Brave New World
October 22, 2011
Reyna stepped over another large ruin of the once mighty Temple of Zeus at Olympia as she navigated her way closer to what would have been the cella of the building. Scratching the gauzy bandage over the inside of her left forearm, she wondered what actually happened to the giant statue of the King of the Grecian gods. Her lips titled upwards wryly as she thought of an ancient Caster accidentally making the gold and ivory statue vanish and not knowing where or how to summon it back. It’s a completely possible scenario.
Groaning in frustration as her arm began to itch even more, Reyna pulled back the bandage to look at the puffy, slightly red skin that was beneath. The ink of her latest tattoo glistened in the sun, and it reminded Reyna of the sticky substance that fake tattoos would leave. She had gained seven tattoos on the inside of her forearm over the past year or so. Seven tattoos, seven contracts, seven Devils. Her latest contract had been with a Devil named Valac and was known for giving true answers, which Reyna figured would come in handy. After rubbing the skin softly, trying to alieve the itch, she hummed under her breath and looked at the two circles at the top, just under her wrist. She’d need to check in on Bub soon and report to Sam on his wellbeing, lest the latter decided to check in on her.
Walking further into the ruined temple, she took out her camera and snapped a few shots of the slabs that used to make up the columns. Feeling a slight vibration in her back pocket, Reyna pulled out her cellphone and frowned slightly when she saw that Lokesh was calling. Sighing in resignation, she answered the call. “Hello?”
“Hello? Reyna? Yes, hi, it’s Lokesh. How are you doing?”
“Umm, I’m fine, and you?” She asked, hoping the pleasantries ended soon.
“I’m well, thank you. Now Reyna, I have some news . . . in regards to Dunstan.”
Reyna couldn’t help the sigh that erupted from deep within her lungs, “What about him?”
“We’ve located him. He’s in D.C., and we’re planning on—on attacking him. Soon. All of us; Marcus, Donny, and Jorge. We would like for you . . . for you to come with us. We need all the firepower we can muster if we want to successfully bind and capture Dunstan.”
“You want me to come back to the states and help bind Dunstan’s magic?”
“Yes, it’s unfortunate that we’ve come to this, but Donny and I believe this is the only way. He’s grown too dangerous to the public. Especially since his last attack on Congress.”
“He attacked Congress? No, no wait, I don’t wanna know.” Sighing again, she turned her face up to the sky and closed her eyes, trying to find patience. “Is everyone okay though?”
“Thankfully yes,” Lokesh responded, a bit hesitantly. “So will you come back and help? We could really use you, Reyna.”
Pinching the bridge between her nose, Reyna ground her teeth together before replying, “No, Lokesh. I’m not coming back. I don’t—I don’t want to get involved. I just—I can’t, okay?”
“Are you sure, Reyna? It might be good for you, you know. To come and face him again. Maybe find some closure in that regard.”
“No. No, Lokesh, I’m sure. I’ve—I’ve got to go now, okay? Let me know how it goes, I guess?”
“Of course. Be safe, Reyna.”
Taking that as an official goodbye, Reyna tapped the end button on her new phone. A sick feeling settled in the bottom of her stomach and saliva began to pool into her mouth. Swallowing thickly, she walked out of the ancient ruins and started back towards the nearby Elven community.
It had been over a year since the fiasco at the King campaign office. Once Melchiorn had shown up, Reyna didn’t waste any time gathering her few valuables from the brownstone—which was thankfully empty at the time—and fleeing with Melchiorn to Europe. He had already been planning on visiting the continent, and had been blessingly calm about her joining him. So far the two had been to fifteen different countries, hopping from one Elven sanctuary to another.
Melchiorn hadn’t pressed Reyna about what had happened that day, something she would be eternally thankful for, nor did he pass judgement on her for her actions or her lack thereof during the event in question once she finally mustered up the courage to tell him everything. He’d just listened patiently, hummed during a few parts, and smiled at her soothingly once she was finished with her story. It had been cathartic, telling him what she felt that day, and how she still felt after the fact. Even so long after the event, Reyna still sometimes woke up in a cold sweat after having a nightmare about a Fairy killing an innocent person. Sometimes she dreamt of one of them killing her, but Reyna found the former ones worse.
Shaking her head as she made her way down a worn down dirt road, Reyna figured she might as well check in with Bub. Quickly finding his name in her contacts, she pressed the green call button and listened to the generic ring.
