Hallowed - Private Kyo& Val

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"Sit down, kiddo." David said as he went in to Vincent's kitchen to do what he did best, make tea. Meredith sat herself on the sofa, and almost immediately began fidgeting with her fingers. Sitting down seemed like the most unreasonable thing in the world to her right now. She needed to act, to save Vincent, but she didn't know where to begin. Yet sitting around waiting for tea didn't seem like it would accomplish anything. The thoughts were whirling around in her head so quickly that it seemed like David had sat by her side only seconds after her, but he was holding two cups of hot tea. 

"I know it might seem inappropriate given the situation, but would you like to talk?" David asked. 

"I...don't know what to say, or what to do." Meredith replied, taking her cup and clasping her hands around it, allowing the heat to burn her fingers just a little. 


"At times like this, I find that faith is very important." David said as he sipped his tea. "The Lord is on our side in this mission, the fact that I am here is evidence enough."

"...I don't know if I can put my faith in something like that." Meredith replied, her eyes fixed on the floor. "But I'm glad you're here, David. I can put my faith in you. It wouldn't be the first time you saved me."

"Ah, yes." David said with a nod. "We were in a bit of hot water back then, with those Faeries. I suppose now is not so different."

"It's completely different." Meredith said, frowning. "Vincent isn't here..."

"Yes, his absence leaves quite the void." David said with a nod. "But more reason to get to work in saving him. How about we focus on what we can do?"


"And what can we do?" Meredith asked, looking at David hopefully. 

"We find allies." David said. "Vincent had a knack for making friends, considering how abrasive he could be."

"...Al, he'll help us." Meredith said. "I don't know where he is but Violet can probably find him."

"Yes, he's a good man. Definitely someone we can rely on." David agreed. "What about his..." David sighed, disappointed in what he was about to suggest. "That vampire he knows."

"Careful old man." Eve said as she entered Vincent's apartment. Meredith jumped a little, she had forgotten Eve was with them. "Something against my kind?"


"You are an abomination." David said simply, his eyes hardening. "But..." David noted Meredith's lack of alarm. "I assume you are an ally."

"Charmer." Eve said rolling her eyes. "Who the hell is this old fool anyway?"

"My friend." Meredith said testily. "Eve, this is David. David, this is Eve. She works for Lucia. You could say she's on loan to us for the moment."

"Wow, way to make me feel welcome." Eve said, folding her arms. "Whatever. I've scouted the city as best as I can. Whoever sent that letter hasn't left any trail, at least nothing the storm hasn't swallowed up. The streets are dead, and you can't even see the sky. First time I've been able to walk around after sun up for a long time."

"I think an explanation might be in order." David said. 


And so Meredith explained the entire series of events to David, and after about an hour she had gotten him up to speed. After hearing everything David sat silently for a moment, clearly struggling to take in all that he had heard. It was Eve who broke the silence. "Look, at any moment Acherus could give the word, and we'll all be called upon to start this war." She said. "There is something bigger than your brother happening right now. Don't expect the supernatural community to come to your aid."

"Vincent taught me to never expect anything from the Wise anyway." Meredith said coldly. "We'll do this without them, or well, what's left of them."

"Well, then I suppose we better ask Violet if she can find Alphonse for us." David said, and he stood up and walked towards Vincent's bedroom. He knocked gently on the door and waited. 


Dee opened the door, looked David up and down and then smiled, "Hello, David. How are you?"

"You..." David paused for a moment, clearly struggling with something internally. "I...sorry, have we met?"

"I'm sure we have." Dee replied with a smile, genuinely happy to see David as though they were old friends, "I knew your parents." She added.

"...I...think I understand." David said, frowning a little. "It seems there really is no limit to the kind of friends this lot keeps."

"I think you do." Dee replied, a wide grin spread across her face as a sort of pleasant surprise took her. "Speak for yourself, David." She nodded at him, "Not everyone down here has the friend you do." Dee's eyes momentarily darted skywards and then she sauntered past him as Violet came to the door.
"Oh, David..." Violet smiled weakly.
"Violet, how are you doing?" David asked. 
"Unbalanced." Violet replied with a sheepish grin. Dee snorted a laugh out and Violet looked as though she was going to lose her temper, but eventually chuckled instead. She took a deep breath, and as she sighed, her hair fell down against her shoulders, and she became cloaked in her human form. Violet wriggled a little as though she'd pulled on something uncomfortable, but she was happier with how David saw her now.
"I'm sorry, I know this is difficult." David said. "Meredith has explained the whole thing. She thinks Alphonse might be able to help us. Do you know where to find him?"
"I'm sure Alphonse could help, David. But if he doesn't want to be found I don't think we'll ever find him. I would have thought now more than ever he's gone into hiding." Violet crossed her arms and tried to think.
"That man mentored you, Violet." David said. "If he would have allowed for anyone to find him, it would be you and Vincent."
"I can try?" Violet raised an eyebrow, unsure of herself. "To be honest, I have to tap into a part of myself i'm not really..." She looked to Dee.
"Violet is in a period of adjustment." Dee replied politically.
"Thank you. What she said." Violet smiled at David, "I can try, but i'm just worried that I could do more harm than good. My mother said that Nagloshi are among the most powerful beings in creation. But, our weakness is it takes us many hundreds of years to hone those skills. I must be an infant to other Nagloshi..." Violet trailed off as a thought occurred to her, "I wonder if that's why my mother treated me the way she did..."
"An infant Nagloshi, you might be..." David said with a nod. "But you are still every bit the capable woman you have always been, Violet. You are a wizard, a police officer, a detective, a sibling and..." David turned his head back to Meredith. "...and now an Aunt. I have every faith in you."
"Oh..." Violet looked from David to Meredith and back again, and then grinned, "Well isn't Vincent going to be pleased when he finds out he's the last to know." She chuckled a little, "Alright, well then i'll see what I can do." She gave David a nod.
"Thank you." David said with a nod. "And perhaps you should take uh..." David inclined his head toward Dee. "I imagine she can help you more than anyone else can."

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"Alright." Violet stepped into the middle of the room and looked around her. David, Dee, Meredith, and even Eve. They were all relying on her. This was her first real chance to show them all that she was still the same person. Different, but the same. She brought her hands up in front of her and looked down at her palms, watching as the thin membrane of energy that made up her 'skin' burnt away and she felt her hair lift up from her back. She opened her mouth to speak, but blinked and found she was no longer in the apartment.
"W-where am I?" She asked, looking around the empty, white space. Then she saw someone approaching her from out of the white. No, she wasn't being approached, she was walking towards a mirror. But the mirror was wrong. She saw herself as she was a year ago. Scarred, tattoos covering her arms, a smug grin on her face looking back at her. She understood now why that annoyed Vincent.


Violet brought her hand up to her face and traced the line of her jaw, and the human Violet with the scruffy haircut in front of her mimicked the action perfectly. A perfect mirror. "Huh..." She muttered, and then cautiously reached out to touch the other Violet, just as the other Violet reached out in tandem. But as their fingers were about to meet, the other Violet slapped her hand away.
"Alright, enough games, you." She grinned at the Nagloshi part of herself.

"You're Zeal?" Violet asked.
"That's the name you gave me." She replied. 
"I was expecting something a little..."
"Furrier?" Zeal asked.
"Well... you had a tail." Violet muttered.
"Like you haven't." Zeal grinned and then took a step back and sat down on thin air, "So, we're going to ask Al for help then..."
"Thinking about it, yeah. Can we agree on that, or are you going to try and stop me again?!" Violet growled.

