John is.. suffering [3.5]

RvsB.jpg Have you ever had that feeling that everything’s happening far too quickly, yet painfully slowly at the same time?
It’s like watching a house of cards you built with so much care come crashing to the ground all at once.. it’s not a nice feeling to be honest.

Events unfold including but not limited to:
John being short of breath
(although that’s hardly his biggest problem)
and Hannah.. Hannah breaks the rules a bit?..


 

People were giving us a slightly wide berth at this point.
I was stuck in a tiny awkwardly clear spot within the sea of people progressing down the street around us.
Even ‘traditionalists’ are smart enough to recognise trouble when they see it apparently?

The little brat won’t stop clinging to me
It doesn’t look like she has any intention of letting go anytime soon from the looks of it either!

She’s not saying much, it’s kind of weird how she’s clammed up so quickly actually?
I wish I could move my lips so I could talk to her or something..

Even if it would just be so that I could yell at her for tricking me like this if nothing else!

She’s got a pretty good full body paralysis spell going on me though, I’ll give her that much credit.
It’s surprisingly powerful for her size and apparent age.. although ‘age’ can be deceiving with mages I guess?

I’m honestly not sure what spell she’s used to make my body so unresponsive, it doesn’t FEEL like any spell I’ve been under before?

It’s definitely not lightning magic like Gran used on me before, yet somehow it seems to be just as effective at leaving me a sitting duck for attacks.. or in this case worryingly intense, rather embarrassing cuddles?

“You’re shorter than usual.”
Her voice was light, almost conversational when she finally decided to break the silence.

I wanted to move my head down a bit so I could see her facial expressions better but with her current location, buried tightly into my side with a strong grip that I don’t think she’ll ever let go of at this rate, that isn’t likely to be much of an option.

I’d probably struggle to see her face even if I wasn’t frozen stiff judging by how she’s nestled herself into me so tightly to be honest..

“I like it. You’re always cuter when you’re short.. Daddy likes it better too ‘cause he can pick you up easier if you start arguing about silly things.”
This is so frustrating!

I want to talk to her!
I want to stop her prattling on and just get the important details about everything that’s going on, specifically JOHN!

She thinks I’m Arista obviously but.. her ‘Daddy’?..
She IS talking about John, right?

I assumed as much but she’s not even directly said his name yet!
..does John like that I’m short now?..

It’s a stupid thing to focus on but it’s not like I can do much else at the moment and I’m kind of curious actually.. now that she’s brought it up?

He picked me up back at the farm so he could carry me across the grass when I argued about walking across it?.. that kinda fits with what she was saying I guess..

He was really casual about it too, now that I think about it?
As if it was just something normal, so completely normal to scoop me up and carry me around the garden like some kind of oversized doll!

“I guess that won’t be the case for much longer though? By the time he reincarnates again you’ll be all old and tall..”

My blood ran cold.
What does she mean ‘reincarnates again’?
Is.. is John.. dead?

Am I too late?!

If I’d just used my brain and taken the time to think instead of running around the county I would have been here so much sooner!
I should have.. I could have saved him!
He..
I..

J..John..?..

I couldn’t move at all but apparently my tear ducts still work.
Two thick dribbles slowly poured out from each corner of my eye and the shallow breaths I could manage became a little more frantic.

John..

My magic rumbled uneasily.
It swirled about at a progressively faster pace through my body, fighting to get loose in response to my troubled emotions.
I can feel that whatever kind of ‘paralysis’ she’s holding me under is slowly slipping away?

It is my chance to escape!.. but I.. I can’t?..
John.. John is..

My hand flew up to my mouth to stop the sudden powerful urge to puke again.
I’d take the time to celebrate having apparently broken the spell later but I’m kind of busy holding back the urge to vomit right now.
My stomachs not quite right still and the shock just..

The little girl gasped, leaning away from me in surprise for some reason.
She stared up at me with wide, worried eyes.

“How did you break free?.. you can’t do that!”
She dived forward and grabbed me around the waist again with gritted teeth.

With my magic cycling through me so viciously now from my messed up emotions I could feel when she tried to paralysis me again.
It barely even took a blink of my eye to push the spell away now that I could see it coming and had some prior warning.

She was shocked still when I reached out and took a solid grip on her waist in return for the ‘hug’ she was giving me.

With a squeeze I managed to pull her up to eye-level, even from my kneeling position she was short enough that her little legs dangled in the air beneath her in an almost comic way.

Her face scrunched up in fear as she stared at me with wide scared eyes.
“Mommy?”

I flinched when she said it but I have to know.. I need to know if he’s..

“What happened to John? Is he still alive?”
Her eyes seemed impossibly wide but her face sunk into confusion instead of giving me any kind of indication either way.

“..who’s John?..”

For a moment I breathed a sigh of relief.
It figures that, with my luck, she would be one of Arista’s kids from some guy who ISN’T John.
He’s fine.
He’s got to be fine.. he-
Crap..

“Max?”

Her head perked up again and she smiled at me for a second in recognition.
So much for that idea.. oh powers.. John, no?!

“Daddy’s fine? He’s sleeping a lot and it won’t be long until he moves on to his next awakening but he’s been surprisingly active lately. He REALLY wants to see you Mom.”

HOW CAN SHE BE SO CALM ABOUT THIS?!

John.. John’s dying?
He wants to see me but she seems so calm and accepting about the idea that he’s going to die as if it’s.. as if it’s normal?!
..idiot..

