Bruce and Ariane ran very far from the witch's kingdom so it took them some days before reaching it again. They're led into the castle, a very huge castle. They're chained, just to be safe, because in any case they have to obey the witch, his name's PanStarrs. Everyone looks at them, surrounded by the guards, and the witch behind them. Some people recognize them: they lived at Charon's castle before getting abducted and brought here. Though at first sight, this can seem a normal town, the reality is just sadness and hidden wills of revenge live here. The magicians don't know what it's gonna happen, what PanStarrs actually wants from them. They just knew he would have caught them, from the Magus and Bruce's visions. Now they can just imagine nothing good will happen. Bruce and Ariane are taken into their new room, that means a little cell in a tower, near the main castle, in a small hill in the centre of the town. The guards lock them inside that little room, after taking off the handcuffs and then fastening the heavy door with a big lock. Its sound as it gets closed seem to the magicians like a sentence to death. They don't have their freedom or free will anymore. They can't even choose how to dress: the guards left there their new clothes, something more like a uniform, all in black, with a hood, as creepy as possible. They look around frustrated by all the difficulties they have to face every time. In the cell, there are just two beds at two opposite sides and a barred window between them. They change dresses as it was ordered to them and then just sit on their beds, waiting for something to happen. Their moods are undefined. They expected this, they were somewhat prepared but living it for real is totally different. She sits with her legs on the bed and looks down.
"You're terribly upset" Bruce comments. She just moves her head a bit. "Don't worry, we'll get out of here, in some way, like we always did" he adds, while sitting with his back to the wall and turning his head to look outside the window.
"But how? Now we're here, we know nothing and moreover with this dress I look like a whore" she says, complaining about the neckline. Bruce is actually surprised by the rudeness in her words.
"Well, no... You look good actually" he says. She raises her look to him, staring at him in a menacing way. He stops talking and just looks down.
"You don't have any spoilers? Of what's happening next?" she asks. He looks up, surprised.
"No, I don't know anything. My visions stopped when he took us, I know as much as you". She looks down, thoughtful. After few minutes, the door opens: PanStarrs comes in. The two magicians don't look scared, just angry and done. They know how powerful they are, probably even more than him, and he is powerful as they could see, just he has them in his hands.
"Tell us what you want" Ariane says, with a little menace in her voice.
"Oh, you're a direct girl. I've known very little women like you. Alright. You want to know, I'll tell you what you'll do for me. You'll use your powers as I order. I have some things to make you try, some interesting spells. But you know, they need a huge source of power: you. I think you can help me in various different things, people will fear you as they see you and in the same way you'll fear me. Mmm, I don't think you'll like it actually, at least at first. Then you'll relish blood's taste and you'll enjoy this. You'll like it always more and more... And that will be the end for every one that opposes me". They don't think this will ever happen but still this speech doesn't sound good.
The following morning, they're reflecting about what he said.
"You think he was lying? Or he actually wants to turn us evil?" Ariane asks.
"I think he's convinced he will success in it. But I also believe we're too, well, good and kind for that. We mistakenly refused our powers just because our tries to save people miserably failed... I can't think of the two of us killing people just for pleasure"
"Yeah, you're right..." she whispers. Few minutes later, two guards come to take them. They chain their wrists and take them out. They look at each other, not knowing what to expect. The guards lead them to a kind of study or laboratory, full of shelves with books of every kind. They look around, fascinated. It's a big room with wide windows, opened on the town below. They're in a hill so they can see everything around. The room is fully illuminated and there are wide wooden tables. The guards lock their chains to some metal rings in one desk and leave them there. This place, in a different situation, it could be their heaven, but not now. And they don't get why they left them there, without explaining anything. They look around then, they can walk for a bit but when they try to reach the window, they get pulled back by the chains. They sit and wait. After few minutes the witch arrives. They look at him, without moving a finger.
"Perfect, you're here" he says, taking some books from the shelves. "Now you can start. There are some things you have to do" he explains, listing different spells they have to try.
"What are they for?" asks Bruce.
"You'll see when you manage. You don't need to know before"
"This is not how it works" Ariane says.
"Exactly, this is not. Because you don't have the right of speech about it. You do that or I'll go for the bad ways". The magicians are forced to accomplish his will though they look at all the books he's opening in front of them and they think that's too much.
"These are too many, Bruce. We can't do this" she says after the witch left.
"Yeah, I know, we'll probably faint before." he says looking down at them "but we have to start at least. I know, I don't like it too" he adds, sighing. So they start the spells, one by one, they can't do anything else. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.
"That's a complete bullshit!" comments Bruce, reading one. Ariane looks at him and then carries on with her ones. Even if the spells work, they don't get what is their meaning, what does he want them for? They keep going for the whole day. When the guards come to take them at night they find them laying on the tables, an incredible bad smell all over the room and the books still open in front of them. They have to drag them to their cell because they don't wake up. In the middle of the night, Bruce starts having some strange dreams. It's not clear, just some confused figures. He moves, he turns to every side, he starts sweating and suddenly he wakes up. He instinctively sits on his bed, catching his breath and looking around. He can see Ariane in the bed next to his and the light of the Moon coming from the window. He wipes out his sweat and tries to calm down. He breathes, holding his head in his hands, still trembling a bit. But his dream, or vision, whatever it was, it was so confused he couldn't get anything. Maybe he was too tired, maybe this was just an effect of those spells. When he's calm enough, he lays down again, staring at his sister in magic: how he wishes they were free out there... And now, they don't even know where to start. Slowly, he closes his eyes and falls asleep again.
The next day, they come to take them and rudely pull them off their beds. They didn't recover completely from the previous day so they can't do much. The witch doesn't want to hear excuses, they have to carry on. And so they do, for the whole day and again they fall unconscious. This happens every day now, the two magicians are exhausted. They shouldn't practice that much, not only because it takes all their energy but because their powers can overtake them, take control, like the Magus warned them. They're unable to do anything for some days, so they just stay in their cell, sometimes talking, or sleeping or just doing nothing. After some days, the witch comes to their cell.
