The Ark (Supernatural Refugee Camp)
IT’S BEEN SIX months, but to Amalia Romanov, time had entirely warped into something unrecognizable.
She could see it all so vividly still. She could see her flickering between a determination to save herself and resignation. She remembers the hopeful light in her eyes when she thought she had gotten through the worst of it.
She wishes she could forget how she learned that light faded away.
Zander Johnson. Her former enemy, now turned friend at least in some capacity. Amalia hadn’t seen him in days—she hadn’t seen anyone in days.
She let out a sigh and threw her black backpack on the ground in front of her. It was almost as if Zander broke through a sticky atmosphere surrounding her body and the once muffled sounds around her came back at full force.
Amalia slowly turned around from the clear path to her assigned tent and back to where his voice had drifted from a few feet away.
“What?” The demand came off harsher than she anticipated. She dropped her black hood from over her head, allowing her now dirty-blonde curls to cascade over her shoulders.
“You changed your hair.”
Amalia resisted the urge to roll her eyes. She had made the decision in the split-second she had been packing to leave the refugee camp. Her transformation from her signature black short-cut hair wasn’t the only thing that changed about her appearance—her eyes were now a bright green color.
If Amalia’s harsh attitude fazed Zander, he certainly didn’t let it be known by her. He was as cool as always with his faded hair cut, caramel skin, and dark color ensemble—today, it was grey sweatshirt and black jeans.
He sidestepped a mother chasing after her toddler to move closer to her. “Andromeda told us not to leave.”
Amalia scoffed, “Andromeda isn’t Counselor Supreme anymore.”
“She’s the closest thing and you know it,” Zander replies with a slight warning. He had to speak up over the jostling noises around them. “We needed you at the border on Friday night.”
“Oh yeah?” Amalia asks facetiously. “Do tell how useful powerless supernaturals are at defending the pocket dimension barrier from demon wraiths.”
His eyes flashed in annoyance, but it went as quickly as it came. “Where’d you go?”
Amalia took that as her cue to pick up her backpack from the ground and start walking away from him. “None of your business.” She called out to without turning around.
She muttered a few apologies as she shoved past the crowd of supernaturals passing through the clusters of large tents where Amalia lived. She didn’t have to check the time to know that it was likely time for lunch rations to go out—the overexcited children said it all.
Shoving open the tent’s cloth entrance, she made a beeline to her abandoned side of the tent that had a small cot-like bed, a small desk, and a trunk below the bed with her belongings.
Amalia tossed her bag on the bed with a little more force than necessary and shoved her hands through her curls. Fuck, she thought to herself.
She failed and now she was going to get heat for nothing.
Amalia heard the tent flap open from behind her and she groaned loudly.
Why the fuck is he coming back for round two?
“Nice to see you too.”
Her heart dropped at the sound of Ross Lancaster’s voice. Amalia spun around and saw the pyromancer studying her with careful eyes. It was almost like he’d grown up over the past two weeks she’d been gone—his arms were more defined and his brown hair had grown out more.
Amalia couldn’t help it. She ran over to him without a second thought and looped her arms around his neck.
Considering she hadn’t left the camp on good terms with Ross, she didn’t expect him to reciprocate the hug so quickly. Snaking his arms around her waist and his face went into the crook of her own.
She hadn’t even realized she was crying.
“I’m sorry.” The words tumbled out in a whisper, so low she was scared he couldn’t hear it.
But he did.
Before Ross pulled away, he gave her waist a gentle squeeze and looked down at her. “I’m just glad you’re back. That you’re...”
He let the sentence die off, but Amalia knew what he was going to say. It was the catalyst to their argument before Amalia recklessly ran away.
Ross cleared his throat and dropped his hands from where they had been resting on her sweatshirt-covered arms. “So, uh, Zander told me he saw you.”
Amalia shifted her vision to the bustling camp she could see through the open flap of the tent. “Yeah. I’m not in the mood to deal with him.”
“He was just worried about you.”
Amalia snorted. “It’s obligatory at best.”
“Wow,” Ross says with a teasing lilt. “Is it that hard to believe that after having survived a shared traumatic experience, that Zander doesn’t care about what happens to you?”
She rolled her eyes and punched him on his arm. “Could you not be a smart ass for five minutes, please?”
“Andromeda was on his case for the past two weeks,” He adopts a more serious tone as he closes the tent flap. “She wanted to know how he could let you slip away.”
“He’s not my keeper, you know.” Amalia shuffles to her bed and sits on the creaky mattress. “I can handle myself.”
“You know I’d agree with you.” Ross sighs and takes a seat next to her, their arms and thighs pressed against each other. “But it’s a mess out there. Marcus’s wraiths are getting closer and closer to the camp. We need a contingency plan.”
“We need to get the fuck out of here,” Amalia says forcefully. “Marcus and Leviathan aren’t going to stop until every supernatural is possessed and under their control. We’re the only people that can stop them.”
“We can’t move everyone out of the Ark,” Ross counters. “We get more and more refugees everyday, we can barely house them.”
Amalia looked up to meet his eyes. “I wasn’t talking about everyone.”
“You want to us to leave?” Ross’s eyebrows furrow in a cross between confusion and speculation. “You, me, and Samuel.”
Amalia nods. Then adds, “Zander too, if he can be away from Andromeda for more than five minutes.”
“That’s not why he’d say no to leaving.”
Of course Amalia knew that. It’s the very reason she was hesitant about leaving the Ark after the funeral.
Zara’s buried here.
