John is.. in another castle [3.2]

ourIceMain.jpg Sometimes you have to give in before you can win.
Sometimes you just mess up and have to make the best of things.
Sometimes you have to run.
..wonder which Hannah will do?..

Events unfold including but not limited to:
John being the cause of all life's problems
(according to Hannah)
And Hannah gives Storyteller the cold shoulder.


 

What the hell do I DO?!
It’s not like I have many options..if my guess is right, the arrow that hit John is poisoned in some way?

The storyteller’s holding the cure over my head in exchange for me following his orders.

His demand that I come without magical items isn’t too bad at least.
It’s not like I have many on me or anything.
I kinda forgot my sandals at Felicia’s desk when I got caught up with the new map and the map itself isn’t exactly going to be useful in this situation anyway, is it?

“Crap”

I’m kinda stuck..
I can’t get out of here without giving away what I’m doing!
I can’t afford to wait around for help to turn up either if John’s really in danger?!

As much as I hate to play by his rules.. I kind of walked into this trap with my eyes open to start with didn’t I?
I just didn’t expect it to be the Storyteller of all people!

“Damn it.. damn it, damn it, DAMN IT!”

In frustration I kicked the wall which is a REALLY bad idea while barefoot!
I dropped down and cupped my toes carefully with one hand.

My magic seeped out just a little to stop the pain but it didn’t help with the frustration.

Instead of repeating my mistakes or wasting even more time I gave the map tray a satisfying kick across the room and made my way to the door.
When I came level with the crossbow on its mount I paused and glared at it.

It barely took any conscious thought to turn off my diversion, so I could dump a few lines worth of Ice magic into the stupid thing.
It froze solid in seconds.

After a moment considering it I slid a finger down to the partly melted support and dumped another few lines worth of magic into it, this time from a much more concentrated position.
The metal creaked loudly as the temperature dropped even further.

It barely took a gentle shove from me to smash the now brittle metal into pieces making the crossbow fall to the floor with a nice loud ‘thump’.
I probably shouldn’t have wasted so much time on that but it helped calm my magic down a bit and it was damn satisfying!

“..screw you and your toys Storyteller..”

He didn’t answer aside from his constant mocking laughter coming from outside but hopefully he’ll see it at some point and get an idea what I’m going to do to him when I finally get my hands on him!

“Let’s get this over with, if I deal with this asshole fast enough I can go find my asshole-friend John and save his bloody life from whatever was on the arrow he got shot with while trying to rampage through the Hub like a stupid asshole!”

I like the word ‘asshole’.. it makes me feel better if I get to call someone who’s annoyed me it at some point at least..

======

“Storrrytellllerrrr..”
He didn’t answer my taunting drawl.
“STORRRYYYTELLLEERRR..”
Still no answer.

“DAMN IT STORYTELLER! YOU told ME to come out into these halls!”

My eyes cut over to the nice pristine white walls of the hallway, the same pristine white walls that I’ve walked past far too many times in the last half an hour.
I’m almost tempted to kick something but I really can’t be bothered to go through the whole ‘healing my toes with magic’ thing again.

“I know your still here! You may have stopped laughing but you’re not the type of megalomaniacal asshole that could just leave in the middle of a plan. I’ve dealt with people like you for years on my missions, you’re NOTHING.. YOU HEAR ME?! YOU’RE NOTHING!”

For a long moment there was no answer.
I opened my mouth to let off another angry tirade at him, just because I could, but stopped short when his calm voice rang out from a corridor somewhere to my left.

“You very well may have met people like me on your ‘missions’.. my competitors do tend to make weak attempts at emulating my genius after all.”
My foot froze mid-stride.
“Oh come now Arista.. you can’t honestly think that I would have you running around doing such fun little tasks as ‘missions’ without gaining something from it?”

My teeth grit down hard to try and resist the urge to go running off after him.
That’s precisely what he wants.

This little pointless run around the Hub, followed by taunts.
He wants me angry.
He wants me SLOPPY!

Well tough luck Storyteller!

I’m not the same overly emotional, half-conscious little girl you had caged up last time.
John said it perfectly.
I’m still me!

I may have gone through an awakening.
I may have changed my magical affinity.
I may have changed my body and brain chemistry.. but I’m still what’s left of Alistor Cooper!

Alistor Cooper wouldn’t give this dickhead the time of day.
The guy’s a blatant narcissist!

He loves having my attention on him, that’s obvious from the way he behaved when I was stuck in the box.
It’s like he’s showing off and trying to win my approval by showing what a ‘clever boy’ he is!

Well SCREW IT!
I’m not some puppet following his commands.

Let him TRY and push my buttons!
I’m Hannah Cooper and I’m not afraid of him OR his overinflated ego!

“It’s a shame what happened to your little friend.. what was his name?.. Karl?.. Commissioned Sergeant Karl Nobbs, correct?”

My blood ran cold at the same moment that it boiled which is a really strange feeling and may have something to do with mixed signals coming from my body and my magic.

“Shut up..”
The bastard laughed an airy giggle.
“Shut the HELL up!”

“Such a bright young man, so much promise, such a bright future.. and then you got him involved in things far above his head.”
His voice was almost gleeful as he spoke.
He knows he’s hitting at the sorest spot possible and even worse he knows it’s working!

“SHUT. UP!”

My hands came up to cup over my ears childishly as if it would help drown out his words but it’s no good, in the utterly maddening silence of the Hub’s empty hallways my magical enhanced ears will still pick up every sound he makes with only minimal muffling to the volume thanks to my hands.

