Disclaimers: The usual I suppose, same sex relationship somewhere in this, although how detailed thats going to be is up to the muse. Major thanks to Diva along with L and L for there help with this! Thank you to Amy for her support, and as always dedicated to my Angel.
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
As long as there has been life, there has been death. There cannot be one, without the other, they are linked, now and forever. That is the way of things, the cycle of nature. It's when that cycle is broken and things don't stay dead that things become messy. That's when we get involved.
The Fourth Night
The Magister had been sitting-- brooding was a better name for it-- on the couch ever since noon. Eric was up and about after his fourteen-hour nap, looking much better than the last time Gwyn had seen him. She'd left him sitting in front of that computer of his, searching through something called a data base for the creature that she'd described to him.
She moved carefully now, slowly approaching the taller woman, not sure why but feeling that if she did move too quickly Sarah would flee.
"Are you alright?"
Gray eyes watched her sit down on the couch then went back to studying the beautiful gardens outside the bay window. Not getting an answer, Gwyn decided to go for another tactic.
"Eric says he hasn't found anything like the creature in the Legacy yet, but he's still not done searching."
That didn't even get her a glance.
With a silent sigh Gwyn tried to think of something, anything to say, to get the Magister to talk. Her eyes felt heavy, and she repeatedly tried to stifle a yawn. None of them had felt like sleeping after getting back to the manor. Sarah had spent the entire morning checking and double-checking the manor's security systems, both mundane and magical.
A soft whimper brought the Magister out of her thoughts. Gwyn had fallen asleep on the couch, and by the way she was curling around herself, Sarah had a good idea about what the pale woman was dreaming of.
Keeping her voice low she moved over towards the shivering woman, hesitating then stroking her fingers through strands of blonde hair so fine they were like silk. Still asleep the smaller woman turned towards the source of comfort, snuggling into the startled Magister's lap, before making a contented sound and slipping deeper into sleep.
What am I going to do with you, little one? Who is hunting you?
The troubled thoughts followed the Magister into her sleep, and it wasn't until Gwyn woke up long enough to get Sarah to lay down on the couch, that they both slept easily.
"Sarah, I think I have something…"
Eric stopped at the doorway, blinking in surprise at the sight before him. His niece was asleep on the couch, a smaller body curled up almost on top of her, arms wrapped around one another. Quietly he moved over to the blinds and closed them before the rays of the setting sun could wake the two sleepers. Then, just as quietly he left them to their rest, heading back to his room to see what else he could dig up.
For the first time she could remember, her dreams were not haunted by monsters. Stretching a bit she snuggled into the warmth beneath her cheek, smiling as arms tightened their hold on her.
Blue eyes opened suddenly.
Arms? What? Where am I sleeping… oh.
The warm comfortable thing she'd been resting her head on turned out to be Sarah's chest. The Magister was still sleeping, and a bit guiltily she took the opportunity to study the taller woman, mentally tracing the high cheeks, lips and brow. Asleep, the other woman looked even younger than Gwyn had thought she was.
As if sensing her scrutiny, Sarah's eyelids fluttered open, revealing gray eyes which darkened even as Gwyn watched. They stared at each other for what felt like hours, but was only a few minutes. Then long fingers were slipping around the base of her neck and Gwyn eagerly leaned forward; her body reacting before she'd even started to realize what was going on.
Sensations blazed themselves into her memory.
Soft warm lips pressing against hers.
Warm fingers curling in her hair.
The strong body beneath her's feeling so right pressed up against her that Gwyn whimpered in protest when Sarah pulled back. Her breathing was ragged, and she tried to lean forward to continue the kiss, only to be stopped by a pair of fingers pressed to her lips.
"Gwyn, look at me."
Swallowing she half opened her eyes, focusing on the other woman's lips, and licking her own. The same fingers tilted up her chin to force her to meet eyes nearly gone black with arousal.
The words took a few seconds to penetrate her consciousness.
Carefully but firmly Sarah disentangled herself from the smaller woman, leaving Gwyn to scoot over to the far corner of the couch and watch her in confusion.
"We can't do this."
Even to herself, the small woman's voice sounded small and confused, something that she was sadly becoming accustomed to.
"Because you don't know who you are Gwyn, I don't know who you are."
Then, before Gwyn could even think of something to say, Sarah was up and out the door, stalking down the hallway; leaving the small woman curled up against one end of the couch, hugging her knees to her chest and staring after the Magister. Wondering how it was possible to feel so sad over the loss of something she hadn't even known existed.
Slamming the door behind her, Sarah stalked into the bunker that Eric called a room. Ignoring the startled look he sent her way she dumped books off of the nearest chair and took a seat, glowering at him.
