He didn't struggle against the hand at his throat. It wasn't that tight. Less choking, more resting. It even tickled slightly. "Jack, please. I'm the most trustworthy person here. I dedicate my life to helping the less fortunate. I've been in the shoes of the less fortunate."
"I am not the less fortunate. I hate the less fortunate, and I'm not too fond of you either, mate."
"And what would hurting me do when I wish to help you?" There was no reply so he pressed on. "You might find it enjoyable but then you'll just find it'll come back to bite you in the butt later."
Jack took his hand away. "And what do you want? How do you plan to help me?"
"I can take this artefact off you. I know experts who know how to reverse what was done to you, knowledge Basilisk does not possess."
Someone shifted behind Jack. The person he had come here to kill. Two people entered beside Austin, seeming to come in through the walls. Necromancers. Jack narrowed his eyes and released the blonde man. The newcomers looked like him. Family, probably. They didn't speak. Austin held out his hand with a smile. "Trust me, Jack. I'm a friendly person. I was going to just say a friend, but we don't really know each other...but like I said, I like to help people..."
Jack reached out, as though to take the man's hand...
...instead he sprung into the air and slammed both feet into his chest, sending him crashing out the door and hopefully breaking a few ribs. Streams of shadows followed him in a wide arch as he landed by his target. The girl, Anemophobia Sarok, seemed unimpressed. She took out her phone, texted someone, and turned back to Jack as he reached for her. Three streams of shadows slammed him against the wall and one grew sharp and tore at a pocket. It took something and Anemophobia walked calmly to the Necromancers. "Daemon's friends, I assume. Didn't expect you here."
Austin frowned. "Who the heck are you?"
She shrugged, gesturing loosely to Belinda. "She knows."
Jack tried to spring at them and ended up hitting a wall of shadows. Cadence laughed and Austin turned to leave, the object they had taken from Jack's pocket tight in his own hand now. Sarok followed him out and the two sisters followed cautiously, trying to maintain the shield to keep Jack at bay.
"We honestly only wanted to help." Cadence called sincerely.
Belinda nodded. "Everything we've said...well, Austin's said, has been true..." She stopped, wincing as she heard glass break. Jack had gone through the window. The girls exchanged worried looks and ran down the hall to catch up to their brother, who was now arguing heatedly with Sarok.
"That was fast to fire up." Bel whispered to her sister, who nodded back. "Aussy?" He stopped and turned to look at her. She offered a vague smile. "Move fast. No clue where Jack's gone. might be waiting for us."
"Shadow walking?" He asked, tilting his head to the side.
"Would be a good bet."
He nodded. "Past every window and main movement once we're out in the open."
Arachne insisted she had no idea how the symbols had gotten in Serpine's room.
"Well, I gave you a chance." Mevolent mumbled airily. A snivelling person of little importance stood in the corner. Their hair was hiding their face and if they were a girl it would be difficult to tell as they were skinny enough to create an unhealthy hip curve themselves and they were flat-chested...actually, beneath the baggy jumper (by the looks of it, it was meant to be quite tight), they were probably nobbly-chested. The thought of being able to see the person's ribs made Arachne shudder. The person grinned. "I saw you do it."
"What, beneath all that hair? I doubt it, honey."
"Arduous is quite a clever little spy." Serpine stated, sounding a little like he was in pain.
Arduous nodded. "You have an agreement with an outsider who wants us taken down."
Arachne tilted her head to the side. "I was unaware that was Daemon's goal. I hadn't the slightest clue what the symbols would do...just that if I put them where I did I would earn the return of my child." She wasn't sure why she was bothering. They had use for her still and she knew it. They wouldn't kill her. Nor would they go easier on her with their punishment no matter how she explained herself. "So how's this punishment thing gonna go?"
Brusque Surgele looked up, frowning, as Detective Hoquet entered the room. "Knock first next time, Yvonne."
"Mevolent's forces are quite literally at the front door, Grand Mage."
He raised an eyebrow over his spectacles. They were taped in the middle thanks to Elder Orage having gone and hit him once. He was hotheaded and yet Surgele had appointed him as one of his elders. Perhaps it had been a bad idea. He raised himself off his chair and followed Hoquet out, where he was flanked by Cleavers and led down the halls on the emergency exit path. They reached a junction and kept going forward as Orage hurried to catch up from Brusque's left. Fiable was running to keep up with the Elder.
