Chapter 3: Becca's Magical Fantasy Adventure
A/N: It took forever to end this chapter. The damn thing just did not want to be finished. But I succeeded. Poor Milo. He's having a very bad day. As always, review are welcome.
Jackie blinked sleepily, trying to ignore the dull ache in the back of her head. It felt like her brain was throbbing. In fact, the only reason she was awake at all was the profound and insistent sensation that told her something was wrong, very wrong. She couldn't remember exactly why at the moment, but the instinct was strong enough to allow her to shake off her sleepiness, sit up, and throw her feet over the edge of the bed. Groaning in pain, she rubbed at the sore spot on her scalp. She pulled her hand away when she realized there was something wrong with her hair. It was tangled and matted to her scalp, curls hanging lankly, half undone from the ponytail she drawn them up into. She pulled the hair elastic the rest of the way out and tried to finger-comb through the mess, while pulling on the bruised skin beneath as little as possible. Flecks of dried blood dusted the leg of her pale jeans. Wait… Blood?
The sight of the blood woke Jackie up enough to trigger the memories of how that injury had occurred. Her skull ached as she tried to piece it together clearly. The teleportation spell had backfired; she could definitely recall that. And they'd been falling, she and Milo. She'd seen it, and moved to protect him. She ran that recollection over and over in her mind before her hazy logic finally clicked into place. She must have hit her head; that was it. It would certainly explain why it was so hard to think at the moment.
She raised her hands to her scalp, allowing her magic to probe and soothe the aches she found there. Jackie was surprised to see that someone had already been there before her. Milo, it had to have been Milo. She was forced to concede that he had done a fairly decent job. Not perfect, first-aid was never his forte, but well enough that she almost didn't need to do any work herself. A few seconds of directed energy, and the pain was gone, and her thinking was much clearer. She made a mental note to thank him later.
Jackie let out a great yawn and fisted her eyes, trying to force herself to wake up. After a few minutes of wrestling with her sleepy brain she was alert enough to take stock of her situation and surroundings. She was still wearing the same clothes she'd been about to leave the house with last night, though there were streaks of blood down most of them now. She inspected the bloodstains on her new winter jacket and frowned, thinking of the dry-cleaning bill. Jackie was glad she was wearing it though. It was cold in the room. She could feel dampness clinging to her skin from the t-shirt, and knew that she'd gotten blood inside her coat too. She looked around, searching for her gym bag so that she could get out a clean shirt. But it was nowhere to be seen.
The room was built of dark brown stone, and chains were dangling from the walls. Jackie almost laughed out loud at the absurdity of it. She was in a dungeon? Who used dungeons anymore? Where the hell had Milo landed them this time? There weren't many clues to work with. The walls were featureless, and the only light came from a flickering oil lamp lit outside the cell's barred door. Her hands clenched the mattress beneath her, testing its material. It was made from some cheap wool fabric stuffed with straw. Not very telling, except that the prison system in this country probably didn't have much of a budget. Jackie sniffed the air, though she knew it was futile. She was mildly allergic to straw and sleeping on it had left her sinuses all stuffed up. As if she wasn't feeling miserable enough already. Straining her ears didn't help either; the only sound was the drip of water in the distance.
Jackie made to stand, but quickly gave up when her legs almost went out from under her. She'd been so focused on remembering, that she hadn't noticed the pain in places besides her head. It took fifteen minutes of carefully directed healing spells to detect and repair the hairline fractures and muscle tears in her arms and legs. When she was done, she couldn't help but be surprised by the speed with which it had been accomplished, and her magical reserves were hardly taxed at all. Even given the baffling circumstances she found herself in, she smiled.
The sound of echoing footsteps coming down the corridor caught her attention and she scrambled to her cell's iron bars to catch a glimpse of the prison guard walking towards her.
"Hey," she called out as the shadow rounded the corner and came into view. "Where the hell am I? When do I get out of… here?" Her voice faltered when she realized what the man was wearing: medieval-style armour, a sword, and a spear.
The guard drew level with where she was leaning against the bars, his face equally surprised. "What are you doing awake? The healers said you wouldn't be conscious for another day or so."
"Yeah-huh, whatever." Jackie massaged her eyes to clear her vision, half-convinced that she was hallucinating this man was wearing metal armour. "Where am I, and where is my brother?"
"You're not in any position to be asking questions, girl," he snapped. Now over his surprise, his mood had soured.