"What do you have?"
"Well, good evening to you too. How are you doing, Eric? Why thank you, Sarah, I'm doing much better, I can actually take a deep breath without hacking up a lung, how are you doing? I'm doing fine, Eric, I slept for more than three hours today."
Sarah made a face at her uncle's little diatribe.
"You done yet?"
"Sheesh, I would have thought waking up holding Gwyn would have put you in a better mood."
Which only served to earn him an even darker look.
"Eric, what have you found out? Or do I have to go out and fight these things without a clue as to what they are?"
"Ok, Ok, sheesh, what's wrong with you today? Here's what I've found so far. Not much, but it's a start."
She snatched the manila folder out of his hands and started reading through the print outs he'd put inside it, frowning as she did.
"You should have woken me up if you found me on the couch like that."
"Why? You two looked comfortable, and trust me, Gwyn definitely looked like she needed some sleep. So did you for that matter."
"Eric, it's best if I keep my distance from her."
The bald man cast a curious look at his niece for that comment, watching her speculatively as she read through the information he'd managed to gather during the day.
"Oh, and why is that, Sarah?"
"Eric, she doesn't know who she is, remember? No memories of anything before the hospital. For all we know she's got a husband out there somewhere."
"No wedding band, Sarah."
The Magister glanced up from the print outs just long enough to glare at him, then went back to reading.
"Sarah, look, I know you think you have to forsake anything even approaching a normal relationship because of your position as Magister, but…"
"No, Uncle, I don't think I have to, I know I have to. Look what happened to my parents. My father had no idea what he was getting involved in. I am not letting an innocent person who has no idea what she's getting herself into, get involved in my life."
Wisely Eric kept his mouth shut, turning back towards his computer screen and starting another search through the large database that all Legacy Houses shared. He knew his niece well enough to know she wouldn't listen to him when she got like this. His thoughts kept turning towards the Polaroids that Sarah had taken of Gwyn's hospital room though, and he wondered exactly how innocent the small woman was.
"Will you at least tell me where we're going?"
She'd only had a few minutes to sit on the couch when Sarah had barged back into the living room and tossed her a coat. They'd eaten dinner at a diner downtown, neither talking much and both avoiding looking at the other. The drive from the diner had been just as quiet, and finally Gwyn couldn't take it anymore. Twisting in her seat she put her back to the dark streets they were passing and watched the driver. The occasional street lamp illuminated the Magister for brief seconds as they passed underneath, letting Gwyn catch glimpses of the way Sarah's jaw was set.
"To see someone."
It was the first time they'd actually said anything to each other since they left the manor. Closing her eyes against the ache the Magister's clipped tone caused, Gwyn looked back out the window. The rest of the drive was made in complete silence.
Sarah led the way through the park. Few people came down here after dark, even the police patrolled down here only when they had to. The Magister had long ago come to an understanding with the local gangs though. They didn't interfere in her business, and she'd keep them from becoming dinner for the latest undead.
Here and there figures slipped away from behind trees, deliberately granting her a large leeway.
Which was a wise idea on their part, considering what she had done to them the last time they had been so unwise as to try to stop her. Gwyn trailed along behind her, as silent and pale as a ghost. An ethereal vision that no doubt caught more than a few of the eyes watching them.
They headed deeper into the park, past the ponds and grassy places that teamed with people during the summer days, and to the bridge. It wasn't much; just a bridge for one of the many pathways that wound through the park, spanning what was usually a dry creek bed. Ducking a bit she could just make out the piles of cardboard boxes underneath the north side.
Something stirred deep in the shadows.
She could feel Gwyn smiling behind her. A darkness that she hadn't been aware of hanging over them lightened.
"Professor, it's Sarah."
That brought a bit of shuffling and a hunched over figure moved towards the edge of the shadows. A smell somewhere between stale cigarette smoke and rotting eggs wafted out as well.
"That you, Magister?"
"Yes, I have a question for you."
Ignoring her he stepped fully into the light and Gwyn winced at the scared face visible in the faint moonlight.
"Who's your friend?"
"She's my question actually."
"Hmph, well, come on inside."
Inside meant crouching underneath the bridge while the Professor fumbled around and lit several candles. The smell was just as bad inside here, but truthfully, compared to the smell of decomposing bodies it wasn't too bad. Gwyn kept on looking a bit green around the edges though. Arranging things as he liked them, the Professor, bundled in so many layers of clothes that it was hard to tell exactly how big he really was, sat down at the head of the improvised table, an old milk crate.
"Now, what can I do for you ladies?"
