Cuddle Cat

Standard

It had all gone downhill. It hadn’t taken them long to find me, and when they did, the chase was on.

When the ones chasing me were dead, I braced myself for more. To my surprise, the backups I expected never came. Huh.

It wasn’t kind, or even justified. But I threw their bodies down to the rocks below. I only came up with a reason for it afterwards. The less mess I’d leave behind, the less they’d have to track me, which gave me more time.

My body was covered in their blood, and I was thankful I couldn’t smell it. But when I returned, I nearly retched. “Jesus, this is disgusting…” I muttered.

I quickly realised I had no idea where I was. “Okay…” I took out my new knife, just in case. “Willis or Daniel…who should I find?”

I wandered for a while before stumbling across something very familiar. “This is Kaya’s cell,” I murmured. There was no one there though, no corpses or anything. “Right. Let’s go upstairs.”

It didn’t reassure me that everything was brightly lit. In fact, it put me on edge. They didn’t do this, they never enjoyed light. The only reason they would do this would be to prevent me from hiding in the shadows. Which could only be a bad thing.

I decided to go right, but instead of more cells, I came across a giant door. Oh no…Cat Madigan, this is a bad idea, I thought to myself as I opened it. This is suicide, since when does anything good come out of this place? my inner voice screamed as I stepped through it and looked around, dazed for a moment by the intense lights.

I stared at the object in the glass cabinet. I say glass lightly, because I had a feeling that it would kill me if I so much as touched it. But I couldn’t help but wonder what it was doing in this world. I knew what these people were capable of, with machines that made freaks like Kaya and me. They ridiculed people like me and Daniel, and yet…

Just to make sure, I didn’t touch the cabinet immediately. Instead, I did what anyone else would’ve done. Or at least, what anyone who could throw fireballs would do.

Needless to say, this ended badly. Well…sorta.

Let’s just say there was an explosion.

I woke a moment later, coughing up smoke. “Oh boy…” I made out the fuzzy image of the weapon in front of me, and I reached out and took it. It was shaped like a wand, but the whirring sound coming from it indicated that it wasn’t magic that was inside it. There was nothing that gave me a clue as of what to do with it, but it had a pale glow to it that put me on edge.

I still had no idea when the first monster came it. She had bulging eyes and red pointy teeth which gleamed at me when she smiled. When she took a step towards me, I no longer cared what it did, I just pointed it at her.

Immediately, her body flew into the door behind her, crashing into several other monsters. I just stood there in a daze, when I heard shouting down the hall. I leapt over the monsters to reach them. “Sorry!” I called over my shoulder, running towards the sound.

It became simple. I aimed the thing at one of them and he was thrown in that direction. When any of the monsters approached, they could never get near me. When I felt one behind me, I span around, ready to fire, when I saw him. “Daniel!”

Before he could answer, I was suddenly grabbed and thrown to the ground, the weapon bouncing out of my reach. The monster’s eyes were glassy and unaware as he clawed into my throat with what seemed like giant, sharp fingers. I pushed him away, but even as my hand burnt into his face, it did nothing to stop him, and this fight between he and I was quickly finishing.

Then he howled, and I felt something cold splash over me. It was only when I saw the tip of a blade protruding the monster’s stomach that I realised what was going on. I scrambled out of the way of the dying monster before Daniel withdrew his sword and he fell to the ground. I stared at him as his cries became quieter. There was a large wound in his back, a dark shiny line exposing his insides, which were slowly spreading beneath him. “Where is he?” I asked Daniel hollowly.

He didn’t ask who I was referring to. “He’s not far,” he said. “Those were the men guarding him. Some left when they heard an explosion.” He raised an eyebrow at me.

“Don’t look at me like that,” I reproached.

“Have you looked in a mirror recently?” he replied. At the look on my face, he grimaced. “Fair point. Anyway…” He gestures towards the door. “After you, my lady.”

I didn’t go to the door though. First, I located the weapon I used before. “Do you know what this is?” I asked him.

He wrinkled his face. “No clue. I don’t like the look of it though.”

“Me neither…but I can think of some who would.”

“Thommand?” Daniel enquired.

“I was actually thinking of the monsters here,” I admitted. “But you’re right too. Should we take it or not?”

He grimaced. “We’re faced with two evils here,” he pointed out. “Which one is going to be more dangerous with this thing?”

I couldn’t imagine either using it to be honest. “Right now, we really don’t want this evil to get it,” I said. “We’ll figure what to do with it later.” I picked it up. “In the meantime, I’m going to use it.”

“If you say so…”

Papa Willis barely moved when he saw me. “Oh. Hi,” he said blankly.

“…Hello.” I stepped over one of the corpses. “Did you do this?” I asked Daniel, as I opened the cell door.