"Grand Mage." Jasmin panted, hand on his chest. Brusque briefly wondered if he had run the whole way here. As far as he knew, Jasmin was in perfect health. "Are we really under attack or is this just a drill?"
"If this is just a drill, it would have been nice to have been told about it first."
Something blew with an earth-shaking sound and the Elders looked at one another in concern. "That was very real." Jasmin mumbled.
"Looks like we're really under attack." Surgele agreed. Felin and Wahrheit still weren't there and they stopped outside the entrance to the escape route. They needed all three Elders to open it. It was an old thing that prevented hostage situations moving through there.
"Felin!" Jasmin called. Surgele shushed him, glaring.
"Elder Orage, if Mevolent's forces hear you..." He didn't finish. Jasmin turned to Charles, expecting support, but got a stern glare and fingers on lips instead. Jasmin hated staying still and quiet.
They waited as the sounds beyond them grew more violent. Footsteps approached and Jasmin pushed his 'key' into Surgele's hand. "I can't stay here, or leave...I need to fight...I need to see the action for myself..." He turned to leave, but the Grand Mage grabbed one arm while Charles grabbed the other. "Let go of me!" The dark-skinned Elder shrieked in outrage.
"Please, Jasmin!" Brusque began.
"What if they know of your nature?" Charles asked softly. "What if they are banking on you helping the fight? What if they plan to capture you, or kill you, to weaken the French stronghold?"
"Then they will try and they will fail, Detective Fiable."
"We cannot take that chance, Jasmin."
"So instead we let our men fight and die when we can end it all just as fast? If they capture me, it is my command that you do not waste resources on recovering me!"
"You're my last friend left who isn't a prisoner, Jasmin." Charles hissed, trying not to let the Grand Mage hear this last plea as Felin and Wahrheit approached. "You have a duty to this Sanctuary not to run headlong into danger and get yourself captured or killed."
Jasmin sighed and nodded, turning away from his friend and ex-assistant as though he was conceding. At the last minute, he turned, hitting his friend across the face and shoving him away with the air before running towards the fighting. Fiable sighed and ran after him, Hoquet close behind as the other two elders made their escape.
"I know what I'm doing, Charles!" And there were the fighters.
"It could have been anyone at wherever B-J is now. I haven't the slightest clue. She hung up on me before I could ask for details...You have to understand I was in shock..."
Ghastly sighed and nodded. The bristly Mage glared at them through a window. They had left the meeting early, Ghastly insisting due to his chest, something to do with improperly healed injuries. "Redial? Call her back?"
Ravel hesitated and did as he was told.
B-J left her phone on the bedside table and left the room. She needed to go to the bathroom, simple as. Ras stayed where he was. Someone else was passing by outside the room and she nearly collided with him.
Garnet's hands went to her waist, catching her and gently barring her from moving away. "Jinx. Are you okay?"
She tried to twist away, but he held her tighter and pulled her towards him. "Garnet..." She spoke in a warning tone. He gave a nervous chuckle.
"I'm so sorry you had to see what you saw. I know I was very guilty of the overboard gore stuff, but that's what you get for living in Mortis' company for a good fifty or so years...look, we had beef with this Vex guy, a real grudge that just needed to be sorted."
"Let go of me, Garnet."
"I'm still helping with the spider girl thing, eh? Still friends? I just have the whole killing thing pounded into me! Please forgive me? Talk to me, B-J!" He looked and sounded a little desperate. She looked up into his pleading brown eyes and kept the scowl firmly on her face. Puppy-dog eyes weren't going to work with her. She heard her phone go off. "Answer that, please!" She called back into the room. "Tell them I'm in the bathroom."
Garnet sighed. "I'm so sorry you had to see that, or that Mort hurt you."
"I'm fine. You're the one so obviously screwed up!"
He winced. "I...We both killed some people recently and we both regret it. We both had our little overboard episodes and-" He broke off as she slapped him. "Okay..." He mumbled after a moment, "I deserved that..."
