Taint

RULES OF THE SYNDICATE:
Respect Lux
What she says, goes.
Got it? You're part of us now.

Sometimes, there are chances for redemption, if you look in the right places. After the tragic death of her parents, leaving her and her brother orphaned, she is no longer looking for redemption - she's out for blood.

Seven years after the death of her parents, Dawn, under the alias as Lux, arrives back into the limelight to set her vengeance in motion. Dawn isn't about to let anyone destroy her family
again.

If she's going to fall, then she's going to take everyone down with her.

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5. f o u r


f o u r 

SHE EMERGED from the bushes, stepping over them with such delicate and calculated steps. Her soft ginger tresses fell gracefully down her shoulders, yet her freckled arms were riddled with mud and scars. There was elegance in the way she walked, like a princess walking before her royal subjects. A battered princess, at least. Dawn noticed the way that she limped on her right leg, and the small wince she made whenever she applied weight to the wrong foot. Dawn was sure that her foot was fractured but the girl seemed to be handling it well. There was still a pleasant smile on her face, but even Dawn could see through the cracks.

Dawn knew that mask. She was familiar with the inner workings of that mask. She played around with that mask, she mastered that mask. The indented scars on the girl's back peeked out of her ripped blouse, as she turned to pick up her shoe. Raphael looked at Dawn, watching as his leader scanned the teenage girl in front of her. Dawn's eyes were glassy for a second, before she returned to reality.

"I'm sorry."

Her voice seemed to wrap its warm arms around Dawn's body, before she could even begin to protest. Raphael watched as Dawn visibly started to relax, even though it was for a few seconds, as she brought down her tense shoulders. He looked at the girl again, watching as she delicately wiped a dead gnat from her freckled face. Raphael could see the gnat's body leave its trail on her face. The girl smiled, at both of them, before bowing her head before them. There was a slight bend to her knees as she did so.

"Don't do that." Dawn said, even though it sounded more like a guilty plea.

The girl straightened her posture but kept her head down. She looked like a garden nymph, accidentally discovered by prying eyes. Dawn could see the leaves stuck in her hair, but it seemed as if it was intentionally used as decoration for her hair.

"Are you okay?" Raphael asked, his voice gruffer than he expected.

The girl faltered. Dawn watched as the girl threatened to collapse in on herself, clearly not expecting the question. It seemed as if all of her pre-prepared answers were on the tip of her tongue but now, she failed to reach them.

"Yes."

The answer was simple enough. Dawn should have accepted the answer for what it was. Yet, she noticed the slight break in her voice. The girl's head was still bowed towards the floor, and her ginger hair toppled all over each other, partially hiding her face from view. Her hair had accidentally let known the wounds on her neck. Old bruises covered by new bruises, staining her neck with purple-tinged kisses. ­­

"I'm Lux, and this is Raphael." Dawn raised her voice, and pointed to Raphael.

"I am Wynne."

Her choice of words were far too deliberate for Dawn's liking. Each word was enunciated clearly, yet it seemed as if her name tasted of disappointment. The smile on her face melted into a cold frown, and it seemed to suck the life out of the forest around her. Dawn swore she saw the nearest flower wilt to the bottom of the girl's foot, its leaves seemingly bowing to its own death.

"Why are you in the forest alone? Don't you have family looking for you?" Raphael interrupted Dawn's train of thought, and she almost wanted to backhand the guy into the middle of next week.

Curiosity gnawed at the end of Raphael's fingertips, and like his other emotions, he wanted them to be satiated. He noticed that Dawn had tensed beside him, but there was something so innocent about the girl that had him completely lured in.

Dawn looked at the girl, expecting her to take off on foot. She expected to see that deer-caught-in-headlights expression written on her face, she expected to see her take a step backwards, the way many did in her presence. If she ran, Dawn wasn't going to run after. If anything, the girl would be chased by her own demons, not Dawn's.

Yet, Wynne kept her feet rooted to the ground. She finally looked up, seemingly peering past them and into the unknown behind them. Dawn noticed how lifeless and  soulless her blue eyes were. She could tell that her eyes once held the life of the ocean, once held the roar of the ocean but now Dawn was sure that her ocean had dried up.

"I went out for a walk, and I missed my way."

