Tessa bites her nails. It worries me that she’s this one edge. “Can you not?” I ask. It’s been almost an hour since Noah left. I have no idea what we’ll do if he doesn’t come back. Me and Tessa versus Valek, the worshippers and their Daemons is a terrifying thought. We’d have better chances of surviving if we paraded our powers in the capital.
She glares at me but stops nevertheless. “I wish Noah wasn’t the only one with a map,” she sighs. “Scanning for them could let us know whether they’re still alive.”
Why hadn’t I thought of that sooner? “I have a map,” I tell her, searching for it in my bag. I pull the map out and flatten it on the floor. Why did she think Noah was the only one with a map? Maybe she doubts me like I so often doubt Jack.
She brings it in front of her and begins mumbling Jacks name; Jack Stormcrow. Asherton lights up quickly. She does the same with Noah and Asherton remains lit. “Maybe they just caught him,” she suggests sadly. “They could be using them as bait.”
“For what though?” I ask. “What’s stopping them from just killing us here? They obviously know where we are. Valek is always one step ahead.”
Tessa shrugs. “I feel like there’s more to this than just getting the book,” she says quietly. “Like there’s a greater force at play.”
That makes me think about what Noah said about Daemons manipulating us. We have such little free will. We’re nothing but their puppets, we’re just their playthings. When they pull our strings; we dance. “Maybe there is,” I mumble. “Maybe there is…”
The two of us sit in silence for a few more minutes until Noah thankfully emerges over the hill. Tessa and I stand, walking to him. She hugs him very briefly. I wish I could do the same, seeing him again is such a massive relief. “What did you see in there?” She asks. She’s eager for information.
He sighs. “There are less worshippers then I thought there would be,” he says. “But I couldn’t locate the book or any prisoners.”
“Did you check the town hall?” I ask, thinking of the fight with Valek there. It would be typical of him to keep the book there. Maybe the prisoners too. It feels like something Valek would do. The sadistic bastard knows that the town hall would remind me of Thalia and my many failures. “He probably keeps prisoners and items of importance there.”
“No,” Noah says. “But maybe that’s the first place we should go.”
Tessa groans. “This is such a fucked up situation we’re in,” she mumbles. “We’re basically walking to our deaths but we have no choice. I have to do it because Jack’s in there and Noah has to because if he doesn’t, he dies anyway...”
“I guess I don’t have to,” I comment. “It’s not like I have to bring Daniel back from the dead.” I can’t help but to look at Noah when I say it. “I could always just move on.” He meets my eye and I quickly look away.
Tessa laughs lightly. “Moving on isn’t an option Damien, for either of us. Not while there’s still hope.” Her tone says it’s a joke, but her eyes say that this hope is killing her.
She’s right and it kills me too. I could move on; I could be so happy with Noah but I just can’t. There’s still hope of my happy little life with Daniel and there’s still hope of bringing him back from his early grave. While there’s still a chance, I cannot allow myself to be with Noah.
Noah coughs awkwardly. “Should we go then?” He asks. “Assuming that we’re just going to run in and hope for the best.
“Holy fuck Noah,” I snap. “No, we’re not being so reckless.”
“Why not?” Tessa says. “Obviously they don’t want us dead, I think they just want to toy with us. If we get caught they might torture us a little but they won’t kill us. They have an alternative motive. That’s very obvious.” Didn’t she just say we’re walking to our deaths?
Noah rolls his eyes. “I only approve of torture in the bedroom,” he laughs. “I’m not up for getting cut up by Valek. I need to stay pretty.”
Ignoring Noah, I actually consider Tessa’s point. Valek has had a lot of opportunities to kill us but he hasn’t. Obviously he wants us alive for whatever reason. Sadly, death would probably be better than whatever he has planned.
“We should get ourselves caught,” I say, feeling sick as I say it. “It’s the best plan we have.”
Noah nods sadly. “This could be the end of our time together,” he sighs. “I just want to say it’s been a pleasure being with you two.” He looks at me. “Remember Damien; win or lose, you’ll be with Daniel. That’s all you want… Right?”
I don’t know how to respond. It’s not. This isn’t what I want, not anymore. It’s what I need.
Thankfully Tessa speaks before I have to. “Stop with the sentiment,” she says, standing and stretching. “We’re not going to die. Not yet. We all have things to live for, to fight for.”