“Hello?” His deep voice answered.
“Hey, Bub, it’s me. How’re you doing?”
“Reyna? Hey! Good, good, everything’s going good. I’m actually almost done with physical therapy!”
Reyna could hear the smile in his voice and felt a smile grace her own lips in response. “Really? That’s great, Bub! How much longer do you got left?”
“Umm, three more weeks, I think. Definitely less than a month. And, um, well . . . that’s not my only good news.”
“Oh? What’s up?”
“I, uh, I’m engaged.”
“Shut up!” Reyna exclaimed. “You’re lying! Who the hell did you get engaged to? How the hell did you manage that?”
Bub let out a nervous laugh, “Well, her name’s Hannah, and she’s a nurse on my floor. Not my nurse, of course—that’d be weird—but, well, yeah, that’s how.”
“Oh my god. Sam’s gonna kill you!” she teased. “When’s the wedding? How’d you propose? Wait, how did you propose? Did you even have a ring to give her? Bub! Please tell me you had a ring! Oh, god, have you even gone on a date with her? Wait. She’s not, like, pregnant is she?”
“What?” Bub asked, sounding quite shocked at the idea. “Of course she’s not! And yes, Reyna, I did have a ring, thank you very much. My, uh, dad gave me my grandmother’s. Well, I mean . . . you know. And yes, we’ve gone on dates. Jesus,” he sighed, “if you’re being this dramatic I can only imagine how Sam will be.” He mumbled, “Anyway, we haven’t set a date yet, but you’ll come, yeah?”
“Duh,” she responded with a roll of her eyes. “Have you guys started planning it at all? Like, were you thinking a summer wedding, maybe? Those are popular, so you might wanna wait for, like, fall or something. You have to send me a pic of her, too! Oh this is so exciting! I can’t believe it. You’re getting married! Wait, have you told Sam yet?”
“Ah, no, well, not yet. You’ve kinda been our main method of communication since, well, you know. So . . . I was kind of hoping you’d tell him?”
“Me? You want me to break the news to Samyaza that his baby brother is getting married? Really?”
“Ahh, yes. Please.”
“Ugh, fine, but consider this my engagement gift, all right?”
“Thank you!” He practically sang.
Then, after some background voices were heard, quickly said his goodbyes and left Reyna to call Samyaza. Laughing incredulously, she could hardly believe that the great Demon Lord Beelzebub would soon be getting married to a mortal woman. Oh, what a funny world it was. Diverting from the worn path, she found a cozy, secluded spot to summon Sam without being disturbed or cause a panic. Finding his symbol on her arm, Reyna pressed her index finger onto the mark, then placed the same finger onto a boulder that sat underneath a tree. The symbol copied itself from her arm to the stone and began to sizzle with the power of a summons.
“Who dares—oh, Reyna, it’s you.” Sam cut himself off, which Reyna thought was a shame. His ‘I am Demon, hear me roar,’ voice was always amusing to listen to. Especially when it wasn’t being used to threaten her. “What do you want?” He asked snidely.
“Hi to you, too, Sammie.” She greeted, her lips now pulling back into a dry grin. “I’ve got news from Bub.”
“Bub? Is he okay?” He asked, his large white eyes growing larger as he leaned in closer to the invisible barrier between them.
Waving her hand at his worries, she assured him, “Yes, yes, he’s fine. Better than fine, actually. He’s getting hitched!”
“What does that mean?”
“Uh, really? It means he’s getting married!”
“What? To who? I do not approve!” He growled, eyes narrowing into slits. “No, nuh-uh, he’s not getting married. Nope.” He shook his head, reminding Reyna of a child in complete denial.
“Approval or not, wittle-Bubbie-wubbie is getting married. To a girl named Hannah, in case you wondered. She’s a nurse, and that’s all I got, really. When he sends me a picture of her, though, you’ll be the first one I call. How’s that sound?”
“He’s really getting married?” Sam asked in a slightly whiny voice. “This is too soon. He’s barely been living in your world for a year. How could he be considering marriage? It’s ridiculous! I don’t like it, Reyna. You have to tell him he can’t.”
“What? No way! First, it’s not my place. Second, he wanted to live like a human, and getting married is pretty human. He seems really excited about it, too, so don’t you dare ruin this for him, Samyaza!”
“But he’s so young!”