Silently she handed across the Polaroids from Gwyn's hospital room, watching the other man tuck long, dirty, blond dreadlocks behind his ears, and settle cracked bifocals on a long thin nose to study them closely. She never asked what one of the most powerful free mages in the city was doing living under a bridge in the park, and he never volunteered.
Her mother had often told her, before he died, that the business of a Magister was that of the dead, not the living.
"Interesting wall paintings-- you trying to redecorate?"
Gwyn had been silent so far, and Sarah cast the small woman a glance, mentally wincing as she saw the lingering hurt still in those wide blue eyes.
It's for the best…
"She carved them on the walls of her hospital room."
The Professor shifted his attention from the Polaroids to Gwyn herself at that. Sarah had the feeling that he was about to say something when her replacement cell phone chirped. With an apologetic look she snapped it open and listened quietly, nodding every once in a while as Eric spoke.
"Sorry we can't stay, Professor, Eric's got reports of a zombie over near the industrial district. I'll have to go take care of it. Place keeps getting visits lately."
The Professor stood as she did, Gwyn slowly stood a few seconds later, looking a bit dazed for some reason.
"Go take care of your business then, Magister."
He handed her back the Polaroid's, which she promptly tucked away in one of her jacket pockets.
"I'm sorry I can't tell you anything about those symbols."
Sarah studied him as they stepped out of his piles of belongings, eyes narrowing, he was holding something back, she was certain of it.
"If you think of anything, Professor, you know how to get in touch with me."
"Be well, Magister, may the light shine on all the dark paths you must tread."
She nodded and stepped out from under the bridge, turning around just in time to see him grab a hold of Gwyn's arm and tug her close, whispering something to the pale woman. Whatever he said it only took a few seconds, then Gwyn was out from under the bridge as well, looking a bit shaken.
The shorter woman avoided meeting Sarah's eyes, and nodded, hugging herself.
"Fine, can we just go now?"
Behind them the Professor began packing his things; his long wait was finally at an end.
Gwyn was surprised that Sarah didn't ask anything until they'd gotten back to the black SUV. The dark-haired woman had not struck her as someone possessed with a lot of patience. She'd just gotten into her seat, and buckled the seat belt as they pulled away from the curve.
"What did he say?"
Gwyn bit her lip, looking out the window at the trees that streaked past, soon enough they would be back into the city itself, then it would be gray buildings streaking past them.
"You didn't see them did you?"
Sarah glanced in the rearview mirror, then back down to the road ahead of them, smoothly cutting across two lanes to make a left handed turn onto 5th avenue.
In the reflection from the window, Gwyn could see the Magister looking at her curiously as they headed deeper into the city.
"What lights are we talking about here, Gwyn?"
She didn't see them; she really didn't see them. How could she miss them? Of course she didn't see the monster either. Great, now how do I explain them to her?
Keeping her eyes on the city outside, the smaller woman slowly started to try to describe what she'd seen.
"They were carved into the underside of the bridge. Hundreds of them, just like the one's in the pictures. They were all glowing with this sort of gold light."
The following silence was only broken by the sound of the wheels going over the inevitable potholes, until Sarah carefully pulled them up in front of an abandoned warehouse in the industrial district and shut off the engine.
"Are you telling me that the Professor had the same sort of glyphs you had in your hospital room, all over the underside of the bridge?"
Sarah stared straight ahead, her fingers flexing around the steering wheel, as if she was imagining strangling someone. Her voice was fairly level though when she spoke again.
"I see. Well we'll go pay the Professor another visit after this. In the meantime you stay here, keep the doors locked, and use the car phone to call me, or Eric, if anything happens. Understood?"
Gwyn nodded, watching as the Magister grabbed her weapons from the back of the SUV, along with her sword and trench coat. She watched as the tall, dark-haired woman seemed to wrap the shadows around her and disappear between the rows of warehouses, behind which loomed the imposing bulk of an oil refinery. Fire occasionally lanced upwards into the night sky from the dark mass of steel and cement. In her mind she kept on replaying the whispered words that the Professor had said to her as she left.
"Welcome home, little sister."
She was so intent on watching the doorway that she didn't see him until he was right up to the passenger side window. Unlike the other time she'd seen him, this time Gabriel was carrying a trumpet, it's surface so polished it seemed to glow. Using the mouthpiece of his horn he tapped on the window, causing Gwyn to yelp and jump from her seat, staring at the figure suddenly outlined against the dark window. Gabriel lowered his head enough so that she could see his face, her heart pounding from the sudden shock. His small grin was unrepentant, and she scowled at him as she rolled down the window.
"What do you want?"
"I came to see how you were doing. Enjoying the city, Gwyn, is it?"
