Author's Note: Updated Sunday 30th March 2014
Since I missed a few weeks of updates, I've decided to do a double chapter update. This was originally my chapter 13 but my chapter 12 is not yet ready because it is still in 1st person. I write Terri's chapters that way because I find her voice really hard to tune into.
Anyway, please do enjoy Ariel's chapter:
When Ariel arrived home that day, he was greeted by a rather unwelcome guest.
“Illyana,” he said. “What are you doing here?”
“Well do contain your excitement,” she stated, getting up from the sofa. She gave him a wide grin, reaching out to hug him.
“Please don’t touch me.”
Illyana only snorted, taking him in her arms anyway. “You and I both know that I don’t have to touch you to drain you.”
“And you and I both know that I don’t like to be touched.”
Illyana released him then, returning back to her seat. “I had hoped that one of the others might come out to play. Perhaps Bex for instance. She’s usually quite charming.” Illyana’s eyes and mouth widened. “Something is different. I don’t feel her as strongly.”
“You and me both.”
Ariel took the sofa next to her apprehensively. Illyana was one of a few other Galatea who made him genuinely nervous. She saw too much; not just things that happened around her, but things that happened within other people. She saw him for what he truly was, and that scared him more than any physical weapon that someone could point at him.
“So I hear you had a bit of problem catching Xander,” she said.
“That really is not one of your best conversation starters.”
“Would you prefer to talk about the glamorous Gemini Ball coming up?” She held her chin in a thoughtful manner, tapping her index finger against her cheek. “Or perhaps about the fact that Seanlaoch’s ka is all over you?”
Of course hiding such a thing would have been difficult around her. Ariel tried not to react but his jaw clenched in spite of it all.
“Sweety, you know better than to lie to me, so tell me, what happened between you and the former Ivbal King?”
“You’re rather talented”, he replied. “Figure it out.” Ariel rose to his feet and walked towards the door, ready to show her the way out.
“You already want me to leave?” Illyana pouted, her big brown eyes jutting out like a frightened deer. She seemed in that moment the epitome of innocence.
If innocence was back-stabbing murderous bitch.
“Yes, I do.”
“You haven’t even asked me if I want tea. Where are your manners?”
“Not sure. They probably died at the same time as your sanity.”
Illyana actually chuckled at that, snorting too. “Well, if you’re the sane one then I guess we’re all doomed. I shan’t be leaving until I answer your first question, and I won’t answer that question until I get a cup of tea. Black with one teaspoon of sugar, a squirt of honey. I know you have some. Chloe has quite the sweet tooth.”
“No. Get out.”
Illyana rolled her eyes, tapping her foot on the floor. “This is a message straight from the king. I’m sure you will want to hear it.”
Ariel slammed the door, knowing it was useless fighting her. Reluctantly, he stormed to the kitchen to make her cup of tea, wishing he could pour a strong poison to the mix.
When he returned with the cup of tea, Illyana was on the floor in a bizaree upside down meditation pose.
“I won’t even ask,” Ariel said, setting down the tea on the table.
Illyana brought herself down, her face reddened. “Merci,” she said. She took a sip of her tea and sighed in content.
“So what is it that my father wanted to keep a secret so badly that he couldn’t just message me?”
“He wants you to know that now that Xander has been revealed a traitor, and you aren’t up to the job, you have effective immediately been unassigned to the job of hunting him down and I am to be your new partner in all things, starting with ensnaring the Technopath.”
Ariel’s blood boiled. This mission was his. He didn’t need help, especially from Illyana.
“No,” he said.
“I told him you wouldn’t be pleased.”
“No doubt that’s partly why he chose you.”
“I’m willing to make this work if you are. I can’t very well just enrol into your high school. Though I have no doubt in your ability to weave me in, I’m sure we can at least both agree that I’d make a terrible undercover agent at a high school.” Ariel couldn’t help snorting in agreement.
“You’d murder the teachers,” Ariel said.
Illyana tilted her head in that peculiar angle some of the more animalistic fey at court did. “Suppose I can’t entirely deny that,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “In any case, I’d rather have the more interesting job of investigating that stalker faery friend of hers, and even her parents. Something about them doesn’t seem right. I’ve already taken the liberties of checking through their files and they seem a little too clean for my liking.”
“Just because you have a vindictive streak doesn’t mean everyone else does, but I have to say that I agree with you.” Ariel returned to his seat, crossing his leg in a casual manner. “I met them and the most peculiar thing happened. I couldn’t see their memories.”
Illyana took a minute to digest that, sipping from her cup. “Strange. But didn’t you once admit that some people have such a strong willpower that sometimes you can’t alter or even read their memories?”
“It’s a rare occurrence. One of the people I can’t read is my father but that’s not unsurprising, considering that he is a powerful faery king. But Terri’s parents are completely human. They aren’t even her biological parents. She was adopted.”
“So you think that they might have something to hide? I’m not sure, but I’ll look into it.” Illyana set her cup on the table. “Anyway, enough of that. I want to know about you, and Vincent, and Bex, and Chloe— wait, you don’t talk to her— and I want to know about the new one, Charming.”
As one of the only person who knew about Ariel’s other personalities, in an ideal world, Illyana would have been a confidant. Instead, she was a threat.
Unprepared to deal with her, Ariel slumped his shoulders, waiting for the barrage of questions he didn’t want to answer. He straightened them again and gave her a knowing smile, as if teasing.
“Ah, Vincent,” Illyana greeted. “How are you?”
“Better now that you are here,” he said. He took her hand and kissed it softly. “It gets so tiresome being so intimately connected with the others. Your company is like a breath of fresh air.”
“Yes, and Ariel can be uptight.”
Ariel felt himself shrug his shoulders. These sort-of-out-of-body-experiences had happened ever since he could remember, but that didn’t make them any less disorientating. In his mind Vincent was almost like another person, and yet he was a part of him, and he was Vincent, but he was also Ariel.
“Yes, in any case, what do you know about Terri’s faery?”
“Very little. She has not mentioned him. Either she does not trust us, or is being otherwise manipulated into keeping him a secret.”
“Do you think you could coax it out of her?”
“I could try, but it won’t be without its difficulties. Something happened after the Xander situation went awry. I cannot communicate with Bex. It is as though she has slipped away inside.”
“With a shattered soul like yours, anything is possible, but let me feel just to be sure.” Illyana edged closer to him and took his hand in hers, placing a hand over his heart. Her dark eyes became milky, before rolling back slightly. After a few seconds, she withheld her touch, crying out in pain. She shuddered a bit and took a few deep breaths to calm herself down.
“What’s wrong?” Vincent asked. Ariel couldn’t see the point in kidding himself about being in control. He felt like nothing more than a Watcher in his own body and his body was like a house he was renting with others. And at that moment, he couldn’t be certain about what had become of his housemates.
“You attacked me. It must have been like a defensive thing. It happened the first time I felt your soul, but it’s rarely happened since, and certainly not quite as badly.”
“What do you think could have caused it?”
“Most of your alters know my presence well enough to leave me alone when I’m scanning,” she stated. Somehow she made the whole affair of something as debatable as a soul sound scientific. For Illyana, the matter of the soul was factual, but considering that there was no other way of explaining it, it made sense to Ariel.
“What is your point?”
“There’s someone new. I sensed them when you entered but I hadn’t thought them vicious. I think I’ve found out the problem, why your memories have been more splintered than usual. The alter you call Charming— he’s been a busy bee.”