Note: This chapter, for content, is rated R. I told all of the list members this would happen eventually, but if anyone cannot or will not read an R rated chapter, feel free to hit the back button. I certainly won't be offended.
"Where is he?" Valentina demanded. She had followed Christopher Simon for what seemed to be ages; invoking a spell her mistress had given her to travel space very quickly. Feeling the ground shift under her feet made her feel rather queasy, but it was a small price to pay in the whole scheme of things. Celeste had contacted her during one of the space-leaps, informing her that Hyuga had attempted to escape, but she had things under control. However, Valentina could sense a masked urgency, as if Celeste was running out of time.
The trail had ended here, in a dark, dank cave that smelt unpleasantly of mildew and decaying flesh. She scrunched up her nose as she squinted into the cave, wondering how on earth the trail had stopped without Simon being in front of her. She reached into her backpack and extracted a box of matches. She set one alight and dropped it in her shock. She lit another. While the light was feeble and flickered constantly, Valentina knew now why Simon's signal had faded.
He lay at her feet…sort of. His head lay at her feet anyway, devoid of eyes, lips and ears. Fighting back the urge to be sick, she glanced around for a potential brand. Having found one, she picked it up and set fire to it. The ground was illuminated to a greater extent and Valentina could see the rest of the cadaver. He appeared to have been dismembered, his broken body a macabre jigsaw puzzle.
"Ew," she commented, feeling her face pale. "Who did this to you, Simon?" she asked rhetorically. A glyph sparked to light as she uttered his name, as if it was keyed to it. She reached out a hand instinctively to touch the glyph.
"Star-eyed's Soldier, your punishment for your interference. Tell the Star Eyed to no longer interfere with the plans of Roger Bacon!" The voice reverberated in her skull, an amused male voice, somewhere in between a tenor and a baritone, marked distinctively with an English accent. Valentina covered her ears with her hands, realizing as she did so that it was futile and a little silly.
She stepped sideways, only to have the ground give slightly under her foot. She moved the torch toward the ground, dreading what she would see. Under her foot was Simon's eye, flattened by the pressure exerted by her foot. Valentina ran outside where she vomited helplessly. Once she was under control, she wiped her mouth with her sleeve and closed her eyes.
"My lady, Simon is dead, executed by Roger Bacon," she thought fiercely. Celeste didn't respond. Discomfited, Valentina tried again. Still nothing. Shrugging, Valentina invoked the space-leap spell. Maybe Celeste was too distracted to talk to her at the moment.
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess, with hair of ebony and eyes that captured the midnight sky. She lived in the Italian Alps with her father and two brothers. Her mother had passed away long ago, long before the girl could remember, but she did not mind. Her father and brothers were family enough for her.
On her sixteenth birthday, her father presented her to a handsome man, with black flashing eyes and neatly combed dark brown hair and said, "This is your new husband, my dear." The girl was slightly offended that her father hadn't consulted her first, but it was the convention at the time, so she acquiesced.
The man, a French nobleman with whom her father desired an alliance, swept the princess away to his castle. He was good and kind to her until she fell pregnant with their child. She whispered her news to him in the darkness, and he was overjoyed at the prospect.
However, as her waist thickened, he would look at her differently, adoration metamorphosing to distaste. He would disappear for long periods, returning to their bed just before daylight. When she asked him about it, he shrugged it off, replying that he had business to attend to.
The girl was naïve, and believed him, ignoring the advice given to her by her handmaiden that he was straying into another's bed. She refused to believe her servant and dismissed her for spreading lies. Her husband kept disappearing, but the girl trusted him.
Finally her child was born, a girl with the brown hair of her father and the midnight blue eyes of her mother. She was presented to the court the next week and proclaimed the trueborn daughter of the German lord, and the heir until a male son of the German lord was presented.
Her husband continued to stray from their bed, and the girl began to wonder about the validity of the rumours. She knew how disappointed he was about her giving birth to a daughter, though he never showed that to the court. When there was a witness, he was the epitome of a loving father, however, when they were alone…. The girl became adept of hiding bruises and ignoring certain events. Like the pregnancy of a widowed lady, and her husband's barely hidden joy at the prospect, her perfume lingering on his body, her paints on his skin.