"And yet, I am," Jackie responded with equal venom. "Now tell me where my brother is."
"Or you'll do what?"
Jackie glared at the guard, considering what to say. Of course, she could always just hex him into unconsciousness and blast the door off; there were no counter-spells on this room to prevent that. Unfortunately, it wasn't a very subtle method, and it might alert someone to her presence, and the threat she may present. She also wouldn't be able to find out where her brother was. "I'll sing," she threatened instead, a playful smile quirking into life.
The guard blinked at her. "You'll what?"
"You heard me," Jackie continued, her eyes brightening in amusement. "I'll sing… at the top of my lungs, very loudly, for several hours. I have a large variety of annoying show-tunes in my arsenal to choose from."
"I don't understand," the man took a step back, his brow wrinkling in confusion.
"Not much to understand," Jackie shrugged, arms crossing over her chest. "This is a very small, narrow space, and I have a very loud, carrying voice. I am also tone-deaf. You tell me where my brother is, or I swear to you, I will do my very best to make the rest of your shift the most unpleasant thing you have ever experienced in your entire life."
The guard opened his mouth to speak, but she cut him off, "Still don't get it? All right-y-then. Obviously, I'm going to have to be a bit more blunt about this. How about a demo? Off I go!" Jackie proceeded to launch into song, belting the words of 'Tomorrow' from the Broadway 'Annie' at the top of her lungs. She was normally a decent vocalist, but of course, as she almost screamed the words to the song, her voice cracked and squeaked at inopportune times, causing her to cringe when it forced her off-key. Her voice bounced and echoed off the tight corridors and tiny cells, adding to the horrible rising tide of noise.
The guard reacted the way anyone would, by covering his ears. But after five minutes of screeching, he lost his temper and kicked at the bars of the cell, forcing Jackie to jump back and cut off her song.
"All right, all right! I'll tell you where he is if you'll just shut up!" he yelled the offer through the bars, hands still over his ears. It wouldn't hurt to tell her. It's not like she could do anything about it. If it made her shut up it would be well worth it.
Jackie couldn't help but notice that he was now within reaching distance. "So?" she prompted, "Where is he?
"Upstairs, being interrogated by the Lord Inquisitors," the guard removed his hands from his ears and shivered. "I would not want to be in his position right now."
"Why?" Jackie's eyes narrowed. 'Inquisitor?' she thought. 'I don't like the sound of that.'
"He's been partaking of their particular brand of 'hospitality' for a little over four hours now," the guard said. "I'd be surprised if he was even still conscious by this point."
"You mean he's being tortured?" Jackie gasped. Her mind had suddenly gone blank, all plans vanishing in that instant.
"What else would I mean?"
Jackie reached out to grasp the bars for support. Her hand travelled to her mouth. She felt faint. "You're sure?"
"After the destruction wrought in the Inquisitor's private chapel, I would not be surprised. Word has it that they're more furious than anyone has ever seen them." The guard regarded her evenly. "I'm not sure what they plan to do with you. I suppose I should inform someone that you're awake."
Jackie gave him an absent nod. "Yes, you're right. You probably should, but sir," she looked up at him, her eyes almost pleading. "Thanks for your help."
The guard opened his mouth to speak but whatever he'd been about to say was choked off by the girl's hand lashing out from between the bars and grasping the lip of his breastplate. She hauled back as hard as she could, launching her weight back into the room and driving the guard's face into the bars. He collapsed to the ground with a broken nose and bruised forehead, unconscious.
Jackie's hands wrapped around the lock of the door, allowing her telekinesis to slowly flow into the metal, and turn the mechanism. She used the least amount of energy possible, ever mindful that it might attract the wrong individual's attention. As the door opened, it rolled the body of the guard onto his back, exposing a set of keys at his belt.
"Thank you very much for your help, sir," Jackie smirked, pocketing them before dragging the man into the cell she'd just escaped from and locking it shut behind her. She looked both ways down the corridor before choosing the direction the guard had come from. It seemed the safest best. She was rewarded with a spiralling set of stairs, a locked door standing at their head. She plunged a key into the lock and rushed through when it turned.
