Desperate Times 36-01

Previous Chapter                                         Next Chapter

“Who is he?!”

The sound of my own hard, furious, frankly wild voice was punctuated by the loud crack of the large tree reacting to the body being violently shoved up against it. I had Theia by the arms, having literally lifted the other girl off the ground before slamming her against the tree in my anger. I heard someone calling my name, but I wasn’t sure who. And quite frankly, I didn’t care. My only focus was on the girl in front of me, the girl who knew exactly what I needed to know.

“No more games!” I blurted while still holding her like that. “No more playing around, no more deals, no more tricks! Who is he?! He has Avalon, damn it! He has Avalon, so tell me who he is. Tell us who he’s possessing, so we can get to him before he kills her! God damn it, who is–”

A hand fell on my shoulder then, squeezing gently as Professor Dare spoke quietly from beside me. “Let her go, Felicity,” she urged while giving me a firm tug backward. “I know how you feel. Believe me, I do. But she can’t say anything if you keep slamming her against the tree.”

She’s right, Flick. Tabbris, back in my head after recalling to me basically the second after I had last screamed Manakel’s name, urged. She can’t tell us anything if we keep hurting her.

Dare could have made me stop very easily, of course. Probably about a hundred different ways, actually. To say nothing of what Tabbris could have done from inside my head. But neither of them did anything that drastic. In Professor Dare’s case, she simply pulled me by the shoulder while speaking softly, and I let the other girl go. Stepping back, I gave a quick glance around while Theia collected herself. We had company besides just Dare here at the edge of the Atherby camp. Abigail was there, along with Koren, Deveron, Gabriel, and a couple of his people. Sariel and my dad were together with Vanessa and Tristan, a bit off to the opposite side, while Columbus, Scout, Shiori, and Sean stood in a small group somewhere in the middle. I could even see others watching from off in the distance, their curiosity clearly piqued.

Gaia and Wyatt were back at Crossroads, in the exact spot where Avalon–or rather, the temporary duplicate of Avalon, had disappeared. Apparently Professor Kohaku was there too, as the head of Security. The three of them were looking for any hints or clues, any magical trace that might lead to Manakel. But I doubted they’d find anything. Our best lead was right here, where Gaia had taken the others and me an instant after she had shown up, which itself had been barely a second after the rest of my friends had come running up.

I had briefly, tearfully, explained what happened to the others. Then I had seen her: Theia. A red haze had settled over my vision, and the next thing I’d known, she had been against the tree with my hands clutching onto her arms while I shouted the demand for information into her face.

So they were all watching as I took a slow step back, tightening my hands into fast while I stared at the girl in front of me. “Who is he?” I demanded, my voice as hard as I could make it. “Who is he possessing? Tell us now. If you actually give a shit at all, if you’re not just faking all of this, tell us now. He has Avalon, goddammit. He has her. He’s going to kill her as soon as he can, as soon as the spell protecting her runs out. So tell us who he is.Tell us so we can save her!”

She has to t-tell us, right? I could hear the fear and worry in Tabbris’s mental-voice. She won’t really make us wait until we figure out how to fix her? That could take… that could take too long.

Swallowing hard, I breathed in and out, trying to collect myself. We won’t let it happen, I promised my partner, my sister. We’ll find her. I swear. We will find her. I don’t care what we have to do. We will get her away from that evil piece of shit. Somehow.

Tabbris was good enough not to point out the doubt and fear that had taken over my mind. Doubt and fear that she wouldn’t even have had to be in my head to hear in my words.

Shiori moved up inside me, joined quickly by her brother, Scout, and Sean. Even Vulcan came closer. All of them were watching Theia as well, though it was the Asian girl who spoke. “I know we already made a deal with you,” she pleaded with the Seosten. “But this is different. Avalon is going to die. She is going to die if you don’t help us. Please, you have to tell us something.”

