Chapter 17: Refuge

The darkness fades. I wake up on the floor of the study. I pad myself down. Everything seems to be intact. So does the window. The light of a red afternoon infects the entire study, and a man stands at the window.

"You're very much alive, if that's what you're wondering," Terrence tells me. Just like before, he's looking out at the field of empty graves. At least, in here they're empty...where ever here is supposed to be. I force myself up.

"What happened?" I ask him.

"Edmund has returned," he says. "My sister, she did warn you."

"Your sister?" I ask.

"Gloria Darkwater, her soul had been enslaved by..." he pauses, unsure of how to put it by the looks of things, "by something. Last night her dark master found no further use for her, and not even a soul is left to rest."

"The banshee?"

"Yes," Terrence says. His eyes fall to the ground. "She died when we decided to move against our father. She was always headstrong, but I should have been there to stop her from confronting him alone," he says grimly. Tears are somehow forming in his eyes. "When I saw her, falling from that tower I..."

I don't know what to say. I've never been good at comforting people. Especially dead people. Had no idea they needed comforting.

"...Do you know how I got here?" I decide to ask. It can't be any worse than my usual words of comfort which are "there there..."

He straightens and assembles himself in a matter of seconds. "This is your refuge, Alexandria. Every mind has one."

"So...why are you here?" I ask.

"To help you," he says darkly, however someone's supposed to make help sound dark. Well...assisted suicide. "You are our last hope. There is no other capable of destroying Edmund."

"No pressure, though, right?" I sigh. "What am I supposed to do?"

"You need to get that damned book away from him," Terrence says it like it's the easiest thing in the world.

Wait... "What did he do to my mother?" I ask suddenly.

Terrence hesitates. There's a darker emotion radiating from him...sorrow. "The details aren't necessary. Just know that all things, even death, are impermanent. All you need to do is get the Arcanum from Edmund."

"She's...she's dead?" I knew, but...it...the glass of the study's window starts to crack. Terrence looks at it in a panic and then back at me.

"Alexandria, you can't think about that right now. You need to focus."

"He killed her..." The glass cracks further. Terrence looks even more distressed.

"Alexandria, it's not over yet! You need to focus, be here! I can't help you otherwise!" he exclaims. "You need to get the book from him, and use it against him!"

The glass stops cracking. "...How?" I ask.

"His allies aren't as loyal as he thinks. Nor is his dark master. The opportunity will arise, and when it does, you must act, else all is lost," Terrence says.

The glass cracks a bit further. "How will I know?"

"You will know. Trust your instincts," he says. Yeah, because my instincts have been so trustworthy lately. "You're not alone, Alexandria. Now, wake up."

I take a deep breath. "Okay..." I'm not exactly sure how to will myself out of...well I don't know if this is a dream. A thought pops into my head. "You can call me Alex, by the way."

Terrence nods, and then he begins to fade away, along with the rest of the study. The smell of old books, the warmth of the large library, the comfort...it all leaves me. I'm cold again. Blood starts to seep through my pink t-shirt. I dab at it. There's no pain. Weird.

The darkness before me fades a bit. A face is staring at me. Green eyes, short brown hair. The metallic stench of blood assaults my senses, the sound of harsh wind and lightning breaks into my ears and...I'm on the floor. David staring down at me.

I scream out in pain all of the sudden. Fuck, something hurts! My back arches, and the pain gets even worse. A hand on my shoulder eases me back down.

"Stay calm, Alex!" David orders, looking down at...something horrifying.

"Ah, God, what is it?!" I scream. I try to look. A large shard of glass is jutting – fuck, it's right in my side! "Oh God, oh God," I start hyperventilating.

"It's okay, it's okay, it's not that bad," David lies.

"Did you call an ambulance?!" I ask eagerly. I've never been in an ambulance before, never really intended on it.

"No, I figured they'd come here and get distracted by the white haired guy doing some crazy shit over there or by Hannah fighting that guy while shape shifted into a cat," David explains. Seems reasonable.

"A cat?!" Aside from that. Why, of all things, a cat?

"I don't know, I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time," David says. "Now stay calm, this is going to hurt."

"Those two statements do NOT work together!" I yell. "What are you doing?!"

"I have to remove the glass."

