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Call a dog and they come, call
a cat and they take a message
and get back to you later.
Oldwrench, chat 13th Apr

 
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Chapter 4: Running With The Pack

That day seemed to creep by ever so slowly, hours seemed to be days on their own and minutes seemed to be hours. Aaron just couldn’t keep his head at classes. He’d finally done it… he’d finally talked to her, he finally asked her to come over.

Then after at long last the bell of the last period had chimed, Ed and his goons hadn’t even bothered him anymore. Maybe he was still out cold, Aaron smirked at the prospect.

He caught up with Sarah at the point they’d decided to meet, after the ‘incident’, as Aaron reffered to it in his mind.

Surprisingly Travis was also waiting there.

“Hey there… thought I’d accompany you to make sure that idiot won’t try anything” he said, smiling.

“Uhm… yeah… thanks” Aaron replied, slightly blushing, no one had offered to help him except for Mitchel, he felt uneasy at the idea that suddenly others cared for him… for HIM no less.

“So shall we?” Travis asked politely, bending stiffly at the waist. Actually… he had a lot in common with Mitchell.

Sarah and Aaron walked up front, Travis following shortly thereafter. Sarah, slightly blushing, sought for his hand with hers and held it gently. Aaron blushed and swallowed hard, he felt uneasy… again… or maybe still.

But he couldn’t let go of her hand, not even if he had wanted to, he just held on, clinged to it. Until they reached his home…well home was too good a word fur such a dump. The entrance looked even worse in the daylight and the outter view of the building could scare off most people, people with better places to live.

Sarah seemed reluctant to get inside, understandable Aaron thought to himself, understandable and predictable. He grinned slightly, but hid it again when he realised what he was doing. He escorted the both of them upstairs, Travis followed loyally, like a dog. Yet he didn’t seem the very least bit put off by the circumstances, in fact he just looked at it, expressionless… no more like he was contemplating, Aaron didn’t give it much thought. He didn’t really care for whatever Travis could be thinking, couldn’t care and wouldn’t care.

Aaron opened the door, it tended to get stuck, as it did now. Aaron gestured Sarah to enter, Travis followed her and immediately put the matrass back on the floor and made himself comfortable. Aaron was too baffled to say anything about it.

Instead he just got the only chair he had and offered it to Sarah, she declined though and took a seat next to Travis.

Aaron sat in the chair himself, he placed it backwards and let his arms rest on the back of the chair. Then… quiet… nothing, no conversation, no nothing.

“You two want a drink?” Aaron asked to break the void.

“Yes, please” Sarah said.

“Sure” Travis replied “what’ve you got?”

“Nothing much I’m afraid… I got” Aaron walked over to the fridge and had a quick look inside, pausing for a second “Coke, Juice, Jager and beer.”

“Beer, please” Travis said dryly.

Aaron didn’t answer for a second, instead he grabbed the carton of juice and smelled at it.

“On second thought… I don’t have juice” he said with a disgusted face. He chucked the carton in the garbage bin and opened a bottle of beer for Travis.

“A coke then please.”

Aaron opened the single cupboard that even had a door to open and got out the glass that seemed the cleanest and opened the tap, the water ran brown as usual, it’d take some time for it to get clear… or rather as clear as it was gonna get, he gave the glass a quick rinse and then filled it up with Coke.

He returned with the two beer and the coke and handed them to their recipients, he took a long gulp from his and nearly drained half the bottle in one go.

Then suddenly the door opened again and someone came in. Both Travis and Sarah were slightly amazed by the fact that someone just walked in and was now even rummaging in the fridge, but Aaron didn’t seem the slightest bit worried.

“Hey Mitch” he simply muttered.

“Hey man… who’re the strays?” Mitchel replied, victoriously grinning with his trophy, a beer, in hand.

“The girl’s Sarah, the guy’s Travis.”

“You two BOTH live here?” Travis suddenly intervened.

“Nah…” both Aaron and Mitchel said simultaneously, they grinned at each other, knowing how odd it must’ve looked to the ‘uninitiated’.

“I don’t live nowhere” Mitchel then replied.

“Hmm…” Travis’ answer was.

“What are you thinking of bro?” Sarah eyed him quizzically.

“So… you don’t live anywhere?” Travis asked, pointing at Mitchel.

“And you… live… in this… uhm… whatever it is” he then added towards Aaron, after Mitchel nodded.