“Hardly,” Reyna muttered, “Just be happy for your brother, okay?” She added after she saw the his eyes narrow again. “You can be, like, his best man or something, too! We’ll pick out a nice, unoccupied body for you to go in. I can even be your date.” She said with a waggle of her eyebrows. Thankfully he seemed to relax at her words.
Samyaza was silent for a moment longer, “He’s really getting married?” He asked again. Patiently, Reyna nodded her head and waited for the acceptance to sink in. Sam hummed thoughtfully, then gave an almost jerk like shrug. “Fine,” he grumbled, “I guess then he had my blessing. She better be worth him, though. If she’s not I’ll—”
“Yeah, yeah,” Reyna cut him off, “You’ll do something more horrible than words can describe to her. I know.”
Samyaza grumbled at her dismissal, but didn’t say anything further. After checking that there was nothing else, he scratched at his own seal, successfully breaking it and disappearing from Reyna’s sight. Brushing off his abrupt behavior—because that was nothing new—she started back on her original path.
Reyna stopped at a few more ruins along her way back to the Elven community. She’d gotten plenty of pictures of temples, statues, and descriptive plaques. Enough to spam a Facebook page feed. If she had a Facebook, that is. She couldn’t wait to show them all off to Jared once she returned to New York. She’d kept in touch loosely with her friends while gallivanting across Europe with Melchiorn, but only with a few phone calls here and there. Nothing too substantial. It was hard at times, but Reyna couldn’t imagine staying state side after her fall out with Dunstan. Neither he nor any Fae had come after her, but she still felt on edge whenever she was on her own. Almost as if someone was watching her.
She at least felt confident that if someone did try and attack her, she’d be able to defend herself. Reyna had used her year away wisely, researching and practicing unorthodox forms of magic to give herself an edge. Her sights were currently set on visiting Africa to study the birthplace of magic in more depth. For now though, she was content to journey along with Melchiorn and learn about his people’s culture and their own brand of magic.
By the time Reyna made it back to the sanctuary in the dead center of Mount Olympus National Park, the sun was almost completely set. The lack of the sun’s rays and their heat caused her body to shiver and tremble. Pulling her hoodie closer, Reyna hurried to her bedroom so she could snuggle up in some comfy pajamas and curl into bed with a nice book. It would be next to impossible to find Mel at this time of day, and even if she did he’d most likely be in a meeting with some other Elves, so Reyna didn’t even bother trying to find her friend. The odds were also in favor of Melchiorn having gone to bed already. Elves weren’t all too fond of modern technology because of its negative effects on the environment, so they lived quite simple lives. Rise with the sun, rest when it sets, that sort of thing. They didn’t even have pens in the sanctuary! Reyna had been disturbingly shocked and awed when she found out every book in their libraries had been written by hand, and with an inked quill no less. That took a type of dedication Reyna wasn’t sure she had.
Reyna wasn’t sure exactly when she fell asleep, she’d been reading by the light of her own magic, and the last time she checked her cell phone for the time it was just past ten, but the next thing she knew she was being rudely awaken by the shrill ring of her phone. Blinking her bleary eyes, she reached to her side table and winced at the screen’s bright glare as the name Marcus appeared. Rubbing her eyes, Reyna could see white dots behind her eyelids and let out a pathetic groan. It wasn’t even six in the morning. Why was Marcus calling her? It had to be close to midnight his time. Shaking her head, Reyna answered with a groggy voice, “Marcus?”
“Reyna—Reyna?” Marcus’ shrill voice filtered through the phone.
Sitting up straighter, Reyna felt completely awake now. “Marcus? What’s wrong?”
“Reyna,” he stopped and Reyna heard him hold back a sob, “Oh, God, Reyna. I—I need you to come h—home, please. Please, please, please, just come back home.”
“Marcus? Marcus, tell me what’s going on? Are you okay?”
Another sob could be heard, making Reyna feel even more on edge. “Yeah, yeah I’m okay. It’s—It’s not me. I mean—Reyna, oh God, Reyna, Lokesh’s dead!”
For a second the world stopped. Reyna’s heart sunk low into her stomach, a soft humming sound filled her ears, and her hand spasmed so hard at the news she almost dropped the phone. “What?” She heard herself ask.
“Please, Reyna, please, please just come home. I can’t—” he broke off with another muffled sob and just like that the world began to spin again.
