Saturday, 17 October 2015

amadhay: (Default)
 in which amadhay meets darach



Just as she had expected, Christein was outside of the Interrogation Department, waiting for her.

Snatching her mask off, she grabbed him before he knew she was behind him, making him flinch purely on instinct. She hugged him from behind, thinking about her mask for a moment and forcing her cousin to turn his head at what had to be an uncomfortable angle to look back and down at her. There was something strange about the way Atlas looked at her.

“Monkey! Darach Devalier. Atlas’ll give me more if I bring him in. But…” She trailed off as she realized what bothered her. Atlas was looking at her the same way he did when they were both at parties and he didn’t know she was looking. Though she didn’t want to believe it was possible, given that Atlas knew that Arne Riff was Lord Phoenagis, proven when he hadn’t reacted to her purposeful slip up in using her uncle’s first name, rather than his title. Atlas knew who she was. That was a rather frightening thought.

She shifted to stand in front of him when Christein gave her an impatient grunt to imply that she should move. She gave a shrug, pushing the situation with her identity to the back of her mind to focus back on the current problem. She gave a meek smile before admitting the problem. “I have no clue where he’d be.”

“Darach? I know Darach. He’s the head of the whole Information Department. I have to report to him a lot.” A man with black hair in a long braid became visible next to them, his headphones radiating soft music. He had a tendency to sneak up on them like that and Amadhay honestly still couldn’t tell how he did it with music playing yet not have them notice. He still refused to tell her, which was just as frustrating as it had been for the past three years, since it had the potential to make her even better at her job. For a moment, Amadhay wondered why he was even in this part of the building, before coming up with the only likely conclusion: he’d been looking for them for some reason.

Christein scowled at him, attempting to grab Amadhay’s arm, though she easily sidestepped him. “Ben, will you shut up? She asked me, not you.”

Benjy turned his music up loudly as he turned on his heel, walking backwards down the hall away from the interrogation rooms. “What? Sorry, can’t hear you,” he called as he headed off, but just as he started to turn the corner, he called back to her, “Info Depo’s this way, Amadhay.”

Amadhay wiggled her fingers over her shoulder in a wave to Christein, calling, “By the way, there’s a puddle of kitten pee I need you to clean in there,” back to him as she caught up with Benjy.

 Benjy waited until he was sure she was following him to add, “Which you would know if you actually followed the rules and reported your mission findings.”

She made a face as she grabbed his arm and linked hers with his. “I do too report my findings,” she argued. “To you and Monkey and Lord Phoeganis. I figure if it’s important enough, someone else reports the rest.”

The phantom rolled his dark eyes. “Dolt,” he told her fondly, “Now they’ll think you’re a new recruit or something.”

She grinned up at him. “What they don’t know can’t hurt me,” she teased before giving him a look that meant she needed to pick his brain. “Do most people report directly to Darach?” she asked, wondering if it was strange that Atlas wanted him. She had honestly never heard of a Darach Devalier in the Phoegani, and it bothered her that he would know someone that she didn’t. So, really, this was her trying to determine if Darach was well known, or if she should be wary that Atlas was asking for specific people.

“No,” Benjy answered, tilting his head to tell her to turn left. “He’s under Lord Phoeganis and the same level as Head of Delegations and Head of Procedure.” He paused, giving Amadhay an interested look. “So it’s strange that Lord Palnoki would want him.”

“That’s what I thought,” she admitted, “I’ve never heard of Darach.”

“And the only reason I know Darach is because I’m the Voice of the Masses.” He opened an unmarked door that she assumed led to the Department of Information Requisition. “And, of course because I’m the one they send on all the most important information retrieval missions.”

“Like they used to send me on the good ol’ bloody missions,” she countered, feeling decidedly glum. She was tired of boring missions. It had been three weeks of locating and scoping missions. This was the first mission she’d had since Madra that wasn’t the absolute worst. Which was surprising, considering that she had been pretty sure, going in, that it was a suicide mission.

“Oh yeah,” Benjy said, steering her by the arm down a long hallway with far too many doors. “What happened to Madra? I thought you had to go there?”

She flinched slightly at the reminder of the botched job that had her on interrogation duty. “Noneya,” she replied as good-naturedly as she could, not really wanting to talk about it.

“Oh,” Benjy said, eyeing her closely for a moment before he squinted at her. “So you met someone?” he asked cautiously, turning his music down low enough that she couldn’t hear it anymore, though he kept the headphones covering his ears.

Her first question was why he wanted to know. Her second was why he would assume she met someone from that short of an answer. She didn’t ask either. She really didn’t want to talk about this.

“Maybe,” she said sweetly, giving him a faked giggle and a small shrug. The image of Lizu flashed before her eyes. She hugged Benjy’s arm tighter.

“What does he look like?” he asked casually.

She gave a real giggle this time. “A girl.”

“Eh? Really?” he laughed, “Didn’t think of you like that.”