The door opened into a broad, empty corridor of cut stone, the far wall of which was lined with arrow-slit windows. Strangely, there were no guards in this passage. Jackie couldn't fathom what sort of prison would have such incompetent and lax security. Glancing outside the windows didn't help either. She could see a deep lake surrounding the foundations of the building, and beyond that, high rocks and forests. All of it was foreign to her. The distant trees were turning fiery red at the tips. It must have been the fall season here, because the warmth was starting to get to her. Jackie unzipped her thinsulate jacket and tied the arms around her waist. She turned down the corridor, taking in every detail about her. There was something so familiar about this place. Not that she had ever been there before, because of course she hadn't, but she was sure she must have seen it in a picture somewhere.
She was so caught up in looking at the tapestries lining the walls that she almost missed the echo of footfalls approaching. With little choice in the matter, Jackie reached for the nearest door, turning the handle and slipping inside. The tiny room was vacant, and the furniture was sparse, reminiscent of a monk's cell. In fact, other than the absence of chains hanging from the ceiling and its own lamp, it wasn't all that different in construction from her dark prison cell. One key difference caught her attention. Sitting on a small stand next to the bed was a pitcher of water, a washbasin, a cloth, and a towel. Jackie took a step towards it, glancing in the small mirror on the wall. One side of her cheek was coated in blood, and her hair was thick with it. Even with the danger looming so near, Jackie couldn't help herself. She dunked the washcloth in the water and began to wipe off as much of the blood as she could. If there was one thing the young Craft-user couldn't stand, it was being dirty. Once she'd removed as much of it from her hair as she could, she pulled it back up into a loose bun at the back of her neck. A chamber pot caught her eye from under the bed and she relieved the urge she'd been suppressing since she'd first awoken. She was beginning to feel considerably better by the time she pressed her back up against the door, listening to see if the inhabitants had passed by yet. Her efforts were rewarded with silence and she pushed the door open, glancing left and right carefully. Whoever they'd been, they were gone now. Jackie began to pick her way back down the hallway.
She made it ten feet down the hall when she noticed that there was a cross-passage up ahead. Two armoured guards stood at the entrance of this one, and Jackie chose to duck out of sight into a small alcove behind her, pausing to regroup her thoughts. Immediately across from where she stood, hanging proudly between two great panes of glass, was a tapestry that was hauntingly familiar. A large green eye was sitting on a blue-green field that made up the robe of a spear-bearing woman. Jackie's eyes narrowed in concentration. She knew that symbol from somewhere, but where? It wasn't the all-seeing eye, though it did bear a close resemblance. Despite the men standing guard nearby, Jackie wanted to growl in frustration. Why did she know that symbol?
The clank of armour caught her attention, and she watched in unease as the two men straightened up, saluting to a third, shorter, knight. Jackie pressed herself closer into the wall, hoping her presence would go unnoticed. The knight appeared confused as he walked towards her, glancing this way and that as if to take in his surroundings. It was strange behaviour to say the least, and Jackie was surprised the sentries had not noticed. Of course, as the knight passed by, his meanderings almost caused him to step on her feet. Jackie couldn't help but let out a short bark of surprise when he abruptly wheeled around to face her.
She couldn't see his face, but she could tell by the small jump he made that he was surprised to see her there. But instead of shouting, he pressed a finger to his mask for silence, and took her by the wrist. Jackie allowed herself to be pulled a safe distance down the hall until they were far out of hearing range of the sentries. Then the knight turned to her and lifted his helm.
"Becca?" Jackie gasped.
The other girl removed the metal helm and flashed a cheerful smile. "Hi Jackie. I didn't expect to see you here." Becca kept her voice very low, though it was pitched high with excitement. "Isn't this the coolest thing ever?"
"Huh?" Jackie grunted, her face blank.
"Haven't you realized yet?" Her smile grew almost painfully wide with exhilaration. She pointed out the window. "We're in Nosgoth."
"I don't follow."
Becca sighed in exasperation. "Nosgoth, like in the 'Legacy of Kain' games I lent you. You know, the Saraphan, Raziel, Kain, and vampires? Any of this ringing a bell?" She ran a gauntlet through her short black hair. "I don't know about you, but this is quite possibly the coolest dream I've ever had!"
"Dream?" Jackie parroted the word aloud, before the implications sunk in. She finally recalled where she'd seen the symbol on the tapestry. It was in the Saraphan Stronghold of the LoK games. "Have you been running around all this time thinking this was a dream?"
"Yeah…" Becca answered uneasily.
"For four whole hours?"
Becca seemed a little thrown off by the question. "How did you know I've been here four hours?"
