Under the Bright Lights

Quaxo9
Posts: 1100
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:33 pm

Re: Under the Bright Lights

Post by Quaxo9 »

Riff

A girl who smelled just like Seraphina and Kiki practically tumbled into his arms. She was scared and the terror in her eyes hinted at the trauma she had likely endured before meeting them today. When she said Nick's name, the connections were all too clear. Riff kneeled down in front of her and showed her the palms of his hands.

"Hey, hey. It's going to be okay now. We're here to get Nick and the girls to safety - and we'll make sure you stay safe too." He looked over his shoulder. As much as he would have liked to keep her in the truck, he knew that being temporarily out of the way didn't mean she would be safe. "Stay close to me. I don't want to leave you out here alone."

He didn't really need to ask where Nick and the girls were - he could smell them now. And he could smell so much more.

"But come on now, we need to hurry, okay?"
Monkey Kitty
Posts: 657
Joined: Thu Oct 29, 2020 7:31 pm

Re: Under the Bright Lights

Post by Monkey Kitty »

Ellen Greenway

The girl nodded, and wasted no time - she seemed far more afraid of being left behind than of any danger that the strangers might pose - sticking close to Riff, although Ellen noticed that she was doing her best to keep her face shadowed. She must think they didn't know. The desperation was understandable. What else could she have done?

"Hey, it's okay," she said. "I'm Nick's wife, by the way. Ellen. We're here to help. You don't have to be scared."

Ellen felt for the girl. It was obvious that trauma ran deep. That the ordeal had been prolonged. But Ellen also felt a stab of selfish hopefulness. This girl had seen Nick alive: the best evidence so far that he might still be. That the girl was telling the truth, Ellen had no doubt. She had been married to Nick for two decades. She knew how he had reacted to what he had seen here, what he had promised when he was face to face with this poor, beleaguered kid. She would make sure they could make good on that promise. Together.

It was fortunate they had Riff's nose for the search. It was a maze down here. But he would pick up Kiki's scent behind a barred door soon enough.

Ellen heaved up the bar and shoved open the door. "Oh, thank goodness."

Kiki was alive. She was lying on the floor. There was dust on her jeans and in her hair. She looked scared out of her mind. But she wasn't hurt, at least not physically. Ellen's heart skipped a beat with relief. One found. Two to go.

She gave Kiki a brief, tight hug. "It's okay. You're safe now. We're going to find Nick and Seraphina. Then we're going home."

With her missing lower leg, Kiki wouldn't be able to walk on her own, but to Ellen's surprise, it was the other girl who offered her a shoulder to lean on, making herself useful, leaving the Mage and the Lycan free to fight if needed. Ellen hoped it wouldn't come to that, but...

Two more to find.
Monkey Kitty
Posts: 657
Joined: Thu Oct 29, 2020 7:31 pm

Re: Under the Bright Lights

Post by Monkey Kitty »

Father Marek

The Lycan leader and the priest arrived in Isaac's car shortly after Riff and Ellen entered the building. They had hastily alerted the rest of the Pack, and hopefully some reinforcements would be incoming, but they couldn't wait. There was no time to lose. Just how pressing the situation was became clear when Isaac picked up two distinct scent trails - Riff and Ellen, and then another group heading the other direction from the far side of the building with Nick - while Marek spotted a flash of movement going yet a third way.

How to be everywhere at once? A snap decision was made. It would be assumed that Riff and Ellen had their situation under control, barring indication otherwise. Isaac would follow the scent trail of the other group, since he could do so more effectively than the priest, while Marek could rely on the acuity of Vampire eyesight to pursue this new thread. Other arriving Lycans would presumably disperse as needed when they made it to the site.

Marek sped off in the direction he had seen someone moving in. A moment later, he caught a glimpse through the trees. Blonde hair. Someone else in a grey sweatshirt. He lengthened his strides to catch up.

"Oh, heeey." The blonde woman turned and saw him - then took in the black clothes and the clerical collar. "Oh, uh, I mean, hello Father."

The blonde Mage was gripping a teenage girl - the sweatshirt wearer - by the arms, while the girl scrambled to try to get away. The tips of the kid's hair were dyed green. That was handy, Marek thought. Made her easy to identify as one of Ellen's missing girls.

