Nicole Grey (foenix) wrote,
Nicole Grey
foenix

Black River: The Dead of Winter - Day Whatever

Not tired, not in pain, able to type.  So I sat down and whizzed through 3000 words to get the next chapter done.

60553 / 50000
(121.11%)


Probably the last daily counter, because I'm not gonna be writing daily, but I wanted to get that up one last time.  I might post one if I write, or when I post a chapter.  It's as much self-encouragement as anything else.

Now, I *really* need my coffee.


Chapter Seven - Rebirth

        Christopher cradled the young child in his arms as she passed out.  He tossed the cloth he had used on the young Kelly to the side, and laid the girl down on the cool, hard ground.  She lay there like a sleeping baby, without a care in the world, oblivious of what had been done to her.  Christopher hoped she would remain that way.
        Even if no one had seen him take the child into the forest, it would not be long before a teacher noticed she was missing.  Questions would be asked, alarms would be raised.  He had to work fast before someone found him.
        It was easy enough for Christopher to drag the girl to the center of the circle, the focal point of the mystical lens.  He made a quick check to be certain the girl was out cold.  As bad as he felt, Christopher just kept reminding himself that it was this, or kill her.  It was a cold comfort, but comfort nonetheless.
        Once he was certain that the child was in place, Christopher drew a silver dagger from inside his jacket.  It glinted in the sunlight, but its smooth, shining surface was soon marred by red splatters as the druid slashed the palm of his hand.  He winced at the pain, but knew it was temporary.  A moment of pain to give this girl a lifetime of freedom.  At least, that was his hope, if this worked.
        If not, well...  His dagger would have to draw a lot more blood before this day was through.
        Christopher pushed those thoughts far from his mind and focused on the task at hand, as he hoped the powers of this place would focus on the girl.  Magicks had almost disappeared from the word, but the standing stones scattered across the globe still held repositories of power people like he could draw upon.  Without the stones, there was no chance of this working.  With them, odds that were just better than Vegas.
        He knew a day would come when the magic would be strong again, the teachings of Joseph had told him so.  This was not that day, and that day was in a far flung future he was not going to live long enough to see.  All Christopher could do was hope that there was enough magic left in the world to save one small, scared, little girl.
        The druid moved closer to the granite monolith nearest the river.  Water carried life, carried power, and he hoped it would carry his prayers to whatever gods might still be out there and paying attention to this little blue dot.  It would be nothing sort of miraculous if they were even just paying attention that day.
        Christopher's hand connected with the stone, making a wet, thick slapping sound, like he had just slammed a fresh steak onto a chopping block.  The stone was frozen and lifeless, but deep beneath the cold, he felt a thread of warmth.  He reached out with his mind and grabbed ahold of that thinnest of wires, and drew upon it, calling forth the power surging deep, deep within the ground.
        With the stone being so cold, and the power buried so deep, Christopher suspected the magic here had not been called upon in something close to centuries.  It would take time for the energy to burrow its way up to the waking world and bring warmth back to this place of power.  He knew the next person to use this stone would at least have an easier time of it.
        Little did Christopher realise that he was making the stones ready for his own use eight years in the future.
        The only sound Christopher could hear was his own voice as he called upon ancient powers and forgotten gods.  Surely they had to listen to help the child.
        "Crom Cruach, I come before thee in your circle of stones that you watch over.  See me now, hear my words.  Call upon your sisters and brothers and grant the boon I ask of thee.  You are the guardian and keeper of the stones, and all prayers go through thee, but they must go forth to others.  Be my messenger, my herald, for the sake of this girl."
        The man was biding as much time as anything else, calling upon the keeper of the stones.  It was an old tradition, but many druids believed without the blessing of Crom Cruach, no prayer would be heard.  Christopher didn't know what he believed, but it helped him tug upon the lingering thread of power, strengthening it.  Whether that was his own doing, or the crone answering his call, he couldn't say.
        "Brigid of the sacred flames, I call upon thee to warm this girl laid out before me, heal her mind, make her forget what has happened here today.  I call upon your flames to burn away the parts of her mind that bind her to the greater powers so that she may live free of danger and live a normal life."
        The girl stirred, like she was having a nightmare.  She turned on her side and curled up into a ball.  Christopher didn't know if that was a good sign or not.  All he could do was continue and hope for the best.
        "Sulis of the sacred waters, your power flows through all things like your rivers flow through the world.  Divert your flows from this child before you, let the magic go elsewhere, never to trouble her again.  Spare her this burden, spare her the wrath of your children."
