Chapter 17 Loose Ends
“I hate to say it” Russell said turning to me, “But I think we might need to let this one go.” There were splinters of wood everywhere and Russell nestled close to the doorframe to shield himself. He, I and Cassie had come back to Belil’s old club looking for Michael or any of the remaining Old Ones.
“This is the last one Russell. We aren’t stopping now.” I responded to him half laughing at the idea of stopping now. “We have chased Michael across the country and back again. He might not be here, but we won’t waste a trip and miss out on sending the last one of these things back to where they came from. If you can’t walk on your leg, I’m going in without you.”
Russell clutched the leg that he had mauled by the other OldOne we had taken down earlier this same night. He shook his head. “Not a chance you are leaving me behind, but if I get killed, I am coming back for you Matt. And I will not be happy….” He joked back at me, but I suspected it would be the truth - he would find a way.
“I don’t doubt you for a second, Russell” I remarked rising to my feet and bracing myself to run through the charred doorway towards the grunting sound behind it in the dark. There was a sudden rush of air beside me.
“Come on boys, not feint of heart are you?!” Cassie had drawn to a halt beside me, in between Russell and I. There was an echoing yowling sound that dissipated into the darkness. “What’s the pause for anyway? All this time, taking out one after another of these things, and this one has you halted.” Cassie was having fun toying with us, but the comment burned a little none the less.
“It’s bigger than the others. Faster too.” Protested Russell. I shrugged.
“I just thought it was polite to let ladies go first” I sniped back. She leaned in to me and smiled seductively before she moved to kiss me. I purposefully paused as she leant in further and smiled back at her just to tease.
Russell groaned and stood to his feet "Well seeing as the two of you are busy, and that thing is getting away, I guess I better take the honours.” Russell hobbled around the door frame heading towards the remains of the burnt stairwell. As he reached the top he abruptly stopped at the mouth of where the stairs used to be, and Cassie and I met him there.
The stairs had collapsed, but Cassie and I simply dropped to the ground beneath. Russell stood staring down. “So what am I supposed to do stuck up here?” he called, clearly put out.
I held my arms out “Don’t worry, I’ll catch you sweetheart” I mocked him. He and I had bonded well over the last year, but I still took every opportunity to insult him.
“Oh shut up and go get that thing," he replied indicating the last of the Old Ones. "I’ll find a way down. Bung leg or not!” and he wandered off muttering.
Cassie was already ahead of me, and I followed her to the cave where we had released Violet. I wondered if it had come home to die. If it knew we had chased it in to a corner, and it had chosen this place to crawl back into the earth, the place from where it had originally been released by Belil. I stood next to her, and placed my hand at the small of her back where the edge of her once white jumper met her skin. She wore her favourite black jeans, and the boots she had taken from Cam’s belongings before we had moved from the loft to the latest motel.
We stared in to the cave and saw it, its body tense and readied for the coming conflict. It was perched on the long stone bench, a sliver of moonlight breaking though from the ceiling to land on one of its broad shoulders. It’s eyes glowed a deep red and it snorted in the dark, but didn’t move. We looked back at it, as severe in our intent to kill it, as it was on surviving. If it could. It stood still and statuesque, like a stone gargoyle. The light that shone from a hole in the roof of the cave highlighted its flexing muscles and Cassie grew even more grave. I knew she would be wondering if it was this one that took Cam and shred her before any of us could have intervened to save her.
As we waited for someone to take the lead and make a move, Russell, who had made a way down for himself after all, stepped between us, and blasted the shotgun he held with no warning.
Cassie and I looked at each other and moved in to meet the approaching OldOne, who had his fangs extended, drool slipping to the floor as it cried out in response to the shot.
Flipping itself through the air it dodged the bullet, only just being grazed. A mix of herbs, and ash exploded against the back wall where the shot had missed it's mark. A few months back we had discovered that we could mix the ash of a dead OldOne with the original mixture and it became lethal, no messing around with salt and chanting. It had been almost pure chance that we had killed that one. It had taken Viktor, Russell and I all our strength and a great deal of pain to achieve it. At least it had proven to come in useful. Myria had worked it in to the mixture we loaded in to the shells and orbs, even found a way to make it into a paste to coat the crossbow arrows. The upside was making our attacks lethal, not just sending them back where they came from, but it was also that we didn't have to bring Myria along.
