Disclaimers: The usual I suppose, same sex relationship somewhere in this, although how detailed thats going to be is up to the muse. Id love to hear any constructive criticism or suggestions, at : firstname.lastname@example.org so please send them on! Hope you like the story. Windstar
You know those things you see? Out of the corner of your eye? Even though you know youre alone, but you swear you see something moving, and you think its just your imagination? Its not. You think you can get away with believing they dont exist, but they do, and what you cant see can kill you.
~Initial interview with Jane Doe, Case #2332009
The Second Night
At first she thought the demons were coming for her again.
Dark shapes with claws and sharp fangs hunted her in her dreams, paralyzing her with fear. When sleep released her she lay gasping on the strange bed, clutching the strewn pillows and blankets to her chest, curled up into a small ball.
Her thoughts were as strewn about as the blankets around her. Unlike the past few days, which were little more than a blur to her, today her mind slowly started to settle. While there were still huge gaps in her thoughts, she at least remembered something about what had happened yesterday.
Remembered eyes that changed colors, arms that had held her while she cried, soothed the fear that had been her entire world, all she could remember from before.
Even now she couldnt remember anything from before the hospital; barely even remembered that.
Her name now, the black-haired woman had given her that name.
Her voice she realized was husky, as if unused for a long while, and her throat ached slightly. Licking dry lips she carefully rose to her feet and let the blankets fall aside.
Who am I?
There was no answer in her memories, so she set the question aside for a while; instead taking in the room that she had been sleeping in. The four-poster bed had been soft and inviting, and golden light from the sun outside the windows streaked in across it. Outside those windows she could see a balcony, beyond which was a bed of flowers. It was late afternoon by the position of the sun in the sky.
Not long until nightfall.
Why that was so important escaped her at the moment.
There was a mirror mounted above the mahogany dresser, and she looked at herself critically. Frightened blue eyes peered back at her out of a triangular face framed by short cut almost white hair.
The face in the mirror didnt look familiar.
Frustrated she turned, looking about the large bedroom once more. The green things she was wearing, scrubs, a distant part of her mind supplied helpfully, felt odd and she fingered the collar while stalking across the hardwood floor towards the door.
Maybe there were answers on the other side.
Reaching her fingers towards the doorknob she gave a shriek and jumped backwards as the knob turned before shed touched it and the door swung inwards.
I have to run!
The thought died almost as soon as it was formed though, her mind registering who had opened that door and was so cautiously stepping inside of the room.
Gwyn silently nodded in response, watching this stranger, and having the oddest feeling that she should be remembering something. Something important, something she was supposed to tell her
Shapes, dark as night, flitting across the walls, spraying them with blood
Warm hands touched her hands, drawing her back from the place shed briefly visited, and Gwyn blinked up at the taller woman. Noting the obvious concern in eyes that had been brown, but were shifting towards a multicolored hazel, watching them change color in amazement.
"Its all right, youre safe here."
Gwyn didnt know where here was, but she nodded slightly, ducking her head and feeling her skin warm as she realized shed been staring.
"I brought you some clothes, I hope they fit."
The pair of jeans, two packets of still sealed underwear and t-shirt that were thrust into her view looked about right, and she took them, glad for the excuse to look elsewhere. She wasnt sure, but she had an idea that eyes didnt normally change colors like that.
"Well I guess, I mean, weve got dinner started downstairs, if you want to join us?"
Gwyn did raise her head at that, a small smile edging about her lips and she nodded. Her stomach was reminding her of how long it had been since shed eaten last, something theyd fed her in that vaguely remembered hospital room, the one with the soft walls.
"Good. Ill just leave you to get changed then."
Was there a strain to her rescuers voice? Gwyn canted her head slightly to one side, studying the woman that was slowly backing away from her towards the open door.
That someone who had struck her as so completely in control could be nervous eased the last bit of uncertainty that she had held about coming here. The smile this time was larger, less hesitant, and was instantly returned by the taller woman as she stopped just outside the door. Even if she didnt know what it was they were smiling about.
