Arabelle stood wincing in the bathroom as her companion tested the mirror to make sure it was real. She inhaled slowly through her nose and out through her mouth. Not only was her arm in pain, but she now had a small headache because of the portals. She listened to Aileen as she asked if the skull was the reason for the attack and Arabelle nodded. She was just about to pull away from the Vanburen before the girl could come near her arm when she heard the toilet flush and the door to the stall behind them creak open.
Arabelle froze, her head turning to look at the woman who came out. Had she seen them? Arabelle had no time to check if the bathroom was empty before she emerged. Usually she would listen for movement before choosing to, but in the rush to leave the estate Arabelle had taken the empty looking bathroom as an okay to go.
Arabelle stared at the girl indignantly, as if challenging her to make an already bad day worse by freaking out on them. Hell, what if she was a wiccan too? Had they been followed by the girl with the portal abstraction? She stepped backwards from the woman as she moved to the sink and glanced at Aileen. If they needed to bolt, she was closest to the door. Arabelle would have to push the woman aside to follow Aileen out.
“So that’s a cool little trick you have there.”
Arabelle met the woman’s eyes in the mirror. She pressed her lips together and stuck her chin out. This woman wasn’t a Blind because of how she was acting, but what was she? Arabelle had not read enough of James’s journals to differentiate between the types of extra-normals. If that was even possible. Arabelle watched the woman touch her hand to the glass, but she was distracted by the opaque blue arm that reached for a towel. So Arabelle was right. This woman knew of magic.
“Don’t worry, if there’s a string of burglaries around here I’m not gonna be the one to rat you out to the police.”
Arabelle almost laughed. Instead she raised an eyebrow as the girl continued to ask questions about her abstraction. Maybe this girl wasn’t hostile at all?
Then the woman recognized Aileen. Arabelle looked just as confused as Aileen did. Another Vanburen? Why was Ezra the only one aware of her? If they knew each other so well already, Ezra would have mentioned her a long time ago. Arabelle had never seen her at the estate before either. Not even when James was alive. So, how did she end up working at this cafe in Araminta without a proper introduction to the family? Had she come to Araminta because of the curse?
Arabelle almost choked on her own spit when Aileen called her Miss Matthews. She wasn’t a goddamned nanny. Neither was she the full time caretaker. At least Aileen was trying to find a way out of this… situation. Which was growing increasingly more tiresome the longer she stood there. She needed to get her arm fixed, and then they could get to her apartment until it was safe to go back to the estate.
“I need to get to a doctor.” She winced as she took a step towards the door. “Now.”
She looked at Nisha and gave her the best smile she could despite the pain in her arm.
“It was nice to meet you, Nisha. I hope to see you at the estate one day so that Ezra can properly introduce you to the Vanburen family.”
She hoped that Nisha would pass off the edge in the tone of her voice for her pain instead of unfriendliness.
Lyss stood tall as she stared back at the director even though sitting down would feel amazing. She pressed her lips together as she expected a harsh comeback, but she was relieved that the director agreed with her at all. Everything the director said made sense. It still wasn’t enough, but Lyss understood why it had to happen this way. Lyss suddenly understood the bigger picture as soon as the director mentioned Saul. Lyss frowned. The bastard was the reason this all happened. The reason Max was battling The Hunger all on his own. Annabelle had been lured to their beach house by Saul’s master. He was next in line to be taken down.
The explosion from behind drew Lyss’s attention. She turned back to face the mushroom cloud of dust. Was that it…? Had Maximillian killed himself in the process of destroying Annabelle Heart. She could feel her chest growing tighter and her knees growing weaker.
Then she heard the director’s cheerful voice. Lyss sighed softly in relief and let her shoulders loosen. It was over. Max was safe. Lyss looked back at the director, glancing at the helicopter before Madison put a hand on her shoulder. She nodded along to what her sister was saying, and even cracked a smile at her last comment.
“I’m sure you could find me if I did.” She teased.
Someone called out for herself and Madison and Lyss looked over to see Maya coming their way. Lyss smiled, her heart full now that she knew most of her sisters had survived this shitshow.
“You look like shit… I guess I missed a lot.”
Lyss pursed her lips and shrugged. “We understand why you ran off. We were able to distract Annabelle until Maximillian arrived with the cure. Agent Liao is critically wounded, but she’s getting help right now.”
She glanced at the director before looking back at Madison and Maya.
“Madison is going to look for Emily and Vashti. You can go with her, or you can come with me into the helicopter. I’m going with them to finish the forgiven.”
She just needed to rest, and she could do enough to help the DENs with that fight.
Arabelle was relieved to see Aileen follow her into the room. It was easy to get the Vanburen into the room, but now Arabelle would have to face the difficult part of this escape. It was going to be hard enough to bring a sealed apparition through a mirror and into a different location before, but now she had to bring a friend with a dislocated shoulder. Her arm was numb where it hung next to her. It already took enough energy to ignore the pain and to focus. She fumbled with the ram skull in her left hand and stuck it under her armpit.
“You’re in pain. I can help you with that.”
Arabelle groaned. It was a tempting offer at present, but she knew better than that. She reached out with her left arm, careful to keep the ram skull between her arm and ribcage, and grabbed onto Aileen’s hand.
“Get im, boy!”
“No time to explain. This is going to feel weird!”
Without waiting for another wall to be destroyed by a hellhound, Arabelle plunged into the depths of the mirror. Her body disappeared first, and as her arm disappeared it continued to pull Aileen into it. Arabelle felt her head spin as she pulled the other woman inside with her, but once Aileen was inside the pocket dimension she felt better.
Next to her, an opening in the expanse appeared as Arabelle envisioned the room she would exit into. It led into the bathroom of a coffee shop in Araminta. She’d used this mirror plenty of times to grab coffee before, but she never expected it to be an escape route. She glanced back at the opening that they came from and was glad to see that the hellhound hadn’t burst into the room yet. It wouldn’t be ideal for the mirror to break, especially with a guest inside of it.
“Jump through this one, okay?” She smiled at Aileen briefly before turning to face the opening.
She pulled Aileen along again with a wince, still making sure the ram was secure in her arm, and leapt towards the opening to the cafe’s bathroom. If Aileen followed suit, and the hound didn’t break the mirror upon entry to the room, the girls would find themselves safe and sound miles away from the estate. Hopefully someone in the coffee shop this late at night was a nurse, too.
When the door to The Spire slid open, Eli did not expect to enter into a room like this. Well, not immediately. In any movie with a room at the end of a long, ominous tunnel, the doors would open into something like a foyer, or security checkpoint, or just a big long hallway with other doors along the sides of it. It was a relief that they didn’t run into The Spire’s staff the moment they set foot on it’s sterilized floor, but Eli’s first impression of The Spire confirmed every theory Eli had heard about its main purpose. Research and Development took over most of the ship, with little room for development and more focus on the… research.
