Chapter Fifteen - Mark
Gus was staring at me again. He always stares at me, no matter who may be in the room. Those empty eyes just sucking my soul as his mouth opened and closed. Damn weird fish.
Auggie had dropped him by my room so that I could look after him while he went to prepare for a date with Miss Wren, the World Painting teacher. She was a wonderful woman, only a year younger than him. He had been so anxious to ask her on a date but I eventually convinced her to ask him.
And he said yes. Obviously.
And he did inform me about Nayleth’s interaction with younger Jesse when he took them to Redcliffe for a fun first lesson. I let it slide, as it’s always important to grab people’s attention and make a good first impression but warned him to not do it again, to not risk her finding out.
But he told me she seemed to like seeing him again. And it made me wonder if she had even talked to Muluth. I doubted she had and decided to talk to her myself.
“Gus, please, stop staring at me for once in your fish bowl life.” I asked the fish, tilting my head at him and he just kept on opening and closing his mouth, those eyes only growing larger when I looked at him.
I sighed, fishing up, wait no, finishing up the sheet music I was working on after deciding to go talk to Muluth and tucked it away in a folder. Violin music. I loved the instrument, one of my outlets for seeking.
See, what most people don’t bother explaining or even mentioning in books is that some seekers don’t have those tattoos on their hands. There’s no evidence that they can even do seeking until they find what it’s connected with.
For me, its tarot cards. Auggie? He just can’t do it. He can use my cards though because it’s part of his form, in a sense. Just enough magic to do little things like going back in time to teach or visiting old friends, even if they don’t know you’re there.
Every form isn’t just genes, its magic. Just because it may not seem like it, doesn’t mean that its not there.
Ace and Blitz were at Bren’s, getting some much needed time to relax and think over what they were to do next. I did insist that they go to Quintis first but they didn’t want to go to him empty handed, which is understandable.
They were some of the most stubborn people I knew and I’m pretty sure their son is like that too, as stubborn as a jackass.
“Gus,” I started, looking at the fish who just looked back and me with interest. Well, as much interest as a fish can have. “I think it’s time I had a talk with Muluth. Of course, I must hide this.” I said, gesturing to all of me and the purple scales and appendages that scattered my body.
Gus just looked at me, opened his mouth and closed.
“Goofy fish. You’re coming with me, now hold on. Can’t have Auggie killing me, now can I?” I said, covering the top with some saran wrap I had in a drawer of my desk (I don’t know how it got there, please don’t ask), froze it in place with one of the cards I had and carried him with me. Gus just kept turning every time I changed how the bowl was so that he could look at me.
The fish really liked people, Jesus.
Tucking Gus under my arm with a secure grasp, I knocked on the door of the house. It had been awhile since I had been here and nothing had changed. The swing was still there, I could smell the garden in the back and even curtains stayed the same for some of the rooms.
Thank God I have cards that can make me look older or younger or this visit would’ve gone south very fast. Sometimes people freak out if they see me at a certain age so I kinda have to keep changing back and forth. I normally settle for a nice forty though. Keeps my beard peppery and people don’t normally notice if I change ages because its either really drastic or not at all.
No one answered on the first knock. Nor the second. I sighed, tapping my foot as I waited. I looked down at Gus who just looked up at me and stuck my tongue out at him. His mouth stayed open for a split second longer but soon he was back to being glassy-eyed.
Finally, after knocking for the third time, Muluth answered and she was different from the last time I visited to discuss her odd case.
She looked very worn out. It was a pain to see, really. Eyes that were red from little sleep, hands that kept weaving themselves together and greasy hair. Muluth was a mess and anyone could tell that.
But she looked at me with shrewd eyes, soon to be perplexed by Gus in my arm. He just stared at her, a bubble coming out of his mouth which I didn’t think was healthy but this wasn’t my fish so I let him be. Not like I could’ve done much with the wide-eyed penguin bait, anyways.
I smiled at her, holding out my free hand to shake. She didn’t take it.
I cleared my throat, fixing Gus in my arm. He was really becoming an issue. I set him down on the porch swing and pushed it slightly and he seemed please by this motion as little waves formed at the top of the bowl.
