Thanks for the sweet reviews. Glad to see I still have a few readers on board.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I may be going back to edit this story. It's taken me years to get this far and I've re-read this a few times and cringed somewhat. Some scenes may change or be removed completely but more or less, I hope it'll be read as an improvement.
Chapter 39 – Revelations
Madame Marian's Antiques was closed and locked tight. The curtains were drawn shut over the window display and there wasn't a soul in sight. Rogue knocked several times, called politely to the elderly woman but to no avail. Finally, Remy gently pushed her aside and knelt before the door. He pulled out his standard issue case of lock picking tools and was to begin work on the many different locks the lined the door. Rogue gave no attention to the few uneasy (or in Cyclops' case, disapproving) looks of her not so impressed teammates. Instead, she pushed the door open as soon as he unlocked it and stepped inside. The team followed and quickly made their way about the shop in search of anything map-like or tell-tale that could aid them. The team had gone about their ways silently for a few minutes until a sudden crash and yelp set them reeling in alarm. Kitty carefully stood back from the display of decidedly ancient china tea pots. One of which, she had rendered to pieces on the floor. She managed a meek smile as the team dispersed again.
"Are you, like, sure we should be doing this? I mean, what if she just stepped out, like, to get some lunch or something and then she comes back and sees us- dressed up like, well, costumed heroes, rifling through her stuff and, like, totally freaks out? We could give her a heart attack!"
Remy gave a low chuckle as he carefully turned over Madam Marian's neat pile of bills on a small coffee table behind the work till.
"Remy t'inks we will be safe from causing any heart damage t' de Madame ma petite."
Kitty's face furrowed in a bemused frown.
"How do you know that?"
Remy smirked as he held up a few unopened letters for her to see.
"A shop owner dat doesn't open her electrical bill? Remy's guess is dat she must 'ave flown de coupe maybe a week ago non?"
Rogue eyed the unopened stash of mail with a quizzical expression.
"It's been just over a week since we found Adelie. It don't seem raght that she would take off so soon after that."
She trailed a finger over the surface of a table top only to watch a thin veil of dust smudge under her fingertip.
"Remy gets de feeling dat dis Madame Marian knew more dan she was letting on non?"
Remy rested a hand against Rogue's back as he spoke. Rogue took the hint to explain her run-in with the elderly woman. She finished on a considering note.
"And ah think she understated herself when she said tea leaf readin' was a hobby of hers."
Kitty's eyes widened with interest.
"You think she's a witch too?"
"She would have t' beh. She knew too much t' jus' beh a coincidental spectator-"
Rogue felt the key Marian had given her burn in her coat pocket as realisation dawned on her. She had forgotten it was still there until that moment. Immediately, she pulled it from her pocket and eyed it considerably. When she found there wasn't anything very distinct about it except for the aged style, she held it out for Remy to inspect.
"Okay Prince of Thieves, what kinda lock would this key be lahkly t' fit?"
Remy took the key and eyed it with great scrutiny for a moment before replying.
"It could open anyt'ing from a jewellery box t' a small cabinet chére."
Kurt gave an exasperated groan.
"Well zhat narrows it down t' just about everything in zhis shop!"
Nevertheless, with the new clue in hand, the team spread out about the shop and ventured to the upstairs parts of the shop in search of anything that might fit the key. Rogue was attempting to fit the key in a few of the till drawers with no results when she felt Jean's familiar telepathic nudge. 'I think I found something you should see. Upstairs.' Rogue and Remy rushed up the stairs to the narrow space of a corridor to find Jean standing at the end, pointing to an ornate looking painting that was practically crammed between the two opposing walls. Rogue's mouth fell open in a gasp.
"That's the castle Adelie saw. Ah'm sure of it…"
Jean smiled hopefully as she stepped aside for them to see. The painting was as tall as it was old. It looked at least a couple of hundred years old but the paint seemed in mint condition. It was exactly how Rogue had seen it through Adelie's eyes, brick for brick. The lake was visible in the painting and the surrounding thickness of forest land. Rogue fingered the edge of the painting for a name only to sigh with exasperation.
