A War to Win

By Sam_ORiley All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Romance

Chapter Twenty-Two

By the time we reach Bartholomew’s church, the snow is knee deep. A while ago I gave up on trying to wade through it and instead started using my air magic to clear a path. It’s tiring work but it’s entirely necessary. It drastically increased mine and Noah’s speed and stopped our legs from being constantly damp. Unfortunately, the path hasn’t done much to rid of us the cold that has chilled us to the bone for days now.

I notice a snowman as we approach the church steps. At first I assume it was Jack, but the knives sticking out of it suggest it was Tessa who made it and then mutilated it.

“What wonderful art,” Noah says, glancing at it as we ascend the steps.

I laugh a little as he opens the door. The church seems especially small now, and secluded. Only now is it occurring to me that nobody even comes here but us. Bartholomew must feel so lonely.

Once the door closes behind us, Tessa sits up suddenly on a pew, making me jump. Why the hell was she lying there?

As if reading my mind, which she probably did, Tessa answers my question. “Jack was pissing me off,” she sighs. “I decided to just lay down on a pew. Apparently this hiding place never occurred to the moron. He’s walked past like, three times.”

Noah grins as he walks up to her. “We missed you,” he laughs, hugging her. She hugs back.

“The feeling is very mutual,” she laughs, moving to hug me. I happily embrace her. “You don’t know true pain until you have to explore caves with an ancient priest and a moody teenager.”

I don’t mention that she’s basically also a moody teenager because she’s a moody teenager who could kill me. “Did you find any crystals?” I wonder.

She nods, stretching once the hug is over. “Bartholomew put them all in his basement, with whatever else is down there.” I frown. When I asked what was down there she and Noah got mad at me. “Don’t give me that look. I came to my senses. I want to know what’s in the damn basement.”

“Maybe we should just ask him,” Noah suggests.

Tessa practically has a laughing fit. “That is a terrible idea,” she giggles. “Since when does anybody give straight answers?”

She has a good point. Whatever is in his basement is obviously his business but still… I want to know what’s down there. “We should just wait and see,” I groan. “We’re all entitled to our secrets. Sometimes we have to keep them, for everybody’s benefit.” They both give me questioning looks. I have to keep the fourth ingredient from them, and I’m sure they’re keeping things from me too.

“That makes me very suspicious,” Noah says slowly. “But whatever. You’re right.” He pauses for a moment before continuing. “Anyway, we should go to bed. I haven’t slept comfortably in a while.”

Tessa gasps loudly. “I forgot to ask! Did you get the candle?”

Noah pulls it from his bag. “Yep. Now we just need Valek’s heart. That and a decent night’s sleep…”

“You guys go rest, I’ll put this with the sphere,” Tessa says, taking the candle from Noah. “We can figure out how to get his heart tomorrow.”

Noah and I both nod, relieved as we head towards the stairs. I want to bathe but decide to do it when I wake up. We’ve travelled so much in the cold. Being able to sleep in a comfortable bed will be a welcome relief.

***
When I wake, Noah is still gently snoring. Despite how it’s cold even in the church, he stripped naked before climbing into bed. The blanket is only covering his middle.

“I see why you slept with him twice,” Tessa says suddenly, scaring me half to death. She’s sitting in a chair in the corner. “How often do you stare at him while he sleeps?” She asks.

I feel myself blush. “Never,” I snap. “How often do you sit in our room while we sleep?”

“Very often,” she smirks.

I sigh, getting out of bed. I’m thankful that I slept in my clothes. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” I wonder.

She laughs lightly. “So many things.”

I find a change of clothes from my bag and make my way to the door. “Have fun staring at Noah,” I say. “I’m going to go bathe.”

“Meet us in the office once you’re done,” she says. “Jack came up with a plan to get Valek’s heart.”

I’m surprised that Jack came up with a plan but I nod anyway. It’s good that he has since everybody else has neglected to.

***
I pass Noah on my way out of the bathroom. He looks concerned. “Did you know that Tessa watches people in their sleep?”

“I recently found out,” I laugh. “I’m not even shocked by it.”

He mumbles an agreement as he enters the bathroom. I make my way to Bartholomew’s office. Nobody is here so I decide to look at his books. They’re mostly spell books and books about Daemonology. I don’t see the Arch-Angel’s Spell Book on the shelf. I assume he’s keeping it in the basement. Something tells me it’s the safest place for such a powerful object.

Tessa coughs behind me, making me turn around. “I don’t think Bartholomew would appreciate you snooping around his things.”

“I wasn’t snooping,” I say defensively. I move from the shelves and sit in one of the chairs. She sits beside me. “I just didn’t have anything to do while I waited for everybody.”

Bartholomew walks in with Jack after a minute. They look as if they were discussing something. “Where’s Noah?” Bartholomew asks as he sits in his chair. When Tessa tells him that Noah is in the bathroom Bartholomew just nods. “We need to wait for him before we discuss the plan Jack has concocted.”

“What is the plan?” Tessa asks. I frown. I assumed she already knew what it was.

