Ancient

Christa Marian is a senior in high school when reports of the mysterious woman the papers call "the enchantress" begin. She initially disregards it, but the things surrounding this mysterious woman will end up twisting Christa's life in ways she would have never foreseen.

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3. Chapter 2

 "They're saying it's a gas leak. But no gas leak would make everyone feel such synchronized pain in the same exact moment. The officers say they saw the enchantress in your classroom."

"It was a gas leak," Christa spoke in a hardened tone, her eyes showing her exhaustion as she sipped the bitter tea the nurses had given her with shaking hands, screwing up her face at the awful taste. She had specifically asked for sugar, but they had neglected to fulfill her wishes. She was so desperate for some sort of nutrition or distraction from the pest in front of her that she drank it anyway. She was sitting up in her hospital bed, in a large open room specifically housing many of the students of her school. It had barely been twelve hours since that strange occurrence at school and already news outlets were flocking to the hospital. A young eager reporter sat at the edge of Christa's bed, a notepad in her hand and a pencil in the other. From the way she pestered her interviewee with no sense of remorse or restraint, it was clear she was desperate for a story. Her eyes narrowed at Christa's compliance with the school's lie, her hard grayish blue eyes looking over her subject curiously. Christa stared back, bored with the woman who had been bothering her with questions she hadn't answered for the past ten minutes.

"Can't you go bother someone else?" she asked curtly, turning her face away from the woman to reveal the long bandage on her cheek. The woman looked insulted, anger and offense clear on her face that a high school student would take such a tone of voice with her.

"Listen here, Ms. Marian. That cut on your cheek, what... or who, gave it to you?" the reporter leaned forward, smirking as she assumed she was backing her interviewee into a corner. She recoiled a bit at the cold look Christa gave her in response.

"Glass. The glass blew out because of the gas leak," she answered, tapping her fingers impatiently on the thin blankets that covered her legs. She wanted to get out of the hospital as soon as possible, but the doctors had not come to her room to clear the patients in there yet. They had started only a few hours ago at the beginning of the girls' rooms, and with the hundreds of students that had been incapacitated by the event, they had not yet made it to hers. Instead, this reporter had come to pester Christa, the only one "different" from the rest of the people in the building for she had more injuries than most. How the information of her injuries had spread was unknown to her, but right now she was silently cursing the person who had let this annoyance know. The doctors had paid no mind to the fact, but once this woman got wind of it, she had head straight for what she assumed would be her next news scoop.

"Oh, Ms. Marian, I don't see any other of your classmates with injuries like yours. Was it the enchantress who hurt you?" The reporter smiled in mock sympathy, reaching out to pat her hand. Christa smacked it away, her eyes cruel and narrowed as she looked straight into the reporter's eyes with an air of defiance.

"Oh, Ms. Clark, don't you have better things to do than prey on traumatized teenage girls?" Christa finally lost her temper, pressing the button beside her bed to call the nurse. The reporter's eyes narrowed, her top lip curling in disgust as the door burst open with not only nurses, but security as well.

"You little-!" she shouted, struggling as the security grabbed her by her arms and began to drag her away. Christa put a hand over her mouth to hide a smirk and began to laugh after she could no longer hear the woman's obscenities as she was forcibly removed from the building. As soon as the nurses had left, she hopped onto her feet, a little unsteady but soon finding her balance. Her stomach growled in protest and she felt slightly lightheaded, leaning against the bedframe for a moment of recuperation. She walked out of the room calmly and quietly, smiling to the nurses in the hallway who nodded to her in reply. Someone passed with a cart of food and she swiftly snatched an apple off of the top with a word of thanks to the blonde woman pushing it. The woman nodded somewhat coldly in response before stopping and turning to her.

"You shouldn't be walking around," her voice was somewhat nasty, stunning Christa for a moment. She was slightly frustrated at the woman's tone, but put on a smile as she normally would, too much of a softie to say something curt in return. Her comebacks were never very good, and she had just used up her anger on the reporter and would only fumble if she tried to say something nasty. The woman looked her over with a slight air of disgust and annoyance. "... Too weak to be doing so."

"I'm fine, don't worry!" she replied airily. The woman's cold blue eyes drilled intensely into her for a few moments, making Christa shudder. Finally, she turned away and continued her walk down the hallway. Puzzled at the encounter, Christa stood there for a moment and mulled over her next actions. She strolled down the corridor which reeked of sick smothered in bleach and chemicals. It made her wrinkle up her nose in disgust; she hated the smell of hospitals. Hospitals in general made her uncomfortable. They were meant for housing sick people. Even though she was not sick, somewhere else in the building there were people on the verge of death. She walked down halls that once contained people who might have died yesterday or months ago.