Eli’s stomach instantly felt sick. She looked over each of the enclosures as the rest of the group made their way into the lab. She’d never seen anything like this before. It was… shocking. It humbled and enraged her that this is what her people were subject to behind closed doors. She moved towards the closest desk to her and carefully picked up the first paper with names and dates on it. Her eyes skimmed the page. She immediately looked away. Her hand gripped the page until it crumpled between her fingers and her knuckles turned white. She closed her eyes and swallowed down the bile in her throat.
"We need to get out of here. Very soon."
Archie’s voice reminded her that they didn’t have time to mourn for these parahumans for long. She sighed shakily and let her hand relax as her eyes opened. Then she began to make her way around the room. At each desk she looked for the most recent lab reports that had been conducted. Her eyes briefly read their contents, and with every paper she gathered she felt the disgust and anger boil further within her. Her stack was ten papers deep by the time she reached the desk Archie and the others had gathered around.
Natalie had punched the wall, and she looked like a wild animal. Eli must have been too engrossed in her own emotions to have heard it. Hopefully security hadn’t either. Lynn’s hair was a shade Eli had never seen before. It was white hot, and Eli was sure it reflected Natalie’s current emotions as well. In fact, Eli thought that each one of them were feeling exactly the same way.
Angry, disgusted, a little scared, and a few of them were feeling murderous. Eli wasn’t sure if she was at that point yet. She wanted vengeance in a different way. These researchers didn’t deserve to die, to rest until their souls withered away. No, they deserved to rot in a cell just like this one. They deserved to see their lives go to shit because they were a part of these inhumane atrocities. Eli wanted every one of their family and friends to turn on them until they had no one left but the ghosts of the parahumans they murdered.
Eli took the paper with Tabatha Ford’s last living suffering and added it to the pile. She folded the thin stack of papers in half and shoved it into the pocket of a lab coat. She wasn’t happy to dress like a murderer, but it was a good idea to try to blend in. As she pulled on the lab coat she rolled up her sleeves as well. If this were to get physical, she wanted to be ready.
“We need to find a room with records and access to the internet. Maybe a room with some tasters or nullifiers in them in case we run into any security.”
She looked around at everyone’s expressions. She felt as if each of her emotions were displayed on different faces before her. Eli was suddenly overcome with an intense gratitude that her friends were here with her. She wasn’t sure how she would have handled this on her own. She might have gone sobbing back into the tunnel to The Promise, and she would have hit the door to the sewers until Packet let her in; or she would have let her rage guide her through The Spire until she made a mistake and suffered the same fate as these subjects.
“Is there a room like that close by?” She asked Nic and Keaton.
The wiccan quickly began searching through the room. Arabelle kept her eyes on the women, but her ears were listening for anyone outside. Her anxiousness was growing by the minute. Someone could come to the door, a hellhound could burst through the wall again, or these girls could turn on her at any moment. It seemed as if she was alone on this side of the manor. The Vanburens were all trapped at the other end and she’d been stupid enough to go off on her own. If anything did go wrong, she was screwed.
And then she heard the footsteps. Arabelle’s body tensed and she positioned the shovel to swing, but she was ready to swing in either direction. She didn’t want to hit anyone again, but she was fully prepared to defend herself. This is what she would do for a student, if she needed to. The Vanburens were no different than the children she teached.
The girl she’d hit warned the other that someone was approaching. Arabelle eyed the strange lights under the door. She felt like she’d seen bright lights in the mansion before, just like this actually, but she couldn’t be sure if it was from a Vanburen or a TV. To be perfectly honest, tonight was the first night she was seeing many of the Vanburen’s abstractions. It was quite a shock, but definitely not as shocking as a hellhound bursting through a wall.
The sound of glass shattering made Arabelle jump. She looked over to see the stand on its side, and that hideous ram skull within the wiccan’s hand. Arabelle frowned. Could this be the Horned God they were looking for? Was this the moment the wiccan would turn on her?
The wiccan turned and Arabelle tensed.
Arabelle’s eyes went wide. The skull was thrown her way, and in her panic she dropped the shovel just in time to grab onto the skull. She immediately felt a shiver crawl down her spine.
“Are you the one who will release the Horned God?”
Arabelle stared down at the skull. She’d never touched a sealed object before. She never in her life had imagined that souls and demons could be trapped within. Holding it now felt unreal. This whole night had felt unreal.
Without giving the Horned God’s voice in her head any other thought, Arabelle looked at the wiccans as if she was considering what to do next. Then she turned and bolted for the door. She needed to get to a mirror. The one across the hall would do. Arabelle pulled open the door, took one step out of the room, and immediately ran her right shoulder into Aileen Vanburen’s fantastical rainbow shield.
“Ah!” Arabelle shouted. Her shoulder felt like it had popped out of its place and fell to the floor. She was lucky that she’d been holding the skull with her left hand, but it was extremely unlucky that she hadn’t checked the hallway before running into it. She looked down at her arm only to see it hanging there loosely and she felt so so close to fainting, but she kept her cool. “Okay, okay,” she managed to say in a shaky voice. She took a few quick breaths and slowly exhaled the last. “It’s just dislocated. I had a kid dislocate his shoulder on the playground once.” She grimaced and held the skull to her chest. Tears were coming to her eyes, but she continued to act calmly. “Aileen, I… I need you to get me into that room.” She nodded towards the room across from the study. It was the same room she found herself in earlier, after she left the dining room.
Arabelle was doing fine with the pain, even though with every breath she could feel how fucked her shoulder was, but as she looked at Aileen’s face she noticed movement behind the Vanburen. Arabelle’s eyes slid past Aileen’s and focused on what was behind her. She forgot the pain for a moment and instead felt terror. A hellhound was coming their way, with two wiccans in tow.
“They’re coming!” She shouted. In her fear she turned towards the room on her own and rushed inside whether Aileen followed or not. She didn’t stop until she was in front of the mirror. Only then did she turn her head back to see if Aileen was coming. “Aileen, I can get us out of here!”
If the hellhound reached the room before Aileen, Arabelle would have to leave her behind.
Lyss stood next to Madison with her eyes on Maximillian as he flew off towards Annabelle. Her golem moved towards the monster in an attempt to aid Max, but as she turned to face Madison she felt the golem fall to ashes. Max was on his own. She prayed to the devil himself that Max could do this alone.
As exhaustion set in, Lyss didn’t even scrunch her nose as the Jaws picked her up and Madison took off. The golem that had carried Madison crumbled into the ground. Her last undead soldier had returned to purgatory. Lyss felt relief wash over her, but there was an impenetrable ball of nerves in her stomach as she worried for Maximillian. She held onto the bones of the Jaws that carried her and hoped that she could stay conscious long enough to see Maximillian win the fight. Yet she couldn’t turn her head to watch the battle behind them.
