As he came to, Gabriel tried to push himself up with his right hand, but the jolt of pain that ran up his arm as he did so, reminded him of his broken wrist. Using his left hand, he grabbed onto the splintered door to the wardrobe that the witch had thrown him through and tried to pull himself to a standing position. He felt lightheaded and had to use the wardrobe to keep himself upright.
Sunlight was starting to come in through the broken windows, allowing for Gabriel to see what had become of his room in the night. The stones that made up the floor were covered in blood, and the entranceway was covered in the bodies supplying said blood. Looking over the bodies of his father, brother and the witches, Gabriel heard the faint sobs of Medea as she clutched herself to her mother's dead body. Feeling steadier on his feet, he pushed himself off the wardrobe and took the few steps to be by her side.
Kneeling down, Gabriel reached out his left hand and started to rub her back. But his touched seemed to startle her, as she flinched away and turned herself to face him so fast that he flinched back in surprise also. When she saw that it was him, she relaxed slightly. Looking at her face, Gabriel noticed that her eyes were red and puffy and that parts were covered in her mother's blood, while other parts showed the tracks of her tears. "I'm sorry," he said, meaning more than for just scaring her.
Wiping her eyes to try to hide her tears, only succeeded in spreading the half-dried blood on her face. "It's not your fault," she said, seeming to understand his meaning.
Standing up, Gabriel offered her his hand, which she took and allowed him to pull her up and over to his bed. Sitting them down, Gabriel didn't know what to do next. Unable to keep looking at her and seeing the sadness in her eyes, Gabriel once again took stock of the damage and carnage spread across his room. When his eyes found his brother, he asked. "Why isn't my brother awake? You said that we needed to hurry and leave before he came to. Surely it's been hours since all this happened; so why is he still unconscious?" The was a bit of anger laced into his voice, he hoped that she hadn't been lying to him before about his brother being dead.
"The protection spell I placed on you wasn't one based on time, but one based on distance. Your brother is still unconscious because you are still close by, and will remain that way until we remove the demon from him or until the two of you are on opposite sides of town." Gently, she put her hand on his chin and turned his face so he looked upon her. "I'm sorry, too. I know that I'm partly responsible for all this, but I want you to know that I never wanted it. I tried to convince my mother and grandmother to not go through with this plan; I thought it would only make the world see us as the monsters that your father had painted us as. But, like I told you when we first met, I believe that something needed to be done. You may have never seen it, but whenever my family came into town, we were harassed and would have to practically threaten to curse everyone to just accept our business. We just wanted to be able to live our lives in peace, or at least, that's what I wanted. My mother and grandmother were more vindictive and probably would have killed the entire town if they weren't convinced that your father's constant preaching the word of Christ as the only real religion was the source of this inhumane treatment."
Gabriel simply nodded to the girl's apologetic confession. He could understand that her family would feel slighted by this treatment. But despite knowing that some form of action was justified, Gabriel didn't know if he had it in him to forgive Medea her part in death of his family. Turning to look back at his brother's still unconscious body, he asked, "How do we rid my brother of the demon possessing him and ensure that it returns from wherever you summoned it from?"
"You do what my mother accused you of doing," Medea said cryptically. When he turned back to look at her in confusion, she elaborated. "You kill me. The protection spell I placed on you will dissipate, and both your brother and the demon will wake. But the demon will be severely weakened by the death of those that summoned it, and be unable to continue possessing your brother as it searches for another power source to keep in alive. Once the snake that houses the demon removes itself from your brother, use the lead sickle to cut off its head. The snake will disappear into smoke and sink back to the underworld. Then, to ensure that you, your family or this town never has to suffer my family's magic again, you should burn our house down. There are still plenty of witches and covens in the empire that are resentful over the emperor's renouncement of our faith for Christianity, and we don't want them to discover what my family tried to do to change that fact. Not to mention what they'd do with some other spells and rituals that my family has written down there."
Gabriel was shocked at the lengths and thoroughness that Medea thought were necessary to ensure a complete victory over her family. "Are-are you sure that all that's necessary? It seems like overkill; nobody in town knows where you live so they wouldn't be able to tell anyone where to look beyond simply saying on the outskirts of town."
Shaking her head, Medea said, "Others like me would be able to find it, if they knew to look. It may be overkill, but it's better to be safe than sorry." Standing herself up, she continued, "Come on; grab your brother and let's go."
"I know you want to stay with your family, but-"
"No, Medea, I mean I can't," he said holding up his broken wrist. "I can't carry Marcus like this, and I don't want you touching him."
He knew that his words had come out harsher than he'd meant them by the look that she gave him as he expressed his unwillingness to have Medea hold his brother. But it was quickly replaced by a sympathetic smile. "Of course; I forgot that my mother did that. Come with me outside, and I'll have you healed in no time," she said as she turned back to the room's entryway and led the way outside.
Following Medea around the bodies of their families, Gabriel allowed her to cover his eyes as they made their way past atrium. She said it was because he shouldn't see his mother how the demon had left her. He was inclined to believe her. Walking out into the front yard, Gabriel felt the wet grass beneath his feet and he took a second to wiggle his toes in the sensation.
Copying Medea, he sat himself down across from her. Holding her hands together over her lap, she said, "Give me your hand." Gingerly placing his right arm in her cupped hands, Gabriel instantly felt a slight tingle jumping from Medea to himself. "This may take a while to finish; I've never had to heal anyone other than myself before and my magic is severely weakened from what it was the last time I healed myself."