“He’s not handling it as well as you think he is,” Ross sighed as he watched Amalia’s face fall at the collective thought of their deceased friend. “The more he focuses on all of this,” He gestures to their surroundings loosely. “The less time he spends mourning.”
Amalia shook her head, “He’s a coward. He was in love with her and—.”
“Amalia,” Ross chastises gently. “You’ve both done this before. Everyone grieves differently—he’ll talk about it when he’s ready.”
She wasn’t convinced.
Over the past six months, Zander had become a greater enigma than in the past. Instead of lashing out and being volatile, he was emotionally unavailable and hyper focused on finding solutions to the weekly problems that the largest supernatural refugee camp on Earth dealt with.
He doesn’t even want to find a way to get his powers back.
Amalia risked exposure for a crumb of information. How did the roles get reversed?
Before Amalia could tell Ross about her journey out of the Ark, the flap to the tent suddenly flew open and a large figure came barreling in.
“Dude,” Samuel Long’s voice floated above their heads. “How many times are you gonna—,”
He paused when he noticed there were two people sitting on the bed. “Amalia!” Samuel came over to them and sat on the other side of her. His face was half-relieved and half-amused.
Amalia couldn’t help smiling at the werewolf’s excitement and allowed him to crush her shoulder in a side hug. “Ow,” She finally managed to say.
Samuel laughed sheepishly and took his muscular arm back. “Sorry.”
“When’d you get back?” Amalia noticed that Samuel had allowed his hair to grow out more and that it was no longer partially in a bun atop his head.
Amalia sighed, “Ten minutes ago.”
Samuel nodded, “Well, I’d ask where you went, but,” He turned his attention over to Ross. “Andromeda’s called an emergency meeting.”
“Does it have anything to do with the barrier?” There was a degree of concern in his voice, but he didn’t appear to be surprised by the news.
“It’s gotten pretty bad,” Samuel replies grimly. “We’ve gotta go.”
Samuel and Ross stood up, but Amalia made no moves to join them.
She didn’t want to deal with Andromeda’s unavoidable lecture for at least another 2-3 business days.
“Amalia.” Ross turned around and gestured his head to outside of the tent. “Let’s go.”
Great, She thought to herself as she begrudgingly pulled herself off the bed and followed her friends into camp.
Ninth Circle of Hell
This was it.
For what seems like weeks, Berith had exhausted every possible location in the Hell dimension where souls and deities were still alive. He had reluctantly left their hide away in the Seventh Circle to find his older brother—their last hope of defeating Leviathan.
“I shouldn’t have left.”
Atropos, the youngest of the Morai responsible for threading the cloth that gave life to every being across dimensions, stopped in her tracks and gave him a heavy stare.
She pushed her long blonde hair back in annoyance. “You did not drag me across Hell for the past month, just for you to give up now.”
Berith bristled at her reprimanding tone and fought the urge to glare back at her. “I didn’t say I was giving up. I was just—.”
“Worried about Zara,” Atropos finished impatiently for him and this time Berith didn’t hold back his glare. “Lillian will tell you if anything changes, remember?”
“It’s been six months in human time,” Berith countered in angst. “Laura wasn’t even out for this long.”
He looked up anxiously at the setting eastern sun. Time in the Hell dimension passed a lot slower than it did on Earth and on the Second Plane. Technically speaking, one day in Hell is equivalent to six months on Earth.
After going to the Cave of the Morai, Berith went back to Lillian in the Seventh Circle to find that Thanatos had moved an unconscious Zara into the castle in Blood City. He promised to watch over Zara’s condition the best he could while attending to his other responsibilities as the spirit of Death.
Lillian then suggested that she reach out to some her contacts in the Hell dimension. She was determined to track Leviathan’s movements in order to stay a step ahead of him at all times.
It was no secret that Berith was high on his most wanted list.
“How did the move go?” Atropos asked as they continued walking past the abandoned city gates. “They settle in okay?”
After overhearing rumors of Leviathan moving further interior from the Fifth Circle, Lillian and Thanatos thought it was best to move from their main residence to an auxiliary palace at the edge of the Seventh Circle. It was only them, Zara, and a few soldiers that managed to survive the demonochamy and were in hiding.
“It went fine,” He huffed out as they looked around the deserted marketplace. Berith used to dread coming to King’s Town for his yearly check-ins with his father and former ruler of the entire Hell dimension that he insisted on having with all of his children. It was the most densely populated area and functioned as the capital of the entire realm.
It was unrecognizable now.
A ghost town, submerged in silence—just like every other place in the Ninth Circle they’d visited.
We really are on a fool’s errand, Berith couldn’t help but think bitterly to himself.
“This is the last place in Treachery they could be,” Atropos observed the burned down city streets and wreckage carefully. “If they’re not here...”
“All we’ve done is waste time,” Berith finished in annoyance. “Let’s try the town square first.”
Seventh Circle of Hell
Lillian Gallo turned away from the several maps she had been eyeing on the table of the once abandoned war room. Tracking Leviathan’s movements was proving to be harder than she originally thought and was momentarily grateful for the interruption.
She raised an eyebrow at the tall man in the leather jacket and black jeans leaning against the doorway of the large conference like room.
“What’s up?” Lillian asked Thanatos. His normally relaxed demeanor seemed a little too tense for Lillian’s liking.
Instinctively, she narrowed his eyes at him. “Is something wrong?”
Thanatos heaved a sigh and rubbed a hand over the dark scruff on his chin. “It’s Zara.”