"Let her go," he said.

"So, this is really all a misunder...standing." On the last part of the word, Seraphina had twisted her body frantically, and the Mage gritted her teeth as she struggled to hold on. But she didn't release her grip. She held the girl against her body, now using her as an improvised shield between her and the Vampire.

"I said, let her go."

"So I'm actually super religious too. I'm really into like... God and stuff," said Candy, who wasn't. "We have a lot in common! We're both trying to live a good life, you know, live out our faith--"

"You're holding a child hostage."

"That's kind of harsh. I mean, it's not easy for people like us in such an uncaring world..."

Something clicked in Marek's mind. "I know you."

"Oh! Yes, from church!" Candy improvised wildly. She couldn't remember seeing this man before in her life and had no idea when she'd last passed through the doors of a house of worship, but it couldn't hurt.

"I mean I know of you. You were on the news. You're a murderer."

"No, hold on, that's really rude and uncalled for!"

"You are." He was dead certain now. He knew her face. "You and your husband. You killed three kids. You're torturers. Abusers. This girl - Seraphina, before she was Seraphina Greenway - she was one of your victims, wasn't she?"

"Now, wait a minute there, Mister! Uh. Wait a minute there, Father! You don't know the full story. These weren't nice kids. Not the kind of kids a man of the cloth would care about. Seraphina here? You should have seen her the night I met her. She was drunk. She'd been at a party. Out by herself late at night. Got a ride in a stranger's car. What do you think is going to happen when you sin like that? We wouldn't, would we, Father?"

Seraphina's eyes were suddenly downcast. Marek felt for her. How long had this child spent beating herself up for human frailty? How long had she blamed herself? Long enough that she assumed he would blame her too.

"Seraphina, I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. If any of those are even sins." Marek hastily made the sign of the cross. "Now let. Her. Go."

"You should have seen the shorts she was wearing..."

Marek lost control. His eyes darkened. His fangs lengthened. He threw himself at the Mage, yanking her off the girl. He didn't know how long they fought. It could have been a year, or an instant. Candy wasn't dead, in the end. She fled, wounded. He could taste her blood in his mouth, and was suddenly back in his own rational brain, disgusted with himself.

"Seraphina? Yes, I know your name. Your mother sent us. I'm so sorry about that, about what you saw..."

He was startled, thrown off balance when Seraphina hugged him.

"It's okay," she said softly. "She hurt me before. She would have done it again. It's okay."

Marek hoped that the other Greenways - and the Pack - would take his behavior so in stride. He wasn't violent by nature. But nor was he a saint. "Let's get you home, okay?"

Seraphina nodded. "You're not a werewolf."

"No."

"But you're with them?"

"Yes."

"Why do they hate my dad?"

"They don't. I promise you. It's a misunderstanding. I think that Mage caused it. Candy. We're not here to hurt your dad. We're here to save him."

"You promise?"

"I promise."

"I want to go home."

"I know you do."

"My dad said to tell the Lycans whatever we had to. Even if he... if he died because of it. He said to save ourselves. But I didn't want to. I didn't want to lie. I just want to be with my family again."

"I know." Marek had not yet met this man - Nick - but was quickly realizing he was a good man indeed. "Let's go find your family."

As they hastily walked through the clearing, back to rejoin the others, Seraphina seemed lost in thought. "I'm not really a bad kid. Not really. But I had some bad times. Before I had the family I have now. Times where no one really cared about me. So I didn't really care about myself. You know?"

"I do."

"Really?"

"Yes. I grew up in an orphanage."

"Oh. Yeah. I guess you do."

They walked in silence for a minute.

Then, softly, Seraphina said, "Thank you. For everything."

"You're welcome."
Monkey Kitty
Posts: 657
Joined: Thu Oct 29, 2020 7:31 pm

Re: Under the Bright Lights

Post by Monkey Kitty »

Isaac Fishblatt

The Mages had been moving in haste, trying to conceal their trail, but they couldn't help leaving a scent unmistakable to a Lycan nose. Nick too, not quite human - and still alive, as of when he passed here at least. Isaac could smell the shed blood, though. He walked even faster, then broke into a run.

