromise. Another exception. I might not have broken any laws, but I've sure as hell skirted the line."

"You've always enjoyed living dangerously, Vince." Violet replied, "You just don't see it like that." Violet let out a long sigh, "Well it took a while, but I suppose i'm right there with you in that regard." She laughed, awkwardly. "If it makes you feel any better there are other advantages to being a cosmic wizard assassin..." She looked at her brother, "I can read in bed with the light off." Violet grinned at Vincent and continued on.

 

Their conversation was cut off by the sound of more gunfire up ahead. "Come on!" Vincent said, and they went off at a sprint. They took a right on to Race Street and crossed the road to the small park, where flashes of muzzle flare illuminated the darkness. When Vincent run up on to the grass he held his cane forward and shot ethereal blue light overhead, illuminating the park. Ivy was moving across the grass like a blur. Two of her men lay dead, and the others weren't anywhere he could see them. Ivy was carrying a pistol, firing expertly at a dark skinned man, who was completely bald, and dressed in a simple tan coloured shirt, and torn, blue jeans, and sandals. As she reached him she swung a kick with inhuman speed, and the dark skinned man blocked it as if swatting a fly. Ivy swung at him with her pistol and fired at point blank, but the dark skinned man seemed to have completely avoided it. Vincent opened his wizards sight, and he saw what had made the man so resilient and fast. 

 

An aura of dark smoke emanated from the man. A familiar sensation crawled up Vincent's skin. This man was the voodoo witch doctor they were after, and he was channelling the dark energy of the Loa, Baron Samedi. "Violet!" Vincent called. "That's the guy! We need to take him out, now!"

"Right. Let's not mess about then." Violet replied, and pointed her forefinger at the witch doctor. Without a moment's pause, a tiny jet of light burst from the end of Violet's finger and shot towards the witch doctor's head at an imperceivable speed. The shot connected with the witch doctor and the impact sent him off of his feet and in to the air, before crashing in a heap on the ground. 

"Fucking hell..." Vincent whispered, in disbelief. That seemed a bit easy. But he had clearly spoke to soon. The witch doctor rose to his feet once more, the hole in his skull still smoking. He glared at Violet, but didn't say a word. Ivy saw this as an opportunity and appeared at his back in a blur, her hands fastening around his head, yanking hard and snapping his neck like a twig. She smirked in satisfaction, but it quickly turned to a frown, and she saw the man blink at her, even with his head facing the wrong way. 

 

Then with an effort of will, his form was engulfed in a white light, the light of faith. The light burned the vampire and she recoiled in horror, screaming as she fled in to the darkness. The witch doctor grabbed his head, and with a sickening crack he twisted his head back round, and looked back towards Vincent and Violet. "Now that the devil's spawn has been dealt with, it is time to deal with both of you." He said calmly. "I am Giconi, and I serve my master, Baron Samedi. I have nothing against you wizard, I am simply destroying these creatures as is my master's will."

"I'm afraid I can't let you do that." Vincent said, putting on his cocky demeanor in front of the enemy. "How about you try me on for size, I assure you a little holy magic won't do shit against me."

"Arrogant." Giconi replied, shaking his head. "You do not even comprehend the power my master wields. I am but his vessel, but I am loyal, and I will not die by your hand on this night."

 

"God, why is it that every time someone like you opens your mouth to speak, you sound like the Cobra Commander delivering a victory monologue...?" Violet rolled her eyes at the witch doctor, "Any thoughts, Vincent?"

"Just one." Vincent replied. "Keep him busy!" He held out his cane towards Giconi. "Ignus Magna!" He roared, and there was a loud bang as white hot fire shot from his cane like a cannon, scorching the grass as the giant ball of fire careened towards Giconi. The witch doctor raised his right arm, and the flame exploded around him, engulfing him completely. But the fire began to pull inwards, slowly dissipating as Gicono inhaled it in to his own mouth, his eyes giving off an orange glow. When he had consumed the last of it there only remained black smoke and scorched grass around him. "Uh...well, fuck." Vincent said. 

"Hi, i'm supposed to keep you busy - game of hot potato?" Violet asked, creating a heavy dark blue light in her hand that formed into a glass object, "Catch!" She yelled, and threw it at Giconi and then flew into the air, distancing herself from the imminent explosion.

 

Vincent saw the explosion before he heard it. Blue energy lit up the sky, engulfing the part of the park where Giconi stood, sending dirt and rocks scattering every which way. Vincent had to raise his charm barrier to deflect the rocks coming his way, and when the energy finally settled there was only dirt, and rock left behind in a large crater, and Giconi stood within it. His skin was charred to a crisp but healing rapidly, and his expression was one of extreme disappointment. "Are you quite finished?" He asked, gently dusting off his charred clothing, as if it would do any good. Now practically bare chested, Giconi stepped out of the small crater and advanced on Vincent, holding his hand out with an open gripping motion. He began to chant words in a language Vincent didn't understand, and suddenly Vincent felt like the temeprature had dropped to below zero. Black smoke emerged from Giconi's outstretched arm and snaked towards Vincent like a living thing, clawing through the air like the energy that had sapped him of his magic back in The Void. 

 

Vincent raised his barrier once more, and at once the black smoke was repelled, but continued pressing up against the barrier. Vincent's wrist burned with pain as his charm bracelet turned white hot, and he cried out as the trinket suddenly sparked and shattered, falling from his wrist, and his barrier shattered. The black smoke engulfed him and he fell to his knees, gasping for breath as he had done before. The horrifying sensation washed over him and he began to panic. Nothing he had done had so much as put a dent in Giconi. He felt so weak and intimidated. He didn't stand a chance. Violet's eyes shone through Giconi's black smoke, and she flew at him without reservation. Both her fists glowed as she channelled energy into them and with a cry, she threw forward her fists and released two enormous balls of concentrated energy. The mass looked almost as dense as dark matter and it seemed to warp the air around it. It wasn't incredibly fast moving, but Giconi had extended his will too far to swiftly adapt to the projectiles. The first ball of energy gently passed through his right shoulder and everything from shoulder to his entire right arm disintegrated in a second, leaving nothing behind. Giconi wailed as the second orb was almost upon him, and this one was dead centre.

 

Giconi fell to his knees as his chest began to crumble away, and the black smoke retreated inside him. Giconi lay still, nothing but a husk, but the black smoke danced around him, clearly hard at work. Vincent coughed and spat on the ground, tasting copper in his mouth. The fact the smoke had retreated with Violet's assault meant that they had found a weakness. Clearly the dark energy of the smoke was what kept Giconi resilient to attacks, and it was already well at work to repairing it's vessel. Their time was short, and Vincent was once again exhausted, having been attacked for a second time by the consuming powers of the Loa. Still on his knees he put a hand to the inside of his coat pocket, and pulled out the leather bound book, The Grimoire. "Damn it..." he cursed as his grip tightened around the book. His entire body trembled. Vincent had not dared open the book since Violet had been trapped within a dream world. The experience had left him with a year of horrific nightmares, and the small piece of knowledge he had absorbed had felt like a sledgehammer against his skull. And yet now, he would do it again. He closed his eyes, trying to control his fitful tremors. And then, slowly, he opened the book. 

