Far Away

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Chapter Twenty

Alice did her best to put on a brave face. She was more than afraid. She was terrified but there was no need for Raven to know that. She pushed her fear and worry down so that her face was blank.

“I had hoped that we could move on to a point of trust but it seems like your actions make it clear that you are not ready for such responsibilities,” Raven growled to Alice.

“I can’t trust someone who uses my brother like that!”

“Your brother has remained unharmed but if you continue to act out he cannot remain so. He will be imprisoned for his own safety. It is obvious that you bring out the worst in each other.”

Alice refused to let herself cry even though she was filled with worry for her brother. She would not cry! Alice pushed the tears aside and glared at her capture.

Raven simply smiled back but Alice could see anger in the man’s eyes. He turned to Hamish.

“Bring our friend, Dan back through the bridges. I’ll stay here with Alice.”

Alice’s heart skipped a beat or two at Raven’s words.

“You think that I’ll do everything you tell me once Dan gets here?”

“I think that Dan will be willing to play his part in our little drama now that you are here, Alice. You, on the other hand… you will do what I ask to spare your brother and his wife.”

Tears filled Alice’s eyes at the mention to Marie. She knew how much pain this was causing her brother. “Don’t play games with me! I know that your letter was a lie.”

“I lied about hurting the woman. They were nothing but empty threats. Your sister-in-law is in our care.”

“My brother saw her die. He almost died himself that day!”

“He saw his wife loose conscieousness. He assumed she was dying just as she did.”

“For argument’s sake, lets say that I believe that Marie is really alive. Why wouldn’t she have come after us? Or at least come back to the house? If she was alive she would be back with her family.”

“I am sure that she wants that just as much as you do but getting what we want is not always possible.”

“Are you stopping her from returning? Is that what you told my brother?” Alice’s face went hot with the anger she tried to push down.

“My associates and I are protecting your brother’s wife as best we can. Your brother, his wife, and you, are all safest here. I will take you to see them both after you get settled in.”

Alice watched Raven’s face as he spoke, looking for the lie. Alice could not believe Raven even though his eyes were clear and his face was straight. Alice had come to accept Marie’s death just as she had come to accept her mother’s and trying to hope that her loved ones were alive became more painful than continuing to see them as at rest.

Raven was looking away from Alice towards the place where the bridge opened. Alice was so immersed in studying Raven that she did not even stop to think about what he was looking at. Alice lost herself in studying the man. Though even Alice got distracted when a white light seemed to appear from nowhere.

The blinding light came from the bridge that Raven was studying so closely. Alice could not help but turn towards the light. It was so startling. Hamish was the first to come through the bridge. His hair was disheveled and his eyes burned with anger. His enormous hand knotted in a fist around whatever he was pulling behind him.

Alice squinted in the light to see that the shadowy thing Hamish pulled behind him was the hunched figure of Dan. The Weaver boy’s long, tangled hair hung in his eyes but Alice could still see that his face was bruised. Scratches covered his arms. Alice had to stifle a gasp.

“What did you do to him?” Alice demanded of Hamish.

“Your orders were to bring him back not to hurt him!” Raven shrieked.

“The boy refused your gracious offer. He put up a fight when I tried to bring him back so I gave him a small knock on the head. It seemed better than dragging him here.”

“The boy will be safe now that he is here.” Raven nodded to Alice and then turned back to Hamish. “Allow the girl to tend to Dan in the basement room. We don’t want either of them to become ill.”

Alice followed Hamish to the room Raven had mentioned. She was looking foreward to being able to see Dan even if he was asleep for the time being. There was so much that she needed to think over:

Was Marie alive?

Could these men really keep anyone safe?

What did these men want with any of them?

How could those ghouls be controlled?

Alice’s head began to spin. There were too many questions and not enough answers. Alice took a deep breath and focused her thoughts. She needed to wait for Dan he had to have some ideas... he knew more about what was going on than her.

Dan floated through the haze of unconsciousness. He felt like his head was floating through mist but it was too heavy to lift. He felt his body being carried and the past few moments came flooding back. Hamish was forcing him away from his friends and bringing him, and every one he cared for, back into danger. He fought to stay where he was but he could not stop his body from moving.