Muluth cleared her throat and I turned around, mumbling a sorry and regained my composure. I smiled at her again with a large grin, tilting my head. She faltered for a second but invited me in and I said thank you.
I didn’t hide my tattoos, of course. That was one of the few that would’ve got me in to talk to her and it seemed that she need it because if Nayleth was to return here over the summers, it needed to be suitable and from what I heard from Bren, it wasn’t.
Most of the kitchen was covered in flour of failed baking, dirty pans covering the sink and five coffee mugs all lined in a row on one of those half walls. Looking down halls and through door frames, the rest of the home didn’t look better and it was rather sad to be seen.
The kitchen floor hadn’t changed. The blood spot was still there, so that was nice. Don’t really want a reminder of that case report or of the case itself, to be honest. It wasn’t a fun time for anyone.
Muluth looked at me, handing me a bottle of water from the fridge and set out a cookie bin of Tarts. It was in one of the bins that grandmas normally keeping sewing supplies in and look like butter cookie containers. And it actually had a sweet treat in it!
I took a small bite of a tart, the cool tart gel wonderful against my tongue, watching as Muluth sat across from me. Her eyes were antsy and she kept staring at me as I slowly ate a tart and eventually stopped chewing and looked right back at her.
I had brought Gus in with me and he was currently sitting to the left of me and to the right of Muluth, watching her and she didn’t seem to mind him. Perhaps Auggie had visited with Gus before? I dunno. He loves Gus, honestly. Best bugs. He’d do anything for that fish, honestly.
After finishing the tart and having neither of us spoken a word, I took a swig of water and began to speak.
“Muluth, it’s been a while.” I told her, smiling slightly.
She just glared at me. “Jack.”
“So, how have you been? What about Nayleth? She seems to be doing well, all things considered - “ But she stopped and began a slightly defensive argument.
“No, she’s not well. She’s never been well. You have to know this! I never agreed with her going to Edendale, to Redcliffe to anywhere that deals with that place. I never agreed with Jesse on that matter and it only got worse as time went on.” She told me, looking at me with hurt yet disdain-filled eyes. I wasn’t sure what to say, so I let her continue.
“It’s not my fault the girl can’t even handle herself well around people. She should just be able to turn the overthinking off, just stop it. Not to mention her attachment to her father… I never understood it.
“But I need you to know that she isn’t safe there. I need her here. Please. You don’t under-” She started but I held up a hand, feeling my skin grow hot and blood get warm as well.
“Don’t say I don’t understand. You don’t understand me, Mrs Warren. Nor your daughter, apparently. And yes, that single falling out, along with a few other issue might of been what caused the divorce and his death but stop blaming your own goddamn daughter.
“She’s happy where she is now, feeling more at home and if she comes back here, she will get sick. She will die. She doesn’t belong here. You should know that. She’s her father’s daughter and you knew the amount of power he had, you should’ve known she would’ve been like him too.
“Our schools headmaster had asked her to visit to gauge her reaction and he told me she wasn’t going to visit you, even if she would’ve, she wouldn’t of stayed long enough to feel the effects of this world since her Calling.” I paused, knowing I was very much bending the truth but not caring. She need to understand that her daughter was happy for once. It pissed me off beyond my years that she couldn’t see that.
She looked at me, her manner rather relaxed but I could see she is upset, waiting for the right moment to strike. It reminded me of my father. Do one thing wrong, take too long to do something and he’s raising his voice or commenting on how that’s not the right way to do things, blah blah blah. It got bothersome, really.
Even though I lived in Redcliffe, not everyone was accepting. Not like they are now, anyways but that’s ok. People either change or die a stubborn jackass. No inbetween.
She looked back up at me, took a deep breath and motioned her hand in a manner, telling me to continue but she was evidently not listening all that well.
“Just… Yes, we’re friends because of Jesse’s death but I can’t treat you like a colleague, a friend when you act like this. Just think about things first. But she won’t return and no one can make her. You know that.” I stopped, staring at the tart bin and wondering why there was steam coming off of Muluth’s mug.