The sound of a helicopter approaching gave her some hope. From the looks of it, it was the DENs. Hopefully with a fully equipped medic station onboard. Where the hell was their healer? The one that had helped her before? Meifeng needed help, and she needed it now. Lyss was beginning to realize that she actually feared for the woman’s life. When did she grow so close to these agents?
Lyss expected the harsh voice of an agent as the helicopter approached, but she was surprised to hear a soft voice after. Madison did the right thing by landing, thankfully, and Lyss forced herself to stand still while the helicopter landed. Lyss glanced back in the direction of Max and Annabelle and her balance wavered. The fight was so far away now that she couldn’t tell who was winning.
She turned back as the same voice from the helicopter speaker manifested into a woman. Lyss looked her over, a little unimpressed by Director Alcott of the DENS. She was glad to see Meifeng taken into the helicopter for aid, but she also wanted to go with the medics to make sure that Meifeng made it. She almost moved to follow, but her weakness spread to her knees and she rested her elbow on Madison’s shoulder to stay standing.
Her eyebrows furrowed as the Director addressed them as the Coven. She almost smirked because of Madison’s response. Lyss felt her chest tighten as the Director continued. The DENs could have done a lot more to stop Annabelle a long time ago. Why was she apologizing for it now? Why hadn’t she sent more backup before Annabelle killed so many of them?
Lyss exhaled slowly through her mouth, and inhaled through her nose before she spoke. “I think you have a lot to make up for this city, for my sisters, and for your agents.” She said with a grim tone. “Agent Liao could die in that helicopter while Agent Cornell is fighting not only for his life, but for the lives of everyone left in Florida.”
“Why didn’t you come to help them before this even happened? How come my sisters and I were more help to your agents than their organization was?”
Why did her sisters have to die to save Tampa, while this bitch sat in her office and listened to the reports? Lyss had to stop herself from saying more so that she didn’t piss off the only person that could help them rebuild.
"I'm not saying I understand what type of position you're in, but... Look, you can start by saving Liao's life and then pray to hell that Maximillian can handle the Hunger on his own."
"Girl, are you-" Madison was about to say to Lyss as the girl was gonna stay behind with... that thing. She saw Kayla, she saw Agatha, she was more than certain that Izzy was in there somewhere. She wanted to stay behind but that thing... that thing scared Madison. Nothing she did worked against it, and if Lyss wanted to stay here and be a hero... yet, despite how she desperately tried to justify leaving, she was just lying to herself. With the Jaws around her, she flew off towards the rest of the Coven. Yet, something didn't feel right about leaving Lyss and Penny behind.
To the surprise of Meifeng, two members of the little Coven decided to hang around... for whatever reason. Lyss should know the danger that Annabelle poised, the other girl Meifeng wasn't sure about. The Agent reached down to her hip and pulled out her Glock... not that it would do her much good against that thing.
Lyss' zombie horde assaulted Annabelle and Meifeng didn't get a chance to tell her how Trevor's abstraction worked. A glance was sent his way as he exhaled and hunched forward and Annabelle was unintentionally freed from his effect. Meifeng didn't scold Lyss for this because she was about to tell Trevor to cut and run. The freakish abomination stopped laughing as the screams of her victims could be heard as they writhed from inside of her hulking frame.
It seemed that the curse was more than just a desire for flesh but she was trapping them inside of her. Meifeng wished that she could free them but, alas, the circumstances mean that she won't be of much help here. At the very best she can stall for time. The zombies were attacking her, but Annabelle slashed at them or tossed them aside as she rose up to her full form.
"Trevor," Meifeng said as he aimed his rifle at her, his hand was shaking as a bead of sweat went down into his eye. "Go."
"Aw, hell no!" Trevor said, "I ain't leavin-"
"Go!" Meifeng shouted at him, giving him the side eye as she said, "All you're going to do is throw your life away!"
The boy grumbled before he took off after the rest of the Coven.
Meifeng sighed as Annabelle stood to her full height and she stepped on an undead warrior that she had knocked off. "Look, I'm going to be honest here," Meifeng started, "We, most likely, stand a snowball's chance in hell against her."
Annabelle took one step forward.
"We don't have cures, so at best, we're gonna stall her," Maybe they should have listened to the Director when she said the DENS should have kept all the cures. "You two understand that, right?"
"No sweat," said Penny, the initial shock of Lyss summoning an army of the dead now diminshed. She rolled her neck and bounced on her heels, loosening herself up for what might be the last fight of her life. Maybe she should've felt a little scared, but Penny knew that she wouldn't let something as trivial as dying stop her. She grinned, overflowing with adrenaline. "I practically killed a god before. This is nothing!"
Annabelle let out a loud roar as she lunged at the crowd with her claws out.
Thanks to her second sight, Penny was able to see the path of Annabelle's attack and moved to deftly dodge out of the way as her claws made mulch out a handful of the zombies Lyss has summoned between the abomination and them. Penny barely had the time to shield her eyes from the spray of putrid flesh and bone that flew her way as Annabelle tore through them. Shit. No amount of false confidence could keep her thinking that this was nothing. Meifeng said they had to stall. Penny figured Lyss's army would be the best way to do the job—the more targets the better. In the meantime, Penny needed to keep Annabelle away from shredding the summoner.
Meifeng didn't need an abstraction to know that she should get the hell out of the way. The Liao Matriarch took off in the other direction as the creature crashed into the ground claw first. That thing's roar etched itself into her mind as Meifeng looked at her SUV and used her metal powers to take apart a nearby car... creating several massive lances.
"Oh c'mon! How ya gonna kill Saul if ya can't even hit me?" taunted Penny, uncertain if Annabelle could even comprehend language anymore. She blasted a few coins at the monster, knowing they wouldn't even tickle her but hoping they'd be annoying enough to draw her attention away from Lyss. At the same time Penny backed up outside of what she hoped was Annabelle's striking range, ready to continue her game of chicken with the deadly abomination.
The coins didn't even phase Annabelle for a second as she marched towards her - one could hear her faintly growling, but it was hard over all of her victim's screaming. She quickly grabbed a silver sedan and chucked it at Penny with only one hand.
Lyss, meanwhile, had gotten herself to a good distance away from Annabelle's current position. A few of her undead surrounded her to act as guards and were quickly put to work as Annabelle's flesh eaters ran for her. Lyss paid attention to every undead that perished in a fight against the soldiers and at the strength of the monster in front of them all. Her face was steel. The adrenaline rushing through her overcame any fearful thought. This was her time to prove herself. To bring the name Burns back into the mouths of the extra-normal world. She watched Annabelle chuck the sedan Penny's way and pressed her hand to the ground once more.
