The bespectacled man tapped his finger on the surface of the crystal ball in subtle frustration. The image inside was vague and shrouded in smoke. If only he had the luxury of viewing these events through a normal news outlet, but the human-dominated society only seemed to conveniently show magical news when the criminal was the one wielding magical powers. Instead, he had to waste his own precious mana trying to contact the witch hunters in jail.
"Come on now…one of you has to be open for communication…"
In that moment, his green-haired partner entered the room with a carefree stride and a hum "How's it going, Python?"
A crease formed between the bespectacled man's dark brows "Quiet, Viper. I can barely focus as it is."
The other male complied and took a seat in the deep purple couch that mirrored the hues of the walls. That combined with the black and white tiles of the floor gave off the perfect regal "villain's lair" aesthetic. But if you asked the inhabitants of this home, they were neither regal nor villainous.
Just as soon as Viper swiped his cellphone from the glass coffee table and began toying around with one of his many games, a gasped "Ah! Got it!" echoed from across the room, effectively making him jump and get a premature Game Over screen.
Viper regarded his partner with an irate expression, but the man hadn't paid any mind.
"Hello? Who am I talking to right now?"
As Python concentrated on the crystal ball, a voice interrupted by static and stuttering arose. After all, thoughts are never as clear and solid as we would like them to be.
"What…? Who's talking…to me?"
Of course, Python couldn't answer that question "Don't worry, you're not crazy. I'm just talking to you through a crystal ball. Right now I can't visit you in jail, so this is my best way of getting to you."
"Why?…What do you want…with me?"
"I just have two questions, okay?" started Python "One, are you one of the witch hunters that was caught recently?"
The man's response came in like a solid punch "Did you turn me in?!"
Though, Python anticipated this "No, I'm looking for the person who turned you in," he said "I don't very much like what he did to you and your friends, so I'd like to dish out my own bit of justice."
Without even speaking, a fast-paced scene began to play out in the crystal ball. The witch hunter summoning the memory continued to try to put it into words. Regardless, Python ignored those words and instead chose to observe the events.
It went by so fast that Python swiped his fingers on the underbelly of the ball to replay the scene. It was hard to decipher since the witch hunter blacked out shortly after the culprit's appearance, but at some point, Python was able to find him.
A black man probably just a few years younger than Python, himself. It looked like he had transformed and used an elemental power in one swift move. However, because of the darkness, Python couldn't see the man's wings to determine if he was a witch or a fae.
"Save image," with a single tap on the crystal ball, the scene paused on the clearest frame of the man Python could land on "Viper, go get Nerodia."
"Why don't you get him?" sneered the other, his focus increasing on his phone game.
Python inhaled deeply through his nose and lifted his head to call out "Nerodia!"
His voice rang through the room, but Viper had been prepared this time and didn't jump. Instead he chuckled "You sound like a mom."
Soon after, a young man with green-tinted twisties entered the room with an obedient "Yes?"
Python turned the crystal ball on its wooden platform as it emitted a squeak not unlike an unscrewed lightbulb. He then removed the ball once it was free and handed it over to the muscular male.
"I need you to find this guy and plant a coil on him," explained Python "If you lose the image, contact one of the jailed witch hunters again, but…" he leaned forward in his chair "Don't talk to my brother."
The man known as Nerodia placed the crystal ball in his satchel "Understood," he said.
"Beyoncé is a siren?!"
"You'd think," Isaac laughed "I mean, what human has that much influence with just their voice?"
Wesley's eyes shifted between the shorter male and the sidewalk they were walking down.
"She's human," Sterling stated "Isaac's just really thirsty for that mythical creature representation."
"I am not thirsty, okay?" said Isaac "It just couldn't hurt to see more mythical creatures on TV, am I right?"
The trio were walking back through the field they had trained in earlier. Nikau had left earlier to go home since he lived within the city. Even though this city was also home to Isaac, he had to leave with Sterling and Wesley to pick up a healing crystal from Lucent Service.