"I need one of you, who wants to come?", no one answers. "Ok, I'll choose"
"Ok, I'll come" says Bruce, before he can speak.
"Oh, good, what a gentleman. Get up and follow me" he says leaving the cell. Ariane looks at Bruce, leaving it with him, and doesn't say a word.
"Where are we going? What do you want?" Bruce asks.
"Don't worry, you'll see". The witch and Bruce get in a carriage that takes them down the hill. Once there, they stop in the main square: it seems an execution is going on here.
"Put on your hood"
"Because I told you! You two should stop asking questions". Bruce puts on his black hood, looking suspicious. They get down.
"You see that man? Kill him"
"What? No! I don't kill people!"
"Now you do. You're my personal executioner today. And you don't make questions. That man is a thief, he deserves this, kill him". Bruce tries to resist, this is even too much, the spell is particularly strong. The man is tied up, kneeling down in front of them, people all around watching them. Bruce doesn't want to kill him but he feels the instinct to raise his arm against him. He breathes, closes his eyes, that gets worse.
"Kill him! I order you!" the witch shouts at him. Therefore, Bruce raises his hand and tries to give him the slowest death. He takes his breathe, with closed eyes. After few seconds, the man falls down, dead. Bruce opens his eyes and sees him, there. He stares at him, scared of what he did, what is happening and worried. The witch drags him back to the carriage.
"That was good, but not enough" he says. "this was your first time, you can always improve. You have to be more bloody, slower... You have to feel it, did you feel it? That lust, inside of you... That feeling that pushes you to do your best. Yeah, that one, I know you did. You're gonna love it". Bruce stays with his head down, still the hood in his head. He still can't believe it. They take him back to his cell. They open the door and close it again behind him. He sits and stays still in his bed.
"Hey, Bruce, what happened?" she asks. Seen that he doesn't answer, she goes to him, sits next to him and takes down his hood.
"Hey? Bruce? Talk to me". He looks at her with sadness in his eyes and soon looks down.
"I know what's his plan. About how forcing us to kill people". She looks at him but doesn't understand, she caresses his hair behind his ear.
"He's going to use us, as executioners. He made me kill a man, just now" he reveals, slowly. "I tried to avoid it, but it... It was too strong, I couldn't...". She's a bit surprised and can perceive his real sorrow. She can't say everything will be alright, no one believes it. She just caresses his head, showing her closeness to him.
Time passes, they keep living like this, making spells for the whole day, killing people during executions. Now they're PanStarrs' personal executioners, people is scared of them, they only see them with their black outfits, only during executions. They get taken down the hill, they kill the criminal (who knows if they were really criminals though) and then get up the hill again. They just look like two powerful, bloody source of evil and people believe it. But they don't, they're forced, they don't want to kill anyone and what they're doing just increases the heavy burden they bring in their hearts. They can't rebel, they can't put up a fight because they're ordered to obey. They feel worse every day, they're losing their hopes to get free one day, they can just feel the bloody instinct inside of them. The witch incites always less during executions. They just do what they have to, without thinking twice, most of the times. They're using their powers continuously, they can feel each other always less, their powers are suffering. They're bound, they're only one thing but they can't perceive each other's feelings like they did before. They're getting tired and though they're strong, their powers are a mess. They just want to quit everything. One day, they're taken in the study, where PanStarrs is waiting for them.
"We're starting another exercise today. You improved a lot since the beginning. I think about the executions: you're going ahead on your own. But you still need something. I'm sure you have a lot of fantasy, but you have to apply it. You have to be... bloody, you have to torture them, you have to see terror in their eyes". Bruce and Ariane stare at him. In all this time, they never got afraid of him, they still look at him with a challenging stare.
"And that's what you're going to do today: you're gonna practice your torture abilities. I'll also give you some things to try"
"What? Torture?" comments Bruce.
"Absolutely. We're going to the prison, I need some information. And you'll start your new course" the witch says, proudly.
"No! We kill people, ok! We became executioners, but why torturing people?" Bruce says, angrily.
"Because I want it" he says, menacingly, getting up and coming in front of them. "I know what's better for you, you still have to develop your bloodlust. Trust me, this will work". Bruce stares at him directly in his eyes.
"And there's one other thing you have to learn: silence!!" he shouts at him, while heavily hitting him on his face. Bruce leans down on the table where they're chained, bleeding from his mouth. Ariane is behind him and looks at the scene, worried. The witch gets out the room ordering them to follow him. Bruce gets up and turns to Ariane. She, caringly, takes a look at his wound and puts her hand on his mouth to cure him.
"No, don't do that" he stops her. "We're already using our powers too much. Avoid what's not important" he explains.
They get into the prison. The small cells are full of prisoners, of every kind: men, women, children. They look scared at the witch but even more scared at the magicians. Bruce and Ariane feel bad for this. They're not what they think, what they seem. They look around in that freezing place. Rats quickly run all around, people with nothing to eat and left in their dirt are locked inside the cells, looking down as they pass, maybe they can kill you with their evil stare, they think.
"All of them are from different castles" PanStarrs explains. "They're all from enemy's town: important people, like princesses, children of important officials, even a queen. But also normal people, the ones that actually know the place, who can give the best information". Bruce and Ariane now get why he abducted all those people form Charon's castle and even his daughter: he's searching for information about enemies and plans to blackmail them with hostages they care of. What an awful plan. But still it's not clear what he wants. He stops in front of a cell and pulls a man out of it. He screams and asks forgiveness. Bruce and Ariane, scared by their task, stare at him, standing back. The other prisoners shout and cry with fear, while PanStarrs closes the gate.
"Come with me, Bruce and Ariane", two names that sound like an echo of death. They follow him in a separate room, a little one actually full of torture instruments. But they won't use any of them. The witch chains the man to the floor, he's so weak and psychically damaged he doesn't even react. He just screams and asks to be saved. Asks to be spared.
"Ladies first, right?" the witch tells, looking at Ariane. She doesn't move, she just looks around.
"Come on, beautiful. Come here and show me what you can do" he orders her. She has to obey and gets closer. Bruce stands behind, observing the scene with pain.