Amadhay gave him a soft shove. “You know you’re still my only,” she teased.

“That’s a downright lie,” he snorted.

She giggled, letting go of his arm and waiting until he was looking at her to flutter her eyelashes prettily. “Well you’re still my favorite,” she flirted.

“Only because I put up with you,” he replied casually as they reached the information desk.

Amadhay gave him a side-glance. While that was incredibly true, she wasn’t sure that she was comfortable with him recognizing the truth in the statement. “So where’s this Darach?” she asked him, changing the subject. Then she added, “And what should I say to convince him to come with me?”

“I heard my name?”

The duo turned to stare at the tall man who stood in the doorway just off from the empty main desk. He was as pale as Atlas, yet with black hair and eyes. A single gold streak was swept from the front to the back of his hair. His suit was impeccable and when Amadhay gave him an admiring look, she could feel the strength of the distaste Benjy threw at him.

Benjy nodded down at Amadhay. “She has a message for you.”

Darach’s pitch-black eyes flickered over Amadhay and she felt as though she were being carefully categorized on sight. He licked his thin lips. “I’ve never seen you before. But you’re not new, are you?” He gave a smile, but it did nothing to diminish the feeling she got from him. It was like he was missing something. She barely suppressed a shiver at the sight of his teeth, razor sharp and in two perfect rows.

She critically went over her own appearance in her mind, not looking away from him, to determine if she was presentable for him, and to try to decide how he was most likely categorizing her. Tight black sneakpants, creaseless and unwrinkled, she was someone who was regularly in the field, moving around and needed her pants to be more like a second skin so they wouldn’t inhibit her in any way but would save her skin from needing grafts if she went skidding. Black ankle boots, low heeled and zipped to the top with the bottoms of the sneakpants tucked in, she was vain and liked the idea of fashion, while still being functional. She hadn’t been out in her preferred field today, too clean. Red top, long sleeved and tight enough to show off her curves, meaning she used seduction as one of her preferred methods. Sleeves loose enough to hide blades and telltale bumps to imply that she was armed, dangerous. No mask, but a single ribbon, red, holding her hair back in a ponytail at the center of her head. Perfectionist and well-known.

She felt quickly to be sure that the bow was centered, with equal ribbon hanging on either side. She saw him take that in and the briefest lights of knowledge coming to him. She wondered if it was the need for symmetry or the red that gave away her identity, but she knew the moment he knew that she was the Phoegani’s assassin Red Robin and Lord Phoeganis’ protégée, Amadhay.

She smiled. Her crimson eyes locked onto Darach’s and she entwined her fingers together in front of her. “I was hoping that you would come with me to an interrogation room where I’m holding Atlas Palnoki. He asked, specifically, for you.”

Darach’s eyebrows shot up. “Ar-Atlas? Atlas Palnoki? What is he doing here? I’ll come.”

His slip up wasn’t missed by either of the other two. Benjy made a pointed noise for her attention while Amadhay only narrowed her eyes the barest of a fraction for a split click. She kept her smile firmly on her lips. “I brought him in today for questioning,” she alerted the man, turning on her heel.

Darach moved from his doorway to follow her. “Ah…? Really? Interesting,” he paused, glancing at Benjy once more before making after Amadhay, who hadn’t paused. “He’s probably extremely bored now.”

“He is,” she answered, before pouting dramatically. “And he won’t talk to me anymore.”

“But he asked for me? Figures.”

Amadhay wasn’t sure what to make of that, merely looking back to him with a smile. “Mmmhmm. So come along, will you?” she suggested, implying that he could move faster.

‘Don’t trust him,’ she caught Benjy mouth out of the corner of her eye. She turned on her heel and appeared before him, giving him a chaste kiss on the cheek before whispering, “Do I ever?”

And then she was back before Darach, leading him to the interrogation room. Benjy smiled after her and shook his head, but then he decided to follow them, slowly. She didn’t mind.

Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)
 in which atlas slips up



Amadhay flounced into the interrogation room. “I brought him,” she told Atlas in a singsong voice, seating herself on the table.

She gave a quick glance to a pitiful looking Mayday and disappeared, reappearing a few clicks later in a kneel with two bowls to set under the table. She set a bowl of minced fish and a bowl of water down before hopping up and dropping in an undignified heap on the table, bouncing on her bottom in impatience.

She smiled flirtatiously at Atlas before huffing when he gave her a blank look. She noted that he gave no reaction to her unmasked face, which confirmed that he’d already known who she was. She decided to think about that later.

In the meantime, waiting for Darach and Benjy to catch up with her was boring her. “I have pretty short legs, I know. So you’d think that it would be easier for them to keep up,” she complained to Atlas, who was beginning to watch her with curiosity.

