Saturday came around all too quickly, though for Rune it was a kind of relief that the week was over. It had been so annoying sitting in her Maths class with Giselle and Henry staring over at her and Avery without even saying a single. Bloody. Word.
It had gotten so annoying in fact, that she had almost gotten herself sent to the headmistress for getting into a fight with Giselle, not that she had started it - God, no, she had taught herself better than to do that kind of thing - and she knew that if she acted up again she wouldn't be running away, she'd be getting sent away. As appealing as she thought running away often was, being sent away meant that she'd have to go back to her old school, or a new one, start all over again. She didn't see how anyone could want that.
Which was why, as she stood before Jesse with her friends, she decided that she had to get this thing done right. Done right, or not done at all.
"Alright," Jesse's voice boomed. "Rune, you don't know this yet, I probably should've filled you in before; you guys aren't the only ones with magic. There are a couple others in your school - I'm not allowed to tell you who though, they don't want me to do that - but there's some in other schools nearby, all linked by these catacombs. You shouldn't be meeting any of them tonight, but if you do you'll recognise them - you've all got these."
He pulled four black thread bracelets out of his pocket, dangling them from his hand in the air. "Are those for us?" Avery asked, stepping forward to take one. Jesse raised an eyebrow.
"Of course they're for you, Avery," he laughed. "Just don't grab, okay?" Something gleamed in his eye, and the four of them all snorted in barely concealed laughter. Rune frowned.
"I'm every so sorry, Jesse," Avery laughed, showing them a mocking bow. "I'll do my best to behave."
"Well, I'd hope so," Laelia laughed, sashaying over to Jesse and plucking two bracelets out of his hand. "We'd all hate to see you falling from grace."
Shrieking with laughter that Rune for the life of her couldn't understand, Suzanne took a bracelet from Laelia's hand, high fiving her as she did so. "Come on, Rune," she called. "You alright?"
"Aye, aye." Though she hated to admit it to herself, she felt nerves squirming inside of her as she took a bracelet from Jesse, who grinned at her. It wasn't as much comfort as she needed. "Avery?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah, I'd take it if Jesse were kind enough to let me."
"So sorry." Jesse dropped the final bracelet into Avery's open palm. "Now, just fasten them, they should just go on fine." He began to pace around the cavern they stood in, footsteps echoing off of the stone. "Right, so tonight, I do have quite an important task for you guys. You see, there's this guy, Daylon he's calling himself apparently. He's one of the absorbers we were working with last year, but he's left apparently, gone to join up with these other people. Quite low down in the ranks I'm sure, but he's our easiest target. We know that the people he's working with now are trying to take some kind of specific power, or we think so anyway, and we need to know more. So what I want you to do is to find him, capture him and bring him to me, so I can question him. Can you do that for me?"
"Yeah - " Suzanne started, before Rune cut her off.
"No. Am, like, really bloody confused right now. First off, what in the bloody bloody hell is an absorber, second of all, what power, third off, how in the name of the bloody queen am a supposed tae capture this lad? How are we supposed tae capture this lad?"
A deep sigh from Jesse echoed off of the walls, cold and harsh. "Rune, look, we don't have time to explain. Just work quickly and trust your instincts. Power, we don't know what power yet, that's the whole point of this mission if you'd listened."
"A wis listening, a just - "
"Rune! Don't interrupt me." She could see Avery frowning out the corner of her eye, his eyes dark with something she recognised, but that she couldn't name. "Look, your friends will tell you the rest, you have to get going now. Stay safe." He flashed them a wolf like grin as her retreated back into the shadows, leaving only the four of them to work out what to do.
"Okay, but like, how are we supposed tae ken how tae find this guy. Jesse's a shite load ae help if yi ask me."
"We didn't ask you," Laelia said quietly. "Come on."
A look of somewhat irritated confusion crossed over Rune's face as Suzanne followed Laelia, who clenched her fists. "Whit's her problem?" Rune muttered to Avery. "She seems kind ae mad at me."
"Nah, it's fine," Avery reassured her. "Laelia's just kind of defensive over Jesse - he's kind of like an older brother to her. I'm sure she knows you didn't mean to be rude."
They were led up a narrow, twisting staircase of falling down stones and rocks, trying not to trip over the scatterings of rubble and dust. Snippets of deep velvet hung from cracks in the walls, and the sounds of their feet echoed all around them. "Right," Laelia said, reaching a door at the top of the stairs. "We have specific places that we need to go, and Jesse said we're to pair up. If it's okay by you, Avery, Suzanne and I will go together, and you can go with Rune." It wasn't really a choice. "Okay. So, this door leads through to the back of the library in the town. Avery and Rune, you have to go to this address," she handed Avery a small piece of paper, "and Suzanne and I will be scouting around for a while to see of there's anyone suspicious. We'll meet up in about three hours if that's okay, at the entrance to the library. Be careful in case anyone's following you, though; Jesse warned me, says there's supposed to be a lot of strangers out tonight, though we're not sure why yet."