She’s got to be awakened too, despite her worryingly young age?
Awakened mages.. death is more of an inconvenience and an excuse to have a ‘see you soon’ party called a ‘Requiem’ then an actual reason to cry for them!

John.. she knows him as Max..
If he dies then he’ll be reborn at some point but.. he’ll come back as Max, not John?..
Not MY John at least..

“You’re going to take me to him.. now.”
She stared at me with some level of awe.

Other people were giving us a pretty wide berth again at this point.
At a glance it was pretty obvious why, my magic is going a little out of control from my worry.
I can feel a faint golden glow suffusing my skin from-

“MOMMY!”

I barely managed to turn in time to get a face full of obscenely huge squishy cleavage.
The little girl in my arms got caught up in the flying tackle/hug as well judging by the muffled grunt she gave off in protest at having her face squished between my chest and the huge things that just collided with us.

“Oh you’re just ADORABLE! No wonder Daddy wanted to see you again before his passing, I could just EAT you UP your so cuteee!”

..can’t.. breathe..

Not again!
What is it with Arista’s kids and trying to choke me to death?!

The little girl, who was now loosely held in my arms but had her left cheek squashed painfully against my chest by the newcomer, wriggled around frantically for a moment until her little head popped up from between us and she took a frantic breath of relief.

“GET YOUR BIG FLAPPING MAN-COW TITS OUT OF MY FACE ‘DITE!”
The newcomer flinched and practically dropped us in her rush to let go.

Some obvious eavesdroppers in the people walking past flinched at her volume and probably her language as well, even a few people that weren’t eavesdropping appeared to flinch just by how badly they staggered away from us suddenly.

I flinched too honestly, more at the little ones sudden volume and anger than anything else.

At least the newcomer HAD let us go though.
I sunk to my knees and panted for breath while my eyes were drawn over to the newcomer to take her in properly.

If there was ever going to be a personification for ‘Stereotypical Californian Blonde Bimbo’ it would be her!

Long, thick blonde hair running from the top of her head down to her tight bubble-butt, ending with the lightest of barrel curls at the bottom of her short denim skirt.
A deep sun-kissed tan that made it look like she’d spent practically all of her life lying out by the beach, which would make sense if the yellow skin-tight T-shirt she had on proclaiming herself ‘Surfing Queen of Huntington Beach’ was anything to go by.
She had a near perfect ‘Barbie-doll’ face, with button nose, wide innocent looking eyes and a figure that countered that innocent face nicely by just being SO mind-blowingly over-endowed!

The complete effect was so powerful that I actually shied away from her a little in shame at how she totally outclassed my own less than amazing figure.
For a long moment I actually started to sink into insecurities about my appearance before my brain kicked back in and decided to remind me that I’m not really a girl so I shouldn’t care if she has breasts bigger than my head!

..how my hips, wider then Sarah’s, didn’t even come close to hers.
..how her face looked like it was carved by some kind of artist while mine had puffy childish cheeks and annoyingly small eyes.

With a jolt I realised just WHAT I was doing?!

Just LOOKING at her was making things worse!
In a last ditch attempt to save at least some of my self-confidence before she ruined that too, my eyes diverted away from her to look down at my feet.

She’s.. she’s perfect?!
THAT’S SO NOT FAIR!

“There’s no need to be mean Eris..”

Her voice could break hearts just from how lost and sad she sounded?
It trickled into your ear like warm honey and made you instantly want to just stare at her in awe.
The slight pout on her lips didn’t help at all either..

All around us, stuffy traditionalist men in their dark robes were stopping in their tracks to stare at her in some kind of.. some kind of lust induced haze?

Frantic traditionalist women were trying to get the attention of their husbands and son’s while shooting angry glares at the blonde but they failed terribly as the newcomer turned her chest slightly and somehow shifted what was previously a painfully hurt look of devastated innocence into an invitation for a man, any man, to come and comfort her in ANY way he saw fit.

She did it all with nothing but body language alone and honestly..
I don’t think she even noticed that she was doing it?..

She’s kind of too busy focusing on the little one, apparently trying valiantly not to cry over her ‘mean’ comments about her huge breasts, to be in any way ‘acting’ at the moment.
The ‘almost’ crying expression just ramped up the vulnerable air around her and made things even worse again!

“You’re making a scene ‘Dite. Let’s just go.. I’m sorry I yelled..”
The blonde perked up almost instantly when the little girl she called ‘Eris’ practically muttered out her apology.

It was as if the sun had come out from behind the clouds.
The effect that just a simple twitch could have on the men around us was kind of worrying honestly.

When she turned her head slightly to look at ‘Eris’ properly a strand of her blonde hair fell delicately across one eye and all the men let off a simultaneous sigh at the sight of it.

I tried to take a step away from the pair of them but a little hand shot out and grabbed my arm before I could get away.
The look of.. something?.. hope, maybe?.. in little Eris’s eyes when she looked at me pleadingly stalled me into reluctant immobility, mid-movement.

I didn’t even flinch a moment later when the suddenly, strangely happy blonde, ‘Dite’ scooped her up in a big squishy hug while squealing something about being forgiven for the last time she hugged the poor girl.

It felt like a long, awkward pause as I stood there watching ‘Dite’ swing ‘Eris’ around as if she was a favourite doll and laugh to herself innocently in happiness.

When she finally did let go it looked like Eris was having trouble staying upright from all the jerking movements she’d endured.
I offered her an arm to keep her from falling over, she took it as an invitation to slide into my side instead and hugged me tightly around the waist again.

“Can you lead us home ‘Dite?”
Eris sounded subdued now, as if the big hug a second ago had somehow taken the fight out of her completely.