 

 

===

 

 

Vincent found himself still on his kness, but he was aware that the ground beneath him had become hard and cold like stone. The room around him was dark, with an eerie green light. The large stone walls were covered in moss, and the air smelled of damp, and sulfur. "Asher." He coughed weakly. "Asher...are you there?"

"He is not." A voice replied, a female one, that sounded vaguely british. 

"Where is he?" Vincent asked breathlessly. "I need him. That's how this is supposed to work, right?"

"It is." The voice replied, sounding slightly amused. "At least it would, if Asher was who you required."

"What are you talking about?" Vincent asked. Footsteps echoed across the stone, and a pale slender hand gently caressed his chin, and lifted his head so he could look at the woman. Her skin was pale, and unblemished, her hair jet black and frizzy with curls. She was wearing a dark red lip stick. and her eyes were the same emerald green as his own. She rose to stand at her full height, revealing a slim frame wrapped in a dark green bodice, a black cloak draped over her shoulders, and her legs covered by a flowing, black skirt. 

"Dear child, when you spoke with Asher it was because you sought wisdom about the Grimoire." She said quite matter of factly. "As the creator of the book he holds the most knowledge in that particular avenue, and so it is he that you spoke with."

 

"And why are you here?" Vincent growled, growing irritated my the woman's tone. 

"Because you seek the knowledge that I hold, the knowledge of..." The woman paused for a moment, touching her lip with her index finger. "...Power." She said the word as if it's very sound filled her with immeasurable delight. "You seek power Vincent. Power to destroy your foes by any means necessary."

"Thats....that's not what I want." Vincent replied. "I just want a solution to this problem, this one right now. No more, no less."

"Yes, you do like to tell yourself you're a good little boy, don't you Vincent?" The woman said with a smile. "But I would not be here unless you wanted what I offer. And I offer power, in it's purest and greatest form."

"Who are you?" Vincent asked. 

 

"Ah, a good question." The woman said as she turned from him, wandering the length of the room. She passed by each of the glass containers on the wall, her fingers dancing over them, as she examined each of the sleeping entities within. "I believe I have many names in your time. Granted many believe me but a simple fairy tale, but I am still known. My name is said in many ways, and in many tongues, although I particularly like the 'Morgue'. But you will know me as Morgana."

"Morgana?" Vincent almost choked. "As in the Morgana? Morgana Le Fey?"

"The very same." She said with a toothy grin. 

"So...King Arthur, and Merlin...all that stuff happened?" Vincent asked. 

"Ugh, Merlin." Morgana shook her head. "Stuffy old coot. I blame him for why our kind are in such a story state in this day and age. The Order of The Wise, indeed. He always did think a lot of himself."

 

"Merlin was in The Wise?" Vincent asked. 

"He founded it, silly." Morgana replied. "He liked keeping ones like us in line. He was scared of another me, I suppose."

"You're a dark wizard, then." Vincent said. 

"Oh don't insult me." Morgana hissed. "Dark Magic is simply what you call the magic you don't understand. It drives most mad, eats away at them. Quite pathetic, really. Most can't handle real power. You and I, well we are different. We are Hallowed, after all."

"I still don't even know what that means." Vincent said, and he pulled himself slowly to his feet. 

 

"It means we are better." Morgana explained. "We are pure. We alone can harness the untempered nexus of this world to it's fullest capabilities. Well, the only mortals at least."

"Sounds pretty arrogant to me. That's how the Sidhe talk." Vincent said with an accusatory glare. 

"Well they do call me Le Fey, don't they?" Morgana said with a smirk. "They're not as bad as you think. Winter are a horrible lot, not the best side to make friends with."

"I doubt Summer are any better." Vincent said.

"Not better, but quite different, perhaps you shall see one day." Morgana replied. "If you survive, that is. It would be a terrible shame if you died now. Especially since your sister went and cast her gift aside."

"I'd do it myself if I could." Vincent said venomously. 

 

"Oh but you can, you can just let yourself die." Morgana said. "It is of no huge loss. There will be others to take your place."

"Others?" Vincent asked. "Who?"

"At least one, that you know of, and thus I know of." Morgana said with a smirk. "But that conversation is not one you should be having with me. You need me to give you power."

"I won't use dark magic." Vincent said flatly. 

"Oh please, still going on about that." Morgana said, waving her hand dismissively. "Those Wise have really done a number on your generation haven't they? I have already told you, Vincent, you are different. The rules do not apply to you."

"They do if I chose to live by them." Vincent snarled, his eyes narrowing. "If I compromise there, then where will it end? What would I become? It's not something I could ever take back."

 

"You are quite correct." Morgana said. "Power is very alluring. But it is your birth right to wield it. If anyone can do so without fear, then it is you."

"I won't!" Vincent snapped. "I won't use that kind of power!"
"Then why are you here?" Morgana asked. "We can go round and around for days, but the fact remains. You stand here before me, because in your heart of hearts it is what you desire. I mean...why would I care? I am very much dead, and have been for a very long time. All that is left is my knowledge, here in the hands of a mere child. You are so much like your father."

"Shut up!" Vincent roared. "I am not like him! He was a coward! He ran away and got himself killed. Meanwhile I sacrifice all of my principals for the people I love!" His hands balled in to fists, his arms shook with rage. "I'm so sick of dealing with his shit! He burdened me with all of his fucking responsibility! He even burdened me with this god damn curse! My whole life I just thought I had a knack for running in to trouble! But it's not me, is it!? It's this fucking Hallowed bullshit! It happens to all of us, doesn't it!?"

 

Morgana paused for a moment, for once she was not smiling, and she bit her lip as she contemplated her words. Finally she said, "Yes, dear boy. That is the case." She gave a sigh. "It's unpleasant, at times. I won't tell you that it is all for the greater good, or that you are destined to be a hero. It would just be sweet lies, and you would know it to be untrue. But it is none the less the power that you wield."

"Well I dont want it!" Vincent cried, and he really was crying. Tears finally began to fall, after holding it back for so long. For years he had held it back. The person he had been was now, in his mind, so cracked and broken that it was barely recognizable. He had lost so much, he had lost his father, his daughter, and his only love. For a time he thought he had even lost his sister. And when she had returned he had greeted her with scorn. He couldn't even allow himself to feel joy at having a loved one any more. It was too hard when he inevitably lost them. 

"Vincent." Morgana said softly. "If you love them so much, then what are you waiting for? You know what you must do."

"But..." He breathed. "I...don't want to give up who I am."

