Comfortably Numb

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Chapter 46

Eric's voice carries regret, but before I can ask him what he means Ryker's distress becomes the most pressing issue.

He's throwing things into the house- big things like fully grown trees. Dad and pop share a look before they both run down to help calm him.

Eric and I follow quickly behind them.

When we get outside, it's clear that there is no way Ryker is going to be calmed down. Rowan is holding one of his arms, and my dad is holding the other. My pop is in front of him, holding onto his shoulders. Ryker is fighting them all, trying to twist his body out of their grip.

I sigh and walk up behind them. I jump up and land on his back, immediately wrapping my arms around his neck and my legs around his waist. He growls, ducking to try to throw me off. I squeeze his neck to lift myself higher, until I'm close enough I can reach his ear.

"Ryker!" I scream. He growls in response. My parents and Rowan tug him down, using me as more weight to hopefully pull him from his feet. "Andy needs you!" I scream again, directly in his ear. He successfully rips his arm from Rowan, and automatically starts reaching for me. His fingers find purchase on my bicep, but I've got a solid grip on my own arms to keep me locked in place.

"She needs you to calm the fuck down!" I scream again. He shudders, indicating he's heard me, and Rowan latches back onto his arm. I squeeze his neck, briefly cutting off his air supply so he's paying more attention to me than anyone else.

"Ryker." I growl again, right in his ear. "If you don't get control we can't find her. She needs you to calm down and listen to Eric."

He fights us for another minute, and then his fight turns internal. Rather than trying to rip us all off, his body starts shivering, the wolf inside trying to break free.

I drop from his back as the bones shift back and forth, stuck in between wolf and man.

I step around to face him and pop steps back, letting me talk to him.

"Ryker." I whisper, leaning my forehead against his. His eyes flick open, both a striking gold. He growls at me. "She needs you." I breathe again. He shudders again and then his eyes flick back shut.

I back away while he fights his wolf for control of their shared body. His form shifts a few more times, and then with a final crack, the man wins out.

"I'm ok." He rasps. My dad and Rowan drop their grip on him slowly. He shakes out his arms and then focuses on me for a second. I offer him a weak smile and he hauls in a deep breath before nodding at me.

Together, we turn to look for Eric.

We find him standing at the door to the house. He looks horrible- his face has a green tinge to it. Dad, Pop, Rowan, Ryker and I walk towards him and he slowly takes in a deep breath.

"You said you made a mistake." I start. He swallows the lump in his throat before nodding. "What did you do?" Dad growls. Eric whimpers, briefly glancing at Ryker. Although he seems calm on the outside, I know it won't take much for his anger to get the best of him again.

"I think I caused him to pick her." He whispers.

Everyone growls simultaneously.

"Explain." Dad growls.

"It... it was a couple years ago. Almost ten I think..." He swallows thickly again. "I was selling spells to make ends meet during the teacher strike.." I nod, hoping it will make him get to the point faster.

"A young man came in, looking for ways to make his wolf stronger. He was telling me about the plans he had for his future... he wanted to outshine his parents expectations and take over the Alpha position from his pack." He blinks nervously up at Ryker for a brief second. "I uh... I told him I didn't know of any ways to make the wolf stronger, that I only knew of ways to make Magic stronger... he asked me a whole bunch of questions about magic and then he left."

"Get to the point." Dad growls. Pop places his hand on his arm in an attempt to calm him. "He came back a lot after that, for different spells.... and eventually he bought this book...."

"That Book?" Ryker growls, gesturing behind Eric to where we'd left Blake's black magic book.

"No! That's bad magic- nothing I do is even close to that stuff, not anymore. It was just a book of beginner spells. I thought it was harmless, because he couldn't use it anyways."

"What do you mean?" I question. He sighs and rubs his hands over his face.

"He was a wolf. He wasn't supposed to be able to do any of the stuff in that book." "Explain." Dad rumbles. Eric sighs.

"Wolves and magic are just like witches and animal shifting. I can't shift- even if I were to use a transformation spell, it wouldn't work on me because I'm a witch. Just like wolves can't do magic... or they're not supposed to be able to."

