Chapter Forty Four: Gypsy: The Clan

"Do you know why we are called the Gypsies?" Mel's voice was a low, distant sound compared to the grating in my mind.

"It is because, to the Witches, the term Gypsy is a joke. The real Gypsies, those nomadic Humans, drift across the world, moving from place to place. And so, like the Humans who stay so briefly in one place before moving to the other, we Gypsies, are nomadic in our life spans. We stay. We die. It's a joke to the Witches; we are a joke to the Witches"

I didn't feel Brock's grip on my arm. I didn't feel the aching blossoming pain that had ravaged me a second ago. I was nothing. I was bones, skin, flesh, and yet I was nothing. I had the power of life, yet I could not fight. Seeing Dodge's body, not Dodge, but his body, lying there, hollowified me. I stopped breathing. My heart stopped beating. I should've cried, but what was the point? Tears did nothing but crack you even further. Tears were nothing. Tears would never, should never describe the pain of losing a brother. The human body I was in could never describe the hollowness within me.

Then, because that was just the type of person I was, came the anger. No, not anger. It was a deep, festering, black emotion. Was it madness? Possibly. The world distorted, everything became different. Even the laws of physics melted away. All I felt was the deep, festering ache of the anger.

And it was directed at Mel.

I wanted blood; I wanted to see him dead. Never would I forgive him for taking the light from my brother's eyes. Never would I forgive him for betraying me, for hurting me, like this. If this was the real Melbourne, then he had to die. He shouldn't exist. The anger bubbled up in me, pushing through my veins. Hot, festering, searing, boiling like a volcano ready to erupt. It wanted blood; I wanted blood. I wanted to see if, the red crimson of Mel's blood, on the edge of my weapon. I wanted to see the light fade from his eyes; I wanted to see him die. He had to die.

This, this cruel gripping emotion, was what made us Gypsies, half human. It was this basic physiological thought, these feelings we had inherited from our Human ancestors that made us what we were. Without them, we would not feel. We would not care. We would be Witches. It was the basic Human instinct, the maddened rage to avenge the loved one that had fallen, that made them clumsy barbaric creatures. With our Monster genes, we were above that. But we were not immune to that. It would grip us, this violent emotion, from time to time. And then, we'd be the same thing as the Humans

And I did not care

A scream ripped through the room. I wondered where it had come from; who could make such a crazy, animal-like sound. It was high, filled with the fervor for blood and death, mixed in with the grief that broke my heart. Then, I realized it was me. I was screaming. I was making this murderous cry

My body moved on its own. Brock's grip was gone from me in an instant. I didn't need to summon my staff. It was already in my hands, burning, etching itself into my body. It wanted blood too; the staff glowed, silhouetted by blazing white light. The blade shone bright, a golden fragment of the burning sun, quick, ready for blood, blood, blood!

Brock leapt at me, snarling, fangs out. He was a clay dummy, a Monster hiding in an artificial body, with clay skin, and a fake smile. He leapt at me, using the quickness of any Arachnid. My foot shot out, catching him in the stomach. His eyes widened, first with fear, then disbelief... he flew back. His body was a little speck, as it smashed into the wall. It crumbled on top of him

Now there were screams. Worried, panicky screams; I couldn't make them out. I was beyond understanding their guttural language. I was beyond anything. I took a breath, and I was besides Mel in the second. That wasn't Fastraqise. I didn't know what it was. But it was fast. Faster than anything. My staff lashed out, lancing through the air, aiming for his ribs. He moved again, aggravatingly dancing out of my grip. He held up his sickle. My staff came down hard; our weapons clashed, filling the air with the metallic scent of iron, sweat and sparks. Mel's eyes were quiet, composed, as he held his weapon against me. I pushed onward, pressing all my might into it. The sickle was a good weapon; but in this state, I saw his openings. Positioning my staff, I kicked him in the ribs, just as I had kicked Brock. He didn't budge. His face showed no pain, even as a red stain appeared on his clothing

It drove me wild, the first sight of his suffering. We clashed several times, our weapons making ugly clanking sounds that were brutal and lethal. They were beautiful in a sense too; beautiful because it meant that Dodge would not be dishonored. I had the upper hand. He was slowly, but surely being pushed back. I drove the staff backwards, gripped it with both hands, and drove it forward with skill that left the air hissing. He dodged, only by the barest of breaths, and whispered

"Are you really aiming to kill me, Electra?"

