Chapter 1: They'll Give Us A Talking To
- They’ll Give Us A Talking To
Valerie tried to keep her emotions in check and her facial expressions to a minimal as her mothers continued to explain the… Current situation.
A partner. They felt she needed a partner to ‘keep her in line’. Why? Because of one damn mishap on Heniae that Darkar had to help her out of. One mishap.
(She could still hear Mother Belladonna berating her for that, reminding her what a stupid and foolish girl she still was. That a witch of her caliber should be better, smarter.)
“Something you wish to say?” Lysslis asked, the greyed witch moving in front of Valerie, tilting her chin up. (Don’t look her in the eyes, don’t look her in the eyes.)
The blonde witch kept her eyes downcast. She didn’t need to look into her mother’s golden eyes. She didn’t need to spill all her insecurities out. Never again. (Especially not with the threat of the crystals always there.)
“I just think it’d be a waste of time for me to try and train up a partner. He’d just slow me down.” She kept her voice level as she searched for partial truths she could give.
“Think about it, I’m effective because of how fast I am and how quick I can be to improvise. How am I supposed to work with some… Fresh-faced wizard out of Coventry?” Valerie asked, stepping away from the trio of witches, her arms crossing over her chest.
Belladonna gave her a look, those golden eyes cutting deep into her core, the air in the room becoming colder and colder. “Find a way to make it work, Valerie. Or we’ll pair you with the Black Circle.”
That had the younger witch’s attention. (No way in hell was she working with Ogron or his ‘brothers’. No way in hell.) “I understand, Mothers. I’ll make sure to play nice with my new partner.” She reluctantly agreed.
“Good girl.” Tharma chuckled. “And who knows, maybe you’ll get along.”
Valerie forced a smile. “We’ll see.” She gave a bow to them, turning on her heels to leave the room.
She walked into the commissary, looking the tables over. Darkar and Mandragora were enjoying each other’s company. The Black Circle were cackling about something… And…
There he was. Salvador Sylvane. A strong wizard in his own right, though his focus was mostly on potions and medical practices rather than combat. (And one of her few male friends. Or at least, one of the few who wasn’t interested in her or what she could do.)
Valerie gave her usual smile, taking a seat next to him. “Salvador… It’s been a while. How’re things with Aro?” She asked, placing her cheek against her hand.
The wizard raised an eyebrow, tilting his head. His amber eyes searched her blue ones, a question on his mind. “We’re going great. Things honestly couldn’t be better.” He flashed one of his own signature smiles. “But I’d rather talk about whatever the real reason you’re here is.”
Her smile dropped and she gave a groan. “Okay… So because of my… Mishap this month… I’ve been assigned a partner. And I’m trying to figure out what I’m getting pushed into.”
“And that’s where I come in because of my sparkling personality and my innate need to know everyone and anyone?” Salvador asked, chuckling and pushing back loose strands of his purple hair.
He kept it long and braided back, but it tended to come undone throughout the day. (Aro’s fault, most likely.)
Valerie gave a slight smile. “Actually it’s because you know this… Wizard really well…” She paused, raising up a bit so she could look him in the eyes. “It’s your little brother. Apparently Zatura vouched for him and he has someone managed to impress my mothers despite never having actually met him… So… Anything you can tell me about him would be great.”
Salvador’s face seemed to drop, his eyes widening at the news. “My little brother? Your partner?” He started to laugh, almost going into a coughing fit as he reached for his water bottle. “Oh Dragons… It’s a match made in hell.”
Valerie glared, snapping her fingers to start a small ember. “Salvador, now is not the time.” She snipped, watching as the wizard slowly stopped laughing. “I get it, my torture is amusing. But I’d like to know what I’m dealing with!”
“I’m sorry. I am… It’s just…” He paused, as if trying to find the words. “My brother is a strategist and a bookworm. He’s an… ‘I told you so’ kind of guy. And you… Your approach is more… Improv and ‘let’s see how this goes’.”
She swore. “Great. So basically he’s a male Lysslis? Fan-fucking-tastic.” Salvador hummed.
“He’s not as… Manipulative or… Hypnotic as Lysslis… But he does have a similar personality.” Salvador gave a smile. “You know what? It could be good for the two of you. You could get him out of his head and he could help you hone your leadership skills.”
Valerie gave him a look. “Please… Do not try to get me to look on the bright side of things. I’m currently in mourning for my independence.” Salvador chuckled, shaking his head.
“And you call me a drama queen.”
“You’re not my type.” Salvador smirked, pissing the witch off further. She glowered at him, letting her eyes flash red for a moment. His smile dropped and his hands came up into a defensive position. “Hey… I’m just saying. It’s not that you’re not a beautiful witch… But women just aren’t my thing.” Ass.
Valerie waited on the transport bus to teleport in, leaning against one of the pillars and watching the people come and go.
Freyos was a popular dark realm, known for its ruins and museums. A perfect place for scholars and those interested in the history of Dark Magic. (And a great realm for the Coven to have a base at, since the sovereigns in charge didn’t ask questions.)
“The trip from Rancor has completed. Please exit in a timely manner.” The Pager chimed up, the doors opening.
She raised her head, watching for her partner to show up.
“Valerie?” She heard an unsure, but definitely masculine voice ask from behind her. She turned quickly, swearing inwardly.
This was not what she expected. A wizard who was taller than her (even while she was in her heels) stood before her, with purple hair that tried to cover his eyes. (Amber. No. Gold. Very much so golden. Hidden behind black frames.)
He wore a dark purple suit, complete with a tie and… (Why wasn’t she warned? Why didn’t Salvador fucking warn her?) “Griffin?” She asked, making sure she had the right guy.
The wizard gave a bit of a smile and nod. “Right.” He seemed to be giving her a once over, shaking his head. “Not exactly what I expected for the witch who claims to have the Dark Dragon Fire.”
Now that had her inner flame going. “You’re not exactly what I was expecting either, Partner. But here we are.” She snipped, crossing her arms. He chuckled, pushing his glasses back.
“I guess we’ll just have to keep surprising each other.” His eyes glanced around the town, taking it in.
(Intense. Like he was trying to commit it to memory.)
“Grab your bags and let’s go… I’m supposed to make sure you’re settled in at our home base and then we report to-”
“To Mistress Belladonna for our first mission. Though I think she referred to it as an ‘ice breaker’.” Griffin gave that wry smile, one that was similar to his brother’s. “That sounds like the start of a bad joke, doesn’t it?”
Valerie felt herself smile at that. (Yeah. That was a bad pun on her mother’s part, but she was never known for her humor…) “Depending on the mission, I’m sure it will make for one.”
Chapter 2: Walls of Insincerity
Song: Enchanted by Taylor Swift because why not?
- Walls of Insincerity
“Are you sure there was no one else who could pull this off? Someone who’d make this more believable. Like, I don’t know, the real power couple that is Lord Darkar and Lady Mandragora?” Griffin glowered, hands fidgeting with his tie and suit jacket.
It wasn’t much different from what the wizard normally wore, but for this mission it was more… Formal than the way he typically wore the clothing. (Loose enough to lose if need be, but easy enough to fix up for just these sort of occasions.)
Valerie, on the other hand, had far more to complain about. Her blonde locks had to be curled just right and she had to actually be fitted for a ball gown. (Red and laced and why the fuck couldn’t Mandragora and Darkar do this mission?)
She wouldn’t even start on the damn heels or the opal necklace she had to wear. Not right now anyway. “Look… The sooner we get in and scope out the place, the sooner we get grab the Scroll of Armeiea, the sooner we can go back to wearing comfortable clothes.” She walked over to the wizard, moving his hands away from the tie so she could fix it back.
“There. We have to look the part, Dear. After all, we’d hate to cause a scene in front of the Lunaris Council.” Valerie kept her voice cool and even, letting her hand trail down to fit into his.
A perfect fit. But she couldn’t think of that. This was a mission. Pure and simple.
“Look at you, finally deciding to play your part.” He teased, free hand tilting her chin up to look him in the eyes.
Golden and full of laughter. Valerie shook her head, fighting a smile. “Let’s just get this over with…. You can dance, right?”
“It’s an unfortunate skill set that I do have… You can thank my brother.” Griffin squeezed her hand. “Now, I’m fairly certain we should get a move on… We don’t want to be late.”
“What was that quote from the movie we watched last night? ‘A queen is never late, everyone else is just early’?” Valerie chuckled, letting him escort her out of the room they’d ‘borrowed’.
Griffin just shook his head, trying to fight back a laugh as they headed for the palace. (And for the Scroll.)
The wizard had managed to convince the guards they were allowed inside, his arm around her as they walked into the ballroom.
Royals and soldiers, fairies and witches and heroes… All together in one room. Dancing and laughing as if there was nothing to worry about, as if they weren’t about to lose the most valuable magical treasure they had.
Valerie couldn’t help but smile, watching as the lambs danced on, unaware of the lions in the room. Part of her wondered though… What it would be like to not have to worry about anything for one night. How amazing it must feel to be allowed to stay clueless.
“So how do you want to play this?” She whispered, turning to Griffin and taking his hands in hers. “The tried and true ‘we need a room’ routine or the ‘I think my necklace got stolen’ routine?”
Griffin was scanning the crowd, amber eyes studying the room so intensely, she wondered briefly what it would be like to have that focus on her. Mission. She had a mission to do. A scroll to steal.
“We may not want to jump into anything yet. Let’s play it safe and observe the party. If we play our cards right, the guards may end up having to deal with a roomful of drunks and they won’t notice if we were to slip into the library.” His gaze turned to watch the servers, all carrying trays of champagne or wine.
Valerie hummed. “We could get the party started… Maybe add a little something extra to the drinks? Such as a sleeping potion?” She asked, pulling him close by the tie. (She was keeping up appearances, letting herself fall into him as the guards and a few of the guests observed.)
Griffin held her close, shaking his head despite the smile on his lips. “Only if you think it’ll work, dear. But I’m fairly certain the band here wouldn’t know our song.” Griffin spoke just loud enough for their conversation to not arouse suspicion, taking her hand in his, and giving it a slight squeeze. (She had the vial in her hand now, letting it slip into her pocket dimension.)
“You never know. I can be just that charming.” She gave a grin and a wink, slinking off away from him. She did her best to blend in with the crowd as she subtly followed the servers. She just had to get the potion into the drinks. Easy enough…
Valerie made her way back to Griffin, pausing when she noticed some Lunarian girl trying to coax him into a dance.
Now that just won’t do…
The witch gave one her brightest smiles, keeping her flames just below the surface of her skin as she walked over to the two, wrapping her arms around the wizard and laying her head on his shoulder. “Darling,” she purred, keeping her eyes on him, ignoring the other girl completely, “I do believe they’re playing our song.”
She slid her hand into his, already tugging him to the dance floor. (She fought the urge to smirk at the Lunarian when one hand wrapped around her waist, the other keeping a firm hold on her hand.)
“You know, you didn’t have to be so cruel.” He teased, amber eyes holding her blues. She rolled her eyes and gave a huff.
“I was just trying to save you from a situation you so obviously seemed disinterested in.” Valerie played it off, keeping her eyes on the rest of the room. “Our little plan seems to be going well.” She murmured, leaning in as if she were kissing his cheek. “Some of the guests are already appearing to get sleepy.”
“I can see the guards getting a bit drowsy themselves… Seems they’ve been drinking too.” He whispered back. “Give it a little more time… And then we’ll find the library.”
“And come back here and play the part of drugged citizens?” Valerie chuckled.
“Of course. It would look bad if we didn’t get robbed too.” His eyes flicked to her necklace. “And I already have an idea of who our robber should be.”
Valerie gave a smile. “Do tell.”
The police didn’t take long to arrive after the call had been issued. Several guests, including Valerie, reported jewelry and money stolen while they had been served drinks laced with some sort of sleeping potion.
She almost felt bad, watching as the chef of the party was loaded into the police van, screaming about his innocence. (But no one believed him. How could they? He was found with all the missing items and the only one who could have tainted the drinks.)
Griffin slid his hand into hers. “Ready to head back, Dear? I know it’s been such a stressful night for you.” He played up the part of a concerned husband, giving her hand a squeeze.
She gave a nod, leaning into him. “I just can’t believe he would do such a thing… Who drugs party guests to steal from them?” She played her role too, you never knew who was listening in.
“I guess he felt he had no choice.”
“So what was so important about the Scroll of Armeiea anyway?” Valerie asked, coming out of the bathroom.
She was in her pajamas. A simple tank top and a pair of (short) shorts. (She ran hot and didn’t see a need to add to her suffering when she slept.) Her hair was up in a messy bun, still slightly damp from the shower.
Griffin was poring over the scroll on the floor of the room they were sharing. Because it would look weird for a married couple to need separate rooms or separate beds. (Damn Mandragora and Darkar.)
He was still in the suit, though the jacket and tie were on one of the chairs in the kitchenette, neatly tucked away. He’s such a Type A wizard…
“Griffin. The scroll. What’s important about it?” She asked again, moving to sit on the couch, nudging his back with her foot.
The wizard sighed, exasperated with her now. “I’ll tell you everything you need to know once I’ve translated it.”
“What language is it in? I might be able to help speed things along.” She got to the floor with him, putting herself close enough to see the scroll. The words seemed to run together, characters instead of letters. And… Musical notes? What were… Shit. “Damn… I think this is in Melodian…”
“That a problem?” Griffin asked, a hint of amusement in his voice. She turned her head to him, glowering.
“The only problem is how much of a pain it’s going to be to translate.” Valerie rolled the scroll back up. “Which we won’t be able to do without some sort of musical instrument.”
Griffin groaned, laying back on the floor. “Which means we’ll have to wait until we make it back to Obsidian… Think our Icy Mistress will be pissed at us?”
Valerie shrugged, getting out of the floor. “We got the scroll and we didn’t raise suspicion. I don’t see how she could be angry with us for doing what we were told.” She let out a yawn and stretched her arms. “So who takes the couch?”
Griffin raised his hand up a bit. “I will considering I’m used to it.” He rose up, giving a bit of a sheepish grin. “I’ve practically turned the one in the library into my bed.”
Valerie shook her head, pinching the bridge of her nose. “What the hell, Griffin? Do you know how bad that is for you? I mean… Once in a while is one thing… But every night?”
“Can I help it if my research has me up at odd hours?”
“When we get back… You and I are going to have a long talk about self-care habits. I refuse to have my partner die on me because they can’t take care of themselves.” Griffin laughed as he got to the couch, shaking his head.
Valerie glowered, crossing her arms. “And just what’s so funny? I’m being serious, Griffin.”
“I know you are. I know.” He calmed down, giving a bit of a lop-sided smile. “It’s just funny. You absolutely hated me a few months ago, and now you care about my health?”
Valerie flushed, keeping her glare. “I still don’t like you having to hang around me. But I’ve about broken you in and I’d hate to have to train another doe-eyed wizard.”
Griffin gave a smirk. “Whatever you say, Valerie. Whatever you say.”
She tossed a pillow at him, doing her best to keep her flames to herself (and to ignore how her name sounded when he teased her). “Shut up and get some damn sleep before I spell you.” She snipped, heading over to the bed.
“Good night, Partner.” One last taunt. But she’d let him have it. (Tonight. Tomorrow, once back at home, she was going to give him hell in training.)
Chapter 3: Like We're Going To War
Song: Maroon 5's One More Night
- Like We’re Going To War
Griffin dodged the fiery blasts, casting his shield in an effort to protect himself just in case. A melodic laugh had him wanting to growl. (Of course she found this amusing. Valerie was known for having a twisted sense of humor.)
“What’s the matter, Griffin? Too hot to handle?” She teased, more flaming orbs surrounding her.
“Boasting before you’ve actually won a battle is unbecoming.” Griffin retorted, teleporting quickly. Closer and closer, making her unsure of which way to fire.
Good. He was getting her off-balance. Just what he needed.
He ended up materializing right behind her, forcing her down with an icy spell that Mistress Belladonna had taught him. (And that he had the scar for on his side.) “I think you should chill out.”
Valerie rolled over on the ground, sitting up and giving him a look. (Those blue eyes shooting daggers at him, neatly trimmed nails tapping on the floor.) “Please, for the love of the Dragons, tell me you didn’t just use that line?”
Griffin smirked. “What? Are you the only one allowed to make bad jokes? That’s kind of wrong, don’t you think?”
She groaned, getting to her feet. “You’re such a dork.” She stretched her arms out, her tank top riding up a bit.
(Scarred. She had a scar on her side, one that looked like a lightning strike.) He winced when a water bottle hit shoulder, glowering at the culprit.
Valerie, who was sipping from her own. “Something you want to ask me? Considering you keep staring?”
“I was just wondering if you went up against a lightning elemental lately… You have-”
“Scars?” she rolled her eyes, raising her top just enough to show the scar. “Look, when you start training with Tharma, you’ll have plenty of them.” She muttered something under her breath, going toward the wall.
“Now since we’re done with magic training, which congratulations you’re adept at, I say we try a more traditional style of combat.” The witch had too much glee in her voice for it to be anything good.
Griffin swore, taking a swig from his bottle before walking over to where she was. “And just what else are we training for? Hand-to-hand? Because I don’t think I’d feel comfortable hitting a woman.”
Valerie rolled her eyes, before pulling out a sabre. “We’re training with swords.” She kept it close to her, handing him the other sabre. “Don’t worry, we’re not training with real ones yet. I need to make sure you won’t stab yourself.”
He raised an eyebrow at her, curious. “Someone’s stabbed themselves before?” He asked, working on a grip for his sword.
“Yeah. Your brother. And Lady Mandragora.” Valerie hummed. “A few others…” She frowned at him, moving closer.
(In his space. She was in his space. He could see the gray in her eyes, the way her skin seemed to belie the muscles he knew she had to have from training.)
Valerie had her hands on his, moving them over the handle a certain way. “There you go. Now that’s how you hold it. Otherwise you’re going to get it knocked away and you’ll be out of luck.”
She grabbed hers, heading back onto the floor. “Come on. We’ll work on simple techniques and your stance. I can’t have you embarrassing me in a sword fight.” That last part a simple tease.
He shook his head, following her out. “You know, we have magic… Why are we worried about sword fighting?”
The witch gave a scandalized look, her blue eyes widening and mouth in a gasp. “First of all, how dare you judge my hobby? You have your telescopes, I have my swords. Second of all, how fucked do you think you’d be if we happened to be in a situation where we couldn’t or didn’t have our powers?”
Ah… So that’s what this was. A training exercise for ‘just in case’ scenarios. “Okay, point made.” He gave a bow to her. “Teach me, oh wise Witch of the Dragon.” A tease.
The witch shook her head, blonde locks threatening to undo themselves from her ponytail. “Just for that, I’m going to kick your ass.”
How did he get himself into these positions?
One moment, he and Valerie were sparring with magic, the next with swords.
And he was not doing well. At all.
She was faster than him, and her movements deliberate and… Graceful. (Too graceful… He’d have to find out if she did ballet at some point.)
After she had forced his sword from his hand and had him on the ground, her ‘blade’ at his chest, he was glad they weren’t sparring with real swords.
He held his hands over his head, keeping as still as possible while trying to catch his breath. She kept him pinned, but he could tell she needed a breather too.
“Had enough?” She asked.
“I surrender.” He admitted, giving a sigh of relief when she withdrew her sword and sat down beside him. “So… How’d I do for my first time?” He rose up to a sitting position, rolling his shoulder a bit. (Damn he needed his back popped now…)
She gave a laugh, moving over to pat his shoulder a bit. “You did fine… Though we’re going to have to work on you maintaining your stance while gaining speed. You don’t want to leave yourself exposed.”
He took his glasses off, wiping the sweat from his eyes and forehead. “Sounds like a fun time… After a break?”
She gave another laugh, a sound he was starting to endear himself to. (Melodic and breezy, no care in the world.) “A break sounds wonderful. Maybe we should hit the showers and head out to that burger place in town?”
Griffin felt a bemused smile on his lips. “The Great Witch eats burgers like everyone else? I’m shocked.” He gave a laugh and a wince she hit his shoulder.
“Just because I tend to prefer the finer things, doesn’t mean I don’t get cravings for an old fashioned burger and fries.” She gave a low groan. “And milkshakes… I love those milkshakes.”
“And you have a sweet-tooth? Incredible.” He teased. She flipped him off, getting to her feet.
“Laugh all you want, Sylvane. But I’m not going to feel bad about my food choices today. We worked hard, we get a reward. And I’ll be damned if I don’t get that mint chocolate milkshake.” She grabbed her bag and swords.
He stood, going over to help her put everything away. “I could use a fudge one myself… A few indulgences can’t be that bad.” He grabbed his bag, looking to her. “Meet in the dining room after we shower?”
“Sounds like a plan.” She gave a smirk. “And because you lost that last round, you’re buying.” She laughed, making her way out before he could even protest.
He couldn’t help but smile and laugh, his head shaking. Valerie always had to get the last word. Always.
Chapter 4: Take A Bite Of My Heart
Song: Animal by Neon Trees
- Take A Bite Of My Heart
He hated this part of the job. He hated watching her flounce around and give those teasing smiles to those who most likely did nothing to deserve them. He hated how they seemed to ignore he was there, ready to strike them down at a moment’s notice.
Not that he was jealous. Griffin didn’t do jealousy. And it wasn’t as if he and Valerie were anything other than work partners. (Maybe friends…?)
But it didn’t sit right with him; her using her sexuality and the guards’ stupidity to get the scrolls and artifacts they wanted. It made things too easy, too simple. And far too nasty if things went south, like it appeared to be going now.
One of the guards grabbed Valerie’s wrist, the other coming to tug at her jacket. She flashed Griffin one of her wry smiles and the screams about being burned alive came through.
He swore, jumping into action and blowing his cover in the shadows, testing out his duplication spell to confuse the other guards.
She was already fired up, flaming orbs going in multiple directions as she stole a sword off the nearest guard, taking her stance.
“See Griffin? I told you this was going to be a fun mission!” She laughed, effortlessly as if she were only breathing, despite having to cast and recast spells at a moments’ notice.
The wizard just rolled his eyes, dodging one of the lunging guards and getting him to attack his own teammate. “Oh yes, Valerie. This is just oodles of fun. I’m practically giddy.” He deadpanned, casting a shield over her when a different guard came out from the shadows.
“Oodles? Who the hell says ‘oodles’?” She teased, fighting her way closer to him.
“Apparently I do.” He snipped at her, taking her hand. “Convergence?”
“Let’s show these losers who they’re dealing with.” Valerie gave that grin, one of pure confidence and mischief.
Griffin nodded, keeping her hand in his as they felt for their magic.
Her inner flames threatened to consume him and burn him, licking their way into his veins and his very being. But all he felt was warmth as his magic mingled with hers. The energy he’d taken from the realm wrapped around the flames, igniting them to brighter and hotter magnitudes.
The flames dispersed, the guards were down, completely unconscious or… Or dead. And there was a witch and a wizard, trying to catch their breath before they left for the vaults…
Griffin had his nose buried in one of the books they’d… Borrowed… From their last mission. A journal written by an archaeologist, one who’s studies led them to Earth.
(A fascinating find really, even if nothing came from this particular work. Earth and its lore always had Griffin wondering. After all, a whole realm without magic that still seemed to survive on its own? The odds were astronomical.)
He had just gotten passed the portion that covered a part of the world called “Egypt”, a place that seemed to still hold some magical properties, when the book found itself on the floor.
Instead, Griffin now had a blonde witch with a smug look on her face in his lap. “What the hell, Valerie?!” He snipped, ignoring the way she seemed to purposefully rub against him as she raised up.
“I had to get your attention somehow, Bookworm. You were so engrossed in that tacky journal that you didn’t hear me calling for you. Three times.” She held up the fingers as if to prove her point, her head tilted to the side as if trying to figure out why he was so upset.
(They were partners. Work partners. Nothing more, nothing less. So why, of all the things she could have done to get his attention, did she see the point in getting his lap?)
“I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, Valerie, but popping up randomly on my lap, isn’t okay.” He furrowed his brows as he frowned, feeling like he was talking to a child instead of a grown woman. (A woman the same age as his older brother, might he add.)
Valerie rolled her eyes and made a show of getting off of him, blonde locks twirling just so as she shifted on him to stand up and away. “I’m so sorry I offended your sense of ‘personal space’.” She wasn’t sorry. He could tell it her in voice and the way her nose crinkled a bit.
He growled, pinching the bridge of his nose and trying to focus on something other than how cold his lap suddenly was. “What was so damn important anyway? Did we get another mission call?”
