AN: This is the companion piece to my other story, New Night, as told from the character Drystan's point of view. It mostly tells the same story, with some missing pieces that Eben may not have been privy to. Drystan's Story can be read as a standalone, although I also suggest reading New Night. They tell the same story, in any case, just from different perspectives.
Drystan Lowell knows the exact moment his sister dies. He feels it from the tips of his pointed ears down to every claw of each paw, feels it in the power that swells within him, strengthening his wolf form, making him stronger, faster, wilder. He skids to a stop in the fallen leaves of the forest, shuddering, teeth bared in destructive confusion and hurt. No, they can't take away all he has left. She's all he has left.
He's an alpha werewolf now, with no pack.
Drystan howls at the sky, mournful and furious. He's an alpha; he'll be able to stop Celina's murderer. His whole family's murderer.
His claws gouge into the earth as he takes off, sprinting as fast as his new strength will allow, leaping over fallen trees and trickling creeks. If he hurries, he might be able to catch the sorcerer before he leaves the area.
For a little while, all he knows is the chase, paws pounding the ground and nostrils flaring, taking in every scent around him. He can hear the police as he draws near to his sister's scent, the baying bloodhounds and the shouting men. It won't be long before they find Celina. He'll have to be quick, if he wants to catch the scent of her killer. They've never been so close to finding him before.
He slides to a stop when he reaches the clearing, a whimper escaping him at the sight of his sister, in human form, bound in silver chains and staring with empty eyes up at the canopy of trees above her, in a ritualistic silver circle accented with still-burning candles. Just like their parents. Their grandparents. Everyone else.
His legs give out when he reaches her, nose congested with the metallic smell of her blood. He can taste it on his tongue. It makes his eyes water. He collapses against her cold body, keening in the soft glow of the flickering candles. He scrubs his face against her stomach, chasing the familiar scent of family and home and safety. She was his alpha. She was his best friend. She was everything. What is he going to do? How is he supposed to do this alone?
Gasping for breath that just won't come, he's startled from his thoughts by shouting. The humans will find them soon. He has to leave. He can't be found here.
Drystan leans up, licks at the patch of skin just below her ear—careful not to taste her blood—and mentally says his goodbyes. He's glad he's not in human form right now. He doesn't have words for the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, anyway.
When he stands, he catches the electric scent of magic, like a vibration in the air. He's never been able to smell it before—something has always prevented Celina and him from being able to track the sorcerer by the scent of his magic. But it's there now. Turning away, nose raised, he breaks into a gallop and chases after it.
He follows the trail through the trees. He stops when he sees streetlights, realizing the scent changes direction there, following the road. He'd gotten in a car, then. The scent is faded here, but still tangible. Drystan turns, just shy of the edge of the tree line—it wouldn't do to be seen by a human, of course—and trots after it. It's only a matter of time, now.
The scent leads him to a two-storey house. All the lights are off—except one, upstairs, around the side. Drystan backs up to get a better look at it, a low growl rumbling in his chest. When he sees a teenaged boy pass in front of the window, struggling out of a hoodie. His dark brown hair is sticking up, and there are shadows under his eyes.
Drystan doesn't understand. The scent of magic permeates this house, and yet the only person inside is this kid. Drystan won't be able to figure this out until he can examine the boy further. If this kid really is the sorcerer, Drystan will have to be sure of it. Perhaps the sorcerer just came to this house for something.
He watches the light turn off, hears the teen sigh into his pillow, and turns away from the house. He'll figure it out in the morning. He has to be sure.
Drystan doesn't sleep. When he transforms at dawn, he showers and dresses mechanically. In total, it takes about ten minutes. Then, he gets into his car, a silver Dodge Challenger, and goes back to the house where he last scented magic. He sits in his car, down the road, and waits until he sees the kid get into his red Cobalt and pull out. He follows at a discreet distance, careful not to get too close. He doesn't want to give himself away.