Dan’s body was moving but his mind was still in the fog and it could not find its’ way back to his body. he seemed to float through the mists for days before he could convince his eyes to open.

He could already tell that his body was not moving but he could not help but be surprised when he saw Alice sitting next to him.

“Alice! They haven’t hurt you, have they? Raven kept saying things about needing you...”

“I’m fine, Dan. It’s you I’m worried about! Those ghouls could have killed you!”

“They need me to work with them too,” Dan almost whispered. “They probably want to hurt me but they can’t yet.”

“They need you to lead them through the bridges?”

“Hamish can find the bridges on his own and Raven transported me without using bridges at all. These two aren’t like the Mayors or college professors...”

“My brother said that they need me too but I cannot imagine what they want. I just assumed that Raven wanted the same thing everyone else did. The Mayor only wanted power and everyone at the colleges only wants knowledge.” Alice shook her head in confusion. She felt weariness fall over her and threaten to drag her down.

Dan saw the girl’s inward turmoil and put his arm around her to support her. She smiled her thanks.

“How’s your head feel? Hamish must have hit you pretty hard.”

“I’m fine now. I’ve got a thick skull.” He paused, laughing, but his face turned like stone in its’ seriousness as he continued. “Like I said, they won’t hurt me. They need me but they have already said that they will hurt you.”

“Raven said that he had plans for me. He brainwashed my brother and is using him. Tim said that we are all part of his plans.”

“Then Raven and Hamish are bluffing. They can’t hurt any of us,” Dan declared in a voice full of hope.

“Unless Raven is lying or told lies to my brother. Hamish and Raven tricked him by telling him his wife is alive.” Alice swallowed thickly. “I know she died, Dan. It broke Timothy’s heart. Raven and Hamish have to be lying about that. How do you know that they aren’t lying about this too?”

Dan opened his mouth to answer but light from an open door flooded the room before either of them could speak. A shadow obscured the doorway and Dan could see that the shadow was the form of Raven.

“Glad to see that the two of you have been talking. I am sure that you both think that you know exactly what is going on here but the truth is that you only know a fraction of the story.” Raven’s voice seemed to flood into the small room and echo with each powerful sylable.

“We each have an important part in what is to come; a role in an event that will change the world.”

“I doubt that you want to change the world for the better,” Dan told Raven bluntly.

“That is just not true, Dan. You and I want the same thing. We both want to make the world a better place! We just go about accomplishing it in different ways.”

“We won’t help you,” Alice said, hoping that she sounded more confidant than she felt.

“What you want is of little consequence. You are both still so young! There are things about the world that you do not understand yet. I will try to explain these truths to you both.” Raven put a finger on his chin, deep in thought. “Things happen even when we do not want them to. Sometimes, one person has to suffer a small pain so that millions can avoid cataclysmic loss.”

“You mean we have to suffer so that you can profit!” Dan’s face fell. He was wrong, this is exactly the same thing that all the others wanted them to do!

“There is no need to get upset,” Raven assured them both. “I freely admit that Dan’s powers are stronger than mine. That amazing power is why I need him. There is an evil person hurting people in another dimension. I need Dan to go to the other dimension and stop that person from hurting others.”

“Why do you need me for that? Hamish would have an easier time than me.”

“I am afraid to say that Hamish is not strong enough either. We have seen the strong magic this person wealds... though we do not know who this person is. We need you to find this person and take his powers. If that is not possible, the only option left is killing them though we would like to avoid that.”

Dan nodded slowly. “And you need Alice to reveal that she is a royal?”

“Oh, no. I need Alice to keep you safe. This dimension can only be reached via spirit because it is so similar to our own world. Your body will have to stay here while your spirit travels there.”

Alice gave Dan a quick look.

“I’m not leaving you alone with her!” Dan declared vehemently.

“You can’t send his spirit away from his body. This is too dangerous!” Alice spoke just as vehemently.

“There has to be another way to do this?” Dan’s voice was so pleading that it sounded like he was asking a question.

“Hamish and I have exhausted all our resources. There is no other way. You will both complete these tasks or your brother and the Weaver Guild will pay the price.” Alice felt her heart sink at Raven’s words.