“I’ve been researching, it turns out that a partial awakening isn’t as uncommon as I’d believed.. a known result including a change in magical signature, the same magical signature that is used in tracking crystals to detect if someone is still alive..”

He sounds so smug!
My fists clenched down tightly to resist the urge to go running off after him and beat him senseless until he forgets how to speak!
Only one assholes allowed to sound THAT smug around me and he’s currently missing with a possibly lethal wound!

“Your actions make a lot more sense when residual memories of ‘Alistor’ are taken into account.. some of his actions make better sense too..”
Careful to keep an even pace I started walking down the corridor towards his voice, eyes scanning for traps and other tricks he might have laid out for me.
“Tell me, just out of curiosity, did you ever truly love him?.. or was turning him gay with your feminine wiles, bending him to your will and getting him brutally murdered before your eyes just a way to relieve some subconscious desire for your old favorite pastimes?”

A growl bubbled low in my chest and I saw red.
Throwing caution to the wind I sprinted around the corner to catch him by surprise.

NO-ONE TALKS ABOUT KARL THAT WAY!

He was standing mid-way down the corridor with a smug little grin on his face and madness twinkling in his eyes.
I didn’t hesitate to sprint at him.

My magic poured out of me instinctively making me faster, stronger.
I drew my arm back to deliver a devastating punch to his smug face, the kind of punch that managed to crack the solid stone walls of my decontamination chamber the last time we met.
Someone’s going to have a fun job cleaning what’s left of his head off the ceiling!

“SHUT YOUR FUCKING MOUTH YOU BASTARD!”

With a push I leapt across the five meter gap remaining between us as if it was nothing, fist raised to strike.
At the last possible second the world went momentarily blue and my momentum just DIED.

He grinned at me and took one careful step forward into my personal space.
I struggled and thrashed but I couldn’t move.

“Please.. allow me.”
He gently slid his hand up the curve of my neck and pushed my hair aside, completely ignoring my thrashing as if it was inconsequential.
With a few taps at the arm of my glasses the world through my right lens dulled to an off white.. all but him with his horrible green-y silver magic and the blindingly bright blue ‘web’ of light anchoring my body to the walls, floor and ceiling with thick pulsing strands of magic!
“Rather ingenious, isn’t it? Sumerian spider trap, frightfully hard to set up and rather obvious under magesight.. but we both know you’re not comfortable with that particular skill, are you?”

With swift fingers he pulled my glasses off of my face and examined them curiously.

“I do like your style.. such extraordinary detail. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone turn a pair of glasses into a powerful artefact before, how utterly delightful!”
His wide crazy eyes turned up to me and he winked dramatically.
“I think I might keep them? I DID say to come without magical items after all.”

He slid the glasses onto his face and pushed them delicately up his annoyingly straight nose.

“Now.. I think it’s time we had that little chat I promised you Arista.. you’ve been a very naughty girl haven’t you?”
His voice was amused but his eyes still twinkled with malicious glee.

I tried to struggle once more without any form of progress.
With a deep calming breath I let my body go slack instead.
I’ll just tire myself out if I keep trying to fight it.

He’ll PAY for what he said.. but I can’t make him pay by acting like a stupid emotional rage machine, that’s what got me into this situation in the first place!

He played me perfectly.
I KNEW he was going to try it but he just pushed and pushed.. then he left such a perfect target for me to go after when my control was completely gone..
The moment his words about Karl left his mouth he’d already won this fight.

That doesn’t mean he’s going to win the war though!

“Keep the glasses, they help hide your ugly face a bit.”
I know it’s weak but I need to say something to get him talking again while I try to work a way out of this trap thing.

I’m not very good with Sumerian, it’s not really something within my comfort zone as a mage.
There must be something I can exploit in it.. some weakness.
Every spell has a weakness somewhere.
The hard part is just finding it!

“Oh come now Arista.. don’t be such a sore loser. You’re letting your ‘Alistor’ side show, always such an impatient and brutish young man that one..”
He seemed entirely too amused by that statement.

“Screw you!”

I pushed my magic to vent it out all at once in the form of Ice magic, hoping to catch him in the blast that was bound to happen.
Before it could do more than add a general layer of frost to my clothes and make my hair go a bit stiff the magic started focusing into specific points of my body.. the same points that this ‘spider’ trap is touching me!

As my magic poured into it the ‘web’ of the trap it seemed to hold me even tighter in its grip.
The bloody thing is draining my ambient magic to make itself stronger!

Where the HELL is everyone suddenly getting these enchantments from?!
Six YEARS I spent fighting bad mages and I never once came into contact with this sort of thing, in the last week everyone and his MUM has found some kind of trick to block magic!

“Been there.. done that.. I’ve had better honestly.”

My head turned slowly to stare at him in a wild mix of disgust and shock.
He DIDN’T just say what I think he said, did he?

“This ‘playing innocent’ game is getting old Arista. You of all people shouldn’t be surprised about this sort of thing, even if the Knights are right and your memories are incomplete.”

The ‘Knights’.. why does that feel familiar?..
The Handy man?.. he said something about Knights too!

“Arista de la Morte.. it’s ironic that the woman who’s responsible for more death on this planet than any other single being in existence is also the Mother of magic.. who will sleep with anything that moves.”

NO!
That’s not true!
I’m not.. I’ve never even.. I..

..deep breaths Hannah..