“So, will you answer more questions now or do you have a plan brewing in your mind?” she asked, hoping to take advantage of his slight change of attitude, “I bet you have a plan brewing. I mean you must. I can’t imagine that you want to sit here for much longer,” she bounced her knees on the table, now forcing herself into a cross-legged sitting position.

“I doubt the dead one cares how short your legs are,” Atlas spoke with a distracted air as he glanced to the door, not even looking at her until she stopped moving, staring at him.

Atlas looked back and he and Amadhay stared at each other just as Darach entered the room. “Armerose,” he said, shaking his head, “It figures your curse would bring you here.” He stole Atlas’ attention, moving into the room and choosing to stand before Atlas rather than sit in the unused chair.

I doubt the dead one cares about how short your legs are. Benjy entered the room, shutting the door without touching it.

“Barqael,” Atlas stated coldly, standing just as semi-corporeal Benjy walked through Darach before becoming fully tangible to sit next to Amadhay.

“How did y—” Amadhay started to question Atlas on knowing that Benjy was with her, but Benjy interrupted her.

“You know your cousin, Hynnkel?” Benjy asked Amadhay. She tried to concentrate on the looks Atlas and Darach were giving each other, as if they were speaking without words. “The spicket one? I saw him the other day. He was with your sister and that cute catgirl.”

That was all he had to say to get her full attention. Christein, too, kept mentioning the cute catgirl. “And these two Palnoki members. I just remembered that ‘cause of Atlas. One of the members was one of his two Second-In-Commands. I don’t like the other one. He’s a creep.” Benjy sounded bored, but she knew just how much he recognized she was interested in what he had just said. Hynnkel with Palnokians? High-ranking Palnokians? What is he planning?

“You,” Atlas said abruptly, turning from Darach to Benjy.

Benjy grinned suddenly, straightening up to look at Atlas as if everything was going according to some plan Amadhay didn’t know about. “Yes?”

“Go get those two Palnoki members.”

Atlas giving orders bothered Amadhay, and she knew it was more than the situation where they should have been in charge, asking questions and getting answers, not the other way around, with them doing whatever he wanted. Something strange was going on and she was having a hard time determining what it was.

“You know, we’re not here so much to bring you people as we are to demand answers to Lord Phoeganis’ questions.” Her fingers began drumming on the table, a sure sign of her pent up energy battling with her irritation. “So how about you answer one itty bitty question? Then we’ll get to those people for you. Mkay? Mkay.”

“No,” Benjy said to both Amadhay and Atlas. His expression had changed from cocky to a stubborn one that Amadhay knew too well. “I answer to Lord Phoeganis, not Lord Palnoki.”

“Amadhay Hakinato,” Darach said coldly. Amadhay felt a chill go up her spine at his use of her family name. Very few people knew it and even fewer used it, considering it carried so much power that she, herself, didn’t. “Go find Tenshu Tanhakinshu and Mitchell Hunnigan. Atlas will not answer your questions, but I’m sure they will. Take a woman named Scarlet Johannes as well, but be careful not to underestimate any of them. That’s an order.”

“Thought he didn’t know you,” Benjy muttered under his breath, glancing at Amadhay from the corner of his eye.

“Obviously he doesn’t,” Amadhay snapped, anger coursing through her. She hopped off of the table, her heels snapping loudly against the floor as she moved to stand face to chest with Darach, but her fury made her seem inches taller.

“Look. You may be in charge with your information gatherers, but I am not one of them. I do not answer to you.” She clenched her fists and glared just past him at the wall. “I answer only to Punishment, and only him when I want to. So if you want to rephrase that as a request, then maybe I will consider it. But until then, I suggest you hold your tongue unless you want me to cut it out.”

She used her pent up energy to switch into her Gift, moving from almost in his face, back to the table. She was now holding Mayday, petting the kitten furiously to keep herself from doing something she was sure she would regret if for no other reason than because Arne Riff and Alphonse would make sure she did. She was envisioning ripping Darach’s tongue out of his mouth while Benjy stared at her in surprise when Atlas turned to her. He placed a hand on either side of her, with one hand on her knee and the other behind her, his arm just touching her back.

“Amadhay, go get them for me then. You don’t have to obey any orders, but to keep both you and Lord Phoeganis happy, I need them.” Something about that didn’t sound right, didn’t make sense to her. “I promise I’ll give you something in return. I swear,” he whispered urgently in her ear. Her eyes flickered over to Benjy, who seemed to object to the lack of personal space between her and Atlas, which she found interesting. More so, she questioned that she didn’t object to the lack of space between them.

 “Take the ghost with you if you agree. Scarlet’s not easy, or normal. I think Cyborg versus Phantom would be fair enough, if you can handle a vampire and a human-ish boy.”

When Mayday scratched Amadhay to get to Atlas, she let him go and Atlas moved back from the girl, stroking the kitten with a small smile. Amadhay studied his face for a few moments, severely bothered by something, but not knowing what. It was only because she was so close that she could hear what Atlas was muttering to the kitten. “I’m fine. Only Darach can hurt me. The others might not be so lucky, but they’ll find a way.”