Noah looks at me and for once, I don’t look away.
“Or at least not right now,” she adds. “We’re taking a detour…”
“Are you sure we shouldn’t just go now?” I ask, glancing over my shoulder where Asherton is now in the distance. It feels like we’re just delaying our inevitable deaths. That’s basically what life is… A delay before the eternal darkness.
Tessa nods. Her certainty in her decisions never fails to reassure me. “We should wait until tonight before we go,” she tells us. “We can rest at that town through the day. We need to be at our strongest if we hope to make it out with Jack and the book.”
The town she is referring to is the same one Daniel, Thalia, Jojen and I went to before we infiltrated Asherton. I can’t help but to feel like we’re very foolishly repeating history. The three of them will be turning in their graves as I work to pull Daniel from his.
“Purposely getting captured by them is a scary thought,” Noah sighs, crossing his arms tightly as we approach the town. It occurs to me that I don’t even know what the town is called. This is the second time I’ve been here. “I guess it’s our only option though…”
He’s right about that. I can’t think of any alternative plans that could have a better outcome. The chances are, if we get caught they’ll either kill us or take us to where they’re keeping Jack. Valek and his worshippers killing us wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen. At this point death would be like a weight off my shoulders.
Tessa sighs as we enter the gates. “We should just try to have some fun today. It’s probably our last day on this earth.” She looks around the first street we enter. It’s mostly just houses but there’s an inn, a different one to the one I stayed at years ago. “We can go there, then maybe the library. If this town has a library…”
“Library?” Noah questions. “That’s your idea of fun?”
She nods. “I want to research the Daemonic-Gods and Goddesses.” Before either of us can ask why, she continues speaking. “I need to see whether I want to come with you to summon a Daemonic-God. It could be interesting, I want to see what I can find out about them and whether it would be too dangerous.”
“I can assure you it will be dangerous,” I laugh as we reach the inn. “But shouldn’t you get straight to finding Aaron if we get the book?”
She looks away from us as we enter the inn. It’s like most but I doubt it has a bar. “I’m starting to think Aaron doesn’t want to be found,” she mumbles, approaching the lady behind the counter. “We’d like two rooms please,” she says. Her tone changes quickly. She smiles and puts some coins on the counter.
“Make that three,” Noah says, adding a few coins. I frown at him but bite my tongue. I have no right to be wounded right now.
The lady takes the coins and hands each of us a key. “What brings you to this part of Wychelm?” She asks.
“The ocean,” Tessa blurts out. At the same time, I say “the weather” and Noah says; “the magnificent wildlife.”
The woman gives us a puzzled look. Tessa repeats “the ocean” before heading to the stairs. Cringing at how unconvincing we just were, I follow her with Noah in tow. Once we reach the top of the stairs, Tessa sighs. “Goddamn we suck,” she says, smiling a little despite the situation. “If they didn’t know that we’re here before that, they do now…”
“Won’t make a difference,” I say, looking at my key and locating the door. “I’ll meet you guys outside soon. I want to get changed.” I’ve been in these clothes a while and I feel quite dirty. It’s not my fault. We haven’t had the chance to change in a while. Neither of them have changed clothes either. Sometimes there are more important things, like bringing your boyfriend back from the dead and saving somebody from the jaws of death.
Entering the room, I almost expect Noah to follow. I don’t think we’ve even shared a room since I cheated on Daniel with him but we’ve always slept near each other since we met. He’s always been a comfort.
I throw my pack on the bed and find some fresh clothes. I change quickly into a crimson shirt and black jeans before putting my leather jacket back on. For once, I keep it unzipped like Noah does. If I get the chance to hurt Valek I want him to see red. The red of his blood and the red of my shirt.
I leave my pack on the bed when I go to meet Noah and Tessa. The woman smiles at me when I pass her. When I get outside I see that neither Noah or Tessa are here yet. It gives me time to wonder why exactly Tessa wants to go to the library, and why she thought it was a good idea to come here and not go straight to Asherton.
Maybe she’s having second thoughts about Asherton, but I doubt that. We’ve come too far and besides; Jack is in there. So is the key to her finding Aaron. Finding Aaron… Something I expected her to do straight after we get the book. She wants to go to the library to look up Daemonic-Gods and Goddesses. It’s something I should have thought to do. Why the hell is she considering joining me on my suicide mission? Why the hell does she do anything she does? I can never figure out her motives. Tessa is a magnificently complicated person.