Nick had been dragged out the rear door of the school and up the hill. Isaac's path would eventually intersect with the others as they all converged on an old sports equipment storage building back in the thicket of trees behind the empty ice rink, little more than a large shed and mostly disused now as the items in more frequent service were stored in a newer facility near the stands.

As he got closer, he frowned. The Mages were gone. Why had they left? Nick was still inside. And there was another scent. Another person who had come and gone.

...Declan McDermott?

Why was the singer mixed up in all of this?
Quaxo9
Posts: 1100
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:33 pm

Re: Under the Bright Lights

Post by Quaxo9 »

Riff

It ended up being a bit of a wild goose chase, going down into the warren of hallways in the old school. As happy as he was to find Kiki and the other girl, Nick was the one running out of time. They exited the rear of the building and Riff picked up on a new scent.

"Isaac's here. He's ahead of us - following Nick."

He resisted the urge to run up the hill full tilt, remembering his promise to protect the kids. The bush kept them from seeing too far ahead - it was almost unbearable to wait. Finally, Isaac's form came into view and Riff whistled lowly in greeting. As he came up to the other werewolf, his head came up, alert.

"Declan? What? Is this some sort of set up?"

Riff's head swivelled about, looking for evidence of mage traps.
Monkey Kitty
Posts: 657
Joined: Thu Oct 29, 2020 7:31 pm

Re: Under the Bright Lights

Post by Monkey Kitty »

Ellen Greenway

"Seraphina!" Ellen cried when she saw her daughter. The blood on the girl's shirt took her up short. "You're hurt...?"

Seraphina shook her head. "I'm not hurt, Mom. It's not my blood. Candy had me. Father Marek saved me."

"Thank you so much, Father!"

Marek nodded. "You're very welcome. I'm glad I could help. I'm going to do my best to help Nick, too."

So much for his worry that they would be angry at him for attacking the mage woman. Apparently just the name 'Candy' was enough to alert the family to danger.

Ellen, for her part, could tell the priest was deeply invested. In helping Nick, certainly... but especially in helping Seraphina. She wondered why. But then, unbidden, a split-second vision of the past came to her. A small boy, hiding under a bed. There was a long row of identical beds. A crucifix on the wall. A man's footsteps. The black trousers legs of a priest. The boy put his hands over his mouth to stifle his sobs... Well, that explained that. She gave Marek an extra nod of thanks.

"I don't know," Isaac replied to Riff's question. He sniffed around, detecting nothing but the trail the mages left as they came - with Nick - and went - without him. Better to be careful... but there was only so much time for caution. Nick didn't have much time. Isaac could no longer tell from the scent if he was alive. There was so much blood. "We'll need to follow them. To find Declan. I'm sure he didn't go willingly. But Nick first."

The door to the storage building had been wedged shut, probably using some sort of spell. Lycan strength was enough to force it open, but it took time.

When they entered the room, Nick was lying motionless on the floor. He had taken multiple hits, been ripped up by a Lycan, and there were other injuries Isaac couldn't quite identify. He didn't hear breathing, didn't hear a heartbeat.

They were too late.

But apparently whatever Nick was had different parameters than a human, because he suddenly took a sharp, gasping breath. He could only open one eye, but he was conscious enough to look at them.

At first, Nick could only see Isaac and... a priest? Why had Isaac brought a priest? Had he been wrong - had James been telling the truth about 'sending him back to hell' after all? But no, Ellen was with them. Nick grasped for her hand, squeezing it weakly when he felt her fingers twine through his.

"Seraphina? Kiki? Brooke?" Blood bubbled from Nick's lips, and his voice was barely audible.

"They're safe," Ellen assured him. "You protected them. It's going to be okay now. This is Father Marek. He's a medic. He's going to help you."

Nick was a little unsure about that. He reached out with his mind... and sensed the priest's compassion, his kindness, his sadness that he had, through force of will, transmuted into a desire to help others. Nick relaxed and let Marek tend his injuries.

Ellen was anxious when Marek opened Nick's shirt - what would happen when he saw the scales? - but if Marek had any reaction at all, he didn't show it. The priest just began methodically treating the deep gashes James had inflicted with his attack.

"It's nice to finally meet you, Nick," Marek said. "I've heard a lot about you. Your family loves you very much. But I'm sure you know that."

