Call to Arms

Chapter Twenty-One: Contemplations on Reality

...

"Lonely, we dance around the dying."

….

When a week passed without a single visitor I began to suspect that Chase would keep me locked in the infirmary until the matter of Will had been resolved and then he would send me home without ever speaking to me again.

I'd soon discovered that the door would be kept permanently locked and that there were only two keys in existence; one of which was in Judy's possession, the other in Chase's. To her credit, Judy had collected all of my study material on the first day of my imprisonment and I devoted my nights to it, partly due to my ongoing guilt but also to keep my mind occupied.

I was seated cross-legged on the bed with books and paper spread all around and a pen between my teeth when I got my first visitor following Chase's visit. I lifted my head warily, already knowing that Judy was in her office. It was with an equal measure of relief and disappointment that I watched Zander step into the infirmary.

He shut the door carefully behind himself and began crossing the room with a gentle smile on his face. 'Good evening, Talia,' he greeted.

I smiled ruefully, aware that Zander's hesitance meant he probably expected me to still be enraged by Chase's actions. I tossed the pen onto the book in front of me. 'Hi, Zander,' I said, hoping he could tell I wasn't angry with him. 'You'll be proud of me,' I added with a wave at my current occupation.

He smiled, taking a seat beside my bed. 'It's an admirable way to keep yourself busy,' he agreed. 'How are you feeling?'

I paused, considering the many responses I could give to such a question. In the end I chose simplicity. 'I'm bored and frustrated and yet in the best of health,' I replied truthfully. 'How are things in the outside world?'

Zander looked amused. 'I see. The outside world, as you called it, has regained most of its normalcy. The search for William still continues meanwhile Helge and Elliot have disposed of the last member of the demon's army.'

I stilled. 'I… don't think I was told the full story,' I said slowly. 'The last of the demon's army?'

'Ah,' said Zander. 'Yes. During the incident of a week ago, Helge managed to keep one of the influenced vampires alive following your disposal of the demon responsible. We kept her restrained until two nights ago when we concluded that it was impossible to reverse the effects of the demon's mind control. It appears that once an individual has been influenced, they are lost to us.'

I felt as though I was deflating and I realised why immediately. Somewhere, in the dark unacknowledged part of my consciousness, I'd hoped Will would have come to his senses with the demon's death. 'So, he's still trying to get to us?' I asked quietly.

Zander knew who I referred to. 'William will not cease his attempt,' he confirmed.

Silence fell between us and I found I didn't know what to say. Will had been my friend once but in that moment I discovered he'd become something else entirely to me. He was the one to cause so much pain to Zander, someone that I held a great deal of respect and liking for. He'd been the one to injure me and take Amber's life. He was the reason I couldn't go home and the only remaining reason for my current imprisonment. I didn't blame him for it anymore because it wasn't his fault but I found I was no longer ambivalent about the situation as I had been until now. Will – the real Will – was already lost to us.

That was the truth of it.

'Zander,' I began quietly. 'Have you and Chase been…?'

'Holding back?' Zander guessed quietly, a rueful smile on his face. 'Partially. But there has been more to it. Since this all began, William has demonstrated an incredible proficiency in evading capture. Unnaturally so, for a vampire of his age.'

I stared at him, something only just occurring to me. 'When I first saw that demon, it appeared without any warning,' I said slowly. 'I turned away from Vincent and Jas because I'd felt its presence and then when I turned back a moment later, it was there clinging to the wall above Jas' head.'

Zander was frowning. 'Are you thinking that the demon granted William increased abilities?' he asked carefully.

Put like that, it sounded ridiculous. I sighed and rubbed my hands over my face before dropping them back to my lap. 'I… no, I don't,' I said finally, waving a hand in dismissal of the idea. 'It was just something that I remembered.'

'Don't apologise for thinking,' Zander reprimanded lightly. 'If you disprove enough hypotheses you will eventually arrive at the truth.'

I couldn't help but smile. Zander would always been an academic.

'I have actually come with good news,' Zander said then. 'Chase has agreed to end your current captivity.'