"Come on," Zeal replied, brushing hair out of her face, "Al is our friend, our mentor. We need his help. We're not strong enough for this, Vi. You know that, but you're just pushing on through, you think you can handle all this on your own, but you can't. It's alright to ask for help."
"So, are we sticking with Zeal?" She asked.
"What else am I going to call you?" Violet's question was as much a threat, at least in tone.

"Alright. I've been patient with you, because well... you're me, and sometimes i'm an idiot. But here's some tough love, Vi..."

Violet looked down at her hands, she saw the apartment stretching out in front of her. She looked up and saw everyone waiting expectantly, but she was shaking. She grit her teeth and screwed up her face and was thankful she didn't have tear ducts for a change.
"Violet?" Eve asked in confusion.
"I'm fine, i'm just... I need to concentrate." She smiled at them, and then she focused. She knew that Al would have surrounded himself with every ward and guard he had in his considerable bag of tricks. She had to find a way to locate him without triggering anything potentially fatal. Closing her eyes, Violet focused all her will into a circle. She felt Dee step in close beside her and put one hand on her waist and she took a deep breath, and tried to find a measure of peace. Her thoughts were a terrible hurricane, but steadily, one by one, she wrestled them into submission. It took a while, and she could feel movement in the room. She wasn't sure how much time had passed, but when she was ready, it happened very quickly.

There was a loud popping noise and she suddenly felt very warm. To say she felt clammy would be wrong, she didn't have skin, but she could feel how hot and moist it was. Violet opened her eyes to see a tropical jungle in front of her.

"Well... alright." Violet frowned, but Dee cleared her throat and nodded behind her. Violet turned to see a large pile of wood chippings in the distance. Beside them lay a curved canoe-looking object, though it was a little early to say for sure. Besides which, Al was sat at the height of the beach, looking out across the crystal waters, knife in hand. Violet suppressed a laugh. Dee began laughing hysterically. They walked down through the sand, within seconds Violet clothed herself so she appeared human and Dee flapped her top as if she was hot, and her clothes naturally changed into something a little more comfortable. A plain black bikini. She kicked her feet through the sand and grinned at the ocean waves lapping against the beach.
"You look a little too comfortable." Violet muttered, frowning at Dee's childlike abandon.

"Does this skin looks like it gets to see the beach very often?" Dee retorted with a wide grin.

"Taken to whittling, have you?" Violet asked.

"Am retired, darlin', I need a hobby." Al said without looking up, and he continued carving away at the large trunk of wood. He was dressed in a pair of green camo shorts and a white vest, and was barefoot. His dishevelled hair and overgrown beard looked much the same as it always had, despite being a little wet with sweat.

"Looks nice." Dee added, admiring his work. "How are you, Alphonse?"

"A lil' hot, but can't complain." Al replied, still not looking up. "How 'bout you? Here for a tan? Hardly think that'd be a problem fo' a shifter."

"I'm not." Violet replied, "Here for a tan. Or a shifter, that is. I'm neither, i'm moving up in the world. Or maybe sideways?" 
"Have you two met lately?" Dee asked, sitting on the beach and burying her feet into the sand.

"Not since she went all 'Purple Rain' on us." Al said to Dee, finally dropping his tools and standing up to face them. He looked Violet up and down, and his expression was thoroughly unimpressed. "Shifter's a shifter, darlin', you ain't wearing your real face, that makes you a shifter in ma books. An' I couldn't give a spit if yer doin' loop de loops, ain't gonna change how I look at ye."

"Thanks, Al." Violet smiled.

"Well this is lovely..." Dee added, raising her eyebrows and holding her mouth open awkwardly. "Anyone going to bring up the whole... whole world turning into Narnia or...?" She paused looking at them, "No, I mean, 'Oh look, jellyfish!'" And with that, she stood and ran down to the water's edge.

"I'm sorry I didn't come sooner." Violet said finally.

"Hey, still managed to beat Vincent." Al said, folding his arms. "Not exactly like I made a map for ye, either."

"Right... i've learnt that magic gives off a kind of... I don't know. But I know yours well enough to single you out, at least, with a little help." Violet looked down the beach at Dee who was currently splashing about at the water's edge.

"Us mortals just call it an Aura, darlin', but then again we ain't got eyes like yours, maybe we got it wrong." Al said. He looked down the beach at Dee for a moment and then turned back to Violet. "Speakin' a thing beyon' a mortals purview, why is there an Aspect currently chasin' Jellyfish on my beach?"

"Would you accept 'It's complicated' as an answer?" She replied, her smile turning into a grin.

"Would ye accept 'no shit' as a response?" Al said, running his fingers over his mustache. "Ye know she's millions o' years...hell, more than tha'. They've been aroun' since tha beginnin', Vi."
"I..." She looked back at Dee and frowned, "I'm not sure that's how it works. Not for her. Look," Violet cut Al off with a motion of her hand, she was getting annoyed, she didn't need to think about Dee right now. "We came here because we need your help."


"Well now, tha' sounds more like it." Al said. "None o' you kids ever come round for a beer an' a chit chat any more." Al sat himself down on the half finished canoe he had been working on, and made one of those hacking, wretched coughs that only old men do, and then he folded his arms again. "So?"
"So...?" Violet frowned.
"We've got like... a few minutes?" Dee came walking up to them with a couple of beers in each hand and gave one to each of them, then she took her first bottle and necked the entire contents in seconds, and then took a swig of her second beer, "Sláinte!" She exclaimed, "Oh these are on your tab, Al. Thanks." She winked at him. "So he wants you to explain, and I figured the time it takes we might as well have a beer."
Violet rolled her eyes, but did just that. She gave Al the condensed version of everything that had happened, but focused on their most recent events. Vincent was in Isoleth's prison, in the fae realm, at the heart of Winter itself. And there was no way they could reach him.


Al didn't say anything until he had drained the last of his beer. With a short gasp he wiped his arm across his mustache and turned to Dee. "Good call on' the beer, darlin', a very good call." Al stood up again and took a deep breath, looking out to sea, and for a moment it seemed like he was contemplating swimming out there and never returning. "Tha' damn dragon's been sniffin' aroun' me since the Wise got killed. Sittin' in a dark room judgin' folks ain't my idea of a good time, which is why I've been hidin' ou' here. Sides which, I ain't fightin' no war for him." Al gave another sigh and put his hands on his hips. "But if I go to war for anyone, it's tha' boy."

"Damn right." Dee muttered, finishing her beer. 
Violet set her untouched beer to one side, "Ready to go? We'll go back to the apartment, I think between you, me, Dee, Meredith, David and Eve we might be able to breach into the fae close enough that we'll be within a day's walk to Isoleth's stronghold, without raising the alarm. From there, i'm not really sure, but it's not something we can really plan."

"You got tha' right." Al said. "Why don' you go assemble yer war council while I get changed. Then we'll make a plan, back at the apartment."

"And I was so fond of the shorts..." Dee mused.

Violet smirked, and then they stepped in close to one another, and Violet focused once more, moving back into the apartment was it's own kind of difficult. There wasn't a lot standing in their way that they hadn't personally put up, but it was a compact space, and they didn't know where people were going to be in the room. In an instant, Violet gasped as she found herself standing on the edge of the coffee table, she almost fell over and quickly had to step down and right herself. Dee landed softly into the couch, already changed from her beach attire. 
"Well that was a fun little jaunt..." Dee stared out the window at the snow packing itself up against the window.

"You could call it that." Violet muttered, "Al's on board." She confirmed, addressing everyone in the room.

"That's great news." David said, as he brought tea for everyone that he had inexplicably made at just the right time. "Meredith found someone too." Meredith visibly shuddered at her place on the sofa when she heard David speak. She had been sitting quietly, but her face was awash with guilt, and she was on the verge of tears.

"I don't like the sound of that..." Violet growled.

