Location: Smithy’s Grocery Store, Meat Isle – Las Vegas, Nevada
Time: Late Evening, Present Day
Time: Late Evening, Present Day
How much could Marie possibly endure? How overwhelmed must she be in the pursuit of her lost memories? What other difficulties need present themselves, and why, before she had achieved her goals? These questions filtered through her mind as her already unstable environment slowly unraveled and devolved into pure chaos. It felt more than she could take.
A searing pain shot through her skull, sending her vision into a flash of hot red and flashing lights. Among the fading sights and sounds of Smithy’s were a collection of figures she hadn’t seen before; men in strange dress holding dated instruments of war. They chanted and bellowed, their screams melding with the unruly wolves and deafening whispers of the Gentry, creating some infernal cacophony that sent Marie spiraling into madness. She placed both hands on her head, trying desperately to will away the invading apparitions.
Holt made an attempt to pull Marie back, to calm her with his presence and cooling words, but to no avail. Everything she had known was gone, all that she had worked for was in jeopardy, and absolutely nothing made sense anymore. The more she dwelled on it, and she had no choice but to entertain these intrusive thoughts, the more pain she felt, the more rage boiled inside her until suddenly the world seemed to melt away. And then . . .
Her cry sent the world into violent motion, the word dripping with an old, familiar magic. It washed over the store and all its visitors, lashing out wherever it could. The glass casing behind the meat aisle shattered, jagged shards falling with quickened pace. Shelves and their contents fell to the floor. Lights flashed with momentary light before bursting, bathing all in dull sparks. The floor beneath their collection of bodies began to crack, threatening to give at the slightest step. But after this outburst, once the rage had been allowed to escape, Marie seemed her old self once more.
”Marie . . .” Holt said allowed in a raspy voice, conveying shock and surprise in his emotionless way. Assuming the form of a large black dog, not dissimilar from the shapes taken by Marie’s wolf companions, he padded over to her side, soulless eyes staring deep into hers.
Marie did not look at Holt, instead turning her attention to the Ambassador.
”I accept your offer.” she uttered plainly and resolutely.
Holt moved between them to show his disapproval.
”Marie, I implore you to think . . .”
”I already have.” Marie interrupted, turning to face Holt, eyes red and heavy with tears and desperation.
”She’s right, Holt. We have devoted too much time to this for it to fall apart now. I’ve done so much to get to this point, and to think that Gwyneth is so close . . . I can’t throw that away, not now. This isn’t a game anymore or some fanciful dream. I need this. I thought you would understand . . .”
Before Holt could respond, Marie stepped around him, closing the distance between she and the Ambassador, choosing to address her directly. Now only a few steps between them, Marie did something strange. She removed the charm around her neck, her features now clear to all around. Her eyes met the Ambassador’s as she spoke.
”You’re right. Even if it hurts me to say it, you’re right. What happened with J . . . Joseph,” Marie struggled to say his name, voice heavy with a mixture of anger, guilt, and sorrow, ”that was on him. He should have known the consequences of meddling and conjuring something he had no hope to control. You were more cunning in the end, you bested him. It still stings, but I can accept that. Just as I can accept that we’re connected. I have to see this through and if you’re the only way to do that, so be it. I’ll try to make it as pleasant an experience as possible.
“But this,” Marie gestured to the mess around them, to the Dover twins readying for a fight, to the wolves locked in a struggle against Mandate, to the whispering Fey who watched in amusement, ”This has to stop. All the fighting, the threats, the murderous looks, the creepy comments, all of it. And it has to come from all of us.” Marie turned to her comrades, addressing each of them with a look before placing herself between Ben and Mandate.
She knelt down, peering deep into Ben’s eyes as she had done before, bidding him listen to her but speaking loudly enough for all to hear.
”You promised to help me if I helped you in return. I know it must seem like I’m digging a bigger hole for myself, choosing to trust someone who has threatened people you care about, who’s killed someone I once cared for. It doesn’t make much sense, but i need this. I have to know about my past and as it stands, you two are the only ones who can help with that. We can make this work, I promise.”
Marie leaned to place a hand on the side of Ben’s head, trying to use her emotion to send him a mental message like he had sent her the first time they met. She was clearly distraught and filled to the brim with longing. She hoped that he would receive her message well, for everything about her now, her posture, her words, her touch, they all conveyed a single word.