“Mère, Mère, make him stop. Make him stop.”
Yvette couldn’t place the yelling voice that followed the door slamming open as she slowly regained consciousness.
The first thing she identified is that she had fallen asleep in Jack’s room again, after talking late into the night, and rather than returning her to her own bed he had just tucked her in and passed out next to her. He said it was because she was too tall and it made her too unwieldy to get through the doorway, but that wasn’t relevant to the screaming.
She ought to recognize the voice. Surely Jack wouldn’t have brought a stranger into the house while she was sleeping. But she couldn’t.
Her eyes snapped open when a small body jumped onto her, still yelling. “Make him stop. He’s hurting them. I can hear them screaming.”
“Robyn?” Yvette finally asked as she stared blearily at her young daughter. Her daughter who had never spoken a word of any recognizable language until this moment. No wonder she couldn’t place the voice.
“Has Jack done something?” she asked, making the only connection she could think of.
“No, it’s his bloody bastard of a brother,” her sweet, innocent daughter said. The shock of it actually woke Yvette enough to notice that her daughter was crying, and that Jack was still lying beside her.
She scooped her daughter into her arms and pulled her down to the bed between herself and Jack. Robyn was now crying uncontrollably and shaking with what Yvette could only assume was fear.
“Shhhh, love,” Jack murmured, still half asleep, as he ran his fingers gently through his daughter’s hair. “Calm a moment and tell us who ‘he’ is.”
“Dyaa Sergei,” Robyn sobbed. “He’s hurting Dyaa Sergei and Auntie Belle and Zia Ree. Make him stop, Mère, please.”
“Can you hear them now?” Jack asked softly, his eyes suddenly disconcertingly coherent.
There was a small movement of Robyn’s head that seemed to indicate no. “It’s always too quiet in here.”
“Yvette, step outside the room a moment, love. I need you to tell me if you can hear what she heard.” Yvette could only stare at Jack in confusion. Jack’s next words were unusually snappish. “Use your head, love. I just redid the runes last night. Nothing is coming into this room, even with the door open. But we need to know what is going on and I can’t hear much outside of a trance. You’re faster.”
Yvette understood now, but she really didn’t want to go through that door now that her daughter’s words were sinking in. She didn’t want to hear … but if her daughter heard something, she needed to know what. And if Ree, Belle, and Sergei really were in trouble, they needed to do something to help. If nothing else, Yvette owed them for all the hours spent helping her with Robyn.
With a deep breath, she nudged Robyn a little closer to Jack and slipped herself free of the grasping arms. “Hang onto Jack, little songbird. I’ll be right back,” she whispered to her daughter, who promptly glommed onto Jack with a strangle hold. Yvette resisted the urge to wrap herself back around her daughter, and used the momentum she built up pulling herself away to drive her towards the door.
She didn’t make it more than a step passed the door before she collapsed to her knees under the auditory assault. She was a strong windtalker, and it looked like her daughter was as well, but days like these she really wished she was more limited to trances like Jack. Gods, the screams, and the raving. She didn’t recognize the voice that was ranting, but that kind of Mage supremacist crap could only come from a fanatic, and Sergei had admitted his brother was just such a fanatic. And there was definitely a Russian accent.
She wanted to move, to run back into the comforting silence of Jack’s room. Hands pressed over her ears, she still couldn’t shut it out, the crack of breaking bones or the wet grunts and pain filled cries that could only mean one thing.
It wasn’t until some indeterminable time later when Jack pulled her back into his room that she realized she was screaming. Suddenly, the wails of her voice and the soft comforting murmur of Jack’s were all that she heard. Sobbing, she wrapped herself around Robyn, who had wormed herself back into her mother’s arms, and leaned into the comfort of Jack’s strong chest.
“It’s true … I couldn’t recognize any voices, but they were all so raw from screaming,” she finally choked out. She had to let Jack know. “Russian accents … and Mage supremacy … and so much pain. But three screams, a man and two women, and several men … hurting them.”
Jack made comforting noises and held them both tight as she spoke. When she was done, he asked, “You think it is them?”
“If Robyn says so, I believe it,” Yvette said, shaking in sync with her daughter. “How long, little songbird? How long have you heard?”
“Don’t know,” came the choked reply. “I heard them come, and Sergei said, ‘Rasputin?’ and then the screaming and the screaming …” Her small voice trickled off into more pained sobs.