She shrugged and chose a random door to enter, greeted instantly with the more intense scent of chemicals trying to mask the smell of sick. She wrinkled her nose, taken aback a moment by the smell as her stomach flipped before noticing one of her and Arjun's mutual friends, Kalli, who was sitting up and looking at her phone. Christa walked over to her, the movement making the girl raise her head and give her a weary smile.

"Hey, Christa. How are you feeling?" she asked as the other girl took a seat at the edge of the bed, swinging her legs as she smiled in return.

"Okay, thanks. Just got pestered by a reporter who believed the enchantress was behind this. Apparently my injuries were different from most, she heard about it, tracked me down and proceeded to 'interview' me. Are you alright?" Christa looked puzzled as Kalli's darker skin turned unnaturally pale at the mention of the enchantress. She was silent for a moment before looking at Christa, the color returning to her face.

"I know the enchantress wasn't behind this. It was a gas leak," Kalli leaned back against her bedframe with a sigh. From across the room, a small Asian girl slipped out of her bed to join them. Kalli and Christa greeted her warmly.

"Hey, Nelly. Why are you in this room? Shouldn't you be at the beginning of the alphabet?"

"Oh, I was visiting one of my friends," she motioned behind her to the girl's bed she had come from and smiled. "How are you two feeling?"

"I'm okay, thank you," replied Christa with a smile. Kalli responded in a similar fashion. Nelly leaned forward and tapped her fingers on the bed.

"This is pretty scary, isn't it?"

"I have to agree with you there," Christa nodded, looking at the other girls who had been in her class at the time of the incident. They both looked just as tired as she felt, as though they had spent weeks without rest. Many others that they had all seen looked the same. "It's very creepy."

"I'm worried for the rest of our class. They say our classroom had the most damage. Glass everywhere, lights broken, windows out. Something's definitely up," Nelly looked to the other girls, readjusting herself to a more comfortable position. Kalli and Christa nodded in agreement. Another girl suddenly appeared at their sides.

"Since you were all over here, I thought I'd join you," the girl smiled and tilted her head, running a hand through her black hair.

"Hey, Meghna, how are you feeling?" Nelly greeted her with an even brighter smile. Meghna sighed, putting her hands on her hips.

"You know, I've been better," she said definitively with a stern nod, causing them all to laugh.

"I think we all have," Christa mused, a grin on her face. Seeing her friends lightened her heart. It was good to see Meghna. She was the only one out of the four that stood there that hadn't been in their history class at the time of the... incident.

"You guys okay?" she asked, leaning against the wall to take them all in. Her eyes focused on the bandage that covered Christa's cheek. "What happened to you?"

"Must've cut it on some glass," she said nonchalantly, but her heart had leaped into her throat at the question. Thoughts of the woman made fear run through her veins.

"What a strange thing to happen. I don't think glass usually breaks in a gas leak," Meghna thought out loud, tapping the wall with her manicured nails.

"Do you think it could be the enchantress?" Kalli asked after a moment, her voice sounding slightly uncomfortable at the mention as she flicked her eyes between her two friends. Christa looked at her in confusion at the contradiction.

"You just said it wasn't. You seemed pretty sure," she stood again, smoothing out her hospital gown. Her friend's expression of discomfort only deepened.

"I'm not sure how to feel," Kalli replied, resting her head in her hands. Christa changed the topic with a sigh, not wanting to continue making Kalli uncomfortable. She gently patted her friend's shoulder.

"I'm going to go see Arjun. Would you like to come?"

"You two go. I want to go see Gina and Devika," Nelly gave them a small wave and a quick smile before leaving. Meghna shrugged.

"I would, but I'm going to go see Chris instead, just to make sure that annoyance is still breathing," she rolled her eyes and smiled before giving them a final word of goodbye and leaving the room. Kalli swung her legs over the side of her bed but hesitated, as though nervous to move. Christa extended a hand to her.

"Need help?" she asked. Kalli nodded, taking the other's wrist graciously. Using her as a support, Kalli pulled herself onto her feet.

"Thanks," Kalli gave her a smile, letting go of her hand and taking a few steps before stumbling. Christa caught her quickly, and they both began to laugh to lighten the situation. Together, they made their way to Arjun's room, opening the door to a volley of different yells and greetings. The room was full of boys shouting, all of them more energetic than all of the girls, who had opted to stay silent in the room they had just come from. Arjun was in the corner, charging his phone and staring at it with a bored expression, his hand in his hair. He didn't notice the girls until they got closer and seemed slightly surprised to see them, greeting them a little wearily but happily nonetheless. They sat down beside him, their own little circle in the corner among the other groups of people in the room.

