Author’s Note, for people who are potentially sensitive about issues revolving around Fossor, I have included a very brief summary of the events in this chapter at the bottom if you would prefer to scroll down and skip over reading details. That said, I can say right up front that there will *never* be any on-screen depictions of sexual assault in this story, nor will there be any ‘fade to black’ moments where the act is implied. It will not happen, at all, whatsoever, in any kind of present tense/current events thing in-story. There have been and may be implications of *interest* in that regard as well as possible character histories that involve it, but you will never see it happen, nor will you ever see a moment where it is clearly going to happen and then the scene cuts away. There will be nothing like that regardless of what any villain may imply at any point.
That said, for those who are still sensitive about how creepy and nasty Fossor as a villain can be, feel free to scroll to the bottom to read the quick summary (marked in bold and underlined) of the events in this chapter. Thank you very much.
“No… no,” I spat the words, starting to scramble to my feet as a blinding rush of panic enveloped me. “No, you’re not–I still have a month! I still have a month!”
“Correction,” the man in front of me replied. “You had a month. After all, I did say that I would cause no harm to come to you until the day you became an adult.”
Fossor smiled, most of his face in darkness with only a bit illuminated by the glow surrounding me. “And what better way to ensure that no harm comes to you in the weeks you had left than to make you skip over it entirely with a short time jump?”
“Happy birthday, Felicity. And welcome home.”
The next thing I knew, I was on my feet, a wordless scream escaping me as I threw myself at the necromancer. Not that it did me any good, because he simply exhaled and shook his head before two ghosts popped into existence and yanked me back to the ground. I struggled, but they held me there while the man stepped forward and reached out. His finger found my chin and I snapped at him with my teeth. But he was too quick, pulling his finger back while giving a soft, amused chuckle.
“My girl,” Fossor began simply, “I would have thought that, precarious situation aside, you would at least be happy for the prospect of seeing your mother again. I know she’s been so… excited by the prospect of having you with her. You wouldn’t want to make her feel bad, hmm?”
My mind was spinning completely out of control. No, no, no! This couldn’t happen. Time travel? He’d cheated me out of the rest of the time I had to prepare by using time travel to send me straight to my birthday? I wasn’t ready! This was wrong! No, no! I struggled even harder, tilting my head back to spit at him. But it wasn’t just spit. I’d summoned my nausea-inducing liquid with it and spat that into his face, hoping against hope that it would make him lose his control over the ghosts for just a second. Long enough for me to use my own power to force them to let go.
It did not. Actually, it didn’t seem to have any effect whatsoever. The man simply produced a handkerchief from his pocket, flipped it out a bit, and used a corner to wipe the saliva off his cheek. Then he folded it up and calmly tucked it away before regarding me with a raised eyebrow. “I have given you most of a year to prepare this, Felicity. Most of a year to be ready for my move, and the best defense you can mount is the equivalent of a toddler throwing food? I’m honestly disappointed. Please tell me you have something more interesting than that in mind.”
My eyes narrowed at those words, and I threw all my focus onto one of the ghosts holding me. Its cold fingers let me go and it suddenly grabbed the other ghost, knocking it away. I came to my feet, staff appearing in my hand from its storage place. Hitting the button to summon a cloud of sand that superheated as it flew into Fossor’s smug fucking face. At the same time, I used the staff to launch myself past him. One second of distraction. That was all I needed. My pass through even magically locked doors power would let me escape the room. Then I could find my mom and the two of us could work on getting the hell out of this place together. I just had to stay a tiny bit ahead of him.
It didn’t work. No sooner had I gotten within a couple steps of the door, than half a dozen more ghosts appeared, grabbing various parts of me before bodily pushing me to my hands and knees in front of an apparently unbothered Fossor. There was a puddle of blood around him in a circle. Belatedly, I realized that he had actually summoned the blood from somewhere and used it to catch the sand before allowing both to fall to the floor.