        The young Kelly Scott whimpered and hugged her knees close to her chest.  Christopher could see the magic around him now, the stones were alive once more.  The power illuminated each finger, making each one glow like they were alive.  Energy flowed from them and enveloped the girl, covering her in a pale coccoon of light.  Kelly grew indistinct through the haze, but she was still in there, reduced to an outline.
        When the light faded, and the stones dimmed once more, Christopher pulled his hand away from the stone.  The bloodstain left behind faded away into the rock never to be seen again.  The only sign that anything had happened was a deep red mark on Christopher's hand, and a swirl of leaves around Kelly, leaving her untouched like she had been in the center of a very localised windstorm.
        Christopher knelt beside the girl, throwing his knife into the dirt where it stuck up in the air, like a tiny replica of the stones encircling them.  He rolled Kelly onto her back and laid her out flat.  Short, small puffs of breath escaped her mouth, so that was something.
        Whereas most people would have examined the body to make sure her vitals were steady, Christopher examined other things.  He looked deep into her aura.  That was all he cared about.
        The bright, fiery layer of light and smoke that encircled everyone was still there.  Before it had been a raging inferno that threatened to blind anyone that could see it, but now it was a mere shadow of its former self.  It looked more like a dying campire than a blaze of power and fury now.
        Christopher examined the aura for sometime to make sure it was at least steady, and not truly dying.  It was dimmer than most people's auras, even those who were not sensitive.  This caused some concern with the druid, and he feared he had gone too far in cutting the girl off from her birthright.  Had he removed too much of a ganrenous limb and instead doomed the patient?  He hoped not.
        The aura held steady though, so while it was at a worrying bare flicker, even the stones glowed brighter than Kelly's light, Christopher was reassured that Kelly would live.
        He had no idea of the measures he had taken were permanent, or if they would break down tomorrow.  He was trying to contain the literal tempest in a teapot.  He didn't know if all the gods in this world and the next could stop Kelly's powers in their full bloom.
        At the very best, Christopher hoped that whatever blocks he had put in place would hold long enough for the girl to reach maturity, when she could be better trained to tap into her powers slowly and not burn her out from the inside.
        The order had the same fears when Christopher had awakened, but he was of age and his training began immediately.  This girl was nowhere near ready.  And her power dwarfed Christophers by several orders of magnitude.  If Kelly was Houdini, then he was still learning how to palm a coin.  And doing it badly.
        This action was just buying Christopher time, but he prayed that this would keep Kelly away from everything.  He didn't want to know what she would go through if her powers ever resurfaced.  There was slim hope that her powers were gone forever.  She would always be able to see auras, even he couldn't cut her off from the energy in its entirety and so she would always have that second sight, but she would be kept from drawing upon the power itself.
        For now, and goddesses willing, forever.
        Christopher gathered up his things, after the cloth had been used to clean the knife off, it was returned to his jeans pocket, and the knife disappeared back into his jacket.  He then tucked his hands under the girl's shoulders and tugged her over to a nearby stone, propping her up against it.  Kelly's head lolled forward like her neck was jelly, until her chin met her chest.
        He felt a deep sadness at denying her access to something so wonderful, but it was better for Kelly to live her life as just another girl than what his order demanded of him.  Disobeying such an order would have seen anyone else met with severe punishment, but Christopher hoped that he was above the law.  He was the only one, if anyone, that could get away with this.
        Once he made sure the child he had assaulted was sitting as comfortable as she could on the cold ground and leaning against a rock, he pulled a cellphone out from elsewhere in his jacket.
        The signal he got was weak, but servicable.  It was more than Christopher expected to receive in the middle of nowhere in a nowhere little splotch on the map in nowhere Vermont.
        He listened as the phone rang in his ear, and soon he was greeted by Joseph's voice on the other end.
        "Ah, Christopher!" the jovial druid patriarch called out at the sound of his student's voice.  Christopher may have been their most powerful, their leader, but so many still deferred to the old man, inlcuding Christopher himself.  "I was just wondering about you.  How are things going in Kraftsbury?"
        He looked down at the little girl, who appeared to be sound asleep at his feet.  Anyone who found her would not think anything untowards had happened to her.  She had just come out into the forest and lost track of time.  It would be a mystery as to why she was unconcious, but what life could not be made a little more interesting with some mystery?  They'd look at the girl, they'd see she was ok, and Kelly would be unable to tell them anything, so in a few days this would all be forgotten.