He swung his sickle, catching my staff again. Poising on the balls of my feet, I leapt in the air, arching in mid flip, and brought my foot down on nothing. He was gone

I was an animal; wild, unbidden, uncontrollable. His words only made me crazier, only drove up the desire to kill. I screamed with every swing, cried for his blood. He didn't hit me back; he didn't aim to hurt me. he only dodged and deflected, parrying occasionally. My anger never waned, my urge for his death never ceased. I could've fought until the day time decided to stop, and it would not be enough

Mel caught another blow, this time, sliding back too far. He was pressed against the wall, breathing heavily. He stared at me palpably, meeting my eyes with no shame for what he done, no remorse for taking the life of someone who'd never wronged him

"Are you really going to kill me, Electra?" he whispered again "This is not who you are. You're not a killer. Put the staff down. Heal your brother; instead of fighting me, you should be healing him."

Breathing heavily, I stopped. His words finally started making sense. Heal. I should be healing Dodge; but his eyes that held no remorse, not pity, told me everything. If I turned around, he'd cut me open too. Gut me, slice me, hurt me like he was so willing to do

I drove the staff foreword, blade first, towards his heart

It drove home.

But not in his chest

Emilia stood before Mel, gasping, and sputtering. She held her arms out, cross like, in front of her. Rage filled her eyes. I drove my staff foreword, harder, puncturing deeper. She spluttered, coughing up blood

"That won't kill me" she spit valiantly

"But this will"

Wrapping my fingers around the staff, I forced my magic through it. It was not pure, it was not wholesome. It was tainted with the desire of murder, filled with the passion of loss. It struck Emilia, and she howled, but she did not die.

When it faded, she laughed.

I yanked my staff out of her chest, bringing it up as a protection. She moved, laughing now, her eyes wide, filled with the insatiable lust for blood, and death. We were two demons, fighting, clawing, wanting to see who would win, who would actually get to kill and savor in the victory of it all. She had claws, razor like that of a lions or a tiger. She slashed, hacking away at me. Unlike Mel, she didn't hold back. Her claws racked my skin, digging into my flesh

"That's right" she howled "Bleed, Electra!"

I did not care for the wounds upon my body. I didn't care for the cuts leaking out my blood. I hacked at Emilia, my own screams, now maniacal, bordering on cackling laughter. I had never fought so well in my life. I had never felt this in my life

He rejoined the fight, after a few minutes. He appeared before me, blocking my path to Emilia, his back turned. He was unafraid of what I'd do; he wasn't scared of me. I growled, slashing across his back. His shirt ripped, revealing toned, smooth skin. He didn't turn back. Calmly, with one even quick, he sent Emilia flying. She yelped at his rapid, traitorous move. Her body hit the opposite wall, crumbling like a sack. He turned back to me.

Boldly, he gripped my hand, yanking me closer to him. He was strong. His hands were like chains; one wrapping around my wrist, the other, my waist

"See" he called to the silent, dazed crowd "See how strong my army is"

I beat against him, clawing and biting. He smiled

"If you join me, you will get freedom"

"Don't do it!" I was coherent for once "Don't do it. Remember who you are"

"Yes," Mel added "Remember what you are used for"

There was a shuffling. The gravity in the room changed. My eyes widened

"Stop!" I yelled "Stop! Don't listen to him! Be strong!"

"This is your last chance" Mel said; his voice was icy now, devoid of any calm, or sugar, or love. He was dead serious. The room was silent again

"Join me" he said "Or die"

There was another pregnant silence. My eyes scanned the crowd; women, men, boys, girls, babies, all of them watched the situation. What did I look like to them? My eyes stopped on another head of platinum blonde hair. Jen's eyes were filled with tears, her face gaunt and staring. Her body trembled. Her lips quivered

She shoved foreword. I'd never seen my sister so uncomposed; when it came to coolness, realness, control, Jen was the embodiment of it. But now, her hair frazzled, her eyes wide, disbelieving, her body moving robotically, I saw what was probably going throughout the minds of every other Gypsy in that room. They were all unhinged; things were going down that they did not understand. They were trying to be converted, or face death, and they did not know what to do. Jen was at the head of the pack now. I could not stand to see another family member stand at the frontlines. I wanted to scream at her to go away, to hide, but what good could it do?

She stayed there a moment, stuck in between wondering, grief, and instability. Then, with quivering lips, and fragile words, she said

"I choose you"

"You see?" Mel whispered in my ear "I always knew that Jennifer was the sensible one." Then, in a louder voice, so that everyone could hear "She has chosen freedom!" he bellowed "Who else is next?"

