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Chapter 12

The sun was setting slowly over the London cityscape, casting a warm glow over the streets. Whereas the streets would be empty aside from the odd policeman or worker on his way home, the street outside London Central Cinema was bustling with people, all standing in a que and waiting to get in to see the new movie. Everyone was chattering, a mix of nervous, excited and bored, cocky voices. Everybody was wearing their best clothes and most of the crowd were adults. They wouldn’t let their children see this movie, not a chance in all nine Hells. The youngest person there must have been in his mid-twenties.

However, near the front of the que was a young couple. The man was tall, skinny and was wearing a white shirt with dark trousers and polished shoes. His short hair was combed back and he’d shaved his stubble for the evening. He had emerald green eyes and an excited smile on his face. He looked down at his companion, a girl who was younger than him at nineteen years old and was wearing a dark green top with a matching skirt which stopped just below her knees. She was wearing a leather jacket over it and her blonde hair was tied in a tight ponytail with just a few strands of hair framing her pretty face. She had the same shade of eyes as the man and she wore high, sand-coloured boots.

Although it wasn’t obvious from a glance, these two were siblings.

“Mother would kill me if she knew we were seeing this, Lucy.” The man said, still grinning.

“That’s why we’ll say we went to see Yankee At King Arthur’s Court.” The girl—Lucy—replied. “Don’t tell anyone, James, I’ve wanted to see this for ages!”

“I know, I just don’t want to see you get into any more trouble.”

“I’ve endured Dad’s rants before, it’s not like this one’ll be any different.”

James smiled and laughed before they got ushered into the theatre. A small crowd followed them and they were soon lost in it before the line was cut again, prompting people to grumble and complain. James and Lucy followed the man who’d admitted them to an empty showroom and the all filed in.

They sat near the back and had a good view of the screen thanks to no tall people being in front of them. Although neither of them had brought food, they’d eaten before coming here so they weren’t hungry.

The movie started and everyone in the room hushed down. Lucy subconsciously put a hand on her brother’s forearm and gripped it tightly, her heart hammering in her chest and her eyes glued to the screen. James’ heartrate was just as erratic and he was gripping the arm of the seat with a white-knuckled grip.

Finally, the main attraction came and the entire theatre was silent with the exception of the movie itself. Everyone was watching, their breaths all held as the scientist made the final preparations for the creature under the sheet. Lucy’s fingers dug into James’ arm. Both of their breaths were coming fast and hard, terror gripping them with as much force as excitement.

The scientist flicked the switch and the lightning crackled. Suddenly, the sheet sat bolt upright and everyone in the theatre screamed, jumping up. One or two people even bolted for the door, screaming and crying in fear. Lucy clung to her older brother, tearing her gaze away from the screen and scrunching her eyes shut.

“Stay here, I’ll be right back.” James said in her ear and she felt him leave her side. Her breathing sped up again and she held her eyes closed, trying frantically to stop her imagination from pulling the sheet off of whatever had sat up.

Suddenly, the movie’s sound stopped and the lights came on. Lucy kept huddled over, unaware of the silence in the theatre due to her blood pumping in her ears, her heart still beating against her chest. Eventually, she realised the room was silent. There was no chattering, no footsteps as people left the threatre…

… Only a wet, soft cracking sound.

There was a sudden snap and Lucy forced her eyes open. They turned and looked at the screen. They didn’t reach the screen, however. Her gaze was distracted by the face of her brother. He was leaning over a seat in front of her, facing towards her and moving slightly.

“J… James…?” She called quietly. He suddenly stopped moving. His expression was blank, emotionless.

Then, something rose from behind him. It started with a row of spikes, all linked by a blood red membrane. The thing’s skin was pale, almost white, and was very skinny. A set of claws gripped the chair beside the one James was on, digging into the fabric and seeming to go through it like it was nothing. The thing’s head was revealed and it turned to face Lucy. Its eyes were pure red, with the irises only indicated by a yellow flare around the edge, its pupils blacker than black. Its teeth were long and jagged, as if someone had shoved a bunch of splinters into its gums.