She grinned, a Cheshire cat smile that seemed to light up her eyes. “Not exactly… But I am going out and thought maybe you should come with.”
“Parties aren’t my scene.” He reminded her. “And I’m not into shady-ass bars or the even shadier night clubs.”
“Oh come on, Griffin… You need to get out more than just for missions. Get to know the locals. Have an adventure outside of those stories you love so much.” Suddenly the witch was close to him again, her hand tilting his chin up so he’d look her in the eyes.
“Write your own story for once.” She teased. “Besides, I’d hate to go by myself… Mandragora and Zatura are on mission, Darkar is dealing with a crisis on ShadowHaunt and your brother is having ‘date night’ with Aro… So please… Indulge me?”
She feigned a pout, her eyes searching his, lips puffed just a bit.
Dammit. Dammit. Dammit.
“I’m going to regret this… Aren’t I?” He resigned himself to going, knowing there was no way out of it. At least, not if he wanted to be able to read in peace again…
He hated the nightlife. Everyone either smelled of booze or smokes (or both) and they all tended to want just cheap thrills and cheaper sex.
Not his scene, not his lifestyle.
But he was here for Valerie. Because she’d asked him. Because he let himself be swayed by a pout and ocean eyes. (He cursed her mentally, wondering if she’d put a spell on him to make him comply.)
(He knew she didn’t, she didn’t need to spell him. All she ever had to do was ask… Damn his weaknesses.)
He nursed his drink, keeping his eyes on Valerie and the other witch she swindling at the pool table. Griffin shook his head, feeling a bit sorry for the unsuspecting woman. Valerie had sticky fingers and a knack for taking things she shouldn’t…
“Pay up, Griffin. That makes three and I’m still in the clear.” The witch snickered as she sashayed over, flashing the newest wallet at him.
The wizard rolled his eyes, but paid up nonetheless. “Just remember to give them back.” She gave a smile.
“I’ll give the wallets back. Don’t worry.”
“The money too, Valerie.” He specified. (Last time she’d kept the money, citing that he didn’t say she couldn’t keep it.)
She pouted at him, crossing her arms. “Fine. If you want to be that way.” The song changed and that grin returned. (More trouble for him.)
“Griffin, let’s dance.” She purred, placing a hand on his wrist and leaning against him. “Please?”
He sighed. “I don’t dance.”
“Just one song. For me?” Damn it. Why couldn’t he keep a firm ‘no’ on hand for her? Why couldn’t he deny her?
He could. A simple but firm ‘no’.
But those eyes looked into his, blue melding into the amber… And he knew he was in trouble.
Valerie had him on the floor, an arm around her waist and a hand in hers, swaying in time with the music. (This he could paint into his mind to keep forever, this was a moment he’d always smile about.)
Chapter 5: Help Me Break The Walls That Surround Me
Song: Walk That Line by Lucinda Barry
- Help Me Break The Walls That Surround Me
Valerie held back her snickers as she watched Griffin set up in the backyard of their safe house.
Telescopes and sensors, a picnic dinner and candles. And one very excited wizard setting up to watch the sky. “I still don’t think I understand what all the fuss is about. A meteor shower doesn’t exactly sound like fun.” She teased.
Griffin’s back straightened as he whirred around to face her, arms crossed and a look of shock on his face. “You want to know what makes this ‘meteor shower’ so important, Valerie?” He asked, that weirdly… Intoxicating but serious tone in his voice.
Here we go.
“Do tell.” She rolled her eyes, taking a seat on the blanket. “Enlighten me, Professor.” She taunted. He frowned, that pouty lip seeming even poutier.
“This specific phenomena only happens once every thousand years. It’s a breathtaking sight of how the light of the stars and the darkness of space co-exist and bring forth a whole new spectrum of wonder and magic.” Griffin explained, studying her carefully.
Valerie smirked. “So this has to do with your research into dark and light magic and the balance of things?” She tilted her head. “Which, don’t get me wrong, sounds incredible, it really does… But this still isn’t my idea of a good time.”
Griffin seemed to pause and shake his head, his left hand going to push his glasses back up. “Doesn’t have to be. I just thought you’d appreciate your own connection to this particular event.”
The witch perked up at that, pulling her knees up to her chest. “What do you mean by that?”
“This meteor shower is going to bring forth the exact same energy spike that allowed the Great Dragons to be born and create the Magical Dimension. If my hunch is correct, you being out here and exposed to the shower could give you a bit of a power increase.”
Valerie hummed, rising to her feet. “Which way are we looking?” She asked, gesturing to the telescope. “South, east, west, or north?”
“Allow me.” Griffin gave a smile, going back to the telescope to make some adjustments, taking glances at his notes as he did so.
There was still an hour before the shower would strike around Freyos, giving the duo time to look at the rest of the night sky.
Dazzling starlight, enhanced purely by the clearness of the sky and the silence of night. And Griffin…
Valerie couldn’t stop herself from getting lost in his stories as he pointed out each constellation, telling who or what they were, the significance of them. Their stories, what they could bring out in people born under their watch.
(She’d heard them before in her studies, but never in such a lively way… And never with so much care and awe.)
“I think you should know the story of the Dragons though… All things considered.” He paused, gesturing to constellations toward the east. Two dragons curled in position around the dimension, the watchers of all.
She gave a little laugh from where she’d been laying on the blanket, raising to sit up and look at Griffin. Well… His silhouette anyway. “Where did you learn all of this anyway? Did Coventry Academy have a special astronomy class or something?”
The wizard chuckled, his hands waving to keep the candles from blowing out in the autumn air.
“Something like that…” His voice sounded far away, saddened. “My father was… I’d say fascinated, but my brother would say obsessed…. He was… In love with the stars and the planets and the power they had.”
“He instilled that if you could understand the sky and read its warnings or messages, you’d never have to worry about what tomorrow would bring. You’d always be prepared.” She could see a flash of his smile in the candle light, one that seemed to be tinged with sadness.
“I take that you took that lesson to heart?” She asked, keeping her voice low.
“I did… And it’s served me well.” His head tilted up, watching the stars. “The possibilities and the stories the sky hold? They’re limitless… It’s all a matter of if you’re willing to pay attention.”
Valerie moved a bit, getting close enough to the wizard to place a hand on his. “Any chance you’d be willing to teach me?” She gave his hand a squeeze. She was serious about wanting to learn.
(It would be one lesson she’d love to be part of. One that had promise of not being boring or used as a way to train her.)
The witch bit her lip, feeling him squeeze back. “I’d love to. It’d be nice to have someone to watch with… Other than my brother.” That last bit was said with a half-laugh, as if trying to keep some other emotion at bay.
He started to stand, dusting off his pants. “Come on… The shower’ll start any minute now. We should get ready.”
“Right.” She got to her feet, moving to the telescopes, ready to see these meteors for herself…
Griffin was right.
This was breathtaking. Magical. Incredible.
She could sense the shower before it even began, the atmosphere changing as the meteors approached.
It was like little flames ignited around the realm, a warmth unlike any other began to engulf her.
Power. She could feel her inner flames becoming warmer and warmer, almost scorching. But she never cried out, never felt pain.
The shower itself?
The meteors fell across the sky, seemingly in a race with one another. Who could touch ground first? Who could burn brightest?
Dazzling and beautiful and almost too much…
He stayed at her side, keeping her grounded when she tried to follow the burning orbs. He didn’t want her to get too caught up, to lose herself in the feelings.
She turned to him, wrapping her arms around him before she could think twice about it. “That was… I can’t….”
Griffin held her, amber eyes fixated on her, watching over her. She could barely register the spell he was casting, an aromagic calming spell. To keep her grounded.
Anchor. He was anchoring her. “Griffin… Thank you.” She found herself murmuring, allowing him to support her.
She could just barely hear his response, his grip tightening on her. “Anything you need, Valerie.”
Chapter 6: I'll Never Be Her
Song: I Hate U I Love U by Gnash
(I know. I know. But this song is just... It's a guilty pleasure song.)
- I’ll Never Be Her
“That’s not fair Griffin!” A feminine voice shouted. An unfamiliar feminine voice. “Why can’t you see this is wrong?!”
“Because I know what I’m standing for. Do you?” Griffin’s voice carried, defiant and loud, echoing in the hallways.
They’d gotten separated during the raid. A group of ‘White Knights’ and ‘do-gooders’ had shown up at the temple, ready to defend the scrolls and books.
Unfortunately for them, Valerie was adept at misdirection and dispersion.
But some, like whoever was fighting with Griffin, had slipped through the cracks. It was time to rectify that problem…
She’d arrived in the room they were fighting in. Griffin was holding his own, but the expression he had worried Valerie.
Betrayal. Hurt. Amber eyes wide and confused. Something about that look just sent flames to her hands.
Valerie raised her hands, a wall of fire coming between the-fairy, it was a fairy,- and Griffin, taking her (rightful) place at his side. “And just what have we here, Griffin? A pixie who doesn’t know her place?”
The ‘pixie’ in question glowered until a look of recognition came over her features, anger quickly becoming fear. (Good. She should be afraid.)
Valerie crossed her arms and tilted her head, feeling a smirk on her face. “What’s the matter? Lost your will to fight?”
The fairy turned to Griffin, her eyes wide and her arms coming to wrap around herself. “Griffin… Think about this… This is wrong and you know it. Don’t make this mistake.”
Valerie turned her head to her partner. Anguish and hurt just radiated from him. Confusion thrown in the mix. And pain.
She wanted so badly to ease it, take it away. She knew those feelings well and she didn’t want him to have them.
“The only mistake I made was trusting you.” It was a soft-spoken sentence, his voice sounding as if he were miles away. No emotion behind it. Bland and… Gone.
“Griffin that’s not fair and you know it.” The fairy flew a bit closer, one hand reaching out. “Talk to me.”
She’d been complacent long enough. Valerie raised her hand, focusing on the fairy and the wall of fire she’d created. The flames rose and fell into the other woman, her wings fluttering fast in a futile effort to shield herself.
A hand grasped hers, tight and just this side of painful. “Let her go.” Griffin. Valerie frowned, her concentration ruined as the fairy fell to the ground, her wings and blue dress disappearing into blue jeans and a sweater.
“She’s a pest, Griffin. You know we have to get rid of them.” She turned to face him, yanking her hand away from his.
Ice. Amber eyes had frozen over. “Faragonda’s down. Leave her be.” Her frown deepened, another surge of heat pounding through her body.
“You know her?” She put her hands up. “More to the point, you’re defending her? She and her buddies just tried to stop us from getting the scrolls and spellbooks of Jamao. She was berating you for whatever reason… And you’re defending her?”
Valerie would deny how her voice lilted at the questions, and she’d deny having such a strong reaction to… Whatever was going on here.
But at that moment, she needed answers.
Griffin pinched the bridge of his nose, his body trembling and anger still radiating from him. “I’m not doing this right now… I’m not.” He swallowed. “Look, all I’m doing is repaying a debt I owed her. Nothing more, nothing less.” And with that, he teleported out, leaving her with the scorched mess and an unconscious fairy.
Valerie looked her over, feeling something constrict inside. Petite. Brunette. Soft features. A few bruises here and there on her face and hands, nothing that would distract from the pretty face.
She was cute, Valerie couldn’t deny it. And that made the constricting feel tighten as she left the temple.
(This was going to be hell to explain to her mothers.)
Four days had passed and Griffin still wasn’t talking to her outside of cases or their workload. He’d claimed he was busy, working on power profiles for this “Company of Light” that his friend Faragonda had declared she was part of.
She couldn’t even get him to tell her why that fairy meant so much to him. (She had to be special, Griffin wouldn’t have jeopardized their entire mission if she hadn’t been…)
It was always a fairy… Sweeter and prettier and better and faster and-
Valerie bit her lip. She wouldn’t go down that road. Couldn’t go down it. His choices were his choices and his business was his business…
Of course, if it happened to meddle with their jobs…
The witch had her idea in mind, leaving a little note in the living room for Griffin as she left. (Salvador. She needed to talk to Salvador.)
She knocked on the door to the potions’ lab at the Obsidian Palace, listening carefully as footsteps came to the door.
“Valerie. Glad to see you. Please tell me you’re not placing an order too.” Salvador answered, his coat and gloves covered in some sort of blue substance and his breathing out of sorts. “I’m swamped with orders already, and it’s only Tuesday.”
The witch couldn’t help but chuckle, leaning against the doorframe. “I guess being the best is a pain, huh?” She teased, glancing around the lab.
Purple and blue substances everywhere, potion vials settling to their true colors, different herbs set aside. Salvador’s fellow potionists were doing their best to clean up whatever mess they’d made.
“Something like that.” Salvador sighed. “So… What brings you by if you’re not here for an order?”
“Your brother.” Valerie admitted. “He’s not been himself lately…” She bit her lip. “He’s been more of a hermit in the library than he usually is.”
Salvador gave a low whistle, raising up his goggles. “Look, I’d like to help. I would. But I learned a long time ago not to get between Griffin and Faragonda.”
So Salvador knew her too? Just how important was she to them? (To Griffin?)
“I’m not asking you to get between them. I’m asking for information on who the hell she is, because if she can get into his head…” She swore. “I want to… Be a good partner and help him through whatever the hell is going on here.”
The wizard seemed to be weighing his options, a sigh escaping his lips. “All you need to know is that they were close and then they weren’t and now a lot of unresolved shit is getting tossed around and it’s not something you need to involve yourself with.”
“I’m his partner. I’m already involved.” Valerie glowered. “Anything that happens to him, happens to me. We’re… A package deal.”
He paused, his eyes looking her over and… What was that look? Mirth? Joy? Relief? Or… Teasing?
“Oh, Valerie… Are… You… Nervous? About Faragonda?” The witch frowned, arms crossing.
“Fairies don’t make me nervous, Salvador. I can handle them just fine on my own. I’m focused on my partner here.” She snipped. The wizard gave a snort.
“Oh hell. Right… Jealous then. I mean, I guess I would be too if Aro’s sort of exes showed up.” Salvador hummed. Valerie growled, letting a wave of heat off.
(Jealous? Of a fairy? Not in this lifetime. Wait…)
The witch paused, a realization of what Salvador said hitting her. “An ex? He dated her? That’s what that was about?”
Salvador shook his head, wagging one of his fingers. “Sort of ex… It’s… A complicated and convoluted tale and if he wants to tell you, he can.” He went to put a hand on her shoulder, stopping just short of actually touching her when he remembered the goo on his hands.
“Look, all you need to know is that Faragonda isn’t going to be a problem for you. At all. In any way. Okay?” Salvador spoke slow and steady and… Did he think?
“I’m not into your brother, Salvador. I’m only playing dutiful partner and trying to make sure his head’s clear when we’re on the field.” She snipped.
Salvador chuckled. “Whatever you say, Valerie. Whatever you say.”
Valerie paused when she walked into their home base, taking quick note of the takeout bags and the wizard writing down notes. “Did I miss something?” She asked, standing at the doorway.
“I was just making a few notes until you got in…” He didn’t even look up from his notepad, his free hand gesturing to the bags. “I… Stopped by that burger place in town you like… I figured if we’re going to hash this out, we might as well have comfort food to do it. Milkshakes are in the fridge.”
Warmth spread through her body when she checked the bags and the fridge. Her favorites. He’d remembered…
“What exactly are we hashing out?” She asked, trying to fight the emotion in her voice. He set the pen down, looking up to where she was standing.
“Jamao. And what happened in the temple… It’s not fair for you to try and decipher what happened… We’re a team and we need to have cohesion and the only way to do that is… If you know about Faragonda.”
Valerie paused again, that constricting feeling returning and the warmth leaving. “Let me guess, you love her?” She tried hard to keep venom out of her voice. She really did, but even the thought of that… It made her sick. (Why? He was nothing to her. They were partners. Friends.)
Griffin gave that sort of half-laugh. “Yes and no… I do love her… But I was never in love with her. And… That was one of the many issues we had.”
The witch took a deep breath and took a seat in the chair beside him. “Don’t push yourself into telling me everything unless you want to. I just want to know what I can do to help in case we face her again.”
Griffin nodded, his eyes going downcast. “I know… I know. I want to tell you. It's just... Hard to find the right words.”
She nudged him a bit with her shoulder. “Don't worry about it. We've got all night.”
Chapter 7: You Burn So Bright
Song: Skillet-Watching for Comets
- You Burn So Bright
Something was off. He could feel it in the air, sense it deep within his bones. Something was wrong, and it was going to cut into him until he figured out what it was.
Griffin sighed, setting his notes for a future raid of Solaria aside, raising up from the desk and to his feet.
He closed his eyes, trying to pinpoint where this disturbance seemed to be.
Overwhelming feelings of self-disgust and rage fueled into his being, his magic threatening to come alive to protect him.
So much anger, all of it self-directed. The dark aura seemed to darken more and more, consumed with all of it.
A shaky breath escaped his lips, his hands gripping tightly to the table at his side to keep him upright.
Valerie. No one else could let that much negative energy go in such a small space of time. No one else could have their change in emotions affect others so easily.
But what could have set her off?
(Training. She was training with Mistress Lysslis that afternoon… Something had to have went wrong…)
He took a deep breath and grabbed his bag, packing up for the day so he could start his search for his partner.
She’d yell at him, tell him it wasn’t his place to placate her or to search her out. The witch would be all flames and would truly resemble an angered dragon as she’d tell him to leave her be, that this was her problem.
But she was his partner. He had to be there for her. (Besides, he had to return the favor for her standing by him during the… Faragonda fiasco… Right?)
Now… To find where Valerie had sulked off to…
Griffin kept his movements slow and deliberate, his senses on high alert. He could hear Valerie grunting and swearing, the frustration delving more into her voice.
She was unleashing hell on a training projection courtesy of the monster powder the Coven kept in stock in the training areas.
Flames raged on the battlefield, the smell of smoke and ash nearly overwhelming his lungs. And in the center was an openly angry witch.
Blonde locks had fallen loose from the ponytail she typically kept them in, her jacket and pants cut from whatever creature she was fighting.
Face and eyes red, swollen. (Had she been crying?)
What did they do to her?
He felt his hands clenching into fists, his blunt nails digging into his palms. What did they do?
The flames dispersed, the monster defeated (it appeared to have been a golem of some sort). And Valerie was in the center, kneeling on the ground. He could sense the anger around her, the negativity overwhelming as it circled her.
She didn’t move other than heavy breathing, small flames still coming up around her, as if the battleground was just as angry as she was.
Griffin cautiously made his way over to her, taking a seat on the ground beside her. “Do you want to talk about it?” He kept his voice low and even, soothing. Vaguely, he wondered if he should have started with the aromagic therapy to try and anchor her.
If she needs it…
“What’s there to talk about? I fucked up, I paid a price. It’s pretty cut and dry if you ask me.” She snipped, moving so her knees where to her chest, eyes looking anywhere but at him.
Griffin frowned, tilting his head. “If you fucked up, then so did I. Which is something to talk about.”
Valerie gave a growl. “You didn’t do anything. This was on me.” She opened her palm, a little ember coming to life. “I trained with Mother Lysslis. I thought I followed her instructions to the letter. And I still fucked it up. How does that involve you?”
He watched as the ember became a flame and then a flicker, dying out when she closed her hand. “I’ve never been able to do anything right in their eyes…” The declaration was soft, saddened, and barely above a whisper.
Something snapped inside. He had half a mind to storm into the Mistresses’ chambers, demand they do better.
But he didn’t. Instead he stayed where he was, nudging the witch carefully with his shoulder. “I don’t see how you couldn’t. You’re the strongest witch here, aside from them. Hell, you have the Dragon Fire. You’ve given Marion a run for her crown. You’ve been on the frontlines against the Company.”
“How is that not doing right?” She gave a slight snort, wiping at her face.
“You just have no idea what kind of… Perfectionists they are. Mistakes are deadly. Mistakes are costly.” The way she said those last phrases, almost like they were a mantra, had him worried.
“Valerie.” He kept his voice low. “I don’t know what goes on during your training sessions with them, but I do know how you are on mission, how you are in the real world.” He took her hands in his, an impulse he’d given in to.
“You go out into the frontlines Valerie. You put your life on the line. You find the most inventive ways to get away with the mayhem we cause.”
“Just because they can’t see you for the brilliant, if impulsive, witch that you are, doesn’t mean you’re failing them. Okay?”
“We’re the ones fighting, we’re the ones who take the scrolls and spellbooks, we’re the ones training the new recruits. If they can’t get over the one or two mistakes that get made, then they should do this themselves.” He could feel his face flush as he let her hands go to push his glasses back up.
He knew he could get into trouble, talking blasphemy like that. But Valerie had to hear the truth. She needed to know that mistakes weren’t worth getting so upset over. (As if he were one to talk… But whatever.)
Valerie shook her head, a hint of a smile on lips. “Talking like that could get you killed. You know that right?”
“There are worse ways to go.”
“And better ways.” She half-teased, moving to get to her feet. “Thank you… By the way…”
“What good are partners if they can’t help you see the light?” He teased back, getting to his feet.
The witch shook her head, giving a little laugh. “You’re such a dork.”
“I’ll be here all week.” He gave a mock bow, his lips curving into a smile. (Things were settling back. That feeling of dread had lifted and the balance was back. And her mood was lifted.)
“Just for that, you’re buying dinner.”
“Everyone’s a critic.”
Chapter 8: We Might Burn Like Gasoline and Fire
Song: Glass by Thompson Square
- We Might Burn Like Gasoline and Fire
Griffin swore under his breath, hands clenching tight to the sides of the exam table as Salvador finished up his stitches.
“There… That’s the last of them…” His brother placed a hand on his good shoulder, making him look into those amber eyes they shared. “How’re you feeling?”
“How do you think?” Griffin growled. “Solaria should have been easy. Luna and Radius and the majority of their guards should have been at the expo in Magix.”
Shock had ran through him when he realized they’d walked into an ambush. Luna and her little fairy friends had managed to get the upper hand…
Weapons clashed. Magic was thrown. Energy drained.
All for nothing.
Nothing but imjuries…
“I should have known better… I should have sensed something was off the moment we stepped on the planet.” He shook his head, moving out of his brother’s grasp, head in his hands. “I should have known…”
Salvador clapped his gloved hands loud enough to get Griffin’s attention. “Brother Dear, I know you’re powerful and you’re one hellova tactician, but not even you could have seen this coming. Not unless you’ve got the gift of future sight, which last I checked, you don’t.”
“So don’t be blaming this all on yourself. You and the others got out in time. No one got captured and no one got killed. I consider that a win.”
Griffin felt his stomach twist. The others… He’d almost forgotten…
Mandragora was able to hold her own against the Woodland Elf the Company had recruited, her little pets more than a match for his wild magic.
Zatura unleashed her own fury against Amelia, Saladin’s newest love interest. Some things never changed, and Zatura’s jealousy was one of them.
Acheron and Radius had some sort of ‘wizard off’ going on and Griffin tussled with Luna, giving the Queen of the Radiant Moon something to fear when the lights went out on Solaria.
Which left Valerie with…
Griffin started to stand, wincing at the rush that went through his head. Salvador grabbed him, trying to steady the younger wizard. “And just where the hell do you think you’re going in such a rush?”
“What happened to Valerie?” Griffin asked, fear threatening to seep in. He remembered the witch fighting against Marion, the two Dragon Keepers stirring up a fight powerful enough to energize the rest of their parties with their excess energy…
But he never saw what happened. He never saw her leave the battlefield.
Salvador shook his head, and Griffin felt dread sink deeper. “Salvador. What happened?”
“She’s with Lucinda. Darkar’s pets managed to get her away from Marion and Oritel.” Salvador swore. “It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.”
Griffin glowered. “Oritel was there too? When did he get there?”
“You didn’t see him?”
“No I didn’t see him.” Griffin swore, starting back for the door. “Which room did Lucinda have her in?”
“Griffin, I don’t think you should head out like this.” Salvador took his arm, trying to pull him back. “Trust me, you don’t want to-”
“She’s my partner, Salvador. This was my plan, my raid. And it went south. All of this,” he gestured to the infirmary room they were in, “this is all on me. I screwed up and now they’re all hurt.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Darkar and Neruman came after me for getting Mandragora and Acheron injured. Or if I get called to speak with Mistress Belladonna to… Explain why everything went to Hell.”
Griffin swallowed. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if Valerie asks for a different partner, considering how I dropped the ball on this one. But I still want to see her. I have to know if she’s okay.” His shoulder throbbed from the stitching he needed, his body ached.
He should be resting. He knew that… But there were some things that were more important…
Salvador sighed, looking toward the ceiling. “Room 301. But if Lucinda is in there with her, I’d wait outside. You know how she is about feeling crowded in her workspace.”