"But you must." Morgana said, and she approached him, once again caressing his face. "Change is what shapes us. You are so broken, because you have not allowed yourself to change, to become something new. Your sister said as much to you, she's been saying it to you since she returned. You have been fighting her because she has changed. But you must see how happy she is, because she took that brave step. And now you must."

 

"This isn't the same." Vincent protested. "I'll become something I hate...If I just give in, I'll become something people fear."

"And so people should." Morgana said with a nod. "Sorcerers have become so dull in your time, hiding themselves away. There was a reason we were feared back then. We are a very frightening thing, you especially. That is why The Wise keep their claws in you, and try to limit you. Even they are afraid of what you might become."

"And how does that make it any better?" Vincent asked. "That just gives me more reason not to."

"Perhaps." Morgana nodded. "But you are one of the few who can master your power, even the great and terrible kind. You just need to accept who you are, and believe that you can."

"I..." Vincent hung his head in shame. "I can't...I can't just make myself feel differently with the snap of a finger. It doesn't work that way."

 

"Well...there is another option." Morgana said, and a smile returned to her lips. "You won't like it though."

"Will it allow me to defeat this guy?" Vincent asked. 

"I would like to think so." Morgana said with a nod. "Although I hasten to add that you could have done that anyway. You have used what you might call "Old Magic" before. When you killed the Queen, and once before that."

"I...no I haven't." Vincent said. "When?"

"Ah..." Morgana said hesitantly. "How strange. I am sorry, but I am afraid that when you shared your consciousness, you did share all of it. Even the part that is locked away from yourself. I would love to tell you but...memory is quite a delicate thing. It is something you will have to figure out for yourself."

 

"Great, more bullshit." Vincent said with a sigh. "So what is this other option. My magic is all tapped out, I can't use anything too powerful."

"Vincent, dear child." Morgana said, shaking her head. "You are not a vessel in which magic is stored. You are a conductor, you simply have to draw in more, and rather more quickly than you would naturally. It is not difficult when you know how."

"Then show me." Vincent said. 

"That is exactly what I have been suggesting." Morgana said, rolling her eyes. "That is the other option. Allow me to do what you cannot. I will show you how it is done, show you what you can do. And then, if you choose to do so again, you will know how."

"That sounds..." Vincent scratched his head. "Damn it...I don't have a choice. Fine. One time only."

"Marvelous." Morgana said. "It has been a while since I stretched my legs..."

 

 

===

 

 

Giconi finally stood up, once again fully restored by the power of his master. His attention turned to Violet, who was up and ready to fight, but she was tiring, and Giconi was confident that she would not have the power to defeat his master. A dangerous creature she may have been, but she was still a fledgling, whereas his master was nothing short of a God. He advanced on her, chanelling his master's energy. This time he would take her power, like he had taken the wizard's. He was down, and no longer a threat to his master. He need only repeat the process with this one, and then he would continue his mission.

 

"Well, well..." Giconi turned at the sound of the voice. Vincent was standing, and he looked quite calm and confident, a soft smirk on his face. "...Don't you just feel oh so clever, hm?" Vincent said, and Giconi noted that he seemed to be putting on a british accent, for some reason.

"Give up. You have already been beaten." Giconi said.

"Really? I think I am going to have to disagree with you there." Vincent said, and he lifted his cane, looking at it with a raised brow, before casually tossing it aside, as if it were no more than a trinket. "America, is it? Very warm here." He said to himself, and then focused back on Giconi. "So, like I was saying. You appear to think yourself rather clever? Allowing yourself to be enthralled by a...do you even know what it is, actually? Loa spirit. Well if it makes you happy. A demon, is a demon, is a demon. All the same to me."

 

"Baron Samedi is no demon. He is the Keeper of the Dead. And he demands respect." Giconi said angrily.

"Well he would tell you that, wouldn't he?" Vincent said, sahking his head. "You see you can never trust a demon. Harnessing it's power, now that is quite commendable. But you have made a most grave error, well, two actually."

"And what would that be?" Giconi asked.

"Well first, you picked a poor opponent." Vincent said simply. "But I suppose the worst of it is you allowed the demon to control you. You never let the demon control you. Let me show you how it is done. Azog, Shiggurath, come." Vincent snapped his fingers and on either side of him the ground suddenly erupted in an emerald flame. Two forms began to manifest from the fire. The creatures were almost identical, both of them large and moving on all fours, with beedy emerald eyes, and a horrific maw of sharp needle like teeth, each of them slobbering, their tongues hanging out like beasts. Their skin was a black, and coated in greasy, matted fur. Black iron armour coated their shoulders and chest, and each of them had a chain tied around their neck, with the other ends sitting in Vincent's hands. 

 

"What are these creatures!?" Giconi spat. 

"They are demons. I think I made that quite clear." Vincent said casually. "They are very, very old, much older than the one inside you. But most importantly, they are mine."

"Then I will destroy them, along with you!" Giconi yelled, and he thrust his arm out, summoning the black smoke as he had done before. The smoke snaked towards the two demons, and Vincent shook his head in disappointment, before letting go of the leads. "Time for dinner, boys. Off you go!" He said, and in response, Azog and Shiggurath bounded forward, slobbering hungrily as they reached the black smoke. devoruing it in their gaping maws, before finally turning on Giconi and grabbing him in their clawed hands, tearing and gnashing at him violently. He tried to scream, but he had barely had a chance before they began to gobble him up rapidly. In the end all that was left was a splatter of blood on the floor. 

"There we go." Vincent said. "You see, that is how it is done, Vincent. No need to thank me. It was nice to get out for a while."

 

And then Vincent retrieved the Grimoire from his coat, and allowed it to fall from his hands. And just as suddenly, he collapsed backwards on to the ground, gasping suddenly, an expression of horror on his face. When Violet came to his side, he pointed frantically at the Grimoire. "G-get that away from me!" He yelled. "Violet, please! Take it away! N-never let me have it! Please!" He lay back on the grass, staring up at the night sky as he tried to fathom what had happened. What had Morgana done to him? What had she made him do? His hand fell over his mouth, and finally, he wept, his eyes wide in hysterics. 

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"You'll get no argument from me." Violet replied, picking up the grimoire. She held it between her hands for a few moments, thoughtfully looking it over. Then she held it in one palm and pressed her other palm on top of it as though she was trying to squeeze it. The book evaporated between her hands, and Violet nonchalantly brushed off her hands like she was removing crumbs. "Right then..." She looked down at Vincent who looked like he was still struggling with the ramifications of using the grimoire. "You could use a rest, Ivy...?" Violet called out.

There was a long pause. Then a faint whistling noise shot through the air, and the vampire emerged from a blur a few yards away from them. "It's...done then?" She asked, looking around warily.