They stop at Hollow Rock High School. Drystan watches tensely as the teen sits in his car, biding his time. He seems to be reading a book of some kind, staring down at it with an admirable focus. Drystan gets out of the Challenger and trods over, curious. Not many people notice him, standing at the edge of their periphery. The kid's not broken from his concentration until another boy beats on his window. Drystan watches them, listens to them discuss his presence at the school, until the first period bell rings. Only then does he risk moving closer.
The Cobalt is a fairly new model. It'll have an alarm. It doesn't give Drystan much pause. He breaks open the driver's side window and gets the hood popped before the alarm has a chance to bleat twice. In one smooth motion, he reaches in and unplugs the battery, so the beeping dies almost the instant it was brought to life. He doubts anyone would notice such a momentary noise. Still, he glances around surreptitiously, just to make sure he isn't being watched, and then returns his attention to his goal.
The interior of the car looks like any other teenager's might. There are old chips packages, empty soda bottles, and a few old papers and receipts lying in the floorboards. Drystan ignores them all, reaches under the driver's seat, where he smells old leather, and comes up with what looks like an old, worn, leather-bound book. He spends a moment flipping through the pages, which tells him all he needs to know.
The boy he's been following is a sorcerer, and definitely one interested in dark magic. The only reason someone would be reading a book like this is if he plans to do something with it. The pages detail several rituals that are on par with the one his family has died for. Drystan can't risk anyone else getting hurt. He'll take care of this book personally. No one should have their hands on a book as powerful and dangerous as this. And he'll deal with the sorcerer as soon as he can get him alone.
Drystan occupies himself by ripping pages from the book and lighting them on fire with a lighter from the glove box of the Challenger. By the time the hour is up, the book is nothing more than burnt leather and ashes. He feels justified, remembering Celina's cold body beneath his nose, the stench of her death in the air.
When the final bell rings for the day, the doors burst open and teenagers spill out into the parking lot, laughing and talking amongst themselves. Drystan follows the familiar teen with his eyes, watches him exclaim over his car window being broken and his engine refusing to start. He smirks to himself, circles the parking lot from the trees, unseen.
The teen pulls out his cell phone, glaring at the other students as they peel out of the parking lot. "Hey, it's Eben," Drystan hears the kid say into the phone. "Is my dad there?"
Drystan stalks closer, only somewhat paying attention to the conversation. He doesn't care what's being said. The parking lot is quickly becoming empty. They'll be alone soon. The boy tells his dad that nothing was taken—a lie, Drystan thinks, which is somewhat interesting—and agrees to wait until his dad can come jump the car off for him. Drystan guesses he doesn't have a spell for that.
The parking lot is completely empty now, as the sorcerer—Eben, his mind supplies—throws his backpack in the car and leans against the fender, looking for all the world like a normal teen pouting about his car not starting.
He's all alone.
Drystan sees the moment he realizes it, sees the slight frown and the uneasy glance about the parking lot. The kid starts toward the school, and Drystan knows he's about to lose only chance. He blurs across the parking lot before Eben has a chance to go a step further, wrapping long fingers around the boy's throat and throwing him against the hood of the Cobalt, an animalistic snarl building in his throat.
"What did you do to her?!" He shouts, voice more wolf than human.
The kid chokes, and Drystan doesn't care what his answer might be. He's losing what little control he has left. All he can think about is ripping his teeth through that convulsing throat, causing this sorcerer as much pain as he's caused Drystan. Before he can attempt just such a thing, however, the boy's expression hardens, and Drystan knows exactly what that means.
There is no defense against being thrown across the parking lot, which is what he finds happening next. He flies through the air like a kicked football, scraping skin and cloth against the pavement when he lands, rolling to a stop. The wounds heal almost as quickly as they start bleeding, and Drystan growls as he looks up, just in time to see the kid flail right off the other side of the car. The thump he makes sounds painful, and Drystan feels minor satisfaction from it.
They stand at the same time, and Drystan can clearly see the kid calculating his next move. He's surprised, then, when he speaks.