Abigail was there then. She stepped almost directly between Theia and me, her expression pained. “Theia,” she started slowly while looking toward the girl in question, “they’re right. Avalon is in very deep trouble. If there’s anything, anything at all that you can–”

“Stop.” The Seosten was shaking her head. “Stop, you don’t have to say it. All of you are saying words that Pace-I am already saying. It’s distracting, it hurts. It hurts different from being hit. It still hurts. Theia-I know pain, but it’s different. Theia-I don’t like it. Please stop saying it.”

It was Scout who realized what she meant first. From beside me, the girl announced, “Guilt.” She straightened, brushing a bit of hair from her face as she continued. “You feel guilty.”

“Guilt,” Theia echoed. “Guilty. Pain. Pain in here.” Her hand found her stomach (Pace’s stomach, whatever) while she shook her head. “Theia-I don’t like it. Really don’t like it.”

“You don’t like it?” That was Columbus. The boy’s voice was hard, and it looked like he was about to say something else, but caught himself just in time. Whatever he had been about to say, it probably wouldn’t have helped the situation. And I knew exactly how that felt, because I was really tempted to say, or scream, a few things that wouldn’t have helped at all either.

Sean was there, moving beside his roommate and friend to put a hand on his arm. He leaned in to whisper something to him that I didn’t catch. Hopefully it would help the other boy somehow.

Professor Dare was the one who found her voice next. “Theia,” she started slowly, “I… understand a bit of what you’ve been through. I know what kind of life you’ve had, even if I don’t know the specifics. I know that you have no reason to trust what anyone says. But I promise you, we will not go back on our promise just because you give us what we need right now. Tell us what we need to know to save Avalon, please. We will still do absolutely everything possible to help separate you from Pace safely. I give you my word, Theia. Please, help us.”

Through all of that, Theia just stood there with her hand against her stomach. Her head was down, as she slowly shook it back and forth while visibly trembling. Whatever else I might have thought about the girl in my anger at the whole situation, I could believe that she did indeed feel guilty. She might not have understood what it meant or how to handle it, but she definitely felt it.

I’m sorry, Flick. Speaking guilt and pain, there was a lot of it in Tabbris’ voice. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have left. I shouldn’t have–

Stop, I quickly interrupted. You couldn’t have done anything, Tabs. Believe me, it was too late even before I got there. You didn’t do anything wrong. Don’t you dare put that on yourself. Put it where it belongs: on Manakel. He is the piece of shit that we need to stop.

“Okay.” The voice was small, and quiet to the point of barely being audible. Theia had slumped a little in front of us, her shoulders and head down. “Okay,” she repeated, “We will tell you what we can.”

Even as my own eyes widened at that, Abigail snapped her gaze that way, blurting, “You will?”

The girl was nodding slowly. “Yes,” she answered softly. “Pace-I says… says that it is the right thing to do. Theia-I am… am scared. Theia-I do not believe that you will help us if you are not properly motivated, if we do not have anything to offer. But…. but Avalon is in danger. Manakel will kill her, and Pace-I…” She paused briefly before correcting herself. “We do not want that to happen. So y-yes. We will tell you what we know. We will tell you who Manakel is possessing.”

Oh God. It was going to happen. After everything that had happened that year, everything that we had been through, we would finally find out exactly who Manakel was. He had gone too far that time. He took Avalon, and that had finally pushed Pace into convincing Theia to talk.

“Who?” I pressed, my voice jumping an octave despite myself. “Who is that son of a bitch?”

And then Theia said the words that made my heart instantly drop into my stomach. The worst words she probably could have said in that very moment.

“I just told you.”

There was no confusion, no uncertainty. Only heart-wrenching anger and frustration. Because I immediately knew what that meant. “No,” I murmured, my head shaking back and forth in pointless denial. “No, no, no. You can’t–they can’t–no! No, damn it! You can’t have the memory spell on you! Wasn’t that the whole point of them trying to kill you to make sure you didn’t talk?! What–what–no, say it! Say it again!”