A horde of undead erupted from the ground in front of Penny- enough to block the vehicle from coming close to her. The undead that weren't immediately crushed by the car crawled out from the pile and ran for Annabelle's hand. They latched onto her arm like carnivorous ants. Piece by piece they tore at the bodies that made up her wrist until it was barely holding itself together.
"Aim your attacks at her limbs! We'll tear this bitch down part by part until she has to crawl towards us." Lyss shouted above the chaos. She just now was starting to feel strained by the use of power, like she'd just run half a mile. She wasn't finished yet.
While they were attacking, Meifeng had completed her lance... a long construct made out of a car that coalesced into one jagged and brutal weapon. Meifeng had her hand up as she launched it at Annabelle's wrist and then she completely severed it as she cut through it. The creature loudly roared as she, with her remaining hand, cleved through the undead horde with one swipe. She quickly grabbed the javelin and chucked it in Meifeng's direction.
Meifeng put both of her hands up and reflexively caused it to stop in mid-air. Annabelle grabbed onto her severed wrist and placed it right against the stump. Annabelle planted her feet into ground as she let out a hellish screech into the air. One that was louder and inhuman than the last one, one that could be heard throughout Tampa...
... It transformed any Blind who heard it into Wendigos and called them to Annabelle.
Penny clutched her ears as Annabelle howled, distant baying harmonizing with the abomination. Thanks to Lyss's interception, the sedan that surely would've squashed her instead served as a whole new stockpile of missiles. Penny reached down and brushed her fingers against the shattered bits of windshield and metal. They lifted off the ground in front of her until they were eye level and she effortlessly directed them towards Annabelle with a flick of her wrist, aiming for the creature's unwounded wrist.
Penny was about to unleash another flurry of change when she heard a series of crashs cut through the roar of the raging fire that was consuming the beach house as well as the wailing of sirens and unrelenting car alarms. Stepping through the window of a neighboring house was a Wendigo, something Penny had only seen in recollections or heard about from her friends. Another lanky freak skulked around from behind the house, still wearing its novelty "the Grillfather" apron and carrying a large fork in its hand. Further down the road Penny saw more shapes emerging from the houses, still shrieking in response to Annabelle.
"Well fuck me," muttered Penny to herself. She fired off a couple of rounds at the closest Wendigo while trying to keep Annabelle in her peripheries. As she continued to rapid fire coins like a machine gunner against the bayonet charge of the opposing army, turning the cul de sac into a No Man's Land, she shouted at Meifeng, "I thought you had backup!?"
The sound of gunshots filled the area as Meifeng unloaded into the crowd of people that Annabelle called to them. They had to deal with Annabelle and her army, which was not a good idea at the moment.
"They're on the way!" Meifeng shouted back, even though she was more than certain that they were gonna be dead before they got here. Yet she didn't have the heart to tell them that. However, Meifeng hopped on the nearest car's hood as she shouted, "Girls, get over here!"
Lyss blinked where she stood amongst the chaos. Had Annabelle just... reattached the hand? Hell no. They were quickly running out of options. Even if they could move fast enough to completely tear Annabelle apart, the monster would probably regroup just as fast. It looked like more bodies, or body parts, were on their way now too.
"Where the hell is Maximillian?" Lyss shouted over the noise as she made her way towards Meifeng. She picked up a broken piece of wood from the ground, most likely from the destroyed beach house, and shoved it into the stomach of a nearby zombie.
By the time she reached Meifeng, her circle of soldiers had withered. Lyss took a deep breath, gathering more energy, before summoning a group of undead to protect the car that Meifeng and Lyss were using as a base of operations. She continued to kneel on the ground, her eyes closed as she focused. She pressed both hands against the pavement. Moments later, near Annabelle's right ankle, the ground split into a house sized crater. Out of the hole came 20 foot golem like undead. It roared against the sight of Annabelle's larger form and immediately set to tearing at her ankle.
"Hopefully that will keep the bitch occupied for longer." She growled.
By the time Penny had laid down enough covering fire to make it to the car, Lyss had already summoned another zombie horde to surround it. Not wanting to test her luck on anything, Penny used her second Abstraction to summon a burst of air beneath her. She jetted over top of the horde and landed on the roof of the car, catching herself with her hands and knees. She shook her head and caught her breath before she wiped the blood from her nose. Penny stood back up, her vision blurring as it returned to normal, and assessed the situation.
"Holy shit, dude," uttered Penny, shocked by Lyss's golem. There wasn't much time to stand in awe, as Annabelle's Wendigos were still pouring in from the beaches and the gated communities. Penny pushed past her growing migraine to fire off coin after coin to slow their advance, although by being locked out of her second sight the shots were noticably worse. It didn't stop her. Coins buried themselves into car doors, shattered windows, and tore through Wendigos as she continued twisting and pointing like an impassioned conductor orchestrating a symphony of destruction.
"You got a plan, lady?" asked Penny to Meifeng over the sound of the fighting.
"We're gonna get some distance!" Meifeng shouted over the chaos, she gazed upon the freakish monstrosity that Lyss had summoned and saw the undead monsters that she had summoned. They were protecting them against the minions, but what about the larger form of Annabelle Heart? That thing would shred them to pieces. Other than that, Meifeng had no real plan because this thing keeps pulling out new tricks and making all of her plans useless. What was taking Maximilian so long?
Annabelle almost fell into the crater created by Lyss' minion coming out of the ground, she let out a roar as she got her footing... which she didn't have for long when the undead brute grabbed at her ankle. Tearing away at it, however Annabelle raised her fists up into the air, roaring as she brought them down on top of the undead beast's head. Flattening his skull and sending fluids out in every different direction... she grabbed the minion by the shoulders before she saw the three that were in her way...
... She heaved him up and then threw him at the three.
"We gotta move!" Meifeng shouted as she grabbed onto Lyss by the forearm and then detached the car hood from the rest of the car. Penny hopped down from the roof of the car to hitch a ride before Meifeng quickly launched them to the side, out of the way as the freakish brute came barreling at them like a speeding 18-wheeler! Unfortunately, Meifeng didn't really account for balance and in her desperation at getting out of the way, she slid off of the hood of the car and hit the ground with a thud. She hissed in pain as she tried to roll back onto her feet.
Lyss flinched as she watched Annabelle crush her giant solider almost a second after she'd summoned it. Her anger that each plan was failing also diminished the second Annabelle threw the dead golem their way. "Fu-!" She was cut off when Meifeng grabbed her arm and propelled them away with the hood of the car. Unfortunately she didn't get a second to feel relieved. The moment Meifeng lost her balance and fell, Lyss felt the hood drop out from under her. She threw her arms up and managed to land on her feet, but the sudden impact threw her off balance. She fell forwards and threw her arms out in front of her, now finding herself on all fours on the dented hood. "Meifeng!! Are you alright?"
