Reality was the last place I wanted to be when I awoke, but to my dismay, when I opened my eyes, I saw the roof of my ceiling instead of the red velvet atop of Daniel’s canopied bed. Fuck.
Later on, after dinner, I decided to tell Papa Willis what had happened, as I couldn’t tell my real family, of course, and he was the one of the few who knew what was going on with Daniel. So I told him. Well, I gave him enough hints for him to figure it out.
“Shaddup,” I messaged him after he realised what I was saying. I was so grateful that I wasn’t telling him in person, I would’ve died on the spot if I did. And I was even happier that Daniel wasn’t there to see, or read, his reaction.
After some teasing and questioning, Papa Willis reassured me that it was okay, and that he could trust me not to judge. The subject turned to Delirium, and the monsters within. “Goddamn Delirium…” Willis said.
“It does have it’s moments though…”
“Cough, Daniel, cough.”
“Oh, and the fact that you’re pretty much the most powerful and dangerous person around now helps.”
Thanks Willis. I was about to reply, when he messaged me a couple more times. “Btw, if I’m in there still, you’ve got an ally,” he said. “Remember.”
That’s when something became apparent to me.
Noah had told me that I was the only human besides Daniel. At the time, I was too overwhelmed to question this. But he was wrong. For weeks prior, people were stirred up by the presence of three humans. One died, the other escaped and the third was taken in, and was marched through the castle grounds, and imprisoned.
“Be right back,” I messaged Papa Willis. “The most dangerous and powerful person in the world is now pissed off.” I didn’t need Daniel to send me to Delirium, within a blink of an eye, I was there.
I rolled out of Daniel’s bed and grabbed his long jacket and started buttoning. “Cat, what’s wrong?” Daniel murmured sleepily.
“Willis,” I told him, making sure that the buttons were completely done, in order to cover my lack of clothing underneath. I paused for a moment, then grabbed a long plum coloured skirt and shuffled into it. I didn’t have time for a corset, but I figured the better dressed I was, the more chance I had of getting what I needed.
“What have they done?” He was immediately awake. “Cat, what’s going on?”
“Human blood!” I had no time for shoes, I just bolted out the door, not waiting for Daniel.
He soon caught up with me though. My sense of direction in this place was severely limited, and I wasn’t bold enough to ask anyone for help. I later encountered him, fully clothed, walking towards me. “Christan’s chamber’s are that way,” he told me, pulling me in the opposite direction of where I was walking.
“So you understand.”
Daniel nodded. “Did you think I would be here if I thought otherwise?”
“They need you alive,” I stated, following him down the corridor. “And yet they went to me for blood. Why not Papa Willis? He’s probably a better match than I was, and they wouldn’t have had to purge you after you got better.”
“It was a lot of blood they needed…”
“Do you really think they would’ve cared about what happened to him?” I reminded him. “Noah said that Christan confirmed that I was the only possible donor, and believe me, he very much wanted you to survive. I think he would’ve put his ass above that of a human prisoner.”
“He couldn’t have forgotten Willis, could’ve he?” But I can tell by the look on Daniel’s face that he already knows that’s a negative.
I shook my head. “Christan himself granted me permission to see him. Not to mention he nearly escaped. There’s no way he could’ve forgotten that easily.”
“What are you going to do?” I could hear the apprehension in his voice.
“I’ll ask him nicely,” I assured Daniel.
“If you say so…you can catch more bugs with honey than vinegar after all.”
“Will manure do?” I replied.
He thought for a moment. “Yup.”
Christan was accompanied by about ten of his circle when we arrived. His face showed surprise, which was followed by a large grin as he saw our pleasant smiles. “Lady Madigan,” he greeted me, bowing to me and lifting my hand to his mouth for a kiss.
“Your Grace,” I replied, trying not to recoil at the touch of him. I still hadn’t forgotten.
“Daniel, it’s good to see you,” he said, his face going pale, though his expression remained friendly. “I would’ve thought that you would’ve remained in bed for a few more days.”
“The physic said he was healthy enough to walk around if he pleased,” I said.
“I believe his Grace was referring to something different,” a woman with sleek red hair and coal black skin informed me. The company behind us chuckled sycophantically, while Christan looked torn between laughing with his friends and the danger that was reflected in Daniel’s face. She approached the three of us, and curtseyed dramatically. Her eyes, when she looked up, were as red as her hair. “Emisair,” she announced herself. “I already know who both of you are.”
“Ah, so you’re the woman Thommand spoke of,” Daniel said. “According to him, you’re more flame than mortal.”
She beamed. “Well then,” Daniel said. He pushed me forward slightly. “I take it you will get along with my dear Cat Madigan then.” He smiled at my gaze of death. “I am off to speak to Thommand, so you stay here and be merry.”
I put on a complaint smile, and let him kiss my cheek, before whispering, “If you try negotiating things without me, you’re dead, sweetie.”
“Always a pleasure talking to you, my lady,” he replied, his eye glimmering, before walking out to the corner of the room to hunt for our least favourite fat man.
I turned back to my new aquaintance, with her red eyes bored and mouth sulky. “So,” she said. Her voice was deep and accented. “You’re the human’s whore.”