There was a moment of numerous bodies shuffling, voices crying out, arguments being said. The crowd split in two, like the water. More words were flung at each other, more cusses, more angry words. Accusations, pleads, desperate words. I knew which ones who had chosen Mel side just by the bitter words is being flung at them. Traitor. Bastard. Dumbass. Monster. Defector. Deserter

"Not enough" Mel growled "Not enough have Chosen my side"

"Then what?" I spit through clenched teeth "What will you do with them?"

"I cannot have an army that is divided. This Institute is weak. These Gypsies will not be of much use" he was silent again, still holding me. Finally, his words were soft as he said "An army without unison is not an army at all. How can we possibly overthrow the Witches with half of the army still on their side? They will all die"

"What?!" I screeched "You did all of this, and now, you're saying you don't need them! Bastard!"

He shoved me away "You don't understand!"" he said venomously "You can't understand. If half of them stay on the Witches side, then that means I've already lost. My words, my actions, haven't reached their ears yet. There still stupid, mindless slaves! I want them to think for themselves. I want them to have the urge for their own freedom. Without that, without a reason to fight, no of them will ever join me! They'll stay here, in these useless lives, and die."

I growled again, taking a swipe at him with bare fists. He caught my hands easily. He gripped me tight; with herculean strength, he pushed me away. I collapsed on the floor, a crumbled body. The hate within me cried for me to stand, yelled at the injustice of it all. I was a monster that refused to be beaten

Mel stood with his back turned to me. All I saw were his movements, the quick, decisive flow of his body. He lifted his fingers, and snapped them

And fire erupted in the room

If there had been screams before, now the room was filled with howls and animal-like screeches. A hot, searing wall of burning fire danced before Mel, surrounding the other Gypsies. The air, already thin, quickly filled with smoke. It was heavy and stagnating, thick with its rotten air. It made it hard to breathe, hard to move. I began to crawl, searching for anything to anchor myself too. Something warm, unlike the avaricious fire, met my skin. Blinking back the thick smog, I saw it was blood. It was hard to see the crimson color; it was all red. Red fire, red blood, a world bathed in gruesome red. In that puddle of blood was Dodge. Instinctively, I cradled him in my arms. The brother whom I had lost; the one who I now fought for

The anger drained from me, leaving me with just the anguish. His skin was cold, unbelievably cold. How could he be so cold? He'd died only minutes ago.

"Oh Dodge" I whispered in a poor, sad voice. I touched his face, his chin, his closed eyes, his hair. I didn't want him to burn in this fire. I didn't want him to burn up in here. The last testimony of my brother was his body. My highest priority was to get his body out of here.

I wanted him alive. But I'd lost hope in that. He lay still, not breathing, not moving. I cradled him, oblivious to the fire eating away at my world. Behind me, I heard Mel say

"If you want to live, brave this fire. Leap through it, and come to me"

So much death. I wanted the voices to stop; I wanted their voices to stop screaming, to stop begging. I wanted everything to be the way it was

I closed my eyes, bringing my brother head to my chest

I'm not a kid!

But he was. He was only a boy. Only a boy

"No" I gasped; all I saw was red, red, red behind my eyelids. A world drenched in red

Ellie?

I opened my eyes. I'd heard his voice. Dodge voice! It was faint, ever so faint, but I heard it. Looking down at his body, I saw that he hadn't moved

Delicately, I thought back

Dodge?

Where am I? What's going on? I can't remember anything…it's hard to hold on….hold on…hold on…

Hold on? Hold onto what?

It's hard to hold on…something's tugging me away. Something's telling me to let go

Don't! Don't let go

I'm…trying to get back to something. I'm scared, Ellie. Sister, it's dark. I don't want to let go. But it's hard. It's so hard to hold on

Don't let go! What are you holding onto?

Something…. his ethereal voice grew fainter I don't want to go yet…I don't want to leave. I'm holding on. But not for long. I'm trying to get to something.

I'll heal you Dodge! I'll bring you back to life!
Hold on…so hard…have to hold on….

And he was gone. I hugged him, hugged his body till I thought I'd crush it. I forced every ounce of magic I could into him, struggled, even as the smoke filled my lungs. I thought about his life, his personality, anything I could just to hold onto him. I forced so much magic into his body. He was glowing like a bulb. I expected to see his eyes open, to see him come back, like the bird and the flower, but no. he wasn't waking up. He didn't breathe.