        Forgotten by everyone but Christopher.
        "It's done," he said into the phone, hoping his voice carried enough gravitas to convince Joseph.
        The man on the other end didn't say anything, but Christopher could hear his heavy-hearted sigh.  "It is truly a shame, Christopher.  She could have been the one we've been waiting so long for.  But so young, she was too dangerous.  You did your best."
        Again Christopher looked over Kelly's prone form.  "Yeah, it had to be done.  But if the words you taught me are true prophecy, I guess these things will take care of themselves."
        There was a long pause on the line, and Christopher wasn't sure if the signal had dropped, until Joseph spoke once more.  "Are you certain?"
        Christopher wasn't sure if Joseph meant about the prophecy, or if he had doubts about his killing Kelly.  He hoped his ruse would work, and his order would never look into things, or they might send someone to finish the job on a now ordinary girl.  If Joseph doubted him, this was not over for the girl.  This was the only hope he could give Kelly, and the only chance he had to live with his own conscience.
        "Yes, I am certain," he said.  "I'm looking at her body right now.  Kelly Scott is dead, and she will never trouble anyone ever again."
***

        Kelly stood before Darien, both of them covered in blood.  Brendan was between them, but ignored by both.  He could see the fear in Kelly's eyes and the hatred in Darien's.  Every instinct told him to intervene, but he wanted no part of what was about to happen.  Brendan didn't even think he could stop Darien if he did want to.
        "I said, what did you do to my sister?"
        Darien's words were cold and empty of emotion, moreso than he had ever been before.  It didn't even sound like he was asking a question, or even interested in an answer.  He was just saying the words because they were expected of him.  And yet, there was a rage simmering behind every syllable.
        Earlier, he had been affecting a distanced impression, but now his voice was as dead as his sister.  What had once been nothing more than detachment was now becoming something more, as Darien's heart grew hard.  Brendan looked in his friend's eyes, and feared none of them were going to walk away from there alive.
        Alyson's body slid out of his hands and thumped onto the cold ground.  Darien stood and his blood soaked coat was made even more black from the staining.  His sneakers were just as red, but snow kept covering them up.  It wasn't long before even that was stained with Alyson's blood.
        Darien let loose a scream of pure, unadulterated rage.  The sound was the most anguished sound Brendan had ever heard.  Kelly as well, but she was too busy fearing for her life to worry overmuch about how awful Darien's howl was.
        The young man's steps started off slow and awkward, like he had forgotten how to even use his legs.  It was almost comical, if not for the blood and screaming.  Brendan kept picturing a bull scuffing its feet before charging, but pushed the thoughts far from his mind as Darien actually did begin to charge.
        Distance evaporated between Darien and Kelly as he barreled towards the girl, his long coat fluttering behind him like a pair of ebon wings or a cape.  His scream had not stopped since it had begun.  Kelly was transfixed in horror, a deer in the headlights of an ongoing truck named Darien Montrose.
        Just as Darien was about to pass into the inner circumference of the standing stones, the forgotten Brendan leapt forward and tackled Darien to the ground.  He was the only one fast enough to do it, especially out there with no one but the frozen Kelly.  Brendan feared he would not have enough speed or strength to drop his friend to the ground, but it was better to try than to let the Montrose boy crush Kelly between him and the stones.
        Even then, Brendan was surprised when Darien went down.  He thought he would collide with the unstoppable force, or just bounce off of his friend.  They had mock fought several times before, but never had they collided with such force.  Brendan felt his teeth rattle inside his skull, and thought he was going to black out.  The boy had taken down his share of linebackers on the football field, but they were nothing compared to Darien.  They were fueled only by a desire to win.  Darien was running on blind fury and bloodlust.
        Darien's scream stopped as his head connected with the frozen, snow-covered ground.  Another splotch of red appeared, but no one would notice one more crimson scar upon the landscape, especially not one so small.
        The boy through off Brendan, but he had spent too many hours training with the football team and Darien for that to last long.  Brendan was quick to pounce back on top of Darien, sitting atop his chest and pinning his arms down with his hands.
        Even still, Darien thrashed like a crazed animal.  His legs kicked so hard at the air, Brendan feared he would somehow still connected with the back of his head.  Even with Brendan's weight sitting atop him, Darien was close to throwing him off.  It was worse than trying to stay on a bucking bronco.