‘Dite’ nodded and smiled vacantly at us before moving quickly to the right so she could walk out onto the street proper.

The crowd of traditionalists around us parted as she moved.
I helped support Eris for a few steps but it was pretty obvious that she was having trouble walking now for some reason?

With a reluctant sigh I scooped her up in my arms and settled her on my hip.
I’ve done this sort of thing before, I stood in for Sarah as a babysitter at one point.

Eris isn’t much bigger then little Jimmy, the boy I was looking after at the time, and when he tired himself out at the park I’d inevitably end up having to carry him home afterwards just like this.

With a little jiggle and shake I managed to get Eris comfortable enough on my hip that I could start to quickly pace after ‘Dite’ who was already making a worrying amount of progress ahead of us, having seemingly forgotten that she was meant to be leading us in her enthusiasm to be helpful.

Eris shifted her head and ended up settling it on my left breast, just above my heart.
She let out a little sigh, her hands scrunching into fists when she tried to get some kind of grasp on me which would probably have been easier if I had more than just a bikini top on honestly.

“I missed you Mom..”
The moment those words left her mouth she blushed heavily and buried her face into my shoulder shyly.

I don’t want to admit that a little bit of me melted there too.
I’m not her mother, I’m not Arista.. but it seems like she could really do with having a hug from the next best thing.

My hand came up almost automatically to pat her hair in the same way Mum used to do for Sarah when we were kids.

That little action seemed to drain the last bit of energy from Eris because she just went limp in my arms.
It took me a long moment to realise that the slight shaking I could feel on my hip was coming from her.

I think.. I think she’s crying?..

I shot a look at ‘Dite’s retreating form to make sure I hadn’t lost her and gently moved my free hand up to brush Eris’s hair out of her face.
She rolled her head into my touch and stopped shaking for a moment.

When I went to move my hand back she started again so I gave in and moved my hand back up to rest at the nape of her neck, against her warm little cheek.
That’s another thing I remember Mum doing for us a lot when we were younger..

My eyes scanned around us again and I tensed slightly at some of the surprisingly approving glances I was suddenly getting from the traditionalist women around me

I ended up focusing on following in ‘Dite’s wake out of embarrassment more than anything as we walked deeper into the Enclaves network of seemingly packed winding cobbled streets.

This is going to be a long trip, I can just FEEL it!

======

It felt like we’d been walking for hours but realistically it’s probably only been about twenty minutes.
Eris seemed to get progressively heavier as we walked, especially when she apparently fell asleep in my arms and became a completely dead weight all of a sudden.

We finally reached some big archways with words inscribed above them in different languages for each one.
At a glance I could tell what they said, the arch to our left was luckily written in Latin.

I had to get good at Latin, it’s my main runic language after all.

‘Home of the Second. Invites only, challengers by appointment, love rivals please use the side entrance through the septic tank and then use the ritual blade provided to kill yourselves.’

..charming..

I can’t shake the feeling John had a hand in that message?
It feels like his kind humor honestly, snarky and trite with just a touch of aggressive annoyance.

It looks practically fresh cut into the stone of the archway, although that doesn’t tell me much really considering this is a magical city.
There’s probably some kind of ‘ever-fresh’ enchantment on the archway to stop it from being damaged or decayed over time, logically speaking.

‘Dite’ turned to face me with a proud smile on her perfect face.
I couldn’t help but wince.

Just her face in general is lethal, a smile makes the effect ten times worse somehow.

If she’s really as innocent as she appears to be then something weird is going on because there’s NO WAY a woman who looks like HER could have gone anywhere in life without being accosted by desperate men to a point that any innocence in her was beaten out by jaded disgust?!

I’m not even close to being in the same league as her looks-wise and even I’VE had an introduction into just how creepy straight guys can be when you’re a two-legged female of the human variety over the last week or so..

“Daddy’s inside, everyone else is busy preparing for his Requiem but I think Hygeia and Apollo are with him if you want to go see him now?”
‘Dite’ moved back towards me with a natural hip-rolling gait that made me feel a little jealous all over again.. despite the fact that I’m not even really a girl, aside from.. ya know.. biologically speaking..

“Here, I’ll take her for now. She’s already spoken to Daddy and you don’t have much time left to see him where he will actually remember it all later..”

I loosened my grasp on Eris’s legs enough that she gently slid from my grasp.
She groaned a little in her sleep but settled with relative ease on to ‘Dite’s.. hip..

..'Dite?..
We’ve got Narcissus, Eris and she just mentioned Hygeia and Apollo too..
Greek.. they’re all Greek god’s and goddesses?

By that logic there’s only one answer to who ‘Dite’ really is.
No wonder she’s so beautiful, seemingly matching every shallow, stereotypical ‘male’ fantasy you hear about..
She’s Aphrodite!

The Greek Goddess of love and beauty!
She looks like every red-blooded American boys wet dream come to life because in some way that’s exactly what she is, if myth is to be believed at least?..

“Thanks Aphrodite, do you want me to come back out and take her so you can see him too in a bit?”
I mostly asked just to have an excuse to test the waters and see if that really is her name honestly.
It’s probably a good idea to offer to swap places with her at some point as well though I guess..

“Don’t worry, I’ve already had my time with him. Take what time you have left, Requiem’s are important and he specifically wants to see you Mom.”
Her smile was so sweet and innocent that it almost felt false, but my magic’s rolling around enough inside me that picking up her emotions isn’t hard in ANY way.