Lyss turned her head to look for her, but all she noticed were the hordes of The Hunger's minions coming their way. Half of her soldiers that had been around the car were crushed by the golem, but the rest were fighting their way to her side. She looked around her for a weapon, but there was nothing in sight. "No way in hell I'm dying this way," Lyss muttered to herself. She turned and planted both hands on the ground. The zombies were getting closer. Too close. By the time she summoned more minions the horde was feet away from her. Her minions came pouring out of the earth like ants, and instantly collided with the raging flesheaters. Lyss panted. She wouldn't be able to keep summoning this many of them. Maximillian needed to show soon.
"... You're not," Meifeng hissed in pain as she forced herself up to her feet and looked at Annabelle. The undead army was clashing against Annabelle's flesh eaters, but Annabelle herself was unstoppable. They needed someone like Max to stop them... then there was a pang of guilt knowing that she didn't let these girls run off while they had the chance. Meifeng sighed as she raised her hand up into the air and little scraps of metal floated up all around the aging matriarch.
"You two!" Meifeng screamed, "Get out of here!"
Lyss shook her head, finally finding a piece of pipe from the wrecked beach house and holding it like her aluminum baseball bat. (Which was laying with her speedster somewhere among the horde.) "There's no way out at this point, Agent! I can't leave you behind." Lyss took a step forwards and knocked a zombie upside the head before it could tear one of her soldiers apart. It's head caved in like a smashed watermelon. Her soldier moved on to the next advancing freak, but Lyss was starting to notice her soldiers were quickly being overtaken.
Penny had messed up the timing when she tried to save herself from their crash landing, so instead of just hitting the ground she actually hit the ground, popped herself up in the air with a blast of wind, and hit the ground again. Her ego was hurt the most, but the scrapes and bruises would surely be hell tomorrow—although making it to then was looking pretty dim. Normally, she had an ace in the hole when it came to desperate escapes thanks to being close with Kimberly, but as far as Penny knew she was still stuck in a DENS detention center. She was pretty sure she had just heard her phone crack when she landed the second time, anyway. She staggered up and joined the other two.
"Yeah, we're not done yet. You're stuck with us," said Penny, who wasn't keen on other people taking the heroic sacrifices or flexing their authority. Still, that yet was coming pretty fast. Lyss's line was dwindling, and Annabelle's forces were pushing. It was only a matter of time. Penny had a plan, but she would only inact it the moment Lyss's creations no longer held the line. If she acted too soon it'd shred whatever was left of their defenses. So instead she continued to make rough potshots around Lyss's zombies, the pack on her waist starting to feel real light.
"That was not a request," Meifeng hissed at the two. "I will not stand here and let you two throw your lives away!"
At this point Annabelle had yelled yet again... not that it did much as anyone who could be transformed into a Wendigo was already there. However, as she roared they stopped clashing against the undead forces and ran into Annabelle - leaping into her body and contributing to her unholy mass. Suddenly, she went from being three stories tall, to four. She stood tall as a trail of steam came out of her mouth.
"... Get out of here!" Meifeng screamed.
Lyss stared up at the monstrous form in awe. How could Meifeng expect to take her on alone? She was a strong woman, for sure, but how long would she last? "I'll get to a safe distance, but I will not leave you alone!"
So, in another effort to contribute to the fight, Lyss pressed both hands against the ground. She began to murmur a spell into the ground, black sigils appearing beneath her hands as she did so. The ground in front of and behind Annabelle began to shake. The pavement cracked and from these cracks more undead emerged. They quickly ran towards Annabelle and began to climb up her long form towards the head. Lyss stood up, breathing like she'd run a mile as she wiped blood from her nose. "That should distract her while you get some shots at her."
That said, Lyss turned and began to book it down the street. She looked to the skies and desperately hoped that Max would be there soon. Annabelle roared as she tried to desperately get the undead off of her, slashing at even her own form to get them off.
"Oh come on!" bellowed Penny as she threw her arms out in front of her. It wasn't immediately clear if Penny was angry at Annabelle changing yet again, Meifeng's stubborness, or both. Regardless, her plan had been dashed when the Wendigos combined forces to form one giant asshole, which meant the "yet" had arrived. It was time to get out. Only Penny didn't do the smart thing and join Lyss in the backline. With one eye on Annabelle, Penny marched up to Meifeng, grabbed her by the wrist, and said, "Don't be such a fucking idiot."
Penny's second sight reactivated in time to see that Meifeng was probably going to reflexively try to pull away, so she strengthed her grip and grabbed her with her other hand. She kept watch of Annabelle's movements out of her periphery, ready to launch herself and Meifeng away with a blast of air if needed at the first sign of trouble. It was time to see if this stranger was true to her word. "You said you wouldn't stand here and let us throw our lives away. So let's fucking go."
Meifeng narrowed her eyes at Penny, making sure to maintain eye contact as she thrusted her hand out of Penny's grip, stretching out her fingers at the same time. She shook her head as more metal floated in the air and became vicious and jagged blades.
"I may be old, but I can handle myself," Meifeng shook her head as she spoke. That obstinance faded fast as she spoke almost with a whisper, "If you two really are determined to die on this hill with me, then... let's go."
Annabelle just stopped trying to flail the undead off of her and focus on the group in front of her. She slammed both of her claws into the ground as she went to all fours - so hard that she created holes in the ground and shook the earth. She roared again, probably signaling that she was about to charge. She rushed towards the trio, every time her hands hit the ground it made a boom that could not just be heard but felt. She carried herself forward like an animal, a true raging bull.
"Now girl," Meifeng said as the sharpel formed a ball... that limply dropped on the ground, "How fast can you move us!?"
"Fast enough," Penny said. It was a hopeful statement, and perhaps a bit of a lie. Penny had never attempted to use her borrowed Abstraction to launch both herself and another person away, but if there was anytime to make it work it would be now as Annabelle charged them. Like a matador holding a red flag, Penny would wait for the moment right before Annabelle impacted them to latch on to Meifeng and whip themselves away with a blast of air.
"My idea is kinda crazy, I'll warn you!" Meifeng warned her as Annabelle kept charging at them. "Don't move until I give you the order, got it?"
Annabelle got closer and closer, before she opened her maw to devour the two. Exactly as Meifeng planned, she doubted that Annabelle barely had a human thought in her head at this point. That she was just raw, animalistic rage, in... this terrifying form. When she opened her jaw, Meifeng quickly launched the ball of sharp blades and knives into her mouth as far as it can go. The beast gagged as she came to a stop and Meifeng shouted.