        Darien's thrashings subsided, but every time his head turned and saw the frightened Kelly, still stuck to her spot as if the snow had frozen around her feet, he cried out again and tried once more to escape from under Brendan's body.
        For someone that it was already typical of to say very little, it was even more disconcerting that Darien had been reduced to gutteral growls and howls.
        All the pair could do was stare at each other, for fear that if either of them turned away or blinked, the other might do something unexpected.  Kelly could not take her eyes off Darien, for fear that the moment she did, it would be the last thing she did.  Darien feared, in his rage-filled mind, that the woman that had killed his sister might disappear.
        Brendan kept looking between the two, not certain of what to do, or what might happen next.  There was a pause between all of them where it seemed like nothing happened.  The only sign to mark the passage of any time was the distant cawing of a crow.
        The silent standoff was broken when the air was pierced by a loud, sharp gasp, like someone who was drowning grasping for that final, desperate bit of air to stay alive.
        All eyes turned towards the sound and saw a blood-soaked Alyson sitting up, facing away from them.  Her hands slipped in the blood and snow soaked leaves, sending her back to the ground.  There was no strength in her limbs or her body, as she clawed her way back up.
        No one knew how to react at the sight they saw.  Darien, somewhere in his haze, thought he had gone mad.  He had now seen his sister die twice, and each time she was reborn.  Had he snapped, and this was all some trick of his mind, trying to protect him?
        Brendan was just shocked.  He had seen many things that autumn, many of them brought on by the Montroses or his association with them, but what he witnessed that day would stick with him forever.
        Kelly felt an overwhelming sense of joy and relief.  She wanted to fall to her knees and thank the gods, but her legs still would not move.
        The movements of Alyson's body were still wrong.  It was like she no longer fit inside her body, and nothing moved the way it was supposed to.  Her mouth opened and closed, trying to find air to breathe, and maybe words to say.  Her limbs moved with jerky motions like some unseen puppeteer was pulling at invisible strings to animate the girl's corpse.
        As if she had become aware that she was not alone in the woods, the girl turned towards the other three, all staring at the girl.  Her eyes seemed empty as they glared back at her friends and brother.  The shining steel grey of her eyes had become dull and lifeless.  Her skin had taken on an even lighter pallor than it had already.
        Brendan stared at what he thought was Alyson's red hair stuck to her face, part of him wanting to reach out and clear it away.  Until he released that swatch of colour was blood stuck to her cheek, and not hair at all, that is.
        The more they saw of this strange not quite Alyson thing, the more their relief and shock turned to a creeping terror up their spines.
        Alyson, or whatever they now watched, turned, rolled over onto all fours, once it had seen the trio.  Again, it's awkwardness combined with the blood made it slip and fall into the scarlet lake it swam across.  It would have almost been comical if not for the blood, and the way the thing moved.
        She pushed herself back up, and began crawling towards her brother.  Alyson looked like a baby, crawling across the floor and exploring its surroundings for the first time.  Curiosity filled her empty eyes as they took in the forest and stones.
        About halfway between where she had died and her brother, Alyson stopped.  Her body was wracked with convulsions.  The trio prepared for another river of blood to exude from the girl's mouth, just like she had done before.
        Instead of forcing things out of her body though, Alyson instead threw her head back and took in a deep breath of the chill air.  Just as fast as she had sucked in air, she exhaled in a puff of breath visible in the cold that was so large it could have been mistaken for a dragon's breath.
        With the intake of air, the girl continued to breathe, and each time seemed easier than the last.  Alyson stopped advancing and stayed where she was, hands and knees planted on the ground.  Her back pulsed, rising and falling with each breath.  She didn't look up from the ground, her red hair, dyed even redder, even darker, by her own blood, hung straight down in clumps, stuck together like some hideous mane of an unspeakable creature.
        The mane hung and shook with each convulsion of the girl.  It looked like she was crying, but they heard no sounds to indicate anything like that.  All they heard was the girl breathing.
        When she at last looked back up from the ground, her eyes were no longer dead, empty things, but they sparkled like the freshly fallen snow.  The snow that had not been stained in the last ten minutes, at least.  Her gaze was full of questions, fear, and uncertainty.  It made her look even more like a newborn than she had before.  Before, it had been more like the curiosity of an animal, hunting its prey in unfamiliar territory.  Now she was scared and confused at everything that had happened.
        The looks she got back from her friends told her she was not the only one.  Even Kelly, the instigator of everything, was at a loss.