She woke early one morning, wondering why her daughter did not cry. She walked into the nursery and gazed down at the blue face of her daughter for an eternity. The nurse found her there and escorted her back to bed, where she was fed a sleeping draft. While she slept, it was announced that the German lord had a male heir, a baseborn son with noble German blood flowing though his veins.
The girl awoke to her husband shaking her roughly. She squinted hazily up at his face and begged to be told why he was treating her in such a manner. His response shocked her.
"My lady," he replied, mocking emphasis on her title, "You are now superfluous. I have my heir and your family shall not wonder if you die from grief." With this, he shoved his dagger into her chest. "But, I believe in taking my rights as a husband," he continued, removing his pants.
Had the German lord done his research correctly, he might have foreseen what could happen. The girl's mother had come from a long line of witches, had even sacrificed herself to ensure her daughter would possess this arcane gift. Unfortunately, accepting a sacrifice means you also accept the conditions that go with it, in the girl's case, the inability to access it. She was a magical brood mare and nothing more. However, these restrictions can be broken if enough magic is channeled through the girl. The most potent of magic's are the ones that involve blood or sex.
As the German lord was raping her, the restrictions on the girl's magic broke. She screamed and the German lord's mind shattered. The knife was knocked further into her chest. The girl gasped out a curse on her family, for bonding her to this man and for ultimately being the cause of her death. She died shortly afterward.
The curse took a long time to activate, as all potent curses do. It was, after all, dependent on the birth of a girl that closely resembled the girl, with her magic. When this girl turned six, voices would whisper in her ear and she would lose track of time. Her family died strangely, without a mark on them, leaving the girl an orphan. The death of the last one, her favourite brother ignited her unexpected gift as a Seer and she could see the end of time, if she so desired. The wronged girl from long ago started to channel herself into this Seer to force her to break the barrier between the living and the dead and set her free.
The narration ended abruptly and Yuri's head spun. He was extremely confused. Who or what was the story about? Did it matter at all?
"Ah, that's what she's planning," Death Emperor commented. "Quite ingenious, I must say. Not that I agree with the possession, but it would certainly be effective."
"What?" Yuri blurted, feeling like he had missed something. Celeste turned to him sharply. "What possession? And that's a little rich, coming from you," he thought, concentrating on each individual syllable. Death Emperor chucked.
"Wondered when you'd work it out. Congratulations, you are officially the slowest individual to work out that I can't actually hear you."
"Yeah," Yuri replied, having not thought anything of the sort. "So what exactly is going on?"
"You remember the girl wronged by her husband? Well, she's planning to tear open the veil between the living and the dead, so that she can possess Lady Celeste. Chances are, the girl has absolutely no idea what's going on. She's just a tool," Tantalus explained patiently.
"Oh," Yuri replied intelligently.
"I told you we needed to keep her alive," Tantalus commented. Yuri felt his face crease into a frown. What was Tantalus talking about? Apparently, not to him, as Death Emperor snorted.
"You cannot possibly be considering that plan," he replied. "It won't work. The boy won't do it." From that, Yuri knew that they were talking about him, but other than that, he had no idea.
"He'll have to," Tantalus replied heavily. "Though I doubt he'd mind all that much. Let me assure you, I'm not happy with the idea at all. I can't even take over either. He must be the channel, not me."
"True," Death Emperor conceded. "The magic would be more potent then."
"What magic?" Yuri replied plaintively.
"My lady," Valentina began, breaking Yuri's concentration. "Did you get my message?" Yuri could hear her tap her foot in frustration at the long time it took Celeste to reply.
"No," she replied finally, drawing out the word. "Could you repeat it?" Valentina sighed.
"Christopher Simon has been killed by Roger Bacon. He warns you not to interfere with his plans," Valentina replied impatiently.