“We can’t do this, Dan! This is just like before. They only want to use us!” Alice moved closer to Dan but Raven’s arm lashed out at her with surprising speed and knocked her down.

“Don’t touch her!” Dan screamed.

“I see that the two of you cannot be reasoned with. I will have to separate you before any form of negotiations can begin. You have picked up each other’s bad habits.” Raven snapped his fingers and three heavily, muscled men instantly appeared. The three men moved to stand in a semi-circle around Dan. Hamish came in a heartbeat later and moved toward Alice. Dan launched himself at the man, trying to intercept him. The three men pinned Dan to the ground before he could get anywhere near Hamish.

“You said that you wouldn’t hurt her! You gave me your word that she would be safe!”

“I am not the one making decisions here, Dan. You are; you have all the power. You chose to ignore my advice. Now there are repercussions.”

“Stop playing the victim! It’s obvious that you’re the one givng orders!” Raven moved his strong arm with a flash. His fist slammed into Dan with extra force gained from speed. Alice could not take her eyes off of the two figures but she would have missed the hard punch if she blinked.

“Don’t hurt him!” Alice demanded. “He can’t even defend himself when he’s pinned down like that.” Alice turned this way and that, trying to loosen Hamish’s hold on her arms. Even after all her work his grip never loosened. Still, Alice did her best to get to Dan. Raven had punched him more than once and Dan was barely conscience.

“Stop squirming, girl. The boy will be fine,” Hamish growled.

“Hamish, escort Alice to her room. I will make sure Dan is well cared for.”

“He can’t even hurt anyone in another dimension in that state,” Alice said, trying to reason with them.

“I told you, he will be taken care of. Hamish, get her out of here. I have work to do!” Hamish pulled the struggling Alice out of the room with little effort. She continued to pull at her arm and dragg her feet but it had no effect on Hamish. He pulled her into a narrow stairway and forced her up and up and up higher still until they came to a seires of doors. The hall itself looked like doors within doors. Hamish would pull one door open only to find two or three where the door he had pulled once stood. The doors were forever changing. Alice looked for some kind of pattern but she could not see any... She was lost. Hamish seemed to pull several doors open at random. He forced Alice inside one door into a bare room. The door boomed closed behind her and Alice knew that she was well and truely trapped.

Dan did not regain conscienceless until Alice was trapped in her room. He came to slowly and managed to open his eyes with a groan. He looked around and wanted to groan more. Alice was missing again! He was alone in a room with Raven, the last person he wanted to see.

“Alice will be glad to see that you are awake. She was quite worried about you last night,” Raven said with a sly smile.

“What have you done with her?” Dan tried not to shake with rage but he could see nothing but red when he thought of Alice and Hamish. Dan was not jealous of Hamish but he was afraid of the man and of what he could do. He shivered just thinking about the things Hamish had done to him while he was captured and marched across the dimensions. He was hurt and bleeding for what felt like an eternity.

Hamish had trapped Dan’s magic so the power within him could not even ease his pain. Hamish would stop at nothing to get what he wanted. Raven may call the shots but Hamish carried out those orders with ruthlessness. Raven wanted results but Hamish wanted to cause pain. Dan could not stand the thought of Alice being alone with a man like that.

“There is no reason to look so worried, Dan. The girl is safe with us. We need you to help us and her to help you. Surely you trust her with your life? You believe that she will protect you.”

“You’re the one I don’t trust! How can you leave her with Hamish? Do you really think that he will leave her unharmed?”

“Hamish can be a little enthusiastic when it comes to punishment, I grant you. But he does follow direct orders. He has orders to make sure that Alice is unharmed.”

“You’re keeping her here as a prisoner. Stop acting like you are doing us a favor!”

“Be glad that I have given you what I have! The girl and you are both unharmed, the entire Weaver Guild and the girl’s brother still live. I can make all that change with one word, Dan! Don’t test me...”

Dan heard the truth and finality to Raven’s words. He knew that he could not test Raven further without risking Alice and his family.

“You said that I had to travel outside of my body to stop this evil person. I have never done that before. I have helped others find and travel through bridges but I have never been outside of my body to do it. How am I supposed to do that now?”