Griffin gave a nod, forcing a smile. “I always could count on you, Sal.”
“Just go before I change my mind.” Salvador gave a smile of his own. “And remember to change those bandages twice a day until the stitches come out. We don’t need you bleeding everywhere. That’s how demons get summoned.”
That had the younger brother chuckling and giving Salvador a side hug before he left the room, walking down the infirmary’s halls.
Valerie was on one of the infirmary beds, laying on her stomach. Her jacket and button-up shirt had been removed, her tank top rucked up to reveal the bandages around her middle, mostly covering her back.
Blue-eyes were closed, face contorted into a pained expression. But she was alive, she was breathing.
Griffin let out a sigh of relief, knocking gently on the doorframe before walking in. “How’re you feeling?”
“Like I just got stabbed in the back. Oh wait… I did. By Oritel. Remind me to thank him later.” Valerie seethed, raising up a bit to look at Griffin. “What about you? I heard Luna knocked you down to size.” A half-tease, but he could sense the worry in her tone.
“I’m pretty sure you’ve hit me harder.” He tried to play it off, but not before her eyes caught a glimpse of his shoulder.
She frowned, raising up completely, wincing as she moved.
He lunged forward, tentatively helping her up so she didn’t mess up the stitches in her back. Valerie kept up her frown, one of her calloused fingers going over the stitching on his shoulder. “I’ve never hurt you enough to require stitches.” She gave him a look.
“She could have seriously hurt you.”
“Says the witch who took on the Company’s Dynamic Duo on her own? Who ended up stabbed in the back?” Griffin retorted. She pushed him away, wincing again as the movement pulled on her stitches.
“I did what I had to do.” She growled.
“And you think I didn’t? We all knew what we were signing up for, Valerie. We all knew fighting was part of the deal. But taking on two of the Company’s heavy hitters by yourself isn’t…” He paused, catching himself and trying to calm down.
He was shaky, disoriented. He wasn’t one of the medics, but he knew if Oritel had bared down on his sword any harder, he could have killed Valerie. He could see it easily in his mind's eye.
A witch laid out on the scorched battlefield, a sword through her back. Blonde hair stained red with blood.
“You should have summoned me. Or Darkar. Or someone. You shouldn’t have taken them both.”
The witch snorted. “You were fighting your own battles and Darkar was all the way on Hoggar fucking up the forges.” She looked away from him, her face dropping just a bit.
“I didn’t set out to fight them both. Oritel… Oritel got the jump on me while I was fighting Marion. I had her pinned by the wings and then I felt this… Shooting pain just…” She stopped speaking, the tension in her body dropping.
The façade had disappeared as she shook her head, fingers tapping on her knees. “He could have killed me. Or worse... paralyzed me…” It was as if she’d just realized that possibility, the way her voice shook at the admission.
Two steps forward.
It took two steps forward for Griffin to have her face cupped in his hands, and his lips on hers. He wanted nothing more than to dispel the fear he could sense from her, nothing more than to take away the pain she was feeling in her back.
It took two seconds for Valerie to melt into him, her hands over his.
Griffin pulled away from her, just enough to breathe and speak, his forehead against hers. “He won’t get that close again. I’ll be sure of it.” A vow.
He felt more than he heard her laugh, a breathless sort of thing. “I'll hold you to that, White Knight.”
Chapter 9: I Love How You Tease Me
This chapter is mostly just a 'day in the life' chapter. A simple sort of thing. Nothing major to the plot other than fluff.
Song: Can't Take My Eyes Off You by Lady Antebellum
- I Love How You Tease Me
She couldn’t help the glare she shot his way as he moved his pieces closer to hers. “I’m fairly certain you’re cheating somehow.” Valerie frowned, nose crinkling. Griffin gave a laugh, one of the few genuine ones he gave.
“It’s not cheating when you’re skilled.” He taunted, finishing his move. “Check.” Dammit. How did he see a win already?
“Didn’t think a fake-out was your style, Sylvane.” She moved her knight, sending a smug look his way.
Griffin smirked, moving his pawn and… Taking her King. “Check and mate.” The wizard tilted his head, giving her a moment to process. “You were saying, Val?”
She glowered at the pet name despite the warmth she felt when he said it. “I was saying, you’re a dirty cheat. And I intend to prove it.” She moved out of her seat, disregarding the board as she took a seat in his lap.
He seemed confused, maybe a bit worried. (Probably due to the smirk she was wearing, an idea forming in her mind.)
“I could have you reveal all your little secrets to me… I have been studying under Mother Lysslis longer than you have…” She cupped his face, tilting it up for a kiss that lingered just long enough.
“But I have a feeling you’d be more than willing to tell me everything… Wouldn’t you…?” She whispered, pulling away from his lips. “So tell me, how exactly did you do that?”
“Not by cheating.” The wizard muttered, his voice hitched a bit. (Awe… She did have an effect on him.)
“Would it kill you to take it down a notch?” Griffin asked, half out of breath as their swords clashed.
Valerie smirked, reveling in being more in her element. “Where’s the fun in that?” She taunted, keeping her movements quick and deliberate.
The wizard was getting off center, his stance faltering as she upped the ante. “Don’t be so afraid to strike me back. It may not be me you take on next.” She warned, allowing him to get a little closer.
He struck hard and fast, the jerking nearly forcing her to let go of her sword. “Just like that. Try and disarm me.” She praised, flashing a smile. Genuine.
The movie seemed to drag on and on and it was all Valerie could do to stay awake. Griffin didn’t seem to be fairing much better, his hand waving to turn it off. “That is the last time we take a recommendation from Aro.” He muttered.
Valerie hummed, laying her head back down on his shoulder. “I don’t know, the movie may be just the cure you need for that insomnia…” She half-teased, half-yawned.
Griffin snorted, wrapping his arm back around her. Warm and safe. She closed her eyes, trying to take it in. “Maybe. I have my doubts, though.” He leaned back against the couch, humming. “You know… I do have the complete Hyde monster series… Interested in getting a jump-start into the spirit of Samhain?”
Hmm… Monster movies… Did she want to watch some now or…?
She shook her head, keeping her place against him. “That would require moving and I’m a bit comfortable where I am.”
He gave a laugh, a sound she felt rumble through him than she heard. “I never thought you’d be one to cling so tight.”
Valerie opened one eye, trying her best to shoot a glare. “I’m not doing anything like that. I just happen to take my comfort very seriously.” Griffin chuckled, turning to kiss the top of her head.
“Don’t worry, Valerie, I’ll keep your secret safe.” She jabbed a finger against his ribs, a warning. “Ouch. That wasn’t very nice.” She could hear the pout in his voice.
“Wasn’t trying to be.”
Chapter 10: You're So Close To Me
Song: Again by Flyleaf
- You’re So Close To Me
Valerie kept her head high, her arms behind her back, keeping her stance, back straight. Just as they drilled into her over and over again.
She had an appointment with them. (And honestly she didn’t know why. They couldn’t possibly make her feel worse about the operation than she already did… Could they?)
The doors opened, Valerie’s mothers stepped into the room. “Where do you think we should begin, Valerie?” Belladonna’s voice sneered.
“Oh, I have an idea Sister Dear… Why don’t we start with why this mission failed? Valerie, why don’t you tell us what went wrong?” Tharma growled.
Valerie swallowed and took a deep breath, trying to regulate herself and her emotions. If she lost her cool… Things would be worse. How much worse could they be? Griffin was in the infirmary, injured and… And it was her fault.
“We went to speak with a few witches from Fliate. They had valuable information about the Scrolls of Endao and… We went to investigate it.” She kept her voice leveled, kept her position.
No weakness. She would not fall into her emotions. She would not let them break her. Not this time.
Lysslis walked up to her, a greyed and clawed hand cupping her chin and forcing her head up to look into her golden eyes. “And what became of your mission?”
Valerie kept her breathing level, pulling away slowly. “The original mission was a success. Griffin and I separated to investigate the temple and I found the scrolls. Darkar is looking them over as we speak.”
Tharma shook her head, the air becoming more and more electrified. “That’s not all that happened. Or do we need to bring up the Witch Hunters?”
Valerie glowered. “I didn’t know King Erendor had such an interest in me. At least, not interest enough to attempt to kill me.” Her voice snapped a bit. “And I certainly didn’t know the Company of Light was so interested in the Water Stars.”
And she definitely didn’t know they’d jump Griffin. That they’d keep him for days on end. She still hadn’t caught up on the sleep she’d lost.
“And you lost your partner in the process.” Belladonna shook her head, tsking. “Because of your inability to plan ahead and become aware of your surroundings, one of our lead strategists almost died.”
That had the witch glowering. “You think I don’t know that? I was there.” She sneered. “And I made sure those hunters paid.”
She could still smell their burning flesh. She could hear their screams, see the ashes fall. That part of her unleashed upon them.
A gasp escaped her lips as a chill seeped deep into her veins, dragging her down to her knees. “You’ll watch your tone, Valerie.” Belladonna growled. “Or you’ll wish for the Water Stars.”
Every part of her was frozen, held captive by the ice inside of her. Even her inner flames threatened to flicker out.
A reprieve came when Lysslis pushed her sister’s hand down. “Enough, Bella… We don’t want the poor thing to die of chill. I’m sure she’ll behave.” Lysslis turned to Valerie, a smirk coming to her face as the color and warmth returned to Valerie. “Won’t you?”
The younger witch gave a curt nod, getting to her feet. “I’ll do better. I’ll behave.” She repeated Lysslis’ words, trying to will away the quiver in her voice. Tharma growled.
“I don’t know… She doesn’t sound sincere.” The third sister raised her hand, an electric current running over it. “Perhaps we should make sure she understands the gravity of the situation…?”
She felt herself dozing off in the chair, wrapped nice and warm in one of his Coventry hoodies and a pair of sweatpants. (Normally she’d never be caught wearing something other than her usual suits, but in times like this, comfort overruled decorum and style.)
“Valerie?” Griffin’s voice sounded hoarse and far away, a drowsy noise. Her eyes opened and she turned to him, flashing one of her signature smiles.
“Welcome back to the land of the living.” Valerie teased, moving the chair closer. “How’re you feeling?”
The wizard gave a groan, looking around the room. Amber eyes were unfocused and hazed over. (A result of his injuries… Or from not having his glasses.) He had a bandage wrapped around his forehead, marks around his neck.
Arms were bandaged from his palms to his shoulders, and Valerie heard from Salvador that Griffin had to have his ribs set back in place and his magic needed to replenish.
“Exhausted. Which considering I’ve been doing nothing but sleep the past week has me worried.” Griffin winced a bit, one hand slowly moving to his neck. “Still sore around the throat. Killer headache… But I’m fine.”
Valerie allowed herself a laugh, moving to grab him a glass of water and his glasses. “This should help with some of your problems.”
He gave her one of those lopsided smiles and downed the water, setting the cup down to put his glasses into place. Amber eyes seemed to look her over, a bemused smile on his face. “So we’ve moved to the ‘stealing of the hoodies’ stage?” She rolled her eyes, taking back her seat on the chair.
“Look, I was cold and it was just lying there. I figured you wouldn’t mind.” She shrugged. “Though you are right about one thing: I am stealing it. You’ll never see this again.”
Griffin chuckled, wincing a bit as he glanced to his neck. “It’s a bit big on you, but I guess I’ll allow it.” He extended his hand to her.
Valerie grinned, that warmth returning after it had left for so long. (Finally, finally things were looking up again.)
She took his hand in hers, absently playing with his fingers. “You scared me, you know?” She admitted, wincing at her soft her voice had gotten. “I thought…” She felt his hand squeeze hers.
“I’m fine, Valerie. A little scuffed up, but I’m fine.” He frowned for a moment, studying her hand. “What happened?” His finger trailed a bit of blue skin, the last remaining evidence of the frostbite Belladonna had subjected her to.
“Don’t worry about it.” Valerie answered, quick and to the point. “I heard from Lucinda that you’ll be free to go in time for Samhain. Guess we’ll get to celebrate after all.” She changed the subject, not wanting him to push.
Griffin forced himself to a sitting position, his gaze holding hers. “You know you don’t have to take it, right? You don’t have to be their punching bag.”
He needed to stay quiet. If the wrong person overheard… “Griffin… Please. Drop it.” A plea, something she seldom did.
Griffin frowned, but seemed to relent, his features softening. “Assuming I get to break out of here before Samhain… Just how are you wanting to celebrate? I mean, I’m not exactly religious but I know most of the traditions…”
Valerie felt her lips curl into a smile. “I have a few ideas.”
Chapter 11: You Cast A Spell On Me
Song: Glad You Came by The Wanted
- You Cast A Spell On Me
Griffin absolutely hated these things. But there was no way to get out of it, and there was absolutely no way he was leaving without Valerie.
The Ancestral Witches had made it clear that the Samhain Ball on Obsidian was mandatory. (Something about ‘team bonding’ and ‘celebrating together’. All bullshit if you were to ask Griffin.)
At least he had a few people he could rely on for decent conversation… If they weren’t so busy with each other.
Darkar and Mandragora had been stealing dances and kisses, acting every bit of the power couple that they had become over the last century. If the tales were to be believed anyway…
And Salvador and Aro had been fun to talk to, up until Aro insisted on a dance with the older Sylvane sibling.
He’d shot a few teasing glances to his brother and his boyfriend, trying not to feel a sense of jealousy. (Valerie had to discuss something with her Mothers, leaving Griffin alone for the time being.)
“Any chance I can convince you to share a drink with me?” A familiar voice purred. An actual purr.
Griffin turned and gave a little smile to Kalshara, the former fairy turned wildling offering him a glass. “Not this time. I haven’t forgotten that little stunt you pulled our junior year.” He teased.
The woman shook her head, a bit of a laugh escaping. “Aww… Did I break your trust with that?” She asked, attempting to go for innocent.
“You drugged all of us and then managed to start a game of Truth or Dare that never should have been played.” He reminded her, his tone a bit firmer. He’d been so angry after the potion had worn off, and so were the others involved…
Kalshara shrugged, placing the second glass down before sipping from hers. “It was harmless fun.”
Griffin frowned at that. “Harmless fun? Luna wanted to kill me after Radius had been dared to kiss me. You nearly caused a break-up between Alyssa and Rhodos when you got her to admit she never wanted to get married. And you could have gotten Saladin and Faragonda expelled after getting them to steal Headmistress Mavilla’s grade book.”
The former fairy just laughed, her hands (paws?) cupping her face. “Those were the days…” She purred. “You know… I’ve heard about Faragonda’s new… Company of Light… How have you been doing?”
The wizard glowered, a constricting feeling wrapping around inside of him. “She made her choices. I made mine.” He answered curtly, eyes scanning the room for any potential way out of the conversation.
His gaze softened when he locked eyes with a familiar face. Valerie. (A formally attired Valerie who would most certainly be bitching about the dress and heels later, but who looked absolutely stunning nonetheless.)
She flashed him a mischievous smile, sauntering up and wrapping an arm around him (tightly) before turning to Kalshara. “So what were we discussing here?” She looked to Griffin, feigning a pout. “Don’t tell me we’re talking shop… You promised no work talk tonight.”
Kalshara downed the rest of her glass before setting it on the nearest table. “I was just leaving.” She shot Griffin a look. “And about those choices… Make sure they don’t end up biting you.” She warned, walking off.
Valerie snorted. “And just what did she want?”
“To talk about things better left unsaid.” He kissed the top of her head, pulling her close. “How’d your discussion go?”
“Better than I’d planned. We’re off rotation for a bit, taking a well-deserved break.” She grinned, wrapping her arms around him. “So don’t feel guilty for enjoying the party instead of working.” He chuckled, leaning down to kiss her.
“I won’t. Promise.”
“Good.” She paused, her grin growing as the song changed. “Come on, you owe me a dance.”
It was getting later and later into the night, the party winding down a bit as Coven members started to file out.
Griffin fought a yawn, watching as Valerie said her own goodbyes to Darkar and Acheron before walking back to him. “I know you’re tired… But there’s something I really want to show you.” Valerie whispered, taking one of his hands in hers.
He sighed, giving a nod and gesturing with his free hand. “Lead the way.” She smiled, standing to her tiptoes to kiss him.
“You’ll love this. I promise.”
“I trust you.”
Valerie was right, he did love this view.
She’d taken him up one of the winding staircases, up to one of the few balconies of the Obsidian Palace.
This one overlooked the courtyard and had a clear view of Obsidian’s dark blue skies and the stars. And…
All three of Obsidian’s moons were full and visible that night, shining brightly and boldly. They provided the realm with a haunting glow and gave the feeling of promise.
He felt Valerie leaning against him, letting him wrap his arms around her as he mapped the sky. “Thank you.” He whispered into her ear, grinning when he felt (and heard) her laugh.
“I thought you’d appreciate this. What better way to end the night, right?” She teased, turning to face him, hands on his chest. He hummed, feeling a bit bolder than he had when he’d first met her.
Griffin cupped her face, tilting her just so for a kiss. One he could put his feelings in, all the longing and trust and… (Love? Was that applicable to his feelings now? Or was it too soon?)
They pulled away, needing to breathe, foreheads touching. “I can think of other ways the night could end… But it’s not something I’m going to push.” He let the words fall out, holding her close.
Close enough she could feel him (hopefully): the warmth he held for her, the need he had, and how he wanted her.
He could feel her smile against him. “Let’s go home… See where the rest of the night takes us.” That tone he knew well. Teasing, but full of promise.
Perhaps the festivities weren’t quite over yet.
Chapter 12: I'm Off The Deep End
Song: Shallow by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
Sort of smut, but non-explicit.
- I’m Off The Deep End
Soft, warm breaths on his neck had him stirring awake, eyes opening slowly. The room was dark, blurry, but he could tell that it wasn’t his room he was in, and that he wasn’t alone.
Naked, he was naked and so was his companion. Valerie.
There was no one else it could have been. The hand on his chest, the body pressed against his. The body he’d woke curled into, holding to like a lifeline. Long blonde hair splayed out on one of the pillows.
Griffin couldn’t help but smile. Warmth flooded through him, and he couldn't stop himself from pressing a soft kiss to the top of her head, memories flashing through his mind.
She was so sure and confident with what she’d wanted, pulling him by his tie and murmuring orders in his ears.
The smug smile on her face when he’d undressed her and told her how beautiful she was. How the smile changed to soft gasps and praises when he kissed and stroked each scar she had, how he’d told her how he saw her; beautiful and strong and far too ethereal to be real.
His own gasps and moans escaping his lips when she’d decided it was time to turn things around on him, how each of her touches and kisses set fire to him.
How perfectly in sync they were once they’d joined together, a perfect fit. (Perfect enough that even their auras came to play, entangling together.)
The whine she’d made when she thought he was leaving, the fear that momentarily flashed in her eyes. The relief and grin she gifted him with when it turned out he was just getting a cloth to clean them with. (He knew she’d complain about the mess, he wanted to be a step ahead.)
And then she’d clung to him, all but ordering him to stay in the room with her, as if he had any place he’d rather be. (There would never be a place he’d rather be. Valerie was his just as much as he was hers. He’d never leave until she told him to.)
Movement had him drawn out of his thoughts, a soft groan and the shake of a head had his watching her. Her hands reached for the covers, trying to pull them up further. He chuckled, pushing strands of hair out of her face. “Good morning.” He teased.
Blue eyes opened, confusion quickly replaced by… A warmer look, her lips turning up in a smile. “Morning…” She rose up just enough to face him, propping up on her arms. “So tell me, what’s got you in such a good mood? Normally, you’re either zombified from having no sleep or still dead asleep from exhaustion.”
Griffin placed a hand on her cheek, smiling when she leaned into his touch. “Saying you wouldn’t be thrilled to wake up next someone like you?” She chuckled, her eyes closing as she shook her head, a bit of a flush on her face.
“You’re such a dork.”
“But I’m your dork.” He feigned a look of hurt, removing his hand. “Unless you have a whole harem of dorks…? Which I feel is something we’d really need to talk about…”
Valerie hit his shoulder, not hard, but hard enough. Before he could even really react, she was on him, lips on his, body pressing closer.
She’d pulled away first, a serious expression on her face as she cupped his. “It’s just you. Just you.” She said it so softly, almost like a whisper. “You’re the only one who I think could handle… Me.”
Griffin rose up, situating them so she was in his lap, amber eyes gazing into blue. “Valerie, you don’t need to be handled. There’s nothing wrong with you as you are. The only real problem you have is how you let them get in your head.” He cupped her face, making her maintain the eye contact.
He needed her to know he was serious, he needed her to know that he was there for her, that he cared for her as she was. He kissed her, his arms moving to wrap around her and hold her tight. “I love you.” Another whispered confession, this time coming from his lips.
The witch’s face flashed with so many emotions, he couldn’t quite place them. Not until her eyes seemed to light up and her arms held to him, tightly, as if she were afraid he’d leave.
She never said it back, but the kiss she gave him and the way her body seemed to melt into his touch said it all.
Or it was all wishful thinking, his mind and heart too far gone to consider the consequences of such a confession.
Chapter 13: I Never Wanted To Need Someone
If the formatting seems weird, I had to change writing apps/programs. Hopefully there won't be too many changes and it'll look okay...
Song: Helium by Sia
13. I Never Wanted To Need Someone
Valerie smirked, nudging into Griffin. “Guards are heading out, just as planned. You ready with the hexes?”
“Just need to set them off with the trigger spell.” Griffin pushed his glasses back up, “when you’re ready, that is.”
She watched the guards patrol the grounds, the groups beginning to separate. “Now.”
Griffin started to chant and she joined in, clasping her hands in his and watching as the confusion began to spread.
Guards started attacking each other, hurling insults and threats as their weapons and magic thrashed together. The witch couldn’t help but chuckle at the mayhem, turning to smile at her partner.
His gaze was fixed on the outskirts of the library they were breaking into, laser focused on making sure the hexes were doing their jobs. (Valerie felt a slight shiver go up her spine, knowing just how incredible it felt to have him focused on her like that.)
“We ready to check out a few books?” She asked, needing to draw herself out of her thoughts. They were on mission, she couldn’t get caught up right now.
Griffin gave her that crooked smile, tilting his head. “That depends, did you bring your library card?” Dork. He was such a damned dork.
She rolled her eyes and got to her feet. “Come on, Mr. Librarian. I’m sure we’ll work something out.”
A wall of fire forced her to stop in her tracks, a swear coming from her lips. “If you wanted to return a book, Valerie, you could have used the little slot outside.” A familiar voice taunted.
Queen Marion of Domino. No one else had that presence, and no one else could bring her dragon out.
The witch turned on her heels and crossed her arms, a smug smile crossing her features. The redheaded queen was already in her Enchantix, a golden dress with jewels hugged her body, golden and fiery red wings fluttering fast.
“Glad you’re here. Maybe you can help me find what I’m looking for? The Scrolls of Hecate and the Dread Grimoire?” A fire ball flew fast toward her, but the witch just raised her hand, watching it sizzle and die out.
“Careful, careful Marion. We wouldn’t want to set fire to all these books, would we?” Valerie asked, taunting the pixie as she walked closer.
Now it was Marion’s turn to smirk, her gloved arms crossing. “These books are all under a protection spell, fire won’t hurt them.” Should have kept your mouth shut, Marion.
Valerie chuckled at the new information, allowing her inner flames to heat her skin and consume her hands. An inferno of her own was created, forming and swallowing the fairy from behind. “That’ll makes things far more interesting.”
“Maybe this time you’ll stay down.” A familiar voice taunted. Oritel.
The wizard came into view from behind a few bookcases, sword already drawn. “Or at least, you will if you know what’s good for you.”
“Now, now Oritel, I thought you liked fair fights.” Griffin. He came from the back of the library his bag in hand. He shot a quick glance to Valerie, a signal. (He had the items. All they had to do was get away from Marion and Oritel and they were golden.)
Oritel and Marion shared a look. Oh things were going to get even more interesting…
She glowered as she took cover behind a shelf, shooting a look to Griffin. “Any more bright ideas, Genius? Because that blinding spell did jack shit.”
Griffin took a deep breath, extending a hand to Valerie. “They’re strong because of their coordination and synchronization, right?”
“I guess. What does that have to do with-” He took her hand, giving her a smile.
“Convergence.” A sound idea… But would it work? “Don’t think about it, just trust me.” Griffin’s voice had a bit of a plea in it. “Unless you’d rather spend the rest of your life in Omega?”
She took a breath and squeezed his hand. “Convergence it is.”