        Colour rose back into the girl's cheeks, more than just the red stain of blood.  The grey of her flesh became rosy once more, becoming more vibrant and alive than anyone there had seen before.  Everyone save for Darien.  He had spent the better part of a year hoping to see such life return to his sister, and now there it was, hidden behind blood and dirt and tears.
        Alyson was steadier on her limbs again and tried to push herself to her feet.  Still she seemed stiff, but there was less awkwardness to her motion, less jerking around.  Whereas before it had appeared to be that she was being controlled by unseen hands, not it just looked like the girl was stiff after an awkward night's sleep.
        When she planted her feet on the ground and tried to stand, Alyson wobbled uncertainly in the air as blood rushed to her head.  It seemed like she was about to fall right back over again, but Brendan rushed to her side and steadied the girl.  He held her by the shoulders and kept her upright as she held her head.
        Alyson's hands pushed back the stringy, bloody hair, but the stiff, dried strands just fell right back where they had been, only gaining a little more movement as dried blood flaked off from the movement.
        Brendan had left Darien behind, believing him to no longer be a threat to Kelly, now that his sister was standing on her own two feet.  Even if they were unsteady feet, and she still needed the training wheels of Brendan to not topple over.
        The brother just lay on the ground, staring with wide-eyed wonderment, and his mouth agape.  Darien could not believe his eyes.  He still thought he may have gone a little bit mad.
        Alyson's mouth moved, puffs of air escaping like she was trying to say something, but no sound was heard.  She coughed and her body shook once more, and again she tried to speak.
        That time, at least sound escaped, but it was far from being called words.  It sounded like a long gasp escaping her lungs, like the words were literally stuck in her throat and trying to escape.  The sound rattled in her mouth, but still was nothing more than noise.
        Alyson bit her lip and at least made a clear grunt of consternation and frustration.  She balled up a fist and tightened her eyes.  After a moment she tried for a third time, and this time, words flowed out, if one could call a dripping faucet to be a flow of water.
        "Www..." she tried to force the words out, but they just weren't coming.  They were right on the tip of her tongue, struggling to be given form.
        "Whaaaa...  Nnngh!"  Alyson wanted to punch something just to make it easier to speak.
        Brendan gripped her hand, hoping she could draw strength from the tiny gesture.
        "What...what hap-penned?"  Whether it was Brendan's gesture, or the girl just finding it within herself to somehow once again speak, it didn't matter.
        It was Alyson's voice, and not at the same time.  Anyone who knew her well enough could tell it was her, yet it still sounded wrong; muted, muffled, and like it was being said around gravel and razor blades.  She sounded like she had been suffering through the longest case of laryngitis.
        It was clear just how much her voice frustrated her, but she was still relieved that she could at least make words and be understood once more.
        "Sum...some-won...Ants...answer me?" the girl pleaded.
        Brendan and Darien both looked at the brunette who had remained motionless this entire time, afraid for her own life, and then just transfixed by the strange thing that Alyson had become at her own hands.
        Alyson followed the boys' gaze and also looked to Kelly for answers.  Her eyes arched upwards, imploring Kelly for answers.  Words may have been difficult, but Alyson was quite capable of finding other means of communication.
        The quiet girl fidgeted once more, unsure just what to say.  All she could think of was to tell Alyson, "It worked?  I think."
        Brendan remained quiet, but both of the twins stared at Kelly and asked together the question they both wanted answered, "What worked?"
        "I think, um, that is, it looks like I brought Alyson back to life."  Her eyes darted from one Montrose to the other and back.  For all she knew they may still try and kill her.
        Darien, still laying on his back but propped up on an eblow just turned his nose up at the suggestion.  "Don't be absurd.  She's a vampire.  You can't just undo that."
        He shifted his weight and looked at his sister, the evidence of his own eyes raising questions in his mind.  "Can you?"  Darien's expression had shifted in an instant from complete doubt to complete curiosity and confusion.
        Alyson had no answers and looked just as confused as her twin.  Never before had the pair looked so much alike.  Alyson's confusion made her look vulnerable for one of the first times ever.  Even with renewed colour in her cheeks, she still look pale and drained.  If she was sick, she would have been ready to collapse at any moment from fever or exhaustion.
        The petite redhead wasn't the only one who looked exhausted; Kelly was wobbling where she stood, and only the freezing grip of fear kept her from falling over.