"Glad to see you're okay," Christa smiled and nudged him teasingly, but then sincerely touched his hand. It was gentle, caring, and their eyes flicked to the other's for a moment, but their contact was met by a sharp shock. Arjun jolted and withdrew, as did Christa, her face burning. Kalli coughed slightly to break the obvious tension. He looked dazed for a second before looking between the two with a smile.

"Same goes to you two, too," he sighed and pressed the power on his phone with a sigh, his eyes flicking over the screen as it dinged. "My parents are worried sick about me."

"Are they on their way?" Kalli asked.

"I think so?" he answered, looking at her with a lopsided smile. Christa laughed at this, as her nature was one of natural humor. She found too many things funny.

"Well, you would hope," she leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes. They were silent for a few moments before they laughed to relieve the tension that had built back up.

"So, do you guys really think it's a gas leak? A lot of people are-"

"Saying it was the enchantress, we know," Christa rolled her eyes and crossed her arms, drawing her knees in and resting her chin on them. "I got interrogated by a reporter and we were just talking to Nelly about it."

"A reporter?" Arjun asked, amused.

"I don't want to talk about it," Christa muttered, giving him a strangely cold glare. He looked taken aback for a moment and the air grew heavy between them again. Kalli's eyes darted between them, almost puzzled, before breaking the two's intense stares.

"It doesn't seem like something she would do, though. She's nice. She saved that one man in the forest," Kalli spoke again, her eyebrows furrowed. Arjun nodded.

"Yeah, this does seem pretty odd. Like, why would someone like her do this? It doesn't follow her pattern of events" he agreed, looking between his two friends. Christa hesitated, opening her mouth to speak, but Kalli beat her to it.

"I saw her," she confessed quietly. The others' eyebrows shot up in surprise. "She saved my life."

"How?" Arjun asked, his tone slightly confused but his eyes focused intensely on Kalli. Christa could see in the way their friend looked that she was telling what she thought was the truth. Her eyes were large and showed all her vulnerability, her voice was weak and nervous and she glanced at her friends as though she was scared they would scoff. It was one of those expressions where you just knew the person had to be telling the truth. She was shaking as she recalled what happened.

"I think... I was dead. For a little while, at least. I remember what happened before we passed out. There was that pain, and the agonizing screams. I hit my head on my desk really hard when I went down. I can remember... standing outside my body, screaming like everyone else but unable to reach out. It was like floating in the middle of some sort of... fever induced hallucination. Everything was fuzzy and faint. I could hear more screaming, but I couldn't open my eyes. It was cool and warm at the same time. And then I heard someone telling me to wake up, and I could open my eyes, and I saw the enchantress. I remember feeling surprised at seeing her, like she was familiar, but... I can't recall her face. I'm sorry," Kalli was tearing up now, her fists clenched as she stared at the ground.

"You don't need to apologize. What happened next?" Christa asked gently, patting her hand softly and giving her a kind and sympathetic look.

"Well... she lunged at me and shoved my shoulders. It was like a jolt back into reality. I think I passed out after that. I woke up here... and that's all I can remember," Kalli finished with a heavy sigh, pausing before giving her friends a slight smile. "You don't think I'm crazy, do you?"

"No, of course not," Arjun assured her. "Everyone is already crazy."

"Hey, we're in a hospital, not an asylum," Christa responded, causing them to laugh and lightening the mood a little. After a moment of silence, Christa went to speak again, but closed her mouth before she made a mistake she would regret. Sure, after Kalli's story, her encounter with that strange, evil woman in the classroom seemed not as outrageous as it would have been unprompted, but she decided to keep it to herself. It was too much of a strange occurrence to tell her friends and leave them fearing for their lives. They, however, had noticed she was going to speak.

"Did you see her, too?" Kalli asked, tapping her fingers on the white tiles that lined the floor. Christa blanked on what excuse to make, hesitating and staring at them both for a few long moments.

"I was too busy drooling on the ground to see her," she laughed slightly to cover her moments of silence and ran her fingers through her hair. "Trust me, I would be freaking out if I saw her."

"Agreed," Arjun said with a sigh, stretching out his legs. Christa stood, reaching her arms above her head and sighing.