"I ken yi say that, but-"
Laelia cut Rune with her icy glare. "Are you uys ready to go?"
"Yes," Avery said, before Rune could get any choice words in of her own. "Good luck, you two. Stay safe." He winked, and Suzanne snorted with laughter.
"Same to you," she laughed, as she and Laelia pushed the door open.
The old back room of the library seemed darker than it had before, with no light filtering through the tiny window in a heavy waltz. Rune could see the faint outlines of shadowed books almost falling off of the shelves, and her fingers itched for them, to put them back into their place. But she knew she couldn't; they had a mission, and anyway, what if she knocked something over?
They crept through the main library, and Suzanne opened a window for them to clamber out of. "Be quiet," she hissed as Avery yelped, landing on the ground. "And don't make that noise - you sound like a cat."
"I like cats," Avery grumbled, reaching down to massage his foot.
As Rune landed on the pavement beside him, she grinned at him. "why dae we no get a wee bit ae a move on now, guys. We dinnae really want tae be here fae longer. A'm already wabbit."
Laelia nodded her agreement, giving Avery a pointedly annoyed look. "Yes, let's. And remember, we are supposed to be secretive here. So, for the love of God, be quiet."
Their group of four split up, Rune and Avery heading further down to the high street, while Suzanne flew with Laelia to the top of a roof, to keep an eye on the situation below. In the darkness, Rune ignited a tiny spark of fire, just barely enough for her and Avery to see with. they were walking side by side down a narrow street, houses stacked beside them like haphazard piles of brick that made Rune's stomach squirm with the alluring sense of familiarity. She sighed at the comfort of the shadows looming above her, warming her despite the night's coldness.
"You okay?" Avery asked her in a whisper, nudging her with his shoulder. She turned her gaze up to him, a warm sensation creeping over her, and she couldn't tell if it was from her fire or Avery being so god damn close to her.
"Aye," she replied, edging slightly further away from him. "Are yi sure yi ken where we're supposed tae be gaeing the night?"
"Of course I do," Avery laughed. "I even know a shortcut."
"Seems like a came with the right lad then, aye?"
He said nothing, but Rune could see the faintest outline of a smile on his lips, and she herself grinned a little. Still, though, she knew she couldn't let herself get attatched. She'd had too many nightmares for that.
She remembered them all, the most recent ones. they'd been all the same: Avery cursing at her, Suzanne crying, Laelia lying in a pool of blood. One word echoing in her head, like a harmony, a symphony of angelic death.
Murderer. Murderer. Murderer.
"Rune?" Avery sang, laughing tersely. "You in there?"
"Aye," Rune barked. "A'm fine. Just show me where we're gaeing, orite?"
Rune could feel Avery's judgemental gaze on her, but ignored it. They continued creeping between the houses, feet echoing off of the ground, until Avery grabbed her by he arm, pulling her towards the shadow. "Stop," he whispered. "Don't move."
She heard footsteps heading down the street towards them, and her breath caught in her throat, as she felt Avery's hand shaking where it lay on her arm. As much as she wanted to tell him it was okay, that it'd all be fine, she couldn't find her voice, and supposed that was a good thing anyway. The steps were growing closer, louder, harsher as they thump, thump, thumped on the ground.
The footsteps stopped.
Oh god, Rune thought. Oh god, oh god, oh god.
She and Avery tried to edge themselves in silence further into the shadows, trying not to make a sound as the footsteps picked back up again, too scared to breathe even once they were out of earshot. "That wis close," Rune whispered, stepping back into the pale remnants of light in the street. "We have tae be maer careful."
"It wasn't my fault," Avery hissed.
"Aye, well just make saere tae be maer careful anyway. Right?"
Avery nodded, though Rune noted that he looked rather defeated. "Sorry. A didnae mean tae be sae shan, Ave. Look, how aboot we dar something till we get ta this address - wherever yi said it wis."
"Like what? Musical statues?"
"No!" Rune hissed. "Be serious, Ave. A wis actually hinking maer ae kind ae question hingy. Like, whit's yir favourite colour?"
"Blue," he answered almost the second he was asked. "Like, a light blue, almost silvery blue. That's my favourite." A smile crossed Rune's lips. "What's yours?"
"Purple. Dark purple, all cool and mysterious. Favourite music?"
"Classical and country."
Rune raised an eyebrow. "That's awfie boring, dae yi no think? A'm a muckle load mae in tae rock and stuff myself, like, and musical tunes. Oh, and 'screamo' stuff, I dinnae actual ken the proper name fae it. Black Veil Brides and stuff."