"I'm sorry!" Meredith practically squeeked. "I just... I wanted to tell you but, there was never a good time. I... I didn't want you to find out like this..."


"I suggest dropping a name before we see the lilac Hulk, Meredith." Dee cautioned. 
"That's not funny, Dee." Violet curled her top lip in a snarl.

"Look..." Meredith started, "When I was a baby, Vincent made sure I was hidden somewhere safe. That place was an area of the Wylds known as the Tranquil Vale. Time... it moves differently there. That's why, even though it was only around 6 years ago, for me it's been almost 20. But, I was a baby. I couldn't look out for myself. Vincent... he had someone he trusted look after me. I called that person..." Tears finally began to fall from Meredith's eyes. "I'm so sorry, Violet..."

"Oh, please don't say my mother..." Violet crossed an arm, rested her other on it and pressed her knuckles into her forehead as hard as she could as though she was trying to relieve a pressure migraine. "I just really don't want to hear you say that, Meredith."


"No.. it's..." Meredith began, but she was interrupted by a knock on the door. Meredith got up and went to the door, and opened it, her head immediately falling, not bearing to look at Violet's reaction. A tall, broad shouldered man stepped through the door. He was wearing black boots, blue jeans, and a red and white plaid shirt. Where his shirt sleeves were pulled up there were clear, deep scars along his arms. The man turned to face the others in the room. He had a head of short, thick, black hair that was going a little silver on the sides. He had a short, trimmed beard, and a particularly large scar above his right eye, and his eyes were a brilliant emerald green. "...Hello, Violet." He said, and there was a joyful look in his eye, yet he dared not smile.

Violet's face screwed up in disbelief as she walked up to the stranger in front of her, "D-dad?"


"Yes..." said the man, Elias Wolfwood Hallow. "I... I know I have no right to be here, or to say anything, but..." Eli sighed. "I never got to see the woman you have grown to be. You're so beautiful, like your mother."
For the briefest of moments, Violet was stunned. Into silence, into stillness. Violet tensed, and she marched towards Eli, closing the gap in a couple of seconds. Her human mask turned to ash and fell away, her hair lifting into the air and her eyes burning with a dangerous light.

"Ah shit, i'm gonna be on the clock tonight..." Dee bit her lip and watched.


Violet grabbed hold of her father, embracing him and her walls fell away, and she cried. Once she started, she could no longer stop. No tears could leave her eyes, but she wretched with a pain she didn't realise she'd been holding onto. Her face nuzzled into his chest and she wept, her crying echoed into the apartment as her shoulders shook and her fingers clutched onto his shirt. Afraid that if she let him go, he would turn to smoke and embers like so much in her life. To vanish.

"You..." Violet tried to speak between her shuddering cries, "... left... me! You... left me... I..." She shook her head, pressing her face into him, "... I thought... I thought i'd... never... see you... again..." She weakly thumped her fist into his chest over and over again until she felt his arms delicately wrap around her, as though she were made of glass.

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For a long time Eli was still as Violet sobbed on his chest. It was clear that he hadn't quite expected that particular reaction. However, after a moment his expression softened to a resigned smile. He took his daughter's hand, to stop her from beating him any further, and he lead her to the sofa and sat her down, sitting next to her. Meredith joined him and sat down nervously at the other side of him. "Hi, Gramps." She said, nervously pulling her hair away from her face.

"Yes, hello Merry." Eli said, giving her a smile and patting her hand, Then he turned his attention back to his daughter. "Violet, I know I left you. Please believe me that it was the last thing I wanted. There is so much I have to explain to you, both you and Vincent. I promise that I will tell you everything, but first we have to save my son." 