“If she was hit as hard as I was, this has been going on too long. We have to do something, Jack.” As much as she never wanted him to let go, they needed to do something, and Jack was the only one who might be able to leave the room now. One side effect of the strong runes they used was that no communications magics or devices would work inside the walls. Yvette struggled to move past the horror and think. They needed a way to communicate with everyone who was across the country.
“My portable phone,” she said as the inspiration struck. “It has the numbers for most of the people from Idyllwild. Ree and …” Gods, it was hard to even think their names right now. “They all have one. Try them first … I’ll try and remember who else might be in Savannah right now.”
“Are you sure they are in Savannah?” Jack asked, loosening his grasp about her and trying to loosen Robyn’s grasp on his shirt.
“The wedding’s next month. Of course they are,” Yvette replied. “What with house hunting, dress fittings, and sorting out the guest list they’ve already been there a month.”
“Right,” Jack said with a nod. “I’ll be right back.” He stood and strode off, even as Robyn started to whimper at his loss.
“Hush, little one,” Yvette said, trying to sooth her troubled daughter. “He’s gone to get help, to make Him stop. It’s going to be alright. You warned us, and now it’s going to be alright.” She babbled on for some time, trying to keep a surface of calm up for her daughter while inside her mind whirled. She did her best to dodge the memories of what she had heard and focus on who else might be reachable. If she could help it, she would rather someone else called the police. The last thing she wanted to do was try and explain how she knew something was wrong to the authorities.
After a bit, she caught sight of Jack pacing in front of the door. He was using the portable phone, but the look on his face was not promising. Finally, he stuck his head through the doorway so she could hear him ask, “They’re not answering. Anyone else in town in here?” He shook the phone at her, giving it an angry glare.
“I don’t know,” Yvette admitted, panic once again at the fore. “I don’t have any of Belle’s relatives … or Ree’s … Sergei’s are the problem … gods, who else would be … Professor Galaway!” Her eyes lit up at the realization. “Belle said Jess was going to help them with the final planning. She has to be in Savannah … or if not, know someone who is.”
His only response was a nod before he pulled his head back through the doorway. She couldn’t hear anything, but his lips were moving and a momentary look of relief flitted across his face. Unfortunately, it was followed by a look of abject horror and she felt as though she could hear him gag.
She could only watch and make sure Robyn didn’t as Jack struggled to control himself, his eyes disturbingly glassy, and finish the call. When he closed the phone he sagged against the door frame, his naturally dark skin paling by the second. Finally, with a full body shudder he tipped through the doorway and hit the floor beside her. The only sound in the room for several minutes was his gasping for breath.
Yvette loosened one arm from her daughter and set her hand on Jack’s shoulder. That seemed to help ground him and he was finally able to regain control of his faculties.
“If I could think of a way to get there, I’d kill the bastards myself,” he croaked. “Jess says the girls are late for their fittings. She already checked with Belle’s family and is on her way to Ree’s new house. They were supposed to be setting up the wards this morning. If they were caught partway through the rituals …” His voice trailed off and both adults shuddered at the thought. Casting such complex magic left one in such a vulnerable state.
“Call the cops.” Yvette said.
“What?” Jack replied, clearly quite startled. “If they trace the call, or ask how we know …”
“Call the cops. At the least it might put them on the way before Jess gets ahold of them. It could be too late if we wait.” She paused a moment to choke back a sob. These were three dear friends they were talking about, they had to do something more. What Jack had said about killing them himself, she couldn’t blame him and wished she had those bastards in reach herself.
“Right,” he finally said, struggling to sit up and pull himself back out the doorway.
“And break the rune on the door,” she said before he left.
“No,” he said flatly, continuing out so he could not hear her argument.
She let out a soft growl. There was a good reason to break the rune. It would only allow a little sound in given the runes everywhere else, and he would be able to hear her. He needed someone to hang onto if he slipped into another trance. The wind was clearly pulling at him as he argued with whoever was on the phone.
It took a minute to adjust her grip on Robyn so she could stand, and another to sooth the girl who disliked moving right now. “We need to do this, little songbird,” she coaxed. “Jack is trying to help Dyaa Sergei and Auntie Belle and Zia Ree, but he needs us to keep the screaming from getting him.”
“Hurts,” her daughter whimpered, and Yvette couldn’t help but agree. Yet she still made it to her feet and gathered enough energy to negate the powerful runes embedded in the door and its frame.
