Monday, January 22, 2018

Chapter 120: If You're Wrong

For a while Acheron does alright blocking Claire's attacks. He keeps relatively calm, drawing on how he's seen himself behave in visions where he has seen all of an opponent's tricks before they happen.

Claire is enraged by how well he knows her style of magic. "I feel like you were waiting for me here! Why?!"

"Because I wanted to talk to you... and nobody's around here to interrupt us."

She glares ever harder, resisting the urge to rearrange her long dark hair under the pressure of the unbearable midday heat. Her attention must stay on her foe. "How did you detect my presence?"

I could not run away, it seemed... "I saw you in a dream."

He talks to her, and she tries not to listen. Protective glyphs pop up in the air as her destructive spells clash against his carefully constructed shielding.

"Your kind are tricksters by nature!" she snarls, shaking, frightened of Acheron and how she has been unable to take him down. "You aren't as you appear!"

Acheron's eyes get wider and sadder. He's frightened too, but not because he thinks he'll get hurt. "What if you're wrong?"

"How can I be wrong, when you're doing exactly as I was told you'd do? You're trying to fill my head with doubt!"

"There!" Dysen slams his foot down on the brakes. The vehicle jerks to a stop.

Orazia rolls down the window and squints. She can see the bursts of light from the mages' fighting. "Alright... I'm going to make a portal. You go through first and distract Claire. It only has to be for a moment."

Dysen shakes his head, lifting one of Orazia's potions out of a compartment between the seats. This is so weird, he thinks. All of it. The precognition, the magic, the girl. It's hard to believe she's actually here. "If this stupid witch kills me, punch Acheron in the face, would you?"

"That's not happening. I'll be right behind you, cousin."

Dysen tilts his head back, uncorks the bottle and downs the potion in one swift gulp.

"Stop it," Acheron begs. "I can't keep this up forever."

"Then give up!" Claire demands.

"I don't know what happens to you if I do..."

If their universe won't let them die here, what lengths will it go to to protect them?

In the end, playing strictly defensively is what causes him to lose his advantage. It gives Claire time to be completely on the offensive. She manages to craft a seeker spell... specifically, one that's intended to find the closest person and dissolve their skin off. Not a pretty way to go.

Acheron can't fizzle it. He could deflect it back at her, but... that would make it him, or her. He can tell from the look in her eye she doesn't even know he can do that. You or me, he thinks, and you don't even know.

"I won't fight you," he whispers, sinking down into the grass.

Acheron didn't know what would happen after that. He worried Claire might hurt herself at the last moment and be unable to complete her spell, but what actually happens is a portal spawns between him and Claire and Dysen pops out of it.

Thanks to Orazia's portion, Dysen absorbs the energy instead of getting killed.

Claire was initially terrified this could be Supernatural Control on the scene, but is just dumbfounded now. "What?"

Dysen remembers the potion's magic would only absorb one hit, basically, so wastes no time sprouting claws and pouncing the temporarily too-confused-to-know-how-to-react witch.

Orazia steps out of a second portal. She spares an accusatory glare at Acheron before turning and casting her own magic at Claire.

From the curse that made Eris forget her quest, to Reggie forcing his neighbors to forget about Lucida's transformation, to Greta's spell that made her children unable to speak of magic to anyone who didn't already know about it, Orazia's family is no stranger to dangerous mind altering hexes.

It's this sort of magic she uses on Claire now.

Dysen isn't pleased to have to release his prey, but at Orazia's insistence he does so, leaping backwards and landing in a crouch with agility he doesn't possess in his normal state.

He feels more chaotic and on edge than he's ever felt before, even when he was lost in a freaky underground vampire lair. Orazia warned him the potion would intermix with his werewolf energy, blah blah spiritual nonsense he couldn't exactly follow, so maybe he can chalk it up to the extra energy absorbed from Claire's spell. Or maybe he's just mad.

Probably just mad.

Claire pants, bending over and grasping her knees to steady herself. Her eyes shut tightly, as if she's dizzy, or it's too bright, or both. "I... I thought it was my destiny to destroy your spirit and use its power as my own," she whines, "but I see now I was a fool."

When she can stand again, she approaches Acheron, staring directly into his eyes with a strange mix of fear and reverence. "Do as you will, I suppose. I can't find it within myself to harm you... or your defenders."