"Yes... no thanks to you." Violet replied, "And where were you skulking, exactly?" Violet bent down to help her brother to his feet.
"Couldn't be helped." Ivy said bitterly, "Bastard used faith magic. Doesn't matter how good you are, a vampire can't get round that."
"Well at least we had a cheerleader." Violet replied and cleared her throat, "So, my brother needs a safe space to rest and recharge. I wouldn't mind resting either, and when I say safe, I mean actually safe, not safe from everything except a demon army, hmm?" 

 

"If the wizard is dead, then we don't have to worry for tonight." Ivy said. "Dawn approaches, our enemy will need to go to ground just as we do. We can rest at the house and leave tomorrow evening. Two of my men have found the girl with you. She's safe."

"That's good news-- for them." Violet accompanied her veiled threat with a smile and patted Vincent on the back, "Come on then, big brother." She helped him walk back into the house and laid him down on a bed then walked into the dining room and sat at the table and sighed, thinking to herself. A few minutes later, Ivy and the other vampires walked in accompanied by Meredith. "Are you alright?" Violet asked.

"I'm... fine." Meredith said, unable to even convince herself that it was the truth. She sat down across from Violet, and her fingers twitched nervously. "What... what happened? I felt... it was terrible."

 

"Vincent used the grimoire to take care of that wizard." Violet replied, "Are you sure you're alright?" Violet asked again, then looked over Meredith's shoulder at the vampires stood behind her. "Bring her a drink, would you?" Violet asked, as politely as she could. With a shudder, Violet's purple form seemed to sprout patches of tan colour that spread out across her until she was covered entirely, then a set of black jeans and a black top formed over the top of her, at last her long purple hair fell limp behind her as it lost it's light and turned black, and at last Violet opened her eyes which had become human in appearance once more. "Yuck." She groaned, "Like slipping into a wet coat." She coiled her shoulders then refocused on Meredith.

"I... I will be." She said with a nod. "It's just, well... sensitive." She said pointed her thumb at herself. "...it'll fade but... I can't handle all that menacing energy. It's upsetting."

"You really should get over it, there's--" Violet trailed off and then cleared her throat and looked at Meredith once again. She stood up and moved around the table and reseated herself beside Meredith. Then she reached over and pulled Meredith into her chest and held her there. "Can you please get us a drink, now?" Violet asked aloud, to the vampires behind them. The two vampires looked at one another with strained expressions, then left.

 

"...I wish I could." She said. "But it's not that easy. And I'm worried about Vincent."
"Don't worry about Vincent, he is strong. Stronger than either of us." Violet stroked Meredith's hair and smiled to herself, "You take after him, you know?" She added, then sniffed as she focused on her thoughts. The vampires came back in with two cups of hot black coffee and left them on the table and walked out in a dark mood.
"Thank you!" Violet called out after them with a wide grin. She patted Meredith on the head to say 'times up' and passed her a cup of coffee. "So... vampires, hm?" She laughed to herself and crossed one leg over the other - an uncharacteristically feminine act - and touched Meredith on the knee, "Tell me all about what has been going on in my absence, I have had a whole year with nobody to talk to but my mother, and she is, well... you can imagine."

 

"Well..." Meredith straightened up, trying to compose herself. She looked tired. "Things kind of went back to normal, or as normal as it gets. After he stopped searching for you, Vincent went back to doing his P.I work. I stayed home a lot for the first while. Vincent's orders. He made me read all those books he has. He wouldn't let me use magic at first, he just had me study it all. Then, eventually, he started to teach me. It was... well, kind of awkward. He made me a wand, I used it for a while but... only because I didn't want to hurt his feelings..."

"Why didn't you want to use a wand?" Violet asked, though she probably knew the answer, she was more preoccupied with the comment Meredith had made earlier. That her brother had stopped looking for her. On some level she knew he must have stopped eventually, yet she had always thought he'd find her before she was able to return. Especially in those first few weeks when she was more a prisoner than a daughter, or even a guest. 

"It's not that I didn't want to, I just didn't need to." Meredith explained. "I quickly realised... the way he talks about magic, it's how he sees it. I guess it's how a lot of people see it. It's like... it's like he's an engineer. He knows where all the parts need to go. When I think of magic it's like... a canvas. I just need to put the paint on it, does that make sense?"

 

"I think..." Violet considered her response, "I remember feeling the same way Vincent did, but while I understand how you must see it, it's more like..." Violet paused and tried to explain her thoughts on magic. But it was hard. Too hard. Magic wasn't a tool to exploit, or a canvas to paint with. Magic was everything. Understanding magic was understanding everything else on some subtle level that other people couldn't understand. It was both rewarding - and now hearing it seen from another angle - a little daunting. "Magic is magic." Violet leant forwards and grabbed her coffee cup. She stared at the cup for a long while and then held it between her hands and slowly the cup fell away until she was able to close her hands over it. She blew into her cupped hands, creating a bright light from within her palm and then she set the object down on the table. It was a small egg. The egg hatched moments later, and a clumsy black chick with a large beak poked its head out. She couldn't explain it with words. 

 

"That's... pretty awesome." Meredith said with a smile, and she seemed to brighten up. "That felt... wow... do you feel what that's like?"

"I think so." Violet frowned, "But I think 'see' might be a better word. I'm not sure." She smiled awkwardly at Meredith, but she was happy that she had perked up a little. Violet leant over and brought her hand down near the chick and rubbed her fingers together. The egg shell fell away and the chick struggled to it's feet, then Violet stroked it's head and it pottered off across the table, as though set on a mission, and fluttered down onto the floor where it vanished into the next room. "So, how's David and everyone?"

"David visits sometimes, but he's usually back to teaching at Iowa State, either that or he's off travelling wherever he's 'called'. You know how he is." Meredith smiled warmly. She had grown quite fond of David, one of the first of the group to really treat her with any great deal of warmth.

 

Violet nodded and they spoke for a while longer, eventually the house fell all but silent. Everyone was sleeping or keeping to themselves. Violet didn't need to sleep, so instead she occupied herself with watching the television. The news was far more negative than she remembered, and a lot of it seemed to confuse the anchor, and she was sure, the viewers as well. Unexplained disappearances, strange lights, unusual occurrences. All manner of magical havoc, it seemed. She wondered if it was connected, but a noise distracted her and Violet looked over her shoulder to see Ivy walking into the room. It must have been late in the day if she was awake. It would be time for everyone to get moving again soon. But for now, it was just the two of them.
"Evening..." Violet muttered.

"Evening." Ivy parroted with a sharp nod. "We'll be making a move soon. We have a safe house a few miles up state. Locals think it's a distribution warehouse. We'll be able to stock up on weapons and ammunition there. It's a much larger facility. A little risky before, but the enemy knows what we're up to now. Might as well bring out the big guns."

"I see." Violet looked Ivy over, "Sleep alright, did you?" Violet asked, her tone indifferent. 

"Well enough." Ivy replied. "I can go on one blood pack a week, but the sleep is unavoidably necessary. Otherwise we get the bleeds."