He’s just trying to get a rise out of me, he’s taunting me.
Just like last time he’s using my messed up memories surrounding most of Arista’s incarnations against me!

“Have you met any of your kids yet? The ones you had with Max alone should make for an interesting time, that’s not even counting the dramatic little ones you had with Orpheus.. or Heracles.. Odin.. Shango.. Atlas.. Hathor.. Sun-Wukong..”

A growl rolled out of my chest.
It only seemed to amuse him even more honestly.

“Nyankopon.. Kronos.. my, you certainly had fun with him didn’t you? God of Fertility indeed..”
He paced closer to me again and slid a gentle hand up my neck, so slowly that it made me shudder.
“Let’s face it Arista.. you’re the original damaged goods, if reincarnation didn’t usually come with a fresh new body you’d be a walking source for every sexually transmitted disease out there at this point.”

“SHUT UP!”
Before he could pull away from me I drew my spit together and sent a nice big loogie at him.
It landed with a satisfying splash on his slightly stunned face.

I got a nice warm sense of vindication as disgust spread across his aristocratic features waring with anger for dominance, I know it’s a childish response but screw him!
I’m not a slut no matter what he says!

“Just when I think you can be reasonable.. ‘Alistor’ has to show through again?”
He reached into his suit pocket and pulled out a handkerchief to delicately wipe away the spit.
“Maybe I should just reach into that brain of yours and get rid of him permanently.. it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve helped guide your destiny after all..”

..what?..

“Oh honestly! This new incarnation of yours is so.. plebeian..”
At my blank look he continued in his annoyed tone, moving away from me slightly to pace the hall instead.
“Did you never notice all those little blank spots in your memories? The emotions and situations that just didn’t quite add up, the things that you look back on and wonder ‘how did it all go so wrong suddenly’?”
He paused mid-stride, a small smile coming to his lips

..is he.. no?.. Gran said that Dad was wiping our memories?!..
He can’t be saying..

“Admittedly I didn’t realise that you would be the next incarnation of Arista, if anything I believed your sister would be the one up for THAT honor but one must always keep an eye on the potentially powerful and it wouldn’t do to leave your family unit so.. stable.”
He spat out the last word as if it was some kind of curse.
“I’ve had my eye on your branch for a long time now, the offspring of Christian and Louise who showed no talent in either direction.. and a child of the Oracle’s line that showed no talent for his family’s craft either.. how could I resist?”

His pace eased as he made one more pacing turn and his arms came up as if he was displaying me to a crowd.

“..and look at you now? I felt validated when you made yourself such a willing and useful asset, my long years of shaping your life.. making you distrust everyone, even yourself.. it all paid off tremendously.”
His grin turned sharp.
“An assassin of the highest order, with more power than anyone else in existence at his fingertips and skills to match.. one who would be unquestioningly loyal to my commands under the guise of the ‘Hub’ and ‘protecting his ‘precious’ sister’.”

My heart hammered in my chest.

That can’t be true?
Gran said that.. that she THOUGHT Dad was the one tampering with our memories..
She.. she thought..

..oh powers.. no..

“Imagine my joy when research and experimentation after our last meeting led to one undeniable conclusion.. my little anti-social toy, turned tool.. my Pawn.. had become a Queen!”
He sucked in a breath as if he could actually smell his success somehow.

“While your actions are often times perplexing, your value has gone up wondrously.. imagine.. little old me having the reigns to THE Mother of magic, to the ‘Great Arista’.. all it took was a few spoken words, just enough to tell you exactly what you needed to hear..”
His eyes sharpened and he focused on me with a sadistic smile on his face.
“Mother to us all you may be.. but what kind of mother could deny their child a few little treats?.. besides, your still more ‘Alistor’ then Arista at this point, aren’t you?”

I froze my subtle attempts to move against the ‘web’ and glared at him.
Up to this point I’ve been working with the idea that he’s at least partly delusional because he keeps calling me ‘Arista’ despite KNOWING that I used to be Alistor.. but that statement.. that’s not good!

“Don’t worry, if I know Arista.. and I DO.. that won’t last forever. One day you will wake up and she will have made her move to take back control. You may be resourceful with a lot of raw power and a surprisingly advanced skill at relic creation but your still just a vessel for her, no matter what you do the true Arista’s personality within you WILL be the more powerful.”

He stepped closer to me and ran a hand through my hair again almost lovingly.
I tried to resist him but it didn’t lead to much with my body held tightly by his trap.

“You’re a child trying to fight the world and you WILL lose little sister.. when you finally give in to the inevitable, every mage will celebrate the Mother of magic’s return while no-one will even remember your name.. Alistor Copper will be nothing more than a bad dream.”
He pulled back from me just so he could see the worry on my face.

He can’t be right!
He lied about so many things last time, why should I believe him now?!

Maybe.. maybe it’s because deep down he’s calling out to my deepest fears?..

He’s still playing with me!
He knew how to set me off when he talked about Karl.. now he’s tapping into my fear rather than my anger.
Either way he’s abusing my pain to get what he wants from me.

He wants me angry.. he wants me scared.. he wants me SLOPPY!
..and I’ve been playing right into his hands..

I’m not his little sister!
I’m not his ‘Mother’ Arista!

“My NAME is Hannah Cooper!”

The enjoyment on his face dropped completely into a mask of disgust.
The change was so fast that it didn’t truly look natural.