"Move!" On cue Penny moved both Meifeng and herself out of the way as Annabelle came to a stop. When she got some distance away, Meifeng activated her trap card and had the ball of blades explode as violently as she could make it... and it caused Annabelle's head to explode in a red mist as Meifeng hoped that would be the end of that abomination... however, with everything that has happened so far, she knew that she only slowed it down for a second. At least they gave themselves a second to-
Meifeng eyed the tortured souls that are apart of her hellish mass as they turned their eyes towards her in complete unison. Meifeng forgot about that tail... it launched itself at the two at extremely fast speeds. Meifeng barely had any time to respond before she felt the thing pierce through her stomach as she hunched forward. Coughing blood as she grabbed her stomach as that monster's tail hit the wall behind her.
Penny hadn't even seen the tail coming, her senses scattered by the juggling of her abstractions that left her short of breath and with a throbbing headache. Her eyes went wide as she swallowed a scream as the woman right next to her was impaled. She could have prevented it if she had just pushed herself harder and jumped them back further. Her breath quickened. Her eyes darted back and forth wildly. She reached her hand out towards Meifeng but stopped. What the fuck could she do?
Lyss had looked back just in time to see Annabelle thrust her tail towards Penny and Meifeng. She stopped dead in her tracks, nearly tripping over herself after she witnessed the tail impale Meifeng. "Meifeng!!" She shouted. How could this happen? How could no one come to their rescue? Had they already been taken down by wendigos? She couldn't believe this.
Lyss was shaking with rage. Annabelle couldn't win. Not after Claud lost her life to get the cure. She knelt to the ground and slammed her hands down again. The ground between the headless abomination and Lyss's friends shook violently. She was summoning more soldiers, and while it drained her energy she felt her father's channeler helping her stay alive. Two more golems erupted from the Earth. One took Annabelle's tail and ripped it in two. It turned towards Meifeng after and carefully gathered her into it's arms before heading towards the direction of Lyss.
The other grabbed onto the piece still attached and tugged as hard as it could in an attempt to pull Annabelle off of her feet. Lyss was hoping it could distract Annabelle long enough to get Meifeng to safety. Annabelle roared as she turned towards the beast and swung her clenched fist at it - knocking its head off and sending it flying.
When Meifeng got close, she was barely conscious. Eyes were unfocused, she was coughing up blood as she was going pale. Fortunately, the piece that had impaled her was still attached so she wasn't bleeding out. She stammered out the words, "Just go..."
"Shut up and keep breathing," growled Penny as she knelt beside Meifeng, her eyes darting back and forth between the dying woman and Annabelle.
When Annabelle was done with the giant, she turned back towards Lyss. She dug her claws into the ground as she used them to launch herself forward. Her claws were outstreched as she went in to finish Meifeng off...
... However, mid-air something crashed into her midsection and sent her flying off course. She hit the ground in a pavement destroying roll that crushed car and anything else that got in her way. She slammed her claws into the ground in an attempt to stop her roll and all the eyes on her undead frame turned to face him.
He turned his head towards Lyss and saw that Meifeng was injured. He got here in barely the nick of time... he should have been here much faster. Maximilian shook his head, "I should have been faster," He started, "Is everyone okay?"
"Are you fucking—no!" barked Penny, turning to gesture at Meifeng's wound. "She's still alive, but..." But so was Annabelle. Meifeng's plan had been to buy time for her backup, and the backup was now here—but Penny was about tapped, Meifeng was dying, and she had no clue how many more bodies Lyss could yank out of the ground. "Superman, you think you can finish that bitch?"
"I'm not sure," Maximilian said, "But damn I'm going to try."
Lyss, meanwhile, had been ready to greet the Hound when Annabelle came their way again. She stared up at Maximillian, relief and anger spreading through her. It's about damn time, Maxi. What took you so long? "Where's the rest of the team?"
"On their way," Maximilian said. "I had to get ahead of them, and I'm glad I did when I did...." He looked down at the injured Meifeng.
However, somebody else joined the fight a little too late: flying in was Madison Brown. She landed next to Lyss as she put her hands in her pockets, looking at the unholy being that Annabelle had become. She didn't know what type of strength that Lyss, Penny, and Agent Liao had that allowed them to fight this thing so fearlessly. However, Madison felt like the fight was over.
"Hey girl," Madison said to Lyss, "I... really shouldn't have left you behind like that." She shrugged.
Lyss blinked, staring at her sister for a moment, but then her face softened. "You don't have to be sorry. I'm just glad you're here now." She glanced Annabelle's way. "Could you get Meifeng out of here?" She knelt down for the last time, and summoned one more golem to distract Annabelle. When she stood, she wiped more blood from her nose.
"And you too," Madison said as she looked at Meifeng. "I could care less about her, I ain't leaving without you."
"It's all you from here, Max."
Maximilian cracked his knuckles as he faced down the monster. "This isn't going to go the way it went last time," Maximilian told her, "Get Meifeng out of here and clear the area, I'm taking the gloves off."
Arabelle remained in her position by the wall, but she kept her eyes on the situation in the dining room while minding the hallway too. If the imposter’s friends were still out there, they could be anywhere. The real Justin asked her how many there were, and if they had any weapons. Arabelle shook her head. She had no idea, but she could find out.
She pressed her back against the wall again and pulled out her pocket mirror. Her eyes focused on the mirror. Each time she blinked, she was looking out of a different mirror in the manor. The bathroom was empty. The rooms upstairs were empty. She was just about to check the main hall when the terrifyingly loud roars broke her focus. She came back to reality just in time to see the deer skull from the bathroom standing in the main foyer, and the figure was leading three large beasts their way.
Arabelle’s eyes widened and she turned to duck back into the dining room. She moved her way further into it, past Ezra and Tuyen’s stand off, past Alexander and fake Justin’s tussle, and towards the mirror that hung over the mantle. She certainly wouldn’t be able to fight off these intruders. Not unless she could sneak up behind them with a crowbar or bat. That would mean making her way to the storage room in the kitchen.
Ezra, Tuyen, and Shane both left the room. Arabelle stepped forwards to grab Junior before he could run into the danger, but he quickly hid himself before she could. “Junior, wait!” Arabelle huffed in frustration. She looked at those left in the room, and then at Justin as he spoke. Arabelle frowned. Of course she cared about this house. Why else would she still work here?
She decided to go after Junior. He didn’t need to risk his life for this house. He was too young to experience this. She’d just grab him and take him somewhere safe through the closest mirror. Probably all of the way back to her apartment. She just needed to find him before the beasts did.
Then the beast came through the wall.
Arabelle reacted fast. She flung her arms up in front of her to save her face from any scratches or cuts. She was pelted with bits of wood and insulation, but there were only a few scratches on her forearms where the pieces cut through her cardigan. The moment the debris settled, she turned her back to the beast. Before it could make a move on them, Arabelle pulled the mirror down from the mantle and climbed through it. She felt awful to leave the others behind, but she knew there wasn’t time to get them out. She needed to find Junior.