Violet took a deep breath and exhaled. Then her smile dropped from her face, and what was left behind was red hot rage. "Thank you, i'd had just about enough of that." She muttered. She looked her father over once more and closed her eyes, as though willing herself not to do anything.
"Well done." Dee put her hand on Violet's knee, "That was like a 6/10 for effort." Violet shot her a furious look, "6.5?"
"Violet..." Meredith said, biting her lower lip. "I'm...I'm sorry."
Violet's expression remained, she looked as though were she to try and move, it would be to level the entire block. But despite her pained expression, the words coming out of her mouth seemed strangely level.
"It's alright, Mere. We'll get over it, just don't, y'know... invite any more family members." Then her mouth closed and her jaw tightened.
"So, I suppose I should explain a few things." Eli said, looking a little uncomfortable. "Violet, before I do, I need you to give me the Grimoire. Merry said Vincent left it with you, is that true?"
"I can't give you the grimoire." Violet replied simply, her face tensing. Eli gave a short sigh, but he did not show any frustration. 
"I understand, you made a promise." Eli said with a nod. "But I need to use the Grimoire. I need to speak with Vincent, or well, his consciousness within the book. He is the only mortal who knows the way in to Arctaeros."
"I love you, dad. That's the only reason we haven't gotten off this couch yet, because it's taking all my willpower to stop..." Violet trailed off for a moment and approached her response from another angle. "I love you, dad. But I don't trust you."
"Violet, I have held that book before." Eli said. "I know all of it's contents, except Vincent's. But only a Hallowed wizard can access it's contents. I...don;t deserve your trust. I wouldn't ask for it in any other circumstance but...there simply is no other way."
"Yes, there is." Violet replied.
"Vi, you can't use the Grimoire any more," Dee interrupted, "You don't have any blood, which is a specific requirement of the ritual pact."
"No, but you do..." Violet looked to Meredith.
"Me?" Meredith said, looking a little shocked. 
"No, you can't." Eli said, shaking his head. "She's too young, it's far too dangerous for her."
"I'll do it..." Meredith said, ignoring Eli. "If it's for Vincent, then I'll do it."
" would be easier if I did it." Eli protested. 
"Auntie Vi told you she won't." Meredith said sternly. "First lesson about your daughter; She doesn't back down, okay?"
"Don't kiss ass, dear. It doesn't suit you." Violet replied, stretching her jaw, "Ah, that's better! Finally. Now, i've been patient enough with the lot of you mayflies, so..." She stood up and faced her father, "You don't have any rights here, you walked out on those. You don't get to tell me what to do any more. We're in agreement on that. You're just another gun." Violet grinned, "It's nice to have full use of my faculties again." Then she looked to Meredith, "I'd smite you if you weren't so damn sneaky." She gave her a playful wink as she reached into her own chest, her hand phasing through her body as if it was nothing. A moment later Violet heaved the Grimoire from her chest. "Here, knock yourself out. You're a good kid." She said smiling as she passed Meredith the large tome. "I feel like i've shed 5lbs, it's wonderful - you should try it." She added, giving Eve a cursive look at her figure.
Meredith held the book in her hands, opening it up to blank pages. She turned to Eli for instruction. "Just a few drops of blood and your full name, given willingly." He explained. 
"Okay..." Meredith said. She held up her thumb, and ran her finger over it, reciting a spell she used for rituals that Vincent had taught her. A small cut appeared on her thumb, and she allowed the blood to drop on to the pages of the book. She gasped a little as she felt a sudden thrum of power emanating from the Grimoire. Then she spoke her name out loud. 
"Meredith..." She paused for a moment, looking at Violet. "Meredith Violet Hallow."
"Charming little scruffbag, that one." Violet raised her eyebrow at Dee who smiled back at her, "No, I won't." Violet added to the air, "Because i'm done hugging the fleshies. That's why."
"Blood has been given. A name has been given." A booming voice thundered out from the book. "What do you seek, Meredith Violet Hallow?"
"Um..." Meredith hesitated. 
"Careful." Eli warned. "Speak only to Vincent. And only take the knowledge we need. His knowledge of The Ways, and the path to Arctaeros."
"Right..." Meredith said, taking a shaky breath. Then she spoke to the Grimoire. "I want to speak to Vincent."
"Do you agree to bind yourself to this Grimoire?" The book asked. 
"I do." She said. 
"Then it is done." The book said, and suddenly Meredith felt herself being pulled away from the sofa, the apartment melting away from her. 
Suddenly she was stood outside a door to an office. On the door there was a sign that said; 'Vincent Hallow - Paranormal Investigator'. Meredith stepped forward and put her hand on the door. She took a deep breath, and then she pulled down the handle and pushed the door open. Sitting with his feet on the desk, across the room from her, was Vincent. He was smoking a cigarette and reading a trashy romance novel. He looked up from the book, and smiled at Meredith when he saw her. "Hey, what can I do for you, Grasshopper?"
"Vincent?" Meredith asked. 
"In the flesh, well, actually not so much." Vincent said, shrugging and putting the book down. He stood up from his seat and walked over to her. "It was weird for me too, when I went through this."
" you know what's going on?"
"Yeah, you allowed your consciousness to enter the book. Since I'm part of the book, I know what you know, and so I know what's going on."
"Even..." Meredith whispered. 
"Yeah, even that." Vincent said. "But the real me doesn't know, or at least I don't think he does. He didn't know the last time he held the book, that's about as much as I can tell you."
"This is...confusing." Meredith said
"I know, right?" Vincent said, rolling his eyes. "At least you have me to talk to. I had to talk to a weird British guy."
"I..." Meredith sighed. "You're not really Vincent. I'm sorry but...I want to find the real thing. I don't have time to chat."
"Well time here isn't a factor..." Vincent then noticed Meredith's worried expression. "Okay, I get it. Don't worry, we can cut to the chase. You want my power, right?"
"Just the Ways." Meredith said. "And the way to Arctaeros."
"Right, that's what you need, but it's not what you want, at least not the only thing." Vincent said. "Look, to be honest I don't even like that you're here. I don't want you to put yourself in danger...I'd rather you just left me."
"But...I need you." Meredith said, feeling another fit of tears coming on. 
"I know..." Vincent said, smiling. "Which is why I'm going to help you."
"Why...why are you so happy?" Meredith said, frowning. "Vincent doesn't act like that."
"He did, once upon a time." Vincent said. "The thing is, since you came here, I know some things that Vincent doesnt. Things that will make him happy."
"...You mean?" Meredith asked
"He thinks his daughter is dead, Meredith." Vincent said. "That's bound to make a guy a little grumpy."
"...Okay." Meredith said with a nod. "Then when I find him, I'm going to tell him everything."
"I think he'll like that." Vincent said. "Now it's about time you get what you came for."
"The Ways." Meredith said. 
"Come on, kid." Vincent said. "You can't lie to me in here. You can't lie to yourself, either. What do you want?"
"...I want to be able to do what you can do." Meredith said, and her eyes were filled with a sudden fury. "Screw the illusions, and the veils. I want to hurt Isoleth."
"That's my girl." Vincent said with a smirk. 
Suddenly Meredith was back inside the apartment, and people were yelling. 
"Don't give me tha' bullshit, Eli. I'm yer best friend, an' ye couldn't even let me know ye were alive!" Al had arrived in her absence, and was currently standing in the kitchen, livid, and about ready to burn Eli to cinders. 
"Al...look you don't understand." Eli said calmly, holding his hands up in protest. 
"Ye left those poor kids without a father!" Al roared. "D'ya have any idea what ye've put them through, Eli!? An' I defended ye, all this time! Thought ye'd died tryin' ta protect 'em!"
"You think I don't know that!?" Eli yelled back. "You think I wanted to leave my own kids!?" 
Meredith had seen enough. She got up from the couch, and before she could think, her hand raised and she snapped her fingers. "Ignis!" She barked, and suddenly a burst of fire exploded in between Eli and Al. Nothing huge or destructive, but it was enough to drive them back from one another, and they both turned around to face her, their eyes wide with surprise. 
"Merry..." Eli said. "What are you-"
"Have you forgotten why you're here!?" She yelled. "You two are bickering while Vincent is stuck in some cell somewhere!"
"She gets that from you." Dee turned to Violet with a stern glare.
"I know!" Violet replied, positively brimming with glee.
"Merry, I'm sorry." Eli said. "Look, did you get what you need? Let's get going, hm?"
"You know what?" Meredith said fiercely. "I'm tired of being told what to do. Vincent didn't answer to any of you...and...neither am I!"
"Girl's all fired up." Al said, smirking. "Alright, hoss. You lead the way."
"Wait, Al...I..." Eli began
"Save it, Eli." Al said. "It's time to save yer boy, so saddle up." 
"Where are we going?" Eve asked. "Is there a portal?"
"A Way." Meredith said. "It's not exactly close, but it's the only Way that goes in to the heart of Winter. It's as close as we're going to get. I can get us the rest of the way."
"Well at least someone here has a spine. Put the kettle on, David, we'll all be back in time for supper." Violet walked out with Dee close behind her.
"I think not." David cried after her, somewhat indignant. As he went for the door he grabbed his broadsword and his coat and disappeared after them. 
"Well, guess it's a suicide mission." Eve said, crossing her arms. "Better get it over with." She added, and she left as well. 
"Come on then, let's get this over with." Al said.
"Let's go get my boy." Eli said with a nod. 
"He's our boy, an' don't you forget it." Al said. They grabbed their things and left. 




Blood stained the crystalline ice floor. Somewhere, there was a baby crying, but Vincent couldn't quite place where it was. Before he could begin to search, he felt a chill in the air, and suddenly he was lifted from the ground, his body wracked with bitter winter chill. The ice had encased his body and lifted him skywards, holding him, immobilized in a jagged, chaotic sculpture of ice, with only his head and neck free from it. A deathly shriek echoed through the courtyard, and the skies above began to rumble and shudder as if in response. The wild, pain-filled screaming rattled through his head. What had he done? He felt dread, and despair like he never thought possible. He had done something awful. But what? What had he done?


"What have I done?" He whispered. 


Suddenly reality came crashing down on him. Vincent opened his bloodshot eyes to find a pair of icey, blue cat-like eyes peering back at him. He was trapped on a bed of ice, his arms and legs outstretched and encased in it, and he has naked, his skin turning a pale blue, with purple marks slowly forming around his feet and hands. His chest was soaked with blood, the result of sharp, icey nails that had been raked over his body. Isoleth straddled him, a wicked grin on her face. She leaned down so that she was but an inch from his face, and she let her tongue caress across his neck and cheek, before she moved to his left ear. "Starting to remember, I see." She hissed in his ear. "Still, a long way to go." She sat back up and placed her hand on his chest, her sharp nails penetrating his skin and bringing fresh, cold pain. He went to scream, but his voice had long lost the ability to do so. 


"The thing is, boy..." Isoleth said, as she closed her eyes, relishing the pleasure, and she plunged her hand deeper, tearing deep in to his chest. Vincent's eyes were ablaze from the sheer pain of it, but still he made nothing more than whispering moans and gasps. "...I'm afraid, as much as I would love to take my time with this, there is a matter of impending battle with Summer. I'm going to have to speed things up a bit. But just think, the sooner you remember, the sooner this ends. How many times have I brought you to the brink of death now? Is it seven or eight times? I'm going to keep healing you, bringing you back to good health, and then I'm going to do it again, and again, and again. And when you remember, only then will I kill you." Vincent spoke something, but it came out as an inaudible whisper. 


"What's that?" Isoleth said, holding a hand to her ear. She leaned closer to him. "You're going to have to speak up, dear." Vincent made an effort to swallow, but his throat was dry, and stressed from the screaming. He opened his mouth as she put her ear to it. 

