A War to Win

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Chapter Twenty-Six

Never before have my own emotions confused as much as they do now. Hope, regret, heartbreak, pity, relief and so many others fill me all at once. It’s horribly confusing and has rendered me incapable of rational thought or action.

As soon as we arrived back at the church I came straight to bed while Tessa and Noah went to inform Bartholomew of what happened on our mission. After a few hours Noah came to check on me. I asked him to leave me alone and he did. Tessa came shortly after him to bring me a meal.

In the last two days I’ve only left the bed to use the bathroom and to bathe. I’ve seen very little of my friends. Jack is dead. Tessa is just as heartbroken as I am. Noah is so unsure of what to do with himself that he’s not even sleeping in our room. Bartholomew hasn’t come near me and of course, Daniel remains dead.

The mere thought of him forces more tears from my eyes. Once again I failed him. I couldn’t save him and I didn’t even want to… Perhaps that’s why he didn’t come back to me. Because I didn’t want him to. Now I’m free to be with Noah. That’s all I’ve wanted since I met him. It’s such a selfish thing to want.

But what about Daniel?

***
“Death feels so final, doesn’t it?” He asked me one afternoon. It was before the war, before he was doomed to die. We laying side by side on a hill, watching the clouds above with very few cares in the world.

I groaned when he said it. “Let’s not talk about death right now.”

He ignored me. “We don’t know what’s on the other side. It’s quite terrifying.”

“Yes. It is,” I sighed. He was ruining my good mood.

“Is it bad that I’m scared to die?” Daniel wondered. Before I could even respond he continued speaking. “I’m especially afraid to die before you. Or after you. I’m not sure which would be worse…”

I frowned, turning on my side to look at him. “What do you mean by that?”

He shrugged nonchalantly. “If I die before you, I’d have to face whatever is on the other side alone,” he explained. “If I die after you, I have to be alone here. I don’t ever want to be without you.”

“Then don’t be,” I smiled. “We’re going to continue living together and then when it’s time to die, we die together. We’ll face the mystery of death together.”

“But what if I die before you?” He asked.

I considered for a moment. “Then I’ll do everything in my power to bring you back to me.”

***
And I meant it, when I said it and for the years to follow. I think it was only when I met Noah that I realised Daniel should just remain dead. So why did I continue on my mission to save him? I risked everything, I killed a friend and all for something I didn’t even want. That must be why he didn’t return. It’s the only explanation.

The door to the room bursts open suddenly, scaring me half to death. Tessa walks in and lays on the bed beside me. “I’m leaving this damn church soon,” she tells me.

“Why?” I wonder. My voice is hoarse. I haven’t spoken in ages.

“I’m moving into Georgina’s house,” she explains. “Noah is coming with me and we think you should too.”

Feeling confused, I frown at her and sit up. “Why? Isn’t it mean to leave Bartholomew alone? He’s old and probably needs people around in case he has a heart attack.”

Tessa laughs sharply. “Bartholomew is why I’m leaving,” she says bitterly. “The last few days he’s been spending a lot of time in his damn basement, refusing to help me find Aaron. He said he’s still willing to help but he has more pressing matters. I’m taking the book and using it to find him.”

“Do you even know how to use it?” I ask.

“Not exactly,” Tessa admits. “But I’ll manage. I’ll have to spend a lot of time translating but I know I can find him within a few months. He’s out there somewhere.”

I nod, trusting her instincts and her ability to find him. “I’m still going to help you in any way that I can,” I tell her, thinking back to Jack’s last request.

“You can help me by coming to the house with Noah and I,” she tells me. “And by, you know, letting yourself be happy now.”

I laugh lightly at that comment. “I can be. I did what I could for Daniel, that’s all he would want.”

“Noah will be coming up soon. Be with him,” she smiles. I nod. “And then come to the house. We want you with us.”

I nod again, smiling and feeling hopeful for the first time in… Well, I don’t know how long. I can be with Noah now with no complications. “I’ll come in a few days,” I tell her. “It’ll give me time to gather all my things here.”

The door bursts open again and this time Noah comes in. He’s grinning wildly. “Two things,” he exclaims. “Mine and Damien’s bond is gone,” he says.

“Really?” I question, standing. “How do you know?” I feel my mood lighten drastically upon seeing him.

“It was kind of a feeling so I got Bartholomew to check,” he explains before moving onto the second thing. “And also, there have been murders in Dalmerton!”

Tessa and I both frown at him. “Why is that any of our business?” Tessa asks. “And why are you so excited by it?”

“Witnesses say the murders were done by a man dressed all in white, wearing a mask,” he says.

“Seth!” Tessa and I both say together. Tessa stands and moves from the room. “I’m off to get ready. We’ll move to Dalmerton in a few days, once we deal Seth,” she says over her shoulder.

I’m a little relieved at that. I don’t think I’m ready to leave the church right away. A change of scenery might be weird.

“How are you feeling?” Noah asks once we’re alone.