"He learned how, obviously." Ryker growls. Eric shakes his head.

"To be able to use it, to learn spells and not be overrun by the magic, he would have to trade something. Witches make sacrifices to be able to use their gifts. Wolves have nothing that ordinary magic wants... If he's using magic it isn't like mine.... It's something much worse." Eric swallows. Ryker shudders, obviously understanding the terrible truth he'd just dropped.

"What does this have to do with Andy?!" Dad exclaims. I bite my lip. Eric briefly flicks his eyes over to my dad before continuing on. "Her captor is a wolf, but not. A man, but not. Basically... he must have given himself completely to black magic. And it's going to make it a lot harder to stop him."

"Do you know who took her?" Dad roars, getting fed up. Ryker grabs his shoulder. 'It was Blake." Rowan, Dad and Pop all gasp.

Eric rubs his hands over his face. "That's not the worst part..." We turn back to him.

"Then what..." Ryker thunders, "Is the worst part?"

"Blake came back to my shop a few years ago.. I didn't know his name, or who he was... He just said he was looking for me to do him a favour."

"What favour?"

"He... he wanted me to fake a spell. A vision, for the future." I frown.

"Why?" "He was leading a man to me... and he wanted me to convince him that Blake was his mate." Ryker growls and leans forwards, closing the distance between him and Eric. Eric's breathing becomes uneven again.

"Who was he leading to you?" Ryker rumbles. Eric wets his bottom lip again.

"His name was Seth." Ryker pulls back and let's his eyes drift shut- obviously attempting to keep himself centered. He hauls in a deep breath, waits four beats, and then lets it out again. He repeats this four more times before his eyes pop open again.

"Did you do it?" He spits. "I did..." Ryker turns and walks up to the nearest tree. His fist flies into it so hard the trunk splinters. He turns and walks back.

"What happened?" He growls. Eric lowers his eyes to the floor.

"Blake came into the shop and told me that I was either going to do him this favour or he was going to tear me limb from limb... From the crazy look in his eye I believed him. He told me that a man named Seth was going to be coming to the shop later that day, and when he got there I had to do whatever it took to convince him that Blake was meant for him. I agreed, and he left. A couple hours later Seth came to me and wanted help finding his mate-" Ryker growls. "I did what Blake asked and showed him visions of the two of them together, flicking between different images of Blake's face." Eric pauses for a second too long. Ryker growls. "And then what?"

"He left! He said thank you, gave me a twenty and took off!"

"And you never saw him again?" Eric bites his lip.
"He... he came back a few days later..."
"Why?" Ryker spits.
"He wanted to know if I was sure... because he said that Blake was too weak... Told me that he'd followed Blake and didn't think he was meant for him, because he was barely human..."

"How?"

"I don't know. I swear I don't know. I freaked out and thought Blake was going to come back, so I told him he was wrong, and that Blake Wasn't human, and that he had to trust that he would show him the truth. I told him that Blake had all of the answers, if he would give him a chance.. I just wanted him to leave me alone! I was worried that if he didn't believe me and go after Blake, then he would come back and kill me!"

Ryker growls again before grabbing the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger.

"Do you realize," he pauses to suck in a deep breath, "that Seth picked Andy-" his voice breaks on her name and he pauses again to breathe, "because you told him all of that?"

"I didn't I swear!" Eric whispers. "I follow the rules- stay away from the powerful magic because it eats at you, stick to the laws set out by the treaty, keep my nose clean! I gave up that life when the price became too much! I didn't know who he was... didn't know what he was planning! I had no idea what I said would do anything other than make him leave my shop!" He shakes his head. "I never wanted anyone to get hurt."

"Blake led him to her... And now he's drawn her back to him." Ryker whispers. His voice is so low I can barely make out the words.

"Why didn't you tell us any of this sooner?" Pop growls.

"I didn't know! He never told me his name, and I never saw them together... until you guys hauled me over here looking for answers about the magic! I had no idea that Andy was related to the man that came into my shop! I didn't even know who he was! I only figured it out when it leapt off of the walls and into my bloodstream!" I frown.