"Never mind that," Jackie brushed away the subject. "We need someplace safe for this." With an exasperated sigh she took hold of her friend's hand and towed her to the room she'd cleaned up in. "This is better," she said, closing the door securely behind them. "Back to business. Where and how did you get here? I really need to know what happened."
"Umm…" Becca hesitated a little. "I don't know exactly. One minute I was paired up with the sempai because you were late for class, the next minute I'm lying in a pile of burnt wreckage staring up at a hole in the ceiling. I heard people yelling, so I slipped into a nearby suit of armour and blended in with the crowd of people that came to investigate. It was surprisingly easy. I guess I figured the sempai knocked me out and I was having a weird dream." Her eyes widened in realization. "I'm not dreaming, am I?"
Jackie swiftly repressed the urge to smack the girl. Logistically, unless you knew magic existed, it was the only rational conclusion a normal person could come to. "It would be a very vivid dream if you were, now wouldn't it?" Jackie said instead. "Now, I need you to pay very close attention. Did you notice anything strange about the floor where you woke up? Any markings or something like that?"
"Yeah…" Becca said slowly. "There were markings, burnt right into the floor. I can't tell you much because I really didn't get time to take a good look at them. What's that look for?"
Jackie wanted to scream. She evaded the question by pacing the few steps across the room to sit on the hard bed and buried her face in her hands. "I am going to kill my idiot brother at the first opportunity." She let out a calming breath. "Now I just have to figure out what to do to get us all back home."
"Your brother?" Becca repeated. "What does he have to do with this? Oh…" Becca grabbed her friend by the arm and knelt down to face her. "You know how we got here, don't you?"
Jackie couldn't help a cynical chuckle. "You think we just spontaneously appeared in Nosgoth? Becca, I know you're a tad obsessed with the whole LoK thing, but just how many fanfics do you read?"
Becca ignored the weak taunt, "What does your brother have to do with our appearing in Nosgoth?"
"It doesn't matter," Jackie dismissed her. Even given the exceptional circumstances, she just couldn't bring herself to tell her one and only friend what she really was. She just couldn't. "What I want to know is why we ended up here, of all places, and how in the hell you got dragged along with us?" She groaned and clutched her head as the answer struck her. "Oh god… the disk!"
"The disk: your fingerprints were probably on the game disc you lent me. The water for the focus landed on the surface of it, so that might explain how you got drawn here along with us. But why here? It's impossible. By rights, this place shouldn't even exist." Her head abruptly snapped up and she shot Becca a glance. "How did you figure out where we were so fast?"
Becca shrugged; startled by Jackie's extreme mood swings. "Too many fanfics I guess," she responded with a sheepish smile. Jackie had always seemed very even to her before now, if a tad isolated and a little too intelligent for her own good. But the girl she was seeing now was so intense she was almost scary. "Why won't you tell me what's going on, Jackie?"
"Because I don't know myself," Jackie snapped, though quietly.
"Come on Jackie," Becca encouraged, "You know me. I'm your friend. You can trust me. Just tell me what you do know then." It had been hard work becoming friends with Jackie. The girl was as wily and suspicious as a feral cat. Not that the effort hadn't been worth it. Jackie was just plain interesting to know. She was crazy-smart, and knew the strangest things. Every time Becca thought she'd figured her out, she would sink beneath a new layer of her personality. It had been six months before Jackie had even told Becca her brother's name, and that had been an accidental slip. She couldn't help but be excited, even more excited than she was about being in Nosgoth. Maybe this was the last layer; maybe she would finally get to meet the real Jackie.
Jackie ran a tired hand down her face. "Promise you won't hate me?" It was silly to put it off. She would have to tell Becca eventually, especially since she needed help finding Milo.
"How could I hate you?"
"Very well then… I-" Jackie's voice almost broke. "I… have magic powers."
"What kind of powers?" Becca asked without missing a step. "Witchcraft? Super-hero? Mutant? Demonic? Angelic? Do I have to beware a Sailor Moon style transformation? Come on Jackie; don't leave me hanging here. Details."
Jackie pulled away. "You're very accepting of all this."
"Hello," Becca laughed nervously, "We're in Nosgoth. At this point, nothing surprises me."
Jackie blinked at her friend for a few seconds before a small smile crept to her face. "I suppose 'witchcraft' would be the description you'd best understand," she disclosed nervously.
"Witchcraft huh?" Becca seemed to digest this information. "Wicca?"