She’s actually giving off near solid waves of worryingly pure happiness and contentment?
It’s kinda odd to think that a mage could BE so openly nice honestly..

In my experience most mages tend to be at least slightly messed up in the head, which tends to leave them with a slightly cynical view of the world.
Even the nice ones don’t tend to escape that little mental trap.

Aphrodite, that must be her name considering she didn’t correct me, reached out her free arm and gave me a surprisingly gentle hug before nodding to me and wandering off with a sleeping Eris resting on her hip.

Reluctantly I turned to face the door that would lead me through to John.
I’m kind of scared to go in there.. what do I do if he’s.. if he’s..

NO!

The faster I get in there and see him, the faster I can help save him and we can get on with our lives!
He can go back to being his usual, annoying self and I can go back to trying to pretend that he doesn’t exist!

I don’t know why but my breath hitched in my chest slightly and my eyes suddenly feel a bit damp?
John..

Before I could lose my nerve again I quickly moved over to the door and opened it with a bit too much force.
The hallway inside seemed dull compared to the surprisingly well-lit high ceilinged cave-like streets outside.

A fresh-faced boy, about my current height and apparent age, wearing a lightweight white robe and sandals wandered out of a side door carrying a bowl of water.
He froze when he spotted me, seemingly a bit stunned as he got a good look at my face.

“Mother?..”

I cringed a little.
I’m never going to get used to people calling me that!
In a way, I’d kinda prefer it if they called me ‘Arista’.. at least that one doesn’t make me feel awkward and a bit uneasy, just mildly annoyed instead..

“Father is through here, come, he doesn’t have long left.”
My heart hammered in my chest and it took everything I had to put one foot in front of the other as I followed him inside.

It can’t be that bad.. John’s like a cockroach.. right?
Nothing short of the End of the World is going to kill him!

I’d almost convinced myself of that fact when I turned the corner and stopped in my tracks.

He.. oh powers..
I practically broke into a sprint to cross the room and reach his side.

His skin’s so pale and clammy?
His veins.. they’re risen up visibly on his skin and they’re BLACK!

His eyes blearily focused on me and despite the obvious pain it caused him his face broke into a smile.
A moment later it slipped off again as he seemed to crumple into a coughing fit that hurt MY chest just from witnessing it before he finally sunk back onto his bed heavily.

The moment he was settled down again the smile came back to his lips despite everything that was happening.

“You made it..”
His voice was barely above a whisper.
It didn’t sound right.. it didn’t sound like his voice anymore.. it’s too.. it’s too weak?..
“I knew you would.”

His pale, shaking hand came up painfully slowly.
I leaned closer to save him some work as it finally came to stop, resting against my cheek.
His thumb gently moved to the side and wiped away a tear I hadn’t even realised was forming in my eye.

“John.. tell me what to do? How can I fix this? Should.. should I blast you with my magic?”
It sounded stupid when I said it like that but it’s the only thing I can think of that might help!
I’m not a healer!
I wish to the powers that I was but I’m not.. all I can do is use my diversion now..

“No.. use..”
His words came out in soft painful pants as if it hurt just to speak suddenly.

The guy in the white robe, I think it’s safe to assume that he’s probably ‘Apollo’ at this point, put a gentle hand on my shoulder and glanced over at John.

“We’ve tried everything, some of the world’s best healers have come in to help him and they’ve all left empty handed to join the others for the Requiem.. whatever it is that’s effecting him is..”
Apollo’s hand tensed on my shoulder almost painfully as frustration battled with sadness and anger for dominance on his face.
“It’s vicious.. it’s a type of magic we’ve never seen before, his blood is literally turning to poison, we tried cycling in new blood but it just spread into it and sped up the magic’s progression..”

“..john..”
My breath hitched in my chest in a strangled gasp, I couldn’t resist the urge to lean forward and lay my arms around him the gentlest hug that I could manage.
Even then he took in a sharp breath of pain.

“I need to..”
His voice trailed off so he could take in another sharp breath.
“..I nee..”
His voice got even quieter somehow.

Even with my magic enhancing my hearing again I had to lean in to hear what he was saying.
His breath was hot as it brushed against my cheek.
For one horrible moment I wasn’t leaning over him in this dark little room on his bed..

I was in an abandoned service tunnel?

John was older, bigger.. his face wasn’t right..
He looked at me with loving but pained eyes and coughed up a mouthful of blood.
Karl?..

“..Arista..”

I froze.
My body didn’t want to move but honestly that doesn’t matter because it felt like someone had just punched me in the chest.

Why?.. why did he..
“I’m not her John.. you know that?”

How could he.. John?..

He stared at me with glazed eyes that I don’t think could really see me at this point.
Despite that, he seemed to be building himself up to something.

A moment later I felt my body lock up and my eyes draw themselves towards his.

He’s doing it again!
How the hell can he cast magic when he’s like this?!

“Look.. at me.. and speak.. truth..”
His breathing’s gotten even worse!

It must be taking everything he has to do this?!
WHY?!

“John, what are you doing? Stop this, you’re not in any state to be-”
I could throw him off at any time.
His magic is so weak right now but if I did that.. if I did that I might end up killing him?..

“Stop.. talking.”
My lips slammed shut despite my best efforts.
Slowly his hand came up to grip my wrist weakly.

For a moment I wondered why Apollo hadn’t done something to help me but he seemed reluctant to get between us from what I could see out the corner of my eye.
I guess Arista’s kids WOULD be smart enough to not get in-between their usually volatile parents, wouldn’t they?