"Did you break into my car?" He demands, one hand on his hip and the other pointing at Drystan.
The alpha glares. Why is he talking? They should be trying to kill each other. That's what all respectable enemies do. And Drystan doesn't really feel like he owes this bastard an explanation. Still, he isn't ashamed of his actions, so he answers.
"Yes," he snaps.
"And stole my book?" The kid's eyes narrow slightly, like he already knows the answer, but wants confirmation anyway.
"I want it back. What did you do with it?"
"I burned it." He feels a little proud of that, actually.
"Burned it?" Eben shrieks.
"It was too dangerous for anyone to have."
"Dangerous?" Is this stupid kid stuck on repeat or something? "I needed that!"
"Guess you'll have to find some new rituals to play with," Drystan grounds out, and it's disgusting—so disgusting—that this kid, who should be spending his time playing video games and chasing cute girls, instead spends his days with his nose buried in books about dark magic and murdering werewolves on the full moon.
"Play with? Are you psychotic? That isn't the kind of stuff anyone plays with."
"Right," Drystan sneers. There's a special brand of hatred boiling in his veins right now. "You're a real paragon of the dark arts."
"Paragon? Dark arts? I…I was using it for research! For you!"
Well, that's not what he was expecting to hear. "Me?"
"Yeah! And the poor girl you killed, you psycho son of a bitch!"
Drystan sees red. He's moving before the saner part of his brain can think better of his actions—manhandling a sorcerer?—grabbing the kid by the throat and throwing him onto the hood again, single-mindedly intent on causing pain.
"Don't you dare talk about her!" He shouts, teeth bared.
Eben reaches out, yanks Drystan forward by his shirt and fairly snarls into his face, "Let go of me, or I'll throw you across this parking lot on fire."
And he probably could. Drystan reluctantly lets go, because he can't get revenge if he's dead, and it's probably best to play it smart right now. He steps back, body taut with barely leashed rage.
"And why shouldn't I talk about her?" Eben goads when he stands, brushing himself off. Drystan's jaw clenches. "You're not seriously going to try and tell me she meant something to you, are you?"
That does it. That absolutely breaks the last thread of control Drystan had been clinging to. He lunges forward, feels his knuckles make contact with the boy's face for one gratifying moment. The kid goes down, and Drystan roars, teeth lengthening and eyes glowing, although the boy doesn't see it. He reaches for him, to sink his claws into his gut, tear his teeth through that pale throat—.
Eben mutters some kind of incantation, and Drystan stops short, like an invisible wall is standing between him and the fallen sorcerer. Frustration builds up within Drystan, because he's within arm's reach, but he can't touch him. He paces back and forth like a caged animal, reaches forward again, to no avail. He could almost cry.
"Why are you doing this?" Eben asks wearily as he climbs to his feet behind his protective shield.
"Why?" Drystan repeats, shocked. "Why? After what you've done?"
"What have I done?" Eben asks, gesturing around at himself.
Drystan remembers blank blue eyes staring up at the trees; a cold, naked body lying prone in the middle of the forest; his alpha, his sister, his best friend. "Celina," he says, leaning forward and spitting it in the boy's face as best he can.
The noise Drystan makes is definitely not human, because it's like this stupid kid is goading him on purpose. "The girl in the woods!"
"What about her?"
"You killed her!"
Drystan sees the confusion before Eben voices it, sees his utterly shell-shocked expression, like the whole world has just turned upside-down on him. Then, he chokes out, "What?"
"You were at the crime scene," Drystan explains hotly, because why is he even having to explain it at all? He's starting to think, maybe he's missing something. "You had the book about dark rituals. You are the only one in this town that can do magic like that!"
"No, not like that, you dumbass! I don't do magic like that. I don't even do magic, if I can help it. It draws too much attention. It causes too many unanswered questions. I have a life here!"
"Don't lie to me," he orders, but now he isn't so sure that he is being lied to.
"I'm not lying. I was at the crime scene, but I didn't kill her. She asked me to find her!"