"That sounds lovely, you can stop there, i'd like to keep down my lunch, thank you." Violet clicked her fingers and the television turned off, "So, what's it like being a vampire, then? Do you remember what it was like to be human?"

"To a fashion." Ivy replied. "We might have immortal flesh, but the brain still functions like a normal one. You start to notice the memory fading after a century or so. I still remember some things, the big stuff. America was beautiful during the colonies. I remember when Boston was just a big marsh. But... the small stuff is gone. Conversations had, my dreams and ambitions, people I knew, and loved."

"The small things. Right." Violet nodded sarcastically and yawned. She didn't get tired the way humans do, but yawning, blinking and various such functions had to be repeated now and then otherwise people - even of the supernatural persuasion - become nervous of her. She'd learnt that from first-hand experience on 'field trips' as her mother called them.

 

"I have a... suggestion for you, if you don't mind." Ivy said. "It concerns the girl."
"Would you take the kid gloves off already and just speak your mind. Worst thing that could happen to you is I decide to leave you in an unpleasant dimension for the rest of your days, and really, isn't freedom of speech worth that much?" Violet scowled at the vampire.

"Fine." Ivy said, clearly not the comedy type. "To be blunt. You and I, we are predators. Even Vincent can take care of himself. The girl, however...she is weak. She is prey."
"Oh please, you say 'you and I' as if we're in the same category." Violet rolled her eyes and as pleasantly as she could, smiled at Ivy. "Firstly, you don't know what a predator is. You're like a house cat. You can't make those sort of observations, you have nothing to compare to. You drink cream and lick yourself. Second, 'that girl' as you put it, will surprise you."

 

Ivy rolled her eyes. "Stop talking about yourself for just a moment, please." She said. "That girl, Meredith, she doesn't surprise me at all. She glows with potential, but she is so delicate, with her magic. 'Sensitive', that's what Vincent called it. 'Aware' is a far more appropriate term. Her sensations are so well refined that she cannot bear the pain of conjuring fire. My suggestion to you is a simple one. Train her. Not with magic, but with a knife. With a gun. Her senses are exceptional by human standards. But magic is but one of the many skills available to her. Train her, and perhaps she won't die on you."

"Okay." Violet nodded to herself, "Bored of you now." She looked over and brushed her hand across the air like she was pushing something off a table. Ivy flew off her feet and tumbled out of the room and the door slammed shut behind her. "Wake the rest of the house up, will you?!" Violet yelled with a friendly jingle in her tone. Then Violet's smile dropped from her face and she sat in the dining room with a subdued expression. Ivy wasn't entirely wrong, and it made her angry to admit that. Better she was apart from that creature right now, or risk doing something far worse than annoying her. Violet absent-mindedly stroked her bottom lip with her thumb until she was pulled from her thoughts at the sound of footsteps.

"How are you doing, Vincent?" Violet asked, before the door opened. 

 

Vincent pushed the door open, he looked groggy and worn out, like the sleep hadn't done him any good at all. "... Just peachy." He grumbled, shuffling towards her before sitting at the table near her. "What was all that noise?" He asked. However his answer came with another bang as Ivy stormed back in to the room, her fangs bared, more in reaction to the unprovoked assault than anything else. 
"You..." She snarled, before taking a breath and controlling herself. Her fangs disappeared with a snap, and she patted down her clothes. "Childish outbursts like that will end up costing the ones you love. But you're too arrogant to listen." She turned her gaze to Vincent. "You were a fool to bring her along. Remember I said that." And with that Ivy stormed off out of the room again, possibly before Violet worked up the desire to send her out the same way again. 
"What... the hell was that about?" Vincent asked, raising his brow, and then he shook his head. "I'm not sure I even want to know. My head is killing me..."
"Don't worry about it. She said something about bleeding, and then I tuned out." Violet smiled at her brother, "So, you slept?"
"If you can call it that." Vincent said. "Nightmares... and not the ones I'm used to. That bitch... she tricked me. I can't... it's weird. Now that it's over, her knowledge is now in my head, and now I can see what a horror she was. I think her construct did this to me just because her real self would have found it funny."
 
"Charming." Violet sighed, crossing her arms as she did so. "Well, it's about time to move on, isn't it?" She asked, raising an eyebrow. "I think maybe I should eat something, too. I'm feeling a little off." Violet looked back at Vincent, "So, how are you and Meredith getting on?" 
"I haven't spoken with her since yesterday." Vincent said. "I don't know what to say... and besides, I think I need to sort my own head out before I can try guiding her again. What kind of teacher goes and does the things he's told her never to do?" Vincent put his head in his hands, bringing them up to run his fingers through his long hair. "Still... the things I know now. Most of it is too horrible to ever use, but there are a few that are going to help." Vincent stood up. "Let's just get going. The sooner we get this done the sooner I can go home and sleep for a month."
"Don't be too hard on yourself, Vince." Violet stood up, "You're not the first teacher in history to practice, 'do as I say, not as I do'. It's practically expected." She patted her brother on the shoulder and he walked out. Violet started to follow Vincent out when something suddenly felt very strange, she paused in the doorway and quickly looked over her shoulder, but the dining room was empty and quite mundane. She frowned, but the feeling had passed and so she left with her brother. A moment later, a small golden ball of glowing light erupted into being in the dining room, it lingered there for just a second, and then vanished without a sound.

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Ivy and her vampires had procured a couple of large SUV's to make the trip to their larger facility. Violet, Meredith and Vincent piled in to the back of one of them, with Ivy at the wheel and in no time they were on their way. The drive was uncomfortably silent, and for the most part Vincent had stared out of the window as they passed through the streets under the cover of night. At some point, quite shortly in to the drive, he had drifted off to sleep. He had been fighting the urge, but eventually his body had given out. Another round of disturbing nightmares had followed. Nightmares consisting of memories that were not his own, memories of horrific events playing out in a time he assumed to be the dark ages. Occasionally he would awaken fitfully, but just as quickly he drifted back to sleep. 

 

And then he found himself sat at a table made of what looked to be glass. He looked around, and noticed th at he was sat in a courtyard constructed entirely of the same thing. It wasn't glass, he now realized, it was ice. The courtyard was furnished with a number of other tables like his own, each of them occupied by the beautiful men and woman he knew to be Sidhe. There were some other Fae creatures among them, a couple of Dryads, notable due to their plant-like appearance, and their hair consisting of leaves and petals. There were also a few Ogres and Trolls that had been somewhat comically dressed in suit trousers and tailcoats. The gathering was some kind of party, celebrating something he knew to be important, but he couldn't quite remember what it was. 

 

"You look a little uncomfortable." A voice said to him, a sweet and familiar one that made his heart attempt to climb up his chest. He turned to the woman sitting across the small table from him. She was a vision in a shimmering emerald dress that contrasted well with her long, red hair. He became instantly lost in her hazel eyes, and her distinct smell of summer flowers. "I know you don't like this fancy stuff but...well they tried really hard to make it a bit more normal for you."