She knew she had succeeded, for while it was muffled she could now hear Jack talking into the phone, and more distantly a familiar voice screaming, “Peristaats!” She was pretty sure that was ‘stop’ in Russian.
Robyn began to squirm at the new sounds, and Yvette held her close, whispering, “Listen to Jack. Hear his voice. Focus to Jack.”
She tried to take her own advice. His apparent lack of success was not helping her focus as she leaned against the wall next to the door.
“Look, I know this sounds crazy,” Jack all but yelled into the phone. “I just know they are in trouble.”
“I wonder if this would be easier if you were a Seer?” Yvette asked thoughtfully as she ran her fingers through her daughter’s hair. Jack’s head snapped around toward her, a mixture of calculating thoughtfulness and anger in his eyes. Yep, he’d heard her and knew the runes were down.
“My daughter has the Sight, you numbskull,” was his next sally. “What else am I supposed to do when she says she Sees three people being tortured? Call Heraldo?” He paused for a moment to listen to the idiot on the other end. Yvette was interested to note she couldn’t hear the other person, but not enough to try and figure out why. Maybe the runes were still cutting things up.
“Gloryanna Aradia De Julie ... or maybe Fraiser,” Jack replied. “She’s with Annabelle Savannah and her fiancée. At least that name should sound familiar.” Another pause. “How should I know? You only get so much out of a five year old.” A slight exaggeration. “You think I want my daughter Seeing things like this? Good gods man, if I could control this I would.” He blanched, looking glassy eyed again even through his anger. Yvette didn’t want to know what he’d heard and she’d missed, thank you very much. “Yes, thank you. And no, I will not give you my name. Last thing she needs is the press after her.”
Jack hung up after that sally, but continued to stand outside the door frame, a shudder running down his spine. Yvette did the only thing she could think of, she grabbed his arm and pulled him through the doorway. The sudden deadening of the sound by the remaining runes helped bring him back to reality.
“Jess must have called,” he said after a sharp shake of his head. “Suddenly they were all for heading out there and even had an address.” He curled in on himself for a moment, dropping to a crouch, before slamming his fists down on the floor with a curse. “Damn it, they wouldn’t listen.”
Yvette dropped to her knees beside him. “Jack, please, we did what we could,” she said, trying to make herself believe it even as she said it. “Even if we had called the cops first, if they weren’t willing to listen now then they wouldn’t have then. All we can do now is wait and listen.” Damn it, it was a bloody platitude, but he needed to hear it and so did Robyn. The poor girl had a death grip on her shirt and the shaking was getting worse.
“Leave the phone outside the room so it can get a signal. Jess will call when she knows something. But right now I need you. Robyn needs you.” Even as she said that, they all heard a particularly sickening crack and Robyn began whimpering again.
“Damn,” she murmured. “If she wasn’t in shock before, she is now. Take her.” She pressed her daughter into his arms, slipping out of the shirt little fingers wouldn’t release and then tucking it around her. Jack looked up at her, for once not even bothering to ogle her exposed torso, his eyes wide with panic. Of course, the types of shock he was most used to had to do with trauma or alcohol poisoning.
“Wrap her in a blanket, hold her close, and talk to her,” Yvette suggested, grabbing the phone from where he had dropped it and heading for the door.
“What are you doing?” he asked, his voice sounding worse than when she had told him she was pregnant, and he was the father.
“She needs fluids … we all do,” Yvette said as she passed through the door. She headed for the kitchen, talking to herself to keep the horrible sounds on the wind at bay. It was almost getting easier to block it out.
“Fluids … with salt and baking soda … some chocolate would be nice … a cushion from the couch maybe … she is so going to need a shrink after this … but where are we going to find one that would believe this?”
She collected the items she wanted from the kitchen, and added a few granola bars to the stack since neither she nor Jack had had breakfast. Then she nearly dropped everything as she realized who to call.
“Richard. Of course.” He knew about their gift, he’d understand. Maybe this wasn’t the right time to call, maybe it was. Either way, she quickly dialed his private line at Idyllwild Academy. She needed to do something.
“Richard Comyn speaking.” Oh the rich, familiar tones of his voice, even distorted over the phone, were a comforting sound. Especially when it was followed by a sound she was damned certain she didn’t want to know the source of or who had made it.
