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  1. #31
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Knowing the answer to the sisters' questions and that Declan was innocent, Riff had relaxed almost immediately. He waited patiently for Erin to come to her conclusion and breathed a sigh of relief when they too knew something of healing magic. That would certainly improve Clare's condition. He didn't detect any movement in the hallway or anything that might indicate that someone was concerned about the ruckus. Of course, it was the afternoon and people generally weren't lounging around their hotel rooms at this hour.

    When Erin addressed him, Riff shrugged casually. "No trouble." The compliment on the dog resulted in a wide grin on his part and Pepper seemed to sense it too. Her ears perked up and she went toward the sisters to give them a sniff over. "Thanks - her name is Pepper. Her owner is Fae and she misses her a lot, so she probably wants to give you a good smell - reminds her of home. I'm Riff. Just came back to the room here to see how Clare and Declan were getting on. Also, I was hoping to figure out who was responsible for this in the broader sense - I want to make sure they...well, all of you, are safe."
    Winner of the dubious Vaarsuvius Award for Verbousness!

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  2. #32
    Alessa Murphy-Quigley and Erin Murphy



    "It's jerks who were responsible--" Erin began, but Alessa cut her off.

    "True, but not a helpful answer," the older sibling said. "They call themselves the Cold Iron Brotherhood. They've been around for a long time... and they've been enemies to our clan for just as long.

    "That's why our mother hates Declan so much," Erin piped up, but Alessa impatiently shushed her again.

    "I'm sure that Riff doesn't care about our family politics. The bad thing about the Cold Iron Brotherhood is that they're utterly relentless. They'll eventually come back. The one positive, though, is that they operate completely as independent cells - they're afraid of Fae mindreading and brainwashing. Frankly, that is within the capability of some of our people, but the Brotherhood greatly exaggerate it. Anyway, these cells don't share information for fear of the Fae getting ahold of it, so it's unlikely anyone other than those who were specifically following Clare had information about her."

    "It's not all good news, of course," Erin counter-interrupted, seeming to want to be the one relaying the important information for once. "If someone found out about Clare once, someone else eventually will the same way. But there should at least be a... what's the word...?"

    "Reprieve?" Alessa suggested, but Erin shook her head.

    "A break," Erin said with certainty, scratching Pepper's ears affectionately. "There should be a break."
    "Sleep to dream, and we dream to live..." -Great Big Sea

  3. #33
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Cold Iron Brotherhood. Of course. He'd almost call them a cult. It was not a pleasure to be working against such a dogged, perverse group of people, but hey, he couldn't choose their enemies.

    "I may be able to find some leads on how they found Clare. I took their cell phones - removed the GPS, just so you know - there might be something on them we can use. At the very least, we should be able to figure out if we took out the whole cell."

    He fished the phones out of his knapsack and passed one to each of the sisters. He started flipping through the contacts again, looking for repeat numbers.

    "I have the numbers of both those phones here, but I'm not sure what the rest of them are. Could be car rental agencies and hotels for all I know. Not that there's a lot of history on these burners. Declan, you got a phone here?"

    Maybe by running a few numbers, they'd get a clue as to what led CIB here. And from there, he could figure out how to protect them all.

  4. #34
    Declan McDermott and Clare Murphy



    It hadn't been Declan's intention to carry a burner phone - he had never been the kind of guy who needed a burner phone - but that was basically what he had by default. Since cell phones from home didn't work in Europe, it had made sense for the two of them to pick up cheap travel phones so they would be able to stay connected while they were on the move. Now that it had come to this, Declan realized a relatively anonymous phone might be a good thing to have. He passed it over to Riff.

    Before Declan had a chance to comment further, Clare began to stir. Declan hadn't expected her to recover so fast, but it seemed that the extra boost of healing from her sisters had speeded the process along. Her eyelids fluttered, and she began to struggle against the blankets covering her. This distressed reaction didn't surprise Declan; it was how Clare normally woke up in a strange place, terrified and ready for a fight. He knew some past trauma must have caused it, but she had never volunteered that information and he had never felt it was his place to ask. He just took his normal route of offering comfort.