"Now man, I'll ask you some things. If you don't answer correctly, she will take care of you" he says looking at her from head to feet. She surely doesn't look like a menacing creature, she has the beauty of a doll. But the man in front of her, looks at her with terror, like she was the devil.
"Please, I don't know anything!" the man says.
"We'll see that. Tell me, you come from...?"
"Tempel-Tuttle..." the man answers. Bruce and Ariane get a shiver: that town is next to the late Villa. PanStarrs really reached everywhere seen that they're pretty far from there.
"Mmm, tell me now: who reigns there?"
"The Queen, Tethys" he says, scared.
"Queen, eh? That's going to be fun... How is her army?"
"I don't know, please..."
"Ah-ah, that's not good..."
"I swear, I don't know it!"
"Ariane, your turn". She looks at him, but doesn't know what to do.
"Ariane?" the man asks. "Ariane ********? Rector of Villa?" he asks surprised. Ariane is even more surprised, and scared: no one who has ever known her, saw what she has become.
"And you're Bruce then?" the man says looking at him. "I know you! Everyone does in Tempel! We thought you died in the fire! What are you doing here?" he asks, with a brave act.
"Hey, I make the questions here" PanStarrs stops him. "Ariane! Do what I told you!"
"Please, no..." she mumbles.
"Ariane!!" he shouts at her. She feels his yell in her blood, closes her eyes. She already knows how it feels, she already killed people for him. But torture, is a different thing... She wants to avoid it but she can't. It seems something is pulling her. She tries to focus but her arm goes on its own.
"Wait, wait! What are you doing?!" the man asks. She doesn't open her eyes, but raises her arm against him. The man starts catching his breath, she doesn't make a move.
"Please, please, I can't breathe!"
"Stop, Ariane" PanStarrs says. Ariane instantly stops and opens her eyes, scared. It seems she's possessed by something. The man, trying to breathe on the floor, looks at her with hate but notices her fear and doesn't get the meaning.
"There are some secret ways to reach the castle? Which is the shortest way?"
"I don't know, I don't even know where I am now!"
"Give me information about her! What are the main resources of the castle? Is it in a good position to attack?" the witch insists.
"I'm not a commander, I don't know what it means! Please!"
"Ariane". She takes a breath and starts again.
"What's this? What's this?! You can do better!!" the witch shouts at her. The man slowly suffocates and with the little voice he has he begs her to save his life.
"Can you feel it? Can you? That will of blood that you feel now... Let it be your guide! Be creative!" he incites her. She tries to ignore him but he's right. She can feel it, she would tear off his throat if the human part of her didn't stop her. She breathes, rapidly, she's fighting inside not to let it win. For a moment she stops, exhausted by this fight and catches her breath.
"What are you doing? Why did you stop?! Carry on! You have to harm him! He won't talk! You have the power, you decide of his life and pain! You can inflict pain, do that!"
"What have you become? You were known for your kindness and justice, for the righteous attitude and justice of your acts... What made you this way?" the man says in that moment of rest, with a desperate tone. Those words feel like knives in her heart, that's exactly what she didn't want to hear. She looks at him with tears in her eyes, he just begs her to stop.
"Woman! I order you to kill him! Do that! And make him suffer!!" he orders, while violently smacking her face.
"You don't move! Don't you dare to make a step" the witch says to Bruce, observing the scene from behind and getting mad for the way he treats his girl. She's almost bursting out in tears. The man implores her, the witch insults her and hits her. She wants to stop but she can't, she needs to kill or she will explode. Maybe if she does it fast, everything will just pass. She rises her hand and slowly starts again.
"Be creative! Think of all the pain you felt and you feel! What makes you feel better? You know what! What's bad in trying to feel good?!" PanStarrs keeps saying. She feels she's going to give up. All that pain, and anger she has... She stops fighting but starts crying. With her mind, directly looking at him, she starts cutting and tearing off his skin. Blood splashes everywhere, the man screams terribly, rolling on the floor with pain. She looks at him, keeping going with her torture, tears getting down her eyes. Bruce looks shocked at all this. The witch is enthusiast and finally sees what he wants. After some minutes of ears-piercing screams, the man dies and just something unrecognizable remains of him on the floor. Ariane falls down on her knees, crying and covering her eyes.
"Yes! That's what I want! That's a good start! You see? You have it in your veins! You just need to release it! You have talent! This is going to be perfect". She doesn't mind of anything, she just keeps crying. Bruce is frozen after what happened but seeing her in that way, he goes to her and tries to calm her down.
"Hey, Ary, hey... Look at me, look at me...". She raises her eyes to him, the most painful stare he has ever seen. He feels horribly just looking through her eyes.
"It's over... It's over, baby... It's over..." he keeps telling her.
Days pass, and their situation doesn't change. They feel like the most horrible persons in the world. All that they did... Forced yeah, but they did it. They have an infinite hate toward who made this to them, they still try to rebel to what he orders, but they have to give up at the end. It's already an exception, the possibility they have to discuss. Maybe because they're stronger than the others. When he has enough, PanStarrs beats them up, it's the only way he can use and in some way he tries to scare them, because they're not afraid of him. They hate him but they're not afraid. And he needs them to stay under all his orders and conditions like a pet with its owner. One night, Bruce comes back to their cell after separated tasks. The heavy door opens and he gets in. The guards unchain him and then close the door again. Ariane is curled up in the corner of her bed and jumps on it when the door opens. She was desperately crying but stopped with fear when Bruce got in. Her eyes are full of tears and she can't withhold them anymore. She silently starts crying again. Bruce is going to his bed when he notices her.
"Hey? What happened? Why are you crying?" he asks. She just shakes her head and keeps crying. He therefore sits next to her and sweetly asks again.
"Why are you crying?"
"Nothing" she replies, sobbing.
"Don't lie to me" he says.
"And you don't use your powers with me" she says looking at him. Her eyes are red because of tears.