Muluth set her elbows on the table, looking at me with dead determination.
“I’m not gonna give up, you know that as well, Jack. She won’t survive there, she needs me. She’s not ready to grow up and her overthinking isn’t going to help her make friends anytime soon.” She replied, taking a sip of her drink.
I just sat there, feeling my skin grow hotter the angrier I got at Muluth. She should fucking know better, goddammit! How she was acting, it was like she was the one that saw Jesse on that floor, I swear to God.
I sighed heavily, taking a few deep breaths to calm down my anger. I couldn’t change into my form in front of her or it would freak her out, big time. Give away things that she can’t know.
She watched me, grinning slightly. “Too many emotions, eh?” and she chuckled at me.
I glared at her in response. I wouldn’t normally do that but she was really pulling on my strings here. Even if she wasn’t aware of what some of them were.
I got up and Gus was still staring at Muluth who finally acknowledge the fish and he went to hide in one of the small brustles of seaweed growing in the bowl. Don’t ask how Auggie managed it, because I don’t know how he got stuff to grow in there.
You know, this house did still have its charm. I wondered if it was because of Bren. She was pretty neat, you know. Badass too and she had the best tarts in all of the land, seriously. I’d love some fresh ones with ice cream - Yum!
I got up, fixing my coat and straightened the chair. Crooked things bothered me, big time. A messy room, not at all. But a crooked chair or a stack of books just short of being correctly placed? Boy, does that bug me.
And just the thought of Auggie’s bow-tie gives me shudders.
“Good night, Muluth.” I almost hissed but kept a smile on, hiding the boiling anger. I could feel time bending around me, that flexible plastic like magic that it had to it as I my anger boiled.
She smiled softly, holding onto her mug and I could hear her blood pounding. She was upset too but we both knew this wasn’t going to go anywhere and there wasn’t much we could because neither of us would change our minds.
The steam from her mug was starting to slow down, her smile fading and the sound of the surrounding trees and birds stopping to a halt. Muluth was halted in a very odd pose, one hand outstretched and the other resting on her thigh, her face contorted in a very old cross between a smile and a frown.
I didn’t mean to do it, honestly. But I can’t help it sometimes, it’s one of the few powers I didn’t really practice as I don’t fight in the war anymore. Not even bounties. Even old dogs learn new tricks, you know.
Fixing the cuffs of my shirt, I grabbed the tin of the tarts and went over to the fridge, shuffling around till I found Purple Snow, this deep purple ice cream with splats of Chacha milk that was turned into fudge. A note with ice around the edges sat on top, saying to keep in the back of the freezer, away from Nayleth. Even hiding the food, poor dragon. One of my favorites though, mmm-mmm! Nice and creamy with chewy bits of fudge that are sweet to the tongue. Gotta love it.
I closed the freezer, taking out my Reflection card and grabbed Gus who was still somehow swimming around in his fish bowl even though the surrounded area of the house had frozen still, the time had stopped.
I took one last good look at Muluth and wished she still had a bit of common sense. She couldn’t even see past the facade, the tricks and colossal lie that only Auggie and Gram knew.
How could anyone? I had spent a great deal to keep it hidden. To trick people and convince them of Jesse’s death. But it was for the best.
I grabbed a bottle of tylenol from the cabinet, quickly downing one of the pills to stave off the headache that was approaching. Already spent too long here, ha. So much for being an all-powerful full-meta, am I right?
After tucking Gus safely with my arm and making sure my stowaway goods would be safe, I headed on back to the garden, basking in the scent of pumpkins and gourds that Bren had started growing and gently laid my Reflection card against one of the many tall standing mirrors (after finding the right one, of course), the mirror turned liquid and I quickly passed through and a cool feeling rushed over my skin that was burning like it had touched the inside of an oven.
Bren’s house was very nice. Well, I’d spent a lot of days here when I was growing up, that was for sure. I was only… wait? How old was I? Ah yes, fourty! Even though I’m always fluctuating between ages, I prefer forty as it’s my actual age and I look very different from when I was younger (and when I decide I wanted to be so-called Jack).