I stared at him in surprise, my eyebrows inching up slightly. 'Really?' I asked carefully.

Zander smiled. 'It took some convincing, trust me,' he replied.

'You… spoke to him on my behalf,' I guessed, slightly humbled that he would do such a thing for me.

'It was a selfish action,' Zander replied with a small smile as he got to his feet. 'Although Chase is a long-time friend of mine I quickly wearied of his temper this last week and threatened to release you myself if he continued to refuse to.'

I stared at Zander, open-mouthed. The only ones I'd seen stand up to Chase – and not end up dead – now consisted of Judy and Zander and both instances had happened within the last fortnight. It was unbelievable.

Zander chuckled lightly at the expression on my face. 'Did you hear that, Judy?' he said.

I turned my head to see the door to Judy's office open and the friendly smile on her face as she regarded Zander. 'I certainly did,' she replied. 'Talia, I'll go get your uniform so that you can leave.'

She bustled off and I recovered from my surprise enough to shoot Zander a grateful look. 'Zander,' I began and then fell silent when he held up a hand.

'Chase agreed on one condition, which I took the liberty of agreeing to on your behalf,' Zander said mildly. 'He stipulated that you are free to leave the infirmary so long as you do not step foot outside the castle walls without him being present.' He hesitated and eyed me sternly. 'I thought it a fair exchange,' he added pointedly.

I realised then that Zander hadn't been a fan of last week's incident either and I nodded meekly. 'Understood,' I said hastily.

'Good,' Zander said cheerfully. 'I'll leave you now as I'm sure there are people you want to see. Goodnight, Talia.'

I could only stare after him, feeling baffled, grateful and amused all at the same time.

….

'Talia, I am so sorry,' Jas whispered and she looked a sad sight, standing at the opposite end of the room with a wide-eyed expression of remorse.

I dropped my bag to the floor without regard for its contents and crossed our room to throw my arms around her. 'Don't even say that,' I warned, pleased that she returned my hug. 'Didn't they explain Vincent's actions to you?' I asked gently.

I released her in time to see Jas' nod. 'Yeah but I still feel so bad,' she admitted quietly. 'Vincent could have killed you.'

'But he didn't,' I said firmly, trying to not recall Chase's very valid accusations. 'He didn't and now the demon responsible is dead. How… how are you feeling?' I asked softly, unable to come up with anything better.

Jas shrugged weakly and sank onto her bed, crossing her legs in front of herself. 'I've cried so much this last week I don't think I can anymore,' she admitted. 'The worst part is, I can't help but feel... Talia, I broke up with Vincent about a week before that happened. He'd started being really strange and Zander told me why but… well, I'd started letting go and… do you think badly of me?' Jas whispered.

I took a steadying breath and shook my head slowly. 'No, Jas. I don't,' I said firmly. 'I think it's perfectly normal for you to feel that way.'

Jas laughed shakily and I realised she'd really needed to hear that. 'I've felt like such a monster,' she confided. 'I mean, Vincent is dead and… and all I can think is that I'm glad he didn't kill you.'

I slipped onto the bed beside her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. 'I'm sorry I haven't been here for you,' I said softly. 'How about we start again? There's still so much I have to tell you and I guess you've been feeling the same.'

Jas nodded. 'Yeah, I think it's about time we did. I'm so glad you're ok, Talia.'

I smiled faintly. 'We both are, Jas.'

….

Helge's office door was closed when I went to see him several hours later.

I'd just lifted my hand to knock when it opened before I could. Helge regarded me seriously for a moment before stepping back and gesturing me inside. I slipped past him and took a seat in front of his desk while he shut the door and returned to his own.

'I see you've been released,' Helge commented.

I smiled faintly. 'I believe Zander put a great deal of effort into securing it, which I'm grateful for,' I replied. 'I hope things are ok between you and Chase.'

Helge smiled faintly. 'He won't forget this one in a hurry but we've had disagreements before and it ultimately changes nothing.'

I nodded in understanding, relieved to hear that.

'Seen Chase yet?' Helge asked casually.

