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Chapter Three: Nightmare
She was home again. The dank caverns still smelled of a nauseating combination of incense and mildew. The walls of the cave had tree roots protruding in some parts, running down vine-like into the floor. The floor itself had been covered in stone bricks, so that each careless footstep would echo down the dark halls and alert the cultists within. But Sanguine had long since learned how to traverse these halls in silence, nimbly leaping from one soft patch of dirt to another, using the tree roots to support her weight. She could have simply levitated, but the thrill of avoiding detection caused her to play this dangerous game of life and death.
As she neared the main chamber, her third eye began to burn. Sharp pains shot through her brain, causing her to crumple to the floor. The sound of her impact with the ground caused a splitting headache; the resulting echoes threatened to engulf her in their fury. Her vision blurred then faded, and she felt the world around her go silent, and she allowed the pain to take over.
She woke up some time later, lying in a pool of blood. Nearby rested maimed bodies; some still had looks of horror on their faces. Her Family had been slain, and as far as she knew, she was the sole survivor. They had been betrayed.
Sanguine shot up,
waking up in the world that was
It was raining outside. This she knew not because she saw it, but because it was beating up against the bedroom window of her apartment in Croatoa. She slid out of bed, tightened her black robe, and walked toward the window. It had been raining a lot lately, which wasn’t quite normal this time of year, even for the East Coast. It seemed that the rain had brought bad news along with it, as well as complex mysteries to be solved.
For reasons unbeknownst to Sanguine, however, Fan was the mystery that bothered her the most. Where could a person go for twenty years? In her time, Sanguine couldn’t recall Fan being tied to any super group. So why did Sator know her and treat her so much like family? It was obvious to Sanguine that she needed to learn more about the events of the past twenty years if she wanted to have any hope of understanding this strange new world. She watched the rain for a while longer before she decided the best way to get quick answers would be to talk to the woman herself.
It only took a few
minutes for Sanguine to shower, and fewer still to get dressed in her usual
costume of blood red tights accented by a crimson pattern, thigh-high boots,
and padded gloves. Silently, she blended into the shadows and became invisible
to the human eye. This ability to blend with the night allowed her to travel
even faster than her usual flight spells. Swiftly she traveled from one
location to the next, enjoying the softness that the darkness consisted of as
it carried her to
“Sanguine?” Fan poked her head out, a slightly baffled expression on her face. “Haven’t you heard of using the front door?” She paused, as if to consider something. “Never mind that, how did you know where to find me?”
“Your address is located on one of the base computers,” Sanguine said with an air of coolness in her tone.
“Fair enough,” Fan said flatly. “Well, I suppose while you’re here, you might as well come in out of the rain.”
Sanguine smiled and stepped inside. Fan led her out of the bedroom and into the living room, where she motioned for Sanguine to sit on a couch. She did so, and watched as Fan went into the kitchen and returned shortly after with two cups of hot chocolate. She set these down on the small coffee table with grace then sat in the chair across from Sanguine. They sipped their hot chocolate in silence for a few moments before Fan spoke. “So what brings you here at this hour?”
“I want to know more about you, so that I may better understand why I have this nagging feeling in the back of my brain concerning us. But as I know so much about you already from what Sator has told me, I feel it is only fair that first I share some of my own story with you, if you don’t mind.”
“Alright then. I am the only daughter of the assassin Wild Card and an infamous demoness of darkness named Sioned. Wild Card was the leader of a cult of assassins created to follow her, but he wanted much more than that. As a powerful mage who could control fire and gravity, he wanted what any man in his position would desire: More power. So he summoned her. Instead of being slain and reborn when he called her as he expected, he was offered an exchange. Sioned said there was a war in her realm of being, and the only way she could escape required her to be bound to a human in our world. She told him that she could grant him a measure of dark energy if she could bear his child. He agreed, and the pact was complete.
“I was born a half-demon, with regenerative abilities and limited access to dark energies. I was also cursed with a photosensitive third eye. If I don’t keep it covered, it hurts so much I can’t stay conscious. But if I open it at night, I am allowed to see what the normal eye cannot. By the time I was ten, Sioned had fallen in love with my father and joined the very cult created to follow her, taking up the alias ‘Lady Luck’. I grew up within the cult and became an excellent assassin. But believe it or not, we had morals. We never killed anyone who was trying to help the world.” Sanguine paused, as if preparing to expose some inner nightmare.