She liked a challenge. “C’mon Benjy,” she said, nodding at Atlas, who moved out of her way so she could slide off of the table. She glanced at Darach, who was once again studying her with an intensity she didn’t like at all. “Let’s go get some Palnoki.”

Benjy got to his feet just as she did. Once they were at the door, Atlas called out to her again. “Make sure your friend keeps away from Tenshu,” Atlas told her pointedly.

“Why?” she asked, stopping in the doorway. She looked at Atlas, but it was Benjy who answered her question.

“He’s a necromancer,” he said darkly.

Her eyes widened slightly as she realized the implications. Phantoms and necromancers were in no way well matched. “Got it,” she said, more to Atlas than Benjy. “Let’s get going,” she told Benjy, leaving the room with him following close behind her.

Next Chapter
amadhay: (Default)
 In which benjy is hurt



“The blond one will be Mitch. He’s Palnoki’s Wrangler, you know of him, right? Good. The one with the ponytail will be Tenshu, Skeletal Smile. You’ll have to keep your eyes on him ‘cause he’s tricky.”

When Amadhay nodded, he grinned and began to tune his intercom headset. Bland static, pure white noise came from the device and made Amadhay tap her DS to check to see if it was still functioning. Amadhay shook her head at Benjy when she saw that it was.

 “Just remember that we’ll still have to find the cyborg after this, okay? She’ll be easy for you, Red,” he whispered. Something about that caught Amadhay, but she decided to think on it later.

When her DS stopped working, she nodded to Benjy. He tapped his intercom headset and said, “Ghost Sparrow reporting. Received?”

“Received,” Benjy’s communications operative immediately replied through the scrambling static.

“I’m doing a mission with Red Robin for Interrogation and the Info Depo, just so you know.”

“Understood. Carry on.” The cutoff of static to end the communication indicated the beginning of their mission.

“Right on,” Benjy smirked, “Let’s go Lil’ Red.” He faded out on her, going to find their marks. Since apparently Benjy’s information liaison kept tabs on where all known necromancers were at all times to keep Benjy safe, it had been easy enough to find the general location of Skeletal Smile. Luckily enough, it appeared that Skeletal Smile and Palnoki’s Wrangler were together, which Benjy had assured her was normal for the pair. All they needed to do was find the two in this small woods. She had already bet the phantom that they would be at the meadow clearing. It was where she and her sister used to go when they needed to talk in private.

While waiting, Amadhay had time to think. There was definitely something hokey going on. She had been too irritated about the interrogation to think about it earlier, but Atlas had really come too easily. She had gone in expecting a suicide mission, and had come out with one of their greatest enemies bending to her will. And there was something in the way that he looked at her. She couldn’t put her finger on it but—

“They’re behind the trees down there. Come on!” Benjy’s voice came excitedly. He didn’t even bother to become visible again.

The thrill of a real, honest mission excited her. All of her earlier irritation about being put on interrogation duty blocked out her worries and all she could focus on was the mission. She had a necromancer to take out. It would be her first. She was excited.

Her first sight of the men was a disappointment. The ponytailed one, Tenshu Tanhakinshu, had on all black, with black jeans, black canvas shoes, a black t-shirt with a skull on it, and even a black leather coat. He was ridiculously pretty and had a slim figure. She couldn’t see a muscle on him. His partner, Mitchell Hunnigan, was no better, wearing jeans, a blue plaid button down, cowboy boots, and a matching hat that threw his face into shadow. He was talking animatedly. While both looked vaguely familiar to her, neither of them looked like they were formidable foes. Still, she had to remind herself that she looked even less likely to be dangerous at only five feet and still plump from aelfe youth.

When the vampire suddenly froze, she knew it was time to move. Using her Gift, Amadhay zoomed down the hill at her top speed, ramming into Skeletal Smile and knocking him a good three feet from the Wrangler. Instantly, she let go of her Gift and in a much slower speed, she tucked into a roll and unfolded onto her feet before Skeletal Smile, who caught himself. He automatically drew his gun with his left hand while aiming his blade on her with his right.

Amadhay just barely skidded to a stop to avoid impaling herself. Blades were always dangerous if she wasn’t careful. She wasn’t too worried about the gun though, considering no one had ever managed to shoot her before. Skeletal Smile’s eyes shot just over her shoulder, and she followed his gaze to where the Wrangler was attempting to attack the only partially corporeal Benjy.

“You!” the pretty-boy hissed.

She was irritated that he wasn’t even looking at her when she was his opponent, not Benjy. She intended to show him why he should be paying attention to her with a quick, incapacitating jab to his ribs, but the necromancer just dodged her, still paying her no mind as he slid another knife out of his coat and threw it past her.