        Brendan saw the girl's knees vibrating like a tuning fork, and looked from the one on his arm to Kelly and back.  Alyson could see the look of concern in his eyes and gave him a quick nod of consent.
        As the quarterback rushed into the circle of stones, Alyson inched towards them as well.  One foot dragged along the snow-covered leaves in a limp, dragging a gash through the frosting-like covering that was still piling up.  Her other foot thumped upon the ground, and every footfall felt to Alyson like she had dropped a stack of phonebooks down beside her.  The reality was far different, but each step rocked her body.  The sheer effort to just make it to the stones was enormous.
        With Hercluean strength, Alyson made it to the stones and used one as a replacement for Brendan, to keep herself upright.  She stared right at Kelly on the opposite side of the circle.  It was no coincidence that Alyson had picked the perfect spot for Kelly to go through if she wanted to return to the school.  They would have words before the day was done.
        Brendan reached Kelly's side, and the instant he was at her side, her legs buckled and she almost fainted away into his arms.  She remained conscious, but she fell right back into his arms when her legs decided they could not stand any longer.  He helped his friend to the large stone near the center of the circle where her bags were, and eased Kelly down to its surface.  The experience conjured up more feelings of deja vu for the girl, but she was too preoccupiued to pay them much mind.
        Alyson felt for Kelly, as her grip upon the stone beside her may well have been the sole thing holding her upright.  If she had felt better, and not just regurgitated up everything that had been inside her, she may well have noticed the warmth welling up from inside the rock, but Alyson had other, more important things on her mind.
        Her thick tongue had disappeared, her faltering voice was all but gone.  Alyson's words came easy once more.  "What...did you do?  Speak."
        The girl's mouth still felt strange, foreign, but she had yet to guess why beyond what had just happened to her.
        "Alyson, the girl has been through a lot, give her a moment."  Brendan regretted the words the instant they were past his lips.
        Brendan was met with such a glare from Alyson that it would have struck down lesser men.  She needed to say nothing more.  All Brendan had to do was look at the lake of blood behind her.  With Alyson standing between them and the pool, it was impossible to not see it.
        Words tumbled out of Kelly's mouth, and her blood-covered hands flew in the air.  The rabbit's innards were becoming dry and thick, the colour changing from a rich, red to a dark, rust coloured brown.  Each movement Kelly made cracked the drying liquid anew, making veins of flesh form between the blood.
        No one could understand a thing the girl was saying, her words flew so fast.  Even Kelly didn't know what she was saying.  Once she began to speak, the words just kept coming, faster than she could pick them.
        Brendan squeezed Kelly's shoulder, making her stop long enough to realise what she was doing couldn't even be called speaking.  She took a deep breath and focused.  Kelly retold her story about meeting Christopher, and how she learned of the healing ways of druids, how they might help Alyson.
        What Kelly didn't tell the Montrose twins were her true motives.  She kept to herself the visions she had, at least the sense of dread they caused in her, and how it all centered around the newcomers.  Kelly played it up like she was just trying to help her friends, and not how she felt they may be at the center of the end of the world.  Such statements would have just sounded crazy and paranoid, and painted her motives as far darker than she thought they were.
        Alyson stood there in silence once Kelly finished her tale.  The girl's bloody hands resumed their nervous twitching.  She twisted a once-silver ring on her hand, showing flashes of skin that stuck out from the red like the ring once would have.
        "Did you think of asking me about any of this?" Alyson asked.
        "Yes!" shouted Kelly.  "But would you have said yes?"
        Alyson pondered for a moment, "Probably not, no.  But it would have been nice to at least been consulted before spewing up the Kill Bill bloodbath back there."
        Kelly did not want to ask the question on her mind.  She feared the answer, and what it might be, no matter which way it turned.  But it was a question that needed to be asked, and there was no escaping it any longer.
        "Did it work?"
        Darien had shifted more into a sitting position, crossing his legs underneath him.  "That's actually a good question," he said.  "After all that, if nothing happened, that would be a shame.  A lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
        His sister couldn't deny the logic of it.  She hated the idea of her all but puking her guts out for naught.  She didn't know if she wanted it to work or not, but Alyson did know she hated the idea of all that suffering for no reason.
        All eyes fell upon the vampire, wondering if that name still applied to her.  None of them could answer the question better than she could.
        It was at that moment that Alyson put her finger on what was wrong.  It was not just that her mouth felt like her tongue had grown three sizes or that her mouth was dry.  She was missing something, something she had lived with for the past year; her fangs.