Charming lady. The whole room went silent, and took the two of us in. Emisair gazed at me as if she expected me to react.
I took a drink of cloud dew, knowing that I would need it. “Hmm?”
“A whore,” she repeated. “And a human whore to add to it.” She tutted. “He must look upon you in pity,” she said, gazing around the room to see all those who supported her. Only a brave few met her red gaze.
I smiled back calmly. “That’s a new name,” I told her. “But I do believe you have it wrong. I’m more commonly known as Freak, and that’s for a very good reason.”
“My lady…” Christan looked uncomfortable.
The lady gave him a look that could’ve burnt him alive. “I can see why,” she said rudely. “You have the look of the changed about you. You’re just like Kaya, only unlike her,” she took a step toward me, her eyes burning into my own. “You will never have any right to respect,” she finished with a sneer.
I smiled at her. “Thankyou,” I said sweetly. “I’m so glad to have made an impression. You, on the other hand, I’ll surely forget before the night is over…was it Emily?”
“Emisair!” she hissed.
“Right…forgive my forgetfulness, it’s just that I don’t particularly care for you,” I replied. I turned to Christan. “Your Grace, if you don’t mind, I’d I’d like to discuss more urgent matters than this snooty cow who is trying to insult me,” I said as I took another gulp of the sickly sweet drink. “Might we dance?” I knelt into a slow curtsey and lifted my head towards him, like Jhaq once taught me.
Shocked for only a second, he remembered himself and held out his hand. As I took it, he lifted me up and walked me to the centre of the room. The musician played and we began to dance. “I thought you wouldn’t have wanted to touch me,” Christan noted.
“Oh, I don’t,” I assured him cheerfully. “But I figure that if you try anything, then I can just set you on fire. We’re not in Reality right now, you know.”
His laugh was nervous. “I’m unsure whether you jest or not,” he said.
I shrugged. “Anyway, I need your assistance with something.”
“My friend, the human. I wish to arrange another visit with him.”
He went quiet. “Your Grace?” I asked.
“…that may not be…”
“Why not?” I asked him. “I have a feeling he’d want to see me.”
“He’s…not in a good condition.”
I let my eyes narrow at him. “I thought he was being monitored.”
“He was…I mean-”
“There’s the word, was.” The fear was plain on his face, so I pressed him further. “What has happened to him?” I couldn’t control myself, I clenched my jaw. “Is he dead?”
“No! No!” Christan looks horrified. “No, he…he was alive…”
“Again with the term was, when was the last time you heard from him?”
“It…it was before T-”
“That’ll be all, your Grace,” Thommand’s harsh voice intruded. I turned, and saw him with Daniel beside him, looking grim.
“M’lord,” I curtseyed slightly, remembering the honey flavoured bullshit talk Daniel had with me. “Perhaps you can illuminate me? Where is my friend?”
“Gone,” he said simply.
My eyes trailed over to Daniel, who was glaring at the fat lord. “Let me rephrase that. Perhaps you can illuminate me…or I can illuminate you.” Literally.
“Threats will get you nowhere Lady Madigan, not here.”
“This is a reasonable request,” I said. “I want to know where he is. Now.”
He sighed. “You’ll listen to it from start to finish if you’re to hear it,” he ordered. “Though I imagine you’ll still remain angry.”
I smiled. “I’m only human after all,” I reminded him.
“Not by much,” he said nastily. He turned on his foot and left the room. Daniel took my arm and dragged me after him. On the way out, I could feel the woman’s red eyes glaring after me.
When we reached Thommand’s rooms, Daniel closed the door behind me. “Why was I not informed of Willis’ departure?” he demanded.
“You were still recovering,” Thommand replied. “Technically you were, anyway.”
“He was able to work from bed,” I retorted. “Why was this not in his papers?”
He merely shrugged. “Maybe he didn’t remember,” he suggested.
“Oh, I would’ve remembered.” Daniel’s eye didn’t leave Thommand for a moment.
Another shrug. “It matters not,” Thommand said. “Your lady wishes to know what is going on, Daniel. Would you like to…illuminate her, or shall I?”
“I think I’d prefer to hear it from you, m’lord,” I replied. “You know the whole story anyway.”
The corners of his mouth turned down into a scowl. “They wanted blood,” he started.
They only meant one thing. The monsters. “Go on.”
He let out another sigh. “For years, we’ve been giving them the prisoners of our world,” he informed me. “Criminals who cannot reform, have no place in our world.”
“And that has to do with Willis how?”
“This is the part you won’t like, Lady Madigan,” Thommand advised me.
“Trust me, I’m not too happy with the parts leading up to this either.”
Thommand shook his head. “They’ve been attacking people in the towns below. They were threatening them unless the human be transferred to their cells.”
No…. “You believed them?” I spat.
“I had no choice. The people will remember if we do not rise to protect them, and if they remember that, what do you think the chance is that they’ll protect us? Think of the greater good, you stupid girl.”
“I am.” I wasn’t bluffing. Papa Willis’ transfer meant another thing, one that Thommand would’ve been concerned about. “We still don’t know how he or the other three humans ended up here.”