She tried. For ten minutes, the Seosten girl tried to tell us what she knew. She tried to write it down, she tried to hint about it, she tried everything. Everything. But it didn’t help. She couldn’t say or do anything that would lead us to know who Manakel was possessing.

Even Sariel tried. Putting her hand against the girl’s head, she focused for awhile before sighing. “Normally,” she informed me, “You would be correct. It takes very powerful magic to enact this kind of spell on an unwilling target that is not even present. But it seems that Manakel has managed to convince his superior… probably Metatron, to grant him the resources necessary for that. I may be able to break it, but it will take time. Weeks, probably.”

“That’s too long,” I blurted, my voice rising dramatically despite every attempt I made to control it. “That’s too fucking long. It’s–” Turning, I lashed out with a punch that put my first all the way through the same nearby tree that I had shoved Theia into before. “–too fucking long!”

Spinning back the other way then, the words came from my mouth before I could stop them. “If you just hadn’t played games before, this wouldn’t have happened!” I shouted at Theia. “If you had just told us what you knew! If you’d just helped us before they had a chance to put this on you, we’d be done with this already! Avalon might die because you had to hold back instead of telling us!” My loud, panicked voice was growing more hysterical. “Avalon might die because–”

Hands grabbed me, turning me around away from the Seosten girl then. It was my dad. He wrapped both of his arms around me, holding tight as he shook his head. “Easy, easy,” he urged while pulling me close to him.

I quickly grabbed on tight rather than following my first instinct to pull away. Burying my face against his chest, I felt my shoulders shake as tears flooded my eyes. If Avalon died. If Valley was–was killed after everything we’d been through, just because Theia hadn’t told us about who Manakel was while she’d had the chance… The anger, fear, terror, grief, and helplessness all warred around with each other inside me, and I simply held onto my father even more tightly.

“Daddy,” I whispered, my voice soft and fearful as I pleaded, “I can’t let her die. Please, please, I can’t lose Valley. It’s not fair. It’s not fair. I can’t let her die. We have to do something. We have to do something.”

I had no idea what kind of fear and helplessness my father was feeling in that moment as he held onto me, but it had to be something similar to what I felt at the thought that I could do nothing to actually save Avalon. I was helpless. Theia had been our best shot, except–

“The pixie,” I blurted, pulling back a bit while turning to the others. “The pixie that Tristan told us about. She was supposed to know something, right? Could she–would she…”

“She might be able to say something, considering they would know much less about her than they know about Theia,” Sariel confirmed hesitantly. “Any protective spell would be far less effective in that case.”

“She’s not awake yet,” Dare informed us with a visible wince. “She is still healing, recovering from her escape. Staying away from Avalon’s father and the other vampires while they were chasing her took a lot out of her. Too much. It’ll be… awhile before she can talk to us.”

“Damn it!” Putting both hands to my forehead, I cursed again before lamenting, “It’s always something. There’s always something stopping us from finding out the truth. One thing after another.”

Jophiel, I announced inwardly. Maybe we can get what we need from her, from them. They want our help, our cooperation? Well they’re not gonna get it if Avalon dies. Fuck them. Fuck them. They want us to work with them? They can’t let Avalon die. Damn it, damn it!

I felt Tabbris’ agreement. Y-yeah, we won’t cooperate unless they help with Avalon. Th-they have to help, right? They helped us save Mama, even if… even if they made us make a deal with them first. We… they-they’ll have to help find her… won’t they?

Before I could respond to that, Theia spoke up once more. “Wait,” she murmured. “Maybe we can help and be useful. Maybe we can still tell other things. Not direct identity things.”

I looked that way, my mouth opening. But it was Koren who spoke first. “You mean, you might be able to tell us things that eventually lead to Manakel, in a roundabout way. Clues.”

Theia was nodding. “Clues, yes. Like… where his secret hidey holes are and how to get to them. He might have left clues there about who his dancing puppet is, or other things.”