        A vampire's fangs are not always visible, but they are always there, tucked back into grooves, and they only extend when the vamprire is feeding, or in a state of excitement.  When Alyson had first turned, the strange sensation of having fangs tucked back inside her head was palpable, like her face had been invaded with some strange creature.  In a sense, she supposed it had been, but now her mouth felt empty, lacking without their presence.
        To test her theory, Alyson ran her tongue along her teeth.  She had done this many a time over the past year since she died.  Her fangs were where her canine teeth had once been, of course.  And they were far sharper than any human tooth was.  Many times she had cut herself on her new fangs in those early days, but she soon learned just how much pressure she could put on them and not get cut, and if she pressed against the back, she could make them extend involuntarily, like pushing out a cat's claw.  When she tried that trick that day, nothing happened.  Her teeth were just that and nothing more, teeth.
        Alyson needed no further evidence, and short of cutting her head off, she didn't know how else to test the theory.  Well, short of any sort of cutting to see if it healed, but Alyson had seen enough of her own blood for one day.  She didn't even know if she had enough left in her to bleed at that point.
        "I think she did it," was all she had to say.
        The gravity of what Kelly had accomplished was not lost on the children.  The quartet were standing there in a reborn vampire.  Something that none of them would have ever thought possible, even in a world with vampires and druids.
        No one knew what to say, or what to make of it.  They had all just borne witness to the impossible.  They all stood there in the silence, even the birds were without comment.
        "Thank you," came the eventual words from Alyson.  She did not know what this development meant for her, or her brother, or in the greater scheme of things.  She didn't know if she wanted to be alive again, fully truly alive, but Alyson could not deny what had just been done to her was a great gift, brought about by love and sacrifice.  And such gifts must be acknowledged.
        Kelly was taken by surprise by the words, and blinked several times before responding.  "Your welcome?  I get to live?"
        "For now," Alyson said with an all too familiar grin.  Her experience had not diminished her sense of humour.
        Brendan looked around the clearing, witnessing the horror for the first time.  It looked like they had stumbled upon a crime scene, and they were all guilty.  "Guys, we have a problem."
        Everyone turned at the sound of his voice, and Brednan just flailed his arms around, spinning to gesture at everything he could.  "We might be able to get away with not cleaning all this up, but all of us are a bit more noticable.  If we return to the school looking like we just had a swim in Elizabeth Bathory's pool, that might raise a few questions."
        No one could deny Brendan's statement, in particular the twins.  Brendan and Kelly might have been able to get away with it, but the Montrose's were covered almost from head to toe.
        Kelly grabbed her book bag, and emptied the contents.  She spilled out a large plastic bag, a change of clothes, and a towel.  "I'm covered, I think."
        "You put a little too much thought into this," marvelled Brendan.
        "Be prepared, as they say in the Boy Scouts," Kelly replied.  Brendan was about to point out the obvious flaw in that statement, but returned to matters at hand.
        "I can slip back into the school and raid my locker, but there's no way you two can get anywhere near the place.  You look horrible, and you are starting to smell worse."
        "Don't worry," said Alyson.  "I'll just run home, clean up, and bring Darien some...what?"  Everyone stared at the girl, as she came to realise that her plan relied on abilities she no longer possessed.  "Crap."
        "Look," Darien spoke up at last.  "We can travel most of the way along the river and only have to breeze through town and up our hill."
        Brendan pointed out the one major flaw in this idea.  "Right through the very center of town."
        "We'll be quick."
        And the other one major flaw.  "And then right past the town hall and police department."
        "Do we really have a choice?  We have to risk it, or sit here and freeze until midnight.  Maybe we can go further along the river, use more back roads.  We'll be seen, but I think we can minimise it."
        Brendan gave a reluctant nod.  They couldn't sit there for another 8 hours or more.  If he could escape classes, maybe he could give them a hand with his truck, but if he missed too many classes, it would risk his standing with the football team.
        "I can at least get back to school and do some damage control, and Kelly looks all set.  I guess this is what passes for a plan with us.  If I can, I'll catch up with you two later."
        The Montrose's nodded, and Darien helped his sister step away from the stone she had not let go of since Brendan had propped her up beside it.  The pair drifted up river along its shore, and faded into the distance.
        Brendan looked to the brunette and they shared a silent moment as she too gave him a nod to take his leave.  He hesitated, but her eyes urged him to leave.  She wanted to be alone for the cleanup, she needed to do it herself.