"I..." He croaked. "I remember...a little..."

"Oh? Do go on..." Isoleth said, smiling gleefully. 

"...Claire." He wheezed. "...You're not Claire."


"Oh, very good!" Isoleth cooed as she sat up and clapped excitedly. "So where is Claire then?"

"...Dead." Vincent said. 

"Right again." Isoleth replied. "And who killed her?"

Vincent paused, closing his eyes from a moment, the memories flashing through his head. They felt far away, like they did not belong to him. 

"Who. Killed. Her?" Isoleth said again, slowly. 

"...I did." Vincent choked, a single tear shedding from his eye. 

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"Aren't you going to... I don't know... suit up?" Dee asked, as they walked through the snow. The blizzard was bad, the streets were all but shut down. Cars were left abandoned, people shut up inside their homes. There wasn't a drop of blue in the sky. 

Violet moved her legs through the snow like a hot knife through butter, "I don't care. Not today." Violet replied, marching on. The posse walked in silence for a long while. They knew it was the calm before the storm. Though she walked with ease, Violet's steps were heavy. She was weighed down by the thoughts of what Isoleth was doing to her brother. If Vincent was even alive. No, he was. She couldn't let herself think that way. Even though every fibre of her being wouldn't lay it to rest. An hour or so later, Meredith stopped them and led them down a wide alley between an old warehouse and a scummy-looking pizza place.
"So, this is it?" Violet asked, looking around with an air of disgust.


"Yeah, this is it." Meredith said. She snapped her fingers, and a whispering screech pierced through the wind as the portal between world's cut through reality like a tear, before taking the form of a doorway. "I don't know what to expect. The Fae shifts and changes far more quickly than this world. It won't be exactly how Vincent remembered it."
"It won't be exactly how they remember it, when i'm through..." Violet added, stepping through.
"Are you alright, Meredith?" Dee asked, as she moved towards the doorway.

"Nope." Meredith replied, her jaw visibly tightening. "But that never stopped Vincent." Afterwards she stepped through the portal and emerged on the other side.

"Good enough." Dee followed her through, along with Al, Eve, David and Eli.

Violet watched the last person step through the Way, and then focused on her surroundings. The fae was nothing as she remembered it. Meredith couldn't have been more right. It was a winter wonderland. The tree were alpine, and rivers and streams had frozen. It was cold, but that didn't bother her.

"You have to guide us, Meredith, we're--" Violet stopped mid-sentence, and a ripple of confusion spread through the group.
"Something's coming..." Dee whispered.


There was a screech of metal as David drew his sword from it's sheathe. The shining metal gleamed in the twilight and a peculiar, comforting warmth spread across the group. David's faith resonated through them, his unwavering resolve prepared for whatever was coming. Meredith steeled herself in response, and Eve looked a little uncomfortable with the sensation, but readied herself all the same.
Dee put her palms together, noticing David's reaction, "I'm not doing that." She said simply, a frown on her forehead but a smile on her lips, and then pulled her palms apart from one another. As she parted her hands, a long black pole appeared between them. She brought her arms out as far as they would go and at the last moment grabbed the pole with one hand and yanked the rest of it free of it's holding place. Dee lowered the staff to the ground and as it touched the snow a weighty thrum of energy crackled throughout the staff.
"Alright, i'm ready." Dee said with a smile, and then lifted her arm and with all her strength she banged the staff off the frozen ground, the air became charged with an indescribable energy and from the length of the staff a heavy, curved blade flicked out, locking into a horizontal position. A scythe.
Eli and Al moved themselves in front of the group, the two old wizards scanning the environment with their Sight active. "Looks like were goin' in hot, y'all." Al said as he adjusted his stetson, and then he reached in to the pocket of his long, duster jacket, and retrieved a long staff of dark wood, that looked far more ancient than he was. 
"Mary Poppins eat your heart out." Eve said with a grin.
Despite everyone preparing for combat, Violet remained frozen. She shook her head in confusion. It wasn't approaching them from inside the Fae, it was coming through the doorway behind them. "Meredith... close it. Close it now!!" 
"I...I can't!" Meredith cried. "Something's keeping it open!"
"Step back!" Al called as he strode towards the portal, pointing his staff at it like a gun. "Something's coming through!"
From out of the portal, an enormous black creature burst forth, leaping over them and casting the group in shadow for a moment as it landed on the other side of them, blocking their advance on the fortress. It towered over them on all fours, panting. It's breaths were rumbling growls, and its fangs each the length of a person's finger. It's enormous paws thumped into the snow, depressing it and leaving great prints behind in it's wake. One of it's limbs were wreathed in purple flame up to it's shoulder. It looked like something out of a child's nightmare, a panther born from the pits of hell. It stalked towards them, it's long tail swishing angrily behind it. Violet pushed through the group, sprinting for the monster until she collided violently with it. 
"Oof!!" It growled deeply, "Don't do that."
"James!!" Violet cried, holding him around the front of his body as he leant back and sat upon the cold ground.
"Hello Violet, you're looking different." James replied, his feline face pulling into a grin at the irony of his statement. "I missed you." He pressed his enormous head into her back and Violet realised that the growling was his purr.
"Is it just me, or is he bigger?" David asked, giving an awkward smile. 
"Are you guys for real?" Eve said, frowning. "You got any other pals you want to let me in on? Is Batman waiting over the hill there?"
"James!" Meredith said, ignoring Eve. "You're alive!"
Eli and Al simply exchanged a look with one another. "Is this... normal?" Eli asked
"Says the guy who shacked up with a Nagloshi." Al said with a soft chuckle. 
"Okay, I take your point." Eli said, scratching the back of his head.
A sudden surge of energy from the Way stopped the conversation dead. James made an uncomfortable noise that sounded as though he was clearing his throat awkwardly and then suddenly the Way snapped shut. But not before it left one last present in the Fae.
"I heard that!" Vael raised an eyebrow with a smug grin, "It's not my fault he couldn't keep his hands off me. Well maybe it was," She corrected herself, "Just a little." Vael scanned the group for a moment, "My aren't we a rogue's gallery of freakazoids?"


"V-Vael!?" Meredith gasped, suddenly tensing. 
"Aw, hell!" Al cursed, waving his fist in the air. "Jus' what in blazes is goin' on here!?"
"Al, settle down." Eli said, holding his hand up, he turned to Vael. "Hello, dear. What mood are you gracing us with today?"
"Don't you 'Dear' me, Elias Wolfwood Hallow," Vael cautioned, pointing her forefinger at him, "And here I came bringing gifts, offering assistance, and this is the thanks I get, and after so many years..." She mused for a moment then turned her attention on Al, "Put your stick back in your pocket, nobody wants to see that." Vael clapped her hands together, "So... we're off on an adventure?!" 
"Ah, yes, the thrill of a fight." Eli said with a nod and a smile. "That makes more sense. Altruism doesn't sit well with you."
"Dagnabbit, Eli!" Al barked. "Will ye stop flirtin' with yer ex fer a minute!"
"That's... flirting?" Eve said, raising her brow. "You guys are seriously weird."
"That's what he calls it, anyway." Vael rolled her eyes, "Anyway! Much as I love a good dust-up, and it's true mortals are sort of a waste of time, I mean really..." She turned her attention to David, "Honestly, you're dead in like a second in the grand scale of things. What's it matter, right?" She playfully pushed David on the shoulder, "No, I nursed James back to health and helped him escape the Void, because I wanted to apologise to you, Violet, and to all of you - some of you less than others - and mostly really because he sheds." 
"I do not... shed." James snarled irritably. 
"Well..." Violet looked at James with an awkward grin.

