Hello, lovely people!
The previous chapter was pretty intense, and it's about to get a lot more so...please read, review, and enjoy!
WARNING: Strong language, death, and violence
Hell is empty; all the devils are here.
William Shakespeare, The Tempest (Act 1, Scene 2)
All the remaining ties to Michael's existence had been ripped out. Squeezing his eyes shut, he tried to call to Hazel. Their mind space, their beloved Treehouse, was a blasted heath, an unrecognisable ruin.
HAZEL, Michael's scream splintered through the void. It was loud enough, surely. Enough to shake Michael's sister from the dangerous path she trod.
A real scream rose like bile, burning in Michael's throat. He ached for their mind palace of old, the sunshine and summer breezes. Before everything spiralled out of control.
Julia had been suffering, Michael desperately told himself, daily. Hourly. It had been a mercy that Hazel had done what she did. To save Julia.
To keep the secret, you mean. Appeasing the bloody Volturi. The thought was a skittering hiss, like a stone across the desolate landscape. It did not belong to Michael, nor did her friction-burn of resentment.
Hazel was a growing speck on the ashen horizon. She raised an arm and waved. Surprised, Michael waved back. Hazel, where were you going?
His sister dropped her hand to her head. The motion looked weary. I can't stay long; Iona needs me. Hazel grinned. You understand, right?
Michael frowned. That depends, doesn't it? On what you're trying not to say?
Look, we both know you're not good at confrontation, so this is for the best.
Michael yelped. You're trying to get rid of me? After you promised, you promised we would stay together? He choked on the laugh in his throat, both in and outside his mind. I should have known you would do this.
You were always the better envoy, Hazel said weakly. She stopped, still so far away, and Michael tried to run to her – but, no matter how hard he pumped his legs, Michael did not move.
Like a nightmare come to life, he could not reach his sister.
And Hazel walked away. It didn't matter that her regret dirtied him with its inconsequence. Cheers still resounded around him, loud with the promise of revenge and victory. How many vampires were already loose in the city? Spilling blood with wild abandon, unchecked, uncaring.
Cobbles cushioned Michael's cheek, and he considered the idea of simply… falling down into them into the earth.
It didn't last long, as he became aware of how warm the air had become. Strange, that it felt like a hug from someone who cared; instinctively, desperately, Michael reached out with his mind. Hazel?
But her mind was a locked door. Michael curled up tightly, pressing his face into the stone. Demetri was right: Hazel had made her choice, and she wanted to celebrate with Iona properly.
What was the point?
Despite everything, Michael… was sat on the ground. Oblivious to Beth's puddle of sick creeping towards his feet. At some point after they'd jumped out of a fucking window, he had disappeared somewhere deep within himself.
The noises coming out of Beth were like feeble giggles, though there was nothing funny about it. This was not how things were supposed to go.
Demetri was hers to protect. Now, he was nowhere to be seen.
Hazel was meant to be on the Volturi's side, keeping the secret like the rest of them. Now, she was in bed with the enemy. Maybe. Beth wasn't a hundred percent sure where Iona stood in all this.
Still, wherever Michael was, Beth hoped it was nicer than here. She skirted around the vomit and crouched to wave a hand in front of his face.
Nothing. He continued frowning into space.
Beth sighed. "I don't want to leave you here, Michael, but I need to find Demetri."
Pulling out her phone, she choked. An unread message told her: Come home safe. Please. Anna xx
The irony made Beth's stomach churn; she almost threw up again. When calling Demetri sent her straight to voicemail, she did, and she was furious about it. Yes, Demetri could hold his own, but without her there, he was entirely vulnerable.
The phone rang twice before Anna answered. Her joy – breathless, positively girlish joy – was an assault, and Beth rocked back on her heels. "Hello!" At her silence, Anna's voice faltered. "Beth, are you alright?"
"Demetri's gone. We got separated in the chaos. I can't get hold of him. I don't know what to do. It's panda –" Beth jumped as Michael woke up with a shudder. "Fuck! The hell were you doing just now?"
"Beth?" Anna sounded shaken. "I was –"
"I was trying to contact my sister!" Michael rubbed at his shaggy head. "She's still in the hotel but won't let me talk to her."
Beth groaned, returning to the receiver. "Anna? Hazel's betrayed us."
"I – I see. Where is she?"
"Back at the hotel. With Iona."
"Who else was at the hotel?" Anna said urgently.
Beth choked out the names Christabel had inadvertently given her. She pictured her sister standing rigid, staring at Aro. Anna would no doubt be gripping his hand, conveying it all to him.
Michael got unsteadily to his feet. She watched him fumble in his pockets, pulling his phone out first. He flipped it open and clicked it closed again just as quickly.
(Beth marvelled. She hadn't seen phones like that since high school).
Michael's wallet was a slim, leather square, half the size of his well-travelled passport. How deep did the man's pockets go?
"Anyone else?" Anna demanded. "The Guard are on their way, Beth."
Should I tell her about Benjamin? Beth clenched her jaw. She wanted to reach through the phone for a hug. "I failed him, Anna. Demetri, he might be – what if he's –?"
"He is more accustomed to this than we are, Beth. He can take care of himself, but we will help you find him."
"Wait, you're coming too?" It felt like something Aro shouldn't hear. As if he would let his wife enter the battlefield!
"Yes," Anna said firmly. "I must. We will be with you in under three hours. Be careful." She hung up.
"W-What?" Beth's eyes snapped to Michael. "What's wrong now?"
He was patting his pockets helplessly. "My lighter's gone!"
"Okay…" Beth waited for more. When Michael said nothing else, she sighed. "Oh. Well, maybe it's back at the hotel? Or Demetri took it?"
"No, no. You saw. He keeps matches in his shoe, for emergencies. Post-coital cigarette et al."
"TMI." Beth gulped, her skin prickling. "Do you smell that?"
"Dismembered bodies –?"
Beth winced. "No." After Julia, he knows the smell well. "No, I think – I think, there's another vampire here. They stink, like a herb garden."
"Pardon me?" Michael stiffened. Confusion and fear jostled for room on his forehead. His mouth fell slack. "Oh, I see him."
Despite his speed, the stranger moved in a crouch. Beth was safe in the knowledge that he couldn't see them. The flames sent orange glows dancing across his face, transforming it into a ghoulish mask. They emphasised his widow's peak and auburn facial hair.
Beth wondered: did Alistair have a brother?
The stranger glanced up at the broken window, and his expression dropped in horror.
Michael gripped Beth's shoulder, tightening down in quiet pressure. Go. In response, she squeezed Michael's hand. Together, they turned to find Demetri.
"Wait, please." The stranger said.
They both froze. Michael and Beth stared at each other, chunks of ice sliding into both their stomachs. How did he – ?
"Can you tell," the stranger's voice rolled like gravel, "what happened here, please?"
Beth wanted to scream. He can see us. Her nails bit into her palms as Michael pushed her onwards. Impossible. Not even Bella Cullen was completely unaffected by my glamour!
"Don't go, please." Rising from his cautious stance, the stranger raised his palms. He was shorter than Michael and met their eyes directly.
"You," Beth said shakily. "How – can – you – see us?"
"I am not going to hurt you," said the stranger.
She snarled. "That's not what I asked, you fuck," just as Michael murmured, "That's what everyone says, Marek!"
The man frowned at him. "You know me?"
"Who are you?" Beth shouted.
"His name is Marek." Michael pointed a trembling finger at the man, voice rising with confusion. "And he's supposed to be dead!"
To be continued...