Arabelle emerged from a mirror on the opposite side of the manor. She climbed out carefully, her feet landing on the top of a dresser before she lowered herself to the ground. As she moved towards the door she listened for any voices or movements outside of the room. It was strangely quiet, despite the chaos on the other end of the manor. When she cracked the door open, she saw no sign of an intruder. She slipped out into the hallway and walked into the closest room with a fireplace, James’s study. She walked over to the set of fire irons and pulled the shovel piece from its stand. It wasn’t the best weapon, but it would do.
Just as she was heading towards the door she heard voices outside. She ducked behind the door so that it would hide her if they came in. Her hands gripped the iron shovel tightly. Hopefully they would just move on.
The halls of the Vanburen estate, while quiet, had seen more activity within them over the past week than it had in a year. Fires burned strong in the rooms that needed it. The scent of pinewood turned ash lingered throughout the estate and yet it did not overpower the usual smell of the Vanburen home. The fire’s heat travelled only so far from their mantles, so some places of the manor still felt the cold winter outside.
Arabelle wrapped her cardigan further around her body as she made her way towards the kitchen. She was at the manor for the meeting, of course, but she had come early to help prepare a meal for the event. A warm beef and vegetable stew for the main course, baked bread and butter to eat with it, and a rich tea to sip until or after the meal was served. Arabelle made idle chat with the other workers as she prepared the china and silverware. The head chef always had a story to tell, and Arabelle listened closely.
Preparations were quickly managed. Arabelle found herself with a moment of time alone, so she took her tea to a quiet reading room. She sat in a chair close to the window and peered out into the wintery grounds. The chill from the window reached her face, but her toes stayed warm thanks to the nearby fire. She didn’t mind the cold. Araminta always had a perfectly white Christmas. She preferred fall and spring over winter and summer, but she would rather be bundled up than sweating in the summer.
Five minutes before the meeting started, Arabelle filled her cup with tea once more before taking the tray into the dining room. Once she’d counted enough cups for the Vanburen’s, she took her seat at the end of the table and rested both elbows on it’s mahogany surface. One by one they all gathered. Arabelle smiled a greeting to each of them, but she kept quiet. She was never very good at small talk.
Oscar began his meeting. Arabelle tried to listen closely, but she didn’t understand what the “affliction” they were all suffering from was exactly. She wasn’t even sure why she was at the meeting in the first place. They were just lucky that the meeting was called on a Saturday.
Even so, Arabelle tried her best to be a part of the meeting. She took every detail in, and politely nodded a greeting to the two young “experts” as they walked in. She’d just taken a sip of her tea when the girl asked to use the restroom. Arabelle was already standing when Ezra gestured her way. If anything, this was a chance to uninvolve herself from the Vanburens’ problem.
She smiled at Ezra before she walked over to Tuyen. The look in his eyes was suspicious, and rightfully so. After the break-in, Arabelle found herself more on edge around strangers in the manor. It could have been anyone. While Arabelle had a feeling it was the Harrisburgs to blame, she couldn’t blame every malicious act on that family. “Right this way, Ms. Doan.”
Arabelle was quick to move out of the dining room. She took Ms. Doan down the hall to the left, and then to the downstairs powder room. For Ezra’s sake, Arabelle stood against the wall opposite the bathroom while Ms. Doan was inside. For her own sake, Arabelle pulled a compact mirror from her pocket. She slowly opened it, and found her own eye staring back at her. She wasn’t sure if she would catch anything if she looked. She was sure that it was 100% creepy if she did, but there were many suspicious things that could happen in a bathroom when magic was involved. These experts could have something up their sleeve. Hell, they could even be here to steal more sealed objects. She couldn’t risk it.
So, Arabelle gently touched the screen with her pointer finger. It shimmered for a moment as the magic activated, but once it cleared Arabelle saw something within. It wasn’t Ms. Doan. Out of shock, Arabelle snapped the mirror shut within her hand. The image of a cow skull remained fresh in her mind as the door to the bathroom opened. As much as she wanted to glance behind Ms. Doan, she didn’t want to give herself away. Instead, she kept her eyes on Tuyen as she walked out. Once Ms. Doan turned back towards the dining room, Arabelle turned her head to look within and found nothing.
Something was up.
The two women slowly made their way back. Arabelle saw Ezra walk out of the room with phone in hand. She heard the front door shut before they stepped in the threshold. They made it just in time to hear Oscar mention his knowledge of the supernatural. Arabelle hung back at the doorway. Something about the bathroom didn’t feel right, and she wanted to keep the hallway in her peripherals.
The conversation between Mr. Liao and the Vanburens continued. Arabelle only paid attention to half of what was said. Instead, she found herself watching Oscar as he answered the phone. He looked confused for a moment. That was a rare thing for the young Vanburen. Arabelle couldn’t hear what he was saying, but the way he acted after the call finished set her more on edge. First the skull in the bathroom --she looked back into the hallway but saw nothing-- and now this mystery caller?
Arabelle heard the front door open again and turned her head towards the other side of the hallway. Just in time to see another Justin Liao and Tuyen Doan walk towards the dining room. Instead of raising an alarm, Arabelle simply stepped further into the hallway to let the two “real?” experts walk inside. Her head turned back in the direction of the bathroom, but she still saw nothing. Had the skull just been a trick of the mind? Had she tuned into a different mirror by accident?
The two imposters weren’t even phased that they’d been caught. The second they yelled “Plan B!” Arabelle knew they’d been prepared for this to happen. The man thrust his arms out and suddenly a mini tsunami erupted through the dining room. Arabelle ducked to the right and pressed her back against the wall of the hallway. She heard the grunts and splutters of the Vanburens, and soon after she saw water slowly rushing out of the room until the carpet swallowed it up.
Ezra was quick to return to the chaos. Arabelle wasn’t sure what to do. This wasn’t something she could call the police to handle. At least the real magic experts were here. Surely they would be able to handle this. Arabelle peeked her head around the wall to see Alexander wrap chains around the girl with the portal.
Arabelle blinked. A portal? Of course!
“There’s more of them down the hall! She let them in with a portal in the bathroom.” Arabelle shouted towards the real Liao and Doan. “They must be using some sort of cloaking spell so that I couldn’t see them, but I know they’re here.”
Lyss felt anything but relief by the time Madison dropped her by the car. The house was on fire. Thankfully her important possessions were back in her apartment, but there went the Coven’s home within seconds. She thought that killing Annabelle had been too easy, but she at least believed that they could get to a safe distance until Meifeng and Maximillian were nearby.
Then the house exploded. Lyss ducked and covered her head and neck with her arms as she cowered against the car. “Fuck,” she cursed. Of course Annabelle couldn’t have stayed down for another minute. Lyss felt her arms drop by her sides as she looked up at the towering beast. We really should have left her the way she was.