“Back to this again?.. you’re a fool.. you waste your true potential by lowering yourself to the level of a mere mortal.”
He glared at me and stuck his nose up as if he’d smelt something bad.
“You call yourself ‘Hannah’, you hide away in this dead-end town pretending to be ‘happy’, putting all your efforts into pandering to your useless sisters whims and trying to win the approval of your half-breed mother while always striving to be ‘normal’.. it’s disgusting!”

Seemingly without conscious effort he started pacing again.

I think I pissed him off a little?
Ohh.. this could be useful..

Come on Storyteller, show me what’s really going on in that head of yours tough guy!

“My name is Hannah, I love my family, I’m generally content with my life and magic tends to cause more problems than it helps fix honestly.”
The brand John gave me flared a little bit in warning at the ‘generally content’ remark but I managed to cover my wince well enough I think.

The minor flash of burn through my nerves was worth the look on the Storytellers face though.
He looked like I’d just tried to force feed him three month old roadkill!

“You are a STAR! A beacon that could lead us into the next great magical renaissance if you would only stand UP and be COUNTED!.. your potential.. you could shape the world to make it perfect, ready for the true Mother’s return and the rise of the Magical Elite!”

Ohh.. he’s talkative isn’t he?
I’d call him ‘racist’.. but is ‘magical’ really a race?

“Shan’t, can’t, won’t!”
I had to fight down the urge to grin when he twitched angrily.
Sarah’s voice at her most petulant, I’m glad I spent the time as a kid learning how to imitate it perfectly.
“Magic’s crap, mage’s are idiots and Arista’s a monster.”

The words spilled out of my mouth in an almost sing-song chant.
It’s rather fun to mouth off at enemies; the talkative ones never take teasing well, just look at Pre-new-John Max.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

He’s sputtering! his feet are stamping as he paces!
..this has potential to actually work?..

“You were right, I AM a vessel for this ‘Mother Arista’.. the true SLUT of the magical world.”
He tensed.
I could feel his magic rolling with white hot anger.
“How does it feel to know that your mother, the woman you idolise so deeply, is just a dirty whore who enjoys killing to make up for how disgusted she is at her WEAK and USELESS Children’s FAILURES!?”

He snapped.

In the blink of an eye he was in my face.
His cheeks almost purple with anger and his voice loud enough to make my ears ring.

“DON’T YOU DARE TALK ABOUT MOTHER LIKE THAT!”

It’s not fun when people poke at your sore spots is it Storyteller?
I know people like you!
In the short time we’ve had together I can see all your dirty little secrets unravelling like a poorly made jumper..

My voice dipped into a faux-comforting tone and my lips slipped into Sarah’s best pout.
Let’s really see what makes you tick shall we?

“Aww.. poor little Storyteller.. poor little ‘De Rais’.. Did Mommy never hug you? Did she ignore your constant attempts to win her praise?.. did she laugh when you tried to seduce her?”
I’ve seen a lot of people in my life and even more in my past lives.
I could be wrong but I KNOW that I’m not.

..someone’s got an Oedipus complex..

“When she wouldn’t smile at you, wouldn’t look at you as a good son.. you decided to make her see you as a man instead.. didn’t you?.. and the callous bitch laughed in your face, didn’t she?

He took too much joy in telling me that he’d ‘slept’ with a past version of me!
He didn’t include himself in the long list of ancient men that he claims have fathered children with Arista.. but I bet he wanted to!

“She chose your brothers over you, didn’t she?”
It was a wild guess mixed with an attempt to get at him but judging by the sharp breath he took in I hit some kind of nerve.. not quite right but..

..oh.. oh that’s too GOOD..

“She chose your SISTERS over you.. didn’t she? Mommy-dearest would rather chose a lesbian relationship with your sisters over touching yo-”
His fist came out of nowhere and rattled my teeth in my jaw.

He didn’t stop.
I don’t think he could stop at this point.
..why do the crafty ones always resort to violence?..

I focused on diverting the pain, shifting it into a corner of my mind and walling it off so I could think through it unhindered.

So much for the great and mysterious Storyteller!
The man who claims to have shaped my life from the start..
The man who claimed responsibility for all of my family’s memory problems and compulsion charms!
..and he had the utter gall to call ME a child?..

I think I’ve lost a tooth or two?
My jaw’s stiff and I think my nose is broken but he’s winding down, he’s calming down..

..we can’t have that can we?..

“I may not have all of her memories.. but I do have one specific one very clearly.”
It was really hard to get the words out.
I had to spit a few times to clear the blood from my mouth and the punches he was trying to keep throwing into my stomach made my tone of voice uneven at the same time.

“I remember that you were an accident! Arista’s first thoughts upon finding out that she was pregnant with you were ‘oh no.. another pointless little weak BRAT to follow me around’.. your sister’s on the other hand.. oh she was happy about them at least..”

It’s utter bullshit.
I’m making it all up off the top of my head because he’s shown me EXACTLY what he needs to hear!

If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, blind them with bullshit!

“SHUT UP!”
He swung at my face again.

Without feeling the pain associated with it the whole thing seems so much funnier!

Who’s shouting and out of control NOW, huh?!
Who’s lost their cool because someone else is bringing all their worst fears and hated facts out into the open!

You may have got the upper hand on me before Storyteller but you. are. NOTHING!
His fist swung for my already broken nose again and I made my move.

My magic rolled eagerly up to my cheek and as I turned my head into his punch I let it loose.

For one glorious moment all that could be heard in the corridor was the dripping of my blood and the crackling of ice.. then he started screaming.