He had said that he wasn't her enemy. Cautiously she nodded, watching him suspiciously.
"Well, Gwyn, I thought you might want to know, your Magister's in trouble."
"Sarah? She's in trouble? What kind of trouble?"
Gabriel leaned against the hood, watching with vague amusement as she scrambled for the phone.
"She'll be dead before the old man gets here."
He offered helpfully, receiving a scowl from the pale-haired woman. Who changed her course of action and leaned back over the rear seat, where Sarah kept her equipment.
"How do you know she's in trouble, Gabriel?"
The man waved away the question, answering her first one instead.
"One of the local vampire lords thought it would be a good idea to get rid of the Magister. Big feather in his cap you could say. So he's hoarded the undead for the past several months, building a nice little army for himself. Now he's brought her to him with bait."
The other black duffel bag was right where she'd seen it last, and Gwyn tugged it up into the front seat with her. Grunting a bit under the unexpected weight, a quick look inside assured her that it held weapons.
"The zombie you mean? That was the bait?"
There was no answer, and when she looked up he was gone. Distantly she thought she could hear the sound of trumpets, but it might have been the wind howling around the buildings.
"Next time I see you, Gabriel, you're going to answer some questions."
Hefting the bag she headed for the same door that the Magister had disappeared into.
The warehouse was, not particularly surprisingly, empty of everything but an occasional rat. The remnants of old crates were stacked up in a far corner and after a brief search, she moved through the abandoned building towards her real target. The chain link fence that surrounded the massive oil refinery had seen better days. Near the front gate the fence was in good condition, and even patrolled by the occasional security guard, back here there were gaping holes in the fence that were nearly as old as she was.
Careful not to snag her coat on any sharp edges, she ducked through and stalked across the dusty dead ground. Not even the occasional weed grew this close to the refinery, and she moved a bit faster. She never did like coming here, the place felt far too cold and mechanical for her liking.
Coming from someone who spent a lot of her time hunting undead, that was saying a lot.
The metal grating made moving silently a challenge, even for her, though the shadows still cloaked her. Endless piping stretched down the hallways, occasionally belching walls of steam here and there. Doing her best to ignore the smell, Sarah headed toward the front of the large complex, smiling as she managed not to get lost, not a small feat, considering that all of the corridors looked almost exactly the same.
The security office wasn't much, little more than a booth with closed circuit TVs lining a wall, and a seat that hadn't been comfortable in at least two decades. The man staring at those TVs hadn't changed much in the last two decades either. He'd grown a bit more rotund, and a few more gray hairs, but Billy was just as she remembered him when she'd started going out on calls with her mother.
The cup of coffee that was apparently part of the uniform nearly went flying as the man almost crashed off his chair in surprise.
"For the love of God, Sarah! You nearly gave me a damn heart attack!"
Unrepentantly the dark-haired woman lounged against the doorway, smiling as she watched him get to his feet a touch unsteadily. Coffee was not the only thing that graced the coffee cups he drank from; he often added a touch of liquid courage to his drinks.
"The hell you are! What the hell you trying to do, send me to an early grave?
She grinned in answer to that and waited as the security guard rambled his way through a few more curses. When he finally ran out of steam, she pushed off from the doorway, standing upright and motioning towards the bank of TVs.
"So, whatcha got for me?"
"Hell if I know, Sarah me girl, got another one of those freaks wandering around in the lower levels. Can't go a week without one of them showing up!"
That had been the case for as long as Sarah had been Magister, and she shrugged. It never was particularly difficult to deal with the odd zombie that turned up here. As long as she didn't have to hunt the things down in the warren of passageways, it would only take a few minutes to take care of.
"Well, I'll do my rounds, take care of your problem, then head off. See you next time, Billy."
"Take care girl, and don't sneak up on me next time!"
Sarah grinned to herself as she headed down the hallway, it was always fun to terrorize Billy. The man was definitely too stressed out as far as she was concerned, of course having undead show up on a weekly basis probably did that to a man. Of course they'd never come up out of the lower levels, at least not that she knew about, which was a bit odd, but she wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. As long as they stayed in the lower levels of the complex she wouldn't have to deal with disappearing workers.
The way down into the bowels of the complex was just as confusing as the rest of the passageways, only the occasional sign here and there to tell her where she was going. She'd been this way quite a few times though, and the Magister's footsteps were certain as she headed down flight after flight of stairs.
Magister's tended to avoid elevators.
Nasty things could happen to you in them if something decided to drop in.