"I can't control it, you know that. And I wasn't using them, I don't need them with you, you're like an open book with me. I know my little sister" he says smiling, hoping she will smile back. She just shakes her head, crying and catching her tears on the cheek, repeating nothing happened, more to convince herself than him. When she takes her hand to the cheek, the sleeve slips down and Bruce can see the marks on her arm. He grabs it quickly while she tries to take it back.
"No, no..." she says. But he's stronger than her and keeps her arm in his hand. Worried and angry, he pulls up the whole sleeve: her arm is completely covered with those marks, the sign of ropes tightly tied at her wrists and violet bruises everywhere. He can see the same sign on her left arm too.
"Who made you this?" he says, angry and offended too. She looks down.
"He..." she answers, and that's enough for him to understand. While she talks, he looks at her and checks everything else is ok. Doing this he finds a big red torture mark, partially hidden by the neckline. He pulls her dress down for a bit, to see it better. She tries to stop him, looking confused.
"What did he do to you? And don't lie" he says, holding her wrists. She doesn't say a word, she just bursts out in tears, terribly crying. Bruce looks so sad and pissed off at the same time.
"When... when did this happen?"
"Not so long ago... Half an hour maybe" she replies, among sobs. He's getting worried and seeing her feeling so bad, he hugs her tight. She keeps crying and sobbing on his shoulder while he holds her head.
"I'm sorry... I'm... That asshole! He's a dead man, I swear! I can assure you!" he says almost crying and cursing louder. He hugs her as tight as he can.
"After a while he called you for... your personal task, he came back asking me to try other spells" she suddenly starts explaining, still crying and sobbing. "I felt really bad, I was going to faint and I said no. Therefore he said we still have to learn obedience and he knew how to deal with it. He tied my wrist and took me down in the torture chamber..." she carries on. Her speech is so painful for him too.
"Ssh... Ssh... Don't think about it anymore" he says. "I'm here now, that's what counts", he tries to calm her down. But he's worried too, not only for what happened but for what didn't happen. With such pain and fear from her, how couldn't he feel anything? Even when he's busy or distracted, even when they stopped using magic, he could feel her perfectly. But now, nothing. Maybe they're practicing too much and they're starting to leave behind their human side. And that's not a good sign. It's night and when Ariane is calm enough, Bruce tries to convince her to sleep a bit, wiping her tears from the face.
"No, wait, where are you going? Don't leave me..." she comments seeing him getting up. She needs him a bit more and that won't harm him. So he stays with her, sitting in her bed, making her fall asleep on his shoulder.
Few hours later, in the middle of the night, they're sleeping in her bed, in the same position but laying down, after having slipped down. Suddenly, Bruce has another one of his weird dreams. His breath speeds up, he quickly moves his closed eyes and agitates a bit. He starts sweating and trembling and uttering some complaints of pain. Ariane, laying next to him wakes up and turns on one side. He sweats even more, breathes more difficult and shakes his head as if he's trying to get rid of a bad dream. She knows what's happening and that he won't hear her but she looks at him, caresses his forehead and calls him softly.
"Bruce... Bru..." she says. After some minutes, he opens his eyes and wakes up, heavily breathing.
"Bruce! One of your visions?" she asks. He looks at her, trembling and nods, turning on one side too.
"What did you see? You understood it?"
"Yes, I think" he says, looking a bit scared. "I saw... We were running, we were escaping I guess. PanStarrs and his soldiers were shooting arrows at us"
"Are you sure it wasn't when he got us?"
"No, no, we were dressed differently. And I never see the past" he tells, calming down.
"Ok, then. That means we can escape. But how?"
"I don't know that. I don't know when this can happen. But yeah, we can escape"
"But we're chained, it's impossible"
"Maybe it's not. Maybe we still have a chance. If there is even just a little possibility, I promise I will take you out of here". She looks down.
"We'll think about it tomorrow, we'll search something in the books. We'll find a way" he says, posing his hand on her arm. "Go back to sleep now. We still have hope". She turns around, taking Bruce's hand in her hands, on her stomach.
The next morning, they don't wake up in time because Sun doesn't beat on her bed so they get a little surprise when guards yell at them. Though a bit embarrassed, they don't mind because they're somewhat happier today. They're taken in the studio and when they're alone, secretly they start consulting the books, searching for some spell or information that can help them. For the books they can't reach, they use their telekinesis and they find strange the fact they're actually free to do that. They have to keep it secret or a direct order can prevent them to carry on their search. They don't find anything useful, but they don't give up: Bruce's visions never lied. It can take a lot though, and they're forced to accomplish their duties too in the meanwhile. They still execute people, they still torture them for information. Their double nature is stronger than ever. When they're in front of those people they're different persons, every time they care less of what they do. They have to hurry up before it's too late. They don't want to give up on their freedom but they can't deny what they feel when they torture. In fact, they've always been sensitive to go dark under a big power. And using their magic so much doesn't help them in resting and preserving their forces for their fight. But days pass and they don't find anything. Maybe that vision was tricky, maybe just a remake of their previous flight, ended up with them chained. That is the only hint they have, and the other hints can just come in the same way. They were in the studio, the witch came to order some spells. They try to oppose the least possible, after what happened. She's still afraid of him, she feels sure when Bruce is with her, and he hates leaving her, but in any case the witch's power over them is strong and he can do whatever thing. PanStarrs is talking to them when Bruce starts having headaches. He tries to hide it but he knows he can't do that for so long. They managed to keep secret their new powers, those they got after the fight with Ammit and therefore PanStarrs is not aware of them. If he discovers it, he will just get worse, knowing the huge source of power they are. But the headaches get stronger and stronger... Ariane notices it and just tries to distract the witch. But Bruce falls down on the floor, and their secret is almost revealed.
"What's wrong with him now?" the witch asks, annoyed.
"Bruce! Bruce!" she calls him, pretending to be more worried than she actually is. She makes him sit on the floor. She talks to him but obviously he can't hear because he's not psychically here. But she's pretending.
"See? See what you did?" she says, worried, to the witch. "This is what happens when we use our powers too much! He needs a rest or it can be too late!" she shouts. Sweat drops are running down his forehead and she wipes them out, keeping his head up. After some moments he comes back, opens his eyes and with a trembling hand he grabs Ariane's arm, not caring of the witch watching them for the whole time.