"That man sees too far and yet not enough!" Celeste replied sharply. "If he truly Sees, then he should be able to See exactly the benefit my work has on preventing the death of the world!" Valentina nodded, then frowned.
"My lady, if I am not being too impertinent, may I ask what your work truly is?" she asked subserviently.
"No!" Celeste snapped. She visibly softened. "I cannot tell you because if you are captured, Bacon will force you to reveal his secrets. I have told you this before, have you forgotten?" Valentina looked embarrassed. "Let us not speak of this again." Valentina nodded and left, interpreting it as a dismissal.
"It's done," Tantalus replied. "She'll be able to listen when I speak now. I must say, that is one tight bond her mistress has her on." Yuri was still confused and said as much. Both Tantalus and Death Emperor replied that they would tell him when the time was right. Yuri gritted his teeth and barely stopped himself from saying something that he would regret later.
"Valentina," a voice whispered in Valentina's mind. "Listen to me, Valentina." Valentina frowned, but concentrated on the voice with the ease of long practice. She winced slightly at the all-too-familiar feeling of having someone rifle their fingers through her memory.
"It's been going on for so long," the voice whispered, tinged with despair. "Lady Celeste is almost gone."
"What!" Valentina blurted aloud. "She's not gone, I can still see her in the next room."
"What you see is a possession. I know you have seen the mingling of two psyches. You know, though you don't want to admit it, what that means. I can help you free Celeste from her," the voice offered. "Yuri and you, working in tandem, can break the spell." Valentina mulled that over for a moment, curious about the idea of working in tandem with Hyuga. Her eyes widened as she remembered her magic theory lessons.
"You've got to be kidding," she retorted. "Even if I accept, we don't have a channel, and from what I can see, neither of us have enough magic."
"Yuri can act as the channel. And he does have the magic, but it's locked behind his harmonixing talent, a gift from his mother if you will. We can circumvent the restrictions and access that magic, but only if he acts as the channel," the voice replied. Valentina felt herself smirk.
"You cannot possibly tell me that…" she began.
"Yes," the voice replied. "For a time there, we were worried that he didn't even know what it was."
"Oh, that's precious!" she replied, starting to snicker. "So he's seventeen and ….capable as acting as a channel?"
"Yes," the voice replied, getting a little annoyed. "Can we move off that topic please? It makes me feel uncomfortable discussing it in relation to Yuri."
"Why?" Valentina asked. "And who are you, anyway?" The voice sighed.
"My name is Ben. I'm Yuri's father," the voice replied in resignation. Valentina lost the battle and started laughing in earnest.
"You're discussing your son's sex life!" Valentina shrieked. Ben flinched.
"I prefer not to think about it," he replied primly. "Will you do it? I warn you, if you do, the thing possessing Celeste may turn on you." Valentina shrugged.
"Ben, when I was twelve, my father asked me to swear an oath to Celeste's father, promising to protect her with all of my abilities. I was neglectful and my lady suffered. I agree." Valentina paused for a moment, and when she continued, her voice had a decidedly nervous tone to it. "How long had she been possessed?" Ben contemplated lying to her, then decided against it.
"Since she was six," he replied, leaving her to her thoughts.
"She's agreed," Tantalus reported. "She'll get everything ready, all we have to do is prepare Yuri." Yuri didn't like the sound of that. It reminded him of being prepared as a sacrifice.
"Prepare me for what, exactly?" he demanded. Death Emperor snickered.
"You, my boy, are going to get laid," he replied in tones of great glee. Tantalus made a noise of pain.
"Cool," Yuri replied.
"Actually, it's a powerful magical rite," Tantalus replied primly. "There's some intercourse involved, but it's secondary."
"I don't think he really cares," Death Emperor replied dryly. "He is an adolescent boy after all."
"Don't remind me," Tantalus replied, his tone weary and martyred. "Anyway, what will happen is that you'll become the channel to a hell of a lot of magic which you have to direct toward removing Celeste's possession. Yuri? Yuri, stop that and listen to me! You need to know this!" Yuri was humming a little tune, apparently rather excited at the prospect of the rite.