"I can wait here if you want? Or you can just come downstairs and well be in the kitchen. I imagine you could find it easily enough, thats where the smell of food will be coming from."
The nervousness with a touch of shyness was endearing, Gwyn thought as she silently crossed the room and just as silently closed the door, still smiling to the dark-haired woman.
I trust her.
The loose-fitting scrubs were tossed aside and she started working on the plastic packaged underwear and bras. Fingers stilling as another thought swam to the surface.
I dont trust anyone though
Outside, a cloud passed in front of the setting sun casting the room into shadow. Shivering against an imagined cold, she hurried to get dressed and flee the room that felt empty, a sensation that seemed familiar to her.
"Ugh! I sounded like a blithering idiot!"
The man across the table didnt even glance upwards from the gadget he was working on, his tone disinterested as he answered the now thoroughly annoyed Magister.
The total disinterest in his tone didnt stop the upset woman from continuing her rant.
"I can wait if you want "
Her tone was mocking as she poured herself a cup of coffee, glaring out the window at the setting sun, as if it were the cause of all her problems.
In an odd twisted sort of way, it was. For when the sun set, generally speaking, her job began, although there were the odd daylight missions, the dead tended to avoid daylight.
"I still dont think you should have brought her here."
The older man frowned at the bulky looking pistol he was working on as he spoke.
"What was I supposed to do? Leave her there? Shes frightened out of her mind."
Cool brown eyes glanced up from the weapon at that, and Eric studied the Magister. She was more agitated than he had ever seen her outside of a hunt.
"We dont know who she is. Bringing her inside the defensive perimeters is a mistake. Since when do you bring back strays anyway?"
The glare he received told him all he wanted to know about Sarahs feelings on the subject and he went back to working on the pistol, a small shrug of frail shoulders in answer.
"Eric, she needs our help."
If that didnt exactly answer her old mentors question, neither of them made mention of it. It was a good question though, since when did she bring home people she didnt know? Hell, she didnt even bring home people that she did know. Sipping on the hot coffee she suddenly realized that Gwyn was actually the first non-family member to visit the mansion.
"Shes very pale, Sarah."
"I know, I checked her in the car, shes got a reflection, so she isnt what youre about to suggest she might be. Besides, you saw her aura, shes more alive than anyone Ive ever met."
The old man knew his student, knew when she wasnt going to change her mind, and this was one of those times. So he spared himself the trouble of an argument and a headache, turning his attention to the pistol he was working on. When she made it down the stairs, and followed her nose towards the promising smells, Gwyn found the two of them studiously pretending the other didnt exist.
"Thank you for the clothes."
The words broke odd silence, and both of the kitchens occupants looked at her in confusion, both for different reasons. Eric because he had been under the impression that the stray couldnt talk, Sarah because she suddenly couldnt come up with anything brilliant to say, a first for the Magister. With an odd glance at his suddenly silent student, and finding her staring at their uninvited guest, Eric eased himself upright out of the chair. Old aches and pains making the operation take rather longer than it had in his youth.
"Welcome to Trilium Manor, Lady ?"
Gwyn faltered, blue eyes darkening as his question caused her to once more try to force her mind into giving answers it couldnt yet supply.
" Gwyn. Her name is Gwyn until we find out what her real name is, Eric. Im positive that wont take long."
A thankful look to her rescuer and the smaller woman smiled in thanks as she took a seat in the chair that Sarah had drawn out for her at the table. Three place settings had already been set out, and she felt her mouth water at the piles of food that the tall woman was setting down in the center. The blonde waited for the other two to start though, not wanting to appear anymore uncivilized than she was certain she had already.
The words surprised her two dinner companions, they certainly surprised her, and they sounded odd to her although she did mean them. Sarah and the old man, what was his name, ah, Eric, shared a glance.
The confusion in Sarahs eyes brought a sudden smile to Gwyns face, which felt odd though, almost strained.
"Taking me away from that room."
The smile that felt like a grimace slowly faded as fragments of memories from that room came back slowly. They were disjointed, confusing, but they were the first true memories she could claim to have remembered.
Flashes of things with impossibly long claws and mouths that opened far too wide mixed with images of orderlies who had held her down.
