Spy Hunt 26-01

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Please note that there was a commissioned mini-interlude focusing on the conclusion to the 3-part Sariel and Larissa interlude series that was posted yesterday. If you haven’t seen it yet, you might wish to use the Previous Chapter button above. 

“So, it’s gonna work, right?” Despite myself, I couldn’t keep the tenseness and worry out of my voice. “Please, after everything we went through to get it, tell me that thing is gonna do its job.”

We were back at the Atherby camp by the lake, with some company in the form of Mateo’s pack and a few of the Wonderland people like Seth, Namythiet, and Fennicus, though most of that particular group was back reuniting with the children that had been abducted by Lemuel’s pack.

Of the people who were actually here at the camp, the majority were milling around, talking about the battle or celebrating the fact that Lemuel and most of his people had been dealt with, aside from those who had managed to scatter and flee. The point was, the big threat of the massive combined werepack had been dealt with, for the moment at least.

I’d also been eager to meet up with my father here at the camp after everything that had happened. Apparently, however,  Asenath and a couple other Alters had taken him out for a hike to take his mind off what was going on and so that he wouldn’t obsess over me being in a fight. They were on their way back, but it would take awhile. Long enough for us to deal with this.

Shiori, Avalon, Roxa, Mateo, and I (Vanessa and Tristan were off doing something with Duncan and Misty) were watching as Gabriel and an elderly-looking woman that he had brought in examined the choker. Gabriel had introduced the old woman with the simple name of Kay. Or maybe it was just the letter K. I wasn’t sure on that point. In any case, she was their expert in magical artifacts, their version of Wyatt, basically. For the past ten minutes, the woman had been carefully examining the choker, while I watched anxiously. The only reason I’d agreed to let her take it in the first place was that Gabriel had vouched for her, and was standing right there. If she would have asked to take it out of our sight, I’m not sure even that would’ve been enough. I was seriously thoroughly paranoid about that damn thing disappearing.  

On the other hand, I was also paranoid that, even after we got it, the thing wouldn’t work right. That was why I’d agreed to Gabriel’s offer to have his enchantment-expert look it over a bit.

And yeah, we could have just had Roxa or one of the other Alters put it on and see if it would stop the Heretic sense from going off.  But honestly, taking a magic enchanted necklace that I had just stolen from a completely demented, psychotic, probably possessed girl and putting it on someone else without having it checked over first sounded really, really stupid. But maybe that was just me.

Even then, however, I’d still made Gabriel use the Seosten-detection rune on the woman (as well as Mateo, since he was there too) right in front of me just to prove that they were safe. Maybe that was more evidence of blatant paranoia, but hey, better to be safe than choker-less.

Kay examined the choker for another second, running her fingers along it before finally giving a slight nod. Her voice was brittle, yet strong enough to hear as she announced, “The intended effect of allowing the wearer to be disguised from the Heretical Sense remains fully intact.”

A breath of relief escaped me before I realized what she had said. Blinking up, I opened my mouth, but Avalon beat me to the punch. “You said the intended effect remains intact. What about the rest of it?” Her voice sounded as suspicious and ready for bad news as I felt.

Beside Shiori, Roxa folded her arms over her stomach, looking a little sick (also like I felt). “They mean the ability to identify Seosten,” she announced quietly. “Please say it still works.”

Raising her gaze from the choker to give all of us a long look, Kay paused before answering. “Being altered into a different form has… somewhat weakened that particular effect.” Even as my heart dropped down into my stomach, she continued. “Calm yourselves. It is still effective, so far as I can tell. When used properly, it will inform the wearer if the subject is possessed or not.”

“When used properly?” I echoed, more confused by her phrasing than elated by the news that the enchantment would identify Seosten-possessed people. “What do you mean by that?”

“As I said,” the woman answered, “the effect has been somewhat weakened. It will no longer allow the wearer to identify any Seosten simply through sight. Now, you must touch the person.”

My mouth opened, then shut, as I absorbed the explanation. “Touch them. You have to touch them and… and that’s it? Just touching them will, uh, reveal if they’re possessed or not?” Sure, it wasn’t the best, but from the way she’d been talking (and probably from my own growing pessimism over the situation), I’d actually been at least half-expecting a lot worse than that.