I just dumped a worryingly large amount of ice magic directly into his fist!
Before he’d even pulled away from my cheek in shock the ice had turned his hand into a solid block.
I watched gleefully as it spread up his arm, pulling his body awkwardly to the side as the ice grew bigger and heavier.

I’ve never enjoyed someone’s screaming so much in my life!

Screw you Storyteller!
I’m no-ones toy, or tool!
I’m not a mother, I’m not some savoir and I’m NOT Arista!

I’m Hannah Cooper!
Ice Mage, Rune Mistress to beat all others, former man and currently a big bloody mess!

I’ve had showers scarier then you, you gutless asshole!

“Might want to do.. something before that ice.. hits your heart, flash-frozen to death from the inside.. is REALLY.. not a nice way to go.. trust me on that one.”
The words where hard to get out but completely worth the effort.
To his credit he tried to gather himself back together and put up some kind of defence from it but the ice was already past his elbow and approaching his shoulder.

He’s panicking now!
His first instinct was to flush his body with fire magic, I can tell by the flickers of flame around his free hand, but that’s not going to work.

John may have some crazy ideas about how magic really works but he was right on one thing.
Magic is about power and force of will, when you strip away all the important complicated bits.

He’s not on my LEVEL power wise and it’s going to take more than a half-panicked reaction to stop MY determination to HURT him!

The ice finally hit his shoulder and he gave up all the clever plans he was formulating.

My ice is spreading too fast for any of that.
I learnt a LONG time ago that the biggest mistake an enemy can do is give me the most powerful resource I’ll ever need.. time to think of a plan!

“What are you going to do now sweetie? I’d tell you to run home crying to mommy but.. oh yeah, that’s me isn’t it?.. and I can’t stand the SIGHT of you!”

His breath was ragged.
He wouldn’t look at me and he barely reacted to my jibe but any distraction I can offer is useful at this point.. plus it makes me feel better and I REFUSE to apologise for that fact!

The ice passed just over his shoulder joint when he finally made his last ditch attempt for freedom.
His unfrozen hand went into the pocket of his jacket and he gripped something tightly.

A moment later there was a bright flash of light followed by the sound of a rather large chunk of ice with a mostly frozen but still squishy center falling heavily to the floor where it preceded to shatter into pieces.

“..bastard..”
He must have had some kind of backup escape plan in place.
Probably something like the enchantment on my old USMPA badge that got Sarah safely out of Dante’s cage.

My eyes drifted down to the mess on the floor.
I’ve lost a lot of blood apparently, that must be why my head feels so weird?

I couldn’t resist the giggle that came out when my eyes finally focused on a single pinky finger laying slightly to the side of the rest of the mess, freed when the ice around it shattered.
My magic saturated his arm when it froze it.. just like with normal warp, if you’re too saturated with the wrong type of shaped magic you start leaving body parts behind.

I didn’t plan that bit but BOY is it satisfying to see!
The Storyteller may not be harmless by any degree but he’s definitely ‘armless’ now.

..that’s such a bad pun..
But I don’t care!

I may not have gotten out of it unharmed and everything pretty much SUCKS at this point, he got away again too.. but at least I got some revenge for everything he’s put me through!
I hope he SUCKS at healing and he dies of blood loss in whatever place he’s gone off to hide in!

With a wince I spat out a thick glob of blood onto what’s left of his frozen arm.
“See if you touch me again.. asshole..”

With what little strength I had left I rolled my blood magic around my body to stop the vital fluid from pouring out of me at least, with this trap draining anything I push out of my body I can’t exactly do my normal golden healing trick to finish the job.

I tried anyway and managed to do some superficial repairs but not nearly enough.
It took a lot out of me too.

Everything took on a worrying haze and my head drooped as much as it could to sort of rest my chin on my chest.

..bloody Storyteller..
The least he could have done is let me down before he left!
I’m so tired.. just.. just a little nap?

It shouldn’t hurt.. nothing wrong with naps.. naps are nice..

======

My head jerked up at the frantic sounding little squeaks around me.
It took me a moment to realise that out of the mass of sounds there was one extra voice coming at a slight delay in my head.

‘Do-not touch-her. She-lives and protecting-her as-she heals is-all we-can-do at-the-moment.’

“..Felix?..”
All the little squeaks died out as I practically groaned the name out.

‘I-am-here my-bonded. You-are-safe. Rest. You’re-friends are-coming for-you-soon.’
His little second voice didn’t sound any more convinced than his first incomprehensible one of that fact but it didn’t matter.

Felix is here.
He came to protect me again.
He’s protecting me.. I..

“-love you Felix..”
My head lolled to the side slightly.
I can’t even bring myself to open my eyes.
Everything feels so heavy!

Maybe just another few minutes.. I..

======

I woke up with a disgusting snort as a wad of congealed blood decided to make the trip from my nose to my throat and almost choke me.
It hurt to cough but I did it anyway.
It hurt to breathe honestly but at least the cough let me do that vital task again!

‘are-you-okay my-bonded?’

Felix.. Felix, it just had to be Felix!
How did he know I needed help?
..not that he can do much..

If only I coul-

..I must be worse off than I thought?..
I swear I’m not normally this slow to think things through!

“Felix..”
His name came out of my mouth as a rasping groan.
I could feel the air move painfully across my exposed skin as he flapped to come up to eye level with me but I didn’t open my eyes to check on him.

Everything hurts.