"Bruce... All ok?"
"Yes, yes... I'm fine" he says, throwing a glance at PanStarrs, suspiciously looking at him.
"Go back to your work. Now!" he orders and goes away.
"He didn't... He didn't understand anything?" Bruce asks surprised.
"No. I managed to trick him" Ariane says smiling proudly.
"Good girl" he replies, giving her a little smack in her cheek and getting up.
"So, what did you see?"
"I saw again that scene but I got another particular: we had two identical bracelets, with a charm on them. It was a tortoise, made of a black stone, I don't remember which stone"
"Black stone... Wait a minute... Black stones used in magic: onyx! It can be?"
"Oh, right, how could I forget you're a walking book! Yes, it can be". She smiles at him.
"We're getting closer" he adds "I don't know what it will need, but we're going there" Bruce says, a bit more relieved.
In the middle of the square, there's a kid, he can't be older than 8. The square is crowded, people are all around, some of them scream to save him because he's still young, some of them scream to kill him because he's already a thief. The kid is tied up to a stick and Bruce is standing in front of him: the decision is his. PanStarrs is next to him, sure of what his decision will be. Bruce takes some seconds but not to think twice: he raises his hand and kills the young boy. Bruce suddenly wakes up, all sweated and trembling, from head to feet. He looks around the cell, it's still night and Ariane seems to be sleeping quietly. It was another of his visions, but this time not about the spell. Bruce breathes and tries to calm down, his eyes wide open with terror and almost crying: he can't believe what he saw. He can't do that, he won't! Sitting on his bed, he runs his fingers through his hair, trying to convince himself he still has the power to decide his actions, not everything he sees has to happen, isn't it the meaning of his power? He won't kill that kid. But he actually doesn't believe it, it's just a matter of time and he will become that monster.
The next morning, Bruce and Ariane are searching in the study.
"Look, maybe I found something" Bruce says, reading in a book. "'The chain spell is made to govern one's will and freedom. It's particularly important when practiced on a magic creature and it gets called magical chain' " he reads, looking at her.
"A-ha, ok, carry on. Does it say how to remove it?"
"Let's see... 'it can be removed only by who made it' damn. But, wait... 'it can also be removed by another magician or just magic practitioner '. It's possible then!"
"But it doesn't say the chained magician can do that" Ariane comments.
"No, it doesn't specify it, but maybe it implies it"
"I'm not so sure... I mean, it's different, you need your will to do that..."
" '...for a magical chain, the spell can be broken by the magician himself if he's enough powerful to keep part of his own will' haha! That's it!" he interrupts her.
"Ha. Well, are we powerful enough?" she says, jokingly.
"You're kidding me? Sure we can do that. It says it needs a bit more power because it's an important spell"
"You're a Clairvoyant, you can do that"
"Yeah, true" he replies, still with his eyes on the book. "But there's a problem"
"We don't have the spell and that one page has been torn off the book, maybe by someone we both know"
"Damn. We should have expected it"
"Yes, probably. But we can still search in other books and take all the hints of my visions: we already know we need onyx"
"Yeah..." she says looking down, a bit mistrustful.
"Did you find it?"
"Yes, oh yes. You won't believe it, or probably you will. I found two stones, the only two actually. They were in the box with other things. And guess what? They have the shape of... Two tortoises!" she says showing them to him. "I love your powers, Bruce" she adds. He smiles. Suddenly the door opens, she hides the two stones and Bruce closes the book and hides it among others. It's PanStarrs who's searching for Bruce.
"Man, it's your turn. Come with me". Bruce has a bad feeling, he looks at Ariane, she looks at him. It's never good when they get called in this way.
Bruce and the witch get down to town. In a few minutes they're in the main square, people are crowding everywhere, like every time there's an execution. Bruce, with his hood up, walks among the people to reach the gallows. They move back with fear and shut up as he passes. He doesn't mind anymore, he got habit though he still hates it. Then, he waits there for the witch and the condemned to reach him. And his bad feeling had a correct meaning. Bruce finds in front of him the 8-year-old boy of his vision. He looks shocked and frozen at him, and PanStarrs, noticing it, smiles cunningly. His vision is getting real and if he wants to control his will, he has to do it now. But he knows it's not possible, the witch is here and just a direct order from him can force him to do whatever thing. People starts screaming and Bruce remembers every particular of his dream. He looks around, fear in his stare. The witch reads the sentence: condemned to death for robbing a shop at the town's market and running away from soldiers.
"Please! I had to! My family is poor, I was hungry, please sir! Please! Don't kill me!" the kid begs the witch.
"It's not me you have to beg, young boy" PanStarrs answers, pointing at Bruce. The kid swallows and then starts begging Bruce for his life. People screams, Bruce looks among them and thinks to see even the kid's mother and siblings crying, according to the pain he can read. He looks at the boy in his eyes, he's crying and imploring him, he can see terror in his eyes. But Bruce isn't sensitive to his prayers. He wanted to do the right thing, he wanted to change his actions, but that feeling left him and he's just focusing on the feeling inside. Killing people, the fresh blood running out their veins and bodies... Seeing them begging you, deciding for their lives... He lets it guide him and raises his hand towards him. The child is crying in front of him, he just stares at him with icy look, PanStarrs smiling happy and proud behind. What comes next is not good. The kid starts screaming in pain with blood leaking out his eyes. Bruce listens his yells with closed eyes and seems to enjoy it. His mother screams in pain, the crowd screams in terror, were they in favour or not to his death. The more he spends time torturing him, the more he feels that bloodlust he never understood before. One more time and it will be just better. One more time and for some seconds, that seem eternity to him, his soul fills with terrible bloody pleasure. But the screams stop: the kid has died and Bruce wasn't even aware. He opens his eyes and sees the kid laying down in a puddle of blood. For a second he sees his own reflection as a kid in the young boy: what did you do? Bruce comes back to his conscience, he looks at the poor kid, shocked and staggering. He can't hear anything, the scream of the crowd, the witch's voice. He can only hear his own heartbeat getting faster. He can't see anything around, it's all fuzzy except the red blood on the ground. The feeling he felt few seconds ago, comes back killing him from inside. Cold sweat drops come down his face, he wants to cry, scream, run somewhere, where no one knows him and he can't hurt anyone. But he just faints and falls to the ground.