"God, could it stink any worse down here?" Sarah muttered, coughing a bit on the ever-present stench of petroleum and petroleum by-products. Down here, without the cleansing breeze that sometimes flowed through the upstairs corridors, the smells were even worse. Which always made tracking down the zombies a bit harder, since she couldn't trace them by following the scent of rotting flesh.
No matter, she knew where they always tended to wander.
She walked down another series of corridors, going deeper and deeper into the complex, now somewhere around the fifth sub-basement. The sword she drew cast flickering shadows on the walls as the glyphs up and down its length burned with blue flames, letting her know there were, indeed, undead nearby.
The old mine shaft was right where she remembered it, the heavy iron doors flung open and the chain that had barred the way broken and discarded on the floor. The oil company, she remembered, had used this place to dump toxic waste during the '80's. Right up until the EPA slapped them heavily on the wrist and made them cart everything out and dispose of it properly.
Not that the ground wasn't still contaminated all over the place. Cement floors changed to hard packed dirt and rock as she moved down into the shaft. Only one out of every five of the bare light bulbs strung down the shaft actually worked, and the sword in her hand gave more light than they did.
She was getting closer now.
"Why do they always have to come down here, why couldn't they just hang out in an alleyway or something? I hate this place."
The darkness in front and behind her swallowed her words, but she kept moving forward, ducking under the occasional support column. This little weekly ritual was one she could do without.
Further down the shaft she moved, the creatures trail, like the one's that had come down here before it, a dragging shuffle down the center of the shaft.
Wish I knew why they come down here.
It didn't fit the usual pattern. Magister's were based out of cities because of the simple fact that cities were where most of the food was concentrated. The food being humans of course, and such a dense cluster was bound to attract everything that fed on living beings for miles around. One didn't usually expect a zombie to break into a mostly empty oil refinery and go down into the basement.
Unless it was searching for something of course.
Unfortunately if they were searching for something, she'd never been able to find out what it was, neither had her mother. As far as every test and spell they'd ever cast could tell them, this was just an empty mine shaft that a greedy oil company had dug to illegally dump toxic waste into.
The Zombie was right where she expected it to be, near the bottom of the tunnel, where ground water had seeped in and formed a pond. The pale green water was bitter cold to the touch, despite being so far underground, and even the undead didn't enter it.
Unfortunately it wasn't alone.
Not one, but five zombies stood at the edge of that pool of water, studiously ignoring her presence, even though the light from her sword was reflecting off the water. Each of the five held a wet burlap bag, the dark wet stain forming at the bottom of the bags a clue to the macabre contents.
The hair at the nape of her neck stood up, and Sarah snarled as she felt the magic being woven. Something was using these zombies as puppets, directing them to perform whatever ritual they were attempting. The dark haired Magister had no clue what they were attempting, but she had no intention of allowing them continue.
Long, slender fingers curled around one of the grenades clipped to her belt.
Gwyn hesitated as she wandered out the other side of the big empty warehouse.
Oh God, how am I going to find Sarah in that?
Up close the oil refinery looked even bigger than she had thought possible, and the pale woman shifted back and forth uncertainly. The gap in the chain link fence lay directly in front of her, and she was pretty certain that the Magister had come through here. The problem lay in where she'd gone from there.
Not for the first time in the past few minutes she cursed herself for not calling Eric.
"Ok, so she came through here and went into…" frightened blue eyes peered upwards at the massive metal structure "that. Sure, I can find her. No problem."
Come on, Sarah's in trouble, Gabriel said she was. So I gotta go find her.
Holding that thought firmly in mind she stepped through the gap in the fence, promptly sinking to her knees as waves of dizziness washed over her. She swallowed suddenly, desperately trying to avoid throwing up, her eyes tearing from the pounding pain in her head.
"It hurt's doesn't it?"
Under her the earth itself was tortured, dying, it cried out to her, begging for help. Tears streaked her cheeks as she looked up at those words.
"So much pain…"
Her words trailed off into a sob, and slender shoulders shook.
The Professor crouched down a few feet to one side of her, waiting patiently as she got herself under control. His dirty fingers tenderly touching the dry soil beneath his boots, and he sadly nodded.
It took an effort, but Gwyn slowly managed to look over at the other man. Tears still streaked her cheeks, but she wasn't helpless under the overwhelming sadness and pain that had rolled over her.
"Why is there so much pain here? Is it because of that?"
She waved towards the mass of steel pipes and concrete, which belched fire upwards into the night in counterpoint to her sentence. His fingers patted the dirt tenderly, and he gazed towards the building she'd been heading towards.
"No. Humans cause pain and sadness to the earth sometimes, that's true enough. But this is not of their making."