A laugh danced from Avery's lips, waltzing into the cold night air and disrupting the quiet that had almost been forgotten. "Sorry, I'm just trying to imagine you going from something like Sleeping with Sirens to, like Phantom of the Opera or something." He chuckled again.
"That is genuine one ae ma playlists, Avery," she said, which just made him laugh again. "At least it isnae Beethoven Yin Five Yin or somehin. They had awfie names fae music."
"At least they didn't sing songs called 'Fuck You' half the time."
"A dinnae hink they sang songs, full stop. Music's boring wi oot any words."
"Whereas when you don't make any sounds, it's the highlight of my day."
"You're so rude, Avery." Rune feigned offence, turning her nose up in the air. "Now, wid yi like tae find this place on yir aen, and saw a can gae back tae ma bed?"
"Don't even consider it, Rune. I'm very sorry for offending you so badly. May I beg for forgiveness?" She could tell that Avery was trying not to laugh, and he had to admire him for his skill in that area, much as it annoyed her.
"Depends how much yi beg. Five minutes ae straight up grovelling'll dae it."
"Sure thing. I'll do that a few years from now, hope you don't mind the wait."
"You're an eejit, Ave," Rune laughed. "Come on. We dae actual need tae find this place."
"I know. Just follow me."
And so she did, until eventually the pair of them arrived at small bungalow just off the high street. Baskets of light pink flowers hung from the white door, and the light was still on inside, light flitting between light pink blinds. It looked kind of like something out of a fairytale, Rune thought. So why on earth were they there?
"Are yi saere this is the right place?" she asked Avery, voice quivering as she felt herself shrinking under his frown.
"Of course I am. Look, don't worry; you can trust me. I'll get the door."
Before Rune could tell him no, pull him back, leave, he was at the door, ringing the doorbell. Even from where she stood in the light gravelled driveway, she could hear the sweet chirping of the bell. The door opened as she was almost mechanically drawn towards it, and an old woman stood in the doorway. Her short, stout frame was outlined by the light coming from a chandelier in the living room, and Rune's eyes grew wide, stomach twisting like a noose was being tied inside of her.
"Ave-" she began.
"Hello?" the old woman said in a sweet, soft voice, dripping with the stuff that Rune was sure honey was made out of. "Can I help you two?"
"Yes." Avery barged past the old woman, knocking her off balance. "We're looking for your son, miss. Raegan McVay."
The woman looked taken aback at this, stating between Avery and Rune with a hopeless kind of fear, like a trembling cliff knowing it's about to crash into the sea, but still holding on to the land with everything it knew. "Sorry. My son isn't in right now."
"Yes he is."
"Avery!" Rune hissed. "Stop being sae rude." She turned to the old woman, sorry written in the frown lines of her forehead. "I'm awfie sorry fae ma friend, miss. We'll be gaeing on our way - I hope we didnae bother yi."
"Rune, this is what we're supposed to do. Come on. And keep her out of it."
"Ave, this is her house. It's rude, and ma old friends wid - "
"Rune, for God's sake, just do what we're told. Now come on! We have to do this, Rune!"
"A just - " she heaved a sigh. "A'm so sorry, miss, I dinnae mean to be rude, I hope ma friend isnae bothering yi."
"No, dear, you go on with your friend. I can assure you that my son is not in this house, but if your friend is so intent, I suppose it would do less damage if I come with you two. Please don't break anything,"
Avery was already storming up the stairs, nearly knocking over a china plate, which Rune head to reach up the stairs to stop from breaking. As she adjusted it on the shelf, she felt the old woman at her back with a soft smile. "Thank you for not letting it break, dear."
An uneasy feeling settled in her stomach. Damn Avery. She followed him to the top of the stairs, where he was standing, glaring down at them. "You," he said, pointing at he old woman. "You're a liar. Your son is here, he has to be. This is what we were told to do."
A smile danced on the old woman's lips. "I have no son," she said, voice calm. "I have never had a son, any children. Now, please don't break anything else, your girlfriend was already kind enough to stop one thing from breaking."
"Avery, come on," Rune huffed. "Let's just get gaeing."
"No! We're supposed to be here, Rune. She's lying, I know she is! Can't you tell?"
"No, Avery. She isnae lyin'. Look, let's no distress her. Let's go."
"No, Rune. Just listen to me, for God's sake, don't you realise?"
"Realise what? That you're being completely irrational?" Her voice was agitated now, she could feel her stomach churning. And being thrown about like a limp little rag doll, as she swayed on the spot. She could hear her voice rising, could see the frown deepening on Avery's face. "Ave, this is really, really rude, and we're invading privacy and we shouldn't because when people do that then things go wrong and - and things happen, and people get hurt and we - we have to go, come on, Avery, please please please!"
