Comfortably Numb

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Chapter 45

*Arrow's POV*

The smouldering embers of the house tickle my nose- the musty damp smell that accompanies it makes it extremely unpleasant.

Ryker slams his fist into the tree in the wreckage of Andy's front yard. He had been barely holding onto his sanity before discovering the trail of her scent that led towards the home and finding it burning.... he had lost almost all of his control.

"Who the fuck did this?!" He screams. Our pack members all bow their heads at his anger, the power behind his words nearly bringing everyone to their knees.

"Ryker, you have to calm down!" Dad orders. Pop grabs his shoulder but he shakes him off.

"Somebody took her! Somebody hurt her and dragged her away from me and all that's left is the bones of a house she wasn't supposed to be near.... and you're asking me to calm down?" He screams and paces away from our parents. I purse my lips.

The house had burned from the inside. The firefighters thought that it had originated on the top floor, but they couldn't tell us more than that without a deeper investigation.

The breeze shifts, and we all tense, knowing that it will only anger Ryker further as it starts blowing her scent away. He freezes before whirling around, eyes crazed.

"Do you smell that?" He whispers before inhaling through his nose. He crouches down and crawls back towards the house- I'm sure if he wasn't so desperate to find his mate he would care how insane he looked.

When he gets to the busted doorframe he stops and presses his nose closer to the ground and inhales again.

He whirls on us again and jumps to his feet.
"Fucking witches!" He curses. I furrow my eyebrows.

"What do you mean?" Dad asks, jogging over to my twin. Ryker stoops again, pointing to something I can't see. Dad crouches before sniffing the same area Ryker had. He straightens after a second with a deep growl.

"Bring me Eric Daemente." He orders.

Automatically, the three wolves we'd brought along with us turn to do his bidding.

I frown at pop. He shrugs so we both walk over to dad and Ryker. They're both barely suppressing growls. When we reach the doorframe, Ryker flicks his eyes between the two of us. I frown at him and after a second he growls, but backs into the house to let me get closer to whatever has him in such a tizzy.
I lean down and inhale- the burning scent of wood, the flood waters from the fire department, Andy's blood.... nothing we didn't already smell from further away? I growl and stand up.

"I don't get it!" I spit. Ryker rolls his eyes and steps back towards me. He shoves the back of my head; I choose to assume he's being so rough because he isn't quite in control of himself from losing Andy. I shoot him a glare anyways but he ignores it and keeps pushing my head closer to the ground.

When my nose is barely pressing into the corner of the doorframe, Ryker stops pushing and just holds my head there. After a second of straining against him I give in and inhale.

The sweet scent of death is barely lingering in the base of the doorway, twined up with something nasty. If I had to describe it, I would say that rotting flesh had been pressed here-
"Magic?" I whisper. Ryker lets me pull back.

Dad growls again and I repeat the sound, catching up with what they're thinking. If magic was used here.... it had to be witches.

We all take turns pacing the front yard. Ryker is barely managing to keep his wolf at bay- I know that only Andy will be able to calm him. I trade a glance with Rowan, and he frowns before stepping over to his best friend. He places his hand on his shoulder, likely meaning it to be comforting, but Ryker shakes it off.

"Don't touch me." He growls. Rowan sighs and strides over to me.

"Don't take it personally." I whisper. "He's losing his mind-" "Shut up Arrow." Ryker growls. Dad turns to look at him.

"Son you need to calm down. Biting everyone's heads off is going to do nothing but burn bridges."

Ryker growls before throwing himself down onto the grass. He lowers his face into his hands.

"It's my fault." He growls. "I left her alone, severed our connection.... I let her go after I promised to protect her!" He drops his right hand and slams it into the ground. "Fuck! Why did she leave?" He drags his hand through his hair.

"I don't know." Dad whispers. "But we're going to find her." Ryker growls and slams his fist into the ground again. We're distracted by the sound of the wolves approaching- and the stumbling feet of the man that they're dragging.