“You are right to be cautious,” Raven approved. “I will guide you through some practice rounds before we try any long-term travels. The girl will also need this time to learn her duties as well.”

Dan remembered Alice’s role in all of this and felt a fresh surge of worry. “Alice is supposed to protect me while I travel but who will protect her?”

“Hamish is more than equal to the task of protecting one girl.”

“That does not mean Hamish will protect her. Hamish can protect her but he won’t do much if he does not want to.”

“Hamish has his orders and he will follow them.” Raven practically growled his answer at Dan and the Elk boy could tell that one question more would be going too far. He listened closely as Raven continued. “I have orders for you as well. You will go to the Kingston world that you and Alice have just left. The world needs to be secure for Hamish to control it. You and Alice will display your powers very publicly; where everyone can see.”

“I thought this was about stopping an evil man from hurting people. What do Kingston politics have to do with that?”

“What effects one world effects them all. Listen closely...” Dan leaned forward to hear better. “The worlds are all connected. When there is a problem forming in one, problems soon form in others. There is a problem in Kingston. If the problem is not resolved soon than it will leak out into other worlds. We need to solve the dimensions’ problems before they leak out into our own dimension. If we wait until it is our problem than it might be too late to travel. We may become locked into our location or locked out of the problem’s origin location.” Raven looked at Dan as he spoke and saw the boy’s eyes focus inward as if he were losing focus. “To sum up,” Raven said quickly, “we need to act quickly before the problem has a chance to leak out into our own world.”

“Isn’t it already our world’s problem if we are chasing after it?” Dan asked as his eyes regained their intense look.

“Some people in our world may view it as a problem but the vast majority of people in our world do not even know a problem exists. That is how we want it. The common people live their lives without any change. You did not know about other worlds or about any of their problems when you lived with the Weaver Guild and school,” Raven pointed out. “You are a sorcerer and should be more sensitive to the problems in other worlds.”

“I still do not understand. How can you feel changes coming? When do changes start to effect other worlds?”

“You may not understand now but I think that more questions will be answered when youn see a change take place. Once you go to Kingston and see the chaos with your own eyes things will begin to make sense.”

Dan nodded his understanding even though his was more confused now than he was when all this began. Raven had a way of finalizing things without needing the consent of anyone else. Dan found that it was easier to simply agree and move on. Raven wanted all the control but the small act of agreeing with him caused Raven to relinquish something just in allowing someone to agree. Stopping anyone from agreeing with him took away even more control than letting the agreement continue did. Raven was caught in a hard place and Dan enjoyed seeing him there. Dan himself was trapped in something much more sinister but anything was better than nothing. Dan could not help but feel some small tingle of joy at seeing Raven in a similar situation to his own. Raven lost a small part of his control but Dan could not help seeing that he had not gained any control even after Raven lost a portion of his.

Dan was still trapped and worst yet, Alice was still trapped. Dan had done what he thought was right. He had brought Alice back to her family and kept her from the mayor. She was supposed to be safe! He thought that her troubles would end after that. Her brother was there to look after her and she knew how to handle herself in her own world. She was supposed to be safe in this place. Instead of bringing her to a safe sanctuary he had lead her into a trap. Her brother had been tricked and kidnapped. She was beginning threatened and there was no safety to be found; even with the Guild or the Forest Spirit. Alice was in danger and Dan was the cause of it yet again. He could not help but feel guilty. He could not help but feel hopeless.

Raven interrupted the boy’s reverie. “Go to the room across the hall. You will find appropriate clothing on the bed. Put the clothing on and then come back out here. Hamish and I will escort you and Alice to the festival in Kingston.”

Dan nodded sadly and did as he was told.

Dan did not know that Raven was ordering Alice to change into a flowing gown for the festival too. He knew that Raven planned on forcing both of them to go and stop a change from occurring but he did not know that Raven planned on making sure that they cooperated. He needed more than threats to secure their compliance. The clothing Raven insisted that they wear was not mere clothes. The cloth they were made from was magical. Raven controlled what the people wearing the clothing it with a thought. Once dressed, Dan and Alice could not help but do what he commanded. Their bodies were no longer their own. Alice remembered when the guards forced her to be still and how her own body was not her own. She remembered how helpless she felt when she could not force her body to obey her. Alice’s eyes filled with tears and not even the bespelled clothes could make her stop crying.