    "It's okay, Clare," he said soothingly. "No one's going to hurt you. It's just me and your sisters and your friend Riff here. You're safe. I promise."

    Clare opened her eyes, stared at Declan, and tears immediately started forming. "I'm so sorry!" she said, struggling to breathe through thick sobs. "I'm so sorry I ruined everything. I was so happy and I just wanted to keep being happy. I never meant to hurt you. I just wanted... And now I wrecked what we had, and it was so great, and... I'm so sorry--"

    "Hey!" Declan said, gently wiping the tears from her cheeks. "I don't mean to interrupt you, but can I just say a couple of things before you go on? I think it'll help, so here goes. I still love you, Clare. This doesn't change my feelings for you. I'm not leaving you. I told you no one was going to hurt you - including me. I'm not going to inflict pain, not even the heart kind. You and I... we're still okay. You're safe with me. Does that make this a little easier?"

    She was too shaky to speak. Clare just nodded, then buried her face against Declan's chest, still trembling hard. He rubbed her back in a smooth, rhythmic motion. Obviously those Cold Iron bastards had no idea what they were talking about. It was clear how much she loved him, how much he meant to her and how afraid she'd been of losing him. Declan didn't know exactly where they would go from here, but he was confident that their future was meant to be a shared one.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 10-17-2018 at 07:09 PM.

  5. #35
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    As soon as Clare started moving, she had Riff's full attention. Sure, he'd only known her for a few hours, but he was decidedly invested in the well-being of everyone in the room -human included. Riff was pleased to find that he had been totally right about Declan right from the start, not that he was going to out and say it. He watched the two lovebirds and almost sighed with happiness when Declan made his vows and held her close...he caught the sisters starting at him and quickly returned his attention to the phones, blushing.

    The first number on the phone was the car rental agency whose car he'd just totaled and set on fire. Riff mumbled an apology sounding something like "wrong number" in German, then hung up. "Rental agency." he said aloud, for the sisters' benefit. The next number was a hotel...they got the same treatment. He sincerely hoped that this wouldn't be a dead end.

  6. #36
    Declan McDermott and Clare Murphy



    For a few minutes while Riff worked on the phone, Clare just leaned into Declan and let herself breathe as the horrible tension floated away. She had thought she would never experience this again. His warmth, his heartbeat, the feeling of his arms around her. Of course they still had things to talk about, issues that needed to be resolved... but that prospect wasn't so daunting anymore. Without any threat of Declan leaving her, all the other problems seemed solvable. He still loved her, so surely everything else could be worked out.

    Erin and Alessa tried to give the couple space, but after a few minutes Erin awkwardly cleared her throat. "Um... Clare?" she said softly. "Sorry to interrupt your moment. But Mom thinks you're dead and Declan killed you."

    This caught Clare's attention immediately. If their mother believed she had been harmed, there would be swift and merciless vengeance. Only distance would have prevented it so far... but even distance wouldn't slow an angry Iphigenia down for long. Not with the elder Fae's family at stake.

    "I'll talk to her," Clare said immediately, and forced her weary, aching body out of the bed.

    "Do you want me to wait somewhere else?" Declan asked, but Clare shook her head.

    "No more secrets," she said firmly. "We aren't doing that anymore."

    Clare filled the sink with water and briefly incanted. The surface of the water trembled, then a face appeared. "Mother," Clare said. "I want you to know I'm fine. I'm a little battered, but nothing that won't heal. Declan and our new friend Riff saved my life." It would be pretty obvious which one was Riff, since he was the only person in the room that Iphigenia didn't know, but Clare indicated him with a gesture anyway.

    "Thank the goddess!" Iphigenia murmured, her eyes wide and her face still deathly pale. "Oh, Clare..."