It takes a slow fifteen minutes for them to reach us- by that time Ryker has gone back to murderous.
Eric Daemente is tethered to the biggest warrior by a thick leather strap. It's wrapped around his chest and I can see from the second that the wolves come into view that he's fighting them.

The scent of singed fur reaches us as they do. Our wolves shift and Mike, the warrior tethered to Eric, yanks him forward. He falls to his knees a few feet from my father.

"What the fuck kind of operation are you running here, Cardinal?" He grumbles, shooting daggers over his shoulder at the three warrior wolves. They snarl back at him until dad waves his hand. Immediately, they fall silent.

"What happened here?" Dad barks. Eric's eyes widen for a split second before he looks past my dad, and then his eyes get bigger still.

"I don't know!" He shrieks. "I've never even been here before!" Ryker growls and lunges towards him. Dad let's him, knowing that even if he tried Ryker was too far gone to stop. Ryker wraps his hand around his throat and drags him up so their noses are pressed together. The grow that rips from his chest is so powerful the windows of the house shake.

"I I I..." Eric mumbles, fear turning his already putrid scent more sour. Ryker drops him to the floor but keeps his grip on his neck. He hauls the much smaller man back to the doorframe.

"Who did this." He spits. Eric stumbles as Ryker shoves him into the door. He frowns down and then when Ryker growls again lowers himself to the ground. He looks around for a moment before glancing up at my furious twin.

"I... I don't know what I'm looking for." His voice shakes. Ryker snarls and leans down, pointing out the light scent as if Eric's weaker nose could pick up what we barely could.

"Right there! It's magic! You can smell the rot!" Ryker shouts when Eric still doesn't say anything.

"I can't smell anything." Eric whispers, already wincing. Ryker's fist flies into the doorframe and the wood splinters further.

Dad steps up to intervene.
"We can smell the magic. Maybe you can't, but you're the only witch in town. Surely there's something you can do to identify the user?" Dad's voice is harsh, but obviously he is the lesser of two evils when compared to Ryker.

Eric turns to look at my dad with a frown. "I can try but... if there is magic in play here, it's stronger than mine. I can't sense... anything." Ryker growls again and Eric flinches away from him. "I'll do my best!" He squeaks.

Ryker stalks away- hopefully trying to get his anger in check- before turning back to stare at Eric.
Eric is kneeled down, facing the corner of the doorframe where Ryker had pointed him. He mutters quiet words in a rhythmic pattern.

The air turns sweet, and the scent at the door frame grows just a bit stronger. Afew more chants and sparks start drifting up from the floor, floating into the house. Eric's eyes fly open and he shoves to his feet, still chanting. He starts into the house- Ryker bee lines after him. Dad, pop and I follow behind. As I step over the door frame, I see the pattern of sparks is growing- Footsteps have appeared in the ashes, leading to the door. Only one set, too big to be Andy's; whoever had taken her had carried her out.

We follow them up the stairs. They threaten to give way underneath our weight. We climb slowly, one by one, and successfully make it up the stairs. The sparks are slowly disappearing now so I rush to follow the trail.

Ryker is standing just outside of the doorway of Blake's room. When I stretch I can just see Eric's back as he wanders through the destruction, still chanting. The sweet aroma of his magic grows before getting tangled in the same nasty scent from the doorway. Eric kneels down so I can no longer see him beyond Ryker, and switches his chant.

He cuts out suddenly and glances back to my brother.

"Can you carefully pick this up? It's still fragile." He whispers. Ryker growls. "Why can't you?" "I can't touch it, if I do... it'll leech off of me and we will never know who owned it. It's bad enough I had to stain it to bring it back from ash."

"What is it?" I call. Neither of them answer me. Ryker growls before stepping further into the room. I shove to get into the bedroom too.

The damage in here is just as bad as the rest of the house- there's scents of smoke and water and something like rotting flesh. The room's contents have been burned beyond recognition- everything except the big black book that's sitting just in front of Eric. The book looks brand new, like it hadn't been touched by the flames.

Ryker kneels down across from Eric before hauling in a deep breath. His eyes flick back to me and I lean closer, trying to smell what he does. The second I catch it I know why he's spiralling again- the scent of Andy's blood is wafting from the pages.