The creature began to slowly crawl over the backs of the chairs, its chin dripping with blood and saliva. It breathed slowly, almost as if it were savouring the scent of a fine meal. Lucy just sat there, curled in fear, her bottom lip quivering as her breathing sped up again. Her eyes were wide and she couldn’t take them off the monster in front of her, this unnatural abomination that shouldn’t even belong in any world.

The creature was right in front of her. It took a deep breath, as if smelling her terror and pure fear. The thing seemed to grin before its mouth opened, jaw unhinging and revealing the deep red maw, ready to bite the young lady’s head off.

Suddenly, there was the sound of shattering glass and the creature’s head snapped up just in time for a boot to connect with its head, sending it sprawling. The creature screeched and tumbled over the chairs before righting itself. It snarled at the intruder Lucy couldn’t see from this angle, as the person was standing on the backs of the chairs with impeccable balance and wearing a long, dark grey coat. The person jumped, moving faster than Lucy thought was possible and connected with the creature, causing it to roar and claw at the person’s back. Somehow, the claws did nothing to the coat, despite it being made of regular cloth. They both fell into the area between the seats and the screen and the creature screeched.

Lucy couldn’t see anything and she couldn’t move her body, her limbs were locked up. She could hear just fine, though. She heard what sounded like scraping, a punch landing and then the monster jumped up to the chairs again, facing Lucy again. It screeched and leapt, crossing the distance between them in a heartbeat and Lucy finally found her voice.

She screamed, terror filling her mind and she instinctively scrambled over the arm of her chair, just in time to avoid the monster’s mouth biting the air where she used to be. The creature growled and reached for her. However, its arm was suddenly snapped backwards and it screeched in pain, rolling backwards as its forearm dangled, the bone snapped from the socket. The person—the man, Lucy now realised—stomped hard on the creature’s head, causing it to burst like a grape. The creature suddenly disintegrated into dust.

Lucy stared, wide-eyed, as the man stood and turned, letting out a breath. He had short blonde hair and a clean shaven face. He looked to be in his late thirties or early forties and was handsome for that age, in a rugged sort of way. He wore a shirt and grey tie under his coat and a pair of leather trousers with heavy-looking boots. The man looked down at her and sighed.

“Did it touch you?” He asked sternly, as if he was a school teacher. Lucy just stared and he sighed again.

Gradually, her gaze turned to the rest of the room. The front rows of seats were red, wet and there were hands and lets visible from behind them. Lucy’s eyes came to her brother and she felt her stomach lurch violently.

“J… James?” She said quietly and slowly made her way to her brother, her breath turning ragged as she feared that she knew was true. “James?” She asked, a bit louder this time. She tried to say his name again but her voice broke when she saw his back.

His back was torn open, his spine practically torn in half and his organs pulled out with all the care a cat might rip a bird apart. Lucy felt the tears on her cheeks and began to sob, seeing her brother’s emotionless, blank face and the way he’d been basically used as a meal. She closed her eyes and turned away, curling on the floor as she cried, not even caring about the blood on the floor. Her body shook as the tears dropped from her face, her sobs uncontrollable. She didn’t care anymore. She just wanted to stay here, hunched over and left alone until some other monster came and let her join her brother.

It wasn’t fair. Her whole life, Lucy had been second at everything. School, at home, with her friends… James was the only one who actually made her feel special. He’d always been there for her, to comfort her and make her laugh, defend her when their father blamed her for something… It wasn’t fair.

“You can’t stay here.” She vaguely heard the man’s voice. It was distant, as if it was being said across a chasm in the ground. “Go home, forget about all this. It’ll be easier for you.”

Go home. She felt a pang of fear at those words. If she went home and her parents found out she’d survived this… massacre, they’d instantly blame her and turn her over to the police. She couldn’t go home, especially not without James. Thinking about her brother caused her to break down into crying again.

The man sighed and knelt down beside her. “Look at me.”

Lucy sniffed and shifted her gaze up to look at him. Her eyes were red and watery, tears still streaming down her cheeks.

