My head pounds suddenly and my eyes sting as I slowly open them. Even though there is very little light it feels like too much. The first thing I see is bars. Metal bars in front of my and to both of my sides. Twisting my neck, I see a brick wall behind me. It has a small window that allows in a little bit of light- it’s still daytime but I’m guessing the sun will finish setting any second now.
My first instinct is to stand, but something stops me. I groan again when I realise my hands are tied behind me, to a thick wooden pole that goes from the floor to the ceiling. What kind of magicless bullshit is this? Why didn’t Valek just use magic to trap us?
I need to stay calm. This is what we planned. We planned to get captured. It didn’t happen exactly how we wanted it to but it happened nonetheless. This is exactly where we need to be.
Scanning my surroundings again, I see my pack in one corner of the cell. Both the cell and my pack are covered with straw. They’re treating me like an animal; putting me on a bed of straw and tying me to a pole. I shouldn’t be surprised. Unfortunately, my pack is out of reach. I try to pull it with a foot but the cell is big.
To my left I hear a groan. It’s Tessa! Turning, I see her in the cell next to mine. The bars are close together so I can barely see her but still, it’s her.
“Tessa,” I say quietly. “Tessa they got us!”
She blinks a few times before looking at me. “Where’s Noah?” She asks. She struggles against her bonds because like me, she’s tied to a pole.
“I’m not sure,” I frown, looking at the other cage. I’m forced to stifle a scream when I see what’s in there. A woman hangs from the ceiling by her hands; her throat and wrists are slit in numerous places and she’s covered in her own blood. I don’t know the woman and yet I pity her… “Why have they separated us from him?” I wonder, turning back to her. I don’t tell her about the woman. That could be us soon.
Tessa is staring at me, or more so my hands. I feel the ropes moving ever so slightly. “Did you see anything when you were unconscious?” She asks as she focuses on the rope.
I shake my head. “Did you?”
“Just memories,” she says sadly. After a few more seconds she lets out a frustrated groan. “Why the fuck are these ropes so tight?” She asks, sounding very angry about it. “And why the fuck can’t I hear anybody?”
“Maybe our powers are weak right now,” I sigh. “Valek did put us under some kind of spell…”
“I don’t understand why he didn’t just kill us,” she mumbles. It’s weird seeing her distressed like this. Usually I can rely on Tessa to be calm and collected.
The ropes come suddenly lose and I stand, rubbing my wrists. “Maybe they want to torture us,” I tell her, trying not to look at the woman who hangs dead in the next cell.
I walk over to my pack and look inside. My daggers are in here which is weird. I don’t remember putting them in.
Trying not to question it, I put one on my belt and hold the other. I kneel beside the door to the cell and jamb the dagger into the space beside the key. With some difficulty I open the gate. It swings open as I grab my pack and move to do the same with Tessa’s cell. Hers is covered with straw too and also has her pack.
“Good job,” she smiles as I walk to her and start cutting through her ropes. “I would have just used a spell to open the gates but daggers work too.” She stands once the ropes are off and walks to her pack. “Why leave them in our cell? It’s like they want us to escape…”
“Valek isn’t the type for killing somebody quickly,” I tell her. “He’d rather see us struggle and go down fighting.”
She shivers, walking from the cell. “Then we’ll give him a fight.” For once she doesn’t sound entirely confident.
On the opposite side of the room is another three cells. One holds another dead person but the other two are empty. Against one wall is a table covered in horrifying equipment; blood covered knives, hooks and other things I can’t even name. On the opposite wall is an open door that leads to stairs.
Tessa approaches it. “Do you think we’re in a jail?” She asks.
I overtake her and begin walking up the stairs, ignoring her question. We probably are in a jail. The basement of a jail where torture and illegal things happen…
The stairs lead into a well-furnished corridor. For a second I think it may be Georgina’s house but that’s impossible. It looks almost exactly like her house. There’s even a painting of her and some guy!
“What the fuck is this?” Tessa snaps, walking up to the painting. I examine it closer, seeing that the guy is Noah. “I feel like we just walked into a really fucked up parallel universe.”