“I know who I’m.. taking to.”
A chill ran down my spine at the sudden coldness in his quiet, pained voice.
“I know you’re.. in there Arista.. I know what you’re.. doing and I’m telling you now to.. stop..”

He’s delirious?.. He’s got to be!.. b.. but what he’s saying..

For some reason his words are making me uncomfortable?
Not a normal kind of ‘uncomfortable’.. it feels like my heads getting.. fuzzy?..

“She’s not the one Arista.. just.. just let it go?.. please..”
He sunk into another coughing fit, one so vicious that it actually broke the truth spell on me as his concentration slipped.
My body practically collapsed along with the spell and I quickly pulled away from him.

I stared at him with wide, scared eyes.
I don’t know what he was trying to do but.. he did something?
My head..

His coughs finally died off and he rolled his face to the side with a wince so he could look at me again with those far too soft, pained eyes.

“Just let her go.. she’s innocent in all.. of this.. Arista.. pleas-“
Before he could say anymore his voice cracked and he burst into another horrible death-rattle like coughing fit.

“..John?..”
I was a little reluctant to approach him again honestly but.. but he’s John, ya know?..

His pale lips twitched up into a horribly warm smile, the kind of smile you give a friend you’re never going to see again to make them feel better.
“I love you.. Hannah..”

I froze stiff again.
My mind spun frantically in a painful mess of thoughts and memories.
..those words..

Before my eyes the world shifted?
The bedroom was gone again.

I squinted my eyes down tightly to see properly in the dark, dank service tunnel.
My hands were coated in blood.
..not my blood?..

John..
His face shifted again.
..Karl?

“I love you Hannah..”

My heart hammered in my chest so hard I couldn’t breathe properly.
Why.. why is he..?

John?.. Karl?.. what.. what’s happening?!

“I love.. you.. Hannah..”
The words echoed around in my head so much it hurt!

I’m panicking!
I know I’m panicking!
Why WOULDN’T I be BLOODY PANICKING!!

The world shook again and with a jolt I was back in the bedroom, John stared up at me with so much pain and hurt on his face.
A thin trail of blood trickled out the corner of his mouth and he coughed again sending droplets of crimson onto the bedsheets around him.

I couldn’t move.
My eyes were stuck, staring at the blood on his lips.

It’s happening again!
It’s happening again.. because of me?..

John went to the Hub because of me!
He got hurt because of me!
He.. John..

He coughed loudly and let out a long, rattling breath as his eyes shut and his body went limp.

“JOHN!”
Frantically I surged forward and scooped him into my arms.

He didn’t move.
He’s not breathing!

“JOHN! JOHN YOU’RE NOT DYING ON ME YOU SON OF A BITCH!”

He’s not moving!
He’s not moving!
He’s.. he’s not..

..john..

I can’t see anything.
The world is blurred from my tears but I’ve got him, I rocked him in my arms as if it would help in some way but he didn’t react!

“..john..”

Apollo shifted to my left and came up to my side.
He slid a gentle hand on my shoulder and moved to ease my grip on John.

NO!

He’s NOT dead!
JOHN’S NOT DEAD!!

He’s not.. he’s.. he’s not..

My magic is in chaos, my minds even worse.
I can’t.. John?.. John don’t..

..don’t leave me?..

In a last desperate attempt I tried to grasp some of my magic and force it out.
I can’t concentrate!
I barely managed a flash of golden light!

It’s not enough!
It’s not enough!

I’m not enough..
..not.. not again?..
..not John..

An angry growl rumbled low in my chest.
Magic sparked between my fingers and my hair swayed in an unseen breeze.

You’re not doing this to me John you ASSHOLE!

With everything I had I grabbed every last scrap of magic I could and forced it out.
A solid golden dome of power arced out of my body and quickly spread past the walls of the room.

For one moment I felt it.
For one glorious moment I HEARD it!
His heartbeat..

Just one.. one little thump..
It’s not enough?
My magic’s not enough, my diversion.. I..

NO!
I’m not giving up like this!

I’m a FREAK!
I’m one of the most powerful mages in existence!
I’m.. I’m a.. a locus point?..

With inspiration born of the thousand desperate plans that flew through my mind in the moment between heartbeats I dived into my lines and started to draw in magic.

I’m a locus point!
I naturally draw in magic from the very AIR around me just by EXISTING!
..who’s to say that’s all I can do?!..

Time to see if you were right John.. let’s see if power and ‘wishes’ are stronger than reality!

All the currently refilling, pooled magic in my body moved towards my core at a mental nudge from me.
With a thought and a forceful mental-push I compressed it all down like a tightly squeezed spring.
The full potential of my body’s worth of magic squashed into a tiny space just above my heart!

It’s not enough!
I need more!

Magic was already pouring in to fill the void in my body left behind by the compression of the other magic but it’s not FAST enough!

“You’re MY magic damn it! You do what I SAY!”

As if my words were some kind of spell all of their own, the seemingly too slow trickle of magic pouring back into my body jumped up in pace at my command.
It was still coming from my skin and flowing along my lines towards my core like before but now it’s faster?!

I.. I can do this?..
I CAN DO THIS!

MORE!
I need MORE!

The magic reached saturation point and with a shove I compressed it all down again, leaving my body empty for more to come in.

“You’re not dying on me John! You’re NOT leaving me alone!”

More! Faster!
Compress! Shift! Draw in!

In the time between seconds, all of the magic coming into my body started speeding up again.
More and more, so much tightly bound magic that it HURTS!

I can’t breathe!
My heart is hammering away in my chest but I CAN’T stop!