Her words were too perfect, too trained for Dawn to believe her. The girl smiled at them, but her attempt of an illusion didn't pull the veil over their eyes. If this was any other person, Dawn would've let her go on her way but her intuition told her to stay. She knew better than to ignore her gut, which had gotten her out of many situations before.

"So, you can walk with us then." It was more a statement than a question. Dawn wasn't looking for an answer, she was looking for her reaction.

The girl seemed to weigh up her options quickly. It was as if she was performing some sort of mathematical equation in her head, as she subconsciously used her fingers to count up her options. When she was done, Dawn noticed the rhythmic tapping on the girl's stomach. She rubbed it, twice in a circular motion. Dawn turned away before Wynne could catch her in the act.

"Why doesn't this place have any paths?" Raphael complained, his voice turning into a whine. "How am I supposed to know where I'm going?"

He shuffled his feet forward, as if he was reluctant to move a single step. His trainers were completely covered with, what he hoped was, mud. Dawn walked along with Wynne by her side, occasionally throwing quick glances at her. She seemed to be walking normally, even with her limp, and closely followed Raphael's footsteps. Her limp seemed to be giving her some trouble, as she struggled to lift her foot over the many sticks and large stones on the ground.

"I smeared some of those berries on the trees, so that I could track my way through the woods." Wynne pointed out, pausing to drag her finger down the markings of the nearest tree.

Dawn watched as she sniffed her finger and then put her finger in the air, tilting it to show the difference in the colour. It was barely visible but Dawn could see the darker parts of her finger. Before Dawn could open her mouth, she noticed the quiet ruffle of the leaves. The squawks of the birds above surprised her as she watched them exit their nests. They left in droves. Someone was here, and Dawn was sure that whoever it was, wasn't great.

Birds were still flying above her, hesitating almost on their choice to leave. Some hovered directly above her, then immediately made their choice and fled the scene. Dawn glanced at Wynne, who was frozen to her spot, her eyes had glazed over and her mouth was left slightly agape. Dawn noticed as her hand immediately covered her stomach, as if she was shielding it from the trouble that lied ahead.

Raphael looked back at Dawn for permission and Dawn nodded, wondering whether it was best to walk in unarmed. He walked onwards, deliberately slowing his pace down as he looked around for any sudden movements. The ruffle of leaves came again, this time accompanied with low voices. Dawn couldn't sense anyone, yet she knew that someone was there.

Wynne retched suddenly, taking Dawn and Raphael by surprise. If it was possible for her to throw up nothing, then that was exactly what she was doing. She hid her mouth behind her hand and gagged, and took a step back. She took a couple more steps backwards, absolutely refusing to walk forwards, while covering her mouth.

Then it hit Dawn. The rotting smell wrapped her nose and throat in a chokehold, refusing to let go. Dawn had seen her fair share of dead bodies, and had battled the smells but this one, this one was so pungent. Dawn walked forward, despite everything in her soul telling her to walk back. the further she walked towards the source, the stronger the smell.

There it was.

There she was.

"Who the fuck died?" Raphael whined loudly, using his t-shirt as a make-shift mask. He shuffled a few steps backwards, bumping into Dawn's figure.

"Oh, sorry."

Her voice wasn't what Dawn expected from the pale, brown-haired girl stood in front of Raphael. Her voice reminded Dawn of the old homeless woman that lived near her house. Her voice was always raspy, as her voice was scraping its way out of her throat. The girl's skin was deathly pale, yet her eyes were the only thing that screamed life. Eye-bags acted as weights on her face, lifting up her eyes. Her lips had lost its colour. No blood rush to her cheeks, Dawn noticed.

This, whatever she was, was definitely not human.

"Damn." Raphael walked towards her, murmuring. His six-foot-two frame towered over the girl's tiny frame. She had to be about five-foot-four, five-foot-five at the most. "What witch fucked you up?"

The girl looked up, and stepped backwards. Whether out of fear or apprehensiveness, Dawn couldn't put her finger on it. Dawn peeked around Raphael's hulking figure, and watched as a blonde man came into view. The sudden darkness fell upon the woods, and it made it much harder to see their features.

"None." A male voice replied simply. "It's not dog business either."