"That's fake." Jackie made a face. "Well, not fake, but more like a religion. Not much actual magic in it."
"No," Jackie shook her head. "The true Druids died out. Besides, the style of Craft that my family practices is older, much older than that."
"It's a genetic thing," Becca observed. "How old?"
"I can trace my direct lineage back almost fifteen hundred years," Jackie admitted. There was a quiet pride in her words. "And I'm talking full documentation. My family keeps very careful records. Outside of records, our lineage goes back many centuries further."
Becca was impressed. "Wow… I'm not even sure what to say to that."
Jackie suddenly straightened up, glancing around her. She'd almost forgotten where they were. "We don't have much time for this. I've got to find my brother. So here's the quick synopsis. My extended family and I call ourselves 'Craft-users'. The details of our abilities are a little bit difficult to go into right now, but think 'Harry Potter' minus the wands, impossible animals, and the silliness, combined with the guy from the Dresden Files, but with a bit more kick. Yes, I read fantasy books. You can laugh at me later. To make a long story short, my brother, Milo, was practicing his teleportation techniques, and…" Jackie proceeded to launch into a quick and dirty description of the events that had led up to their mysterious appearance in the heretofore-fictional Nosgoth.
"So you got knocked out on re-entry? That's where all the blood's from?" Becca asked; pointing out the shallow bruises that Jackie hadn't bothered to repair.
"Yeah. I just woke up. The prison guard told me they were torturing my brother for messing up the ceiling, so we have got to find him soon. Problem is: I haven't got a clue where to start looking. I mean, we've both been here in the game, but real life has got to be a hell of a lot different. It's not like all the doors will be conveniently locked so we always know what direction to take. There's about six different directions we could go, and I haven't a clue which one is the right one."
"Oh well," Becca smiled. "We can figure it out, right? We're not completely helpless. You've got magic powers; I've got a black belt. We can't do too badly."
Jackie repressed the urge to hit her friend. "Becca, please tell me you are seriously not happy about being here."
"Becca," Jackie gathered her patience as she took a deep breath. "Becca, look at me. I know this is a weird situation and you're just trying to cope, but I need you to be thinking clearly. I don't have time to deal with an air-headed fan-girl, all right? Now listen. As far as we can tell, we are in ancient Nosgoth. The Saraphan are in power; we don't know which dynasty. They are crazy, sadistic, and they have armies and powerful magicks at their behest. It looks pretty nice outside, so it's safe to assume the corruption hasn't set in. There are vampires out there, and we are modern humans, two of which are female, and pink and fleshy. Those vampires will try to eat us no matter what we may think about them. We know the basic topography of the countryside, but not much more than that. I can barely pronounce the names of half the places located on the map. We have no weapons to defend ourselves with properly, and we know more about these people's lives and futures than we ought to. We may as well have a giant neon sign over our heads flashing 'Kill me!' to everybody we meet." As Jackie spoke, the excitement slowly bled from Becca's face and she began to look afraid as the implications sunk in. "Not only that, but if we do die here, we have a giant, soul-eating squid to look forward to. No light at the end of the tunnel for us. No welcoming arms of relatives. Right now, we are so royally screwed I can't even express how completely petrified I am. This is not some magical fantasy adventure, Becca. We need to find a way home, and we need to find it now!"
Becca ran a hand across her forehead. "You're quite the optimist, you know that?" She gave a shaky laugh. "So what should we do? Do you have a plan?"
"Well," Jackie said as she dug into her pocket. "We can use this to find my brother." She pulled out an amethyst teardrop pendulum from her pocket, "But I'm not sure how we're going to make our way through this place. How do we get past the guards?"
"I spent most of the morning staying out of the way and bluffing my way past," Becca confessed bleakly. "Sight-seeing, you know. It was kind of a stupid thing to do, now that I think about it. I'm amazed I wasn't caught. I suppose the only way we're going to get the both of us through is strong-arm tactics. I don't think we could pull off that whole 'prisoner' routine they do in movies all the time."
"Not with only the one 'guard', even if we did manage to dig up a pair of shackles," Jackie agreed. She peered down the hallway in the direction of the guards. "Are you sure we can out-muscle them? They look pretty big, and they're wearing armour."
"So am I." Becca wrapped on her breastplate.
"Yeah, but you don't have a sword or anything."
"Like that matters," Becca admonished her gently. "Surely you've been taking classes long enough to know better than that."
Jackie had the grace to blush. "Good point."