I REFUSE TO STOP!

I couldn’t save Karl.
I didn’t have the skills!
I didn’t have the POWER!

I’m not that innocent love-sick little boy anymore damn it!

I’m the next incarnation of Arista!
Everyone seems convinced that that should mean something, that it makes me somehow special?!
People thought we were GODS back in the old days!

I’LL SHOW THEM A FUCKING GOD!!

The world seemed to slow down as I tried to shift my lines.
After a long second that felt like an eternity I gave up even TRYING to control my magic and left my lines alone to do as they would so I could focus more on the power I was building up to unnatural levels within my core.

I’ve got more magic then I ever dreamed possible inside me!
My core is so flooded with tightly compressed magic, it feels like I’m going to have a heart-attack?!

It seemed like my arms were moving in slow-motion as I lifted them up and planted my palms flat on John’s chest.

“YOU’RE NOT DEAD YOU BASTARD! REVĪVŌ!”

It’s a nonsense spell word, latin for ‘Revive’, I had to say SOMETHING though!
There ISN’T a spell to bring someone back like this but I’m MAKING ONE damn it!

“REVĪVŌ! REVĪVŌ!”

With a final push I managed to get all of the compressed magic from my core to bubble across my skin and released in one concentrated blast of sheer power.

I’ve said that I ‘explode’ with this golden diversion of mine before but that’s all been practically NOTHING when compared to this one, those pathetic little domes I’ve been letting off are like bottle rockets compared to a nuke with this new spell that I just let loose on the world!

“REVĪVŌ!!”
With everything I had, with all of my WILL and my DESIRE I forced the power streaming out of me into my palms.

I’m NOT living like this without John!

I’m NOT going to face all the messed up, crazy shit that happens in my life without him there to understand me again!
He’s the ONLY person that understands me!
He’s the only person that ever COULD understand what my life is like!

In a second it was over.
My magic ran dry leaving me feeling so blissfully.. painfully, hollow inside.

My arms went limp.
My whole body went dead a heartbeat later.. to the point that I just collapsed on top of John’s still warm corpse.

I can’t breathe.. I can’t see.. I can’t..

My ears strained for a lifetime waiting for it.
Hoping for it.
PRAYING for it!

Come on John.. don’t do this to me..

‘Thump’
My whole body twitched.
‘thump-thump’
I couldn’t move my body enough to cheer but my mouth managed to twitch up into a smile at least.

‘thump-thump’

..welcome back John..
I told you not to die on me you selfish, arrogant bastard!

I almost allowed myself to pass out before he surged up on the bed, throwing my body further down it and sucking in an inhumanly deep breath while he frantically scrambling his arms around as if he was being attacked in some way.

“John..”
My voice came out weaker than I’d intended but his manic eyes settled on me and his mouth slowly dropped open in shock.

“Hannah?”

I couldn’t help the giggle that rolled out of my chest.
I couldn’t stop it when it progressed into a full blown laugh and proceeded up again into a painful cackle that shook my whole body.

It feels like I’m losing my mind!

Everything’s so surreal!
I just.. I just raised the dead?!

SCREW YOU LICH’S!
There’s a new power in town, you ain’t the only ones who can bring people back anymore ya sick bastards!
My John is a DAMN sight better than your pathetic little undead army’s too!

My chest hurt but I couldn’t stop laughing.
The after-effects of venting my magic are so powerful this time that they’re out of control?
I’m out of control but.. but I’m clear?

I can think clearly for once, I can feel the effects rolling through me still but I can think clearly through them anyway?

While my body was lost.. numb and stuck in a loop of laughter that’s probably going to do some kind of damage to me in the long run.. my MIND isn’t stuck along for the ride for once?

This.. this could be either good or very.. VERY bad..

======

I lost track of how long I was laughing for.

From what I can see, John’s awake, alive and apparently even up for walking about judging by how quickly he shot out of bed and scooped me up into his arms to lay me down on it as I laughed maniacally to myself.

Apollo tried to check him over but John refused treatment, his eye’s kept trying to catch mine as my body thrashed on the bed.

..He looks so serious?..
He’s still John but he looks worried, the fun’s gone from his face?

It’s like.. there’s nothing but care for my safety left in him at this point?
..it’s kinda making my chest feel warm just looking at him..

..no.. wait?..
That’s not what’s causing it?!

As I watched on from whatever part of my mind I’ve managed to lucidly sink into, while my body rolls with the waves of pleasure and laughter hitting it, my stomach slowly started to get cold for some reason and my chest started to feel unusually warm.. HOT even!

My body’s laughter shifted suddenly.

It’s not manic anymore.. it’s.. it’s broken?..
A broken kind of giggle that I’ve only heard one other time in person before..

As if that realisation was some kind of trigger, my body suddenly stopped laughing.

Without any input from me it rolled itself up into a sitting position and grinned at John’s slightly stunned face.
I couldn’t control anything but I could feel something.. some emotions?.. something alien to my mind just under the surface?

“Hello Max..”

..what?..
Why.. why did I say that?
I DIDN’T SAY THAT!

“It’s been so longgg darling, you look well? I take it Little Alice did her job?”

John’s face had gone slack from the moment this alien.. thing.. started talking.
Slowly his face flushed with anger and he shifted his body forward to glare at me.

“Arista?”

My blood ran cold.
No.. no, not now!

NOT EVER!
No, no, no, no, no, NO!

“Our survey says... bzzzt.. nice try Max, want to have another go?”
My hands moved up to fold carelessly under my breasts, pushing them up as my body leaned back like some kind of pin-up model.
That horrible, broken giggle rolled off my tongue again and I finally realised what it truly meant.

