La Dolce Vita
K is for Kin
Some friends play at friendship, but a true friend sticks closer than one's nearest kin.
Phobos had been cruel to a fault when Cedric returned without the Earth girl. He had screamed until he made himself sick, but before the apothecary could take him away, he'd whipped Cedric's back until it had split open, red and yielding – only then was he satisfied.
"Do you realise," he had screamed, as the blood tainted his lips ruby red and the medicines decayed his breath, "that I am a desperate man, Cedric?"
He wanted to speak up, to defend himself, but as his master had not commanded him to speak – he could not. "I am dying!" Phobos spat, and for the first time the hurt of that statement permeated his face and words, "dying! And she –" he pointed towards the west wing, where his sister was kept, "her blood, is the only thing that can save me!"
He knew! Really, was he not the one who had brought him countless girls for months so that he could experiment? Had he not brought him his sister? Cedric tried to shift, but his back stung, these wounds would take weeks to heal – not to mention the damage done to his body by the blasted guardians. He was in pain, dammit –
"Surely, you must know that if I die, you will die."
"Answer me Cedric!"
There was silence then. Phobos' rage seemed to have dissipated slightly, either that or the drugs had finally taken effect. "I trust then, that you will not disobey me again."
Phobos turned and hurried towards his chambers – it would be a difficult night for his illness. He was already growing weaker with every passing day, and the emotional exertion had not helped in the least. Phobos had not heard it, indeed, it was just the smallest of whispers hissed with the slightest breath through nearly sealed lips. "No, master."
Will's week was already off to a God-awful start. Mondays weren't known for their ability to spread good cheer in the first place but since hers started off with a more than awkward meeting with Principal Knickerbocker, Cornelia and Cornelia's mom. Really, it seemed likely like the whole week was shot to shit.
Will had been suspended for a week because of the fight, not that it mattered since the "mysterious fire" at the school's auditorium meant that school was cancelled for the week. Several civil engineers had been brought in by the Mayor from Raleigh to figure out just what had started the fire that blew a giant hole in the side of the school wall and bent the pipes in the ceiling. Two days later and they still were stumped.
This morning's meeting had brought a great deal of yelling from Mrs. Hale, who'd demanded that Will be expelled. Susan hadn't bothered to respond – she'd never been to a PTA meeting, much less a meeting with the principal. It was likely that Susan was just out of sorts.
Cornelia hadn't looked at Will, and she had only replied in a short, clipped tone when Mrs. Knickerbocker asked her questions directly. The meeting lasted a full hour more than it had been scheduled to, and when Will finally escaped, it was almost a relief to get to the Silver Dragon.
"Will, it's time we had a talk."
Down in the basement, it was a damn ambush. Yan Lin was to the front, flanked by Hay Lin and Irma, who both had their arms folded across their chests as though this was the damn Mafia. Will rolled her eyes, "really? Did the health inspector find spores again?"
"What do you know about spores? That was not mould, it was shiitake!" The older Lin hissed, but soon recognised the change in conversation for what it was: a distraction. "Never mind that! Since when can you absorb energy? And what does Irma mean when she says you were talking to yourself?"
Will shrugged and tried to move across the tiny room that forever reeked of sulphur even weeks after spells had been cast. "Why don't you ask Irma? Since she likes to talk so damn much."
"Dammit Will! Are you still hearing Nerissa?"
Will frowned, she hadn't wanted the others to know about her ongoing problems with Nerissa. It was hard to listen to someone who heard voices. Especially when those voices belonged to convicted murderers. "It is not an ongoing thing." Will lied, "I heard her on Friday during the battle."
"What did she say?" Hay Lin asked, while Irma looked sheepish.
"She told me I could absorb Cedric's energy. She … told me how to do it."
"And you listened to her?"
"Well duh, Yan Lin, since the giant snake was trying to eat me at the time!"
Yan Lin raised both her hands into the air and mumbled something about her blood pressure. The thought of her possible collapse frightened no one, it'd take at least a dozen strokes to do any damage to that old tanker. "Hay Lin said you almost died."
"Hay Lin exaggerates."
"Nuh uh Nana, she was really messed up. She couldn't even stand after. I had to take her home."
"I have a confession!" Irma blurted out. Three pairs of eyes finally landed on the brunette, who looked positively green and sweaty. "I … also kinda did something I wasn't supposed to. Not as bad as Will … but ..."