Warm fingers curled around hers, ending the memories as quickly as they had started.
She met eyes that were so dark they were nearly black and felt her breath catch.
"If you two are quite done, we do have a schedule to go over."
Startled, she slid her hand out from under Sarahs, blinking to try to clear the odd feelings that had coiled through her at that touch and the look in the black-haired womans eyes. Eyes that were going from black to a pale gray even as she watched.
"Of course. What do we have for tonights line up?"
Gwyn ate the pasta that had been placed in front of her, working her way through the large bowl methodically and then on to the salad next to it. The light sauce was excellent, and the slices of roasted chicken mixed in with the lettuce were great. Most of her attention though was on her two companions.
"Theres a report about a shoplifter downtown that, and I quote "walked through a wall and didnt show up on the security cameras" sound familiar?"
A quick glance to Sarah showed the other woman was nodding as she ate, gray eyes thoughtful as she listened.
"Then weve got another report of something in the west end going through dumpsters."
The bald man waited for both members of his audience to look at each other questioningly before he grinned and continued.
"The animal control guys who went down there swear they saw something that was larger than a wolf, and it told them to leave it alone."
Since Sarah didnt seem to find that odd, Gwyn hesitantly spoke up.
"Wolves can speak?"
She didnt think they could, but then again, she wasnt sure what those strange things in the kitchen did. Although she thought the big one in the corner that Sarah had pulled the salads from, kept food cold.
"Wolves? No, they cant speak, not to humans anyway. Werewolves on the other hand, now thats a different story."
The oddest thing about that answer, Gwyn thought as she took another bite of salad, was that it sounded perfectly reasonable to her.
"Eric, you got that thing working yet?"
"Yeah, four shots each for wood and silver, heres the safety and selector switch. Range is only a hundred feet or so, but the stakes are pure silver or ash wood."
She stopped chewing at that and looked at the two of them questioningly. The silver she instinctively understood, a long forgotten memory of how to take care of werewolves surfacing. The ash wood she wasnt so certain about. This time it was the old man who answered her unspoken question.
"Werewolves arent the only things that can take the shapes of wolves. Some of the older vampires have been known to be able to pull off that trick. Although we dont usually have too much trouble with vamps around here."
Sarah finished her examination of the weapon and carefully set it aside, nodding in agreement.
"Better safe than sorry."
Gwyn was certain that this wasnt how a normal meal was supposed to go, but then she couldnt quite remember what a normal meal meant so she mentally shrugged, accepted the explanations and finished her dinner.
Once her new charge had gone back upstairs to take a shower, Sarah dug into her coat pocket and returned to the table, handing over the packet of Polaroids shed taken at the hospital.
"Take a look at these while Im out will you, Eric? I dont recognize any of those symbols."
The old man set the last of the dishes into the sink and returned to the table, frowning as he pulled a pair of bifocals from his shirt pocket and peered intently at the pictures. A low whistle as he started setting the Polaroids out across the table to form a mosaic picture of what shed seen in the observation room.
"Gwyn did this?"
"Yeah, I dont know how, but I could feel the power in them, Eric. It bothers me that I dont know those symbols. That means I dont know what kind of magic she might be able to use."
Eric winced as he carefully sat back down, coughing a bit and waving away Sarahs instant look of concern. Once hed caught his breath again he shook a finger at his student.
"You should know that the legacies dont cover everything."
"I know, but Ive gotten used to them at least mentioning everything we have to go up against. This though, those symbols "
They both fell quiet, staring at the pictures laid out on the old kitchen table. Darkness was falling outside and the Magister could feel the fine hairs on the back of her neck standing on end. Eric put her thoughts to voice, sounding uncharacteristically worried.
"Theres a storm coming."
"I know. I can feel it too."
Neither was talking about the weather.
Shed only meant to take a quick shower and go back downstairs to say goodbye to her
My what? Friend? Ive only known her for all of a day, and most of that I spent asleep. Ok, lets call her my rescuer for now, and we can add the title of friend later, hopefully.
It would be nice to have a friend.