Dawn could cut the silence with a knife as it hung in the air. She raised her eyebrows, keeping her mouth in a tight line. Dog? She looked back at Wynne, who was still dry-heaving with her back faced away from the strangers. Maybe that was for the better.

"The fuck you mean 'dog'?" Raphael spat out, clearly annoyed by the man. Raphael was tamer than she expected, she had taught him well. "Think you mean wolf, mate."

Raphael's anger was cascading off him in waves, waves that clearly wanted to pull him back in. Dawn knew it was the derogatory term that had pissed him off and she wondered how long he would struggle to keep the lid closed on his rage.

"They come from the same family, don't they?" The man said, again with such grace.

Dawn narrowed her eyes. Not because he wasn't correct, but because he wasn't bothered by her presence. The aura of indifference towards her species, albeit half of her species, concerned her. She had already established that he wasn't human, nor was he a hunter but that only left one question that led to many other questions.

She glanced at Raphael, who looked like he was struggling to contain his annoyance – his fists were clenched to the point where the veins on his arms were popping up all over the place. The man still looked unfazed. Not many men could do that in front of Raphael. Then she saw it.

It was faint but she saw the glow emitting from his forearm. It looked like the light emitting from a fading firefly, one that was dying slowly.  All of her questions were answered within the span of a minute. She smirked to herself as she placed her hand on Raphael's forearm.

"Raphael." Dawn kept her voice low, somehow managing to keep the sing-songy tone in her voice.

He took a step backwards, still keeping his eyes trained on the blonde man in front of him. When Dawn was sure that Raphael was firmly behind her, she looked back at Jael for a few seconds, then her eyes wandered over to the girl who seemed like she might run at any moment. Or rather, her eyes were more interested in the man behind her.

"Raphael?" The man guffawed, his boisterous laughter echoing through the woods. "Like the fucking archangel? I thought mutts were supposed to be more creative than that."

Dawn watched as the girl threw her elbow into his body, yet it has no effect on the man, who is still laughing his heart out. Archangel. Dawn knew how ironic his chosen code-name was. She knew how much Raphael had to struggle against himself to keep the beast within him on a leash. His eyes were probably flickering black and it would only be a few minutes until he lost his battle against his beast. Dawn turned around, and watched as his entire sclera was doused in black.

Touch was out of the question. Placing her hand on his arm would do nothing for him, it would only quicken the process of unleashing his beast. She walked closer to him, giving him enough space for himself.

"Whakamahuru." She whispered softly. She repeated the word many times until the word could act as a rope for him to pull himself out of the pit he trapped himself in. She waited until the whites of his sclera had returned, until he had blinked a couple of times, until he recognised that the world was full of light again. His blue eyes finally recognised her, that she was here, that he was here. "Don't let the darkness pull you back for such a foolish reason."

She was pissed. She turned her attention back to the trio who almost caused the destruction of her friend's fragile sanity. The girl stood frozen in the middle of the two men. The man who had laughed earlier looked like how Dawn felt.  The girl had, what seemed like, the remnants of her insides on her face and Dawn knew that girl was terrified. It wasn't Dawn's fault that she had to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

She stepped closer to the girl, wanting to laugh when she saw the deer-in-headlights look she expected from Wynne.  She tilted her head as she asked, "What's wrong with you?"

"N-n-nothing." The girl managed to stumble out.

Dawn knew the girl wouldn't have an answer. She seemed so in denial about the world around her. Typical human. Ignorance was only bliss until a certain point. This girl seemed to be way past that point. Her cheeks with rosy, and she knew it wasn't from the blood suddenly rushing to her face.

"Clearly, it's too much for us mutts to handle." Raphael spat out, still affected by what the blonde man said.

Mutts. The term was often used by the richer, more elite kaiārahis referred to those who they felt was below them. She had been called a mutt, a few too many times in her life, and Raphael...well, Raphael had been called it all his life. Dawn tapped her fingers slowly against her thighs twice, telling him to back down. She heard the angry puff of air as the leaves crackled further back, letting her know that he had listened to her.

"Winona, drink up." The man's voice rang out through the forest. Even the absent birds could not produce such a melodic tune such as his.