"Anyway..." Meredith said quite loudly. "If you're done doing what you do best, which is derailing everything, I'm leaving. Not that I don't love a good reunion, but my dad is dying."

"Oh, melodrama is one of your new superpowers, is it?" Vael joined the group.
"Can you just, for once... be quiet." Violet tried to keep her temper in check, she knew what happened when two Nagloshi fought and she didn't need that to happen right now, they were pressed for time and Meredith was right to push on. 
"We need to hurry," Dee spoke up, and nodded ahead, "Lead the way, Meredith." 


"Alright, just look ahead." Meredith said, pointing at the Horizon. "That spire in the valley, that's Isoleth's palace. The mountain path blocks it off from the other side. The road ahead is teeming with Winter Faeries. Trolls and Spiders mostly. Also Pixies, and Sidhe." Meredith scanned the horizon, but paused as she followed the trail outwards past the mountain region. "That... is different from before. The ground has suddenly become flat. No trees, no mountain cover, just Ice. 
"A battlefield." Al said knowingly. "Winter's lurin' the fight to it's front door."
"Summer won't take a fight to the heart of Winter. They'll be at too much of a disadvantage." Eli said. 
"Prideful sort, The Seelie Fae." Al said. "An' they'll be desperate, fer sure."
"Are you telling me this... Isoleth, or whatever. Are you telling me she reshaped the landscape, to suit her own needs?" Asked Eve. "How is that even possible?"
"Because... she is not some chosen monarch with a crown." Eli explained. "She is air, and darkness. She is the biting, unrelenting cold. She is winter itself. This is her domain, shaping it is no more taxing than a thought for her."
"And we're planning to beat her how?" Eve asked.
"Well, let's see now..." Al said, stroking his beard. "We got a fanger, a demon, two bein's tha' have been killin' powerful wizards for millenia, and we got a couple rulebreakers s'well." Al nodded to Eli and Meredith when he said the last part. "An' we got the White God lending a han' too, don' forget." He nodded at David.
"Oh yes, i'm sure he'll come sweeping down on a surfboard of angels to the sound of Christian rock and smite the lot of them." Vael crossed her arms and rolled her eyes, though it was more a head motion as it was difficult to tell when a Nagloshi did so as they had no discernible pupil.
"We all have our strengths... David has saved my life and is as valuable as anyone here." Violet shoved her mother, and Vael pushed back and the two of them stood off against one another, and for a nervous moment it looked like something would happen. Then suddenly Vael seemed to realise something, and she lost interest and walked ahead.
"I'm not arguing with you." She muttered, "You're not my daughter." 
"Hmph..." James sighed.
"Arctaeros lies beneath the palace." Meredith explained. "But only a Faerie can access the path leading to it."
"Rubbish." Vael muttered.
"Quiet, mother." Violet said impatiently, "Mere, how do we find the path? You're not a Fae any more."
"We cheat." Meredith said. "That's what Vincent did. I'll show you when we get there."

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"We shouldn't have come here." Said Vincent. He was sitting at the edge of a large four-poster bed in a lavish room made of crystalline ice, the room he had been given during his stay in Winter's realm. Claire was dressing herself in to more comfortable clothing, a pair of blue jeans and a green turtleneck sweater. She stopped what she was doing to look at Vincent, smiling. 

"It will be fine, Vincent." She said reassuringly. "Besides we're here now, we might as well get it over with." Vincent didn't look terribly reassured by this, however. 

"I feel like I'm on edge constantly here." He grumbled. "That Isoleth...she's pretty intimidating."

"Yes, I suppose she can be." Claire said with a nod. "It's just the way of things here. We are twins, but entirely opposite."

"I still don't really understand that." Vincent said. "I mean, you're not twins. You're parents aren't the same."


"Yes, and that would matter in the mortal world." Claire said. "Blood is not a relevant factor for Faeries. Our society is all about balance. For every Faerie of Winter there is an equal and opposite Faerie within Summer. Isoleth and I are reflections of the same thing, seen through a filter of summer and winter."

"But you're a changeling, you're part mortal." Vincent protested. "That doesn't make sense. I mean, aside from the hair and eye colour, your features are identical. How can that be?"

"And what of a changeling that becomes a troll? Or a Dryad?" Claire proposed. "Our appearance changes, sweetheart. Isoleth and I are bound through a magic that is beyond the any singular understanding. That is how we maintain balance."


"Balance? Yeah, sure..." Vincent rolled his eyes. "She's the Queen of Winter, and you're just an emissary for Summer. Tasked with helping mortals like me navigate your realm."

"So you would see me as Queen of Summer, then?" Claire asked, an impish smirk on her face. 

"No, that's not what I meant..." Vincent replied. "It just doesn't make sense."

"Balance isn't always about power and titles." Claire explained. "Isoleth is Queen because she represents everything that mantle requires. She is fierce, unyielding and vengeful. I am none of those things, as already mentioned, I am the opposite. Do you think those are the qualities of a Queen?"

"I don't think you need to be a bitch to be a Queen." Vincent replied.


"True. But you do need to be strong, and fearless." Claire said. "That is why Aurora is Queen of Summer. However, Aurora's twin is a timid little Spriggan that tends to Isoleth's sculpture garden. See? Balance."

"I'll just have to take your word for it." Vincent said with a sigh. "So how does balance fix things if Isoleth finds us out and we both end up dead?"

"Isoleth could not kill me even if she wanted to." Claire said confidently. "We are the same. While we may not see eye to eye on virtually anything, we have a bond. We could not bear to kill each other. It is a rule." Vincent didn't challenge that. Faerie rules were never broken. Oaths and bonds were sacred and there was no Faerie that could hope to break them. 

"So if I die, at least she'll have her mother." Vincent said, looking over to the crib on the other side of the room. 


"Let's try and keep both of us alive, hm?" Claire said. "The palace sleeps. It's now or never."

"I guess so." Vincent said as he stood up. "So how do we break in to an impenetrable prison?"

"Only a Sidhe of Winter can open the doors to Arctaeros. And now will open it for us, it would be treason. Winter Sidhe could never do such a thing."

"Can you get to the 'but' part?" Vincent said impatiently. 

"However..." Said Claire, as she took his hand. "An agreement with a mortal is binding. That's where you come in."


"You want me to make a bargain with a Faerie to open the way to Arctaeros? What would I have to offer?" Vincent asked

"I daresay you have little to offer most Sidhe. However, there is one. She requires something you have, something that will difficult for you to part with."

"...I'll do it." Vincent said with little hesitation. "Whatever it is, I'll do it to get him out of there."

"This is your last chance to change your mind." Claire reminded him. "Is it really worth it?"

"It is." Vincent said. "Let's go find my father."


--- --- --- 


"Wakey, wakey, boy." Isoleth whispered harshly in his ear. "Time is of the essence. Do you remember anything else?"

"...Claire...she was your sister." Vincent said weakly. "Together we came here, pretending we wanted to celebrate the birth of our child with you. But we broke in to Arctaeros to free my father. Because you imprisoned him."

"I assure you I had little choice in the matter." Isoleth said. "Bargains with mortals, and all that."

"Who?" Vincent coughed. "Who wanted him imprisoned?"

"Oh, dear boy. I'm afraid you already know the answer to that." Isoleth replied. "I suppose we still have some work to do..."


--- --- ---


"This is ridiculous..." Meredith grumbled. She was walking in the lead of the large group, making sure not to drift too far away from them. The veil she had cast had concealed them from any passing Faeries as they made their way across the frozen forest, towards the palace. Concealing herself and perhaps Violet and David wouldn't have been a problem. However, casting a veil over the motley crew that had come together, which included a giant, flame-wreathed cat, was proving to be taxing even to her intricate senses. "I'm not sure how long I can keep this up..."

