It had been two days and I had no idea where nick was. Two days of searching anywhere and everywhere. The last place he had mentioned going was the library so I started there. The old lady who'd been on duty said he had come in around 5, but he ran out suddenly as if he'd forgotten something very important. Nick had wanted to see the few history books about Bedford for a project or something. His car was gone from the lot, even though the old woman swore she hadn't heard the engine rev. I searched all over Bedford; I even lied to his teachers about where he was, told them he had a bad bug or something. They didn't raise too much of fuss, but that was the easiest part. Mom was going to be home soon and I had no idea what I was going to tell her.
What could have happened to him? Had the weird things happening in Bedford decided to pull him in as well? I should have expected it to happen; he was my brother after all. Even if he wasn't a Caster, he was still not entirely human. I came home that day to find the carpet pulled aside to reveal the casting circle and my heart plummeted. On my bedside table my journal was wide open. I was beginning to get an idea of why nick might have really been at the library that day. The questions was though, how could I find him now?
I checked my two books, but they were useless. The history book didn't talk about tall black kids being stolen away by who know what or how to find anyone for that matter. The book on casting might have had an answer, but it was little more than gibberish to me past a point. I paced the living room floor, paced and paced until my legs cramped. It must have been at least 10 at night when I heard the weathervane creak.
It started slowly at first, but soon the thing began to squeal as its rusted body began to spin faster and faster. The sound grew to a crazed pitch until I could barely stand it, my knees gave out and I fell to the floor; I clamped my hands over my ears but that only seemed to make it worse. Through the noise, I heard something walk onto the porch; Something massive. The wood let loose an anguished moan as the old boards took on the unfamiliar weight. I was too scared to move; I simply sat there and waited for it to end. The creaking stopped and I saw something looming at the door. Fighting back my terror, I eventually got my voice t work.
"W-what do you want?"
Instead of answering, the thing dropped something in front of the door and left. The weathervane stopped its' mad dervishes and I breathed. I all but stumbled over myself to get to the door. I flung it open and there laid Nick. He was covered in mud, but didn't look any worse for the wear. I checked to see if he was breathing and sobbed when I heard how pained he sounded. Each breath sounded like a labor. His eyes moved frantically under their lids as if her were searching for something. His hands, covered up to the wrist in mud, clenched and unclenched as if he were trying grab something just out of reach. I tried as best I could to hoist him onto a shoulder and get him upstairs. It took a lot of tries, but I did eventually make it. I laid him on his bed and took off his boots. He groaned and wildly flailed and almost hit me upside the head. I laid a hand on his forehead, he was burning up. What the hell had happened to him?
"A-Adelle," He gasped.
"Nick! I'm here, I'm here!" In response, his eyes snapped open and I froze. Instead of being the same dark brown as mine, Nick's eyes were as green as grass after a rain storm. He was looking at me, but I could tell he wasn't seeing me. I shook him hard and then he stared me down. I was glued to the spot as I felt his gaze pass through and into my mind and a few choice details were picked out. Said details being the ones I would rather hide from Nick at all cost. As if he'd overloaded, nick fell back onto the bed with a pained groan.
"God dammit Ad. What have you gotten yourself into? And who the hell is Ezell Foss?"
"My uh, I don't even know." I felt my cheeks go pink
"And you let Mr.Don'tevenknow slobber all over you? Jesus, that was disgusting." He scrubbed at his eyes with his palms as if the images he had seen would go away only if he rubbed hard enough. I yanked one of his hands away and he yelped as if I had burned him and snatched it back.
"Don't touch, that's as bad as eye contact." Nick mumbled. Eyes darting around the room.
"Well you didn't have to look. There's a thing called privacy. You should learn about it."
"That's the thing, Ad. I can't stop looking. Everything keeps trying to stuff itself inside me. I keep learning and just plain knowing about everything there is and it's driving me mad." He closed his disturbing eyes and sighed. "How long have I been gone?"
"So I was stark raving mad for two days. Fabulous."
"What the hell are you talking about, nick? What happened to you?"
"The phooka did something; Woke something up inside me. I made the mistake of looking the damn thing in the eye when I came to again. That...Jesus. It's so old Adelle. I saw it all. Just how old it is." Nick ran his muddy fingers through his hair before I could stop him. He was seriously screwed up. Whatever had happened to him in that forest had broken him into pieces and pasted him back together haphazardly. He was like a puzzle short of a few pieces. I tried to hug him but he jerked away. I tried again and held on this time for all I was worth. He fought at first, but he eventually collapsed into my arms with a tired sigh. I didn't care what deep dark secrets he knew anymore. He was my brother and he was hurting.
"Really, so you actually did belt that Luikowski kid in the mouth?"
"Yeah, I did. Little douche bag had it coming."
"And you had a crush on-"
"Listen, little bro. You may know me inside and out now, but I don't want to hear it. Keep it to yourself unless it's necessary." Nick nodded and sighed. I guess the constant stream of stuff from a person he knew was more relaxing than constant feedback from a stranger, because he was soon deep asleep. I got out of his arms as gently as possible and laid him in bed. Whatever had happened to him, I had a feeling Ezell might know.