“We will discuss it when Noah gets here,” Bartholomew says sternly. “You are all part of it.”

Tessa pouts and folds her arms. Nobody else says anything until Noah walks into the room after about ten minutes. His black hair looks considerably neater when it’s wet. “So the plan?” He says, looking at each of us. “Just how risky is it?”

Bartholomew looks at Jack. “Do you want to explain?”

Jack nods. “Valek is obviously watching us. Tessa and I saw him very briefly during our trip with Bartholomew. He clearly wants the book back and he would most certainly kill one of us to get it, if not all of us.”

“Yes, we know this,” Tessa mumbles impatiently.

“Valek still thinks I’m the weak link of the group,” Jack continues. I frown at that comment. If he’s not the weak link anymore, who is? “If he sees me alone he’ll pounce. I’ll walk through Dalmerton with the book, or a replica of it, and then we bait him to his death.”

Tessa looks outraged. “No!” She snaps. “You are not being bait, Jack! Valek will slaughter you.”

“Not only is it risky,” I add, “but it’s also really obvious. He’ll see the trap from a mile away.”

Jack sighs loudly. “You don’t think I thought that through? Bartholomew and I have already discussed the flaws. Firstly, it will be a replica book that he created. That way Valek won’t get it back even if the plan does go wrong.”

“When it goes wrong,” Noah mumbles.

“Secondly,” Jack continues. “The three of you will be in Dalmerton before me. Tessa will be situated at the top of the clock tower as the eyes of the operation. Damien and Noah will be as close to me as possible without being seen.”

Tessa scoffs. “Valek will see us going to Dalmerton,” she snaps.

“Bartholomew is going to cast an invisibility spell,” Jack says, matching her tone. “One that even Valek can’t see through. Once you’re all in position I’ll leave the church with the book. Valek will follow me to Dalmerton and we’ll ambush him there.”

There are still flaws but I decide not to point them out. This is honestly the best shot we have of getting Valek’s heart, and ending his life for good. The biggest problem is that Jack might die. Yes, he needs to die, but not just yet…

“We should do it,” I sigh. “It’s risky but everything we’ve done is. I doubt now is when things are going to start going wrong.”

Noah nods in agreement while Bartholomew just watches us. Tessa takes a few deep breaths. “Fine. But know that keeping Jack safe is priority. Not getting the fucking heart.”

Noah puts his hand on Tessa’s shoulder. “Avenging Georgina is priority.”

“So when are we going?” She asks, standing and pushing Noah’s hand off her shoulder. “Cast the spell Bartholomew.”

He stands and walks to his book shelves. “You’ll have about an hour before the spell fades. That should be plenty of time for Tessa to get to the clock tower and for Damien and Noah to be ready to protect Jack.” He pulls a book from the shelf and opens it. I’m pretty sure he opened it on the right page on his first attempt. “Jack will leave the church in an hour,” Bartholomew says before beginning to read from the book.

It doesn’t take long for the spell to activate. Once it does, we begin moving from the church straight away. “Good luck,” Bartholomew says after us. “Try not to make a scene…”

***
Noah and I decided to wait around near the entrance to Dalmerton, which is where Jack will enter. Even from here we can see Tessa. There’s a window in each face of the clock tower and she’s peeking from one. Thankfully she probably can’t be noticed unless you’re looking for her.

“Tessa said that Jack just set off,” Noah says.

I frown. “How do you know what she said?” I ask.

“She’s speaking to me,” he says. “In my mind. It’s quite creepy.”

Why is she speaking to him and not me? That’s a little hurtful. Maybe she’d just rather be in Noah’s head which I guess is good. There are still things she can’t know. Thing she can never know… “Does she know if Valek is following him?”

Noah looks as if he’s listening to something, which he is. He’s literally listening to the voice in his head. “Tessa, I’m not saying that,” he snaps. He curses loudly after a few more seconds. “She told me to call you a moronic piece of shit who is going to get us all killed with your stupidity.

I gasp mockingly. “Why would you say that to me?” I say, trying not to laugh.

“She started screaming inside my head,” he laughs. “But she has no idea where Valek is. He blocks her out. Jack does think he’s being followed though. He knows to walk past us so we can start tailing him.”

“Do you really think Valek will fall for this? It’s honestly so obvious!” I sigh. There are people milling around Dalmerton but none of them pay us much attention. I’m glad that nobody ever seems to recognize me.

Noah shrugs. “Valek is pretty reckless and he wants the book back. I think he’ll fall for it. Any of us probably would.”

He’s right about that. We already did something ridiculously stupid to get the book. Our recklessness paid off, Valek’s will not.

We stand for a while before we see Jack walking sheepishly into the town. Unsurprisingly, Valek is close behind him. Noah and I follow behind as Jack begins weaving through the crowds.

“Tessa is leading them both to a secluded part of town,” Noah tells me quietly.

I nod, wondering why Valek doesn’t just take the book from Jack now. Why follow him all the way into Dalmerton? The answer becomes painfully apparent when we reach an empty, dead-end street that I recognise. Jack rushes to the end of it, backing himself into a corner for whatever reason. When Valek speeds up towards Jack, Noah and I begin sprinting towards him.

