He sat up, gasping for breath. He paused a few minutes and reached up to wipe some sweat from his face. It was light out. Jasmin had nightmares, but he got a decent amount of sleep. He went to draw the curtains once he was dressed and saw the light spattering of rain outside. He pulled an unimpressed face and went to dig out his umbrella. The alarm clock went off as he crossed the hall to the bathroom. Downstairs, he heard the girls talking. He left the alarm going off and went down just as Lydie put the phone back down. He arched an eyebrow at her. She looked pale and stunned. "Are you okay?"
She sort of shivered and ran to him, tackle-hugging him and knocking all the air out of his lungs. "Uncle Charles!"
He slowly slipped his own arms around his daughter, frowning. "What about Uncle Charles?"
"He's still alive." She sobbed into his shoulder. "He's at the Sanctuary, he's still alive, dad!"
Jasmin wasn't sure how to react. On the surface, this was great news, but below the surface, he didn't trust it to be true.
There was somewhere in the Sanctuary Jasmin's kids were kept safe when they weren't at school. Some other Sanctuary officials brought their children in as well, partially as a protective measure, but mainly so Lydie and Clarice wouldn't be alone. He left the girls chatting happily to a boy from Bordeaux and jogged down to the infirmary.
Perseus was sat by Charles' bedside. They were talking in hushed voices. Jasmin opened the door and smiled, being as quiet as he could to avoid disturbing them. The blonde detective was missing his glasses and lying flat on his back, looking right up at the ceiling. His eyes kept flickering between the tile above him and his boyfriend's face, his face pale, sickly and tired. He shifted and twisted his face in pain, and Perseus rested his hand on his, comforting. Jasmin couldn't help but smile. They made a cute couple in his eyes. When Charles opened his eyes again after the shift, they almost instantly locked with Jasmin's. They smiled at one another and the pale man beckoned the Grand Mage over. He eagerly joined the other two men, smile widening.
"I heard you'd come back from the grave."
"No-one told me I'd been pronounced legally dead."
"You were dead when I got to you."
"I don't think I was. Not properly, Jasmin."
"You were pronounced dead ages before I got there."
"Weird how I am now lying here, talking to you, huh?"
"Yes, actually, very."
Charles smiled. "I never noticed how bad my eyesight actually was. It's actually pretty good, considering. Even so, you both look a little blurry."
"So do you." Jasmin replied, smiling. "I think I'm about to cry."
Charles sighed and spread his arms wide for a hug. Perseus stepped back as the Grand Mage folded into the hug. "Worried you were going to lose me?"
"Charles, I'm lonely enough as it is. There are two people I trust. You and Cadence. Moineau and Pourri are..." he sort of choked. Charles cared more about the gaoler and Pourri was the detective's little sister. He couldn't bring himself to tell him. Perseus frowned at him. Charles gathered what he needed to from the silence.
"Mevolent's lot killed my little sister?" There was no response and Jasmin felt the smaller man's hands clench into fists. They said nothing more and the Grand Mage stepped away. One more person to add to the list of people who really wanted to make Mevolent suffer. Jasmin had never seen Charles cry, and probably never will, but he could see now that his friend was coming very close to tears.
Mortis sat at the table, glaring coolly at Hiro. Ursa, Indishan and Ricky were discussing something in the main room. He didn't like Ricky's new friends, Mortis decided. They were nothing like him, Garnet or Jayden. They were sensible men who pretended to be perfectly 'normal' and had mortal jobs. Sure, that meant those who stayed in the house didn't starve, but that had hardly been the fault of Mort or Gar when they had been friends with Ricky. If anything, it had been Ricky and Jayden's fault for not doing anything about it themselves. Back to the present, he was still glaring at Hiro, who was eating a bowl of cereal and not bothering to acknowledge Mort's existence. Mortis just kept glaring. Finally the other mage threw down his spoon.
"Okay, what is your problem, mate?"
"I don't have a problem, I just don't like you."
"I...you don't even know me."
"Not my problem."
Hiro gave him a weird look. "You're not possessive over Richard, right?"
"He prefers Ricky, and no. I forgot he'd existed until recently."
"I just don't like some people."
Phantasmagoria nodded again and threw his spoon at Grievance. It hit him on the forehead and he fell over backwards.
"Mortis!" Ricky screamed as he walked into the kitchen. The Necromancer stepped away from the terrified Phantasmagoria, who also turned out to be a Necromancer.
"He offended me." Mortis spat, gesturing to the bruise on his forehead. Ricky narrowed his eyes.
"For the moment, Ursa and Hiro are out of bounds, and unfortunately so is Indishan here." He jerked his thumb at the Australian Mage behind him.