Gabriel nodded his understanding. But despite her warning about it taking some time, he could already feel the pain slipping away and the strange crunch of his bones resetting themselves. It wasn't five minutes before Gabriel could have sworn his wrist was fully healed. But he would wait until Medea said he was finished healing before he removed his hand from hers, just in case she was still fixing some unknown part of him. By the time a half an hour had passed and the sun had risen into the sky over the homes of the town, she lowered her hands back to her sides. "I think that should do it," she said to him. Standing herself up, Medea held up a hand to indicate that Gabriel should stay sitting. "Please," she said in a meek repentant tone, "please allow me a few moments to reposition your mother to a more dignified position. It's bad enough that she died in such a way, but you shouldn't see her like that. The demon posed her in such a way as to bring your father great shame and anger; I don't want you to feel any more negative emotions than you already do."
The look Medea gave him as she requested this was one of pleading. He knew that she was only trying to save him pain, and that was the only reason that he nodded. She'd said that his mother was with a lover, and he did not wish to know who it was. So, he awaited her return outside, feeling the warming sun on his skin as he made his way over to the nook where he often enjoyed reading.
He'd barely sat down when he'd heard a feminine ahem from the other side of the stone wall that divided the yard from the street. Looking up, he was shocked to see none other than Alexandria standing across the wall from him. Standing himself up straight, Gabriel took in her beauty. Her hair was the golden brown of wheat and came down in curls to the tops of her medium sized breasts. Her eyes a hazel that seemed more gold than green. Her nose was small and angular and had a light dusting of freckles that crossed its bridge from the centre of one eye to the other. Her lips were somewhere between his mother and sister in fullness and a light shade of red, too dark to be called pink. The dress she wore was held up with a single strap on her right shoulder that left the majority of her left side exposed and was a dark blue that contrasted nicely with the golden brown of her hair. Her skin had a faint tan to it, making her seem unpretty by the standards of Rome (who preferred woman to be paler), but Gabriel had always thought the slight glow of sun kissed skin was a much more attractive look. As he looked upon her, he saw that she was wearing a saddened visage.
"Alexandria! What's wrong?" he asked as he relaxed his stiff posture and walked to the waist high wall.
"Gabriel, I'm afraid I have some upsetting news from my father. Are your parents around; I'd really like to tell all of you at once." She really looked saddened by whatever news she was coming to deliver. "May I come in; you and your family shouldn't really be outside for this news."
Walking over to the break in the wall that allowed entry into the yard, Gabriel gestured Alexandria into the yard, ushering her over back to the nook he'd just vacated. "I know what you want to tell me, Alexandria. And I appreciate your sympathies, as well as the fact that you convinced your father not to come here to tell my family this himself." She gave him a confused smile at this, but before she could ask what he meant, he continued, "I know that my sister is dead, with her neck broken and she was found with a lover, near the market on the other side of town. I even know who's responsible."
The look of shock on Alexandria's face as he revealed he already knew all this was quite noticeable. "Gods, I'm sorry Gabriel. She was only discovered an hour, I thought that I'd be the one who would have to tell you. But how do you know this, and how do you know who did it?" And there was the keen mind that had first caught his attention.
"Because they're inside my house, dead." A look of fearful apprehension fell across her beautiful features, and Gabriel knew that he had to explain himself further, again. "The witches from the edge of town summoned a demon to kill my family; said demon is the one that killed all those people at the outskirts of town a couple of days ago. After it killed my sister and whoever she was with, it came here to kill the rest of us. After it killed my parents and servant Juba, I was able to subdue it. That brought the witches here to either free the demon or finish what it started. I got very lucky and managed to kill both witches." Seeing the look of revulsion on her face, combined with the shock of it all, Gabriel felt like Alexandria knew what he was feeling right then. "Like I said, I appreciate your sympathies, Alexandria, but I have a few things that I still need to do before I can deal with all this."
"Of-of course, Gabriel," she said. She stood as if to leave, but then sat herself back down. Taking his hand into hers caused Gabriel's eyes to dart from her hand on his to her eyes and back for several seconds. Both blushed as Alexandria seemed to force herself to keep a hold of his hand. "I'll try to ensure that people give you space; but I'm afraid I'll have to tell my father about the death of your parents. I won't tell him what happened, just that your parents are dead too, and that you said you needed time to work it all out." She let go of his hand, but rather than draw away from him, she leaned in closer and wrapped him in a tentative embrace. "If you need anything, anything at all Gabriel, just come to me and I'll help in anyway I can," she said softly. Hearing her voice whispered into his ear, sent a shiver of pleasure running down Gabriel's spine.
Feeling brave enough, Gabriel wrapped his arms around her gently and pulled her slightly closer to him. He would've sworn he heard her sigh into his embrace, but that was probably just his wishful thinking and his own exhalation at her being so close. "Thank you, Alexandria," he whispered back, before letting his hands fall back to his side.
"Lexie; my friends call me Lexie," she said as she finally pushed herself away from him and stood. Walking over to the space in the wall, she stopped before she had left the Iracundus property and turned back to him. Her face was sad, but Gabriel could still see the blush on her cheeks. "I am sorry Gabriel. I hope you and your brother can feel better knowing that you were able to bring justice to those who killed your family." Not trusting his voice at the moment, Gabriel just nodded his appreciation to her kindness once again. "I'll, um, I'll let you get back to your grieving." And with that she once again turned to the centre of town and left the yard at a pace that seemed faster than she needed to go.