“Are you okay?” Fan asked softly.
“Fine, thanks. It’s just… this next part is hard to make any sense of.” Sanguine stared at the cup in her hands. “We were betrayed. I was heading home after a particularly long mission, when my third eye started reacting strangely and I collapsed from the pain. When I woke up, I was surrounded by the dead bodies of my Family. All but one. The only body I didn’t recover from the cult was the assassin called Windslayer. Though I found no trace of arrow wounds or burn marks, it couldn’t have been anyone else.” Sanguine took a long sip from her cup and sighed. “I hope I didn’t bore you with my story.”
“Don’t worry about it. Did you ever find this Windslayer?”
“No. She was always very good at covering her tracks.”
“I see. I’m sorry.” Fan looked away from Sanguine, her blue eyes fixating on the pouring rain instead.
“Now there are things that I must know about you.”
“Why am I so important to you?” Fan looked once more at Sanguine.
“Because you and I are linked somehow. The reason why is unknown to me, so we must find that answer together. If I did not know without a doubt that I could trust you, I never would have told you any of this. It wouldn’t have been any of your business.”
“And it is now because you have a feeling about me?”
“My feelings have never been wrong.”
Fan rolled this over in her mind for a while. “Okay.”
“Who are you?” The woman pressed herself against the wall of her M.A.G.I. office as hard as she could, wishing she could blend into it and run away. “What do you want?” Fear gripped her chest, and it showed.
It showed so much that Fan stopped dead in her tracks. “Jive, why are you scared of me?”
“Stop calling me that! I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
The dark voice inside of Fan urged her to take the woman’s life to satiate its hunger, but Fan fought it. No, no, it’s Jive. My sister. I can’t…I can’t hurt her. Fan fell to her knees, clutching her head, fighting the spirit that sought to consume her. “What have I done to this world?” she sobbed quietly.
The woman seemed to grow less tense. “You called yourself ‘Vendetta’, right? I… I think I can help you.” She cautiously kneeled down beside Fan, suppressing a shiver as tendrils of darkness licked her knees. “My name is Jolene. I work for the Modern Arcane Guild of Investigation.”
“I’m not a villain…” Fan mumbled. “Please, get this spirit out of me! I can’t fight it!” She clutched her head tighter, as if the pressure would drive the demon out.
“I can give you something that will draw the power out. All of it. But it will be up to you to keep the artifact safe from those who would use it. Can you do that?”
Jo stood slowly and took a small bottle off a nearby bookcase. She held it close to Fan and opened it, chanting an indecipherable spell as she did so. As Fan felt the energy being drained out of her, visions of destruction and bloodshed swam through her mind. Then, they were gone.
“How do you feel?” Jo asked as she sealed the bottle tightly.
“In my world, you are my sister. Before you died, I never got the chance to say… I love you.”
“So you left us to travel to another world, where you were consumed by the angry spirit of Vendetta and destroyed most of it? And then you found your sister there, in that world…” Sanguine whispered.
“Yes. I was in that world too, but it’s as if Jive and I had traded places. Instead of her, it was I who died early. I had cancer from a young age. I guess neither of us were super heroes, either.”
“And what became of the bottle?”
“I went back to 2007 and gave it to the one person I could trust most in this world: Kadmon. He had ways of protecting everything. It seemed the best course of action.”
“But you didn’t come back after that?”
“I went to 2027 and met James Dalton. I decided to stay after a while. I didn’t have much left for me back in 2007. Not to say I didn’t visit often. I just felt like James needed me here somehow. But then I left again.”
“Where did you go?”
“I went to stay with Jo. Though I didn’t grow up with that version of her, she was still my sister. I still loved her. Still felt safe in her presence. Sure enough, we became fast friends. And then she died of a weak heart. I spent a long time trying to go back and stop Jive from ever dying in this world, and failed each time. I caused a rupture in the time stream and had to go back in time and stop myself from doing it. After that, I came back here for the final time. Kadmon told me before I left 2007 the first time that I shouldn’t leave. I should have listened, but I’m stubborn.” Fan finished her hot chocolate and set the cup down on the coffee table. “But so was he, so I guess that’s why we made such good friends. We understood why we needed to do certain things.” She looked once more at the falling rain threatening to drown the city. “Was that all you needed?” she asked, almost absently.
Sensing that Fan needed time alone, Sanguine nodded and left, this time through the front door.