Myria was no where near as strong or fast as the rest of us, and had a propensity to get in the way. It suited her as well, given she had become immersed in her latest obsession. There was a myth about some ancient bowl you could use to restore life. Myria was certain now, if she found it she could bring Camille back from the dead. Although she had mentioned restoring my life as well, I had now grown used to my new family, I felt I had a sense of purpose, and for the first time, I also felt like I knew where I belonged.
Most days I filled learning new things, reading, mastering tasks I never felt I had time to when half my life was spent sleeping. Because I only needed sleep every few days, I used the time to learn about culture, mechanics, strategy, anything I though might come in useful at some stage. I did this during the day, because I had a tendency to become distracted at night. As soon as she woke, Cassie and I would spend time talking, wandering and generally just enjoying each other. I had found it hard to steer my thoughts away from her. A mixture of blood bond and lust no doubt. Even now, as I saw her launch at the enormous OldOne and moved to hold back it's paw from striking her, I found it easy to lose track. The way her hair bounced, her body moved, ethereal and invoking for me. I felt a familiar desperation to touch her, to stroke her skin. She caught my eye as I stood watching her, grinning like a school kid, but she grimaced in response to seeing the tail that flicked back at me while I was distracted.
The appendage had swung around to strike at me almost catching my head, though I managed to duck, saving my head but leaving myself open. I was struck across my upper body leaving a gash across my chest. It flew me across the room and I gathered myself to my feet. As I did, Russell scolded me:
"Pay attention Matt. What do you think this is? Get your head back in to it" with that, Russell tossed a vial to me. I caught it, and threw myself back into the fight. Cassie leapt from the side to the back of the OldOne, and pulled at its neck so it couldn’t lower it’s head. As it cried in protest, I smashed a glass vile of the mix in its mouth. Immediately there was a glowing followed by a bright sparking like fireworks. The OldOne fell, leaving nothing but ash. Cassie stood triumphant in the pile of ash, clapping her hands free of the dust that coated her.
"God you are sexy when you do that." was all I had to say.
Regarding me with amusement she came over to me. "Do what?"
"I don't know, just....everything." I put my arm around her.
"Well I am going to need you to be more specific so I know what not to do next time."
"What not to do?" I asked.
"I can't have you getting distracted and hurt every time we get into a fight. I need you strong for myself." she ran her finger over the gash in my chest that was already healing at the edges. One good feed and I would be fine, but it still stung like hell.
Russell tried to ignore us politely and continued talking half to himself and half towards us. "Handy stuff that ash. Beats all the chanting, salt carrying, and saves on time. M
"Like us" I said finishing his unspoken words for him.
Russell made a thoughtful face "Got to admit when we do find Michael it couldn't hurt to have something special up our sleeves. No telling how long the effects of the OldOnes' blood on him will last."
There was a new thought. "I hadn't thought of them as capable of wearing off." Cassie broke her embrace from me as I spoke, and tried to spark the old torches to life on the walls. Only a few remained that would work.
"Well we don't really know do we....?" confirmed Russell. "At least we think we got the last one of these. He flinched from the pain in his leg as he stood upright. "I am feeling my years. I need a holiday."
"You need a doctor" I clarified going to give him a hand. He shooed me away of course.
"Eww" I heard Cassie say from over by the stone bench. She picked up a pair of running shoes, smothered in dried blood. I recognised them from my dream about Amy. I shuddered and looked around expecting to see more remains. There were none of course. Just the bare bones of the burnt out club of Belil’s. I took a torch from the wall and walked around the perimeter taking everything in. In the light of the torch I noticed Rune markings all over the walls and ceiling. Around the hole in the roof whole sections of the marking had been broken off.
"They were binding runes.” Clarified Russell. "They were designed to contain whatever was kept in this cave... In this case the Old Ones. The Runes kept them inside." Russell was a never ending source of new information for me, I always had questions, and he seemed to have all the answers.
"I thought that was what the amulet was for, to control them. Not that it works anymore" I queried.
"The amulet controlled them, tied them to the will of the one they were linked by blood to. So whoever fed from them and fed them. That's why we destroyed it. To use it was a darkness we couldn't tap into, couldn't risk. I know you thought different Matt but it was the best decision."
"I know I stand by it" Cassie confirmed from across the room.
"I just can't help thinking about how many people have been hurt, if there was anyway things could have been done differently." I looked back up at the ceiling.
Russell followed my gaze upward and looked up at the hole in the ceiling. "Looks like something was thrown up there, broke bits off or something."