"Anyway, couldn't you just use magic on them or something? Knock them out or stun them."
"I could," Jackie considered it. "But it's not the best idea. Not only should I conserve my mana for a real emergency, but I might also trigger an alert. If this really is Nosgoth, chances are I'm not the only one with magic powers in the district. If I used my gifts in such a significant way, we might find a round dozen Saraphan sorcerers breathing down our necks for my troubles. I'm good, but I'm not that good."
Becca nodded absently. She wasn't sure she quite understood, but it was Jackie's area of expertise after all. "So the best bet is to just keep walking past them like we know where we're going, and if anybody tries to stop us we beat the crap out them. I like it. It's simple, and very Kain-esque. Very in flow with Nosgothic tradition."
Jackie smiled reluctantly. It was funny and ironic, but this just wasn't the time to be joking about it. "I'm going to use my pendulum now. Let me know if you see anybody coming. I need to concentrate." She removed a pin from the collar of her jacket and stuck it in the pad of her thumb, drawing blood. After smearing the blood on the amethyst, she dangled it above the palm of her other hand.
"I share the same blood as my brother, so this should help me attune to his wave-length," she explained, staring intently at the object. There was a breathless moment before the pendant began to move on its own accord, like the needle of a compass. It strained on its lead towards some place in the interior of the building, almost horizontal with Jackie's hand as it pulled the string tight. The result was undeniable, and there was no guesswork involved. Becca tried to contain her giggle of delight. It was her first time seeing real magic in action.
"Well, Milo seems to be on this floor," Jackie whispered, as she began to make her way carefully out of the room and back down the hall. "We'll have to move around to get a more accurate reading." She tucked the pendulum around her neck, where it fell quiet.
The guards didn't look up as Jackie and Becca neared. Becca had replaced her stolen helmet and was striding towards them confidently, Jackie trailing behind her, obscured from immediate sight. The pair had almost walked right past the sentries when one of the men suddenly noticed the young woman in the foreign clothes, covered in dried blood. Becca didn't hesitate, driving her armoured fist into the man's face. He went down before he could make a sound. Jackie had difficulty with the other man though. She managed to duck under his sword blow and punch him in the throat, cutting off any cry for help he might have made, but it was difficult to attack someone wearing a metal suit. Becca solved the problem by ripping a staff from a wall display and cracking him over the head with it.
"What I never understood," Becca panted, giving Jackie a shaky smile, "Is why they leave weapons all over the place. I mean, aren't you just arming potential invaders? What kind of totally brain-dead moron did the decorating in here?"
"Not sure," Jackie responded absently, removing her pendant to check their bearings. "I think we're going in the right direction. Let's keep on walking this way."
The two girls turned right and made their way down the door-lined corridor, trying their very best to be as quiet and inconspicuous as humanly possible. It was only when the pendant swung to point directly at a heavily armoured door that Jackie stopped, examining it. The walls were too thick to hear much of what was going on behind it, but if she concentrated, she was sure she could perceive the sound of men's voices, punctuated occasionally with a bitten-off cry of pain.
"I think this might be it." Jackie snapped the pendant back into her palm and pocketed it.
"How do you know for sure?" Becca asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
"It would stand to reason they would build their interrogation rooms near the prison facilities. It would be pretty impractical otherwise," Jackie explained. "But again, who said logic ruled this place."
"What do we do then?" Becca whispered back. "Do we just break in and hope for the best?"
"I don't think that's a good idea," Jackie shook her head. "They probably have it bolted shut from the inside, and even if they didn't, judging by the size of the room, they'd have more than enough time to kill Milo before we could get to him. We need a way to see what's going on inside. Follow me." She began to backtrack along the hall to the nearest door along the same wall. She pressed her ear to the portal before taking out the guard's keys and fiddling around with the lock. The fourth one turned the mechanism. From that point, Becca took over, pushing the door open a little and peeking inside. The room was empty and shrouded in a thick layer of shadows. Both teenage girls ducked into the room the moment they heard heavy footsteps beating off the marble floors, closing the door quietly behind them. Without the light from the hallway, they were plunged into complete blackness.
"Can you find a light? I can't see a thing in here," Becca said. She swore loudly when she stubbed her toe on something.