"Bruce! Bruce! Wake up! Sweetie! Wake up!" Ariane says to him, shaking him. He's laying on his bed, in the cell, and she's kneeling next to him.
"Bruce! Bru! Wake up, man!" she says, slapping his face. He slowly wakes up and sees her face in front of him, his eyes slowly focusing on her.
"Bruce! Finally... I was getting worried... What happened?". He looks around to understand where they are and takes a deep breath. She waits for him to answer but he doesn't speak. She calls him again, confused. He looks at her, a teardrop falls down his eye.
"Bruce! Talk to me! What's wrong?!" she asks, caressing his face. He sits on the bed, looking down.
"We need to hurry... with the spell. I can't stand this anymore"
"Yeah, sure. But tell me everything"
"Yeah. Well, I'm... I don't know what I'm becoming. I just killed a kid without thinking twice, and I even enjoyed it. I don't know what happened, I just... felt the need to feel that sensation again. What are we?" he asks, destroyed by the pain, looking at her.
"Bruce... It's terrible, yeah... But you were forced, it's not you..." she says, sad.
"No, no, it was me, I wasn't forced, I even had the possibility to choose, and I chose to kill him, just for the pleasure. Seeing all that blood flowing everywhere..."
"But, we're still chained, the spell is still active"
"But I wanted to kill him!" Bruce says desperate. "He's changing us! He's managing to turn us evil... I don't want to..."
"Ok, ok, stay calm. I see what you're saying, I can't say I don't feel the same... But we'll find a way, ok? We first need to get free and then we can think about how to control ourselves"
"You're always so optimistic... I can just see him using us as his pets, just like he did with that monster, and I don't know if there's any difference..."
"What are you saying? We're not monsters! We're just... Forced. He's playing with us, he's trying to drug us in some way. We just need..."
"He's stimulating our dark side, we always had it. Think of what happened in Mira, or what we did to come back to Villa. We killed a whole army in few seconds. Think of Betelgeuse and Antares, when we met them. They almost killed us to get what they wanted. These hints have a clear meaning now. We are inclined to evil and now we're losing control..."
"Remember what the Magus said, we have to fight, never give up. They want us because we're strong, they want our power, we can't let them have it. We should have overcome difficult trials, he said. That's it, we have to win this and don't mix what we want with what we get, or we are forced to do"
"Yours are really wonderful words, but I can't believe in it. I'm turning into something I never wanted to be, something I fought against and I don't have the power to change it. It's like I'm just watching my life and someone else is living it, is driving my body and conscience to the worst. Reality is he's winning, we're losing our human side, I can't even feel what you feel anymore and I'm sure it's the same with you" he says looking at her eyes, she looks down. "I wonder what we'll be when we get free. I don't think things will change because it's part of me, of us. We'll bring this mark forever. There's nothing worse than watching yourself acting horribly and not being able to do anything"
"Bruce, listen to me. I get you're shocked for what happened but we'll work on this, ok? Because I'm sure you didn't want to kill that kid, like everyone else. And that's true for me too. This is not us, what we are. PanStarrs can do whatever he wants, beating us, torturing us, forcing us but he can't change what we really are..."
"In fact he's not..."
"Bruce! Listen to me! Believe me! Like you always did. We are not evil. Think of all we did in those three years! I know we're acting different now and I hate that too, but we can still fight. Don't give up now that we're getting closer. Don't let him win. Because remember, we're stronger. He can win only if we allow him to". He looks at her and takes a breathe. She has her hands on his shoulders, keeping him against the wall. She moves one hand over his heart, his heartbeat is slowing down, he closes his eyes.
"Ok, now you're doing good" she says.
"Ariane! Ariane! Wake up!" Bruce whispers enthusiastically at her ear. One week passed and it's night. Ariane is sleeping when Bruce calls and shakes her. She wakes up looking upset at him.
"What? Bruce? Why did you wake me up in the middle of the night?" she asks, sleepy.
"I need to talk with you" he replies. She notices he's shaking and sweated.
"Another vision?" she asks, turning to him and sitting in the bed. He takes down her legs and sits next to her.
"Yeah. And now I know what I have to do, with the spell" he says proudly. She looks surprised at him.
"You do? Really?!"
"Yes. I saw everything"
"Ok, what are you waiting for? Talk, tell me everything". Bruce explains every particular and the next day, in the study, they search every ingredient they need.
"We already have the onyx, now we need laurel, star anise, St. John's Wort and well, a lemon and an apple" Bruce says.
"Yeah, I found the first two here..." Ariane says looking inside a box. Everything is getting ready. If nothing prevents them to do that, they will practice the spell tonight.
"So you say the apple and St. John's Wort have the meaning of freedom?" Ariane asks.
"Yes, a kind of. The second is to remove a burden, an oppression. And the apple is, yes, for freedom and for free knowledge"
"Ah, now I get it... Yes, it makes sense. Laurel and lemon to purify and star anise to protect"
"And for friendship"
"Yes, our friendship. I want you to be a part of me like you were before, and me a part of you. And laurel is for clairvoyance too" he explains, proud of his teaching to her.
"Oh... Ok, little alchemist, I trust you" she says smiling. They hide all those things in their clothes when it's evening, so they can take them to their cell. At night, when no one can hear them, they try their spell. They sit on the floor, in front of each other.
"Are you ready to return free?" Bruce asks her.
"Yes, obviously I am. I've been waiting for this for the last few months". Bruce smiles.
"Ok, then. I have a strange request. I need the lace of your dress, or a part of it at least"
"I need it for the bracelets. Oh, don't worry, you have enough of it in your dress". She looks at him suspicious.
"This is not one of your jokes, right?" she asks.