“..Theodora?..”
John said it at pretty much the exact same moment that I thought it.

“Oh Max.. my Max.. what HAS that girl been doing to you?”
My hands came loose from under my breasts and reached out to touch John.
He jolted away from me and glared harder.

“What’s going on Dora? You’re not like Arista, I’d expect a takeover bid from her but YOU?..”

My lips moved into a playful pout.
My arms folded back in again and a cheerful little tuneless hum rumbled in my throat.

“I DO wonder.. why would I, the single greatest Oracle of my line, come out to play when Little Alice left herself so invitingly open.. so RIPE for the taking?..”

John flinched and diverted his eyes from me for some reason.

I could feel my lips pull back into a delighted grin.
Her emotions are getting clearer in my head.

Knowing what she is, knowing WHO she is.. it makes it easier to decipher what it all means.
She’s happy?
She’s more than happy, she’s ecstatic!

“A prophecy?.. you’re here to give a true prophecy.. about Hannah?”

My whole body shifted with lightning precision.
A hand came up to my chest and settled with splayed fingers against my right breast while my mouth moved into an exaggeratedly offended looking ‘O’ shape.

“Oh please, don’t be so boring Max.. I’m here to join the party!”
She shifted my legs and folded one over the other leaving me perched delicately on the side of the bed while my eyebrow popped up teasingly at Johns obvious confusion.

“The Fae are screaming Max, can’t you hear it? It’s so deliciously ironic!”
She unfolded my legs and kicked them childishly over the side of the bed.

“Every Prophet, every oracle or two-bit soothsayer on the planet is screaming with them too, by this time tomorrow morning every mage from here to Timbuktu will have heard the magic’s message!”
My lips pulled back into an amused grin.
“Even the normals know something’s going on, they’ll call it a ‘solar-flare’.. whatever THAT is.. they ARE simple creatures, who can blame them for their confusion I guess?..”

She leaned my body forward and squeezed my arms in a way that emphasised my not-so-impressive cleavage.

“I knew from the first time we met that Little Alice would be fun but even I didn’t foresee this much wondrous chaos!”

John glared at me and tensed his neck as if he was holding himself back from doing something he’d regret.
I think he’s struggling to handle having ‘me’ act like Theodora, he tends to be a man of action most of the time so holding back like this must be horrible for him?

When it’s Theodora in control, even I wouldn’t fault him for punching me in the face or something!

“Little Alice?”
Hardly an important or helpful question John?!

It’s pretty obvious that’s just Theodora being Theodora!

She said something similar the last time I saw her, calling me ‘Little Alice’ and talking about me seeing just how far the rabbit hole goes or something.
It’s nothing important!

She’s just crazy.

“Oh Max.. wouldn’t you like to know?”
She rolled my hips and settled into one of the ‘model’ poses Sarah taught me for her photoshoot, while pulling my lips up into a taunting little flirty smile.
“As fun as this has been, I can’t spend all day catching up.. I’ve got a job to do after all.”

“What are you going to-”
Before John could even get his question out fully Theodora cut her arm dramatically down between us, silencing him instantly.

“I’ve always wanted to do that.. ANYWAY! Back to the matter at hand Max darling, there’s a war coming..”
She shifted my body over a little and made my eyes light up with wicked delight.
“Pick your side carefully; if you chose wrong you will regret it for the rest of your lives Max.”

She carelessly flicked my hair over my shoulder and smirked darkly at him.

“Everyone on earth will hear magic’s call soon enough, everyone with even a trace of the gift is crying out the good tidings for all to hear..”
A light tuneless hum came to my lips as she waved her arms around at waist level like she was playing with the material on some kind of imaginary ball gown?
“Why should I be the only one left out of the fun? You should hear the news too anyway.. this is just so much FUN, isn’t it?!”

With a horribly tight grin that made my cheeks hurt Theodora moved my body into a standing position and took a step towards John.
He flinched away from her and put a hand up defensively but it was pointless, I can feel from her weird ‘emotional echo’ thing that she wasn’t going to hurt him.

She’s too happy.. FAR too happy!

She spread my arms out wide, in a mockery of the ‘crucifixion’ pose prevalent in Christian imagery.
My head threw itself back and my body cackled loudly to the ceiling.

“The Lady-Death is awake! The time of the long dark is upon us, she will set our sisters free and lead us to retribution! The Lady-Death is awake!”

All at once her presence just LEFT my body, her ‘job’ apparently complete.
I collapsed painfully to the floor and just lay there breathing heavily.

“..the lady death?..”
John’s confused mutter sounded far away for some reason.

From much closer to me, somewhere deep inside my own head, a sound replied to his question.
A single, long, cackling laugh of pure joy with Theodora’s unmistakable tinge of insanity running through it loud and clear.

I shuddered and tried to focus on breathing as my body twitched and rebelled against every command I threw at it.

I think I may have done some serious damage to myself here?
I can’t move my legs!
Why.. why can’t I move my legs?!..

John’s voice seemed to get further and further away.
For a moment I could feel him touch my arm but my vision is already dark at the edges.

I know how this goes, it seems to happen a lot to me lately for some reason.
With one last desperate gasp of air I blacked out into sweet unconsciousness.