"I'm going back to my room. They should be clearing me soon. You'll be fine on your own, right Kalli?" Christa looked back at her friend with slight concern. She nodded with a smile, thanking her for her help. Christa smiled in return before leaving the room, a little flustered from her slip-up. On the way back to her room, there was a slight commotion that broke out around her. Nurses were running down the hallway, towards a blaring siren in the distance. Someone knocked into her and she stumbled, twisting her ankle. It hurt almost instantly but she paid no mind as she followed the people running down the halls, now curious on what was going on. The source of the sirens was one of the first rooms housing the high school students. Scared and concerned, for she was sure some of her friends must be in there, Christa pushed her way through the crowd of people around the door. Dread weighed heavily in her stomach at the sounds of whines and whimpers that grew louder as she grew closer. She finally broke through the masses to a stunning sight. The students were cowering against the walls, some crying, some screaming. The large windows on the wall were broken, as well as the lights, as they had been in her classroom. The air was heavy with the sadly familiar and metallic scent of blood. Christa's eyes widened and she had to lean against the wall for support as she gazed in horror at the body impaled on the wall, blood still dripping from the corpse. It was Lillian, her mouth still stretched open in a cry of pain that she must have felt in her last moments. Scrawled on the wall beside her, obviously in her blood, was a single word: MIAKA.

Christa's breath came in short gasps as someone pulled her out of the room in order to enter. Her vision was hazy and the sounds around her now became muffled and distant. Someone was holding onto her as her legs began to give out, supporting all her weight for her. She couldn't see who it was through the tears that spilled down her cheeks. She could taste the saltiness as her mouth opened and closed in hoarse protests of denial, repeating "no" over and over again. There were more arms around her, as though it was in hopes of comfort, but none could warm her as her body grew colder, her heart heavy with grief. She pushed out of their arms, collapsing to the ground and curling up there with a wail. Someone shook her violently, only increasing her sobbing, before they picked her up and she did not resist, for she was too tired and consumed with loss. She did not care about the touch of others. She could not hear their words. Her thoughts were filled with thoughts of Lillian and the horror she had just witnessed. She was placed on a bed, but it felt hard and unforgiving against her back. She was still crying, her face twisted with the pain of losing a friend. She could barely hear the voices shouting her name, telling her to stay with them, saying something about shock, before she drifted off into the darkness.

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On a hill beside the school, in the middle of the darkness of the night, the enchantress was looking at the stars. They were so beautiful but so cold as they looked down so cruelly at the earth, unaware of all the loss that it experienced or the suffering it felt. She appreciated their beauty though, and wished she could capture the silent night and the starry sky to share it with others. Silently, Kaya appeared behind her, and with a furious cry that held all of her pain and grief, brought her khopesh down onto the enchantress. However, the other moved quicker than her even with her time manipulation, catching her wrists and squeezing them in a spot so that her hands spasmed and she dropped her weapons. Kaya's violet eyes were furious, but they soon became sad and she fell onto the enchantress, her hands gripping at the other's dress. She sobbed, letting the woman know her intense grief. The enchantress released her wrists to smooth out her black hair.

"Y-you... you promised you would protect her..." her voice was thick with sadness as she shouted at the woman she clung to. The enchantress' blue and orange eyes, rimmed with red from also spending hours of expressing her loss, showed surprise as she looked at the crying girl, seeming unsure of what to do in her moment of vulnerability. It gave her a soft twinge of memories she pushed back down into the red depths of her own vulnerability. She lifted a hand slowly to touch the girl that hung so tightly to her. Kaya seemed to shudder at her touch, as if the woman's touch was poisonous and caused her even more pain than she already felt. Kaya lifted her tear streaked face to look at the enchantress, her face twisted into a look of rage. "Your name was painted on the wall in her blood."

"I cannot... reverse what happened," she spoke softly, her voice hollow, for she did not know what tone to take in such a situation. Kaya stepped back, as though Miaka had slapped her. Her eyes began to glow again, her sadness long buried under the anger she felt.

"You saved Kalli. You brought her back. What is keeping you from bringing back Lillian?!"

"You think I didn't care about her, too?!" Miaka was just as angry as Kaya now, her eyes narrowing and her hands clenching and releasing in an attempt to contain herself. "You saw her there, in the hospital, how she reacted. The guilt we feel for the death of our friend will linger for a long time, but those injuries were caused by an enchanted blade that you know I cannot heal. Need I remind you?"

Kaya shuddered at the unwanted memories that brought up, closing her eyes and attempting to control her ragged breathing. With eyes like that of a snake, she spat at Miaka's feet before speaking.

"You're lucky we've been friends longer than she and I have. I would never betray you. I just... the loss of someone so dear to her... I mean, us, is hard."