Acheron bites down on his lower lip for a moment. "Orazia... what have you done?"

"It's called a love charm. It will wear off eventually. M-maybe... you can use the time between now and then to talk sense into her."

"You took away her free will! That's... that's just..."

"Pragmatic, in this case?"

Acheron shakes his head negatively. He almost says he has too many psychological hangups about the concept. I can't say that. "She's going to hate me forever!"

"Not necessarily..."

"You don't realize what you've done." Acheron's voice begins to waver. "Her coven will know there's something up with her. Even from far away. They'll come here."

Orazia's shoulders slump. "You think so?"

He grits his teeth. "Why did you have to intervene?! I asked you not to..."

"I intervened because I love you," she says sadly.

He can tell from the tone she doesn't mean she loves him as some adopted cousin—well, distant cousin, but she doesn't know that. Acheron feels his cheeks burn with a blush. "Don't..."

"I understand," Orazia sighs. "You feel more for your dream girl. And you're kind of a weird jerk sometimes. But we've spent a lot of time training together... a lot of time in general. I guess I can't help feeling attached."

"Time and place guys," Dysen mutters.

Acheron doesn't hear him. "The person you really love doesn't live in Starlight Shores. You'll meet him someday."

"I really love you, Acheron."

The silence that follows is broken by three phones ringing at once. Dysen is the first to check the message sent to him. His irritated frown deepens as he tries to comprehend the text in front of him.

It's a very dry, very official note from the city, warning everyone to return to their homes until a decision has been reached on what to do about the soaring temperatures. Everyone in violation of this new curfew will be arrested and... blah, blah. Dysen growls his confusion.

Assuming it's a family call, Orazia hesitantly checks her phone, too. She blinks several times at the identical text sent to her. "Wha'?"

Acheron doesn't reach for his phone. "Oh. That. No one's going in or out of the city... until they finally decide to evacuate it, in an orderly fashion."

"The unnatural weather..." Orazia gasps. "You did this."

Acheron shrugs. "I'm surprised you didn't realize sooner."

"But why?" Dysen asks, his jaw dropped in annoyance.

"I thought I did it to keep Claire from returning to the other witches for a while. Now... now I see it was to keep them from coming to us."

"Don't let me be arrested," Claire murrs, widening her eyes at Acheron in an inappropriately flirtatious way. "My paperwork is falsified..."

Acheron clams up, intensely uncomfortable.

"Wouldn't breaking out of jail be super easy for a witch?" Dysen snarks.

Orazia heaves out a big sigh. "We all need to get inside right now."

"But... her too?!" Dysen growls again.

Dysen is soon force-transformed back to normal with a spell, but it does nothing to improve his disposition towards Claire. "I hate her."

"Such an eloquent pet you have," Claire says snippily. "Does the female one transform too?"

Acheron glances at Orazia's claws. He finds his voice again, "Lucky for you, no, she does not."

Claire stays seated, with her arms crossed, expression uncertain and furious. She already understands her compulsive feelings towards the blond boy are the result of a hex, and though she cannot bear to think of making him 'pay' for it, it's still humiliating.

Acheron looks miserable, frowning at the ceiling and tapping his foot on the ground restlessly.

Orazia fidgets around for a while because she settles on folding her arms, like Claire. "Acheron, we need to talk about the... the weather thing."

"You want my arcane secrets?" he mumbles.

Claire perks up with interest. If she's not meant to kill this creature or be killed by it, she's obviously meant to learn from it. Perhaps to subdue and control it.

"I'm scared," Orazia says. "You're taking incredible... unfathomable risks here."

Acheron stares at his shoes. "You think I might be accidentally cooking the city... you think Supernatural Control will investigate... well you're right. Both of those things happen. But they don't catch us, everyone lives, everything's fine."

"I thought it would be winter when I got here. I was a little confused," Claire confesses. "How did you do this?"

"Math," Acheron says.

"Can't you turn the temperature back down?" Dysen asks the obvious.

"No," Acheron replies. "I broke the local system. They have to shut it down and restart it. That's why everyone in the city will be asked to leave. But it takes them a while to reach that decision, because they really don't want to do that."

"You just single-handedly destroyed society," Dysen tries to sound smart. "Businesses are losing money because they can't be open. Paramedics can't respond to house calls. Pizzas can't be delivered."

Acheron cringes. "If you're read the text again, it clearly says emergency services are still operating."