Valerie closed her eyes and felt for her inner flames, feeling the fire coarse through her veins and to her hands. Her magic awakened, consuming her. But it wasn’t just her magic…
A new feeling washed over her. Energized her, gave a new feeling of life. Pure negative energy, literally fueling her flames.
Marion and Oritel never stood a chance.
Valerie was still high from the power surge, giggling on the couch. “I can’t believe we pulled that off. How did we pull that off?” She laughed, looking to Griffin.
The wizard was already nose deep in the Dread Grimoire, but she knew he’d heard her when he looked over the book at her.
“Love.” Simple. Just like that. A one word answer. Valerie frowned, the high wearing off as something more serious set in.
Oh yes, she knew he loved her. (He’d said he did anyway…) And he respected her, kept close on her worse days and never threw certain… Vulnerabilities in her face. But what did any of that have to do with magic?
“Want to explain that to me, Professor?” She half-teased, moving to his lap so he’d have to put the book away.
He shot her a look of annoyance, but did as she wanted, the Grimoire placed gently on the end table. “Magic is fueled by emotions. Depending on your energy source, different emotions will trigger power surges or power depletions.”
“Convergence, because it’s literally two or more beings’ powers thriving together, works best if there is love and trust in those relationships. It’s what makes Oritel and Marion so formidable and… It’s why Mandragora and Darkar are nearly unstoppable.” He gave a little smile, cupping her face before kissing her.
“And it’s what made us invincible tonight. We are connected on a deeper wavelength and our convergence power reflects that.” Valerie grinned against his lips, pulling him closer for another kiss. (Or two. Or three.)
She pulled away, one hand holding to his tie as the other held his hand. “You know, I never wanted a partner. But I’m glad you’re here.” A quiet admittance, voice low. (I love you, too. The closest she could get to saying it right now.)
Griffin’s free arm wrapped around her, keeping her close. “I’m just happy to be here.” She couldn’t help but smile when she felt him nuzzle at her hair, the squeeze on her hand.
“You know… The Grimoire doesn’t have to be translated tonight...” She mentioned, flicking her eyes to his, seeing if he caught her intent. He laughed and shook his head. (Was he going to protest?)
She half-squealed, half-yelped when his hands moved and lifted her, her own hands coming to cover her mouth. He laughed again. “That’s a new sound.” He teased. She glowered at him as best she could.
“You really should’ve warned me you were going to do that.” She snipped, wrapping her arms around him as he carried her to their room.
(It had been just her room… But after Samhain… She was never sleeping alone again.) “Next time, love, next time.” Teases. All he did was tease.
He won’t be teasing long.
Chapter 14: You're My Hope
Song: Sweetest Devotion by Adele
14. You’re My Hope
“What were you thinking? Not only did you let the Company of Light get away with the Ionic Scepter from Zenith, but you allowed their master forger to live. And don’t you dare deny it, Girl. We know you had Hagen dead to rights, and you still let him go.” Belladonna growled out, the room’s temperature dropping fast.
Valerie bit her tongue, trying to keep herself reined in as she stayed in stance. Eyes down, back straight, hands behind her back. No speaking out of turn. No fighting with them. (Fighting made it worse. Just take it and be done.)
“That wasn’t a rhetorical question, Valerie. What happened out there?” Lysslis commanded. She was in front of Valerie, forcing the witch’s face up. “What happened?”
“There was an ambush from a group of Linpheans, there wasn’t much we could do to fight back.” The truth. Simple and quick.
“You should have been prepared for anything! Did we teach you nothing?!” Tharma screamed, lightning cackling around the room.
She swallowed, trying to keep herself in check. (No fear. No fear. No fear.)
“The plan itself was flawless. We had everything set up. But those tree-huggers are far more powerful than-” She felt electricity run up her spine, a burning white-hot sensation that had her on her knees before she could even catch herself.
Lysslis forced her back up psychically, her head tilted to the side. “Now, now Valerie. If the plan was truly flawless, you wouldn’t be here learning from your failure. Right?” That voice. Melodic and soothing and… No.
Don’t fall for it. Don’t fall for it.
“I did what I could.” She kept to the truth. No sense in lying. Not now.
She felt herself gasp out, her cheek stinging from Lysslis’ slapping her. “Stupid girl… Failure isn’t tolerated. You should have tried harder, been crueler. I thought we taught you better.”
Tharma was tsking and shaking her head, looking to Belladonna and Lysslis. “Sisters, I do believe she’s growing soft on us. And we all know why that is.”
“We shouldn’t have let it go on this long. Stupid boy’ll ruin everything.” Lysslis turned to Valerie. “Trust me, Dear, boys really will ruin everything they touch. Including the people they claim to care for.”
Valerie glowered, her mind knowing better than to take the bait but her heart… “Griffin isn’t the issue here. Leave him out of this.” She growled out.
“Ohhh… Listen at her. So protective over someone she could barely stand a few months ago. How pathetic.” Tharma shook her head.
“How did Griffin convince you to let the Company win? Was it tales of love and grandeur?” Lysslis cackled.
“Do you think he’s said anything similar to that fairy of his? Or does he have you believing it’s only you?” Belladonna chuckled.
She struggled to keep her breathing regulated and her emotions under control. (Don’t show weakness, don’t show weakness.) “Griffin had nothing to do with what happened on Zenith. He planned it out to the best of his ability. We lost because the Linpheans had an advantage and I let Hagen live because he was already weak and his death would have meant nothing.” She seethed.
Tharma tsked. “So you’re truly willing to take the blame? Such a foolish girl.” Her hands raised up, the electricity crackling over them as she went for the strike.
Valerie closed her eyes, bracing herself mentally for the shock to run up her back and for the white hot pain that would follow. But it never came.
Her eyes opened and she swore mentally, a magic shield was covering her, protecting her. And he was at her side.
He came for her. Stupid boy.
“What the hell are you doing here?” She whispered/hissed at him, fear threatening to consume her. (He was openly defying them right now. He’d never walk out of this alive.)
“Taking my part.” He told her, glancing toward the Ancestral Witches. “What’s going on here?” Griffin asked, feigning ignorance.
Tharma seethed, a growl escaping her lips. “You’ve got nerve, Boy, but that only goes so far.”
“If you wish to live to see tomorrow, you need to leave.” Belladonna snipped. “This meeting doesn’t concern you.”
“If it’s about what happened on Zenith, it does. That was my mission and my mistake. And if you’re mad about how things went, take it out on me, not her.” Fool. He was a fool.
Lysslis cackled, shaking her head. “Oh and we thought chivalry was dead, Sisters! The wizard thinks he's a little white knight.” She laughed. “Pity it means nothing.”
Belladonna looked them over, a smirk coming to her lips. Valerie froze in place, knowing that look all-too well.
Something horrible was about to happen. Another lesson. “Very well, Griffin. You say this mess was all on you, so be it.” Golden eyes flashed icy blue, a chill coming into the air.
Valerie had to force herself not to yelp when she saw Griffin go down, skin going from pale green to pale blue, his teeth chattering and his knees buckling.
She was about to go to him, to try and help, but Tharma grabbed her and pulled her back. “Let this be a lesson in letting others take your place.” The witch snarled into her ear, keeping her in place as Griffin paler and paler in color.
“Stop! Before you kill him!” She couldn’t stop herself from letting the plea out, a part of her praying it wouldn’t fall on deaf ears.
Belladonna waved her hands, the chill dying down. “Let this be a lesson: weakness and insolence is never to be tolerated.” She turned to Griffin’s form, the wizard shaking from the cold. “You get a pass this time, Griffin, but only because we can’t afford to lose a strategist. This is your only warning.”
The Ancestral Witches shot both of them looks before heading toward the door, all three disappearing in a cloud of smoke.
Valerie rushed to Griffin’s side, pulling him close.
He was chilled, possibly to the bone. Body shaking, teeth chattering, and his eyes hazy and unfocused from the assault. “Easy there. Easy… This may burn.” She warned, keeping her voice low and soothing.
She placed her hands in his, closing her eyes as she found her inner fire. Warmth flooded her veins, the heat circulating and finding it’s way into his. Slowly and cautiously she did her best to warm him back up without causing shock.
“I’m sorry they did this… I should have done a better job at keeping you out of this.” She whispered, swallowing. “I’m so sorry.”
The wizard shot her that stupid (sweet) lopsided smile, his voice crackling a bit. “Don’t be because I’m not. I’d do this again, if it got you out of the crossfire for even a moment.”
Stupid. Stupid… And sweet. When was the last time another person stood up for her like that…? Why was he so hellbent on this…?
“You’re an idiot. You know that?” She half-laughed, half-whispered out. (She was fighting tears. Best to laugh to keep from crying.)
He moved a bit, laying his head in her lap. “But I’m your idiot.” She shook her head, letting her hands run through his hair, teasing the purple strands.
He was. She’d never deny that he was hers. Never wanted to deny it. She loved the warmth he brought, the laughter. The way he spotted things she missed.
“I love you.” Three simple words with a powerful meaning. Three simple words that could change everything.
Griffin took her hand in his, giving a squeeze. (Warm. He was warm again. Good. She’d kept him from freezing to death.) “I love you too.” She smiled, leaning down to kiss his forehead.
“Come on… Let’s get you looked at by Lucinda. I don’t need you dying on me.” She patted his cheek, waiting for him to move so she could stand and help him up. He groaned a bit, leaning into her.
“I’m never going to live this down, am I?”
Valerie chuckled, holding him to her. “I wonder if Saladin would believe what a white knight you are.” She teased, laughing as he rolled his eyes.
“Suddenly, dying of frostbite doesn’t sound so bad.” Valerie rolled her eyes.
"And you call me dramatic."
Chapter 15: It's In Her Head
Song: Daughter by Pearl Jam
15. It’s In Her Head
Griffin kept a watch on Valerie every time she went to them alone, checked her for new scars or bruises.
It annoyed her, had her telling him how ‘it was fine’ and that it was ‘normal’. That he didn’t need to get involved. That he was just getting himself into trouble.
But Griffin was observant. He never missed how even in her huffiness and dismissal of his care how her eyes would soften and how she’d melt into him.
(He also didn’t miss how on those days she stayed in the shower longer and come back puffy-eyed.) He wouldn’t speak about it in those moments, instead he’d just pull her to him and show her as much care and love as she’d allow him to give.
Today was one of those days-scratch that, it was an even worse day.
Kalshara and her brother were captured during a raid on Eraklyon. A raid that Griffin and Valerie had planned.
But of course, they only saw Valerie to blame. His anger rose, hands gripping tightly to the book he was reading. How dare they blame her for everything? Perhaps they should be try and do their own planning for once.
They’d come home to their base and not soon after she was called away, to a meeting. She’d made him swear to stay put, her fear for him showing passed her normal ‘devil-may-care’ demeanor.
And he’d promised. He promised to stay there. To wait.
Then she’d come home… Lips blue and color just starting to return to her face. Eyes swollen as if she’d been subjected to an illusion spell. And electrical burns on her wrists.
One day they’d pay. Maybe not today or tomorrow. But one day.
Valerie wouldn’t even meet his eyes, just she made her way into the bathroom, shower running. And that’s where she’d been. For an hour now.
Griffin sighed and set his book down. He was too aggravated to read, too angry. The words had started to run together, ceased making sense.
All he could think of was Valerie.
He took a deep breath, getting to his feet. His mind had been made up, Valerie was going to talk to him. One way or another.
Griffin waited in their bedroom, eyes on the door. She came in, still keeping her gaze away from his as she sat on the edge of the bed.
Damp blonde hair was left down, knees pulled up to her chest. “I fucked up.” Voice barely above a whisper, cracking in places.
“Valerie, neither of us could have predicted the result of attacking Eraklyon. All we can hope for is that Kalshara and Braifilius keep their mouths shut.” Griffin reminded her, moving to sit behind her, tugging her closer.
She shook her head, placing it in her hands. The burns showed clearly on her wrists, making Griffin want to grab them and heal them. Fix the burns. Take her pain away.
“You don’t understand… I should have known. I… I should have looked into future-sight spells. Or divination. I should have felt for Marion’s dragon. I should have-”
Griffin held her tight. “Valerie, you did all you could. We both did what we could.” He kissed the top of her head, rubbing her shoulders. “Why are you so insistent that it’s your fault?” He murmured. (He knew the answer, but he wanted to hear it from her.)
“You have to get them out of your head. Belladonna, Tharma, Lysslis. All of them.” He turned her around, making her look him in the eyes. Blue eyes seemed bluer with unshed tears, face puffy from trying not to cry. (What had they done to her over the years?)
“Valerie, you are damn good at what you do. You are brilliant. A little impulsive and selfish and hard to get along with, sure. But you’re still so smart and resourceful and cunning. You’re determined and tenacious. Spirited. And just… Incredible.” He kissed her cheeks, the tip of her nose, her lips. He wanted her to know how he saw her, needed her to believe him.
Griffin cupped her face, pushing strands of blonde hair back. “You’re amazing, Valerie. Do not let them tell you differently.”
She gave a weak smile, getting into his lap and wrapping her arms around him. “Why do you even bother with this?”
He let his arms move, wrapping around her. “Because I can’t stand seeing you this upset. And I can’t stand that you can’t see yourself the way I see you.” Griffin squeezed her carefully, trying to make her understand.
“I think you’re absolutely incredible, and if they can’t see that, then they’re crazy.” She gave a bit of a laugh, the sound reverberating around him. (Good. Progress.)
“You know what, you’re pretty incredible too, Griffin.” He let her pull his head down, let her lead the kiss.
He hummed, pulling away to breathe. “Tell me, are you in the mood for bad movies and comfort food? Days like this require bad movies and comfort food. If for no other reason than to remind us we’re doing better than the actors.”
That had more genuine laugh escape Valerie’s lips, blue eyes lighting back up, life restored. “That depends, do we still have the mint chocolate ice cream or did your brother steal it all the last time he was here?”
Griffin pushed his glasses up, giving a bit of a smile. “I think we’ve still got a helping. Though I’ll never understand why you and Salvador like that crap.”
“Says the man who splurges on triple fudge ice cream.”
“If I want to rot my teeth with sweets, I’m going to do it properly.”
Chapter 16: My Lover's The Sunlight
Song: Take me to Church by Hozier (I know, I know. Bear with me.)
(I'm so sorry this is late... I've had a rough week and I just... I haven't been able to make myself sit down and write. So if there are any mistakes, I apologize, It's just... It's been rough.)
16. My Lover’s The Sunlight
He glowered at the maps, trying to force the information to come to him. Marion’s troops had secured Haleix and Sandane, Radius and Luna were protecting Lunaris…
And Erendor was trying to create a realm wide border around Maroosi 3. “It’s all starting to run together isn’t it? The realms, the names, the spells… Can’t say it’s affecting me, I’ve been at this for centuries… But you, Griffin, are no immortal.” Darkar’s voice crooned into the study, his boots clanking against the hardwood floors.
“I’m well aware of my mortality, Darkar, and I’ve got the scars to remind me.” He snipped, turning on his heels. “So unless you’ve got any insights, Argulus, please get out.” Red eyes flashed at him, and had he been a lesser wizard, he would have cowered. But he’d seen worse than Lord Darkar, had felt worse.
The Shadow Phoenix started to laugh, his clawed hands holding to his helmet. It caught Griffin off guard, his mouth becoming a frown and his brows furrowing. “I’m sorry… Argulus… It’s a name I haven’t heard in so long… I’d almost forgotten...” His voice sounded far away, lost in memories.
“Of course, I’d like to know where you’ve heard it.”
Griffin swore at himself mentally. He wasn’t supposed to know. Valerie wasn’t supposed to know… But after their last mission had sent them to the realm of Rot… They’d learned so much…
Like how Valerie wasn’t abandoned. That Darkar had assisted in the murders of her parents. That the Mistresses were way worse than originally thought…
He sighed, leaning against the desk. “One of the books in the library revealed itself to me… Showed me where you were once a knight for the original Dark Dragon Keeper. It was mostly just a story, I wasn’t even entirely sure it was real.” Griffin lied, forcing his hands to keep still. (Most knew about his tell. About his twitchy fingers. Had to keep them still.)
Darkar hummed and moved closer to the maps, looking the groupings over. “Go home and rest, Griffin. You need it.”
The younger wizard frowned, arms crossing. “I’m fine…” He walked over, trying to see what Darkar was seeing. “See something I’ve missed?”
“Not quite.” Darkar turned to Griffin, placing one of those clawed hands on his shoulder. “I was serious though, you do need rest. We can’t have you working yourself into an aneurysm, now can we?”
Griffin groaned, running a hand through his hair. “You’re right. You’re right… Just… Let me know if you figure out how we can immobilize them… I’ve been stumped for days.”
Darkar gave a nod, red eyes dimming down. “I’ll be sure to let you know when I find something...” The wizard paused. “And Griffin, next time you find that book, let me know… I’d like to see for myself what Obsidian’s library knows about me.”
Griffin gave a curt nod. “Of course.” He turned on his heels, making his way out of the study. He needed to get away, before anything else could be said. Before he made things worse.
Movement on the bed had him stirring, small arms wrapping around him and a warm body pressing close. He smiled, feeling one of those calloused hands rest over his heart. “Missed me?” He teased, trying to ignore how sleep-drunk he sounded.
His only answer was a hum and a face pressing into the crook of his neck, kisses teasing up to his cheek. Griffin turned around to face her, almost laughing at her pout at having been moved. “I was getting comfortable.” She grumbled. “You’ve been gone for days...” A whine.
Griffin pulled her close to him, pushing blonde strands out of her face. “I had to do some planning… Marion’s forces are mobilizing at an accelerated rate and-” She’d cut him off with a kiss.
A forceful one, pushing him to his back so she was on top of him. “No work talk right now.” She commanded, giving him a look. “Right now, you’re going to start making up to me for being gone.” Her nose crinkled a bit.
“And gone with Darkar and Ogron of all people.” Valerie shook her head. “Which just won’t do.” Her hands cupped his face, fingers teasing around his lips. “Now will it?”
Griffin shook his head. “No it won’t.” Valerie’s lips turned into that smile that never failed to go straight down his spine, never failed to make him hard.
“Glad we’re in agreement.” She all-but purred, hands moving to work on his shirt, making sure her movements had her pressed against him. He closed his eyes, breath already starting to hitch. She gave a teasing laugh, leaning to kiss him again. “Easy Griffin… We’ve got all night.”
His hands found their way into her blonde locks, forcing her close. She let out a gasp, eyes fluttering closed for a moment. “Promise?” Blue eyes locked onto his amber (probably black by now) eyes.
“Have I ever lied to you?” She tilted her head, gave another of her smiles. Damn was he in for it tonight.
(Thoughts of sleep were long gone by now. Replaced by blue eyes, blonde hair, and a body that knew his far too well.)
(He’d complain tomorrow. Tonight he belonged to her.)
(He always belonged to her.)
Chapter 17: Don't Tell A Soul Goodbye
Song: Check Yes Juliet by We the Kings
17. Don’t Tell A Soul Goodbye
Everything ached. Her senses were dulled. She felt so disconnected to the world around her, the travel from Obsidian back to Freyos blurring in her mind.
Nothing. She felt so empty, so lost. A shell moving without soul.
(But what was a soul to demon?)
Valerie forced herself up to the front door, concern setting in when she found it unlocked. (He always locked the door. Always.)
“Griffin?” Worry seeped into her voice. She looked the room over, relief settling when she noticed nothing seemed to untouched. “Griffin, you in the study?” She asked, noting the emptiness of the house. “Griffin?”
She heard noises near the kitchen, a frown forming. “This isn’t funny.” She walked into the kitchen, shaking her head at the sight.
Both Sylvane brothers had their attention on a potion, the counters littered with different ingredients. “Anything I should know about, Boys?” She asked, leaning against the door frame.
(Relief flooded her system. He was okay. They were okay.)
Two purple-haired wizards nearly jumped out of their skins, a hiss and curse leaving Salvador’s lips. “Dammit, Valerie! This is delicate work!” He snipped.
Griffin flashed her a look of annoyance. “If we’d exploded, I would definitely be back to haunt you.” He snipped. She rolled her eyes, walking over to him and wrapping her arms around Griffin’s waist, head on his shoulder.
“I don’t know why you’re both so jumpy… Especially since I live here.” She reminded him. “Unless there’s a new rooming plan I’ve not been privy too?”
Both brothers seemed to share a look, amber eyes looking worried. “Boys?”
Griffin looked to Salvador, giving a nod. “Finish up in here while I talk to her?” Salvador shrugged.
“Why not? I’m always the one left to clean up the mess. Why would this be any different?” The elder brother teased. Younger brother rolled his eyes, escorting her out of the kitchen.
Valerie frowned, crossing her arms. “Start talking. What’s going on?” That was when she noticed the suitcase, the bags. Panic settled in, Mother Lysslis’ taunting words echoing in her mind. ‘He says he loves you? How many times do you think he’s told a woman that? How many others do you think there are?’
“Please tell me Aro and Salvador are fighting. Please tell me those are his bags.” She hated the waver in her voice, the constricting feeling in her chest. The sickening feeling rising in her body. “Griffin?”
He pulled her close to him, arms wrapping tightly around her. (She could feel his magic soothing its way into her veins, taking the heat from her inner flames.)
“Valerie… Do you remember when we talked about leaving them? How the only thing holding us here was your bonds to them?” Griffin asked, one hand tilting her chin up. “Because I do… And I did some digging...”
The witch held his gaze. “What did you find?”
“A potion… All it called for was a bit of fairy dust, some tears from the Black Willow on Linphea, and blood from a righteous warrior…” Griffin paused for a moment. “The blood was hard to get, but when you get Marion distracted, Oritel makes for an easy target.”
She chanced a glance to the kitchen. “Is that what you two were working on in there? And the bags?”
“It’s up to you. If you take that potion, if you go and grab a bag for our pocket dimension, there’s no turning back. We’re leaving. Tonight. But if you want to stay, we’ll stay. Forget about the potion and the bags.” His hands moved, taking hers into them. “It’s your choice, Valerie. I’ll follow where you lead.”
Tempting… It was far too tempting to pass up. (She wanted nothing more than to leave. Nothing more than to run with him and his brother.)
“How long does it have to set before it’s ready?” She flashed him a smile, squeezing his hands. “Because the later we put this off, the more likely someone will discover us.”
Griffin glanced to the wall clock. “Five minutes. Just enough time for you to go and grab what you need.” He kissed the top of her head. “Go. We’ll be here waiting.”
She nodded and bounded up the stairs, heart racing.
She was going to do it… She was finally going to be free.
Valerie held her head high, palms ready to ignite if it became necessary as the white light dissipated. Griffin and Salvador were back to back, both breathing hard.
Wounded. She could feel her leg and back throbbing from the hydra attack. And she just knew Griffin and Salvador had to have wounds of their own.
The light faded, Alfea: The School for Fairies coming into view.
A familiar voice gave a squeal of excitement. “See, I knew it would work, Mavilla!” Footsteps quickly approached and….
Griffin gave a half-grunt, pained from the tone. Valerie whirled around fast, anger rising faster. A familiar brunette fairy in her Enchantix was hugging tight to Griffin. “I knew you and Salvador would see the truth sooner or later! I just knew it!”
The wizard put her down carefully, his eyes looking to her in apology. (She knew that wasn’t on him. She did… But that constricting feeling.)
“Yeah… We just needed a little time.” Salvador spoke up, conjuring up the bag of artifacts they re-stole from her mo- the Ancestral Witches.
“Didn’t expect to be jumped by hydras though.” Griffin looked to Valerie. “You okay?”
“Peachy.” She snipped.
Faragonda jumped, head turning fast and wings fluttering. “You…. Brought her…?” Griffin frowned, making his way over to Valerie.
Cool. His hands were cool on hers, a request for her to let the flames sizzle out. “Of course. Why wouldn’t he?” Valerie couldn’t stop herself from snarling. “Because I can’t be redeemed too?”
Faragonda swallowed, shaking her head. “No… I’m just… Surprised.” The fairy looked to Griffin, confusion all over her face.
A cough brought them out of the awkwardness of the moment, Mavilla, the headmistress of Alfea, waving them on.
“We’ll get the three of you checked out and alert the rest of the Company Members… Hopefully they’ll be merciful.” The elder fairy spoke, her eyes on Valerie.
She wasn’t like them. She was an outsider. She knew that… But Griffin insisted. And he’d made a point… She didn’t want to be a fugitive. She just wanted to be left alone… Alone with him.
“If not, we know what to expect.” Griffin spoke, voice cold and distant. (She could feel him squeezing her hand, reassuring her.)