Violet looked to Meredith and smiled, placing her hand on the girl's shoulder.
"Are you alright?" Violet asked.
"Not likely." James replied, each of his huge, loping strides were equal to several of their steps, "You should lessen the veil, it would be better to approach in fog, than in plain sight because we tried to be invisible."
"For goodness sake, I don't see why we can't just blast the lot of them into ash." Vael scowled as she walked alongside the group, giving casual glances towards her ex-husband.
"Not a good idea." Al piped up. He was looking around the area with his wizard's sight. "There's abou' five thousand Faeries makin' their way to tha' battlefield. The magic in the air is cracklin' like damn electricity. Not to mention some of 'em are just as ancient as you."
"Besides if you go on the warpath Isoleth will know we're here, and then we're done for." Meredith said. 
"Boring..." Vael sighed.
"Shush, mother." Violet scowled at her.
Dee looked around the group, "So, what's the plan when we get into Isoleth's castle? Do we know where we're going from here?" She raised an eyebrow in expectation, "You /do/ know where Vincent is, don't you, Meredith?"
"Arctaeros is a labyrinth." Meredith said. "I only know what Vincent remembers. And well, he had help from my mother. I don't know where he'll be once we get inside."
"I think right now we should worry more about gettin' inside." Al said. "How do we get in, darlin'?"
"We have to find a certain Sidhe. She's called the Leanan Sidhe." Meredith said. 
"Are you out of your mind!?" Eve snapped suddenly. "Do you even know what she is!?"
"Not really." Meredith said, shaking her head. 
"Leanan Sidhe, the witch of the Aos Si." Eve clarified. "The more romantic legends speak of a beautiful woman who would lure in men, and they would have wonderful but incredibly brief affairs."
"That sounds like most Sidhe." Meredith admitted. "Mortals are often taken with their beauty."
"You don't know what I know, though." Eve said. "She's one of those legends that comes in many forms. Leanan Sidhe comes from the Celtic mythology. She was considered a muse, providing inspiration to talented mortals."
"Again, that's not really surprising." Eli said. "Sidhe constantly make bargains with mortals, providing them power, in exchange for something else."
"Don't make light of it." Eve said gravely. "The Leanan Sidhe is the muse to mortals, and in exchange they become her pets, literally."
"What do you mean?" Meredith asked. 
"She transforms them, twists their souls to become something else." Eve explained. "Banshees, Sirens, Hellhounds, all abominations of her creation. Perhaps her most famous beast, however, you would know as Vlad Dracul."
"So what, are you going to say 'thank you' when you meet?" Vael asked of Eva with a knowing grin, "Look, from your perspective there's no other way, so we'll simply /have/ to meet this Fae." 
"I hate to say it, but my mother's right." Violet nodded.
"I agree," James nodded."
"Much as I would have liked to avoid her, there's no other way." Dee sighed.
"That's...a little worrying." Meredith said, scratching her head nervously. "In order to get inside Arctaeros, Vincent had to make a deal with her. In exchange, he offered her his son, to be hers to own."
"But he doesn't have a son." Eli said, frowning. 
"Exactly. He tricked her." Meredith said. "She...probably won't be happy about that."
"She can be mad at him all she wants, it has nothing to do with us." Vael muttered, "So who's going to make the deal?" 
James stepped forwards, "I'll do it." 
"You can't." Dee shook her head, "I'm sorry, James, but you're a familiar. You simply can't be bound to such terms. Neither can I. And I have a sneaking suspicion that because of Vincent's transgression, there will be only one person she wants to make a deal with..." Dee turned to look at Violet, her eyes were wet with tears that refused to fall.
"Of course it's me..." Violet sighed.
"I think not." Eli said. "With all due respect, I hold more responsibility here."
"Let's not do this now." Meredith said to him. "You can tell her later."
"No." Violet interrupted Meredith, "This has to be decided now. I won't let my friends and family sacrifice anything to this creature. I chose to save Vincent, you're all here at my request. If a payment is due, it is mine to give."
"Thas' even if she'll want it." Al said. "You're from the Void, Violet. In her eyes, you migh' not be any more important than the creatures she's created."
"Will you all stop it!" Meredith snapped. "Nobody is sacrificing themselves. We'll find a way, like we always do."
"Damn shame when a lil' kid's got more spirit than all o' us combined." Al said. "How much further do we have to go?"
"The Leanan Sidhe is one of the most ancient Sidhe. As such she is given her own realm to mark her status." Meredith pointed to a small grove on the other side of the forest. a gentle, emerald glow shone out from the gaps between the trees. "That's where she is."
"Well alright, we're almost there." Al said. "C'mon then, all y'all, let's get to it."
"Fantastic." Vael groaned sarcastically.
"This should certainly be interesting, at the least." James pondered, as they made their way towards the emerald glow of the Leanan Sidhe's realm.
--- --- ---
Inside the grove Meredith let the veil fall away. Despite the downright arctic weather they had walked through, the grove itself was untouched by snow. Instead it was a lush, green forest, filled with brightly coloured chirping birds, and the trees were decorated with crawling swirls of flowering ivy. Each of them looked around tentatively, but they saw no sign of the Leanan Sidhe. "She should be here." Meredith said out loud. "This is where they found her before."
"Let's introduce ourselves." Vael muttered, bored of waiting around for everything. She raised one hand and sent out a strong pulse of magic. "If she can't sense that, she's simply not worth our time." Violet stared at her mother in disbelief.
"That's my professional opinion," Vael added, smiling and then sighed, expectantly and impatiently awaiting a sign, any kind of sign that she had found them.
"Very, very good." The voice purred from behind Vael, but before she could react, the Leanan Sidhe had disappeared, and then reappeared next to Violet. "Good genetics, too. Ooh, yes, this one is marvelous. Very strong. I'm sure she'll crumble a few nations before her light goes out." The Leanansidhe was a beautiful, pale skinned woman, with long, curly hair the colour of maple leaves. Her lips were crimson, and when she smiled she showed a pair of small but distinct fang-like canines. Her eyes were yellow and cat-like, and she was dressed in an emerald gown that hugged her slim but curvaceous figure, and fell down past her feet and trailed along the ground. "Haven't seen a Nagloshi in...oh, millenia perhaps. Very nice, I've always been quite jealous of whoever made you."
"Back off, lady." Violet growled. "I'll crumble more than a nation if--"
"Charming!" Vael interrupted Violet, patting her daughter's head dismissively, "My name is Vael, the Void is my dominion. This is my daughter, who is coming along quite nicely, and her cat, James." She grinned as the insult landed on James' face,"Al, a wizard, he's alright. Eli, he's my ex-husband, and not a complete idiot. That creature is Eva, and this is Dee, who is... i'm not sure... oh, and that's David. He likes to make tea."
"--Mother!!" Violet barked, "Listen to me," She continued, turning back to address the Leanan sidhe, "We need to reach Isoleth's prison, the one which holds Vincent Hallow."
"Oh, really?" The Leanan Sidhe's eyes glinted as she heard the name spoken. "And not one Fae among you. How brazen. But whatever makes you think I should help you?"
"Because we can give you something in return." Meredith said. The Leanan Sidhe's eyes glinted again as she looked at Meredith like a fat child looks at krispy kreme donuts. 
"Well aren't you sure of yourself." She said with a smile. "And what have you brought to offer me? I sincerely hope it isn't this reject." She eyed Eve somewhat contemptuously. "Really, I didn't quite expect such a by product. So disappointing. What is it you call yourself? Vampire? Such a brutalisation of the correct vernacular."
"The Dhampir are brutes." Eve said dismissively. "They have no finesse."