“If you stay here, the police will come and see you as responsible. You’ll be put into an asylum for the criminally insane, you’ve heard about those places, haven’t you? You have to go home and forget about-“

“I can’t go home!” She cut him off, her voice breaking. “My parents… Th-they’ll blame me a-anyway…” She broke down again, putting her head in her hands and going back to sobbing. The man sighed and waited for a few seconds before putting a hand on her shoulder.

“Come on, then.” He said quietly. “I’ll take you to someone who’ll take care of you for a while.”

“I can’t leave!” Lucy sniffled. “I… I…” She stopped and thought about it. What did she have here? Her brother had just been killed, her parents wouldn’t help her, she had barely any friends… What did she have to lose?

“Wh… Where?” She asked after a minute of contemplation.

“She lives in Scotland.” The main said. Her name is Fryna Starkad, she’ll make sure you’re safe.” Lucy nodded and the man smiled ever so slightly. “My name is Rust Lycan.” He continued. “What’s yours?”

“M-My name’s Lucy…” She replied. “L-Lucy Morton…”

“Well, Lucy, let’s get going. We only have about five more minutes before the authorities get here.” He stood and held out a hand. Lucy hesitated before taking it and letting him pull her up. She sniffed once more and wiped the tears from her eyes, fighting the urge to look back at her brother.

She knew what she wanted to do now.

Rust was awoken by an immense pain in his fingers and he screamed, feeling something push its way under his fingernails at an agonising pace. It felt like an hour he was there, having something pushed under his nails and into his fingers. He couldn’t move any part of his body, not even his eyelids, which were wide open and staring straight at the ceiling of what he guessed was an aeroplane. He could tell his shirt and coat were off, leaving his torso bare to expose the countless scars that covered it.

Finally, he felt the things stop pushing under his nails and his breath quickened, the pain not going away in the slightest as he thought it would. Then, a figure hovered over his face and it took a few seconds for his vision to adjust enough to see Jared Hedge leaning over him with a smile on his face.

“Greetings, senor.” The Spaniard said calmly. Rust tried to raise his hands to grab him but only screamed, feeling whatever was under his nails tug slightly. “Oh, I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Unless you have no further use of your fingers, that is.” Hedge chuckled and turned away. “You think of me as a freelance torturer, yes? Someone who causes pain for money?” He laughed. “No, I stopped that many decades ago. You see, now I have a much better purpose.

“What is magia? That is a question that has always plagued sorcerers, you know. Where did it come from? Where does it come from? Some believe that God granted us this gift. Others once believed it was the result of a pact with El Diablo. However, I believe a different source is the answer.” He held up a scalpel to the light, the light glinting off it as he checked the sharpness. “I believe the answer lies inside a Sorcerer’s body. It makes sense, does it not? The sorcerer uses his brain to will the world to his will, or she uses her hands to summon the fire or…” He smiled down at Rust. “… Her weapons. So, tell me… What is your magical skill?” Hedge crouched beside the table which Rust was locked onto. “You are fast, you are agile and you are strong. All of which are traits which can be earned by hard work and honest sweat. Yet in all the years I have looked for you, I’ve never heard of you with any unique ability or magical skill. What are you?” He tapped his chin thoughtfully before shaking his head and standing up. “No matter. Soon, I shall have your newest companion and my research will be far more interesting!” Hedge’s eyes twinkled with excitement. “A Necromancer… A living sorcerer who commands the power of the dead. This will be a breakthrough like no other!” The vampire looked back down at Rust and grinned. “What do you think of that, child?”

The force holding Rust’s jaw closed released him but he kept his jaw clenched against the pain in his fingers.

“I think… You’re going to burn…” Rust gasped through his teeth.

“Hm.” Jared replied simply. “That’s a shame.” He then picked up a very strange contraption, which he carefully strapped to Rust’s head.

As soon as he saw this, Rust knew exactly what it was and terror gripped his stomach. His breathing became faster and he worked to control it, desperate to not let Hedge see his fear as he stared directly into the point of a corkscrew-type piece of metal.