“Other three?” This immediately peaked Thommand’s interest, and he stared at me intently.
Even Daniel’s surprised. “There were four of them?”
“I don’t know if they were travelling together,” I confessed. “But there was another human. She was at that brothel that you sent me and Daniel to.” The memory of that place made me sick inside.
“You mention this now?” Thommand groaned.
“I thought Daniel would’ve mentioned it,” I admitted. “Then again, he wasn’t in any condition to remember.”
“You were though.”
“Was I?” I raised an eyebrow. I went on. “At any rate, you should’ve gotten the information from him before they did.”
“We were trying,” he informed me angrily. “Unfortunately, our methods had to be restrained, thanks to you. If it weren’t for you, we’d know what happened, and none of this would even matter!”
I was silent at that. “I hope you’re pleased with yourself,” Thommand continued nastily. “Do you know what this means?” When I didn’t answer, he went on. “They’ll torture him. He’ll give them the information. They’ll have the advantage, another one. And he’ll die anyway. All because someone didn’t want us to hurt a crazed lunatic.”
“What if I hadn’t been aware of it?” I asked after a while. “What if that human had been taken in quietly, and I hadn’t known about it? What would’ve you done?”
“We’d have the information,” Thommand answered simply.
I glared at him. “Then you’re no better than they.”
We stayed like that for a while. Suddenly, Daniel’s voice broke the stormy silence. “Can we get him out? It’s only been a few weeks, they wouldn’t be treating him yet.”
Thommand looked over to Daniel. “What makes you think they’d be treating him before torturing him?”
“It’s their…specialty.” Daniel’s voice is sickened slightly. “Giving him the treatment would kill two birds with one stone. Besides, they’re not in any hurry for the information. Like you said, they’re already ahead of us.”
“You don’t know that though,” Thommand pointed out.
“We’re not letting him die,” I finally spoke up. “We can’t.”
Thommand looked at me, half amused. “Why are you so determined to save him? Really?”
“He’s my friend,” I said. “And I need to know why he ended up here in this world. This isn’t just about him, this is about why I’m here too, and Daniel and the others.”
Thommand shook his head at this. “Must I be cursed with this goddamn philosopher?” he growled suddenly. “There are more important things here, can’t you get that through your head?”
“You don’t understand,” I insisted.
“I don’t need to. You, on the other hand, are only concerned with yourself and your own. There is a fucking war going on, and you’re busy questioning your own existence here! You can think about these things when you’re dead. Understand?”
Daniel took my shoulder. “We save him,” he told both of us. “We can’t let them have another advantage to hold over our heads.”
“The people will know,” Thommand reminded us sullenly.
“Then we’ll send protectors,” Daniel said.
“We barely have enough as it is.”
“Then we’ll have to train others. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to start training the children. Start with self defence, then-”
I looked at Thommand. His face was set. “Why not?” I asked. “We’re not going to stand a chance without forces.”
“This is only a last-”
“I think we’re already heading downhill,” Daniel informed him. “Training the children will give them a fighting chance against them. Or would you rather them die like at Helevia?”
Thommand clenched his jaw. “We have more allies than they-”
“Allies, you say,” Daniel scoffed. “I’ve seen that fire woman; she’s like to switch to save her own skin. Allies won’t be enough to save us.”
Thommand was silent for a while. Against my better judgement, I worried that he was overwhelmed. He finally looked up at Daniel. “Find the man who’ll protect the villagers,” he ordered. “Organise a group of young ones to train, maybe your concubine can be of some use there.”
I gritted my teeth. “So we can go save him?”
He looked at me in a way I couldn’t define. “If you can.”
Daniel and I nodded and left the room. “We can do this,” I said to him. “We have to.”
He nodded, less convinced than I was. “Are you alright?” I asked.
“You’re the one whose hands are shaking,” he said.
I looked down and realised he was right. “Shit.” I frowned. “I guess I am scared.”
“Better than stupid.”
Daniel took my hand. “I’ll take care of what Thommand requested quickly,” he said. “In the meantime, you need to prepare yourself.”
He smiled sadly. “You know…it might be too late to save him.”
“We have to try.”
“I just…don’t want to get your hopes up.” He put his arm around me as we walked back to our room. As we went along, I became aware of how tired I was. So did Daniel. “You’re pale,” he noted.
I nodded. “I just need a break.”
He opened the door to his chambers. “I’ll get you some tea,” he said.
“Please do.” I sat down on the bed and closed my eyes.
Daniel got my tea and sat down next to me. Tentatively, he took my hand. “Are you alright?”
I nodded. “Just…I’ve gotten used to things calming down again.”
I took a gulp of the tea, the mint clearing my head. “…I think I can handle it though,” I told him.
“Thanks,” I scoffed.
He shook his head. “You know what I mean. It’s just…well…”
“I’m not confident at all?” I finished.
“No! No…” Daniel grimaced. “Kinda.”
I stuck my tongue out at him. “It’s okay though,” I told him. “Right now, I’ve forgotten how to be afraid.”
“Hopefully that lasts then,” Daniel said.
“Amen,” I replied.