“Yes,” Kay confirmed. “Physical contact will reveal whether the person being touched has been possessed. It need not be skin-to-skin, simple contact will be sufficient. Presuming,” she added, “that the contact is not hindered by anything thicker than perhaps a couple layers of clothing.”

She offered the choker to me then, her expression softening. “In other situations, I might offer to try to fix it. But I’m afraid that, as little as we understand the enchantment itself, any more work done to it may damage the magic further. Trying to expand its ability could make it worse, or simply remove its power entirely. If you can accept the limitation, it would be safest to leave it.” After a brief pause, she added, “In any case, this enchantment is a work of art. I have honestly never seen anything like it before. And I have been working with magic for a very long time.”

“Yeah…” I murmured, taking the choker from her thoughtfully. Maybe Wyatt could do something else with it. But I wasn’t going to say that to her after everything she’d done. Instead, I turned slightly and offered the choker to Roxa. “We got it for you,” I reminded her. “If you want it.”

Instead of taking the choker, however, the girl hesitated before looking toward Mateo. “I… I’m going to stay with the wolves. If that’s okay with you,” she added quickly, toward the pack leader.

I wasn’t that surprised. After everything that happened back during the fight, when she’d taken off to help her pack, I’d kind of expected her to choose to stay. After all, the werewolves had accepted her even knowing she was a Heretic, while she would have to trick the Heretics to accept her after becoming a werewolf. If it was me, I’d probably choose to stay with them too.

For Mateo’s part, he simply smiled. “If that’s your choice, then yes, of course. You are a part of this pack for as long as you want to be.” As he spoke, the man reached out and put a hand on the girl’s shoulder while repeating, “If it is your choice.”

“It is,” Roxa confirmed. “I want to stay with you guys. I’d rather be able to be myself, all of myself, than hide behind a magical artifact.”

With a sly look in his eyes, Mateo winked. “Well, I would say that the girl who went and killed Lemuel would be welcome in any pack she wanted to join. Are you sure that you want to stick with our little ragtag group? Maybe you’d feel more at home with one of the big fancy packs. With the rep you’re getting, you could probably even start out pretty high up.”

“Yeah right,” she snorted. “Pretty sure they wouldn’t want me after meeting me.” Looking toward me then, she blanched a little bit. “Sorry, after everything you went through to get it…”

Shiori spoke up before I could respond. “Hey, we needed the choker anyway. And besides,” she added easily, “just because you don’t want it right now doesn’t mean you can never use it. Since we have it, and it’s supposed to work, anytime you need to talk to a Heretic, you could just borrow it.”

I nodded at with that. “She’s right, anytime you want it, it’s yours. And,” I added with a quick look toward Avalon, “if you could actually use it really soon, and talk to your old team so that they know you’re okay and stop looking at me like I’m the devil or something. That would be really cool.”

Roxa snickered a little bit, covering her mouth. “They’ve been really coming after you, huh?”

“Actually,” I corrected her while shaking my head, “I would’ve preferred that kind of direct confrontation, honestly. Mostly they’re just staring at me, particularly when they don’t think I can see them. It’s kind of unnerving to keep glancing at a reflection, only to see one of them lurking around watching my every move. It’s kinda creepy. Please, tell them you’re okay and not stuffed into a freezer in my basement or something.”

Blinking at that, she gave a quick, vigorous nod. “Uh, oops. Yeah, I’ll talk to them in person. Maybe that’ll help get them off your case.”

Gabriel spoke up, his voice thoughtful. “If you’re going to be using it, maybe we should test the choker in a live situation, let you see how it actually lets you know that someone’s possessed.”

Shiori started, clearly reflexively. “If we had a Seosten, we could–oh, wait. Ermahgerd could possess people. Does that mean he’s a, uh, you know. A Natural you-know-what?”

Putting a hand over his mouth to cover an obvious smile briefly, Gabriel corrected, “It’s Enguerrand, actually, not, ah, Ermahgerd. And yes, he is what you call a natural-Seosten Heretic.” To me, he added, “If you would like to test the choker, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.”