Nick nodded, with a faint smile. Then a look of worry crossed his face as his addled brain started putting thoughts together more coherently. "Declan. They have... you need to help him. Don't give up on him. It's not too late."

"We will," Isaac promised. "Riff, it looks like Marek and Ellen have things under control here. Will you help me find Declan, then?"

***

They tracked Declan's scent to the edge of the woods a couple of miles away, far away from human habitation. Far away from everything... but, Riff would probably recall, near where the Pack had gone camping.

The singer lay face down in the mud.

The corpses of numerous dead mages and Cold Iron Brotherhood goons surrounded him, along with the body of his brother, Colin.

Declan smelled different. A strong, sharp scent of iron and ice and expended magic.

There were many Fae - alive - who could also be detected by scent. They had withdrawn when the Lycans approached, but they lurked just inside the cover of the trees, just out of sight, waiting to see what Isaac and Riff would do.
Quaxo9
Posts: 1100
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:33 pm

Re: Under the Bright Lights

Post by Quaxo9 »

Riff

He had taken Nick's words regarding Declan to mean that his friend was still alive and he should hurry. However, when he and Isaac arrived on the scene, he had some doubts as to both the Declan's health and to his understanding of Nick's pronouncement. The smell...it wasn't just the sour metallic scent of blood that he had grown accustomed to. It was...more elemental, somehow. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end as he looked at Declan's prone form, the dead mages all around him notwithstanding.

"Declan?" he called out tentatively, eyeing the woods even as he watched for signs of life from his friend. What was he going to tell Clare? Or rather...what were the other Fae going to tell Clare...

Something held him in position - and something in the back of his mind told him not to talk to the Fae. This situation was all manner of wrong and he wasn't about to make it worse.
Monkey Kitty
Posts: 657
Joined: Thu Oct 29, 2020 7:31 pm

Re: Under the Bright Lights

Post by Monkey Kitty »

Declan McDermott

"Declan...?" Isaac called softly, unsure what to do.

The singer didn't move or speak.

The Fae in the woods didn't move or speak.

"Declan..." Cautiously, Isaac knelt and touched his shoulder.

When his fingers made contact, the air shimmered around them and Isaac and Riff were plunged into a memory.

***

Declan wandered out of the coffee shop after Riff left. It looked like the Lycan wasn't coming back, but that was okay. His business had seemed urgent. Alone now, Declan strolled down the street, just enjoying the day for a moment before he resumed his run.

Without warning, a man stepped out from behind a parked car, blocking Declan's path.

"I want to see my son." It was Declan's brother. "I want to see Elijah."

"Collin, you know that isn't possible."

"Sure it is. Just let me see him."

"I can't. You know I can't. I'm not allowed. That's between you and the courts." Not that Elijah was in any hurry to see his father anyway. Declan couldn't help thinking uncharitably that if Collin was so desperate to be with his boy, he should have thought about that before beating him up.

Collin's face reddened with anger. "I gave you a chance. It could have been him. But now it's gonna be you instead."

Before Declan even had a chance to wonder what that meant, someone else he hadn't seen had struck him on the back of the head. His world went dark.


***

Declan returned to consciousness slowly. He was lying on... it seemed like a makeshift table. He wasn't tied up or anything, but there were people all around, in robes, chanting. His brother lay motionless on another table beside him. There was a strange expression of contentment on Collin's face.

"Collin!" he whispered. "We gotta get out of here..."

But it was too late. Something had happened. There was something... wrong.

His body felt strange, heavy and yet somehow taunt, like a bowstring about to shoot an arrow. His breath echoed oddly in his chest. And his brain was flooded with memories. So many memories...

It was too much. He grabbed his forehead, trying to silence the screaming in his brain.

One of the robed figures spoke. "They have risen. The Cold Iron Knights have risen at last."

They couldn't mean him. He was just a singer. A guy in a band.

"The Cold Iron Knights have risen. They will destroy these filthy heathen Fae once and for all."

No! Declan didn't want to do that!

But he stood anyway, following the mage as he was bid to.

What was wrong with him?

His arms felt heavy. His footsteps were leaden as he plodded along against his will.

He was the Cold Iron Knight.