    "The thanks here are due more to Declan and Riff than to a deity," Clare said, softening the words with a gentle tone. "Like I told you, they were the ones who kept me alive today. The Cold Iron Brotherhood kidnapped Declan and tried to force him to betray me, but he stayed loyal. They beat him so badly that he would have died. He was mortally wounded when we found him... and Declan had no idea that I had the ability to heal his injuries. He willingly offered his life for mine. I know you haven't been happy with my choice of partner, Mother, but you need to know what kind of man you're turning away from. He knows what we are now, and he's still here."

    Declan's arm was around Clare - they both needed the physical contact. He felt a little awkward talking to an image in the sink, but he gamely began, "Mrs. Murphy, I assure you, I care deeply for Clare. Yes, I'm a human, but all I want is for her to be safe and happy..."

    Iphigenia suddenly looked angry, and Declan couldn't quite understand why. At least she didn't wait too long to enlighten him.

    "You aren't just any human," Iphigenia said. "You're descended from a long line of Fae hunters, you know."

    Declan started to laugh, thinking she was joking, but quickly cut himself short when he saw her expression. "Um... I think you have the wrong guy, Mrs. Murphy. My dad drives a bus and my mum's a librarian. I don't think either of them are spending their free time chasing down Fae."

    Iphigenia frowned and stared at him for a moment, then asked in a slightly less pointed tone, "You weren't raised by your blood kin, were you?"

    Declan shook his head. "I was adopted," he said. "With my brother, when we were both toddlers. I don't really know anything about my birth parents."

    Sure, he's always been curious. Who wouldn't want to know where they came from? He'd tried searching for his biological family - with his adoptive parents' blessing and what little information they could give him as a starting point - but he had been unsuccessful, and eventually he'd shrugged it off as something he would just have to live without finding the answer to.

    "Your kin are ruthless," Iphigenia said, more a statement of fact than an accusation. "Their blood runs in your veins. The same violence is lurking in you. You just haven't had the opportunity to manifest it yet. There's something you need to see. A memory you need to experience. You will live the life of your ancestors, and then you'll understand why you'll never be right for Clare. Why we will never be safe with you around."

    "Mother, that's a horrible thing to say!" Clare interjected. "It's not true, and he doesn't need to see..."

    "Yes he does!" Iphigenia insisted. "And Riff too, if he's going to be involved in this. You both need to see..."

    The room around Declan and Riff appeared to dissolve, as Iphigenia conjured her memory around them.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 10-23-2018 at 07:23 PM.

  7. #37
    The Memory

    Declan didn't know where they were. He sensed that they were underground, but they weren't in a natural cave - rather, they were in a room made of the most intricate and delicate stonework he had ever seen. Every inch was carved and shaped, but somehow the effect was one of exquisite harmony rather than excess. He had little time to appreciate his surroundings, though. Something was happening here. Something big.

    The air was heavy with the smell of blood and... something else. It took Declan a moment to identify it. Iron. He felt an internal shudder. Hadn't his grandmother always said that cold iron was the one way the Fae could be permanently harmed? From far away, he heard the sounds of shouting. Most of it was indistinct, too distant to make out, but then Declan heard a muffled cry of, "Break down the levies! Drown the foul creatures out!"

    It took Declan a second to register that Riff was standing beside him, and that they weren't dressed as they had been in the hotel room. They were wearing armor, light and moveable but of an old and obviously handmade style. Declan felt his hand tightening around an object, and realized he was gripping a sword. A sword made of iron. He gasped and reflexively let go of it, but instead of falling to the stone floor it simply evaporated back into the air, then hung again from from the sheath at his belt. Apparently he couldn't get rid of the weapon so easily.

    A shrill, agonized scream pierced the air, and Declan motioned toward it. "Somebody's in trouble!" he said hastily to Riff as he took off in the direction of the pained cry. Declan wasn't sure exactly what he was going to do, but someone was clearly suffering. He had to try.

    Declan pushed open the door at the end of the room - it looked solid, but was surprisingly light and maneuverable - and he and Riff stepped into a scene of horrific carnage as they moved from the antechamber into a great hall.

