~~ “Why hasn’t Pierce told him that he is killing himself?”
Hushed voices pull me out of my sleep, though only barely. “You should know that I refuse to die before I have accomplished my goal.” I sit up, groggy.
“I apologize, sir, we did not mean to wake you.” I still can’t make out the faces of the newcomers, but I am slowly beginning to recognize their voices.
“What time is it?”
“Nearly noon, sir.” Sir, recognition hits me.
“Travis and Mary, it is good to see you.” Travis and Mary, two of the few people I trust, workers at Pierce’s home. I look at each of them, my vision blurry.
“You as well, sir.”
I start to stand, but black dots fill my eyes. “Where is he?” My voice is weak, my throat dry.
“You should stay lying down sir.”
“Where is he?” My voice is stronger, my anger growing. I look at Joseph’s terrified face and I realize my mistake. “Never mind.” I stand up, bracing myself against the wall. Mary attempts to help me back into the bed. I push past her gently. I make my way down the hall into the small living room, roaring. “Pierce!” When he doesn’t answer anger grows again. “Pierce! When I find you, I’m going to kill you!” My body is shaking the effects of the drugs I now know he put into my system and I can feel myself getting stronger. He steps out from behind the wall, his hands up. “You drugged me?! You drugged me?!”
“You needed to sleep.”
“And you thought that it would be fine for you to drug me?” My hand is at his throat now. My body is rigid and my heart is pounding in my chest. Lights dance in my vision and I loosen my grip, falling. He catches me and helps me into a chair at the counter. I close my eyes for what feels like a moment, but must have been more like minutes because when I open them again a plate of eggs is sitting in front of me.
“Your body isn’t used to the effects of sleeping aids, so it will take some time for you to feel completely normal. Eating will help.”
“How am I supposed to trust anything you put in front of me?” Despite my weak argument I am already scarfing down the food in front of me.
“Oi! He’s up!” A familiar voice calls out from behind me, and two others join it, though nothing that they say is decipherable. My head starts to pound and I close my eyes, silently begging them to shut up.
I close my eyes again and slowly get to my feet. “I’m headed out on a walk.” I start to open the door, “And, Pierce, if you send anyone after me I will not hesitate to strangle you.” I walk out and slam the door behind me, my pounding head not thanking me for that action. I stagger down the road into a grassy park, enjoying the smell of the fresh air. I sit down on a bench and stare up at the clear blue sky. The smell of blood and roses fills my nostrils and I sit up with a start. Everything seems pristine as it was before, but the stench remains. A memory of my past, resurfacing.
Still shaking the memory I walk slowly back to the house. My body becomes stronger with every step. I clear my head with a deep breath and step back into the now crowded living room. “Rose, Ti, Anthony, it is good to see you again.”
The first person to step out of the fray is a small, young girl. She has green eyes filled with light, and curly brown hair. She is bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet. “Where have you been Phantom?” Even as she attempts to scowl at me I can tell she also is dying to rush into a bear hug, so I do just that.
“You’ve gotten stronger since we last met.”
“Faster too. I can almost keep up with Anthony.”
“Caught one of my ears just half a week ago.” Anthony walks up and takes my hand. No anger in his dark eyes, only understanding. “Glad you finally got your head on straight.”
“You don’t know that yet, do you?”
Ti steps in, “No, you could have completely lost your mind while you were gone and we’d still take you home with open arms.” I laugh at his joke and look down at him. He is shorter than I am, but he does not appear weak. His red eyes are bright, laughter filling ever portion of him. “We’ve just met your new pieces this morning, Pierce did a good job picking them out. They should do fine in their further training. But are you sure you should announce them tonight?”
“It’s now or never.”
“We have less than two hours, everyone must be ready to leave by then.” At Pierce’s command the world becomes a flurry of motion.
“Shall I help you get ready, sir?” Travis makes his way through to stand in front of me, but he continues to look at the floor.
“No, I need you to help Thomas, he’s never worn a suit made by our talented Mary before. Pierce, you are going to help me.” I smile at him slyly, and he follows silently. Everyone else heads to separate rooms, led by Mary and Travis. I walk into the room I had slept in and find everything in pristine condition, as though the room had never been touched before. I’m assuming that Travis and Mary have been busy this morning. “Are you ready to be called by your title again, Duke Pierce?” I put emphasis on his title, smiling at him as he sets clothing out on the bed.
“Do not be concerned about me, what about you? Are you ready to use a title that you have not used since the day you were born?” I attempt to pull off my shirt, grimacing as I stretch my open wounds. “And what of them? Are they prepared to receive their new titles?”
I open my mouth and close it, thinking of the right words. “They do not know.”
“They don’t know? What happened to your pride? The pride that you would never force anyone to follow you?”
“You speak to me of pride? My pride is the only thing that truly belongs to me. Without my pride I am naught but his son.” I grimace again and he comes to help me. He is gentler than I was, careful to avoid putting pressure on my wounds. When the shirt is finally off he does a quick scan of my wounds, assuring that they are all tended to correctly. He then helps me with the new shirt, this one is a pure black button up with a collar. I then pull on the black slacks that he has set out. “They will know when the time is right, I cannot prepare them for that shock, but I can prepare them for the life or death battle we are going to enter. A battle which I must now tell your new recruits about.”
“Fine.” His one word answer says everything he doesn’t want to say out loud. He nods and opens the door for me, “You haven’t asked the name of the governor yet.”
“I did not realize it was important.” But when I step out I am in a world of black and white. The men are dressed in black as I am, only each of them has a pure white tie around their necks. The women are wearing black dresses and white roses around their wrists. “Black and white,” I catch my breath as the word comes out, “Scar.” Pierce nudges me and I sit down, catching my breath and looking at each of the new recruits in turn. “Before we continue this, before you follow me anywhere, you have to know something. You are entering into a war, a game of life and death. I can’t tell you anything else, what it is or what the consequences are. All I can tell you, is that if you value your life, you should not follow me.”
“What do you mean?” Jo is the first one to say anything, her voice is tentative, but bold.
“I mean exactly what I say, I am going somewhere that those faint of heart cannot follow. I promise to protect whoever follows me further with everything that I am, but I cannot promise that you will make it out alive.” I take a breath and look at the floor. “So, I ask you now, how many of you will follow me?”
“You know we will follow you, Phantom.” Though Rose answers Ti and Anthony are looking at me with the same awe in their eyes.
“I’m in.” Jo answers, smiling at me.
“I am as well.” Thomas’ answer is more tentative.
We all look to Sydney, “I suppose I am as well.”
“Now that you have all chosen to join us on this adventure, it is time to go.” Pierce leads the way out the door, with Mary on his arm.