It was a cozy home with furniture that oozed comfort yet looked like antiques but that was just how I liked it. Well, how Bren liked it. Either way, it was a comfortable home with plenty of food stocked in cabinets.
Oak furniture was tucked in a wide open living room where I was sitting, a room leading off into a kitchen with an angled ceiling, a bedroom way in the back and bathroom with silver trimmed accessories. Most homes were etched into caverns and caves that scoured Redcliffe, as to not risk it collapsing unless absolutely needed.
I had come through a mirror she let in her living room for other Gatekeepers that wanted or needed to visit her and for those of us that could tap into a tarots cards actual meaning.
Now she was serving me fresh tarts and fresh Purple Snow while she was shaking her head at how my conversation with Muluth went. Ace and Blitz were too accupied in the back room to do anything with me but that was ok.
“Since… Jesse’s death she just hasn’t been the same. You know this. I just wish we could’ve gotten our hands on her sooner instead of waiting for her Calling Day.” She said, talking a sip of tea that had honey piled in it like it was a beehive. “But you’re aware that her power is… exceptional. Just like, you know.” She said, nodding her head to no one in particular.
“Although, I am worried about how she’ll take on the genes. Specifically the T13 chromosome that Jesse had before he practically burned it because of the Groves that ambushed this place. Something that’s never heard of, burning through the very base of genes. Thank God that gene turns into something more wen doubled for us.” She said, shaking her head and looked at me. I just shrugged, taking some of the golden petals resting in a dish that kept them frozen and ate it to help dull the headache that was forming again.
“Still here? Even after all this time?” Bren asked me, smiling softly.
“Yes, after all this time and my only consequence was a never-ending headache.” I replied, chuckling and shoving a piping hot tart in my mouth with a big glob of ice cream.
I sighed heavily, feeling weight building in my chest the more time I went without telling Nayleth the nagging secret. But Red was on the move and my dreams had told me that, there was nothing arguing that case.
He was going toward Morrow docks, to scour the ocean for Groves known as Krakens to the humans. One in particular that held one of four needed Grove teeth. Grove teeth and tongues were already prized possessions because of the alchemic abilities but if you could find the so-called Alpha Grove (normal characterized by being ten times the original size with some form of defense and offensive protection unlike others of the species), kill it, get the teeth and tongue, you were set to make as many elixirs as you needed. The only issue was that few people ever saw them and I don’t know why he needed them in the first place.
But there was one place we could go.
I stood up abruptly, knocking over the stool I was sitting on and startled Bren who glared at me, asking what was up. I heard one of the Griffin’s in the back room stop moving for a second but soon went back to shuffling around a room.
“You’re going to hate me for this but we needed to send those four musketeers to Ripper. Yes, on purpose.” I replied as she glared daggers at me. “Nayleth knows some parts of the place and if they can get in there, find Red’s right-hand man and get information on why he needs Alpha Grove’s teeth and tongue, we could stand a chance of winning this war.” I told her, my muscles tensing as I was itching to get out the door to get started.
Bren just stared at me, confused but realization soon dawned on her face. “But you… hmmm. Sending four practically freshly called students isn’t ideal, Mark. What is that your dreams have shown you know? Some cliche story of four teenagers stopping a war? Saving the world?”
I smiled grimly at her. “Something along those lines. But their only the chess pieces. Very important ones that won’t be treated like pawns. Now, I’ve got students to rile up again and a most likely a furious Auggie once he finds out what I’m about to do. See ya later, Bren. Don’t eat that ice cream and behave Blitz!” I almost yelled as I ran out the door, hearing a chuckle from Blitz and an offended laugh from Ace as I launched myself into the sky as my wings felt the warm caress of fall air dipping over them.
So much to plan over the week, my my. No, I wasn’t going to tell them. Not yet. They could have a few weeks of classes to get settled. But no more. Red wasn’t patient and thank God he didn’t know about my dreams. Thank God I never told him that.
But as I left I caught sight of hair that was starting to pepper, a blonde haired kid with blue hair tagging behind her. Looks like she was figuring things out already. Wonderful!