"Hang on a minute. I'm pretty sure I saw a lantern over in this direction. Let me see if I can find my matches. Damn it. I think I left them on the kitchen table. I'll have to try something else. Pyre-mi." There was a flare of light and a small halo of luminescence began to radiate from the corner of the room, growing in strength as Jackie fiddled with the wick of the oil lamp. "That's a little better. Now to see where we are."
"I wish I couldn't now," Becca gulped, pressing up against the nearest wall. They were standing in the centre of a disused torture chamber. Light poured over the hulking forms of fearsome-looking equipment stacked all about the room, the uses of which neither of the girls had enough imagination to fathom. The floors were gilded with dark stains, flecks of metal, and ashes. Jackie used her lantern to catch a torch aflame and pulled it from its wall-sconce to hand to Becca. Together, they conducted their cautious search of the classroom-sized chamber. There were three corpses still displaying the macabre uses of a few of the collection of apparatuses, and a sizable pile of ashes was swept into one corner.
Drawn by a morbid, undeniable curiosity, Becca leaned in closer to study one. "Jackie, I think these might be vampires in here. See, this one's got the tri-claws and everything." She bent forward to study the face, trying to discern the telling signs of Nosgothic vampirism hidden beneath darkened lips and milky eyelids.
"Becca," Jackie admonished her severely, "Are you some kind of brainless twit? Get the hell away from there! You don't even know if it's dead yet!"
"It looks pretty dead to me." She couldn't hear a heartbeat, and it hadn't moved at all since she'd first seen it, not even to take a breath.
"Yeah," Jackie responded, "But if I remember correctly, their bodies burn up into ash when they die. He still looks reasonably intact to me."
"That's true," Becca agreed, and as she went to pull away, the corpse came alive, hissing furiously in her face. She yelped in surprise and jumped backwards, her feet almost coming out from under her. The male vampire continued to display its fury, snapping its sharp white teeth and its talons clenched futilely at the air. The rack it was pinned to with iron spikes and lengths of rope groaned under the force of its mad rage, though the ancient machine did not give way. Blood leached in rivulets to the floor when it tore at its wounds in its efforts to break free and attack the armoured figure.
Becca stared at it a moment before bursting out into frantic nervous laughter. "Sweet Jesus! You scared me, dude! I'd cool it if I were you though. You're just wasting energy on me. I've got nothing to do with your being here," she informed him, turning to join her friend at the other side of the room. Jackie was too focused now to pay attention to anything but the wall standing between her and her brother.
The yellow eyes of the vampire narrowed before widening in understanding. It ceased thrashing and sheathed its fangs as it eyed the two girls in a considering manner. Though Becca was wearing the armour of a Saraphan knight, it knew that no woman had ever been allowed to enter the ranks of the holy priesthood in that capacity. It didn't even recognize the clothes the other girl was wearing.
"Who are you and what do you seek in this place?" it called out after them. Its voice was hoarse and dry from hunger, though there was no mistaking the haughty commanding tone it spoke with.
"Ignore it," Jackie instructed without preamble. She was digging around in the pockets of her jacket. "We're on a tight enough schedule as it is. There's no time to waste chatting up the natives." She spared the vampire the briefest glance. "No offence intended." A piece of chalk was removed from her pocket and she began to scrawl on the wall. First she sketched a long rectangle, and then a series of repeating symbols around its perimeter.
"What are you doing?" Becca asked.
"Making a window." Second and third rows of symbols were added to the corners of the rough rectangle. "I'm just trying to make sure it goes undetected."
"How does it work?"
"Watch." Jackie stood up and dusted her hands off, dropping the tiny nub of chalk back into her coat. "Commence!" she commanded the markings. The symbols flared to life, the white outline glowing bright blue before turning transparent and expanding to fill in its centre. As the radiance faded, the square became more and more transparent, revealing the scene that was taking place behind the wall, like the smooth screen of a television.
Becca whistled, suitably impressed. But her delight rapidly faded to match Jackie's expression of absolute horror. It looked like a video clip straight from the game. Milo was strapped to a device much like the one the vampire was pinned to, a short wooden cross, minus the iron spikes. Nearby, a basin full of blazing coals smoked, several metal instruments sitting along its perimeter in order to reheat. The room was smaller than this one, and besides Milo, five other men were standing inside it, and none of them were prisoners. Of the five men in the room, three had black hair that at least touched their shoulders, one had a shaven pate, and the last had short red hair. A chair had been placed in front of the weary boy, and one of the men in familiar elaborate armour sat there, talking to him softly. Milo was not in good condition. His head hung low on his chest, and blood streaked the scraps that remained of his clothing. Several fingers were bent out of joint, and his lip was split and swollen, in addition to the pre-existing burns on his right hand. He appeared to be in fine enough spirits given the situation though, trying to glower at his captors while blinking away blood from a cut over his eye at the same time.