“Yeah… Nothing we haven’t faced before.” Salvador gave one of his lopsided smiles. “I just hope they bring Saladin with them when they come to collect… He always had the best sense of humor.”
A light came over Faragonda, her wings and dress disappearing as she emerged in more ‘civilian’ style clothing. Jeans and long-sleeved sweater. “I’m sure he’ll be one of them… Just as I’m sure Oritel and Marion will be.” That last part was directed toward Valerie, her blue eyes cutting down on the witch.
“Good. Then perhaps Marion and I can have a chat. Dragon to dragon.” Valerie snipped back. “After all, our flames tell all.” Griffin pulled her closer, an attempt to keep her from flaring up.
Faragonda gave a curt nod, swallowing. "I'm sure they do."
Chapter 18: Every Breath Becomes A Prayer
Bit of a time jump with this chapter.
Song: To Be Human by Sia
18. Every Breath Becomes A Prayer
She made a run for it, her shield up to keep Gantlos’ blasts from shoving her to the ground. “Hagen! A little backup would be nice!” She yelled out, ducking behind a boulder.
The wizard did not disappoint, his magic broadsword glowing under the Isis sky as it sailed through the air. Gantlos was hit in the back by the hilt, his balance off.
Valerie grinned, taking her shot. Flames surrounded the blonde wizard, closing in and singing him up. Hagen walked up, cuffing him with magic depleting cuffs. “This should hold ya...”
Gantlos growled out, thrashing in an attempt to wiggle away from Hagen’s grip. “We’ll kill you all! We’ll get out of this!” Valerie rolled her eyes, walking up to him.
“Sure you will.” She smirked, looking to Hagen. “Any word from Saladin and the others?” Hagen gave a nod.
“Ogron’s down and Duman is in custody. We’re just waiting on word about Anagan.” He answered, looking to Gantlos. “You wouldn’t happen to know where your speedy friend went, would you?”
Gantlos glowered. “Go to Hell.”
Hagen sighed. “Not today. Maybe tomorrow… Depending.” A tease and a half-truth. Valerie elbowed the wizard.
“Lay off that kind of talk, Hagen… I don’t think your friends would appreciate it.”
“Saying your my friend, Valerie?” His tone held amusement and she just shook her head, her hands waving.
“I never said that. I was referring to Saladin and Oritel and Faragonda. The others.”
“Sure you were.”
Valerie scoured the ruins toward the west of Isis’ capital, keeping a check on any changing wind gusts or air drops.
Hagen and Saladin had taken the other three wizards into custody, already on course for the Council.
Which left Valerie, Erendor, and Radius to search Isis…
(She was fine with Radius, but working even remotely close to Erendor had her on edge. Sure, the others had all tried to kill her at some point, but Erendor had crossed a line. He’d hired assassins, he’d taken Griffin, and he’d made a point of trying to find the Water Stars.)
“Finding anything?” Radius asked over the coms Electronio had created for them.
“Nothing near the beach or its caverns...” Erendor growled. “I’m convinced he got away. That’d be such a shame, wouldn’t it Valerie?” He asked, voice laden with venom.
The witch rolled her eyes, knowing he couldn’t see it. What she’d give to be able to lose him. No one would miss him, save for his wife… No one would know…
No. No. She’d made a promise to play nice. A promise she intended on keeping. (For the time being, anyway. As soon as this war was over, she was going to happily disappear with Griffin.)
“How many times do I have to remind you that I’m on your side, Your Majesty?” She snarked,. “Or do you need to have your royal scribe to explain that to you?”
She could hear Radius trying to stifle a laugh over the line. “Erendor meant no harm, Valerie. Are you finding anything on your end?”
Valerie looked around the ruins, her body tensing as she sensed light magic nearby. (Not just light magic. Fairy magic. Dammit.)
“I may have something guys… How do I send my location…?”
“Don’t worry about it, we’ll find you.” Radius assured her before the line went dead. Shit. She felt for her flames, walking toward the pull of light magic.
Her inner flames protested going toward it, wanting instead to turn it into dark magic, to absorb and become hers. But she resisted, forcing herself into one of the ruin’s caverns.
“There’s nowhere for you to go, Anagan.” Valerie called out, flames heating up her hands as she came to the wizard.
He turned around, his face contorted into a grotesque grin, a familiar face struggling against his hold.
Faragonda. She was trying to fight back, trying to pull away, but her movements were slowed and her eyes heavy. (He’d drained her.)
She wasn’t even supposed to be here. None of the fairies were supposed to come.
“My Dragon, I’m sooo glad you could join me.” He gave a little laugh, pulling out his knife. An intricate and tiny dagger, easily held in one hand. Magic contained within it. (One of a set of four. The only purpose of the knife to cut a fairy’s wings whether they were shifted or not.)
“You see, I’ve got a bit of an issue here… But if you were to help me out…” The knife edged closer to Faragonda’s back, the fairy starting to squirm harder. “I’d be sure to let the pixie live.”
Valerie wanted to scream, wanted to ignite her flames and be done with all of it. With Anagan, with Faragonda….
But she’d promised to play nice. She’d promised not to make waves in the Company. And dammit if she wasn’t a witch of her word.
“Let the fairy go, Anagan. It’s over. Your brothers are already heading to Council, my associates are on their way, and it’s just not going to end well for you.” She tried to reason with him, gesturing toward Faragonda.
“Besides, look at her. She’s not Marion or Luna. And she’s nowhere near on par with Alyssa. You really want your last fairy dust vial to be from a no-name fairy?” She tilted her head, letting the smirk play on her lips. “Do you?”
Anagan gave a laugh, manic and… Different. His entire aura was off, uncontrolled. “I’m not stupid, Valerie. She’s his counterpart. You really think that makes her a nobody?”
Valerie sighed. “You’re so right, Anagan… She does make for a useful bargaining chip.” She looked to her palms, an idea coming to her mind. “But unfortunately for you, I don’t bargain.”
She focused on Anagan, sensing his veins and his core. Embers sparked to life, flames engulfing him from the inside out.
Black skin became reddened. His knife fell out of his hands and his hold on Faragonda weakened, the fairy stumbling away from him.
Anagan screamed out, his knees buckling from under him, the smell of burning skin becoming evident.
“Dammit Valerie! Don’t kill him!” Radius’ voice caught her off guard, her concentration ruined as the flames extinguished from under Anagan’s skin.
“I was… He had Faragonda.” She tried to explain, looking to the brunette. “What the hell were you doing here anyway?”
Faragonda let out a shaky breath, her body still trembling from being drained. “I… I didn’t….” That was it.
“You didn’t trust me to be with the wizards, so you followed us? That it?” Valerie asked. Of course. She should have known.
Faragonda gave a nod, her face red and embarrassment evident. “I’m sorry… I should have-”
Valerie shook her head, waving her hand. “Don’t. Just don’t.” She turned on her heels, looking to Radius and Erendor. “You two have this?”
Radius gave a nod. “We’ve got Anagan.”
She placed a hand on his shoulder, something she’d seen others do, before heading out of the cavern. She could vaguely hear Radius and Erendor chastising the fairy for following, but she tuned it out.
Of all the things…
She couldn’t blame Faragonda… She didn’t trust herself much either. Not anymore…
Cool hands around her waist pulled her into the present, her gaze turning from the moon outside the window to the man holding her close. “I ever tell you that I’m proud of you?” He asked, voice muffled a bit by her hair. (He always did that, nuzzling himself into her hair and then complaining if his glasses ended up smudged in the process.)
“Once or twice… What’d I do this time?” She murmured, allowing herself to relax into him, letting her head rest on his shoulder. “I mean, besides assist in taking down Ogron and his groupies… Which is something I would have done anyway.”
She hated the Black Circle. She hated Ogron. Why can’t you be more like him? Why can’t you focus like he does? Why aren’t you as dedicated as he is?
Griffin gave a little laugh, hands squeezing her a little tighter. “I’m well aware of your burning hatred for the man… But I was referring to not losing your cool on Erendor…” He kissed her forehead. “And… For saving Faragonda.” That part was whispered, secretive.
Her smile dropped, her hands moving to his chest to pull away from him and back to the window. She wrapped her arms around herself, looking to the ground. “I’m not going to lie to you, part of me didn’t want to.”
“I mean… She came on a mission that specifically required the fairies to stay away. She could have gotten herself killed by Anagan. Hell, she almost died!” Her voice raised a bit, body trembling.
“And the reason she came along anyway? Because after two months of being here, she still doesn’t trust me. Which, fair… I wouldn’t trust me either, but at least I’m fucking trying here.” Griffin wrapped his arms around her again, hands drawing sigils for soothing on her back.
“But you saved her. And you showed Erendor and Radius that they can trust you. At least, as far as battle goes.” He held her tighter.
“And you proved Faragonda wrong. And helped her keep her wings.”
“Like I said, I almost let Anagan kill her.”
“But you didn’t.” He tilted her chin up, kissing her softly. “You, my Dear, have come a long way.” She felt her face flush, but rolled her eyes, going to shove him away.
“Don’t you have work to do?” She snipped at him, despite none of the venom staying in her voice. Griffin shook his head.
“I delegated to Ediltrude and Zarathustra…” Valerie’s eyes widened in shock.
“You… Willingly… Delegated your work to others?” She frowned, looking him over. “Who are you and what have you done to Griffin?”
He rolled his eyes, giving an exasperated sigh. “I was just trying to be a good partner, help you celebrate a victory, and this is the thanks I get?” He feigned a pout, a hand over his heart. “I’m wounded.”
Valerie gave a laugh, wrapping her arms around him. He pulled her close, and she felt more than she heard his own rumbling laugh. “You’re so lucky I love you.”
“I know. I know.”
Chapter 19: But We're Still Standing Tall
Song: Here We Are by Icon for Hire
19. But We’re Still Standing Tall
Griffin frowned at the conglomeration of notes and maps and locations. The photos of the Coven members, faces smug.
None of it was making sense. Hours and hours of research… Come to nothing almost. (Oritel would have his head… This wasn’t part of the plan.)
He felt warm breath on his neck, slender arms wrapping around him. “Anything I can do?” Valerie purred, pressing herself closer.
Griffin turned his head just enough to face her, exasperation on his face. “That depends, do you have any idea where Mandragora is or where she’s heading?”
There was a sudden chill as the witch moved away from him, a huff in her breath. “You’ve been looking for her for days now, Griffin… She’s not going to show herself until she’s good and ready. You know that.”
Griffin glowered. “I’m aware of how she operates. I’m also aware that she’s left a child motherless and one of our own in shock.” He stopped himself, trying to re-catch his breath.
Matlin’s death was hard. Seeing Ho-Boe grieving was harder.
The only one to blame was Mandragora.
And she was in the wind, gone. And Melody was left in a state of chaos, the Harmonics and Trebles unable to bring order.
(Melody would stay in chaos until the music boxes were returned, and Mandragora was the one who had them.)
Valerie gave a sigh, moving to stand in front of him, hands on his jacket. “I know the stakes in this, Griffin. I get it. But working yourself into the ground won’t solve anything, and it won’t bring her back.” A hard truth, but one they all had to face.
He placed his hands on hers, giving a squeeze. “I know. But I can’t just… I can’t stop. Ho-Boe and Musa deserve closure.”
“And they’ll get it.” She sounded so sure, so confident. “After all, we know Mandragora… And she’s bound to slip up.”
“She is.” Griffin paused, glancing to the web of research. “Unless she already has…” He pulled away from Valerie, a smile forming. “She’s headed toward the Elven realms…”
Valerie gave a knowing smile. “I’ll go grab Alyssa and Palladium to back me up.” She’d turned to leave, Griffin pulling her back to him by the wrist.
“Be careful. I don’t want you to be her next victim.” A quiet admission, fear driven. He’d had many sleepless nights, worried what would happen if they did get caught. What Belladonna and her sisters would do to Valerie.
Blue eyes shined as she gave her signature smile. “I’d be more worried about Palladium. The twink seems a bit skittish.” (She’d be safe. She’d be careful.)
Griffin shook his head, a laugh escaping from him. “Don’t scare him, Val… You know Salvador’s trying to win him over.”
“Best he knows what he’s in for then, right?” She gave a wink before flouncing out, her coat trailing.
Griffin sighed, a bit of relief flooding through his veins. Mandragora was going to be brought in, she’d face the chaos she’d wrought.
The wizard turned his attention back to his notes, a wave of his hand changing the research topic. Lord Darkar…
A low whistle had him brought out of his thoughts, concentration ruined as his notes fell to the floor. “Dammit, Faragonda! I was in the middle of something!”
He turned on his heels, facing the brunette. At least she had the decency to look sheepish, pale skin flushed. (She seemed older. Hair falling loosely out of her braid, eyes dulled in color. He could only imagine how he had to look; mussed hair and glasses smudged to hell.)
“Sorry… I just… Came to see if-”
“Valerie left with Alyssa and Palladium… We’ve got a lead on Mandragora and they’re following up on it.”
She bit her lip. “I think I really fucked up this time, Griffin…” He mentally swore.
They were in the middle of a war. They did not have time for this… (And he did not want to be in the middle of this kind of drama. He’d always tried his best to stay out of it…)
“Look, tensions are high right now. Things have been said. Things have been done.” He paused, trying to figure out how to word his thoughts. “But we can’t focus on that right now. There’s literal lives at stake.”
“But cohesion within ranks is important… And if she and I can’t even have a conversation with each other… How are we supposed to rely on each other in the field?”
Damn it. She had a point. She always had a point.
“Then that’s something you’ll have to take up with her. Best thing you can do is wait for her to get back and try to talk to her then. Or do what Edi and Zara do… Fight it out until you realize how ridiculous the whole notion is.” Griffin shrugged, waving his hand toward his notes.
Still in order. Still focused on Darkar. (What was he planning? Three realms in two days… Something was off…)
“I’m not fighting her.” Faragonda stated, moving to sit at one of the desks. “And talking to her…? How can I talk to her when she’s still mad at me?”
Griffin paused. “Mad? She’s not….” He let out a huff, going and sitting across from Faragonda. “She’s not mad. Not at you, anyway.”
“You hurt her feelings. Not that she’ll ever admit that, but you did. Trust is a touchy thing for her and you kind of rocked the boat with the whole ‘I’m slipping into a mission I’m not supposed to be on’ thing.” Griffin admitted. Faragonda raised an eyebrow, lips frowning.
“I hurt her feelings?” He gave a groan. Why him? Why was this his problem?
“Contrary to what King Erendor and his followers would have you believe, she, and other witches, have feelings. And they can get hurt.”
Faragonda groaned and laid her head down on the desk. “And now I feel even worse. Thanks, Griffin.”
He snorted. “You shouldn’t come to me with your problems then.”
“She’s your girlfriend.”
“Doesn’t mean she listens to me. Or follows my directions.” Griffin frowned at himself. Valerie was definitely one of the more… Strong-willed witches he’d met. And stubborn. So damn stubborn.
“Still… Can’t you facilitate something for us like you do for the disaster twins?” Faragonda raised her head, giving that famous Faragonda Pout.
Griffin shook his head. “No way. This is between the two of you.” He placed a hand on hers, a comfort they’d given before.
“You two will find your footing. I’m sure.” A squeeze. “Now I’m going to ask, in the nicest way possible, for you to get out of the library so I work on finding Lord Darkar before he kills us all.”
The fairy paused, processing what he’d said for a moment before laughing, hand pulling away from his. Griffin shook his head.
“I don’t know why you find that funny, I’m being dead serious. He will kill us all if he gets the chance.”
“I know. I know… I just…. The way you said it threw me off.” She shook her head, calming down. “I needed that.”
He rolled his eyes. “Glad to be of service.” He gestured toward the door. “Can I work now?”
Darkar was a busy pseudo-immortal. The realms he targeted were mostly unscathed, aside from libraries and temples.
Which meant he was looking for something. (Or someone.)
What could have Darkar so intrigued….?
Griffin frowned, studying his data and the notes, the locations. Something wasn’t right. Two sightings in two locations, at the same time… (Couldn’t be right… Duplication spells didn’t work like that…)
“Electronio… Magnethia… You two busy?” Griffin asked over the coms. He could vaguely hear sounds of moving, rustling of clothes. (Whoops…)
“Not anymore...” Electronio muttered. There was sound of injury, Griffin could easily picture Maggie elbowing him.
“What’s wrong, Griffin? It’s kind of late… And we’re… Off the clock.” She’d sounded a little breathless, higher pitched. (Yeah he was definitely going to have to owe them one for this…)
He looked back to his reports, reminding himself why he’d bothered them in the first place. “I need the two of you to double check something for me… I’ve been tracking Darkar and it’s saying he was two places at once.”
“Duplication spells aren’t that difficult.” Electronio reminded him.
“Duplication spells don’t cause damage to temples either. But this did.”
Magnethia hummed. “That doesn’t sound right… Duplication spells are a psychic based attack. The only reason anyone feels pain from a duplicate is because the brain thinks it should be feeling pain… But a building doesn’t have that response...”
“Which is why I need help checking on this.” Griffin sighed. “I know it’s late. I know I’ve… Interrupted. But if Darkar gets whatever it is he’s looking for….”
“We get it. Lives are on the line.” Magnethia’s voice settled, soft and soothing.
“We’ll be there soon.” Electronio turned off the coms, leaving Griffin alone in the library.
The reports seemed to mock him, the words running together. (He needed sleep. But this had to be done…)
Not like he could sleep anyway… Valerie was off-realm. Looking for Mandragora. There was no way he could sleep in that bed alone...
Chapter 20: They Say It's Up To Fate
Song: Demons by Imagine Dragons
(This took a different direction than what I had originally planned, but this way works too.)
20. They Say It's Up To Fate
“I really don’t like this… Is there a reason it had to be us? I mean, I’m not scared or anything, but I don’t do well in tight places.” Faragonda complained, wings fluttering slowly. She had one hand up, a soft blue light coming from it.
Griffin turned to face the fairy, his own green orb glowing in his palm. “Faragonda… I get that you're claustrophobic, but you, Saladin, and I were the only ones without an active mission.”
“Which means it really did have to be us.” Saladin finished Griffin’s thought, the dragon head on his staff giving off a yellow glow. “No need to fret though, the three of us are fairly powerful in our own rights.”
Faragonda gave a whine. “Still…”
The fairy jumped, a squeal nearly escaping her lips. “Did you hear that? What was that?” Griffin sighed, shaking his head.
“Relax, Faragonda. It was most likely a rat. Or an insect of some sort.”
“If things get bad, Fara, we’ll protect you.” Saladin half-chuckled. Faragonda glowered at them, her eyes narrowing and wings fluttering faster.
“I don’t need protection, Boys. I just...” Her voice softened. “I just… I really have a bad feeling about this.”
Griffin pushed his glasses back up. “I understand that. We’re going off on minimum planning and a few potential leads, but we have to check it out.”
He looked at the markings on the cave walls, a shiver of dread going down his spine. Depictions of events were painted along the groves in the cave, some of which he’d only seen in text books. “Though, this is… Unnerving.”
Saladin hummed, looking at the images. “You mean, disturbing.”
“Terrifying.” Faragonda whined. “Why are we here again?” Griffin pinched the bridge of his nose, taking a deep breath.
(What he’d give for having a choice other than Faragonda… Not that he minded her, but a mission like this wasn’t good for her.)
“We’re here because Darkar was here and we have to figure out what he’s after so we can stop him.” Griffin reminded her.
“Great… We’re in a dark cave, surrounded by Dragon knows what, and we’re chasing after a legitimate boogey-man.” Faragonda gave a nervous laugh. “Perfect.”
“Boogey-man? Really Faragonda?” Saladin teased. She elbowed him in the ribs, a spot still healing from his scuffle with Maeve, making him hiss in pain.
“You can’t say you didn’t hear the stories growing up? The shit parents tell their kids to make them behave?” Faragonda tried. “You know? That if you’re bad, Lord Darkar will collect you and take you to ShadowHaunt to be tormented for the rest of your life?”
Griffin snorted, trying to fight a laugh. “I’ve heard the stories… But after meeting him…? Children are the last thing he wants anywhere near his precious gator hounds.”
“You got to admit Griffin, makes for a good boogey-man story.” Saladin chuckled. “What with being all skeletal and fire and brimstone.”
Faragonda sighed, shaking her head. “You two need to stop making fun of Darkar. He’s still a dangerous being.”
“Never denied that.” Griffin pointed out. “I’m just saying that Lord Darkar isn’t exactly… Like the stories paint him to be. Don’t get me wrong, he’s cold-blooded and cruel, even worse since he bonded to Tharma, but he doesn’t waste his time hunting down children just to go ‘boo’.”
Saladin stopped in front of them, holding his staff out. “As much as I’m enjoying this conversation… We have a choice to make...”
Two paths. Left or right?
Which way did Darkar go?
They kept close, watching for any and all movement. Faragonda had finally calmed down a bit, the noise level was lowered, and they were still no closer to figuring out what Darkar had been doing in the cavern temple.
Oh the stories on the cave walls were highly entertaining. Tales spun of ‘epic hunting trips’ and discovery of new animals. Discovery of magic and artifacts and power untold.
Repetition. There was one thing that always popped up.
Realix. The Codex.
That was it.
Griffin paused, taking in one of the murals. “Are you two seeing what I’m seeing?” He asked, turning to Saladin and Faragonda.
The other wizard and the fairy shared a look. “A morose painting made by an ancient civilization?” Saladin offered.
“But that’s not what you’re seeing, is it?” Faragonda asked.
Griffin waved his hand, allowing his magic to light the painting up better. “The story the murals have been telling… It all leads to this realm of ultimate power. Realix.”
“Does that place even exist?”
“What does that have to do with...” Faragonda paused, swearing. “Darkar and the Ancestral Witches… They’re… They’re targeting Realix next?”
Griffin gave a shrug. “Hard to say, but I wouldn’t put it passed them...” He paused, turning to look at Faragonda. “Which means we need to alert Pixie Village. They have the Codex and they need to hide it. Concorda is still your bonded pixie, right?”
“I’ll get in touch… When we get back.” Faragonda promised. “Do… You think they could actually succeed though… Getting to Realix I mean?”
“Hard to say. Which is why we need to do whatever it takes to prevent that from happening.”
“Then let’s head back, let Oritel know what’s going on.” Saladin looked the mural over one more time. “This place is… Starting to make me nervous.”
Griffin nodded, turning on his heels. “We’ll summon the pixie elders once we get back, see if we can convince them they’re in danger.”
He could feel his head throbbing.
So much back and forth and back and forth. The pixie elders were arguing with the Council and Oritel and Marion. Nothing was getting done. Everything started a new argument.
Queen Ninfea wanted proof of an imminent threat.
Discorda wanted a reason why she should cower.
Concorda was willing to negotiate.
And Athena wanted to stand her ground and fight Darkar herself.
“Enough!” Griffin couldn’t stop himself, his magic forming a mini-barrier between the pixies and the others. “I know you don’t want to believe us, but if Darkar and the Ancestral Witches want to get into Realix, they will find your village and tear it apart looking for the Codex.”
“These are beings who don’t give a damn about lives being at stake and they surely don’t care how many pixies or pixie animals they’ll have to kill to get to Realix and this Ultimate Power thing. All they care about is destruction and chaos.”
“You want proof? Look at what happened to Melody before members of the Company retrieved what was stolen. Look at Tides. Look at the Ice Kingdom! Realms are falling apart throughout the Magical Dimension and it’s all because of them.” Griffin looked to Queen Ninfea, giving a bow to her.
“I know this is hard to hear, Your Majesty, but Pixie Village is in danger. Your pixies are in danger. And the only way to ensure their protection to hide the Codex away so Darkar can’t find it.”
She tilted her head to him, green hair falling around her crown. “I understand the danger we are in, Mr. Sylvane. But Pixie Village is well guarded… I don’t see a need in giving away our Codex.”
Concorda turned to her queen, pushing her glasses up. “If I may… I believe there is a way we can settle this… Without trouble.”
Discorda huffed, crossing her arms. “Oh this should be good.”
“What if we split the Codex? Into fours? That way we can keep a portion of the Codex, so as to keep our promise to Arcadia and the Great Dragon and we give three others away to be hidden. That way even if Darkar manages to find us and take it… There are three other pieces he’d have to hunt down?”
Athena hummed, twirling a strand of her curly red hair. “Doesn’t sound half-bad… Perhaps we’ll split as well? So each of us guards a Codex.” She turned to Headmaster Lupin, giving a smile. “I always did love a good Red Fountain challenge.”