"Absolutely not. I wouldn't joke on it"
"Ok, then...". She unties the black lace of her dress and gives it to him, holding her dress up with the other hand. Bruce cuts with his hands two parts of the lace of the dimension of their wrists.
"Do you want it back? You want me to tie it up?" he says smiling.
"Now, that's one of your jokes" she says, observing every move he does.
"No, I like to untie them, not to tie them up" he answers, laughing a bit. She can't help laughing and takes the lace from his hand. While she fixes her dress, Bruce crosses one part of the black lace with a thin St. John's Wort root and then ties the onyx tortoise on the two bracelets. Then he puts the lemon juice on a bowl and the two tortoises inside of it. In another plate he burns laurel's leaves, to start the spell. Now he's serious again.
"Are you ready, Bru?"
"Yes. I'll start" he says, focusing. He pronounces some strange words, only the two of them can understand. He takes St. John's Wort leaves and burns them in the plate, then he takes the star anise, crushes its seeds and puts some of them in the plate. The others, he blows them to Ariane, who looks at him curious. He says some other few words and spread some of those ashes on the bracelets. He cuts the apple and eats a slice, offering another one to Ariane. Then with his hand he lights a fire on the plate. After few seconds, the flame gets blue, enlightens the cell and then extinguishes. As it vanishes, a metallic click can be heard: the chains broke. Bruce takes the bracelets out the lemon and dries them.
"Ok, this is it, we're free" he says, smiling.
"Just this? No fainting, no thunderstorms, no earthquakes?" she jokes. "Beautiful!". He smiles and takes her arm.
"This is to always keep our freedom and never let anyone else command our will" he says, tying the lace to her wrists.
"Do and say the same thing" he says. She repeats his sentence while putting the bracelets to his wrists.
"Ok, now you can kiss me" he jokes, smiling.
"Shut up, idiot" she replies, laughing.
"Well, at least I tried" he adds.
After getting free again, they feel the strong need to rest a bit. But it can take a while, so they decide to pretend being still chained while they're not, in fact, they know so well how to act it. For two days they carry on their charade, hiding their bracelets under the sleeves and not actually practicing the spells PanStarrs asks. They need to rest their powers after all these months.
"Bruce, how do you feel? Because I'm still tired, I'm not at my best yet" she says the third morning, after they wake up.
"Yeah, me too. I think it will take a while to recover. We should try to escape even if we're not at our best"
"Mmm, I guess so... We're not chained, we just pretend but we've been lucky he didn't ask any killing in these two days. Or it would be terrible for us"
"Yeah, I wouldn't ever forgive myself. We're already in a difficult and complex situation..."
"Yes. Outside of here, we should just try to get over it. Don't look at me like that, I know it's difficult but is the only way"
"Yes, you're right"
"So? We try the escape? When? As soon as possible I guess..."
"I was thinking tonight"
"But we have to organize it perfectly. As far as I've seen, we were attacked during the escape, the witch somehow found it out so we need to be careful and plan everything perfectly. I didn't see how it ended"
"Oh, thank you, now I'm really in a good mood"
"It's the truth"
"I know. Ok. Tonight. Are we strong enough?"
"I hope so. Or at least, stronger than him"
"Yeah, that's right. You are the Clairvoyant but I foresee an eventful night".
Therefore, that night they come back to their cell, wishing those will be the last minutes spent in there. They get in and quietly wait for the guards to fasten the lock. They sit in their beds, in front of each others, looking around as to fix this last image in their minds. After some minutes, Bruce stands up and looks outside the window: it's dark already and there's an almost full Moon behind the clouds. People should already be in their houses.
"I'd say it's time" says Bruce turning around to Ariane. She looks at him, a bit nervous, a bit scared. He comes to take her and pulls her up.
"Don't worry, we have a good plan. At least we'll be out of here" he says holding her hands.
"I'm just a bit anxious... We have to act perfectly"
"Yes. But we can do that. For whatever reason, you just follow me" he says smiling. They put up their hoods so in the dark they will be less visible. Bruce goes toward the door taking Ariane after him. Her heartbeat quickly speeds up and she can feel the huge increase of adrenaline in her blood. But they're getting out of that terrible place who caused her and him so many sufferings. Bruce puts a hand in the direction of the lock and telekinetically forces it. The heavy door's hinges softly creak. Bruce puts his head out: the corridor is empty and dark with just some torches on the wall. He makes a gesture and Ariane follows him out and closes the door. With soft steps, they walk down the corridor, always looking behind and in front of them. They open another secondary door and they get into the secret passage of the tower who leads out. They descend a column of stairs and at the end of it, they're out of the main tower. Now they need to get down the hill. They can't use a carriage because someone can see or hear them so they choose the less crowded side of the tower and walk down. Walking fast but not running, not to make any noise. With great surprise, they get down without anyone noticing their absence or their flight. But once they're in the town they can't go around dressed like this: everyone knows and is afraid of them, but maybe in a different outfit they won't recognize them. Put down the hood, they silently and cautiously walk through secondary roads, searching someone to who they can steal their clothes. Such a genius plan. After some turns, they find a man, getting home. With the knowledge they got, with a spell, practiced by Bruce, they make the man faint. After that, they get close and takes his clothes, which Bruce soon puts up, hiding his old dress somewhere in the road. Few roads away, a woman is getting out of a bar. Same trick and they get new clothes for Ariane. Now they're dressed with popular clothes and look like normal subjects. Ariane looks at her clothes and suddenly remembers of her life in her hometown, the last time she was dressed like this was few years ago, when the four craziest years of her life began. Bruce never dressed in this way but he doesn't mind that much. But they don't know this town and now have to find the way out. Roads are not so crowded, that means there is less probability someone will recognize them but also means they are more visible. With the less suspicious attitude, they roam in the streets but it seems a labyrinth, every road is identical to the other. They arrive in the main square, that square they know so well. There's more people here and they slow down the pace. Then, horses' footsteps get closer from an unknown direction. Maybe PanStarrs found out about their escape and is now searching the whole town.