She balled her hand into a fist and punched him. His head snapped even further round and down and she saw his nose begin to bleed. He looked shocked. As he straightened back up, she punched him again and he stumbled and fell. She kicked him a couple of times to keep him down and he took them with grunts and one little whimper. She was wearing sharp-toed heels and they were finding their way past the arms he brought up to defend himself and into his ribs. Two more people were approaching from behind. If they were this Mort guy and his friend, she was screwed. She turned to face them, smiled and walked on by. As she disappeared around the corner, Esra and Advantageous cracked their knuckles. B-J called out to Garnet as he raised his head to face them. "You hurt my brother or my friend and you're a dead man, Dorado. You saw how brutally I dispatched the guard."
Dorado grinned, spitting at the other men's feet. "I'm pretty brutal myself, Jinx. I honestly don't care." He got to his feet. "Even so, I will honour your wishes and-" That was when Sunshine swung the next punch.
"Uh...sorry, I'm looking for B-J Maleficent..."
"This is her phone. She's gone to the toilet."
"...And you are...?"
Ras hesitated only for a moment. "My name is Vrestreni. I come from the Czech Republic. I don't believe we've spoken before, Grand Mage Ravel..."
"No, I don't think we have."
"Why did you want to talk to Miss Maleficent?"
"Uh...I was enquiring after the death of my friend..."
Ras sighed morosely. "The blonde man, Vex."
"That's the one."
"You want to know how he died?"
"No, I want to know his killers."
"I know one of them is called Garnet Dorado." He could hear the conversation through the door quite easily. "I think another goes by the name of Mort...I don't know them, but Garnet is ginger. Actually, I've faced Jayden Slander before..." He said that last bit more to himself than to Ravel. "Dark skin, bald, at the time a low level Child of the Spider...evidently a friend of Dorado and this Mort character..."
Realising he was now talking to himself, Ravel decided to end the conversation. "Okay, thank you...do you know where they're staying?"
"Garnet, here in a castle in I don't know where...Wicklow, I think. Near Roarhaven."
Ravel frowned. Not far off. "Okay. Thank you." He went to hang up when he realised something. "Aren't you in Czechoslovakia right now? With your own Sanctuary?"
"Czech Republic, Ravel. Czechoslovakia split. And I'm meant to be, but Mevolent usurped me. My brother's there posing as me right now."
"...Viscol was right...we can't trust the Czechs..."
"No, you can't. Good day to you, Grand Mage."
Austin was only mildly surprised when he woke up in a strange bed with a nasty head injury. He turned his head, or at least tried to, but only succeeded in cricking his neck. With a low moan, he peered into the murky darkness of the room. This wasn't Belinda's house. It looked like the sort of place he used to live in. Untended squats.
"Ah, Baritone. You're awake."
It took a moment for the voice to register properly. "Repine?"
"It is indeed. You feel okay?"
"Cleric Repine...this means I'm screwed. You hate my guts..."
"And yet I saved them anyway."
Meanwhile at Belinda's, Jack found himself strapped to a bed, two people stood over him, examining the extent of the damage to his mind. "And you say you don't have the artefact in question?" The man asked.
Belinda shook her head. "Our brother had it last. Jack hit him and he had back-up...somebody took him. Saved his life, but took him away and put him in danger in another way..."
Afton Redbird nodded in agreement. "Your brother is in danger, definitely."
"Can you help Jack?" Defiance asked from the doorway.
Afton looked to the man. "This is Mr Amantes' area of expertise, really."
"Thank you, Afton." Amantes replied, smiling. "I've studied the theory behind this artefact before. I have no real guarantee that what I do will work, but I can guarantee it can't make him any worse than he is now." Loki Amantes went back to leaning over Jack, frowning. "I'll tell you what I need. meanwhile I may have to try and build up a level of trust betwixt myself and Mr Jack here."
((aaaaand Amantes does not belong to me.He was the original colleague of Afton Redbird, so I brought him in for a cameo...I just applied to an emergency back-up sixth form college...it's one that I think requires an interview...eep! Also Nemone knows where she's going with this! Exactly where! For Aussy's bit at least...pronounce that abbr. like Ozzy. Also I brought Repine Back...I felt I needed to do more with my mains, Austin was one of those, and now I know what I'm doing!!! I'm bringing back a few others soon as well...))