I didn’t just give up then, of course. I fought like a wildcat being taken to a bath. Nothing I did worked. I wasn’t ready now, not for something like this. I was already tired from the fight against Kwur’s minions, from the entire Kwur thing in general. Yes, I had almost endless stamina. But the key word there was almost, and I had been going for a long time by that point. Too long. There was no gas left in my tank. It was all I could do to keep getting back to my feet and throwing myself against that brick wall. I tried my powers. I tried my magic. I tried attacking Fossor and I tried avoiding him. I tried focusing on contacting Tabbris. Nothing worked. I might as well have been a fly repeatedly throwing myself against a car windshield in a futile effort to bully it into submission. Nothing I did, nothing I tried, had any effect on the man, who continued to stand there without much care. Occasionally, he would offer some light words of advice. And that was the single most humiliating and awful thing about all this. He didn’t care that I was fighting him. He was even a little bit amused by it. Because he knew that it wouldn’t matter. I didn’t have my friends or anyone here to help me. I was tired, and he knew that. He knew I was wiped. This whole thing was even more of a foregone conclusion than it already had been thanks to all the effort I’d already put into dealing with Kwur. On my best day, with a full night’s sleep (or as much as I ever really needed), weeks more training and preparation, and everyone who wanted to help protect me, I might have stood some sliver of a chance. Might. But like this? No.
Finally, I stood there, leaning on my staff to keep myself up while I stared at the man. I hadn’t even managed to make him budge at all. He’d simply stood there calmly through all of that, letting me tire myself out even more. Nothing worked. Nothing hit him, and none of my efforts accomplished a damn thing. Spitting on him and making the man wipe it off with his handkerchief was basically the most direct effect I’d managed. For all the good that actually did. And now I just couldn’t do anything else. I had to pause. I had to breathe, my panicked, terrified mind working a million miles an hour. But it wasn’t working toward anything. I wasn’t thinking of anything productive. My brain wasn’t a bird in flight, it was a bird in a cage throwing itself against the walls wildly, doing more damage to itself than its prison. I accomplished nothing with all of my wild flailing. The cage was here, it was already around me, and I couldn’t escape any more than that bird could have.
“You,” I snarled the word while glowering at the man across from me with every ounce of hate I could summon. My breath came out in a shuddering gasp, partly from my own exhaustion and partly from that bottomless swelling of rancor. “How… how much of all of that was you?”
In contrast to my own voice, Fossor’s was quite casual and conversational. “Oh, just about all of it, I would say. You forget, Felicity, I’ve known that the time would come for me to collect you for quite awhile now. I’m not one to sit idly by and simply… hope for the best. It’s my nature to stack the deck, as it were. Come now, don’t look at me like that. I did warn you that I would be coming for you. I gave you nearly an entire year to get your affairs in order. I dare say that’s more of a courtesy than I extend to most. But then, I do like your spunk.”
At a vague gesture from him, the ghosts all disappeared. Though I knew that meant nothing. With a thought, he could bring them all back. And more. He could flood this entire room–hell, the building we were in– with zombies, ghosts, and any other kind of dead creature that he wanted to throw at me. He could drown me in corpses without breaking a sweat. Dismissing them like that right now was nothing but a show. Still, I watched as he continued.
“To be specific, several years ago, I procured a piece of the… creature known as Kwur. That was an adventure in and of itself.” Smiling faintly at whatever memory he was reliving, the man eventually shook it off. “In any case, we made an arrangement, and I ensured that the piece was given to a man who lived in an isolated area with a large family. A family in a house that would make an excellent site for hauntings.”
“You set them up,” I managed, my voice cracking a little at the realization that everything that had happened to Dakota and her family was just one step in Fossor’s plan to capture me. “Why?” I spat the word. “Why did that entire family need to die? What did that even gain you?”