I have so few
The thought, like all the others that hinted at her past, was gone before she could examine it. Shed only meant to take a quick shower, but the bed had looked so inviting afterwards, and shed been tired still, feeling drained from something that she couldnt even remember doing. Or maybe it was the drugs from the hospital, they had messed her up pretty well after all.
New clothes had been placed on the chair just inside the door of the bedroom when she woke up several hours after going upstairs. This time they included a few more pairs of pants, underwear, shirts, and toiletries still in their packaging.
Sarah must have gone to the store for me, another thing to thank her for.
Gwyn had hoped to thank the dark-haired woman right then, but to her disappointment, when shed gone downstairs the house had seemed empty. No sign of either Sarah or Eric. So instead shed decided on a bit of exploring, and had begun to wander through the mansion.
"Wow, this place is big."
Plush carpeted hallways swallowed the sound of her voice and footsteps.
The ground floor was huge, with two main wings which spread off from the main area where the kitchen and dinning room were. Shed seen studies, a huge library, billiards room, a modern living room, and even a long rectangular workout room so far.
The quiet clacking of someone typing quickly drew her away from the third study shed been about to wander through and towards the room at the end of the hallway. Where the rest of the rooms shed gone into were plush and comfortable, this one looked like a bunker. The solid metal door and bare cement walls were in stark contrast to the rest of the mansion shed already seen.
Inside, sitting in a rather beat up leather chair, peering some sort of screen and typing away madly while humming to himself sat Eric. Sensing her presence he glanced up and waved her inside.
"Well, come in and stop gawking."
"Where, I mean, what is all this?"
She gingerly weaved her way through stacks of odd looking and mysterious equipment to take a seat on a rickety looking wicker stool.
Erics answer didnt do anything to clear up her confusion.
"Umm contribution to what?"
"Well you might have noticed were not exactly a run of the mill household."
Tracing the yellow stenciling on the side of a crate she looked back up at him blankly.
He stared at her for a long moment, mouth slightly open in surprise, then shook his head and turned back to the brightly glowing thing.
"Ok, youve got one heck of a case of amnesia there, lady. Lets see if I can put this into terms that should make sense to you."
A few quick clicks and the main screen displayed a map.
"This is the city."
Nodding to indicate she was with him so far, Gwyn shifted so she could see the large screen better.
"Now, were the largest gathering of sentient life in the entire area, so we also attract the most dead. Which makes sense since they need to feed on the living to continue cheating death. With me so far?"
That sounded perfectly reasonable and she grinned, much more fascinated with the screen itself then the explanation so far. A disapproving look stopped her from touching it though.
"Sarahs family owns this house, they also own houses in most large cities throughout the world. They help sort out things that prey on the living, and I make sure Sarah knows where to go to pick up the trail."
That didnt sound as reasonable and pale eyebrows drew together in slight confusion.
"How do you do that?"
"Weve got friends throughout the city, people who can see the truth, or those who Sarahs saved before, along with a few free mages. They give us a heads up, then theres the police band, and sometimes we even catch something from the news."
Most of those words didnt mean anything to Gwyn, but she got the general idea.
"What do you mean those who can see the truth?"
"Trust me on this, people dont want to see the real world. They like things nice and square, fitting into white washed houses with picket fences outside their doors. You ever really looked at some of the homeless people wandering downtown?"
Blue eyes darkened as she tried to remember if she had, predictably she drew a blank.
"Well, a few of them arent what youd call normal. Sure, most are, but there are other things that wander the streets in the guise of people. Sometimes they arent even very good disguises, but people fill in the blanks. Most people dont want to see what really wanders the nights. Your mother ever tell you there was no such things as monsters?"
"I dont know."
Which stopped what looked like the beginnings of a rant, and bought her enough time to ask another question.
"You mean the computer?"
"Yes, what do you use it for?"
"Dear God, woman! You dont know what a computer is?"
The blank look was starting to feel permanent.
"Well, good thing you stopped in, lets start filling in a few of those gaps in your memory."
The hours that followed were filled with strange and wonderful ideas, along with words like World Wide Web, CDs, electronics, and her favorite, television.