She watched it pass her, but it didn’t connect in her mind that she should have tried to stop it until it hit the mark right in the center of Benjy’s chest. She expected to see it go right through him since he wasn’t fully materialized, but it didn’t, and he instantly became completely corporeal, falling to his knees.

Amadhay and Benjy’s eyes went wide at the same time. “N-no. Please, don’t,” he managed to get out as Skeletal Smile dropped his weapons to clasp his hands together, making blue light surround Benjy. Amadhay started toward Benjy when he screamed in pain.

“N-no!” Benjy screamed pleadingly and she faltered, turning back to Skeletal Smile uncertainly. “Amadhay!” the phantom cried out, pushing her into action.

She had never seen something take Benjy down like that, but she knew she had to stop the necromancer at all costs. Lips moving rapidly, her eyes turned a deeper red as she focused the full power of her incantation on Skeletal Smile’s chest. A bright purple ball jolted her body as it shot out from between her outstretched hands, gaining speed before slamming into Skeletal Smile, dropping him to the ground.

The Wrangler cried out, but Amadhay didn’t even look at him, instead using her Gift to make it to Benjy right as he collapsed. He was jerking violently when she focused her eyes on the blade, readying herself to pull it out. Before she could, however, he went still and the blade faded from existence, leaving only a tag to float to the ground beside Benjy. His eyes were open, staring at nothing, the black slowly but surely turning to what she feared was his original green eye color.

She tried not to allow herself to lose composure. “Benjy?” she questioned softly, cautiously touching his chest where the blade had been, checking to see if the blade was invisible or truly gone. It was gone. She shook him lightly and after receiving no reply, she snatched the tag up, hoping for some clue of what to do for her friend. Right there on it, however, was her worst fear. The runes on it read to declare that it was a seal tag specifically designed to seal an Undead’s soul away. It had done its job already.

“Monkey,” she whispered, needing her cousin to come to help her, to fix this. She stared at Benjy’s dead eyes, feeling her own eyes begin to prickle.

She refused to cry. When Christein did not appear (which really he had no reason to do since he wasn’t really mentally linked to her, he was just incredibly observant), she chose to instead focus all her energy on fixing this. A seal could be broken. Her eyes narrowed as she turned them back to the body of the other man. She appeared beside the Wrangler, not even looking at him as she shoved him away from his partner, who, while barely conscious, was visibly in no small amount of pain. Giving neither a chance to do anything, she grabbed the necromancer by the ponytail and teleported back to base, instinctively knowing, or rather hoping, that the vampire wouldn’t dare to touch her Benjy’s body.

Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)
 in which amadhay is compromised



“Christein!” she yelled again, hoping that he was near enough to hear her this time.

Her grip on the necromancer’s hair loosened and they both dropped to the floor. “Christein, please come help me,” she cried out, her voice wobbly as she tried and failed to get to her feet. All she could think about was Benjy. Benjy was lying on the ground, getting colder by the click. Benjy was lying still and he was never still. Benjy might not wake up. Benjy might not smile at her again or tug on her hair or surprise her with little gifts or annoy Christein anymore. Benjy was—

Christein appeared and began swearing like a pirate. When she looked up at him, hoping—no, knowing that he would fix everything for her, he scowled at her.

“Amadhay, what the deep Water pit is your problem?” he demanded, his true irritation showing in the slip up of using her name rather than title. She felt for her mask, which was still in the same pocket she’d put it in earlier, before taking a step towards Christein. It was then that she realized that he was staring not at her, but at Skeletal Smile, who was limp and slightly battered on the floor beside her. She started to speak, but Christein cut her off. “A, you were only supposed to bring ‘em here. He’s no good nearly dead. And B, where’s Ghost Sparrow and the other two targets? You failed.”

She was tired of that word failed. She was tired of hearing it aimed at her and she was tired of caring about it. Right now, all she could care to think about was Benjy’s body lying in the woods, not moving, and Christein wasn’t helping. Amadhay glared directly at him, not caring that it was disrespectful or that she needed something from him. She glared to make him stop talking—rather yelling—at  her and it worked. He paused. He stared at her with his eyebrows slightly raised and his lips pursed to say more but no words were coming out.

 “Benjy is dead, Monkey,” she told him in a slightly wavering voice, trying to sound like herself. She wasn’t feeling like herself, but she knew that with every word, she was a step closer to helping Benjy, so her voice got stronger with each word. “He’s back at the acquisition point. I didn’t cover him like I should have and now he’s—” she broke off and Christein moved toward her.

“He was already dead, Amadhay, that’s kind of the point of being a phantom,” Christein said slowly, reaching to help her up. That sentence sent her from strong to hysterical. He didn’t understand. If he didn’t understand, then he wouldn’t help her. He had to help her. She couldn’t do it on her own.

“He’s sealed, Monkey. The necromancer sealed him.” She whispered before looking at the limp body of the pretty man. It only made her angrier, more hysterical. He was still pretty when damaged while Benjy was dead and cold and didn’t look like himself anymore.