So, she did. With surprising speed and conciseness, the girl told us how to find three separate ‘islands’ that were apparently secretly connected to Crossroads, yet only accessible through specific spells. There were apparently even more than that, but those were the three that she knew about. Apparently, Manakel had supplies in all of them. And probably troops too. They would likely be guarded.

With a hell of a lot of luck, he would be holding Avalon in one of them too. But I wasn’t nearly naive enough to think that he would be that stupid. Not now. He knew that we might be able to get information out of Theia (or Lies, as he still obviously thought of her as), so keeping Valley in one of the hidden locations that the Seosten girl actually knew about would have been beyond idiotic.

But still, I could hope that there would be some hint or clue in one of those places that we could check out, which would actually lead to Avalon. Please. Please, whatever deity might be out there. Please let it lead us to Avalon.

“Three places,” Professor Dare was murmuring. “If there is anything to find, he’ll get rid of it the second he finds out that we’re looking in them.”

“So we need to check all of them at once.” That was Deveron. He had come forward, pointedly staying away from Sariel and keeping his gaze off her. “That means splitting up.”

Dare nodded in agreement with that. “Three groups to check three areas. I’ll take one group.”

Deveron immediately announced, “I’ll take another.”

Finally, Sariel opened her mouth. But she was interrupted by Gabriel Prosser, who stepped up. “And I,” he put in, “will take the third.” Casting a glance toward the woman he had interrupted, Gabriel added, “If you would be kind enough to accompany me, I would very much appreciate your help.”

“Right,” I spoke then. “So we go in three groups, tear these places apart, and look for anything that might hint at where Manakel is, who he’s possessing, or anything else that could be helpful.”

It was a good thing that I had that Amarok-stamina. Because it had been a very long fucking day. Just when I had thought that everything had settled down and I was back at Crossroads for the time being (or at least for the night), this had happened. Now we were going out to search these places, and I still hadn’t had any actual sleep.

Yeah, I was, yet again, grateful for that enhanced stamina. Not that it would have mattered. I couldn’t have slept at this point even without it. The thought of Avalon being out there, being… I shoved the thought of the other girl being hurt, or worse, out of my mind. Or tried to. Right now, I had to focus on what we could do. And that meant searching these secret islands for any information that had been forgotten and left behind.

Hold on, Valley, I thought desperately, trying not to let my worry and fear totally overwhelm me. We’re coming, I promise.

We are coming for you. I swear to God. We are coming for you. We’ll be there. We’ll find you. Somehow, we’ll find you.

Just hold on.

Previous Chapter                                         Next Chapter

Advertisements

14 comments

  1. Well, they didn’t get the exact answers they were looking for… but at least Theia was willing to give them? And she DID end up giving them a lead that might just pay off. Kind of lucky that Pace has that crush on Avalon, I suppose. 😉

    Just a quick note since I’ve forgotten to mention it for awhile, if you have signed up for Patreon at any point (particularly to take advantage of the 24 hour early chapter releases that $5+ Patrons get) and have NOT received e-mails from me about interlude voting or e-mailed versions of the advance chapters, feel free to poke me at ceruleanscrawling@gmail.com and tell me that I missed you somehow.

    Anyway, thanks for reading, guys! See you back here on Friday for the next chapter!

    Tags for this one are: Abigail Fellows, Columbus Porter, Felicity Chambers, Flick, Gabriel Prosser, Guys‚ Maybe It’s Just Me‚ But The Seosten Secret-Keeping Memory Magic Is Kind Of Annoying., If Flick And The Others Burn Down Manakel’s Secret Bases‚ Is That More Pettiness Or Strategy?, Koren Fellows, Lincoln Chambers, Miranda, Pace, Sariel, Scout, Sean Gerardo, Tabbris, Theia, Tristan Moon, Vanessa Moon, Virginia Dare, Vulcan

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m going to assume that Manakel thought to memory spell Trice too. He doesn’t seem to know about the Seosten, but he does know who his contact/Manakel’s host is. There’s a small chance Manakel is assuming he’s dead, but I doubt it.