"What?! Are you...do you know how?!" I feel like throwing up, but it's not exactly medically advisable at this point.

"Not properly, but it's okay, I have healing magic, I can fix anything I muck up-"

"Muck up?!" I scream. "You're not mucking anything up, you little-"

"Alex, I need to get the glass out so I can heal you!" he yells. "Now just stay calm!"

He says the words "muck up" and expects ME to stay calm?! I have to. There's a shard of glass in my side. And a murderous dead guy in my backyard doing God knows what. I don't have a lot of options.

"Okay, okay...calm. I'm calm. I'm calm. Calm," I blabber.

"Okay..." David breathes. He touches the glass and – FUCK! Pain flies through my body like...like...I don't fucking know! It hurts! Fuck!

"Oh God, on second thought, just leave it in there, I think I can make this look work for me," I say, on the verge of tears.

"Just take a deep breath," he says. I can't. There's a shard of GLASS IN MY FUCKING SIDE! My stomach turns over in anticipation, as much as it can, I'm pretty sure it's punctured...shredded, maybe. Feels like it.

Then, suddenly, the sickening sound of shredding flesh – MY shredding flesh – and a horrible Goddamn motherfucking douche nugget fucking pain! I scream, David holds me down as I writhe on the floor of the study. I'm pretty sure I'm dieing.

David places his hand over the open wound in my side. A blue-green light glows from beneath it and it fucking burns! It's a cold pain, like when you have to get your mouth frozen at the dentist's. I'm about ready to just pass out with all this pain. I can feel the world slipping away slightly, it's...

It's over. The pain, it doesn't stop but it's not as bad. I try to lift myself. "Careful," David says. He doesn't look so good. "It's going to hurt for a while more."

I look down at where the glass used to be. There's no sign of a wound ever being there. Aside from the blood stains on the edges of the hole in my pink t-shirt. I look back at David.

"Are you okay?" I ask.

"Yeah, fine," he breathes. "Just, healing takes a lot out of me."

"...Thank you," I say. He looks at me warmly. Wounded butterflies flutter around in my freshly healed stomach. He doesn't say anything. The warm expression on his face is all that I need. If movies have taught me anything, this is the moment. I move in to kiss him when...

"How touching," a familiar, creepy English accented voice interrupts. This isn't the moment. I force myself up, slight pain burning in my left side. "Two less than normal young lovers brought together amidst the turmoil," Nathaniel Corin goes on, stepping over the short wall, through the hole in the window I'd made just a moment earlier. "It's like you're the star of a movie, isn't it, Alex?"

"What are you doing here?" I ask, trying to hide my pain.

"To see this plan to fruition," his amber yellow eyes glow faintly. "I've invested several centuries into its preparation."

"What are you talking about?" I ask through clenched teeth. I really don't like this guy.

"Oh, you'll see," he smiles smugly and turns around to look on the graveyard. Edmund is standing off with a rather large house cat. Nice, Hannah. "Your wretched ancestor is only the beginning. Phase one, if you will."

"Phase one of what?!" I'm getting impatient.

He looks back at me, smug as ever. "There's no theatre in telling you outright, now is there?"

The wind starts to pick up, lightning strikes nearby trees, I'm sure rain would fall, but it doesn't. "What's he doing?" I ask Nathaniel.

"What we expect of him," Nathaniel says simply. "You were far more cooperative than you're uncle, you know, you should be proud of yourself. The face of the world will never be the same after today."

I'm sick of hearing this guy talk. I lunge at him, despite the "Alex, don't!" I got from David. Just as I'm about to crash into his back and send him tumbling, his back becomes his front, and a cold hand clutches at my throat. He lifts me up to his eye level. I grab at his hand, unable to breathe, but it won't budge even slightly.

He grins. "I could kill you right now, you know. Would you like that?" A fucking stupid question. "I could squeeze the life out of you. Or perhaps suck the blood from you like juice from a box!" I swear he starts foaming at the mouth. "You're lucky we need you," he growls. He waves his other hand at David. "You, stay there. I'm sure you need your rest."

Nathaniel turns around, me still in his grip, and begins walking towards Edmund. David's leaning against a bookshelf, and from the look on his face I'd say not by his own choosing.