Ryker reaches down for the book and Eric winces.

"Carefully!" He reminds. Ryker snarls at him before gently lifting the book up. Eric slides closer to him, being careful not to touch the thick leather.

He closes his eyes and inhales, then starts whispering nonsense words. "Allygregorio muciana cabul" He blows air in the direction of the book, and without Ryker touching it the pages fly open. He gasps as it flutters to the last page.

The wind cuts out as soon as the last page is flipped. Eric glances up at my brother warily before gulping.
"Do you have a knife?" He whispers. His voice breaks in the middle. Ryker growls. "Why?" "I need... I need someone's blood." Ryker clenches his throat in his hand, fury overtaking his rational thinking for a brief second.

"Why?" He growls again. Eric attempts to speak through the strong grip Ryker has on his throat. I roll my eyes and step forward, tapping the back of his hand. He relaxes his grip a fraction.

Eric gasps in rough breaths. When he's no longer at risk of passing out, Ryker squeezes his throat for a second, bringing his attention back to the situation at hand.

"Why?"

"To feed the book." He whispers. Ryker growls. "I can't make it talk to me..." he sucks in more air. "Without feeding it first."

"Why can't it be your blood?"

"If I feed it mine it loses its allegiance. I won't be able to help you." Ryker squeezes his throat again before dropping him. Eric goes back to coughing and sputtering for more air.

Ryker extends one claw and lifts his eyes to me.

"Want the book or to bleed?" He rumbles. I hold out my hand, offering the soft skin to his sharp claw. He gently drops the book in my grip and then in one smooth motion slices his wrist straight across. Blood swells from the cut, and he holds it over the book. I roll my eyes but hold the book out expectantly anyways.

"Wait!" Eric shouts. Ryker yanks his hand away just before a drop starts to form. The page stays clean.
"What?" Ryker growls. "You told me it needed blood." Eric sighs. "I know, it does. But you have to ask or it will take your sacrifice and give nothing in return."

"Ask what?" Ryker growls, his temper flaring again. Eric sighs and grabs his hand with the cut. He leads Ryker's arm back over the book and begins whispering.

"We need to know... who is your master?" As he speaks, flecks of Ryker's blood fall onto the page. Eric squeezes his wrist, encouraging more blood to flow.

The page soaks up the blood. After a moment Eric pulls Ryker's hand away.

Ryker frowns at the page as nothing happens. He turns and grabs Eric's throat again, hauling him closer.

"What kind of game do you think this-" "Look!" I scream, interrupting his angry tirade. They both turn back to the book, where Ryker's blood is now twisting along the page, turning black.

Eric leans forward to see. I gasp. Ryker's wolf pushes out at him- he barely holds onto his human shape.

The blood has all but disappeared now, and left in its place is thick black ink.

There's only one word written in the centre of the page, and as we watch the ink slowly starts to evaporate.

"I'm going to fucking kill him!" Ryker rips away from us, barrelling towards the door. Eric and I share a look as Ryker breaks past my parents and a moment later I can hear him hitting the grass of the front lawn. My parents come back into the room, worry and confusion on their faces.

"What does this mean?" I whisper to Eric. He shakes his head. "I don't know..." He swallows.

He kneels down and starts whispering nonsense words again. The air around him flutters, becoming sweeter. His eyes drift shut and he reaches out to the ground. The same sparks light up the room, and as I watch different shapes appear... It almost looks like people, locked in a battle.... The shapes never solidify though, and I can't say for sure what I'm looking at.

"There was a fight." He whispers a few minutes later. His eyes flick open and he stands, but when I catch a glimpse of his eyes I'm surprised to see that they're pure white. He walks around the room until he reaches the far wall. He trails his hands along it, searching for something. As he walks, black spots appear on the wall and start heading towards him. He hisses in pain as one chunk of goo reaches him and buries itself into the skin of his wrist. He blinks and when he turns back to me, his face is ashen and his eyes are back to normal.

"What? What happened?" He swallows, his face draining of all colour.

"I made a terrible mistake."
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