Dysen rips his phone back out of his pocket and re-reads the text. "So. It. Does."

"Kids," Carlos interrupts them, jogging up the stairs as he sensed an unfamiliar aura in their home, "you need to send your friend home. Something has happened."

"I know, Dad. Claire's parents are out of town. We thought she'd be better off with us," Dysen impresses himself with how quick and smooth the lie is.

Carlos doesn't like strangers in his house, since there's always the risk of them discovering something is weird about his family, but he can't deny it would be cruel to send a teenager into what's essentially house arrest all alone. "I see..."

"This isn't over," Dysen whispers, as his father retreats back down the stairs.

Acheron looks away, his expression mild but troubled. "I just want you all to know that... even though you have plot armor... I was freaking out today. You shouldn't be pushing your luck. Horrible things can still happen to you."

Dysen scowls. "Yeah? Well if anything, today should prove to you that your precognition is wrong."

Acheron's voice grows smaller and smaller, more difficult to hear, "No, I got everything right. I just didn't let myself see your involvement. I understand now. It was too emotionally compromising. To know this was the best scenario I could find. To know I let Claire end up like this. The guilt is crushing."

"You know who should feel crushing guilt?" Dysen points at Claire. "Her."

"I have to be better in the future," Acheron says, turning to walk downstairs.

"Mother of plumbobs," Dysen mutters his frustration as he pulls out his phone yet again to text his girlfriend. "I think we're all crazy."

"Acheron doubts his abilities and... yes, so do we, but Claire is here. So I think there's something to what he says." Orazia isn't sure where she was going with that opening, so when Dysen doesn't respond, she continues on a new train of thought, "Please talk to him. Claire won't be under this hex for long, and I-"

"I need to talk to Molly. In case you didn't notice, we've just been separated during an unnatural disaster? And this sounds like mage business, so why don't you talk to him?"


"Didn't you just profess your love for him or some creepy shit?"

Claire's derisive laughter interrupts their conversation. "You... you're just carrying on like some kind of bickering family! As if you're normal people or something! Come on now, drop it. Drop the act."

Dysen glances up from his phone screen. "Are you for real, bitch?"

"I didn't detect it until I was up close, but now that I'm standing in front of you, I've picked up on your secret. You all possess spirit magic. You're all demons! You two are just weaker."

"We're not demons," Orazia protests.

"Elves, whatever. This is not your world anymore. There's no place for you."

"Odd you say there is no place for us, yet you seek us out to murder us, using our deaths to power your own magic for your own gain," Orazia retorts.

"You speak of the extended lifespan. You surely must know, it's merely a reward from our goddess for doing as she decreed. For removing an instrument of ruin from the world."

Orazia stares. She's read about religions in history books, and Izalee told her of elemental creatures that worship the memory of long dead beings as their gods, but she didn't think she'd ever meet someone who actively practiced. "...What."

Claire shakes her head. "It pains me to have been bested by someone so ignorant."

"Why is it gods are always so pathetic they can't do anything for themselves?" Dysen grumbles.

Orazia tries to wrap her head around this information; is Claire talking about a real entity, or a make-believe one? "Is your goddess personally involved in the sacrifices?"

"She taught the spell to my ancestors, and we have passed it down."

"So it's a legend. Not someone real."

Claire pouts. "You've seen my magic. How can you say it's not real?"

"I don't care who's real!" Dysen shouts. "I am! Acheron is! You don't just get the right to kill people!"

"But you're not... people," Claire says slowly, suddenly doubtful. These creatures are nothing like she was told they would be.

Dysen facepalms. "Acheron falls in love with this psycho? Really?"

"But I was supposed to go on a date tonight!" Fairuza whines.

Milo ignores his daughter's concerns, "Carlos, is it really that bad? When are they going to let us leave?"

Carlos blinks. "I'm a physicist, not a climatology mechanic."

Ceth notices movement in her peripheral vision, "Acheron? Where are you going?"

"The porch, Mom."

"Why don't you stay inside, honey? Or..."

He's already out the door.

Ceth glowers, already in a bad mood because her gig was cancelled for all this nonsense. "Was I that bad as a teenager?"

"I think you're still a teenager," Milo sneers.

Claire observes the seated figure for a while. He notices her presence, she's sure of it, but he won't move to acknowledge her. "You're actually distraught about this, aren't you."