"When we came to rescue Violet" I said it out loud as though responding to Russell, but all I was really doing was confirming to myself that we had indeed been responsible for the OldOnes being released, for all those lives they took. Even my own.
Russell put his hand on my shoulder. "Anyhow. No changing the past. And we should be celebrating. This was the last OldOne. The last one. I think I am due a holiday" He hobbled off.
I was caught in the moment, caught in my own thoughts. Still, maybe Russell was right. I couldn't lose myself in guilt. After all we hadn't brought them out of their hellish home and in to this cave in the first place. Cassie took my hand and we left. I hoped we would never come back here. Never see the inside of this cavern again. There was nothing good that could ever come of being here. Finally I felt like I was closing a chapter. Even though I had yet to catch up with Michael. Which I would.
When we got back to the loft, Viktor was the only one awake and waiting for us. Dawn was on the cusp of arriving and Violet was already asleep. Myria was holed up in her room again, a place she was spending more and more time in, if she wasn't in a library somewhere downtown of course.
"How did you go?" Viktor asked, casually looking up over the newspaper he browsed through.
"Victory!" Russell exclaimed raising an arm in the air. Viktor smiled contentedly back at him as Russell collapsed on the couch, supporting his leg on the coffee table with effort.
"Brilliant" Viktor mused, looking back at his paper. It was almost as though he didn't care about the outcome, but I knew he did. He had told me a month ago that as soon as we took the last one down, he wanted to take Violet away for a year round the world venture and bonding vacation. Part of me supported it wholeheartedly in light of the fact that it would mean not having to overhear their midnight antics. The downside was that it meant Cassie, Russell and I had to share taking care of Myria. Not that she couldn't take care of herself, but she seemed comfortable with us, and Cam would have wanted her cared for. Myria did have over the top and obsessive tendencies from time to time though, that made living with her difficult. Me being the longest lasting obsession so far, and the quest for this resurrection myth a close second. Cassie hated it of course, but I had learned to navigate space between us, avoiding alone time, evading eye contact or anything close to misunderstandings or misinterpretations.
Excusing ourselves, we left to get cleaned up and sleep off the night, but on the way to our room, Cassie and I snuck kisses and tripped over each other in the hall. We made it as far as the shower before we forgot about sleep. Well I did anyway. By the time the first rays of light were threatening the blackout blinds we had installed I was moving sweat soaked tendrils away from Cassie's face, and the sheet back over her body.
I slept soundly, catching up on the last four days, and was grateful that I didn't dream. I was used to it, but still never felt as refreshed when I dreamt. There were always too many questions after, about what was real, what was my brain filling in the gaps with, and it was always intense. I lay thinking for a moment. I had an idea unfurling in my mind, but wasn't ready to commit to how it would work yet.
"Why so serious" Cassie asked, slowly rousing from her sleep. She propped herself up on one arm and gave me a suspicious look.
"No reason" I replied before relenting. I wasn’t sure she would be as keen to get away as I would. "Maybe I am giving some thought to traveling. Getting away for a while, just you and I."
Cassie sprawled back on to the bed and smiled, closing her eyes. "Hmm. Sounds good to me. You know that's what Violet and Viktor are thinking of doing though don't you? We can't all disappear at once."
"I know" I assured her as I rolled on top of her. I kissed her neck and she purred in response. Her feet curled and squirmed as I kissed along the right side of her neck before swapping to the left. She giggled, and I sighed taking a moment to look her over. "Maybe when they come back. What do you think?"
Leaning up on her elbows, she sighed again. "Just you and I. Love the idea. Where would we go?"
I sat up to think. "I have to go to France. And Belgium. Maybe Italy. The architecture is amazing."
"We can get one of those ridiculous touristy guides to point out historical facts while we nod in fake appreciation!" she added, sounding enthusiastic.
"Definitely." We gave each other a knowing look.
"For now...." Cassie started but I kissed her to stop her finishing the sentence.
"For now duty awaits. We get up, get on with it and make hay." We both groaned getting off the bed. Cassie climbed in to a white dress that was sheer around her shoulders.
"I never understood that term." Cassie said thoughtfully.
"Make hay while the sun shines? You're kidding." I was legitimately surprised. "You who are so much more experienced than I am, so much older....." Cassie scowled.
"Well what does it mean then, smart ass."
"That while you have a chance, you might as well...." but I never got any further. There was a sudden scream from Myria's room.
Matthias by Ariana Kenny / Fantasy have rating 3.2 out of 5 / Based on19 votes