I shiver, looking around. This is definitely Georgina’s house, or some weird replica of it. Nothing else is different. “A parallel universe where Noah and Georgina are together,” I say bitterly. “Also one where they torture people in their basement.”
She mumbles something under her breath, walking into the living room. “Another fake painting,” she says, looking on the mantelpiece. “What the fuck is going on?” Tessa sounds angrier than she does scared or upset. Her confidence is back, fuelled by rage.
I walk over to her. The painting is again of Georgina and Noah but this time there’s a child in Georgina’s arm… Noah has his arm around her, grinning. A pang of jealousy goes through me. I’m not sure whether it’s because Noah is with Georgina or because that’s a life I could have. With whom I want that life with is a confusing matter…
“Let’s just get out of here,” I mumble, turning away from the photo. “That wasn’t there before,” I say, frowning at the grand piano in the corner of the room. That wasn’t there at Georgina’s house and it wasn’t there a few seconds ago…
Tessa lets out a frustrated groan as she walks over to it. “Either one of us is dead and we’re in some weird version of Hell, or Valek is playing some sick game.” She sits at the piano.
“What are you doing?” I question. Now is not the time for music.
She doesn’t answer me and instead starts playing. I’m surprised that she can. It’s a sad piece, one that I don’t recognize. “Georgina taught me this,” she says calmly as she plays. The things in the room begin fading away. The picture on the mantelpiece disappears and is replaced by a vase of decrepit flowers. All the wood in the rooms rots, cracking and losing its colour. The chairs and couches begin torn up, the fabric ripped. One is even cut in half, maybe by an axe. It’s as if we’re flashing forward in time, watching everything age and break around us while we’re forced to stay as we are. There’s something scarily beautiful about it.
She stops playing, shivering and standing. The piano is the only thing that looks clean. “What is going on?” Tessa asks again, re-examining the room.
I shrug. How did she know that the piano would remove the magical mirage? It was probably just a hunch.
A sudden creak turns our attention to the stairs which also look broken. We walk from the living room and look up the stairs onto the dark landing. There’s another creak. “We should get out of here,” I whisper. “We need to find out what’s going on.”
Tessa just shakes her head and begins walking slowly up the stairs. Her rapier has appeared in her hand. A light appears at the top of the stairs. There’s a cabinet at the top of the stairs. It’s cut in half with splinters protruding at odd angles.
I pull my daggers from my belt as I follow her up. What the hell is going on? I’ve never experienced anything as crazy as this before! It’s obviously something Valek did. He proved that he can make powerful mirages when we were at Georgina’s real house…
The landing creaks underfoot but it’s not the only noise up here. Behind a door I hear a quiet thud. Tessa glances at me before walking towards it. The door is closed and so she puts her head against it, listening intently. “Somebody’s in there,” she tells me in a hushed tone. I nod as she steps back from the door, allowing me to get close to it. Somebody’s definitely in there. Or something.
I turn the handle slowly before pushing the door open with my foot. On the other side stands a freakishly tall man who’s also rather muscular. He’s wearing black and has no hair. Or… Or a face!
“What the fuck?” Tessa gasps, stepping back as I do.
He steps towards us, his steps booming and shaking me to the core. An axe appears in his hands; it has blood on both its handle and blade!
I splay my hand at him in an attempt to throw ice but nothing happens! Trying again, I let out a frustrated groan as he looms closer. My back hits the wall and I find myself standing beside Tessa. She raises her hand too but nothing happens…
“Our magic,” she gasps as he swings his axe. Her gasp turns to a scream as she ducks to the side, I do the same. His axe rips into the wall, separating Tessa and I. She’s on the side with the stairs.
The faceless man pulls his axe from the wall and turns to me. “Run!” I shout at Tessa, backing off. There’s another door behind me. I feel like my only option is to run. Taking on this thing with only daggers would be suicide!