Alice was forced to walk from the room Hamish had lead her to and into the room she and Dan had met in hours before. Alice did not the like what she saw inside. Raven was straightening Dan’s tie but the weaver-turned-inventor’s face was completely blank. Alice knew that Dan hated standing still. He began to get claustrophobic when the Guild made the two of them stay in a carriage. Dan would feel the walls closing in... Raven had captured them and chained them worse than any prison. The clothes made Dan’s own body feel like a prison.

“You both look the part. After a promising start in Kingston it should not be hard to move on to other worlds from there.” Dan and Alice wanted to protest in answer but neither one could say a word. The clothes forced their lips to close and their throats to tighten. Dan could manage to force himself to moan but making the slightest noise felt like daggers going down his throat. Alice tried to make her pinky move. One small rebellion could lead to larger ones but the smallest movement proved impossible. Soon, the two of them could do nothing but sit next to each other quietly.

“There is no need to look so worried,” Raven commented. The words seemed to force their lips into smiles. Raven was obviously in control of the clothing’s’ spells. “You will appear at the festival and dance for three dances. Dan will make a short speech.” Raven gestured to the silent boy. “Don’t get your hopes up for an escape. I will control the words that come out of your mouth very closely. There will be no calls for help. Your magic will do its part after the speech. Resistance will only lead to trouble for you. Don’t fight to spells and the whole thing will be over before you know it.”

Raven opened the car’s doors and Alice wished that she could take a deep breath. A large crowd of people weighted outside of the car. It seemed like all of them wanted to see her. She wanted to lean into Dan for some small measure of comfort but the spell would not let her even move that small amount.

She felt Dan’s warm hand take her’s and she did not need the gown to force her to grip his back. He lead her through the crowd and towards to dance floor at the center of the ball. She was surprised to see people move out of their way as Dan walked before her. The crowd did not seem nearly as intimidating with Dan by her side. Mere seconds seemed to pass by the time they made it to the center of the ball and began to dance.

Alice had never considered herself a good dancer but she turned into a wonderful dancer in the dress they had forced her to wear. She moved with a grace that she never could manage to duplicate in real life. Dan moved with his normal confidence but the clothing made sure that he knew each step and preformed every move with exact timing.

“Don’t be scared,” he whispered when they moved in to dance cheek to cheek. The gasp she felt in her chest never made it to her lips. “I’m going to let the suite do the talking and the dancing but, when the time is right, I’ll startle Raven and we can run.”

The questions that surged in her head must have made it to be eyes. Dan looked her straight in the eyes to answer her unasked questions. “You want to know how I broke the spell? I am not really breaking it so much as manipulating it. Raven is using my magic to make the spell. I can feel what he is taking out of me. I just have to take the right amount back... it is hard to explain but I think that I am getting the hang of it. I can make it so that you can talk too but I do not want to alert Raven.” With Raven and his threats in mind they both quieted down and let the clothing make them dance. Alice was actually able to enjoy herself. She found great comfort in Dan’s words and in his promises. She trusted him and she knew that he would do what he said.

Alice’s enjoyment was cut short when Raven interrupted them. “It is time for your speech, Dan.” Hamish lead Dan up a stairway and onto a platform. Alice could tell that the words Dan spoke were not his own. They sounded nothing like his usual easy manner and each promise sounded nice but was very vague. Still, by the end of the speech people were eating out of Dan’s hands. Anyone who looked at him could see that he was far from average. No one seemed surprised when fire and lightning lit the domed cieling. Dan moved him hands with a flurish and the fire became butterflies of light. He shook hands with dozens of people as Raven led the two of them out of the ball and back into the car.

“You both did very well tonight with the dance and with the speech,” Raven praised. “I will allow you both to act as you will as soon as we cross the bridge out of Kingston. You have both earned some free time.” He smiled at them both before continuing. “Do not even consider removing the clothes. They will only wrap themselves around you more tightly. You will only hurt yourselves.”