An image of Sarah forced herself to her feet; using strength she didn't know she possessed to stand upright. Swaying a bit unsteadily she watched the street man rise fluidly as well. The question of how he had gotten here so quickly never even entered her mind.
"We made it, little sister."
The lullaby of sadness made it hard for her to focus on what he was saying, and every part of her screamed for her to find the source of that sadness and comfort it.
"What do you mean we?"
"I mean our kind."
Whatever he meant by that he didn't elaborate.
"You need to go now, little sister, quickly. The enemy knows you're here. Be careful who you trust."
A low growl sounded behind her, and she knew, with a terrible certainty what had made that sound. A brief glance over her shoulder showed the same creature from Marina's house slinking out of the back door of the warehouse.
With a gulp she realized that the man had disappeared, as suddenly as he had come, layers of coats and all. The creature by the warehouse reared up onto its hind legs, wings half spread and hissed, a long forked tongue snaking out to taste the air. Red eyes snapped towards her and it dropped back down to all fours once more, breaking out into a surprisingly fast shuffling run.
Using the grenade, Sarah admitted, was not the wisest idea she'd ever come up with. Coughing she waved her hand, trying to clear some of the dust that the explosion had kicked up.
At least none of the tunnel collapsed.
The ringing in her ears was loud in the sudden silence following the explosion and she gingerly moved back down the tunnel from where she'd taken cover behind a support column. Through the still billowing dust she moved, covering her mouth with her left hand to try to filter out the air, while her sword was a comforting weight in her right hand.
The zombies had been reduced to kibble by the blast and she spared a small smirk at the nearest piece of rotting flesh.
Hope that gave whoever was controlling them a headache.
Tracking down whoever had sent these zombies, unfortunately, took a distant second place to finding out who, or what, was after Gwyn. The pale haired woman had become disturbingly important in only a few days.
The sooner she gets her memory back, the sooner my life goes back to normal. Well, as normal as it ever gets.
She was so intent on planning how to make sure that Gwyn was safe that she didn't even realize that the water was glowing until most of the dust had drifted back down to the floor of the cavern.
"What the hell…"
At least a dozen feet below the surface something was glowing in a pure golden light. It lit up the entire shaft, making rippling patterns along the walls of stone and dirt. Fascinated she crouched down and stared into the water, trying to see whatever it was that was radiating such light. That it was magical in nature was without a doubt, she could feel the power radiating from it now that she was paying attention. There, half buried in the sandy bottom, was an amulet.
Gingerly the Magister extended her blade, sinking the tip into the glowing water. The flames that danced across its length eerily still in existence underwater. The tip ground into the sandy bottom and, squinting her eyes against the light, she moved the blade feeling when the metal hit something other than sand. A bit of fishing and she was able to pull up the blade with a quick stroke, the chain from the amulet sliding down the blade to hang by the hand guard. Even as it left the water, the brilliant flare of light dimmed then faded completely, leaving only a diamond amulet hanging from her blade.
Gwyn could feel the creature's breath on her back when she lunged into the building. Desperately she yanked open the heavy metal fire door and tried to slam it closed again. Except the creature was there, and it's claws curled around the door, keeping it from closing as she screamed in fear and an odd sense of excitement.
The thing's claws curled and she felt it start to pull the door open, she had only the push bar to hold onto and slowly but relentlessly the door began to open. Adrenaline surged through her as the creatures face peered through the steadily widening crack. Without thinking she yelled and lashed outwards, her body reacting instinctively before her mind could catch up with what was happening. Her fist trailed white light as it connected with the snarling creatures face.
A soundless explosion of force sent her hurtling backwards, skidding to a stop several feet down the hallway. Blue eyes were wide with shock as she stared down the hallway towards the slightly bent metal door, the creature was gone, although it's resounding scream of pain echoed in her mind.
"Wow… ok that was new."
Wincing she scrambled to her feet, shaking out her right hand, which had gone numb.
I hope Sarah didn't run into one of those.
The fact that the Magister wasn't able to even see the creatures was not lost on the amnesiac. Deciding moving was the best option she had open to her, Gwyn turned back towards the center of the complex, and stopped dead as she realized she had no clue where she was going.
Just inside the doorway three corridors split off and angled deeper into the oil refinery, each one looking more or less exactly like the other, complete with the occasional puffs of steam.
Come on Gwyn, think! There has to be a way to find her, what if she's battling one of those things and can't even see it! I know Eric said she was very good at what she does, but if she can't even see what's attacking her…
Only by closing her eyes and forcing herself to ignore the image of Sarah laying in her own pool of blood did the blonde stave off the rising tide of hysterical fear for the Magister. Instead she concentrated on images of Sarah alive and well, the first time she'd seen her in the Hospital, through a haze. When the world was a place of even more insanity and chaos then it was right now, and the glowing woman who had come to see her seemed like the only one who could help her.