“Seems so.”

“Tell me what you’re planning bro?” Sarah asked again.

“OK… hold your horses… first of all, why do you call him bro? You don’t look related in any way. Second of all what the fuck are you on about goth-guy?” Mitchel asked, slightly annoyed with the secrecy.

“Nothing… yet” Travis said, smirking slightly.

“Come on goth-boy, let us share in the laughter, because obviously it’s rather good” Mitchel went on, more determined than just before.

Sarah eyed Mitchel up, then did the same for Travis.

“Nah… can’t say anything yet. I need to check some shit out first.”

Travis, then prepared to rise.

“Well any of you got plans for dinner?” he asked, dusting his pants.

“No, why?” Aaron asked.

Mitchel simply replied by lifting an eyebrow and taking another gulp from his beer.

“Interested in joining me?”

 

The rest of the day seemed like a dream to both Aaron and Mitchel. Travis lived in one of the largest houses they’d ever seen. According to him it was left to him by his now dead parents, but far from being an empty, desolate place it was sort of like a orphanage.

 

"You know... this is probably one of the first times I've been in this room" Travis said after they'd settled down in a luxurious room, books piled up in large cases along 3 of the four walls, the door being in he fourth.

Aaron smirked slightly, dust covered most of the book's backs and he couldn't read any of the titles.

"Mind if I take a look?" he asked as he rose from his chair.

Travis lift his hand, gesturing 'go ahead'.

He walked to the case across the room and ran a finger over the tops of the books, stopping at a random one with a seemingly crimson cover. He wiped the dust off the back with his sleeve and tilted the book so he could see it's front.

Nothing, the cover was empty. Aaron was about to open it, when suddenly a short, sharp tap from the wooden door resonated into the room, he put the book back and looked at the door.

"Jeez, don't be so formal, get in already" Travis shouted, not even bothering to look at whoever might be entering.

Aaron saw a short guy walk in and it took him a while to recognise him, but as he turned Aaron's way, he knew for sure who the short guy was.

"Chris?"

"Aaron?" both Aaron and the short guy asked at the same time. Aaron realised he was looking at the class rep and clearly Chris had realised he was looking at Aaron.

"I was about to introduce the two of you to each other, but clearly you've already met", Travis said as he stood up and positioned himself somewhat in between the two, " know tell me... why'd you knock?"

Chris looked at Travis confused, not quite seeming to know what he talked about.

"You only knock when something shitty just happened, remember?" Travis said with a grin.

"He's here again..." Chris answered, looking from Travis to Aaron, worried.

"Shit!" Travis exclaimed and he balled his left hand to a fist.

He made his way out of the room with powerful strides, leaving the door open behind him.

Aaron, not knowing what else to do followed him, half-running to be able to keep up.

Travis, undisturbed, continued his way towards the opened double doors that functioned as the front door.

"What the hell do you want this time?" he bellowed down the hall, he blocked Aaron's view of the recipients.

Arriving near the recipients Travis stopped and now Aaron had clear view of who he'd been yelling at. A man, dressed in a black business suit, with accompanying suitcase stood inside, gazing around the hallway as if nothing was wrong.

"I asked you what the hell you were doing here" Travis shouted at the man.

The man still didn't reply.

"Listen to me, white-collar worker" Travis began again, pushing his index finger against the man's chest "I'm not going to go back there, not now, not tomorrow, not ever."

"I'm not here to tell you, you need to go back behind bars" the man said and quietly he added: "although you belong there."

"I'm here to check up on the financial situation of the structure and its management."

"Financial situation? My parents fucking left me a few billion, what do you expect of the financial situation?"

"Then that's clearly in order, but I still haven't seen anything of the management of this establishment" the man continued.

"You're talking to the management!" Travis bellowed.

Aaron just stood back, not knowing what to do, he started to feel angry, clearly Travis was defending something good here, whoever that deskworker was, he'd better not try to do any harm...

"Then I can clearly call it inadequate" the man said as calm as the rest.

Travis grabbed the man by the collar and lifted him with ease, clearly the man had now lost his calmness as a wet stain emerged in between his legs. Aaron couldn't see Travis' face right now, but he could imagine the strong features distorted in anger.

"NOW LISTEN TO ME, WHITE-COLLAR. MANAGEMENT IS ADEQUATE AND I'M NOT GONNA GIVE THIS PLACE UP" Travis shouted in the man's face, who dropped his suitcase and tried to wriggle from Travis' grasp.

"WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU EXPECT ME TO DO WITH THEM?" Travis continued, the man squealed.

Travis seemed to calm down and he dropped the man to the floor.

"I'm not letting them go back to those goddamn things you call parents... I won't" Travis said and he turned around.

Aaron's imagination wasn't far off from Travis' currently displayed emotion, but he seemed to have calmed down a little... So it would probably have been even worse.

Neither Aaron, nor Travis seemed to notice that the man had grabbed his suitcase and had run off again, literally.

Sarah and Chris hurried down the hallway towards them.

"What happened, we heard shouting" she asked concerned.

"Nothing" Travis exclaimed through gritted teeth.

Chris immediately backed off to let Travis through and with great strides Travis continued his way, up the stairs they had encountered two times now, once when going to the book-room and another when Aaron and Travis went back to the front door.

Travis walked up the stairs rapidly and took a right at the top, Aaron prepared to walk after him, but Sarah grabbed his arm.

“It’s better to leave him right now” she said, not looking at him.

“I can’t… I need to help him” he answered.

Sarah looked up at him with shimmering eyes, “please”, she pleaded him.

Aaron looked up the stairs one more time and then at her, the adrenaline from the previous experience were still in his veins and he was determined to go up there to Travis.

“You can scold me later” he said and he turned away, up the stairs and then to the right.

He found himself in a hallway, doors everywhere and suddenly everything began to spin.

Aaron grabbed his head and groaned, falling to his knees.

The world spun endlessly and it made him sick, round and round and round it went, walls, floor, ceiling, all blurring.

He closed his eyes and did his best to stay awake, when suddenly a pair of hands grabbed him by the shoulders and the pain brought him back to his senses. He followed the hands to the arms, the arms to the shoulders and the shoulders to the neck and… no… it couldn’t be… there was no face. No! That was impossible.

He closed his eyes and shook his head, slowly he reopened them, at last… there was a face.

“You okay” a familiar voice asked him, but his vision was still too blurry to see the details of the face.

“Yeah I’m fine” Aaron tried to say, but he seemed to stumble over his own words.

“Yeah I’m fine” he tried again, this time with more success.

“You don’t sound too convincing” the voice said again and Aaron felt himself being lift up and supported.

“I can walk on my own, you know.”

“Yeah, that’s what they all say.”

Aaron couldn’t even hear the floor boards squeak, he was either too numb or the floorboards were too good. He did hear the steps of the stairs creak, though, every single step they creaked.

“You people DO have couches here don’t you?” the voice asked again and Aaron slowly realised it had to be Michael supporting him.

“Yeah of course, over there” a worried, girl’s voice said, Sarah, he realised.

“What happened?” she asked after Michael had basically dropped Aaron on the couch.

“Low blood pressure, don’t take stress and shit too great” Aaron replied and he digged in his pocket, getting out a battered pack of cigarettes. He took one out and put it in his mouth, his dry lips stuck to the filter, like they always did and he took the cig out again to wet his lips and get the lighter from the pack as well. He put the cig back in his mouth and lit it, the sharp sensation caressed his tongue and filled his throat and lungs as he inhaled.

“Now to find an ash tray” he muttered under his breath as he let the cigarette dangle in between his fingers.

Michael threw half of a tin can towards Aaron and he could barely catch it with one hand.

“Thanks” he said and he tapped the end of his cigarette into the makeshift ash tray, the ashes floating on air, ever downwards.

“You’re welcome.”

“Uhm… Aaron…” Sarah began slowy, hesitating slightly.

Aaron looked at her, inhaling another time.

“Why do you smoke?” she asked, not exactly looking at him.

Aaron shrugged and blew out a cloud of smoke.

“It helps calm me down” he said, not exactly knowing what he was talking about himself.

“But it’s bad for you… it can kill you” she continued.

“We all die in the end, anyway” Aaron replied.

“But I don’t want you to smoke… it worries me” Sarah said as she looked at him directly, tears welling up in her eyes.

In response Aaron dropped the cigarette to the floor and stomped on it with his boot, then picked up the biggest remnants and deposited them in the tin can. After that he slowly got up and put the tin can aside.

He took a step towards Sarah and she had to look up slightly to look into his eyes. Aaron wrapped his arms around her and held her close to him, bringing his mouth to next to her ear.