“Felix, can you do.. me a favor buddy?”
He didn’t respond but I could feel his worry from here and he moved a bit closer to me anyway.

“Can you get some.. Imps together an-”
My words trailed off into a painful coughing fit but when it cleared I continued slowly.
“Can you all drain the magic from.. the trap holding me up?”

There was a long moment of silence then the area around me burst into loud squeaky arguments in the imp language.
It was hard to focus but it felt like Felix was angry at himself for some reason.
He kept shouting things about ‘idiots’ and complaining that he didn’t think of it sooner.

A lot of flapping around me made me cringe.
My skin’s so sensitive to all the air movements!
I must be one big bruise at this point.

Without warning the ‘spider trap’ holding me suspended in the middle of the corridor died out.
I braced for impact as best I could but a scream of pain still left my lips when I landed badly on a probably broken rib.. or two.

Through the haze of pain I could hear Felix shouting and FEEL his anger but with all my strength I focused on my inner-eye instead.

My magic obviously hasn’t liked being contained for so long.
I barely came near my core before all the built up excess magic in my body surged forth.

I didn’t resist, for once.
The magic peaked and I exploded.

The pain was gone in seconds.
My body was wondrously numb and I sighed happily for the long moment that my relief lasted before my mouth split into a wide grin and a laugh bubbled out of me.

In the space of a heartbeat my brain was swamped in a tidal wave of giddy, euphoric joy.
It didn’t make sense, it wasn’t natural but I didn’t bother resisting.
It’s so much nicer to just ride the tide and enjoy it!

It’s so nice.. it’s so good.

Everything’s good.
Everything’s SO goo-

======

“She be awake.”
I groaned and tried to pull my mind back together at the sound.

I’ve heard stories of ‘mind-numbingly’ good sex before but my diversion probably puts that stuff to shame.. it feels like I’ve just spent a solid week with nothing but constant orgasm’s for company!
My body is just LIMP, it feels like I can’t move anything in the slightest.

I couldn’t think before.. I’m awake now but my brains taking ages to reboot for some reason?
“Felix?”

I flinched a little when something bashed down hard into the floor near my ear.
My eyelids twitched in an attempt to open but they failed miserably.

“Useless girl be thinkin’ or dreamin’? Get right on ya lines girl, I not be havin’ all day!”

Not Felix.
Edith.. the OTHER little midget demon-looking being in my life!

The one who hasn’t saved me AND isn’t cute OR huggable.
..figures.. I could have done with a Felix-cuddle right about now..

“Edith I swear to the powers if you hit me with your stick I’m gonna turn you into an ice sculpture.”

She grumbled to herself and shuffled her fluffy slippers on the floor a little.
I think she was really going to do it too?.. there’s something seriously wrong with her sometimes..

“Useless girl be learnin’ new tricks with ice?.. very messy, I shouldn’t be havin’ left ya with it ta start with, far too dangerous in young ‘ands.”

I heaved in a rough laughing breath which thankfully didn’t hurt my chest at least.
Edith..

I’m suffering and she’s complaining that she left me the ability to defend myself, which I KNOW she did on purpose?!

Sometimes I just want to strangle her but I know why she’s doing it.. she’s worried and uncomfortable.
When she’s like that she tends to lash out a lot over stupid things, she did the same thing when I turned up at the shop after being presumed dead.
She’ll calm down eventually.

She always calms down eventually.

Someone scooped an arm under my legs and back pulling me up into the air, tight against their rather large, squishy chest.
I managed to peak an eye open enough to get a general idea about who did it.

Trudy..

I’m safe?
I survived another meeting with the Storyteller and actually got a few hits in of my own too!

Felix watched over me.
I’m safe.
Everything’s g-

JOHN!

With a surge of adrenaline came some clarity.
My body twitched and twisted enough to make Trudy stumble.
I slipped out of her grip, landing awkwardly on weak legs.
My body slid to the side quickly, leaving me half collapsed against the wall.

I don’t have TIME for this!

John’s hurt!
He’s in danger!

I need to.. I need to..
Crap.. I need to FIND him first!

“Damn it John.”
The map won’t work.
It’s not got a wide enough range to just find him randomly SOMEWHERE on earth.

When I ran away to safety I ended up in Northern RUSSIA!
His bolt-hole could be ANYWHERE.. if he even went to a bolt-hole to start with!

I need.. how can I.. I..
THE BRAND!

John found me by following the Brand last time.
That’s the whole POINT of the bloody thing!
I just need to find the link between our cores and follow it!

Trudy gently tried to stop me moving again but I shook her arms off quickly.

I need to focus!
John.. he’s an asshole but he’s my FRIEND.
He’d do the same for me. Hell, he DID the same for me already!

People were talking but I blocked it out in favor of dropping into my lines with my inner-eye and starting the search.

It shouldn’t be hard to find.
Just need to find a string of magic going out of my body in a sea of moving, twitching magic inside me that’s.. all the same color..
..crap..

Okay.. I can do this!
It CAN’T be that hard, John managed it after all.

A quick scour around my body made it obvious that the brand on my lower back is where the line between us is formed externally but I’ll never manage to follow it across long distance if I can’t start from my core.

Stupid magic and symbols!
It would be so much easier if I could just follow the thread but it dissipates quickly to my senses when it hits open air.
The only way this is going to work is if I can find the strand internally, close to my core and try to find where it ‘tugs’ towards as I move.

Come on Hannah, you can do this!

It took me a few failed attempts but I finally got a handle on the strand of magic, following it through my body, back to my core.
Well.. close enough at least.

