Saturday, December 9, 2017

Chapter 111: Other Ways



"Did you sleep well?" Dysen chirps.

I'm going to put your skull through that window, Acheron thinks.


"Well, I got you a thing to help," Dysen claims.

Acheron stares blankly as Dysen plops a white box with red giftwrap into his hands.

"You know you want to open it," Dysen encourages.

Acheron peels the wrapping away carefully, frowning, irrationally annoyed he has no clue what's in the box. Turns out it's a wooden hoop with a woven net, decorated with extra fabric and feathers.

"It's a dream catcher," Dysen claims. "Found it at a stand at the Fall Fest. It's supposed to catch bad dreams. I figure since you won't talk to anyone about your problems, this is the next best thing."

"I'm pretty sure you understand this is just a decoration."

"Nah man, it's real if you believe in it."

"Not your most convincing sales pitch."

"Sales pitch? It's free. It's a present."


Acheron grabs Dysen for a sudden tight hug. "It's the thought that counts."


Yup. That is a thing on the wall now.


The Spooky Day Feast is a ways off, but that doesn't stop the festival grounds from going all out. It's that time again, and as Milo stokes a fire, his thoughts return for the first time in a long time to Kirstin, who was unhappily pregnant with Fairuza the last time autumn decorations were out here.

It's been a long time, and she must have moved on, but Milo is still alone.

Time. Time. Time.

It's better this way, he reminds himself. He can't trust anyone with what he really is. And if he can't even tell a lady he's a werewolf, what right does he have to want to get serious with anyone? What right does he have to want someone to be honest with him, when he can't be honest with them?


Huh? Where are you going, Ceth?


Walking over hot coals?! In pantyhose?!


Stop it before you hurt yourself!


Oh wow, you did it! You madwoman!


Carlos and Lela are around too.


With the kids at school, the adults have a fun day making fools of themselves.


Molly's mother, Holly, wins the apple bobbing contest.


So much food!


Chomp.


Ceth La Mer and Holly Robins don't like each other for some reason.


Like, really don't like each other.


Did Ceth accidentally flirt with Holly's husband or something???

Nah, I'm sure I'd have taken screenshots if Ceth ever interacted with a guy named Seth.


Poor Holly is already in a bad mood after being thoroughly upstaged by her elderly competition at the SimFest going on.


Milo catches someone staring at him. "Do I know you from somewhere?"

The elder woman blinks slowly at him. "Not really. Just a fan."

"Kirstin." He didn't believe what his senses were telling him at first, but once he hears her voice, there is no mistaking the mother of his second child. "What are you doing here?"

With a branch of the syndicate reestablishing itself in the area, Kirstin was called in for assistance on a particular job, given her familiarity with the target. She knew Milo still lived in the area, of course, since he still plays for the Gnomes, but she didn't intend to run into him... until she noticed Fairuza hanging out with the rest of that vampire's lackies. There's no way Milo knows about this, so Kirstin has been trying to summon the willpower to tell him... but as she stares at his wide-eyed, moronically innocent face, she can't do it. She just can't.

"I won't be in the area long," she says. "I hope you won't cause drama about this."


"You didn't even think to call?"

"Is it customary for an ex to call when she's in town?"

"I... you... you know what I meant."


"No, I don't know what you mean at all. I'm not someone you want in your life. I thought you'd have realized that by now."

"I... yes. Obviously." Milo grits his teeth. "Stay away from my daughter."

"Gladly."

"You don't even want to ask about her?"

"Maybe if you'd get off of your pedestal of righteous indignation, you'd understand how that would be painful for me?"

"Well she's great. Fairuza is a sweet, intelligent and beautiful young woman."

It's all Kirstin can do to keep from rolling her eyes.


Just then, Milo's phone rings. His next words are an incomprehensible string of expletives...


...because he has to rush off to work!

Kirstin Law grins and shakes her head. She needs to get out of this town.


After school, Dysen and Molly celebrate the arrival of autumn with traditional pumpkin carving. It appeals to Molly's artistic side.


I'll let you guess who carved what.


Molly can't stay over long, so after she's gone Dysen is bored. He settles in to watch Sports Universe.