“I’ll stop” he whispered “for you… just don’t cry, okay? It doesn’t suit you.”

She sniffed for a last time and Aaron let go of her. He wiped some of the tears from her face with his hand, as gently as he could.

“You two lovebirds hungry?” Mitchel interrupted them.

“’Cause this small fry’s said dinner’s ready, like 5 times already” he added, pointing at Chris.

Sarah looked at him uneasy and smiled.

”Yeah I am kinda hungry… where’s Travis?” she asked.

“Upstairs” Chris answered.

“I’ll get him” Sarah volunteered.

“I’ll come with you” Aaron said hastily as he took a step forward.

They went up the stairs hand in hand and passed the perfectly cleaned hallways with the perfect wooden doors, until they reached a door that seemed too out of place.

Sarah gave a short, sharp tap on the door and said: “dinner’s ready Travis, you coming?”

No response.

She tapped again and repeated her question.

“I don’t think this is working” Aaron said and he reached for the knob, preparing to open the door.

Sarah grabbed his wrist.

“Don’t… bro likes his privacy” she said, shaking her head.

“Okay” Aaron replied and he let go of the knob, she turned around and headed for the stairs again.

“I’ll be down in a sec” Aaron called after her as he reached for the knob again, twisted it and opened the black door. He stared into a seemingly speckless room, with white plaster on the wall and it seemed a little too bright for his eyes to handle. Yet as his eyes grew accustomed to the brightness he noticed that on the walls there were small, circular stains. 4 of them, a soft red, lined up together. And the mirror on the right-hand wall was shattered, reflecting the opposite wall in a prism-like way.

As he looked around more Aaron noticed that the seemingly empty room, except for the mirror and a snadbag hanging from the ceiling, was far from speckless. The plaster was cracked and crumbling on some places and the paint on the window sill was letting go of the rotten wood underneath.

Travis sat huddled in a corner, staring at a picture-sized scrap of paper.

“Aaron, what are you doing?” Sarah suddenly said from behind Aaron.

“Getting Travis” he answered dryly.

“You coming Travis?” he said to the huddled figure in the corner.

Travis looked up from his picture and stood up slowly.

“Yeah sure… what for?” he asked, kind of dazed.

“Dinner, maybe?”

“Yeah… I’ll be right there. Just need an aspirin” Travis said, looking at his ungloved left-hand, he repeatedly bent and stretched his fingers, grimacing every time.

“What’d you do to that hand of yours?” Aaron asked.

“Must’ve happened while punching that guy in the face or something” Travis asnwered as he shrugged and walked towards them.

But Aaron wasn’t referring to that, he was reffering to all the scars on the back of Travis’ hand. And as Travis came close enough he grabbed the hand, making Travis wince.

“I meant these” Aaron said, pointing at the scars.

“I’m a clutz, I drop shit and hurt my hands. Okay?” Travis said as he tore his hand from Aaron’s grip and walked past him.

Aaron turned around quickly and grabbed Travis by the shoulder.

“Not okay” he said decisively “that’s not caused by your average clumsyness.”

Travis, clearly getting agitated broke free from Aaron’s grip once more and walked off.

“I bit my skin off while in prison… happy now? There’s 3 hundred and sixty fucking five of ‘em. One for every day of the last year there, ‘cause they found out I cut. I got a scar for eveyr goddamn day spent there” he said as he stopped and hung his head.

“What the fuck did you do there?”

“Do my time… d’uh” Travis replied as he turned around, cutting Aaron’s sentence off.

“Got tried for fucking manslaughter because that fucking goddamn bastard DROVE HER TO FUCKING GODDAMN DEATH AND I FUCKING KICKED HIM ‘TILL HE EXHALED HIS LAST GODDAMN FUCKING BREATH!” he bellowed afterwards and he turned around again, resuming his previous way, down the stairs towards what should be the dining hall.

Aaron and Sarah followed at some distance, but Travis seemed to have calmed down.

Aaron searched for Sarah's hand and found it, he squeezed it gently and then just held it, he looked down at her besides him and followed her lead to the dining room.

 

Upon arriving at the dining room Aaron's jaw was about to drop to the ground, but it wouldn't reach further than his mouth would open. Chris, Mitchel and Travis were already seated, along with some people he didn't know, everyone sat at a long oval table, layed out with plates, cutlery and wine glasses.