"Do you think it fell out of your pocket when we left?" asked Wesley "Maybe Beatrix picked it up."
"I kinda hope not. Then I'd have to track her down to get it back," Isaac shrugged.
"Better hope she didn't step on it with those heavy boots of hers," said Sterling "A knock-off healing crystal from Walgreen's isn't as durable as a real one."
As they approached the portal left behind, the latino turned and said "Well, see ya around!" before hopping in.
Isaac was the next to step in "Later, Wesley."
"Later, guys," the taller male said as the swirling light swallowed up his new friends.
He took one last look at the city of Chicago behind him before dipping into the portal, himself.
Felicia sat on the couch with the TV flashing bright lights in front of her, but she paid no attention to the story being told. Her focus was locked onto the peach-colored cellphone in her hand, scrolling through the numerous outgoing calls in her log. Her heels dug into the edge of the couch as her knees were hugged up to her chest. She had already changed into her pajamas, but she was nowhere near relaxed.
Suddenly the door opened, causing her to jerk up as her brother entered with a relieved "Phew!"
Upon seeing his sister, Wesley gave a flippant "Hey Felicia, what's up?"
""What's up?"" the woman fired back "I've been losing my mind tryna get a hold of you, that's what!"
"Seriously? I didn't hear anything," Wesley pulled out his phone from his pocket, genuinely curious as to why he missed his sister's calls.
For a brief moment, his brows creased, but then he realized "Oh yeah, the guys said that sometimes the portals mess up your phone for a bit."
The entirety of that simple statement threw Felicia into a whirlwind of confusion "Portals? What do you mean portals? And who are "the guys"? Your friends from college?"
"No, no, these are new friends I made today," explained Wesley "They're faes, too, so they were helping me practice my powers and flying."
Felicia stood up from the couch so that she would no longer have to crane her neck uncomfortably to see Wesley "Faes? Like actual magic faes?"
"Is there any other kind?"
Not appreciating the joke, Felicia placed her hands on her hips "Boy, you're telling me you were playing around with real portals?"
"Not playing around," Wesley punctuated "We just used one to go to Chicago."
Felicia's eyes grew almost as wide as her glasses "Chi-Chicago?! Why?! What the hell were you doing all the way over there?!"
"Isaac and Nikau live there," said Wesley "We decided to train there and grab some lunch since they knew the area."
The elder sister was growing annoyed by the casual attitude he was taking on, but Wesley saw it best to just answer her questions as they come without mirroring her lethal attitude. He knew that becoming agitated or defensive would only make matters worse. A one-sided argument was better than a full one.
"What are you training for, anyway? You don't have any reason to use your powers," Felicia said with traces of a pout.
A huffed laugh brushed through Wesley's throat "Well, it's part of my job requirements," he grinned.
"What job did you get that humans can't get?"
Wesley's smugness tapered off when he remembered what Logan had said about Lucent Service: "By hipster logic, popularity ruins things. We've got a great thing going here, and unwanted attention from people who don't agree with us could be a huge problem. Also, we don't wanna risk the actual police shutting us down. Taking the law into your own hands isn't entirely legal."
"Just a little, uh, secret service— I mean," Wesley tried to mask his nervousness as an attempt to find the right words. He snapped his fingers and muttered "How do I explain it…?" under his breath to really sell the act.
"We basically do extra jobs for big companies like transporting materials, acting as security, and, uh, and testing out products for the mythical community," he said.
"Hmph, and humans can't do that?"
Wesley saw the bitter question as another way to conceal his secret "No, just mythical creatures. People with wings are needed for transportation. Security and escorts need defensive magic. The products—"
Felicia scoffed "I get it," with a dismissive wave "Geez, one day of being a fae and you're already getting cozy with the mythical creatures."
"Isn't that a good thing?"
The woman didn't answer. Instead, her attention turned to the television as it displayed a newscast reporter talking about another lycan attack.