“Plausible deniability, of course,” came the response. “Felicity, if all of this had started up just now, you and your minders would have immediately seen it as one of my machinations. You would have been on your guard. But this? Something that apparently began three years ago and was connected to some other massive threat? It blinded all of you.” He paused then, his eventual next words thoughtful. “Ensuring that you and your friends found out about that situation was as easy as a few whispered words here and there arranging for the farmhouse to be used as a shelter for your wayward lambs. I wasn’t certain at the time of the original deaths how I would bring it to the attention of the people watching over you, but this… underground railroad they’ve been running was a great help. I pointed the strays to it and then gave the ghosts a little bit of a poke to attack them, while ensuring they found the hidden basement holding our plant friend. After that, it was a simple matter of making certain someone close to you was given the job of checking that out. Frankly, I’m a little disappointed that the whole… ghost thing didn’t give away the game, to be perfectly honest. Not to mention the coincidental timing of someone who happened to be close to you finding that information right when they did.”
Swallowing hard, I shook my head. “You just… this whole thing, all of it, was just to catch me and the others off-guard. You made us exhaust ourselves fighting Kwur and his minions. Azlee, he was a zombie the whole time. You were the one controlling him, and you planted that.. that time travel spell in him, ready to go off as soon as he saw me. As soon as you saw me through him. All of that, all of it, just to grab me? How did Kwur feel about being your distraction?”
“Careful,” the deceptively normal-looking man idly warned me. “You don’t want to get a big head. Not everything is entirely and solely about you. Yes, this did allow me to, let’s say, acquire my property. But it was far more than that. It also lured many of Gehenna’s people to a place I knew they would go. A place which I could prepare ahead of time for their arrival, when they were quite distracted. They were prepared for a threat from Kwur, not from me.”
The calm mask on Fossor’s face twisted for just a moment into an ugly expression of hate and loathing beyond anything I had seen from him, or almost anyone for that matter. “Gehenna was my hell, Felicity. Do you honestly think I’d allow them to operate here, in my own backyard? Let’s just say, Azlee Ren wasn’t the only dead puppet I filled with a very powerful spell before sending him on his way. When those who went to Vegas returned to their home, they carried enough destructive power within them to level that outpost and destroy everyone and everything inside.
“Which is precisely why Kwur didn’t care that he was used, in your words, as a distraction. If he succeeded in his own mission, he would gladly have spread across this world. If not, plan b still resulted in his imprisoned core being destroyed, leaving him free to grow back from one of his many scattered seedlings. Either way, he escaped. Which, in my case, has the added benefit of ensuring that Gehenna is quite occupied at the moment. They won’t be coming back to reestablish their outpost any time soon.”
Talking, I had to make him keep talking. Something would occur to me. I would think of something. Or Tabbris. Tabbris would contact me. Surely they would have realized I was teleported into the future, narrowed down how long it would take me to reappear, and my little sister would be letting me know what was going on any second. Quickly, I blurted, “What about Vanessa? Were you the one who erased her memory of Harn? Wait, what did Harn have to do with all this?”
“Honestly?” Fossor sounded amused. “Nothing, at least originally. He was just an old man who was helping that poor little girl. It actually took me by surprise when I went to the facility to check on the girl, as Kwur requested, and found Harn and the Moon girl leaving her room. Harn recognized me and… things grew complicated. In the end, I was forced to wipe their memories of the encounter, and of the girl herself. One moment, please.”
As he said that, I found myself suddenly grabbed by several more ghosts. They held me completely still, one forcing my hand out. Before I could even react, Fossor’s hand snaked out with a little scalpel, and he cut my finger with it. It was little more than a nick, but it did draw blood. Fossor immediately made the ghosts disappear, examining the scalpel curiously while I held my finger. “Ah, good. It seems my guess that the oath preventing me from harming you was tied to this date rather than your physical age was correct. Good to know.” Finished with his test, the man seemed to realize he’d interrupted himself. “What were we saying? Oh, yes, Harn and the Moon girl’s memories. You’d be surprised how skilled in such magic you can become after spending so much effort learning ways of combating it so that your own memory is never erased.”
“And you needed Dakota alive and ready to tell her whole story so the distraction would work,” I muttered, watching my finger heal up as though nothing had happened. “But if anyone remembered seeing you at the hospital around her, the entire thing was pointless.” Pausing, I frowned. “But you said you were checking on her because Kwur wanted you to. Why would Kwur care about what happened to her beyond your fucked up plan?”