"Come on" Sarah urged him as she took a seat, like all the others it was one of those seats in dark wood, with high backs and with leather cushions.

Sarah was kind of struggling to get her chair closer to the table, so without thinking Aaron just walked over to her and lift the chair with her in it and put it closer.

"Th... Thank you" Sarah uttered, kind of embarassed.

"Y... Yeah" Aaron replied and he took the seat next to her.

"Now that we're all here, let's eat" Travis said as he took the lid off the pan closest to him, only now did Aaron notice they were filed up in the middle of the table.

"So you guys don't say grace then?" Aaron asked under his breath, looking at Travis.

Suddenly Travis' arm wiped away the wine glass in front of him splattering the contents over the floor and the wall as the glass shattered.

"No one is going to say grace... NO ONE is going to thank that fucking bastard for anything... NO ONE is going to mention him, not within these goddamn walls" he bellowed.

"So... sorry" Aaron said, startled by the outburst, he now knew what the lawyer had felt when he got lifted by Travis. He now knew what face the man had seen.

 

The rest of the dinner was rather uneventful, although both Aaron and Travis were silent most of the time.

When the table had been cleared Aaron was still in his seat, the only one at the immense table, looking defeated.

“What the fuck’s happened to Travis in the past?” he whispered to himself.

Then he felt Sarah wrap her arms around him, or rather he saw she did, his body was numb and he hardly seemed to notice, he was too lost in thought.

“He trusts you, you know. I think he likes you” she whispered in his ear.

Aaron didn’t respond.

“He’s already told you more than most of us and I’ve known him for years” she added.

“No… he hates me” Aaron finally said after he had gently guided Sarah’s wrists and arms away from him and he stood up “it’s what I deserve. I shouldn’t pry so much.”

He turned around and looked at her, her fine features, her delicate little eyes and the hair that topped it off like a painting’s frame. She was beautiful, she was kind, she was… Too good for him.

“Are you okay?” she asked and Aaron caught himself gawking.

“Uhm… yeah” Aaron lied, smiling.

She didn’t buy it and she embraced him.

“You can tell me anything, okay?” she said, resting her cheek on his chest so she could listen to his heart.

Aaron didn’t say anything, he just wrapped his arms around her and kissed the top of her head.

“I love you” he finally uttered, somewhat awkwardly, but it was fine that way, she understood.

All of a sudden his head started throbbing and he had to let go of Sarah, he had to try and make sure his head wouldn’t split open and spill his brain on the floor, or at least that’s what it felt like to him.

Sarah backed off, afraid and she ran, screaming something Aaron couldn’t hear.

He grabbed his head and sank to his knees, closing his eyes. In his mind he saw two glowing yellow orbs… no eyes, eyes the size of fists, surrounded by shimmering emerald scales, that’s all he could make out as the instant had passed, along with the image.

And as Aaron opened his eyes again he saw his former adoptive parents before him in the pitchblack darkness, both of them crucified. Aaron couldn’t help but feel relieved, they wouldn’t beat him now, wouldn’t treat him as inferior. No… they still did that, they were suspended above him, they were still looking down on him.

Aaron wanted their eyes to burn out of their sockets and as he willed it, they did.

“Well done, young one” he heard himself say from all around him.

“Who’s there?” Aaron shouted in reply.

In response the bodies vanished and he saw the eyes again, along with the scales.

He was staring at a dragon’s head!

“I am you, you are me. But you can call me Thanriel” the dragon answered in Aaron’s voice.

“Aaron! Aaron!” it suddenly echoed from the darkness, that was Sarah.

“Go to her, we’ll talk again some other time” Thanriel said and he vanished.

Aaron heard voices again, from the darkness they seemed to call to him.

“Holy shit!” one exclaimed, Travis probably.

“You see them too?” a girl asked, he recognised her as Sarah.

“Yeah, this shit ain’t normal, we’d better take him to the Coven, they know more of this shit than I do.”

‘Coven? COVEN?! I’m not going to a fucking Coven, not again!’ Aaron thought to himself.

He jerked himself upright and opened his eyes, but half-way he hit something with his head.

“Jesus fucking Christ” Travis yelled as both him and Aaron grabbed their heads.

“Sorry” Aaron muttered as he shook his head and blinked a couple of times.

“I’ll survive, supposedly I’m pretty hard-headed” Travis replied.