"Yeah, nothing says normal like a 15 foot Troll in a tailcoat." Vincent said sarcastically. "Look I appreciate the effort, Claire, really I do..."

"Well then crack a smile for a change." She said with a smirk. "The gloomy boyfriend thing is real cute and all, but you're a daddy now. You need to smile, for our daughter." It was only at this point that Vincent had noticed the little baby wrapped in soft blankets that was sitting in Claire's arms. Why hadn't he noticed that before?"

 

His heart began pounding. The love he felt for Claire, as strong as it was, it was nothing compared to how he felt about the little girl in her arms. He felt a smile spread across his face as he looked at the little treasure. His daughter. Little...what was her name? He couldn't remember her name. How could that be? He clutched his head as a sharp, constant pain exploded in his skull. It was agony. He felt like his brain was going to burst through his skull. white noise whistled through his ears and his world went white. He couldn't remember where he was. All he could think about was the pain. He felt the ground fall away from him, followed by a sensation of falling that made his stomach churn. He was falling forever, spiralling in to a white abyss. 

 

"Claire, darling, there you are." The voice brought Vincent back to the courtyard instantly. The pain was gone. Another Sidhe had approached the table. She was tall and slim, and dressed in an elegant but elaborate white dress, that shimmered and glinted like the ice that was all around them. The woman was pale, with long white hair with soft, wavy curls, and her emerald eyes were predatory and cat-like, and her lips a light shade of blue. The air became cooler just with her presence. 

"Izzy, are you enjoying the celebration?" Claire said, smiling brightly at the other woman. Looking at both of them, Vincent noticed their similarities. Although they had different coloured hair, and different eyes, their facial features were uncannily similar. 

 

"Bit of a bore, but not your fault, dear." She replied. "It takes a lot to get me excited these days. Oh, and how are you doing, Vincent?" 

"I'm just peachy, Isoleth." Vincent replied. "Thanks for, uh...making the place a little more...human?"

"Well I did try but...it is a really boring realm." Isoleth said with a soft shrug. "Still, we have to cater to family I suppose."

"You hear that?" Claire said to Vincent with an amused grin. "She's calling you family now. Better watch out."

"Oh, please." Isoleth said, "That little changeling in your arms sealed the deal. He's mine now."

"I think you'll find he's mine, Izzy." Claire said, and she reached over and gently put her hand over Vincent's. 

"All that is Winter is mine, dear." Isoleth replied, and she looked once more at Vincent. "It's just a fact, you mustn't take it personally. It's not like I have any use for a silly mortal, wizard or not."

"Well I'm feeling more special by the minute." Vincent said, rolling his eyes. 

 

There was another wave of pain, and then a flash of emerald light, that blinded Vincent. The air crackled with magical energy, and he could hear Claire screaming. He could hear the baby screaming. Something was hurting them, but he couldn't see. The anger of his helplessness built up inside of him. He felt rage like he had never felt before. He wanted so badly to go to them, but he could not. And then he felt a powerful chill wash over him. He began to shiver, the cold felt bracing, and more tangible than he had felt before. It felt real. 

 

======

 

Vincent woke up in the back of the SUV, and found that he was shivering. He wasn't the only one, Meredith was sat next to him, rubbing her hands together for warmth. 

"Wh...what's going on?" Vincent asked

"Not sure, it's some crazy blizzard." Ivy said from the drivers seat. Outside the car the roads were blanketed in snow, and the road ahead was barely visible. 

"A blizzard...in Louisiana?" Vincent asked. 

"We got severe weather warnings before the radio went out. Apparently it's happening all across the states. It started in Los Angeles."

"What!?" Vincent gasped breathlessly. 

 

"Christmas came early this year." Violet added, with a weak smile. She had reformed what she referred to as her 'human suit' and looked like any other normal person, though with no discernible scars, marks or blemishes. Looking like a human was usually more helpful than an energy creature. Even in these strange times. "You alright?" She asked, inclining her head to examine him.

"Weird dreams, not the time though." Vincent replied. "This isn't just a freak storm. This just...it can't happen! It's too soon..."

"Winter..." Meredith whispered. "This is the Queen's doing, isn't it?"

"It started in L.A" Vincent said. "This is a message for me. Powerful as she is, she cannot directly use her power on mortals...but she can create one hell of a storm."

"Is she that powerful?" Meredith asked. 

"Maybe not normally...but the balance of power hasn't moved to Spring as it should. The longer her reign lasts, the stronger she gets."

"So when can we bust down her door and smoke her?" Violet asked, "I'm getting rather bored of all this running around."

"Look at what she's done here!" Vincent growled. "This is just a fraction of what her true power is like inside The Fae! Do you have a deathwish?"

Violet turned to look at Vincent, and it was clear she was not at the helm, "Vincent..." She chided him, yet smiled warmly all the same. "Be patient with us."

Vincent sighed in frustration, still not entirely used to Zeal's occasional interruptions. 

 

"This blizzard isn't letting up." Ivy said from the front. "At this rate I don't think I'm going to make it to the facility." No sooner had Ivy finished speaking, had a large black cat appeared sitting on the dashboard. Ivy let out a surprised yelp, and the car screeched as she hit the brakes. The back of the car spun out of control, until they came completely off the road and crashed in to a pile of snow, stuck fast. "What the hell is that?!" Ivy yelled. 

"I am not 'that', I am Eldest." The cat replied in a horrible mewl, before turning it's head towards Vincent. "Wizzzard...It is not safe here."

"Yeah, no shit!" Ivy yelled "You nearly killed us!"

"Ivy, be quiet for a minute, please." Vincent said irritably, pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration. "Eldest...what's going on?"

"Winter's wrrrath has come, Warrr is nigh." Eldest said grimly. "Time is up."

"We need Lucia's support to fight Winter's forces. The Wise won't mobilise without it. To do that, we have to finish this."
"Queen Aurora will wait no longer, Wizarrrd." Eldest mewled. "She will fight without the aid of mortals and the plagued ones."
"What did you call me!?" Ivy snarled

"Vincent..." Meredith said nervously. 
"Eldest, I never asked for your help. If you need to go back to your Queen then do so, I need to finish this."
"Vincent!" Meredith said again. 

"What?" Vincent asked, turning to her. Meredith pointed her finger towards the road outside of the car. Vincent turned his head to see a black dog sitting on the side of the road. "Oh for fuck sake." Vincent snarled, and he got out of the car. He slammed the door behind him and stamped through the snow towards the dog, his temper soaring. "What, now!? What the fuck do you want from me now!?" He yelled, throwing his hands up in the air. "I'm doing what you asked! What can you possibly have to annoy me with now!?"

 

"The Wise have fallen." The dog said in Acherus' voice. "Jeremy...he has betrayed us all." The words made Vincent's heart skip a beat. He went to say something but he was lost for words. 