I don’t answer him. Instead, I basically launch into a kiss. Noah makes a pleased sound, wrapping his arm around my waist and pulling me closer. I move back, dragging him to the bed and pulling him down with me. There’s no guilt for once. Finally, I can be with him!

“Damien, chill,” Noah laughs, pulling away and getting up. “We have plenty of time to enjoy each other’s company, but right now we have to go deal with Seth.”

I pout. Haven’t I waited long enough? “I know,” I sigh. “It’s just the first time we can be with each other without me feeling guilty.”

He grins and pulls me to my feet. “Well, now we have the rest of our lives to be with each other.”

“Is it bad that I’m kind of glad he didn’t come back?” I wonder as I move to gather my things. “He can rest in peace now, and we can both be happy.”

Noah just shrugs. “It’s probably for the best. He wouldn’t have been the same, even if he had come back. Also, now Violet will probably leave us alone since she didn’t actually do what she was supposed to.”

“I don’t think she will,” I mumble. “She told me I’d see her again. Also, we have Diana to worry about. That bitch is crazy.”

“For now we should just worry about Seth and getting Aaron back,” Noah sighs. “Both will be rather taxing things to do but we’ll do them nonetheless.”

I nod in agreement as I change clothes. “I really hope we can get Aaron. That was we can all be happy.”

Once I’m done changing, I follow Noah from the room. Tessa’s standing in the hallway. She glances at what was once Jack’s room before walking towards the stairs. I ignore the pang of guilt as Noah and I follow her. “So, what is Seth even doing?” Tessa asks. “Why is he killing people in Dalmerton?”

“He’s probably just here to be a dick,” Noah laughs. “All we need to do is kill him and we’ll be fine.”

“I don’t understand why he’s targeting people in Dalmerton and not us,” I say. “We’re the ones who tried, and failed, to play at being Gods.”

Tessa scoffs as we walk from the church. I notice that nobody bothers trying to tell Bartholomew where we’re going. “I can’t believe he said Gods sent him. That is so egotistical!”

Noah points out that he might not be lying but I stop paying attention are they squabble about whether Gods are real or not. I don’t particularly care whether they are not. All that matters to me is the fact that we’re real and the danger of Seth is real. He’s who we have to deal with right now.

***
The three of us are shivering by the time we reach Dalmerton and we’re covered in snow. Noah leads us through the town towards a tavern. He told Tessa and I that we were going to be speaking with somebody who witnesses the most recent murder which happened only a few hours ago. It occurred to me how weird it is that Seth has already killed four people in such a short time.

The warmth of the fire in the tavern is very welcome. Tessa sighs in relief when we enter, brushing the snow from her blonde hair and shoulders. “I’m surprised Seth even has to kill anybody,” she grumbles. We get a few dirty looks as we move to a table in the corner. “It’s a miracle the whole country hasn’t frozen to death yet.”

“Tessa,” Noah snaps as we sit down. “Don’t be so insensitive.”

She just glares at him but says nothing in response. We sit in silence for a few minutes before a sheepish looking woman comes over to us. “Are you the mages?” She asks.

“Well, two of us are,” I tell her. “Did you witness one of the murders?”

She nods and sits on a chair across from us. “The man who did it was terrifying,” she practically whispers. “He was dressed entirely in white, blood stained white. He even wore a white mask. He was like an angel of death!”

Noah laughs. “Funny you’d say angel…” Tessa glares daggers.

“He killed the man with a dagger. I have it with me,” the woman tells us.

“Why the hell do you have it?” Tessa blurts out.

The woman looks taken aback. “The man who was killed was my husband. The authorities allowed me to have the dagger.”

I don’t even bother questioning why she’d want such a strange souvenir of her husband’s murder. “Can we see the dagger? We may be able to use it to track Seth.”

“Seth?” She asks.

“The man who killed your husband,” I explain with a grim smile. “His name is Seth.”

She mutters something under her breath before pulling out a dagger from her large pocket. Tessa gasps mockingly. “Plot twist!”

I examine the dagger but it doesn’t take me long to recognize it. “That bitch,” I mumble. It’s my dagger; the one I threw at Violet! The woman looks once again taken aback. It’s basically her permanent expression… “We’re taking this,” I tell her, snatching the dagger rather rudely.

“Do you people even know what you’re doing?” She commands, clearly outraged. “Do you even care that my husband was murdered?”

“No,” Tessa says, shaking her head. “Not at all. We have bigger problems.”

The woman lets out a frustrated groan before standing and knocking her chair backwards. “I hope that this Seth guy kills you three mages too!” She shouts. The whole attention of the tavern is on us now.

“I’m not even a mage,” Noah sighs.

I find myself laughing as the woman storms from the room leaving all eyes on the three of us. “We should leave,” I say, standing with my dagger in hand. It sends a sinister message but I find myself laughing regardless.

Once we’re outside, back in the cold, Tessa turns to Noah and I. “Do you realise what this damn dagger means?” She demands. We both say yes but she tells us as if we don’t know. “It means that whore is still out to get us! She sent Seth here to spook us.”