"What leapt off the wall?" I question, remembering the black sludge-the catalyst for his realization. He swallows, pain lancing into his eyes for the briefest second.

"Leftover magic, seeking a home. It must have dropped out of him while they were fighting- it contained a snapshot of what happened."

"You saw them?" I whisper. He grimaces. "Briefly."

Ryker storms back over from where he'd paced away.

"What happened?" He growls. Eric winces. "He had her by the throat. That's all that I saw."

"Was she alive?" He roars. Eric wets his lip and ducks his head. "I think so. She seemed to be clutching his hand." Ryker growls again but steps back away from the wincing witch.

"If he's working for Seth, he would have brought her to him." Rowan whispers. I don't know if he means to reassure Ryker that she's alive, or stroke his anger further. Either way, it works.

Ryker straightens his spine. "Where would he have taken her?" I shrug and turn to my dad. He sighs.

"My moneys on the last place that they were together...." he murmurs. Ryker growls. "The factory has been demolished. It will take hours to search the grounds for whatever hole they're hiding in!"

"And there's the added challenge of the magic that obviously obscures our senses..." I whisper, not really wanting to say the words.

"We just have to find the entrance." Dad promises. "Once we have a way in, we'll be able to search, even if Blake is blurring them."

"How do we do that?" I whisper. My heart is aching for Andy. She must be so scared...

"We call in the cavalry." Dad rumbles, already pulling out his phone.

"Ajax? It's Ben."

--------------------------------------------------------------

It takes us a day and a half, but eventually we find the entrance to hell. Blake is, evidently, using magic to block our search, so instead of using our senses we have to spread out and search every square inch of the 15 acre lot.

The small steel hatch ends up being in the centre of the cleared lot. Once we know it's there, it takes three of us to rip it open.

Ryker and Kelly are the first ones down the hatch.

Ryker had abandoned his human form long ago, preferring to search in wolf form. I worry that he will never be able to return to being human, but try to keep those thoughts to myself- his anger at the situation would not be helped by my negativity.

Underground, it's a series of mazes. We strain our ears, our noses, our eyes... but we can't find any hints of which direction to go. I follow blindly behind my brother, hoping that his connection with Andy is leading us in the right direction.

We pass through hallway after hallway- each one identical to the last.

"AHHH!!!!" I hear screaming, echoing through the stone walls. Ryker and I share a look and then we rip around the next corner. It's a dead end, so we backtrack, trying desperately to find our way to Andy.

We run into dad, pop and Rowan around the next corner. They're looking just as frantic as I feel. We turn down the next hallway together. Another dead end.

I pause and shake my head. "It's like a fucking maze. Every time I think I know which way to head, something fucking moves!" I kick at the wall. The stone feels cold against my paw but other than that there's nothing.

"He can't be this powerful!" Rowan grouches. I snarl. "Whatever he is he's fucking dead if he's laid a hand on my best friend." Ryker growls in agreement.

We whirl around the next corner and freeze.
Somehow, we've made it back to the entrance- the fading sunlight flickers down the hole to us.
We turn around and head back into the maze.
Another hour passes. We're slowly losing steam, exhaustion pulling at us as the maze of hallways keeps spinning.

Suddenly, the wall to my right flickers. I stumble. I take three steps back. Cold stone stares back at me. Frowning, I reach out with my nose.

I press my face into the wall, and instead of being stopped by cold stone I can see through to another hallway.

I pull back and the wall flickers again.

"Guys!" I shout in my head. Everyone pauses and turns curious eyes to me. I shove my head back into the wall. "It's a mirage!" I call again. I push through the imaginary wall with no issues, and once I'm on the other side I can see clearly down a new set of hallways- hallways we haven't walked before.

My family and Kelly follow after me. I hear other sets of feet running towards us, and I know that Kelly has alerted her pack of our whereabouts.

Together, we barrel down the hallways. I can smell things now; musty pipes, decaying flesh, and blood- lots of blood. My exhaustion falls away as we all pick up the scent of Andy's blood more prominently.

Ryker pushes past me with ease. When we reach the end of the hallway, he freezes. I skid to a stop behind him, confused. He sniffs the air and I copy him, trying to see what he can.