Noah goes to tackle Valek but he vanishes, appearing beside Jack a few meters away from us. I hear footsteps behind me. Gingerly, I turn around to see at least ten worshippers. Of course Valek didn’t come alone! He knew our plan.

“Give me the book, little boy,” Valek says calmly, holding out his hand. “I’ll make your death quick if you don’t fight it.”

Jack gives the book he carries to Valek who grins, obviously not realising it’s just a replica. Once Jack hands Valek the book, he scurries to mine and Noah’s side.

“Now boys,” Valek says. “Where’s the key?”

I smirk, trying to remain confident even with the worshippers behind us. “Back at the church. Come on Valek, you have to work for it.”

He laughs sharply. “Very well. My first order of business after killing you three will be to kill that ridiculous old priest and that blonde whore.”

“Leave Tessa out of this,” I snarl, drawing a dagger. He has no idea she’s in Dalmerton right now! We may be outnumbered but we still hold an advantage… Quietly, I tell Jack and Noah to deal with the worshippers. I should be able to handle Valek.

The two of them nod and draw their swords, turning to the worshippers. I know they can deal with them so I walk slowly towards Valek. He dies today. His death is long overdue.

“Isn’t this where I killed Jojen?” He asks, smiling. “I would have killed you and Daniel here too but you slipped away. But not this time… Are you ready to join them in death?”

I don’t respond, I won’t let him taunt me. Flailing my hand, I send chains of ice at him. They envelope his body and he sprawls to the ground. I silently thank the Daemonic-Queen for that idea as I run at him.

Valek breaks free even before I have time to kick him. He conjures a sword and swings it at me, forcing me back. I don’t relent. This time I send sharp shards of ice accompanied by a strong wind. The ice shatters before it hits him but the wind staggers him. I take the opportunity to charge again, this time managing to slice his arm with my dagger before he vanishes.

“Catch me if you can, Damien,” I hear. Spinning on my heel I see him on top of one of the houses. He sure wants his death to be dramatic…

Sighing, I run towards the building as a pillar of ice raises me upwards towards the building. I land close to him and spare a glance down. Tessa has joined the battle below. She’s the only one of them paying attention to Valek and I. I know that she’s ready to help if I need it.

Valek turns on me, swinging his sword. I duck under it and cut his stomach. He curses loudly, swinging wildly again. This time he manages to cut my arm but it doesn’t do anything to stop me. When he swings again, I drive my dagger into his wrist. It goes straight through and I grin as his sword drops down to the ground below.

“You’ve gotten slow, Valek,” I mock. He screams as I twist the dagger. “Any last words?”

He grits his teeth. I can see the defeat in his eyes and it is so damn satisfying! “You will all die,” he spits.

“Not before you.”

I pull my dagger from his wrist and shove him. He stumbles backwards, falling from the building. A twisted sense of pride fills me as he hits the ground below.

The worshippers scatter quickly, leaving Valek and any other dead behind.

Tessa looks at Valek. A smile appears on her face as she walks over to him. Blood surrounds his head like a halo. He’s obviously already dead but that doesn’t stop Tessa from opening his throat with her rapier.

As she silently gets to work on removing his heart I lower myself to the ground with the same pillar I came up on. None of us say anything until Tessa has his heart in her bag.

It’s Noah who breaks the silence. “Should we go back to the church? We can go to Violet now…”

Tessa shakes her head, wiping Valek’s blood off on her jeans. “Not yet. We have somewhere to go first.”

***

Georgina’s house looks almost the same as it was last time we were here. It’s tidier now. There’s no sign of the fight that ensued here or of the life that was tragically ended here.

“She can rest in peace now,” Tessa says with a smile. There’s a small painting of Georgina and Tessa on the mantelpiece. I hadn’t noticed that before. “She would have wanted Valek dead.”

Noah laughs a little. “He was a common enemy even to her. Violet will be pleased.”

“I doubt she’ll be pleased until more of us are dead,” Tessa says with a sudden bitterness. “But that’s not going to happen. We’re surviving this bullshit.” Jack and Noah smile but I can’t bring myself to do the same. One more of us will die, at least.

Tessa sits on a chair after a minute. “While Damien and Noah were off stealing some weird God candle I heard the news that Georgina left her house to me, along with her possessions. I plan on keeping the house. When I find Aaron we’re going to live here and we’re going to raise our family together.”

That brings a smile to my face. She seems so determined, so sure. I have to make sure that it happens. Tessa has to have her happy ending.

“We’re all going to make sure that happens, Tessa,” Noah says. “Step one, get Daniel back. Step two, get Aaron back. Step three, survive.”

“Somehow I feel like step three will be the hardest,” I laugh. “But we can do it,” I say, looking at Tessa and Noah. “We’re unbreakable.”

Tessa stands, smiling. “We’re unbreakable, but Violet isn’t. We have everything we need,” she grins, holding up her bag with the heart. “Let’s go fight a Daemonic-Bitch.”

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