“You’d be shocked by how submissive he can be,” I hear Noah saying. Tessa laughs as they walk from the inn. They both freeze when they see me, smiles on their lips.
“What are you talking about?” I question, scowling at the two of them.
Noah shrugs. Tessa just laughs again. Even though I’ve seen her laugh since Jack has been taking, only now does it strike me as weird that she’s able to. “Should we get to the library?” She asks. “I want to do some reading and then get some sleep before we get ourselves captured…”
“We’re still going with that plan?” Noah asks, walking down the street.
Tessa and I follow him, assuming that he somehow knows where to go. “There isn’t an alternative,” I tell him, hating the plan just as much as he does.
He just shrugs as we reach the library. It’s a small building that feels quite plain. We walk in and are greeted by an old lady, standing in the entrance. Behind her are shelves of books and a table. “Can I help you?” She asks, her voice strained. She squints to see us as the door shuts behind us. It’s dark in here.
“We’re looking for Daemonology,” Tessa says with a smile. She uses a similar tone she used with Diana. “Do you have anything?”
The lady sighs, turning from us and walking slowly away. We follow her. “You really ought to find yourselves an expert,” she tells us. The lady scans a shelf and pulls down three dusty books. She hands them to Tessa. “We have only three books on Daemons. Very obscure topic.”
Since when? Daemons have probably been around longer than humans…
“Thank you,” Tessa says. “We’ll see what these can tell us and then consider seeing an expert.” The lady smiles and walks back to the entrance.
“Will we?” I laugh.
Noah shrugs, leading us to the table. He sits at one of the chairs. “I know one, he lives quite far away though.” Tessa and I sit. “You probably know him Damien, he helped in the war. His names Isaac.”
I frown, confused. “Since when was he a Daemonology expert?” I question. As far as I knew he was just a mage that could fight incredibly well. “Maybe he learned about it after the war,” I say, answering my own question. “It seems unlikely that he knew it all before… He would have brought it up.”
“Don’t trust Isaac to bring things up,” Noah tells me with a slight laugh. “I spent quite some time with him after the war. He helped me look for a solution to my curse. He never really told me anything about himself except that he had a wife who I never met.”
That could be Adrianna. They left the war together. I don’t mention it because it could get Tessa’s hopes up and the chances are, Adrianna is dead. She wasn’t like her sister. She wasn’t good at taking care of herself.
I shrug, wanting to change the topic and get my mind off them. “So, what are these books?”
She hands us each one book, sighing. “We’ll each look at one and see if they’re at all useful,” she sighs, brushing hers. A cloud of grey dust puffs off.
Brushing mine off too, I examine the cover. There’s nothing but a pentagram and something written in a language unknown to me. I groan as I open the book. Most of it is written in the strange language but there are a few random notes written in our language.
“The thirteen cometh.” “Manipulation and deceit.” “Fear and horror.” “Heartbreak.” “Just one; a force to be reckoned with.”
I read it in my head. This feels useless, what do I do with this? It’s all too obscure like the lady said.
“Not much is known about the nature of the Daemonic-Gods and Goddesses,” Tessa reads aloud after a while. “There is little recorded history of them. All we know is that there is a Goddess of deceit and manipulation. There is a God of fear and horror. Twin Gods of fire and water. There is also speculation of Gods and Goddesses of death, life and necessity. But that is all it is; speculation.”
Noah sighs, putting his book down. “This is a waste of time,” he tells us. “We can just ask Bartholomew when we get back to Dalmerton.”
“If we get back,” I correct. “And didn’t he already tell us all he knows?” Noah shrugs.
Tessa glares at us both, picking Noah’s book up. Her eyes fix on the table. She stands, getting closer. “There’s something carved into it, at the same place Noah put the book down…”
I lean closer too, curiosity getting the better of me. She’s right; two names are carved into the table. “Violet. Caleb.”
Tessa’s book flips through the pages rapidly all of a sudden with none of us touching it. She jumps away from it as it stops near the back. Shaking a little, she picks up the book. “Violet and Caleb,” she reads. “You will face them both. Don’t try to resist it.”