That doesn't make sense. Celina would've told him if they had any connections in Hollow Rock. "You knew her?"
"Well, no. Not exactly. I've been calling her 'ghost-girl' in my head all day."
Drystan isn't sure he's supposed to understand that, but he finds it insulting to her memory, nonetheless.
"I didn't kill her," he says. "I'm a teenager, for God's sakes. I'm seventeen. I'm barely able to throw you across a parking lot, and how much do you weigh, by the way? It felt like a shit-ton!" At Drystan's unamused expression, the kid clears his throat and says, "Not important. What I meant was, it took a lot of energy to throw you across the parking lot, and I'm admitting a serious weakness here."
He is, and Drystan knows that. He's had enough experience with sorcerers by now to know.
"I wouldn't have the juice to pull off a ritual like that, even if I wanted to. And also: I'm a sorcerer, but I'm not evil. I don't do dark arts. I do get-by-with-as-little-magic-as-possible arts. Because of school, and the fact that I live with my dad, and I have friends that crawl through my window without permission sometimes, which could be bad if I happened to be working a spell when they came in. See what I'm getting at?"
"You didn't kill Celina." Drystan slouches a little at that. Should he feel relieved? Disappointed? This means the real killer is still out there. He's been wasting his time here. Admittedly, he's glad he doesn't have to kill a kid, but this puts him back at square one.
"Is that her name?" Eben asks, somewhat sheepish. "She didn't…have a chance to tell me."
He frowns. "What?"
"The girl from the woods. I… Sorcerers can see ghosts. She came to me at about two in the morning last night."
Drystan has to clench his fists to keep the burning in his eyes from turning into real tears. "You saw her? What did she say?"
"She told me I could help find whoever killed her. She led me right to her body, but she disappeared before she could tell me who she was or anything about her killer. Ghosts…don't really get a long time after they're dead, despite what movies and stories say. They don't stick around one house or wherever they died. They might have a few minutes, couple of hours tops."
Drystan doesn't know what to say to that. He's envious that someone else got to see her in her final moments. Why would she have gone to this nobody teenager instead of him? Would he not have been able to see her?
"You knew her?" The kid asks, voice soft.
"Her name…" Drystan hesitates over it, because it hurts so much to say aloud, in the past tense. "…was Celina Lowell. Sh—she was my sister."
"Ah," the kid says, like that explains something.
Drystan frowns at him.
"You're him," he explains in a way that explains absolutely nothing.
He tilts his head, and something amused and knowing crosses Eben's expression. He straightens a little, and says, "She…she wanted me to tell you she's sorry, and that she loves you. And she'll be watching over you."
His eyes burn, and he's suddenly bombarded with memories. Memories of Lina putting her arms around him, even though he'd been broader than her since they were teenagers, despite the three year age difference. The way she used to shove her nose behind his ear when he would weep for their lost loved ones, cupping the other side of his face and whispering nonsense against his skin, keening and whining with him when he lost it. The way her wolf would latch its teeth onto the back of his neck, not biting down, and he knew without a doubt that he was safe there, tucked up against her side. The way she would always be sure and stop at his favorite burger joint when they were on the road, even though they both knew she liked tacos better. The way her fingers felt between his when they buried their parents, claws drawing blood from his knuckles, and he didn't mind because the pain grounded him and he was doing the same to her.
Drystan covers his eyes with one hand and turns away, choking on the emotion that threatens to drive him to his knees. It takes him a second, but he claws his way back to the present. The strong scent of the boy beside him helps draw him out of the worst of it, reminds him that he's not alone.
"You're serious?" He asks. He can't move his hand yet, can't show his eyes, or the tears that are there.
"I can't make this up, dude. How else would I have been at the crime scene?"
That makes sense. He doubts this kid has seen much death. Part of him wonders how he ever mistook him for the sorcerer who killed his family. "She said you could help?"
"Yes. God knows why. Maybe because I know about magic. I thought you were the guy who killed her."
"And I thought you were," Drystan admits.