For some reason it moved behind my core, out of sight from my inner-eye?
When I tried to ‘look’ around my core to see where it’s going the strand just seems to move with me, always staying hidden behind it.

That’s REALLY weird but not important right now, I’ve got the strand locked in, I’ll be able to find it from now on hopefully.

Now to test it!

Keeping half an ‘eye’ on that single thread of magic I paced forward a few steps.
While the strand pulled tight there wasn’t much help to be gained from it annoyingly?

When that method didn’t seem to do anything useful I turned on the spot slowly.
This time the strand seemed to go tense whenever I turned outside of a roughly ninety degree area facing down the hallway.

That’s a bit better.
I can work with that.

All I need now is a Map and a bit of creative warping!

“Useless girl be possessed! I be hittin’ her with me JuJu stick, be sortin’ all out!”
My eyes flew open wide to stare at the strange sight of Trudy trying to hold Edith back from coming near me while her stick waved around threateningly in my general direction.

..oh yeah..
I guess I should probably sort things out here first shouldn’t I?

“I’m not possessed Edith. I’m trying to find John, he’s injured and ran off somewhere.”
The JuJu stick stopped waving almost instantly and Edith’s sharp little eyes focused on me with unsettling solemnity.

With the way she behaves sometimes it’s easy to forget that she’s a powerful un-awakened mage, a practically ancient one at that!

I’m still kind of curious to find out just how much of the things she does are all an act for her own amusement honestly?
Judging by the suddenly serious look on her face I think the answer is probably in the ‘more then I think, but less then I’d hope’ area sadly.

“What useless girl be needin’?”

That’s it?!
..No questions?
..No snarky little grumbles?

If she wasn’t so distinctly EDITH I’d suspect she was someone else impersonating her!

“Don’t be lookin’ at me like tha’ girl. Ya friend be a right’un, not a good’un but a right’un. You find him fast, be healin’ him up as should.”
Oh.. that’s surprisingly sentimental of her?

I didn’t think she even knew John, but I guess seeing that he seems to know Fena and everything..?

“uh.. o-kay then..?.. I need a map, a pen and someone to lead me out of the Hub until I can walk properly I guess?”

My legs are working which is a good thing but they’re in no way stable enough to support me through the maze of hallways in the Hub on my own yet.
Knowing my luck I’d end up lost for so long that John would d-

NO!
Don’t be stupid, he’s not gonna die!

He’s John for powers sake!
The slippery little bastard could survive a nuke with only dusty clothes to show for it!

Trudy came over to my side and offered me an arm.
My eyes cut over to Edith who seems to be already invested in shouting at the Hub staff around us for some reason?
I think she’s trying to get me a map from one of them but who knows, she could just feel like yelling at the ‘fae pets’ a bit.

“I’ll lead you to the reception area Hannah. I’m sure Edith will be able to find us when she’s finished.”
Reluctantly I took her arm and stumbled along as she waved goodbye to Edith for me.
The little troll waved her stick in our general direction before turning back to the poor Hub staff she was busy tormenting on my behalf.

“Scary little gremlin..”
I don’t think Trudy intended for me to hear that judging by the face she pulled when I laughed.

“She’s scary and insane but ya gotta love her, at least she’s honest about herself.”
A little smile came to Trudy’s lips as we kept moving down the hallway.

I like Edith, while she’s often a hard person to defend she DOES deserve defending.
Only her friends get to talk about how twisted she is and even then it’s only to her face!

“She’s your mentor, isn’t she?”
My head perked up to glance at Trudy.
“I haven’t known you long honey but it’s pretty obvious you adore her, quirks and all.”

I couldn’t help the flush that reached my cheeks.
Trudy just seemed amused by that fact.

“You’ve got a cute blush going there Hannah, nothing to be embarrassed about. I’ve known Edith for a while and I’ve honestly never seen her happier then when she’s talking with you.”
She shifted her arm slightly into more of a ‘hug’ and squeezed me a little bit.

I tried to not be obvious about it but there’s no denying that a smile ghosted across my lips.
After all these years it’s nice to know Edith doesn’t just see me as some kind of charity case or something.

Fena’s my friend and the shop’s the shop but Edith.. Edith’s EDITH, ya know?

“If we get there quick enough do you want to put some prank spells on that bitchy receptionist’s desk?”
For a moment I hesitated at the idea of it but that didn’t last long.
It’s honestly starting to get on my nerves the way Felicia keep’s acting so scared of me.

I get people have problems with ‘Arista’ but she’s never been scared of someone so blatantly before and she KNOWS that I know Sarah at least, seeing as she was working when we came in as ‘Team Tomb-raider’ for decontamination?
Hell, she wasn’t afraid of me when I was physically Alistor and some of the crap I did back then scares even ME!

“Sure, I’ve got a few ideas. Felicia could use a reminder to chill out a little..”

A devious little smirk played across my lips for a second.
I wonder if I can put a time and pressure triggered runic trap on the bottom of her seat to give her a cold butt with a tiny burst of ice magic?
I’ve always wanted to try that one on someone!

Trudy took one look at my face and cracked up laughing.

I can’t blame her.
I practiced looking ‘devious’ in the mirror with this pudgy new face the other day an..

I was bored and curious okay?!

It didn’t work anyway, the look tends to come across more ‘naughty little girl’ then the ‘evil but playful’ that I was going for.