Discorda’s face softened a bit, the pixie giving a sigh. “I suppose I could find a place at Cloud Tower… I seem to get along better with witches anyway… Right Headmistress Lenore?”
“And I did love Alfea’s library…” Concorda squealed.
Griffin looked to the Council and Oritel. “Any objections?”
“I can’t believe you’re working instead of celebrating… We caught Mandragora and you managed to convince a bunch of pixies to trust outsiders. Isn’t that an excuse to wind down?” Valerie asked, taking a seat in the chair by Griffin.
Realix. He wanted to know everything he could about the realm, and what power it could hold. (If Darkar and the Ancestral Witches wanted it, it couldn’t be good.)
“No rest for the wicked.” He reminded her, eyes still skimming over the book pages. Growling, he shoved the book away. “Nothing. Why is there nothing about Realix in any of these damn books?”
Valerie hummed, resting her head on one hand. “Perhaps Realix is a fairytale? Or Realix isn’t the correct name? Just… The easiest translation for its name?”
“Even so… If Realix is what it’s commonly known as, there’d have to be something on it...” He swore, running his hands in his hair. “I have to figure it out… It may be our only way to stop Darkar.”
Valerie gave an exasperated sigh, her chair squeaking as she moved out of it.
She was in his lap, hands cupping his face. “Griffin… While I admire your dedication to the cause… You’re not immortal. You need to rest. You need to sleep, and eat. When was the last time you had a real meal? Or slept more than an hour?”
Griffin opened his mouth to protest, Valerie ‘blocking’ him with a finger tip. “No. No arguing. No work. Tonight, you’re going to take care of yourself, or I’m going to make you. And we both know that I can.” She gave him that smile, tilting her head. “Are we in agreement?”
Reluctantly, Griffin gave a nod. (No use arguing with her… And he did need the sleep… He wasn’t-)
“That’s it.” Griffin felt his face light up, his hands cupping Valerie’s face to kiss her. “You’re a genius.” Valerie pulled away, confused.
“I don’t want to disagree with you… But what exactly am I genius for…?”
“Immortality… Darkar is only immortal because the Shadow Fire is. Right?”
“And who gave him the Shadow Fire…?”
“The first Keeper of the Dark Dragon Fire...” Valerie frowned. “Griffin… What are you getting at?” He grinned, holding her close.
“You. You can take the Shadow Fire from him… You can stop him.” Griffin paused. “Granted, we’d have to find him and weaken him first…. But you…? You can take his immortality…. You can make sure he’s stopped. Permanently.”
Valerie waved her hands. “Hey… One problem… I have no idea how Rhea gave him the Shadow Fire in the first place. Nor do we know where he is.”
Griffin shook his head, smile still on his face. “We can worry about that later… The important thing is… We have a way to stop him. An ace up our sleeves.” He kissed her again, pressing her to him, lingering just for a moment. “We have you.”
Chapter 21: Even If It Hurts
Song: Dark Side by Kelly Clarkson
Time Skipped a few weeks.
21. Even If It Hurts
Valerie growled, looking at the endless loop of notes and maps of Obsidian. “Do we have anything else?” She asked, turning on her heels.
Zarathustra and Ediltrude shared a look, worry on both their faces. “This is all we have, Val… If we did have anything else… It’s in Griffin’s notebooks.”
“And we haven’t checked those because?” Valerie asked, trying to keep her temper in check. (Getting angry with his friends would do no one any good. Wasting time fighting with them wouldn’t get her any closer to saving him and the others.)
Zarathustra, the green haired twin sighed. “Because the last time we tried to look at Griffin’s notes without his knowledge, the fucking pages vomited ink in our faces.”
“Not just any ink either. Androsian Squid ink. That shit doesn’t come out easily.” Ediltrude griped. Valerie closed her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose.
Useless. It was all useless.
Griffin, Codatorta, and Pandora were going to die… And there wasn’t a damn thing she could do. “Valerie…?” Ediltrude’s voice softened, the aura around her changing. “Want to let us in on-”
She turned away from them, her body already shaking.
Her mind could easily feel the chill in her bones, as if it were real. The lightning running up her spine. Voices whispering about the vilest of deaths, the example made of traitors.
Sick. She was going to be sick.
Valerie walked out of the library, briskly pacing toward the bathroom. She couldn’t break down. Not now. Not when they needed her. (Not when he needed her.)
She kept her eyes closed and paced her breathing, splashing the cold water in her face. She had to cool down, her body was far too heated and angry and awake. (Afraid. Her fear was acting up. She needed it to shut down.)
Cold water turned ice cold with a simple spell, her skin threatening to sizzle at the sudden drop of temperature. Calm. She had to calm down.
She had to breathe deeply, she had to relax and focus.
The good: Erendor, Magnethia, and Saladin were safe. Griffin and Pandora had made sure of that. Solaria was safe. Halvshiek was caught.
The bad: Griffin, Pandora, and Codatorta had been captured. Most likely taken to Obsidian. Darkar is still alive and has become rabid since Mandragora was taken. And they still live.
One of the mirrors shattered, forcing Valerie into the moment.
The Fortress of Light. Safe and secure. And… With a broken mirror before her. She turned off the water, raising a hand to the glass.
It set itself back in place, healed as if nothing had happened. As if she hadn’t lost control.
“I was wondering where you went.” A soft voice spoke from behind her. Valerie fought the urge to jump, vaguely surprised the pix-fairy had come looking for her. (What now?)
She dried her face on her towel, ignoring Faragonda’s ‘greeting’. But, in true do-gooder fashion, that wouldn’t stop Faragonda.
“Zarathustra and Ediltrude are worried about you… Said you started to pale… And I know you’ve been holed up in the library ever since we answered Erendor’s distress call...”
Valerie rolled her eyes, moving to face the fairy. She was taller than Faragonda, more lithe in frame than the slender fairy. (Neither of them looked particularly good though… No shining blue eyes, signs of insomnia, bruises healing.)
“I’m fine. Griffin and the others are the ones we should be worried about.” She reminded, leaning against the sink. “They’re the ones who were taken.”
“True… But I know Griffin and I know Codatorta. They’re more than capable of protecting themselves. And Pandora…? I don’ t know her all that well, but I’m sure she’s a strong witch.” Faragonda tried to soothe their worries. (And she couldn’t lie to Valerie, the fairy had worries coming off her in waves.)
Valerie shook her head. “As true as that may be, I know the Coven. I know how they treat traitors. And I know Griffin will be made an example of.” Her nails dug into her palms, trying to force herself to stay grounded.
“He’s defied the Ancestral Witches one to many times… They’ll kill him and Codatorta and Pandora. And they won’t blink an eye.” Valerie told Faragonda, hoping her tone would remind the fairy who they were dealing with.
Faragonda sighed, pushing back strands of brunette hair. “I know. They’re terrible and horrible and every second we wait is a second that the others lose… But we can’t pool all our resources into-”
“Into what? A rescue mission?” Valerie felt that sickening feeling rising again. “You know, you do-gooders talk a great deal about ‘no one getting left behind’ and that ‘everyone on the team is important’, but when it comes down to it, it’s just talk. Isn’t it?”
“Face it Faragonda, if Erendor or Magnethia had been part of the captured party, we’d already be storming the front lines of Obsidian, would we not?” Valerie asked, voice rising. “But because the captured party is comprised of a dark magic wizard, a witch, and a soldier, they’re going to have be put on the back-burner. Right?”
“Tell me I’m wrong!” Valerie yelled, the lights flaring up around them. (Calm down. Calm down. Calm down.)
Faragonda bit her lip, her eyes looking downcast and unable to keep Valerie’s gaze. “So you see it to?”
“It’s not that simple Valerie… You know that...”
The witch shook her head, jaw clenching and hands balling into fists. “What I know is that the best damn strategist you’ve got, and the best shot we’ve got at beating them, is currently in their grasp having Dragon’s knows-what done to him and Codatorta and Pandora… And we’re doing jack shit about it.”
“It’s not like they don’t know how to protect themselves, Valerie! They’ll be able to hold on just a little longer. They’re strong.” Faragonda tried again. (Was this some sort of twisted tactic to make her feel better about the situation?)
“Why are you acting so scared?”
Valerie paused, the tension falling. Was the fairy that naive? Did she not realize the severity of being trapped on Obsidian? Or had she just not been paying attention to the power the Ancestral Witches had amassed?
“I’m not acting scared, Faragonda. I am scared-no scratch that- I’m fucking terrified.” Valerie admitted, her body shaking and heart racing.
She could vaguely hear Lysslis’ taunts in her head, the cruel mockings wrapping themselves in her mind.
Hastily she slid her coat off and undid her button-up blouse, leaving her in her tank top. Her scars were bared for Faragonda to gaze at, the fairy’s face dropping. “I didn’t get these fighting with any of you. I got these by being a daughter. To them.”
“Every time I failed them, it got engraved into my being. A warning not to fail again. A reminder that failure wasn’t an option for me. And they claimed to care about me.”
“So I ask you, Faragonda, what the hell you think they’ll do to Griffin if they did this to me?” The last sentence came out shaky, and she could feel something warm running down her face.
(Great. Crying. She was crying and she couldn’t find it in her to stop.)
She felt arms wrap around her, a moment of shock hitting her with the realization that Faragonda was hugging her. Tight.
(Strong grip for such a small fairy.)
Valerie broke, letting herself fall into the fairy. “I can’t lose him too. I can’t...”
“And you won’t. We’ll find a way. Together.”
A pause, Valerie trying to mentally put herself back together as she pulled away from the fairy. “This… Doesn’t make us friends… You know that, right?”
Faragonda wiped at her own eyes, handing her back her coat. “Of course not.” The fairy agreed, though her smile said otherwise.
Valerie found it in her to return the gesture, suddenly feeling just a tad lighter.
(Obsidian wouldn’t know what hit it.)
Chapter 22: Stand Up When It's All Crashing Down
Song: Stand in the Rain by Superchick
There may be errors. I wrote this with minimum sleep but it wouldn't stop hounding me. Apologies in advance.
22. Stand Up When It’s All Crashing Down
It had taken some doing and a little sweet talk on Faragonda’s part (thank the Dragons for that fairy, even if Valerie would never sing her praises aloud), but Oritel finally caved in.
Planning was immediate, and the roster to sign up for the Raid of Obsidian had filled up quickly, many itching for battle.
Valerie was proud of the team assembled; a group of soldiers from Solaria, Eraklyon, and Domino had joined. Hagen and Saladin were battle ready, both ready for a rematch against the Obsidian shadow creatures.
Luna, Alyssa, and Niobe had insisted on taking part. (Prompting Teredor, Radius, and Rhodos to join in.)
Zarathustra and Ediltrude demanded to come with, and Faragonda and Amelia were dead-set on taking part.
A good team.
One that would hopefully be strong enough to fight through Obsidian and save the others…
(A medic crew had been prepared, just in case of injuries or if those captured were still alive. Salvador and Palladium were heading that ship…)
Valerie glanced at the plans one last time, memorizing it. Committing it to memory. She was going to get Griffin out of there. Even if she had to burn the realm down.
“You should be getting some rest… We have a big day tomorrow.” Faragonda’s voice cut through the silence of the library, right through her thoughts.
She gave a sigh, waving the notes away. “I know. I just… Wanted to be sure I had it right.”
“Thought you preferred improvisation to planned attacks?” A tease. Valerie shook her head, arms wrapping around herself.
“Too much is on the line with this… It can’t go wrong.”
The fairy wrapped her arms around her, a warm feeling surrounding the witch. “We’re going to be fine, Valerie. Obsidian will fall, and we’ll get our friends back.”
“I know we’ll get them back, Faragonda. I just hope we get them back alive.”
Luna and her soldiers were doing wonderfully; their light spells blinding and forcing back several members of the Coven, straight into traps laid by Rhodos and Alyssa’s vine wraps.
Hagen and Saladin were storming opposite sides of the castle, the sound of swords clashing and armor clanking unmistakable.
“Get ready to cover us!” Valerie told Zarathustra and Ediltrude. “We’re going to need at least five minutes to get into the castle.”
Ediltrude gave a sly smile. “Don’t worry, we’ve got this.”
“After you, Sister Dear.” Zarathustra bowed to the elder twin, watching as the dark haired witch released a swarm of locusts onto the battle field.
Not to be outdone, Zarathustra waved her hands. Miniature orbs began to fall from the reddened sky, exploding upon contact.
Time to move.
Valerie helped her group (Faragonda, Amelia, and Teredor) fight through the swarms of shadow creatures and Coven members, a heated aura keeping them shielded from most attacks…
Inside the castle wasn’t much better than the outside. Soldiers from both sides crashed into one another, magic and weapons clashing.
Amelia paused, wings fluttering fast when she recognized Saladin fighting against Maeve (a banshee, a former friend). “You guys go on ahead, I’ll keep things leveled out here.”
Valerie frowned, but gave a nod. “Be safe.”
“Always.” The fairy winked, flying toward the action. Flames licked at the heels of the shadow creatures, forcing them back into their holes. (Maybe they stood a chance.)
Faragonda grabbed her wrist. “Come on, we don’t have long.”
The witch turned on her heels, heading for the hallways. “This way!”
Splitting up was not her brightest idea, but they needed to cover more ground. Quickly. So off Faragonda and Teredor went, in the direction of the dungeons.
If he was down there, she couldn’t face him. She didn’t want to know of his fate. Not yet. Not when there were other lives on the line.
She sent her aura out, making sure they knew where she was. (If they fought with her, the others had a better chance of survival. She had to draw them out.)
Valerie stayed vigilant, protecting herself from stray spells or weapons, letting her magic call to them.
Come and get me.
She’d made it the training grounds, still no sign of her mothers. (Had they fled?)
A ring of fire surrounded her, blocking her off from the others. “Expecting someone else?” Darkar’s voice taunted, his silhouette in the flames.
Valerie glowered. Her inner fire ignited, the heat emanating from her soothing the flames around her. “Drop the fancy tricks Darkar and fight me properly. Or have you become a coward?” One hand clenched into a fist, a flaming hilt and sword forming.
Darkar gave a laugh and shook his head. He extended one hand, his skeletal armor moved down his arm, forming a sword. “Ladies first.”
She charged him, aiming for the skeletal portions his armor couldn’t cover. But Darkar was a student of Tharma, fast as lightning, and his strikes nearly as deadly.
He’d cut her arm in the clash, a searing pain going up her to her shoulder. “You’ve lost your edge, Valerie. Belladonna would be so disappointed.”
She glowered and weaved away from his next attack, thrusting toward his spine. “When is she not disappointed?” She snipped, charging again when her thrust had missed.
“Your temper is showing.”
Valerie clenched her sword tighter. Don’t let him under your skin. Don’t let him under your skin. He lunged for an attacked, barely giving her enough time to bring her sword up to block.
This fight was pointless. Tiring.
She was getting tired. Angry.
Why wouldn’t Darkar just stay the fuck down?
Immortal. He was immortal… (Or was he? Griffin had a theory…)
Valerie fell to her knees, her sword forced away and toward the ground. She panted, everything aching.
A blade came near her face, Darkar giving a chuckle. “You truly have gotten soft, My Dragon… So much potential… Wasted trying to be something you’re not.”
Valerie clenched her hands. “You’re right… I have gotten soft. I’ve become forgiving and… Dare I say, I’ve become… Good.” She gave a mirthless laugh, getting to her feet.
“And you know what? I like it. I feel more like myself every day. And I’ll be damned if I let any of you ruin that for me.” Her inner flames reignited, heat flooding throughout her body as embers sparked at her feet.
She could feel for his power, the Shadow Fire crying out for her Dragon Fire. A pitiful cry, one she couldn’t ignore.
Valerie flooded her flames to Darkar, forcing the fire passed his armor and into his being.
His aura shifted, a flame escaping his body as fires began to engulf the Lord of ShadowHaunt. Darkar shrieked out, shrill and pained as he went from a skeletal creature to ash and dust.
He was finished. Banished to Oblivion.
Valerie fell back to her knees, trying to even out her breathing. Weak. She felt so weak. So tired… (She should have rested… She should have slept.)
“And we’re done… Be careful not to overexert yourself or do anything that could tear your stitches… Please. It was hard enough getting you to sit still for this batch.” Palladium pleaded, taking a step back to admire his handiwork.
Valerie gave a weak smile, still feeling dazed. (Pain killers. So wonderful… So amazing.)
“I’ll be good, Palladium. I promise.” She slurred a bit, wincing at how she sounded. “Can I go see him now?” She paused. Did they get him? Was he okay?
Was Codatorta and Pandora okay?
(She couldn’t remember. Her mind was so foggy.)
(Saladin and Hagen. She remembered them collecting her… And… Purple hair… Griffin… They did get him.)
(Alive? Was he alive?)
She felt a hand on her good shoulder, a soothing aura wrapping around her. She must have started panicking, Palladium was being gentler than normal.
“Valerie… I’m going to need you to breathe with me, okay? In…. Out….” His voice was calm, melodic. Hypnotic almost.
The witch mimicked him, breathing the way he did. “Good. Good.” He flashed a smile. “Salvador will be by soon. And he’ll take you infirmary 3.”
“Why? Is Griffin there?” She went to stand, wincing as her left leg sent out a searing pain. (She’d been cut. Deep. Stitches up the side of it.)
Palladium eased her back down. “He is. He’s…” The elf paused, concern crossing his features. Valerie felt her panic rising again.
“He’s in rough shape…” Palladium sighed. “If I’m honest though… Most of you were injured pretty badly… That was… One of the more brutal fights...”
“But he’s alive?”
“He is. And you’ll get to see him soon enough.” Palladium assured her. “But right now, you need to rest up. Understood?”
Rest sounded good. Her mind was still foggy and she felt so… Heavy.
“Fine… But if his status changes...”
“You’ll be the second to know after Ofelia.” Palladium promised, raising his hand. “Elf’s honor.”
Chapter 23: It's Not Somebody Who's Seen The Light
There is torture and pain in this chapter. This chapter focuses on Griffin's imprisonment on Obsidian. This chapter gets harsh.
Song: Hallelujah, the Rufus Wainwright version.
23. It’s Not Somebody Who’s Seen The Light
“Are you finding anything?” Pandora asked, her voice carrying through the ruins. “Because I’m finding jack shit.”
“I think Griffin’s been looking at his map all wrong.” Erendor griped.
Griffin rolled his eyes. “My maps aren’t wrong. And neither are Maggie’s.”
“The Jewel Of Niane is here, guys… We just have to keep searching.” Magnethia’s voice reminded them.
More grumbling from Pandora and Erendor, more movement and shifting from Saladin and Codatorta.
There was a lull in their work, quiet settling in as they searched deeper and deeper into the ruins. “What if they already have it?” Saladin finally asked, breaking the silence.
Griffin paused, setting his equipment down. “If they already have it… We’ll need to keep watch over Marion and Valerie. We can’t afford to lose them to the Jewel’s call.”
“Nor could we handle having to fight them. Don’t get me wrong, we’re strong… But statistically speaking, surviving the war without the Dragons is… Improbable. Maybe a 5% chance...” Magnethia hummed. “Or was it an 8% chance?”
“Doesn’t matter our odds… What matters is that if we don’ find this rock… We’re as good as fucked.” Codatorta swore. “And I dunno about all of you, but I’d rather live through this.”
Pandora gave a nod, her hand raised in solidarity. “So would I… But if worse comes to worst...”
Griffin whistled, startling the group. “I can’t believe I’m saying this… But we need to keep a positive outlook… If we don’t, we’re going to create self-fulling prophecies and that just won’t do.” He grabbed the ax Hagen had crafted. “Now, back to digging… We can’t go back empty handed.”
“We could, it just wouldn’t be preferable.” Magnethia amended, causing the wizard to roll his eyes again.
(Just a little further. They’d find the Jewel. They just had to…)
Codatorta and Saladin were storing the equipment back on the ship while Magnethia set their course back for Magix.
Erendor and Pandora were dusting themselves off, grumbling about how they were going to get stains out.
He was studying the Jewel, looking over the inscriptions. A spell meant to bind the Great Dragons, a counterpart for the Water Stars.
(It was going to be destroyed as soon as they got to the Fortress. No one needed that kind of power, no one deserved it.)
And no one was going to force Marion or Valerie to bend to their will. Not while he was still breathing.
“Um… What’s that?” Pandora’s words cut through Griffin’s concentration.
“What’s what?” He asked, looking toward her and Erendor.
Both were pressed against the ship’s windows, confusion in their reflections. “I… Think we’re in trouble.” Erendor admitted.
Griffin jumped to his feet, swearing when he noticed what was going on. The skies had darkened, shadow creatures forming.
“Magnethia I’m going to need you to get us out of here. Now!” Griffin yelled, looking toward the cockpit.
The fairy was typing away, frantic. “I’m doing my best… Where are Cody and Saladin?”
“Ready for action!” Codatorta grabbed his seat at the firing panels, Saladin taking over as co-pilot.
“We’ll follow your lead, Mags.”
“Get ready to fire.” Magnethia started. “Now!” The weapons deployed, laser blasts forcing back the shadow creatures as Magnethia steered them toward the skies. “Hang on tight!” She warned, hitting hyper-drive.
Griffin clutched to Erendor’s seat, the king holding to his own armrests and Pandora wrapped herself around her chair.
The ship sputtered and jerked, something pulling it hard and fast back toward the ground. “Brace yourselves!” Saladin shouted, his words falling to deaf ears.
He found himself falling into Erendor and Pandora, a ringing starting up in his ears.
Smoke filled his lungs, heat rising. Something crashed and something exploded. But he couldn’t move, instead he closed his eyes, doing his best to sense for his magic.
Safety. He had to get them to safety.
Convergence. He could feel another’s magic trying to help his. Pandora.
A smile came to his lips. Maybe they’d be okay… Maybe the spell would work…
Everything ached. His legs, his arms. His back. Even his head was throbbing. (Hair… Could hair hurt? His did.)
Ground. He was on solid ground. Cold ground. Stone?
He opened his eyes, frowning when all he could make out were blurs. Gray blurs. And…
Griffin heard more than he saw the movement. It was jerky and the person moving was clearly in pain from their groans, but they were determined.
Something was given to him. Glasses. His glasses.
He put them on, looking around to see where they’d landed.
Shit. Fucking shit.
These walls he knew all-to-well. The gray prison that was Obsidian’s dungeons. He was in a cell… and…
No magic. He couldn’t feel his magic. He looked to his wrist, frowning at the intrusive cuff there. A magic sever. Fuck.
Griffin glanced to his ‘cellmate’, swearing out loud.
Codatorta. His armor was torn, burned in places. And his leg… It had swollen and turned purple, the knee bending strangely. (Broken. It had to be broken.)
“What happened? Where are the others?” He tried to keep his voice level. He couldn’t show signs of weakness. Not here. Not so close to them.
Codatorta shook his head. “I don’t know much after… After the ship wrecked. All I remember is you and Pandora chantin’ and… Then I woke up here… And ye were pretty out of it...”
Griffin swore, wincing as he moved to stand. “Great. Just great...” He went to the cell door, frowning when he all he could see was the gray stone hallway and a few other doors.
“Saladin? Magnethia?” He called, looking to the doors. (Maybe they were safe… Maybe they’d gotten away.)
“I’m here. But I’m not feeling all that hot...” Pandora’s voice called from across the way. “And I don’t have my magic.”
“Are any of the others with you?”
“No… Just me, myself, and I...” Pandora deadpanned. “I think our spell may have misfired...”
“You think?” Griffin swore, letting himself sit back down. “I’m sorry. We should have left sooner...”
Codatora threw one of his gauntlets at him, a frown on his face. “Don’t you start talking like that! We all made our choices. We all went on that mission.”
“Muscles is right. We came voluntarily… Ease up on that self-deprecation crap.” Pandora reminded him.
Griffin shook his head. “Still… Look where we are. This isn’t… This isn’t going to be some day trip. We’re on Obsidian. They will kill us.”
“Then why haven’t they already? We’ve been ripe for tha takin’.” Codatorta pointed out. “I think they need us fer something.”
“Or they want to make an example out of us… We are Company members.” Pandora sighed. “I never imagined I’d go down tortured by the Ancestral Witches… But I never did have much of an imagination.”
Griffin frowned, his mind racing.
They should be dead. They don’t have anything the Coven could want except…
No. They’re not fool enough to think he’d actually join them again… Were they? No… But to be made an example of…
It’d make sense. He’d defied them openly, over and over. And now he’d pay for it.