“I noticed” Aaron added under his breath.

“I heard that… now… mind telling is what the hell went on back there?”

Aaron let go of his head, realising that he was on the same couch as last time he passed out.

“What do you mean?”

“One… you passed out completely. Two… you sprouted goddamn wings!”

“Wings? Ridiculous” Aaron said as he touched his shoulderblades, there was nothing there, of course.

“Your aura changed” Sarah added.

“What the hell?”

“Listen Aaron” Travis intervened ”there’s more between Heaven and Hell than this godforsaken dirtball planet. First magic does exist, second people have aura’s that show their true natures, third…”

“Yeah, yeah, I know all that already” Aaron interrupted “I’m wondering how the hell my aura changed.”

“Spirits do ex... wait? You know? How?”

“My former adoptive foster parents were in a Coven, they focused on Druidic magic and lore. I, on the other hand, wasn’t good enough for that… so… I taught myself. Apparently, though, I’d been studying a so called Abolished class of magic called Diabolics.

“It was well worth it, though. My first real friend was a lesser demon, a mischievous one at that. Well… at least untill my so-called parents killed him. I’d summoned him by accident and he seemed to stick around, he liked me, I liked him, it all worked out.”

“Banished” Sarah corrected him.

“What?”

“You can’t kill demons that easily, not even lesser ones, unless you’re extremely powerful… well that or being some kind of demon yourself. Remember that town that got blown to smithereens?” Travis started.

“Yeah, wasn’t that a gas leak or something?”

“Far from it… was a mage that tried to kill a demon, she failed, the demon retaliated and they could sweep all of the itty-bitty pieces together with brooms. Entire town gone, in a split second it was all over. Like detonating a damn atom-bomb.”

Aaron swallowed hard, rather shaken by the news.

“It was horrible to watch, even on TV I could see the aura’s scatter all over the place, blown to bits along with the bodies” Sarah muttered in horror, staring at the ground.

“It’s alright sis, I won’t let it happen here, not again. I haven’t joined the Coven for nothing…” Travis said as he put a hand on her shoulder and gently applied some pressure.

“What happened?” Aaron asked.

“She used to live near there… she saw the smoke rise up from the flames, she saw the debris scatter across the sky, she saw the whole damn thing. She even saw the damn demon” Travis explained.

“Dragon” Sarah whispered.

“What?” Aaron, beat Travis to it.

“Dragon” she repeated “not a demon, a dragon… Obsidian dragon, horrible, spikes everywhere.”

Aaron blinked and for a second he could see a giant, Obsidian-coloured dragon lie in a crater at least twice as large as itself, it’s tail wrapped around what seemed to look like an shifting spire of a fluid of some sort. He shook his head.

“Raniah” he heard a voice whisper.

“What?” he said looking at Travis.

“I didn’t say anything…” Travis answered.

“Oh…”

“Why? What did you hear?”

“Thought I heard someone say Raniah” Aaron said dryly and he shrugged, but as he pronounced the name the image of the dragon flashed before his eyes.

“The dragon… I think it was called Raniah” he said after a short silence.

“It was called what?” Travis asked, baffled.

“Listen… when I passed out, I saw my foster parents, crucified, but as they disappeared a draconic head appeared before me, it introduced itself as Thanriel, well he actually. But anyway… I think he knows something about this Raniah… thing.”

“You SAW a dragon? In a vision?” Sarah asked, staring at Aaron with wet eyes.

“Yes… I saw him, but he wasn’t like that Raniah-menace. He was kind, he was emerald-green. He talked to me, I think he’s been watching over me.”

“No… dragons are evil, they don’t watch over people. They KILL people, maim them, torture them. They’re EVIL, demonic beings that live for no other purpose than killing, maiming and hurting others” Sarah yelled as she started to cry.

Aaron backed away from her, it’d probably be best if he left her alone.

“I’m sorry… I’ll leave now… I doubt you want anything to do with me right now…” he then said as he watched Sarah cry for an instant or two, he then left the room, heading for the front door.

He went outside and just sat there, for a while, just sat there, staring into the twilight that seemed to blur into darkness. Sat there, on the stairs up to the front porch.

He didn’t notice anyone opening the door, he didn’t notice the shadow cast over him, he didn’t even notice someone sat next to him.