"Gypsy?! Gypsy?! Where are you?!"

Through the smoke filled air, golden eyes met mines. Arms wrapped around me, tugged me away from Dodge's body. I went kicking and screaming, clawing at the person who was taking me away. He would burn! His body would burn up. He'd be dead! Dead for good. But I could do it. I could bring him back! I was a friggin Life Wielder!

We huddled towards a wall, where the fire didn't quite reach us, where the smoke was lighter. Crouching on the ground, Caster gripped me tight.

"Stop messing around" he hissed "Master. Heal Master!"

I hadn't noticed the two bodies besides us. I did not hesitate, didn't even think, before I pressed my hands to Rhyme's body first, then Angel's. it came as a slashing blow when they awoke. Why couldn't I have done that for Dodge?

They awoke with coughs, and sneezing. Angel was on alert immediately

"It's happening" he said

I said nothing, holding myself; trembling, because if I didn't hold myself, I'd break apart

"Electra?" he stretched across to me, tried to touch me. I didn't want his touch. I didn't want him; not when there screams tortured me, and their echoes filed my head. Not when Dodge couldn't be brought back

"Master" Caster said, meeting his Witches' eyes

Angel nodded. He stood, ducking beneath the thick cloud of smoke that was ahead

He clapped his hands together; a gush of cold wind blazed from him, purging the room, pushing it back the smoke

Rhyme whined as she lifted her head. Caster wrapped an arm around her waist, lifting her up with him. He scowled down at me, muttering "I am not carrying you"

I got to my feet too. They moved; they were brave, the Witches and the Familiar. They would not stay and die in the fire. Valiantly, Angel battled the fire with his magic. at some point, ice filled the room, from Caster's glamour. I followed because I didn't what else to do.

The doors to the Choosing Room burst open. A flood of bodies rushed out of it, screaming, choking, and dying. The tugging began again, filling me throughout my whole body

I turned back at some point. There was still fire. Our opening of the doors had allowed the trapped Gypsies to escape, but it had also allowed the fire to follow us. It was relentless in its pursuit, roaring out of the Choosing Room. And amidst it, his face gaunt and ghoulish, heightened in his evil wrongness, was Mel. He stared after me, his cold, eyes set. If there was anyone he wanted more, it was me. I thought, as I ran for my life, that maybe the fire wasn't just chasing the Gypsies, burning the Institute as it went, but coming after me as well.

[***]

They met us outside as we tried to escape. What had happened? Angel, Caster, Rhyme and I were supposed to have a plan. We were supposed to save the Institute, not let it die. Hundreds of Gypsies ran past us, some carrying the injured, some bleeding themselves. There was panic in their eyes as they burst outside, wild animal like panic. They weren't thinking straight again. They were all driven mad, mad by what Mel had done

When we stepped outside, into a night so black, they untangled themselves from the shadows and hurled themselves at my species. Arachnids, too many to count, picked us off like ants. Creatures of hell, monsters of myths themselves, fiendishly bit into necks, ripped out hearts. There were so many of them. When the Trainees realized what was happening they tried backing up, going back inside, but they were only met by the hungry, searching fire. The Institute, just as black as the night, groaned and moaned in its death, eaten alive by the hungry fire. I lost control again, at the sight of more red. Crimson flashed across the empty void of black

He fought beside me, my Witch. I'd been Chosen to protect him, but in the end, he fought just as bravely as I did. Even without weapons, Angel Burns proved to be a deadly adversary; when I said Witch magic was terrible, it truly was. He was a Monster besides me, casting, hissing, torturing. But it was not enough. Even with Caster, and his daggers, it could not stop it. It was a massacre.

One was brave enough to approach me. My anger had returned, screaming for blood. It gave it's unique, gruesome hiss, and I replied by embedding my staff through its head.

Mel had thought this throughouly. He knew that we might refuse. So he had us trapped. Burn our home, and surround us with enemies. The Campus was littered with bodies.

An Arachnid threw itself at me, moving with its blinding speed. I met it head on, going for the kill, when I heard another shrill shriek of worry. I turned, somehow recognizing that high, childish voice. The Arachnid was on me within a second. Within the next, it was dead.