======

“- are baffled to explain a seemingly harmless flash of light, theorised to be a solar-flare affected by ball lightning, which struck the North American mid-west and parts of Canada early in the afternoon yesterday. Several eye witnesses have reported seeing a strange ‘dome’ effect to the unexplained phenomena but all video evidence recorded, either digital or analogue seems to have been bleached out by the flare’s ligh-”

Someone moved and the sound stopped suddenly.
I groaned, rolling my body slightly on the soft mattress below me.

What time is it?..
What happ.. CRAP!

With a push I practically launched myself off the bed.
Before I could get too far a strong arm flew out and snagged me in the air, pulling me back onto the bed by my waist.

I tried to bat the person away frantically until my eye’s finally opened and I came face to face with John.

For a second I froze but that didn’t last.
A relieved sob ripped itself from my throat and I dived into his surprised arms to hug him tightly.

“You’re not dead, you’re not dead.. you’re not dead!”
In a surprisingly gentle move for John he held me close and made comforting noises as I sobbed into his chest.

He’s so warm!
His magic feels so warm!

He’s ALIVE!

As if a switch flipped in my head I went from overjoyed to ANGRY!
My body jerked away from his hold and my fist came up to clock him across the nose with a satisfying ‘crunch’.

“OWW! SON OF A-”
John rolled away from me, landing heavily on the floor and cradling his now bleeding nose.

“YOU ASSHOLE!”

While he was lying on the floor, slightly curled up, I couldn’t resist swinging my leg back and kicking him hard in the butt.
“You don’t die without me, YOU HEAR ME?!”
I swung in another kick at his unprotected butt again.
“WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING, RUNNING OFF LIKE THAT WHILE YOU WERE INJURED?!”

Before I could take another swing at him someone’s strong, thick arms wrapped under my armpits in a full-nelson and lifted me bodily into the air.
My legs kicked uselessly for a moment but I’m NOT in the mood!

I bent my knees and for just a second my feet managed to touch whoever’d grabbed me from behind’s much larger, muscular knees.

With a push, subtly influenced by my magic in a way that I’ve never consciously felt happen before, I managed to both break his stance sending him to his knees from the force of my kick and launch my body up into a flip that was practically a full cartwheel sending me high over his meaty frame.

My head tucked in tightly as I rolled to protect my neck but my hair slapped him in the face which a small part of me found EVER so amusing for some reason.

It all went so fluid, he fell forward, his grip loosened just enough that I could sail over his head and use the grip he had on my arms to reverse the full-nelson while wrapping my arms around his throat and locking in tight.

He choked and wheezed, trying to get me to let go as his air supply thinned but it did him no good, I’ve got experience dealing with huge muscle-bound brutes and when I’ve got a hold like this locked in there’s NO escape!

It took him forever to finally go down.
When he did collapse- not dead, just unconscious –I let go of his throat with shaking hands and panted heavily in relief.

John cautiously made his way over to me, his hands raised to show that he wasn’t a threat.
I stared at him for a moment then looked back down at my trembling hands.

Without any warning at all I collapsed into heart-wrenching sobs.
In seconds I couldn’t see anything for all the tears pouring out of my eyes.

My head!

Why am I..
..I.. I can’t..
I can’t control it?!

My arm came up to wipe away the tears but the moment I saw John again they started up again.

Why did I choke that guy?
He was only trying to stop me from hurting John!

Why was I so angry?
I was so relieved and happy a minute ago and then it just.. it.. I..

..mood swings?..

It’s so much worse than usual!
Probably from just how MUCH magic I threw out as I vented it all to heal John.. but it doesn’t usually hit me like this?!

“Hannah.. I’ve got some cuffs in the bedside table, they’re enchanted like the pair I used on you before, you can pull them out and put them on.. you’re safe here, I’ll protect you.”

He didn’t step any closer to me.

He’s scared of me?!
He’s so scared of me, just like Sarah and Mum and everyone else!

They should be scared of me!
I’m a freak!
I’m a monster!
I’m.. I’m..

John sighed loudly in frustration when, instead of doing what he wanted, I broke down crying again.
With a feat of strength I wouldn’t normally consider possible I pulled the hulking brute I just choked out closer to me and held his unconscious body in a desperate hug like an oversized teddy-bear.

I’m sorry!
I’m so sorry!
I didn’t mean to hurt him.

I didn’t.. I..

Something deep in my brain ‘shifted’ again.
I could FEEL it happen.

With a confused blink I dropped the stupid muscle-bound beast, folded my arms over my chest and turned my face away from both him AND John to give off an annoyed huff.

He should have known better then to TRY and restrain me!
Idiot!

Out the corner of my eye I focused a weary glare on John.
He should have warned me that the guy was coming too!
Stupid Idiot John!

“Well.. this is going to get annoying..”

SHUT UP JOHN!
NO-ONE ASKED YOU!

This day SUCKS!
This city SUCKS!
EVERYTHING BLOODY SUCKS!

Why did I even BOTHER trying to save you, you great big insensitive ungrateful ASSHOLE?!

With one last mental ‘shift of gears’ my arms dropped to the side and I collapsed to the floor in chest wrenching sobs.
I HATE MOOD SWINGS!

My hands found my hair and I started slowly twisting it through my fingers to try and calm down.
John just stood there looking lost.

He’s alive!
That makes me so.. happy?.. sad?.. frustrated?.. horny?!..
The mental ‘gears’ jumped again and I finally realised what my brain was trying to say.

He’s alive!
That makes me so.. ANGRY!

“SCREW YOU JOHN!”

“What the hell did I do?!”

STUPID JOHN!
STUPID DEATH!
STUPID MAGIC!
STUPID.. STUPID EVERYTHING!

ARRRAAGH!!!



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