"I...how?" He asked finally. 

"I do not know, yet. Something has...shifted. There are whispers in the shadows...old voices that have not been heard for millenia."

"Speak english, for fuck sake." Vincent said harshly.

"Something much larger is happening. Petty feuds have been set aside. The Wise are gone, and so I have taken matters in to my own hands." The black dog suddenly warped and twisted, shrouded in black smoke with glowing embers, and then from the smoke Acherus emerged, holding a mangled and bloodied corpse by the throat, in one hand. Vincent inspected the corpse, and he saw the pale skin, and the pointed canines. It was a vampire. 

"What the hell!?" Ivy said as she came out of the car. "You've...you've killed him!"
"Who is that?" Vincent asked her. 

"Are you kidding!?" Ivy said. "That's...Lassiter! Silas Lassiter!" She looked, surprisingly, upset at the scene. 

"Well...that's good right?" Vincent said. "This means we've done what we need to do."

"You...don't understand." Ivy said, and she closed her eyes, and Vincent thought he might have seen her shed a tear. 

 

"What do you think they're talking about?" Violet asked, peering out into the snow. "I fancy a look." A moment later Violet waved to Acherus, "Hello again, lovely weather?"

"I've finished your task on my own." Acherus said, ignoring Violet. "Lucia owes her service to me. I will make arrangements, as for you, well...." Acherus dropped the corpse to the floor. "I'm sending you back to your home. Get yourself ready, we'll need you shortly."

"I...how can one person take out every council member of The Wise?" Vincent asked. 

"I still live." Acherus pointed out. "This is not your concern for the moment. Winter is a far more immediate threat."

"Right..." Vincent said with a sigh. It wasn't right at all, but there was no point arguing with a Dragon. 

 

Acherus took a deep breath, and then he puffed out another plume of black smoke, that engulfed Vincent, and everyone else. Suddenly they were tumbling through darkness once more, moving through the strange dimension of Acherus' dragon fire magic. Vincent hit hard floor and then his apartment whirled in to focus. He looked around, dizzy for a moment, and felt relieved when he saw that Violet, Meredith and Ivy had arrived safely with him. 

"What...was that?" Ivy asked, looking around the room. "Where are we?"

"My apartment in L.A" Vincent replied. "And that was dragon's fire."

 

"That guy was a dragon!?" Ivy gasped. "I thought they all died..."

"He's the last one, as far as I know." Vincent said. Meredith walked over to the sofa and sat herself down. 

"I've never been so glad to be home." She said with a sigh. 

"I can't say I feel the same." Vincent said as he peered out of the window. The streets of L.A were blanketed in snow. He had never seen a blizzard as bad as this. The entire city must have been forced to a halt. Businesses would be closed, and nobody would be able to travel very far outside. If this kept up, there would likely be a growing mountain of casualties. 

 

A short moment passed by and then Eldest reappeared. "Wizzard...please alert me next time you decide to sail the rivers of time and space."

"I didn't exactly get a choice." Vincent said. "Anyway you got what you wanted, Eldest. The Queen will get her support, minus a few of the most badass wizards I've ever known." 

"What a load of rubbish."  Violet rolled her eyes, "'Dragon'? I've met more threatening lizards. Everyone is running around acting like they have the whole picture, pushing their agendas, meanwhile the Queen of Winter uses our in-fighting to her advantage."

 

"That dragon is older than any of us, perhaps even older than your crazy mother." Vincent said. "He's a pain in the ass, but he's one I'd rather have on my side, that's for sure." Vincent wandered over to his apartment door and picked up the mail that was sitting by the door. 

"Vincent, I haven't heard from Lucia." Ivy said. "And I don't know where my men are. This isn't acceptable. I can't stay here."

"I'm not stopping you from leaving." Vincent replied. "This is totally out of my control now."

"If I don't hear from Lucia shortly, then I will be leaving, rest assured." Ivy said

"Fine by me." Vincent said as he opened a letter addressed to him. Inside was just a single sheet of paper. He glanced over what was written, and then he felt a sudden chill. 

 

"Vincent!" Meredith said, standing up as she saw the colour drain from Vincent's face. Vincent looked up, and went to speak, but before he could, there was a flash and a screech, and then he was gone. "Vincent!" Meredith cried as she ran over to where he had been standing. In a panic she dropped to the floor and picked up the letter. When she read it she covered her mouth in shock. Tears welled in her eyes and she broke down crying. She dropped the letter on the floor. It read only a simple statement: 'The truth will emerge in Arctaeros.'

 

======

 

Vincent opened his eyes and found himself in complete darkness. He tried to move but he could not. His entire body was freezing, and he couldn't move and inch. He tried to summon his will, and managed to create an orb of light that hovered a few feet above his head. He looked down and saw why he couldn't move. He was completely encased in a thick layer of ice, rooted to the spot on a dark, stone floor. Memories of this place flashed through his head. He had been here once before, just after his whole world had been turned upside down. Five years ago he suffered here in ways he had never suffered before or since. It was, in his mind, hell. He fought the urge to cry. 

 

"Well, well..." A cool, sinister voice echoed through the darkness. "Five years...has it been that long? So nice to see you, Vincent." 

Isoleth stepped in to Vincent's light, she was dressed in a revealing number, consisting of an intricately patterned cloth that was held over her shoulders, and pinned around her breasts. A thin, translucent skirt hung loosely at her waist, and her white hair was pinned back and decorated with a crown of dark blue roses, with icy spikes protruding outwards in a fan shape over her head. Her emerald eyes glinted in the light, and she licked her blue lips like a hungry predator.

"How did you do this!?" Vincent snapped

 

"With a little help..." Isoleth said with a smirk. "I've been waiting for this for a long time, Vincent. I have waited for what is mine to be returned to me."

"I am not yours!" Vincent yelled, fighting back tears. "I don't care what deal was made, I will never be yours!"

"So you still have some fight, that's good." Isoleth said. "It would be rather dull if you'd given up already. But I am going to enjoy breaking you, Vincent. Do you know how?"

"I don't care!" Vincent spat. "Just kill me and save yourself some time!"

 

"Kill you?" Isoleth said, touching her lips for a moment. "Why would I do such a thing? My dear boy...you must receive a more fitting punishment for your crime. A crime that you have scrubbed from your own memory. I am going to make you remember it...and it's going to hurt. It's going to hurt so much. I can promise you that..." 

 

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One moment, Vincent was there. The next, he was gone. Violet stared with a dumbfounded expression on her face for a few seconds as she tried to comprehend what had happened. She heard Meredith scream her brother's name as she ran to the dropped letter. Violet frowned and almost smiled in trying to understand what had happened. She walked up to Meredith, calmly pulled the letter from Meredith's shaking fingers and looked at the passage in silence.