"They are brutes just as I intended them to be!" The Leanan Sidhe said, her eyes flickering with anger. "Perfect brutes. Shame they produce such...dainty byproducts."
"Why don;t you just tell us what you want?" Eli said frustratedly. "We have no time for games."
"You remind me of the last mortal who made such a request of me." The Leanan Sidhe said as she approached Eli. "A cocky little child who cost me dearly, who happens to be spending his last days in the prison he sought so fervently. And now it's your turn to save him, is it? Interesting role reversal."
"Do not test me." Eli said, frowning. 
"Or...what?" She replied, smiling. 
Everything after happened very quickly. Toxic green shards of magic rose out of Eli, crackling like lightning. The energy moved organically, like an extension of him. Sensing how dangerous it was, the Leanan Sidhe quickly backed off, hissing in anger, and her forest reacted to her, darkening. The colourful birds instantly morphed in to large, black, winged harpies that flocked to their master, snapping and snarling. One of them got too close, and the green lightning shot through it's flesh, growing out of the creature like a spore, tearing it in to shreds in seconds. There was a long silence, the only sound being the hissing of the harpies, and the crackling of Eli's magic. In the end it was Meredith who reached out and touched Eli's arm. "Please...we need her." She said softly. 
"I could force her!" Eli snarled. 
"You can''s their laws." Meredith said. "They need to make a deal, or they themselves are unable to act."
"Listen to the little girl." The Leanan Sidhe said, her grin returning. "Even if you can break your own rules, you can't break mine."
"I wouldn't bet on it, dearie." Vael retorted, grinning at Eli's outburst. James tried interjecting, Dee joined in, soon everyone was talking over one another. Threats were aimed at each side, the forest darkened until it became twisted, and malevolent. Violet pushed her way to the front of the group.
"I'll make a deal with you!!" Violet called out from amongst the cacophonous noise. Again, the Leanan Sidhe's eyes glinted in excitement. Eli's magic dissipated and the forest returned to it's original form, the harpies becoming cute little birds once more. 
"And what makes you think you have something to offer?" The Leanan Sidhe approached her quickly, breathing deeply as if she was inhaling Violet's very essence. "Not mortal...but not not mortal...very interesting."
"What is valuable to you?" Violet asked, trying not to snarl at the woman's approach, "What would you have of me?!" She asked, clenching her fists.
"Oh, child." The Leanan Sidhe cooed. "My only desire would be to have you reach your full potential, as I do all my pets. And then I would set you to purpose."
"Keep your grubby hands off my daughter, wisp." Vael muttered, looking down at her with predatory eyes. "You can try it, but i'll kill you before you do."
"I can do nothing without an agreement, I'm afraid." The Leanan Sidhe replied. "But when one is made, there is nothing you nor I can do about it."
"Violet." Meredith spoke up. "Don't do this. If you do won't be you any more. I didn't come here to save one person and lose another."
"Kid's right." Al said. "Ain't no good gonna come from makin' deals with Faeries."
"And yet you have no other option." The Leanan Sidhe said, grinning. "I don't do favours."
"We could always go back to my option." Eli growled. 
"No. Stop." Meredith said, holding her hands up. "All of you just stop! If it has to be someone, then it'll be m-"
"Me." Eve interrupted. "I'll make the deal." 
"Eve..." Meredith whispered, quite surprised by the turn of events. 
"And why would I want a reject like you?" The Leanan Sidhe  asked. "Are you even mortal any more?"
"Excuse me," Dee stepped forwards, holding her scythe in one hand and resting the other on her hip, "Eve is not a reject. As a Vampire, she is a product of your own hand, and so any failing on her part is not her fault, but your own. This is not up for debate, when you create life, you are bound to it's actions." Dee then levelled her scythe at the sidhe, "More importantly, as bitten against her will, Eve has a soul, and so free will, her mortality is irrelevant." She paused for a moment, studying the sidhe, "If you know what I am, then you would /best/ accept my council." She levelled her scythe, and touched it to the ground, and a menacing ringing sound filled the glade for an uncomfortably long moment.
"Oh..." The Leanan Sidhe looked quite calm, except for her eyes which seemed suddenly filled with terror. Then she clapped her hands together and smiled. "Okay then, Vampire. So in exchange for safe passage for all of your friends you agree to be...mine. You give up your free will, in order to be my play thing. Do we have an accord?"
"Eve...are you sure?" Meredith asked. 
"...I've lived a long life." Eve said. "The closest thing I can recall to a parent was the vampire who made me. Even he discarded me, ultimately. Lucia was kinder, but only to manipulate me to do her bidding. That is just how my kind are. Even now I am only here because I was ordered to do so. I will agree to this without regret, with only one extra condition."
"And that is?" The Leanan Sidhe asked. 
"Whatever I become...I wish to see the sun." Eve said. "If I can walk in the sun, then I agree to your terms."
"Well, that's easy enough." The Leanan Sidhe said. "Alright then, it is agreed." There was a strange hum of energy in the air, the peculiar sensation that always happened when magical contracts were made. "I am afraid you will not be able to go with your friends, you're mine now."
"Eve...I'm sorry." Meredith said. "I...I wish we had time to say goodbye."
"Well, you don't!" The Leanan Sidhe said. "Safe travels, oh and just FYI, you never said anything about leaving Arctaeros. Byeee."
"No, wait!" Meredith cried, but before she could finish speaking, she disappeared in to the aether along with everyone else, leaving only Eve and the Leanan Sidhe alone. 
"Well, well, well..." She said, folding her arms. "And just what shall we make of you? I have so many ideas."
"You cannot." A rasping voice said. The Leanan Sidhe turned around to see where the voice was coming from. Yet she could not see anything. 
"What's going on?" Eve asked. "Who's there?"
"It is I." The rasping voice said, and then a large, black cat appeared at Eve's feet. "Eldest."
"Summer Fae!" The Leanan Sidhe screeched. "How dare you encroach in my domain!?"
Once again the forest transformed in to a dark reflection of itself, and the harpies descended on Eldest. The Cait Sith pounced, and disappeared, and in a flurry of teeth and claws he ravaged the creatures, while they squawked in horror, until finally they were just a pile of flesh and feathers on the ground. Eldest landed with a soft tap and spat a few small feathers from his mouth. "Weak." He said simply. "Disappointed. I expected beterrr frrrom the mother of demons."
"What do you want, cat!?" The Leanan Sidhe hissed. "You have no right to be here!"
"The wizzzard has done as asked." Eldest said. "He has brought a rrrightful heirrr. A corrronation is at hand."
"What are you talking about!?" The Leanan Sidhe shrieked again.
"One who loves life. One who loves the sun." Eldest said, turning to look at Eve. "One who has now, through sacred bond, become Fae."
"I...I don't understand." Eve said nervously. "What do you mean coronation?"
"All in time, Lady Spring." Eldest said. "Come, the horn of war is sounding. Summer's forces reign down on Winter. Come with me, to safety." Eldest leapt up as if to land in her arms, but as he reached her they both disappeared. Her rage boiling over, the Leanan Sidhe let out a final, blood curdling screech. And before she had finished, her screech was dissipated by the booming sound of a horn. Brilliant light cut through the dark clouds over Winter, and from the skies, Summer descended. 
All manner of creature poured out from the light, gnomes riding pegasus, goblins on drakes, faeries, pixies, Sidhe, and much more peculiar creatures. And ahead of the pack, a woman with hair the colour of fire, dressed in form fitted silver armour, descended on the back of an enormous, black dragon. From the dark and icy depths, the legions of Winter roared their battle cry, and war was finally upon Winter.



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