"Sorry for throwing you across the parking lot."
Drystan's eyes are drawn to the parking lot in question. The kid's right; all he did was toss him a few yards away. It didn't even really hurt that bad. The other sorcerer—the one he's after—would have lit him on fire with a look, or broken every bone in his body to prevent him from getting to his feet again so soon. Those kinds of offensive attacks didn't seem to even cross this kid's mind. All he'd done was protect himself.
The kid clears his throat, and when Drystan looks over, he realizes Eben is pouting. And obviously waiting for something.
Oh, for the love of— "I'm sorry for throwing you against your car."
"And?" Eben crosses his arms, and Drystan kind of wants to curse his sister for sending this bratty guy into his path.
"Breaking into your car."
Drystan glares, but grits his teeth and says tightly, "Stealing and burning your book."
"Thank you. Apology accepted." He sticks out his hand, already switching gears. Drystan thinks he might be developing conversational whiplash. "I'm Eben Savage."
Drystan goes to return the handshake, but hesitates when he thinks he might run into the invisible wall again. No such thing happens, and their hands meet. The sorcerer's hands are warm and dry. "Drystan Lowell."
"You're paying for my new window and car battery, Drystan Lowell," Eben says matter-of-factly.
Drystan shakes his head and walks around him to the front of the car. "Car battery is fine. I just unhooked it."
"I didn't want the alarm going off when I got the book." He pops the hood and leans over it. If Eben knew anything about cars, he could've done this himself, and none of this would've happened.
"Did I mention how stupid it was to burn a sorcerer's book, when that book might have told us something about the ritual that your sister was murdered for?"
He reattaches the appropriate cable while Eben watches with semi-interest from beside him. "I said I was sorry." He straightens and closes the hood. "That should do it."
"Let me text my dad and tell him he doesn't have to come jump me off then."
"Don't tell him about me."
"Dude, he's going to find out about you, anyway," Eben says.
Drystan chews on that for a beat while Eben sends his text, and when he comes up with no good reason why Eben Savage's dad should know anything about him, demands, "Why?"
"Once they ID your sister, who do you think they're going to call? Her relatives." Eben pokes him in the chest, and Drystan contemplates breaking that finger, although it leaves a warm impression on his skin, through his thin shirt.
"I don't follow." Drystan swats his hand away.
"My dad is the chief of police."
"Is he also a mage?"
"Sorcerer, and no. At least…not that I know of."
Drystan wonders if there really is a difference between a sorcerer and a mage, or if that's just the kid's own preference of titles.
"Just a normal cop," he continues a beat later. "But still, once forensics identifies your sister, it'll only be a matter of time until they get in contact with you. I would suggest you go to the police station and file a missing person's report."
"What would that accomplish?"
"It would be on record that you filed for one. It's not too late, considering she was only killed last night. You could say she didn't come home this morning, when you got home from errands or work or whatever she still wasn't there, and you started to get worried. Once you identify her for them, everybody can move on. Or, you can, without the police breathing down your back about why you never filed a missing person's report. It would look suspicious if you didn't. The police obviously won't move on until they find her killer. Because that's what they do."
Drystan nods. "Good point. I'll go there now."
"Good. I'm going home. I have actual homework to do. I'll see if I can find a copy of that book that you burned, you heathen, but I'm not getting my hopes up, because it wasn't exactly a bestseller. Dick."
The mouth on this kid, Jesus, does he ever stop talking? "I said—."
"I know you said you were sorry, but still."
"And you said apology accepted." Why is he even still standing here talking to this guy?
"Pending," Eben amends, going to the driver's side and brushing a few more pieces of glass into the floorboard. Drystan tries not to feel guilty about that.
Drystan rolls his eyes. It's time to put an end to this neverending conversation. "I'm going. I'll be in touch."
He turns away without another word and darts away, a blur to human eyes. He doesn't think Eben is even aware that he's gone until he turns around and realizes he's talking to thin air. Drystan allows himself a small smile at that.