"There's nothin' t' say where it is. Don't these damned things have official titles?"
Remy nodded in agreement.
"Dey do mais maybe de name was changed after dis painting was made non?"
Rogue practically clawed at her own scalp as she ran her fingers through her hair in frustration.
"We are so close! Ah can feel it in mah skin an' we're stuck on a name!"
While Remy rest a comforting hand on her shoulder and Jean gave a sympathetic look, Rogue's gaze somehow managed to land on the edge of the ornate looking frame of the painting. Many organic curves and grooves clustered around the frame edge only to curve into a heavy circular shape at the centre. There was a small, almost invisible indent that was just visible in the dimmed lighting. Rogue reached out and ran a shaky finger over the indent only to gasp in surprise to find it was a key hole. Rogue forced the key into the hole without a second thought. With the turn of the key, there was audible click and the disguised door swung open with a gentle pull. Rogue heaved a sigh of relief.
"That's what it was for…"
She pulled the door wide open and reached into what appeared to be an old safe hiding compartment. Her hand closed over a large scroll of what Rogue assumed was a map to the castle. They wasted no time in taking it back downstairs and unfolding it on a vacant table top. It looked about as ancient as the castle itself; everything was hand-drawn in ink and any names that were named were written in French. Naturally, Remy became their translator and after a moment of trailing a finger over the many landmarks, he landed on a familiar looking point. He clicked his tongue as he read the artfully written title above the tell-tale castle landmark.
"Château de la Mort…"
Rogue felt the tremor in Remy's voice as he whispered the name a few more times. Rogue clutched his shoulder in a mixed need for comfort and stability. The sudden lull in exertions had brought back a trickle of the exhaustion she had until then been able to supress. She pushed it back when Remy began to roll the map up again.
"We should be able t' get dere on foot wit'out drawin' too much attention mais it's got t' be a few hours either way."
"Like, why can't we take the blackbird? If we land somewhere close that's hidden, shouldn't we be fine?"
Logan gave a grunt of disapproval and shook his head.
"We'd still draw attention Half Pint. The Blackbird isn't subtle and we don't know if they'll be watchin' the area. Better to go on foot. We'll have some stealth on our side."
Scott nodded in approval.
"Logan's right. But we need a strategy for once we get into the castle."
Jean looked doubtful as she countered her husband's orders.
"We'll be going in blind anyway Scott. We don't know the layout-"
"Pardon Madame Summer mais y' might want t' retract dat statement."
Like the thief he was, Remy artfully picked at the edges of the frayed map and pulled a second scroll away from the first. He laid it out over the map, revealing a detailed layout of the Castle's many rooms. He grinned.
"What strategy did y' have in mind Monsieur Summers?"
Scott actually smiled.
In one of the many rooms of Château de la Mort Adelie woke with a start and groaned when she tried to sit up. Her head blared with a dull ache. She subconsciously began to rub her left arm only to wince when her fingers ran over what appeared to be a small needle mark on her upper arm.
"Oh mon Dieu what happened dis time…"
"I apologize my dear. But it was necessary. We needed to make sure you wouldn't teleport out of here in any hurry."
Adelie jumped at the familiar voice. Mystique sat in an ornate looking chair by the only window in the room, looking positively regal. Adelie's eyes darted about the room only to realise that she must be in one of the rooms of the castle. A cold chill began to run up her spine as the cold of the room set in. Though the room was filled with a few tapestries on the walls and a fire crackled happily in the fireplace, the cold black stone walls still managed to drain any warmth. Adelie cursed herself for not thinking to grab her jacket when they left.
As if sensing her discomfort, Mystique stood and took the rug that was draped over the back of the chair and made to put it around her trembling shoulders. Adelie flinched but did not move away. She was surprised when Mystique took every care to be gentle as she wrapped the warm rug around her.
"There. Is that better?"