"Choose your words carefully from now on, Kaya. I had Aninu give you a vessel for you to aid me in taking down the most dangerous reincarnation of Rosaline yet. I can have her revoke your power in a moment and leave your vessel helpless. I still have Euryale and Cirneth to help me," Miaka pulled up her hood, her body beginning to glow softly. Two large wings burst through two well hidden slits in the back of her cloak. With a hard push off the ground, she was in the air, twisting and turning as though she was a shooting star, lighting up the night sky with a streak of hope. Kaya was left alone, staring at where Miaka had disappeared in a silent state of grief and shock, before letting out a bloodcurdling scream and disappearing from sight.

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Christa awoke to a heavy eyelids and a runny nose. Her eyes were puffy to the point where she could barely see. They stung as the cool hospital air blew gently against them. She was alone in the dimly lit room, the moon shining in coldly through the lone window. Much time had passed since she had seen Lillian's body. After a few minutes of waiting there for something, anything to happen, she became impatient and pressed the nurse call button. After a minute or two, a nurse came in to check on her, taking her pulse and stroking her hair gently.

"It's going to be okay," she spoke softly, her brown eyes looking kindly upon the emotionally drained girl who sat in front of her before leaving the room. Christa's heart hurt as she weakly picked up her phone in a shaking hand. She sent a text to Arjun, asking him if he was still in the hospital in hopes she could have a companion to cheer her up, to which he replied that he had been discharged, as had most of the students. For some reason that made her even more upset. The event had made everything an emotional burden. A doctor came in to check her over as the nurse had, patting her hand in an attempt to comfort her. She smelled of disinfectant that could not mask the underlying stench of sickness and death that followed her where she went. Christa shied away from her, giving her a slightly scared and sad look. The doctor smiled and brushed Christa's hair behind her ear.

"You're going to have to stay here tonight, sweetheart. We need to watch you for signs of shock. Do you know Violet Corinne? Violet is right next door if you need to talk to someone about what happened. I think there's also some students left, but not for much longer," the doctor spoke slowly, as though she was speaking to a small child. Christa nodded on instinct, her body numb as the doctor left, to tired to protest the way he was speaking to her as she normally would. She laid back against the stiff pillows and felt her face crumble into a sob, her body shaking as she began to cry again. The door creaked open again and she raised her eyes to see a familiar face. It was Devika, one of the people she had met through Arjun. Her brown hand contrasted the white door as she lingered in the doorway, hesitating as though she felt she might not be welcome. She was usually bright and outgoing, but now her personality was reigned in and she seemed kind of reserved. Christa wiped at her face and gave Devika a weak smile.

"Hi," she said in a hollow voice, not at all like her normally outgoing attitude. Devika looked sad for her and walked to sit on the bed.

"I was still in here and figured I might check on you. Jacob told me what happened. He was the one who picked you up when you collapsed. He had to leave, though," she gave Christa a sympathetic look, her pretty brown eyes magnified by her red glasses. Christa sighed and looked down at her folded hands, squeezing them together before twiddling her thumbs.

"Thank you," she said almost inaudibly, glancing at Devika with a shaky smile as tears filled her eyes. "I... I really needed a friend right now."

"I thought you might," she said softly. Her voice suddenly grew more positive as if she was trying to lift Christa from her depth of sadness. "Do you want something to eat? They have these really good cinnamon buns downstairs. I can sneak you one, if you want!"

"I'm not hungry," Christa replied dully, making Devika's shoulders deflate. "But thanks, Devika."

Unsure of what to say next, Devika nodded as she patted Christa's shoulder comfortingly. The tears from Christa's eyes splattered the white blankets, the gesture on making her heart hurt more. They sat there for a few moments, a hush falling over the room neither of them wanted to break. Devika eventually spoke again.

"Well, if you need me, just text me, okay?" With one final smile and a light sigh, Devika stood and left silently, leaving Christa alone. Inside, she wished that Devika had stayed longer, for the presence of a friend put her slightly at ease, but there was nothing to say to her friend and it would have just been strange to sit in silence.

Her face collapsed on itself as the room fell quiet once more, her lip quivering as her body shook with a sob. She squeezed her eyes shut as the warm tears ran down her cheeks. She gripped at the sheets tightly, digging her nails into her palms through them in hopes that the pain would draw her closer to reality. It did nothing to help her, though, and she instead burrowed into the blankets hoping to find some comfort in the dark clutches of sleep. She tried to stifle the images of Lillian that flashed behind her eyelids, tossing and turning before she could finally find a comfortable position. As she neared the brink of slumber, she thought she felt a smooth, cool finger brushing away her tears, and her body instantly felt at ease.

"Rest now, Christa Marian," a soft voice not unlike her own whispered, and Christa could not tell if it was in her head or aloud before she fell into a relaxing slumber.

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