The ghost hadnt been much of a problem.
The band of traveling dead heads, who were exactly what the name suggested, that shed stumbled over afterwards had been a bit of a surprise. Still, the night had been looking like another slow one, nothing much was going on. Eric, assisted by a happy sounding Gwyn, hadnt had anything to report to her for the last two hours. The talking wolf hadnt been spotted at all so far. Shed been just about to call it a night and go see what they could find out about their houseguest when shed caught sight of something, as her grandmother would have put it "Not Quite Right".
"Sarah, Eric says youve stopped, what are you doing? Uh, Over?"
Using a hand to adjust the small headset that Eric had given her a few weeks ago, and shed never found a reason to wear until now, Sarah grinned at the voice in her ear.
"You dont have to say over, Gwyn, I suspect thats Erics idea of a joke."
The wheezing laugh in the background made it a certainty.
"And yes, Ive stopped. I saw something strange just past 5th, Im going to take a peek."
This time it was Eric who spoke up.
"What kind of something strange?"
"Not sure, it was quick out of the corner of my eye kind of thing. I think I saw someone dressed in black rags carrying a staff of some sort walk into this alley way."
"Just be careful, Sarah."
"Oh please, Eric, when am I not?"
The hilt of her sword was comforting in her right hand, while her left stayed close to the pistol handle at her waist. That time with the costume ball people had cured her of any desire to draw her weapons before being certain about what she was dealing with ever again.
"Eric said to ask you about that time on Winter Solstice."
Gwyns voice was a warm counterpoint to the cold dark alley, and Sarah could hear the smile in the pale womans voice as she spoke.
"Yeah, well you should ask Eric about that door to door salesman."
That shut up the laughter on the other side, and she smirked as she heard Gwyn asking Eric about that. The snarled response brought a full smile to Sarahs lips.
"Umm, Sarah, I think hes pouting."
Which was quickly followed by an indignant yell.
Ouch, shes got you there, Uncle.
The ruckus on the other side of the radio faded into the background as she moved deeper into the alley though. Her senses expanding, questing for even the slightest hint that paranormal creatures were on the prowl. Concentrating, she looked about her in mage sight, seeing the ordinary auras that surrounded everything. Other than a few rats nothing alive was in that alley besides her.
There was something that glowed brightly enough to make her wince and raise an arm to protect her eyes. A few feet from where she was standing, painted onto the dark asphalt, was a circle of power. Its borders were ringed with glyphs, and once more to her dismay, the Magister didnt recognize any of them.
"Ive got some sort of circle of power here, Eric, no sign of whatever caused it though."
The arguing coming from her earpiece stopped instantly and once more her mentor was all business.
Careful to stay away from the edges, she paced around it, keeping a wary eye out on her surroundings as she did.
"About six feet in diameter Id say. I count eight cardinal points, and its been painted onto the ground using blood."
The air held a hint of copper to it now that she was this close, even though whatever kind of blood that had been use was well on its way to drying.
"Id say an hour or two, maximum, since this was made."
"Any ideas who might have made it, Sarah?"
"Funny, Eric, I was about to ask you the same question. Im going to close whatever this is after taking a few pictures. Any luck with those the symbols from Gwyns hospital room?"
"None so far, Im still running a database search to see if any of the other Legacy Houses have seen anything like them before."
In the background she could here Gwyn asking what a Legacy House was. In some ways it the fact that Gwyn couldnt remember anything was working in their favor, she was asking a lot less questions than a normal person with an idea of how the world worked would have in her place.
"Eric, Im going to take the copies of those Polaroids and go see Marina. She might have an idea what those are."
"Understood, just watch your back, Sarah."
"So thats what she does every night?"
"Get me a beer will you?"
The pale-haired woman stared into the refrigerator, then back at the man hunched over yet another pet project spread over the tabletop. Not really sure what shed just been asked to get, Gwyn grabbed the first bottle shape she came across.
Eric stared at her with an odd expression on his face, shrugged and opened the bottle of orange juice.
"Well, I guess its better for me anyway. What did you ask?"