I stood on a jetty overlooking a gray sea. A fog rolled in and blocked the sun from sight. It was gloomy, so I turned to look behind me. As far as the eye could see stretched Warehouses; Instead of being number though, they each bore a name. One was called ‘Adelle's Fantasies' and another was called ‘Adelle's Hopes'. That must mean I was inside my own mind. Looking around, I really had to wonder about if I was entirely sane. What kind of depressing manifestation of my inner psyche was this? Sheesh. You'd think I was some sad kid writing poetry about being hated by the world or something. It wasn't as cheery as the field I'd started out in last time, but it was better than waking up in a cramped black ball. What would you even call going to sleep and going into a dream? Did waking up even qualify? Instead of staying there to ponder, I decided to leave the jetty and see what else there was to see.
As I walked, the depressing scene faded and I was soon met with a cheerful brick house that sat in a meadow by itself. The window boxes sprouted cheery flowers that seemed to sing in the sudden breeze, the outside was cheerily painted a canary yellow. Usually, yellow would have made me gag, but on this house it just seemed right. I walked to the door, noting the cute ‘Wipe your toesies to save the housekeeper woesies!' doormat, I just walked right in. It was my mind and all; you didn't have to be courteous to manifestations of your psyche.
I barely dodged a thrown dish.
"Show respect, you damn kid." Said a disgruntled old lady who sat at the dining room table. She was outfitted in a pair of the rattiest, paint splattered overalls I've ever seen. She wore a pair of pink bunny slippers to go along with it. Her face was pursed in a frown that could slay a hydra as she weighed another dish for throwing. Her thick horn-rimmed glasses were held up by only one arm and they made her look a lot like a very pissy owl. But I knew who it was. Just like a fish knows its' own kind.
"Hi. Me. I see the years didn't treat us kindly."
"Oh bugger off, you don't know shit. If you did, you would've taken that Boy and rode him like a merry go round. Chances like that don't come too often, you know."
It wasn't too hard to figure out who she meant by ‘that boy' I'd only had a romantic entanglement of any sort of caliber with one guy. All I had to say in respons was.
Then I felt something blow into my ear and I nearly screeched. Old lady me just laughed and laughed and laughed like it was the best thing to happen to her all day. I turned to kick whoever it was, but of course who else could it be but Ezell? Mention his name and he showed up like a bad smell. It was really a sign of the times that I wasn't surprised by the fact that Ezell was wondering around in my head. He was like a rat. You can't keep him out if he has somewhere to go.
"She's right you know. I'm a prime catch that should've been ridden a long time ago." He said grinning as he planted a kiss on Older me's cheek. She giggled and swatted at Ezell.
"Oh you rouge." She harped.
"Fat chance." I mumbled, exact opposite of myself. You don't get to say that too often, once you think about it, Exact opposite of myself. It sounds impossible.
"Your stubbornness knows no bounds. You won't even listen to," He gestured at the older me sitting at the dining room table and was tittering like a school girl. Geez me, you should know better at your age. "Your common sense."
"Well my common sense has obviously gone senile!" I ducked just in time to avoid another dish being thrown. I grabbed Ezell by the wrist and tugged him back outside. Ezell was obviously in better spirits than the last time we'd met. Did I mention I still had no kind of answer for him due to all of the insanity happening lately? Yeah.
"So, you must have called me for something a little bit more drastic than a heavy make out session, I'm afraid."
"So my brother came home. Well no actually, the Phooka dumped him on my doorstep. He's barely sane, Ezell. He's able to see stuff now."
"What do you mean, ‘see stuff'?" Ezell asked.
"Well, he looked me in the eye and now knows who you are, and what we did in the woods. After I hugged him, he knew everything."
"We should do that thing we did in the woods again, by the way. I rather liked it." He smirked and I blushed. I wonder, did blushing this much have any medical complications?
"Be serious, Ezell. Why would he be able to know all that just by looking at me? What IS he? Nanig said he wasn't a caster, and I honestly don't know enough to figure out what else there is."
"Sounds like a Discerner, if you ask me. I've never met one though. They're a pretty rare bunch." Ezell shrugged as if he were puzzled. "If the phooka's involved, than something serious is afoot. What else did nick tell you?"
And so I told him all of the things I could remember. Nick's supposed two days of madness, his forced awakening by the phooka and how he had described it. Ezell didn't say anything for awhile. He simply shook his head as if nothing was fitting together.
"So the phooka forced his power to wake, that's dangerous beyond all reckoning. Your brother is lucky to have what few marbles he does have left. But why? The thing might not be human, but it isn't often this cruel."
"I'll check with Nick. He might remember something more after a good night's rest."
"If he does, save it until I come back to Bedford. It shouldn't be but a few days more. We're running very late."
Ezell grinned. Which gave me a clue that what was coming next was going to be ridiculous. "Dragon slaying."
"Dragons, huh? That's a new one."