"Spit it out!" Yan Lin snapped.
"I tried to do a spell so I could talk to my mom on Halloween." Yan Lin placed her face in her hands but Irma didn't stop talking, "it worked. Well, I dunno, I know you said that whatever I saw wasn't my mom, but it looked like her and it spoke to me."
"The demon spoke?" Yan Lin narrowed her eyes. "What did it say to you?"
"It told me … danger, Nerissa."
There was silence then. Will felt an ice cold shiver slip down her back.
"Why didn't you tell me this before!"
"I told Hay Lin!" The Asian teen squeaked in outrage, but didn't defend herself. "And we thought Will had stopped hearing her – so I figured it didn't matter."
"Dammit." for a second, Yan Lin looked just as old as she birth certificate said she was. She sat on a wooden stool in her basement, staring blankly at the jars on the wall before she could speak, minutes after. "You girls go train or something. I have to think."
No one argued.
The three had another fight upstairs as they debated whether or not to tell Cornelia about training. Naturally, Will and Irma were quite content to let the blonde go about her business, but Hay Lin, poor soft hearted Hay Lin, was adamant that the earth guardian should come along.
They made her call, and to everyone's surprise, she agreed to come along.
"Probably wants to see Caleb." Irma muttered, "Hay Lin told me she was falling all over him on Friday night."
"No shit, we knocked her out remember." But the thought had already turned Will's stomach.
"You knocked her out. I watched." Irma argued, and then lowered her voice as she warned,"She's gonna be pissed."
"She's always pissed."
Cornelia arrived, almost on time, dressed in an immaculate red coat and matching beret. She didn't seem upset, merely cold, which was (honestly) a step up from her consistent complaints and suggestions. To Will, this was too suspicious.
"You're not planning to run away and fight Phobos by yourself are you?"
Will didn't believe her. "You're not planning to knock me out again, are you?" The sweet, cold sarcasm jolted Will out of thoughts on that exact topic.
"Nope." The redhead said, but was certain that Cornelia didn't trust her either.
Yan Lin had bitten the bullet, swallowed her pride and shelved her disdain long enough to walk over to the Cook house in the bitter November wind. Taranee, notably upset by her presence, had listened to everything she'd said and promised to help (even if it was just to get her to leave). Ideally, it would have been best to speak with Halinor herself.
Perhaps the old bitch wasn't so far up the Oracle's ass to remember just how terrible Nerissa had been. Yan Lin felt helpless, and that sensation was made worse by a feeling of foreboding that she simply could not escape.
She says she's pregnant. I'm a nurse, I can help her." Cassidy's bright brown eyes were crinkled with worry, she pushed a few stray auburn curls behind her ear and bit her lip. She'd come to the Lin's restaurant for advice – and because she'd wanted someone to talk to.
"Cassidy – don't go to her, you know she can't be trusted." Yan Lin looked up from the pile of dirty dishes and wiped her hands on the plaid apron tied about her waist.
"I know but … oh gosh Yan, if she is pregnant … how's she gonna support that kid? I doubt she even knows who the Daddy is."That was the problem with Cassidy. She worried too much. Cared too much.
"If she had the sense to spread her legs for him, she shouldda had the sense to ask his name," her friend replied. Yan Lin had kept her tone light, but in truth she was terrified of the prospect that Nerissa had returned. She was supposed to have gone to Fadden Hills. Why was she back?
"Yan Lin … don't be like that."
"Cassidy, I ain't messing around. Don't go to Nerissa."
It wasn't until she'd received the news that Cassidy had been hacked to death that she realised her friend hadn't listened.
Caleb had not met with the girls when they arrived in Meridian – a first for him, since he was seemingly always ready to chastise Will on how late they were. Instead, Aldarn, Caleb's friend with thick green skin, greeted them after they emerged from the portal.
"I saw you on my way to the hideout." He offered them a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes, "Caleb is in a meeting. I don't think he'll have time to play with you on this day."
"Play?" Irma sounded offended, but really, none of them were particularly affected by the jab. The guardians who couldn't fight properly and who were still not ready to defeat the tyrant king, were not very popular among the rebels.
"It's ok Aldarn," Will hated playing diplomat. It wasn't a natural role for her to fall into. "We can just train outside, by ourselves."
"Who's he meeting with?" Cornelia asked, and to their surprise, Aldarn actually replied. "Our spies have returned from the North. Finally, Caleb plans to lead us into battle."