I agreed with that, and he called the knight-guy over. A brief explanation followed before Ermagh–damn it, Shiori– before Enguerrand nodded to me. “Of course, m’lady. ‘Twould be my honor to assist in this endeavor.” To Gabriel, he added, “Prithee, allow me entrance briefly?”

“Of course, Guerrand,” the other man agreed before bowing his head a little bit as he waited.

As the rest of us watched closely, Enguerrand reached out to touch Gabriel’s arm. As soon as he made contact, the armored man disappeared, vanishing entirely in an instant. A second later, Gabriel raised his head, giving a brief shudder before moving his eyes to me. “I am prepared.”

Kay gestured to me then. “There is no command phrase or any other method of activation. Simply put the choker on and then touch him. It should signal the truth to you immediately.”

So, I followed her instructions. Lifting the choker to my neck, I slipped it on and tightened it a bit before taking a breath. As soon as it was comfortable, I slowly reached out to touch the possessed-Gabriel’s arm with two fingers, a bit gingerly since I didn’t know what would happen.

As it turned out, what happened was simple: I saw a blurry, almost translucent  overlay of Enguerrand over top of Gabriel’s body that disappeared and reappeared randomly for a few seconds. When Gabriel’s body moved, the image of the other man duplicated the motion.

It lasted about six seconds through that brief touch, enough time to definitely notice without completely taking over or going on for too long. Other than that, there was no alert or anything. Touching him didn’t burn, or give an electric shock, or any of the other things I’d worried about.

Meanwhile, Shiori, Avalon, Roxa, and even Mateo were all watching me anxiously. Roxa was the first one to find her voice. “So?” she pressed curiously. “Does the thing work, or what?”

“It works,” I confirmed with a nod before explaining what I saw. Taking the choker off, I offered it to Avalon first, so she could try. One by one, she, Shiori, and Roxa used the choker before touching Gabriel to see what it was like. Once they were done, Enguerrand released him and stepped out, shaking himself off. “I believe,” he announced “that it has performed as desired?”

“Exactly as desired,” I confirmed, looking at the choker in my hand after Roxa handed it back to me. “I mean, it’d be easier if it worked all the time, constantly. But if it’s a choice between not working at all and needing to touch them, I’ll go with touching them every goddamn time.”

“Sure,” Shiori piped up. “And it’s not like it’ll be hard to touch anyone close enough to you to be a threat. Just gotta make up an excuse to hug them or something. Oh, and not give it away.”

I nodded at that. “Exactly. Finding the one that Charmiene is possessing shouldn’t be that hard, not with this. But we can’t go after her until we find out who the other guy is possessing. That um, Manakel guy. He’s gonna be harder. But we can start ruling people out. Like Deveron.”

That was one of the biggest reliefs of all this. Not only would we be able to find out who was possessed, we would also be able to find out who wasn’t possessed. And as soon as we could start ruling them out, we could start confiding in them again. I was really looking forward to that part. This whole ‘keeping secrets from my friends and people I trusted’ thing was for the birds.  

Gabriel started to say something then, before pausing. Raising his gaze to look past me, he spoke with a slight smile, musing aloud, “Maybe now is a good time to take a short break.”

“A short brea–” I started to question that before glancing back to see what he was looking at. What I saw was my father walking into view from around one of the cabins, accompanied by Asenath, Twister, and Calice, the female Relekun (tree-person) that I’d met before.

I stopped talking. Every other thought left my head. Before I knew what I was doing, my body had already pivoted, and my feet were carrying me that way. I sprinted, trying to call out, but the words caught themselves in a lump in my throat. Finally, I managed a thoroughly choked, “Dad!”

My father’s arms opened as I approached, and just like that, I was a little kid again. I could bench a thousand pounds, but I was a little kid again. I had just been involved in a massive battle against the largest combined pack of werewolves (and other weres) on the continent, but I was a little kid again. My father had his arms around me… and I was a little kid again.