He swings the axe again and I have to duck beneath it. The axe slams into another wall, the bang makes me jump and I lose my balance. I gasp as I hit the ground, my daggers flying from my reach. If this is how I die I’m going to be very angry…
“Damien!” Tessa shouts, I see her behind the man, stabbing her rapier into his abdomen. It pokes through at my side but he does not bleed. Tessa pulls her sword out, quietly saying “oh” as he turns to her.
His axe remains in the wall but a second one appears in his hands. As he walks menacingly to Tessa I retrieve my daggers and stand. He swings at her as I pull the axe from the wall after sheathing my daggers. It’s awfully heavy.
Tessa shrieks as she’s forced to dodge a blow from the man. Her cry of terror spurs me into action. I rush forward, slamming the axe down into the man’s back. A pungent black liquid spurts on my face as the axe falls from my hand, sticking in his back as he falls to the floor with a bang!
Tessa frowns at me. “You’ve got a little something,” she says, gesturing at my entire face.
I don’t even bother retorting. Instead, I rush straight down the stairs, holding a dagger tight. “We need to find Valek,” I say, reaching the bottom of the stairs and heading to the door. Tessa is right behind me. “We have to make him tell us where Noah, Jack and the book are!”
Kicking open the door, I see that the sun is setting. We’re definitely in Asherton. As far as I can tell, Valek put us in a house near the edge of town. Over a few rows of poor quality housing I can see the top of the town hall.
“We should go there,” Tessa says, slamming the door behind us. I shush her. “Bitch, don’t shush me!”
I just roll my eyes and begin walking towards the town hall.
“Don’t be rushing off so fast,” I hear. Valek. We didn’t have to look far.
Turning, I see him behind Tessa. She jumps in surprise and rushes to my side. “What was that, you sick bastard?” She asks, pointing at the house.
Valek laughs, shaking his head. “This one has spirit, Damien,” he tells me. “You should take a page from her book.” I clutch my dagger tightly. Somehow that felt like he was threatening Tessa. “That house was just an illusion,” he answers. “Well, the house wasn’t. The things and person inside were just illusions. I thought I’d shake you two up a little before you get lose in Asherton.”
“What was that thing?” I ask, thinking of the faceless man. “A pawn in this sick game of yours?”
“This is an important moment Damien,” Valek muses. “You finally caught onto something.”
I hold back a comeback. There are more important things than insulting people. I go to say something but instead charge at him, daggers drawn. Valek is caught by surprise and I manage to stab him in the leg. He screams as I rip the dagger out, both of us jumping back.
Tessa charges now. Her rapier is draw and she slices at him. His shirt rips open at his stomach, blood pours out. He’s clutching his leg and stomach, gasping loudly. It’s clear that it’s difficult for him to remain upright.
“So the Devil bleeds,” I smile, charging again. This time I aim for his heart!
Just as I’m about to stab, he disappears and I trip forward. I groan as I land on the ground with a thump. It takes a lot of energy to hide my frustration as I look around. “Where is he?” I demand through gritted teeth.
She sighs sadly, shaking her head. “With some luck the piece of shit will bleed out.” Tessa walks over and helps me up. She looks just as disappointed as I feel.
“Even if it doesn’t kill the bastard, it means we can get to the town hall without any more interference,” I tell her, beginning to walk there again. We can only hope that Noah and the book are there. And Jack.
Tessa follows me. “It’s weird how empty Asherton feels,” she says. I nod in agreement. I kind of expected houses to be occupied by worshippers and maybe even Daemons. That’s what would have happened if they had won the war. More people would have converted too, making deals to get magic. A lot of people would have done it out of fear which is why it would have been so awful. You know a leader is a bad one when everyone is terrified of them.
Just before I can turn the last corner before the hall, Tessa grabs my arm and pulls me back. “I can hear them!” She whispers excitedly. “Jack and Noah are in there!”
“Then why pull me back?” I ask, feeling excited too. Not only is our magic back but they’re in there! We’re so close, maybe to the book too!
“I can also hear worshippers,” she snaps. “Peek around the corner.” I do as she says, seeing at least five at the entrance to the town hall. “Is there a back door?” She asks.
I shake my head. “I don’t think so. When I was last here we entered through the front and left through a window.”