The surface of the magical window rippled and the spell was completed, sound from the room beyond filtering passed.
"Now, boy, I'll ask you one last time," the man with the red cape growled softly at the bound youth. "Whom do you serve, and what is your purpose here in our realm?"
"And I'll tell you one last time," Milo snapped, not intimidated by the man's tone of finality. "My name is Milo Hemet. I'm a sixteen-year old attending a public high school in the city of Toronto, in the province of Ontario, in the free and democratic nation of Canada. I'm practising to become a certified Craft-user among the North American chapter of the Greenwood Coven, and maybe I'll get a job in veterinary medicine once I'm done school if my marks are high enough. I like pizza on Friday nights, volunteering at the animal shelter, and taking long walks in the park after school. My parents' names are Shirley and Martin Hemet; my sister is Jacqueline, AKA Jackie, and she is two years older than me. We are not in the current employ of anybody, my parent's own their own small business, and people don't exactly do the whole 'service' thing where I come from. As for our purpose here, there isn't one. I strong-armed my sister into helping me practice my teleportation techniques, and I messed up rather badly. It was entirely accidental, and to be perfectly frank sir, I've never even heard of Nosgoth before this little 'detour'. If I had any idea where I was I'd have headed for the nearest border by now and reported your dumb-ass primeval government for human rights violations! You lot do realize that you are currently participating in the detention and assault of a minor, right?"
The orange-haired man seated directly in front of Milo wore a teal cloak, and he leaned back in the chair, sighing in frustration.
"Brother Raziel," he said to the one in red. "This is pointless. He is not changing his story, and he appears to be genuine in his ignorance. There is a distinct possibility that he is relating the truth as he knows it."
"Are you going soft, Zephon?" the one known as Brother Raziel sneered.
"No," the silver cloaked man answered with a cold imperious glare to his fellow inquisitor, "I am merely imparting my professional opinion. It is my personal experience that children do not possess the mental discipline and knowledge required to resist torture and interrogation, and no decent parent would attempt to harden their children against such things."
"His personal what! He's tortured kids before?" Becca gasped in revulsion.
The other Saraphan did not seem alarmed by this revelation.
"Does this mean you're going to let me go now?" Milo inquired cautiously. "Cause I'd kind of prefer if you got around to getting me off this thing sooner rather than later. It's kind of painful."
"No my boy," the red-head leaned forward to give Milo a comforting pat on the shoulder. "I'm afraid this conversation has only just begun. There are still a few other matters I wish to discuss."
"That..." Milo watched wide-eyed as the inquisitor accepted a burning brand from one of the onlookers. He gulped. "That sucks."
"Now," Zephon paused to examine the glowing tip of the metal rod, "We are going to discuss what happened in the chapel today. Would you like to start?"
Milo tugged at his chains as he eyed the red-hot piece of metal nervously. "To be honest sir," he piped up. "That's a pretty broad subject. Maybe we should narrow the topic list down. To begin with do you want to discuss my brand of magic, why it's so much better than yours, why my magic over-reacted, or why you lot couldn't seem to sense it at all?"
Jackie gasped, mouth dropping open in disbelief. What had her brother just said?
The inquisitor frowned, lips drawing into a tight line. His hand darted forward, giving the teenager little chance to brace himself. The circle of metal pressed into his collar bone, and the boy screamed as his flesh burned.
Behind the wall, looking through her magical window, Jackie turned and retched. Becca froze a moment, before rushing to her friend's aide. Her hands were shoved away. Jackie pulled herself upright before pushing away from the window and kicking over a piece of torture equipment to send it flying across the room. The piece of chalk was back in her hand as she began to scrawl a circle in the cleared space.
"Jackie?" Becca inquired cautiously, trying to shake the nausea she too was experiencing. "What are you doing?"
Jackie looked up and growled. Becca took a cautious step back as her friend's irises began to glow with power. "I'm getting my brother the fuck out of there."
Becca nodded and fell silent; watching as the older girl furiously scratched a pattern out on the blood-soaked floor. 'Okay,' she thought as she fought to ignore the screams coming from the other room. 'This is officially not fun anymore.'