"Bruce, where do they come from?" Ariane asks, worried, grabbing his hand.
"I can't understand it..." he says, observing all around. Then he drags her in a dark corner and pushes her to the wall. Suddenly he grabs her cheeks and kisses her, or better he pretends to. But his hair slips down covering her face and therefore hiding him too.
"Bruce...?" she murmurs, surprised and confused, afraid of moving her lips not to actually kiss him.
"Play my game" he whispers her. Behind them, a long line of horsemen runs fast and passes straight, ignoring them. When they're far Bruce leaves her and moves back. She looks around, a bit embarrassed.
"Ok, warn me next time, Bruce"
"Next time? You want a next time?" he replies, smiling playfully. She looks at him confused.
"Wha... What? No, I mean... You know what I mean" she says.
"Yes, you've always been secretly in love with me. Come on secret lover, we have to move" he says jokingly, dragging her behind him.
"Secretly in love? No!" she comments. With a struck of luck, they find the town's gates.
"Bruce, Bruce... We're there" she says, almost in a heavenly condition. They hurry up their pace to the gate when they hear yells behind him.
"They're escaping! They're at the doors! Close the gates! Close the gates!". Behind them, the soldiers are coming on their horses. The plan is revealed therefore they start running as fast as they can.
"Come on girl! Run!" Bruce shouts at her.
"I'm here!" she replies. The gates are getting down but Bruce and Ariane slip under it and get to the other side before they come down. As the heavy metal gate falls down with a big hit, blocking the troops inside, Bruce and Ariane take a deep breath, panting a bit. But it's not over. From the walls, archers start shooting arrows at them. Crossbows and balistas follow them. Bruce and Ariane restart their desperate run toward the outer forest. PanStarrs gets to the walls, yelling furiously because his creatures, now even more powerful and evil, escaped his prison. Once they reach a tree, Bruce and Ariane turns around: they can't just run. With their powers, they pull down archers from the wall, others get their eyes burned, some others other terrible deaths. The magicians are not chained anymore but the training to the evil is still fresh and they're applying all they learned. PanStarrs gets the problem soon and hides, in fact they can't find them, even if they're searching for him. They get a safe place behind the tree but anyway an arrow from a crossbow hits Bruce in his belly, getting through side to side. He falls down, his dress completely red with blood.
"Bruce! Bruce! Oh my God!" Ariane says. She kneels down to help him and soon sees his wound is pretty grave. He utters soft complaints of pain. She almost cries.
"Bruce, listen to me. Bruce! The wound... Is pretty bad but I can cure you, ok? But I need to do that in a safe place, we have to move, you understand?". He nods. "Ok, can you stand up? I know, it's difficult, but you have to do that, ok? You have to! Come on, lean on me!" she says helping him up. "Yes, good, good, you're doing good. Come on my boy, let's go". Slowly they walk among the trees, getting into the forest. Blood is staining Bruce's dress and the pain is getting unbearable. She can feel that too. When they're in enough, she leans him to a tree and helps him laying down.
"Ok warrior, now I have to extract the arrow. Are you ready?". He's all sweated and as pale as death, but he nods. Ariane gently but rapidly pulls off the long arrow from his body. He screams in pain.
"Calm, calm, one is done, the worst is over. I'll heal you now". She puts both of her hands on his wound and closes her eyes. With all her power, she's taking a bit to cure him, they weren't at their full. She focuses on him, he notices her difficulty so he joins his hands with hers. In a second, a white brilliant light spreads from her hands and the blood stops flowing. The wound is closed and Bruce catches his breath, relieved from the pain. Ariane, exhausted, falls down on him.
"Hey, hey! Get up! Come on!" Bruce says to her, pulling her up from his legs. He sits her again and holds her head up.
"Hey, look at me! Come on! Resist!" he repeats. She's powerless, she can't even take her eyes open.
"I'm sorry, you shouldn't have done it... Please, stay awake!" he adds, shaking her and eventually leaning her on the tree next to him. Carrying her even hurts his aching wound. She opens her eyes a bit a looks at him.
"I'm tired, Bruce..." she murmurs.
"I know. But I'm with you" he replies, touching her forehead, she's not too warm at least. "Don't strive too much, I feel good, you can use my energy to stay awake" he says, holding her hand.
"Ok" she replies softly, smiling.
"We're not completely rested, we can't strain too much. I won't ever let you do this again"
"You would have died" she slowly utters.
"No. Or probably yes... But doesn't matter, remember what the Magus said, you have to feel good"
"Yes, I know"
"And you did that in any case? Don't risk your life for me, girl"
"You were dying. And you know I would do everything for you"
"Oh, girl... That's why I love you but I don't want you to die for me. I know we're nothing alone but I need my half soul too" he says, smiling.
"And so you also know I'm very headstrong and I won't listen to this, right?"
"Yeah, I know. And I'm worried. Please, please, I'm serious, don't risk. There's no need. Think about it, ok?"
"Ok" she replies. She feels slightly better, at least she's not risking to lose consciousness at any moment. She looks around, they're inside the forest, high trees are everywhere and the castle is not visible anymore. It's night but probably PanStarrs will wait until early morning at least to search for them.
"How are you feeling now? Now that we're actually free?" she asks.
"Relieved. It's like I got drunk and had a terrible nightmare and now it's over. I can't understand if it was real or not, my mind is still a bit confused and fuzzy, though I perfectly know it was real. These months have been terrible". She looks down.
"What are your plans? Where should we go now?"
"Where no one knows us. We still need time. And peace. As you said, and I almost didn't believe you, we need to get over it. We need to learn how to control our, undeniable,... Dark side and get our human one back again. That sensation is overwhelming but we must control it. As soon as you get better, we should move and find a proper place".
Few hours later, before the sunrise, to avoid any other attack by the witch, that could mean their death, they decide to move. They don't have anything, and she can't walk yet. She's too weak but they risk more if they stay there. Therefore, Bruce takes her in his arms and starts walking. She holds to his neck, looking back at the road they traveled, sometimes falling asleep, sometimes braiding his hair. They still have a long road in front of them.
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