Adelie nodded. It was a little better. Satisfied with her answer, Mystique returned to her seat and continued in silence as she stared back at her. Adelie took the moment to observe her grandmother, properly taking in her unusual appearance. Somehow the title of Grandmother didn't fit but the thought was there. This was her real grandmother. The one she had never met but had been warned against since she could remember. She had a grandmother back home. Though she called her 'Tante' rather than 'Grand-mère,' Tante Mattie was everything she could want in a Grandmother so there had never been much desire for her to know Grand-mère Raven. But even with that fulfilment of grandmotherly care and her parents insistence that Mystique was not worth the effort to know, there was always a part of her that was curious to see what was so terrible about her. And now here she was, her eyes glowing in the mild lighting and her dark navy skin unhindered by her latest disguise.
"What… what's gonna happen t' meh Gr- Grand-mère?"
Mystique turned with a stunned look at the title. Adelie had seen little more than a scowl or a sly smile across the woman's face so it caught her off guard. Mystique opened her mouth a few times but couldn't seem to latch onto the right words to start. Finally, that scowl returned and Mystique stood up. The tenderness she had shown her not a few minutes ago seemed like a child's dream now as Mystique turned her back and faced the window. Her voice was cold.
"You'll see soon enough Adelie."
There was an uncomfortable pause before Adelie braved to speak again.
"Are…are y' going t' hurt moi?"
Mystique didn't turn away from the window. It took a while but she replied eventually. Her voice was low and serious.
"You will be required to…to do as you are told when you meet him. If you don't, you will face serious consequences. He will not be tolerant just because you are a child Adelie."
Adelie's gaze fell to the floor. A tremor of fright began to find its way to her bones but she clenched her fists against her bent knees in protest. She didn't want to be the frightened little girl anymore but it was hard. She couldn't use her witch powers properly when she was frightened. Her mutant powers weren't working because of the drug they had been injected into her arm. How was she going to get out-
Adelie jolted out of her panicked thoughts. Mystique was kneeling in front of her, her hand clasped gently over one of her trembling hands. Adelie swallowed quietly as she took the courage to look up, only to be surprised by the warm pair of yellow eyes that stared back. It was the first time Adelie felt safe under her grandmother's gaze. Gently, Mystique reached out with her other hand and cupped the side of her face. Adelie was surprised by how gentle her touch was. All those years of her mother warning her to guard herself against her grandmother seemed to fall on deaf ears suddenly. Adelie didn't quite know what to do. Luckily however, Mystique was finally able to speak. But it wasn't Mystique talking. This woman's voice was near-cracked with emotion, with almost untethered anxiety.
"Adelie I- I cannot begin to explain what is going on at the moment. And I know your parents have given you every reason to distrust me and- and I don't blame them for guarding you. But you must trust me when I say that I will do everything to protect you. You have to be careful now."
Adelie felt the panic she had momentarily forgotten return in full swing. She gulped it down as words stuttered from her lips. Raven didn't let go of her as she began to shake involuntarily from the panic in her chest.
"What-what do y' mean? Ah- ah don't understand Grand-mère-"
The sound of heavy footsteps drawing close from outside made them both jump. Adelie felt her heart lodge in her throat as it beat at a frantic pace. She knew if her powers weren't in check, the whole room would be rattling with her fright. Raven grasped her face between her slender hands. Her warm, golden eyes seemed to glow as she managed a shaky smile. Adelie found herself clinging to her Grandmother's arms for fear of being lost to fear.
"You will. You have to be brave now dear. For all of us. Don't let-"
The door flung open before Raven could finish her sentence. Adelie felt Raven remove herself from her arms and stand in a smooth movement before the intruder stepped into the room. The Monster stood smirking in the doorway, growling with unchecked amusement. Adelie had no doubt Sabretooth could smell the fear radiating off her as his cold, yellow gaze shift to meet hers.
"He wants t' see her now."
Don't hate me for the cliff hanger. Couldn't be avoided I'm afraid ;)