    Although I do have to wonder if any Eden’s Garden Heretics will be part of the security around wherever Avalon is being held. Again, I doubt it, but it’s a possibility I’m going to keep an eye out for.

    Also, that’s an ominous arc title. I wonder what desperate measures Flick will think are called for in this situation. I have a guess or two, and I can’t wait to find out.

    Like

  3. It’s kind of ridiculous how drastically different in power the three group leaders are. Of course, even Deveron is plenty strong.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Come on! You don’t tell them where his secret bases are to give a clue. You lie.

    You tell them he’s in all groups of Crossroads residents except the one he’s actually in.
    You tell them he sleeps in all houses of the unmentioned group except for his own.
    You get ten photos, the sixth his own, and say he’s in photos 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/9/10.

    Like

    1. Flick already tried to figure it out that way with Professor Katarin, but the spell erased her memory anytime she figured something out. They can’t even narrow it down either because the spell doesn’t let anyone find out Manakel’s host’s identity indirectly.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. It was established fairly early that memory spells like this don’t only erase the specific target, but any information that leads to someone figuring out what they’re erasing.

      8-01:

      Yeah, that had been fun to figure out. Since Sean and Avalon hadn’t been in the security room with us when we read those files, we weren’t able to actually talk about anything that was in them with the two of them. They weren’t protected from the secret-keeping magic, or whatever it was called. So when we talked about it, their brains just… skipped over it or something. We’d managed to be vague enough to explain what was going on, but any specifics were out of the question. We’d tried writing it down, and they just saw the paper or the screen as blank. We tried sign language, charades, none of it worked.

      “Okay,” I announced. “I have a new plan. Let’s try this. Every twenty seconds, I’m going to say a word. You remember every word, then put them in order when we’re done. All right? First word, I.”

      “Right, got it.” Sean nodded once easily. “First word is I. God, I hope this shit works. Avalon says she’s got some kind of plan for getting around this, but seriously, this magic secret stuff is getting old.”

      We kept walking, as I counted down the seconds before speaking again. “Have. Second word.”

      “I have, got it. Got that much.” Sean brightened a little more, clearly encouraged. “Closest so far.”

      After another twenty seconds, and as we neared the school therapist’s office, I spoke again. “More. Third word.”

      “More,” Sean repeated dutifully. “So far you’ve said ‘I have more’. Shit, this might actually work.”

      Trying not to get ahead of myself, I counted down once more and glanced toward Columbus before speaking again. “One more word. Here it comes. Siblings. The last word is siblings.”

      Sean met my gaze, started to nod automatically, then asked, “Okay, what is it?”

      My heart sank. “Siblings. I just told you. The last word is siblings. Did you get it? Tell me you got it.”

      “Get what?” Sean was shaking his head. “You’ve gotta tell me the last word before you can—wait, what was the first—okay, it was I… I have… wait, it was you have… wait, was the first word I?”

      Columbus groaned out loud. “You’ve gotta be kidding me. As soon as the sentence is complete, not only do they not hear the last word, but they forget the part of the sentence they already knew? Damn it!”

      I don’t recall a specific example where someone affected playing the “it isn’t X” game until the person they’re trying to tell gets it from process of elimination. But it stands to reason that all the information leading to someone figuring it out would get erased the moment they actually figure it out.

      So if so have this right, if you showed someone those ten photos and said it isn’t 1-5 or 7-10, the person you’re showing them to would forget which pictures you said weren’t it right as they think “it must be 6.”

      Liked by 1 person

  5. >“No more games!” I blurted while still holding her like that. “No more playing around, no more deals, no more tricks! Who is he?! He has Avalon, damn it! He has Avalon, so tell me who he is. Tell us who he’s possessing, so we can get to him before he kills her! God damn it, who is–”

    As cathartic as going full “WHERE ARE THE NUKES?!” Jack Bauer-style questioning may be, Flick, it’s not going to be very effective on Theia, I think.