        The young man almost sprinted up the hill and out of the forest.  He was so intent on getting back to classes that he almost ran right into his girlfriend.  He spun around after passing the blonde, and just blinked in surprise.
        "Rachel?  What are you doing here?"  The normality of it was almost a relief after what he had witnessed.
        "You guys were missing, I thought I saw you head this way, and thought I'd find you before you missed more classes."
        "Oh!" Brendan had not even looked at the time, and didn't want to then.  "Yeah, I was looking for Kelly, same thing.  She's not out there, I guess she's running another errand for the office."
        "Yeah, that must be it," Rachel said, and Brendan was not sure if she believed him.
        "Come on, let's get back, babe.  I'm sure she'll turn up."
        Rachel nodded at her boyfriend, and the pair made their way back to the large brick building.  Brendan didn't notice the glance Rachel gave back over her shoulder as they left the forest behind.
        Kelly stood up once Brendan disappeared into the trees, finding her footing.  Strength had returned to her legs while they talked, and it was far more easy to stand than she might have feared.  She removed her coat and grabbed the towel.  Kelly all but ignored everyone else and headed down to the river.  She thrust her hands into the icy waters and almost screamed at the shock and the cold.  Instead, she bit her lip and only let a whimper escape.
        The girl watched as the dried blood washed away by the current, swept downriver to be forgotten.  Kelly rubbed her hands together to get off the more stubborn bits, and when she drew her hands free of the almost frozen river, it was like nothing had happened at all.  Some stains remained on the cuffs of her sleeves, but most people would ignore them, or think she had a painting accident in the art room.
        Kelly's hands shook as she withdrew them, as much from the cold as from everything that had happened.  She dried them off in the towel, and by all appearances she was ready for class.  She took the towel, knife, and jacket, tossing them all in the large bag.  She removed her top, making all the guys avert their eyes, even if they were tempted to take a glance or two.  She put on a clean sweater, a light blue turtleneck, and tossed the bloodied green one in with the rest of the evidence.
        Finally, she took a smaller bag, turned it inside out, and used it like a glove to pick up the carcass of her sacrifice.  She inverted the bag once more and sealed the body inside it, before that too was added to the garbage bag.  She left it beside the stones, with the intent to pick it up later, after school, when far fewer people would be around to see her carrying around a garbage bag full of bloody items and a dead rabbit.
        The only evidence she left behind was the blood, something she could not clean up, and could not have forseen just how bad it would be.  Kelly knew whatever she sacrificed would of course leave behind blood, but never did she imagine what came out of Alyson.
        As if thinking about her had summoned her back to the circle of power, Kelly turned and saw Alyson standing there.  She had left her brother a ways up the river and returned to say things that had gone unsaid.
        "Hey, you killed a bunny for me," said Alyson, with a faint smile.
        Kelly winced.  "Don't remind me."
        "No, seriously.  It may be morbid to think it, but that means a lot to me."
        "Definitely morbid."
        "Vampire."
        "Former.  You're welcome, I guess."  Kelly was uncomfortable with the whole topic, and just wanted to get home and wash her hands of the entire thing.  Figuratively and literally.
        "Look, I don't know what this means for me, for us, or where we stand, but I wanted you to know, I appreciate what you did.  Just ask next time."
        "I hope there isn't a next time, I'm done."
        Alyson shook her head.  "What you've done, won't go unnoticed.  Power like that sends up signal flares.  You've removed the target from my back and painted it right on your own.  These actions you've taken have consequences.  I hope you're ready for them."
        It all sank in for Kelly then, and she had not really given that any thought.  She thought this would get them out of all this vampireness, but it was dragging her even deeper than she had ever been.  That was not the outcome she had been looking for.  But what is, is.  There was no undoing it, and Kelly knew she would just have to deal with things as they came.
        "Look, this chat is great, and I'm glad we're okayish, but I really need to get back to class, and you really need a bath, Bloody Mary."  Kelly waved her hand in the air.
        Alyson nodded and smiled just a little.  "It's even worse from this side, trust me.  I'll see you later, and again, thanks.  For everything."
        The blood-covered girl raised her arms to hug Kelly in gratitutde, but neither of them were going to go any further than that.  The awkward moment made them both laugh out of nervousness, before they both went their seperate ways.
        Meanwhile, beyond the far shore of the Black River, in a spot where a terrible tragedy had happened some time ago, Marcus Boyd sat up where he had been killed and breathed his first breath in almost two months.
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