“Ah, I see you recognise this…” Jared smiled. “I consider it my greatest achievement so far, you know. You would be surprised how many people are desperate to keep their eyesight and how far they’d go to keep it. I once interrogated a man who sold out his own brother’s wife and daughter to be able to see.” He tightened the straps and did a few last minute checks on the contraption. There were four hooks on the device, all holding Rust’s eye open and exposing his eyeball. He tried to do something, anything, to fight back but his fingers were attached to the table and his legs seemed to be strapped down.

“Do try to refrain from looking around too much.” Jared said, as if he was a doctor performing a routine checkup. “I do prefer my eyes to be in the best condition possible.”

Jared Hedge then began to turn a handle, moving it slow as possible and the slightly curled needle moves ever closer to Rust’s eye. His breathing begins to quicken again and he can feel his heart pounding in his chest like a jackhammer. Suddenly, less than a millimetre from his eye, the contraption stopped.

“Tell me where the child is, Mr Lycan.” Jared said calmly. “You know that it could be that easy.” He hesitated before a grin spread across his lips. “In fact, let’s have a little test. Tell me where the girl is.”

Rust clenched his jaw and tried to slow his shaky breaths, to no avail. He knew that Jane would be looking out for the boy until he could look after himself. As for after that, he’d hoped that she’d stay with him. Ever since the incident in Spain, she’d been like an unbreakable safe: never letting anyone in and only succeeding in making those who tried waste their time. She needed someone else to trust, to rely on and so far, that kid seemed like the best chance for that. Of course, the chances of her actually opening up to him were slim at best.

Jane would likely still be with the kid at Fryna’s mansion, which meant that if he gave information about any of them, they’d be at risk.

“Not a chance.” Rust growled after a few seconds of trying to get his breathing under control.

“Thank you.” Hedge smiled and resumed turning the crank at that same impossibly slow pace. Rust’s breathing quickened again and he gritted his teeth together so hard, in the back of his mind he was worried he’d crack them.

Finally, after over a minute, the tip of the needle made contact with Rust’s eyeball. A few seconds later, his screams rang out through the small private jet. He’d involuntarily jerked his eye to the side and as a result, it had torn the tiny piece of skin on on the front of his eye. He could feel the scratch on his eyeball and still the needle still kept going. Rust clenched his teeth again and breathed raggedly through them, spraying spit as he did. He groaned in pain as the needle continued to push against the small organ. The point wasn’t as sharp as it could be, so it pushed down on his eyeball, squishing it and causing him to cry out again. Finally, the needle broke through and Rust screamed in pain as his eye practically burst and half his vision disappeared. He felt the fluids spurt out over his face, a few drops going into his mouth.

The needle continued to move deeper. Then, nearly fifteen minutes after the needle had first touched his eye, Rust screamed louder than he had as the needle went into his optic nerve, stretching the connection it had to the eyeball. He tried to lift his hands to get the needle away, which resulted in him screeching as he felt the objects under his hails and fingers.

The tip of the needle suddenly snapped outwards in 3 tiny panels, which resulted in the eyeball being separated from the optic nerve. Rust screamed again when this happened before the noise died down to very laboured breathing.

Jared Hedge slowly took the needle out, taking the remains of Rust’s eyeball with it. The vampire looked at the small, tattered organ for a moment before unfastening the needle from the contraption and pushing the eyeball into a small platter with a scalpel.

“Thank you, Senor Lycan.” Jared said with a smile. “I’ll allow you a few hours to recuperate. You know where the Necromancer is and you know what I can do to make you speak.” He grinned and turned, heading towards the cockpit.

Rust just laid on the table, the light shining down on his face and illuminating the red, glistening hole where his left eye used to be. His hollow eye was still being held open by the contraption. He closed his other eye, his vision now a world of darkness.

So long as the boy didn’t give into the temptation of power, there was still a chance they could stop Karl Glacier from returning.

“Put more force behind your lunges!” Fryna barked as she yet again slapped Derek’s training sword aside.