Taking one for herself as well, she cautiously tasted the orange liquid before sitting down and smiling.
"This is beer?"
"Ah no, this is orange juice. That was your question?"
Gwyn blinked, and then grinned as she realized where shed lost track of that conversation.
"Sarah, is that what she does every night?"
Once more she had the feeling that Eric was considering his words carefully before answering, thoughtfully fingering a screwdriver.
"More or less, yes. Tonights pretty slow."
Whatever it was that he was working on, it certainly looked like a weapon.
And how would I know what a weapon looks like? I didnt even know what a television was.
"Thats not normal is it?"
Eric snorted, returning his attention to his latest project.
"No, its not normal. Why?"
"I just wanted to make sure I understood. Because that show, what was it called?"
"The one with all the yelling?"
"Oh, Jerry Springer."
"Yeah, that one, Sarah seems normal compared to that."
She wasnt sure why he started laughing, but she grinned anyway.
"Gwyn, everyone looks normal compared to those shows. Thats why people watch them."
The grin faded into a perplexed frown.
"You mean people watch them to feel normal?"
"You got it."
"Thats just strange."
Eric shrugged, fitting what looked like a barrel onto the front of the stocky weapon before answering.
"Just human nature I guess."
That was definitely not the most reassuring thing shed ever been told.
"Um, anyway, how did she become whatever it is she is?"
"Hold this? Yup, right there. Shes the Magister for this city and the surrounding area. Ok, now push down, thats it. Ok, hold that and let me screw in the sights."
Just when she started to worry that hed forgotten about their conversation, Eric snapped the sight into place and continued.
"Its a family position."
Blue eyes watched him expectantly, hoping for a bit more than just that. Unfortunately Eric wasnt exactly known for his chatty nature, and hed given the stranger more information than hed wanted to.
The black SUV smoothly pulled into a parking space in front of what had once been a chapel. In the eighties, as the rest of this part of the city was going downhill, the building had been sold off as the last of the order of nuns which had owned the property died. Since then, the property had been privately owned by a person who had off and on aided the Magister of the city when unique situations arose.
Even though Sarah had never needed her help so far, shed kept in contact with the woman throughout her training and the past two years of active service. Since this was starting to qualify as unique, the Magister figured it couldnt hurt to ask if she knew something that could help.
Even though the insides had been remodeled, rooms had been set up, a kitchen installed, and most of the religious symbols were long gone, the place still felt like a church. No matter how hot, or cold, it was outside when she visited, the inside was a constant pleasant temperature. The air held a stillness to it, a peacefulness that always served to relax Sarah.
Respectfully the Magister left all of her weapons but her sword in the SUV, and removed her boots upon entering. Placing them on the straw mat just inside the doorway.
"Magister, as always, you honor me with your visit."
Rising from setting aside her boots, Sarah smiled at the truly petite woman facing her. That Marina had managed to quietly approach her without her knowledge no longer unnerved her as it had in the past. Now she just accepted it as yet another one of this unique womans quirks.
"Marina, I am sorry it is so late, but I wished to ask you some questions."
The small oriental woman smiled gently and gestured further into her home, the kimono that she wore rustling faintly as she did.
"Come and have some tea with me, and we shall see if I have any answers to give you."
Tea with Marina was not a simple act of sitting down and enjoying a cup of tea. Tea for with her meant a veritable ceremony, one which Sarah was used to after her prior visits. It was well past midnight by the time she got to the point in the ceremony where she could ask her hostess some questions.
"Ive never seen any markings like these before."
The small woman methodically laid out the Polaroids that Sarah had handed over, spreading them out on the tabletop, recreating an image of the shredded observation room wall.
Long minutes passed without either moving, Marina staring at the Polaroids, while Sarah stared at her, hoping for some real answers this time. Finally the Asian woman let out a small sigh and leaned back in her seat, rubbing her eyes in an uncharacteristic show of fatigue. Concerned by the out of character show of weakness, Sarah started to rise, only to sink back down into her chair as Marina shook her head.
"Do not worry, I just had not expected this "
Sarah waited patiently, giving her friend time to sort her thoughts.