"Aww, does little Addy think I'm leaving her alone on purpose? Perish the thought." Ezell had me in his arms before I could even blink He squeezed me closer until there was no space between us and then gave me a quick peck on the lips; which turned into two pecks, which turned into three, which then turned into a deep kiss that left me standing on my tip toes to get more. I don't even know anymore. My head says stop, but the rest of me says go. We both came up for air, and breathed hard. Why was I kissing him again? My brother's half mad and laying in the room next to mine, and I'm mentally finagling with a man nine times my age.
"I know, I know. Bad me," he released me and took a few steps back. I almost fell over. I didn't realize I had been leaning on him until it was too late. "Totally worth it though."
"J-Just go, would you? Every time I talk to you I always end up confused as hell." I raked my fingers through my hair out of frustration. Couldn't the universe choose one thing to happen at one time? I was going mad.
Ezell just chuckled. He was always chuckling or smirking, or laughing, or something. It really did make you wonder if he had everything figured out. He may be tempting, but he couldn't be trusted. Someone as charming as him was bad news.
"I resent that. It's not my fault I was literally born with an overabundance of charm."
"Yeah, well take your overabundance elsewhere. It's smelling up the place." I retorted.
Ezell smiled. "I expect an answer when I come back to Bedford, by the way." And then he simply melted away. Every time he left me flustered. I was getting rather tired of it to be honest.
Elsewhere in the city of Bedford, a small meeting of the minds was taking place. Two men sat in a small bar that stayed open until well past dawn. The first man, whose bearing was strict and efficient, sniffed at his small glass of liquor and grimaced. He had left off with his monocle for the day, opting to show the all too intimidating metallic eye that it hid. It had been a gift from the few dwarves left in the forest in exchange for a safe haven for the rest of their days. Of course, Philanecian granted them no such boon, he had them slaughtered the next day and told the queen of the court they had been plotting treason. It was too easy to fool the queen of the Seelie Court, she was beginning to show her age. And never being one to rule she had left all of the ‘unsightly' matters, as she put it, in the hands of her trusted general, Philanecian Silvaeraye.
Trusted general he would soon be no more, he thought as he surveyed his companion. They had been doing dealings under the table for 20 years now and he had yet to see the man's face. Not that it mattered. Good partners were hard to come by, even if they were a bit...Quirky.
"Damn humans. Why would any of them quaff this foul poison?" He snorted in disgust and slapped the glass back onto the bar. The only employee working, a small waif of a girl barely legal enough to drive by the looks of it, couldn't quite believe what she was seeing. A man with a metal eye? Was he for real? Though the girl didn't know it, she had quite a sight of Other blood in her. This was why her mind was not fogging up the details of this odd meeting in order to keep her sane. Not that she really mattered; she was just one mutt out of many.
"Oh come now, Philanecian. A bit of poison in the veins is good for you every once in awhile." His companion who was all but hidden a black cowl except for his decidedly carnivorous teeth, knocked back his small glass of whiskey and sighed in pleasure. "Now, old enemy, we must discuss business."
"Yes, business." Philanecian pulled a scroll from his belt pouch and handed it to the man. A hand gloved in the finest of dyed black leather snaked out of the cowl and then disappeared back inside. On the ring finger, there had been a signet ring similar to Philanecian's own, but instead of a cavorting stag, the center was dominated by a devil. The Unseelie Court's insignia never ceased to fill him with both fascination and disgust.
"Ah, methodical and formulaic as ever I see," Said the creature of the Unseelie as it scanned over the parchment. "You really should change these battle plans up a bit my friend, never know who might catch on."
"Dear comrade," Started Philanecian, a smirk very similar to that of a cat caught in the cream plastered on his face. "If the fools cannot figure out that it was I who killed their prince, than how can they possibly come to the conclusion that it is I who sabotaged the next battle?"
The thing laughed and laughed and Philanecian joined in. Yes, laugh now. His eyes twinkled with malice, for it shall be you who I target next, foul thing.
Eventually their evil laughter subsided and the two stood to leave. The cowled man was almost out the door when he was struck by a thought. He turned back to Philanecian and he barely concealed his shudder of contempt as he saw the wolfish grin his comrade in subterfuge wore.
"Ah yes, about those two Halflings."
"What about them?" Philanecian asked nonchalantly, but he was burning inside. How dare this foul thing try to ruin his plans! Those two were to be his final pawns in the chaos that was soon to come.
"We know that you have use for the girl, but His Dark Majesty asks if he might have the boy. It appears that he has taken a liking to him."
"Consider him a gift to celebrate new beginnings." Philanecian bowed, but his mind was on anything but subservience. It appeared that he would have to destroy the Unseelie Court as well.
"Excellent, old friend, excellent. Until our next meeting then." The cowled man bowed in return and was soon gone in the pre-dawn light. Philanecian threw a gold coin onto the counter and stormed out into the night. With a whistle, his small gelding appeared and he was on the beast's back in an instant and galloping madly towards the forest. Today's meeting had been only a minor setback. He would gain control of everything soon enough.