“He is dead until that piece of trash unseals him and I’m too damn weak to carry him so I need your help!” she practically screamed, pushing herself to her feet. Without a second thought, she turned from Christein, putting her full attention on the necromancer and kicked Skeletal Smile at the wall.

“Don’t do that,” was all Christein snapped at her. When she turned her glare back to him, he flinched. “I’ll help!” he exclaimed, reaching out to pull her away from Skeletal Smile before she could do him any more damage. “I’ll help,” he said softer when her glare weakened and she rubbed her eyes roughly. But she didn’t cry. Assassins don’t cry.

At Christein’s insistence, they moved Skeletal Smile to a more secure area, a room she had never seen before, and bound him to keep him from escaping. She would admit to not using nearly enough rope for protocol on Palnoki members because she was in a hurry, but Christein didn’t say anything about it. Just as she was tightening the last rope binding his legs together, she noted that he seemed to be coming to. With a glance at Christein, who was watching her closer than was normal even for him, it took all of Amadhay’s willpower not to just kill Skeletal Smile then and there. Instead, she took satisfaction in gagging him tightly and silently hoping that he would choke on it and die. 

Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)
 in which amadhay hurts christein



Only after calling in to his information operative with the basic details about them having Skeletal Smile, Ben needing assistance, and that he was going out into the field to help Red Robin, did Christein allow her to pull him back with her to where she had left Ben.

She couldn’t be bothered to care that the vampire was gone, though Christein was vocal about it. He checked the area quickly before returning back to where she was sitting with Ben’s corpse.

“Did you even incapacitate him before leaving?” he wanted to know, but when he looked at her, he choked back more rebukes. She was just sitting there, holding the hand of a dead body, staring at empty eyes as if waiting for them to light up with life again.

He could just look at Ben and know that he was dead. He had seen paintings of Ben before he’d become a phantom and the dark green eyes and light brown hair fit the description. The only explanation for him to have returned to his original coloring, minus the still deathly pale skin, was that he was dead. Or rather, that he was truly dead. Still, for Amadhay, he kneeled on the other side of her and checked for a pulse. “Gone,” he sighed, pulling his hand back and looking at her. “He’s dead. I’m sorry.”

Amadhay simply shook her head as if it didn’t matter. “It’s a seal. It can be undone. I, we, have Skeletal Smile. He is at my mercy for at least twenty more clacks. He will undo it.”

Christein chose not to question what would happen in twenty clacks. He preferred plausible deniability when it came to his younger cousin. “He might not come back,” he whispered instead, taking her hand from the corpse and holding it between both of his.

She needed to know that. Once phantoms were sealed by a necromancer, it was rare that they came back. It either took an incredibly strong necromancer to force it or a strong desire from the phantom to continue with this existence. He wouldn’t lie that he doubted Ben had that draw. Ben wasn’t with anyone, his only friends (as far as Christein could tell) were him and Amadhay (and it was pushing it to call him Ben’s friend), he was in a job that was slowly eating at what was left of his soul, and Christein was hard-pressed to think of something that the phantom could want to come back to besides them or the job.

But he couldn’t seem to get Amadhay to understand that.

“No,” Amadhay shook her head decisively. “He will come back.”

“Amadhay, I’m serious. He might not come back.”

“So am I,” she responded, glaring just past his ear. He was actually glad to see that. Her going back to not glaring directly meant that she was better. “He. Will. Come. Back.” She enunciated each word intelligibly, as if he simply weren’t hearing her right.

When she made to touch the dead body again, Christein pulled her away, disgust and other things that he refused to think about prevalent in his mind. “Why are you so insistent?” he demanded, grabbing her by the shoulders. “He’s dead, Amadhay. He has always been dead!” he shouted, shaking her, trying to shake the sense into her and the infatuation out.

Other people she knew had died on missions with her, even other friends. He hated that she was so broken by Ben’s death. A small part of him recognized that it was a good thing that she was so obviously in love with Ben. But a larger part of him hated it. Would she be that broken if he were the one dead?

“Stop it,” she said shakily, shoving him back from her.

“Why?! He’s dead, Amadhay!” He yelled again. He cupped her cheeks to make her look at him and not the dead body. “If you love him so much, let him do the one thing he couldn’t in peace!”

Amadhay froze, her eyes glittering unhappily, but no tears marred her face. “I hate you,” she whispered.

Christein recoiled as if he had been slapped. “Amadhay…”

She didn’t look at him, instead moving back to Ben’s body and trying to lift him. The corpse outweighed her by about 100 lbs and was well over a foot taller than she was. It would have been funny if she weren’t so serious about it, if Ben weren’t dead. No, Christein corrected himself, It would be funny if it weren’t her.

“Here, let me help,” Christein muttered, but fell back when she lifted one hand to tell him not to come any closer. He watched as she fumbled, falling under the weight of the body of Benjym Base. She sat down on the ground and looked ready to cry.