Yvette gagged for a moment before she could reply. “It’s Yvette. Rasputin’s attacking Sergei, Ree, and Belle.” She heard a gasp from the other end of the line. “Robyn was the first to hear it, but now we can’t escape … the cops are on their way, but we don’t know if they are going to be in time.” She was choking back sobs at this point.
“How’s Robyn?” he asked, his concern plain in his voice.
“Bad shock, and I don’t know where we are going to get a shrink for her.” That got a soft laugh.
“I think you could all use one about now,” he replied, and she couldn’t help but nod though she knew he wouldn’t see it over the phone. “Jack’s a wide eyed panicking father since he put the phone down, and you’re holding on by the skin of your teeth.”
“You know us all too well,” she said, a hint of hysteric laughter in her tone.
“Take care of your daughter,” he said reassuringly. “I’ll take care of the shrink, and put some lines out on everything else. Stay where you can hear the phone, and try not to listen to anything else more than you have to.” He really did know them too well. He knew that, as much as she wanted to barricade herself in Jack’s room and never leave again, she could not just stop listening and never know what happened. These were her friends, people her daughter called aunt and uncle … in her own way … which apparently includes a multitude of languages.
“I’ll be in touch. And I assure you, one way or another, this will get sorted out.” His last words were harder than any she had ever heard from the quixotic old man. It almost sounded like … no, surely a man who ran a school wouldn’t have those kinds of connections.
She put thoughts of revenge aside and took her supplies back to Jack’s bedroom, barely remembering to drop the phone outside the warded walls. She was comforted to find Jack leaning against the foot of the bed, Robyn in his lap, both buried in the quilt. And it seemed like the whimpering had stopped. In fact … was Jack relating one of his old baseball games to her? In detail?
Well, it did make for a good distraction. She set her supplies beside the bed and slipped under the edge of the blanket until she had joined them nestled at the center. She offered Robyn the bottle of doctored water and helped her slip it slowly while they both listened to Jack’s story, and tried not to listen to everything else.
Suddenly, something changed out there and Jack fell silent as they all focused on the sound of sirens in the distance. Several male voices began yelling in Russian over the sobs of their victims.
“Hurry, we must go now,” Robyn murmured and Yvette realized she must be translating what she was hearing. She really was a clever girl. Now if only this didn’t completely stunt her growth.
“No, they must die … there isn’t time. Come … wait … come now or stay and die. Choose.” Robyn didn’t bother to translate the chant they all recognized as the activation phrase for a travel circle. These bastards had truly planned ahead.
The next voices they heard were yelling things like “Clear!” and “Get the medics, now!” They couldn’t stop listening as the medical team yelled incomprehensible jargon to each other as they tried to save the three victims, and as they failed with one.
“Auntie Belle,” Robyn howled, before burying herself in Jack’s shoulder and sobbing. Yvette wasn’t doing much better. She had been very fond of the irreverent young woman and had been looking forward to her marriage. Even if they survived their injuries, learning of Belle’s death might well take out the remaining two. The three were well known for being inseparable since they met.
Even Jack was sobbing softly. He had become quite fond to the Southern minx, and she had been an invaluable help with Robyn over the years. And now she was gone, all because her fiancé’s brother was an incurable asshole.
When the phone rang an incalculable time later, Yvette was the only one with a chance of making it to the door. Robyn was almost asleep against her father’s shoulder, and under the circumstances, neither of them were inclined to disturb her.
It took a moment to untangle herself from the blankets, but she finally made it to the door and found Jess on the other end of the line.
“I thought you should know,” the older woman said, “I haven’t seen any prisoners, so I don’t think they caught anyone. And … Oh gods.” She paused to cry for a moment. “Three bodies were taken away in an ambulance. One was already bagged … I don’t know who.”
“Belle,” Yvette whispered into the phone. Jess didn’t ask how she knew. A lot of people at Idyllwild had secrets, and they had learned to respect each other’s secrets and accept what could be shared.
“I’ll figure out where they took Ree and Sergei and let you know,” Jess assured before hanging up.
Yvette set the phone back down and wormed her way back into the blankets with Robyn and Jack. “She’ll call back once she knows the hospital,” she whispered as she laid her head on his shoulder.
“When Robyn wakes up,” he whispered back, “I’ll call Brad. Family keeps a circle mage we can borrow. We can be in Savannah by morning at the latest.”
“Thank you, Jack,” she said, her eyes closing on the image of her daughter sleeping in his arms. “For everything.”
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