"What?" There were four voices asking that particular question.
"We plan to attack Phobos in less than a fortnight." Now, when Aldarn smiled, there was a genuine glimmer of happiness in his bright gold eyes.
"But I thought Caleb said the rebels weren't ready." Hay Lin's voice sounded frightened. It wasn't just Caleb's opinion. It was a fact. They weren't ready. They didn't have enough weapons – enough soldiers … What was Caleb thinking?
"We've always been ready lass. Caleb has just been holding us back with his fretting. He sees sense now. We will strike upon the next moon cycle."
Tonight, Elyon waited with her back to the moonscape for her brother. Her eyes, already wide and baby blue, were large and fixed on the heavy wooden door. The minutes dragged on, endlessly it seemed – had anything ever taken so long?
And then he was there, pushing open the heavy door while dressed in his immaculate white robes. Her eyes darted upward to his shoulders and then her stomach sank. If she were being honest with herself, she'd have to admit that it was her friend she'd been most hoping to see.
"B-Brother … w-where ..."
"Hush," He crossed the room quickly and then gathered her into his arms. She felt the awkward protrusion of his stubborn bones against her face as he pressed his chest against her. "She refused to come, my child."
"W-What … w-why … d-did ..." Her stutter had become so bad that speech was now impossible.
"She said she did not care to come, despite how much you wished to see her."
"T-That … N-No, Cornelia wouldn't … I-I should go t-to h-her. S-She'll come i-if she s-s-sees me."
"I assure you Princess, my men did everything in their power to persuade her. She had another engagement … a ball of sorts."
"H-Homecoming." Elyon mumbled, and her heart fell. She knew that her and Cornelia's friendship was not what it once was, but still, would she deny her friend a visit?
"Perhaps she is jealous of your crown. Earth people are very fickle."
Elyon nodded, tears already stinging her eyes. "I … I w-want t-to be a-alone brother. T-Thank you."
Quietly, Phobos bowed and left.
That night Elyon hardly slept. She stared at the unfaltering twin moons in her large canopy bed for hours, dealing with the sting of her broken heart.
The Guardians won no favour with the rebels when they barged in on the council's meeting. Many of the elders, all men, actually swore when they saw the four girls trampling in on scared territory. It was Caleb's room, although the rebel's location had changed his Spartan sense of style had not.
"What do you mean you're attacking Phobos?" Irma started, her hands were on her hips and with her over-endowed figure, she did favour a clucking mother hen. "You can't, you'll get yourself killed."
Caleb, who was seated on the floor around a table with the other men, got to his feet slowly while rubbing his eyes with his fingers. He was undoubtedly upset that they'd barged in here. He frowned at Will as though that were her fault, but when he spoke, it was with a resigned calm. "Who told you this?"
"Aldarn," Irma snapped and then launched into another rant about how Caleb would be killed. Cornelia was strangely quiet, and Hay Lin looked frightened, Will was thoughtful.
"It is amazing that Aldarn lasted so long as a spy." One of the men at the table chuckled, "when he cannot keep his blasted mouth shut." The others joined in a chorus of tight laughter.
"This is not your decision to make." Caleb explained in a low voice. "I do not meddle in your guardian affairs."
"That's not true." Will said, staring right into his green eyes, "you're always telling us –"
"The point is. This is my decision to make. I have already made it. Now, leave. You have offended the council by coming in here uninvited."
He stared at them, waiting for them to slink away, but Earth girls (he'd noticed) were hard headed. "Do you have enough swords?" Will asked, feigning nonchalance.
"They don't," Hay Lin shook her head, her lips trembled. "Most of your rebels are just little children! They can't – Cedric will kill them!"
"Silly women!" The conversation was interrupted when one of the bulkier green skinned men got to his feet.
"Valthek, stay your temper. They are not familiar with our customs." Caleb stated.
"This is no place for girls. What do women know of battle? Let them leave Caleb, or are you so soft that even women can trod all over you."
Irma moved as though she wanted to slap the man, but Will held her back. Frowning, and with two other outraged guardians on her heels, she left Caleb's room. Cornelia, still silent, followed with her arms folded across her chest.
"I can't believe this!" Irma ranted when they were herded outside onto the grassy plains behind the rebel's towering wooden hideaway. The gigantic walls around the structure had finally been completed and covered with moss, so that the entire structure looked like a misshapen mountain unless you were very close. "We have to help!" Hay Lin agreed, "they'll die without us."