(At least she wasn’t there. He’d never felt so relieved to have her on a separate mission… If they’d had her…)
“I’m going to ask the two of you to keep your heads down while we’re here… I… May have a plan to get you guys out of here… Or at least, a plan to buy you two some time to get out of here.” Griffin looked to Codatorta. “And don’t try to argue with me… I know what I’m doing.”
The soldier frowned. “Pandora, you buyin’ what he’s sellin’ us?”
“No. But we don’t have much of choice… Do we?”
“Guess not.” Codatorta sighed, looking to Griffin. “Just… Promise this… Plan of yours won’t get ya killed. I’m not havin’ that conversation wit’ yer witch.”
Griffin looked down. “I try not make promises I can’t keep, Codatorta. You know that.”
The electricity running through his body finally subsided, allowing him to get back to his feet. Mustering his strength, he shot them a defiant smirk. (Everything ached, but he couldn’t let them see.)
“I think you’re losing your touch, Tharma… My heart only stopped once.” He spat out, trying to ignore the blood running down his mouth from where he’d bit his tongue.
(Can’t let them know. Can’t let them see weakness.)
The storm witch flared up, another volt of lightning surging up his spine. He fell to his knees, wincing at the impact. “Boy, if you don’t start answering our questions-”
“You’re going to what? Kill me? You’re going to do that anyway, might as well have at it.” He slurred, moving back to his feet. What he’d give for his magic right now.
Lysslis moved in front of the younger sister, that crooked smile coming to her face. (Fucking hell.) She walked over to Griffin, clawed hands gripping him by his hair.
“Griffin… We’re only asking for your cooperation… Just a set of directions. Where did our sweet girl go?” She was using that lulling voice and her hands forced him to gaze into her golden eyes. No… He wasn’t going to give in… He couldn’t do that to her. He’d never do it to her.
His mouth burned, the truth wanting to force itself out. “She stays at the Fortress.” He found himself admitting, his mind mentally kicking him.
Lysslis purred. “Good boy… Where is the Fortress?”
His mouth continued to burn. Think. Think.
“It’s in the Magical Dimension. Close to a body of water.” Take that, Psycho.
The temperature began to drop, frost settling in the air. “Relax, Bella… He’s just trying to be difficult.” Lysslis tried to chastise her sister, turning her attention back to Griffin. “You’ll need to be more specific about those locations, Griffin… Bella’s loosing her cool.” A half-joke and a threat.
Griffin glowered, fighting the burn in his mouth. (One shot. He had one shot.)
He bit down on his tongue again, his eyes shutting as the pain coursed through him. He glanced to Lysslis’s face, and spat at her eyes. “Fuck you.”
The middle sister growled, dropping him to the stone ground. “You’ll dearly for that.” His senses closed off, a vision playing in his mind’s eye.
The end. It was the end. Death and chaos around him. Ashen snow fell, flames bursting about the realm.
She was at the center, a different version of Valerie. Manic and aligned with them. The destruction all her doing.
The witch drew her sword as she approached him, the smile that used to warm him suddenly making him shudder in the ice of it. He could feel the blade at his neck, and he braced for it, braced for death.
But nothing could prepare him for the final blow. The blade at his neck turned swiftly toward Valerie’s neck instead.
And in an instant her head fell, her body falling to the side, still clutching the sword.
(It wasn’t real. It wasn’t real.)
He could feel their impatience with him growing, their disdain and contempt becoming more and more apparent.
They kept up their interrogation, tried to find the Fortress. Or a way through Domino’s defense. They tried to find Valerie and a way to bring her back into their fold.
(All they wanted was her Dragon Fire. They needed it to summon Realix. To summon their army.)
He fought them as best as he could. Giving roundabout answers and cryptic descriptions. Giving them riddles and false statements. He did his best, considering the truth spells and potions…
But now… It seemed their dance was over.
Belladonna glowered toward him, tilting her head. “You’ve outgrown your usefulness. It’s become more and more apparent that you won’t assist us and that you don’t care for your own life.” She gave a smirk at that.
“Not that I blame you… It must be such a pitiful existence to have so much potential wasted on helping those… Privileged fairies. To be a lesser being.” Cold began to seep into his skin, all the way to his bones.
“Normally I’d grant a quick death, but considering how rude you’ve been despite our… Hospitality, you’ll die slowly.” Belladonna and her sisters cackled.
Cold went down his spine, everything seeming to freeze into place.
“I wonder what will happen first…? Hypothermia or his organs shattering to the weight of the ice?” Lysslis hummed.
His blood began to run cold, he could feel his heart slowing. He couldn’t breathe, his lungs refusing to expand.
Bones froze together. He couldn’t move. (Something cracked, he could feel the pain, but… It was dulled.)
He caught Tharma’s eyes, the witch giving a smug smile. Her too-sharp teeth showed, a warning more than mirth. “You never should have filled that girl’s head with fairy-tales. Nothing good ever comes from it.”
Griffin found it in him to glare and to speak. (It hurt, it hurt like hell to force his voice out, but he’d be damned if they got the last word.)
“I gave her hope. I showed her love. And I’ll never take that back.” He growled. (Tried to growl out. Teeth clattering together made that difficult.)
Belladonna raised her palm, the freezing cold in his body accelerating.
His eyes shut, his body unable to keep them open. He said a silent prayer, hoping Codatorta and Pandora were okay. That they’d made it out like they’d planned. That this wasn’t in vain.
He could still feel a slight chill, but it was more metallic. Itchy bed coverings draped over him. He felt crushed, laying on his stomach instead of his back.
There was a throbbing pain shooting up and down his body, his back the biggest target.
He could hear a beeping noise and felt something… Attached.
Griffin opened his eyes, just a tad. He had to see.
White. Too-white walls of the infirmary. A monitor for his vitals near the bed. (IV. That was what he was attached to. And the monitor…)
Snoring. Griffin heard soft snoring coming from his left side.
Wincing and trying not to move so much, he turned his head, a smile coming to his mouth.
His vision was blurry, but he knew Valerie’s silhouette anywhere. She was curled on a chair (armchair? When did they get those?), bandages wrapped around one of her legs and on an arm. Blonde hair braided back.
Her body seemed tense, like it wanted to fight her being asleep, but her exhaustion must have won out…
Griffin couldn’t help but smile, allowing his eyes to close again.
(He wasn’t sure if this was real or not… If he’d died or Lysslis created a complex hallucination or if he’d actually been rescued. But he didn’t care. Valerie was still safe enough to sleep peacefully. That was enough for him.)
Chapter 24: I Guess We Can’t Control What’s Just Not Up To Us
Song: Fallin' All In You by Shawn Mendes
24. I Guess We Can’t Control What’s Just Not Up To Us
He bit down on his cheek, fighting a wince as he stood.
They were fighting a war. He didn’t have time to be weak, he didn’t have the luxury to rest. They had to find the Coven, they had to stop them.
“You know damn well you’re not supposed to be out of the wheelchair.” A familiar (and Dragon sent, damn did he miss her) voice chastised him.
Griffin didn’t turn around, keeping his attention to the notes and maps. “I refuse to be confined to a wheelchair when I’m perfectly capable of walking on my own.”
“The ice on your spine hasn’t completely thawed out Griffin. And I’m not going to let you break your spine just to find those hags.” A hand was laid on his shoulder, warm and soft and… He sighed, letting her guide him back to the wheelchair.
“I hate feeling immobile.”
“I know. But it’s only temporary. Just until Ofelia and your brother are sure your spine is safe.” She pressed a kiss to his temple, the hand on his shoulder tightening. “We just got you back, I’ll be damned if I lose you again.”
He leaned his head into her hand, eyes closing. (She’d be scared. He could feel the worry still radiating from her. Guilt bubbled inside him, upset at himself for scaring her.)
“I’m not worried about me right now, Val… Belladonna, Tharma, and Lysslis are on the move and we have no idea where they’re headed or what they’re planning...”
“You’ll be no good against them if you’re still nursing your wounds and unable to move more than five feet without pain.” She countered, moving to sit on the desk in front of him. “I get it though, you hate being sidelined. Codatorta’s pretty pissed he’s on crutches and off active duty for the next few months. And Pandora… She’s not exactly thrilled about being hooked to an IV and on mandatory bed rest. But here we are.”
“Getting rest and letting your body heal should be your main concern right now. I...” Valerie paused. “I don’t want you overworking yourself, not when it’s this serious of an injury.”
Griffin frowned, but didn’t say anything. He knew how bad it was. How close he was to being truly paralyzed. That there was still a chance he’d wind up paralyzed if the ice Belladonna left in his body didn’t thaw fast enough.
Not to mention the damage to his tissues and bones, the ice still clinging to some of his organs. But there was still so much work to do…
Valerie took his hands in hers. “Griffin…?”
“I know. I know I need to rest…. But it’s driving me crazy not knowing where or when they’ll strike next. There’s lives on the line, Valerie!” He hated the break in his voice. He hated the swell of panic in his chest. Hated it.
She squeezed his hands, reassurance. “Magnethia and Electronio are more than capable of working on this. They’re excellent strategists and quick to pick up dark magic surges.”
“Are coming in from Zenith. They’ll be here in twenty minutes and you’re not going to interfere.” She gave one of her smiles, standing up and moving to the back of the chair. “Now we’re heading for the commissary. You’re going to eat a decent meal with me and your brother and your newest potential brother-in-law and then you’ll be going to our room where we are going to rest.”
Griffin turned his head, doing his best to look at her from where he was sitting. “Since when did you become my nurse?”
“Since I’m off rotation because of my injuries in the sword fight I had with Darkar.” She paused. “And I’m the only one who can make you bend to her will.” Valerie snarked, that mischievous gleam in her eyes. “Who knows, if you’re a good patient, you may get an early release.”
Griffin couldn’t help but laugh, unsure how she even managed that joke with a straight face. “You need to stop hanging around the twins… They’re awful sense of humor is rubbing off.”
Valerie frowned, nose scrunching. “We need friends with better humor.” She agreed, hands moving to the grips of his chair. “Now we really do have a lunch date that we’re not missing out on.”
“Yes, Nurse Valerie.” Griffin teased, giving a playful pout when she hit his shoulder. (Not hard, more like a shove.)
“Keep trying my non-existent patience and I may let Faragonda take over your care.” A threat. Griffin placed a hand on his chest, going for a scandalized look.
“Do you have any idea the affection she’ll subject me to? Or the baby-talk? That’s cruel and unusual punishment, Valerie. I’m pretty sure it goes against the Code of Ethics.”
The witch rolled her eyes. “According to Erendor, I don’t have ethics. How unfortunate for you.”
Griffin kept quiet as Salvador and Palladium did their best to update him on what he’d missed, save for the occasional snicker and head-shake, or a nod and a smirk.
His brother was getting animated about his mission to the Elven Realms, and how he nearly ended up a sacrifice to the Shadow Elves. “I’m telling you, those are not the elves you want to fuck with.” Salvador shook his head.
“I mean, who attempts to throw someone into an abyss to summon some ancient demon? How insane is that?” Salvador shuddered. Palladium sighed, placing his head in his hands.
“I tried to warn you that they’d be no help. But you insisted that you could make friends.” The elf sounded exasperated, a teasing look shot at the older wizard.
Griffin tsked. “Palladium, you’ll have to excuse my brother. He thinks because he managed to tame a quillcat in our youth, that he can befriend anything or anyone.”
“He always had a bad habit of bringing strays into the castle.” Valerie teased. Salvador shot them both a look before turning to Palladium, wrapping around the elf.
“Do you see how cruel they are to me? Do you see why I am the way I am now?”
“And just what way are you, Brother Dear? Overly dramatic? Needy for attention?” Griffin taunted. Salvador snorted.
“Needy for attention? I’m needy for attention? That’s rich coming from the man who enjoys spreading seeds of doubt to others just so they’ll come to him for advice.” The older brother turned to Valerie. “And bad advice, might I add. On purpose.”
Griffin shrugged, forcing himself to take a drink of the tea Valerie had gotten him. (She’d gotten it from Alyssa who swore by it’s healing properties… But if the taste was anything to go by… He was better off hurting.)
“It’s not my fault Erendor and Oritel made for easy targets. Nor is it my fault that they trusted me despite knowing I’d found out about their little ‘hazing’ ritual that landed Electronio in the hospital.” Griffin reminded him.
“Still, it was a fucked up thing to do.”
“So was the hazing ritual. Did I mention E was in the hospital because of it?” Griffin countered, looking to Valerie. “Do you see what I’ve had to put up with over the years?”
Valerie and Palladium shared a look before laughing.
“You’re both pretty horrible.”
“Agreed. But it leaves little doubt that you two are siblings.”
“Besides, you both seem to enjoy these spats considering how often you engage in them.”
Salvador and Griffin both rolled their eyes. How dare their partners gang up on them like that? Sides were meant to be taken. Not disregarded.
“Comfortable?” Valerie asked, one of her hands running through his hair.
She’d brought them both back to their room to rest, knowing how the medication Ofelia had given him would have him out cold soon.
He was already feeling drowsy, but nestled close to her and her warmth, soft hand running over his scalp, he’d be asleep soon enough. (Whether he wanted to be or not.)
“’M fine…” He managed to slur, moving just a bit to lay on her chest. Griffin felt himself smile once he could hear and feel her heart beating. Safe. Home.
He could feel more than hear her laugh, hands still running through his hair. “Get some sleep… You need it.”
Chapter 25: Put Me To The Test
Song: Warrior by Beth Crowley
25. Put Me To The Test
Domino had vastly changed. Ice and darkness plagued the realm, shadow creatures terrorizing the people and destroying the buildings.
The remaining Coven members were unleashing their own forms of hell, dark magic radiating from the birthplace of Light Magic.
“Any more ideas, Faragonda?” Valerie snipped toward the fairy, blaming her for their current predicament.
They were trapped in Castle Sparx, surrounded and up against a wall. All because the fairy thought she’d heard Hagen and Saladin calling for help. (Which should have been her first clue something was off, Hagen and Saladin were far too proud to ask for help, preferring to rely on their own merits.)
“We could try a convergence spell… Though I have no idea how well it’d work.” Faragonda’s wings fluttered fast, trying to keep her away from the rot monsters Lysslis had conjured.
Valerie frowned. She had to think fast. Could it work? Were she and the fairy on a similar wavelength?
“What have we got to lose?” Valerie extended her hand, taking one of Faragonda’s in hers. “Ready?”
Their magic began to flow, their auras coming together.
It was different than when she joined with Griffin; Faragonda’s energetic power didn’t fuel her flames quite so fantastically. It was more subdued, a quiet and subtle burst of ignition. Her flames spread out, fueled by Faragonda’s positive magic, the two weaving until the creatures were forced back into their true forms; rot and decay.
“We did it!” Faragonda cheered, hugging tightly to Valerie. The witch froze, pushing at the fairy’s shoulders.
“Fight first. Celebrations later.” Valerie reminded her, heading for the door. “We need to find the others and regroup, before things get worse.”
“I’m right behind you.”
Griffin and Saladin had found themselves surrounded by ice goblins, servants of Belladonna. Valerie felt her flames extend, the creatures melting at a rapid pace. “I figured you boys could use a hand.”
“You two okay?” Faragonda asked, flying down and blasting back a few of the flying creatures.
“Peachy.” Griffin snipped, glaring toward Saladin. “Someone just had to antagonize the demons though.”
“It’s called trash-talking and it’s a proven method of boosting confidence.”
“Saladin, on what realm does that actually work? Because it sure as hell isn’t this one.”
“Griffin, I know what I’m-”
“Boys! Focus!” Faragonda got in between them, using her wings to separate the two. “Where are the others? What’s the plan?”
“The plan? Survive and find the Ancestral Witches. I thought that was pretty evident.” Saladin mused.
Griffin pinched the bridge of his nose. “I honestly don’t even know. We all ended up separated and I have no idea where the others are or who’s still alive. All I know for sure is that Salvador and Hagen are supposed to be bringing a fleet back as reinforcements.”
Valerie swore. “Great. So we just survived until then?”
“We should split back up… Cover more ground and take care of more of those creatures.” Faragonda suggested.
A familiar feeling of light and warmth had Valerie involuntarily relax. Marion.
The fairy queen and her husband came from the east, both looking haggard and exhausted. “Faragonda’s right. But we need more of a plan than just splitting up.” Marion admitted, landing near the group.
Her eyes were dimmer than they should have been, and Oritel seemed to be favoring his right arm. “Where’s Erendor and the others?” Oritel asked.
“Don’t know. We were all separated by that tornado...” Griffin growled. “They have to be here somewhere….”
Valerie paused, looking to Marion. “Maybe we can find them…? Our dragons have history with them, maybe we can use that to sense them out?”
Marion gave a weak smile. “It’s a plan.” She turned to the others. “Think you can handle things here?”
“We’ll do everything we can.” Faragonda promised.
“Let’s go.” Oritel went to take Marion’s hand. The fairy shook her head.
“You need to stay and help Faragonda, Saladin, and Griffin. Valerie and I can handle those witches.”
“Don’t worry, Oritel. I’ll watch out of her.” Valerie gave a teasing smile. “You do trust me, right?” Oritel glowered.
“Doesn’t seem like I’ve got much of a choice, does it?”
Valerie and Marion kept close, walking until the snow began to fall hard and fast and the sun was completely covered in darkness.
Their flames gave their bodies a soft glow, allowing them see even in the darkest centers. A chill ran up Valerie’s spine, a familiar laugh making her want to break and run.
“Good work, Valerie, bringing the Queen to us.” Tharma cackled, lightning flashing.
Lysslis hummed. “The dragons are aligned once again, wishing to face us. I wonder who will fall this time?”
“I think we know, Sisters. Look how exhausted they are already, just from facing our pets.” Belladonna ‘cooed’.
Valerie glowered, the fire creeping up into her veins. “You’re right, we are tired. But that doesn’t mean we can’t stop you.”
“We have more than enough power to end your reign, Belladonna.” Marion’s voice faded, her body glowing an ethereal golden color. Her wings spread out, full and powerful.
“You won’t win.” Valerie felt her own dragon coming to life, an aura of darkness and ash surrounding her.
Belladonna cackled. “Last time we faced off, you both ended up dead and forced to retreat into a mortal body. I wonder what will happen this time.”
A very real threat. Death was always a worry. A fear. But when you were death and paired with life… No one could stop them.
Ice encased Marion, though it didn’t hold. Her flames broke her free, shards scattering and attacking Tharma.
Valerie felt for flames, a projection of an otherworldly dragon coming forth and surging toward Lysslis.
An onslaught of the elements powered through this battlefield.
Snow raged on, flames creating ash and burns. Darkness fought with the light, bits and pieces breaking through. Tornadoes swirled and lightning crackled.
Pain surged, anger rose.
Electricity burned into her being.
Ice froze her limbs.
Darkness blinded her.
But she persisted, her flames drawing her out of the pit they tried to shove her into. (Marion was such a big help, forcing her to keep going.)
She’d known the fairy was brave, but to continue defying death and her own common sense? She was a true warrior.
She was tiring down and those three hags seemed to be just as powerful and well-rested as they had at the start.
Marion had been shot down by a strike of lightning, her wings barely fluttering as she tried desperately to heal herself.
Valerie switched to defense, her dragon projection swirled around them both as a sort of shield. “Oh how the mighty will fall.” Tharma laughed.
“Give up now, Girl. This display of insubordination has gone on long enough.” Belladonna raised her hand.
Cold. She felt everything inside of her begin to freeze over. “If you surrender now, Valerie, we promise you can come home. We may even let you keep your pet.” Lysslis spoke, her voice turning into that melodic trance.
Home did sound nice… Her home…
No. She had a home. And it was not with them.
“Go to hell.” She growled, letting herself heat up. The ice began to thaw inside of her, the flames growing hotter and hotter.
The dragon projection around her and Marion raised it’s head and lunged for the three witches. She grinned, hearing Tharma and Lysslis screech about burning alive.
Marion raised to her feet, taking hold of Valerie’s hand. “I think we should end this.”
A convergence with Marion was vastly different than one with Griffin or Faragonda. Flames to fuel flames, fire burning and swirling and consuming.
Golden and Black flames came together, the Great Dragons of Myth merging together.
No one could stand up to them, no one dared to stand to them.
(After all, who could stand up to a god, let alone two?)
The smell of smoke and burned flesh had her rousing up.
Snow no longer fell to the ground, light and life returning to Domino. Ashes still fell to the ground, a reminder of the battle.
The earth around them was scorched, another reminder.
Pain. She was in so much pain. Lightning coursed through her body still, and she could feel bruises… And something was broken…
Weak. She was weak. Too weak to really raise up and look around.
“Marion?” She murmured. “Marion are you okay?”
Silence. Panic rushed into her system, yet she couldn’t move. “Marion!”
A cough and a groan of pain. “’M fine… I think… ‘M just gonna lay here for a while though… Catch up on some sleep.” Her voice sounded faraway, tired and drunk. (The exhaustion had to be talking.)
“I think they’re over here! I see the smoke!” She could hear someone yelling at a distance. Hagen? No… The voice wasn’t deep enough… Radius perhaps?
“Get the medic ship ready! We may have two more!” Alyssa’s voice rang out. Strange for her. She was usually so soft spoken.
“Guess we’re okay.” Valerie felt herself closing her eyes. Their friends were coming. They were safe.
She could sleep. She could sleep now.
Chapter 26: May These Memories Break Our Fall
Song: Long Live by Taylor Swift
26. May These Memories Break Our Fall
The party was in full swing.
Music drifted around the Fortress’ halls, the food and drinks laid out, soldiers and loved ones dancing around what was once a training room.
Belladonna and her sisters had fallen, their remaining soldiers locked away and awaiting for their trials. The Company had won.
Laughter filled the once sorrowful halls, happiness and joy and relief banishing the worries of death and destruction.
(Yet there were people missing from this celebration. Too many to name, too many to to think of.)
Valerie made her way over to the bar, placing a hand on Saladin’s shoulder. The wizard looked worse for wear; his once dark hair white as a ghost, his magic aura dulled, and his hand shaking as he downed another glass of…. Solarian Whiskey?
“Amelia wouldn’t approve.” She whispered, trying to get him to see that enough was enough. Saladin snorted, turning his head to face her.
His eyes were saddened, scars and bruises making him looking older than he was. “She’s not here to stop me, now is she?” Venom. It was to be expected.
“Not physically. No. But you heard Marion… They’re all here in spirit. Their deaths weren’t in vain.” Who would have thought she’d be comforting Saladin? Not even a year ago she couldn’t stand the man. And now?
“Marion just likes to make us all feel better about still being alive. We both know she can’t stand negativity of any kind.”
Valerie sighed. She’d have to play hardball. Her eyes scanned the room, finding who she was looking for: Codatorta. She waved the soldier over, glad he’d seemed to understand her need from across the room.
“Sally-din… The hell do you think yer doin’?” Codatorta asked, voice slightly too cheery for either Valerie or Saladin’s tastes. The witch mentally swore. Of course he was already tipsy.
“I think I’m having a drink.”
“Or five.” Valerie commented, glancing to then nearly empty bottle. “Which you shouldn’t be doing considering your health.”
“My health would have been fine if Maeve hadn’t been around. Now wouldn’t it?” Saladin half-slurred, slinging the dig to Valerie. As if she’d been the one to recruit the Banshee.
Codatorta tsked, wrapping his large arms around the other man. “I think ya need ta relax a bit… Why don’ we find that game ya like? The one with all the numbers?”
Saladin looked up, as if saying a prayer. “Fine. If it’ll get you off of me.”
“That’s the spirit!” Codatorta flashed Valerie a smile. “If ya don’t mind?”
“Take him and dunk him in the river for all I care.” She waved them off, smiling as Saladin flipped her off. Codatorta led him toward a different section, presumably to play Battlegrounding.
She felt herself relaxing a bit, her good deed for the day done. (He’d thank her later, if for no other reason than she didn’t involve Faragonda.)
Another glance around the room had her chest constricting.
Faragonda and Hagen seemed deep in conversation with Marion and Oritel. Zarathustra had somehow convinced Griselda to share a dance with her. Luna and Radius were laughing about something…
But no sign of-
“Looking for my dear brother?” Salvador’s voice carried from behind her. She gave a laugh, turning to face him.
He’d cleaned up well enough, at least with a new suit and his normally fly-away hair neatly groomed.
“That obvious huh?” She teased, looking him over. “Where’s your elf?”
“In a very heated debate with Ediltrude…” Salvador sighed, looking exasperated. “She mentioned something about owl feathers and oak roots and it was over. I lost him.” He shook his head, giving her a sad look. “I lost him to Ediltrude. Edi. Of all the witches...”