Dawn kept her eyes trained on the clear liquid as the girl drank from the vial. The gold flecks reminded her of the faint glow coming from the man's hand. She'd seen that somewhere before, but where, where has she seen it? Her mind jumped to the many memories with her mother – one of them struck her the most. Her mother's hand, dark in complexion, flickered over the page of her encyclopaedia. She never understood the appeal of reading until her eyes landed on that giant book in her mother's hands. The Others. The gold embossed font on the black book made it to the forefront of her mind. 

She knew what it was. She knew what they were. Most importantly, she knew what she was. Yet, they had met here, a place where werewolves and the others would never meet in any other circumstance. The absurdity of the situation made her laugh. The girl stopped coughing, and there was a visible improvement in her condition but Dawn knew better.

The girl was a walking corpse. Not yet a zombie, but not yet an apparition. The vial was nothing but an immunity shot – for a few hours, the girl would feel fine but then the effect would fade, then the coughing would start. It wouldn't be too long until the girl started to cough up her insides and...

"You better start looking for your tombstones. Shit's not gonna last long." Dawn said breathlessly, through her laughter.

Her eyes were bright with denial. She squinted at Dawn as if everything that came out of her mouth was absolute horseshit. She looked away from Dawn's gaze, and looked towards the blonde man. Dawn didn't bother with his reaction, it would only further her laughter. The fragile glass cage that they had wrapped her in had to break someday. Dawn was just happy she was the one to smash it open for them.

"What does she mean?" Her voice was small, as she looked for reassurance from the man. "Jael?"

The man sighed. "It's a temporary fix. It won't stop your body from rotting."

Dawn knew she had fucked up for them. Dawn took pleasure in that fact, knowing that she had ruined their walking corpse, the same way that they had almost ruined Raphael. She smirked, as she watched the cogs turned in the girl's mind.

"But I'm not dead." Her voice was still so small, obviously holding onto a shred of hope that defied everything.

The man behind her stepped forward a bit. "Winona." He called for her.

She was still denying it. Humans, she tutted, they denied everything that they couldn't find an explanation for. They wanted to know everything yet refused to acknowledge the answers that were placed right in front of them.

"You can deny it as much as you want, Winona." Dawn taunted her, "but you'll never be anything but a bag of rotting flesh."

Dawn watched as the girl took off running, away from the desperate calls of the men in front of her. The brunette threw her a dirty look before sprinting off in the direction of the girl. She took a step backwards, back in the comfort of Raphael's presence, waiting for the man – Jael, was it? -  to respond.

"Who's land is this?" He asked, after a few seconds.

"His name is Xavier, these are his woods." Dawn smirked, she put a finger on her chin and tapped it slowly. "Aren't you going to run after your corpse?"

The man turned around and walked in the direction of the girl and the boy, then paused. "Make sure you look after those three better than you treated her." Then he made his way through the bushes.

Dawn raised her eyebrows and looked back. It was only Raphael and Wynne standing there. She was surprised that Wynne hadn't took off running way before the altercation. Wynne's reaction made sense to her. Her eyes had widened and her hands unconsciously covered her stomach. Why didn't she see it before?

×

Wynne struggled in Raphael's arms for a few seconds, before giving into her exhaustion and giving up her fight. Dawn ignored the blood on her hands as she wiped them on her dark jeans. Blood still made its way into the cracks of her palms but she could do nothing about it for now. She tore a strip of her cropped sweater and wrapped it around Wynne's leg. The blood quickly made an appearance on the lightly-coloured sweater, and Wynne groaned in pain.

"We're taking you back." Dawn said, once she was done.

Wynne remained silent. Dawn watched as the girl's breathing eased into a gentle rhythm, and waited for a response. Her blue eyes flickered open, and darted over to Dawn's face. She scanned her face for a while, then slowly nodded.

"First trimester?" Dawn's eyes wandered to her belly, which seemed a lot more pronounced.

"No."

The word was simple. Dawn knew that the girl wasn't going to budge on her answer, and decided to let her keep her secrets. She turned on her heel and walked towards their main house. Dawn knew that Wynne's ghosts would show up soon enough.

______

[ lil collab chapter with peripxteia for her new story "six feet above" - freaking loved this chapter - especially because there's a bit of lore.

if anyone was wondering what dawn whispered to raphael to calm him down, it's a maori word that simply means to calm down :) ]

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