"Uncle Milo's winning yet another game. Yaaawn."

"I hate this couch," Acheron groans.

"Do tell."

"You wouldn't understand."


Dysen glares. "Are you feeling okay?"

"Let me sleep."

"You're in the living room, Acheron."

"But you could be lying to me."

"You get weirder every day, you know that?"


Acheron doesn't respond, already passed out.


Dysen is worried about Acheron, and tries to approach Ceth with his concerns.


"I think my son has the Night Owl trait," Ceth brushes those concerns right off. "Awake at night, asleep in the day."


A migratory agama lizard spawns in the back yard.


Maggie isn't sure what to make of it.

Is it danger? Is it food? Is it a 'toy'? The humans have provided many brightly colored 'toys'.


Maybe she'd better keep her distance until she is sure. Caution has served her well in the past.


Maggie the cat was born feral, and had a difficult life before Dysen and Molly found her.


The being that shares her mind rarely exerts its will over her, but steered her to trust these humans, in spite of her instinct, and she finds here she is not scorned or harmed or chased away but loved and fed, given soft pillows to sleep on and colorful toys to play with.


Maggie quickly becomes a mild-mannered cat, safe and happy in her new home.







Only issue: the always-sharp-fanged one does not like it when Maggie goes near the bird bath.


The fluffy headed young human, Acheron, has words with her sometimes, but she doesn't understand him. The spirit that shares her body occasionally stirs from its private thoughts to answer in the humans' peculiar language.

Fluffy-head is different from the others, but he tolerates her presence, and his bed is warm.


Maggie greets Dysen, her most favorite person, with a happy purr and stretch when he finally returns late at night. She has no clue he was trying to sneak in as quietly as possible. He broke curfew yet again, and got away with it this time, but he isn't as pleased with himself as he thought he'd be.

Dysen sighs at Maggie's cute antics. "Keeping watch, huh?" he whispers, in a soft tone she finds soothing despite her lack of comprehension for the words.


"Yeah, I don't know what's going on with Acheron either. I get feelings from people, you know, auras and junk. I can even get their thoughts if I try hard enough. But Acheron's mental wards are too strong for me. I can't see his dreams. I just catch this overpowering feeling of dread." Dysen has no shame talking to his cat. Maggie is a safe thing to talk to. She can't ever tell anyone what she hears. She can't even understand him.


"He won't talk to me."

Dysen rests his chin on his arm and just sits there a while next to Acheron's bed, feeling like some kind of ineffectual guard dog, exactly as useless as the feathered trinket on the wall.

He thinks about all the times he treated his cousins' emotions like toys to be played with. Even as a child he could read their minds, a little bit, and delighted in their fears and annoyances. Dysen wonders if he's to blame for Acheron's social maladjustment. Maybe if he hadn't been so cruel...?

Dysen shakes his head. He can't explain why what he senses from a dreaming person frightens him so much. The room is quiet. There is no danger. Why does he feel like screaming?


Remember me more kindly than that...


Claire is dead. All that's left is the mission.

There is a barrier between Acheron and his quarry.


With a wave of a hand, Cayenne summons light to this dark place. "Who... who is there?!"


Loki's eyes widen. "It's... Acheron."

This time, this sequence, Acheron's presence in the holding cells is unexpected. He wonders why. He cannot connect why.

He wonders if the twins are in the same cage, or if they are miles apart. He's only seeing them through a psychic projection. They're probably not looking so well.

"I am the mage who followed your research. I can free you," Acheron claims. "I have the waters of the Lethe."

"You separated the waters from their source?" Loki fidgets uncomfortably, squeezing his wrists with his hands.

"I did," Acheron claims.

It is Cayenne who grows suspicious. "Why are you helping us?"

Unlike her brother, she doesn't see what was. She can only see what is.

"I haven't helped you. Yet. I'm trying to see what happens if I do. You see... this woman, Eris, has hurt me. Or, will do so. And you can stop her."

Loki narrows his eyes. "SC thinks the same thing. That's why they captured us..."

Cayenne frowns. "...and turned us into these monsters..."


"They want us to kill her," Loki finishes their story.