Valerie patted his cheek sympathetically. “Oh poor Salvador… Lost his elf to a witch. How pitiful.” She crossed her arms. “Now… About that brother of yours?”
Salvador snorted. “You don’t even care about me. It’s all about Griffin these days. I see how it is.” He feigned hurt, turning his back to her and crossing his arms. (Wizards. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.)
“I’m sorry about the blow to your precious ego, but I would really like it if I knew where the hell your brother was.”
Salvador’s shoulders dropped, the game over. “Most likely on the terrace. You know how he feels about crowds.”
She should have known.
“You’re the best.” She leaned up, kissing his cheek before walking toward the staircase. (Next stop, the terrace.)
Ah, just as Salvador had said.
Griffin was leaned against the railing, watching the Magix sky. Stars twinkled, the moon full. Skies clear. As if it were celebrating with them.
“You know the party’s downstairs, right?” She teased, wrapping her arms around his waist, laying her head on his shoulder.
Griffin didn’t respond, his gaze still toward the sky. Of course… He was spaced out that morning, had been since the final battle. Shock?
“Hey… Talk to me.” She moved back, making him turn to face her. “What’s wrong?”
“You know what’s wrong…” He was hushed, faraway and distant. “It’s so… Wrong… To be partying and acting like nothing’s… Like we actually won.”
Valerie frowned. “We did win. The war is over and those…” She tried to find the words to describe Belladonna and her sisters. (Aside from bitches, hags, and hell-monsters.)
“Look… They’re dead. We won the war. The magical dimension is still intact.” She placed a hand on his cheek, trying to let her heat warm him.
Cold. So cold.
He shut his eyes, placing a hand over hers. “The end doesn’t matter, Valerie. We may still be standing… but in a twisted sense, They got what They wanted. They showed us just how fragile the magical dimension is, how easy the balance is to set off.”
He backed away from her and her touch, his hands clenching into fists. “They tore us apart, they got into our heads. They took so many lives, Valerie… How is that a victory?”
She wrapped her arms around herself, trying to level her breathing. (He was right… Partially. So much had been taken, stolen… And not just from the Company and its members, but from the Coven’s members as well… From her and Griffin. Salvador.)
“No. Matlin should be in there with the orchestra. Amelia should be dancing with Saladin. Hell even Trinity should down there making snide remarks to Niobe and Alyssa. But they’re not…” He paused, amber eyes dulled and his body shaking.
“You know, I memorized their names? All of them… On both sides.” Griffin shook his head, sliding to sit on the terrace floor. “It’s just not… It’s not right.”
Valerie walked over, taking a seat beside him and laying her head on his shoulder. “No. It’s not. But we can’t change the past, Griffin. And we can’t raise the dead.” She paused, thinking. (They could theoretically…. No. No. Too dangerous.)
“It’s going to be hard as hell, but we have to move on. And… In fear of sounding like Faragonda, we need to just be proud we survived. Our friends and fellow soldiers may have fallen, but we’re still here and we owe it to them and ourselves to live. To live and thrive.” She gave a slight smile.
“Besides, the best revenge is living well… And how great of a ‘fuck you’ would it be to live a good life in spite of the Ancestral Witches’ best efforts?”
Griffin paused and shook his head, a bit of a laugh escaping his lips. “Only you would think of revenge in a time like this.”
She shrugged and smiled, nuzzling a little closer to him when he wrapped an arm around her. “Some of my best work came out of revenge.”
“I’m well aware.” Warmth. She could feel warmth returning to the hand on her waist, could see the light creeping back into his eyes. He let out a shaky breath, leaning his head against hers. “You know I love you, right?”
Valerie smirked. “Of course. What’s not to love?” She teased. Griffin gave her a look, shaking his head. “I love you too, Griffin.” She moved to stand, extending a hand to his. “Now, there is a party downstairs… We’d be rude not to attend.”
Griffin smiled, genuine and warm and much more like himself. His hand clasped hers as he got to his feet. “I suppose we could be there for a few minutes.”
Valerie kissed him, pressing herself to him as his hand squeezed hers. (Don’t get caught up yet. Time for that later.)
“Just for a few minutes.” She murmured against his lips. “And then we could… Retire to our room for the last night...”
“I’ll follow your lead.”
Chapter 27: My Doubts Have Seemed To Fade
A slice of life after the war for our heroes.
(Takes place maybe about three or four months after the war ended.)
Song: Dreamcatcher by Set it Off
27. My Doubts Have Seemed To Fade
Griffin chuckled at the sight, watching as Valerie and Elaine set up the last image in the gallery. A holo-painting that depicted the Battle of the Ice Kingdom. “Are you here to help, Professor, or are you just going to stand there and gawk?” Elaine snipped, staring down at him from the ladder.
“Someone just got busted.” Valerie snickered, giving him a smile from her ladder.
He gave a sheepish laugh, feeling his face redden. “Sorry. Fredrick said you guys were back here and...”
“And you came to be a nuisance?” Elaine teased. Valerie gave a laugh.
“Aww, I’m sure he’s here for a good reason. Right, Griffin?”
“If you consider a lunch break a good reason.” Griffin offered, running a hand through his hair. Valerie hummed, climbing down the ladder and taking his hand.
“Go. But keep in mind we still have to set up the Ancestral Display.” Elaine reminded the blonde witch, coming down her own ladder.
Griffin frowned. “The Ancestral Witches are getting a display?” That didn’t set right with him, especially not so soon after… After everything.
Valerie sighed, looking to her coworker. “It’s… Not quite what you think… I mean, it’s more of a… Reminder sort of display. Something to show what happens when you allow the wrong people to get into power.”
An understandable reason to have their exploits on display in the Magix Museum… But it still felt off.
“Just be careful when setting it up… I don’t want you getting any… Psychic backlash that may be hidden in their artifacts.”
Valerie gave a smile, kissing his cheek. “Don’t worry, Griffin, I’ll be careful.”
“We’ll all be careful. We are professionals with this sort of thing.” Elaine reminded him, shaking her head. “I’m going to head out myself since you’re going on lunch… Be back before 2. Or I’ll have to alert the Council.”
Valerie rolled her eyes. “And here I thought my probation would be over.”
Griffin chuckled. “At least you’re not the only one still on probation.”
“So Palladium and Salvador both swear by this place? Should I be worried?” Valerie teased, leaning back a bit in the chair.
Griffin sighed, looking the menu over. The White Horse. A new cafe just starting up in Magix.
“I don’t think so. At least, I’m not. Though I have my doubts it’ll be better than that place in Freyos.” Griffin admitted.
Valerie gave a dreamy sigh, twirling a strand of loose hair. “I do miss Jinxes’. Think we’d be able to get our place back after formal investigations are over?”
“I hope so. Or at the least, be allowed to travel outside of Magix.” Griffin shook his head. “But at least it didn’t stop our job prospects.”
“Only because I’m the only one in this damn dimension who knows magical history like the back of my hand. And you are absolutely too brilliant to not be allowed to teach.” Valerie praised. “How is Cloud Tower?”
Griffin shook his head. “A different breed than Coventry. That’s for sure.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Is it just me, or is the younger generation… Blander than when we teenagers?”
Valerie shrugged. “Don’t ask me. I never went to public school…. Or private school.” The witch paused. “Come to think of it… I mainly did freestyle studying… though it wasn’t…. Exactly freestyle when every bit of my life was carefully planned out.” Her nose crinkled at the memory, a frown flashing over her features.
Griffin was quick to take her hand in his, letting her use him to anchor herself into the present. She was free now, more or less. She could decide who she wanted to be, how she wanted to live. Blue eyes searched his, a light coming to them as she smiled. “Promise me we won’t be that controlling?”
“Promise.” Griffin gave a grin. “Now… I’m thinking of trying out this signature sandwich I heard Salvador raving about.”
Valerie hummed, looking her menu over. “Sounds like a plan to me… Or maybe this Lunarian mix? And we are definitely trying the milkshakes.” Griffin laughed.
“You and that sweet-tooth.”
Griffin frowned as he finished grading the papers. (Why… Why did no one seem to take astronomy and astrology seriously? Did these witches not realize that the key to future divination spells relied on these classes?)
His head throbbed, the words running together after awhile.
Griffin sighed, setting the rest of the papers aside. “Enter.” The door creaked open, Ediltrude and Zarathustra walked into his office. “How’s the grading coming along?” Ediltrude asked, head tilted.
“It’s coming along fine. I just wish they’d take this more seriously.”
“Not everyone can be Type-A like you, Griffin.” Zarathustra teased, draping herself in one of his chairs.
“They can still take it to heart, Zarathustra.” Ediltrude reminded her, arms crossed. “Unless you don’t think learning divination is important?” The black and white haired witch teased, a smirk crossing over her features.
That was a trap. That was most definitely a trap.
“Divination may be important, Ediltrude, but it’s not an end-all be-all ability. If it was, do you think things would have gotten as out of hand as they have?”
“Oh is that right? Sure you’re not hung up just because you don’t have enough talent to use future-sight?”
“I’ll show you talent!”
Both witches started arguing with each other, Zarathustra getting up from her seat to stand toe-to-toe with her sister.
Griffin groaned, feeling his headache worsening. “Ladies, ladies. As much as I enjoy watching you two have a witch-off, we need to be setting an example for our students. I don’t think Headmistress Lenora would be thrilled with in-fighting.”
Both witches shared a look. “This isn’t over.”
“Not by a long shot.”
Griffin swore. Why was it always him?
Chapter 28: Can You See What I See?
Song; Stop and Stare by One Republic
28. Can You See What I See?
Something was off. (Not quite wrong, not yet. But off.)
Their house was too quiet, but she was home. She had to be. The lights were on, the tell-tell pamphlets and papers were scattered over the dining room table from her working on a new project. But she wasn’t there…
Or responding to his calls for her.
Was she mad at him? He’d tried to make it back on time, he did. But because of a prank gone horrendously wrong, he and the other teachers had to sit and lecture a group of juniors.
“Valerie…?” He tried again, walking the halls.
The door to their spare bedroom was open, the light casting a familiar shadow in the hallway. Valerie.
He stopped himself from reaching out, deciding to see what it was she was doing. (She had whims to rearrange at times, her mind needing a distraction from what she was doing… Was this one of those time?)
She was surveying the room, eyes darting around as if sizing it up. The witch couldn’t seem to stand still, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, walking the edge of the room. (Fear? He could feel it coming off her in waves.)
“Is there something I can help with?” He asked, leaning against the door frame. Valerie jumped, turning sharply on her heels to face him.
“Griffin… I didn’t… Um...” She seemed at a loss, shaking her head. “I didn’t hear you come home…” She frowned, looking at the clock in the room. “You’re late…?”
The wizard gave a long suffering sigh, moving to wrap his arms around her. He fought a frown when he felt her tense, smiling once he felt her melt into him.“I am… And I’m sorry that I am. But when a group of junior witches try to summon a Shadow Demon to scare Alfea fairies, intervention must be done.”
He felt her shake and smiled when he heard laughing, shaking her head. “That sounds like a fun time… For your students anyway.”
“I did hate to break up the prank… But things went sideways because one of them forgot to use a binding spell and it turned on them.” Griffin laid his head on the top of hers, closing his eyes and nuzzling her hair.
Always that hint of cinnamon and smoke.
“Who the hell forgets to bind a demon after it’s summoned?” Valerie asked, pulling away to frown at him. “I thought Cloud Tower witches were supposed to be brilliant? Above the board of dark magic?”
Griffin shrugged. “I honestly don’t know. But Headmistress Lenora was pissed. And so was Headmistress Mavilla.” He paused, giving a hum. “On the bright side, Faragonda seemed to be able to sway them both in favor of a detention spell instead of full-on expulsion...”
Valerie gave a wry smile. “Thank the Dragons for bleeding-heart Faragonda.” Griffin laughed.
“She does have her moments.” He gave a look to Valerie, taking her in.
Her eyes had seemed lighter than they were when he first interrupted her from doing… Whatever it was she was doing. Long blonde hair was falling out of its bun. And she’d ditched her suit for shorts and a tank top, something he’d tease her for if he didn’t know how hot she ran all the time.
“Is everything okay, Valerie?” He asked, taking one of her hands in his. He needed her to feel anchored, to remember she was safe.
“Everything’s fine… Why?” Her voice hitched a bit, almost as if she was being sarcastic. Griffin gave her a look, even tilting his head.
“Look… It’s… It’s fine. It’s nothing I can’t-”
“Valerie.” He pressed, knowing it was the only way to really make her realize he wasn’t going to drop the subject. “What’s going on?”
She pulled her hand away from him, arms wrapping around herself. “I… It’s probably nothing and I don’t want to make it into something.” Griffin moved in front of her, pulling her to him.
Valerie didn’t fight him, instead wrapping her arms around him. (Tight. Almost too tight. Like she was hanging on for her life.) “Tell me. If it’s got you this wound up, it has to be something. And as your husband, I’d really like to know so I can help.”
There was a moment of silence as she gripped him tightly, her head laying in the crook of his neck.
A moment passed, then two, like she was trying to find the words.
She pushed him away again, distancing herself from him, from his reach. (Why? What was so wrong that she felt the need to be away from him?)
Valerie had that glassy-eyed stare again, something he hadn’t seen since before the war ended. (Those bitches had somehow got to her from beyond the grave.)
“I’m scared, Griffin. I...” She paused. “I think I’m pregnant and I have absolutely no idea how to feel about it or what to do. I’ve read enough material for some damn anatomy class I had to learn, but I never had to take a course on parenting and never babysat… And...”
“And what I’m going to do?” The room seemed to heat up, the lights starting to flicker the more hysterical she got. “What if I can’t connect? Dragons’ forbid-what if I hurt them? I… I’ve inadvertently hurt children before, Griffin! I know I’ve had too when I was working under them… I can’t… I couldn’t handle hurting them...”
He grabbed her and pulled her to him, getting on the bed and pulling her into his lap. He held her tight, trying to keep her soothed and while letting her vent out her worries, even when it became a rambling mess.
There was a lull in her tone, her body not shaking quite so hard. Griffin kissed the top of her head, letting his fingers thread in her hair. “Valerie… You’re not alone in this. If you are pregnant, then we’ll work this out. I can’t guarantee we’ll be perfect or that we’ll always do what’s right by them… But you can be damned sure that they’ll know how loved and wanted they are.”
He’d go to his grave fighting on that one. No way in hell was he going to let their child feel the self doubt Valerie did. Not if he could help it.
“We’ll have help from Salvador and Palladium… And I’m sure that Faragonda would make an excellent… Fairy godmother.” He winced at the sound those words made, forcing back the burn. “We’ll never call her that though, too much power.” A soft chuckle, weak but it meant he was breaking through.
“She’d have a field day...” Valerie murmured, sounding a little dazed.
“She will.” He closed his eyes, keeping his hold tight on her. “And so will the others. But that’s fine… It just means more people who will love them.”
He could feel her nod, her body starting to relax a little. “We’re really going to be doing this… Aren’t we?” She whispered. He smiled, tilting her chin up to kiss her.
Soft and chaste. A promise. “We are… Assuming you are pregnant.” He gave her a stern look. “Which we’ll be finding out as soon as you get an appointment with the doctor.”
Valerie gave him a look, a twinkle of mischief in her eyes. “You do realize they have at-home tests, right?”
“I do. I also realize how faulty those things can be and how easy are they are to hex.” He reminded her. Valerie paused.
“Hexed pregnancy tests? And you would know about those how?” Griffin flushed a bit, giving a sigh.
“Let’s just say senior year was interesting...”
Chapter 29: it's A State of Bliss
Song: Innocence by Avril Lavigne
29: It’s A State Of Bliss
It was all so foreign and new, being able to feel something, someone, moving inside of her like that. Just little flutters, just enough pressure she could feel it. But it was so strange, surreal even.
Life. She was carrying new life nestled deep within her. Safe and secure from all threats.
Valerie could laugh at the irony: she was always told she was a bringer of death, and yet here she was, carrying life. New life.
More flutters, stronger than they had been. Valerie smiled, placing a hand on her growing bump. She wasn’t showing all that much, not yet, but she did have the bump.
Warmth. She could feel a new surge of warmth flooding into her system, into her veins, fueling her fire. Warmth and flutters and-
“Feeling okay?” Faragonda asked, that teasing tone in her voice. The fairy had taken her shopping, demanding to help Valerie find things for the nursery.
(A nursery that hadn’t even really been started on yet.)
“Fine… Little tired, I guess.” Valerie admitted, taking in the sight of cribs and strollers and changing tables. (All so overwhelming. Which would be best? Which would safest? The most secure? Spell proof? Fire proof?)
“Overwhelming, huh?” Faragonda placed a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t worry, it’s one of the reasons I’m here.” The fairy gave a wink, tugging her toward a section of onesies and… Why did everything have to seem so cutesy and small and dainty?
“Faragonda, we don’t even know what we’re having… Are you sure we should be looking at this?” Valerie asked.
“It never hurts to go ahead and have a few onesies. We’ll just go for neutral colors…” Faragonda hummed, looking at one in particular. “Something like this?” She held up a maroon-looking onesie with dragon print.
Valerie shook her head, trying to fight a laugh. “Little on the nose with that one, aren’t we? I mean we don’t even know if-”
“Valerie, there’s a good chance the baby will have your powers… Might as well embrace it now.” The fairy grinned. “Besides, even if they don’t have your powers, you may be having a future beast tamer.”
Valerie rolled her eyes, chuckling a bit. “I suppose you’re right on that… And it couldn’t hurt to have at least one or two outfits I guess...”
The grin Faragonda gave her sent shudders down her spine. (Dragons’ what has she gotten herself into…?)
“That’s the spirit.”
Valerie shot a glare toward Griffin, leaning back further on the couch. “You do realize she’s a menace, right? I don’t think I can ever shop with her again.”
Griffin chuckled from his armchair, a teasing smile aiming her way. “I tried to warn you, Valerie… But you insisted you could handle her...”
The witch huffed. “Maybe when I wasn’t so easily tired or overheated.” She moved down the couch, getting closer to where he was and pouted at him. “Do you have any idea how exhausted I am now?”
Griffin set his book down and threaded a hand through her hair. (Chilling. Soothing. Perfect.)
“I’m sorry, Valerie. I really am, but I did try to warn you.” She raised her head up at him, giving him ‘the eyes’.
“You never specified why I shouldn’t take her up on her offer to shop… You just said it wasn’t a good idea...”
“I...” Griffin sighed and shook his head. (Hah! She’d won.) “Next time I’ll do a better job at warning you.”
“Good.” She laid her head back down on the couch arm, humming as he played with her hair. “Is Salvador still going to be helping with the nursery?”
“He is. Though he’s still skeptical about the need for fireproof items.”
“I just don’t want our child burning the house down when they have a tantrum.” Valerie raised her head a bit. “I know powers don’t come in until childhood, but if they have my powers, which are primordial and on a different scale than most, I don’t want to take a chance.”
“Oh I completely understand.” Griffin nodded. “I’d rather not that risk either… But you know how Salvador is.”
“Well it’s not his child, so he has no opinion.”
“You know what I mean.”
Chapter 30: Never Pictured Myself Singing Lullabies
Song: What I Never Knew I Always Wanted by Carrie Underwood
30: Never Pictured Myself Singing Lullabies
Valerie couldn’t fight the smile as she walked back into the living room, the sight almost too sweet to bear.
Griffin was laid out on the floor, the storybook forgotten above his head. A little girl with purple hair and red and white paw-print pajamas was curled up at his side, a little blonde boy in green and black striped pajamas was tucked near his chest.
She shook her head, making sure to stay quiet as she reached for the camera. (Something about how soft they seemed in the Yule Tree’s light and the glow from the fire place had her feeling warm in a way her flames never did.)
One or two good photos, it’d be all she need. No one would believe her otherwise, despite everyone knowing her husband’s softer side for their children.
She sat the camera back down, moving to kneel beside Griffin. “You’ll regret sleeping on the floor if you don’t get up now.” She teased, carefully shaking him awake.
He gave a soft whine, opening one eye. “Did we at least make it to the spell of the Rat King being broken?” He whisper-asked, carefully raising up and holding tight to Adrian, not wanting to wake the toddler up.
“You made it pretty close this year.” She teased, collecting the book. Ah yes… They’d made it to the discovery of the Peppermint Princess and her Cardinal companion’s identities. “Who knows, maybe next year?”
Griffin shook his head, fighting a laugh. “Maybe next year.” He held their son close, giving a smile. “I don’t think he’s as much for fairy-tales as Valkyrie is… He kept trying to argue that if they knew divination or memory spells, they’d have been better off.”
Valerie snickered, carefully collecting their daughter in her arms. Valkyrie resembled her father with her more serious expressions and purple hair, but her imagination and ideals…? She was her mother’s daughter. “Sounds to me like Adrian takes after his father.”
The toddler was very much his father’s son. Intuitive, curious, and empathic. (So far he only showed a little bit of the empathic gift, but once his magic came in, he’d be completely in-tune with the world around him.)
“Even I like a little fantasy every once in a while.” He argued. She hummed, leaning to kiss his cheek.
“True… But you still prefer the realities of the world.”
Little noises had them tensing, watching both children with baited breath. Adrian stretched a bit in his sleep, clutching tighter to Griffin’s shirt and Valkyrie nuzzled down closer to her mother, her body going lax.
“Should we tuck them into their beds or have a camp-out in the living room?” Valerie asked, looking to Griffin.
He looked to the clock on the wall, his eyes squinting as his contact spell seemed to be wearing off. “Tuck them into bed… We can do the camp-out when Palladium, Salvador, and Morgan come back from the Elven realms tomorrow.” Valerie grinned.
“Sounds like a plan.” She paused. “Oh that’ll be perfect to try that cookie recipe Faragonda gave us.” Griffin seemed to stiffen at that. “What? Did I say something wrong?” Valerie asked. Griffin sighed.
“Let’s just say Faragonda has many talents… Creating recipes of any kind, however, isn’t one of them.”
The witch had to bite down to keep from laugh too hard, not wanting to disturb the girl in her arms. “Thank the dragons you warned me first… We’ll stick to hot chocolate and those vanilla sweet roll things Palladium makes.”
Relief seemed to flash over Griffin’s face, a chuckle escaping her lips when he’d kissed her. “Now that sounds like a plan.”
She knew it was ridiculous to check in on them, again, but she couldn’t stop herself.
Valkyrie had her covers mussed around her, the poor child cursed with too-hot skin like Valerie had. Her stuffed dragon, a green and purple one that Faragonda had insisted on getting her a few years ago, had been pulled close to her, the girl holding to it like a life line.
And in the room just a step over, Adrian was curled against the black and brown teddy bear Saladin had given him. It was hard to see the toddler, save for his blonde locks, thanks to his covers pulled up so tight. (He chilled easy, something Griffin said his own father was prone to do.)
Arms wrapped tightly around her and pulled her close, soft kisses pressed against her neck. “We just put them to bed, I don’t think they’ve ran off.”
“I know… I just...” She stopped herself from speaking, feeling herself smile when he’d hugged her a little tighter.
“Valkyrie and Adrian are safe, Valerie. No one’s going to hurt them. No one would be stupid enough to try.”
“I know… I just… Still get those feelings, you know? Even after all these years...”
Seven years since the war ended, five since she’d become a mother to Valkyrie, and three since Adrian was born. And still the nightmares plagued her, sometimes seeming worse than they had before.
Her children were being threatened in the newer ones, prompting her to vow that she’d watch the realms burn before she’d let them get harmed. And she’d dare Marion to try and stop her.
Griffin’s hands felt cool on her skin as he slid them under her shirt, soft kisses pressed to her neck and shoulders. She closed her eyes and smiled, leaning into him as he kept her anchored into the present, their present.
“I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Valerie. No one is going to hurt our children. The house is under protection spells and runes. Not to mention we’re right here and it would be foolish for anyone to think they could take us both on when our kids are on the line.” Valerie relaxed into him, turning to wrap her arms around him.
He was right. Their children were safe at home, tucked into their beds, and under the watchful eyes of their parents. Only fools would try their luck.
“We should be getting some sleep… Salvador and Palladium will back tomorrow and you know Valkyrie and Adrian will be ready to really start Yule.” Valerie laid her head on his shoulder. “And that’s going to mean snowmen and snowball fights. Which I intend for us to win this year.”
Griffin chuckled. “Competitive are we?”
Valerie raised her head to look at him, giving him a pout. “I’m not going to listen to your brother gloat for another year. I refuse.”
Griffin kissed her, a quick peck. Then two, then three. “We’ll get him this year. Wizard’s honor.”