    Throughout the huge room, groups of humans in the same type of armor that Declan and Riff were wearing had cornered Fae. The Fae were greatly outnumbered... and all the humans had cold iron, sapping the Fair Folk of their strength. The depredations of the humans were indiscriminate. Fae men, women, and even children were being brutalized, tortured, abused, and slaughtered in ways Declan would never have imagined. It was like a scene out of a nightmare - only this nightmare was almost beyond his comprehension.

    Declan was not used to witnessing violence. He had never been exposed to this type of horror - nothing beyond watching the nightly news - let alone seeing it on such a massive scale. There were tears in his eyes, and he was unashamed of them. In a daze, he ran to the nearest human soldier and attempted to pull him off his victim, a teenage Fae boy who was sobbing and begging for mercy. Declan's hands went straight through the soldier like he was made of water, and the human didn't react to the attempted intervention or even look up.

    This was a memory. Declan and Riff were playing a role in it, but nothing could change. Any actions they attempted to take that were counter to the identities they had been given would simply be ignored as the scene played on.

    Unable to accept that, Declan did the only thing he could think of and threw himself on top of the boy, trying to shield him, but that was no use either. The soldier's blade plunged through Declan like he wasn't there, just as Declan's hands had passed through the soldier. It caused Declan no pain or injury; to him it was like a mirage. The boy was not so lucky. He let out one last gasp and scream as the iron blade skewered him, then he lay still.

    Declan scrambled to his feet and stared down at the dead boy he had tried so uselessly to save. All around him, more Fae screamed and pleaded and died. Tears rolled down to Declan's cheeks as he looked helplessly toward Riff as if to ask: What are we going to do?
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 10-23-2018 at 05:04 PM.

  8. #38
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    "No. Not again." Riff found himself gasping the words as though the memory had physical weight. He lost his footing and took a knee as he surveyed the chaos. It reminded him too much of the attack on the school that separated him from his family. He was returning to his own memory when Declan spoke. Declan. Declan wasn't at the school that day...Riff shook his head and used his knee to push off and catch up with the other man.

    The scene inside the great hall pushed Riff from panic to anger. He also made to tackle a soldier, but came up empty handed. His attempts to shift were also denied by the power of Iphigenia's memory. Backing away into the centre of the room, he locked eyes with Declan. Seemed like they were both feeling the same way about their unplanned "adventure" into the past of the Fae of Fog Island. The two of them had this in common - and Declan wasn't going to make it through this one memory without help. Riff made his way over to Declan and laid a solid hand on his shoulder. At least they could still make contact with each other though they were denied touching anything else in this dream.

    "This is Iphigenia's memory. There's nothing we can do to change what's happening here. We have to ride it out and see what she sent us here to see. C'mon. Let's move."

    Riff waited to make sure Declan heard him before pulling away and walking toward the end of the hall. He was still angry - but now he was also angry with Iphigenia. She had no right sending Declan into this situation. Clearly she had no idea just what kind of man was dating her daughter.

  9. #39
    The Memory

    "There, are you satisfied?" Clare demanded. "They didn't join the ravening horde. You have my boyfriend in tears. Are we done here?"

    Iphigenia looked thoughtful. This hadn't gone how she expected. Erin and Alessa too were definitely regarding Declan and Riff with more respect after the emotional reaction the two men had to the scene. But no, Iphigenia was not satisfied. Not quite.

    "There's one more thing they need to see," Iphigenia insisted. "So they understand. I'm not going to leave that boy feeling smug and superior just because he didn't join the barbarians. He needs to know what really happened... and by whom."

    "Mother, no..."



    "I can't!" Declan said desperately. "We have to stay, there has to be some way to help..."

    It wasn't that he thought Riff was wrong. In his heart, he knew Riff was right. It just seemed impossible to walk away. To concede defeat and turn his back on people who were suffering and dying.