“Calm down dear,” I sigh. It’s weird seeing her freaked out. “I’m sure it’s just an empty threat. Violet has better things to do and so do we.”

“Like what?” She snaps.

“Well,” I say, trying to think quickly. “Violet probably has other people to torment. I bet she has a realm filled with poor souls for her to play with. And we have Seth to kill and Aaron to save! Plenty of things to keep us occupied and away from each other.”

Tessa scowls at me and Noah looks shocked. “I’ve never seen you acting positively before,” Noah laughs. “It’s weird but refreshing.”

I feel as if I’ve been insulted but I just shrug it off. “I no longer have the burden of Daniel. Perhaps I can be a new person now.”

Noah smiles. “Don’t change too much Damien,” he says, leaning closer. “I still want to be able to see the man I fell in love with.”

My whole body melts as his lips meet mine. He pulls away quickly, presumably because Tessa is right next to us, but his words ring in my ears like harmonious church bells. “I love you too,” I grin.

Tessa allows us one more kiss before complaining. “Guys, we’re here to kill a murderer, not to make out in the freezing cold!”

“’Kay, sorry,” I mumble. “How are we going to find Seth though?”

Noah shrugs, shivering slightly. It makes me want to hug him but I doubt Tessa would approve. I suppose she wants us to be happy, just not in front of her. “We could just wait for him to kill again,” Noah suggests.

Tessa is looking between me and Noah, off into the distance. She does that a lot… “Or, we could wait for him to show up on his fucking dragon.”

Before I can point out how ridiculous that is I hear the oh so familiar roar. Gingerly turning around, I immediately see the dragon. It’s quite some distance away but it’s coming for us nonetheless.

Already the people around us are in an uproar! They’re running at full speed down the street, desperate not to be in the dragon’s line of fire. I’m glad they’re running for their lives because we do not have that luxury. We have to do what we failed to do in Deucalion’s realm and kill this thing! Anybody who stays will be reduced to nothing but collateral damage.

“Okay so here’s the plan,” Noah says with all seriousness. “You both shove your magic into my sword and I’ll try to behead it.”

“Always with the beheading,” Tessa mumbles. The dragon roars again and she scowls as it grows closer. “He’s such a big boy… You sure you can like, cut through his neck?”

Noah glares at her, drawing his sword from the air. “Well we don’t have any other options. Just make sure I don’t die and it’ll be fine.”

The time for talk is over. The dragon flies over us, casting a terrifying shadow even when there isn’t much light. The dragon lands on the street not far away from us. It looks like a tight squeeze. When it turns towards us it stretches its wings. Buildings around it break scarily quickly, filling the air with the sound of crashing stone.

Noah holds his sword out towards us. Tessa and I both put our hands on it, lending it our strength. “Distract it,” he tells us. Before we can object he rushes away and begins climbing a building. I don’t bother telling him that it’s an awful idea.

The dragon moves slowly down the street towards Tessa and I who both stand completely still; enchanted by it’s terrifying size and pale skin. As it nears the snow it melts away. The dragon snaps its mighty jaws.

“I hate this thing,” Tessa mumbles. She waves both her arms, causing bricks to fly from the broken buildings. They hit the dragon on the head but don’t really do much.

It opens its jaws again and this time fire shoots out towards us. This time, I step in front of Tessa and hold my hands up. A mix of ice and wind meets the barrage of fire. The pressure sends me back a little but I hold on, blocking the fire from reaching us.

The dragon thankfully thinks it’s futile to attack us with fire and stops. I see Noah on the building above, ready to jump. “Please catch him,” I whisper to Tessa. She nods as he leaps down, he sword outstretched. I’m both shocked and impressed when the dragon’s head comes off. It rolls forward to Tessa’s feet.

“Noah,” I gasp, running forward. He rolled on the floor before standing. “Tessa was supposed to catch you!”

The dragon’s body is on the floor now. It seems considerably smaller without its head. “I’m fine,” Noah laughs. His sword disappears and he hugs me. “That dragon was actually quite pathetic.”

“Guys!” Tessa shouts. She’s touching the head which is rather funny. It’s basically as big as her. “Help me roll this back to the church.”

“No!” I exclaim. “We still need to find Seth before he kills again.”

Tessa glares. “We can use the dagger to make him come to us, but we need to be at the church to do that.”

I roll my eyes, walking past her and the head towards the church. “Who’s going to clean the dragon’s body?” I wonder. My friends offer no answer.

***
“Give me the dagger,” Tessa commands when we arrive at the church. “I’ll use it to fuck with Seth. You two do whatever. We’ll go kill him tomorrow.”

I do as she says once we’re inside. “Won’t more people die if we don’t deal with him now?” I ask. She just shrugs before walking off towards Bartholomew’s office. “I’m going to go to bed,” I say. It’s not night yet but I’m already exhausted. Noah nods as I walk off. I pause at the stairs, turning around. “Want to come with me?”

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