The glowing woman…
Wait, I remember her glowing, with this sort of blue fire encasing her.
Eyes still shut tightly she frowned, then pale blue eyes flew open as she realized she was seeing that same blue fire. A trail, thin and almost completely transparent in the overhead fluorescent lighting, but it was there. Stretching down the center hallway and leading the way into the large building.
Without questioning it, for if she did she'd start questioning everything and she'd end up curled up in a fetal position in the corner, Gwyn started forwards.
"Thank you so much for finding my key, Magister."
Sarah hadn't heard him approach, hadn't even felt him approach. Impossibly she hadn't even known he was there until he spoke up and she whirled, sword en guard, and the now simple diamond amulet clutched in her gloved left hand. Standing only a few feet away was a man just as pale as Gwyn, with pale blue eyes, although his hair was jet black. Unlike her friend though, his eyes held no warmth or humor, only a detached amusement at her.
"Who are you?"
That his aura flared as brightly as Gwyn's did was obvious to one such as she.
"Oh, I'm hurt, Gwyn didn't tell you I'd spoken to her? How is she doing? I hope she didn't get cut up too bad from the Demon Spawn."
She sliced the tip of her blade down in a rapid move, warningly, as he took a step towards her.
"Two points for the talking monkey. Now give me my key, and I'll let you live through the night. Pretty fair deal, don't you think?"
She didn't answer, casting a glance over her shoulder and frowning as she realized she was not in a good position. The only way out was past the thing in front of her, and she was reluctant to attack him without having any clear idea of what his powers might be.
"What are you?"
"Tsk tsk, you haven't figured it out yet? You aren't much of a Magister are you."
The tip of the blade carved through the air, neatly opening a gash along his cheek before he realized what she was doing. Her lips pulled back from her teeth in a snarl.
"Oh, so why are you the one bleeding?"
Gabriel backed a step away from her, his hand coming up to touch the blood dribbling down his cheek, and his eyes were dark as he stared at her.
"You're pretty good for a talking monkey, why don't you come over to my side. Good perks, we pay well, and all you have to do is give me that key. Whadda say?"
The tip flicked again, and a gashed opened on his other cheek.
"Go to hell."
"Eh, been there, this place is much more fun. How about this? I'll just take the key from your broken bleeding body."
"You think you can take me?"
"Me? Oh, I could take you if I wanted to Sarah, but truly, why waste the effort? When they can take you for me?"
Her eyes darted back and forth, every sense in her probing the rest of the tunnel for anyone, anything else.
"Looks like your reinforcements are late, Gabriel."
"Oh no Magister, I assure you, they are right where they need to be."
Then the first blow slammed her into the stone wall.
The security guard had been surprisingly helpful, although she wasn't sure why he kept on calling her his girl, almost like he'd thought she was his lost daughter.
I don't even want to know why I know he lost his daughter to Cancer.
She followed his directions and the whisper thin trail that she was pretty sure Sarah had left. That trail slowly grew thicker as she went down level by level, until it was a ribbon of electric blue leading her into what looked for all the world like a tunnel opening.
There was something else here, she could smell something different, a scent that seemed familiar.
The sound of an inhuman scream sent her pelting down the tunnel, heedless of any dangers she might encounter on the way down. The sight that greeted her at the bottom of the tunnel jerked her to a stunned stop though.
Sarah knelt by a pool of ground water that filled the bottom of the tunnel, her hair had come undone and it hid her face, but Gwyn could see the other woman's shoulders heaving as she breathed. Closer to where Gwyn was stood Gabriel, the man was watching the Magister as if she were some particularly interesting insect. Around Sarah, collapsed on the tunnel floor, were two of those creatures that had attacked her at Marina's, both obviously dead. Another four held back, and to Gwyn's eyes, looked cautious as they hissed at the Magister.
"Ah, right on time Gwyn. Your friend is very impressive, I must admit. She managed two on her own. A pitty she lost the Key to one of my associates isn't it? Want to see if she can handle four more? Or maybe a few more after them?"
Gabriel's smile was devoid of warmth as Sarah jerked a bit at the sound of Gwyn's name.
"That's right Magister, look who's come to the party."
"Go Gwyn, take the jeep and get back to the Manor!"
Blood had soaked through Sarah's side, and even from where she was, Gwyn could tell the Magister had not escaped without grievous wounds.
"If you do, your pet monkey here dies. I promise you Gwyn, her death will not be a pleasant one."