    After a few seconds, though, he no longer had a choice. The scene began to melt away, their vision blurred, and then they had been transported somewhere else, to another part of the memory.

    They now stood at the base of a spiral staircase. The door behind them was bolted - from their side, but their hands would go right through the bolt when they tried to lift it. The only way to go was forward up the stairs, even though it clearly led to a dead end rather than an exit.

    The room at the top of the stairs had once been someone's bedroom; it would have been a peaceful space, with soft candlelight illuminating rich tapestries embroidered in greens and blues. Now, however, it seemed to have been transformed into an impromptu prison. A figure was on her knees, chained to the wall, her dark hair hiding her face. A human faced her with a knife in his hand, a blade of cold iron. Blood blossomed on her skin where the blade had pierced her.

    "Tell me, you fairy harlot!" the man demanded, grabbing her by the hair and twisting the dark locks until she couldn't help but meet his eyes. "Tell me where your treasure is hidden!"

    Clare looked up at him from her chains, her body bearing the signs of hours of mistreatment, and her face a blend of defiance and contempt. "I told you, we have none - at least not what you would call treasure. We do not hoard silver and gold as your kind do. That which we treasure is what you and your men are in the process of defiling and destroying."

    "Liar!" he said, backhanding her viciously. "My men and I will give you no respite until you cease your lies. And then if I feel generous, I may grant you the mercy of a swift death."

    He turned away from her, and as Declan rushed toward them to try to interrupt the brutal scene, he caught sight of the man's features for the first time and gasped.

    The face was so like his own! The planes and angles were harsher, the lines carved deeper, and the skin more weathered - but the features were recognizable. The eyes were more than recognizable. They were identical to his.

    It appeared the man couldn't see Declan. The brief eye contact was accidental, and he passed straight through Declan on his way to the adjoining room. Declan didn't bother trying to follow. Instead, he rushed to his girlfriend's side and knelt beside her.

    "Clare? Clare..."

    She didn't look up, didn't seem to hear him. Declan tried to free her from the chains, but his hands passed through them.

    "Clare, my love..."

    He tried to touch her gently, to soothe and offer comfort, but even that was denied them. In the memory, Clare had been alone, and Declan couldn't change that even standing right in front of her. There was nothing he could do.

    Declan sank to his hands and knees at Clare's feet, scarcely able to breathe, his mind reeling with panic and confusion. He understood now why Iphigenia hated him - and that she was right to. Eventually he would have to square with that, but for now his desperation was directed toward his inability to rescue Clare.

  10. #40
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    When the scene changed and it wasn't the hotel room they found themselves in, Riff grew more tense - and more than a little suspicious. What exactly did Iphigenia want them to see so badly? Or did she just want to torture Declan for dating her daughter? He knew that not all Immortals were excited about their kin finding love with humans, but this was going way too far. It was too...personal. Riff had expected to run into Declan's ancestors at some point, but he suddenly had a feeling that there was more to it than simply being part of a barbaric hoard attacking a Fae community. He didn't want to climb those stairs, but he and Declan didn't have a choice.

    What they found, well, Riff wanted not to see. Clare was a spitfire - he'd seen her spirit at the warehouse, but he realized that she'd developed that fire early on in life. The human tormentor, though. Riff was having a hard time keeping his wits about him. How many times had he sat with people in the hospital who had been similarly abused? Tortured. Similarly tortured. Remaining a simple observer in this memory was becoming more and more difficult. His physical body back in the hotel room was certainly showing the effects of the strain his mind was under. His eyes were completely black and his teeth were getting longer than what would be considered practical for blending in with the human world.

    Still, he knew it was all a memory. He kneeled next to Declan and laid a hand on his shoulder once more. It was difficult to sound reassuring while his teeth were clenched, but he made the effort for his friend's sake.

    "Remember, man. She's alive and well. She survived this and even after all of this Clare CHOSE you. Your ancestors are long gone and you, you are nothing like them or we wouldn't be here right now. Hang in there, Declan. Clare's okay. She's okay."

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