Alice and Dan both tried to ignore Raven’s sickening smile and pretend concern. They both knew that he did not care about them as long as they did as he asked. Dan did not normally turn to violence but he could not help but want to hit Raven in the face. Dan did his best to squelch the feeling. He wanted to be able to move freely and he could see the longing in Alice’s eyes too. She was tired of the confining feeling of the clothes. They squeezed at your body and wrapped your mind in tight ropes.

It was like those children’s games Alice had shown him before... They trapped your fingers in them and if you tried to pull away the trap only got tighter. You had to remain calm and squeeze the sides to get out of the trap. Dan knew that this situation worked the same way. He could get out if he just stayed calm and learned the trick. He had practised taking away pieces of his magic. They had tried to steal his powers but he could hold just a little back. He figured out that if he held back some hot, angry part and some of the smooth wet part than he could talk. If he added some more strangely textured magic onto what he had already held back he could move too. The whole situation was far from perfect but he could do this. He had to... for Alice and for her brother. They had done so much to help him. He had tried to help them in return but he only caused more trouble. This time he would see them safely home.

Dan felt them pass through the bridge. He gave a sigh of relief. He was so glad to be out of Kingston that he did not even notice that Raven was still taking some of his magic. They had not released the spell from Alice! Raven had not released Dan from the spell either for that matter.

“I was afraid that something like this was going on,” Raven said as he shook his head with a sigh. “You showed so much progress tonight that something sneaky had to be playing out in the background. You were planning this together for some time?” Raven asked, looking at Alice for the first time since the ball.

“She had nothing to do with this!” Dan declared through clinched teeth. “I figured this out by myself. I just took parts out of the magic that you stole.”

“I took a very little part, Dan. How could you even tell that I was using your magic for the spell?”

“I could feel it! You know that this is not the first time someone has taken my powers to use in different spells. I can tell when someone is stealing from me!” Dan tried to breathe deeply, tried to calm down but it seemed like the time he spent calming down only made him more upset.

“I try to plan for everything but I was not counting on your senses already being awake.” Raven sat in silence with his thumb on his chin thinking. Dan tried to take more of the magic they were using to hold Alice but Raven was prepared for him. When Dan reached for the magic he did not come to find it shaped like a rope to pull as he had before. Now the magic was a wall of glass. He could not climb it. He could not go around it. He had to fight to keep the magic he had already withheld. “I wanted to help you, Dan; you and the girl, but I see that what you really need is disapline.”

Dan was on the balls of his feet. His body was tense and he was ready to move. He was not prepared for what came next. The attack Raven had obviously prepared was not sent at Dan but at Alice instead.

“Leave her alone!” Dan screamed. “What is wrong with you? She can’t defend herself! The spell will not let her jump away!”

“You should have thought of that before getting her involved in your escape scheme,” Raven snarled at Dan and then snapped his fingers out the window. Hamish appeared at Raven’s elbow. “Take Alice to her room. The girl needs rest.” Hamish moved to do as Raven commanded but the girl was awake and free of the clothing. The spells had been burnt off by Raven’s attack.

“I’ll never to trapped in my own body again,” Alice declared reverently. “I’ll walk around naked if I have to.”

“That will not be necessary. I doubt Dan will let us take power again and we will not be able to do it on our own.”

“You said that you were going to stop someone from hurting people and that I was the only one who could. If your cause is so right why don’t you just ask me to help you? Why are you stealing magic and trapping us in bespelled clothes?”

“These things are time-sensitive, Dan. I do not have time to explain each thing to you before we have to act. Using these tools saves time and lives.”

“You’ve been doing this long enough to tell the difference? Why do you need me for each case now?”

“Things may be more complicated than I led you to believe. We do not know who the evil person in the other dimension is. We only know that they are using a strange artifact. We will explain more about the artifact before you travel. For now, be content that the crisis in Kingston has been averted.”

“Hurting Alice will not help you. I won’t work with you if you hurt her... and you can’t make me do anything... even with the clothes.”

Raven and Hamish both smiled with those grins that said they knew something he did not. “We can see that, Dan. Still, I think it would be best if Alice went to rest while you and I have a talk.”