"Yeah, yeah," Yuri replied. "Get laid, kick evil-lady's ass, go home."
Valentina nodded to herself. Everything was ready; all that was needed was Yuri. She fidgeted with the bloodletting knife, running her fingers gently along the edge. While this Ben was confident that they wouldn't need blood, Valentina wasn't so sure. She glanced up at her clock and nodded to herself. It was time to begin.
She walked casually over to Yuri's room, touched him and invoked the space-leap spell. She reopened her eyes in her room and nodded in satisfaction. Her wards were completely unbreakable unless she personally let someone in, a gift from her cousin. There was no chance that Celeste would break their wards tonight.
She turned and smiled reassuringly at Yuri, who was looking decidedly nervous. He smiled back in response, a quick flash of teeth before his bottom lip returned to its original position of under his top row of teeth. He sighed and stared down at his feet.
"You nervous?" she asked wryly. It was clear that he was, whether at the prospect of acting as a channel or the sheer amount of magic that he'd be handling, she wasn't sure. When he answered, she grinned. Of course it would be because of that.
"It's a magical rite," she replied patiently. "That's just an amplifier." Judging from the grimace, that was the wrong thing to say. Valentina shrugged. It wasn't as if this was easy for her either. She sighed and darkened the room, leaving one candle alight. She picked up the candle and held it in front of her.
"On the turn of the day, I invoke thee," she began. "I, a daughter of the Fabri line, bring into play the protection of the Holy Trinity, as is my birthright." Her hair, which she had pulled out of it's usual braid, started to shift and shiver. Yuri stared at it with wide eyes.
"Say, 'I, a son of the Krevolenin line, bring into play the protection of the Holy Trinity, as is my birthright," Tantalus commanded. Bewildered, Yuri repeated what he was told. He could feel his hair stand up on end.
"As I blow out this candle, so mote it be," Valentina continued. She blew out the candle, plunging them into darkness. "You ready?" she asked. Yuri gulped audibly.
"Yes," he replied.
Celeste felt the hairs on her neck tingle and she turned around. She stared in horror at the sheer quantity of magic being summoned in Valentina's room. Screaming in rage, she invoked the space-leap spell to Valentina's room, only to land outside the wards. She swore, something that sounded worse coming out of her mouth, and began to unwork the wards.
In Yuri's opinion, this was a lot of fun. He had no idea why he had waited so long for this. Which was why he was rather annoyed when he became detached from his body, and attempted to go back. His eyes widened though, as he could feel a surging force pulsing through him, seemingly collecting more magic as it went. He could feel the bond between him and Death Emperor loosen slightly, and magic he was completely unaware that he had raced through him. He frowned and struggled to remember what he was doing. The magic was fascinating, drawing his attention in the play of light on it, the shimmer, even the texture. He opened his mind further, allowing more magic to pass through him. He was the magic.
Valentina stared up into Yuri's now white eyes and luminescent body and shivered. Reaching up a hand, she slapped him. Hard. His head recoiled from the blow, but neither his eyes nor his skin changed. Valentina sobbed as she freed her arm and grabbed the knife she had left within arm's reach. Ben's opinion to the contrary, she was going to have to use blood as the anchor. She nicked open a cut on her arm and opened a similar on Yuri. Daubing her fingers in the blood, deliberately mingling it, she painted a rough circle around them. She sighed in relief as the glow seemed to disappear from Yuri and sat down within the circle to act as a monitor.
Yuri blinked in confusion. He had no idea what had just happened, but now he was himself again, and he knew what he had to do. He closed his eyes and concentrated on Celeste. He scowled at the red that slimed her and began to burn it off. It was not an easy task, as he was fought at every step.
Valentina watched in calm detachment as Celeste managed to remove the wards and storm into her room. She smiled in triumph as Celeste was forced to remain a certain distance away from the circle. Yuri sighed and Valentina looked down at him. His face was screwed up in a scowl, eyes now closed.