Swinging her legs off the bed, Reyna held the phone between her cheek with her shoulder as she rummaged around the room for some clothes. “Okay, okay, Marcus? I’m leaving now, okay? I’m not going to hang up the phone, though, okay? I’m not leaving you until I step onto a plane, okay?” Spinning around several times until she finally found a suitable shirt, Reyna then began stuffing all her belongings into her suitcase. “Just—just try to, ah, calm down, okay? Take some deep breaths for me, Marcus. Where are you right now? Are you—are you at home? Are you somewhere safe?”
Placing the phone on speakerphone so she could better multi-task, Reyna waited with almost baited breath for his reply as she continued to shove items into her bag and frantically look around for anything she might’ve missed. “Yeah—yeah, I’m safe. I’m w—with Donny and Jorge. We just, we just, ah—oh God, Reyna, it was terrible.” His throat hitched again, sending Reyna into a mild panic attack. Pulling out a Swiss army knife, she pricked her thumb with the point and smeared the fresh blood on two of her tattoo circles, closer to the bottom.
“Go on,” she prompted Marcus carefully as her arm began to burn. From the shadows of her room two Devils appeared. Their bodies were black and sleek. If it weren’t for their glowing eyes, Reyna wouldn’t have even known they were there. “Find my friend Marcus,” she hissed at them, “watch over him and whoever he’s with until I get there. Understand?” They nodded and skulked off, back into the shadows. She’d deal with their payment later. “Marcus?” She prompted, double checking the room one last time. “You still there?”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m—I’m still here. I don’t understand what happened, Reyna. This shouldn’t have happened.” He ended with a whisper.
Taking the phone off speaker, she brought it back up to her ear and asked, “What did happen?”
Marcus shuddered out a sigh, “We went to bind Dunstan and—and he was waiting for us, I guess. There were Fairies there, and some Vampires, too. God, Reyna, it was so bad. I can’t—I don’t—it hurts to think about.”
Reyna’s magic burned through her veins. She could feel it pushing against her skin, itching to be used. She’d skin Dunstan alive if he even laid a finger on Marcus. “It’s okay if you don’t want to tell me, Marcus,” she told him, though through clenched teeth. “Just stay on the phone with me, okay?” She wondered if her Devils were there already, and whether or not they’d been spotted.
“No—no, Reyna. You need to know. Dunstan, he—we got him. We bound him—bound his magic. He got away though, with some Fairies, I think. I’m not—I’m not sure,” he paused again to take in some unsteady breaths. “I don’t know—I don’t understand what happened. One minute Lokesh was fine, then the spell ended and he just collapsed! Reyna, I don’t know what to do.”
“It’ll—it’ll be okay, Marcus,” she said softly, not completely believing her own words. They seemed like the right words to say though. “I’ll be home soon, okay?”
As promised, Reyna stayed on the line with Marcus until she stepped onto her plane at 11:15 A.M. It was the earliest flight she could get onto, and ten hours later, she landed at JFK airport. Even though for her it was past nine in the evening, thanks to the time difference, it was only two in the afternoon when she stepped off the plane and back onto U.S. soil. Feeling jetlagged, but determined, Reyna hurried her way out of the airport and into a cab with strict orders to drive as quickly as the driver could without being pulled over.
By 3:30 Reyna arrived at Donny’s apartment where Marcus told her to meet and had to force herself to wait for the elevator instead of racing up the thirty seven flights of stairs. The elevator let out a cheerful ding when it let her off on the penthouse floor. The sound grated on Reyna’s frayed nerves, but when she saw the defeated looking forms huddled together, her mind blanked and she ran full speed until she collided into Marcus.
Not one to be left out, Jorge’s arms soon curled around both their forms and the three of them held on to each other like they were the last life line. One of Reyna’s fists clutched painfully to the back of Marcus’s shirt, and she was sure if she pulled just a bit harder she’d rip the fabric. Her other hand curled around Jorge’s neck and stroked at the long strands of his deflated golden hair. Marcus tucked Reyna’s head underneath his chin and held her as close as he could while simultaneously trying to wrap both his arms around Jorge’s waist as well. Jorge, will his long limbs, was able to gather both his friends close to his chest, arms around Marcus’ shoulders with Reyna squished in between. The three were so entangled, Reyna was no longer sure where one person began and the other ended. Not that she minded. Her eyes were closed and she tried to hold back tears and a sob caught in her throat. She could feel Marcus’ body tremble with sadness and fear, and the scruff of Jorge’s chin as he moved to press a comforting kiss to the other boy’s cheek.