    >And then Theia said the words that made my heart instantly drop into my stomach. The worst words she probably could have said in that very moment.
    “I just told you.”
    There was no confusion, no uncertainty. Only heart-wrenching anger and frustration. Because I immediately knew what that meant.

    I suppose it would’ve too easy otherwise. *grumbles* But that memory spell just complicated things quite significantly. Though Flick’s on the edge of completely losing it, she is correct in that they don’t have the weeks needed for Sariel to break the damn thing.

    >Jophiel, I announced inwardly. Maybe we can get what we need from her, from them. They want our help, our cooperation? Well they’re not gonna get it if Avalon dies. Fuck them. Fuck them. They want us to work with them? They can’t let Avalon die. Damn it, damn it!

    Hm. Better work on a convincing argument then Flick, because Jophiel/Elisabet’s not going to give you what you want for free, that’s not their way of doing things.

    Let’s hope those three locations provide something of import for the Hunt.

    Like

  6. I assumed from Flick going after clues that clues could help. Now, if our heroes were a bit less heroic, Theia could give Gaia and Gabriel a few photos, not tell or imply who the host is out of them, then Gaia, Sariel, and Gabriel go abduct all of them. No need to know who the host is if you do a broad sweep, and once you got them captured you can hit them with the anti-Seosten spell and that would be that. Keep the operation recorded too, so you can show it to other people if they complain about it.

    Alternatively, Sariel takes Pace/Theia to Lucifer, they spend a few weeks breaking the spell in another dimension, then they come back the moment they left.

    Problem is, Manakel should easily have the resources for a dimensional jaunt himself. Considering that he could spend years with Avalon and still return the moment he left, shouldn’t Avalon be already unprotected?

    Like

    1. I assumed from Flick going after clues that clues could help.

      This was also explained before (I want to say in 12-01, but it might have been somewhere else). Yes, they can piece it together from clues. But those clues can’t come directly from Theia. She can lead them to a place where they can find clues on their own (which is why that’s exactly what they’re going to do), but she can’t hand or tell them anything herself.

      Alternatively, Sariel takes Pace/Theia to Lucifer, they spend a few weeks breaking the spell in another dimension, then they come back the moment they left.

      If Apollo was present, they might be able to do that (I say might because memory spells are signifincatly harder to break when focused on a specific person like the one on Theia than the blanket one that keeps people from talking about Joselyn), but he’s not. They may have already contacted him so he can get back to earth more quickly, but until he’s actually there they probably can’t access that dimension.

      Problem is, Manakel should easily have the resources for a dimensional jaunt himself.

      Why? We have no idea how difficult it was for Apollo to set that room up, how long it took him (in his thousands of years of privacy), what resources it required, or how many times he failed before succeeding. There is no evidence to suggest that it’s something that can be replicated easily, and the fact that Kushiel’s baby factory wasn’t using one makes it clear that the Seosten Empire doesn’t know how to pull it off. Because if there was any reason for them to be using one, it would be to increase their birth rate problem.

      Setting up pocket dimensions is something the Seosten know how to do, but modifying how quickly time flows in it is something else entirely.

      Like

      1. Wasn’t talking about the time chamber, more the general “if you leave for another dimension, you can come back to the moment you left” thing.

        That applies to all dimensional travel, as seen by both Tristan and future-Flick.

        Like

      2. That’s not a general rule that applies to all dimensional travel. And even if it was, how does Tristan’s situation prove it? He didn’t come back to the moment he left, he came back ten years and change after he left.

        And in any case, shooting yourself towards a specific time in the past (which as far as I know only the Meregan tech is capable of, though I could be wrong) is insanely risky because if you overshoot and go too far back Bad Things happen if you exist in two places in the same dimension at once.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s