Lyss was stuck in place staring at the horror that towered over their burning home. She saw the spike of a tail swing downwards, but she couldn’t react until it struck the car beside her. Lyss dove away from the car and landed roughly on the pavement. Shattered bits of glass sprinkled themselves around her and she was careful not to cut herself as she scrambled back to her feet.
“K-Kayla…” Lyss looked at Madison and saw the horror on her face. When she followed her eyes back to the monster before them, she found what Madison was calling Kayla. Except, it couldn’t really have been her, right? And Agatha too? How?
Lyss had heard of Annabelle’s curse before. It was just a brief lesson her grandmother gave her long ago, when she honestly was too young to be hearing of something so terrifying. Every soul the Hunger’s curse claimed was trapped within the host like some vacuum. She never believed that it could physically form itself, but she had the proof standing right before her.
Lyss’s heart was pounding. It felt like her chest would burst at any second. She couldn’t move, frozen again by the shock. Her eyes moved from Annabelle and turned towards the dark shadows that began to surround the property. The Hunger’s minions. Annabelle’s cursed victims were all gathered together. They were trapped.
Meifeng and Trevor showed, but Annabelle’s guttoral laughs only twisted Lyss’s stomach into knots. The mass of undead around them stopped, but she knew Trevor could only hold his abstraction for so long against something like her. If Maximillian didn’t show soon… Nothing she could do could-
Lyss blinked. The chaos before her had stopped. The color of the fire and stars above was muted, as if a filter was cast against her vision. She turned in circles, looking at each of her friends, sisters, and the evil beings that waited for Annabelle’s release to swarm. She didn’t understand. Time had stopped, and she could have sworn that was her father’s-
”Alyssa Burns, listen to me.”
Lyss turned back around, and suddenly she was at her childhood home. Her dad stood before her, as tall and dark as she remembered him. It was quiet, except for the static in the back of her head. “Dad, I…”
“I know this is strange. I’ve been gone from your life for so long, and for that I’m sorry.”
Lyss stared at him. She was in shock, and yet she felt more at peace now that she ever had before. She wasn’t sure what to do, what to say, or even what to think. Her dad looked remorseful, but his eyes were warm and kind. He really loved her, she finally thought. Even if he’d left her, he had loved her.
“I cannot give you much in this form, my dear… but I can pass this along to you.”
”We can give you this.”
From behind her father, her grandfather suddenly emerged beside him. The two stood side to side. They looked so alike when they stood that way.
[b] “The Burns legacy is passed from eldest child to eldest child only when they are deemed worthy of it.”[/color] Lyss’s grandfather began before her dad continued.
“We have been watching for you quite some time, Alyssa. We are both extremely proud-”
Her grandfather chimed in, ”-but also unsure of your actions since we joined The Hound’s ranks.”
Lyss felt her cheeks burn. This was a recollection. Of course. She understood completely what her grandfather had implied.
“But…” Her grandfather said as he nodded towards his son.
“You are ready for the Burns power now.” Her dad finished with a smile.
Lyss looked between them. She was unsure of receiving this power, herself. This was the power that broke her family apart. This power was the reason her grandfather, her father, and then her mother left. Each of the men before her were so obsessed with living up to the Burns legacy it killed them. Could she handle the power? Could she refrain from it’s temptations and continue her life in peace?
On the other hand, she thought back to her current reality. Annabelle was unstoppable. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of her victims just waiting to tear each of her sisters apart. She needed this power if she was to defeat the Hunger.
“I will accept the Burns legacy,” Lyss finally said as she looked her grandfather and father in the eyes. “ I promise that I will not abuse it like so many have before me. I will not pursue the art of necromancy for my own benefit, but for the benefit of those I love.” She looked her father in the eyes. For so long she thought he was doing what he thought right for the family, but when she grew older she realized that he had done it for himself. She would be different.
“Then it is done. Take the ring I have given to my son, your father, and defeat those who threaten your loved one’s lives.”
“I only wish I could have been there to help you today,” Her father said to her with a melancholy smile. He held out a fist and opened his palm facing upwards. “Alyssa Burns, I give you this gift. This recollection so that you can do what my father and what I could not.”
Lyss slowly took the ring from his hand, her eyes wet with tears. “Thank you, father.” She nodded to her grandfather. [color=D3D3D3] “Go in peace.”[/b]
Her grandfather gave her a smile, nodded towards his son, and faded into the darkness in the nearest doorway. Lyss faced her father and smiled sadly. She couldn’t believe that this was how she would see him after all this time. She didn’t even have time to ask him why he’d left all those years ago. Instead, she choked out, ”Go in peace.” Her father was hesitant, but in the end he smiled, nodded, and followed in her grandfather’s footsteps.
Lyss took a deep breath as he left, and wiped the tears from her eyes. She cleared her throat and looked at the ring in her hands. This was it. The power of the Burns all in one tiny object. She held up her right hand and slid the Burns ring onto the same finger as her own channeler. The two began to glow with black energy, and then they merged together. Lyss traced the new ring with her fingers and blinked.
She was back in Tampa, back in front of the remains of the beach house, and Annabelle was still making those awful sounds. It didn’t sound like laughing anymore. Just a bunch of shrieks and grunts. Trever wasn’t going to last until Maximillian came.
It was time.
Lyss looked at the ring on her finger. It looked almost the same, except the band was thicker and the jewels had fused together. It was half her father’s ring, and half of her own ring. She held her arm out, palm facing downwards, and inhaled deeply. Then exhaled slowly, her arm lifting towards the sky as she closed her eyes.
In one fluid motion, Lyss swung her arm downwards and knelt on one knee. Her palm hit the ground with a sudden force that shook the pavement. As she opened her eyes, her ring and her irises glowed with the black lux. She was performing a summoning ritual. It would take almost all of her energy to succeed, but she could feel the power of her father’s ring fueling her own. Her father and grandfather were both here with her, even if they couldn’t be seen. The power of three strong Burns, their own power passed down to them from the Burns before them, were shaking the ground of Tampa’s coast.
Even Annabelle would feel the charge in the air. Any bird that remained in the area suddenly flew off into the night. The ground trembled, softly at first, and then violently. One by one, Lyss’s own army of the undead broke through the dirt, concrete, and sand around them. They sprung up behind Annabelle, in front of her, and all throughout Annabelle’s horde. A large amount of them emerged between the DENs, any remaining Coven members, and the bloodlusting victims that surrounded them. Lyss stood as she finished, panting softly to herself. She wasn’t sure how many she summoned, but she knew it was enough to make this work.
“Alright. My men will take care of Annabelle’s zombies. Just focus on keeping her here until Max brings the cure.” She shouted, her head turning to Meifeng and nodding.
That said, Lyss faced Annabelle once more and threw her fist into the air. Her undead suddenly attacked. A small group began to climb up Annabelle’s body, tearing flesh as they went, while the rest began to rip her undead soldiers apart.