“Mayday,” he said softly, moving closer to her. She didn’t stop him this time. “I’m going to help you.” She shook her head, pushing at his hands weakly. “Come on. We’re going back the base.”

Next Chapter

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I turned in a full circle. "I don't think I'm in Kansas anymore," I muttered to myself. Everything was so…colorful. Had I wandered into someone's special garden or something? This definitely hadn't been here the last time I had been home. Even if I had somehow managed to wander into the park, which would explain being surrounded on all sides by plants with no end in sight, those giant purple leaves on the trees and the weird patches of blue grass? Definitely not indigenous.

Something jumped from one tree to another.

Just a squirrel, I had almost convinced myself when a tiny, almost human, face peeked out at me. I leaped back from the tree, absolutely positive that I had not just seen that. Still, it was better to avoid the trees anyway, right? Who knew what kind of animals or bugs were crawling in them.

I must be high, I determined when a whole flipping family of those creatures showed up, chattering in obnoxiously high-pitched voices as they pointed at me. So high. Tambarle must have slipped something in my food. I knew she was being too nice. I was probably just walking down the streets like a crazy person. The cops were probably going to arrest me for public intoxication or something. That'd look great on the tabloids. I could see the titles already: ‘Jessa Kiss Arrested’, ‘Jessa Kiss Gets High To Get Over Cosmo’, ‘Jessa Kiss Breaks Cosmos’ Heart and THEN Laws!’

Cosimo would know what to do. I nervously rubbed at my ring finger, standing in place and looking around. Even though he hated me right now, I knew that all I had to do was call him and he would fix this. He would help me because that was what he did. I was the one who was heartless, according to most of the world. Knowing hearing my voice would cause him pain, but needing help and seeing no other option, I pulled out my phone, ready to call him.

My phone had no signal.

"Okay. This is probably one of those lucid dreams, right?" I nodded to myself. "I'm in a pretty place, obviously magical. I should just go to the natives. I'll talk to the natives and find out what I'm supposed to do." I nodded to myself. Dreaming seemed like a perfectly good explanation, better than me being high, in fact. I didn't feel high. This all felt very, very real. Nevermind the fact that I had just been walking, taking a shortcut back to Nana's house to avoid the paparazzi.

"I'll just go talk to one of those little people," I determined, sure that this was a dream. It had to be one of those dreams with full consciousness. I set toward my goal.

The small, strange creatures just watched me as I approached. Their heads were enormous in comparison to their itty-bitty bodies. That was the least freaky thing about them. Much less weird than their rainbow hued, translucent skin or their spiny, spindly backs. The weirdest was their eyes. Their bulbous, gleaming eyes, cloudy like a dead persons. I was staring at their eyes. Those filmy, non-seeing eyes.

I turned back to the treeline. No need to talk to the tiny flower people. There were bound to be other natives, right? Right.

So instead of dealing with them, I went into the trees.

I had to walk pretty far, probably almost a mile past the treeline before I saw anyone else. Of course, the first person I saw happened to be a centaur, so there was that. I had finally left the truly strangely colored plants and was surrounded by large, green, trees. There was moss and ivy covering the bark on most of them and the leaves were larger than my head. It was quiet except for the sounds of nature, until I heard music.

I spotted the musician before he spotted me because he was playing this weird pipe creation, eyes closed and head tilted. His front legs were tucked underneath him and he leaned against a large, willowy tree, just playing his music. It was a pretty song, floating between A major and C minor with high, lilting notes. The tree seemed to sway in time with the music and I was mesmerized by it.

It all ended when I stepped on a branch. He immediately sat upright, focused on me, and ran off without a word, a fearful look on his face. I tried to follow him, but that was pointless because not only was he impossibly faster than me, but the trees seemed to move to hide him from me. After my third time running straight into a tree, I gave up on talking to him. He probably didn't even speak English anyway. The horse people never did in my dreams.

After him, I stumbled for maybe thirty more minutes, trying to find someone to talk to. I kept seeing hair and feet and a glimpse of people (and I use the term lightly) running away before I could say anything, but the next time I saw someone fully was near a stream. It was the first time I had seen any water source, which I thought was weird because I'd always thought that forests were supposed to be full of lakes and streams and rivers and things. Not to mention I was thirsty, which I had never felt in a dream before. Dream or not, though, I was parched and it looked gloriously clean.

I fell to my knees in the bank of the stream, drinking from it and hoping that I wasn't poisoning myself. I was so busy gulping down water, that I almost didn't notice when...creatures started to approach me. A few came up from the water, with long fingers and large, watery eyes, their skeletal bodies covered in a scaly skin that glistened against the bright sun. Most, however, were behind me, staying carefully in my peripheral. I recognized a few fauns, but couldn't determine what the girls dancing around them were. They were all whispering to each other and staring at me, pointing at me.