Hints of memory stirred in the back of her mind, fragments still, but a collage that was starting to gather both form and texture. Whatever else he was, Gabriel was not lying about this, she knew that with an absolute certainty. Blue eyes met eyes darkened with pain.
If I go, then she dies, and I owe her everything.
The decision wasn't a hard one.
"What do you have in mind Gabriel?"
Ignoring Sarah's shouted "No!"
"You come with me, and we don't kill her. I rather think that's fair."
Sarah was desperately trying to get to her feet, using her sword as a cane and actually snarling in rage at the two closest creatures.
"Neither you or your creatures kill her, agreed?"
Gabriel's smile was chillingly sincere.
His hand curled around her arm, but she ignored him as he tugged her up the tunnel. Her eyes locked with Sarah's trying to communicate to the other woman everything she'd hoped to have time to tell her. The creatures made sure that Sarah didn't follow them closely until they reached the end of the tunnel and exited back out into the corridor.
The sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach only intensified as two of the creatures took up position on either side of her and Gabriel stepped back towards the entrance of the tunnel. Even from here she could hear Sarah screaming her name.
"Say goodbye to your friend, Gwyn."
That jerked her out of her sense of loss and she tried to hurl herself at the man, only to cry out in pain as the creatures sank their claws into her shoulders.
His smile widened into what, she was terrified to realize, was true amusement.
"Yes, I did agree that we wouldn't kill her, and we won't. We'll just seal her into the tunnel."
Power surged and he pressed his fingers against the top of the tunnel opening. Gwyn could feel the fabric of the rock weaken along the entire length of the tunnel and begin to crumble.
"SARAH! GO BACK!"
She didn't know if the other woman had heard her, for only a few short seconds later the tunnel collapsed on itself.
Sarah did hear her, indeed she'd had a feeling about what was coming. Ignoring the pain in her left side, where one of the invisible creatures had gotten too close for comfort, she tried to limp her way as far up the tunnel as she could. That Gabriel could collapse the tunnel around her, she had no doubt, indeed the Magister knew more than a few arcane ways to do it herself.
When the rock above her head began to disintegrate the tall woman slammed the tip of her sword into the dirt floor. Going to her knees she grasped the hilt in both hands, stilling her thoughts and channeling her power around herself. Murmering incantations to help her focus she formed a perfect sphere of power around herself in a shield. None too soon either, for just as it formed the entire tunnel collapsed, suddenly trapping her in a prison of earth and stone.
After the sudden crash of tumbling earth, the silence afterwards was deafening, the only sound her panting breath.
Well Shit, I don't even know how close to the tunnel mouth I am.
Stifling several choice curses, Sarah carefully began taking stock of her situation. The glyphs on her sword would provide her light to see by long after dehydration had killed her. Breathable air was a different story and the Magister scowled at the prison she found herself in. If not for the fact it would have wasted her oxygen she would have screamed in frustration.
Someone had taken Gwyn and she was stuck!
If he hurts her, I'll mount his head on a pike and use it as signpost.
Ignoring the small voice in her mind snidely asking her why she was so worked up over the safety of someone she didn't care about.
Oh shut up, and help me figure out a way out of here.
Not surprisingly the little voice didn't have any helpful suggestions. The cell phone in her pocket was useless this deep underground, so calling Eric for help was out of the question. Telepathy this far from the manor was a waste of energy. Doing her best to keep her breathing even and light, she focused on the wall of dirt in "Front" of her. She'd been careful to stay facing in the same direction as the outside hallway.
Concentrating she focused on what had once been a tunnel, closing her eyes to sense the way ahead of her. Gabriel was not the only one who could loosen dirt. Inch by inch the dirt and rock ahead of her was compacted to either side. It was going to be a small tunnel, barely more than she could squeeze through, but it would be enough.
As long as I don't pass out from lack of air before I finish it.
Tendrils of fear kept on distracting her. She wasn't normally claustrophobic, but this was an extreme situation and she couldn't help thinking about how many tons of rock and dirt were pressing down on her. Only the thin shield kept her from being entombed permanently.
Another five feet of tunnel was opened up, it was barely enough, but she managed to force herself forwards. Conforming the shield to the smaller space was hard, but handling two tasks at once had been part of her training. Foot by foot she forced an opening in the solid dirt in front of her, and inched forwards. As she passed the tunnel collapsed again behind her.
The air inside her shield was becoming stifling, and she felt light headed.
Another foot of dirt was shoved aside, nearly frantic now to escape. Her lungs burned with the need for fresh air, and she gasped, knowing there was no more oxygen to breath.
I should have kept kissing Gwyn.
Then the darkness claimed her.
To Be Continued.