"The person who carved these, the one without any memories, where is she now?"
"At the manor. Marina, what are they?"
Delicate fingers traced the patterns pictured in the Polaroids, staying just above the glossy surface. Dark eyes met Sarahs, and for the first time since shed known her, Marina looked worried.
"I need to contact a friend, to make sure these are what I think they are. In the mean time, bring her here Magister, bring her here quickly."
The urgency in her friends voice had Sarah standing and going to put on her boots before shed even finished speaking.
"Why? Whats so upsetting about those symbols?"
"Its not the symbols, its what might have written them."
One of the more disturbing answers Sarah had gotten in the last week.
Gwyn was happily ensconced on one of the comfortable leather chairs in front of the television set. The big living room was comfortable, and it was obviously one of the rooms that Sarah spent time relaxing in. Two of the walls were dominated by floor to ceiling bookshelves full of well-read hard and soft cover books. Eric had left her alone an hour ago now, saying he had to run a more thorough scan on the symbols from her hospital room.
The entire hospital stay was nothing more than a vague bad memory. Besides watching this show about the ten biggest greatest buildings in the world was much more fascinating than trying to remember those confused and frightening memories. If she concentrated enough on the TV she could even pretend that she was normal, someone who knew who they were, what they were doing, instead of constantly questioning everything.
Whats this thing called again? A remote control, nifty, I wonder if people fight over who gets to control what channel to watch?
Just for the fun of it she flicked through a few channels, winced at the music she stumbled across on one of them, and hurriedly returned to the channel showing the big buildings.
"You never did like loud music."
The quiet voice startled her and with a shriek she bounded up off the sofa, whirling to face the source of that question. Coming face to face with a completely unremarkable looking older man, his hair was nearly as dark as Sarahs, but unlike the Magister, this mans eyes did not change color.
Eyes which regarded her with a mixture of amusement, anger, and was that sympathy?
Attack or flee
For an endless moment while she met the strangers eyes, Gwyn struggled with the decision. Trying to understand where the impulse had come from, and why she would want to attack or flee.
"A-Are you a friend of Sarahs?"
The anger and amusement disappeared as if they had never been and the man watched her with eyes devoid of any emotion that she could comprehend.
"No, Im not a friend of the Magisters."
Her muscles quivered with the need to do something, but she held her place, trying to understand what was going on, who this was.
"Who are you?"
The amusement returned, stronger this time and he took a step towards her. Immediately she backed up, knowing that the TV was behind her, but that somewhere in the house was Eric, and wondering if he would hear her if she screamed. The thought must have shown for the man raised black gloved hands in a placating motion.
"I am not your enemy. You can call me Gabriel."
"What do you want?"
They seemed like the right questions to ask, even as she slowly edged her way along the bookcase towards the doorway into the hall. The man, Gabriel, did nothing to stop her, turning in place to keep her in sight but nothing more. A faint twitch to lips that she somehow knew was equivalent to a smile for him.
"I came to deliver a message."
She licked dry lips, wondering how much this man knew about who she was, and if hed tell her.
"The enemy knows you are here now. Guard yourself, little sister."
"You should go help the old man."
Gwyn stared at him in confusion, not even sure what he was talking about or what questions he was or wasnt answering.
The faint twitch of lips returned, but before he could say anything there came a sudden cacophony of sound from down the hallway towards Erics workroom. The sound of metal clanging off cement echoed down the hallway and she turned towards the sound, checking her rush towards it only at the strangers call.
A groan reached her ears from the same direction as the banging of metal had come, and Gwyn spared a glance over her shoulder as she ran down the hallway. Strangely unsurprised when she saw no sign of Gabriel.
Gwyn gasped his name in surprise as she saw the old man lying on the floor, storage boxes tumbled down around him. He was coughing, weakly, and even from the door she could spot the blood that coughing brought up.
Sarah rested her hand on the hilt of her sword, warily setting aside the trench coat and moving further into the manor. Eric hadnt buzzed her in through the wrought iron gates as he usually did when she pulled up, and she hadnt seen any sign of either Gwyn or Eric so far.