Tessa gives me a confused look. “I guess we’ll just have to fight our way in then,” she says with admirable determination. She leads the way, stepping around the corner with her rapier still in hand.
I follow her as she marches fearlessly towards them. It really is true that love can drive us to forget our fear and rationality. She’s marching towards them despite us being outnumbered for Jack. I’m doing it for Noah.
Also for the book… This is all for Daniel.
They charge forward rather foolishly. I can feel my magic coursing through my veins and I realise how you never truly appreciate something until it’s gone.
Grinning, I throw my hand in an arc. Thick shards of ice fly at them. One of the worshippers conjures a black shield and blocks them. A second worshipper to the left of him holds her hand out. Most of the shards fly back and towards Tessa who ducks under them. They only hit one worshipper who is impaled in his head and chest. He crumples to the floor.
The worshipper with the shield runs forward at Tessa, conjuring a sword as he does so. They begin fighting as I eye up the other three. I know that one has air magic but the capabilities of the other two remains unknown. The three of them charge at me. I manage to stab one in the gut as the other two drag me down, knocking my dagger out of reach. They punch me, forcing me to cry out in pain! How embarrassing.
They shove me on my back, one punching me in the face. The second pulls out a small blade and grins at me while the first moves to hold me down. I struggle desperately as he moves the blade to my throat, moving it gently over.
“I’ve wanted to do this for a long, long time,” he tells me. The blade is pushed down and cuts my throat slightly. I can’t push away anymore, I’m right against the ground. Instead, I push them away with a blast of wind!
I stand quickly as they recover, grabbing my dagger with one hand and holding my neck with the other. That asshole cut me!
They run at me again and this time I don’t hold back. Removing my hand from my neck, I press it against one, freezing him in his tracks. I stab the one that cut me right in the neck and take pleasure as his blood squirts onto my hand. The first is freezing quite quickly, gasping quietly as he turns to ice…
Smiling, I turn to Tessa. “I didn’t know you could do that,” she says, sounding impressed. The worshipper she was fighting lies dead, his own sword stuck in him as if he’s a pin cushion. It’s a funny sight. “Oh fuck,” she gasps, looking behind me. “Oh fuck!” She repeats.
I turn around, dread in my heart. Not too far down the street stands a horrific looking Daemon. It’s huge, bigger than even Deucalion. The Daemon is on all fours, it’s back arched. Its skin is pure black, as are it’s many, many teeth. It has bloodshot eyes and a long tail that’s like a whip made to draw blood.
With no warning it begins to charge!
Tessa shrieks behind me, rushing to the town hall. I follow her but know that we could never out run this thing. She pushes through the doors and I grab her hand, turning. I feel her magical energy join mine and we both raise our hands without me having to tell her too. Just before the Daemon reaches the door a wall of both ice and telekinetic energy erects amazingly fast, blocking its path. The Daemon rams into it which causes the floor to shake.
“Wow,” Tessa says with heavy breath.
I turn, making a light. Even that feels tiring right now. I’ve used too much magic today.
“We need to find them quickly,” I say. “That wall won’t hold it forever.”
Tessa nods, closing her eyes as if listening. After a few seconds she walks to one of the doors and opens it. “They’re not good at hiding people,” she laughs.
I walk and look over her shoulder. The room is empty for all but three things; Noah, Jack and a book.
Grinning, I rush straight to Noah. Like Jack, he’s laying down with his eyes closed. “Noah!” I say, shaking him. “Noah!”
His blue eyes open slowly and land on mine. “You’re hurt,” he says weakly. His hand reaches up and touches my neck, where I was cut.
“Damien,” Tessa says behind me. She went straight to the book, probably assuming that Jack is fine. “This is the book! The Arch-Daemons Spell book!”
I frown. That was too easy. “Are you sure?” I ask.
She nods, shoving it in her bag and pulling something out. Four crystals. “Now let’s get out of here.” How does she have these? She hands me two and I put one in Noah’s hand. He seems very dazed. Tessa does the same with Jack. “Ready?” I nod, already feeling the strong magic enveloping me. “Bartholomew’s church,” Tessa says.