This desert is infuriatingly hot.
My thirst is almost constant, and I must look quite the sight to anyone who passes me by - my eyes would be a glowing red by now and I notice that most animals skitter away from me as I approach. They can sense it. Humans aren't as receptive. Urgh, this sucks! I swore, when I found Annabeth, I would drink the Sons of the Sword dry. How can anyone live in a place this hot and bright? I mean, the night is freezing cold, but the day just doesn't stop roasting you!
I got as many directions to Temple Mount as I could. That said, there wasn't many I could follow. I never considered how hard it would be to find an English or French speaker out here. Some did speak French - places like Syria and Lebanon being former French colonies and all - but I couldn't converse as well in French as I could understand it.
I can almost hear Aunt Midnight's voice in my head: “Told you so”.
And no-one understood the term 'Temple Mount' and many didn't even register 'Jerusalem'. It took me a while to remember the Arabic name for the city (again in Aunt Midnight's smug-as-hell voice): Al-Quds. I got more attention when I said that and was soon pointed in the right direction (by the many, many bandits I had to interrogate, kill and then feed on).
I didn't quite imagine it to be a feudal stronghold though.
I had always understood Jerusalem to be a place of religious, historical and archaeological standing (or something like that, anyway). I didn't think it was... well, anything but that.
The stone walls rose up high and guards armed to the teeth were patrolling them with more zeal that I'd found in any other guard. Like they were constantly expecting attack.
How can no-one know anything about them?
How can the world stand back and just ignore this?
Everything about it looked threatening - from the large, wooden draw-bridge to the fluttering flag marked with the symbol right at the peak.
Had Annabeth arrived already?
If she had, how had they greeted her?
What did she say?
What did they do to her?
Where did they take her?
I'd already lost one sister to a psychotic group of killers, and almost lost another to a coma caused by years of trauma in an arena.
I would not lose another sister to a mind-fucking cult.
I tried to stay out of sight, hoping that Annabeth had not already been pulled into the stronghold. I stayed in a small collections of nearby tents that welcomed me and I ate the food the people gave me so as not to scare them off. I drank enough by night, though.
And, to my greatest relief, these people helped to locate Annabeth.
Maybe there was a God.
I watched her approaching the stronghold, which she seemed to regard with awe and wonderment. I came up behind her and tackled her to the ground.
She cried out and struggled, but I held her down.
“Bex!” Annabeth protested, “Oh, for the love of God, just leave me alone!”
I held her down, “This is for your own good, Annabeth! I have been running around the whole fucking desert looking for you, I am not going to just throw that away now!”
She bit my hand and pushed me back when I let go, “Nobody asked you to look for me! I am not going back!”
“I will drag you home by your hair, Annabeth. You are not going to that bunch of grave-robbing sociopaths! They're responsible for Uncle Tom's death - doesn't that mean anything to you?”
“My father wouldn't do that-”
“You don't even know the guy!”
“-I have to do this, Bex. Just like Aunt Midnight said, I need to know!”
I grabbed her, “No, you don't!”
“Yes, I do!” she grabbed me and threw me back. I was surprised by how strong she was, “You can't control me, Bex.”
I paused, exhaling loudly, “Fine. You're right. I can't control you,” I said, “But I can go in with you.”
“What? Bex, you-”
“Shut up, Annabeth!” I barked, “I have come this far and walked around for so long, I am not going home empty-handed! And if I can't bring you back, I will go in with you!”
Annabeth sighed with her hands on her hips, “Bex, the Sons of the Sword are very strict Christians. How do you expect-?”
“The fuck? You think I can't fake my way through?”
“Not with that attitude or mode of language.”
“Annabeth, I don't care!”
“You're a vampire, Bex!”
“And you are my sister!”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“It means you're not supposed to leave me!” I yelled, “Fuck's sake! Midnight can spit what shit she wants, she wasn't someone who had to sit and watch everyone leave! You know who that was? Me! First Queenie, then Brynna, then Kenny, then Zoe and now you! And I am sick of waiting for you all you show up or for a fucking funeral invite to be written to me! Midnight left her home, and so did all of you, and she's been running around after the lot of you like a headless-fucking-chicken for most of my life!” I paused to regain my breath, “But who gives a shit about that, eh? Blabber all you fucking want, I am not going home without you! And if you're going into this giant, huge, high-stone-wall mistake - then I'm coming in with you!”
Annabeth stared at me, “Bex, I had no idea-”
I pushed her in the direction of the stronghold aggressively, “Shut up and go!”
She looked hurt. Good. That's the effect I intended. But she turned and walked her way towards the stronghold and I followed after her. We were stopped by a guard who raised his hand and asked that we identify ourselves. Annabeth showed him her sword and said that we were new recruits. He asked for our names and we gave them - Annabeth giving her father's surname, instead of Shadownight. It made me seeth inside.
The guard smiled.
He made us turn around and like idiots we obeyed him. He put something on around our wrists that was unlike rope. We couldn't move or shout. He dragged us both into the stronghold and a man in a hooded robe looked at us.
“Kenobi's mistake and a vampire,” he said, “This will be an excellent purge.”
He took a small vial from his pocket and splashed a drop of water from it on my face. I screamed as it burned like fire.
He laughed and ordered us to be taken to the prisons, where our bindings were removed.
So here we are: imprisoned and on death-row, waiting for execution at the blade of an axe in a few short weeks.
That bastard Kenobi.
He hadn't sent Annabeth here to recruit her, he sent her here to die.
His one failure in this Order to purge.
And now no-one could save us. Not Midnight. Not Thomas. Not even Aldrin had my back.