I held tight (but not too tight) to the man who had raised me pretty much on his own for the past decade, who had spent ten years thinking that his wife had abandoned him and their child for no reason, who had broken through the Bystander Effect to learn what really happened. I wrapped my arms around him and held on, clutching my father for the first time since he had discovered the truth. Sure, we’d talked over the phone. But that was different from actually being there with him. Nothing, not even Fossor himself, could have made me let go in that moment.

For awhile, there was nothing else but this: holding onto my dad and feeling him holding onto me. I didn’t care about anything. The whole camp could have spontaneously exploded and it was iffy whether I would have noticed or not. My dad was there. That was all that mattered.

He seemed just as affected. I felt his arms close around me, and remembered all the times that I had run into his arms as a child, or crawled into his bed after a nightmare, or clutched onto him in the middle of the day for no reason other than the terrible thought of losing him like I had my mother. Every time, no matter what he had been busy with, my father had held me for just as long as I needed him to. He was never too busy for me, never too distracted to give me all the support and reassurance that he could. He was my dad.

My dad.

After a minute or so, I felt him run a hand up and down my back, coaxing me a little bit. “Well, hey, you.” There was a smile in his voice as he gently kissed the top of my head. “Fancy meeting you in a place like this.” Even though he was teasing, I could hear the lump in his voice.

Despite myself, I reflexively replied, “You’re right, I did meet Fancy in a place like this.”

With a tiny smirk, Dad raised an eyebrow. “Damn, you met the kobold too, huh? I had a whole thing planned for that.” He used a hand to muss up my hair. “Oh well, glad you’re here.”

“I had to come,” I pointed out, gulping before continuing, “you’d get lost without me around to help.”

“Kid,” my dad announced while leaning back so that he could put a finger under my chin, lifting it up to meet my gaze. “I’d be lost without you, period.”

“Dad…  Daddy.” Choking up again, I dropped my head to his chest and hugged my father once more, unable to help myself.

That took another brief time before I gathered myself, straightening to look at him. “Dad,” I whispered hoarsely. “I don’t… I don’t know where to start.”

“Honestly?” he replied, “neither do I. I–Felicity, you’ve got so much going on. All this–everything you’ve been doing, it–how are you even–” He sighed, embracing me tightly once more for a moment. “Did you… do what you needed to?”

“Pace got away,” I admitted. “But we got what we needed from her, and they think it’s destroyed.” Pausing, I added, “And Roxa killed their pack leader.”

“Killed.” Dad’s voice was flat. “You… say that so easily. You–”

“I killed too,” I admitted quietly, glancing away for a moment. “I killed then, and I killed before. Self-defense, mostly.” I wasn’t sure if it counted when the school put us in the situation where we had to fight to survive. But then again, the things we hunted were killing innocent people, or would have if we didn’t intercede, so… talk about a gray area.

“There’s a lot I don’t understand yet,” Dad murmured, watching me intently. “But I know you. If you say you had to do it…” His head shook. “God, Flick, this is… and your mom is–”

“Alive,” I interrupted. “That’s the important part. She’s alive and she’s out there. We just have to–to find her.”

Dad looked at me again, his gaze serious. “I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to it than that,” he pointed out. “But… you’re right. We’ll find her. Right now I’m just trying to wrap my head around all this.”

Smiling a little, I nodded. “Take your time. You… um, seem to be coping with it pretty well, actually.”

His voice was dry. “With my job, I’ve learned how to freak out on the inside.”

From that point, my brain stalled out for a moment. There was so much I wanted to say to my dad, so much I wanted to get his opinion on, now that I could actually talk to him in person instead of just over the phone. “I…” Swallowing, I reflexively looked over my shoulder. And then I knew.

We had the choker. Soon, I would use it to check each and every person on our team, and everyone else that I could. We would figure out who Charmeine and Manakel were possessing. We would find a way to deal with all that. I would tell my dad everything I could. I would do everything I needed to do.

But right now, there was something that I wanted to do. So I took my father my the hand, leading him back that way.

“You, um, you know Shiori,” I started, weirdly nervous. “And this is-um, this is Avalon.

“Avalon, this is my dad.”