"Do you guys notice that?" He roughs out, speaking for the first time since giving into his wolf. I inhale again and catch what he means.

Everything is brighter now, has been since we'd stepped through the fake wall. It's like on this side, the magic has lost it's power... With every breath I can catch more scents, and my hearing is slowly increasing- like the volume dial is gently being turned up. Even my eyesight seems sharper, like I've been staring through a sheet up until now.

"Careful," Dad breathes. "We don't know what Blake's game is." Ryker nods his massive head before turning the corner. When we do, I frown.

We're back at the entrance - I can see the light from the steel trap door we'd entered through at the end of the hallway.

I follow quietly behind Ryker as he leads the way back down the hallway. When we reach the end, I realize that there's another new hallway, going the opposite direction. Before now it was blocked from our view, buried behind what I imagine must have been another fake wall.

Ryker continues walking slowly down the new hallway. We all follow silently behind him. Suddenly, he bolts forward. He disappears around the next corner before any of us realize he's even running. He grows further and further away, twisting past turns without slowing. We race after him- I catch the scent that's made him move faster. The decaying scent of death is pouring out, growing stronger iwth each second.

We bolt after him in time to see him shoving his weight into a giant steel door. As it cracks opens the scent of blood increases.

I strain my ears as well as my muscles. I reach the steel door just as Ryker finishes shifting.
He lifts Andy into his arms. I can hear her heart thumping weakly. I shift forms as well and step inside of the room.

The scents of the room are overwhelming. I haul in a breath, but beyond the scent of Andy's blood it's hard to focus on anything when she is barely holding on. Ryker shudders and presses her closer to him.
"We need to get her to a doctor." He rasps. I nod and step out of the way. He runs from the room, heading for safety with his mate clutched tightly in his arms.

My parents bark orders as he heads for the exit. Part of me wants to chase after them, to offer my services to help revive her, but I know that I will likely just get in the way. Instead, I stay put and listen as they all start sprinting out of the maze of hallways.

I survey the room for the first time once I hear him clambering up the steps.

"Oh my god." I whisper. Rowan steps up behind me, also staring at the two broken bodies that lay just beyond our feet.

Blake is in two pieces- his neck still leaking blood from where she's torn his head clean off. He's oozing black gunk as well, and I know that this is the same stuff that had leapt from the walls of his room into Eric. Leftover magic.

I turn next to examine Seth. His body is slumped against the wall, and his wounds are no longer weeping. From the slice on his neck I know he died choking on his blood- much the same as Andy's previous best friend.

"She really did it...." I whisper. A tear races down my face and I can't help the smile. "She really ended it all." I turn to smile at Rowan. He pulls me into his arms and rests his chin on my head.

"Now if she can just come back..." he whispers into my hair. I sniffle, trying to hold back the tears.

"She will." I whisper. I pull back so I can see her dead tormentors. "She's stronger than she looks."

My heart believes the words I'm saying, but nervousness clings to me- there is still a chance she won't pull through. I push those thoughts aside and focus back on the men that had put her in this situation. I can't help myself from kicking both of their sides. Rowan rolls his eyes at me, but I can tell that he also wants to hit them.

"I can't believe she ripped his head off." He whispers. I chuckle and squat down so I can look her brother right in the eyes. "I would have done the same damn thing. He deserved worse.. Acting like he cared for her to her face and then feeding that monster..." Rowan squats down beside me.

"I'm glad she did it, don't get me wrong, but I wish he were still alive when we got here..." I raise my eyebrow at him. "You wanted a piece of him?" "No I wanted to hold him down while Ryker ripped him to pieces." He smiles at me and I laugh.

"Well she got the best of him." "And thank god for that." He whispers. I smile and we both stand up. As we leave the room, I tug the door shut behind us. It clicks as the lock engages.

I can't help the smile as we walk away, leaving the dead men in the hellhole they'd carved out for themselves. Everything feels lighter, and even though Andy hasn't returned to us yet, I know deep inside that she will end up OK. She will fight her way back to us, just like she's been doing since they'd torn her away.
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