I ran from my little group, fighting for the life of the Institute. Turning around a corner and taking down another Arachnid, I came upon a Trainer, protecting a child. She was a woman, barely over twenty. Her dress was torn in several places, her body bleeding profusely. The Arachnid was too much for her. Before I reached her, it had sunk it's fangs into her neck.

"No!"

With a quick slash, I had it off of her. The Arachnid bawled; disappearing again. Collapsing besides the woman, I picked her up

Her eyes were already rolling up in her head. she gasped out one word before she shuddered and went limp. She's said Sunny.

And, it was the boy, Sunny. He was curled up on the ground, crying, begging for someone. I moved to him, picking him up like a baby, and cradled him

"It hurts!" he cried "It hurts so bad! Please, I want my mommy. Don't let me die. Don't let me die!"

With shallow breathing, I saw that the Arachnid had already left its mark. He had a deep cut in his gut. He clung to me, the poor boy, and cried. I pressed my hand to his wounds, and summoned up my magic. It slipped from me into him. His eyes widened, his lips forming a perfect O.

Something was wrong. He wasn't trying enough; he wasn't trying hard enough to hold onto life. Maybe it was because he was only a boy, but, even with my magic within him, his eyes closed forever.

And opened again. There was a brief moment, one that I couldn't explain, between when Sunny gave up and died, and I stopped. There was a flash of light, and his chest swelled up again. He opened his eyes, clinging to me, trembling, and mumbled

"Hold on. Hold on. Hold on."

I held him. Maybe, he hadn't given up. Maybe Sunny was strong. I threw him on my back, and crawled over to his Trainer. Touching her palm, I knew she was gone. Completely and utterly gone; there was nothing left to be done.

With a boy on my back, I rushed back into the battle. It was war now. All out war. My kind was fighting back, but, there were only so many Trainers. Only so many Gypsies who actually knew what they were up against

I slammed my staff into the earth, channeling my magic through it. But, there were so many, too many. I realized just how hard purifying was; it took so much from me. It took all my will just to stand on my own two feet.

They fought. They lost.

This was what Mel wanted. He wanted war like this?

War was an ugly thing; something, I'd only ever heard of in books. We Gypsies fought our own little wars against the Monster's we killed every day. But did not involve so much bloodshed, did it? War did not involve watching one girl, die protecting her home that was now burning to the ground. War did not involve seeing the babies, and children, torn from arms. The ground soaked up the blood of the Gypsies. Hungrily, it soaked up their life forces. And I could do nothing. A Life Wielder wasn't powerful; I mean there was only so much I could help with. Everywhere I looked, someone needed help. Someone was dying. I tried to purify the Arachnids, but, I felt like I would rip myself in two. And I had to be strong, to protect the boy, Sunny, who was on my back. To protect the children who now ran rampant

What did I do? What could I do?

I fell on my knees. I was being pushed to the edge. There was a tight rope I was walking and all it would take would be one tiny shove, and I'd be over the edge.

Then, they appeared

They mere shadows themselves, untangling from the blackness. I saw by the movements of their bodies, the quick, gracefulness that only one kind possessed, they were Gypsies. My heart swelled; filled! They fought the arachnids. Now, their screams filled the air. Weapons, gleaning, sharp, powerful, filled the air with the Arachnid's metallic blood. Shadows vs. Shadows. They killed with deadly precision, moved with one mind

What were they? I'd never seen a Gypsy move with such fatal movements. Who were they? Dozens of them appeared, fighting back the Arachnids, pushing them away. One leaped in front of me, and I caught her stare. She had short, bristled hair. A tough lean body, clothed in black; her back was naked. I saw a tattoo, emblazoned on her back. Two knives, with the number 506 written beneath it. She drove her knife into the Arachnid's gut, then leapt on its back, using her long slender legs to twist it's head. With a sick, cracking sound, the Arachnid fell.

She stared at me again, with fearless eyes, then, was gone, back into the fray

I noticed there were others, not quite like the strange, powerful Gypsies. They were tall, pale against the black, and beautiful there were about a dozen of them. They stood at good lengths away, strange men and woman, dressed in fine clothing, watching with bored attention while the battle continued.

Pale skin. Hard faces. Ethereal Beauty. They were Witches

One caught my eye. He was the handsomest of the group; and the coldest. With arms crossed over his chest, dressed in a simple tuxedo-who wore a tuxedo to a massacre?-I couldn't really see much else of him. Except his burning turquoise eyes. He frowned at me. then, continued to watch the battle, with boredom written all over his face.

This was Sage Burns.

The Burns Clan was here.