 

Vincent was gone. This thought bounced around Violet's thoughts as she stood there in confusion. Slowly, the confusion was replaced by indignant anger. How dare someone take her brother? Nobody had that right. She could feel Zeal's voice streaming from her lips, fighting against her, but he was struggling. She knew he was struggling, because he felt the same way she did. So why was he fighting her rage?
"I'LL KILL THEM!!" She screeched at the top of her lungs, the letter exploded into ash as a purple fire engulfed her, burning away her human suit and leaving only the purple-bodied Nagloshi behind. The living mass of pink hair spread out behind her as she paced through the apartment. She roared and grabbed hold of the refrigerator door and pulled it from it's hinges with little effort, throwing it across the kitchen in a fit of rage. Still, she could hear Zeal's voice flowing from her lips, but she couldn't hear it. Didn't want to hear it.
"Meredith, I can't!" Zeal called to the young woman, "She's too strong! I can't control her like this, not when..." Zeal trailed off as Violet stormed through the apartment, screaming and grabbing anything in her path, and venting her frustration upon it.

 

Meredith moved from her kneeling spot on the floor, quickly pressing her body up against the far wall from Violet, her eyes full of panic and fresh tears. "Vi...Violet?" She whispered. "Please...Auntie Vi...he's gone I...I can't..."

Violet screamed once more, but heard noise in the next room. She came flying back in, rushing towards Meredith with nothing but rage and pain in her eyes and grabbed hold of Meredith, "Where is he?!" She screamed at her, and brought her arm back. Her palm began glowing with bright energy, and she tried bringing her arm to bear upon Meredith, but couldn't.

Zeal had to stop her, he saw Meredith was terrified, and saw what they were doing, and did everything he could to fight. "Two beings, can't live... in one body!" Zeal cried, pulling back on Violet's arm as she wailed with loss. "I can't...!!" He yelled, through Violet's lips. "Fight any longer..." He could feel himself losing control, Violet was pulling her arm down at last.

A little glowing golden orb whipped through the room, casting a golden hue on everything, and in a flash, passed through Violet's chest and out the other side, then fluttered away into the wall and disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. Violet gasped and fell to her knees, wheezing.

"I'll..." She shook as though she'd just run a marathon, "I'll kill them, Meredith... i'll kill them."

"Vi..." Meredith breathed, trying to get a hold of herself. She tentatively placed her hand on Violet's and caught her gaze. "We'll kill them... okay?"

Violet looked upon Meredith with her glowing white eyes and tried taking a deep breath, "What did you do to me..." She felt strange, but found it difficult to describe. Like she'd just been charged with something. Like someone filled her car with the wrong fuel. "Meredith... we have to get... into Arctaeros." She was finding it difficult to breathe, each breath was laboured. But something had to be done, and soon. Or Vincent was likely doomed.

"I didn't do anything." Meredith said, and she moved away from Violet, straightening her jacket. "As for Arctaeros....it cannot be done." Meredith looked back at Violet and her eyes were filled with resolute hopelessness. "Nobody enters or leaves Arctaeros unless the Queen permits it. The only person who's ever done it is..."

"Who...?" Violet asked, trying to keep her temper in check. She slowly pulled herself to her feet and clenched her fists.

 

"...Vincent." Meredith said, and tears began to well up in her eyes again. "But it's not how he thinks... his memories have blocked that out too. He..." Meredith lowered her head so that Violet couldn't look at her, and tears dropped down on to the floor. "... I'm sorry I haven't told you... I didn't know how you'd react. I still don't know if..."

"Spit it out!" Violet roared, but remained quite still, cautious that moving would encourage her temper. She knew she wasn't angry at Meredith, but she couldn't help it. Every fibre in her being right now was telling her to lash out, and both her and Zeal were doing everything they could to stop it.

Meredith pursed her lips, but she did not speak. She was too terrified to speak to Violet in that moment. She couldn't tell her, not right now. Just when she thought Violet was about to yell again, she was saved, when someone rapped loudly on the door. Meredith nearly jumped out of her skin. "Who... there's a storm out." She whispered. "Who'd come here now?"

 

"Someone who is going to be rather upset..." Violet replied, rising off from the floor and reaching out with her hand and made a yanked backwards, the door flew from it's hinges and Violet raised her hands, ready to attack the stranger. But instead, she found herself stalled by surprise. Slowly, she lowered herself to the ground, "D-David?" Violet frowned, unsure at first.

"Well..." David began, his eyebrows raised in alarm, and his hand was already clasped on the hilt of the broadsword he was carrying. "Violet... you're back." He said as he stepped inside, bundles of snow falling from his clothes with every step. He strode quickly, and before Violet could react, he had held her hand in a firm, yet gentle way. "I'm... I'm so glad you are with us again."

Violet looked down at David's hand clutching her own and she found her breathing beginning to calm. "David..." She smiled, despite her current mood. David had a way with people that nobody else had. There were few who could have dealt with Violet in that moment. At least, peacefully.

"What are you doing here...?" Violet asked, looking at the broken door on the ground in mild irritation at her temper, now that she had calmed enough to see what she had done.

"Well..." David said. "I... felt I was needed." He said simply. Before he could get another word out he was almost tackled to the floor as Meredith caught him in a tight embrace. 
"David!" She breathed as she hugged him tighter. "... I've never been so glad to see you."
"Well it's wonderful to see you too, dear." David said, gently stroking her hair. "Pink and blue... that's an interesting look." He turned and looked back at Violet. "And you, purple still, I see. Well it does suit you I suppose. Now... where is that moody brother of yours, hm?"
 
"Vincent has been taken. By Isoleth." Violet replied, her jaw clenched as she said the fae's name. 
"I... see." David's head fell, in sadness. "So... it seems I really was needed. I'm so sorry, both of you."
"Don't feel sorry for us, David." Violet said simply, all anger seemed to have drained out of her. She seemed strangely calm. "Feel sorry for Isoleth. Because I will find a way to enter that realm, and when I do, there's no word to describe what i'll do to her." Violet turned and left the room. She walked into Vincent's room and shut the door behind her and almost immediately she collapsed to her knees. Her face screwed up as though she wanted to cry, and her chest heaved with weeping, but no liquid escaped the corners of her ethereal eyes. She shook with grief and pulled herself into a corner, bundling herself up against the wall as tightly as she could. She wanted to escape, she wanted to destroy herself just so she didn't feel like this. She hated it. Why did she feel everything so strongly? She had always had a temper, yet she'd always been able to control her emotions, and now it was like someone had pulled a thread from her jumper and they just kept coming no matter what she did.
"I can stay, if you want?" 
Violet heard the voice and looked up in surprise, only to see a familiar face, dressed in black. 
"I figure you could use all the help you can get right now." Dee smiled and knelt down on the ground beside her, letting Violet rest her head upon her shoulder. "Don't worry, Vi. I'm going to get your brother back... and to hell with the consequences."

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