Celeste threw herself at the circle, only to be forced back. Valentina winced, and a crafty smile appeared on Celeste's face.
"You care what happens to her, don't you?" she asked. Valentina stared back at her, stony faced. "I can hurt her, you know. Completely shatter her mind. You know I can do that. Take down the barrier." Valentina did not reply. "Very well." Celeste seemed to metamorphose and Valentina was surprised that she hadn't noticed that Celeste was possessed.
"Vallie?" she asked plaintively. "What's going on?" Valentina closed her eyes and bowed her head. "Vallie, I'm scared. She keeps saying that if you don't lower the barrier, she'll kill me."
"She'll kill you if we do," Valentina replied, voice harsh. She looked up at Celeste. "You understand?" Celeste shook her head. "I'm not going to lower it." Celeste screamed then, a broken sound of pain. Valentina closed her eyes and bowed her head again to hide her frustrated tears.
"Give it up," Yuri commanded softly. "You can not have her, or me." Valentina's head whipped around to see Yuri, propped on his elbows, staring at Celeste. "Let her go. She did not betray you, Astrid."
"No!" Celeste screamed. "She is of my family, she will bring me back! She owes it to me!"
"I'm sorry, Astrid," Yuri replied. His demeanour changed. "You will leave this plane and return to the land beyond the veil."
Celeste/Astrid stared at him with wide eyes, then collapsed. The spell collapsed around them and Valentina stood up, racing over to Celeste's fallen body. She stared back at Yuri, despair in her dark eyes.
"She's dead," she breathed. Yuri nodded.
"I know," he replied quietly. His eyes closed involuntarily and Valentina raced back to him, shaking him vigorously. He opened his eyes and stared at her hazily. "Something's wrong," he fretted. He frowned and transformed. Valentina stared at his alter ego with wide eyes and winced as he seemed to recoil in pain. He reverted back, face very pale. "I can't talk to Death Emperor anymore."
"The magic probably overloaded your brain, sealing it off," Valentina replied softly. "It may come back in time." Yuri shook his head.
"It feels permanent," Yuri replied slowly, his voice slowing down and slurring words together. Valentina grabbed a blanket off of her bed and wrapped Yuri in it, who made an incoherent noise, which she interpreted as a thank you.
Sighing, she picked up her clothes, got dressed and started to clean up her room. The blood was going to be hell to get off.
Authors Note: The chapter has finally arrived! The next one will probably take longer, just so you all know. But, to be nice, I thought I'd make it twice as long. I fear I didn't explain this sufficiently in the chapter, so quick explanations!
Quick explanation on Valentina's talent. Her ability to see auras (although she doesn't call them that) is restricted by the fact that there must be a barrier between her and the seeked object. This is really a defense mechanism, so that she doesn't go mad in a crowded room, for example. Although, she'd be utterly brilliant at forensics.
Channels: A person can only act as a channel once in their life, usually during their first sexual experience as their ability is heightened. However, if you are desperate enough (generally you have to be very close to death and incredibly bitter) and you have not acted as a channel before, you can act as one momentarily, generally to unlock latent magic. Astrid was able to do that, and had she lived, she would have been a witch. Yuri, on the other hand, cannot access his magic from his mother ever again, because the Harmonixing took precedence over it. (Gotta suck to be one of those, huh?)
The Holy Trinity: A tripartite religion consisting of three goddesses, the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone, indicating the natural passage of life. Generally there's three Priestesses that take on these roles and a lot of worshipers. Yuri's mother was one of the worshipers – a strange thing for a Russian to be. I might one day write a story explaining how a Celtic religion made it to Russia and Anne's involvement in it, including a reason for Anne's cross.
As for Yuri having magic, well, it's a double-sided sword. He knows now that he has it, but he can't access it, as his becoming a Harmonixer removed that access. I can't remember if it's in the revised drafts on my computer, or the ones I posted, but I mentioned that his mother had magic as well. Actually, in the Shadow Hearts universe, everyone has magic to a certain extent, so it seemed reasonable that he had inherited something from his mother. Pity he can't use it…