He stepped back and let out a breath. Only four days had passed since he and Janice had arrived here yet still he was feeling the effects of the vigorous training and exercise. He’d certainly lost more weight than he thought possible during the short time he’d been here, even if he hadn’t improved with his swordsmanship much. Although he still wasn’t very handsome by any means, he was definitely a lot slimmer than he had been and he was starting to get a bit more muscle on his bones. Today was a particularly brutal day as when he’d showered before lunch, the water didn’t soothe his body quite the way it had the first couple of days. As a result, his joints and muscles ached more than usual in this practice session with Fryna. And the Ace of Blades hadn’t retained the smiling, nice personality she’d had for the first day. When it came to their few hours of practice, she was as cold-hearted as Janice and every time Derek failed to swing properly or took a wrong step, she’d make him know and make him feel bad about it. He didn’t stop making the mistakes, either. He couldn’t stop making them, Fryna was just asking him to attack her and nothing else. No more tips, no instruction, nothing. She’s said before that he should have his own unique fight style but he’d expected at least some hint as to what to do.

Derek lunged again, putting more force into the thrust. Again, the blade was slapped away and this time, he lowered his shoulder and continued at a charge, aiming to take Fryna off her feet. The result was him hitting thin air, then his head cracking against the stone railing as his feet tripped over Fryna’s outstretched shin, as well as the blunted edge of her sword whacking hard on his back. He cried out when he hit his head and groaned, turning to a sitting position and rubbing his head. In this session alone, he’d gotten several new bruises and if he wasn’t so determined to do something worthwhile with his life, he’d have quit after the first bruise.

Derek had never been one to complain, though. Even if it made him even more uncomfortable, he always just went with the flow if he got started with something. It wasn’t that he was determined or stubborn, it’s just that he’d always been scared of speaking out against something. He didn’t want to make a fool of himself, nor did he want to raise the ire of whoever was giving him instruction. So, he took the beatings from Fryna and didn’t say anything. He just forced himself to his feet, picked up the weightless training sword and swung again, aiming low this time before curving the blade up and going higher. Again, his mentor blocked with her own sword and kicked his chest hard, blasting the air out of his lungs and making him stumble back against the railing for a second time.

As soon as he got his breath back, Derek decided to try something else. He charged forward this time, not wasting any time and brought he sword round in a two handed grip, swinging with all his strength and moving forward with his arms. Fryna stepped to the side and smiled, sticking her foot out again. This time, however, Derek put his own foot in front of hers, more forward than his other steps and braced his leg, stopping himself dead but continuing the momentum of the sword, bring it round in a rather sloppy but aimed arc towards her head. Fryna ducked and Derek brought up his left knee towards her head, which moved at the last second and she brought her own sword up under his thigh. Derek only had time to take in a breath before his leg was forced upwards. He cried out and dropped the sword before he fell hard onto his back.

He stayed there for a few seconds, lying on the freezing stone floor, before letting out a quiet groan. He stared up at the white sky and pushed himself into a sitting position again.

“That will do for today.” Fryna said as she sheathed her sword. She held out a hand and Derek took it, being yanked up to his feet with ease. “You’re certainly looking a lot better. Next week, we may be able to cut your laps and fit in something else.”

“Is there someone who can teach me fighting?” Derek asked. “Not sword fighting, I mean like hand to hand.”

“Ah, you want to defend yourself when you have no blade?” Fryna nodded. “Very well, I’ll speak to David about it. We may be able to fit it in before your evening chores.” She tilted her head slightly. “You’re a very disciplined child, Mr Monroe. Many of my students often ask me to go easier or ask for a break yet you just go through it in silence. Why is that, if you don’t mind me asking?”

Derek rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, I’ve just never been really good at objecting.” He said with a slight shrug. “I don’t know why but I’ve always been a follower. I can’t remember any time I spoke out against instruction or whatever.”

“Did your parents punish you for disobeying their orders?”

“No, my parents are fantastic people. The nicest people you’ll meet, in fact.” He sighed heavily. “I should probably tell them what’s going on. They’ll still be worried and I don’t want them thinking I’m in danger.”