"I don't think you'd understand," he mumbles.

"My people understand they are touched by fate and what happens to us happens for a reason. I was meant to find you." She's met with silence, but is undeterred. "Acheron, right?"

He looks up at her finally. It's the most miserable look she's ever seen in her life.

She kneels before him. "Forgive me for not understanding sooner. You were sent by Styx herself."

Acheron glares. "That doesn't even make any sense."

"It's odd she would choose someone from a race she taught us to destroy, but it must be intentional. We will seek guidance together. No?"

"When this 'love charm' wears off, you're going to be embarrassed."

Claire frowns softly. "My anger and pride kept me from seeing it before now. I feel like we're connected, and always have been."

Is this what I sound like to other people? Acheron wonders.

Etc.:  I could not run away it seemed, we'd seen each other in a dream. Seemed like he knew me, he looked right through me. Yeah? ♪ 


  1. The magic fight looked great! Claire is so cute; it's sad that she is a psychopath, as Dysen points out. He had me rolling the whole chapter. I didn't always like him but he's really grown on me.

    Milo's zing on Ceth was pretty good. It seems he's gotten wittier in his old age! Carlos looks good as a full fledged adult, too.

    I love Acheron's reaction to Orazia's kinda icky love charm. It's such a weird spell in game and I hate seeing it (townies seem to spam it in Moonlight Falls). But I especially loved this line: "'I have to be better in the future,' Acheron says, turning to walk downstairs.

    Anyway, great chapter!

    1. Thank you! <3

      Falling in love with Molly and dealing with Acheron's ever-increasing instability forced Dysen to grow as a character. He's still the little jerk he was when he was a kid, but he's also more than that.

      Wow, I never played much in Moodlight Falls, so I did not realize witches could cast love charms on people autonomously. That's messed up. xD

  2. I was...*not* expecting Orazia's confession. I can understand why it makes everyone uncomfortable, but at least there's someone else for her out there!

    Dysen is getting better and better at lying... I'm a bit worried about the kind of trouble he's going to find himself mixed into as a con artist especially with his latent powers. H9pe SC won't get involved :(

    1. ETA: does Fairuza's date consist with nets? (And Lol at Milo calling Ceth an overgrown teen...she does act that way, huh?)

    2. Sometimes the speech bubbles have to be more metaphorical I guess. xD

      In chapter 115, Orazia realized how much Acheron meant to her. She just wasn't sure how to say it. Just a teenage moment there.

  3. Actually I'd just love to see that ear pulling pose again as a montage, as if every Saturday night Ceth does something and milo gets to yell at her about it. I still feel bad he has to live in the garage.

    I love that Dysen called Orazia's confession some 'creepy shit' xD

    Is it okay that I hope Claire is throughly embarrased and its funny as heck that Dysen hates her?

    And Claire referrs to Acheron as an 'it', well THEY have a long way to go!

    All other stuff aside i could see Acheron and Orazia working together, but being romantic. I understand her crush on him, he's such a poofball!

    1. Orazia and Acheron are compatible enough, but the laws of their simulation say Harcourt still has to exist somehow, so it's logical for Acheron to fear falling for anyone but Claire.

  4. Poor Orazia. She kind of kicked ass this chapter, though, so I'm glad :)

    I was pretty worried about Dysen there for a sec. Like, I know he's the heir but as Acheron said, that doesn't mean horrible things can't happen to him. Gah, stress.

    1. I realized after posting that the werewolf transformation looked kind of like being painfully consumed by the magic spell, since it's the same color, oops. xD

      Acheron is right, Dysen should be careful.

  5. Orazia's crush on Acheron surprised me. She's hidden that really well. But knowing about it now, it does make sense. They've had a special bond with their magical abilities.

    It almost seems like Claire has been brainwashed by her beliefs, or like she was raised in a cult.

    "So. It. Does." Ha, love this part.

  6. For a moment during that fight you had me so worried... I'm glad you're a benevolent plumbob and everyone got to survive the encounter with Claire! There were so many ways this could have gone wrong (and I'm sure Acheron has seen every one of them. Sheesh, it's incredible that he's not more messed up than he is!)

    Orazia's confession was so unexpected, but it actually feels really in character for her to fall for someone she can never have. Poor sweetie!

    1. Gen4 rolled for four kids, so I wouldn't feel right if any of them died before reaching young adult. =)