Mortis gave a meaningful glare to all four of the other men. The kind that meant 'once this is over, you are so dead'. "So what's his prop.?"
Ricky smiled. "He knows more than he should. He knows about a gentleman named Franz Ransom. You remember Franz Ransom, right Mort?"
"Oh God..." The name obviously meant something to Mortis. The Necromancer had tightened his hold on Wilbur and his other blades, which were concealed all over his body, as though something horrible might happen to them if he didn't hang on tight. His breathing had become faster and a little panicked. Whoever Franz Ransom was, Mortis appeared to be afraid of him. Hiro frowned.
"Who's Franz Ransom?"
"In layman's terms?" Ricky replied, smirking, "A prostitute. He trades favours for...sexual fulfilment...it can work either way, but if you get him to do a favour for him and don't give him back what he wants, there might be consequences...he made the majority of Mort's blades. I don't think my long-haired friend here ever consensually paid him back."
Mortis gave him a look, but not his usual look, the kind full of fear and panic. Quite frankly, Richard had never seen that on his face. "It's not just that. There is something very wrong about Franz Ransom, Richard...so very wrong..."
Hiro laughed. "What do you mean?"
His terrified gaze turned to the man of Asian origins. "He may have been born human, but he didn't remain one..."
So Vengeous was dead. A victory for them. Erskine looked up from the reports on his desk, forcing a smile. Things had been a bit downhill as of late. Madame Mist was acting a little strange. He wondered if it was to do with the miscarriage. She kept looking at him funny as well. He was feeling unwelcome around her. Unwelcome in his own home. As a result he'd been spending more and more time in his office, trying to avoid her without seeming like he was. She was in the office right now, talking. He was trying to listen to what she was saying, but it was difficult when he was well aware she appeared to be angry with him today. He was struggling to meet her eyes and he didn't even know what he'd done wrong. Justice Popularity was looking between them, well aware something was up between them. Erskine took a deep breath, focussed his attentions on the male Elder and spoke. "I've just had word from the USA that Baron Vengeous has been killed...again...according to files brought to us from agent Maleficent, the operative working with Mevolent who brought Vengeous back in the first place is dead. It's unknown if he is the same one who brought Mevolent and Serpine back, so we can't let our guard down on the front of a possible return, but we can relax a little, I guess. Elders from Australia, South Africa and Norway have turned up dead. Russia and Azerbaijan are still pressing for any and all Sanctuaries still on our side to band together for an all out war."
"How do we know who is still on our side?" Mist interrupted sharply.
"I don't know. That's what I asked Tüpürcək. He didn't give an answer. I've spoken with him since, but I cannot get hold of the Russians."
"With Sanctuary trust so low right now, that might be a good thing."
"I'd rather be able to keep track of them as best I can. We already know one of their Elders had been a traitor."
Mist nodded slowly. They both looked to Justice for his opinion. He made a face and shrugged.
Franz was in a cell anyway. Mortis didn't have to worry much about him. They were the only two who knew what truly freaked the Necromancer out about the blonde sigilist. His father, Prosperity Straker, stared at his cell, worried. It was his son, after all. He was going to be used. He was willing to do anything for his prices. The eyes were the same grey colour as his mother's. The pupils weren't the right colour though. They were a shade of grey as well. The hair was long and unkempt. The body was strange. Normal yet disproportionate at the same time, as though there was an illusion and it was impossible to tell which was the real form. He was watching the other cells with something that wasn't quite a smile on his face. He acted perfectly human when he interacted with others. In company, he was a flawless mimic. Prosperity had never seen him act strange. Neither had the young Mage's sister, Amandine. He didn't speak to anyone as he sat there. He was quite contented with watching Garnet and Erik arguing as Nemone dry-heaved. Prosperity knew what Franz was thinking. He was thinking that those three would somehow be his ticket out of there, something he didn't see in the body's father. There was still some of Franz in there, the old man knew. It was hard to still think of that as his son.
There was another reason Mortis was afraid of Ransom. Wilbur was Ransom's blade. Mortis had stolen it after favours had been exchanged. It was a blade of such quality, not like the things the weapons smith had given the Necromancer. No, those blades paled in comparison. Even to the, at the time, magic student, Wilbur's quality was obvious. It was as if it could cut into something from five metres away, and once filled with Necromancer magic, it could. Mortis had named it. Franz thought of Necromancer magic as a disgusting, tainting thing. Wilbur had been his prized possession, and now it was that of the tainted one.
((I reserve the right to blow up Azerbaijan and the Philippines for reasons relating to issues with my father. And I WILL blow them up. Meanwhile, I randomised a name for someone and came up with Franz Ransom and thought 'that sounds like a Skulduggery Pleasant name'.))