"I think the other rebels are pushing Caleb into this. He ain't so dumb as to go after Cedric when he doesn't even have a real army." Irma had started pacing.
"Well, at least he's doing something." Cornelia mumbled, but in the quiet of the night, her voice was like a gunshot. "We're just standing still, watching Meridian fall apart."
The others studied her for a moment. Finally, Hay Lin asked Will in a steady voice. "What are we gonna do?"
For the first time, three pairs of eyes watched her for an answer. Will realised, with a shock, that they'd listen to her. They'd follow her if she asked them to. "We aren't gonna let the rebels get themselves killed."
Cornelia rolled her eyes, but remained quiet.
"We'll attack Phobos first, before they can. Caleb must be planning the attack now because he knows they at least have a chance. If they stand a chance then there's no doubt in my mind that we can beat him."
That was not entirely true, but Will had learned that bravado was your best friend when in charge.
"Are you sure?" Irma asked.
"We'll have to train a little harder these next few days – but yeah – I mean, we're the guardians. This is our job." Will swallowed, her throat was dry.
"What about … you know ..." Hay Lin pointed towards the sky. Will caught the meaning. Nerissa.
"I'm fine. I mean, it's not like she's controlling my body or anything. I can handle her. Seriously."
It was (surprisingly) Cornelia who finally lightened the mood. "I'm glad we've finally grown some balls! Who wants to spar with me?"
"I'll come Corndog," Irma groaned, "I'm used to your tricks."
"We can't tell Caleb about this guys." Hay Lin warned. "He won't like this."
"Duh." Cornelia grinned, "besides, I'd never send a man to do a woman's job."
It was early in the morning when Halinor finally responded to Taranee's call. Taranee was used to the arbitrary communication. She'd figured it was either a time difference or scheduling thing – or the former Fire Guardian just didn't really give a shit about Taranee's concerns.
"What is it?" The first dozen times Halinor had appeared at the foot of her bed in the middle of the night, had scared the living daylights out of Taranee. She was so white, so pale and perfect, she looked like a phantom.
Now, although her heart raced from the apparition, it wasn't really from fear. Taranee sat up in her bed, replaced her glasses and explained, "Yan Lin says that Nerissa is still talking to Will."
"Will?" The perfect brow dented.
"The wielder of the blade."
"Ah, yes. I assumed she'd continue to make contact."
"So you knew?" Taranee made sure to whisper, her father often spent long nights huddled over cases in his study. She didn't want him thinking she was schizophrenic.
"Yes, we knew. To be frank, it would help our plans quite a bit if Nerissa could persuade the girl, so I limited my interactions."
"Nerissa won't hurt her?"
Halinor shrugged. "She wants the sword, as usual. She is trapped in Mount Thanos however, so actual physical harm would be nearly impossible."
"Then how can she persuade Will?"
"Well," Halinor sighed, "if she manages to get the girl to try to rescue her, that would be a sin against Kandrakar and we could take the blade away. If she drives her insane, again, we could take the blade away." The blonde actually chuckled, "it's funny. It has been years since I last considered Nerissa an ally."
Taranee bit her lip. "I don't like this Halinor. You said Nerissa killed before – I think she could still hurt Will."
"It is exactly because she killed that we have to do this!" Halinor's voice rose just slightly, indicating that she was upset. "Do not question the motives of the Oracle, Taranee! You were hand picked by him to carry that sword. Trust that he knows what he is doing!"
"I d-do … I just," Taranee, moved from under her covers. She felt fidgety, uncomfortable. "I don't want Will to get hurt."
Halinor nodded, the apparition shifted slightly and then, "Nerissa won't hurt the girl. She must know by now what we've discovered as well."
"They're blood. Nerissa is her great-grandmother. Even that mad-woman wouldn't kill her own descendant."
Author: BAM! Now, pick your jaws up off the floor. I was considering if to make Nerissa and Will related, I didn't want to be too cliché and it felt cliché. However, it kinda helps my later plans and explains perfectly why Susan is lingering around Heatherfield instead of being in LA or New York. However, this does not explain why Nerissa is helping Will. Hehehehehe.
That conversation up there in italics is Cassidy and Yan Lin. Hope that was clear.
Now, we're into finale mode. Big battle, evil King et cetera. Poor Will, who forever wants to be the saviour is in real trouble here. Reviews are welcome! Next is L is for Leader.