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24 comments

  1. There we go guys, we are back to Flick after a brief detour through that Interlude Arc! Hope you enjoyed getting back to our main character, and that you’re as excited as I am that she’ll actually be able to know who to trust now.

    As a quick note, there was a minor edit to the PREVIOUS chapter. Nothing major, just a clarification that Sariel was deliberately bypassing/breaking the memory-spell that erased Joselyn so that Larissa would retain the information she gave her. Before editing, the passage read:

    Larissa was quiet for a moment, taking that in. “So they erased her, they erased the rebellion.”

    “Erasing her did erase the rebellion, for most people,” Sariel murmured. “It took away their figurehead, the person who inspired them to change their minds about Alters. So once their memory of Joselyn was gone, once Joselyn herself was just a normal human, most of the rebellion fizzled out. Which was enough, as far as they were concerned.”

    It now reads:

    Larissa was quiet for a moment, taking that in. “So they erased her, they erased the rebellion.” She paused then. “Wait, if they erased–how can I remember this? Shouldn’t that spell be erasing it from my mind as soon as I remember it?”

    Sariel smiled faintly. “I have been doing this for a very long time. The Mnemosyne spell may be very strong, but I have ways to dismantle it. And,” she murmured, “as far as that goes, erasing Joselyn did erase the rebellion, for most people. It took away their figurehead, the person who inspired them to change their minds about Alters. So once their memory of Joselyn was gone, once Joselyn herself was just a normal human, most of the rebellion fizzled out. Which was enough, as far as they were concerned.”

    As I said, not a big deal, just a clarification edit since the point was raised that it wasn’t fully clear. 🙂

    Anyway, thanks for reading, everybody! Don’t forget to vote on Top Web Fiction by clicking right here, and visit the Heretical Edge Subreddit by clicking right here!

    Other than that, I’ll see you guys next time! Tags for this chapter were: Avalon Sinclaire, Enguerrand, Felicity Chambers, Flick, Gabriel Prosser, Kay, Lincoln Chambers, Mateo, Oh Thank God – Flick Can Start Actually Telling People Things Again., On Top Of All Her Other Reputations – Now Flick Is Going To Get One For Constantly Walking Around Touching People., Roxa Pittman, Shiori Porter

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Aw man, I was really looking forward to seeing her father’s reaction to her having two girlfriends. Guess I’m going to have to find a way to sleep until Friday…we are still going to see it on Friday, right?

    On another note, I didn’t realize how much I missed being in Flick’s head. I enjoyed he interlude arc, but none of Roxa’s old team can replace Flick.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. About the edit to the previous chapter, wasn’t it OK as it was. From what I remember, there were two memory spells, but the one about Joselyn in particular wasn’t the always active type. After all, Flick was able to remember Joselyn once she saw her in the picture.

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    1. That was Flick working things out with hints. It was specifically stated by Seller that he couldn’t outright talk about Joselyn with someone who didn’t already know who she was.

      Basically it’s a gray area because it was Sariel undoing memory magic that was done to begin with. Overall it’s better to explain it that way than not to. The whole issue was raised by the question of why Liam never told Larissa the truth (because he physically couldn’t as she wasn’t included in the spell), which raised the question of why Sariel COULD undo the memory magic.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love how casual Gabriel is about letting En take over his body. That’s a lot of trust.

    Sucks about the choker’s new imitations, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. On the other hand, seeing Flick and her dad like that is wonderful. I can’t wait to see Lincoln and Avalon interact next chapter. 🙂

    Also not surprised that Roxa would rather stay. Too bad her telling her team to lay off might just confirm their brainwashing theory. And also that showing up in person would most likely alert Isaac that the choker wasn’t destroyed.

    “If you could actually use it really soon, and talk to your old team so that they no you’re okay and stop looking at me like I’m the devil or something. That would be really cool.”

    You used “no” instead of “know” here.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love how casual Gabriel is about letting En take over his body. That’s a lot of trust.

      They have been around each other for a long time. 😉

      You used “no” instead of “know” here.

      Thanks!