Something was wrong.
She could feel it, and a Magister who didnt listen to those sort of feelings was a Magister who didnt last long.
The blade whispered as it slid from the sheath at her side, glyphs blazed along the length of the cold steel. Quietly she moved down the hallway, letting the early AM shadows wrap around her, providing a measure of cover from any hostile eyes. The kitchen was empty, as was the living room, and the study beyond. Methodically, she made her way through the manor, searching for her houseguest and uncle, or anything that didnt belong.
That came from down the hallway, Erics workroom!
Abandoning the cloak of shadows shed gathered around herself, she sprinted down the hallway, skidding to a stop just inside the armored doorway. The sight that greeted her was not one shed been ready for. Eric lay on the floor, bits of electrical equipment scattered around him. Crouched over him was Gwyn, on her knees, both hands pressed against Erics chest, a look of concentration on her face.
Sheathing the sword, Sarah hesitantly stepped inside.
Luminous blue eyes peered up at her, and if anything, Gwyn looked even paler to her.
"Hes dying isnt he?"
She looked so sad that Sarah had to swallow against the lump in her throat before she could answer. Dropping to her knees next to Gwyn, the dark-haired woman gently touched her uncles wrist, reassuring herself that he was still alive.
Eric didnt seem to be in any pain, if anything he seemed to be sleeping. Forcing herself to let out the breath she hadnt realized shed been holding, Sarah carefully slid her arms under the older mans shoulders. Once again shocked at how thin hed become in the last few months.
"Help me get him to his bed and you can tell me what happened."
Between the two of them they managed to get Eric to his bed, settled in and even woke him long enough for Sarah to get him to drink some medicine the doctors had given him. A cup of tea later and they were both in the living room, watching the sunrise over the city below through the large bay windows.
Sarah watched Gwyn, as she sipped her tea, enjoying these few quiet minutes. The blonde had a bit more color to her, and had haltingly made her way through recounting the events of the evening. The tall woman had listened carefully to Gwyns description of the strange man, and then what had happened afterwards. The blondes words still echoing through her thoughts.
"He was laying there on the floor Sarah, and I didnt know what to do. Im sorry Sarah, I didnt know how to use the phone, Eric was going to show me, but then I started watching the television and "
"Gwyn, just tell me what happened."
Gwyn had taken a deep breath at that and nodded, blue eyes darkening in memory.
"He was laying on the floor, and he was coughing up this blood. I wanted to help him, to stop it, and I could see this this darkness in him. I dont know how to describe it, but I could see it. So I put my hands on his chest and, I think I pushed against it, trying to push it out. I couldnt though, it was hard to move, but I did shove it down a bit."
A quiet sigh followed.
"Im sorry, Sarah, I cant explain it better."
Silently the she had reached over and pulled Gwyn into a hug; feeling the surprise in the smaller womans frame at that.
"Whats that for?"
Shed smiled, and gently cupped Gwyns cheek.
"For helping him."
Gwyns quiet voice roused her from her own thoughts, and she set aside the cup of tea before turning in her seat to look at her houseguest questioningly.
"What happened to him? What was it that I saw in him?"
"I was careless, thats what happened. We went up against a mummy that the Natural History Museum had unwittingly imported from Egypt. What you saw must be the curse, its a rotting disease that kills you from the inside out. His lungs are starting to go, and neither of us knows how long he has left."
Blonde eyebrows drew together as Gwyn thought about that answer.
"It cant be cured?"
"No, we took him everywhere, to every free mage in the city, and even to conventional medicine after that had failed. If it can be cured Gwyn, no one in this city knows how to do it."
In silence they both watched the sun rise, until Sarah remembered her meeting earlier in the evening.
"Gwyn, well make sure that Eric is alright, and then Im going to take you to meet a friend."
Blue eyes, no longer luminous as they had been when shed been crouched over Eric, regarded her curiously.
"Someone who may have an idea about who you are."
Sarah didnt add it out loud, but the, I hope, tacked on to the end of the sentence was understood by both of them.
To Be Continued.