“Mr Monroe, in this world, you’ll always be in danger.” Fryna put a hand on Derek’s shoulder and gave him a sympathetic look. “To be honest, it may be best for them to believe you’re dead.”

“What!?” Derek looked up at her with both a confused and angry look. “Dead? What do you mean, dead? You mean lie to them, let them carry on as if I don’t exist?”

“It’s better than them dying.” Fryna interrupted. “If you visit them or phone them, you’ll be putting them at risk. There are people—things—out there that won’t hesitate to hold your parents hostage to make you their puppet. If you truly care about your family, you won’t make contact with them ever again.” With that, Fryna turned and walked back into the mansion, leaving Derek with heavy thoughts on his mind.

After spending a minute thinking, he picked up the sword and put it on the rack beside the door on the inside. Instead of going for his second round of laps, Derek instead just walked aimlessly, hands in his pockets and thinking about leaving his family behind.

They weren’t really his family, he knew that but he saw them as family. Frank and Jessica had always been parents to him. They didn’t leave anything a secret from him if he asked, they’d told him he was adopted. He loved Laura with all his heart and always looked forward to seeing her after school. His stomach clenched when he imagined her reaction if he were to die.

Derek lost track of time, wandering the mansion. He thought about what life would be like for his family if they thought he was dead. He thought about how Laura would react, how it would affect her life. Jessica and Frank would probably move on quicker and try to establish some resemblance of normality for Laura. With any luck, she’s move on to have a long and happy life.

“Mr Monroe.”

Derek suddenly jumped when a hand touched his shoulder and he turned, seeing David behind him.

“You didn’t arrive for dinner, sir.” The butler said. “You also missed the first half of your chores. Are you well? Do you need some rest from your training?”

“Wait, what?” Derek blinked. “I missed all that?” He smoothed his hair back and groaned. “I’m sorry, I’m really sorry. I just lost track of time and…” He sighed.

“Ah, I see. I take it that Madame Starkad told you the costs of entering this world?”

“How did you know?”

“I have served this manor for many decades.” David replied and began walking. Derek hurried to keep up with him. “In that time, I’ve seen many owners born and die. I was here when Madame Starkad was given the manor and grounds, I have overseen all the students she has taught. Some were like you, calm, docile and obedient. Some students, however, were far more unruly and wild.”

“Did they all know about magic beforehand?” Derek asked.

“Not all of them. The ones who didn’t know of magic all had the same reaction upon learning the cost of entering this world.” He stopped and turned to look at Derek. “You’ve been involved for too long already, Mr Monroe. You can’t walk out now. Everybody loves their family and friends, it’s because of that you have to leave them.”

“But how?” Derek sighed. “They’re the best people I’ve known. And I couldn’t bear seeing my sister’s reaction if I died.”

“Then you don’t see her reaction.” David replied. “Believe me, sir, it wold be so much easier to simply not return to them. If you wish, I could organise a fake death, so to speak, to ensure that they know you will never return to them.”

“But I don’t want to!” Derek replied. He knew he sounded like a small child but he didn’t much care. “Why do they have to think I’m dead? Why can’t I just say I’m moving out? Or tell them about magic?”

“It’s for their own safety.” David said. His tone never changed during the conversation, always the impeccable and perfectly polite voice. “If you contact them, people will torture them for information about you.”

Derek leaned against the wall and groaned quietly, running a hand down his face. In short, he was faced with the task of changing his entire life even more drastically than it already had been, to keep his family safe.

“I can’t do it.” He said after a minute of silence. “I’m going to call them and say I’m moving in with a friend.”

“Very well, Mr Monroe.” David bowed and turned to walk away. “You may also want to sleep, sir. Time is getting on and you need to be awake for your laps tomorrow.”

Derek mumbled something incoherent before turning and walking the other direction, towards the main staircase. His feet dragged along the ground as if they were made of lead and he barely noticed how empty his stomach was.

He reached the bedroom at quarter to midnight and picked up his phone from the dresser. He dialled his home number and swallowed the lump in his throat as he put the phone to his ear.

“Hey, Frank…” He said, trying and failing to hide the uncertainty and worry in his voice.

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