      Like

  5. After a minute or so, I felt him run a hand up and down my back, coaxing me a little bit. “Well, hey, you.” There was a smile in his voice as he gently kissed the top of my head. “Fancy meeting you in a place like this.” Even though he was teasing, I could hear the lump in his voice.

    Despite myself, I reflexively replied, “You’re right, I did meet Fancy in a place like this.”

    Shiori has definitely rubbed off on Flick.

    Like

  6. I hope we see something about how various parties are reacting to losses from the battle, or at least talking about how lucky they are if they had no losses.
    It’s cool how completely Gabriel and the rest of the clan trust Enguerrand to allow him to possess the guy who is likely their most powerful member.
    I always love Interludes, but I was surprisingly really excited to get back to Flick’s perspective. I guess it’s because she’s just got so much going on and so many possibilities for what could happen now, and it was great to get started with that.

    Like

  7. Well, at least we know the choker still works, even though the degradation in ability to needing touch is unfortunate. Still, it will be good for a surprise unveiling since the conspirators/Seosten believe it destroyed.

    Also, I liked the interactions between Flick and her father. She’s been frazzled by recent events, I think, and it’s been a while since the two have seen each other. A little normalcy is likely to be very appreciated by both of them. Looking forward to Lincoln’s reaction to Flick’s (girl)friends, heh.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “Well, I would say that the girl who went and killed Lemuel would be woke up on any pack she wanted to join.”

    This might just be slang I’m unfamiliar with, but ‘welcome in’, maybe?

    Hurrah, back to Flick! I did enjoy the interlude arc, and I get why you needed to show us Larissa meeting with Sariel again, but honestly I’m glad to get things going again. Dominoes all set up, just waiting for the push now.

    I wonder how Roxa’s team will take the news she’s not coming back? Even when they find out the real reason, that might sting a little, especially for Jazz.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I wasn’t sure that point

    This is a bit awkward. Maybe “sure on that”.

    “Honestly?” he replied,

    Probably should add another carriage return before this, since it’s a new person speaking and all.

    Now I’m really curious who added in the bit about revealing possession. We know how made the bad ring and the intended effect of hiding a Stranger nature but not who fiddled with it later to add in the other bit.

    Nice to see Flick get to finally talk with her dad, looking forward to more of that. I think Lincoln is a smart enough mane to know he doesn’t really need to do the whole “If you hurt my daughter” thing with the girlfriends. Though he might make a joke about said line.

    The sad thing about trusting people is that there is always the chance more Seosten can be brought in and possess more people after they’ve been vetted. But even so a casual hand on a shoulder is enough to make sure they are still clean, and it’s not been hinted at in anyway that a Seosten gets past memories from their host, only what they experience while in one.

    I’m really looking forward to the New York trip. I’m guessing that is when Roxa is going to make an appearance to her team and that dust up is going to happen.

    Like

    1. it’s not been hinted at in anyway that a Seosten gets past memories from their host, only what they experience while in one.

      It was explicitly stated that Seosten can access a host’s memories when Petan described them in arc 9, and Charmeine has been shown to know things Columbus wouldn’t have told her about (like Gabby).

      Like

      1. Arc 9 was a while ago, but geez, how’d I forget something so important?

        There’s always a threat of more being brought in, but the more people the larger the risk of being found out so hopefully it’ll only stay the two (local) for now and once both of them have been found Flick’s group will be able to bring more of the Seosten conspiracy to the attention of people higher up the chain and start working out the root cause of things. Maybe get that enchantment copied by someone. Well have to see how things go. That whole ‘sent forward in time by a year’ and Fossor’s plan will add some problems to things of course… .

        Like

      2. Eh. It happens. It’s a long story, after all.

        You may have made one more, much more understandable mistake (unless I’m just misreading your post).

        Well have to see how things go. That whole ‘sent forward in time by a year’

        Flick is going to be sent forward four years into the future, not one. Petan’s Interlude takes place five years after 2017, in 2022 after he sent Tristan back. But she’ll apparently be sent from one year after Tristan crashed landed in front of her, in 2018.

        So Flick from one year in the future will be sent forward four years.

        This is why I don’t like time travel stories.

        Like

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