Instead he just removed the pack of cigarettes from his pocket and in turn removed a cigarette from the pack, lighting it with the lighter he also stored on the pack. He inhaled deeply and enjoyed the sharp taste, the sharp sensation in his throat and lungs, as the nicotine slowly infiltrated every fiber of his being.

“I thought you quit” Sarah suddenly asked, she sat next to him.

“Sorry…” Aaron answered, not looking at her, but instead taking another draw from his cigarette, the small orange ring radiated strongly in the darkness.

She took the cigarette as it dangled from his mouth and muttered something Aaron couldn’t make out. Suddenly the smouldering cigarette turned into a small ball of fire and Sarah held it in her hands.

“It’s been a while since I’ve seen something like that” Aaron said, kind of surprised.

“The Coven reffers to me as their little Firestarter” Sarah said as she shrugged “though it’s weird… the combination is just weird.”

“What combination?”

“Never mind…”

“Okay” Aaron knew something was wrong, he could hear it in her voice, it trembled slightly.

“So what happened with that dragon?” Sarah asked, her voice still trembling.

“Nothing much, we talked for a moment or two. Though I can tell you he didn’t like what you said about dragons back there, I could feel he disagreed… a hell of a lot. I think dragons are individuals, much like humans. Just like demons are.”

“Yeah… Travis and the Coven have been trying to teach me that too. He knew that I hated dragons, he didn’t know I saw the dragon in that town… and not a demon. Everyone always assumed it was a demon, so I blamed it on my ignorance and inexperience… but I know what I saw…”

Aaron wrapped his arm around her and held her close.

“I believe you.”

She rest her head on his shoulder and sighed.

“I don’t like Covens…” Aaron said after a while of just sitting there.

“Why?”

“My foster-parents I think… Don’t know… Anyway… I’m not going to them.”

“What? Why? They might be able to find out what’s wrong.”

“Nothing’s wrong… Thanriel just appeared, that’s all. And he’s not malevolent, or at least I don’t think so… I heard the doctors say that I was lucky to have survived, they thought I was asleep. It was like something had broken my fall… I think it was Thanriel that did.”

“What’s that got to do with the Coven?”

Aaron didn’t answer, he didn’t want to continue the conversation.

“Please go… they might be able to help you with magic too.”

Aaron still didn’t answer.

“Please… just go for me” she then said, tugging his sleeve slightly.

“They scare me… I’m damn near shitting my pants in fear, ‘cause of them…” he finally said.

“But they’re not like other Coven.”

“And why would that be?” Aaron asked snidely, a little too snidely he realised in hindsight.

Sarah let go of his sleeve and put her hands on her knees, after tugging the rim of her shirt nervously for a second.

“Well… they’re reffered to as… Ronin and Clanless and Renegades and Hollows… depending on what Coven you ask, basically they’re exiles from other Coven, or people that haven’t been excepted in a Coven and don’t want to be for that matter.”

“Then who leads it? If they’re renegades and what not, who leads the Coven?”

“No one does, the Coven exists because there is no leader, merely advisors. People more experienced than you are” Travis suddenly said from behind the two.

“You could call the Illusionist our peace-keeper though… if you cause trouble, you’ll disappear from the Coven, some of them even had to be admitted to the asylum, but those instances were rare” Sarah said, smiling.

“The Illusionist… Is he some kind of super-hero then?” Aaron asked, grinning in disbelief.

“No… he’s either a mute or he doesn’t talk… So they call him the Illusionist, because of the magic he uses” Sarah said, glancing down, turning red in the cheeks a little.

“And you could call Nadia the chief-advisor, though she speaks with a forked tongue at times” Travis added.

“And why doesn’t anyone know of the Coven then? Why didn’t I know of this Coven?” Aaron asked, baffled.

“Oh that’s easy, we call ourselves the Shadow-Hand and well… the result and methods are pretty obvious, we weave like a shadow through everyday life” Sarah said cheerfully, illustrating the weaving part by making her hand make wavey patterns in the air.

 

“So… you going with us tomorrow?” Travis asked as he leaned against the wall just next to the door.

“Get rid of your anxiety

There’s nothing there to be

Get rid of all your views

There’s nothing there to do” Aaron softly recited.

“What?”

“Nothing… just a song I like.”

“Oh, oh Final Fusion, right?” Sarah asked equally cheerful as her previous remark.

“Yeah… why?”

“I love them. I like Angel Without Wings a lot” she says, slightly tilting her head and smiling.


 
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