Dan nodded, as if his agreement made any difference in his present circumstances. Still, his small nod did seem to encourage Alice. The fear that filled her eyes dimmed after he nodded. Hamish gripped her arm to lead her away but she tore her arm out of his grasp and held her head high. She allowed him to lead her but insisted on walking unaided. Dan could not help but feel a sense of pride has he saw how she had grown. No one could look at her and not be proud.

“You understand what you will be required to do during our little experiment?” Raven asked Dan.

“I understand what you expect. I don’t understand how you expect me to accomplish it or, more importantly, why you think that I should do it.”

“None of that will have any meaning until you get there. We will provide you with a notebook. This is not like a simple writing notebook. You write down the code that we will provide you with and a video feed will open up.”

Dan remembered the late-night video conversations he and Alice had had from their workshops and appartments. “I will be able to see you and what you do when I use this code?”

“You can communicate with use and even speak with Alice and your friend Timothy. That is, you can speak with them when they are not too busy. Traveling can be very complicated for those left behind too you know.” Dan nodded his understanding to Raven, hoping he would continue. “I am glad that you see the scope of our agreement. You and I need each other, Dan.”

“Why would they be too busy? Do you have plans for them?”

“You are our main player. Your friends are only secondary.”

Dan did not believe Raven for a second but he could not just say that. “Alice’s brother made it sound like you wanted to take advantage of Alice...” Dan had a sinking feeling that they were not telling him everything. He could not help but let his suspicions overwhelm him. They were keeping something important from him.

Raven gave Dan a disarming smile. “All older brothers feel protective of their baby sisters. Timothy is convinced that his sister has special talent. Alice is the center of his universe and he assumes that she is the center of everyone else’s as well.”

“You kidnapped him first though... why?”

“I know you, Dan. I know that we could not get you to help us without involving your friends. Getting Timothy was the only way to get the girl and the girl was our way to you.”

“You said that you needed Alice...” Dan reminded Raven.

“We want Alice to look after your body. I thought that you would feel more comfortable with someone you trusted looking after you.”

“You thought of all that before you even met me?”

“Hamish and I have been watching you for quite sometime. I feel like I know you well already.”

“Spying on me is not knowing me.” Dan wanted to tell Raven that using Alice and Timothy against him would not work and that he would not help them. He wanted to say a lot of things but he stayed silent. He was afraid that speaking out would anger Raven and make him really hurt Dan’s friends.

“Actions speak louder than words, Dan. I do know you and I know that you need a show of faith. I will release Timothy and allow him to stay with his wife.”

“You should let Alice go with them. She does not believe that you really have Marie. Showing her would make a big difference.”

“I cannot allow Alice to the woman just yet.”

“She would trust you if you did show her,” Dan reminded Raven.

Raven gave a tired sigh. This was an old argument. “Alice is a sorceress in her own right. She does not know how to use her power and could hurt someone. That is why I took away Marie -- to protect Alice, her family and you. Her magic is dangerous if she does not have instruction.”

“She has lived with her family for over 16 years without there being any danger. What has changed now?”

“The girl has been to other worlds. The magic there has woken powers in her. She could hurt someone on accident. No one has taught her to use her magic.”

“You are leaving her in charge of protecting me,” Dan reminded him. “If you think that she is safe enough for that than she must be safe enough to visit her own mother!”

“I will be there to help her with her magic while we protect you. I cannot be there to help her while she visits her family.”

Dan sagged with defeat. He wanted nothing more than to bring Alice some comfort. The girl had not been the same since they had returned to her home. She must see reminders everywhere. The grief would be fresh for Timothy and Alice would want nothing more than to comfort him. Timothy was struck with that empty sadness that naws at your insides and never lets go or even loosened its’ jaws. Dan wanted to help Alice and Timothy both, but it looked like he was stuck too.

Raven led Dan back to his room. Dan had every intention of leaving and finding Alice but he could not. A strange smell like chamomile assaulted Dan’s nose when Raven closed the door. Dan fought to stay awake and stay on his feet but his eye lids were getting heavy. He moved to sit down just for a moment to collect himself but he quickly fell asleep.

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