Acheron's patience wears thin. His face doesn't show it, but he'll be impatient until he's dead. "You've been restructured. Different gene expressions. I know! It's me, I know. I also know something Supernatural Control doesn't. Eris cannot die."

"Who told you that?" Loki demands.


"You did. Future you, that won't exist now, because of my actions here. In any case I don't want you to kill each other. I want you to talk sense into her."

"Have you seen that as possible? Since her memories were erased... she's had quite the adventure. Decided she was the last of her kind. Decided to go on a rampage."

"Against the few people left in the world who know what she is. Yes. I've seen the wreckage Eris leaves behind. She destroyed the Firelight Sanctuary." Acheron deftly avoids the first question.

"What makes you a target?" Loki pries. "Why do you fear her?"

Acheron could claim it's altruism, he wants to save innocent people from Eris, but for some reason he says: "My wife, and her coven. Eris is a danger to them. If anyone is to blame for getting rid of the elves, witches are. Claire even tried to kill me, when we first met."

"Yet you married her."

"People do... interesting things... to be happy," Acheron says.

Wait, is Claire alive again? Or is this later? How old am I? All of the visions are blurring together. He tends to rescue Cayenne, and sometimes her brother and the little vampire Chet, only after Claire is gone, but this time... this time he's not sure...

"You know about Kir." Loki's stare grows more intense by the moment.

"I know about your war against the reality loop." Acheron continues, telling just enough truth to get away with a lie, "I don't care about it. As far as I'm concerned... this is the only me."

"And you must save your wife," Cayenne finishes for him. "I see."


 Dee-dee-dee-dee-dee...


Beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-bee--



 "Stop-stop-stop-stop-st-"


Acheron observes the faerie's destruction with interest. Larkspur doesn't bleed as he's torn apart by Acheron's magic, he just starts to spew purple sparkles and eventually explodes in a puff of glittery dust. The reaper does not appear to harvest any residual energy.

"Sorry," Acheron grumbles, as he gathers up a handful of dust and tosses it in the river.


The river changes. It has a second form, one with skin and hair and shape. "You did not have to do that," it tells Acheron, its eyes downcast in grief.


"I looked for other ways to summon you," Acheron answers.

"How can that be true, when I have never seen you at my shores before today?"

"...Try to keep an open mind, alright?"


"You separated the waters from their source?"



If Larkspur has anything close to his father's power, there's no sign of it. He doesn't even fight back.

"I didn't expect this," are his last words this time around.


Acheron could swear he's watching events through his victims' perspective, sometimes.


It's a bit...


...disconcerting...


...zzzz...



The dryad had intended to drown Acheron's great-grandson in the river.

Now she will be the one thrown into its waters.

The poison has paralyzed her, and she can barely struggle against this man she does not know. The town of Hidden Springs is tiny, she knows every human by sight, yet she has never seen this one.



The elderfae appears once the dryad's life is extinguished.

"Who are you," he demands.

The change of sacrifices to his binding curse makes a small difference; the fairy is not sad, merely indignant about the summoning. It certainly took long enough for Acheron to figure out the river and the dryad colony were connected enough for such a substitution to be possible, but in the end, he wonders, what does it matter? Larkspur or Jasmine? Who is he to choose one?

"I'm called Acheron."

There's a lengthy pause, as the the creature rises from its throne of rocks and looks him over. "You are not one of mine," he finally responds. "You dare speak this name?"

"Sorry, Lethe, I didn't name myself."


I didn't name myself.

Those words may have confused the elderfae, as he shrinks backwards is silent for several more minutes. Lethe's luminous wings beat slowly, humming faintly as the water ripples.


When he speaks again, his tone is even more contemptuous, "You have not observed the full ritual. I do not have to honor the contract. You have murdered this woman for no purpose."


Acheron's smile does not reach his eyes. He feels like his face is going to break. Like something is broken. "Oh, I wouldn't say that. All I needed was for you to assume a form that feels pain."








__________________________
Etc.: When the nightmare supplies its own fuel!

I didn't intend to ever have Kirstin in the story again, but she just showed up at the festival lot and started chatting with Milo so I went with what few pics I got before Milo darted off.

The place Milo and Fairuza were eating lunch at last chapter was a modified version of this lot.