“Yeah,” Daniel admitted. “Though it was either me or them, if I do say so myself.”

“Not judging Daniel. I certainly don’t have any right to.” I knelt down next to Papa Willis. “Can you walk?” His grimace gave me the answer. “Okay…” I looked back at Daniel. “How about you carry him and I’ll keep them off you?”

“Use you as a meat shield? No.”

“Or you could leave me,” Willis suggested.

“Not a chance,” I said, lifting Willis up. “And what’s the worst that can happen? I die?”

“Cat…” Daniel knew that it wouldn’t matter if I died, as I’d resurrect anyway. But he still looked against the idea of me sacrificing myself.

“By the way.” I gave Willis a hug. “It’s good to see you alive.”

Willis didn’t move. “Why are you hugging me?” he asked awkwardly.

“Because you’re alive.”

“…okay.”

“Willis?”

“…yeah?”

“You smell.”

“So do you.”

I grinned at him, and he just looked back, confused as hell. “What’s with her?” he asked Daniel.

“She’s easily influenced,” Daniel replied. “She’s happy now, but she’ll be cutting off heads in a minute.”

I stuck my tongue out at him. “I’m a psychopath,” I confirmed.

“The sweetest psychopath you’ll ever meet,” Daniel added.

Willis just shook his head feebly. “Right…”

I remembered that he didn’t recognise me, so I backed away slightly. “Maybe we should do this later?”

“Good idea.” Daniel grudgingly took Willis when I reached the opening. “Noah’s meeting us at the crumbled wall,” he told me.

“Same place as before.” I remembered how Kaya shattered that wall during her escape. They thought the girl was useless, a dud. “Do you ever wonder why Kaya took you?” I asked Daniel.

“Now’s not the time for reminiscing,” Daniel replied.

I rolled my eyes and walked ahead of the two. It was like this for a while, and I grew wary of the disturbing quiet.

My suspicions were confirmed a split second before a sword sank in my belly and I was falling once again.

Let’s Raise Hell

Standard

Cat Madigan is back, bitch!

Sorry. That was rude.

But I’m back. And I need to catch up on Delirium. Starting now.

__________________________________________

“Okay, we’re moving,” Daniel said.

“What? What’s going on?” I was dragged away from Daniel’s desk where I had been sketching.

“Papa Willis isn’t on the network,” he said.

“What? He was last time.”

“And now he’s not.” He pulled me out into the hall, nearly running down the stairs.

“Daniel, stop for a moment,” I told him. He slowed down, but only to a pace. “I have to tell him that we’re going.”

“Why?”

“In case he can help us!”

He groaned. “If he could, he would’ve-”

“Daniel, please, let me try.”

Daniel sighed. “Fine. Just wait till we reach the armoury. I’ll get us some backup so you can get back to Reality for a bit.”

“Agreed.” He then broke off into a sprint again, this time with me following closely, with the crowds of people watching us pass by.

Upon reaching the door, I immediately dropped. When I opened my eyes, I was in my room again. “Okay…” I grabbed my iPad and typed in my message for Papa Willis. Five minutes passed, and there was still no answer. “Crap!”

Then Mum came in. “I need you to set the table, dinner’s in ten. And fix your bloody room!” She popped out just as quickly as she came.

Double crap.

I had no choice. “Kaya!” I hissed. No answer. So I screamed internally, because actual screaming would alert the household, KAYAAAAAAA!

What? Her sudden appearance shocked me. She spoke as if she had been there all along.

“Gods sake…” I hissed. “Listen, can you take care of things here? We’re off to get Willis.”

About time. What am I allowed to do?

“Interact with the family only if they speak to you. Do not yell at anyone, do not kill anyone. And Mum wants the table set and my room clean.” I thought for a moment. “And I need to wash my hair too.”

I can have a shower? Kaya’s voice sounded happier.

“Yes, you may.” I listened for footsteps before sitting down on my bed.

I opened my eyes to see the last person I expected to encounter again. “What are you doing in the armoury? I would’ve thought that was beneath you.”

The woman rolled her eyes. “It is. It also happens to be where you are. So I am here.”

I sat up. “What do you want?”

“You’re going to save your little human friend. Why? Isn’t Daniel good enough for your bed?” she taunted.

“Are you here to spite me or do you have something to tell me which is actually useful?” I returned. I was tired of this so-called woman of fire. She kept trying to get a rise out of me, even in the most inappropriate circumstances. It was for that reason that I could never take her seriously. If she was capable of something other than mocking me, then I would probably have been hurt by her words. But alas, she wasn’t.

“I do,” she informed me, though it was clear to me that her words were just as likely to be bluster instead of actual advice. “I suggest that you prepare yourself for the worst.”

“Let me rephrase my previous remark…whatever the hell your name is. Do you have any information that can actually help me?”