"Rune, you -"
"Avery, please! Yir being a total-"
She was cut off by a cry from behind her. The old woman's face was changing, warping into something alien, monstrous. Her eyes glowed red like hot coals, and her hands shrivelled up, nails sharpening into gleaming, knife-like claws. She barked out a laugh, cold and high, and it chilled Rune's bones, goosebumps crawling over her dark skin,
"I have no son!" The woman - no, the monster - shrieked. "I am Raegan McVay! And I know exactly who you are!"
"Yeah, this'd be a good time to leave!" Avery said, voice squeaking.
"That's what I've been saying all along," Rune complained, taking a step back as the monster lunged for her, those claws missing her chest by barely a centimetre.
The awful creature stumbled, and Rune vaulted over it, pushing down on its back with her heel. "Come on, Ave!" she yelled, as the creature squirmed under her, pushing her off of it. She stumbled down a few steps, tumbling into the china plates. She cursed under her breath, and would have said far worse if it weren't for the fact that she could barely pull together the strings of her lungs enough to let her breathe.
Avery followed her, running down the stairs as the creature shrieked and screeched, darting after them. "They said you were mine! I can have your powers!"
"What powers?" Avery asked, which earned him and elbow in the ribs from Rune.
"Shut up, you stupid idiot, and run!"
He tried to take her hand, but although she needed the comfort, she backed away from it. She didn't need his stupid hand to help her. She could outrun him anyday, if she wanted to, she decided. "I'm trying, but you're not cooperating!"
"Because I'm running, obviously! Hurry up!"
"I need you two!" the creature screamed. Lights flickered on in a few nearby neighbours' houses, and Rune almost stumbled out of the front door. "Come back!"
The creature continued chasing them out in the street, over the cobbles and tarmac and grass. "You know, you actually speak English when you're scared," Avery said.
"I do not!" Rune protested. "And I wasn't scared anyway; I just wanted to get you to safety." Strictly speaking, it wasn't a total lie - just not the entire truth, either. "Now, use your powers when I take your hand."
"I've got a plan, okay? I think it'll work and if it doesn't, then we're screwed."
She let a flame ignite in the palm of her hand, and smirked, hiding it from the creature's gaze as she continued brushing Avery's shoulder, until there was no space between them. Then she took his hand. He squealed for a second, before slowly Rune felt her hand begin to cool, saw steam begin to rise over them. "What the-"
The creature batted the air in front of it, claws raking through the steam.. With her other hand, Rune sent spirals of fire towards the creature, as it shrieked, unable to go further for the wall of flame surrounding her. Rune kept a hold of a stunned Avery's hand, pulling him back towards the library, to where they were supposed to meet Laelia and Suzanne.
"It's okay," she said to him. "She'll only be there until she returns to her usual herself. It shouldn't hurt her." He slumped against the wall, closing his eyes and taking in a deep, yet shaky breath. "Don't worry, Ave."
"It's not her that worried me, Rune," he told her, voice soft. "It's you."
"Me? I'm fine."
"No. No, you were so willing to just leave her alone. You said, can't I see it, but I don't - I don't know what you saw." Through the shadows, she could see his glimmering eyes, and with a shock thought of the possibility that they wore an expression of concern.
"I saw that she wasn't lying. I didn't think that she - that she would hurt us. I'm sorry, I know I screwed up, and I totally get it if - "
"No," Avery said gently. "No, no of course not, Rune. You didn't screw up - you were being considerate, kind. You knew that we could be put in danger, yet you still have her the benefit of the doubt, you made sure that her plate didn't get smashed. I mean, you did kind of smash them all in the end, but that wasn't really your fault."
Emotions burst out of Rune in a mix of a laugh and a sob. Avery pulled her towards him, into a tight embrace. "It's okay. You didn't screw up. You got us out of there, you saved us. You did better than I did my first time."
"Yeah. Jeez, Rune, I turned all the water to ice and we all fell over. We weren't even being chased by a weird old lady." He chuckled, and Rune laughed too, grateful for the jest. "Oh, and there was that time that - well, I'm not sure if it's to tell you. How vivid an imagination do you have?"
"Hmm. Well, this isn't something anyone would want to imagine, I'm sure. The other girls weren't there thank God, but rest assured it was embarrassing enough just with Jesse, and he's seen it all before."
"Ew!" Rune laughed, leaning back a little farther away from Avery. "I will not ask any more questions about that."
"Good, cause I do not want to answer any more questions about that."
And so they sat down, laughing and giggling and chatting, until Laelia and Suzanne came back for them, they themselves laughing. "You two look like you're exhausted," Suzanne noted, being oh-so observant. "Let's get back to Jesse. Take it you didn't capture the guy?"
"There was no guy," Rune said, standing up. "It was some weird, shape shifting old lady."
Laelia gasped, colour leeching from her face. "Shape shifting? A - a shape shifter? Like, changing from human to, like, a bird or something?" Rune nodded. "Oh god. We need to get back to Jesse. Now."