"See? That's why you need to stay careful out there."
Wesley gave an annoyed sigh "Yeah, yeah."
The shift in topics meant it was the end of the interrogation for Wesley, and that was all he was really looking for in the end.
The city lights peeked through the blinds of the window, painting orange lines across his blanketed body. The sounds of nighttime traffic swam inside the bedroom along with the night air. It was the lullaby that put Wesley to sleep every night. However, even if he was awake, he wouldn't be able to feel the snake shadow slithering across his skin.
At a glance, anyone would have assumed that it was just a tattoo. It would have hid well on an already heavily tattooed body. On a bare body like Wesley's, though, it was forced to hide beneath his clothes to avoid any suspicion. Finally, now that the man was alone without any witnesses, the snake was free to complete its mission.
The snake slithered up Wesley's torso, across his chest, and finally wrapped itself around his neck.
Wesley awoke with a choke. He clawed at his neck but, of course, only grabbed fistfuls of air. His nails scraped uselessly against his skin as he tried to free himself of whatever was constricting him. As his panic rose, it became even harder to breathe. He couldn't even call out to his sister if he wanted to.
Wesley's pajamas transformed into his fae attire. It wasn't intentional. Rather it was an involuntary effort to survive, like a punch in the dark when faced with an unknown enemy.
As Wesley's mind grew hazy and the world swirled around him, one thought ran through his mind: "I've gotta get this off of me. Whatever's choking me, I need to rip it off!"
Blue clouds extended from his fingers and curled around his neck. Like thread, they intertwined around the intricate design of the snake clutching at his throat, and with an unsettling creak, it snapped the serpentine entity like brittle chains.
Tears cluttered the edges of Wesley's eyes as he took in large gulps of air, clutching his chest for fear he would be deprived of that air once again. Remnants of his blue clouds fluttered around his face.
The fae sat up, wanting to regain full consciousness, but also wanting to turn on the light in case another threat still lied within his room.
He looked around, the dim lamp light making his cozy bedroom now feel eerie, as if a monster would poke its head out of his closet or from under his bed.
Wesley even jumped when he felt an unfamiliar texture on his pillow. Looking down, he saw black fragments of the snake had materialized into physical pieces after they were broken. He knew that what had just happened wasn't human.
Logan collected the last of the fragments in a hard plastic bottle, closing it tightly with a cork.
Behind him, Wesley and Felicia stood awaiting his diagnosis of the situation. Though, it was an odd sight with the brother still in his fae form, his wings awkwardly folded to accommodate for the small corner he stood in.
"I don't wanna use a revival spell on it to see what it was," said Logan as he eyed the contents of the bottle "From what you said, it was definitely some kind of magical weapon. Nothing normal at all. Did you run into any trouble today?"
"No! I just went to Wendy's with the guys and went right back home."
Felicia sneered "Maybe one of "the guys" planted that thing on you."
Wesley glared at her, visible irritation lining his features.
"Sterling, Isaac, and Nikau?" Logan questioned in surprise "No way. They'd never do something like this."
"And they're my friends, Felicia," said Wesley "They wouldn't try to kill me."
"You've known them for, like, a day!" scoffed Felicia.
"Well, I'm gonna bring this over to the police," said Logan "If it makes you feel any better, you guys can sleep over at my house for the night."
Just as Wesley sighed a relieved "Oh, thank you," Felicia overshadowed him with a firm "No, no, that's fine. We can stay here."
The younger of the two frowned "What the—no we can't! Whatever that was latched onto me without me even noticing. Whoever sent it probably knows where I live!"
"How about I put a protection spell on the apartment?" suggested Logan.
Felicia squinted as she drummed her fingers across her arm, as if evaluating the authenticity of the witch's proposal.
"…Sure. I guess that could work," she decided.
Wesley, paranoia still clutching at his being, said "Alright, but I'm sleeping on the couch."