“My name is Emisair of Fire, and that was it,” she told me. “You know what they’ve done. You of all people know what they’ve done. And you of all people can imagine what could’ve happened to that boy.”

“Of course I can imagine it. Why do you think I going after him?”

“That’s my point,” Emisair mused. “Why are you going after him when he’s already dead?”

“He’s not-”

“If he’s not, he’s a very lucky man. But you wouldn’t be rushing about the castle if you were so confident about his chance of survival.”

“Papa Willis is my dearest friend in the world,” I informed her. “I would probably do anything for him, and if I can save him, then I will, and nothing you say will stop me!”

She watched me as I got up off the ground and brushed myself off. I was walking away from her, towards the forgery, when she called after me. “Since when do you care about a lost life?”

“Since when don’t I?”

“Don’t you know?” Her voice became a purr. “You’re the hangwoman, Cat Madigan. How many people have you killed now? Can you even count that amount?”

I gritted my teeth, ready with my answer. “If I could change what I had done, I would,” I told her. “But I would never have touched them if-”

Emisair walked in front of me. “That’s why I’m not calling you a murderer,” she replied. “But you’re not far off that. It’s easy to justify whatever you’ve done wrong. But then you keep justifying it, until you no longer need a reason, you can just…” She ran her long nail across the flesh of her dark throat. “That is all I have to say.”

“…good.” We stood there, the two of us, until she sighed and turned on her foot, leaving the armoury. With that, I headed towards the hot furnace that was the forgery. I had never seen this place before, but I could see why Daniel might’ve kept me away. When the smiths looked up and saw me, my ears were suddenly filled with catcalls and whistles. One of them called out, “Oi Daniel! This ‘ere ‘yer little sweet’eart?” That was when all of them came over and surrounded me, and somehow, the leering and comments became worse.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t as uncomfortable as one would assume. Instead of shrinking away from them, I just laughed. The smiths were only teasing me, and if they knew about me and Daniel, then they knew that Daniel would crucify them if they laid a hand on me.

Which is why I didn’t recoil when two arms snaked around me and held me close. “Hello,” I said.

He just laughed and his hands gripped my waist. Suddenly, I was lifted into the air, and over Daniel’s shoulder. “Oi! Put me down!” I yelled, much to the entertainment of the men. He ignored me and walked out of the forgery, the laughter following us out.

Daniel closed the door behind us, and the laughter was muffled. “My dear sir,” I began.

He lifted my body and held me up in the air for a while. “Yes, I understand completely,” I told him. “You have muscles. You can lift Cat-Madigan-sized objects. You’re also not wearing a shirt. And your eyepatch makes you look badass.” He grinned and put me down on the ground. “Will that satisfy your vanity for one day?” I queried.

“Good enough.”

“How’d you get your strength back this fast by the way? Didn’t you lose enough blood to fill a Cat Madigan?”

He grimaced. “Lots of herbal stuff from Jhaq. I just get tired now and then.”

I frowned. “You going to be okay for this?”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine.”

“What’s the plan?” I questioned.

“First, this.” Daniel held out a thin, gleaming object. Tentatively, I took it. “Not your usual type of stiletto, but still.”

“Huh?”

“That’s what it’s called,” he explained. “You like it?”

It’s a knife, I realised. One perfect for a Cat Madigan. I grinned. “Cool. Much cooler than roses.”

“So you don’t want roses?”

“I’ve never been given roses before…”

“Back to the situation at hand…” Daniel began. “You know your way around, don’t you?”

“…a little bit. I remember Willis’ cell, but I’m not sure how long it would take to find it.”

He nodded. “We need to find Noah, then we’ll be off. Plan of attack is to set off some distraction which they’ll chase after. Then it’s just a matter of silently making our way through the place, got it?”

“Yup. I can be quiet. Silent as a cat.”
_____________________________________________________

A couple hours later:

“FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!” I screamed as I sprinted through the halls, the monsters slowly gaining on me. This a good enough distraction, Daniel?

I then saw the dilapidated wall leading out toward the rocks and I jumped. Not my body though; my body dropped as I fell out of it, and my shadow stood in front of it at the ready. The monsters saw me as I was, and raised their blades.

I’m not afraid. I am the mad cat, and I will kill them too.

Back in Action

Standard

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.”

“…yeah.”

“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.”

“Anything.”

“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.

“It’s likely.”

“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?”

“Completely.” Asshole.

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-”

“No.”

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.”

“Hmm…”

Daniel took my hand. “I’ll take care of what Thommand requested quickly,” he said. “In the meantime, you need to prepare yourself.”

“I know.”

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.”

“Yeah…me too.”

I took a gulp of the tea, the mint clearing my head. “…I think I can handle it though,” I told him.

“Really?”

“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.