She throws the book down, walking quickly away. Noah and I follow her as she storms from the library, past the old lady who bids us goodbye.
“Holy fuck,” Tessa pants, stopping outside. She shakes her head rapidly. “That was written in blood. It was clearly meant for us!” She is speaking loudly, almost shouting. “A Daemonic-God is fucking with us! Violet is a Daemonic-Goddess and we’re going to face her.”
Noah crosses his arms, examining the street. We’re the only ones. “It’s not too late to turn back,” he says. “Don’t summon one. Don’t try to bring Daniel back.”
He’s talking to me but I don’t get the chance to reply. “Now we have to go along with it,” Tessa snaps. “My guess is that we have to face them both. If we do we might survive, but if we don’t, they’ll just kill us.”
“So what do we do?” I ask, expecting her to have the answer.
She begins walking towards the inn. “We get our things,” she says. “Then we go to Asherton. Screw waiting until tonight. We get Jack and the book and then we leave. If we survive that, we get lift Noah’s curse and we get Daniel back. If we survive that, we get Aaron back. Then we see what happens from there.”
The plan comes from Tessa but I can’t help but to feel like it’s one of the Daemonic-Gods speaking through her. The next stages of our lives are already planned out for us. Did we ever have a choice?
That doesn’t matter right now though. For now, what matters is Jack and the book. We need to take this one step at a time.
“Get your things,” Tessa commands as we reach the inn.
I nod, going straight to my room and retrieving my bag. It feels somehow heavier, but that’s probably just the weight of what we just learned being thrust upon my shoulders.
Tessa and Noah got back outside quicker than I did. Once I join them they start walking down the street, the direction of Asherton. We don’t get far. Once again, Valek stands in our way. I’m not even surprised. He should try to make a dramatic entrance sometime; this is just getting boring.
“Oh hey Valek,” Tessa says. Her sword is in her hand suddenly. “We were just on our way to meet you.”
Valek rolls his eyes, walking towards us. He’s alone. “That won’t be necessary Tessa,” he sighs, pointing at her sword. She gasps as it disappears. “In fact, you walking to Asherton isn’t necessary… I’ll take you there myself.”
He holds his hands in our direction and mumbles a spell. I try to stop him but I’m already too late. My muscles weaken and my eyes feel heavy. Everything feels heavy.
Noah drops down beside me, and then Tessa. I drop to the ground last.
The roar of the ocean takes me by surprise. It’s behind me, directly behind me.
I look around, confused and dazed. I’m outside. On a beach. There are rows and rows of people in front of me. I recognise nobody. They all wear white, all of them except one woman.
She sits on the front row, wearing a long black dress. The dress covers most of her body but is tight, showing its obviously nice shape. The woman has high cheekbones, dark black hair like Noah’s and an air of sophistication. Her hair is long and unnaturally straight. She smiles at me.
“Damien,” somebody says. Daniel!
I turn, seeing him standing by my side. He looks more handsome than ever. Unlike most people here he’s wearing a black tuxedo. It’s hard to stop myself from reaching up and touching his snow white hair. Oh how I’ve longed to do that. “Where are we?” I demand.
A laugh interrupts us and Daniel freezes. Turning back to the crowd, I see everybody has frozen. Everybody except the woman who walks towards us. “You’re in the future Damien,” she tells me calmly. “This is what your future may hold.”
“Who are you?” I snap, unable to take my eyes from her. “What are you?”
She laughs again, a sharp, chilling laugh that feels like a cold wind. “Is it not obvious?” She smirks. “I’m Violet, or at least that’s what your race has been calling me for centuries. Violet; Daemonic-Goddess of Manipulation and Deceit.”
My heart freezes. This doesn’t make sense… What is going on?
“It doesn’t have to make sense to a simple fool like yourself,” Violet snaps, her mood quickly changing. “For now, all you need to know is that when you wake up, you won’t remember this. You won’t remember who I am. You won’t even remember my name.”
“Why?” I question, the thought frightening me. Even if it is just a few memories, I don’t want to lose any part of myself.
“So that you can go on with your mission. I don’t want you to know that you’re being influenced, not yet. We’ll meet again soon Damien,” she says. Violet is fading. Everything is fading. “You’re going to get that book and then you’re going to summon me. We’ll speak again when you do.”
She smiles again, her eyes wide, before disappearing completely.