He offered me a shrug. “Apparently, the diabolical plant has taken something of an interest in the girl. I think he sees her as a wayward child, one with great potential should she only be… molded properly.” A thoughtful brief pause came, then, “I suppose he and I do have that in common, after all.”
“What,” I snapped, “that you’re both utterly amoral pieces of shit who deserve to be thrown into the sun? Cuz yeah, you’re definitely pretty fucking similar in that way.”
“I do enjoy these chats,” the man informed me in a voice that was just as casual as ever. “And we’ll have time for many more now that you’re home where you belong. But I should probably inform you that if your curiosity happens to be fueled by a hope that your Seosten tagalong will be connecting with you soon, you should set such thoughts aside. An aftereffect of the… particular time-travel I happen to have put you through breaks down the connection those bodysnatchers use to send themselves back to a previous host. She can’t contact you, or come back to you, until she physically possesses you again. And that, I’m afraid, just isn’t going to happen.”
He knew. He’d known the entire time what I was doing, and it was all pointless. Tabbris couldn’t recall to me, she couldn’t help me. Nobody could help me. We had plans and defenses, of course. But they all revolved around how to stop Fossor from taking me once he tried. But I was already here. He’d completely bypassed everything by–by skipping me ahead weeks ahead of schedule. There was nothing that any of our training or plans could do about me already being here. We weren’t ready for that. We weren’t ready. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t… I… I was afraid. I was more afraid in that moment than I’d ever been. I was here, I was alone with the worst monster I’d ever met, I didn’t know what to do.
I didn’t know what to do.
Seeing the expression on my face, Fossor gestured. “Now, let’s not dwell on the bad things. After all, this is your chance to see your mother. Wouldn’t you like that?”
“What I’d like,” I snarled at him, “is to see you turn inside out and fall apart.” Yes, I wanted to see my mother. Of course I wanted to see her. I was desperate to see her, to touch her, to really talk to her. But him taking me to her right now was just… it was him ruining that, marring it and putting his own twisted stink all over it. Just like he did to everything he touched. Seeing her now wasn’t going to be the reunion we wanted. It was going to be him gloating about taking both of us.
And maybe part of me didn’t want my mom to know that in the end, I had failed. Fossor took me just like he said he would, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was exhausted, I was alone, I was out of ideas. One of the biggest chances I’d had, Fossor’s dead sister, hadn’t panned out because she still hadn’t shown up again. Was that my fault? Was I just that bad at being a necromancer? I had Manakel’s powers, so I should have been able to summon her. I didn’t practice enough. I didn’t work enough. I didn’t try enough. I fucked up and now I was here.
What was I going to do about that? Fossor won. He pulled me away just like he’d said he would, had taken me from every bit of support I had. And now he’d proven he could hurt me if he wanted to. Mom’s oath didn’t protect me anymore. Next to Fossor and the power he could wield, I really was a child throwing a tantrum. That was the fact of it. That was the cold truth. So what was I going to do?
I didn’t know. I had no idea. I had… nothing.
“Take me to my mom,” I finally managed, swallowing hard after forcing the words out.
Like a gracious host, Fossor turned and gestured to the door. One of his ghosts appeared to pull it open. “Come, my dear,” the vile necromancer piece of shit urged. “I promise, in time, you will come to accept these new circumstances. You, your mother, and I, are going to be one big happy family. Maybe not right away. But now that you’re here, we have time to work all that out.
“And I am nothing if not patient.”
Flick tries to fight Fossor but can’t harm him, considering his own power and her exhaustion. He tests that he can physically hurt her now with a tiny cut to her finger, and explains how he manipulated the situation with Kwur to end with the destruction of the Gehenna outpost and her brought into the future straight to her eighteenth birthday. He also explains that the specific time-travel spell he used erased Tabbris’s recall connection to her, leaving the Seosten girl unable to come to her aid until she physically possesses her again. Left with no allies or choice, Flick agrees to have Fossor escort her to see her mother.