A hacking cough across the room prompted Reyna to open her eyes and tilt her face to the side. Donny sat on a bar stool on the other side of the room, one had curled around a large, brown drink and the other holding onto the burned out stub of a cigarette. Flicking the dead cigarette into an ash tray full of similar stubs, Donny wasted no time in lighting up a new one. He looked tired, with his eyes glazed and distant. Reyna wasn’t sure if that was due to grief or the alcohol. Maybe both.
“Reyna, how nice of you to grace us with your presence now . . . after all the excitement has died down.” Donny said with a slight slur to his condescending tone. Flinching away from his words, Reyna responded by holding on to Marcus and Jorge even tighter. “Those are yours, I assume?” He asked with a shaky wave of his glass filled hand towards two unnaturally dark shadows near the windows.
Pursing her lips, Reyna nodded, “They are.”
He scoffed, “Apple not falling far from that tree, I see.”
“Donny,” Jorge hissed. Donny shrugged unapologetically and returned his attention to his glass of scotch. This time she was the one to receive a comforting kiss from Jorge.
Not knowing what to do, or what to say, they moved their entwined bulk to the couch. Once they were comfortable again, though, the three of them curled into one another, refusing to stop touching each other for longer than a second. Marcus’ head now rested on top of Reyna’s chest, and hers rested on Jorge’s. Jorge’s rested against the arm of the couch and had pulled his two friends into his arms once more with Reyna resting between his legs and Marcus practically laying on top of her.
After a long stretch of silence, possibly an hour, Reyna asked, “What happens now?” She hadn’t meant for it to come out so breathless, so filled with despair.
Marcus twisted his neck so he could look up at her, “I guess we have to plan Lokesh’s—Lokesh’s funeral.” Jorge’s arms tightened around them when Marcus’ voice hitched. “He doesn’t—didn’t—have any family. Not in America, at least.” He paused, then added, “Maybe we should try to find his family? They should know.”
“Yeah,” Jorge agreed, “That’s a good idea. We can—we can, um, try to find numbers and stuff in his house tomorrow or something. Even perform a tracking spell if we have to.”
Marcus smiled gratefully at Jorge before returning to his original position, his eyes glazing over as he looked out across the room. Reyna brought her arms up to tenderly run her fingers through hishair. She could feel his chest deflate as he let out a peaceful sigh. Biting her lip, Reyna felt like she had to ask, “And what about Dunstan?”
“He’s no longer any concern of ours.” Donny spat out, drawing the gaze of the three apprentices. “He’s the police’s problem now. We did our job. Well,” he said while looking straight at Reyna, “most of us, anyway.”
Looking away quickly from his all too judging gaze, Reyna felt her head rise down and then up as Jorge asked the next question. “But the Fae took him, doesn’t that mean he’s still our problem?”
Donny took a deep swig of his drink, finishing it off and then refilling it, “Nah, they’ll discard him quickly enough once they realize he’s useless to them.” He swayed slightly on the stool. “That’s what they do. Always have, always will. Doesn’t really matter though,” he added, taking a long drag from his cigarette. He paused for so long, Reyna turned her head to look at him again, wondering if he’d forgotten he was speaking. “Dunstan did enough damage. You two will have a fun time cleaning up that mess.” He waved his glass towards Reyna and Marcus.
“What do you mean?” Reyna asked. Even though she couldn’t see Marcus at the moment, she could feel his chin digging into her sternum as he looked at Donny, equally interested.
“Oh, did I forget to tell you?” He said with a dramatic gasp and flamboyant hand wave. “My bad. You’re now a Sorcerer and Sorceress of the Council of Three. Cheers!” He raised his glass shakily before downing it in one gulp.
“What?’ Reyna couldn’t help herself, “But Dunstan and I—I mean, I wasn’t his—I don’t—”
“It doesn’t matter what you two went through, honey,” he condescended. “You were still Dun-Dun’s apprentice. Besides killing him, there was nothing either of you could do to change that.”Reyna laid her head back down on Jorge’s chest, completely speechless. She felt Marcus stiffen on top of her as well. It was one thing to be told you’d be something when you grew up, but something completely different when you actually became that thing. It was especially hoffic considering the circumstances they found themselves in. One ascending through another death and the other through betrayal. Staring up at the ceiling, Reyna let out a deep sigh. Oh, what a brave new world this would be.
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