======

We managed three good rune pranks between us before people started coming into the reception again.
The pranks should be good for a few weeks at least before they run out of charge.

Trudy had a really interesting extra trigger she added to them which detects whoever is sitting at the desks emotions through their magic, looking specifically for ‘amusement’.
I didn’t even know that was POSSIBLE with runes but apparently it is, she promised to show me the book she got it from at some point.
It should mean that the pranks only trigger when Felicia’s amused about something mean she’s done to someone else!

Any guilt I may have developed about putting the pranks in place was pretty much countered by that trigger.
I’ve told Felicia SO many times to stop being mean to people but she never listens!

The second group of people to come out of the halls was followed by a slightly slower Edith grumbling to herself.
It looks like she managed to get a map from somewhere, somehow, although it’s only A3 sized and looks like it was magically copied from a book of some kind in a hurry.

“Map”
She slapped the paper onto the receptionist’s desk while her free hand left her JuJu stick to stand upright on its own, probably with magic, and started searching in her baggy old dress.
“Pen”
She managed to find a red ‘biro’ from somewhere in her dress and added it to the pile on the desk.
“Compass”
She practically pulled that one from nowhere but didn’t seem done yet.
“Ruler”

She finally stopped patting herself down and fixed me with her tight little glare.
Her eyes scanned the reception area just long enough for her to huff in annoyance.

Instead of saying something to me she turned to shoot Trudy a warning look.
“Ya no be teachin’ her bad things lil’ T’udy. Useless girl get too many funny idea’s as is.”

..T’udy?..

When I turned to fix Trudy with a curious eyebrow she cringed self-consciously.
Why do I get the feeling that when Trudy said she’s known Edith for ‘a while’ she may have meant something more like ‘since I was a little kid’?

“Bah! I be goin’ back to the shop. Fae pet’s gettin’ on me nerves. You go savin’ ya friend girl, we be keepin’ ya pay safe till ya back.. minus you’re tab ‘course.”

My smile soured a little at the idea of her taking some of the cash I tricked out of the Hub guy to pay off my tab in the shop but I guess I had to get around to paying that off SOMETIME..

I should probably get on to changing my accounts so I can access them again too now that I think of it?

Most mages keep their money either in private hiding places or in banks which require only key’s and code words to access their contents, it tends to be a lot simpler if you awaken after a few years of being ‘dead’ and have to get access even though you’re new ‘family’ isn’t even close to being related with your old one.

Me being me, I didn’t see the point of it all when I was Al.
I left a will leaving everything to Sarah or failing that mum and washed my hands of the whole thing.

It’s kind of annoying that common lore mage logic turned out to be right for once to be honest!

We both stood there watching Edith stomp her little old legs out of the Hub’s front entrance with fond smiles.

It may have been my imagination but I think she shot me one last glance before she disappeared into the outside world?
Either way I huffed in a breath and started gathering up the things she left behind for me along with my almost forgotten sandals.

“So.. little T’udy, huh?”

Trudy glared at the Hub’s entrance for a second as if she could still see Edith through it.
Reluctantly her eyes finally turned back to me and her cheeks flushed a little.

“Don’t start ‘useless girl’.”
Ah.. touché..

We both smiled a little and silently agreed to let the whole thing drop.
Edith’s Edith after all, at the end of the day she wouldn’t be herself if she didn’t have annoying nicknames for everyone.

“Right I’m off, wish me luck? I’m going John hunting. I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be like chasing bug’s bunny down a rabbit hole but with a lot less sarcastic humor..”

Trudy snorted a little laugh and waved me off with another warm smile.

I managed to step through the entranceway into the mid-morning sunlight falling over Klamath Falls with my arms full before I gave up trying to keep it all balanced and carefully dropped it to the floor.
I HATE carrying things!

With a surreptitious look around to make sure the coast was clear I dipped into my lines and fed some power into my pancreas.

Like with the whole ‘kidneys for levitation’ thing, I don’t know WHY it’s like this but your pancreas is good for conjuring with internal magic?
Who cares, magic’s just stupid sometimes let’s leave it at that!

After a second to concentrate I felt a light weight settle into my hand and let out a sigh.
With as much dignity as possible I stuffed the map, pen, ruler and compass into the little shoulder bag I’d formed from magic and my will.

I refuse to call it what it is.
It’s a bag, not a purse!

Definitely not the purse I caught myself looking at thoughtfully when I was shopping with Mum and Sarah at the department store earlier this week.. and DEFINITELY not the same purse I kind of thought would have suited my whole ‘bikini and short-shorts’ outfit when I checked it out in the mirror yesterday!

It’s just a bag!

I need it to hold the map while I’m hunting for John.
The long straps good because it won’t get in the way if I have to cast something on the fly and the cute little gold clasp, that goes perfectly with the black leather of it all, sets off my hair..

uh.. I mean it could be used to..
damn it.. can’t even lie right in my own head!..

This is all YOUR fault John!

I don’t know HOW it’s all his fault, but it IS and he’d better be fine when I find him so I can beat him up for making me suffer such indignities!

“Might as well be productive about this..”
I need some reference points that are far enough apart to give me a good trace on his location before I can narrow it down properly.

Can’t start here, he lives local so my readings might get thrown off by residual magic he’s left behind.

..I needed to go into Medford to pick up my phone from the mailbox at some point anyway?
Who knows, it might be useful at some point, it usually is..

Well.. Medford here I come.. I guess?
I’m blaming this on John too by the way.

I can’t STAND Medford on a GOOD day!



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