The only parts I could make out were princess, queen, Still wind, Nim wind, Fae wind, and Even way, and only those because they were repeated so many times. Is this one of those dreams where I turn out to be the long-awaited savior queen? I haven't had one of those in a while, I thought, pretending not to notice the ones behind me. Instead, I focused on the aquatic figures in front of me. They didn't flinch or hide away from my gaze. They stayed right where they were, watching me with unblinking eyes, their thin-lipped mouths and protruding jaws beneath the water.

"Where am I?" I asked them. The chattering behind me ended immediately and I saw out of the corner of my eyes that all of the other creatures were watching me silently.

"My stream," one of the creatures said, its voice surprisingly clear given that it was speaking underwater.

"Okay, but where is your stream? I'm not from around here and I don't really know where I am right now."

An explosion of chatter came from the creatures behind me and I glanced back at them when I very clearly heard one all but scream "Someone should tell the king!" Under my gaze, they scattered back into the trees, hiding from my sight once more. None of them had looked particularly frightened when hiding, which I counted as a plus. At least I wasn't scaring the natives anymore. They'd be more likely to help me.

When I turned back to the water, the creature who I had been talking to was now merely inches from me. I jerked back, falling out of my crouch and onto my butt. It made a sound that was similar to laughter, but far more unnerving. The way it looked at me, in particular my stomach, made me uncomfortable now that all the other creatures were gone and it was just me and these things.

"How far away are you from?" it asked me, moving all the way to the edge of the water. "Whose are you?"

I frowned, staring at it. "Whose?" I asked back and it tilted its head.

"Human?" it asked, as if the idea of me being human was confusing for it.

"Yes? I'm human," I responded, sliding back a bit more. I couldn't see how long its arms were, but I was going to guess that they were long enough to grab me and pull me under. While I didn't want to insult it by appearing that I didn't trust it, I didn't trust it. It was like the old stories of mermaids, even if it definitely wasn't one. It looked ready to pull me under, drown me, and eat me. I really didn't want to be eaten today, thanks.

Two others moved to its side and now there were three of the things, staring at me with only their eyes and the tops of their heads out of the water. I scooted back a little more, trying to determine if I wanted to try and make a run for it or not.

"How did you get to the Neverforest?" the second one lisped. The first one to talk to me pushed against that one and it floated back, away from the bank. The third one stayed silent, just watching me.

"I walked," I said, trying to determine if the distance between me and the things was good enough to keep me safe. I hated drowning dreams. They were the absolute worst.

"And no one walked with you?" the first one asked, moving a little higher from the water so that its arms could rest on the bank.

No, I wasn't far enough back. Its arms were as long as my legs, maybe even longer. I scooted back even more. "I was walking with my friends," I lied, deciding that these were definitely not friendly creatures. "In fact, I should probably get back to them."

I stood up and the silent one rose in the water with me. I glanced behind me to see no creatures back there to help me, and when I looked back to the creatures, the one who had been talking to me was crawling forward, almost grabbing me while the silent one held its hand out to me.

“You should join us,” the previously silent one said. “It’s better to swim with us than to drown.”

I’m not sure that it was the selling pitch she expected it to be, because that made me turn tail and run. The crawling one gripped my ankle and I fell forward. Its’ grip was strong as it slid back into the water, pulling me with it.

“No!” I yelled, kicking with all of my might. I was lucky to have landed a kick on the face of the one tugging me. It let go and I scrambled to my feet. I had never before been more thankful to Tambarle and Taylor for their insistence that I learn to quickly get to my feet after dropping low or falling down.

The one who was high up, with only a long, serpentine tail still in the water darted forward to me. It still didn’t touch me, only breathed on me, somehow humming a disjointed melody at the same time as she ordered me, “Join us in the water. You will only drown if you fight.”

I didn’t say anything, only backed up as quickly as possible. It tilted its head and opened its jaw wider, showing off every single horribly sharp tooth. The humming came even louder and the other creature, that had been trying to reach for me, froze in its spot, as if paralyzed.

 I was in the treeline when I felt comfortable enough with the distance to turn and run. My last glance of the creatures was of a bemused expression on the floating one’s face, while the talker just looked pissed and was making a horrifying noise at the other two. Either way, they weren’t getting any further out of the water to follow me, but I didn’t stop running until I couldn’t see the water anymore. Once I was that far away, I slowed to a light jog, incredibly out of breath but I didn’t dare pause just yet.

 So far, in this dreamland, I had run into tiny flower people with dead eyes, a skittery centaur, a handful of gossiping animal-creatures, and three barracuda-looking mermaids. I was starting to get the feeling that nothing in this place was going to be friendly. I wished I could wake up, but so far, I’d made no progress on that front. Either way, I knew I had to keep moving. Bad things only happened when you stayed in one place for too long in weird dreams.

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November 2016

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