'He's still so angry,' I said softly, glancing away. 'I haven't seen him since the night he locked me in the ward.'

'Of course he's angry,' Helge said bluntly. 'He nearly lost you.' Spotting the surprise in my expression, Helge sighed. 'I see they don't teach this kind of thing in human school. Anger is a secondary emotion, Talia. That's why it's so powerful. If a person feels anger, they are never just angry. There's always something else to fuel it. It could be that they're embarrassed, offended, or,' he paused, watching me pointedly. 'Afraid.'

I frowned at him. 'I hope you're not suggesting Chase was scared,' I replied, the idea sitting strangely with me.

'I'm not suggesting that,' Helge said mildly. 'I'm stating it as fact. Chase wasn't going to get to you in time and he knew it. Now he has a lingering memory of that brutal kind of fear a person never forgets.'

He pointed a finger at me. 'Don't forget he locked you in the infirmary for a week without explanation. If his actions had been a simple punishment for your disobedience he would have locked you in there and dismissed it from his mind as resolved; that's the kind of decisive vampire he is. Instead, he simmered for a week straight and drove the rest of us insane,' Helge concluded with a grimace.

I stared at him, amazed. 'Zander mentioned something about Chase's temper too,' I admitted.

Helge rolled his eyes. 'Temper? He's been as agitated as a young vampire who hasn't had blood in a month.'

I tried not to imagine that too closely.

'Don't worry about it too much, however,' Helge continued easily. 'He'll get over it.'

I eyed him disbelievingly. 'Chase has a long memory,' I commented.

Helge grinned. 'Perhaps you're right. Maybe he'll never forgive you; I know nothing about these sorts of things.'

I groaned, pressing my fingers to my forehead in frustration. 'How on earth can you be so knowledgeable about emotions and then say something like that?' I muttered.

Helge laughed. 'If you understand something you're more likely to be able to manipulate it.'

Dropping my hands to my lap, I looked at him flatly. 'Sure. You're the master manipulator who cares nothing for anyone except himself.'

He shrugged. 'Even you manipulate people, Talia. It's a natural part of our existence. You can't tell me you wouldn't use every emotional weapon at your disposal if you knew Chase planned to do something because of which he might die. It's still manipulation, even if your intentions are good,' he pointed out.

I fell silent, realising that he was correct.

'Seriously, though,' Helge continued. 'As much as I'm flattered by you seeking out my scintillating company, why are you here?'

I stared at him in surprise. 'What do you—?'

'If you're so concerned about this thing with Chase and yourself,' Helge said pointedly, 'go and see him.'

I looked away. 'You're kidding, right?' I murmured. I wouldn't have been surprised if Chase outright refused to meet me with the way things were now.

'Actually,' Helge said suddenly, picking up the pen on his desk and twirling it between his fingers so quickly it blurred. It was a sign of how much I'd gotten used to vampires that the sight was more fascinating than disturbing to me now. 'You're probably right,' Helge added. 'Now might not be the best time.'

There was something about his intonation – too even and unhurried – that made me pause. I couldn't tell much from his comment but I had the feeling it didn't mean anything good. For the first time, I wondered if Chase's absence was for some reason unrelated to myself. All I knew was that Helge's expression had shut down and I wasn't going to be getting any more information from him.

'Thanks, Helge,' I said as I got to my feet.

Helge nodded. 'Don't mention it.' A sudden amused light sprang into his eyes. 'Seriously, though; don't mention it,' he added.

o…o…o…o…o…o…o…o…o…o

A/N: Opening lyric: "Maybe" – Julia Stone.

Ah, you all get a bonus third chapter this week – I couldn't leave you with such a downer of an ending as the last chapter's. So Talia has been released from the infirmary and the demon has been disposed of. This means next chapter will be a safe one… right? ;)

As always, thank you so much for all your reviews! A large part of the reason I haven't answered any of your questions raised in your reviews is that I want to be very certain I don't comment on anything that is still to happen. Also, I am considering a Q&A post to follow the end of this series so that you can ask all the questions that you didn't feel were answered or something you are just curious to know about the Kaiser world. I'll see how it goes =)

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