And he would destroy these filthy heathen Fae once and for all.


***
They met on the edge of the Forest.

Mages, Cold Iron Brothers, and their two Knights faced down the host of the Fae, glowering at each other.

"Kill them!" the mage leader demanded.

Declan saw Collin stride forward, and suddenly there was a heavy iron sword in Collin's right hand and a shield buckled to his left arm, all pulsing with magic. Where had that come from?

Where had the sword in his own hand and the shield on his own arm come from?

He moved forward, as if in a dream.

Collin lifted his sword, ready to rip into the Fae queen as she bared her teeth and stretched out her hands, poised to defend herself.

Declan threw his shield in front of Collin's blade.

Collin grunted, off balance, and tried to swing again. Again, Declan fended off the attack, shielding Queen Iphigenia.

The others all watched, and took it in, then as if in a single motion lept into the fray on both sides as the two brothers held each other locked in battle.

Declan didn't try to land a blow. The sword mostly stayed oddly forgotten in his hand, used only for the occasional parry. Instead, he threw his shield this way and that, protecting the Fae from harm by their attackers.

Declan didn't need to land a blow. With a Cold Iron Knight on their side, protecting them, the Fae had the upper hand, and they could finish the job themselves. At the end of the battle, they all remained, their would-be assassins lying dead at their feet.

He didn't see who had struck down Collin, but he knew his brother was dead. Declan would be soon too. After what he had done, the horrors he had committed, that would be a mercy. Declan assumed the Fae would flee once the fighting was over, but they stayed, watching. Watching over him. Why? After what he had done...

He collapsed face-first in the dirt.


***

Declan's eyes opened. He stared helplessly at Riff and Isaac for a moment.

"Please," he whispered. "Kill me. Please."

Isaac shook his head, "No, Declan, that's not why we're here. We came to help you."

"No. Please. You have to kill me. It's the only way. After what I've done..."

Isaac looked around the scene of carnage. "You defended yourself. You defended others."

Declan shook his head. "That's not what I mean. All the other people. And Clare. I think Clare is dead. I did horrible things to Clare. Unspeakable things. And then I... I'm pretty sure I killed her."
Quaxo9
Posts: 1100
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:33 pm

Re: Under the Bright Lights

Post by Quaxo9 »

Riff

The sensation was familiar. The forcible movement of his mind into someone else's was not something he'd forget for a long time. Even as he watched what happened, his heart broke along with Declan's. Pounded in fear. Writhed in agony. His face was wet with tears as he moved forward to rest his hand on his friend's shoulder.

"No, man. That wasn't you. We've been there before, remember? It wasn't you then and that's not you now. You didn't do those horrible things."

Riff struggled to figure out how to prove it to him. He knew what had happened those years ago - how horrific it must be for Declan to see someone so very like him on the outside do those things to someone he loved. Clare.

"Hey, Clare's not dead. Like I said, you didn't do those things to her. Here, how about I call her. You can talk to her."

Riff was dialing his cell phone with one hand and praying Clare had hers with her. He looked around, making sure she wasn't among the fallen, just in case he'd made himself out to be a liar.
Monkey Kitty
Posts: 657
Joined: Thu Oct 29, 2020 7:31 pm

Re: Under the Bright Lights

Post by Monkey Kitty »

Declan McDermott

"It's different this time," Declan murmured.

Not just seeing what his ancestor had done, but every memory now implanted in his brain, impossible to distinguish from his own. He remembered everything he had done. To everyone. And yet it all lacked a sense of time. It could have been a million years or ten minutes - he had no way to place any of it in temporal space.

But...

"Yeah," he said when Riff offered to call Clare. "Yeah, I want to talk to her."

He just needed to hear her voice. She would curse him, tell him she never wanted to see him again - but he would hear her voice and know she was alive. If she was alive...

Clare picked up before the first ring had even completed; her hand must have been hovering over the phone.

"Riff!" Clare's voice was hurried, nervous. "I was actually just about to call you. Have you seen Declan? He went for a run this morning and never came back. I think he was going to meet you at the coffee shop, too? But that was hours ago and I can't get ahold of him. I don't mean to seem paranoid or anything, but this isn't like him and I'm worried. Do you know where he is?"
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